By Dikkon Eberhart
The Bible does not provide the name of Cain’s wife. Neither does it provide any other information about her. The single reference to her existence is found in Genesis 4:17 —
Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch.
The identity of Cain’s wife is one of those persistent questions that are posed by people today when they study the early chapters of Genesis. As indicated, these early chapters do not help us. What they do provide instead is patriarchal data on antediluvian life and the story of the first murder that was ever committed.
Cain’s Wife Was the First Wife, in the World.
Women existed during this period—after all, sons and daughters were conceived with the patriarchs—but their role was otherwise not historically identified. The reason why we ask more questions about Cain’s wife than, about say, the wives of Kenan, or Jared, or Methuselah is because Cain’s wife was the first wife in the fallen world.
Of course, there was one earlier wife than Cain’s wife, but that earlier wife’s nature was different than an ordinary human wife’s nature. That earlier wife was created from a rib of her husband while he slept. God crafted her to be a beneficial helper to her husband, Adam, and she probably did help him—in their innocence, while the two lived together in the Garden of Eden. Eventually, though, she succumbed to something that was not helpful. She was persuaded into sin by Satan—who approached her in the guise of a serpent—and then she tempted Adam into sin, too and he also sinned.
Cain Was Created Differently
After their Fall and their expulsion from Eden, Adam named his wife Eve, “because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Then, living outside the Garden, they become “one flesh” again. Literally, they had been one flesh before. Now, they became one flesh again, in the sense that “the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain” (Genesis 4:1). The first human on earth—Adam—had been directly created by God; the second human had been created miraculously from a rib of that first human. After that, though, all new humans were created by sexual intercourse.
Cain was Adam and Eve’s first son. Therefore, on earth, Cain was the first child conceived by sexual intercourse. Adam and Eve had a second son, Abel. Later, after Cain murdered his brother Abel, they had a third son, whom they named Seth. After Seth was born, we are told in Scripture that Adam “had other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4) during the remaining eight hundred years of his life. In the meanwhile, after Cain murdered Abel, he was expelled from his family’s land outside Eden and sent to be a wanderer in the land of Nod, which was east of Eden. That’s where he had relations with his wife and she conceived and bore him a son, Enoch (see above).
Who Was Cain’s wife?
Logically, there is only one answer, but it’s an answer which today may give us a shudder. It’s nerve-wracking to conclude that Cain’s wife must have been one of his own sisters. His sisters were the only females available, except for his mother. Eve stayed at home with Adam, as Adam’s wife and to conceive their other sons and daughters. Cain went off into the land of Nod with his sister/wife, and they conceived Enoch.
Looking all the way back to the beginning of our fallen human life on earth, we must conclude that we fallen human beings began our descent by means of incest.
Our current injunction against incest is at least practical . . . and it has existed among human cultures for thousands of years. Genetic disorders that build up in family lines should not be passed along to babies, if possible. When both the father and the mother share the same disorder because they are siblings, their baby might inherit the disorder and perhaps suffer from it more intensely. In the case of Cain and his wife, however, they were the children of Adam and Eve—who were perfect creations of God and could not have had such a thing as a genetic disorder. Cain and his wife’s relationship was a marriage between brother and sister at the first generation level of humans, and, therefore, it was without any genetic danger. But later during the patriarchal age, as an increasing number of men and women cousins became available, cousins with an increasing number of removals, then what I think is our human fundamental injunction against incest came into play. And this notion of mine leads, eventually, to where we are today and to why the subject of incest is so objectionable to us.
What Does the Bible Say about Incest?
First, there is a biblical model for how a young man finds a wife, a model which precludes him finding his woman within his own family. In Genesis 2:24, we are told “A man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” That is, the would-be groom must leave what is familiar and go out to find the woman he will wed in some other family and/or location.
Second, there are biblical laws that anathematize incest. For example, Leviticus 18:9 mandates “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home.”
Third, there are consequences of incest, even when not felt immediately. For example, 2 Samuel 13 recounts the incestuous rape by Amnon of his half-sister Tamar. Amnon was King David’s oldest son and the brother of Absalom. Enraged at his brother, but patient, Absalom waited for years before avenging his sister’s rape by sending his servants to kill Amnon when he was feasting.
Skeptics of the innate power of God’s revelation might prefer to place weight on the genetic danger of marital consanguinity to explain our historical and cultural aversion to incest—that’s science, they would say, after all. But I say no. The heavier weight, in my opinion, is the Word of God. Whatever makes God shudder, should make us shudder too.
Not all of us will, and not all the time: but our souls know when something’s broken.
Cain’s Wife’s Name According to the Book of Jubilees
Biblically, Cain’s wife has no name. However, there is at least one extra-biblical document from the Hebrew tradition which names her. The Book of Jubilees is also called “Lesser Genesis” and was written down somewhere between 135 and 105BCE, though it is said to have been originally presented by an angel to Moses. Some Hebrew scholars consider this book canonical although the larger body of worldwide Orthodox Jewish scholarship considers it not so, despite how intriguing its content is in terms of legend. Having noted that caution, in The Book of Jubilees we learn that Cain’s wife’s name was Awan (alternatively Avan or Aven) and that Awanhad a sister, named Azura. According to this tradition, Azura married Abel. The story continues that later, after Abel was murdered, Azura then married Seth. The Seth line continued down through the antediluvian patriarchal age to Noah and the flood. By that time, every kind of wickedness had become so great among the Cain line of descent and also, though perhaps to a lesser degree, among the Seth line of descent that God became sorry He had made humankind in the first place. With the flood, God sought to blot everyone out, except for that one righteous man—Noah—his wife, their three sons, and their three daughters-in-law. God was determined to start the population over with a man He chose.
And He did. God would continue the genealogy line through Noah, Abraham, David, and others until it was time to send His Son Jesus to earth in an incarnate form of a humble baby—fully human and fully divine—sent to save the souls of everyone who believed and would believe in His Truth and saving power.