1. The second son of Adam and Eve. He became a shepherd, and offered to God a sacrifice from his flocks, at the same time that Cain his brother offered the fruits of the earth. God had respect to Abel's sacrifice, and not to Cain's; hence Cain in anger killed Abel, Ge 4. It was "by faith" that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain; that is, his heart was right towards God, and he worshipped Him in trustful obedience to the divine directions. His offering, made by the shedding of blood, was that of a penitent sinner confiding in the atonement ordained of God; and it was accepted, "God testifying of his gifts," probably by fire from heaven; "by which he obtained witness that he was righteous," that is, justified, Heb 11:4. "The blood of Abel" called from the ground for vengeance, Ge 4:10; but the blood of Christ claims forgiveness and salvation for his people, Heb 12:24; 1Jo 1:7.
2. Abel is also a prefix in the names of several towns. In such cases it signifies a grassy place or meadow.
(Heb. Hebhel), a breath, or vanity, the second son of Adam and Eve. He was put to death by his brother Cain (Ge 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" (Ge 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 (Ge 4:8-9. Comp. 1Jo 3:12). There are several references to Abel in the New Testament. Our Saviour speaks of him as "righteous" (Mt 23:35). "The blood of sprinkling" is said to speak "better things than that of Abel" (Heb 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 (Heb 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.
Abel (Heb. 'abhel), lamentation (1Sa 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.
Abel (Heb. 'abhel), a grassy place, a meadow. This word enters into the composition of the following words: Abel-beth-maachah, Abel-cheramim, Abel-meholah, Abel-mizraim, Abel-shittim
Hebrew Hebel. Second of Adam and Eve's sons, Genesis 4: Abel means "vanity" or "weakness", "vapor" or "transitoriness". Cain means "possession"; for Eve said at his birth, "I have gotten as a possession a man from Jehovah," or as the Hebrew (eth) may mean, "with the help of Jehovah"; she inferring the commencement of the fulfillment of the promise of the Redeemer (Ge 3:15) herein. On the contrary, Abel's weakness of body suggested his name: moreover prophetic inspiration guided her to choose one indicative of his untimely death. But God's way is here from the first shown, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2Co 12:9; Heb 11:34. The cause of Cain's hatred was "because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1Jo 3:12). Envy of the godly was "the way of Cain" (Jg 1:11). "Faith" was present in Abel, absent from Cain (Heb 11:4); consequently the kind of sacrifice (the mode of showing faith) Abel offered was "much more a sacrifice" (Wycliffe; so the Greek) than Cain's. "By faith Abel offered unto God a much more sacrifice than Cain," i.e. one which had more of the true virtue of sacrifice; for it was an animal sacrifice of the firstlings of the flock, a token of the forfeiture of man's life by sin, and a type of the Redeemer to be bruised in heel that He might bruise the serpent's head.
God's having made for man coats of skin presupposes the slaying of animals; and doubtless implies that Abel's sacrifice of an animal life was an act of faith which rested on God's command (though not expressly recorded) that such were the sacrifices He required. If it had not been God's command, it would have been presumptuous will worship (Col 2:23), and taking of a life which man had no right over before the flood (Ge 9:2-4). Cain in self-righteous unbelief, refusing to confess his guilt and need of atonement (typified by sacrifice), presented a mere thank offering of the first fruits; not, like Abel, feeling his need of the propitiatory offering for sin. So "God had respect unto Abel (first) and (then) to his offering." "God testified of his gifts" by consuming them with fire from the shekinah or cherubic symbol E. of Eden ("the presence of the Lord": Ge 4:16; 3:24), where the first sacrifices were offered. Thus" he obtained witness that he was righteous," namely, with the righteousness which is by faith to the sincere penitent.
Christ calls him "righteous": Mt 23:35. Abel represents the regenerate, Cain the unregenerate natural man. Abel offered the best, Cain that most readily procured. The words "in process of time" (Ge 4:3 margin), "at the end of days," probably mark the definite time appointed for public worship already in paradise, the seventh day sabbath. The firstling and the fat point to the divine dignity and infinite fullness of the Spirit in the coming Messiah. "By faith he being dead yet speaketh" to us; his "blood crying from the ground to God" (Ge 4:10) shows how precious in God's sight is the death of His saints (Ps 116:15; Re 6:10). The shedding of Abel's blood is the first, as that of Jesus is the last and crowning guilt which brought the accumulated vengeance on the Jews (Lu 11:51; Mt 23:34-38). There is a further avenging of still more accentuated guilt, of innocent blood yet coming on "them that dwell on the earth". (Revelation 11). In Heb 12:24, it is written "Christ's blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel," namely, than the blood of Abel's animal sacrifice. For Abel's is but the type, Christ's the antitype and one only true propitiatory sacrifice. To deny the propitiation would make Cain's offering to be as much a sacrifice as Abel's. Tradition makes the place of his murder and grave to be near Damascus. (See ABILA.)
