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The purpose of this question is to examine whether it is possible to know where Abel's understanding of sacrifice came from based on the text we have. The presupposition is that Abel had access to the information contained in Genesis 1-3.

A question concerning why Abel raised sheep was asked in another question but the issue of the sacrifice was not included.

Note: This is related to Jack's question on hermeneutical approaches.

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    Just a quick postscript for any attending to this comment thread, and to clarify (should it be needed) my DV explanation: the OP's "presupposition" ("Abel had access to the information contained in Genesis 1-3") is simply unknowable, renders the point of the exercise (with whatever title given for this Q&A) meaningless. This is, of course, "imo", and is only offered in that spirit. This is a community, after all. ;) – Dɑvïd Jan 22 '14 at 17:15
  • @David For as long as the first people lived, it would seem unreasonable to assume that Dad and Mom never told their Son what happened in the garden, or what God spoke with them about while he walked with them in the garden. – Bob Jones Feb 13 '14 at 13:20
  • "Presuppositions" normally indicate an error of reasoning, ("Begging the Question"). The OP seems to assert that this one presupposition is worse than the others: 1.) The Mosaic concept of "Sacrifice" (for penance) is wrongfully injected - anachronistically; 2.) It is also assumed that "The Lord" wasn't present to eat of the crops and flocks, when texts show this was not true in early Genesis, (cf. Genesis 18); 3.) It is also assumed that the traditional translation "and their fat portions | וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן" is accurate; In all those cases - the entire question is also invalid. – elika kohen Dec 5 '17 at 15:41
  • Abel didn't get the "Idea" to sacrifice sheep. He was a Shepherd!! Cain didn't get the "idea" to sacrifice grain cos he was a farmer!! – user20490 Dec 5 '17 at 21:04
  • @ elika kohen and you presuppose he didn't. Same risk of error. See the Wiseman hypothesis. I am simply building the case on his proposition. – Bob Jones Dec 8 '17 at 23:17

10 Answers 10

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I can provide a simple answer, which is a partial non-answer.

Abel only knew what his parents told him, but that knowledge was mixed with faith. The Bible does not provide a full primitive history of the priesthood, or of sacrifices. Although it can be argued that God's killing of animals to clothe Adam and Eve does forge the original seed-idea for sacrifice. It also naturally created a 'subconscious' sense of atonement for guilt and shame/nakedness by sacrifice. Pagan religions probably all inherited a corrupted version of this ancient practice. Somehow from God's sacrifice for Adam and Eve, they knew that in approaching God there was no way to do it, but by an atoning sacrifice.

In the case of Abel, his faith seems to 'shine' in his 'attitude'. Abel gave the 'firstborn' of his flock by faith (Heb 11:4). Cain could have done the same with his fruit and God would have accepted that. The idea of the firstborn, or first-fruit is a major theme in the Bible. The first-born represented what 'belonged to God' and signified much more blessing to come after. Just as the first grains signified late end-of-harvest crops. In this way Jesus, who is is the 'firstborn among many brothers' signifies the resurrection of many brothers. (Rom 8:9)

I think the idea is, Abel saw both the need of an atoning sacrifice and the mercy of God extended in giving so much good things to men, that he gave the first fruits of his wealth. He knew his first-fruits should be carried back to its source in thankfulness. His brother, just grabbed any old fruit. Of course Abel's faith wold later be strictly symbolized in the Levitical Priesthood and Temple practices under Moses.

So 'Where did Abel get the idea to sacrifice sheep?' He mixed the words of his parents, and the natural observation of the earths bounty with faith. With such little light his faith is commended.

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Genesis 4 brings us a very simple narrative of Abel bringing an offering. The text doesn't even tell us directly that the offering was sacrificed, although it is generally considered a true assumption that it was.

Genesis 4:3-4a (ESV)
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. […]

There is no suggestion it the text at all as to why they chose the offerings they did. It simply does not tell us what their motivations were, although it is hard not to speculate that their respective professions had something to do with it.

