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Genesis 4:1-101NIV New International Version Translations
1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.


Genesis (Greek: “birth”, “origin”) is the first book of the Bible. It recounts a description of the world from the creation to the descent of the children of Israel into Egypt, and contains some of the best-known stories of the Old Testament, including Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the biblical Patriarchs.

For Christians or Jews the theological importance of Genesis centers on the Covenants linking God to his Chosen People and the people to the Promised Land. Christianity has reinterpreted Genesis as the prefiguration of Christian beliefs, notably the Christian view of Christ as the new Adam and the New Testament as the culmination of the covenants.

Biblical Truths3

There are several Old Testament characters about whom we know a great deal, such as Abraham, Moses, and David. There are others about whom we know very little, sometimes not even their names, such as Lot’s wife, the butler and baker in Egypt, and David’s little child who died. Then there are those in between, about whom we know some but not a whole lot. The story of Abel, found in Genesis 4:1-10, would fall into the latter category.

However, the lives of all people recorded in the Old Testament, whether we know much or little, are there for a reason. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15:4). It is not just to give us some interesting biographical or historical information, but to provide important lessons by which we can learn something about God’s will for us. What can we learn from the example of Abel?


To begin, we see that Abel obeyed. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’ Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And 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” (Gen. 4:1-4).

Why did God respect Abel and his offering? The Bible says that it was because Abel acted by faith. “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” (Heb. 11:4). There is only one way to act by faith. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Thus, we conclude that God must have spoken. We do not know exactly what God told Cain and Abel about sacrifices. The most logical conclusion is that He wanted animals offered. But whatever He said, Abel did exactly as He commanded.

From Abel’s example we can see the importance of obeying God’s will. We must obey God to meet His conditions for our salvation. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). However, even after we become Christians, we must continue to obey God in all things. Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi and said, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, butnow much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). We need to obey as Abel did.


Next, we see that Abel suffered because He obeyed God. In contrast to God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice, it is said, “But He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4:5-8).

Why did this event occur? It is an example of the righteous being persecuted by the unrighteous. “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn. 3:12). Cain chose to follow the will of the evil one in offering a sacrifice that was not acceptable to God. Rather than repenting, he continued to listen to the evil one in venting his frustration by murdering his righteous brother. Jesus warned us that such things would happen. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matt. 5:10-11).

Christians in the first century often were persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Acts 5:40-42). And even though we may not be put to death, as were Abel and many in the first century, we are told, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). From the example of Abel, we can learn to expect it.


Finally, we see that Abel still speaks. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:9-10). Even then, though Abel was dead, his blood spoke to God. And remember that the writer of Heb. 11:4 said that he, being dead, still speaks. Though now long dead, Abel still speaks to us because his obedience and suffering for righteousness’ sake are recorded in the scriptures, so that Jesus was able to make reference to him (Matt. 23:34-35).

Items for Discussion

  • How do the dead still speak to us today?
  • In what ways can we conclude that a sacrifice is sufficient in the eyes of God?
  • Why would God care about the type of sacrifice given by us to Him?
  • How does the modern Christian follow Cain’s Sacrifice? Abel’s sacrifice?


Hebrews 11:1-4
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

Background4 Barnes Notes

In the close of the previous chapter the apostle had incidentally made mention of faith, Hebrews 10:38,39, and said that the just should live by faith. The object of the whole argument in this epistle was to keep those to whom it was addressed from apostatizing, from the Christian religion, and especially from relapsing again into Judaism. They were in the midst of trials, and were evidently suffering some form of persecution, the tendency of which was to expose them to the danger of relapsing. The indispensable means of securing them from apostasy was faith; and with a view to show its efficacy in this respect, the apostle goes into an extended account of its nature and effects, occupying this entire chapter. As the persons whom he addressed had been Hebrews, and as the Old Testament contained an account of numerous instances of persons in substantially the same circumstances in which they were, the reference is made, to the illustrious examples of the efficacy of faith in the Jewish history. The object is to show that faith, or confidence in the Divine promises, has been in all ages the means of perseverance in the true religion, and consequently of salvation. In this chapter, therefore, the apostle first describes or defines the nature of faith, (Hebrews 11:1,) and then illustrates its efficacy and power by reference to numerous instances, Hebrews 11:2-40. In these illustrations he refers to the steady belief which we have that God made the worlds, and then to the examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab in particular, and then to numerous other examples without mentioning their names. The object is to show that there is power in faith to keep tile mind and heart in the midst of trials, and that, having these examples before them, those whom he addressed should continue to adhere steadfastly to the profession of the true religion.

