In Gen. 4:3-5 (D-R), we read:

And it came to pass after many days, that Cain offered, of the fruits of the earth, gifts to the Lord. Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings. But to Cain and his offerings he had no respect: and Cain was exceedingly angry, and his countenance fell.

What does "and of their fat" imply here? I gather that it must mean something along the lines of the choicest part of the firstlings. But, doesn't offering "the firstlings of his flock" to God automatically mean that he is offering "of their fat" too? What am I missing here?

  • Lev 7:23 says that we should not eat any fat from ox, sheep, or goat. Couldn’t that be a part of the equation? Aug 19, 2023 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


Abel not only followed the example and precedent set by Jehovah-Elohim himself (who had slain animal life to provide coats of skins for Adam and for Eve) he offered the firstlings.

Cain offered fruit, but not the first fruit. It was wilful, not an obedient and careful taking note of God's activity and promise. Not first fruit, just 'fruit'.

Careless, half-hearted, thoughtless : a ritualistic effort ; not heartfelt worship.

Abel offered two things. The Hebrew states it as two : firstborn and their fat. Not only did Abel slay the beasts, he carved the offering and separated fat from meat.

Discernment, meticulous care ; a sensible and intelligent preparation, understanding significance ; appreciating subtlety ; minding what was represented.


Abel's sacrifice was a testimony to intelligent faith and to thoughtful and spiritual worship.

Cain just gave some fruit he had grown.

No comparison.

  • 1
    Good answer. Do you think this is a foreshadowing of the whole burnt offering (Leviticus 1) which speaks of Christ and entire devotion to God, of which we are to become in Him (Romans 12:1-2)? Aug 18, 2023 at 12:29
  • 2
    @MikeBorden I was uncertain just how far to go, Michael. One does not want to over-push the figure but the whole scenario, is, yes, pregnant with meaning and rich in allusion. In principle, of course, yes, I agree. It is just a matter of being disciplined and restrained as to interpretation.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 18:58


By Glen Rogers

“In the course of time.” Literally,

“at the end of days.” What is the end of days suggested by the context? What would contextually mark this particular course of time?

  1. The serpent too will possess a limited lifespan. Popular options

a. The end of a seven-day period.

b. The anniversary of the end of creation. The problem with both of these theories is that they cannot be arrived from the contents of the context.

  1. The only temporal indicator offered by the text is that of the time of harvest. Thus, the course of time from one harvest to the next. We know this because of the type of sacrifice both men are offering. “And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 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.”

  2. Both men are offering the offering the same sacrifice – the offering of first-fruits, one of the flock, and one of the earth. Both are legitimate sacrifices. Cain, being a tiller of the ground naturally offers the first-fruit of his crop. Being a keeper of the flock, Able offers his first-fruit of the flock. What implications can we generalize from Able offering up the fat portions of his sacrifice?

a. That the offering of sacrifice had already been regulated by both time and procedure.

 It was offered at the proper time – “at the end of days.”

 There is no separation of the fat from the sacrifice. It was offered up as a whole sacrifice.

b. These sacrifices were a matter of instruction. How did they know to offer these sacrifices and how these sacrifices were to be offered in such a way that would be acceptable to the Lord? This instruction had to be revealed instruction. Even if they received the practice from their father, Adam still had to have received it from the Lord.

c. Clearly, this was not their first sacrifice.

d. This also offers the possibility that other types of animal sacrifices were also being offered that did not require the separation of the fat portions.

  1. There are no indicators from the text that the sacrifice of Able had any connection to atonement or even contrition. In other words, this is not a sin sacrifice.

a. There is no sprinkling of blood mentioned.

b. There is no removal of the intestines or the refuse mentioned.

This is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Cain offered his first-fruits as a matter of thanksgiving. This is the nature if any first-fruit offering. The text says that Able ALSO of his first. Both men are offering the same sacrifice. Why then was Cain's sacrifice not accepted? This rejection seems to stem from Cain's relationship with his brother.


What does "and of their fat" imply here? I gather that it must mean something along the lines of the choicest part of the firstlings.

Yes, that is an appropriate interpretation.

But, doesn't offering "the firstlings of his flock" to God automatically mean that he is offering "of their fat" too?

Not necessarily. Abel offers the lives of the firstlings, and also the choicest parts of their flesh. These are separate things.

What am I missing here?

There is no Biblical record of the details of sacrificial practices in Cain and Abel's day, nor any other recorded details of these specific sacrifices, but we can look to later records for illumination. Leviticus, for example, describes various kinds of sacrificial ceremonies in great detail. Not all of the animal sacrifices described there involve the destruction of the carcass of the sacrificed animal, even in part.

On the contrary, we have Biblical accounts showing that, at least at the end of the time of the judges, it was common for the meat of sacrificed animals to be cooked and eaten. This is particularly clear in the story of Eli's wicked sons. The normal practice was

1 Samuel 2:13, 14

13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh.

But under Eli's sons,

1 Samuel 2:15

But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

Observe in particular the specific expectation that the fat would be burned, and the distinction between this and the sacrifice of the animal.

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