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Who Was the Wife of Cain?

A closer look at one of the most enigmatic women in Genesis

Mary Joan Winn Leith explores the identity of the wife of Cain.

While there are many examples of strong and inspiring men and women in Genesis, the book is also packed with stories of dysfunctional families, which is evidenced from the very beginning with the first family—Adam, Eve and their two children, Cain and Abel. In no short amount of time—just 16 verses after announcing the birth of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4—Cain has murdered his younger brother and is consequently exiled from the land. In theory, this would have dropped the world’s population from four down to three. The narrative continues in Genesis 4 with Cain settling in the land of Nod and having children with his wife. Who did Cain marry? Where did she come from? Are there other people outside of Eden? In the November/December 2013 issue of BAR, Mary Joan Winn Leith addresses these questions and explores the identity of the wife of Cain in “Who Did Cain Marry?”

Given that the wife of Cain is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, she would not be counted among the famous women in Genesis. Nevertheless, her identity is still worth investigating. Who did Cain marry? Mary Joan Winn Leith first explores the traditional Jewish and Christian answers that contend that the wife of Cain was another daughter of Adam and Eve. According to this reasoning, Cain would have married his sister—one of Abel’s twin sisters no less, according to the  Genesis Rabbah.
 

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Comment by Doug on November 25, 2013 at 6:05pm

OK, so I am not a member of BAS. So, what's the cliff notes conclusion? Who WAS his wife?

Comment by John on November 26, 2013 at 1:25pm

Doug,

It basically refutes the traditional view of Cain marring his sister because there just isn't anything in the text to suggest this.It's just a bad tradition Christians have been following like so many others.

 "if Adam, Eve and Cain are the only people yet living on the earth, why is Cain afraid that in his wanderings “anyone who meets me may kill me” (Genesis 4:14)? Who is out there at the moment to threaten him? Taking the Biblical text at face value, the first couple had no children prior to their expulsion from Eden,"

However, when my students ask about Cain’s wife, I offer a different explanation. I warn them that modern scholarship is not as diverting as the traditional Jewish and Christian ones. I tell them about how in recent years sociologists and anthropologists have called attention to the fact that traditionally as humans we have tended to give ourselves group identities in opposition to the “other”:

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