In the Old Testament, Jehovah is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 3:6). The covenant first established with Abraham continued through the lineage of his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Isaac, Abraham’s second son, received the covenant and birthright blessings instead of his older brother Ishmael. Likewise, Jacob, rather than Esau, was heir of the covenant. The birthright was traditionally given to the oldest son of the first wife, but that pattern depended on the faithfulness of each child. The scriptures contain several examples of younger sons receiving the birthright blessing (for example, Seth, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, and Nephi; see Genesis 4:25; 11:27; 27:36–40; 28:1–5; 48:1–4, 14–22; 1 Nephi 2:22).
Faithful obedience is more important than lineage or birth order in receiving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. Regardless of our lineage, we must qualify for the covenant blessings by faithfully living the gospel. The scriptures teach that faith in the Holy One of Israel and repentance, not lineage, determine who receives the blessings of Abraham (see Romans 9:6–8; 2 Nephi 30:2; D&C 64:34–36; Abraham 2:6–11). As you study Genesis 24–33, notice the faithfulness of Isaac and Jacob and the significance of covenant marriage (temple marriage); both are requirements to enjoy the blessings of Abraham.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Marriage in the covenant, meaning eternal marriage in a temple, is essential to obtaining the full blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (see Genesis 24:1–4; 26:34–35; 27:46; 28:1–9; see also D&C 131:1–4; 132:19–20).
We should have the integrity to honor our commitments (see Genesis 29).
Suggestions for Teaching
Old Testament Video presentation 10, “Thousands of Millions” (4:48), can be used in teaching Genesis 24–33 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).
Genesis 24–28. Those who marry in the temple and keep the covenants they make there will enjoy exaltation as husband and wife. (35–40 minutes)
Write on the board Important life decisions. Ask students to name some of the most important decisions they have to make, and write their responses on the board. From the list, have them identify the decision they think will likely have the greatest impact on their eternal journey. Have them read the statement by President Spencer W. Kimball found in the introduction to Genesis 24 in their student study guides (p. 29). Read Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–5 and 132:1–6, 19–20 and discuss the importance of such critical decisions as why, whom, when, and where we marry.
Have students read Genesis 24:1–7; 27:46; and 28:1–9 and identify what qualities Abraham and Sarah and then Isaac and Rebekah looked for in a wife for their sons. Discuss why Abraham and Isaac felt so strongly about preventing their sons from marrying “the daughters of Canaan.”
Have students note the distance between Haran (or Padanaram) and Beer-sheba (see Bible map 9). Ask:
How long would it take to travel that distance on foot, averaging 20 miles a day?
What does traveling that distance imply about the importance of covenant marriage?
What would have been wrong with marrying a Canaanite? (see Deuteronomy 7:3–4).
What is the equivalent today of marrying the daughters or sons of Canaan? (Marrying someone outside the faith.)
Read Doctrine and Covenants 132:7, 14–16. What are some of the consequences, in mortality and in eternity, of marrying someone outside of the covenant?
Have students read Genesis 26:34–35 and 27:46 and tell what Esau did to endanger his right to the blessings of Abraham. Ask: How did Isaac and Rebekah react to Esau’s decisions? Have them read Deuteronomy 7:3–4 and look for the Lord’s instructions to ancient Israel regarding marriage. Ask:
What qualities will you look for in a spouse?
To what lengths do you think you might go to find someone with those qualities?
What would you have to change in your own life now to be someone with those qualities?
Genesis 24–28. Our decisions about marriage can affect generations. (35–40 minutes)
Summarize the story of how the Lord helped Abraham’s servant find a proper wife for Isaac. Read with students the story of Jacob’s labors for Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29:1–30. Ask:
What do we learn from these stories about the importance of a covenant marriage?
What do we learn about the desires of righteous parents for their children?
Have students read Genesis 24:60 and identify the blessing Rebekah’s family wished for her. Use the following calculations to help students realize the number of people that can be affected by the marriage decision: Start with one couple with five children. Suppose each of the children marry (add five spouses to the total number) and each of those couples have five children, and so forth (see the following chart). Notice how quickly the posterity of the original couple numbers over one thousand. Discuss how our decision to marry in the temple literally affects thousands of our Heavenly Father’s unborn children in a relatively short time. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 132:19 and discuss how it relates to eternal marriage and families.
Discuss with students what they can do now to prepare for a temple marriage (
“First, there must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.
“Second, there must be a great unselfishness. …
“Third, there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.
“Fourth, there must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 306).
