Question and Answer

Where did Cain get his wife?
After Cain murdered his brother, Abel, the Lord disciplined him by making him “a restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). Nevertheless, God showed Cain grace in the midst of judgment by placing “a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Gen. 4:15). Cain then settled “in the land of Nod, east of Eden,” married, and had a son (Gen. 4:16–17).

If Cain was one of only three sons born to Adam and Eve, where did Cain find this wife? And a related question is who else existed who would potentially want to kill him?

The answer lies in the nature in biblical storytelling, called narrative. One characteristic of the narrative of Scripture is that it is intentionally selective in the information it transmits. Biblical narrative tells only what needs to be known for the story. In the account of Cain and Abel, it was unnecessary to include a description of any other siblings. That does not mean, however, that Adam and Eve did not have other children, both male and female. Indeed, God’s command, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it,” means it is likely that Adam and Eve had many more children than just the three whose names we are given (Gen. 1:28).

This explains both questions. First, Cain likely feared that his brothers (and possibly also nephews) would want to kill him to avenge the murder of their brother Abel. Thus, God marked Cain to protect him. Second, Cain found a female descendant of Adam and Eve to marry. We don’t know how much time had elapsed since the eviction from the Garden of Eden or how many descendants of Adam and Eve now filled the world, but it seems like a clear conclusion from this text that the population was sufficient to provide Cain both an option to marry and a reason to fear.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.

Find Monthly Issue Content by Date