In Hebrews 11:4, it’s Abel that pleased God with his faith. Then in Hebrews 11:5 the writer moves on to another ancient biblical figure, Enoch! There’s not a lot known about Abel except that he was the first human to die and he died as a picture of the Christ’s future death. He was a martyr for his faith or trust in God. Just as his brother, Cain, bludgeoned him to death out of spite, jealousy and anger, so too was Christ crucified by his brothers who were motivated by the same sins. We know that Abel offered a better sacrifice than his brother Cain. The author of Hebrews has been pointing out how much better the sacrifice Jesus offered is than all the blood shed on the altar in the past centuries. Jesus is the “better” sacrifice. Also, just as Abel’s blood cries out for justice, Jesus’ blood brings us a better “word.” It cries out for mercy and forgiveness (Hebrews 12:24).

It’s often preached that Abel pleased God by offering the right kind of sacrifice while Cain offered a blood-less sacrifice which displeased God. I don’t see the sacrifice being the issue. It’s the motive behind the sacrifice that matters. Abel saw a God who loved him and wanted only the best for him and could be trusted in all the details of his life. He trusted God; i.e., he had faith! The offering of the sacrifice was incidental and unnecessary just as Abraham’s offering of his son on Mount Mariah. It was his faith that is commended and God didn’t take the sacrifice but provided one of his own. Abel offered a sacrifice out of full confidence in God. Cain offered his sacrifice out of guilt, manipulation or for reward. Many people offer gifts to God in order to get something for themselves; relieved conscience, acceptance from others or rewards for good behavior. The point is faith! In Genesis 5:24 the Hebrew text says “Enoch walked with God.” The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew text says “Enoch pleased God.” But neither texts recount anything of a sacrifice or a good work of any kind. It was only by faith. You can give without trusting God and you can trust God without giving! God knows the difference.

This seems to be the point of Enoch. Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” Enoch is the one who didn’t do a thing! We know even less about Enoch than we do about Abel. The most important thing to know is that it was “faith” that brought God’s commendation to Enoch. Pfeiffer says it this way: “Whether or not he accomplished great things is beside the point. Jude tells us that he was a prophet (Jude 14–15), yet no mention of that is made by the author of Hebrews. The most important thing that can be said of him is that he pleased God.”[1] Abel speaks to us about Jesus through his death! Enoch speaks to us about Jesus because he didn’t die. He was “taken” much as Jesus was taken or “received” into heaven at his ascension. Enoch’s faith brought God’s commendation. The author says, quoting directly from the Septuagint that Enoch “was pleasing to God.” At Jesus’ baptism the skies opened and God spoke, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  The subject of “pleasing God” through faith is what brought God’s commendation of both Abel and Enoch. In Abel we see that Jesus is master and speaks a better word even in his death. In Enoch we see that Jesus is master over death!

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 93.