Q. Why Did Vegetarian Abel “Keep Sheep”? – Gen 4:2
A. Adam and Eve, according to Gen 1:29-30, were vegetarians. Only 1,657 years later did God give Noah permission to eat meat after the Flood – Gen 9:3-4. So Abel’s keeping sheep was not for food, and a few reasons for his occupation present themselves.
Firstly, when Adam and his family were required to wear clothes – Gen 3:20, sheep skins and wool were used to make clothes. Some commentators suggest that the early sheep may have been goats. While we accept what Scripture says about the sheep, goats’ hair and skins would have been equally useful for clothes.
Secondly, goat’s or sheep’s milk was always the drink of pastoral peoples; further, milk sours quickly in hot climates but when converted to cheese, it becomes a staple food for desert travellers.
The third reason for “keeping sheep” was for the atonement sacrifice. The reasons and instructions for this do not appear until Lev 16 and 17. Without doubt, however, the atonement sacrifice was introduced by God to Adam just after the Fall. Significantly, the first thing Noah did after leaving the Ark, was to sacrifice to God – Gen 8:20.