In Chapter 4, we meet Cain and Abel, and witness the first murder committed by man. In our prior discussion, we studied the word origins of various names used in Chapter 4. We also looked at the practice of sacrifice and why Abel’s sacrifice was preferred.
For additional discussion, we are going to look at Cain and at the perplexing question of Cain’s wife. This will be divided into two parts: 1) Biography of Cain -and- 2) Where did Cain find his wife?
Origin of the name: Genesis 4:1- “The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying ‘I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.’” The Hebrew name "qayin" (Cain) and the term "qaniti" (I have produced) is another play on words that would be recognized in the original Hebrew, but is lost in translation. An extremely rough equivalent would be “I have gained Cain”, with gain meaning “to begat” or “to create”
The first son of Adam and Eve. The first murderer in human history- killed his brother Abel because God preferred Abel’s sacrifice over his own. In punishment, Cain was “banned from the soil” and condemned to wander the Earth. He settled in the land of Nod and built a city. His descendants include: Jabal (forefather of tent-dwelling cattle-keepers), Jubal (forefather of musicians), Tubal-Cain (forefather of smiths). It is also hypothesized that Cain is the father of the Kenites, which included both shepherds and metal-workers. In this theory, though, some of the descendants of Cain must have survived the flood. This is entirely possible as it is becoming more common to accept that the flood was not world-wide.
The Oxford Illustrated Companion to the Bible lists multiple later interpretations, including identifying Cain as the son of either Satan, the wicked angel Sammael, or the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It also states that the “Zohar” and various medieval legends speculate on the fate of Cain’s offspring (with his wife Awan, meaning “Wickedness”) as demons.
4:17 Where did Cain find his wife? Reading the Bible, one naturally comes to a perplexing question: if Cain’s parents were literally the first two people on Earth, where did Cain find his wife? There are two possible solutions to this dilemma.
1) If one takes a literal view of the story of Genesis (see Genesis: Chapter 3: Additional Notes & Discussion for more information), then one accepts not only that Adam and Eve were literal figures, but that they really lived for 800 years. The Bible also states that Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters. Genesis states that Cain “settled in the land of Nod.” One reads specifically that Cain spent many years wandering before he settled down and started a family. Quite logically, then, Cain may have married one of his sisters, or the daughter of one of his many brother or sisters.
2) One can also accept that between the literary traditions of the time and the oral tradition by which we have received these stories, that Genesis is figurative, not explicitly literal. In that case, early humans may have fallen from grace and Adam and Eve could have been literal people, but they may have been part of a tribe of humans, not the only two humans ever in existence. Cain, in this theory, has multiple options when choosing a wife.
Brown, Raymond E. (S.S.), Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (S.J.), & Murphy, Roland E. (O. Carm). (1990) Genesis. “The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.” Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Catholic Book Publishing. (various) Genesis: Chapter 4 Notes. “St. Joseph Edition, New American Bible.” New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing.
Geisler, Norman & Howe, Thomas. (1992). Genesis 4:17. “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties.” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
Green, Kevin (compiler). (2008). Cain. “All-In-One Bible Reference Guide”. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Metzger, Bruce M. & Coogan, Michael D. (2003). Eden. “The Oxford Illustrated Companion to the Bible”. New York, NY: Tess Press.
Rhodes, Ron. (2008). Genesis 4:17. “Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses.” Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.”
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Jennifer Becker Landsberger
Who am I? Freelance writer (magazines, websites, & copywriting), Catholic, military wife, and Mensan. Double Bachelor's in History & Psychology.
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Oh creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with a loving knowledge of you, that I may bring you like to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries what you have revealed.
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Biblical Evidence for Catholicism by Dave Armstrong