As I did for both Jubilee and Evangeline, I wanted to write a brief explanation of the meaning of Abel’s name.
As with both his older sisters, Abel’s name, as you probably know, comes from the Bible. His middle name (like Jubilee and Evangeline’s as well) is that of one his great-grandparents. William (more commonly known as “Bill”) is my maternal grandfather.
Abel William is due January, 2020.
Abstract: Abel is the first in the long history of examples of faithful worshipers of God who suffer and die on account of their righteousness. His account reveals to us a God who champions the victimized, avenges evil, and ensures that injustice will not go unanswered. According to the book of Hebrews, Abel is held up as the earliest example of those who put their faith in God and “preserve their souls,” despite all appearances to the contrary (e.g., suffering and death). Christ’s death, however, overshadows Abel’s, as Christ fills the role as the pinnacle righteous one who suffers death. In fact, Christ’s death “speaks a better word than Abel’s.” Whereas Abel’s blood cried out to God for vengeance, Christ’s blood speaks to the satisfaction of God’s just vengeance against unworthy sinners. Additionally, the name Abel matches the word “vanity” in Ecclesiastes. This word, which encapsulates the message of the entire book, describes the futility of looking to the things of this fallen world, and instead redirects our eyes to the fear of the Lord, wherein we can experience lives of true joy.
In scripture, Abel is the second son of Adam and Eve, and the first victim of murder—killed at the hands of his elder brother, Cain (Gen 4:1-16, 25). The name Abel (הֶבֶל, hevel) matches a word most notable for its prolific use as a repeated refrain in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity!”(הֶבֶל, hevel). In its literal sense, this word means breath or vapor. Additionally, at times it comes to describe that which is transitory, fleeting, transient, and ephemeral. In scripture, a character’s name often reflects or conveys something about that individual. This is especially the case in Genesis (e.g., Cain’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “gotten,” as Eve proclaims, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord”; see also the names of Isaac [=“he laughs”], Jacob [=“he takes by the heel”], Israel [=“he strives with God”], etc.). Although Abel’s name is not explicitly explained in the Genesis narrative, given this phenomenon, many surmise that his name reflects the fleeting, transitory nature of his life. Just as his name indicates, his life would be cut short.
As noted above, the word הֶבֶל (hevel, often translated “Vanity”) plays a central role in the message of Ecclesiastes. It is the Preacher’s (Qohelet) refrain—“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!—and it both introduces (1:2) and closes out the book (12:8). All in all, it occurs a total of 38 times in Ecclesiastes. In short, one might say that the word הֶבֶל (hevel) summarizes the entire message of Ecclesiastes: vanity!