Abel, (Hebrew for breath), the second son of Adam, slain by Cain, his elder brother (Genesis 4:1-16). The narrative in Genesis which tells us that "the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect," is supplemented by the statement of the New Testament, that "by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4), and that Cain slew Abel "because his own works were evil and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12).
The name has been identified with the Assyrian ablu, son, but this is far from certain. It more probably means herdsman (compare the name "Jabal"), and a distinction is drawn between the pastoral Abel and the agriculturist Cain. If Cain is the eponym of the Kenites it is quite possible that Abel was originally a South Judaean demigod or hero; on this, see Winckler, Gesch. Israels, ii. p. 189; E. Meyer, Israelitein, p. 395. A sect of Abelitae, who seem to have lived in North Africa, is mentioned by Augustine (De Haeresibus, lxxxvi.).