Genesis 4:2b (ESV)
[…] Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.

If it wasn't for God's response to these offerings we wouldn't even have a clue (at this point in the text) that God might have requested something in specific.

Genesis 4:4b-5a (ESV)
[…] And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. […]

It's really these verses and our presumption that God did not respond arbitrarily by expecting something that the parties involved in could not have known. In fact the account goes on to give us just another touch of a clue that God has something in mind and that both Cain and Abel probably knew what was expected of them.

Genesis 4:5db-7a (ESV)
So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. […]”

Enter your question. How did Abel know that a sheep was the right offering to bring? Or did he?

The text simply does not tell us, but there are several more inferences we can make.

  • The first couple chapters of Genesis are pretty clear that God has some very direct interactions with Adam and Eve and we are given no indication that every detail that passed between them was recorded for posterity. In fact it stands to reason that we only have a very small sampling.

  • Given the fact that Genesis 4 has God interacting directly with Cain and Abel, we have every reason to believe that Adam and Eve and their prodigy were not cut off from all interaction with God after being banished from the garden and continued to receive instruction or some kind of communication from him.

  • The incident at the time of the fall were God cloths Adam and Eve in animal skins suggests that animal blood had been shed before, at the very least for the pragmatic reason of covering nakedness and as most doctrinal systems assume, this "sacrifice" had other significance. The degree to which this significance was explained to Adam and Eve is not known, but given the rest of the narrative story it does not seem unreasonable to assume they had at least a minimal understanding of the symbolism involved in animal sacrifice.

  • It is also reasonable to assume they passed on whatever they knew of this matter to their children.

The answer to "How did Abel know it should be a sheep?" is tied up with the more basic question of "How did Cain and Abel get the idea to bring offerings in the first place?" While we are not told the answer to either question directly, it is reasonable to conclude from the Scriptural narrative that they we're instructed to do so by God either directly or through their parents.

How much detail they knew about this process we don't know. It's possible based on the information we have in Genesis 1-4 to conclude that it being a sheep might not have been important at all, as the difference between Cain's "fruit" and Abel's "flock" might have been in the fact that Abel brought "firstborn […] and their fat portions" as opposed to Cain whose offering is not delineated as being first-fruits or an any way special. On the other hand the fact that a previous sacrifice of some sort had been made might suggest that they had more rather than less specific instructions in this regard.

  • @Caleb-+1 "It does not seem unreasonable to assume they had at least a minimal understanding of the symbolize involved in animal sacrifice". If we understand "Abel the Just" from Jesus's remarks in Matt. 23:35, he would have been made 'righteous' by the propitiation-though done in faith. Thank you for 'unlocking' this question; there are enough 'clues' from Scripture for a palatible answer! – Tau Jan 23 '14 at 3:22
  • +1, for the possibility this wasn't a "sacrifice" (penal offering) in the first place. But, this answer ends directly contradictory to this plausibility, without justification. Is an offering, "a minkhah | מִנְחָתֽוֹ" the same as a sacrifice? Were they the same - to Abel? – elika kohen Dec 5 '17 at 16:13
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Background

The context [ESV throughout]:

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard... (Genesis 4:3-5)

The Old Testament offers no further explanation of the offerings or for the LORD's response. As Jon D. Levenson says in the commentary of Genesis:

The Torah does not say why the LORD accepted Abel's offering but not Cain's. Perhaps we are to infer that Abel offered his with greater devotion (the choicest of the firstlings as opposed to the fruit of the soil.) 1

This reasoning is supported by the New Testament:

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:6)

The account in Genesis is sketchy but there are three details to consider:

  • Cain brought his offering first
  • Cain's offering came from the ground
  • Abel's offering came from the flock

The Offerings

Both Cain and Abel's offerings are described using the same word, מִנְחָה most commonly rendered as "offering." Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon gives three meanings [מִנְחָה-minchah]:

  • a gift
  • tribute
  • a gift offered to a divinity, a sacrifice

Of the third meaning, Gesenius states: "specially a sacrifice without blood opp. to a זֶבַח bloody sacrifice." 2 Obviously Cain's offering could not be an animal sacrifice or have blood. This suggests Abel's offering did not come from the killing of an animal: like Cain's it was a sacrifice without blood.

