Cain built a city?

Considering how under a YEC view of scripture there would only have been a handful of humans by the time of Genesis 4:17, how and why did Cain build a whole city? This does make sense however if there were other humans alongside the line of Adam, in which case, Adam needn’t be the first human.


The explanations I’ve always heard chalked it up to “people lived hundreds of years in those days,” ergo Adam and Eve’s descendants could hypothetically have numbered in the thousands (since we’re not told how old Cain was when he built the city), assuming Eve gave birth to 20+ kids.

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I’ve always wondered about those numbers, as they seem to assume no infant and childhood mortality, and 100% survival to hundreds of years old. To me, it seems if you had 20 kids ( which is a lot to ask of a uterus, no matter how long you live) 10 would be female, half of those would die before reproductive age, and many of the others would die young, probably in childbirth with a first child most commonly, so population growth would be much slower. It is not like people are bacteria growing in culture medium with predictable doubling speeds. We are told that life in general and childbirth in particular are going to be hard as biblical truth.


Here was an interesting essay I found on some of these topics:

I think perhaps the best explanation is one given right in the text though thanks to @JRM for first exposing me to the idea that Genesis 1-2:4a is the prologue and Genesis 2:4b and the Garden is what followed after the introduction/creation was finished. In other words, Genesis 2 is not a ‘zoomed-in’ version of Genesis 1, day 6 but rather what happened afterwards. Thus there were already lots of people on the Earth by the time God made the Garden in the East, Genesis 1 says so! I.e. something like this:

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Not if you had “perfect” genomes. That’s the explanation I heard. They could live so long and be so healthy because all the mutations that make us weak and sickly and cut our lifespan down from 900 to 100 had not crept into the human line yet. All these accumulated mutations suddenly appeared in the population after the flood because of the severe population bottleneck and change from the tropical climate to the ice age. Don’t know why humans genome didn’t get mutated at the Fall when “sin” magically corrupted the rest of the creative order and changed the tiger DNA from herbivore to carnivore, but so the story goes.

If you want to read AIG trying to sound all science-y about this, here’s a fun little article. Ancient Biblical Lifespans | Answers in Genesis

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Of course. How silly of me to not realize that!

Seems a bit absurd to me to be talking of Cain building a city of 20 younger siblings (and even younger nieces and nephews) especially when he is known to have killed his own brother. And let’s not forget Genesis 4:13 when right after killing Abel, Cain speaks of being afraid that wandering the earth he would be killed by people. What people??? The only “people” according the creationist understanding are the golems named Adam and Eve. The alterations they make to this text (adding sisters never mentioned and angels breeding with women to make giants) all just to make this contrary to the findings of science are simply extra-ordinary!

Yeah, I agree the city idea seems pretty absurd. Although considering how Cain treated Abel, his fear of retribution was probably justified even if it was at the hand of brothers/nephews – doesn’t sound like they were exactly one big happy family in those days.

Except… This is all happening before Adam and Eve even had a third son, Seth in Genesis 4:25. So even if we are imagining sisters which are never mentioned, are we talking about Cain and Abel being busy little rabbits with all these imagined sisters in order to make enough nieces and nephews to be such a danger to Cain wandering the Earth alone as well as enough of his own children and grandchildren to build a city? Seems to me that “not exactly a happy family” is a bit of an understatement, unless you think rampant incest is a formula for happy families.

Well, women were rarely considered important enough to include in genealogies, so yeah, I think the standard YEC thinking is that Adam and Eve had a whole bunch of daughters in between all these sons. It doesn’t even really say that Seth is their “third” son… just the one in whom the lineage is carried on, and therefore worth mentioning. In the YEC world, Genesis 5:4 covers a whole lot of questions:

4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.

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After Seth… uh huh… yeah… problem underlined, since none of the sons and daughters born in that 800 years would have anything to do with Cain’s fear for his life wandering the Earth or with Cain building a city.

Looking at that geneology the earliest it mentions having a son by anyone in that genealogy is at the age of sixty five. So I am not buying the so called coincidence of all the earliest sons being not worth mentioning and say that Adam having Seth supposedly at the age of 130 sounds like the right timing for a third son.

I don’t think it requires a “coincidence.” If Eve was going to have a lot of children it makes sense that she’d get busy early. But I’m not saying it makes a lot of sense, and I’m not trying to convince anyone of the YEC view. This is why Ken Ham has to write a whole pamphlet on this one subject because it requires a fair amount of conjecture and hand-waving to make it even remotely palatable to some, and that’s even with the incest.

Genesis 4:17 (NRSV)

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch.

The Genesis account is highly compressed history so we aren’t told exactly when he built the city. City in those days is probably not what we would think of as a city today. E.g Rome ~1000 BC had a population of ~4,400. So Cain’s city could have been perhaps 1,000 people, and probably less at founding.

Where did the people come from? They didn’t all have to be Cain’s descendants. Like cities today it probably attracted immigrants. But for arguments sake could it have been filled only with Cain’s descendants?

The Bible says that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters without specifying the total number, but according to Josephus “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was 33 sons and 23 daughters.” I personally met someone who came from a family of 20+ and there are other examples listed here. Given the long lifespans of those days 56 children is not unreasonable.

So let’s say Cain and his wife had only 20 children surviving to adulthood and this reproduces each generation. We get for each generation 2, 20, 200, 2000; so by the time of great grandchildren there are enough people for a small city.

So, @Reggie_O_Donoghue, it is quite feasible under a YEC view for Cain to have founded a city. We don’t need to postulate other humans alongside the line of Adam.

We would expect Adam and Eve to start with perfect genomes but we don’t know how quickly mutations would have accumulated. It doesn’t seem to have had much effect in the 10 generations from Adam to Noah, nor would we expect it to even at today’s rate of 100 mutations per person per generation. After all, are we significantly less fit than 10 generations ago? However at the time of Noah God himself said that man’s lifespan would be reduced to a maximum of 120 years, so perhaps there was a bit of theistic evolution at that point in history. After the flood there was a rapid decrease in lifespans.

Because the Bible clearly teaches the first part but one probably couldn’t speculate on the second part?

The first is a reasonable inference since the original creation was very good. The second we can speculate on. And don’t forget a bit of theistic evolution.

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But even then you are speculating on what it meant that things were ‘very good.’

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Postulate? It is what the scientific evidence tells us. The question is why go to such contortions (inserting daughters and incest into the text) to concoct a Biblical interpretation which doesn’t agree with the evidence. Makes more sense to go with the evidence and this explains…

  1. where the wives came, as described in Genesis 6.
  2. why Cain is afraid of people if he wanders the earth.
  3. how Cain might establish a city without populating the city by himself.
  4. why the Bible tells of these things before Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth.

Sure you can explain these things away. But why would you even want to? Why is it so desperately important to make the Bible incompatible with the findings of science?

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  1. where the wives came, as described in Genesis 6.

The 23 daughters of Adam and Eve. Incest was not forbidden until the time of Moses. (See above)

  1. why Cain is afraid of people if he wanders the earth.

Because of the other sons of Adam and Eve who were probably pretty pissed off with their murdering brother. (See above)
Not to mention sons and grandsons when they grew up.

  1. how Cain might establish a city without populating the city by himself.

Covered in post above.

  1. why the Bible tells of these things before Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth.

So Seth was born after. We don’t know when the other 30 sons were born. (See above)

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