Who Was Cain’s Wife?
By John Linton
“And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.”-Gen. 5:4.
I suppose the question, “Who was Cain’s wife?” has been asked thousands of times since men began to read the Bible. It has probably been discussed more than any other Bible problem. It is the stock question of the blatant street-corner infidel and the soapbox orator. Every Bible-believing Christian is expected to be staggered into utter silence and defeat when asked the question, “If the Bible is true, then where did Cain get his wife?”
If I can answer this question to your satisfaction, it is reasonable to suppose that all the other puzzling passages in the Bible may be satisfactorily answered, for this is believed to be the prime poser, the hardest nut of all to crack.
From one answer we may learn all.
The story of Cain has to do with the tragedy in Eden, and tells us how the black curtain of sin was rung down upon the fairest scene this world has ever known. Senator Taylor of Tennessee once painted a beautiful word picture of the Garden of Eden. We are apt today to forget the glories and grandeur of that Edenic home into which God placed our first parents; so I would like to give you part of that word picture. Speaking of Eden, the Senator said: It might have been a dream of God, glowing with ineffable beauty; rimmed about with blue mountains from whose moss-covered peaks a thousand glassy streams spread out in mid-air, and were like ten thousand bridal veils catching a thousand rainbows from the sun.
Archipelagos of gorgeous coloring flecked with perennial green; where grapevines staggered from tree to tree, drunk with the nectar of their own clusters; where peach and plum and blood-red cherries, bending bough and bush, hung like drops of rubies and pearls; a wilderness of flowers, redolent of eternal spring and pulsing with bird song; where dappled fawns played upon banks of violets; where leopards, peaceful and tame, lounged in the copses of the magnolia; and where lions panted in jungles of roses. A billowy landscape, festooned with tangled creepers, and curtained about with sweet-scented groves of oranges and pomegranates. The air was softened by a dreamy haze of perpetual springtime. Through the midst there flowed a truculent river, alternately gleaming in the sunshine and darkening in the shadows. Down in some vale, fresh from the worship of God, slept Adam. No monarch ever slept upon a softer couch, and no earthly potentate was ever draped with more costly and beautiful tapestry. God caused to pass over him a deep sleep, and forth from a painless wound in his side there sprang a being blithesome as the air; her hair hung like strands of gold, her teeth were like pearls, her cheeks like roses. He gazed upon God’s capsheaf of creation, His highest thought for the happiness of man-Eve.
But in the morning of that beautiful creation, so eloquently described by the Senator, a shadow fell upon the world, and its name was sin. For man was a fool then, just as the man who leaves God out of his life today is a fool, for in the exercise of his God-given free will Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, fell, and oh, what a fall it was! That fall involved the whole human race in rebellion against God. That one sin of Adam became the father of all the future sins of men and the parent of all perversity in fallen human nature. It was a sin that would multiply with each succeeding generation until the progeny of that first disobedience fills the earth today. When Adam fell in that first fair test of his obedience, God placed an angel with shining sword to guard the gate of Eden, lest man should eat of the tree of life and live forever in a state of perpetual rebellion against God.
In the fourth chapter of Genesis is the story of Cain. We are told that, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4). Instead of approaching God through the shed blood of a lamb, as God had shown his parents at the gate of Eden, “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord” (Gen. 4:3). It represented his own handiwork, the fruit of his labors; and by offering a bouquet to God he tried to commend himself to God on the basis of his own good works.
So because he rejected God’s Word and God’s way of salvation, God rejected him. Cain then became angry with his godly brother. One day, when they were out in the field together, Cain first looked this way, then looked that way, and when he thought no one was looking, he lifted his hand, and his brother fell in his blood. Cain became the first murderer and Abel the first martyr. But there was one way he forgot to look-up. And God saw! Those were the days of mountain justice when men took the law into their own hands and avenged the innocent by the death of the guilty; so God set a mark upon Cain lest any finding him should slay him. Then: “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife.”-Gen. 4:16,17.