The New Testament calls Abel's sacrifice θυσία which almost always describes animal sacrifice [θυσία-thysia]. However, it is also used of believers offering themselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1, Philippians 4:18, 1 Peter 2:5). Similarly, the writer of Hebrews uses the word most frequently to refer to animal sacrifice and yet they too speak of the living sacrifices made by believers (Hebrews 13:15-16) and a better bloodless sacrifice: 3

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:22-23)

An bloodless offering is consistent with "...God commending him by accepting his gifts (δῶρον)..." as "gifts" [δῶρον-dōron] is most often used to describe items other than animals sacrificed. The writer of Hebrews often uses this word to contrast with animal sacrifice (cf 5:1, 8:3, 9:9)

The LXX also supports the understanding that Cain and Abel’s offerings were of the same type:

καὶ ἐγένετο μεθ᾽ ἡμέρας ἤνεγκεν Καιν ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τῆς γῆς θυσίαν τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ Αβελ ἤνεγκεν καὶ αὐτὸς ἀπὸ τῶν πρωτοτόκων τῶν προβάτων αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν στεάτων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπεῖδεν ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ Αβελ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ δὲ Καιν καὶ ἐπὶ ταῖς θυσίαις αὐτοῦ οὐ προσέσχεν καὶ ἐλύπησεν τὸν Καιν λίαν καὶ συνέπεσεν τῷ προσώπῳ (LXX – Genesis 4:3-5)

When speaking to Abel’s offering, the LXX translator simply states it was “from the firstborn of his sheep and from his fatlings.” This rendering avoids labeling what Abel brought as either a gift or offering. On the other hand, Cain brought a sacrifice (θυσίαν), which must have been bloodless but the LORD did not accept his gift (δώροις).

Therefore, there is reasonable evidence to understand Cain and Abel brought an offering which did not require the shedding of blood.

A Bloodless Gift

If Abel’s offering is taken to mean a bloodless offering as was Cain’s, then we can posit a answer to the OP’s question which also accounts for the different response from the LORD.

The simplest answer to the question, "where did Abel get the idea to sacrifice sheep" is from watching Cain. When Abel saw Cain make an offering to the LORD, he was prompted to do the same. Cain’s offering was fruit from the ground. That is, Cain brought the LORD gifts which came as a result of his day-to-day work. Since Abel’s day-to-day work was tending the flock, he followed Cain's example and took his offering from the flock.

A bloodless gift would either be a living animal or wool taken from sheep.

Offering a living animal means Abel understood the firstborn, which is the new life in the flock, was not a result of his work but should be attributed to the LORD. Bringing the best of the firstborn to the LORD is an acknowledgment they are from the LORD. It is as if Abel said, “I know all of the additions to the flock are a result of Your work. I had nothing to do with the new life so I am giving You the best of the increase.”

In a similar fashion, offering the wool is an acknowledgement of the LORD’s work. Abel knows this growth is a natural process; it was a consequence of the way the animals were created. So offering the LORD the best of the wool, would be another way to acknowledge His work.

A living offering from Abel is at is heart, an acknowledgement of the LORD's work, not the human effort put forth to tend the flocks. In this case, the difference between Cain and Abel's offering is how each offering acknowledges work. Cain offered something which was done to show the result of his hard work in the fields while Abel's offering was done to acknowledge the LORD's work of creation in the flock.


Notes:
1. The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 18
2. The זֶבַח sacrifice is properly a slaughter, the flesh of slain animals; a sacrifice, an offering, a victim as opposed to a bloodless offering. [זֶבַח-zebach]
3. Related discussions: In Hebrews 9:23, why does the author use the plural “better sacrifices” rather than the singular "better sacrifice"? and In Hebrews 9:22, How Should "Almost" be Interpreted, and What does it Apply to?

