Meaning: the valley or plain.
1. a city in the northern part of the land of Israel 2Sam 20:14, apparently on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, from its connection with places in that neighbourhood, 1Ki 15:20; 2Ki 15:29. It seems to have once enjoyed considerable reputation for its counsellors, 2Sam 20.18; and to have been called Mother, 19. (Metropolis in the Septuagint). Josephus, likewise, calls it a metropolis of Israel, though he writes the name Abelmachea, and Abellana; which later spelling has led some to conjecture that in his time it was called by the Greeks Abelene or Abela. Upon the occasion of the quarrel between the men of Judah and Isael about David’s return to Jerusalem, Sheba made a party against David, and withdrew to this city; but the inhabitants being closely pressed by Joab, David’s general, and at the advice of a “wise woman” within the city, cut off Sheba’s head and threw it over the wall to Joab, that they might be spared the horrors of a siege. So Joab retired from before the place, B.C. 1022. It is also called Abel of Bethmaacrah, 2Sam 20:15; Abel-Bethmaachah 1Ki 15:20; 2Ki 15:29; and in the parallel passage, 2Chr 16:4, Abel-Maim. During the reign of Baasha, king of Israel, this city was taken and pillaged by Benhadad, king of Syria; and aout 200 years afterwards, in the days of Pekah, king of Israel, it was again taken by Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, when its inhabitants, together with those of many beighbouring places, were carried captive to Assyria. It has been supposed that Belen, Judith 4:4; is a corrupt form of Abel-Maim. Some have fancied that Abel was the same with Abila of Lysanias, near Damascus, which cannot have been the case, for the bounds of Naphtali (in whcih tribe Abel probably was) never extended so ar in that direction. Others identify Abel with Abila of Phoenicia mentioned by Eusebius. Its most probable site has been fixed to the Northwest of the Bahr of Huleh, at a place called Abil el Kamh.
(1): the name of several places in Palestine, probably signifies a meadow .
(2): (i.e., breath, vapor, transitoriness , probably so called from the shortness of his life), the second son of Adam, murdered by his brother Cain, (Genesis 4:1-16) he was a keeper or feeder of sheep. Our Lord spoke of Abel as the first martyr, (Matthew 23:35) so did the early Church subsequently. The traditional site of his murder and his grave are pointed out near Damascus.
1. Son of Adam
– History of Gén 4:1-15; Gén 4:25
– References to the death of Mat 23:35; Luc 11:51; Heb 11:4; Heb 12:24; 1Jn 3:12
• 2. A stone 1Sa 6:18
ā´bel (ה בל, hebhel; Ἄβελ, Ábel; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek Hábel; etymology uncertain. Some translation “a breath,” “vapor,” “transitoriness,” which are suggestive of his brief existence and tragic end; others take it to be a variant of Jabal, yābhāl, “shepherd” or “herdman,” Gen 4:20. Compare Assyrian ablu and Babylonian abil, “son”): The second son of Adam and Eve. The absence of the verb hārāh (Gen 4:2; compare Gen 4:1) has been taken to imply, perhaps truly, that Cain and Abel were twins.
1. A Shepherd
“Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground,” thus representing the two fundamental pursuits of civilized life, the two earliest subdivisions of the human race. On the Hebrew tradition of the superiority of the pastoral over agricultural and city life, see Expositor Times, V, 351ff. The narrative may possibly bear witness to the primitive idea that pastoral life was more pleasing to Yahweh than husbandry.
2. A Worshipper
“In process of time,” the two brothers came in a solemn manner to sacrifice unto Yahweh, in order to express their gratitude to Him whose tenants they were in the land (Gen 4:3, Gen 4:4. See SACRIFICE). How Yahweh signified His acceptance of the one offering and rejection of the other, we are not told. That it was due to the difference in the material of the sacrifice or in their manner of offering was probably the belief among the early Israelites, who regarded animal offerings as superior to cereal offerings. Both kinds, however, were fully in accord with Hebrew law and custom. It has been suggested that the Septuagint rendering of Gen 4:7 makes Cain’s offense a ritual one, the offering not being “correctly” made or rightly divided, and hence rejected as irregular. “If thou makest a proper offering, but dost not cut in pieces rightly, art thou not in fault? Be still!” The Septuagint evidently took the rebuke to turn upon Cain’s neglect to prepare his offering according to strict ceremonial requirements. διέλῃς, diélēs (Septuagint in the place cited.), however, implies נתח, (אנתּח nāthaḥ (nattaḥ), and would only apply to animal sacrifices. Compare Exo 29:17; Lev 8:20; Jdg 19:29; 1Ki 18:23; and see COUCH.
