Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 10: Birthright Blessings; Marriage in the Covenant

“Lesson 10: Birthright Blessings; Marriage in the Covenant,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (2001), 40–45

“Lesson 10,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, 40–45

Lesson 10

Birthright Blessings; Marriage in the Covenant

Genesis 24–29


To strengthen class members’ desires to live worthy of their birthright blessings and of eternal marriage.


  1. Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. Genesis 24. Abraham emphasizes the importance of marriage in the covenant (eternal marriage) through the selection of a worthy wife for Isaac.

    2. Genesis 25:20–34. Rebekah receives a revelation concerning her unborn twin sons (25:22–23). When these sons are grown, Esau sells his birthright to Jacob (25:29–34).

    3. Genesis 26–29. Isaac and his descendants are promised the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (26:1–5). Esau marries out of the covenant and brings sadness to his parents (26:34–35). Isaac blesses Jacob to rule over peoples and nations (27:1–46). Isaac pronounces on Jacob the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and sends him away to find a worthy wife (28:1–10). Jacob marries Leah and Rachel in the covenant (29:1–30).

  2. If you use the first attention activity, bring a small bowl or bag of popped popcorn or a piece of fruit.

  3. If you are teaching teenagers or young single adults, consider using the second additional teaching idea, “Right marriage begins with right dating.”

  4. If the following audiovisual materials are available, you may want to use some of them as part of the lesson:

    1. “Marriage in the Covenant,” a four-minute segment from Old Testament Video Presentations (53224).

    2. A brief excerpt from “Rebekah” or “Esau and Jacob,” parts 1 and 2 of the Isaac and Jacob videocassette (53151).

    3. The picture Rebekah at the Well (62160).

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use one of the following activities (or one of your own) to begin the lesson. Select the activity that would be most appropriate for the class.

  1. Display a bowl or bag of popcorn or a piece of fruit, then ask class members the following question:

    • If you had to choose between a bowl of popcorn (or a piece of fruit) right now or the promise of unlimited popcorn (or fruit) later, after you had planted, cultivated, and harvested the kernels (or fruit), which would you choose? Why?

    Explain that we often face choices between things we can easily have now or things we must work and wait for. Sometimes we choose what will bring immediate gratification (pleasure or satisfaction), even if the choice to work and wait would eventually provide a greater blessing. Choosing whether to have popcorn (or fruit) now or later is not an important decision. However, we face other choices in life—such as decisions about whom and where to marry—where choosing immediate gratification could deny us glorious and lasting blessings.

  2. Ask class members the following question:

    • Have you ever spent money or time to obtain something, only to discover that it was not worth what you had spent on it?

    Invite a few class members to tell about times when they paid too much for something they thought they wanted (you may want to share an experience of your own).

    Explain that the same thing can happen spiritually. By making unrighteous choices, we may trade eternal blessings for things of far less value. By living righteously, however, we can receive all the blessings that Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. Abraham emphasizes the importance of marriage in the covenant (eternal marriage).

Teach and discuss Genesis 24. As you discuss the importance of eternal marriage, be sensitive to the feelings of class members who have not been married in the temple or whose parents have not been married in the temple.

  • Why was Abraham so insistent that Isaac marry a woman from his kindred rather than from the Canaanites, in whose land Abraham and Isaac lived? (Abraham wanted Isaac to marry someone of his own faith so he could marry in the covenant. This was necessary so the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant could be given to Abraham’s descendants.) Why is it important that we marry in the covenant? (If necessary, explain that in our day, the phrases marriage in the covenant, eternal marriage, and temple marriage are often used interchangeably.)

  • How long has marriage in the covenant been a commandment of God? (It is an eternal ordinance that has been the Lord’s order in all ages when the fulness of the gospel has been on the earth. Adam and Eve were the first on this earth to enter into this ordinance.)

  • Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:4). What impresses you about Abraham’s servant? (See Genesis 24. Answers may vary but could include that he was trustworthy, loyal, prayerful, and faithful. Even after a long journey, he wouldn’t eat until he had finished his errand for Abraham. And rather than stay for a 10-day celebration, he wanted to take Rebekah and return directly to Abraham.) What could we learn from Abraham’s servant to help us better fulfill responsibilities the Lord has given us?

