Cain and Abel may have been twins


  • Question 151, from George P, USA
    Genesis chapter 4, verses 1-2 records the birth of Cain and Abel. I notice there is only one conception but two births. Were they twins?

    There is no real tradition in either Judaism or Christianity that Cain and Abel were twins. However, a direct translation of the original Hebrew text would read as follows:

    “And the man knew Eve his wife. And she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man of Yahweh.” And she continued [yacaph] to bear his brother Abel.”


    The use of the word ‘yacaph’ is interesting as it can also mean ‘to increase’ or ‘to add to’. This usage may support the idea that Cain and Abel were twins, with Abel added to Cain, his older brother almost immediately.

    However, it’s worth remembering that after the birth of Abel, the narrative then immediately says that Abel became a shepherd, while Cain tilled the ground. Obviously an unspecified period of time must have elapsed, but this is not stated in the text. There could equally have been an unrecorded time lapse between Cain and Abel being born.

    It would also be odd that the twin-ship of Cain and Abel isn’t mentioned, as later in Genesis a great emphasis is put on Esau and Jacob being twins. One of the main themes in the book of Genesis is the inharmonious relationship between brothers – Cain and Abel being just one such pairing. The sons of Noah are separated by Noah’s curse on Ham. Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and so on.

    Cain is also warned by Yahweh not to let his anger with his brother lead him into sin. After Cain’s crime is discovered he in banished in very similar language to that used to banish his father, Adam, from Eden. Like Adam, Cain is cursed to work for food and to live East of Eden. This story thus highlights an important element of Jewish, and later Christian, theology – that all human beings sin and therefore deserve to live under the curse of Adam.

    Those who do not read the book of Genesis literally, see the tale of Cain and Abel as a symbolic explanation for the existence of antisocial crime, and possibly representing hostility between farmers and nomadic herders in prehistoric times.

    Finally, although there is no clear reason given why Yahweh favoured Abel’s offering over Cain’s, this story may well have formed the root of the tradition of animal sacrifices in the worship of Yahweh in ancient Israel. While grain offerings were made by the Israelites, these were regarded as inferior to the sacrifice of animals, perhaps because of this ancestral story that indicated Yahweh’s pleasure with Abel’s sacrifice. Among evangelical Christians, the ‘reason’ God favoured Abel is often attributed to Abel’s worshipful attitude, but there is no evidence for this in the text.

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  • 21 comments

    1. murphy Mar 22

      read the book of jubilees.

      it says that eve had two conceptions for caine and able.

    2. Jon the freelance theologian Apr 20

      That’s interesting, but as that’s not an accepted part of the Christian Scriptural canon, it’s validity could be questioned. Probably what it shows, though, is how old this question is, as the writer of Jubilees sought to address it. The ambiguity in the original Hebrew text in Genesis was noticed a while back, it would seem.

    3. Kate Dec 1

      according to the Midrash “Cain was a twin, for with him came a girl; and Abel was one of three ; for with him came two girls.” Gen. Rabba 22

      Not revelation, and not part of the Bible, these sermon like explanations of Biblical questions have very interesting foundations. Usually, there is some connection with the mystery of the ancient language itself and the multiple meanings of words therein.

    4. Jon the freelance theologian Dec 2

      The interesting thing about the Midrash (like all commentaries on Scripture) is often what people read into the text, rather than draw out of the text.

    5. Kathy Dec 28

      A friend has mentioned to me that Caine is not listed in Adam’s lineage (but Abel is) which he claims is because Caine is the seed of Satan, not Adam. He also insists they were twins. What is your opinion. I have a hard time with literal interpretation of the Bible.

    6. Jon the freelance theologian Jan 3

      That seems a bit of an unusual idea. It would be interesting to know how your friend came to that conclusion.

      Regarding literal interpretations of the Bible, many Christians struggle with a literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 – 12. The original article was about what the text says, not whether it is to be taken literally.

      Cain may have been left out of subsequent lineages because he was considered the first murderer. Abel, on the other hand was considered a righteous victim.

    7. Rita Feb 28

      After reading the comments written pertaining to whether or not Cain & Abel were twins, to me is of little necessity. However, I deem the fact that God rejects our offerings if our heart are not in the right place. By way of an addendum, my personal belief must agree with the last individual which commented on Able and & not being twins, because The twins Old Test, exploited. You knew they were twins. But, in the second verse is an indicative that Cain must have already been working in his professions.

    8. Lav Qu Jun 18

      where did the animal skin come from that
      God gave to Adam and Eve, it shows from
      the beginning of sin that there was a blood
      sacrifice needed, pointing to Calvary and the
      blood sacrifice of Jesus, it would then in my
      mind say that when Cain offered veggies, he was
      ignoring the need of a Saviour. Abel followed the
      example of his parents that God had instructed.
      Cain the first born, makes a choice to follow his
      own way, Abel believed in God’s plan of salvation
      Twin or no twin the greater question, is will we
      try to cover ourselfs with Christ’s righteousness or

    9. Rev.Robert Echevarria Aug 26

      I believe that God accepted Ables sacrifice because Able listend to his father and Mother when they told him that God had to slay a lamb to cover their nakeness and it was a type of jususe ultimate sacrifyice on the cruz but Cain was sencere but he did not listend he could of bought a lamb from Able and sacrifice it to the Lord.

    10. Jon the freelance theologian Aug 29

      That’s an interesting idea, Robert, although the text of Genesis doesn’t refer to a lamb – just to ‘animal skins’. Do you have a reference for where that idea came from?

