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Let us first read the passage of Scripture where the two brothers came to offer before the Lord.

And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:2-5)

It is obvious from the passage that both the brothers came together to offer an offering before the Lord. They were evidently following a particular time schedule for sacrifice before the Lord. Cain brought “The fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD” and Abel brought “The firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. And the Bible says:

The LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. (Genesis 4:4)

God was displeased not only with Cain, but with “his offering” too. And on the other hand God was pleased with Abel and “his offering”.

When we look at the other passages of Scripture it is clear that something was wrong with the offering of Cain, whereas the offering of Abel was what pleased God.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. (Hebrews 11:4)

Please note what Paul wrote: Paul was highlighting the offerings which made the difference. Paul said that Abel offered unto God “A more excellent sacrifice than Cain”. And God was pleased with “his gifts”.

John the apostle, too, clearly mentioned that it was the wrong sacrifice that he brought.

Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)

His “works” were evil, but his brother’s works were righteous, therefore Cain slew Abel. The only comparison of the two we have in Genesis is their offerings to the Lord and no background story to it. The Lord Himself told Cain about it.

And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. (Genesis 4:6, 7)

Something was wrong with what he did. Something was wrong with his offering. “If thou doest well” God said, he would have been “accepted”. God was addressing his action that was wrong.

Some suggest, there was nothing wrong with his offering, but his heart condition was not right. It is true that his heart condition was not right. But if that was the only thing that was wrong the Bible should have told us as to what was wrong with his heart! The evil he was cherishing should have been highlighted because the incident that followed (the murder of Abel) was directly related to his offering being rejected! The tragedy of the murder of Abel was the worst that ever happened after the fall of their parents.

Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts Chapter 5? They had an evil heart and they brought an incomplete offering, and it was rejected. And God highlighted to us why it was rejected!

And in the case of Cain, nothing is said about him prior to his offering being rejected. Obviously something was wrong with his offering itself. It is true that his heart was evil too, for if he had a God-fearing heart, as Abel had, he would have brought the right kind of offering. But the focus of the Bible is on the offering.

The Word of God highlights not just the sacrifice that Abel brought but also it mentions specifically that he offered the “fat” of his sacrifice. Abel offered: “The firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.”

The “fat” of an animal signifies sin. Isaiah penned down the Word of God to His people:

Neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. (Isaiah 43:24)

God wanted people to come and bring their sins to Him, as sin is the problem with man. Jesus, the true “Lamb of God”, also invites His people to come to Him with their sins, as only when we give our sins over to Him we can go free. He said:

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Abel slew his sacrifice and also offered the “fat” of the animal to the Lord, as he hated sin, and wanted to always live a live free from it. And when an animal is sacrificed its blood is shed. That blood which Abel shed of that innocent animal was a display of his faith in the Redeemer to come, and His saving blood! The Scripture declares:

Without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)

God gave Cain a chance to display his faith properly. This is clearly seen the way God reasoned out with Cain.

And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. (Genesis 4:6, 7)

But instead he decided to rebel and wanted Abel also to change his ways, and come in-line with him. He took his younger brother for a walk-the last walk of his life-and talked with him about the whole episode. It is obvious that Abel did not agree with Cain, and would have told him to follow the instructions of God.

And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. (Genesis 4:8)

Since his offering was rejected primarily because it did not have blood in it (and the fat too,) Cain decided to finally shed blood-the blood of his own brother! God told Cain:

The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)

The very fact that God talked about the death of Abel from the “blood” perspective, again showed the issue of the offering was related to blood missing in it.

BUT ONE MIGHT SAY: Cain brought the fruits of the ground because he was a “tiller of the ground”, and Abel could bring an animal sacrifice because he was a “keeper of sheep”.

Well, if I am a computer engineer do I offer computers as sacrifices to the Lord? And if I am carpenter, do I offer a wooden sacrifice? Wouldn’t Abel readily give Cain a sheep for sacrifice? Abel was a righteous man. If Abel refused to give his brother an animal then God should have been upset with Abel and not with Cain!

They were not the owners of the animal and plant kingdom respectively; they were just keepers of it. All the fruits too were not Cain’s exclusively. Abel and all others before the flood were vegetarians. (Genesis 1:29). As Abel was taking from “Cain’s” fruits, (as Cain was the tiller of the ground,) couldn’t Cain freely take one of “Abel’s” sheep?

In the ceremonial system of Moses there were offerings that were offered without blood-like the meat offering (grain offering). But they were linked with other offerings that had blood in it. And if it stood alone, it was specifically commanded by God for only certain offerings and for certain people, like the poor who could not afford to purchase an animal sacrifice. Cain came under no such category. He deliberately went against the plain teaching of God.

Cain was actually repeating the actions of his parents. When Adam and Eve sinned “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”. (Genesis 3:7), but “The LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21). Fig leaves cannot cover our sin, only blood can cover us. For coats of “skin” to be made an animal was sacrificed-for skins are taken from animals that are dead. Abel brought an animal sacrifice stained with blood which symbolized the sacrifice of Jesus and His holy blood that covers sin. But Cain showed his rebellion by working out his own method of salvation (as his parents did initially), and rejected the only method-which is through blood!