Below are some spiritual perspectives of three famous sets of sons in the Bible.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son (), Jesus told about two sons –who lived in their father’s house. The older son lived in haughty complacently since he presumed himself to be superior. The younger son left home and squandered his inheritance while living in the sinful world. When the young man humbly returned, the older son was furious that his father gave him a rich welcome home with gifts –including his father’s robe and ring (symbols of honor and authority), and a glorious feast. The older son was so insulted by it all that he stubbornly rejected his father’s invitation to join in the feast. Instead he chose to remain outside –accompanied only by his pride.
Of course, like all of Jesus’ parables, there is a deeper meaning. The older brother characterizes Israel’s religious men. The younger son is a picture of God’s own Son. He gave up everything (His inheritance) when He left His Father’s house to live in this sin-ridden world. Upon His arrival He found us starving to death (the famine) for spiritual bread. He submitted Himself to the Prince of this World (Satan, the citizen) and worked to save His people (the pigs) from the eternal fires of hell that is rightfully deserved. And His Father –the One who truly understands the consequences of sin– welcomed His Son home and gave Him the position of ruler over the entire creation ().
The religious men considered themselves to have the superior position with God since they had always observed God’s Law. It was inconceivable that this newcomer, Jesus, could possibly be greater than they were. They saw Jesus’ life as meaningless (squandered) and they rejected God’s promise of eternal life.
What about the feast featured in the parable? It’s the marriage feast of the honored guest –Jesus. Everyone is invited; but, only the humble, who recognize their unrighteousness, joyfully go inside to celebrate. The self-righteous refuse to enter; they would have to submit to the (younger) One who, seemingly, came long after (the older) Moses. To them, it’s too belittling. (There’s more in the article: the parable of the Marriage Feast.)
Cain, Adam’s first-born son, didn’t please God with his offering –some of his harvest from what he had grown. It was Abel, the second-born son, who pleased God with his –some lives of the first-born from the flock that he tended.
You might be wondering “Both men presented offerings from the fruits of their labor. What was wrong with Cain’s?” The answer lies in the short history of the two offerings.
Adam and Eve used parts of plants to hide their unrighteousness. Like a fellowship offering, it was intended to cover over the heinous nature of their sin so they could still be in God’s good graces. Simply put, the fig leaves were an attempt to construct a road back to righteousness –but it didn’t work. Sins corruption was immense. Only God knew what it would take to restore fellowship with Him –it was the death of one of His innocent creatures.
From God’s viewpoint, Cain’s offering of plants was virtually the same as Adam and Eve’s effort to hide their sin. Abel’s offering of an animal’s life was like the skin covering that God provided for that original sin. The first is a picture of man’s work for righteousness; the latter is God’s gift of righteousness through the death of His first-born Son.
By the way, the fall brought about the curse –mankind was cursed to plant and work the ground to raise crops for his food –and even the ground was cursed for the blood that was spilled on it. So Cain’s harvest was nothing more than giving God the wages of the original sin. Before the fall, mankind was to watch over what God had provided –the garden and the animals. Abel’s offering was from God’s provision.
Let’s put the results of their lives in terms of “inheritance.” Cain was cursed to wander the earth as a vagrant –marked so that everyone would know that he was a murderer and no one would prematurely end his lifelong punishment. To this day, he is still thought of as a prime example of evil. On the other hand, Abel is known as a man who pleased God by living by faith ().
Name meanings provide a little more insight into the story of these two brothers. Cain means “create” and his offering was the creation of his hands –something of which he was quite proud. Abel means “emptiness” or “vanity” –he knew he was nothing apart from God. Only a heart of faith could please Him.
The story of the first brothers doesn’t quite stop there –with the “good one” was murdered and the “bad one” was punished by wandering the land in disgrace. There was a last brother –Seth. Eve named him Seth, which means “one who was raised up in place of,” because he was God’s replacement for Abel –the one who was taken from her. According to the genealogy found in, Noah –and everyone who has lived since the great flood– has received life through Seth –the last son.
That’s the physical view. From a spiritual view, Abel represents the Shepherd –Jesus– who died to redeem us from the penalty for sin. And Seth represents the resurrected Son of God –Jesus– who offers eternal life to all.
I’ll only touch on this –and hopefully pique your interest– so that you’ll investigate it more on your own. According to the words written in the Bible –not my interpretation– God had two sons. No, that doesn’t mean that there was anyone even close to being like Jesus –the Son of Man and the Son of God! Nor am I trying to take away from those of us who are adopted as sons into the family of God –we are indeed brothers of Christ.
In the Lord Jesus’ genealogy recorded in Luke chapter 3, God said that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased (Adam, the son of God.”). That chapter continues on with each son-father relationship –going all the way back in time to Adam ( ). Take note of the last few men it lists: ." . . Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of
What’s the point? The pattern described above about brothers repeats in these two –where the first son doesn’t measure up to God’s standard of perfection –but the last son does. The brothers in the parable of the Prodigal Son and the first brothers in the world are both foreshadows of Adam and Jesus.
Adam had it all –his “inheritance” was an eternal life with God. There was none greater –he was in command of the entire, virgin creation. And yet, he was the first one to experience the effects of sin –death. His inheritance was taken away. He could not bequeath eternal life to his heirs –only earthly life that ended in death.
In, Jesus is referred to as the last Adam. By His perfect life, He was able to be the sacrifice to take away our sin –and our death. And He received the inheritance that was originally given to Adam –eternal life. And all who unite with Him through faith share in that inheritance –eternal life ( ).