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BibleProject Podcast
BibleProject Podcast
Family of God • Episode 10
Why Do Cain's Descendants Show Up After the Flood?
61m • February 1, 2021

Thank you to our audience for your incredible questions. In this week's episode, we tackle questions like: Did Adam represent a male human? Where did Cain’s wife come from? And what is the relationship of the Church to Israel? Listen in to hear the team answer your questions.

What You'll Learn:
  • Adam and Eve were the first elected people
  • Why Jesus is a victim to Abraham's familial violence
  • Israel was renewed amidst corruption
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If you read the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus, whose name is Joshua, ultimately where the story’s going is that God commits himself to such a degree to this human family that, eventually, he himself becomes the victim of the violence that humans have been committing, and that God himself has participated in throughout the story. God becomes the victim of the story of violence that he’s been at work through and takes it into himself on the cross. The book of Joshua isn’t the end of the story.


  • Adam and Eve are the first humans God chooses among many to dwell with him and represent his image to the world. This is the first instance of the biblical design pattern election.
  • When we read the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus, whose name comes from “Joshua,” Jesus becomes a victim of the violence Abraham’s family has committed throughout the biblical story.
  • Jesus comes to fulfill God’s plan to bring all human families into his family, not to replace Israel with the Church. God always raises up a faithful remnant, a renewed Israel in the midst of a corrupt Israel. Non-Israelites are then invited into the family of Abraham.

How Could There Be Descendants of Cain After the Flood?

Sarah from England (00:50)

"I enjoyed your discussion on Genesis 10 about the different nations descended from Noah. In another episode, you talked about the Kenites, and I wanted to ask how there were still descendants of Cain after the flood."

Even after the flood, the biblical authors reference a people group that bears Cain’s name: the Kenites. While this isn’t as clear in our English translations, it’s the same word in Hebrew and meant to connect the Kenites with Cain.

Tim describes a few possible explanations as to how Cain’s descendants could have survived the flood. Possibly, Cain’s descendants married into the line of Seth, the family Noah was descended from. Additionally, the biblical authors don’t tell us which families Noah’s wife or his son’s wives were from, and they could have been descendants of Cain.

A third possibility explores not one but two people groups present after the flood that “shouldn’t” be there: the Kenites and the Nephilim. This view considers the biblical authors’ description of the flood as covering “all the earth” as hyperbole to describe a catastrophic flood. The flood’s purpose was to undo or “de-create” the cosmos, so that Yahweh might restore order to creation. And the flood didn’t need to literally destroy all of humanity to make way for Yahweh’s plan.

Where Did Cain’s Wife Come From?

Arielle from Canada (13:25)

"I’m wondering, how did Adam and Eve’s children continue to procreate? Genesis 4 talks about how, after Cain killed Abel, he found a wife, had a son named Enoch, and he built cities. If Adam and Eve were—in Protestant tradition, at least—considered to be the first people here on earth, where did Cain find a wife, and how did he build cities?"

The biblical narrative presents Cain’s marriage and accomplishments as facts, without offering any potential explanations. Adam and Eve did have other children, so it’s technically possible that Cain married his sister. However, the narrator of Genesis makes it clear that Cain “went away from the presence of Yahweh” (Genesis 4:16). The narrative raises a definite possibility that when Cain went away, he met other people.

The bottom line is the biblical text never explicitly answers this question. What is clear is that Adam and Eve begin a design pattern of God selecting one couple among many to dwell with him and accomplish his purposes, and they may or may not have been the only humans on the earth at the beginning of creation. Tim suggests two books that explore this question both scientifically and theologically at great depth: The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry by S. Joshua Swamidass and Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1-11 by C. John Collins.

Was "Adam" Male?

Angie from Spokane (19:35)

"Hi, my name is Angie Mossy, and I live in Spokane, Washington. My question is: in the discussion of the creation account in Genesis, you talk about the “adam” being created first and that that stands for humanity, not a male human. But in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul seems to state that men were created first and women second. Is he saying something different here? What’s going on? Is there a contradiction?"

The first time the word “adam” occurs in the Bible, it occurs without the definite article “the” before it. “Let us make adam in our image” (Genesis 1:26). After this, the word is used again in a poem about the image of God, but this time it occurs with the definite article, referring to both male and female (Genesis 1:27). In Genesis 2, the narrator creates a wordplay between adam and adamah, linking the human species closely to dirt and clay. In a nutshell, we get two primary nuances for adam in the opening pages of Genesis. It’s a species term, and it’s a term describing origins.

