Who Was Cain Afraid Of?

Cain and Abel offering sacrifices, as depicted in the Pre-Flood World exhibit at the Ark Encounter.

In Genesis 4 we read the tragic account of the first murder in history. Cain, the oldest son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel. Envious of his brother because the Lord respected Abel’s sacrifice but not him and his sacrifices, Cain ignored God’s admonishment and murdered Abel.

Some Christians believe that God favored Abel’s sacrifices because Abel offered the firstborn of his flock and its fat (v. 4) while Cain simply brought an offering of his crops (v. 3). The text does not say whether Cain offered the best of his crops. While there is a special significance to blood sacrifices in Scripture, the Bible makes it pretty clear that God accepted grain as an offering in some situations (Leviticus 2).

The real problem was Cain’s attitude. First John 3:12 states that Cain was of the wicked one and his deeds were evil. Cain’s refusal to follow the Lord’s warning demonstrates that his heart was the biggest problem.

Cain’s Concern

More could be written about this issue, but I wanted to address a question that has been asked of many Christians, and unfortunately, most people do not answer it appropriately. When the Lord confronted Cain after Abel’s death, He told him that he would be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth (v. 12). Cain expressed fear that anyone who found him would kill him (v. 14). Since Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel, who was Cain afraid of? Why was he concerned that somebody might find him and kill him?

A common answer to this question is that God must have made other people besides Adam and Eve. After all, didn’t Cain go to the land of Nod and find a wife? Um, No. That’s not what the Bible says. It says that he went to the land of Nod and had relations with his wife (Genesis 4:16–17). In other words, his wife came with him. Who was she? We’ll get to that in a moment.

There are some big problems with the notion that Cain was afraid of other people that God might have created. First, if there were others who lived wherever Cain was heading, why would they want to harm him for something he did to a person they presumably did not know and had probably never even heard of? How would they even know he did such a terrible thing?

The bigger problem is that the Bible makes no mention of these proposed people, and it actually rules out such an idea. The Bible states that Eve was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20). This would not be accurate if God made others. Also, the New Testament explains that because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinners (Romans 5:19). Of course, we will be held accountable for our own sins—not Adam’s, but we die because of Adam’s sin. This whole idea is contingent upon Adam being the head of humanity. Paul said in Acts 17:26 that God made all men of “one blood.” Once again, this is true because we are all from Adam.

So if God did not make other people, then who was Cain afraid of? The solution is much easier than you might think, but you have to think through the text a little more than how it is usually presented in Sunday school. We must first answer another question in order to help solve this mystery. How old were Cain and Abel when the murder took place?

How Old Was Cain?

Most people tend to picture Cain and Abel as young men, possibly even teenagers, when Cain killed Abel. However, such an idea is almost certainly wrong. In fact, they were probably about one hundred years older than that. Wait. What? A hundred years older? Yep, that’s what I wrote. Consider the clues left in the Bible about this issue.

In Genesis 4:25 Eve gives birth to another son, Seth, and it’s clear that she views him as a replacement for Abel. She said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel because Cain killed him” (NET). In Genesis 5:3, we learn that this happened when Adam and Eve were 130 years old, and that Seth was just one of many other children that Adam and Eve had. Since Seth was viewed as Abel’s replacement, then he was almost certainly the next son born to them after Abel’s death. This means that Abel would have been murdered nearly 130 years after Adam was created. And if Cain was born within the first few years of Adam and Eve being banished from the garden, then Cain would have been over 120 years old at the murder of Abel. We have no reason to think that it would have taken very long for Eve to conceive. When God created them He instructed them to be fruitful and multiply, and Genesis 4 and 5 show us that they certainly did that.

This depiction of Cain murdering Abel is from the Pre-Flood World exhibit in the Ark Encounter.

