And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth (Genesis 5:3)
Where did Cain get his wife? Another question along the same line is, “From where did the people come that Cain feared after killing Abel?” (Genesis 4:14). Questions like this have spawned much conjecture in the origins debate and have led many to the misguided conclusion that other “hominids” existed prior to God’s special creation of Adam and Eve. Cain, they conclude, feared these “people” and he probably selected a wife from among them.
For better or worse, the Bible does not provide us with all of the detail we would like for filling the gaps in these historical narratives. But the Author does not concern Himself with the minor details in order to focus our attention on the greater plan, i.e., that God created everything including mankind in a “very good” state; God desired a close personal relationship with His special creation, man; man disobeyed God and severed that intimate relationship; God has continually strived to reconcile man to Himself and provided the way of salvation; and God will one day restore His creation to its original perfection. So the extraneous, irrelevant minutia is omitted in order to develop the greater story. That being said, we are left with many unimportant unanswered questions that can lead us astray, if we are careless in the way we handle God’s Word.
The above are at least two such questions. Genesis 4 begins shortly after the Fall and informs us that “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The Hebrew construction indicates that Eve actually believed that she had given birth to the Savior. Literally it reads “I have gotten a man, the LORD.” She believed God’s promise that “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis added). She later realized her error and when her second son was born, she named him Abel (Genesis 4:2) which means emptiness or vanity because her desire was not realized with the firstborn. Now, between verse 1 and verse 2 some time has elapsed, but we do not know how much time. We can surmise that Abel was the second male child born: “And she again bare his brother Abel” (emphasis added). Verse 2 tells us that “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Here again, within the same verse, a long span of time has elapsed, and we are left to wonder. How old were these boys? Were they in their early teens or were they fully grown men between 30 and 40 years old? We are not told. And what about other siblings? Were they the only children of Adam and Eve? The details elude us. The intent of this narrative is to highlight the advancement of sin in this new world. Cain committed the first act of murder in killing Abel, his brother. This narrative also illuminates the downward spiral of sin. This final act of murder began with disobedience (Cain offered a sample of his harvest as a sacrifice to God, (Genesis 4:3) rather than a blood sacrifice), then he became jealous of his brother because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected his (Genesis 4:4), and finally his jealousy worked itself into a raging anger that ended in murder (Genesis 4:5). This is the focus of this narrative, and how old they were or how many other siblings there were is totally irrelevant to the story.
Obviously, Cain did not get away with the murder. Again the purpose of the narrative serves to give us insight into the nature of God and the nature of man. Notice that it is God who seeks man rather than the other way around. “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?” (Genesis 4:9a). Why does God pose the question? Does God not know what has transpired? God is omniscient. Of course He knows. In fact, God attempted to intervene before the heinous act. “And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:6-7, emphasis added). Cain failed to follow the prescribed method of sacrifice that God instituted in the Garden (Genesis 3:21). Only the shedding of innocent blood can cover man’s sin, but Cain tried to do it his way, and the sin lying at his door was rebellion against God. In His line of questioning, God was giving Cain the opportunity to confess his sin as ask forgiveness, but instead, he hardened his heart: “And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9b). Even then God gave him a third opportunity: “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). Failing to confess and repent of his sin, God sentenced Cain to banishment from his home and family (Genesis 4:14).
However, it seems that the thing Cain most feared was retribution by others. “Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me” (Genesis 4:14, emphasis added). Who did Cain have to fear? So far, the only people named in the Bible are Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Who else was around that might take vengeance on Cain? Then there is the matter of Cain’s wife: “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch” (Genesis 4:17, emphasis added).
So, where did Cain get his wife? The Bible does not say. Apparently the Author thought we were sufficiently intelligent enough to figure that one out on our own, as long as we stick with the Bible. The Genesis account of creation tells us that man was created on the sixth day. Man was also created apart from the animals, who God created merely by His spoken command. Man, on the other hand, was “created” (Hebrew bârâ’ used only as applicable to God’s creative acts) in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27). Furthermore, God “sculpted” (Hebrew yâtsar, which means to mold into a form as a potter forms clay) a special body for man. So man is truly unique among God’s creation. In addition to that, all of God’s creation is to reproduce “after its kind” (Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 25-26). So, Cain’s wife had to be of the same “kind” as he. That would preclude him having a wife of some lesser “evolved” hominid, which, if such a thing existed, would not have been created in the image of God. That leaves only one option. Cain’s wife was his sister.
The other question is: Whom did Cain have to fear? It stands to reason that if Cain had a wife, Abel could have had a wife and perhaps even children. Since we are not given a timeframe for this event, we cannot know if the boys were in their thirties or older. Perhaps both boys were old enough by now to have grown children. If that were the case, Cain would have feared retribution from Abel’s sons. Or he could have feared retribution from his other siblings. The Bible tells us that Adam “begat sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4), but the number and the time between births remains a puzzle. We know that Adam was 130 when Seth was born (Genesis 5:3). “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Genesis 4:25). Seth’s name means substituted (Strong’s definition) or compensation (Young’s definition). Seth is the third person named as a son of Adam, but it does not necessarily follow that he was the third born. It simply means that he was the third son of Adam who is identified in Scripture. (I will explain later.) Also, judging by the significance of his name and Adam’s age at his birth, it is reasonable that Cain and Abel were approaching that age, i.e., between 120 and 129 years old. Keep in mind that Adam was not “born;” he was created fully grown, so while chronologically he was 130, physically he was probably around 160. If this is the case, there was enough time involved for many more people to be on earth coming from Adam and Eve and approximately four generations (provided a generation equals 30 years). I am no mathematician, but I came up with what I consider to be a rather conservative figure for the possible number people on earth at the time of Seth’s birth:
A young biologist friend of mine came up with a table similar to mine, but he took into account the maturation process of Adam and Eve’s offspring before they were of age to reproduce. Gee! Why didn’t I think of that! His table is too long to reproduce here, but his figures were even more conservative than mine. He calculated the possible population at the time of Seth’s birth at only 9,289. Even at this much lower count, one understands why Cain feared for his life; there were others out there who might want to take vengeance for Abel’s murder.
By now it should be evident that Seth was not Adam and Eve’s third son. His name simply means that he was the replacement for Abel. His name is significant also because it starts to point the way to our Savior, Jesus Christ. From Seth’s line came Enoch who “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). From Seth’s line came Noah “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5); a man who “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). Through Noah, and then through his son Shem, extended the line that would eventually lead to Jesus (Luke 3:38). Herein lies the reason Seth’s name is recorded while other sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are excluded. Seth was not the third son, but he was the son that points us to Christ.