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Why not let the New Testament interpret the story? Does Hebrews 11 not give the reason why Cain and Abel get the idea, If Abel offered a far better sacrifice than Cain by FAITH, then obviously God gave that commandment to them on what he wanted? Then comparing the rest of Chapter 11 with the other examples of people doing what God wants them to do gives us a good idea on on how Cain and Abel came to make offerings.

We read earlier in Genesis that God provided Adam and Eve with a covering of animal skins. In order to provide a coat of skin, an animal must be killed. A picture of Christ providing a covering for sin. This was God's idea, compared Man's cheap covering of the fig leaf apron (Man's works).

We also know that God was talking with Cain and Abel, so God is still in communication when he questions Cain about his offering, and gently corrects Cain.

To say they were taught to do this by their parents doesn't really hold water as we know God is in direct communication with the two brothers.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Paul Vargas Aug 19 '14 at 5:08
  • +1 for "let [a comtemporary-*ish* text] the New Testament interpret the story". -1 for the assumption that faith has anything at all to do with sacrifice/punishment. Faith, (in Genesis), is what follows "promise". "Faith" literally means "trust". Mosaic "Sacrifice" was a requirement in the absence of "trusting" that God desired the wicked to repent - not die / be punished. The texts state God never desired sacrifice - but that this was a concession for those without trust - which is what God desired. Instead, people chose sacrifice (disobedience) - rather than repent, (trust). – elika kohen Dec 5 '17 at 16:05
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The question "where did Abel get the idea to sacrifice sheep" supposes that he did indeed sacrifice a sheep. However, what the text say is,

הֶ֨בֶל הֵבִ֥יא גַם־ה֛וּא מִבְּכֹרֹ֥ות צֹאנֹ֖ו וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן וַיִּ֣שַׁע יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־הֶ֖בֶל וְאֶל־מִנְחָתֹֽו

and Abel, he hath brought, he also, from the female firstlings of his flock, even from their fat ones; and Jehovah looketh unto Abel and unto his present, (YLT)

The main Hebrew words we are concerned with are:

B'chorot בְּכֹרֹ֥ות "the female firstlings" (fem. plural)

Chelevayhen חֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן "their milk" or "their fat ones" (fem. plural)

Minchato מִנְחָתֹֽ (fem. plural)

I don't think Abel got an idea to sacrifice an animal al all. I think he got the idea to offer up the CHESSE CURD of his flocks as gift to God, not a slaughtering to god. The key is that chalav חָלָ֖ב can mean milk, as in "land flowing with milk (chalav) and honey" (Ex. 33:3).

The word Minchat, or "gift, present" is used most commonly of the roasted grain offering (meal-offering) or oil oblations Definition of Mincha. It is almost never used directly of a slaughter type of sacrifice. The idea of a prepared food such as milk/cheese here is not far from the prepared offering of the Temple service, though it is clearly different.

I suppose he got the idea to offer this "gift" simply from the fact that his female sheep produced copious amounts of milk, and he was as of yet not commanded specifically to drink it. What better thing to do then offer it to God?

His offering was one that came from the continued blessing and bounty through man's dominion over the animal kingdom (an act of obedience to God's will). Cain's offering on the other hand came from the ground which is said to be cursed for his sake:

Gen. 3:17(KJV)

cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Abel's offering, on the other hand, involves no sorrow on his part, and hence no resentment:

Prov. 21:27 (KJV)

The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

Abel must have been so happy because of his flock, and therefor his intent came from a place of gratitude, which I believe God always accepts.

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He learned from God (Genesis 3:21), already Cain offered a curse to God (Genesis 3:18), wanted to share his suffering with God. (Genesis 3:17)

Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed." New American Standard Bible (Genesis 5:29)

Abel understood that blood was life, and that life belonged to God, not the fruit of human hands.

