Q: In Genesis, Abel kills his brother then says to God (paraphrase)-“Don’t send me out there, where others will surely kill me!” What others? Cain, Abel, Adam, & Eve are the only ones who exist at that time! Where did the ‘others’ come from? -From a friend of D.O.

A: Genesis 4 contains the story of Cain & Abel. There is no progressive timeline presented here. The text jumps back & forth over perhaps 930 years from 4:1-5:5, and gives us only a few chosen events, names only 17 people, & references an undefined number of others.

The women born to Adam & Eve remain unnamed. Adam & Eve had many other sons & daughters, but only Abel, Cain, & Seth are named in the text. Cain & Abel are named because they are the first male children. Seth is named because he is the progenitor of the righteous line, including Noah, Abraham, & latter Jesus (Luke 3:38).

The first women actually named in the text (besides Eve) are Adah & Zillah who marry Lamech, who is the great-great-great grandson of Cain. How many years have passed between the time of Cain & Lamech? Perhaps a minimum of 100 yrs, maybe 500-900 yrs. or more? The text does not give us their timeline. These people were living for around 900 years, they probably didn’t enter middle age till after 400, and could probably continue to have children for several hundred years. Cain has a wife, she was probably his sister, or maybe the daughter of Abel? Abel probably married a sister also. The text does not give us the specific answers or details. The text does say that Eve was the “Mother of all the living”–so all the folks were closely related. The genetic code was flawless at that point, later it would degenerate to the point that close relatives could no longer safely produce children. Here in Genesis, we can come up with hundreds of questions that the text does not fully deal with, or answer to our satisfaction.

Now to the question–The text does not have enough detail to give us a definitive answer. However, we can come to an informed conjecture:

First of all, it is quite probable that there were more people than just ‘Cain, Abel, Adam, & Eve’ at the time of the first murder. Close to 130 years had gone by (4:25, 5:3) since the beginning. Adam & Eve had many other children unnamed in the text. None of their daughters are named. Abel could well have had a family with lots of daughters, but maybe no males heirs since there is no line recorded as coming from him. Nevertheless, these could have been the folks that Cain was probably concerned about. Cain also could have been quite prolific in that time frame. After all, he is said to be building a city in the land of Nod, for his family & all those who presumably went with him. After all, if it is just Cain, his wife, & a new born son, there would be no need for a city. The human race could easily have numbered in the hundreds at the time of Abel’s murder. The text in question (4:14-15) itself and 4:17, really point to & support the view that there were already a substantial number of people living at the time of the first murder.

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