Biblical Truths

Verse 1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for. On the general nature of faith, the margin here is, “ground, or confidence.” There is scarcely any verse of the New Testament more important than this, for it states what is the nature of all true faith, and is the only definition of it which is attempted in the Scriptures. Eternal life depends on the existence and exercise of faith, (Mark 16:16,) and hence the importance of an accurate understanding of its nature. Of things hoped for. In heaven. Faith gives them reality in the view of the mind. The Christian hopes to be admitted into heaven; to be raised up in the last day from the slumbers of the tomb; to be made perfectly free from sin; to be everlastingly happy. Under the influence of faith he allows these things to control his mind as if they were a most affecting reality.

Of what we do not see. Of the existence of God; of heaven; of angels; of the glories of the world prepared for the redeemed.

Verse 2. This is what the ancients were commended for. That is, by that faith which gives reality to things hoped for, and a certain persuasion to the mind of the existence of those things which are not seen. The elders. The ancients; the Hebrew patriarchs and fathers.

Verse 3. By faith we understand that the universe was formed. The first instance of the strength of faith, which the apostle refers to, is that by which we give credence to the declarations of the Scriptures about the work of creation, Genesis 1:3, This is selected first, evidently, because it is the first thing that occurs in the Bible, or is the first thing there narrated in relation to which there is the exercise of faith. He points to no particular instance in which this faith was exercise–for none is especially mentioned–but refers to it as an illustration of the nature of faith which every one might observe in himself. The faith here exercised is confidence in the truth of the Divine declarations in regard to the creation. The meaning is, that our knowledge on this subject is a mere matter of faith in the Divine testimony. It is not that we could reason this out, and demonstrate that the worlds were thus made; it is not that profane history goes back to that period and informs us of it; it is simply that God has told us so in his word. The strength of the faith, in this case, is measured

Verse 4. By faith Abel offered. See Genesis 4:4,5. In the account in Genesis of the offering made by Abel, there is no mention of faith –as is true also indeed of most of the instances referred to by the apostle. The account in Genesis is, simply, that Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” Men have speculated much as to the reason why the offering of Abel was accepted, and that of Cain rejected; but such speculation rests on no certain basis, and the solution of the apostle should be regarded as decisive and satisfactory, that in the one case there was faith, in the other not. It could not have been because an offering of the fruits of the ground was not pleasing to God, for such an offering was commanded under the Jewish law, and was not in itself improper. Both the brothers selected that which was to them most obvious; which they had reared with their own hands; which they regarded as most valuable. Cain had cultivated the earth, and he naturally brought what had grown under his care; Abel kept a flock, and he as naturally brought what he had raised: and had the temper of mind in both been the same, there is no reason to doubt that the offering of each would have been accepted. To this conclusion we are led by the nature of the case, and the apostle advances substantially the same sentiment–for he says that the particular state of mind on which the whole turned was, that the one had faith and the other not.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do you think that God requires an element of faith with each sacrifice?
  • Was God unfair to Cain?
  • What does this study say about good people who do not believe in God or Christ?
  • How do these verses address our need for teaching creationism over evolution?
  • What are the dangers of not believing in creation?

Discussion Challenge

  • What is the role of the church in the struggle in the classroom over evolution and creationism?