If you think of Cain and Abel being in their 120s when this event occurred, does it become clearer who Cain might have been afraid of? There would have been plenty of time for Adam and Eve to have many other children, just as Genesis 5:4 teaches. So Cain’s siblings may have wanted revenge against him. Not only that, since Abel was nearly Cain’s age, he would have been old enough to have children and grandchildren by the time Cain murdered him. The Bible doesn’t tell us if he had any offspring, but there is no reason to think he would have remained single for over 100 years when God wanted people to multiply. Abel’s descendants, if he had them, would have been the most likely candidates for revenge against Cain.

Who Was Cain’s Wife?

So if Cain went to Nod with his wife, and Abel may have been married, then where did their wives come from? The answer is very simple. In all likelihood, Cain’s wife was his sister, although it’s possible she was his niece (if Abel or another brother married a sister and had a daughter). This answer fits all of the biblical data, and we need to remember that the command against close intermarriage was not given until Leviticus. It makes sense from a genetic perspective why close intermarriage would have been problematic at that time, but the closer we go back to the beginning, the fewer genetic mistakes existed in people. So there would be less risk of severe genetic defects in the offspring.

Book chapters have been written and presentations have been given on the subject of Cain’s wife so I won’t go into more detail here, other than to point out a case of extreme hypocrisy. Skeptics frequently mock the Bible here, claiming that it teaches incest (check out the links in the previous sentence for a response to this), but let’s take a look at what most of these skeptics believe. They believe that every single person and every plant and animal on earth came from a single-celled organism that somehow came to life by time and chance. Besides the absurdity of life arising on its own and one kind of organism changing into another kind, consider the problem of incest multiplied a billion-fold. At every stage of the alleged evolutionary chain from the first microscopic organism to man, a significant amount of inbreeding must have occurred. This is particularly problematic for those who believe in the form of evolution known as punctuated equilibrium. Think about it, each time a new species in this supposed chain arose they would have very few options for mates, if any. Those that might be available would be from within that small group or family.


So why was Cain afraid when he was sent away? Most likely, he had plenty of close family members who might have sought revenge. This conclusion rarely comes to mind for people because we frequently have a wrong picture in our minds about how old Cain and Abel were in Genesis 4. Rightly understanding their ages brings into clearer focus the solution to our primary question.

Speaking of wrong pictures, we might have another one related to Cain and Abel. What did Cain use to murder Abel? A rock? There are pro-Second Amendment billboards and many illustrations that promote this idea, like the one used in this post, but the Bible does not tell us what he used. It certainly is possible that he used a rock, so these pictures aren’t necessarily wrong, but there are many other things Cain might have used.

About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.


Who Was Cain Afraid Of? — 25 Comments

  1. Tim, I am writing my Thesis about God’s time and mans time Gen I:1 was God’s creation of the universe from no beginning so we can use any figure of time as God was before the beginning. I have had a problem with the 6 days of creation. God made the laws of nature that he also lives by in all he does.
    The timing as of order is a incomplete summery of all the events, If God were to fully disclose e and every one event the book of Genises would consist of many books.
    Your comment about Cain and his decedents reflects on a similar issue, dealing with segment of 100 years or more, with no info about how the lived. the environment at that latitude was very conducive to living with food in abundance and a not much entertainment but a family.
    What got my attention during my life, is what you pointed out the blank spaces of not recorded history.
    when we look at current history for 500 years and realize what has happen in that time, we must realize that there is much missing in Genises and the 6-day 24-hour days does not accurately reflect the time between the events.
    God planned and created when He spoke. There are references in the bible that refer to 1000 years, are like a day in Gods time. I can agree with that. Your comment reflects my thought.
    The Garwin theory reflect my thought of time and order in which God created all that are mentioned in Genises. Darwin missed the point that all things are created by someone, the only logical being is our God. Everything we use is created by someone using the material created by God.
    Man has advances in much but live itself can only be created by the power of God who is still in control of all.
    I would appreciate your comments on my concept of God’s time an Man’s time.
    Peter Bregman

