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.
Genesis 4:3-5 – Abel and Cain brought offerings “in the course of time” which means at the appointed time or appropriate season.
A Better Sacrifice. But Why Was it Better?
It says in 4:4-5 “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” There was something favorable about both Abel and his offering. While at the same time something unfavorable about both Cain and his offering. Abel’s sacrifice indicated faith in the sacrifice for sin and Abel’s righteous life indicated his faith was genuine. Cain’s sacrifice was unfavorable because it represented works and Cain’s life was one of sin in attitude and deed. This is a debated statement since there is no clear indication that the sacrifice was a sin offering.
Hebrews 9:22 supports the need for blood in the sacrifice: “without shedding of blood there occurs no forgiveness.”
The writer of Hebrews credits the acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice was because of his faith.
The Masoretic text says:
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain as very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain: ‘Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen?’ If thou doest well. Shall it not be lifted up? And if thou doest not well, sin croucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.”
The Septuagint says:
“And it was so after some time that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice to the Lord. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his sheep and of his fatlings and God looked upon Abel and his gifts, but Cain and his sacrifices he regarded not, and Cain was exceedingly sorrowful and his countenance fell. And the Lord God said to Cain, Why art thou become very sorrowful and why is thy countenance fallen? Hast thou not sinned if thou hast brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it? be still, to thee shall be his submission, and thou shalt rule over him.”
“Abel’s offering was living, Cain’s was lifeless. His was prior in age and quality, Cain’s was inferior. His was superior in strength and fatness, Cain’s was weaker.”
“The brothers having decided to sacrifice to God, Cain brought th efruits of the cultivated ground and of trees, while Abel brought milk and the firstlings of his flocks. This latter offering gae the greater pleasure to God, who is honored by those things whicdh grow spo9ntaneously and in accordance with nature, and not by those things which are forcibly produced by the ingenuity of covetous man.”
Midrash Genesis Tabba says:
“Cain brought of the fruits of the earth, that is to say, less valuable things.”
(Midrash is based on the Hebrew word for “interpretation” or “exegesis”. A midrash is a book which contains compilation of teachings on a particular book and its verses. It is a Jewish commentary on the Hebrew scriptures.)
Palestinian Targum has Abel saying to Cain:
“The fruits of my works were better than yours and took precedence over yours; so it was my sacrifice that was accepted as well-pleasing.”
(Targum is a translation of the Hebrew scriptures that reflect the rabbinic interpretation.)
Sin Offering or a Thanksgiving Offering of First Fruits?
Masoretic text says: “If thou doest well. Shall it not be lifted up?” indicating Abel was accepted based on his actions and Cain was rejected because of his actions.
Abel then is recognized in Genesis 4 as being righteous. This is supported through out the rest of scripture:
Matthew 23:35 – “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
1 John 3:12 – “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
Proverb 15:8 – The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.”
How Could Righteous Deeds Be Called Faith?
Hebrews 10:38, “My righteous one will live by faith. If he shrinks back I will not be pleased with him.”
Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Basically, Abel had faith in God and the result was righteous deeds.
This is the basis of the judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31. We must assume that the reason the righteous deeds were done to the Jews by the “sheep” was because the received, understood and acted on the knowledge revealed by God.
“when God spoke well of his offerings” refers to God’s Approval in Gen. 4
Fire from the Lord to consume a sacrifice and approve the worship and location:
1. Leviticus 9:24 – the tabernacle
2. Judges 6:21 – Gideon
3. 1 Kings 18:38 – Elijah
1 Chronicles 21:26 – David on Jebusites
threshing floor (
5. 2 Chronicles 7:1 – Solomon at temple
6. Also, consider Abram’s covenant cutting ceremony with God in Genesis 15:17
“by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead”
In Genesis 4:10, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
Abel is still speaking to God today by asking for vindication.
This will come on judgment day.
POINT: Abel is still living by faith as he waits for his vindication.
See Revelation 6:9-11
See Hebrews 12:24 – Abel’s blood cries out for justice and judgment. Jesus’ blood cries out or speaks forgiveness and reconciliation.
Death does not stop the voice or the message of faith.
Abel was the first man to die yet his voice of faith is still speaking.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
Genesis 5:18, 21-24
The Septuagint says,
“Enoch was well-pleasing to God after his begetting Mathusala . . . And Enoch was well-pleasing to God, and was not found, because God translated him.”
The translators of the Septuagint simply interpreted the meaning of the phrase “walked with God”. They correctly took this phrase to mean Enoch lived in a way that pleased God. This is attested to in Micah 6:8. Thus, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t say Enoch “walked with God” but instead says, “εὐαρεστέω” or “well-pleasing”
The Septuagint also says in Genesis 4:24, “And Enoch was well-pleasing to God, and was not found, because God translated him.”
Again, the focus is on the righteousness of a man but this righteousness is credited to the man’s faith.
So, in this the faith chapter, our first two examples of faith are men who were righteous in deeds.
2. Righteous Deeds
3. Well-pleasing to God
4. Translated by God
The word “μετατίθημι” which is translated “removed” or “translated” is the word “metatithemi”
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
To live by
faith or to be able to produce righteousness in life because of faith in your
soul a person must:
1. Believe that there is a God
2. Believe that God fulfills his promises
Once God has
spoken his word (or, promises) then:
1. God’s responsibility is to fulfill his word
2. Man’s responsibility is to obey God’s word
· Anyone who expects to “come to him” or “approach God” (represented by Enoch being taken by God) must be “well-pleasing” to God.
· To be “well-pleasing” you must have faith.
· To have faith you must believe God is and that he keeps his word.
· You can not trust that God will keep his word
· If you do not believe God exists.
· If this is the case then you can not have faith.
· Without faith you can not live a righteous, “well-pleasing” life.
· If you are not “well-pleasing” to God you can not and will not approach him.
is important to the author of Hebrews.
The application here may be to say that the readers of this letter need
to learn how to approach God. This has been mentioned in: 4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Noah is an example of faith in action.
When warned of the coming judgment Noah:
1. Believed in God
2. Believed God kept his word. In this case his promise to destroy the earth.
The result was:
1. the condemnation of his generation
2. became the heir of righteousness
This was all accomplished by faith.
Faith has been described as:
1. Proof of the unseen reality (11:1)
2. Mental perception that the seen world exists because of the unseen world (11:3)
3. Basis for righteous actions (11:4)
4. Means of continuing after death (11:4)
5. Resulting in ability to approach God, indeed, being taken to God (11:5)
6. Necessary to please God (11:6)
7. Causes active and passive results (11:7)
a. Active – built an ark
b. Passive – condemned the world
c. Passive – became heir of the righteousness