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Whom did Cain and Abel marry?

Whom did Cain and Abel marry?

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Question:

How did Cain and Abel have children? Did they marry their sisters?

Answer:

Indeed, Cain and Abel1 had to marry their sisters, considering that there were no other women around. King David writes,2 "The world was built with kindness." Our sages explain that this verse is referring to G‑d's kindness in allowing Adam and Eve's children to marry their own sisters in order to populate the species.3

The Midrash tells us that Cain was born with a twin sister and Abel was born with two sisters.4 They each married the sister who was born with them. According to one opinion, it was actually a quarrel over who would get to marry the third sister that led to Cain slaying Abel.5

The third generations of humans had no need for this loophole, because marriage between first cousins is not considered incest according to Torah law.

So why are these daughters not mentioned in the Torah? They are. Later in Genesis6 we are told, "And the days of Adam after he fathered Seth were eight hundred years, and he fathered sons and daughters"—though we are not informed of their identities. The Torah only records the names of those who were leaders of note, those who played a role in the biblical narrative, or the men who formed the chain of lineage connecting Adam to Noah (and later Noah to Abraham).

Footnotes
1.

Adam's third son, Seth, possibly married one of his nieces (uncle-niece marriage is not forbidden according to Torah law.

3.

Cited in Rashi's commentary on Leviticus 20:17. There Rashi explains that this is the reason why the Torah employs the unusual term "chesed," which is usually translated as kindness, to describe the prohibition against brother-sister incest.

4.

Genesis Rabbah 22:2.

5.

Ibid. 7. Cain claimed the right to this sister because he was the firstborn. Abel maintained that he should marry her because she was his triplet.

6.

5:4.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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myth buster Norfolk January 21, 2017

Loophole "The third generation didn't need this loophole" is contrary to the Torah. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister, twenty generations removed from this necessity, yet God required that the child of promise would come from their union. Clearly, the prohibition on marrying one's sister or half-sister or the daughter of one's brother or sister did not apply until it was given to Moses. Reply

Anonymous August 10, 2016

I thought that it was because they were to marry the sister born with the other (decided by Adam) and Cain wanted the sister he was born with (denied by God). After the murder, it's unclear which sister he actually took with him, though. Reply

Avi May 25, 2016

More people than just the Adam family? I have heard from Jewish sources that after Adam and Eve's creation, either before or after the banishment from Eden, G-d made more people. Is this believed in the Jewish community? Reply

Donna March 30, 2016

cain and able The creation account is really about the creation of a whole human community. Incest is a sin Reply

Jay Fulton October 15, 2015

Arlene,

It seems to me that you know more about this subject than I do, however I await a reply from Rabbi Menachem Posner but I welcome more insight that you have.

Jay Reply

Arlene NYC October 14, 2015

Cain and Abel marrying their sisters But there was no need for a loophole, since the Torah had not yet been given, so there was no incest prohibition. Reply

Jay Fulton October 13, 2015

Cain and Abel Dear Rabbi Menachem Posner

You may take your time in replying because my subject may be difficult. However your article has been gladly received into my home and has made it easier to ask some questions.

In one of my readings from a Targum, Cain married Abel's sister and Abel married Cain's. This was ordained by Adam. If so, then each couple had time enough to engender substantial family over the time between Cain and Abel were born and the birth of Seth which was about 120 years later, as I have read. Surely Cain and Abel would have not refrained from fathering a family for 120 years. (Some of this comes from a commentator named Adam Clarke from Scotland. His commentary to the Old Testament, about 1812, is very detailed yet his commentary to the New Testament is far less detailed which makes me wonder if he was actually Christian and if the Christian commentary was actually written by him.) I see that I have come to the limit of my space here.

Jay Reply

Anonymous Canada June 12, 2015

So where do black people come from? Reply

Rick Chesapeake August 7, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Black people came from Adam and Eve Reply

Futterman Atlanta March 20, 2015

So we are all incest children? Was Cain asian or black? Reply

Brian Simsbury October 20, 2014

Mrs. Cain The age old question of "from whom did Cain beget his descendents" is again raised this week. And again, no answer. Reply

ATM Bay Area October 14, 2014

There are two Creation narratives set out in the Torah. The first one is consistent with Divinely guided evolution. It was here that these two brothers would find wives. Reply

Anonymous September 11, 2014

isnt marrying your own kin causes genetical issues? or were men once immune to all genetical diseases? Reply

Arlene Ny NY July 15, 2014

Cain and Abel's spouses But they were not bound by Torah law since the Torah had not yet been given AND they were not Jewish, right? Reply

christina July 12, 2014

woh, thats crazy. so our emenies are really are brothers or sisters ? Reply

flori Kosovo October 5, 2012

names of the daughters of Adam by the way did they have names the wives of Abel and Cain? Reply

Brian S. Simsbury , CT June 10, 2012

Illiahu The use of the term "Jewish" in re: to the progeny of A&E is wildly anachronistic! Not even are all Israelites Jewish; let alone all the descendants of Abraham; let alone all the descendants of Noah... Reply

Illiahu Boston, MS June 8, 2012

Why? So if they married not Jewish woman, doesn't that make their kids not Jewish??? Reply

Observer Mildura, Australia December 14, 2010

Who did Cain and Abel marry? The motivation behind this is to try to discredit the Bible by proving incest. So what?! Royal incest is hardly anything new. The Ptolemies of Egypt did it for 10 generations resulting in Cleopatra - a woman whose beauty was legendary & IQ is estimated to be at least 130. Genetic diseases DO become more likely with inbreeding, but then there has to be a genetic deficiency in the first place. Such deficiencies did not exist in the early generations of the Adamites. Not until Moses' time (c 1450 BC) was it necessary to declare laws determining consanguine marriage.
Whether or not Cain married a distant cousin or great-grand niece or something is moot: the point is, the 2nd generation after A&E DID commit incest through necessity.
Lastly, let's not forget, the Bible often concerns itself only with ROYAL lineages. A&E were ROYALTY. Servants are not mentioned. (Anyone want to name Abraham's 500+ servants?) A&E's children could well have married lesser pedigrees. Same for, Noah's. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, Australia May 8, 2010

Could it be... Abel himself also after marrying his sister fathered children? Perhaps daughters which is why they are never recorded in the bible? Reply

Dee Lee Paris January 27, 2010

Grandchildren of Adam and Eve The word Adam in Hebrew means man a man or red or earth or has many other translations. Hebrew is a very rich poetic language. Later, the Hebrew word Ish also means man or a man. Adam was the first man G-d created. There is room to interpret that more men and women were created with DNA programming which the Almighty used for what we now call genetics. So Cain and Seth could have had children with women who were not their sisters. Reply

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