Lesson 20

Abraham 2; Genesis 12

“Lesson 20: Abraham 2; Genesis 12,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

Abraham and his family experienced a famine in Ur. The Lord led him, his wife Sarai, and others toward the land of Canaan. They stopped for a time in Haran, where the Lord appeared to Abraham and explained the covenant He would make with Abraham (later known as the Abrahamic covenant). Abraham then traveled through Canaan to Egypt.

Suggestions for Teaching

Abraham 2:1–11

The Lord begins to explain the covenant He will make with Abraham

Write the following question on the board: Who are you?

Invite students to explain different ways they could answer this question. Then, if possible, provide students with copies of the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask a student to read the statement aloud while the class follows along, pondering how they would fill in the blanks.

Elder David A. Bednar

“You may enjoy music, athletics, or be mechanically inclined, and someday you may work in a trade or a profession or in the arts. As important as such activities and occupations can be, they do not define who we are. First and foremost, we are spiritual beings. We are sons [and daughters] of and the seed of ” (“Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 47).

After students have explained how they would fill in the blanks, invite them to write God in the first blank and Abraham in the second. Explain that the “seed” of Abraham refers to his posterity or descendants.

  • Of all of the ways Elder Bednar could have described you, why do you think he identified you as the “seed of Abraham”?

Invite students to consider as they study Abraham 2 why it is important to know that they are the seed of Abraham.

Summarize Abraham 2:1–5 by explaining that Abraham married Sarai and then the Lord led them and members of Abraham’s extended family, including his nephew Lot, out of Ur and toward the land of Canaan. The travelers stopped for a time in a land they named Haran. (You might invite students to locate Ur, Haran, and the land of Canaan on map 9 of the Bible Maps [“The World of the Old Testament”].)

Invite a student to read Abraham 2:6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along in their scriptures and look for what happened to Abraham in Haran. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What did the Lord want Abraham to be?

  • What did the Lord promise to give Abraham and his seed? (A certain land as an “everlasting possession.” You may want to explain that He was referring to the land of Canaan.)

  • What did Abraham’s posterity need to do in order to receive the land?

Explain that the Lord’s promise recorded in verse 6 is part of what is known as the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant refers to all of the covenants and promises God offered to Abraham and his seed.

Draw the following chart on the board:

The Abrahamic Covenant

Responsibilities

Blessings

   

Invite students to copy this chart in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Explain that in this and future lessons they will be adding information to this chart that will help them understand the Abrahamic covenant.

Ask students to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals the responsibilities and blessings they found in verse 6. (Responsibilities they identify might include: Be a minister of Jesus Christ; hearken to the Lord’s voice. One blessing they might identify is: Receive land for an everlasting possession. Add these to the board.) Explain that the phrase “everlasting possession” means that the promise of land extends to eternity. The lands of the earth will eventually become part of the celestial kingdom, which the obedient will inherit (see D&C 88:17–20). Invite students to write celestial kingdom on their lists in parentheses next to “everlasting possession.”

Ask students to read Abraham 2:7–8 with a partner, searching for indications that the Lord can and will keep His promises to Abraham and Abraham’s seed. Invite students to report what they discover.

Invite a student to read Abraham 2:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord says He will make of Abraham.

  • What did the Lord promise would come from Abraham? (From Abraham would come “a great nation.” Add this blessing to the board, and invite students to add it to their lists.)

Explain that the promise of children was one Abraham and Sarai greatly desired. Shortly after He gave this promise, the Lord described how numerous Abraham’s posterity would be. You may want to suggest that students write Abraham 3:14 in their scriptures next to Abraham 2:9. Invite a student to read Abraham 3:14 aloud, and ask the class to look for how numerous Abraham’s posterity would be. Invite students to report what they find. Write innumerable posterity on the board, and invite students to add it to their lists. Explain that the promise of innumerable posterity is also a promise of godhood, which includes receiving eternal posterity (see D&C 132:19).

Ask a student to read Abraham 2:10 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and identify who will be “accounted” as Abraham’s seed.

  • According to verse 10, who will be called after the name of Abraham? (Those who receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

Ask a student to read Abraham 2:9, 11 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for responsibilities or blessings promised to Abraham and his seed.

  • How would you summarize what we are to do for others as the seed of Abraham? (We are to minister to all the families of the earth with the blessings of the gospel. Ask students if they think this is a blessing or a responsibility. Invite them to explain their answers.)

After students respond, write the following principle in the chart on the board under both headings: As the seed of Abraham, we have a responsibility to minister to and bless all the families of the earth with the blessings of the gospel.

To help students understand their responsibilities as the seed of Abraham, invite them to imagine that their country has been exposed to a fatal disease and everyone would soon die without a particular medicine. Their family alone not only has the needed medicine, but they have enough to cure everyone who is sick.

  • What would you want your family to do with the medicine?

  • What might you say to a family member who felt too busy or nervous to help distribute the medicine?

  • How might our need to assist others in this situation be like our responsibility as the seed of Abraham?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bednar:

Elder David A. Bednar

“Truly, great responsibility rests upon the seed of Abraham in these latter days. …

“… We are here upon the earth at this time to magnify the priesthood and to preach the gospel. That is who we are, and that is why we are here” (“Becoming a Missionary,” 47).

  • In addition to serving as full-time missionaries, how else can we bless the families of the earth? What can we do to bless our own families and the families of our friends and neighbors?

Point out that the crowning blessings of salvation and eternal life identified in Abraham 2:11 are to be had only through receiving and keeping the ordinances and covenants of the temple.

Invite students to ponder and then record in their class notebooks or scripture study journals their answer to the following question. You may want to write the question on the board.

  • How do you feel about being numbered among the seed of Abraham?

Abraham 2:12–21

Abraham journeys through the promised land of Canaan

Write the word Earnestly on the board. Ask students to explain what they think it means to do something earnestly. If needed, explain that the word earnest means sincere, serious, or intense. To illustrate the difference between doing something earnestly and doing it casually, you might invite two students to perform a task in front of the class. Instruct one of them to do the task earnestly and the other to do the task casually or halfheartedly. Ask the class to explain what the students did that showed earnestness or halfheartedness.

Invite a student to read Abraham 2:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the conclusions Abraham drew from his experience with the Lord.

  • What conclusions did Abraham draw from his experience with the Lord? (Because Abraham had sought the Lord earnestly, he had found Him. Abraham also decided that he would do well to hearken to the Lord’s voice.)

  • According to Abraham 1–2, how did Abraham seek the Lord earnestly?

  • What can we learn from Abraham’s earnest seeking of the Lord (see Abraham 2:12)? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: If we seek the Lord earnestly, we will find Him. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

  • What are some examples of how we can earnestly seek the Lord?

  • What do you think it means that we will find Him?

Invite students who feel comfortable doing so to share an experience of when they have earnestly sought the Lord and how they found Him.

Invite students to set a goal to more earnestly seek the Lord in their daily lives. You may want to testify that as they do so, they will find Him.

Summarize Abraham 2:14–21 by explaining that Abraham and his family traveled south from Haran to the land of Canaan. There Abraham offered sacrifice, and the Lord declared that this land of Canaan was to be the land promised in the Abrahamic covenant. Then, because of a famine in the land, Abraham decided to travel to Egypt.

Abraham 2:22–25; Genesis 12:14–20

The Lord warns Abraham about the Egyptians

Summarize Abraham 2:22–25 and Genesis 12:14–20 by explaining that before Abraham entered Egypt, the Lord warned him that the Egyptians would see how beautiful Sarai was and would kill Abraham so they could take her. Therefore, the Lord instructed Sarai to say that she was Abraham’s sister to save Abraham’s life and to protect herself. Both Sarai and Abraham acted in faith, believing that God would deliver them. Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s house, and Abraham was given riches. The Lord sent a plague to Pharaoh and his house, and Pharaoh realized that Sarai was being protected by God and that she was married to Abraham. Pharaoh then sent Abraham and Sarai away.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the doctrines and principles discussed today.

