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I'm wondering what special thing did Abel do that permitted God to accept his offering but not accept Cain's. I tried to read this part of Genesis 4:2-8:

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 And Abel also brought an offering—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 rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

But still I don't understand. If I analyse the situation, Cain gave from what he does as well as Abel.

This leads me to think that it is not enough to have the courage to give an offering but that there are other parameters applicable for this to be accepted. But what are they?

In today's world some give a share of their salary. Would there be people for whom God refuses their offerings? If so, what are the parameters?

2

In the midst of God's judgement of the serpent, of the woman and the man, God made a promise :

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. Genesis 3:15 [KJV].

Despite what created spirit, created woman and created man had done, in conspiracy, yet God promised that of the seed of the woman (not of the man) would one arise who - from above - would bruise the head of the serpent.

Of the woman, would one arise in humanity who would ascend above the created spirit and would trample on him. It is a truly momentous promise. God promises the arrival of Another, by means of woman (but not stated to be of man). And God promises a re-arrangement of creation in that humanity will be raised above the reign of spirit-being (which had intruded between Deity and humanity).

Adam responds to this promise :

And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 3:20.

This is an act of faith. He receives the promise of God and gives his wife a personal name (before it was just 'woman') based on the promise of God. She will be the mother of all that live - despite also being (according to God's judgement) the woman of whom will come the dying and dead.

And God responds :

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 3:20.

Adam and his wife are clothed in the skin of another, who died in sacrifice.

So when Cain and Abel make a sacrifice to God, it is in the light of what has already transpired between God and Adam and Eve.

One has respect to what has passed between them. And one ignores it.

One brings an offering which is based on the death and bloodshed of another. One brings that which he grew out of the cursed earth.

One brings that which is based on promise and faith. One brings that which is based on his own works.

And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 4:4.

The Lord respected Abel. He respected that Abel had noted what had preceded and that Abel had honoured what God had already promised and what God had already done. He respected that Abel had honoured his father and had noticed his father's faith.

And the Lord also respected the offering which Abel brought.

The firstling, and the fat. It was a slaughtered animal. God had already demonstrated how the nakedness of humanity must be clothed. God had shown what was necessary for men to draw near to Deity.

Abel was obedient. And Abel followed precedence. And Abel had respect.

2

If you go by the New Testament, Cain's offering lacked faith:

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. (Heb 11:4, ESV)

Πίστει πλείονα θυσίαν Ἅβελ παρὰ Κάϊν προσήνεγκεν τῷ θεῷ, διʼ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ διʼ αὐτῆς ἀποθανὼν ἔτι λαλεῖ. (Heb 11:4, NA27)

1

There is a principle in scripture that a gift is measured by the motivations of the giver. This is illustrated here:

[Luk 21:1-4 NASB] 1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all [of them;] 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."

And here:

[Isa 66:1-3 NASB] 1 Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 "For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. 3 "[But] he who kills an ox is [like] one who slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb is [like] the one who breaks a dog's neck; He who offers a grain offering [is like one who offers] swine's blood; He who burns incense is [like] the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their [own] ways, And their soul delights in their abominations,

So had Cain offered the very same animal as did Abel it would not have been received, no, not if he had offered the cattle on a thousand hills.

The significance of the story seems to be a type of Israel. Cain is the elder and Abel the younger ala Israel and the Body of Christ. Cain offers his "works" while Abel, by faith (in this context, the rightness of his heart and behavior) offers his offering and it pleases God:

KJV 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.

There is also a type of Christ, the acceptable offering. Abel's blood cries out from the ground for vengeance while Jesus cries out from the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do":

KJV Gen 4:1 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

KJV Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

1

Hopefully, I can provide a semblance of an answer that is coherent and comprehensive, while at the same time being concise in my answer.

I assume that you want to know why

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. Genesis 4:4b-5 NIV

and to this effect, I also presume you want a physical or tangible reason for this. The possible answer lies in the preceding verses, where

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Genesis 4:3-4a NIV

Notice that Cain offered some of the fruits, whereas Abel offered fat portions from some of the firstborn. This difference may seem trivial, but to the LORD, it probably wasn't; a person giving up them firstfruits or firstborns are, in a way, giving their best and healthiest to the LORD. So by withholding his firstfruits, Cain's offering wasn't looked upon with favor as compared to Abel, who offered the firstborn of his flock.

Notice again, I said, "probably wasn't". I don't know what the LORD thinks for He says

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”

and

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

In the end, I hope that I gave you a possible tangible reason why Abel's offering was looked upon with favor.

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God rejected Cain's sacrifice because it was not offered wholeheartedly.

