"By faith Abel offered to God
a better sacrifice than Cain,
(a more excellent sacrifice)
through which he obtained the testimony
that he was righteous,
God testifying about his gifts,
and through faith,
although he is dead,
he still speaks."
Some say Cain and Able were twins
I will quote quite a bit from Adam Clarke. He believed that Cain and Abel were twins. But when they grew up and it was time for them to lead the family Sabbath celebration--a time of remembrance when God rested and said it was good--the brothers made two different sacrifices:
"1. A Thanksgiving Offering. (Cain's)
2. A (blood)...sacrifice to His justice and holiness implying a conviction of their own sinfulness. Confession of transgressions and faith in the promised Deliverer." (Abel')
"Cain brought of the fruit of the ground: fine flour, oil, frankincense which was the Eucharistic or gratitude offering...secular blessings. Abel brought the firstling of his flock....plus a gratitude offering, acknowledged himself a sinner and professed faith in the Messiah, a victim to be slain for his sins which in order of God was a representation of the Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world...Cain did not acknowledge the necessity of a vicarious sacrifice, nor feeling his need of an atonement...Thus Abel's offering was accepted, while those of Cain were rejected..."
"Cain, as being unconscious of his sinfulness, and consequently unhumbled, and 'Cain was very wroth'--The displeasure which should have been turned against his own unhumbled heart was turned against his innocent brother...'Why art thou wroth,' (God asked)"
God gave Cain a chance, "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." Adam Clarke's notes say that it was a sin offering crouching at his door. He also said God promised, "Thou shalt have the right (of the first born) and all things and thy brother would be subject to Thee." But it was Cain's envy which was his downfall. Wasn't that why Satan fell from heaven, his envy of God? His pride? Then he passed it on to Adam and Eve telling them they could be like God. Now look at their firstborn. The apple did not fall far from the tree!
Adam Clarke also said that when Cain killed Abel, it was the first religious persecution. "The spirit of the wicked one...to afflict and destroy all those who are partakers of the Spirit of God. every persecutor is a legitimate son of the old murderer. This is the first triumph of Satan; it is not merely a death that he has introduced, but a violent one, as the first fruits of sin...by the hand of a brother, and for no other reason but because the object of his envy was more righteous than himself."
"Thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground."
Well, what do you know! There was bloodshed offered by Cain after all, but not as a sacrifice for sin. Isn't that ironic? It could have all been accomplished if he had only offered a lamb. Adam Clarke says the punishment:
"1. The ground was not to yield any adequate recompense for his most careful tillage.
2. He was to be a fugitive and a vagabond having no place in which he could dwell with comfort and security."
"Cain upon himself adds:
1. His being hidden from the face of God...expelled from that particular place where God had manifested His presence in or contiguous to Paradise.
2. continued apprehension of being slain. (Even though God gave him a mark so that no one was allowed to kill him. But since Cain never trusted God in the first place, he probably never trusted that he would be safe from being hunted down and killed for his sin.)
3. The terrors of a guilty conscience."
So here in the New Testament, in Hebrews, we are being told of the faith of one of the first offspring of Adam and Eve, whose life was cut short by violent death at the hand of his twin, that his offering was accepted and is still a testament today of his faith. Oh, here is another example of the irony: remember when Abel's blood spoke from the ground though he were dead? Here God reminds us once again in Hebrews 11:4, "though he is dead, he still speaks." Hmm. Life poured out in sacrifice is still living, just like His Son. Abel was the very first martyr for his faith.
Revelation has some interesting comments that somehow remind me of what is above:
"Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked."
Then in Revelation 6:9-11 "When the Lamb (notice He is called 'the Lamb,' the sacrifice that covered their naked, exposed sin) broke the fifth seal, I saw those who had been slain because of the word of God, and the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been would be completed also."
Then in Revelation 20:4 "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God...and they came to life and reigned with Christ."
90,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2016. In the last ten years, almost a million Christians have been martyred for their faith. Beheadings are one of their preferred means of death. From Cain killing Abel to the prophets and to the disciples and first century martyrs until today, there is just something, God calls envy, that makes a people rise up to kill anyone who would expose the nakedness of their sin.
When my daughter Laura was a preschooler she came and quietly confided to me that she didn't want to go to heaven. When I asked why, she told me it was because she didn't want to be naked like Adam and Eve. I assured her that she would be given a white robe to wear, the poor little worried, modest little thing.
Wow, I bet you didn't think I could squeeze that much out of one little verse, one which described "Cain, a husbandman"...and "Abel, a shepherd or a feeder of cattle"...
I can think of another shepherd, David.
But also of the One who is the Good Shepherd.
I can think of the shepherds who were the first to hear of a baby in a manger.
"Now by this faith, thus exercised, in reference to an atonement, he, Abel, though dead, yet speaketh; i.e. preached to mankind the necessity of an atonement, and that God will accept no sacrifice unless connected with this."
"Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."