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Genesis 8:20 (NIV) Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.

Noah sacrificed burnt offerings. What about Adam and Eve? Did they ever perform animal sacrifice?

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4 Answers 4

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We cannot conclusively say that Adam and Eve performed the any sacrifices, 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.

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.

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It is not until the revealing of the Law that frequency and reasons for sacrifice were known. I'm not sure about that. It's clear that there were well-established moral laws before the Law of Moses (see Joseph resisting Potiphar's wife, claiming that it would be an offense against God, not against Potiphar) and that they were different in nature than the Law of Moses. (See Jesus speaking of divorce and how the rules changed under the Law.) So it's reasonable to assume that, while they have not been preserved down to our time, well-defined rules for sacrifice existed too, prior to the Exodus. – Mason Wheeler Mar 11 '13 at 21:40
@Mason Yes, I thought my whole answer made exactly that clear. Obviously, there were 'rules' for the original persons, but there is no indication that there was any written law detailing how and when God demands sacrifice until Moses. I see how my quoted statement can be misleading I will edit. – fredsbend Mar 11 '13 at 21:47

I have questioned this for a while. Many believe that the coats of skin represent a sacrifice done by God for Adam and Eve's sin. Nelson's New Illustrated bible Dictionary makes a statement concerning this that has brought a question up to me about it. I shall type the quote and give reference to the page now: This is located on page 1109 under the topic of Sacrifice,

"It is a serious mistake to affirm that Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God because it was an animal sacrifice and that Cain's sacrifice was unacceptable because he did not bring an animal. Genesis 4 makes no mention of offerings for the atonement of sin, and therefore to insist that the blood of an animal is mandated here is to read more into the account than is warranted. Attitude on the part of the offerer, not the nature of the offering, is in the forefront of the author's concern in Genesis 4. Nor is it helpful to claim that God's provision of animal skins in Genesis 3, in contrast to the fig leaves used by Adam and Eve, presupposes the slaughter of a sacrificial animal. Warmth and comfort are in view, not attonement."

It is because of the facts that sacrifice is not mentioned at the time of the coats of skin and that there is no mention of God teaching Adam about sacrifice, that I doubt it to have been a sin offering at all. It may have been, but, God mentions sacrifice in His word when it was offered at times in the beginning of creation with Abel and Cain, no record of Adam sacrificing at all and no record of Adam even talking with God anymore after being put out of the garden. Just thoughts that God is working on me with.

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So assuming a literal interpretation of the rest of Genesis, there is an issue with this interpretation. If the killing was not for sacrifice but was for comfort and warmth, then the first killing in all of creation was wanton and blessed by God. This has very serious implications. Further, they seemed plenty warm and comfortable naked just hours earlier. They were trying to cover their nakedness and shame with their own works, but it was God that spared them from it. That has overtones of atonement to me. – fredsbend Apr 23 '13 at 20:08

You didn't specify a specific type of Christianity, so I'll answer with the theology I'm most familiar with. In the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Adam and Eve did sacrifice burnt offerings in response to a direct commandment from the Lord.

This idea is loosely supported by the Bible (see fredsbend's answer) but for Latter-day Saints, it is more clearly set forth (and canonized) in "selections from the book of Moses" in the Pearl of Great Price, one of the four standard works of the LDS Church:

4 And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.

5 And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. (Moses 5:4–5)

Initially Adam and Eve offered sacrifice simply because they were commanded to do so, but later on an angel came to explain the purpose of the law of sacrifice:

6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.

8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:6–8)

The idea that Adam offered sacrifices is used to support the important LDS doctrine that the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached from the beginning. It also shows up in the LDS temple endowment ceremony (teaching about the Creation, Fall, and Atonement).

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When Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them.

Genesis 3:21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain's was unacceptable because he brought fruit, while Abel's was acceptable because it was the “firstborn of his flock”.

Genesis 4:4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God.

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the

Animal sacrifice is an important because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

With these things in mind and the fact that Cain and Able would of had to of been taught this we can reach the logical conclusion that God laid the foundation for animal sacrifices by providing the garments of skin.