The infidel idea declares there must have been another race of people living on the earth in the days of Adam and Eve, because the Bible, they tell us, says that Cain went away into the land of Nod and there got his wife-but the Bible says no such thing. That is about as near as infidels ever get to quoting a Book about which they really know very little. The Bible does not say Cain got his wife in the land of Nod. Anyone conversant with the Bible use of the word “knew,” as used here in connection with family life, knows that it does not mean to become acquainted with. The word “knew” is a generic term. It refers to the procreation of the family, the begetting of children. “Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch.” Nor does the record indicate that the land of Nod was a distant country. On the contrary, it merely states that it was on the east of the Garden of Eden.
The whole presumption is that Cain took his wife with him when he went to the land of Nod where their first child was conceived and born. Who, then, was Cain’s wife? Before answering that question, let me say it is not essential to the salvation of any man to know where Cain got his wife. The man who refuses to accept Christ and be saved because he doesn’t know who Cain’s wife was, is just as sensible as the man who has swallowed a deadly poison but refuses to take the medicine that will cure him, because there is some mystery he cannot solve, and which it is none of his business to solve, concerning the matrimonial affairs of the man who printed the label on the medicine bottle!
The simple fact is, those who make such problems as Cain’s wife an excuse for not being saved are usually living in sin, want to continue in sin, and are merely using Bible problems as an excuse for so doing. Dr. R. A. Torrey was once called to deal with a skeptic. He asked him if he was an honest skeptic. The man said he was. When asked what his problem was, he said, “I can’t understand where Cain got his wife.” Dr. Torrey then said, “If I show you where Cain got his wife, then I take it you will accept Christ and be saved.”
The man replied that he had never said he would. Dr. Torrey answered, “If your real difficulty was about Cain’s wife, and if I solved that problem for you, then if you were an honest skeptic, you would accept Christ and become a Christian.” The man saw he was cornered. Dr. Torrey persisted: “Tell me, isn’t there something wrong in your own personal life?” After a great deal of hesitation and evasion, the man finally admitted there was.
Not long afterward Dr. Torrey discovered that the trouble with that man wasn’t Cain’s wife, but somebody else’s wife! Who, then, was Cain’s wife? The answer is found in the words of my text, Genesis 5:4: “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.”
If we figure according to statisticians who tell us that under favorable conditions, such as would have prevailed on the earth in those days, population would double every twenty-five years, and bearing in mind that daughters as well as sons were born to Adam and Eve, we can see that there could have been scores of people on the earth by the time Cain went into the land of Nod. Someone will say that is true only on the assumption that Cain married one of the daughters of Adam. Certainly he did. How else could the race have sprung from a single human pair unless there had been at first the intermarriage of the sons and daughters of Adam? We know that today the marriage of cousins is sometimes fraught with disaster, but in the morning of human history and in the providence of God, it was not so. Even as late as fifteen hundred years before Christ, we read that Abraham married his own half-sister.
We must keep in mind that the genealogy of Adam takes no cognizance of the birth of Adam’s daughters. There could have been daughters born before the birth of Cain and between Cain and Abel. We are not told when they were born, who they were, or how many there were. The record states, as clearly as language can put it, that Adam begat daughters as well as sons. When we remember, therefore, that the Bible does not say Cain got his wife in the land of Nod, and that the land of Nod was not a distant country; when we note that daughters as well as sons were born to Adam and Eve; and when we recognize the necessity of the intermarriage of the children of the first human pair, we see that the problem of Cain’s wife is not a problem at all. Cain simply married one of the daughters born to Adam, and the mystery vanishes when we note exactly what the Bible says concerning the matter.
The problem arises from men’s judging the Bible by what they think it says, instead of by what it actually does say. A friend of mine, the Metho-dist class leader in a small town in western Canada, told me this story. On the previous Sunday the lesson was on Jesus’ cleansing the leper. My friend asked the local doctor, a member of the class, to tell them something about leprosy. The doctor told the class there were different kinds of leprosy, some mild, others more virulent. He described a certain oil that was being used to cure the mild cases, and closed by saying that with advancement of medical science, he believed that eventually all cases of leprosy would be cured. When he sat down, an old man rose up, red with anger, and denied that any cases of true leprosy apart from the Bible record had ever been cured, or ever would be cured. He ended his tirade by saying triumphantly, “I take my stand on the Bible. It says, ‘Can the leper change his spots?'” [The Bible really says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23). Editor.]
When Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, his hands were red with fratricidal blood, the brand of God was upon his brow, and he cried, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” He was branded by God’s hand, and all who looked upon him knew of his crime. Now it is a natural and a spiritual law that no man liveth to himself. The human race is so intermingled and our relations with each other so complex that if one man sins, other people suffer.
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. She is compelled to hear the stigma of his crime and to share the disgrace of his sin. She avoids the company of her neighbors: she knows they are talking about the murder. She can still hear the voice of her murdered brother’s blood crying out for vengeance. She wonders if life will ever again be worth living because of her marriage to Cain. She knows people are 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.”
Who is Cain’s wife today? Are there any such sorrow-laden, brokenhearted women in the world today who have to suffer shame and bear reproach because of their husbands’ sins? There are, and I would speak now of modern Mrs. Cain. The Wife of a Murderer Is Cain’s Wife. Some years ago at the home of a friend in Toronto, I met a woman who seemed bowed down beneath some great load of sorrow. Although in her early thirties, her hair was prematurely gray. I was moved by her troubled appearance to speak to her of Christ. I learned her story later from my friend.
Some years before, in England, she had married, and their homelife was happy and sweet. In due time God sent three little children into their lives, and everything seemed to be well. Then one dark day a blow fell upon that home. Her young husband, in a sudden fit of insanity, murdered his three little children and himself became a maniac, worse than dead. The young woman had crossed the ocean to escape the publicity, although she could never escape the memory of her husband’s crime. I think of that woman today, with her sorrowful face, her hair almost white, and carrying such a load on her heart. And I say that the wife of a murderer is the wife of Cain. The Wife of a Drunkard Is Cain’s Wife
I was preaching one Sunday morning in a country church in Manitoba where I was pastor. Sitting before me was a stranger, a woman with a little boy at her side. She was drinking in every word of the message. She waited behind after the service, and when the people had gone, she told me her story. Her home had been over in Scotland, and a happy home it was-until the shadow of drink had fallen. Her husband had become a slave to the drink habit and seemed helpless to gain deliverance. He went down and down until his employers cast him off. Then his relatives cast him off. Finally he sank so low, his wife had to leave him.
Now out into a strange country, away from the land of her birth, away from family and friends, and with an ocean and half a continent between her and her once happy home, this brokenhearted woman was working by the day in order that her little boy might grow to manhood without hearing of his father’s shame. I can still, after many years, see that woman as she stood in the aisle of that country church, tears filling her eyes. I can still hear her story, and I say to myself-the wife of a drunkard is the wife of Cain.
The Wife of an Infidel Is Cain’s Wife
Dr. French E. Oliver told of the daughter of an infidel who lay dying. Her mother was a Chris-tian and had often tried to lead the girl to Christ. When she was about to take the step, the things her father had said about the Bible would come into her mind, and she would refuse to yield. The mother had to pray and live the Christian life alone. One day the doctor told the girl her days on earth were numbered. She called her father and mother to her bedside. She said, “Father, Mother has often tried to get me to become a Christian, and you know how your influence has kept me from it. On my deathbed I now ask you, Am I to follow your infidelity, or am I to take my mother’s God, Mother’s religion, and trust her Saviour?” The old infidel stood looking at his daughter whom he dearly loved. Her question left him stunned. Finally he said, with broken voice, “Daughter, my infidelity holds out no hope for you in this dark hour. In God’s name, turn from it and take your mother’s God, your mother’s Christ, and your mother’s Bible.” A few days later the dying girl, with her arms about her father’s neck, pleaded with him to promise to meet her in Heaven. He gave the promise and was soon afterward converted to God. But things might not have had so happy an ending. There might have been no time for that girl to be saved on her deathbed. When I think of women I have known who were married to infidel husbands, and who have told me they prayed daily that God would keep their children from growing up to be like their infidel fathers, I have said in my heart, The wife of an infidel is the wife of Cain.
