Why Was Abel’s Offering Accepted?

By Garrick Augustus, Posted May, 26, 1014

Throughout the Christian world the subject of Cain and Abel is one on which many Christians converse and gain hope in the fact that Abel slew a lamb, and this lamb was a type of Christ, the true sacrificial Lamb who is to take away the sins of the world.  Christians see Cain, on the other hand, as the cruel elder brother who was flagrantly disobedient to the divine requirements of a “blood” sacrifice rather than a vegetarian one.  This historically accepted view is held by many, if not all Christians world over, including Seventh-day Adventists.  The purpose of this essay is to take a fresh look at the reasons behind why Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by heaven while Cain’s was rejected, and will climax with the discovery that even if Abel had offered a “vegetarian offering” instead of a sacrificial lamb, he would have still earned the favor of heaven.  The ultimate aim of this presentation then, is to illustrate the sharp divide between righteousness by Faith and righteousness by fake.

To be fair to the historical or classical Christian view on this subject, I must confess that it is partly correct, in that Abel’s lamb does represent Christ the true Lamb of God whose blood is to wash away the sins of the world. There is, however, another great purpose behind this story, the second face of this “proverbial coin” so to speak, a view which has been completely overlooked by the entire theological world.  This undiscovered, unpopular and unrecognized view is what this essay will address.  To do this with clarity, let’s now review the facts at hand:

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. 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. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.  Gen. 4: 2-4.

Observe that Cain was a farmer while Abel a shepherd; one practiced plant husbandry while the other practiced animal husbandry.  Given their respective professions, it was a relatively easy task for Abel to secure a sheep for his sacrifice—indeed he had a plentitude from which to choose, whereas it was not that easy for Cain. Therefore, while it would take some amount of negotiating for Cain to secure a sheep to himself, it would be correspondingly difficult for Abel to find a few choice heads vegetables or a clutch of luscious fruits without some amount of negotiation.  It was not impossible for either of them to obtain the opposite of what they actually presented as their offering, only that it would be less convenient for them individually to do so.

Were the fact that Abel’s offering of a lamb and thus a blood sacrifice, the necessary and sufficient requirement for acceptance, whereas Cain’s offering of fruits and thus a bloodless sacrifice, which in no way reflected the substitutionary death of the coming Messiah, the only cause of his being rejected, would show gross partiality on the part of YHWH.  For while on the one hand, it was an easy tank for Abel to go in his fold and select a sheep, it was not that easy for Cain, given that he was a farmer.  So what then?  Why was Cain’s offering not acceptable?  To learn the real answer, let’s look at the Scriptures more closely:

“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 [best] thereof.  And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:  Gen. 4: 3-4.

That which distinguished these two worshippers is not simply that one had a blood sacrifice and the other had a bloodless offering, but that Abel offered the firstlings (firstfruit) of his flock.  To repeat, Abel did not simply offer the “firstfruit,” but he also presented the “best” of the firstfruits of his flock.  The word “fat” in verse 4 of the KJV is the Hebrew word cheleb (khay’-leb), and it carries the meaning of “choicest, best part, abundance” of ones possessions.  Thus Abel offered his “best” unto YHWH his God, and thereby was his sacrifice accepted.  Let’s look on Abel’s offering from yet another perspective—the principle of Torah compliance:

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.” Ex 12:5.  When Abel offered his “best” he offered a lamb “without blemish” which thus represented Christ the Saviour of the world.  Thus declares the Torah, “And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.” Lev. 1:10.

Based on these biblical evidences, these two brothers were in essence being judged based on their obedience to the teaching of the Torah that the tithes of their increase must also be the “firstfuit” of their possessions.  The Scriptures further declare, many years later, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.” Prov. 3:9.  The principle on which heaven was testing these two worshippers was on the subject of righteousness by faith in divine teachings—the Word, illustrated in the “firstfruit” offering and the “best” of their increase.  It was their religious duty to the Creator to give Him their “best” as an offering (tithe), and this principle permeates the entire Levitical system of worship.  So while the so-called “ceremonial law” was repeated on Sinai’s smoky mountains shortly after the exodus from Egypt, it was known and practiced many centuries before that time, indeed, it was known from Eden that a blood sacrifice was required for the forgiveness of sins (Gen. 3:16).  Hence Adam and Eve taught their first two sons about the biblical principle of true worship, and of their strict divine obligation in the presentation of their tithes as the consummate act of their worship to the Creator.

