Abel was Adam and Eve's second son (Genesis 4:2). Though there is not much known about him, what the Bible does tell us about him is significant.
Abel was righteous and did what was acceptable to God. He was a shepherd and his sacrifices were pleasing to God. Abel gave God the best he had to offer. Also significant is that he gave a blood sacrifice, which has always been necessary to atone for sin (Hebrews 9:22; Genesis 3). His brother Cain was a farmer whose sacrifices were not pleasing to God. God told Cain that his sacrifice could be acceptable if he did it rightly. Instead, Cain's anger and jealousy took over and he killed Abel, making Abel the first person to ever be murdered (Genesis 4:2–8).
After Abel was killed, God confronted Cain, and sentenced him to a life of wandering: "And the LORD said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth'" (Genesis 4:10–12). The very ground that had been Cain's livelihood instead forever cried out with the blood of his innocent brother. When we look at the injustice that is prevalent throughout the world today, we see that the earth still cries out for justice for the oppressed.
Redemption came to the family line through Seth, the son born to Adam and Eve after Abel's death and who was appointed by God to replace Abel (Genesis 4:25). Seth's family was righteous and worshipped God rightly, as Abel had (Genesis 4:26). It was through Seth's lineage that Enoch, Noah, and all of humanity came.
In the New Testament, Jesus labeled Abel as the first martyr (Matthew 23:35). Chapter 11 of Hebrews is known as the faith chapter, and in it, Abel is listed as one of God's faithful followers who is an example to us: "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).
Abel's death and shed blood serve as a type and shadow of the death and shed blood of Jesus, who was also murdered as an innocent man. The blood of Jesus "speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24) because while Abel's blood cries out for justice through revenge, Jesus' blood makes a way for justice through forgiveness of sins. The sacrifices Abel gave were temporary, but Jesus' sacrifice is permanent. Jesus did not stay dead; He was resurrected and lives today. Jesus has conquered sin and death, and His shed blood is the sacrifice that made provision for our salvation, once and for all (Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7).
Abel's story brings to light a few specific insights for us today: Abel's faith in God was showcased in the genuineness of his worship and his actions. In the same way, we must please God by faith (Hebrews 11:6) and worship Him genuinely in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We will experience persecution for our faith, as Abel did (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). Through the story of Abel, we see that even when things go horribly wrong, God's plan will go on. He continued a righteous legacy through Seth and his offspring. From the Fall, God promised a Savior (Genesis 3:15), and that Savior is able to bring redemption to every dark situation (Romans 3:24–26; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).
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