  • How could Abraham’s servant tell that Rebekah would be a good wife for Isaac? (See Genesis 24:15–20, 58. Rebekah was kind and willing to help others, as shown by her drawing water for Abraham’s servant and his camels. You may want to point out that a camel can drink up to 30 gallons in one day, so Rebekah would have had to draw a great deal of water to satisfy 10 camels. Rebekah was also willing to leave her family to marry Isaac, probably because she had great faith and knew that it was the Lord’s will that she marry Isaac.)

  • What qualities do you want in a husband or wife? Why are spiritual qualities more important than physical appearance? What qualities should each of us develop (whether or not we are already married) that will make us a good husband or wife?

  • When should a person begin preparing for eternal marriage? What are some things that children and youth can do to prepare for eternal marriage? How can parents and other adults help children and youth prepare to be married in the temple?

    President Howard W. Hunter said: “Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).

2. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob.

Teach and discuss Genesis 25:20–34.

  • What revelation did Rebekah receive about her unborn twin sons? (See Genesis 25:22–23.) Why was the Lord’s statement that “the elder shall serve the younger” an unusual revelation? (The birthright was usually passed from father to eldest son. Receiving this birthright meant that the eldest son would inherit a double share of the family wealth, and in return he would preside over the family and take care of his mother and sisters after his father’s death. The statement that “the elder shall serve the younger” in the Lord’s revelation to Rebekah meant that in this situation the younger son would receive the birthright and his descendants would be the covenant people.)

  • How did Esau, the elder son, feel about his birthright to the covenant that had been made between his grandfather Abraham and the Lord? (See Genesis 25:29–34. Esau’s willingness to give up the birthright to satisfy his temporary physical hunger shows how little he valued the birthright.)

  • As members of the Church, we are each entitled to a spiritual birthright from our heavenly parents. What blessings are included in our birthright? (Answers may include the priesthood, temple blessings, ordinances, revelation, and the potential for exaltation.)

  • How does where we marry affect our ability to receive the blessings of our birthright? (We enter into the part of the Abrahamic covenant that pertains to exaltation and eternal increase by making and keeping the covenants of the temple endowment and eternal marriage.)

  • How do our words and actions show the value we place on our birthright? How might some of us make errors similar to Esau’s, choosing things that bring immediate gratification rather than things that have eternal value?

  • In determining the heir to the covenant, the Lord chose Isaac over his older brother Ishmael (Galatians 4:22–23), Jacob over his older brother Esau, Joseph over his older brother Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1–2), and Ephraim over his older brother Manasseh (Genesis 48:17–20). What does this suggest about how we become qualified for God’s callings and blessings?

3. Jacob marries Leah and Rachel in the covenant, and through him the Abrahamic covenant continues.

Teach and discuss Genesis 26–29.

  • What does Esau’s choice of wives tell us about his priorities? (See Genesis 26:34–35; 28:6–9.) What can we learn about Jacob from his efforts to marry in the covenant? (See Genesis 28:1–5; 29:1–28. One thing we can learn is that marriage in the covenant was very important to Jacob. He made a long journey to find a faithful woman to marry. He then worked for Laban for seven years before marrying Rachel and continued to work for him afterward.) How can we show that marrying in the covenant is important to us?

    President Gordon B. Hinckley told of a family who joined the Church in Australia and then sold all their possessions so they could travel to New Zealand and be sealed as a family. The father of this family said: “We could not afford to come [to the temple]. Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our dishes. I said to my family, ‘We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed in both life and in eternity’” (Be Thou an Example [1981], 138).

  • After two people have been married in the temple, what must they do to ensure they have a truly eternal marriage? How can a husband and wife maintain and improve the marriage relationship so that the covenants and blessings promised in the temple will be fulfilled? (You may want to invite a few class members to share an example of something their spouse or parent does to bring a celestial spirit to the marriage.)


