ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia

Abel

Meaning: a breath, vapor, or vanity / Hebrew: “Hebel” (Hebhel).

In the Bible, this was the name of one man and two places:

  1. This was the name of the second son of Adam and Eve. He was put to death by his brother Cain (Gen. 4:1-16).

    Guided by the instruction of their father, the two brothers were trained in the duty of worshipping God. On the Sabbath, each of them offered up to God from the first-fruits of his labors. Cain, as a tiller of the ground, offered the fruits of the field; Abel, as a shepherd, offered from the best of his flock.

    “The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” (Gen. 4:3-5).

    For this reason, Cain was angry with his brother, and eventually killed him (Gen. 4:8-9. Compare 1 John 3:12).

    Why was Abel a shepherd if animals were not given to people to eat until the Flood (Genesis 9:3)?

    Answer: The purpose of raising the sheep was for sacrifice and probably clothing (see Gen. 3:21).

    There are several references to Abel in the New Testament. Our Savior speaks of him as “righteous” (Matt. 23:35). “The blood of sprinkling” is said to speak “better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24); i.e., the blood of Jesus is the reality of which the blood of the offering made by Abel was only a symbol. The comparison here is between the sacrifice offered by Christ and that offered by Abel, and not between the blood of Christ calling for mercy and the blood of the murdered Abel calling for vengeance, as has sometimes been supposed.

    It is also said that “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). This sacrifice was made “by faith;” this faith rested in God, not only as the Creator and the God of providence, but especially in God as the great Redeemer, whose sacrifice was symbolized by the sacrifices which were offered from the days of Adam downward. Because of that “faith” which looked forward to the great atoning sacrifice, Abel’s offering was accepted by God. Cain’s offering had no such reference, and therefore was rejected.

    Abel was the first martyr, and the first person in the human race to die.

    Read the story of Cain and Abel—GO… (in our multilingual God’s Story section)

    Click to learn about ADAM, the first man What was Adam, the first man, really like? Learn the amazing facts about this unique man from whom we all descended!

  2. Abel (Hebrew: 'abhel), lamentation (1 Sam. 6:18) / This was the name given to the great stone in Joshua’s field where the ark was “set down.”

  3. Abel (Hebrew: 'abhel), a grassy place, a meadow. This word is used in the composition of the following words:

    Abel-beth-maachah. Abel-cheramim, Abel-meholah, Abel-mizraim, Abel-shittim

Author: Matthew G. Easton, edited by Paul S. Taylor.