Genesis 4:4

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
All Commentaries on Genesis 4:4 Go To Genesis 4

John Chrysostom

AD 407
It was not idly or in vain that in beginning this sermon we taught your good selves that our Lord does not recognize differences in appearance but takes account of intentions and rewards the will. Here, too, to be sure, notice this happening. Accordingly, let us attend with precision, dearly beloved, to the text and see what Scripture says about Cain on the one hand and Abel on the other, and let us not pass it by heedlessly. I mean, Sacred Scripture says nothing idly or by chance; instead, even if it happens to be a syllable or a single jot, it has some treasure concealed in it. Such, after all, is the nature of all things spiritual. So what does the text say? "In the course of time Cain brought an offering of the fruits of the earth to the Lord, and Abel also for his part brought an offering of the firstborn of his flock, and in fact the fattest of them." The meaning of the verse is clear even from the reading to those already capable of following more closely. But since we should exercise our concern in general for everyone (spiritual teaching, after all, recognizes no distinction), come now, let us expose the meaning of the words more clearly and rehearse these same words again. "Cain," the text says, "brought an offering of the fruits of the earth to the Lord"; then, wanting to teach us about Abel as well, Sacred Scripture says that he for his part also brought his offering [155] from his occupation and his shepherding. "He, for his part, also brought an offering," the text says, remember, "of the firstborn of his flock, and in fact the fattest of them." Notice how it hints to us of the piety of this man's attitude, and the fact that he did not casually offer any one of his sheep, but "one of the firstborn," that is, from the valuable and special ones. In Cain's case, on the contrary, nothing of the kind is suggested; rather, the fact that he brought "an offering of the fruits of the earth," as if to say, whatever came to hand, without any display of zeal or precise care. I repeat, and I shall not cease to make the point: God accepts our offerings not because he needs what we have to offer but because he wants our gratitude to be demonstrated through them as well. In other words, the person who makes an offering to God and offers him something of his own, and who calls to mind the difference in nature and the fact that a human being has been granted such a great honor, should give as good an account of himself as possible and offer the choicest gifts. But notice in this case, I ask you, dearly beloved: here you have the opportunity to contemplate what behooves you, namely, that the person who through indifference betrayed his own welfare duly pays the penalty. I mean, it wasn't a case of one man having a teacher and the other having a counsellor and adviser: each had instructions from his own conscience, and being moved by the intelligence supplied to the human race from above he proceeded to make his offering, such as it was; but the difference in attitude that emerged and the mediocrity of choice caused one man's offering to be acceptable and the other's to be spurned. "God took notice of Abel and his conscience. Aftthis case is fulfilled the saying in the gospel that the first will be last and the last first.'-~ I mean, see how the one who enjoyed priority belonging to the firstborn and consequently made his offering first was shown to be inferior to his brother since he made it unworthily: as both presented their offerings, Sacred Scripture says, "God took notice of Abel and his gifts." What does that mean, "He took notice"? He accepted, he approved of the attitude, he rewarded the choice, he was satisfied (so to say) with what was done. You see, we speak about God and presume to open our mouth about that pure nature, yet being human we would have no choice but to understand these things through language. Notice, however, this remarkable feature: "God took notice of Abel and his gifts," the text says; it calls the offering of sheep gifts on account of the importance, the choice quality, the untainted appearance of what was offered. Accordingly, God took notice of him for the reason that he had made the offering with a pure intention, and of his gifts for the reason not only that they were free of imperfection but that they were in every respect clearly precious, both from the viewpoint of the offerer's intention and from the fact of their being the firstborn and in fact specially selected from them, among the fattest of them and the very prize ones.
4 mins

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20

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