Share your testimony of the eternal value of a covenant marriage (temple marriage) and that each student should begin preparing now.
Genesis 24; 31:1–16. When we live worthily, the Lord can help us make righteous decisions. Others who care about us, such as parents, Church leaders, and teachers, can also help us make important decisions. (25–30 minutes)
Ask students to consider the choices they have already made today. Ask:
How do you make decisions?
Are there some decisions that are so important that you rely on the Lord to help you make them?
Have students read Genesis 24:1–7 and identify the decision that Abraham’s servant had to make. Ask: What part did he believe the Lord would play in making that decision? Read the rest of chapter 24 and look for evidence that the Lord confirmed the servant’s decision.
In Genesis 31 Jacob needed counsel in making an important decision. Have students search verses 1–2 and find what Jacob’s concern was. Read verses 3–16 and have students identify from whom Jacob received advice and with whom he counseled in deciding what to do about Laban’s bad feelings toward him. Share the following statement on family councils from President Ezra Taft Benson:
“Strong families cultivate an attribute of effective communication. They talk out their problems, make plans together, and cooperate toward common objectives. Family home evening and family councils are practiced and used as effective tools toward this end” (in Conference Report Apr. 1984, 6; or Ensign, May 1984, 6).
Remind students that during our premortal life Heavenly Father set up the pattern of councils (see Abraham 4:26).
Ask students what Jacob’s consulting with his wives and the premortal council with Heavenly Father teach us about making important decisions. Have students study the following scripture passages as a class or in small groups and then report what they learn about getting direction and guidance from the Lord: Joshua 1:7–9; Matthew 7:7–11; 2 Nephi 32:1–3; Doctrine and Covenants 6:22–24; 8:2–3; 9:7–9.
Share your testimony of seeking the Lord’s counsel as we make important decisions.
Genesis 25–27. Personal worthiness is more important than lineage or birth order in receiving gospel blessings. (15–20 minutes)
Write Birthright Blessings on the board and ask students what this phrase meant in Old Testament times (see the commentary for Genesis 25:32 in
Read Abraham 1:1–7 and Genesis 25:29–34 and compare how Abraham felt about the “blessings of the fathers” with how Esau felt about them. Have students select phrases that indicate Esau’s attitude toward his birthright, and write them on the board. Have them read Genesis 26:34–35 and find what else Esau did that showed he let physical desires take precedence over spiritual blessings. Ask: How did Esau’s parents react to Esau’s marriage?
Help students understand that Esau’s marriages to Hittite women, who were not of the covenant, further illustrates his lack of concern for spiritual blessings. The Hittites were an idolatrous people living in the area between the land of Canaan and Asia Minor (see Bible map 9). In Deuteronomy 7:3–4 the Lord explained in some detail the disadvantages of marrying someone with different religious beliefs.
Genesis 25–27. The Lord blesses us as we keep our gospel covenants. (15–20 minutes)
Review with your students how Jacob received the birthright blessing. Use the commentary for Genesis 27:1–40 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 85–86) to help clarify the story. Remind students that we do not have the full story, but that Jacob was the one the Lord intended to receive the birthright blessings (see Genesis 25:23). As an example, read Genesis 27:33 and 28:1–4 and look for words that indicate Isaac knew Jacob was to receive the blessing. Have students read Genesis 28:13–15 and identify what the Lord said to Jacob that also indicates he received the blessing he should. Even Jacob did not fully appreciate at first what the Lord promised him. He gained that understanding over time.
“The firstborn, Esau, ‘despised his birthright’ (Genesis 25:34). Jacob, the second twin, desired it. Jacob valued the spiritual, while Esau sought the things of this world. … Many Esaus have given up something of eternal value in order to satisfy a momentary hunger for the things of the world” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 76; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 61; see also Genesis 25:30).
“Your heritage is one of the very greatest in all the world. You need never envy one born heir to millions in worldly wealth, nor even one whose birth entitles him to rule an empire. Your birthright surpasses all these, and blessed are you because of your lineage” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 555).
Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:33 and ask students what blessings they enjoy as members of the Church. Write their responses on the board. (Their answers might include the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood, ordinances, temple blessings, scriptures, living prophets, a ward or a branch family, and the promise of eternal life.) Ask:
How can we learn to appreciate the value of our blessings so that we will not lose them through indifference or disobedience?
Why do you think some people have been willing to die rather than lose those blessings?
Share your testimony of the importance of gospel promises.