Emphasize the importance of being married in the covenant and living worthy of the birthright blessings. Challenge class members to make wise choices and not trade eternal blessings for temporary pleasure or satisfaction.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. Rebekah was chosen as a wife for Isaac

Write each of the following quotations from Genesis 24 on separate pieces of paper and give one or more to each class member. Have class members use their scriptures to find out who made the statements and in what verses the statements are recorded. When class members have finished, discuss the statements and the context in which they were made. Point out the importance of marriage in the covenant, the faith and loyalty of Abraham’s servant, and the qualities Rebekah had that made her a good choice for an eternal companion.

  1. “Thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites.”

  2. “Thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son.”

  3. “The Lord God of heaven … shall send his angel before thee.”

  4. “Thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.”

  5. “I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.”

  6. “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.”

  7. “Blessed be the Lord God [who] led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

  8. “And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed out for my master’s son.”

  9. “And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me.”

  10. “Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the Lord hath spoken.”

  11. “I will go.”

  12. “Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions.”

Answers: a-Abraham (v. 3); b-Abraham (v. 4); c-Abraham (v. 7); d-servant (v. 14); e-Rebekah (v. 19); f-Rebekah (v. 24); g-servant (v. 27); h-servant (v. 44); i-servant (v. 49); j-Laban and Bethuel (v. 51); k-Rebekah (v. 58); l-Rebekah’s family (v. 60).

2. “Right marriage begins with right dating”

  • Both Isaac and Jacob were instructed by their fathers to marry women of their own faith. Esau brought sorrow to his parents by marrying wives who did not believe in the God of Abraham. Why is it important to marry a person of our own faith?

    President Spencer W. Kimball gave this counsel: “Paul told the Corinthians, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together … ’ Perhaps Paul wanted them to see that religious differences are fundamental differences. Religious differences imply wider areas of conflict. Church loyalties and family loyalties clash. Children’s lives are often frustrated. The nonmember may be equally brilliant, well trained and attractive, and he or she may have the most pleasing personality, but without a common faith, trouble lies ahead for the marriage. There are some exceptions but the rule is a harsh and unhappy one” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 240).

  • What can you do to help make sure the person you marry is someone with whom you can have an eternal marriage? How will your present associations and friendships affect the rest of your life and eternity?

    President Kimball continued: “Clearly, right marriage begins with right dating. A person generally marries someone from among those with whom he … socializes. Therefore, this warning comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers, or members who are untrained and faithless. A girl may say, ‘Oh, I do not intend to marry this person. It is just a “fun” date.’ But one cannot afford to take a chance on falling in love with someone who may never accept the gospel. True, a small percentage have finally been baptized after marrying Church members. … They are our blessed minority. … But the majority did not join the Church and … friction, frustration and divorce marked a great many of their marriages” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 241–42).

3. God gives revelation to women as well as men

Scriptural accounts of revelation tell mostly of God’s interactions with priesthood leaders, who were men. However, Genesis 25:22–23 contains an account of God giving revelation to a woman.

Concerning Rebekah’s prayer, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “May I now take our common ancestor, Rebekah, as a pattern for what her daughters in the Church today can do? … When Rebekah was troubled and needed divine guidance she herself took the matter up with the Lord, and he spoke to her in reply. The Lord gives revelation to women who pray to him in faith” (in Conference Report, Tahiti Area Conference 1976, 16).

  • How can men and women alike prepare themselves to receive personal revelation?

4. Jacob’s vision of a ladder reaching into heaven

  • While Jacob was traveling from Canaan to the land of his kindred to find a wife and to escape the anger of Esau, he stopped to rest for the night and had a remarkable dream (Genesis 28:10–19). What did Jacob see in this dream? What blessings did the Lord promise him? (See Genesis 28:13–15. These are the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, renewed with Jacob in this vision; see lesson 7.) What does the ladder symbolize?

    Elder Marion G. Romney said of this dream: “Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord … were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessings—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord” (“Temples—The Gates to Heaven,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, 16).