Hebrews 11:4

4 By faith 1Abel offered to God 2a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And 3through his faith, though he died, he 4still speaks.

Hebrews 11:4 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 11:4

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice
than Cain
The apostle proceeds to examples of faith, and begins with Abel: it may seem strange that Adam and Eve are not mentioned; this omission is not because they were not believers; but either because of the fall and ruin of mankind by them; or because the apostle speaks only of such who had received some eminent testimony by faith, and therefore passes by many believers, and hastens to Abraham, the father of the Jews. The superior excellency of Abel's sacrifice to Cain's, lay both in the matter, and in the manner of it; the one was offered heartily to the Lord, the other only in show; the one was offered in faith, the other not; Abel looked through his sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ, not so Cain. Abel's sacrifice was a lamb, a type of Christ, the Lamb of God; a firstling, a figure of him who is the firstborn of every creature; one of the fattest of his flock, expressive of the excellency of Christ; and this was offered up at the end of days, as Christ at the end of the world; and the superior excellency of the sacrifice of the one to that of the other, appears from God's regard to the one, and not to the other, ( Genesis 4:3-5 ) from whence it may be observed, that sacrifices were of divine institution, and were very early types of Christ; and that there always were two sorts of worshippers, spiritual and carnal ones, whom God can distinguish, for he seeth not as man seeth; that the acceptance of persons is in Christ, and is previous to their offerings; that whatsoever works do not spring from faith are unacceptable to God; that no dependence is to be had on birth privileges, or outward actions; and that electing and distinguishing grace very early took place, and appeared.

By which he obtained witness that he was righteous;
not righteous by his offering, nor by his faith, but by the righteousness of Christ, which his faith in his sacrifice looked unto; though it was by his faith that he obtained, or received a witness in his own conscience, from the Spirit of God, testifying that he was a justified person; and in consequence of this, he had an outward testimony bore to him in the Scriptures, that he was a righteous person hence he is called righteous Abel, ( Matthew 23:35 ) .

God testifying of his gifts:
not of his own gifts, temporal or spiritual, but of Abel's gifts, which he offered to the Lord; that is, his sacrifices; of these he testified, when he showed respect either by an audible voice, declaring his acceptance of them; or by sending down fire from heaven, upon his sacrifice, which in later times was a symbol of acceptance.

And by it, he being dead, yet speaketh;
good men die, and some of them die a violent death, as did Abel, yet he speaks in the Scriptures, which have a voice in them, ( Luke 16:29 ) or by his blood, which calls for vengeance; or rather by, or because of his faith, though he is dead, "he is yet spoken of", as the word may be rendered.

Hebrews 11:4 In-Context

2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Cross References 4

  • 1. Genesis 4:4-8; 1 John 3:12
  • 2. Proverbs 15:8
  • 3. Genesis 4:10
  • 4. Hebrews 12:24
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.