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Genesis 4 has always bothered me. The story of God accepting Able's sacrifice and not Cain's has led me to wonder: How did they even know to sacrifice? Was this practice started by Adam? Or did God establish more of a law than just 'Don't eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.'? If God did establish further law then what was it and when did He establish it?

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Just a side note. Cain offered plants as his offering, which we know do not have any life blood. Where as able offered an animal, which has life blood. A sacrifice that does not contain blood is not a sacrifice. Thus God was not pleased with Cain's offering. –  Jonathon Byrd Aug 26 '11 at 14:37
@Jonathon: Not necessarily. There were several non-animal sacrifices prescribed in the Law of Moses, such as meal and drink offerings. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 30 '11 at 14:21
There is a period of time from the fall to Cain and Abel's sacrifices - at least long enough for Cain and Abel to be old enough to be tending flocks and tilling the earth. –  warren Sep 1 '11 at 15:57
@MasonWheeler However, I think traditionally those offerings were not on the same level as blood offerings. The Jews had/have different kinds of offerings. –  fredsbend Feb 25 '13 at 6:40

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That's a very good question. Clearly there are a lot of details missing from the earliest parts of the narrative. Remember that Genesis is traditionally attributed to Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them the Law of Moses. Storytellers tend to explain unfamiliar concepts and not waste time explaining familiar ones, so it's reasonable to infer that Adam and his family were under a commandment from God to offer sacrifices in a similar, if not identical, manner to the rules about sacrifices in the Law of Moses. Beyond that, the Bible is unfortunately silent.

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A view that I osculate is that Abel knew the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 (NIV) which says:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

He likely had given much thought to that promise and believed that blood would have to be shed, someone would have to be ‘bruised in the heel,’ so that mankind might be uplifted again to the state of perfection that Adam and Eve had enjoyed before their rebellion. (Hebrews 11:4)

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I do not think that word means what you think it means (osculate :) –  warren Sep 1 '11 at 15:55
@warren Inconceivable! –  bruised reed Jul 2 at 18:24

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