If Adam and Eve were the only human beings that God miraculously created, where did all of the people come from who were of great concern to Cain? After God sentenced the murderous Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond” on the Earth (Genesis 4:12), recall that Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (4:13). Cain then said: “Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (4:14, emp. added). God then responded to Cain, saying, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold.” So, “the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (4:15, emp. added). Do the references to “anyone” and “whoever” in these verses suggest that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve?
Before answering these questions, one must keep in mind that Genesis chapters 1-11 cover approximately the first 2,000-plus years of human history (Butt, 2002; cf. Lyons, 2002). The following 1,178 chapters of the Bible tell us about the next 2,000 years. Although the first 11 chapters of Genesis are undeniably literal, historical language (cf. Thompson, 2001), God chose to reveal to man only a few important facts about the first 2,000-plus years of man’s existence—and most of this revelation is about Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. What’s more, Genesis chapters 4-5 likely cover a period of more than 1,400 years. Thus, a lot of time can pass between events without the text specifically expressing exactly how many decades or centuries elapsed.
How much time elapsed in Genesis 4:2? Immediately following the announcement of Cain and Abel’s births (4:1-2), the text says, “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (4:2). Most likely, at least 20 years had passed by this time, and it could be that several more decades had expired before Cain and Abel finally settled on their respective vocations. (How many people today do not settle on a profession until they are 35 or 40 years old?)
How much time transpired when the Bible says, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord” (4:3, emp. added)? How long was Cain angry with Abel before God spoke to Cain about his anger (4:6)? How long was it before Cain spoke with Abel (4:8)? (Have you ever known people, even family members, to hold-in feelings of resentment for years or decades?) Genesis 4:8 says, “It came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (emp. added). Again, we cannot know exactly how much time transpired between the conversation that Cain had with Abel and the day that he actually murdered Abel (4:8).
The fact is, Cain could have been 100 years old or more by the time he killed his brother. [Keep in mind that since the patriarchs often lived to be several hundred years old (e.g., Adam died at the age of 930), being 100 in that day, was somewhat comparable to being 20 today.] What’s more, Adam and Eve may have had 50 children or more by the time Cain killed Abel (cf. Genesis 5:4). They may have had 300 grandchildren by then. There could have been three or four generations of Adam’s descendants on Earth by the time God sentenced Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond.”
How many children, and possibly grandchildren, did Adam and Eve have when God said, “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”? How many people had descended from Adam by the time God “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”? Who were the “whoever” and “anyone” that both God and Cain mentioned? They were the dozens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of people on Earth by that time—all of whom were descendants of Adam, “the first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45) and Eve, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). In no way does reason or inspired revelation forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis; on the contrary, it demands such.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “The Bible Says the Earth is Young,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=885.
Lyons, Eric (2002), “When Did Terah Beget Abraham?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=624.
Thompson, Bert (2001), “Genesis 1 thru 11—Mythical or Historical?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=451.