Who was Abel in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


Abel is a significant figure in the Bible, recognized for his righteous character and tragic fate. He is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. He was the second son of Adam and Eve, the first human couple, and his story is recounted in Genesis chapters 4 and 5. 

The Old Testament 

The narrative begins with the birth of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Abel was a shepherd, while Cain was a farmer. Both brothers brought offerings to God, but it was Abel’s offering that found favor with the Lord. In Genesis 4:4-5 (NKJV), it states: 

“And [c]in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4: 3-5). 

The system of sacrificial offerings had been introduced by God at the time man was expelled from the Garden of Eden for without it there was no atoning of sin (Genesis 3:15). Cain knew he was doing wrong in bringing the kind of gift he offered to God. He had been taught that the blood of the Son of God would atone for his sins. By following the divinely instituted rule of sacrificing a lamb for his sins, he would show allegiance to God, who had ordained the sacrificial system, and express faith in the plan of redemption (Hebrews 11:4).

What was it that made Cain’s offering unacceptable to God? A secret spirit of resentment and rebellion caused him to meet the claims of God in a way of his own choosing rather than to follow exactly God’s command. While Abel’s offering was a demonstration of faith (Hebrews 11:4), Cain’s offering was an attempt to earn salvation by works. Abel’s faith in the plan of salvation and in the atoning sacrifice of Christ revealed itself in clear obedience

Though the manner of God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering is not revealed in the Bible, it consisted in the appearance of heavenly fire to consume the sacrifice, as often in later times (Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1). God accepted Abel’s “gifts” and refused that of Cain. The difference was not simply in the character of the gifts themselves, but also in the character and attitude of the two brothers as reflected in the gifts they brought. 

Cain noticed the absence of any visible sign of God’s pleasure and acceptance of his offering and became greatly enraged. He felt fierce resentment towards his brother and toward God. There was apparently no sorrow for sin and no seeking of forgiveness for sins.  Cain’s behavior is a typical illustration of an unrepentant sinner whose heart does not submit to reproof but becomes hardened and rebellious. And no effort was made by Cain to hide feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and anger.   

Cain’s jealousy and anger toward Abel grew, leading to a tragic event. In Genesis 4:8 (NKJV), it describes the turning point in their relationship: “Now Cain said to Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” This act of murder marked a significant turning point in the early history of humanity.

God confronted Cain about his crime, and in Genesis 4:10-11 (NKJV), Cain’s punishment is revealed: “And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.'” 

The New Testament 

Abel’s story is often interpreted as a symbol of obedience, faithfulness, righteousness, and the consequences of jealousy and sin. In the New Testament, Abel is mentioned in the context of faith in Hebrews 11:4 (NKJV): “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”  

Abel’s faith has become a living witness down through the centuries. There was power in Abel’s faith that led him to submit to the course of action God had commanded, and the powerful influence of his faith lives on today—it “yet speaketh.” 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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