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When we think of a prophet, we usually think of Elijah calling down fire from heaven. Yet Jesus called Abel a prophet, though all we know about him is that his brother killed him. How could he be a prophet?
In Luke 11:50–51, the Lord Jesus Christ affirms that Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, was a prophet.1 In the Old Testament, a prophet was one who acted as God’s mouthpiece, relaying the words of God to men in accordance with God’s instructions.2 However, the Old Testament contains no record of any prophetic utterance from Abel. What then made him a prophet?
The context of Luke 11 reveals that Jesus aimed His comments at the religious leaders, warning them against coldheartedly rejecting His message. Then, as Old Testament scholar P. D. Overland explains, Jesus ascribed to the religious leaders the blame “for the murder of all from ages past who by conduct or communication confronted others with the need to repent.”3
Abel quite likely acted like many other prophets, urging his fellow men to repent of their sins.The Bible does not spell out what Abel did or said to make him a prophet. But based on Christ’s words, Abel quite likely acted like many other prophets, urging his fellow men to repent of their sins. Presumably, Abel acted in such a role toward his family, and perhaps his primary focus was his brother Cain. Granted, the Bible nowhere hints what Abel said, but we can easily imagine how he, as a righteous man (Hebrews 11:4; see also 1 John 3:12), sought to correct his brother’s wicked behavior, calling him to repentance.
Even though the text is silent on Abel’s words, Scripture makes it plain that his character exemplified that of a prophet. Abel was a man of genuine faith (Hebrews 11:4), whose actions authenticated his faith as he gave God the very best he had to offer (Genesis 4:4). In fact, the testimony of his actions may have been as much a part of his prophetic ministry as his words. If so, this would not be the only instance of a lifestyle being the dominant aspect of a prophet’s witness (see, for example, Ezekiel 4).
So, despite the fact that there is no record of what Abel the prophet said, much can be learned from his life. As the book of Hebrews notes, “
through faith, though he [Abel] is dead, he still speaks”
(NASB). His righteousness—evidenced in giving his very best to God out of a faithful heart—is a powerful message deserving our thoughts and application.