Scripture says that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth, but that Abel brought of the firstborn of his sheep and fatlings. The understanding here is that Abel brought the choicest of what he had available to offer, but that Cain did not.

The Orthodox monk Seraphim Rose, in his book Genesis, Creation, and Early Man, wrote:

But why did God look favorably on the sacrifice of Abel and not on that of Cain? Is He playing favorites? Even from the little text we have here, we see that Abel offered the best he had, his "firstborn and fatlings" of the sheep; but Cain offered only some "fruits", not caring to give the best he had. He had the idea of sacrifice, but he had the attitude: "Well, I'll give some of this that I have." He didn't make a particularly important thing of it, whereas Abel was careful to give the best that he had. Cain had it in his nature to offer sacrifice, but he did not add from his own nature the willing thanksgiving of his heart; and Abel did. Therefore, God was pleased with Abel's offering, and not Cain's.1


Seraphim Rose is echoing the teaching on the Church Fathers on this passage. Ephraim the Syrian (306-373), for example, wrote:

Abel offered a sacrifice of the choicest, but Cain without choice. Abel chose and offered the firstborn and fatlings, while Cain offered either the ears, or together with them the fruits which were there at that time. Although his sacrifice was poorer than the sacrifice of his brother, still if he had offered it not with disdain, his sacrifice also would have been pleasing, as was the sacrifice of his brother ... But he did not do this, even though it was easy to do so; he did not take care for the good ears or the best fruits. In the soul of one offering sacrifice there was no love for the One Who received the offering. And because he offered sacrifice with disdain, God rejected it.2


The above echoes what is found in Hebrews: By faith, Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice (11:4).


Jewish rabbinic commentary is also consistent with the interpretation that the Lord was displeased because Cain did not offer the best of what he had. Rashi notes:

Of the fruit of the soil [means] the most inferior (Gen. Rabbah 22:5), and there is an Aggadah that states that it was flaxseed (Mid. Tan. Bereishith 9, Targum Jonathan). Another explanation: of the fruit From whatever came to his hand, not the best and not the choicest.


1. Genesis, Creation, and Early Man (2d ed; St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2011), p.292
2 Commentary on Genesis IV

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I believe scriptures old and new indicate the key principle of the BLOOD. The very oldest commandments of God have been carried over through the millennia, of such importance that the first council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 held Christians to observe. Besides the commanded blessings for Adam & Eve we see the event of the sacrifices from Cain and Abel. Cain's was of the earth, the soil which was already cursed and limited in efficacy, not suitable to atone for sin. There was nothing in Cain's choice that stood for sin consciousness and repentance with tears. But the blood of the herd and flock of Abel had life in it, representing life for life, a type of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our sin instead of our own blood shed for our own sin.

The law of Moses explains this principle. Leviticus 17:6-16 (KJV) "6 And the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and burn the fat for a sweet savour unto the LORD. 7 And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations. 8 And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9 And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people. 10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. 12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. 13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. 14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off."

In Christ there is no more acceptance of blood offering for any reason, and in end times under rule of Christ there will be no shedding of animal life for any reason. (Isa 66:1-3 quoted in Answer #1, a description of life in the new millennia of Christ) Jesus is looking for individual living sacrifies, God's children being doers of the Word.

Mosaic laws directly carried over: Acts 15:28-29 (KJV) "28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."

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Your question is unanswerable because the text simply does not specify a reason. Any explanation anyone offers is speculation (including mine).

  • Another answer cites Heb 11:4, but that verse simply states that Abel's sacrifice was "more acceptable" than Cain's. It does not explain why.

  • Internal motivation? (1, 2)

  • Obedience? But to what command? Temple sacrifice requirements were not given until much later.
  • Blood magic?

I suspect the reason is associated with -proto- temple sacrifice requirements and that it isn't possible to have a proper barbecue without meat. Burnt sacrifices were the cooking of meat for consumption by the worshipers. It's also not clear in what way God "looked with favor" upon Abel's offering. It could be that more people liked Abel's food better. Or maybe people got E.coli and blamed Cain's salad.

While it may sound facetious, it is not. The Old Testament is littered with laws about dietary restrictions. Modern Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and others are still similarly obsessed with food (some more-so than others). Paul also writes about conflicts in the early church about acceptable sources and consumption of meat.

The story is also the first of several in which the younger is hated by man, yet loved by God (Cain/Abel, Ishmael/Isaac, Esau/Jacob, Leah/Rachel, Joshua/brothers, David/brothers, etc). Note that the "firstborn" of the flock that Abel offers to God and the "birthright" that Esau sells to Jacob are essentially the same word (Strong 1062).

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