The traditional answer you find to these questions is that Cain married his sister, and Cain was afraid of his siblings who might have the idea of taking revenge for Abel’s death.

After all, Abraham married his half-sister Sarah, and as Christians we’re taught something along the lines of “the gene pool allowed for that back then”.

We don’t know how old Cain was when he killed Abel, but we do know that Adam and Eve “had other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4) who would all be getting married and fulfilling God’s command to go and be fruitful, so in just a few decades, there could be dozens or even hundreds of Adam and Eve’s descendants on the Earth, many of which would be upset with Cain and want revenge.

Why would Adam and Eve give a daughter as a wife to their son Cain after he had already murdered Abel? The traditional explanation is that since we don’t know how old Cain was when killed Abel, he very well could have already been married to one of his sisters, and since he already had farming as his profession, he was probably a mature adult at the time the first murder was committed.

That traditional explanation only makes sense as long as you’ve never actually read the story of Cain and Abel, and it’s expositors are counting on that. Those are the answers someone would give who wants to adhere to a rigid forgone conclusion, rather than follow the evidence where it leads. I have to give the traditional explanation some credence in that it’s simple, and it makes common sense given the presupposition that there are no other people on the planet besides Adam an Eve and their children.

In fact, I applaud its ability and intent to thwart racism, because for at least five centuries Christians both the United States and Europe used specific interpretations of Genesis as part of a racial agenda. Today, only cults and fringe groups like the Aryan Nation use the origin of man in the Bible for racial agendas.

The problem with the traditional explanation is that it’s contradicted by the actual story. Cain wasn’t married to his sister, in fact, he was already driven out from his family before they had any other children. Furthermore, Cain probably wasn’t even old enough to have children when he killed Abel. Lastly, Seth was Adam and Eve’s third child, and Eve actually called him a replacement for Abel.

Don’t believe me? Let’s read the story.

Red Pill Alert – Continue at your own peril!

Who was Cain?

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. – Genesis 4:1-2

Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve. Eve actually thought that Cain could have been the Messiah, because the Messiah was prophesied by God as being the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent. This prophecy of mercy was given as they were being kicked out of the Garden, just a chapter earlier. That’s why she said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.”

What the story says is that Eve gave birth to Cain first and Abel later. We don’t know if they were twins, or if they were just siblings close in age through separate copulations. At some point in time, Cain kills Abel. An entire book could be written about why Cain killed Abel, and the theological implications, and Cain’s misunderstanding of atonement, but I’d like to avoid that entirely. We’re here to jump to the interesting conversation Cain has with God after killing his brother Abel.

 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.

– Genesis 4:14-17

In the passage above, I’ve mirrored the paragraph break in the biblical text, that delineates between two different parts of a story.

We see from his response to God’s punishment that Cain is afraid of being killed, but keep in mind that Cain is the first descendant of Adam to murder anyone, ever. Yet he’s afraid of being killed as if it’s some commonplace thing.

We could consider this an irrational fear based on Cain’s state of mind, having just committed a murder, but that would be to ignore the actual story. We see in the story that God takes Cain’s fear seriously, because God knows very well that Cain’s fear isn’t irrational. So God mercifully decides to protect Cain.

What’s the first take away here? There are people out there that know how to kill, and might very well kill Cain if they encounter him, a stranger. What else? It may be from spying on those other people or the animal kingdom that Cain learned how to kill in the first place. He surely didn’t learn it from his parents, or from watching action movies.

We also see that in the second part of the story, we don’t know how much time has passed since Abel’s murder, but Cain was now in Nod, in the process of building a city (or a settlement) when he got his wife pregnant. The traditionalists would have you believe that the day after Cain killed Abel, he decided to have sex for the first time with his sister and got her pregnant. How convenient.

Now if you were Eve, is that something you’d say if at the time of Abel’s murder, you had dozens or hundreds of other children, and by now even grandchildren?

A more reasoned approach would estimate that the time elapsed between Genesis 4:16 and Genesis 4:17 was probably months and years, not days and weeks.

Let’s listen to the story though, and not the traditionalists. It says Cain was building a city or a settlement. A city he decided to name after his first born son. A city for whom? Himself, his wife, and his child? Why didn’t Adam build a city, or Seth? Why is is that Cain leaves apparently the only people on the Earth, finds a wife, and then builds a city? Could it be that he was building a settlement for the people from which he found his wife. Could it be that Cain joined another tribe and became it’s leader? We’ll get back to this later.