Others have assumed that animal sacrifices began with Abel. Bible translations typically say that Abel offered the "fat" of his sheep. According to the Documentary Hypothesis the Torah was composed by a number of authors. Many Biblical scholars believe that the account of Abel performing an animal sacrifice is a contradiction between the Yahwist and Priestly authors.

Though some assert there is no suggestion here that with Adam and Eve there is an animal sacrifice. If the Lord giving the skin to Adam and Eve indicates the death of an animal, perhaps we are being told by this passage of Genesis that sin brought death into the world for all living beings.

Then this would be the first death by natural causes. However, the text doesn't say that an animal died. Perhaps the Lord made the skin out of the ground or some other material (would it be harder for God to produce a coat of skin from the ground as opposed to a dead animal?). Perhaps the garments were from tree bark as some ancient writings say. Or maybe it was from the skin of the serpent as the Talmud says. Snakes shed their skin repeatedly through life, and the serpent is the only species named in the account of Adam's fall. Also they would in essence be wearing their guilt. Since they obeyed the serpent, they were given his skin to wear.

There are also the renderings of the Targums. The Targums are Aramaic interpretive renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Such versions were needed when Hebrew ceased to be the daily language of the Jewish people. In Synagogue services the reading of the Scriptures was followed by a translation into the Aramaic vernacular of the populace. Targums on this are:

PS. Jonathan: And the Lord God made garments of glory for Adam and for his wife from the skin which the serpent had cast off (to be worn) on the skin of their flesh, instead of their (garments of) fig leaves of which they had been stripped, and he clothed them.

Onkelos: And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of honor for the skin of their flesh and He clothed them.

Neophyti: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of glory, for the skin of their flesh, and he clothed them.

This suggests another possibility. That it simply means that the garments were made for the skin of Adam and Eve. Also, the root of the Hebrew word, "Owr", modified only by more recent vowel points has the meaning of bare or naked, while "coat" is more literally a covering and therefore the passage might be a "cover of nakedness". But, regardless which solution is the right one, there's no suggestion of an animal sacrifice or killing in this passage.

However, some early Christians such as the Montanists apparently thought Abel offered the dairy products of his flock:

In the second century the African Montanists were sometimes called the "Artotyrites" because they added cheese, instead of wine, to the bread in the Eucharist on the ground that the Aquarii, and first men offered the fruits both of the earth and of their flocks (Gen. iv. 3, 4).

Josephus says Abel offered milk:

They had resolved to sacrifice to God. Now Cain brought the fruits of the earth, and of his husbandry; but Abel brought milk, and the first-fruits of his flocks: but God was more delighted with the latter oblation,

The Hebrew of the Old Testament was originally without vowels. The vowel marks were added at a later time. The particular word render "fat" in the account of Cain and Abel (there are a number of different Hebrew words that mean "fat") is spelled the same as the word for milk and curds. Only the vowels are different. The present Hebrew vowel system didn't come into use until about the ninth or tenth century AD. In fact, it seems likely that when Genesis was written that there was no difference between khay'-leb and kheh'-leb (both of which are spelled cheth - lamed - beth). Both clearly evolved from the same word, and Genesis being one of the oldest Hebrew works, it may be that there was no difference in pronunciation at that time.

One way the passage on Cain and Abel may be rendered is:

And she gives birth to his brother, even Abel. And Abel is feeding a flock, and Cain was a worker of the earth. And it comes to pass at the end of the season that Cain brings from the fruit of the earth a present to the Lord; and Abel, he has brought, he also, from the female firstlings of his flock, namely from their milk (or possibly curds or milkings); and the Lord looks unto Abel and unto his present. Gen. 4:2-4

The Hebrew word rendered "and" in many translations here most likely means "namely" (This is an example of "hendiadys"). The Septuagint, in the form that it's come down to us, has it that Abel offered from his "fat ones". The point being that Abel offered from his best, while Cain from the worst part of his crop.

And lastly The Book of Moses is said to say;

Moses 5:5 And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.

But there is no actual book for reference that shows this to be an actual book of Moses and is largely thought to be like the tradition that Abel offered milk in the mideaval Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine.

So , depending, there is no solid evidence that shows that Adam and Eve did offer sacrifice or even if anyone did till Noah or possibly later. Unless we take the book of Hebrews into account for what it reads there and other corresponding verses.

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