    • Hi Peter,

      When interpreting Genesis 1, I don’t believe there is any reason to posit some sort of different understanding of time between God and man. Genesis was not written to see things from God’s timing, as if that would be any different than our own. The passage from Peter does not provide justification to reinterpret the days of Genesis 1. Peter is essentially telling us is that God is not bound by time — he isn’t giving a formula to reinterpret Genesis 1. Trying to make each day of creation a long period of time forces multiple problems into the text. How did the plants (day 3) survive without the sun (day 4) for a thousand years. How did the plants survive for two thousand years without the insects (day 5) to pollenate them? There are several other timing problems like this because the additional time messes up these symbiotic relationships. Furthermore, in Exodus 20, the Lord told Israel that they were to work for six days and then rest the seventh day because that’s what God did. Interestingly enough, the Israelites would’ve received that instruction in Exodus 20 before Moses penned Genesis. So, by the time they heard Genesis, they had already heard that God made everything in six days and would have interpreted it accordingly. Genesis 1 also marks the days with “evening” and “morning.” Everything in the text points to these being days of ordinary length. I wrote on these topics in much more detail in my first book, Old-Earth Creationism on Trial.

        • Hi John,

          Using the data in Scripture, we can say that the age of the earth and creation is somewhere around 6,000–7,700 years. If you believe the Masoretic Text preserves the proper ages of the patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11, then your calculation will be closer to 6,000. If you believe the Septuagint figures are more reliable, then your calculations will be closer to 7,500 years. There are a few other issues to work through, such as the length of the sojourn in Egypt (215 years or 430 years) and whether the Cainan found in the Septuagint of Genesis 11 is original (if so, add an extra 130 years).
          Arriving at a precise number is impossible since the Bible doesn’t give us enough information to be so exact. But it can certainly help us get very close to the right number, and it is entirely inconsistent with the idea of millions of years.
          Hope this helps.

  2. Mr. Chaffy,

    I can not agree with you. Because if Seth was born to replace Able and he was surly the next male born to eve, that was when eve was 130 years old, that doesn’t allow any time for more kids, unless they were all girls.

    • Hi Jacob,
      I think you misunderstood my point and the text itself. Seth was not necessarily the next male born to Eve after Abel — he was the next male born to Eve after Cain killed Abel (which may have been 120+ years after Cain and Abel were born). Adam and Eve could have had dozens of children, both male and female, by the time Seth was born. Seth was viewed as a replacement for Abel, so he was born after Abel was killed, but it doesn’t mean that Adam and Eve didn’t have any other children before that.
      Thanks for reading.

  3. Nice work with some interesting apparent contradictions and problems. It’s always nice to have a reasonable answer, not only to answer skeptics but just to answer ourselves when we start to become the skeptic.

  4. Thank you Mr Chaffey everything makes all sense now. We as humans are always seeking for mysterious answers, as the world are manipulating our minds with fiction and your post make a lot of sense. The same as when people ask to whom is God speaking if He said “let us make man in our own image” There is no mysterious answer I believe in the Trinity and He is acknowledging to “us” as to soul, spirit and body.

    • Thanks Angelo. I’m glad that was helpful.
      The other issue you raised may not be quite as clear…
      It may well be an example of inter-Trinitarian dialogue. This is the view of most Christians who have discussed the topic. There are a couple of other possibilities. That is, the Lord may have been speaking to the heavenly host. It may be that the “us” and “our” in this passage is more like the so-called “royal we” that a king might use while explaining his decision or plan. He may use “we” or “us” even though he is the one who made the decision. Another possibility is that He was speaking to the heavenly host (or more precisely, the divine council). They may also be made in His image, so it is not theologically problematic for the “us” or “we” to refer to them as well…as long as God is the one who does the act of creation. And He does, according to the next verse.

  5. Thank you very much for your clarity on the issue of Cain and Abel. I trust the incest part was not a problem for God, because he made it so from the beginning (That is why Adam could marry a sister comfortably). When God became uncomfortable about it, that is when He Himself called it off. If your doubters are not impressed, then they should ask, when God had His second beginning with Noah’s family, was there incest in their procreation or not?
    Thank you again and God bless you

    • Hi Isaac,
      Thanks for the response. I assume you meant to say that Adam’s “son” could marry a sister, instead of saying that Adam could have done so—Adam didn’t have a sister. I wouldn’t necessarily say that God became “uncomfortable” with it. It seems like there was a point in our history where it became detrimental to the offspring (due to genetic load) for the practice to continue. As you pointed out, Noah’s grandchildren would have been very closely related, and there would have been intermarriage between close family members at that point. Several generations later, Abram married his half-sister and their son Isaac married his first cousin. God instituted the law once the Israelites had closely intermarried for several generations.

