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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Cain and Abel Each Made a Bloodless Offering to God. Go Vegan! By Dr. Chapman Chen


Summary: Genesis 4:3-8 is frequently quoted by anti-vegan Christians to justify the killing of innocent animals. But actually Cain and Abel each made a bloodless offering [מִנְחָה minchah] to God, as opposed to a bloody sacrifice [זֶבַח zebach]. Cain offered vegetables while Abel brought along the choicest [חֶלֶב cheleb] of his lambs just for God to see how well he Abel has taken care of his flock. [חֶלֶב cheleb] is unfortunately rendered "fat portion" in many versions of the Bible (cf. Denny 2022:100). Abel never killed the lamb because God as the embodiment of love detested animal sacrifice (Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 6:18). According to Rabbi Chaim Hirschenshon (see Shapiro 2014), both Abel and Cain left their offerings at a peak, expecting God to pick them up. When Abel's lamb went away and was subsequently nowhere to be found, it was assumed that God had accepted it. In contrast, when Cain returned later only to find his veggies still there, he wrongly imagined that God had rejected his offering. Out of envy and spite, he murdered his brother.



1. Introduction


The biblical story of Cain and Abel is more often than not employed by Pauline flesh-greedy "Christians" to "prove" that God preferred animal flesh to vegetables, thereby justifying the killing of animals by humans for food:-


In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering [מִנְחָה/minchah], but on Cain and his offering [מִנְחָה/minchah] he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “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 rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:3-5 NIV).


2. Offering [מִנְחָה/minchah] is Usually BLOODLESS


However, in reality, Cain and Abel each made a bloodless offering [מִנְחָה minchah] to God (cf. Christopher 2015), as opposed to a bloody sacrifice [זֶבַח zebach]. According to Strong's Concordance, "offering [מִנְחָה minchah]" is usually "bloodless" (Note 1). Indeed, a minchah (מִנְחָה) in the context of ancient Hebrew rituals typically refers to a grain offering that involves no bloodshed. For instance, Leviticus 2 describes the minchah offering, which includes ingredients such as fine flour, oil, and frankincense. These details establish the minchah as a bloodless offering, in contrast to animal sacrifices that involve blood. 


2.1. Offering [מִנְחָה/minchah] vs Sacrifice [זֶבַח zebach]" 


"Offering [מִנְחָה minchah]" is typically different than "sacrifice [זֶבַח zebach]". "While sacrifices are always offerings, offerings do not always have to be sacrifices," as put by Andrew Michael Denny (2022:100), for according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Brown-Driver-Briggs, "sacrifice [זֶבַח zebach]" invariably refers to slaughtered animal sacrifice (Note 2).  


3. A Living Sample of Abel's Care for the Sheep


Although Abel did offer "the firstborn of his flock" to God, they did not constitute a sacrifice for they were never slaughtered. They were just a living sample of Abel's good work, a live demonstration of how well he had taken care of God's creatures (Note 3). And of course, God, as spirit (John 4:24) would not slaughter the lambs Himself nor chew their flesh. If Abel had actually offered an animal sacrifice, God would have rejected it, too, for God is LOVE (1 John 4:7) and He detested animal sacrifices (Isaiah 1:11-12, Greek Septuagint Bible; Psalm 50:7-14, 23; Psalm 50:8; Psalm 51:16-17; Hosea 6:6).


On the other hand, many people may challenge this interpretation on the ground that our English Bibles add "fat portions" (cf. Denny 2022:100) before "the firstborn of his flock."


4. "Fat Portions" (cheleb חֶלֶב) Means the Choicest


Nevertheless, the Hebrew word of "fat portions" is cheleb חֶלֶב, which, according to NAS Exhaustive Concordance, means best or fat or finest (Note 3). As no slaughter nor burning of any animal is mentioned in Genesis 4, "fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock" must refer to the best or the choicest of the firstlings of Abel's flock.


5. What Actually Happened after Cain and Abel Made their Offerings?


Marc B. Shapiro (2014), an esteemed rabbi and academic, discusses Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn's view in an article titled "Assorted Comments" published on Feedblitz. Hirschensohn, who served as the Chief Rabbi in Hoboken, New Jersey from 1904 until his passing in 1935, offered a unique perspective on the biblical story of Cain and Abel's offerings to God.


