Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In Genesis 4 Cain and Abel gave offerings (or sacrifice). Who instructed them to give this offering or sacrifice? Was it a burnt offering?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

If my answer here is accepted then I think that would make this a duplicate, though, I would clarify further that we really cannot tell from the text. All we know for certain is that sacrifice is a very old institution and only second in age to marriage and possibly the Sabbath rest.

My original answer to the linked question below for your convenience

It is definitely clear that sacrifice was instituted very early.

Abel and Cain apparently performed sacrifices, Abel bringing animal material and Cain bringing plant material. The ensuing rivalry between the two led to the infamous 'first murder'. It has been argued that Cain knew animal material and animal life was the requirement and his obvious 'cannot be wrong' attitude and jealousy was what led him to murder his own brother.

But did Adam and Eve sacrifice?

One should think that Cain and Abel were told by someone that it was necessary. It is possible that God Himself told them to do so, considering they were also on the same plain speaking terms, demonstrated when God questions and subsequently curses Cain. However, Genesis 3:21 is curious stating just after God declared punishments for the fall:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

God Himself made the garments for Adam and Eve. Depending on your views of whether there was death before the fall this may or may not be significant. Since you do not specify a tradition I will stick to literal Bible interpretation, in which this view, that there was no death mentioned until this verse, therefore, no death before the fall, is well supported.

So many have hypothesized that God Himself actually performed the very first sacrifice for Adam's and Eve's sins. This site argues that for example. Always leading by example, Adam and Eve then mimicked God's righteous actions and began performing sacrifice. Whether you take this view or not it is indisputable that God approved of the animal's killing so that would leave only Adam or Eve to actually perform the sacrifice. It really does not matter, though, who did it first because just one generation later Cain and Able are sacrificing as if it is a regular thing, showing that it was already instituted and the most likely time was Genesis 3:21. Also, if God did this first sacrifice, He did not do any others, again leaving the task to Adam and Eve.

Now it is not until the reveling of the Law that frequency and reasons for sacrifice were known to us at least. This is more than 1000 years later. It is clear that there were thanksgiving reasons, as Noah did in your example, and it is implied that Cain and Able were performing a possibly annual or other time frame sacrifice as required by God. There are also a few examples of reasons for sacrifice in the story of Abraham. The most notable being told to do so by an angel of God when Abraham was told to sacrifice his own son Isaac. So there may have been very well understood reasons by the ancient persons for sacrifice that may have even been started with Adam and Eve shortly after the fall, but the only indication of those 'rules' becoming written is Leviticus with Moses. It is entirely possible that those sections in Leviticus were only parroting what had been done since the beginning.

So we cannot conclusively say that Adam and Eve started the sacrifice rituals, but the evidence is very heavy that they did and it was ordained by God and likely that He instructed them in it or even did the first one Himself.

share|improve this answer

The Bible states that the offerings were brought "in the course of time". This suggests only that when the appropriate time for sacrifice had come, both brought offerings. It does not imply a specific command to sacrifice.

We have no idea who taught Cain and Abel how and when to bring offerings to God. They might simply have felt that they needed to give something to God, or maybe their parents told them. The Bible does not say, and anything more would be speculation.

Neither of these offerings are described as burnt. Cain brought fruit of the ground, while Abel brought a "fatty portion" of meat. God preferred Abel's offering, but this wasn't because God did not like fruit of the ground. God specifically told Cain that he (and his plant-based offering) would be accepted if he would only act rightly. (Cain did not listen, though. Not long after hearing this, Cain killed Abel.)

From Genesis 4:

[...] Abel became a herder of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the ground.

In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground, while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected.

Then the LORD said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it. Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

share|improve this answer
Saying "anything more would be speculation" is dismissive of the implications of Gen. 3:21. Whether speculation or not it deserves examination. – fredsbend Mar 12 '13 at 7:12
Actually, no. We explicitly avoid "examination" that is actually just speculation. – Alypius Apr 15 '13 at 7:16

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.