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A man marrying his sister is clearly a sin:

If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace; they shall be excommunicated in the sight of their kinsfolk. He has uncovered the nakedness of his sister, he shall bear his guilt.—Leviticus 20:17 (NJPS)

So who did Cain marry?

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he then founded a city, and named the city after his son Enoch.—Genesis 4:17 (NJPS)

How did God intend for people to be fruitful and multiple without sinning?

God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”—Genesis 1:28 (NJPS)

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This week, I'm challenging us to look for contradictions. – Jon Ericson Mar 10 '12 at 0:45
I find answers too questions like this here – The Freemason Mar 13 '12 at 18:30
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The answer to the who Cain married is likely found in the next chapter:

After the birth of Seth, Adam lived 800 years and begot sons and daughters.—Genesis 5:4 (NJPS)

In other words, Cain probably married one of his younger sisters. If not, he could have married a niece: a daughter of Seth or one of his other brothers. Of course, that changes the question to: "Who did Seth marry?" And his wife would still have been a close relative.

But isn't that a sin?

Since the law of Moses was handed down many years later, it wasn't a sin. God hadn't given the commandment yet! In fact Abraham married his sister:

Then Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? What wrong have I done that you should bring so great a guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done to me things that ought not to be done. What, then,” Abimelech demanded of Abraham, “was your purpose in doing this thing?” “I thought,” said Abraham, “surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. And besides, she is in truth my sister, my father’s daughter though not my mother’s; and she became my wife. So when God made me wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘Let this be the kindness that you shall do me: whatever place we come to, say there of me: He is my brother.’”— Genesis 20:9-13 (NJPS)

There is an almost universal taboo against marrying a sister—perhaps because of the genetic problems this can cause with the offspring. Marrying a sibling must have been unusual: Abimelech didn't expect Abraham to be married to his sister. However, in the context of Genesis, it seems not to have been sinful. Isaac and Jacob both married close relatives. None of these men were called to account for these actions. God even blessed these unions.

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As to the topic of genetic problems associated with inbreeding, 200+ generations ago that would have been less of an issue. It also depends on a person's acceptance of the Biblical flood. Was it worldwide? How many people were killed? If all but one family was involved, suddenly the gene pool is drastically reduced. Lifespans are suddenly recorded as being much shorter. Etc. Now we need laws to prohibit close family marriages. – Wesley Mar 12 '12 at 1:18
@Wesley: Welcome to BH.SE! That's a great point. I found some more thoughts on that on Answering Genesis. (I don't agree with everything they assert, but that article is pretty interesting.) – Jon Ericson Mar 12 '12 at 3:58
The correct name for the ministry is "Answers In Genesis" =) – Wesley Mar 12 '12 at 4:17
@Wesley: Do you know I've made the same mistake before? I think I get fouled up by the URL. – Jon Ericson Mar 12 '12 at 7:07
@JonEricson, then you’d best be very careful when talking about the Lumberman’s Exchange web site. ☺ – J. C. Salomon Mar 12 '12 at 23:05

protected by Jon Ericson Sep 18 '13 at 16:54

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