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Hebrews 11:4

ESV 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.
NIV By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
NASB By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he was attested to be righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
CSB By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.
NLT It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
KJV By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

What does Hebrews 11:4 mean?

This passage focuses on examples of faithful obedience from the Old Testament, to show that God's favor was on those whose trust led to obedience. Abel was the second son of Adam and Eve, after his older brother Cain (Genesis 4:1–2). Both brought sacrifices to God, but Abel's was apparently a more sincere and acceptable sacrifice than Cain's (Genesis 4:3–5). Despite God's reassurances, Cain responded to God's rejection of his sacrifice by murdering his brother and attempting to hide the body (Genesis 4:6–10).

This makes Abel an interesting inclusion on this list. The pattern being shown here is that God will bless those who respond to Him in obedience—yet the opening example is the victim of Scripture's first recorded murder! However, this fits perfectly with the purpose of the book of Hebrews. Faith, as defined earlier, is a forward-looking trust that God will make good on His promises, even when that fulfillment is "unseen" to us. Abel obeyed God's commands, in faith, and was accepted by God. As the writer of Hebrews has shown, it is this trusting faith—not ritual actions—which brings God's commendation. Abel's sacrifice didn't cleanse him from sin (Hebrews 10:3–4); his faith in God is what saved him.

Despite suffering a violent end to his earthly life, God worked out everything for Abel's good (Romans 8:28–30), in an eternal sense. Abel was "accepted" by God, while his murderer was not. And, Abel's example of faith is still a potent lesson, despite the fact that he was killed for it.

Interestingly, the next figure mentioned as an example of faith is Enoch, a man who apparently was taken by God before experiencing physical death (Genesis 5:24). The contrast between these two lives is no accident. The writer of Hebrews is specifically pointing out that the circumstances of our earthly lives, even when they seem impossible to understand, are irrelevant to God's plans for us. He can, and will, fulfill His promises out of things unseen.
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