After God takes the side of adam to form a second human in Genesis 2:18, the two humans are referred to as “ish” (man) and “ishah” (woman). From that point forward, adam is used interchangeably with ish and takes on a male gendered nuance.

Tim believes 1 Corinthians 11 is written in dialogue with the previous letter Paul had sent the young church. He’s writing to specific men and women within that congregation whose behavior has become disturbing and distracting to others.

1 Corinthians 11:7-12
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

At face value, verse 7 makes the opposite claim of Genesis 1:26. Probably verses 7-10 are a quotation from a letter the Corinthians wrote to Paul, and verses 11-12 are Paul’s response. Paul is quoting a misunderstanding of Genesis 2, offering a correction and reaffirming that men and women together are image of God, meant to worship in unity.

Was the Promised Land Conquest a Case of Sibling Rivalry?

Lindsay from Pennsylvania (36:28)

"It seems the Israelites were given specific instructions to completely annihilate and wipe out certain people groups who were living in the land. Are these people groups that are outside of and separate from Abraham’s family, or is this just a really intense case of sibling rivalry? What’s going on there?"

Tim and Jon acknowledge that narratives about religiously-inspired violence of any kind are challenging for us to wrap our minds around. In the case of the Hebrew Bible conquest narratives, the biblical authors do set these stories up as part of the sibling rivalry design pattern and as part of the design pattern of the flood.

The flood narrative shows us God’s response to communities that have reached an extreme level of violence and degradation of human dignity. It’s within his prerogative to hand humanity over to the outcome of its decisions and let the cosmos collapse in on itself. But after the flood, Noah offers a sacrifice––a righteous intercessor stands up on the high place to offer atonement for the sins of humanity. God promises never to “flood the earth again,” which means he won’t collapse the cosmos. But there will be localized floods of judgment against specific pockets of sin (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah).

The Torah portrays the Canaanites as purveyors of sexual abuse, child sacrifice, and other evils, drawing a comparison to the generation of people who incited Yahweh’s judgment in the flood. So on one level, the conquest of the promised land under Joshua is a “flood,” an act of divine judgment on a generation past the point of no return.

When we read the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus, whose name comes from “Joshua,” then ultimately Jesus becomes a victim of the violence Abraham’s family has committed throughout the biblical story. As followers of Jesus, we don’t take our marching orders from the book of Joshua but from the second Joshua. This is one reason why it’s so important to take a narrative approach to Scripture. The story allows us to witness the different ways God chooses to act at different points in history. It doesn’t resolve all of our questions, but it gives us a context within which we can wrestle with our questions.

Does the Church Replace Israel?

Ross from Virginia (52:35)

"My question is about the design pattern of election, specifically when Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leadership in Matthew 21:43. This is where Jesus said, and I quote, “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, who will produce its fruits.” What do you think this meant to the Jewish leadership then, and how do you think we should interpret this today?"

Tim addresses the contemporary theological challenges to studying the biblical theme of the family of God, one of which is the relationship between Israel and the Church.

In this particular encounter between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus is addressing their lack of stewardship over God’s people. The point here is that the messianic renewal movement should be stewarded by people who would produce its fruit.

In other words, Jesus is fulfilling what God has been doing all along. He is not saying that because Israel messed up too many times, a church made up of the nations will replace them. Jesus himself is an Israelite, as are his first followers. God always raises up a faithful remnant, a renewed Israel in the midst of a corrupt Israel. From there, non-Israelites are invited into the family of Abraham.

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by Tents

Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Audience questions collected by Christopher Maier.

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Family of God E1  –  1hr 1m
God’s Global Family
1hr 1m
Family of God E2  –  56m
Our Collective Identity
Family of God E3  –  1hr 5m
What’s So Bad About Babel?
1hr 5m
Family of God E4  –  1hr 6m
Abraham, the Immigrant, and Circumcision
1hr 6m
Family of God E5  –  57m
Sibling Rivalry and Biblical Election
Family of God E6  –  1hr 2m
Jesus and the Gentiles
1hr 2m
Family of God E7  –  52m
Who’s In?
Family of God E8  –  1hr 6m
The Powerful and Not Powerful
1hr 6m
Family of God E9  –  1hr 5m
One Family Once More
1hr 5m
Family of God E10 Q+R  –  1hr 1m
Why Do Cain's Descendants Show Up After the Flood?
1hr 1m
An Interview featuring Dr. Esau McCaulley  –  52m
Reading While Black
An interview featuring Andrew Rillera  –  1hr 12m
Does the Church Supersede Israel?
1hr 12m
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