The Wife of a Drug Addict Is Cain’s Wife
One Sunday night in my Montreal pastorate I preached on Cain’s wife, using the suggestion of Dr. French Oliver that Cain’s wife was the wife of the murderer, the drunkard and the infidel. Next evening a man came to my home, trembling from head to foot. When I asked him his name he said, “My name is Cain, and my wife is Cain’s wife.” At first I thought he was under the influence of drink, but soon I saw it was drugs. He told me his story, which later I verified by letters from his mother in England. This man had been wounded in the eye in World War I, necessitating eleven operations, with cocaine administered. He had contracted the drug habit. His father, an English doctor, had died drinking absinthe, a French drug. In the three years since his discharge, he had spent several thousand dollars on drugs. He was now a slave to the habit and helpless in its power. Then he said, “I was one of the crowd gathered to hear you last night. I heard you say your God could save from sin and keep from sin every man who came to Him. I have come to ask you if that is true. Did you say that because it is true, or because you are a preacher and are paid to say such things?” I felt led to say to him, “If you will kneel down right now and accept Christ as your Saviour and really allow God to come into your life, if He does not break the power of that habit and deliver you from drugs, I will never preach another sermon.” The man knelt to pray, and I think he tried to pray, but he was still under the influence of the drug, and I felt that the prayer was not real. He was still in a daze when he left, and I knew he had not come clean for God. That man went down and down until about a year afterward when I was called to his home where his wife had been told by the doctor that he was dying. He had been brought home from a drug dive in Montreal’s underworld so that he would not die there and get them into trouble. His home was a dingy, three-roomed flat where he lived with his wife and little boy. When I entered the room where he lay, he was beating his breast and crying, “O God, could Hell be any worse than this?” I told him of the doctor’s verdict and reminded him of his failure a year ago to give his life over to God. He admitted it. At that moment God led me to say, “Mr. Ridd, I am going to ask God to spare your life. Before I pray, you will have to promise me that if God does so, you will definitely turn to Him and be saved.” He gave me his solemn promise. I then asked God, for the sake of the weeping wife and child standing there, and for the sake of the soul that could be won for the glory of Christ, to spare his life. God was pleased to answer that prayer. Slowly William Ridd was brought back from the shadow of death. Some six weeks later, almost before he was able to walk, he made his way to our church. When the invitation was given, he made his way forward and asked God to save him. God answered that prayer instantly. God broke the power of that habit and freed him that very moment.
I had many letters from him thanking God for his happy Christian home. When I visited Montreal many years later he was there to greet me and to tell me that from the moment when God came into his heart, and through all of the eleven years since, he had as he put it, “never once looked back.” But let me repeat it: that story also might have had a far different ending. When I think of that palefaced little woman and the Hell-upon-earth she endured for three years, and finally threatened with the death of her drug-enslaved husband, then I am ready to tell the world that the wife of a drug addict is the wife of Cain.
The Christian Wife of an Unsaved Man Is Cain’s Wife
Mind you, her husband may be a good man. He may love her with all his heart. He may even go to church with her, but because she is saved and he is lost, every tick of the clock and every step they take together along the pathway of life bring them nearer the parting of the ways. And I say, God pity the wife of Cain who has nothing to look forward to except eternal separation from the husband she loves. Hear me! The cross of Christ is the Great Divide in the lives of women and men. The cross is the great separator. It was back yonder on Calvary’s hill where we see on one side of that cross a criminal dying in sin, and on the other side, a criminal dying in salvation; and the dividing factor was their attitude toward the Christ on the central cross.
Today, as we preachers present the Gospel, the cross of Christ divides our hearers into two classes: those who believe and so will be saved; and those who reject and so will be lost. Not only in the past and present, but in that future day, which, as sure as God is truth, will come, when as John tells us: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”-Rev. 20:12,15.
On that dread day, which is one day nearer us now than it ever was before, the cross will again divide; the cross will forever separate; and oh, what a separation! On one side I see a Christian wife; on the other side, her unsaved husband. On one side I see a Christian mother; on the other side, her unsaved son. On one side I see a Christian daughter; on the other side I see her unsaved father. On one side I see a Christian sister; on the other side, her unsaved brother.
‘Twill divide, then, the world,
O my friend, it is true-
The great cross of Jesus;
On which side are you?
I appeal to every unsaved husband, sweetheart, son and brother to get on the right side of the cross this very hour-not only for your own soul’s sake, but for the sake of the sweet, believing Christian woman God has sent into your life. >To every unsaved husband I say: Let that ring you put on her finger become the symbol of a union which even death cannot break. Decide now to become one with your wife in Christ Jesus, and life for you together on earth and in Heaven will never end.