“God’s anonymous: Cain’s wife”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
High above our nation’s capital, on the western bank of the Potomac River, stands Arlington National Cemetery. This hallowed ground serves as the final resting place of two presidents, thirteen Supreme Court justices, seven astronauts, as well as four hundred thousand military personnel and their families. It’s our country’s largest and most important military cemetery. Even today, as many as twenty-five funerals take place there every day.
And if you were to visit there, you’d find the graves of quite a number of notable people like Albert Sabin, the inventor of the oral polio vaccine, or Richard Byrd, the first to reach both the North and the South Poles, or five-star General George C. Marshall, who once served as Truman’s Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.
But of all the graves that rest across Arlington’s 624 acres, the most important one of all is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The idea for it began as early as 1921, when the body of an unknown American soldier was taken from its grave in France, then was reburied at Arlington. The tomb itself was built eleven years later, in 1932. And ever since July of 1937, it’s been guarded by a remarkably elite group of soldiers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what the weather.
In the words of the cemetery’s executive director, Karen Aguilera, “For nearly a hundred years, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It’s a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, mourning, and sacrifice.”
And though the soldier’s name may be unknown to us, it is known to God.
The Bible has more than its share of unknowns. Think, for example, in the Old Testament, of Noah’s wife or Lot’s wife or Potiphar’s wife. While they most certainly had names, the Bible doesn’t choose to tell us what they were. Or in the New Testament there are Ten Lepers whom Jesus healed, and two thieves that died beside Him on the cross. Though they once played an important part in our salvation story, their names are known only to God.
And the one we’ll consider first today is a woman, actually one of the most mysterious women in all of the Bible--Cain’s wife.
It’s a little strange if you think about it. Out of all the questions that people ask when it comes to creation vs. evolution, and there are many, the most frequently asked one of all is about Cain’s wife. In fact, one author wrote that, after fifteen years of full-time involvement in creation ministry, the one question people ask him more than any other is, “Where did Cain get his wife?”
It’s such an important question, it even came up in the Scopes trial, the “monkey trial,” back in 1925. Even Carl Sagan asked it in his movie, Contact.
And since it’s such a good question, it demands a good and honest answer.
Now before I tell you where Cain got his wife, let me tell you where he didn’t get his wife.
She was not some special creation, a woman specifically designed and created by God, (or else she would have been perfect!), nor was she from some other people or race. She couldn’t have been!
How do we know that? Because, for one thing, the Bible says that Eve was “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). And it also says that “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12). Put it together and you can’t help but see that Adam and Eve are the father and mother of all mankind--the entire human race. There’s just no other way.
So if Cain’s wife wasn’t some special creation or from some other race, who was she? There’s only one possibility--she was a daughter to Adam and Eve. And since she was their daughter, that would also have made her Cain’s sister!
Sister?! “Well, that can’t be!” you say. “Doesn’t the Bible say you can’t marry a close relation?”
Yes, it does, but not until two thousand years after Adam and Eve.
Let me explain. You see, when God made Adam and Eve, they were, just like the rest of creation, “very good,” perfect in every way--no flaws, no disease, and no sicknesses of any kind. But just as soon as they took that fruit from the tree, everything began to change. And what started as a tiny virus quickly invaded the human bloodstream and began to multiply, growing worse and worse with every passing generation. What started as a trickle soon became a flood that washed over all the earth.
So though it was once possible for Cain to marry his sister, for Abraham to marry his half-sister, Sarah, and for Jacob to marry his cousins, Leah and Rachel, by the time of Moses, no one could marry a close relation anymore. There were just too many flaws in our DNA.
So Cain married his sister, okay. But how many sisters did he have to choose from?
Actually, there could have been quite a lot! While the Bible tells us three of the children’s names--Cain, Abel and Seth--it also says that they “had other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4).
So how many sons and daughters did they have? That’s where it gets a little murky. And since Scripture doesn’t say a word, all we can do is guess.