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Where did Abel get the idea to sacrifice sheep?

I arrived here with the understanding that "God did not tell Abel to kill an animal and eat it."

And I am open to the opinion that Adam and Eve made themselves skins of fig leaves and hid from God, and God gave them coats of skins, "...to clothe them." And my Book R's (relates) "...To clothe them," to Rev. 19:8 "...as arrayed in fine linen; Clean and white. For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."

And from the beginning of the Bible Story, at the end of the sixth day: "God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth; and every tree in which is the fruit of tree, yielding a seed; to you it shall be for food." Gen. 1:29

Who asked Adam, Eve, Cain, or Abel to sacrifice anything unto God at all? God had given them dominion over all the earth; did he ask for any sacrifice?

Abel was killing lambs to fill his hungry belly, and God had respect for that.

God told Adam to go and till the ground, Adam took his firstborn to help. Hard work. Eve took Abel to help her...who do you think probably told Abel to go kill a lamb and eat it? Mamma, I'm hungry!

But facts are facts. God had respect for that; But God didn't tell Abel to kill a lamb and eat it for food. God told Noah and his sons that they may kill and eat animals for food in Genesis 9:1-3.

A new earth- "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said unto them: Be fruitful and multiply; and replenish the earth. And the fear of you, and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth; and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, even as the green herb; I have given you all things."

Did you hear God ask them to sacrifice anything? No.

And I contend, and assert: Abel was sacrificing lambs to fill his hungry belly, and God had respect for that. And as some lion he goes forth onto the streets roaring and seeking whatsoever he may devour: I'm hungry!

But hear this eternal thunder, our eternal God: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed breasts; I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of rams, or of he goats.

When ye come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my court? Bring no more vain offerings!" --Isaiah 1:11-13.

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be as full of the knowledge of the the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

In the Bible there is someone after your blood. He is full of fire and fury; and power like you've never seen. And there is another one in this Book that is after your heart. One of them does good. And the other one does good and evil. One of them in this story is God; and the other one is this story is Men as gods.

- Abel = the house of bloody sacrifice and religions. Cain = the way of the bloody kings and the cities of Babylon. Seth and Enos = "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." -Genesis 4:26

All these names of Abel and Cain vanished in the flood, none of these names made it across the waters of Noah. And the ways of Adam and the bloody sacrifice of religions, and the bloody ways of the kings and Babylons became near the beginnings of the traditions of men. And when Christ came, it was both the houses of Abel and the cities of Cain that killed him because they didn't like what he had to say.

I would be from the house of Seth and Enos.

"There is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood."

  1. We all must shed our blood = we all must die. Otherwise:
  2. I only see three options here. You can shed an animal's blood, you can shed another man's blood, or you can shed your own blood for your own sin; and I only see one of these as righteous.

"There is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood."

  • 1
    Abel followed the example which God had already demonstrated in his provision of skins for Adam and Eve. – Nigel J Dec 5 '17 at 13:23
  • I change my skins daily without getting any blood on my hands. They made skins of fig leaves and God gave them coats of skins. Bloody skins is the best "Thou shalt not kill" God could do in your mind? – user9435 Dec 5 '17 at 13:43
  • The word skin is used in different ways including as an external covering, outer covering, outer coating, to cover with or as skin, etc. is what I find in my dictionary. You have to search out the word of God. – user9435 Dec 5 '17 at 14:04
  • There are way too many arguments from silence here. I doubt their are any reasonable readers that consider it even plausible that the Genesis narrative is exhaustive of all of the conversations that took place. – elika kohen Dec 5 '17 at 15:58
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It is instructive to evaluate the hermeneutic of Abel based on the presumption that he had access to the information contained in scriptures pertaining to the creation and the fall (from whatever source since his parents were still alive). Abel, based on his interpretation of the information 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.

Questions:

  1. Did the curse apply to all men, or just to Adam?
  2. If it applied to all men, why and how did Abel choose to live outside the curse?
  3. 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 heel.

