Yesterday, I entitled my post "Cain and Abel," for my focus was upon Cain. Today's post is called "Abel and Cain" because my focus is upon Abel. It is amazing how little there is in the Word about either of them. Other than chapter four of Genesis, Cain is mentioned three times and Abel four in the entire Bible. And yet, what is said speaks volumes. Although it is obvious that Cain inherited a sin nature, there is nothing that shows Abel did apart from the Word in Romans 5:12. There might be a clue in that what they brought to God was called a "sacrifice" in Hebrews 11:4, and sacrifices throughout scripture refer to a propitiation for sin (to appease God). It is also likely they knew that God offered an animal sacrifice for their parents' sin.
The Bible does not record one word spoken by Abel, and yet the writer of Hebrews says that his obedience remains as a witness for all (Heb. 11:4). That chapter is a list of many whose lives serve as a testimony of faith. It is not clear to which category Abel belonged, but Jesus obviously recognized him as a prophet, a wise man, or a scribe, in Matthew 23:34-35. The concept of life-style evangelism may have Abel as its inspiration. People watch Christians to see if they actually live their lives as true disciples of Christ. While the Word says that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God," getting someone to listen to the Word requires that they respect the speaker enough to consider what he is saying. Life-style evangelism is not really evangelism unless it is accompanied by the Word of God. There are obviously more people "from Missouri" than just those who have lived there.
Abel's life is not only a testimony for a right relationship with God, but it is also a testimony that God will use in judging Israel. Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that they were just as guilty of the blood of all His witnesses from Abel to Zechariah as those who killed them (Matt. 23:13-35). I never understood why Jesus did not include people after Zechariah. There were others who were rejected and killed by Israel after him, so why only from Abel to Zechariah? I thought maybe it was because Abel's name began with an A, and Zechariah's with a Z, but that is in English. I am not sure who it was, but I heard a sermon explaining that Abel was the first person martyred for his faith, and that Zechariah was the last before Christ came. The speaker rightly pointed out that the Old Testament, the Bible Israel had at that point in time, was arranged differently than ours is today. In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis is the first book and 2 Chronicles is the last.
NOTE: Although Barachiah is listed as the father of Zechariah in Matthew, Jehoiada is said to be his father in 2 Chronicles 24:20. Jesus knew that Barachiah was actually Zechariah's father because He knew Jehoiada was his grandfather (cp. 2 Chron. 24:15, 20-22; 36:16; Lk. 11:51). The best example of Hebrew thought concerning ancestry is Jesus as the Son of David. So in the statement by Jesus as a condemnation of the religious leaders of Israel, He was holding them responsible for the deaths of everyone from the first, Abel, to the last, Zechariah. Because they were rejecting the Messiah just as those who killed the prophets, that made them partakers in their murder.