5.1. Cain's Spiteful Fantasy


Contrary to the common belief that sacrifices involve burning items on an altar, Hirschensohn suggested that neither Cain nor Abel actually burned their offerings. He proposed that Cain presented his vegetables at a mountain's peak, believing it was a place to connect with God, and left them there. Due to his “meager religious philosophical knowledge,” Cain in all probability assumed that after his departure, God would collect his veggie offering. Upon returning and finding the vegetables untouched, Cain mistakenly believed God had rejected his offering, not realizing God played no role in the outcome.


Similarly, Hirschensohn believed Abel released his best firstling to roam, expecting God to claim them without any need for their death, and interpreted the absence of the animal as a sign of God's acceptance.


In other words, God did not do anything. The idea that Yahweh did favor his gift was merely in Cain’s fantasy.


As a consequence of his misunderstanding of God's intent, and out of ignorance, impulsiveness, envy, small-mindedness, selfishness, and peevishness, Cain brutally murdered his own brother. No wonder John passed the following verdict on Cain:- "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother... Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:11-12 KJV).


6. Conclusion


In conclusion, throughout this incident, God was fair and neutral. He was neither biased towards Abel nor prejudiced against Cain. He did not prefer slaughtered animal sacrifice to veggie sacrifice. As a matter of fact, as the embodiment of omni-benevolence, He never demanded any bloody sacrifice; both Cain and Abel made bloodless offerings to Him. All instances of bloody animal sacrifice in other parts of the Old Testament are products of the "lying pen of the scribes" (Jeremiah 8:8 NIV) (c. Chen 2022). Even though Abel offered the finest lamb among his flock to Yahuah, he never murdered him/her. It's just a live demonstration of how properly he had looked after the Lord's creatures. And God certainly did not murder the animal Himself nor did He ever consume him/her.


It is therefore blasphemous of Pauline "Christians" to seize upon the biblical story of Cain and Abel, project their carnist gluttony onto Yahweh, and thereby justify the killing of innocent creatures of God for the sinful pleasure of human appetite. 






Note 3. God expects humans to take care of His creation (cf. Chen 2024). "Dominion" as in "have dominion over" the animals (Genesis 1:28 NKJV) means servanthood to Animals. ירדו (yirdu), the ancient biblical Hebrew word in consonantal form for "dominion" in Genesis 1:28 connotes both רָדָה (radah) (to tread down, subjugate, rule) and יָרַד (yarad) (to lower oneself, to descend). Judging from its context, namely, Genesis 1:29, where humans are prescribed a vegan diet by Yahweh, and Genesis 2:15, where humans are particularly commissioned to tend (עָבַד/abad) and keep (שָׁמַר/shamar) the garden, as noted in the NKJV—i.e., to exercise great care over it (cf. Ritenbaugh 1999), "dominion" should imply yarad (to lower oneself) more than radah (to tread upon). This is confirmed by Jesus' saying that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve"(Luke 22:24-27 ESV). Thus, "have dominion over animals" signifies that God commands humandkind to lower themselves and serve other animals as a caretaker. From a Christly perspective, "dominion" is not only stewardship but "servanthood" (cf. Linzey 1995:45, 57).



Pic credit: Geethanjali Kids


Chen, Chapman (2024). "Dominion in Genesis 1:28 Means Servanthood to Animals." HKBNews, Apr. 14.

Chen, Chapman (2022). "Meatism is Animal Sacrifice Detested by God." HKBNews, Jun. 29.


Christopher (2015). "Cain vs. Abel: Flesh a Better Sacrifice than Plants?" The Vegan Christian Resource.


Denny, Andrew Michael (2022). Shifting the Torah Paradigm -- Exploring Animal Sacrifice in the Context of Creation. Bloomington: LifeRich Publishing.


Linzey, Andrew (1995). Animal Theology. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.


Shapiro, Marc B. (2014). "Assorted Comments." The Seforim Blog, Jun.13. 



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