Study Notes: 13 FEB 2015
…and yet, Cain killed Abel. One may suppose that since Cain’s sacrifice of the fruits of his labors had not been accepted, he may have decided to offer a greater, human one–his younger brother. What is really interesting in this story is that God points out Cain’s sin (Gen. 4:7), and Cain immediately goes and slaughters Abel (8). Was this in a horrifically-mistaken effort to atone for his sin? Clearly, God saw this act as a great sin and cursed Cain in much the same way that He had cursed Cain’s father (12 cf. 3:17, 23).
Abraham’s sacrificing of Isaac probably would have been expected or even required in the land from which he hailed (Ur of the Chaldees). Abraham may have mistakenly thought that Sarah’s barrenness was due to some sin, and that if they were to have many children, a human sacrifice for that sin was required. According to some rabbinical as well as modern scholars, God’s demand of offering Isaac as the sacrifice may have been not so much a thundering voice from heaven as a religious duty that Abraham would have felt in his heart. (This, of course, is not the common interpretation of many of the Church Fathers.) God again showed that He did not require a human sacrifice, that a sacrificial lamb is not a replacement for human sacrifice, but an icon of the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world.
Both Abel and Isaac are biblical icons of Christ.