Ge 4:2-10. The Heb. form Hebhel denotes 'vapour' or 'breath' (cf. Ec 1:1, English Version 'vanity'), which is suggestive as the name of a son of Adam ('man'). But it is perhaps to be connected with the Assyrian aplu, 'son.' Abel was a son of Adam and Eve, and brother of Cain. But the narrative presupposes a long period to have elapsed in human history since the primitive condition of the first pair. The difference between pastoral and agricultural life has come to be recognized for Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground (see Cain). The account, as we have it, is mutilated: in Ge 4:8 Heb. has 'and Cain said unto Abel his brother' (not as AV and RV). Septuagint supplies the words 'Let us pass through into the plain,' but this may be a mere gloss, and it cannot be known how much of the story is lost.
Nothing is said in Gn. of Abel's moral character, or of the reason why his offering excelled Cain's in the eyes of Jahweh; cereal offerings were as fully in accord with Hebrew law and custom as animal offerings. Heb 11:4 gives 'faith' as the reason. In Heb 12:24 the 'blood of sprinkling' 'speaketh something better than the blood of Abel,' in that the latter cried for vengeance (Ge 4:10).
In Mt 23:35; Lu 11:51 Abel is named as the first of the true martyrs whose blood had been shed during the period covered by the OT, the last being Zachariah (wh. see). In Joh 8:44 it is possible that Jesus was thinking of the story of Abel when He spoke of the devil as 'a murderer from the beginning,' i.e. the instigator of murder as he is of lies.
A. H. M'Neile.
The name signifying 'meadow,' given to several places, which are distinguished by the other names appended. The name 'Abel' stands alone in 1Sa 6:18; for which see 'ABEL, THE GREAT;' and in 2Sa 20:14,2Sa 20:18, for which see 'ABEL-BETH-MAACHAH.'
The second Son of Adam. The name, Hebel given him by his mother, signifying 'breath' or 'vanity,' possibly originated in her disappointment at Cain not proving to be the promised Redeemer. In process of time the great difference in the two brothers was manifested by Abel offering to God a slain animal, whilst Cain brought the fruit of own labour from the cursed ground, ignoring the facts that in the fall of Adam life had been forfeited and the ground cursed. Abel presented a sacrifice in the way of faith through a slain firstling of the flock. Heb 11:4. He thus obtained a witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: cf. Mt 23:35. Thus early were brought out in clear lines the two seeds: one born of God, and the other 'of that wicked one' 1Jo 3:12. Abel is a type of Christ, as Cain is that of the Jew. As the Jews broke the law against both God and their neighbour, so Cain disregarded God's judgement on man, and slew his brother. In Cain is also exemplified the religion of the natural man, who, disregarding his distance from God, thinks he can approach at any time and with any form of worship.
(i.e., breath, vapor, transitoriness, probably so called from the shortness of his life), the second son of Adam, murdered by his brother Cain,
he was a keeper or feeder of sheep. Our Lord spoke of Abel as the first martyr,
so did the early Church subsequently. The traditional site of his murder and his grave are pointed out near Damascus.
ABEL. He was the second son of Adam and Eve, and born probably in the second or third year of the world; though some will have it that he and Cain were twins. His name signifies vapour, vanity, and might be given either because our first parents now began so to feel the emptiness and vanity of all earthly things, that the birth of another son reminded them painfully of it, although in itself a matter of joy; or it was imposed under prophetic impulse, and obscurely referred to his premature death. His employment was that of a shepherd; Cain followed the occupation of his father, and was a tiller of the ground. Whether they remained in their father's family at the time when they brought their offerings to the Lord, or had establishments separate from that of Adam, does not clearly appear. Abel was probably unmarried, or had no children; but Cain's wife is mentioned. "At the end of the days,"