Hebrews 11:4
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

King James Bible
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Darby Bible Translation
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained testimony of being righteous, God bearing testimony to his gifts, and by it, having died, he yet speaks.

World English Bible
By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God testifying with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks.

Young's Literal Translation
by faith a better sacrifice did Abel offer to God than Cain, through which he was testified to be righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it, he being dead, doth yet speak.

Hebrews 11:4 Parallel
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

By faith Abel offered - see Genesis 4:4-5. In the account in Genesis of the offering made by Abel, there is no mention of "faith" - as is true also indeed of most of the instances referred to by the apostle. The account in Genesis is, simply, that Abel "brought of the firstlings of his flock, and the fat thereof, and that the Lord had respect to Abel and his offering." Men have speculated much as to the reason why the offering of Abel was accepted, and that of Cain rejected; but such speculation rests on no certain basis, and the solution of the apostle should be regarded as decisive and satisfactory, that in the one case there was faith, in the other not. It could not have been because an offering of the fruits of the ground was not pleasing to God, for such an offering was commanded under the Jewish Law, and was not in itself improper. Both the brothers selected what was to them most obvious; which they had reared with their own bands; which they regarded as most valuable.

Cain had cultivated the earth, and he naturally brought what had grown under his care; Abel kept a flock, and he as naturally brought what he had raised: and had the temper of mind in both been the same, there is no reason to doubt that the offering of each would have been accepted. To this conclusion we are led by the nature of the case, and the apostle advances substantially the same sentiment, for he says that the particular state of mind on which the whole turned was, that the one had faith, and the other not. "How" the apostle himself was informed of the fact that it was "faith" which made the difference, he has not informed us. The belief that he was inspired will, however, relieve the subject of this difficulty, for according to such a belief all his statements here, whether recorded in the Old Testament or not, are founded in truth. It is equally impossible to tell with "certainty" what was the nature of the faith of Abel. It has been commonly asserted, that it was faith in Christ - looking forward to his coming, and depending on his sacrifice when offering what was to he a type of him.

But of this there is no positive evidence, though from Hebrews 12:24, it seems to be not improbable. Sacrifice, as a type of the Redeemer's great offering, was instituted early in the history of the world. There can be no reason assigned for the offering of "blood" as an atonement for sin, except that it had originally a reference to the great atonement which was to be made by blood; and as the salvation of man depended on this entirely, it is probable that that would be one of the truths which would he first communicated to man after the fall. The bloody offering of Abel is the first of the kind which is definitely mentioned in the Scriptures (though it is not improbable that such sacrifices were offered by Adam, compare Genesis 3:21), and consequently Abel may be regarded "as the recorded head of the whole typical system, of which fist was the antitype and the fulfillment." Compare notes, Hebrews 12:24. "A more excellent sacrifice." Πλείονα θυσίαν Pleiona thusian - as rendered by Tyndale, "a more plenteous sacrifice;" or, as Wicklift renders it more literally, "a much more sacrifice;" that is, a more full or complete sacrifice; a better sacrifice. The meaning is, that it had in it much more to render it acceptable to God. In the estimate of its value, the views of him who offered it would be more to be regarded than the nature of the offering itself.

("By offering victims of the choice of his flock, Abel not only showed a more decided attachment to God, but there is great reason to suppose (as Abp. Magee on Atonement, p. 52, shows) that his faith was especially superior, as being not only directed to God alone (recognizing his existence, authority, and providence) but also to the Great Redeemer, promised immediately after the fall, Genesis 3:15 whose expiatory death was typified by animal sacrifice, by offering which Abel had evinced his faith in the great sacrifice of the Redeemer, prefigured by it: and then he obtained that acceptance from God, and witnessing of his offering, which was refused to Cain; see more in Macknight and Scott" - Bloomfield.

By which - By which sacrifice so offered. The way in which he obtained the testimony of divine approbation was by the sacrifice offered in this manner. It was not "merely" by faith, it was by the offering of a sacrifice in connection with, and under the influence of faith.

He obtained witness that he was righteous - That is, from God. His offering made in faith was the means of his obtaining the divine testimonial that he was a righteous man. Compare the notes on Hebrews 11:2. This is implied in what is said in Genesis 4:4. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering;" that is, he regarded it as the offering of a righteous man.

God testifying of his gifts - In what way this was done is not mentioned either here or in Genesis. Commentators have usually supposed that it was by fire descending from heaven to consume the sacrifice. But there is no evidence of this, for there is no intimation of it in the Bible. It is true that this frequently occurred when an offering was made to God, (see Genesis 15:17; Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38), but the sacred writers give us no hint that this happened in the case of the sacrifice made by Abel, and since it is expressly mentioned in other cases and not here, the presumption rather is that no such miracle occurred on the occasion. So remarkable a fact - the first one in all history if it were so - could hardly have failed to be noticed by the sacred writer. It seems to me, therefore, that there was some method by which God "testified" his approbation of the offering of AbeL which is unknown to us, but in regard to what it was conjecture is vain.

