Abel’s Sacrifice—Why It Excelled
As Abel’s faith in Jehovah grew, he wanted to find a way to express faith in action. Yet, what could a mere man give to the Creator of the universe? Clearly, God did not need any gift or help from humans. In time, Abel came to grasp a profound truth: If—with the right motive—he simply offered to Jehovah the best of what he had, his loving Father would be pleased.
Abel prepared to offer up some sheep from his flock. He selected the best, the firstlings, and what seemed the choicest pieces. Meanwhile, Cain too sought God’s blessing and favor, preparing an offering from his crops. But his motives were not like those of Abel. The difference became apparent when the brothers presented their offerings.
Both sons of Adam may have used altars and fire for their offerings, perhaps within sight of the cherubs, who were the only living representatives of Jehovah on earth at that time. Jehovah responded! We read: “Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering.” (Gen. 4:4) How God made his favor evident, the Bible does not say.
Why did God favor Abel? Was it the offering itself? Abel did offer a living, breathing creature, shedding its precious lifeblood. Did Abel realize how valuable such a sacrifice would be? Many centuries after Abel’s time, God used the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb to picture the sacrifice of His own perfect Son, “the Lamb of God,” whose innocent blood would be shed. (John 1:29; Ex. 12:5-7) However, much of that surely lay well beyond Abel’s knowledge or understanding.
What we know for certain is this: Abel offered up the very best of what he had. Jehovah looked with favor not only on the offering but on the man himself. Motivated by love for Jehovah and by genuine faith in him, Abel acted.
It was different with Cain. Jehovah “did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering.” (Gen. 4:5) It was not that Cain’s offering was faulty in itself; God’s Law later allowed the offering of the produce of the ground. (Lev. 6:14, 15) But the Bible says of Cain that “his own works were wicked.” (Read 1 John 3:12.) Like so many to this day, Cain evidently thought that the mere outward show of devotion to God was enough. His lack of real faith in or love for Jehovah quickly became apparent through his actions.
When Cain saw that he had not won Jehovah’s favor, did he seek to learn from Abel’s example? No. He seethed with hatred for his brother. Jehovah saw what was happening in Cain’s heart and patiently tried to reason with him. He warned Cain that his course was leading toward serious sin, and He offered the hope of “an exaltation” if Cain would only change his ways.—Gen. 4:6, 7.
Cain ignored God’s warning. He invited his trusting younger brother to walk with him in the field. There Cain assaulted Abel and murdered him. (Gen. 4:8) In a sense, Abel thus became the first victim of religious persecution, the first martyr. He was dead, but his story was far from finished.
Figuratively, Abel’s blood cried out to Jehovah God for vengeance, or justice. And God saw justice done, punishing wicked Cain for his crime. (Gen. 4:9-12) More important, the record of Abel’s faith speaks to us today. His life span—perhaps about a century long—was short for humans of that era, but Abel made his years on this earth count. He died knowing that he had the love and approval of his heavenly Father, Jehovah. (Heb. 11:4) We can be confident, then, that he is safe in Jehovah’s limitless memory, awaiting a resurrection to life in an earthly paradise. (John 5:28, 29) Will you meet him there? You can if you are determined to listen as Abel speaks and to imitate his outstanding faith.