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What Did Abel Have That Cain Didn't?
by Wayne Blank
The Farmer and The Keeper Of Sheep
When they grew up, Cain worked as a farmer, while Abel "kept sheep" - which was not quite a shepherd in the later, more-productive sense. Since humans were then still apparently all vegetarians (i.e. "And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food" Genesis 1:29 RSV; it was only after The Flood that humans also became meat-eaters: "every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything" Genesis 9:3 RSV), it was hard-working Cain, not less-practical Abel, that produced food for the family, apart from what they found growing naturally.
The (culminating?) event that sent Cain into a murderous rage was when the two brothers brought offerings to The Lord; Cain brought an offering first, and then Abel came and somehow topped him.
"In the course of time Cain brought to The Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4:3-5 RSV)
Much debate has been made regarding those two offerings, whether it was the content of the offerings that were received differently, or whether it was the attitude of the giver. Either way, The Lord's recorded response seems only to be concerned with Cain's bad attitude:
"The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7 RSV)
The above Scriptures make plain that The Lord didn't somehow reject Cain up to that point, but loved him and encouraged him. But Cain ignored it, as it seems he ignored a great deal more of the Word of God.
"Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him." (Genesis 4:8 RSV)
If Cain and Abel were identical twins, and if someone witnessed the murder, might the witness have guessed who was the killer and who was the victim, not from the (possibly) identical appearance of Cain and Abel, but just based on knowing their personalities in the months or years before? Very likely. For why, see the Fact Finder below.
Fact Finder: What did Abel have that Cain didn't? What "Christian" attribute did Abel have, that Cain didn't, that made Abel's sacrifice acceptable to God?