Questions From Readers
● What determined God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice and his rejection of Cain’s?—C. C., United States.
There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that God gave the sons of Adam any instructions as to the nature of the sacrifice that would be pleasing to him. Various theories have been offered along this line, but it seems most reasonable to conclude that Cain and Abel simply offered what they had on hand, in view of their occupations. No doubt they had heard from their parents the account of God’s displeasure with them for having eaten of the forbidden fruit and so each in his own way sought to gain acceptance with his Maker.—Gen. 4:2-5.
Had God not acknowledged either sacrifice there would have been no way of knowing whether Cain’s sacrifice was sincere or not. However, when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not that of Cain, it at once became apparent that Cain was not sincere, that he was not primarily concerned with winning acceptance with God, but rather with keeping ahead of his younger brother. So we read: “Cain . . . originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother. And for the sake of what did he slaughter him? Because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” Cain’s works were wicked, not in that he offered the wrong kind of sacrifice, fruits of the field instead of an animal that required the shedding of blood, but in that he offered these fruits with the wrong motive. Had his motive been right, then when he noticed that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while his own was rejected, he would have reasoned on what was wrong and would have imitated his younger brother and so also found acceptance with God. Actually, his slaying of Abel was premeditated murder, showing how wicked he really was, pride instilling a murderous hate into his heart.—1 John 3:12; Gen. 4:8.
Abel’s offering was accepted because it was both of the right kind and offered in faith. Cain lacked faith, but this fact came to the fore only when he found that his sacrifice was not being accepted by God. So we read: “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness respecting his gifts; and through it he, although he died, yet speaks.” Just how God indicated that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable and Cain’s was not the Bible does not say and it would be idle to speculate.—Heb. 11:4.