And by it he, being dead, yet speaketh - Margin, "Is yet spoken of." This difference of translation arises from a difference of reading in the mss. That from which the translation in the text is derived, is λαλεῖ lalei - "he speaketh." That from which the rendering in the margin is derived, is λαλεῖται laleitai - "is being spoken of;" that is, is "praised or commended." The latter is the common reading in the Greek text, and is found in Walton, Wetstein, Matthzei, Titman, and Mill; the former is adopted by Griesbach, Koppe, Knapp, Grotius, Hammond, Storr, Rosenmuller, Prof. Stuart, Bloomfield, and Hahn, and is found in the Syriac and Coptic, and is what is favored by most of the Fathers. See "Wetstein." The authority of manuscripts is in favor of the reading λαλεῖται laleitai - "is spoken of." It is impossible, in this variety of opinion, to determine which is the true reading, and this is one of the cases where the original text must probably be forever undecided.

Happily no important doctrine or duty is depending on it. Either of the modes of reading will give a good sense. The apostle is saying that it is by faith that the "elders have obtained a good report" (Hebrews 11:2); he had said (Hebrews 11:4), that it was by faith that Abel obtained the testimony of God in his favor, and if the reading "is spoken of" be adopted, the apostle means that in consequence of that offering thus made, Abel continued even to his time to receive an honorable mention. This act was commended still; and the "good report" of which it had been the occasion, had been transmitted from age to age. A sentiment thus of great beauty and value may be derived from the passage - that true piety is the occasion of transmitting a good report - or an honorable reputation, even down to the latest generation. It is what will embalm the memory in the grateful recollection of mankind; that on which they will reflect with pleasure, and which they will love to transmit to future ages. But after all, it seems to me to be probable that the true sentiment in this passage is what is expressed in the common version, "he yet speaketh." The reasons are briefly these:

(1) The authority of manuscripts, versions, editions, and critics, is so nearly equal, that it is impossible from this source to determine the true reading, and we must, therefore, form our judgment from the connection.

(2) the apostle had twice in this verse expressed substantially the idea that he was honorably testified of by his faith, and it is hardly probable that he would again repeat it so soon.

(3) there seems to be an allusion here to the "language" used respecting Abel Genesis 4:10, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground;" or utters a distinct voice - and the apostle seems to design to represent Abel as still speaking.

(4) in Hebrews 12:24, he represents both Abel and Christ as still "speaking" - as if Abel continued to utter a voice of admonition. The reference there is to the fact that he continued to proclaim from age to age, even to the time of the apostle, the great truth that salvation was only "by blood." He had proclaimed it at first by his faith when he offered the sacrifice of the lamb; he continued to speak from generation to generation, and to show that it was one of the earliest principles of religion that there could be redemption from sin in no other way.

(5) the expression "yet speaketh" accords better with the connection. The other interpretation is cold compared with this, and less fits the case before us. On the faith of Noah, Abraham, and Moses, it might be said with equal propriety that it is still commended or celebrated as well as that of Abel, but the apostle evidently means to say that there was a voice in that of Abel which was special; there was something in "his" life and character which continued to speak from age to age. His sacrifice, his faith, his death, his blood, all continued to lift up the voice, and to proclaim the excellence and value of confidence in God, and to admonish the world how to live.


Hebrews 11:4 Parallel Commentaries

February 3. "He Went Out, not Knowing Whither He Went" (Heb. xi. 8).
"He went out, not knowing whither He went" (Heb. xi. 8). It is faith without sight. When we can see, it is not faith but reasoning. In crossing the Atlantic we observed this very principle of faith. We saw no path upon the sea nor sign of the shore. And yet day by day we were marking our path upon the chart as exactly as if there had followed us a great chalk line upon the sea; and when we came within twenty miles of land we knew where we were as exactly as if we had seen it all three thousand miles
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Pilgrim's Longings
Now, our position is very similar to theirs. As many of us as have believed in Christ have been called out. The very meaning of a church is, "called out by Christ." We have been separated. I trust we know what it is to have gone without the camp, bearing Christ's reproach. Henceforth, in this world we have no home, no true home for our spirits; our home is beyond the flood; we are looking for it amongst the unseen things; we are strangers and sojourners as all our fathers were, dwellers in this wilderness,
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 18: 1872

The Voices of the Dead
"And by it he being dead yet speaketh." Hebrews xi. 4. Much of the communion of this earth is not by speech or actual contact, and the holiest influences fall upon us in silence. A monument or symbol shall convey a meaning which cannot be expressed; and a token of some departed one is more eloquent than words. The mere presence of a good and holy personage will move us to reverence and admiration, though he may say and do but little. So is there an impersonal presence of such an one; and, though
E. H. Chapin—The Crown of Thorns

The Practice of Piety; Directing a Christian How to Walk that He May Please God.
Whoever thou art that lookest into this book, never undertake to read it, unless thou first resolvest to become from thine heart an unfeigned Practitioner of Piety. Yet read it, and that speedily, lest, before thou hast read it over, God, by some unexpected death, cut thee off for thine inveterate impiety. The Practice of Piety consists-- First, In knowing the essence of God, and that in respect of, (I.) The diverse manner of being therein, which are three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (II.)
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Cross References
Genesis 4:4
Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;

Genesis 4:8
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Matthew 23:35
so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Hebrews 5:1
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;

Hebrews 11:2
For by it the men of old gained approval.

Hebrews 12:24
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

2 Peter 2:8
(for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

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