Cain flees from Eden to a place in the east called Nod. Even though Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, they still lived in the region called Eden. Eden is not the garden. The garden is the garden, and the garden is in Eden. After he flees, and after the murder, Eve is given another son named Seth.

Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” – Genesis 4:25

Now if you were Eve, is that something you’d say if at the time of Abel’s murder, you had dozens or hundreds of other children, and by now even grandchildren?

No. It doesn’t jive with the traditional explanation, because we made up that troop of other kids and grandkids that was intimidating Cain. It’s not part of the story.

No,  for three reasons. First, is that to take the story literally is to be forced to admit that Seth was Adam and Eve’s third child by Eve’s own testimony.

Second, to again take the story literally is to realize that though Adam and Eve did in fact have other children, that these first humans didn’t become sexually mature until they were almost into their 100s, and they didn’t reproduce like rabbits, despite having hundreds of years to do so.

Third, because the record of Adam and Eve’s other children is only attributed to the 800 years Adam lived after having conceived Seth. Cain was already long gone by the time Seth was born.

Before we move on to the next portion, it’s important to note that Seth is born when Adam is 130 years old.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

It’s important because it means the entire story, from Adam’s first breath until now, has occurred within the space of 130 years, which brings us to the next topic.

Age of sexual maturity

Today, it’s obvious from either personal experience, or documented medical proof, that you become sexually mature after the onset of puberty, around the age of 13 years old, give or take a few years. You have historical evidence that for most of human history, women were offered up as wives after their first menstruation, and the high likelihood that the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus as a young teenager.

Yet, in Genesis, the earliest age of any pre-flood descendant of Adam having a child, was at the age of 65. The next earliest is 70 years old. The next after that 90. We also have it recorded that these people lived as long as 969 years old, so if you believe the Biblical account, it makes sense that they aged at a different rate than we do now.

Age of Fathering First Child
Adam 130 (replacement first child)
Seth 105
Enosh 90
Kenan 70
Mahalalel 65
Jared 162
Enoch 65
Methuselah 187
Lamech 182
Noah 500

The passage (Genesis 5) that lists the genealogy of Adam through Seth, has a specific phrase used with each patriarch. It says, “When A had lived X years, he fathered B. A lived after he fathered B, Y more years, and had other sons and daughters.”

You know what is never said about pre-flood genealogies? “And A lived to be 30 years old and fathered B”. It’s because for these people 30, or 40, or even 50 years old was too young to have a kid. There could be many reasons for this, but the most obvious one, especially due to the consistent pattern might be because they hadn’t even gone through puberty by that age.

It’s only after the flood, that you see through the line of Shem all the way down to Abraham (Genesis 11) that the maximum lifespan reduces concurrently with the age at which you fathered your first child. It’s not as if the age at which you fathered children stayed constant, and the max lifespan decreased, or visa versa. No. They decreased at the same time, and proportionally, which lends scriptural evidence 1 that what was going on before the flood really was related to sexual maturity.

If you’re currently under the age of 30 and live in a developed country today, chances are, thanks to modern medicine, you’re going to make it to 90-100. That means if you go through puberty at 13, you’re sexually mature at roughly the 10% stage of your life. If you’re naturally living to be 900, 10% is 90 years old. Coincidentally, in the biblical tale we find these people having their first children at the ages of 65 to 500 years old, no earlier.

Noah

Noah is pretty famous, so let’s use him as Exhibit A. How many children did Noah have and when did he have them?

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. – Genesis 5:32

We know from the record that only 8 humans survived the flood.

“Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. Noah and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” – Genesis 7:6-7

“to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,” – 1 Peter 3:20

We have on record both in the Old and New Testament that only 8 people were on the ark.

The actual biblical canon shows only 3 kids for a man who lived 20 years longer than Adam. Adam and Noah were both given the same exact commandment. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28, 9:1).

That means Noah and his wife were on the ark (2), Noah only had 3 sons (+3), and his sons each had one wife (+3). 2 + 3 + 3 = 8. As we can tell, even the Apostle Peter, an uneducated fisherman, knew how to count, and he had access to the same exact story we’re reading.

