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Cain & Abel

The Offerings

In the course of time, Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the produce of the ground. Abel also brought an offering to the LORD from the firstborn of his sheep. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering,

but He did not accept Cain or his offering. 
 iBIBLE Chapter 3


Scripture reference: Genesis 4:3–4

Gathered from the fields that he tended, Cain brought produce from the ground for his sacrifice to the Lord. Abel, the shepherd, likewise took one of his very own sheep—a firstborn—and offered it to the Lord. This is the first mention of sacrifices made to the Lord so far in the Biblical narrative. 


Offerings of animals and produce would continue to be key elements of the sacrificial system that would later be instituted by God for the Israelites. These sacrifices would be a visible witness to God’s people about removal of sin, thanksgiving, praise, and fellowship, among other things. Sacrifices would set the pattern of life for the people of God, with burnt offerings taking place morning and evening every day (Exodus 29:38).


Because both animals and produce (specifically grain for grain offerings) are used in the Levitical sacrificial system, it is clear that the type of offering made to the Lord is not the reason why one is accepted and the other is not. In other words, there is nothing inherently better about sheep than something else that God created. 


The immediate context of the passage about Cain and Abel, in fact, does not give any explicit reason why God accepted Abel and his offering yet rejected Cain and his offering. It simply says, “God accepted Abel and his offering,” and “God did not accept Cain or his offering.” We cannot know for sure about the motivations of their hearts. However, Scripture can help us interpret Scripture in this case. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author writes:

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 11:4 [ESV]

The book of Hebrews paints a beautiful picture of the people throughout the Scriptures who lived lives of faith. These are people who set aside their own fears, worries, and pride and placed their trust in the abundant provision and promises of the Lord. So, including Abel in this list reveals that his offering was given “by faith.” What this passage does not do, however, is give a clear reason why Cain’s offering is unacceptable. 


The Scriptures explain that God desires “steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Faith in the Lord, therefore, is transformative. Faith makes us and our offerings acceptable to God (Romans 5:1). And Abel, according to the author of Hebrews, offered his sacrifice by faith, and that faith made him righteous.

Our Response


Although sacrifices have come to an end with the perfect sacrifice of Christ (see Hebrews 10), the New Testament still urges us to offer sacrifices—but now, these are sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.

Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. —Hebrews 13:15

Trust in the Lord and place your faith in Him. Allow your life to be shaped by His Word, and the fruitful works that you do, the praises you sing, and the things that you share with others will be pleasing to God. This is not because of the quality of what you do, but because you do it in faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. —Ephesians 8–10

This is the first mention of sacrifices made to the Lord so far in the Biblical narrative.

A Prayer for This Week

Most Merciful Father, we are so grateful that You sent Your only Son into this world to take away our sin. With clean consciences, new hearts, and changed lives, we ask that You would inspire us to do the good that You have called us to do. Fix our eyes on Your Word and Your promises, and help us to maintain hope, even when we struggle. Accept our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise as we live our lives in service of You and love for our neighbors. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.

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