Unit 5: Day 4

Genesis 17–18

“Unit 5: Day 4, Genesis 17–18,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)


Introduction

The Lord had previously explained to Abram the covenant He would establish with him (see Genesis 12; Abraham 2), and He reassured Abram that the promised blessings would be his (see Genesis 15). In Genesis 17 we learn about further promises and responsibilities the Lord revealed pertaining to the Abrahamic covenant. In connection with this covenant, the Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. Circumcision became a sign or token of the covenant. The Lord also promised Abraham and Sarah that in their old age they would have a son, and they were told to name him Isaac.

Genesis 17:1–8

The Lord covenants with Abraham

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. What do you want to do when you are an adult?

    2. What do you want to be when you are an adult?

    3. What is the difference between these two questions?

Read Genesis 17:1, looking for what the Lord wanted Abram to do and be.

What do you think it means to “walk before” the Lord?

The command to be perfect refers to becoming like Heavenly Father. This is an ongoing process that will extend beyond this life and can only be accomplished by drawing upon the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ through diligent efforts to live His gospel.

Read Genesis 17:2, looking for what the Lord planned to do with Abram. You may want to mark the phrase “I will make a covenant between me and thee.”

As part of establishing His covenant with Abram, the Lord gave him a new name. Read Genesis 17:5–6, looking for what Abram’s new name would be. You may want to mark what you find.

In Hebrew, the name Abram means exalted father and Abraham means father of a multitude. Both names represent what was possible for Abraham to become because of the covenant. Ponder the significance of the new name. What do you think the Lord was preparing Abraham to become?

Read Genesis 17:7, looking for who else the Lord said He would establish the Abrahamic covenant with. Consider marking what you find. How does the Lord’s promise in verse 7 relate to you?

Read the following about who the seed of Abraham are: “To be counted as Abraham’s seed, an individual must obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Then the person can receive all the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, even if he or she is not a literal descendant of Abraham” (True to the Faith [2004], 5).

This means that as members of the Church we are the seed of Abraham and can receive the same spiritual blessings the Lord promised Abraham. Like Abraham, we can become like God, an exalted parent with innumerable posterity. Ponder what Abraham needed to do in order to receive these blessings.

What would we need to do in order to receive the same blessings?

According to Genesis 17:7, the Lord desires to establish His covenant with Abraham’s seed—those who accept His gospel. From this we learn that as we make and keep covenants with the Lord, then we become heirs to the responsibilities and blessings given to Abraham.

Elder Russell M. Nelson

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified: “The ultimate blessings of the Abrahamic covenant are conferred in holy temples. These blessings allow us to come forth in the First Resurrection and inherit thrones, kingdoms, powers, principalities, and dominions, to our ‘exaltation and glory in all things’ (D&C 132:19)” (in “Special Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2001, 7).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “When he [or she] is married in the temple for time and for all eternity, each worthy member of the Church enters personally into the same covenant the Lord made with Abraham. This is the occasion when the promises of eternal increase are made, and it is then specified that those who keep the covenants made there shall be inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 508).

  1. journal iconAnswer the following question in your scripture study journal: What blessings will you inherit if you make and keep these sacred temple covenants?

couple with temple in background

Your making and keeping the covenant of celestial marriage will also bless your posterity. Read Genesis 17:7–8, looking for what the Lord promised to do for Abraham and his seed.

Ponder the following question: What do you think it means that the Lord will be a God to Abraham’s posterity?

Throughout the history of the Old Testament, it is evident that the Lord extended His arm of mercy to Abraham’s seed. Even when they strayed from the truth, the Lord made every attempt to bring them back, honoring the covenant He made with Abraham.

  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. In what ways can your decision to enter into covenants with the Lord bless your future children?

    2. What blessings have you seen people receive because their parents made and kept sacred covenants?

  2. journal iconUsing what you have learned about the Abrahamic covenant, answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. What does the Lord want you, as the seed of Abraham, to do?

    2. What does He want you to be?

The covenants you made at baptism are part of the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. As you continue to live worthily so that you can make and keep those other covenants available only in the temple and endure to the end, you will accomplish the responsibilities and receive the blessings of becoming like God, who is our exalted Father with innumerable posterity.

Genesis 17:9–14

Circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic Covenant

As a token or reminder of the covenant God made with Abraham, He commanded Abraham and all male members of his household to be circumcised. This symbol would act as a reminder of the responsibilities and blessings of the Abrahamic covenants, which includes the promise of eternal increase, dedication to God, and separation from sin and the world. (See Bible Dictionary, “Circumcision.”). The Joseph Smith Translation helps us understand that the people of Abraham’s day had gone astray from God’s ordinances and turned away from the proper performance of baptism. Circumcision of a male child when he was eight days old was to be a reminder to parents that children need to be baptized when they are accountable at eight years of age. (See Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:3–7, 11–12 [in the Bible appendix]; see also Genesis 17:12.) Circumcision as a token of the Abrahamic covenant was no longer required after Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry (see Moroni 8:8).