We also know from the age of Noah when he started having children (500), to the age of Noah when his sons were married with him on the ark (600), that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were each less than 100 years old, they were married, and they had no children of their own when they went on the ark. Otherwise, there would be more than eight people on the ark, and there weren’t.

The most glaringly obvious fact here, is that in 600 years, Noah only had 3 kids. Three. In 600 years. Not dozens or hundreds, with multiplied hundreds of grandkids like the traditionalists would want you to believe about the Patriarchs.

In 600 years, Noah had 3 sons and zero grandchildren. Let that soak in for a bit.

Noah lived another 350 years after the flood, dying at 950, and he didn’t have anymore kids (Genesis 9:28-29). How old did Adam live again? 930 years (Genesis 5:5)? But traditionalists want you to believe Adam had something like 33 sons and 23 daughters based on a non-canonical retelling of oral tradition from a footnote of Josephus?

That’s 56 children total: 3 children in the first 130 years (1 child every 43 years average), but 53 more in the remaining 800 years (1 child every 15 years average)? Why the 3x increase in efficiency? Adam wasn’t a polygamist, and even a perfect vagina can only take so much punishment.

The actual biblical canon shows only 3 kids for a man who lived 20 years longer than Adam. Adam and Noah were both given the same exact commandment. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28, 9:1).

Noah spent 100 years building a boat. If God told him to get busy with his wife, I’m pretty sure he’d we willing, and God would have blessed them with more kids if “be fruitful and multiply” actually meant having 56 children. I think I’ve used the Bible to sufficiently prove that it doesn’t mean that.

The Evidence

It’s on pretty good evidence, that they didn’t have kids early or frequently, Noah being a case study on how many children someone has when commanded by God to multiply (corroborated by the New Testament), and that the order of children for Adam and Eve was: Cain, Abel, Seth, and only after Seth came other unnamed sons and daughters.

It’s clear from the separation of the genealogies of Seth and Cain, Cain’s banishment by God, and that Eve was looking for a replacement child for Abel, that Cain was disowned and no longer considered a son by Adam and Eve.

Notice that earlier in the story, Eve attributes the birth of Cain to help from God, but is silent at the birth of Abel. Then once Abel is dead, and Cain is exiled, she considers herself childless again, and attributes the birth of Seth to help from God. That’s a pattern you’ll notice in the Old Testament. Women always attribute their first child to divine help. Even in the Law, God consecrates the firstborn as belonging to him. Seth was Eve’s new firstborn, and that’s why she gave thanks to God again.

The idea that Adam and Eve and their descendants were reproducing like bunny rabbits, and at early ages comparable to recent history, is a fabrication and arose as a cursory response to an uncomfortable question.

We don’t know how long Adam was alone before God gave him Eve. We don’t know how long the newlyweds were together in the garden before they sinned. We don’t know how old Adam was when he and Eve conceived Cain and Abel. The story doesn’t say.

We do know from the dating of the birth of Seth that it was between when Adam was 0 and 130 years old. That means the garden, the fall of man, and the birth of Cain and Abel all happened within the first 130 years of Adam’s existence on Earth.

Problems with Tradition

My problem with the traditional explanation, and most explanations of Genesis from politically motivated evangelicals, is that they invoke science and theology only when convenient, and then ignore it otherwise. Allow me to illustrate.

Q: Why did people live so long before the flood?

A: The Earth was very different before the flood, and people weren’t as affected by the accumulated effects of the curse of sin as we are today, and people were much healthier than today obviously, to be able to live so long. When God said everything was “good” it means perfect. Adam and Eve didn’t have any genetic mistakes, that’s why it was ok for brothers and sisters to marry back then. You’ll notice that they had children at a much later age than we do now, and they probably went through puberty much later than we do now, and aged much slower. You could equate how Adam looked at 930 years old, to the way someone looks today at 100. You could equate Seth at 105, with a twenty-something today.

Q: Who were the Neanderthals?

A: We know human beings lived for a long time before the flood. Imagine what the skeleton of a 900 year old human looked like. Today you see the elderly hunched over and arthritic. Imagine what 900 years of that would do to a skeleton. Then there’s also Rickets and Syphilis and all sorts of other diseases that would wreak havoc on the human body over those long lifespans. Neanderthals are either decrepit old people, or apes that are now extinct.