  6. Thank you for clearing up this question. I always had a problem understanding why if only 3 sons of Adam and Eve are mentioned, where the other Men that Cain worried about came from. Just knowing Abel and Cain must have had grown children helps explain this issue.

  7. Mr. Chaffey, I struggle with this answer for a couple of reasons. 1) Cain is the 1st born son. ” With the Lords help I produced a man”, Later, she gave birth to his brother Abel. It is not until Gen 4:25 that the txt says they had sexual relations again for Seth….& in Gen. 5 we see the list of Adams descendants.

    I have another interpretation or theory that I can’t shake and seems to answer so many of my questions….Please hang in here with me.

    Is it possible that when God said the ground is cursed because of you. It will grow thorns and thistles for you…..That God allowed Satan to populate the Earth with “Weeds”?

    In the parable Jesus shares he makes it clear that the ‘weeds’ were PLANTED by the enemy. Also, shares with us that the WEEDS are SATANS CHILDREN.

    Now, Eve would still be the mother of all things living….because Satans children are Spriritually dead…and God is still the creator of everything….1) Cause we know He created Satan and 2) Satan can not do anything God does not allow.

    Lastly, It seems to also explain
    1)why incest became dangerous and forbidden.
    2)Why gentiles are from a WILD OLIVE TREE…not just a broken off branch….like the jews.
    3) Why God seems to find little issue with asking Jews to wipe off the map thousands of tribes (men, women, children) in the Old T…but a huge change in NT
    4)God defeats Satan when Jesus dies on the cross for ALL of us…because it allows me (a weed) to become adopted by the Creator of Everything. He gives me a chance to be born again NEW….allowing me to bare good fruit…or like beneficial weeds….provide cover for fertile soil…..

    So I guess my question is….Why do we make such a leap with Adam and Eve populating the Earth and all of those kids getting kicked out with no mention of that BIG assumption…and the Bible makes clear after Cain is forced to leave all of the other descendants of Adams….and instead not consider that maybe Cain was scared because God allowed Satan to have children/weeds and Cain was going to be forced to live among those weeds and possibly get choked out?

    • Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and for your response. I have several concerns with your view. Before getting to them, I’d like to make a couple quick comments that might be tripping you up regarding my view. First, there is no problem with Gen. 4 mentioning Cain, Abel, and Seth, and then not mentioning Adam’s other “sons and daughters” until Gen. 5:4. The second half of 4 does not take place chronologically before the beginning of 5. It’s not as if Cain’s line had another 6 generations before Adam and Eve had another child. The narrative is just fleshing out Cain’s lineage before returning to tell us about Seth’s line. Also, Cain’s descendants would also be Adam’s descendants, as would every single person on earth. You asked, “Why do we make such a leap with Adam and Eve populating the earth and all of those kids getting kicked out with no mention of that BIG assumption.” The problem with this question is that it isn’t a BIG assumption at all. It’s the straightforward reading of the text. I’m not sure why it’s difficult to accept. We know Abraham married his half-sister and Isaac married his first cousin and these were much later in human history, closer to the time when incest would have become genetically problematic.
      Now, let’s consider the issues with your proposal. First, ask yourself this question. Would anyone reading Genesis before the first century AD ever come up with such an interpretation? Your view depends on Jesus’ words about unbelievers being weeds and then imposes that Greek term onto a Hebrew term used in Genesis 3. How would any OT saint ever reach such a conclusion? Would that mean that they would simply never be able to understand Genesis until Jesus came? You need to be careful not to spiritualize the meaning of OT texts this way because the text surely meant something to the original writer (Moses) and original audience (Israelites who just left Egypt).
      Second, “spiritually dead” should not be used to counter the teaching that Eve was the mother of all the living. This is another example of reading a later concept back into Genesis. Would any of the original readers thought of it this way? Also, remember that by the time of the Flood, nearly every single person was spiritually dead, and yet even in your view, there would have been a lot of people who came from Eve through Seth (the whole line in Genesis 5 after v. 4 and their “sons and daughters”).
      Third, the BIG assumption here is that God allowed Satan to go around and populate the earth with his people. There is nothing in the text of Genesis 1–5 that would even hint of such a thing. Genesis 6:1–4 describes a situation where the sons of God mated with women, but this happened “as men multiplied on the earth” so it was likely long after Cain had a child and certainly after Cain killed Abel.
      Fourth, every person at that time was a Gentile. It wasn’t until Jacob came along and had twelve sons that the Jewish/Gentile distinction could be made (you could possibly push that back to Abraham, but not any further back than him). So your comparison to the natural and wild olive branches doesn’t fit this context at all.
      Fifth, there is a much better reason why God ordered the Israelites to wipe out certain groups in the promised land. In nearly every instance where this command was given, there were giants (nephilim) among the peoples.
      There are other concerns with your ideas above, but the main issue is that we really need to be careful about allowing the text to speak for itself and not read later ideas onto the top of earlier passages. It’s one thing to allow later revelation to inform our understanding of earlier revelation, but it does not change the meaning of the earlier text.
      I hope this helps. Thanks again for reading.

  8. Dear Mr Chaffey, I have been wondering about this problem for about a year. You are correct, I, like many others, started with a wrong picture in my mind. I assumed that Cain and Able were young lads. It never occurred to me that they could be over a hundred years old. Once you have the right picture then the true facts become easier to grasp. Many thanks for clearing this up for me. God bless you and the valuable work you are doing, Ian Knowles

    • Thank you for helping garnishing the access to knowledge about troubling issues/questions in the Bible. I hope visiting your columns again for more.

  9. Thank you so much for taking on this difficult questions that so many of us wrestle with. It makes so much sense to me now. Embarrassing really how confused we let the enemy make us. God bless you, keep pressing on.

  10. Hello Mr. Chaffey,
    I Googled this question about who was Cain afraid of for my dear Mother-in-law and found your article. I’ve had the same question myself but seemed a complicated answer I would know the answer to in eternity. It’s a very compelling argument and I am inclined to completely agree with you! Gave me perspective I’d never considered. I sincerely thank YOU very much!

  11. I find an interesting issue with your logic. You say that God couldn’t have made other people because, “The bigger problem is that the Bible makes no mention of these proposed people” but then you go on to say that Adam and Eve most likely had other children, but doesn’t that theory have the exact same problem? The Bible makes no mention of these other proposed children that you are founding your theory on.

    • Hi Melissa,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and respond. I think you may have overlooked some details. I don’t say that God couldn’t have made other people because the Bible makes no mention of them. My main arguments for God not making other people is that Eve was the mother of all the living and that Adam is the head of the human race. The fact that the Bible never mentions any other people is another piece of evidence for my view, but it isn’t a sufficient argument on its own.
      Furthermore, my proposal, that Adam and Eve had other children, does not “have the exact same problem” because as I mentioned in the article, the Bible is very clear that Adam and Eve had other children (see Genesis 5:4).

    • Hi Sue,

      I’m glad to hear you are looking forward to book 3. I’m looking forward to it being finished. It’s currently with the editor, then we’ll make our rewrites and send it back to her. It should be on the way to the publisher by the end of the month, so we hope to see it on shelves by the end of May.

  12. Hello Mr. Chaffey, I just want to say thank you for your section on commonly misused bible verses. I have often wondered how how they got the mean8ng or their understanding of some verses. I am like you, I have to read before and after to make sure that I am getting what I feel is the correct interpretation. So thank you for easing my doubts. God bless.

Leave a Reply to Nicole Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *