Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) (Hebrew. Hebhel), a breath, or vanity, The second
son of Adam and Eve. He was put to death by his brother Cain ( Genesis
4:1 - 16
). Guided by the instruction of their father, the two brothers were trained in
the duty of worshipping God. "And in process of time" (marg. "at the end of days",
i.e., on the Sabbath) each of them offered up to God of the first-fruits of his
labours. Cain, as a husbandman, offered the fruits of the field; Abel, as a shepherd,
of the firstlings of his flock. "The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering;
but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect" ( Genesis
4:3 - 5
). On this account Cain was angry with his brother, and formed the design of putting
him to death; a design which he at length found an opportunity of carrying into
effect ( Genesis
4:8 , 4:9
. Compare 1
John 3:12 ). There are several references to Abel in the New Testament. Our
Saviour speaks of him as "righteous" ( Matthew
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 the type. 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 ( Hebrews
11:4 ) that "Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain."
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 typified by the sacrifices which, no doubt by the divine institution,
were offered from the days of Adam downward. On account of that "faith" which
looked forward to the great atoning sacrifice, Abel's offering was accepted of
God. Cain's offering had no such reference, and therefore was rejected. Abel was
the first martyr, as he was the first of our race to die.
(2) Abel (Hebrew. 'abhel), lamentation ( 1
Samuel 6:18 ), the name given to the great stone in Joshua's field whereon
the ark was "set down." The Revised Version, however, following the Targum and
the LXX., reads in the Hebrew text 'ebhen (= a stone), and accordingly translates
"unto the great stone, whereon they set down the ark." This reading is to be preferred.
(3) Abel (Hebrew. 'abhel), a grassy place, a meadow. This word enters into the
composition of the following five entries:
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
(1) vanity; breath; vapor
(2) a city; mourning
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(1) (i.e., breath, vapor, transitoriness , probably so called from the shortness
of his life), The second son of Adam, murdered by his brother Cain, ( Genesis
4:1 - 16
) he was a keeper or feeder of sheep. Our Lord spoke of Abel as the first martyr,
23:35 ) so did the early Church subsequently. The traditional site of his
murder and his grave are pointed out near Damascus.
(2) the name of several places in Palestine, probably signifies a meadow.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) a'-bel (hebhel; Abel; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek Habel;
etymology uncertain. Some translation "a breath," "vapor," "transitoriness," which
are suggestive of his brief existence and tragic end; others take it to be a variant
of Jabal, yabhal, "shepherd" or "herdman," Genesis 4:20. Compare Assyrian ablu
and Babylonian abil, "son"):
The second son of Adam and Eve. The absence of the verb harah (Genesis 4:2; compare
Genesis 4:1) has been taken to imply, perhaps truly, that Cain and Abel were twins.
|(1) A Shepherd:
"Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground," thus representing
the two fundamental pursuits of civilized life, the two earliest subdivisions
of the human race. On the Hebrew tradition of the superiority of the pastoral
over agricultural and city life, see The Expositor T, V, 351. The narrative may
possibly bear witness to the primitive idea that pastoral life was more pleasing
to Yahweh than husbandry.
(2) A Worshipper:
"In process of time," the two brothers came in a solemn manner to sacrifice unto
Yahweh, in order to express their gratitude to Him whose tenants they were in
the land (Genesis 4:3 , 4. See SACRIFICE).
How Yahweh signified His acceptance of the one offering and rejection of the other,
we are not told. That it was due to the difference in the material of the sacrifice
or in their manner of offering was probably the belief among the early Israelites,
who regarded animal offerings as superior to cereal offerings. Both kinds, however,
were fully in accord with Hebrew law and custom. It has been suggested that the
Septuagint rendering of Genesis 4:7 makes Cain's offense a ritual one, the offering
not being "correctly" made or rightly divided, and hence rejected as irregular.
"If thou makest a proper offering, but dost not cut in pieces rightly, art thou
not in fault? Be still!" The Septuagint evidently took the rebuke to turn upon
Cain's neglect to prepare his offering according to strict ceremonial requirements.
dieles (Septuagint in the place cited.), however, implies nathach (nattach), and
would only apply to animal sacrifices. Compare Exodus 29:17 ; Leviticus 8:20 ;
Judges 19:29 ; 1 Kings 18:23 ; and see COUCH.
(3) A Righteous Man:
The true reason for the Divine preference is doubtless to be found in the disposition
of the brothers (see \CAIN\).
Well-doing consisted not in the outward offering (Genesis 4:7) but in the right
state of mind and feeling. The acceptability depends on the inner motives and
moral characters of the offerers. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent
(abundant, pleiona) sacrifice than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4). The "more abundant sacrifice,"
Westcott thinks, "suggests the deeper gratitude of Abel, and shows a fuller sense
of the claims of God" to the best. Cain's "works (the collective expression of
his inner life) were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12). "It would
be an outrage if the gods looked to gifts and sacrifices and not to the soul"
(Alcibiades II.149E.150A). Cain's heart was no longer pure; it had a criminal
propensity, springing from envy and jealousy, which rendered both his offering
and person unacceptable. His evil works and hatred of his brother culminated in
the act of murder, specifically evoked by the opposite character of Abel's works
and the acceptance of his offering. The evil man cannot endure the sight of goodness
(4) A Martyr:
Abel ranks as the first martyr (Matthew 23:35), whose blood cried for vengeance
(Genesis 4:10 ; compare Revelation 6:9 ,10) and brought despair (Genesis 4:13),
whereas that of Jesus appeals to God for forgiveness and speaks peace (Hebrews
12:24) and is preferred before Abel's.
(5) A Type: The first two brothers in history stand as the types and representatives
of the two main and enduring divisions of mankind, and bear witness to the absolute
antithesis and eternal enmity between good and evil.
(2) a'-bel ('abhel, "meadow"):
A word used in several compound names of places. It appears by itself as the name
of a city concerned in the rebellion of Sheba (2 Samuel 20:14 ; compare 1 Samuel
6:18), though it is there probably an abridgment of the name Abel-beth-maacah.
In 1 Samuel 6:18, where the Hebrew has "the great meadow," and the Greek "the
great stone," the King James Version translates "the great stone of Abel."
M. O. Evans
abel, adam, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, cain (murdered by), define, eve, first martyr, shepherd