    11. sarah johnson Sep 22

      cain and abel were twins, conceived of two different men?..how was adam not the only man who could be the father of eves sons??thank and GOD bless

    12. WatchmanDave Nov 4

      It is more likely Cain and Able were twins…follow that patern of the First & Second born children all the way to Jesus. Adam the first…the Second Adam being Jesus(Thats the Perspective of ABBA FATHER)
      Eve’s perspective is…SEED…as she is focused on the Promise in Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
      Why Eve didn’t see Cain as one who was carrying the promised SEED in his loins is not clear…but the clue to Cain and Able being twins is with the statement about Seth’s birth…Ge 4:25 ¶ And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
      The scripture doesn’t refer to Adam knowing his wife EVE to concieve Able separately from Cain…but it does with Seth…follow the patern
      Eve’s expectation seems to be that of a immediate Deliverer(SEED) she would SEE in her day…Prophecy is always about the future wether it is seconds away or a few milleniums away…it’s our expectations and reservations that can cloud SEEING into the future that YAWEH presents us…ADAM and EVE had expectations because they were in PAIN…now more caused by CAIN…

    13. WatchmanDave Nov 4

      My point is your PAIN will cloud you Perception…your focus and value of your PAIN will determine your willingness to forgive…LOOK at GOD’s response to CAIN…very merciful…

    14. Ari Dec 31

      The flaw with Cain and Abel being twins AND Cain being the seed of Satan is this:

      “If Cain is the seed of Satan and they were twins, then Abel would be considered the seed of Satan as well.”

      Seed is not just physical offspring, but also is denoted by actions. Satan was disobedient and practiced sin. Throughout the scriptures, seed of Satan is not talking about physical offspring, but those who are disobedient…those who sin on purpose, like Satan. When the Messiah told the Pharisees, “you are of your father the Devil, he meant they were thinking and acting just like Satan…purposely thinking and doing evil.

      ALSO, the offering of Cain was not accepted by Yahweh because only the blood of something innocent could atone for sin; not vegetation. This is shown earlier as the Creator killed an animal to atone for the purposeful disobedience of Adam and Eve. Most only read and think it was mainly for physical covering, but that was secondary. The concept of atoning for sin is “a life for a life”. Adam and Eve learned about the sacrificial system right after they sinned. Before that, they had no need for a sacrifice, and had never seen death. The Messiah became the final innocent sacrifice to atone for sin, as the sacrificial system didn’t get people to stop sinning. They would sin and then just say,”I’ll sacrifice an animal later”. It wouldn’t get rid of the purposeful act of sinning. Now you only be forgiven if you honestly repent and never do that sin again. If you do, that goes on your record for judgement in the end. If you mistakenly do it, you get grace, because you didn’t do it on purpose. Christianity is still Satan’s trick of making one think they can purposely disobey the Creator’s command and not surely die. The Messiah over erases the former sins committed before you accept Him. Everything else forward stays on your record…getting Grace if by mistake, but judgment if you knew better but did it anyway. Hope this helps. :)

    15. Min Shelvis Green Jr Apr 9

      In total agreience with Watchman Dave Cain & Able were twins bible only tells us of 1 conception which is Cain & Abel then a 2nd conception which was Seth. The problem was from birth Eve had no regard for her son Abel. Only recognized Cain as the gift and as the achievement. Cain meaning to acquire. For Eve has said I have acquired a son with the Lord. Abel meaning breath, air, vanity, a waste. She never gave thanks to God for Abel only Cain. She felt Abel was not needed. And animal’s were not eating nor really needed so they gave him a the shepphards job as a stay busy job or go some where and play. Little do they know.

    16. Searching4Truth May 12

      It has been proven that a woman can bare twins with different fathers. It has happened many times in modern times so it is possible that Cain was not Adam’s child and thus the reason for disfavor with God and the reasoning behind Cain not being listed in the lineage of Adam. As for Eve’s acknowledging Cain’s birth and not Abel’s she surely would have thought the first child must be the gift from God but not the second if she even had a clue of what she had done, which I am sure she must have because she had eaten from the TREE of KNOWLEDGE. When Cain killed Abel they had to realize the mistake they had made in their judgment.

    17. Larry May 11

      http://www.serpent-seed.com/

    18. Jon the freelance theologian May 15

      Just a quick note on the ‘Serpent Seed’ doctrine: this has never been considered correct doctrine in any mainline Christian group. The ‘evidence’ presented for it on websites is not as conclusive as its supporters make out. It depends on a semi-literalist view of the Eden story that both insists on a literal Eden, Adam and Eve, but then also relies on a metaphorical understanding of certain other aspects of that story. As such, it is an inconsistent interpretation of Scripture.

    19. Parker Jan 10

      If Cain’s heart has been right, he would not have reacted to God’s not accepting his offering by murdering his brother, Abel. An important commentary, it would seem, on the idea of a good tree bearing good fruit. God saw Cain’s heart even before he sinned and murdered Abel.

    20. Brother John Sep 25

      Interesting debate. Some further points if I may.
      You don’t need to kill a sheep to get its fleece so YHWH probably took a goats life. This supports the scapegoat for sin ordination. For the Passover meal the lamb could be of a sheep or a goat.
      Seed of serpent has to be spiritual as the lineage of satan would have been wiped with the flood.
      These are points to be weighed and balanced but entirely supported by scripture.
      Shalom in Christ

    21. Ron Stimphil Nov 16

      What is left out of the argument is Genesis 4:25, “Adam knew his wife again…” This statement infers that Adam stopped “knowing” his wife for a while (130 years to be exact). If Adam had Seth only the second time he slept with Eve, then Eve had twins the first time. Therefore, Cain and Abel were twins. That story of Cain being Satan’s son is pure rubbish.

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