3. A Righteous Man
The true reason for the Divine preference is doubtless to be found in the disposition of the brothers (see CAIN). Well-doing consisted not in the outward offering (Gen 4:7) but in the right state of mind and feeling. The acceptability depends on the inner motives and moral characters of the offerers. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent (abundant, pleı́ōna) sacrifice than Cain” (Heb 11:4). The “more abundant sacrifice,” Westcott thinks, “suggests the deeper gratitude of Abel, and shows a fuller sense of the claims of God” to the best. Cain’s “works (the collective expression of his inner life) were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1Jo 3:12). “It would be an outrage if the gods looked to gifts and sacrifices and not to the soul” (Alcibiades II.149E.150A). Cain’s heart was no longer pure; it had a criminal propensity, springing from envy and jealousy, which rendered both his offering and person unacceptable. His evil works and hatred of his brother culminated in the act of murder, specifically evoked by the opposite character of Abel’s works and the acceptance of his offering. The evil man cannot endure the sight of goodness in another.
4. A Martyr
Abel ranks as the first martyr (Mat 23:35), whose blood cried for vengeance (Gen 4:10; compare Rev 6:9, Rev 6:10) and brought despair (Gen 4:13), whereas that of Jesus appeals to God for forgiveness and speaks peace (Heb 12:24) and is preferred before Abel’s.
5. A Type
The first two brothers in history stand as the types and representatives of the two main and enduring divisions of mankind, and bear witness to the absolute antithesis and eternal enmity between good and evil.
1. The second son of Adam and Eve. He became a shepherd, and offered to God a sacrifice from his flocks, at the same time that Cain his brother offered the fruits of the earth. God had respect to Abel’s sacrifice, and not to Cain’s; hence Cain in anger killed Abel, Ge 4:1-26. It was “by faith” that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain; that is, his heart was right towards God, and he worshipped Him in trustful obedience to the divine directions. His offering, made by the shedding of blood, was that of a penitent sinner confiding in the atonement ordained of God; and it was accepted, “God testifying of his gifts,” probably by fire from heaven; “by which he obtained witness that he was righteous,” that is, justified, Heb 11:4. “The blood of Abel” called from the ground for vengeance, Ge 4:10; but the blood of Christ claims forgiveness and salvation for his people, Heb 12:24; 1Jo 1:7
2. Abel is also a prefix in the names of several towns. In such cases it signifies a grassy place or meadow.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
The second son of Adam and Eve, Abel was a keeper of sheep. Like his elder brother Cain, he made an offering to God of things God had given him (Gen 4:1-4). Abel was a righteous man (Mat 23:35), and he offered his sacrifice in a thankful attitude of sincere faith (Gen 4:4; Heb 11:4). Cain was an unrighteous man (1Jo 3:12) and offered his sacrifice in the wrong attitude. God therefore rejected his sacrifice (Gen 4:5; for further details see SACRIFICE).
In envy and anger, Cain killed Abel (Gen 4:8). But God gave to Adam and Eve another son, Seth, who helped maintain the sort of faith in God that Abel had shown (Gen 4:25-26).
Concise Bible Dictionary
The second Son of Adam. The name Hebel given him by his mother, signifying ‘breath’ or ‘vanity,’ possibly originated in her disappointment at Cain not proving to be the promised Redeemer. In process of time the great difference in the two brothers was manifested by Abel offering to God a slain animal, whilst Cain brought the fruit of his own labour from the cursed ground, ignoring the facts that in the fall of Adam life had been forfeited and the ground cursed. Abel presented a sacrifice in the way of faith through a slain firstling of the flock, Heb 11:4. He thus obtained a witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: cf. Mt 23:35. Thus early were brought out in clear lines the two seeds: one born of God, and the other ‘of that wicked one.’ 1Jo 3:12. Abel is a type of Christ, as Cain is that of the Jew. As the Jews broke the law against both God and their neighbour, so Cain disregarded God’s judgment on man, and slew his brother. In Cain is also exemplified the religion of the natural man, who, disregarding his distance from God, thinks he can approach at any time and with any form of worship.
(Heb. Hebhel), a breath, or vanity, the second son of Adam and Eve. He was put to death by his brother Cain (Gen. 4:1-16). Guided by the instruction of their father, the two brothers were trained in the duty of worshipping God. “And in process of time” (marg. “at the end of days”, i.e., on the Sabbath) each of them offered up to God of the first-fruits of his labours. Cain, as a husbandman, offered the fruits of the field; Abel, as a shepherd, of the firstlings of his flock. “The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering; but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect” (Gen. 4:3-5). On this account Cain was angry with his brother, and formed the design of putting him to death; a design which he at length found an opportunity of carrying into effect (Gen. 4:8,9. Comp. 1 John 3:12). There are several references to Abel in the New Testament. Our Saviour speaks of him as “righteous” (Matt. 23:35). “The blood of sprinkling” is said to speak “better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24); i.e., the blood of Jesus is the reality of which the blood of the offering made by Abel was only the type. The comparison here is between the sacrifice offered by Christ and that offered by Abel, and not between the blood of Christ calling for mercy and the blood of the murdered Abel calling for vengeance, as has sometimes been supposed. It is also said (Heb. 11:4) that “Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” This sacrifice was made “by faith;” this faith rested in God, not only as the Creator and the God of providence, but especially in God as the great Redeemer, whose sacrifice was typified by the sacrifices which, no doubt by the divine institution, were offered from the days of Adam downward. On account of that “faith” which looked forward to the great atoning sacrifice, Abel’s offering was accepted of God. Cain’s offering had no such reference, and therefore was rejected. Abel was the first martyr, as he was the first of our race to die.
