Abel in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

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," Gen 4:20. Compare Assyrian ablu and Babylonian abil, "son"): The second son of Adam and Eve. The absence of the verb harah (Gen 4:2; compare verse 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 ff. 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 (Gen 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 Gen 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 Ex 29:17; Lev 8:20; Jdg 19:29; 1 Ki 18:23; and see COUCH...

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