“Lesson 27: Genesis 20–21,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 27,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham and Sarah journeyed to the land of Gerar, where Sarah was taken from Abraham by Abimelech, king of Gerar. After learning that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech restored Sarah to Abraham and allowed them to dwell in his land. In this land, Isaac was born in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (see Genesis 17:19, 21). Hagar and her son, Ishmael, were sent away from Abraham’s household into the wilderness but were not forsaken by the Lord.
Display (or draw on the board) pictures of a few common warning signs. For instance, you might display traffic signs or warning labels on food packaging. Ask students to explain the purpose of these signs. Invite them to think about a time when they received a warning. It might have been when they were little children and about to do something dangerous or when they were older and someone warned them about a choice they were making.
Have you or someone you know ever received a warning from God when about to make a mistake? How was that warning given?
Explain that in Genesis 20 we read of the prophet Abraham and his wife Sarah journeying into a land named Gerar.
Invite a student to read Genesis 20:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened when Abraham and Sarah arrived in Gerar.
Invite a student to read Genesis 20:18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Abimelech’s household as a result of taking Sarah. Ask students to report what they find. You may need to explain that “closed up all the wombs” means that the Lord caused that none of the women in Abimelech’s household could bear children.
Explain that although Abimelech’s household was immediately cursed because he had taken Sarah, the Lord warned him about his mistake and gave him an opportunity to avoid committing a great sin. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 20:3–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the warning the Lord gave to Abimelech. Invite students to report what they find.
Why did Abimelech feel he was innocent of wrongdoing? (As students respond, it may be helpful to explain that in some ancient cultures it was an accepted practice for a king to take any woman of his choice to be his wife.)
How was the warning Abimelech received an example of the Lord’s mercy? (The Lord’s warning kept him from committing a serious sin.)
As baptized members of the Church today, what are some ways the Lord warns us before we commit serious sin? (We can receive the whisperings and feelings that come from the Holy Ghost. We can also receive warnings from prophets, the scriptures, parents, teachers, advisors, and priesthood leaders.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for one way the Lord warns us.
“No member of this Church—and that means each of you—will ever make a serious mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
“Sometimes when you have made a mistake, you may have said afterward, ‘I knew I should not have done that. It did not feel right,’ or perhaps, ‘I knew I should have done that. I just did not have the courage to act!’ Those impressions are the Holy Ghost attempting to direct you toward good or warning you away from harm” (“How to Survive in Enemy Territory,” New Era, Apr. 2012, 3).
When have you or someone you know been blessed by heeding a warning from the Holy Spirit or by heeding the counsel of the Lord through a priesthood leader?
Invite a student to read Genesis 20:8–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Abimelech did after receiving this warning from the Lord.
What did Abimelech do after the Lord warned him? How quickly did Abimelech respond to the warning?
How did Abimelech feel Abraham had treated him?
Invite another student to read Genesis 20:11–13 aloud, and ask the class to look for how Abraham explained his actions.
What reasons did Abraham give for saying that Sarah was his sister? (After students respond, you may want to explain that Abraham was technically correct in stating that Sarah was his sister. After the death of Sarah’s father Haran [Abraham’s older brother], it is likely that Abraham’s father Terah took Sarah into his household and cared for her, and so she was, for all intents and purposes, the sister of Abraham.)
You may need to explain that in some ancient cultures if a king wanted to marry a woman and she was already married, the king might have her husband killed so he could take her as his own wife (see Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 65–66). It appears that Abraham feared this might happen to him. Abraham may have also been relying on the instructions the Lord had given him when he was in a similar situation in Egypt (see Genesis 12:11–15; Abraham 2:22–25).
Invite a student to read Genesis 20:14–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abimelech did in addition to restoring Sarah to Abraham.
In addition to restoring Sarah, what else did Abimelech give to Abraham?
What are some things we can learn from Abimelech’s example about repentance and obedience? (When we recognize we have sinned or made a mistake, we should seek to fully and immediately correct it and make restitution, if possible.)
Read Genesis 20:17 and invite students to look for what happened to Abimelech and his family because he listened to and obeyed God’s warning. Ask students to report what they find.
What can we learn from the account of Abimelech about what happens when we hearken to the Lord’s warnings? (Students may use different words, but they should identify a principle similar to the following: When we hearken to the Lord’s warnings, we can avoid sin and its consequences.)
Invite students to think about how their obedience to the Lord’s promptings has blessed them. Invite them to ponder how quickly they respond when they receive warnings or promptings from the Lord.
Ask students if anyone has ever promised them something, but it seemed unlikely that they would fulfill that promise.
What promise had the Lord previously made to Abraham and Sarah that may have seemed unlikely to be fulfilled? (You may need to remind students that Abraham was almost 100 years old and Sarah was almost 90 years old when the Lord promised that Sarah would have a child [see Genesis 17:1, 15–19].)
Ask students to read Genesis 21:1–5 silently, looking for phrases that show that God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah. Ask a few students to share what they found.
What can we learn from this account about God’s promises? Write students’ responses on the board. (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: God always keeps His promises to the faithful according to His timetable.)
To help students understand how this principle might relate to modern situations, read the following scenario aloud:
Your aunt has longed to marry a righteous priesthood holder and desires to raise a family of her own. Yet she is over 40 years old and has no prospects for marriage. She wonders if the Lord has forsaken her or forgotten her.
How might you use the experience of Abraham and Sarah along with the principle on the board to comfort your aunt in this scenario?
Invite students to think of other types of situations in which knowledge of this principle could help someone.
When have you or someone you know seen the Lord fulfill a promise that seemed unlikely to be fulfilled?
How might knowing that God fulfills His promises to the faithful influence the choices you make?
Invite a student to read Genesis 21:6–8 aloud, and ask students to follow along, looking for how Sarah felt about the birth of Isaac. Ask students to report what they find. You may want to use footnote a in verse 6 to help explain that the word laugh in verse 6 also means to rejoice. In addition, the meaning of the name Isaac is “he laughs” or “he rejoices.”)
You may want to testify that God always keeps His promises to the faithful according to His timetable.
Explain that Genesis 21 offers another example of God fulfilling His promises. Briefly summarize Genesis 21:9–11 by explaining that Sarah saw Hagar’s son Ishmael mocking, or persecuting, Isaac (see Galatians 4:28–30). Sarah told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the wilderness, which grieved Abraham. While there are details of this story we do not possess, we do know that Sarah was a remarkable woman. However, she also possessed feelings and emotions like any human being and was protective of her covenant son, Isaac.
Invite a student to read Genesis 21:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord told Abraham to do. Ask students to report what they find.
According to verse 13, what did the Lord promise Abraham about Ishmael?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 21:14–21. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional evidence that the Lord had not forsaken Hagar and Ishmael but was still mindful of them. Ask students to report what they find.
Explain that Ishmael eventually became the principal ancestor of much of the Arab world in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham (see Genesis 21:13).
How do you think this account illustrates the principle that God always keeps His promises? (You may need to point out that God’s promises are sometimes kept in unforeseen and unlikely ways.)
Summarize Genesis 21:22–34 by explaining that Abraham and Abimelech continued to have positive dealings with each another.
As prompted by the Holy Ghost, you may want to share your testimony.