Genesis 28:10–22. The ordinances and covenants of the gospel, culminating in those received and made in the temple, are essential for exaltation. (15–20 minutes)
Show students pictures of a latter-day temple and a ladder. Ask them if they see any similarities between the two and, if they see any, what the similarities are. Explain that before sending Jacob to Haran to seek an appropriate wife, Isaac blessed him with the blessings of Abraham (see Genesis 28:3–4). Then, on his way to Haran, Jacob had a sacred experience at Bethel.
Have students read Genesis 28:10–22 and explain why they think Jacob called the place “Beth-el” (see Bible Dictionary, “Bethel,” p. 621). Have them compare the promises the Lord made to Jacob at Bethel (see Genesis 28:13–15) to the promises the Lord makes to those who worthily attend temples (see D&C 109:22–26; 110:6–7).
Read the statement by President Marion G. Romney found in the commentary for Genesis 28:10–19 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (p. 86). Also share the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304–5).
Ask students what the rungs of the ladder represent. As a class, label some of the ordinances or covenants required for exaltation (such as baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, endowment, and sealings). Have them read Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4 and identify the ordinance that the top rung of the ladder would represent.
Tell students that without the Atonement of Jesus Christ none of the ordinances of salvation would be available to us. Discuss the effort required to climb the ladder back to heaven and how the Lord provided the ladder and helps us with each step (see Mosiah 5:1–5; Ether 12:27).
Genesis 32–33. We can meet life’s challenges with greater confidence when we keep our covenants with Heavenly Father. (30–35 minutes)
Ask students what they would spend their day doing if they thought there might be no tomorrow. Explain that Jacob was in this situation in Genesis 32. He fled his homeland twenty years earlier, in part because his brother, Esau, sought to kill him. He was understandably concerned as he returned home wondering if Esau would again attempt to take his life. What Jacob did to prepare himself to meet his brother is an example of what we might think about and do to better meet life’s challenges.
Have students read silently Genesis 32:3–20, looking for what Jacob did as he prepared to meet Esau. Ask them what they found and list their responses on the board. Reread verses 9–12, paying particular attention to the words and phrases that show Jacob’s humility. Ask: How did Jacob’s humility prepare him to meet with his brother?
Have students read Genesis 32:24–32. Ask:
What did Jacob desire?
What kind of “wrestle” might Jacob have experienced?
While much of what happened at Peniel (also called Penuel; see v. 31) is unclear, the scriptural record indicates that a sacred experience took place there. Spiritual struggles often precede powerful revelations. For example, when Enos, Alma, and Joseph Smith earnestly sought blessings of the Lord, they went through such “wrestlings” (see Enos 1:1–5; Alma 8:10; Joseph Smith—History 1:13–17). The wrestle Jacob experienced could have been a similar spiritual struggle.
Read Genesis 32:30 and footnote a, and ask why Jacob named the place Peniel—“the face of God.” Jacob wrote, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” This suggests that at some point he saw the Lord. Verse 30 could also be translated, “I have seen God face to face, and my soul is redeemed” (see also Genesis 48:14–16).
Ask students what Jacob had done during the previous twenty years that prepared him for his experience at Peniel. (He had married in the covenant, rendered patient service, lived faithful to covenants, and sought the Lord when he faced challenges.) Jacob’s wrestlings and subsequent blessing proved to be a source of spiritual strength to him throughout his life. This experience was an important step for him in his progression up the “ladder” toward his heavenly goal and seems to have been an important preliminary step for the full blessings he later received when he returned to Bethel.
What impact might this experience have had on Jacob as he prepared to meet Esau?
How would knowing your life is acceptable to God help you face challenges?
Jacob’s confidence was strengthened because he kept his covenants with the Lord (see Genesis 28:10–22). As a result of his righteousness, Jacob received greater blessings through additional covenants—as alluded to in Genesis 32:24–32. Ask students about covenants they have made, such as baptism and the sacrament. Assure them that faithfulness to those covenants helps prepare them for the greater blessings and responsibilities associated with the covenants of the temple. Read Doctrine and Covenants 35:24 to emphasize this point.
“Do nothing to mar that moment. Do not allow yourselves to be deflected from that straight and narrow path, but seek to arrive at that rendezvous in such a circumstance, spiritually, that you can be drenched with joy and know the touch of those arms, for His arms of mercy and love are extended for you. I certify to you that that rendezvous is a reality. For some of you, it will come soon and some later, but it will come, if you are faithful. Of that, I testify!” (“The Education of Our Desires,” [devotional at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, 5 Jan. 1983], 11).