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.

  • @Monica I don't understand the question. Are you proposing that God obtained the skins without killing animals? – Bob Jones May 18 '12 at 5:10
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    @BobJones I'm still very much struggling with the concept of Abel's hermeneutic and "the scriptures that he had." At this stage of the game, orality would take extreme priority over the concept of a written document. Anything else is irresponsibly anachronistic. There is a good deal of history that we don't know and what was passed on from Adam and Eve to their parents remains unspoken. Presumably, the curse was communicated and would have been up to the parties in question to respond accordingly. – swasheck May 18 '12 at 20:16
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    Furthermore, I believe that the curse plays a greater role in informing the actions of the brothers than the object. Which animal was sacrificed is left to speculation and is largely irrelevant, unless we want to base an argument for the authority of Scripture on a speculated animal (which I would find to be a flawed foundation). A more intriguing question, to me, is where did Cain and Abel get the idea to sacrifice in the first place? – swasheck May 18 '12 at 20:20
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    There is no documented sacrifice prior to this. Interestingly, God gives Cain an 'out' ... an opportunity to be accepted. What does "to do well" mean? All of this conversation about the animal and why and how Abel came to this conclusion just seems like it's much ado about nothing and constructing an argument based on information that was not available to the brothers at this time. – swasheck May 18 '12 at 20:26
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    @BobJones I am familiar with Wiseman - familiar enough to know that his theory is wholly unconvincing and has serious flaws. It seems to be more of a means of supporting a bias than scholarly rigor. Calling it anachronistic is not a conclusion that I have based on tradition, but rather on common sense. You'll note, that I mentioned orality as the means by which such an event would have been transmitted. – swasheck May 19 '12 at 2:28
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If the contents of Genesis 1-3 are factual, then presupposition is not necessary. Of course Abel knew the history that 'Moses' would have later written down under divine inspiration. The consensus in the above comments seems to be that Abel was not told to do this by anyone, but took it upon himself to combine his knowledge of past events, with his own opinion of what God would like, and slaughter some sheep. But this means that Abel thought he had the right to kill animals, which the contents of Genesis 1-3 do not seem to support. God commanded Adam to cultivate the ground, which is what Cain did, but Abel chose something different. The idea to sacrifice sheep, was a deviation from God's commands, and therefore must have been implanted by Satan. I realize this creates problems, since, according to 'Moses', god liked Abel's sacrifice; But that's a whole other discussion.

  • I +1'ed this because it is a very valid point that the writer of Genesis was writing afterwards - and their readers would certainly have made those same presuppositions - though perhaps wrongfully. The conclusion, though, does not follow from reason, and I am not sure how that premise could possibly lead to the many assumptions about Abel. – elika kohen Dec 5 '17 at 15:45
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@clint godfrey 'The idea to sacrifice sheep, was a deviation from God's commands, and therefore must have been implanted by Satan.'

I am inclined to agree with you that the idea to sacrifice an animal came from Satan. But I do not agree that it came from Satan to Abel.

On the contrary I believe that the idea was initiated by Satan in the form of temptation to Eve. And furthermore I don't believe that in this instance it took the form of a sacrifice to God. Genesis simply says that Eve took it and ate it after consulting with Satan only. Therefore the fault (sin) is Eve trusting the word of another and thereby not trusting the word of God.

Genesis 3.6 "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."

This would mean that she killed an animal for food something that was obviously taboo. I realise that this suggestion is radical but it would explain a couple of questions.

  1. Why the idea of killing an animal was not new to Abel.
  2. Why Abel's offering was more acceptable to God - I refer to the above quote. Furthermore by offering the kill to God meant that he trusted that this act would make it acceptable to God.
  3. It explains where the skins for clothing for Adam and Eve came from.
  4. Why Cain's offering was considered less acceptable - his food did not require an act of trust in God's acceptance because it was already a food without a taboo.

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