Abel—First Martyr in the Bible

Adam and Eve's Second-Born Son

The death of Abel
Stefano Bianchetti / Contributor / Getty Images

Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve. He was the first martyr in the Bible and also the first shepherd. Very little else is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God's eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice. As a result, Abel was murdered by his older brother Cain, whose sacrifice did not please God.

The Story of Abel

Abel's story leaves us wondering why God looked with favor on his offering, but rejected Cain's. This mystery is often confusing to believers. However, Genesis 4:6-7 holds the answer to the mystery. After seeing Cain's anger over the rejection of his sacrifice, God said to him:

"Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (NIV)

Cain should not have been angry. Obviously, both he and Abel knew what God expected as the "right" offering. God would have already explained it to them. Both Cain and God knew that he had given an unacceptable offering. Perhaps even more important, God knew that Cain had given his offering with a wrong attitude of heart. Yet God offered Cain a chance to make it right and warned him that the sin of anger would destroy him if he did not master it.

We know how the story ended. Cain's anger and jealousy led him to attack and kill Abel. Thus, Abel became the first man to be martyred for his obedience to God.

Abel's Accomplishments

Hebrews 11 lists the members of the Hall of Faith with Abel's name appearing first, declaring him to be "a righteous man ... by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." Abel was the first man to be martyred for his faith and the first shepherd of the Bible.

Abel's Strengths

Even though Abel died a martyr, his life still speaks today of his strengths: he was a man of faith, righteousness, and obedience.

Abel's Weaknesses

None of Abel's character weaknesses were recorded in the Bible, however, he was physically overpowered by his brother Cain when he led him out into a field and attacked him. We can speculate that he might have been too naive or too trusting, yet Cain was his brother and it would have been natural for a younger brother to trust the older.

Life Lessons from Abel

Abel is honored in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith as a righteous man. Sometimes obedience to God comes with a high price. Abel's example teaches us today that even though he died for truth, he did not die in vain. His life still speaks. It reminds us to count the cost of obedience. Are we willing to follow and obey God, no matter how great the sacrifice? Do we trust God even if it costs our very lives?


Abel was born, raised, and tended his flocks just beyond the Garden of Eden in the Middle East, probably near present-day Iran or Iraq.

Referenced in the Bible:

Genesis 4:1-8; Hebrews 11:4 and 12:24; Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51.


Shepherd, tended flocks.

Family Tree

Father - Adam
Mother - Eve
Brothers - Cain, Seth (born after his death), and many more not named in Genesis.

Key Verse

Hebrews 11:4
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.

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Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "Abel—First Martyr in the Bible." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/abel-first-martyr-in-the-bible-701195. Fairchild, Mary. (2020, August 27). Abel—First Martyr in the Bible. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/abel-first-martyr-in-the-bible-701195 Fairchild, Mary. "Abel—First Martyr in the Bible." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/abel-first-martyr-in-the-bible-701195 (accessed March 22, 2023).