By Weylan Deaver
Abel was the second person ever born, and the first victim of murder (see Gen. 4). A shepherd by trade, he died young at the hand of his older, wicked brother. Interestingly, Jesus includes Abel with the prophets (Luke 11:47-51). Abel is mentioned by name in only five chapters of the Bible, but what little is said of him speaks volumes to the kind of man he was.
The world of Abel contained four people. His parents were the extent of his family tree, and they could tell him firsthand stories of the Garden of Eden. There were no atheists, no agnostics, no idol worshipers, no false religions. The Flood of Noah’s day was still in the future. Dinosaurs roamed the earth and biological conditions made possible extraordinarily long life spans. With no Scripture yet given, God carried on personal conversations with people.
The worship of Abel is commended. When he brought an offering from his flock, God accepted it while simultaneously rejecting Cain’s plant offering. The reason is not immediately apparent, since the text does not state that Cain should have brought an animal offering. Suffice it to say, something was amiss in what Cain did. The New Testament affirms that Abel’s offering was made “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). Since faith results by hearing and trusting God’s word (Rom. 10:17), the implication is that God had, indeed, given Cain and Abel instructions on their offerings. Abel followed the instructions, thus making his offering “by faith,” whereas Cain did not. This principle has towering ramifications for our own day. As he did with Abel’s, God will accept our gifts to him when they are made by faith (i.e. informed by and carried out per God’s word). As he rejected Cain’s gifts, so will God reject today offerings and worship brought to him without following his revealed will.
The wounding of Abel is tragic testimony to anger grown so out of hand that Cain actually raised his hand against his brother and killed him. Prior to the crime, God had talked to Cain and tried to help him. God warned Cain of the nearness of sin if he failed to get his attitude straightened out. Cain would either rule over sin, or else be ruled by it. Sadly, and to his brother’s demise, he chose the latter. As the first human to ever die, Abel’s was the first spirit to ever enter Hades. And, he has been there awaiting judgment longer even than Adam and Eve. Though Abel’s death did not seem to weigh too heavily on Cain’s conscience, it was a serious offense to God. Much later, the apostle John will raise and answer the question of why Cain murdered Abel: “Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12, ESV).
The worthiness of Abel is evident wherever he is discussed. Inspiration even mentions his blood in the same sentence with the Savior’s: “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). Abel’s blood cried out for justice. Abel’s blood pointed back to the sin of Cain. Abel’s blood could not save. Jesus’ blood, on the other hand, heralded the message of redemption. Jesus’ blood pointed forward to salvation. Jesus’ blood could save. Whatever good could be said of Abel, better could be said of Christ. Abel died young, but he died right with God, which is all that matters. “And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4). And maybe — just maybe — that is why Jesus spoke of Abel in the same breath as the prophets.