Wait a second…I thought you said we aged much slower, and that we were much healthier before the flood. So why all of a sudden did you change tune to say antediluvians age as quickly as we do today, and are as sick as we are today. I thought they didn’t have as many genetic mistakes? I thought they weren’t as affected by the curse of sin? Wouldn’t a 900 year old skeleton back then, look no different than a 100 year old skeleton does now if they aged slower? There are old people’s skeletons in medical school laboratories across the world, we perform X-rays and MRIs on millennia old mummies all the time and none of them look like Neanderthals. What gives?

Q: Where did Cain find his wife, and who was he afraid of?

A: He married his sister. See, by the time Cain killed Abel, he was probably married to one of his sisters already, and maybe even had kids. Remember that Adam and Eve had other kids, the bible says so in Genesis 5:4. With how fast they were reproducing, Cain would have a ton of people to be afraid of. Plenty of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews that would want revenge. Remember that God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply.

Wait a second…I thought you said they went through puberty much later than we did. Why all of a sudden are they reproducing like bunny rabbits at an early age? I thought a 105 year old person was the equivalent of a twenty-something today. Speaking of nieces and nephews, what’s the point of Seth being a replacement if Abel already has kids (Eve’s grandkids), and Eve already has plenty of other kids?

Q: Why are there so many dinosaur fossils, and extinct mammal fossils? Isn’t that proof of evolution?

A: Actually, it’s proof of Noah’s flood. A giant worldwide flood would create the exact fossil record you see. Rain fell, and the fountains of the deep (giant subterranean geysers) erupted and filled the earth with water. There’d be a lot of mixing around of sediments and fluids and they’d form layers once settled. Put a bunch of rocks and dirt and water in a clear container and shake it up, then let it settle and see what you get. Imagine what a violent event that would be, being hit and by a wall of water many meters high. When the sediments settled, it created the fossil record.

Q: Ok, so where are all the human fossils then? According to your own mathematical models, there’d be millions of humans alive at the time of Noah’s flood. Where are all their fossils next to all the dinosaurs and animals the flood killed?

A: See, humans are more mobile than dinosaurs. When the flood came, they went to high ground. Also the flood was violent, even local floods can pick up boulders and trees and churn up the water really well. That would damage and break up the human bodies, and they wouldn’t fossilize. Also humans tend to bloat and float to the surface, where they’d be eaten by birds.

Wait a second…So the flood that uprooted boulders and trees and destroyed all the human bodies in your juicer-blender scenario, didn’t destroy all the dinosaur bodies too, and the neanderthal bodies, and the Wooly Mammoth bodies, it only selectively destroyed the human bodies? That’s so uncanny. The mud and sediments that you said buried everything “chose” to bury all the other warm blooded mammals and apes, and Neanderthals, for which we have plenty of fossils; but it was the human fossils that bloated and were eaten by birds, and not the others?

Henry Morris, a creationist, estimated there were 1.03 billion people alive during Noah’s flood. That’s 1.03 billion people living in different timezones. Many of them would be asleep when the floodwaters came, many of those awake wouldn’t have been warned by Noah – much less ever met the guy – and would be going about their day. Where are their millions upon millions of fossils? They would have been buried by mud or sediment, no different than the dinosaurs. They weren’t swimming or running for high ground…

You think I’m making this up?

I’m not. You think these are straw men? They’re not. Let’s look at AnswersInGenesis.org.

Did people like Adam and Noah really Live Over 900 years of age?: “At this point we might be inclined to ask, why did Methuselah die so young? How, indeed, is it even possible for anyone to age and die if the body constantly repairs and replaces its parts?”

Those Enigmatic Neanderthals: “Early on, Custance (1968), a creationist anthropologist, had suggested that “extreme old age would often tend to modify the skull towards the conventional man-ape form.” But on this he was ahead of his time…Disease was considered a likely candidate by many. Bowden (1981) had earlier taken the view that European Neanderthals were degenerate humans who suffered from rickets and syphilis; his belief was influenced by the opinions of a 19th-century pathologist, Virchow, and Ivanhoe (1970).”

Cain’s Wife – Who Was She?: “Scripture doesn’t tell us how many children were born to Adam and Eve, but considering their long life spans (Adam lived for 930 years—Genesis 5:5), it would seem logical to suggest there were many. Remember, they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).”

