The first time I really wrestled with what the story of Genesis 4 was all about was actually when I watched the old James Dean movie, “East of Eden,” which made me wonder why God accepted Abel and not Cain. It didn’t seem fair to me, since it appeared on the surface that both men offered as a sacrifice what they produced from their work. So why did the LORD accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s offering? Today I’ll offer the comments of a couple Bible scholars I respect.
C.I. SCOFIELD said it was plain and simple: Because there was no blood shed in Cain’s offering. “Cain brought the bloodless offering of the fruit of his own works, which was unacceptable to God.”
J. VERNON MCGEE said that “the offering Cain brought denied that human nature is evil. God called them to bring a blood sacrifice because it ultimately pointed to the Redeemer who was coming into the world.”
It all points to the truth of Hebrews 9:22 – “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” It’s not that God is a blood-thirsty monster. It’s that we don’t begin to see the seriousness of our sin and rebellion until we understand that the only just penalty is DEATH (the “shedding of blood”). Yet here at the beginning of the human race, God was already teaching us about the Red Thread of Redemption – that He graciously accepts a substitutionary sacrifice to suffer the death penalty in our place. The firstborn lamb that Abel offered in sacrifice pointed to the One that God would ultimately provide as the full and final sacrifice for our sin: Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).