Commentary and Background Information

Abraham 2:9–10. The seed of Abraham

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained what it means to be the seed of Abraham:

“Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption. The Lord makes no distinction [see Acts 10:34–35]. Together we receive these promised blessings [of the Abrahamic covenant]—if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments [see Exodus 19:5]. But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant. …

“Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world [see Alma 13:1–9]. That is why priesthood duty includes missionary work. After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting? The Lord is counting on us and our sons—and He is profoundly grateful for our daughters—who worthily serve as missionaries in this great time of the gathering of Israel” (“Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 88).

Abraham 2:11. “This right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee”

President James E. Faust of the First Presidency explained the rights and obligations that come with being Abraham’s seed:

“What does it mean to be the seed of Abraham? Scripturally it has a deeper meaning than being his literal descendants. The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, the great patriarch, that all nations would be blessed through him [see Genesis 18:18]. Any man or woman can claim the blessings of Abraham. They become his seed and heirs to the promised blessings by accepting the gospel, being baptized, entering into temple marriage, being faithful in keeping their covenants, and helping to carry the gospel to all the nations of the earth. …

“As the seed of Abraham, we have some obligations. We are commanded to come to Christ by doing ‘the works of Abraham’ [John 8:39]. These works include obeying God, receiving and keeping priesthood and temple ordinances and covenants, preaching the gospel, building a family unit and teaching our children, and being faithful to the end.

“It is interesting that the Lord used the word seed in His promise to Abraham. It has a fuller meaning than posterity because it means to multiply the blessings of the covenant of Abraham ‘unto all nations’ [Abraham 2:9]. The Lord promised Abraham a posterity ‘as innumerable as the stars’ or ‘the sand upon the seashore’ [D&C 132:30].

“Abraham’s righteous posterity is also privileged to be adopted into the eternal family of Jesus Christ. This includes the right to receive eternal covenants in the temple by which, if they are worthy, they will be organized and exalted in the eternal family of Christ [see Galatians 3:29]. It also includes ‘the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal’ [Abraham 2:11]” (“The Key of the Knowledge of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 54, 55).

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained when we accepted the responsibility to be part of Abraham’s posterity:

“We were foreordained in the premortal existence to the blessings associated with birth through a particular lineage, even the chosen lineage of Abraham—not because we are better, not because we are more special, but because we have particular responsibilities that we covenanted we would fulfill. Therefore we came to the earth through a lineage with the birthright blessing of the priesthood. Every man who holds the priesthood was foreordained to that very responsibility in the premortal existence” (“Teach Them to Understand” [Brigham Young University–Idaho Education Week devotional, June 4, 1998]; byui.edu).

Abraham 2:22–25. “Say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister”

“Sarai was instructed to tell the Egyptians that she was Abraham’s sister. It was a test of her faith, just as it was undoubtedly a difficult experience for Abraham. Whatever the Lord commands a person to do is right and must be obeyed (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256). Abraham and Sarai understood this principle and passed the divine test the Lord had put before them. Elder Mark E. Petersen [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] wrote: ‘To protect himself, Abraham had told Pharaoh that [Sarai] was his sister, which of course she was. Had he divulged that she was his wife, he might have been slain. But as his sister, Pharaoh was willing to buy her at a good price’ (Abraham, Friend of God [1979], 69; see also Genesis 20:12; for further discussion of this, see S. Kent Brown, “Biblical Egypt: Land of Refuge, Land of Bondage,” Ensign, Sept. 1980, pp. 45, 47)” (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2000], 35).

Genesis 12. Names change for Abram and Sarai

In Genesis 12, Abraham and Sarah are still called Abram and Sarai. But later, when the Lord formalized His covenant with Abram and Sarai, they received new names.

Genesis 17:5 records that Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. Ab means “father.” Rah means “exalted.” Am means “nations.” Thus, Abraham symbolizes the covenant by which Abraham would become an exalted father of nations or a god (see D&C 132:37).

Sarai, which possibly means “contentions,” was changed to Sarah, which means “princess” (see Genesis 17:15) and also indicates Sarah’s future eternal role and exaltation (see Bible Dictionary, “Sarah or Sarai”). Accompanying Sarah’s new name was a blessing that her posterity would be great and that kings would descend from her (see Genesis 17:16).