Biblical Studies, Old Testament

Where did she come from?

Cain’s wife, that is. In Gen 4:17 Cain and his wife “know” each other, conceive and give birth to Enoch. But his wife just appears in the story, seemingly out of nowhere. Obviously the biblical writers/editors/redactors don’t always give us the information we would like, but it seems odd not to mention where she came from. I suppose it just wasn’t that important.

What also piques my curiosity is how this issue is handled in light of a literal interpretation of the creation accounts. If Adam and Ever were the only humans created and they only had two sons, then where does Cain’s wife come from? I’m willing to admit my ignorance on this question–I’ve not studied this particular issue.

So, what say ye?

Αυτω η δοξα


23 thoughts on “Where did she come from?”

  1. The first to answer this question in a meaningful way is Isaac La Peyrere (1596-1676), who argued for pre-Adamites and that Genesis is only the history of Jewish people not world history. I’m sure many others have picked up on this in ways, arguing forms of theistic evolution (if they hold to a “literal” view, as you ask).

  2. Rob: I am familiar with the suggestion of theistic evolution, but I wasn’t sure how a non-TE would answer this. I’ll have to look at La Peyrere and find some modern scholars who have discussed this.

  3. Jason,

    Just to be clear, the theistic evolution model I am referring to still takes Gen 1-2 literally. That is, there were “others” but the first couple, Adam and Eve, where actually made by God and in His image. La Peyrere’s form of it, suggests there were “many Adams.” They key influence for LP was the discovery of new worlds through naval exploration during his time. All this is not to be confused with theistic evolution views that do not view Gen 1-2 literally.

  4. (The more conservative response, who do not believe in evolution, would probably speak of a gap in the text [between Gen 3-4] or something like this). As you can imagine there have been theories on this since ancient times (Jewish sources are always the starting point with these interpretive anomalies).

  5. Actually there is an ancient tradition that speaks to this as noted by the “The Life of Adam and Eve” (Vita Adami et Evae) with the earliest Latin manuscript evidence dating to the 9th century and thus pointing to an earlier version (though there are a number of variants found in several languages). There one finds the sons of Adam marrying his daughters. In fact, it is the very reason for Cain’s jealousy of Abel, because Abel was given the preferred of the sisters.

  6. If you take ha-aretz, “the land,” and the Garden of Eden to be in the Promised Land (the very place God was preparing the people to enter when Moses prepared the text), which is an interpretation with a fair amount of rabbinic history, then it fits with seeing the story of Adam & Eve’s special creation (bara instead of ‘asah in Genesis 1:27) as being about the historical origins of God’s covenant people. It would also allow for an agnostic stance on the existence & origins of other people.

  7. For an argument that the Promised Land and Garden of Eden are the same locale, see Sailhamer’s Genesis Unbound.

  8. Kyle: I find that particular view tenable, though I’m not sold on it. Again, I’ve not delved into this issue headlong, so I’ll likely wrestle with the literature on it at some point and hopefully come down on one position or another. A friend commented about this post (only not here) and his suggestion was that the ancient writers didn’t see themselves as historical writers, thus Adam and Eve weren’t actual historical people, an argument that’s been at the fore of discussions lately.

  9. The reason that position seems untenable to me is that it either (1) requires assumptions about what the author thought or believed beyond what he wrote, or (2) begs the question in regards to identifying the genre.

    All we have are the authors words, and it seems clear in the narrative that Adam & Eve are just as real as Noah, Jacob or Rebekah. He’s in genealogies, located geographically, etc. There’s so much more to say, but I’ll let you look into it first. Don’t overlook Sailhamer because it’s 25 years old. He gets at (and goes beyond), much of what Walton/Beale are just now writing (and he doesn’t bring all of the baggage that Enns brings in his latest).

  10. Kyle: I’ve got two volumes by Sailhamer (The Pentateuch as Narrative and The Meaning of the Pentateuch) but would like to read his commentary as well. This issue has only become an interest of late (the last couple of years) as I am struggling with/through various sections of scripture and trying to sort out how to make the best sense of them. The genealogical and geographical issues you mention certainly merit consideration in the is-adam-historical debate, but I’m curious as to your statement “All we have are the authors words” and how that works in your view on these things.

  11. It means that when we reason from what the author was thinking or believed, or even attempt to reconstruct their worldview, that we are on shaky ground. It’s impossible to get “behind the text” and into the authors mind…all we have are their words. Thus, attempting to reconstruct the mind of Moses from various loosely similar, geographically and culturally distinct ANE texts is a fools errand open to any interpretation possible. Instead, stronger arguments can be made literarily and narratively for understanding the author…since in reality the text is our only access to him.

  12. Kyle: Are you suggesting that we dispense with ANE literature as a means by which we study the OT? Plus, how could we analyze OT texts literarily or narratively without some understanding of period literature that bears some cultural similarities–does any text stand on its own? I may be misreading you, so feel free to elaborate if you wish.

  13. I lost a longer comment to the void…ah well.

    Yes and no, and to varying degrees. It depends on what you are trying to get at? Do you want the meaning of the words or a historical reconstruction of the events behind the words?

    If you want the meaning of the words and phrases that make up the passages in the OT, then those texts are largely not useful. In fact, outside linguistic sources can be harmful to our understanding of Hebrew syntax. The whole book on Hebrew syntax is being rewritten by those who are now looking at the language alone instead of imposing grammar rules from Greek/Arabic/Aramaic and other languages with which we are more familiar (and this has a bearing on Genesis 1).

    If you are seeking to create a historical construct behind the text, then they may be helpful (to varying degrees) for filling in the details. If you want to know about the historical event of the ANE flood, then by all means, dig through all of these resources and make your construction. Bring in geology, archaeology, etc.

    Theologically though, where does the locus of revelation lie? In the words of Scripture (which provide an interpretation of the events and not many historical details) or in historical reconstructions of the events behind the text? Thus, let’s get at what the words mean. Let’s get at what literary and narratival arguments can be made from the text itself first. After that is all laid on the table, so that we have a pretty good idea at the theological possibilities (since the locus of revelation is in the words), then we can open ourselves to all of the possible historical reconstructions of what’s going on behind the text that God didn’t give us in Scripture.

    Is that more clear as to what I’m thinking?

  14. What I want to know is how Cain could have built a city after he killed Abel. Where did the people come from to do that?

  15. Maybe the Cain story was once separate from the Adam story, and was set in its present position by whoever it was that created the Book of Genesis as we have it. They didn’t edit the logical inconsistency out of it, but that doesn’t seem to have been a problem to them.

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