1. [possibly, Exhalation; Vanity]. The second son of Adam and his wife Eve, and the younger brother of their firstborn son, Cain.—Ge 4:2.
It is probable that, while yet alive, Abel had sisters; the record mentions the birth of daughters to his parents, but their names are not recorded. (Ge 5:1-4) As a man, he became a herder of sheep; his brother, a farmer.—Ge 4:2.
After an indefinite period of time, Abel made an offering to Jehovah God. Cain did likewise. Each brought of what he had: Abel, of the firstlings of his flocks; Cain, of his produce. (Ge 4:3, 4) They both had belief in God. They undoubtedly learned of Him from their parents and must have known why they all were outside the garden of Eden and denied entry to it. Their offerings indicated a recognition of their alienated state and of their desire for God’s favor. God expressed favor toward Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. How the approval and the rejection were manifested the record does not show, but it was undoubtedly evident to both men. The reason for God’s approval of only Abel’s offering is made clear by later writings. The apostle Paul lists Abel as the first man of faith, at Hebrews 11:4, and shows that this resulted in his sacrifice being of “greater worth” than Cain’s offering. By contrast, 1 John 3:11, 12 shows Cain’s heart attitude to have been bad; and his later rejection of God’s counsel and warning, as well as his premeditated murder of his brother Abel, demonstrated this.
While it cannot be said that Abel had any foreknowledge of the eventual outworking of the divine promise at Genesis 3:15 concerning the promised “seed,” he likely had given much thought to that promise and believed that blood would have to be shed, someone would have to be ‘bruised in the heel,’ so that mankind might be uplifted again to the state of perfection that Adam and Eve had enjoyed before their rebellion. (Heb 11:4) In the light of this, Abel’s offering of the firstlings of his flock certainly was appropriate and undoubtedly was a factor in God’s expression of approval. To the Giver of life, Abel gave as his gift life, even though it was only from among the flock.—Compare Joh 1:36.
Jesus shows Abel to have been the first martyr and object of religious persecution waged by his intolerant brother Cain. In doing so, Jesus speaks of Abel as living at “the founding of the world.” (Lu 11:48-51) The Greek word for “world” is koʹsmos and in this text refers to the world of mankind. The term “founding” is a rendering of the Greek ka·ta·bo·leʹ and literally means “throwing down [of seed].” (Heb 11:11, Int) By the expression “the founding of the world,” Jesus manifestly referred to the birth of children to Adam and Eve, thereby producing a world of mankind. Paul includes Abel among the “cloud of witnesses” of pre-Christian times.—Heb 11:4; 12:1.
How does the blood of Jesus ‘speak in a better way than that of Abel’?
Because of his faith and divine approval, the record of which continues to bear witness, it could be said that Abel, “although he died, yet speaks.” (Heb 11:4) At Hebrews 12:24 the apostle refers to “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, which speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood.” Though shed in martyrdom, Abel’s blood did not ransom or redeem anyone, any more than did the blood of his sacrificed sheep. His blood in effect cried to God for vengeance upon assassin Cain. The blood of Jesus, here presented as validating the new covenant, speaks in a better way than Abel’s in that it calls to God for mercy upon all persons of faith like Abel, and is the means by which their ransoming is possible.
Since Seth was evidently born shortly after Abel’s death and when Adam was 130 years of age, it is possible that Abel may have been as much as 100 years old at the time of his martyrdom.—Ge 4:25; 5:3.
2. [Watercourse]. A town also called Abel-beth-maacah or Abel of Beth-maacah. Elsewhere used as a prefix to the names of various places.—2Sa 20:18; see ABEL-BETH-MAACAH.
3. At 1 Samuel 6:18 the King James Version refers to “the great stone of Abel,” while the marginal reading says, “Or, great Abel, that is, mourning.” However, modern translations generally read here simply “the great stone.” (Compare AT, NC [Spanish], NW, JB, and others.) While the Masoretic Hebrew text uses the word ʼA·velʹ in this verse, the Greek Septuagint and the Aramaic Targums translate it as if it were ʼeʹven, that is, “stone.” This agrees with verse 14 of the same chapter. It could not refer to Abel of Beth-maacah, since the incident recorded at 1 Samuel 6:18 took place near Beth-shemesh in Judah.