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Spas na Ilyine - Patriarch Abel.jpg
Parent(s)Adam and Eve
RelativesIn Genesis:
Cain (sibling)
Seth (sibling)
According to later traditions:
Aclima (sibling)
Awan (sibling)
Azura (sibling)

Abel[a] is a Biblical figure in the Book of Genesis within Abrahamic religions. He is the younger twin brother of Cain and the son of Adam and Eve, the first couple within the Biblical tale.[1] He was a shepherd who offered his firstborn flock up to God as an offering. God accepted his offering but not his brother's. Out of jealousy Cain killed Abel.

According to Genesis, Abel was the first human to die.

Genesis narrative


Jewish and Christian interpretations

According to the narrative in Genesis, Abel (Hebrew: Hé?el, in pausa Hel; Greek: ? Hábel; Arabic: ‎, H?b?l) is Eve's second son. His name in Hebrew is composed of the same three consonants as a root meaning "breath". Julius Wellhausen, have proposed that the name is independent of the root.[2]Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology.[3]

The First Mourning (Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel); oil on canvas 1888 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

In Christianity, comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr. In Jesus speaks of Abel as "righteous", and the Epistle to the Hebrews states that "The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel" . The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).[4] Furthermore, and perhaps more tellingly and cogently, in the gospel of Luke 11:50-51, Jesus clearly states: "Therefore, this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all".

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in the Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass along with those of Abraham and Melchizedek. The Alexandrian Rite commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.[5]

According to the Coptic Book of Adam and Eve (at 2:1-15), and the Syriac Cave of Treasures, Abel's body, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures, before which Adam and Eve, and descendants, offered their prayers. In addition, the Sethite line of the Generations of Adam swear by Abel's blood to segregate themselves from the unrighteous.

In the Book of Enoch (22:7), regarded by most Christian and Jewish traditions as extra-biblical, the soul of Abel is described as having been appointed as the chief of martyrs, crying for vengeance, for the destruction of the seed of Cain. This view is later repeated in the Testament of Abraham (A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls.

Islamic interpretation

Grave of Abel within the Nabi Habeel Mosque
The Mausoleum of Abel in the Nabi Habeel Mosque

According to Shi'a Muslim belief, Abel ("Habeel") is buried in the Nabi Habeel Mosque, located on the west mountains of Damascus, near the Zabadani Valley, overlooking the villages of the Barada river (Wadi Barada), in Syria. Shi'a are frequent visitors of this mosque for ziyarat. The mosque was built by Ottoman Wali Ahmad Pasha in 1599.[6]


  1. ^ ; Hebrew: Hé?el, in pausa Hel; Greek: ? Hábel; Arabic: ‎, romanizedH?b?l


  1. ^ The Holy Bible (English Standard Version ed.). Crossway Bibles. 2016. pp. Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:20-24.
  2. ^ Julius Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, volume 3, (1887), p. 70.
  3. ^ Eberhard Schrader, Die Keilinschrift und das Alte Testament, 1872.
  4. ^ For copies of a spectrum of notable translations and commentaries see Hebrews 12:24 at the Online Parallel Bible.
  5. ^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.
  6. ^ Russell, Jesse; Cohn, Ronald (2012). Nabi Habeel Mosque. Book on Demand. p. 174. ISBN 5512000985.

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