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Cain and Abel

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I've been doing a bit of casual research into traditions surrounding Cain and Abel, and particularly the identity of Cain's wife. Some of the information I've found is not collected neatly anywhere else on the internet that I can find, so I figured I'd write it up here.

Genesis, 500s BCE: The book of Genesis tells the Cain and Abel story in Chapter 4. Cain's murder of Abel is attributed to jealousy over God accepting Abel's sacrifice but not Cain's. The reason for this difference is not spelled out, but the text does imply that only Abel was giving God the first and best of his produce as a sacrifice. There is also an implication, in God's statement that "if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it," that rejection of Cain's sacrifice is an attempt to test him to see if he can resist committing a sin out of a desire for revenge (a test he obviously ends up failing, just as his parents failed the test of not eating the forbidden fruit). Cain's wife is not explicitly named, nor is it specified where she came from. There is widespread consensus among apologists today that Cain's wife should be understood to be one of Adam and Eve's "other sons and daughters" mentioned in Chapter 5 (after all, Seth -- the first of the other children of Adam and Eve mentioned in the Bible -- is not named until after Cain's great-great-great-great grandchildren are listed, so not everything in Genesis is given in chronological order). Cain goes on to build a city, which apologists argue was initially populated by other siblings. More vexing is the question of how the city was possible if Cain was cursed to be a wanderer and to fail at agriculture.

Jewish legends, Genesis Rabbah: Jewish legends and Midrash follow the Genesis account, but add some other ideas. Cain is sometimes said to be the son of the serpent (Satan), who had sex with Eve after they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, thus explaining his evil nature. The idea that Cain gave God leftovers rather than the first and best of his produce is reinforced, as is Cain's insolence toward God and resistance toward what he sees as God's arbitrariness and tyranny. These legends also introduce the idea that Cain and Abel each had a twin sister who they were intended to marry. Cain, however, preferred Abel's twin (or wanted a second twin sister of Abel, who Abel also claimed) -- not named in the compilation of legends I linked to -- and this jealousy became an additional motivation for murdering his brother. (There is an added wrinkle here that Abel could have won the fight, but he stupidly tried to be nice to Cain.) God also is said to explicitly have pity on Cain and rescind the curse of nomadism. There is an interesting debate in the linked material about free will, with Cain accusing God of setting him up to sin by giving him an evil nature, while God insists that Cain is responsible both for the murder of Abel and for his continued sinfulness in later life. While Cain's descendants are discussed in some detail, his wife is never mentioned, and Adam and Eve do not begin to have additional children until after Cain is killed by his great-great-grandson Lamech.

Antiquities of Philo 100 CE: This text describes Cain and Abel as having had a sister, Noaba, born between them, as well as other named brothers and sisters born after Abel's death. The actual story of the murder is not told, but Cain is said to have married a woman named Themech, who is not listed as one of Adam and Eve's daughters. He then builds seven cities (Enoch, Mauli, Leeth, Teze, Iesca, Celeth, and Iebbath). Given the small number of family members accounted for, this book seems to imply the existence of other people not descended from Adam (pre-Adamites).

Book of Jubilees, 160-150 BCE: The pseudepigraphical Book of Jubliees (considered canonical by Ethiopian Christians) holds that Cain and Abel had a younger sister, Awan. After Cain murders Abel (motivated by God's rejection of his sacrifice, for which no reason is given), he marries Awan.

Conflict of Adam and Eve With Satan, 400s-500s CE: This book names Cain's twin sister Luluwa, and Abel's Aklia. Cain is portrayed as refusing to offer regular sacrifices the way obedient Abel does. Cain prefers to marry the beautiful Luluwa rather than the "ill-favored" Aklia, and so Satan convinces him to kill Abel. After Abel's funeral, Cain marries Luluwa in defiance of his parents (Luluwa's wishes are obscure, since she is stated to be distraught at Abel's death). Seth later marries Aklia, and Adam and Eve have no more children. Cain, on the other hand, has a huge family and fills up the valley below Paradise.

Book of the Cave of Treasures, 500s CE: This apocryphal book, named for the cave where Adam and Eve worhipped after being thrown out of the Garden of Eden, states that Cain had a twin sister named Lebhudha, while Abel had a twin sister named Kelimath. Adam intended each of his children to marry their opposite-sex non-twin (Cain-Kelimath and Lebhudha-Abel), but Cain preferred Lebhudha because she was beautiful. This sexual jealousy was the primary reason for killing Abel, and after Cain's expulsion from the family he did end up marrying Lebhudha. There is a great emphasis on the enmity between the virtuous Sethites living on the mountain of Paradise and the wicked Cainites living in the valley below until the two began to mix in the days of Yared (Jared). The story of Cain being killed by blind Lamech at the direction of Tubal-Cain (who mistook him for a game animal) is also told here.

Qur'an, 600s CE: The story of Cain and Abel (Qabil and Habil) is given in Surah 5 verses 27-32, though the brothers are not named. It is presented as a condemnation of murder, with Abel refusing to act in self-defense so as not to commit a sin, allowing Cain to take the sin on himself. The text moves on to discuss proper punishments for crimes, saying nothing about Cain's subsequent life.

Book of the Bee, 1200s CE: Here Kelimath is Cain's twin and Lebhudha is Abel's, but the intended marriages still involve swapping twins. Cain's desire to marry his own twin is presented as the reason for holding the sacrifices, during which Cain gives God blighted corn or just straw. The identity of Cain's eventual wife is not stated.

Book of Jasher, 1613 CE: The book of Jasher mostly follows the Genesis account, with the added story that the murder of Abel was directly precipitated by Abel's flocks wandering into Cain's fields, and Abel's retort that if Cain wished to keep the flocks out he could refuse to partake of the meat and clothing he had been obtaining from the sheep. (Contrast the Genesis account in which Cain led Abel out to the fields in order to kill him.)

Pearl of Great Price, 1800s CE: The Mormon Pearl of Great Price tells the Cain and Abel story in the book of Moses, chapter 5. Before naming Cain and Abel, the text emphasizes that Adam and Eve's large family was divided over following God's commandment to worship him through the Son and to sacrifice the first and best of their produce to him. Cain is said to have failed at this, and to have loved Satan more than God and made a pact with him to kill Abel. As to motives, in addition to his anger at his sacrifice being rejected, Cain is described as trying to take Abel's flocks. Cain's wife is not named, but is described as one of Abel's daughters, who Cain married before killing Abel. The story also implies that the inhabitants of Cain's city were siblings, nieces and nephews who left the family along with Cain after the murder.


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