Abel (Heb. ‘abhel), lamentation (1 Sam. 6:18), the name given to the great stone in Joshua’s field whereon the ark was “set down.” The Revised Version, however, following the Targum and the LXX., reads in the Hebrew text _’ebhen_ (= a stone), and accordingly translates “unto the great stone, whereon they set down the ark.” This reading is to be preferred.
Abel (Heb. ‘abhel), a grassy place, a meadow. This word enters into the composition of the following words:
Hebrew Hebel. Second of Adam and Eve’s sons, Genesis 4: Abel means “vanity” or “weakness”, “vapor” or “transitoriness”. Cain means “possession”; for Eve said at his birth, “I have gotten as a possession a man from Jehovah,” or as the Hebrew (eth) may mean, “with the help of Jehovah”; she inferring the commencement of the fulfillment of the promise of the Redeemer (Gen 3:15) herein. On the contrary, Abel’s weakness of body suggested his name: moreover prophetic inspiration guided her to choose one indicative of his untimely death. But God’s way is here from the first shown, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Co 12:9; Heb 11:34. The cause of Cain’s hatred was “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1Jo 3:12). Envy of the godly was “the way of Cain” (Jud 1:11). “Faith” was present in Abel, absent from Cain (Heb 11:4); consequently the kind of sacrifice (the mode of showing faith) Abel offered was “much more a sacrifice” (Wycliffe; so the Greek) than Cain’s. “By faith Abel offered unto God a much more sacrifice than Cain,” i.e. one which had more of the true virtue of sacrifice; for it was an animal sacrifice of the firstlings of the flock, a token of the forfeiture of man’s life by sin, and a type of the Redeemer to be bruised in heel that He might bruise the serpent’s head.
God’s having made for man coats of skin presupposes the slaying of animals; and doubtless implies that Abel’s sacrifice of an animal life was an act of faith which rested on God’s command (though not expressly recorded) that such were the sacrifices He required. If it had not been God’s command, it would have been presumptuous will worship (Col 2:23), and taking of a life which man had no right over before the flood (Gen 9:2-4). Cain in self-righteous unbelief, refusing to confess his guilt and need of atonement (typified by sacrifice), presented a mere thank offering of the first fruits; not, like Abel, feeling his need of the propitiatory offering for sin. So “God had respect unto Abel (first) and (then) to his offering.” “God testified of his gifts” by consuming them with fire from the shekinah or cherubic symbol E. of Eden (“the presence of the Lord”: Gen 4:16; Gen 3:24), where the first sacrifices were offered. Thus” he obtained witness that he was righteous,” namely, with the righteousness which is by faith to the sincere penitent.
Christ calls him “righteous”: Mat 23:35. Abel represents the regenerate, Cain the unregenerate natural man. Abel offered the best, Cain that most readily procured. The words “in process of time” (Gen 4:3 margin), “at the end of days,” probably mark the definite time appointed for public worship already in paradise, the seventh day sabbath. The firstling and the fat point to the divine dignity and infinite fullness of the Spirit in the coming Messiah. “By faith he being dead yet speaketh” to us; his “blood crying from the ground to God” (Gen 4:10) shows how precious in God’s sight is the death of His saints (Psa 116:15; Rev 6:10). The shedding of Abel’s blood is the first, as that of Jesus is the last and crowning guilt which brought the accumulated vengeance on the Jews (Luk 11:51; Mat 23:34-35-38). There is a further avenging of still more accentuated guilt, of innocent blood yet coming on “them that dwell on the earth”. (Revelation 11). In Heb 12:24, it is written “Christ’s blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel,” namely, than the blood of Abel’s animal sacrifice. For Abel’s is but the type, Christ’s the antitype and one only true propitiatory sacrifice. To deny the propitiation would make Cain’s offering to be as much a sacrifice as Abel’s. Tradition makes the place of his murder and grave to be near Damascus. (See ABILA.)
son of Adam, slain by Cain Gen 4:2, 8; Mat 23:35; Heb 11:4; 12:24
David Cox’s Topical Bible Concordance
1. Son of Adam
– History of Gen. 4:1-15, 25.
– References to the death of Mat. 23:35; Luk. 11:51; Heb. 11:4; 12:24; 1Jn. 3:12.
2. A stone 1Sa. 6:18.