It is instructive to evaluate the hermeneutic of Abel based on the presumption that he had access to scriptures containing creation and the fall. Abel, based on his interpretation of the scriptures he had, chose to be a shepherd. He is commended for offering a proper sacrifice, often ignoring the fact that in order to offer the sacrifice, he had to dedicate his life to being a shepherd. His devotion to God was not a single act, but a lifelong commitment.
Meanwhile, Cain, having access to the same information as Abel, dedicated his life to working the earth. What is the difference, based on the scriptures available to them?
Consider the curse (or the consequence):
17 ¶ And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the
voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded
thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy
sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt
eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou
taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
- Did the curse apply to all men, or just to Adam?
- If it applied to all men, why and how did Abel choose to live outside the curse?
- If it only applied to Adam, why did Cain choose to live under the curse?
Consider the gift from God:
21 ¶ Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of
skins, and clothed them.
Observation: Discussions concerning the garments usually specify that a single lamb was slain, though we are told that the plural skins were used, and we are not told the kind of animal.
It is inferred from Abel's sacrifice, that the animals slain for Adam and Eve were sheep. The presumption of the inference is that Abel was attempting to mimic the first sacrifice.
The inference is supported:
Re 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose
names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world.
The Greek word for foundation (katabole) has the sense of throwing down in reference to Adam and Eve being thrown out when they were fallen. This suggests that the lamb slain... is a reference to the animal slain at the time that the whole world began to groan, having been thrown down.
Furthermore, the world for said (AMR) is identical for the word for word and lamb. When God created the world, he said... He created by his Word and by the Lamb.
The skins that God provided him were symbolically a covering provided by the death of the Lamb, the creator of the world.
The presumption that God killed an animal to obtain the skins rather than create animal-less skins is warranted, from:
Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and
without shedding of blood is no remission.
If there was no shedding of blood, Adam did not receive forgiveness.
What possible reasons would he have for mimicking the first sacrifice? The possibilities might include:
1. He presumed that the gift given to Adam and Eve after the curse was a good gift and he wished to give a good gift.
2. He thought he must somehow he was obligated repay God for the sacrifice made for Adam and Eve.
In the first instance, Abel dedicated his life to raising sheep so that he could give God a good gift in return. In the second, he dedicated his life to raising sheep as an obligation. How we interpret his motivation speaks more of us than of Abel.
Either way, the end result is the same, his hermeneutic led him to an interaction with God based on the gift that God gave, In contrast, Cain chose to live under the curse, and to give a gift reflecting the curse.
We are told that Abel had a hermeneutic where the guiding principle was faith. (Heb 11.4) The implication is that Cain did not share that faith. Since it was a hermeneutic of faith, we can eliminate the possibility that Abel felt obligated to sacrifice.
As a hermeneutic of faith, there are two elements that must be examined:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy
seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden
of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep
the way of the tree of life.
He trusted God would conquer the serpent, and that the road back to Eden was only temporarily blocked by the angels who kept the way open.
Heb 11.6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he
that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek him.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly:
wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath
prepared for them a city.
It is plausibly concluded that Abel believed God, and attempted to enter into a relationship by offering a good gift back to God, choosing to live in the promise rather than the curse.
The hermeneutic of faith trusts God, believes that God desires to give good gifts, and responds by returning the good gifts that have been received.
1Jo 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.