Examining the reason for the Divine rejection of Cane’s offering, the lesson in the following verse is now more clear: “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit [not the first and best] of the ground an offering unto the LORD.”  Gen. 4: 3.

Had Abel simply offered a sick, lame, blemished, crippled or otherwise defective lamb as his offering, it would have been equally frowned upon by Heaven, even though blood had been shed.  Similarly, had Cain offered the firstfruits of his crop and the best thereof, his offering would have been accepted in heaven’s eyes. It is also correspondingly true, based on the authority of the Scriptures, that had Cain offered a sick or blemished lamb as his sacrifice, his gift would have equally been rejected!  You see, it was not simply the blood, and not simply the lamb, but the blood of a lamb which was without blemish, a lamb which represents the spotless son of God. Again, Christ would have been guilty of gross partiality by accepting Abel’s sacrifice all because he was a shepherd, while rejecting Cain’s simply because he brought fruits, being himself a farmer.  Let’s not miss the two important truths being taught in this lesson:

First, the lamb is a symbol of Christ and thus the shedding of brood prefigured “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1Pet. 1:19.  In Abel’s offering he provides the emblem of this unblemished Lamb, when he gave to our Creator his “best.”

Second, the offering had to have been from the firstfruits of the flocks or of his crops in order to be acceptable for divine worship. Again, Abel was careful to honor the Torah is every detail by being complicit with the divine directives as they were taught to him by his parents, while he was yet a child.

Those who do not accept the view that “fruits” can, and have been used as offerings, need to prayerfully consider the following verses:

“Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.” Ex. 22:29

  • “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD.” Lev. 27:30
  • “The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.” Deut. 18:4
  •  “And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.” 2 Chron. 31:5

The evidence is clear that Cain could have made an acceptable “fruit” offering to the Creator, and his course of history would have been different, in that he would have been chronicled amongst the faithful of the ages, but as we have already discovered, he did not give the firstfruit and the best of his possessions to YHWH, and thus was rejected.  In short, he did not demonstrate belief in the salvation principle of righteousness by faith.  What the bible records of Cain’s attitude to worship is that he was callous and not circumspect in regard to his religious duties, for the record states “that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.”  Gen. 4:3.  He did not take care to see that “the fruit” he was presenting to the Creator was the “firstfruit” or the “best,” nor did he care if it was bitten by birds or other wild animals, it was simply that he wanted to fulfill a duty, without giving care to his high calling of God in Christ. The lesson for us is rather clear, give of our best to the Master, and he will respect our offering and give us His blessing accordingly. This is what Abel did in giving his lamb, this is what the widow did in giving her farthing; it was the attitude that she not only willingly gave her all, but she also gave her best.  What a profound lesson for us to emulate!

“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Mark. 12: 42-44.

Friend, how it is with you?  Do you believe that we can dress carelessly, as though we were going to the beach or attending a carnival, in our coming to worship the Creator from Sabbath to Sabbath?  Do you believe Christ is pleased when we pay all our debts and give him what is left, if any?  Does the presentation of ourselves in the presence of Christ for divine worship indicate our attitude to him whether or not we are circumspect in regard to divine duties?  Is compliance with every divine institution an act of salvation by works, or an acknowledgement of salvation by Faith?  As a believer in the Third Angel’s Message, is Christ expecting me to conform to the principles of health reform amongst the other reforms he has enjoined upon us as a people?  Is Christ pleased with the type of music we have been bringing into the worship services, music which formerly was offered to the idols of Baal worship? With these questions looming before us, the words of the apostle should now speak more distinctly to our consciences than ever before: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom. 12:1.

“And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the best thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”  Gen. 4:4.

“All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep…And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God.” Deut. 19: 15-21.

  • “That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’S.” Ex 13:12.
  • “And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.” 2 Chron. 31:6.

“We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God.”—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 58


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