Genesis 4: Cain and Abel—Who else was there at the time?

I was reading through Genesis chapter 4 and I have a question. So Cain murders Abel and God pronounces his punishment to which Cain replies in verse 14 « Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence;… and whoever finds me will kill me » (NIV)
If there was only Adam, Eve and Cain (as Abel was now dead) then who else was out there?
Even God replies « Not so, if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over. »
Verse 17 then mentions Cain’s wife. Where did she spring from?
Please help!


Very astute question CathE,

And you are not alone in addressing this question about who else was outside the garden from Adam and Eve and Cain. I have heard some comments about this from Michael Ridelnik of Moody Bible Institute, and also Hank Hanagraf of the Christian Research Institute. The problem we have is getting a perspective on the time elapsed. Genesis is not written solely as a record of events but also as a description of God’s great unmerited mercy and grace and love.(Hessed). Note how Cain was given “a sign” some sort of protection, not a curse.
For Perspective,please don’t miss the fact that after they sinned, Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden and guarded from the tree of Life. So when they had children,including Cain and Able, they were out living in the world scratching out an existence from the ground. Cain and Able seem to have been adults when Cain murdered because Abel was a “keeper of the flocks and Cain a farmer”. Yet God was right there with them. We don’t know how much time had elapsed, it could have been generations given the ages God allowed Adam and Eve to live. It is assumed that other children of Adam and Eve would have been around, seeing as the original parents were busy being “fruitful and multiplying”.

The conclusion is that Cains wife had to have been a cousin or sibling, or niece (it doesn’t say he was the first to marry). It seems abhorrent to our culture now because of gene mutations etc, but at the time the gene pool was completely pure. Remembering too, that the ordinance not to intermarry didn’t come until after the Law was given on Sinai. Recall Abraham married Sarai, his niece (Gen 11:29).
I hope this offers some explanation. I have also wondered how this squared with scripture. Keep seeking. If you apply your questions with faith that God is consistent and true, the answers will come.


I concur with your answer and responce. The characters involved were the ones important to the establishment of a nation and people groups. Without genealogy the Christ timeline would not be complete. Further more I have a question about Adam and Eves Children. We presuppose that children came after dismissal from the garden, post curse.
Genesis 3:16
[16]Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
My question is how did she know what was being multiplied if she had not had children already
As you said we do not know how much time had elapsed.
God gave them the command in
Genesis 1:28
[28]And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Mathematically speaking even one child every other year would be 450 approximately. Not counting those born that had children. Would really be interested in your thoughts on this.
Thanks again for your answer.


Thanks so much @sstaple for the insight.
It clarifies some of it although if the events are recorded chronologically then Seth was born after the Cain’s conversation with God and then after him Adam and Eve had more children. But if the story isn’t to be regarded chronologically then the answer you gave would totally suffice.
But then chapter 6:1-8 throws another curve ball about the sons of God (Nephilim) who « were on the earth in those days and - also afterwards… ».
It doesn’t affect my belief about the narrative but I’m trying to make sense of it. But your answer is particularly helpful.

Thanks @mgaplus4 for your reply.
It doesn’t clarify how many other children followed Seth. But I take the point that Christ’s lineage was traced back to Adam. That is indeed true and is helpful.

Thank you Catherine, i missed that about Seth in your second post. Genesis 5 has the genealogy of Adam and Seth. His children were others but only certain were named. While I dont know why the thousands of people born had no part in the narrative my guess would be identical to John’s statement that if all that Jesus did had been recorded the books would have been massive. I think we have all the history we need to establish faith in the Father, Son Holy Ghost. Hope this helps with your query.

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Just an aside. Iscah was Abram’s niece. Apparently Jewish tradition says Iscah and Sarai were the same person. In Genesis 20:12, Abraham says Sarai is his sister, then clarifies this by saying she is a daughter of his father by a different mother (so a half-sister). But the definition of “father” was so broad it could encompass the meaning of a niece. But we still don’t know that for sure that Sarai was Abraham’s niece.