Where are all the Human Fossils?: “The turbulence of the water, even in a local flood, can be horrific, particularly when the fast-moving current picks up not only sand and mud, but large boulders. Under such conditions, human bodies would probably be thrown around like flotsam and would tend to be destroyed by the agitation and abrasion.”

With all of this in mind, where did Cain find his wife?

If you’re a Christian, and you trust the independently discovered, yet agreeing conclusions of the Geological, Astronomical, Biological, Chemical, and Genetic consensus, you’d probably fall under the camp of Theistic Evolution, like myself. For people like us, this quote makes perfect sense:

In Scripture he leaves us to find out for ourselves such details as whether ‘the wings of the wind’ and ‘the windows of heaven’ are literal or metaphorical, and in what sense ‘the world cannot be moved’ (Ps. 96:10) or the sun daily ‘runs its course’ (Ps. 19:5,6). Some of these questions are answered as soon as they are asked; others only by the general advance of knowledge; most of them are doctrinally neutral. We are asserting our own infallibility, not that of Scripture, when we refuse to collate our factual answers with those of independent enquiry.

– Derek Kidner, Genesis

Cain probably found his wife among other hominids that existed in the world as contemporaries of Adam and Eve. Contemporaries that were not made in the image and likeness of God, but still could be considered near-human. The term near-human isn’t to say that they didn’t have art, or didn’t bury their dead, or didn’t have intelligence and tool making, but to say that they didn’t have whatever it was that God put inside Adam, to distinguish modern humans from the primates. The bible says that even animals have the “breath of life” (Genesis 7:15), so that’s not what was missing. By interbreeding with humans, specifically Cain’s descendants, maybe they were able to get that missing piece.

Scientifically speaking, we know that Neanderthals are extinct today, but human beings still carry very small traces of Neanderthal DNA. I had my genome sequenced to find that I’m 0.8% Neanderthal, which is actually high for an African. Europeans and Asians tend to have higher percentages of Neanderthal DNA, around 1-4% being the norm.

It could be that Cain married a Neanderthal woman and the interbreeding between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals is actually recorded in scripture through the story of Cain in the land of Nod.

The tension between humans and Neanderthals, and the conflict between hunter gatherers (nomads) and farmers (the first city builders), could be told in the story of Cain and Abel and the lineages of Seth and Cain.

Who was Cain afraid of?

He was afraid of the very people from which he’d eventually find his wife. He knew that they killed each other, and it’s probably from observing them that he learned how to kill in the first place. That’s why he was afraid of them, because if he was forced to wander the earth, he knew he’d have to interact with these other primates, who might not like him.

And when I use the word primate, I use it because even humans are primates. These people may have looked almost exactly like Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, with similar levels of intelligence and technology. If Cain had blond hair, and blue eyes, these primates very well might have had the same. If Cain had dark skin and brown eyes, these primates might have had the same.

God took his fear seriously and put some sort of mark on him, that would make whoever encountered him not want to kill him, or at least be afraid to kill him.

In Conclusion

The above evidence leads me to believe that the most sound interpretation of the biblical text, which coincidentally lines up with what we know through modern science, is that Cain found his wife among other hominids (or people) that existed alongside Adam and Eve and moreover that the explanation of Cain marrying his sister, and being afraid of dozens or hundreds of Adam and Eve’s other children and grandchildren is both cursory and haphazard.

Now, though I think I’ve made a good case for my hypothesis, I didn’t write this to say that my hypothesis is right, and what you’ve been taught is wrong. No, I wrote this to say that what you’ve been taught is preposterous and almost any other explanation makes more sense than what you were taught, if you actually read the story, even if you’ve never heard of evolution.

Photo Credit: Tomislav Veic´, Krapina Neanderthal Museum, Croatia

Update 5/15/15

The summary of all this, if I didn’t make it clear enough, is that to insist all of Genesis must be taken literally is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. It makes traditional theology limp and trip over itself.

Proving that the traditional story of where Cain found his wife has to be false is not the same as saying that I found the true explanation. That’s what the conclusion actually means.

The comments section goes deeper into some of what was said above, so give it a look if you’re interested.


  1. I’m speaking Hebrew here.