Now since Adam lived to be 930 years old and Eve probably lived about that long too, and say they had children in their “prime,” for their first five hundred years or so, they could have easily had more than a hundred children. And if Cain were to marry one of them, he would have had quite a lot of sisters to choose from.
And when did they marry? Probably before he killed Abel and was banished to the land of Nod (Genesis 4:16).
Which tells us quite a lot! For one thing, it tells us that when she was just a little girl, she sat on the lap of her parents--Adam and Eve. For as long as she could remember, she heard the stories of the Garden of Eden, of Paradise, where everything was perfect all the time. And she learned that, when Satan tricked them into eating the fruit from the tree, nothing was ever the same, for then came sin and blame and shame. How hard it must have been for them to admit the paradise they lost and all the things that they had done.
Yet in time, as Adam worked by the “sweat of his brow,” God blessed them, first with Cain, then Abel, then other daughters and sons.
And for years, life was good with her husband Cain. She loved him and he loved her. And while her brother Abel cared for sheep, her husband worked the ground.
But for some reason, (we don’t know why and we don’t know when), Cain didn’t love the Lord as much as he used to anymore. And when it came time for sacrifice, while Abel brought the very best of his sheep, Cain brought the leftovers.
And though the Lord warned him that “sin was crouching at his door” (Genesis 4:7), Cain took him out to a field and killed him.
The Lord said, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
And along with his sin came punishment and a curse. As the Lord said: “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:11-12).
So as the Bible says, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16).
And as he went, never to be seen or heard from again, who went with him? His wife.
Can you think about this for me? From the day that Cain left the Lord’s presence, she may never have seen her parents, her brothers, her sisters, her nieces, her nephews, or any other family members for that matter, for the rest of her days on earth. For no other reason than the fact that she had married Cain, through no fault of her own, she would go into exile with him. And if you think Cain’s punishment was more than he could bear (Genesis 4:13), imagine how hard it must have been for his wife!
As one author put it: “Herein lies the tragedy of Cain’s wife. The shame and disgrace of Cain’s sin fell upon the innocent head of the woman who had married him. For the rest of her days, she was compelled to bear the stigma of his crime and to share the disgrace of his sin. She avoided the company of her neighbors; she knew they were talking about the murder. She could still hear the voice of her brother’s blood crying out for vengeance, and she wondered if life would ever again be worth living because of her marriage to Cain. She knew people were pointing at her and saying, ‘There goes the woman who married infamous Cain. He murdered the godliest man on the face of the earth. He crimsoned his hands in his own brother’s blood. There goes the wife of Cain.’”
As much as we might hate to admit it, Cain’s wife still lives today. Imagine being the wife of a convict, of a criminal, or of a murderer. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything. Still you have to bear the blame and the shame.
Or imagine what it’s like to live with a man who cares nothing for the Lord. Maybe he’s a good husband and a good father. You love him with all your heart. But with every tick of the clock, you grow closer to Christ, but further and further apart.
Pity the wife of Cain!
Then what happened? Listen to the words of verse 17: “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech” (Genesis 4:17-18).
Do you see what’s going on? Here’s Cain, the one who made an absolute mess of his life, and his wife’s life for that matter--and what’s he doing now? He’s starting a family! He’s building a city, and he’s naming it after his son!
Did Cain deserve it? Not a chance. He deserved to die. But God, once again, showed great grace.
And there’s the good news. God doesn’t leave you in your land of Nod, your land of curse and wandering, where your marriage seems hopeless, where people hurt you, and where your life is falling apart. For though sin calls God to judge and condemn, it also moves Him to save, to cleanse, and to redeem.
As the writer to the Hebrews once said: “You have not come to a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest...You have come...to Jesus...and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18, 24).
So we give thanks to God.
In spite of our great sin, dear Father, Your grace is greater still. Help us to rest every day in Your will and Your plan, for Jesus’ sake. Amen