Genesis 17:15–27

The Lord promised Abraham that Sarah would have a son named Isaac

Have you ever had a prayer answered in a way that was different from what you expected?

Remember that Abraham had desired and prayed for children, yet his wife, Sarai, was not able to have children. The Lord commanded Abraham and Sarah to practice plural marriage (see D&C 132:34, 65). Thus Sarah consented to give her handmaid Hagar to Abraham to also be his wife and to bear him children. Hagar had a son named Ishmael. (See Genesis 16.)

Read Genesis 17:15–22, looking for how the Lord further kept His promise of posterity to Abraham. Consider marking what you find.

Notice how the Lord changed Sarai’s name to Sarah as a part of the covenant. Just as Abraham was to be the father of many nations, Sarah was to be the mother of many nations. What was Abraham’s reaction to the news that Sarah would have a son? (In Genesis 17:17, laughed means rejoiced [see Genesis 17:17, footnote a].)

Consider the following questions:

  • In what way might this revelation have surprised Abraham?

  • According to Genesis 17:19, through whose lineage did the Lord reveal the covenant would be continued?

Through the covenant the Lord made with him, Abraham received the gospel, had the higher priesthood conferred upon him, and obtained the assurance of eternal increase. He also received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his posterity. “Included in the divine promises to Abraham were the assurances that (1) Christ would come through his lineage, and that (2) Abraham’s posterity would receive certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Gen. 17; 22:15–18; Gal. 3; Abr. 2). These promises taken together are called the ‘Abrahamic covenant’” (Bible Dictionary, “Abraham, covenant of”).

One principle we can learn from how Abraham’s prayers were answered is that God will fulfill His promises, though it may not be in the way or at the time we might expect.

Genesis 18

Three holy messengers from God visit Abraham and Sarah

In Genesis 18 we learn that three holy messengers from God visited Abraham and Sarah. During their visit the messengers repeated the promise that Sarah would have a son. Read Genesis 18:11–12, looking for how Sarah reacted to this news.

Sarah’s reaction may have been an expression of astonishment rather than a lack of faith. Read Genesis 18:13–15, looking for what Abraham and Sarah learned about the Lord. You may want to mark what you find.

  1. journal iconIn your scripture study journal, write about an example from the scriptures or from your own life that demonstrates that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

While the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on the inspired translation of the Bible, he made the following corrections and clarifications to Genesis 18:20–22. (The bold-italic text represents material added by the Prophet; the crossed-out text represents material he removed.)

“And the angel of the Lord said unto Abraham, The Lord said unto us, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will destroy them.

And I will send you, and ye shall go down now, and see that their iniquities are rewarded unto them.

And ye shall have all things whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.

“And if ye do it not, I will know it shall be upon your heads; for I will destroy them, and you shall know that I will do it, for it shall be before your eyes.

“And the angels which were holy men, and were sent forth after the order of God, turned their faces from thence and went toward Sodom.

“But Abraham stood yet before the Lord, remembering the things which had been told him” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 18:19–24; emphasis and strikethrough added).

As the messengers prepared to leave, they told Abraham that the Lord planned to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the great wickedness of the people who lived there (see Genesis 18:20–21). (You will read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.) In the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 18:20, footnote b, identifies homosexual behavior as one of the grievous sins committed by the people of Sodom. This behavior was widely accepted and practiced among the inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah, and nearby cities (see Jude 1:7; Jude 1:7, footnote c). The prophet Ezekiel spoke of additional sins that plagued the inhabitants of Sodom. He declared that they were full of pride and idleness and that although they had a “fullness of bread,” they rejected the poor and needy (see Ezekiel 16:49–50).

Same-sex attraction, or homosexuality, is a sensitive issue that requires kindness, compassion, and understanding. However, all violations of the law of chastity, including homosexual behavior, are serious sins. In order to understand why homosexual behavior is a serious sin, we must understand the doctrines behind the purposes of marriage and family in Heavenly Father’s plan. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have declared:

“We encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 1:27–28). ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.

“Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World.’

“Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it” (“Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage,” Jan. 10, 2014, mormonnewsroom.org).

family reading scriptures
  1. journal iconAnswer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. What are some doctrines that help us understand why homosexual behavior is a serious sin?

    2. In what ways does homosexual behavior go against Heavenly Father’s plan?

Those who experience same-sex attraction can enjoy all of the blessings of the gospel as they keep the covenants they have made with God. As they choose to live the law of chastity, they can have pure and virtuous thoughts and avoid lusting. They can counsel with trusted family members and their bishops or branch presidents about how to remain sexually pure. However, any member of the Church who breaks the law of chastity in any way must repent, which includes confession to a bishop or branch president who will lovingly help him or her obtain forgiveness from the Lord. The Lord loves all of His children and wants them to repent and to be clean from sin.

  1. journal iconWrite the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Genesis 17–18 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: