By Faith: Hebrews 11:4

by faith Abel (2)

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4) Heb 11:4: “By faith a better sacrifice Abel than Cain offered to God.”

The author of Hebrews assumed that faith produces righteousness (Heb 10:37–39; Heb 11:6).[1]

Therefore, this verse begins a discussion of the spiritual posture of individuals from the book of Genesis who served as exemplars of faith (Heb 11:1–22).[2]

Jewish tradition typically focused upon the deficiency of Cain’s offering, rather than upon the acceptability of Abel’s.[3]

For example, Philo (20 BC–40 AD) noted that Cain brought young, inanimate things, while his brother offered strong and fat living sacrifices.[4]



However, some Jewish writings emphasized the piety of these two men as the differentiating factor.[5]

According to Josephus (37–100 AD), “Abel, the younger, was a lover of righteousness; and believing that God was present in all his actions, he excelled in virtue…but Cain was…very wicked.”[6]

A dichotomy between faith and works cannot exist (James 2:14–26).[7] Thus, Abel expressed his faith by his actions.[8]

The author of Hebrews cited him as the standard for those who desire favor with God (Cf. Prov 15:8–10). Indeed, “Through [faith], being dead, yet he speaks.”

This partially occurred due to the written record of Abel’s character.[9]

Yet, Heb 12:22–24 clearly specifies that Abel’s blood speaks,[10] but neither in conversation with others nor to himself.[11]

His blood cries out for justice (Gen 4:10).[12]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Heb 11:4. According to the author of Hebrews, what made Abel’s offering superior to Cain’s? How does Abel still speak? What difference does knowing that make in your life?




Go to Oh, the Depth of the Riches of God! (Rom 11:33‒36)

[Related posts include A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10); Blood Given for You (Matt 26:26‒28); Pleading for Justice (Rev 6:9‒10); and The Full Number of Martyrs (Rev 6:11)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]


[1]William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 335.

[2]George H. Guthrie, Hebrews (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 375.

[3] Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 333.

[4]Philo, “A Treatise on the Sacrifices of Abel and Cain,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: H. G. Bohn, 1854), 26–7, 227–8,

[5] Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 333.

[6]Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, 1.2.1,

[7]Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 571.

[8] Guthrie, Hebrews, 376.

[9] Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 335.

[10]F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. Ed. (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 284.

[11] Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 573.

[12] Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 283–4.