“Lesson 29: Genesis 23–24,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 29,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Following Sarah’s death and burial, Abraham sent a servant to his former homeland to find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s kindred, who were covenant people. The servant obeyed these instructions, prayed for the Lord’s help, and met Rebekah. She chose to return with the servant and be sealed to Isaac in the covenant of eternal marriage (see D&C 132:19–20, 37).
Invite students to imagine a young man and a young woman who are in love and who hope to build a lasting relationship.
What are some important choices this couple would need to make if they want to build a relationship that will last?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“A couple in love can choose a marriage of the highest quality or a lesser type that will not endure. Or they can choose neither. …
“The best choice is a celestial marriage” (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 92, 94).
Why is celestial marriage in the temple—or eternal marriage—the best kind of marriage? (In eternal marriages, righteous couples are sealed forever by the power of the priesthood and the family unit continues eternally.)
Invite the class to look for principles as they study Genesis 23–24 that can guide them in their efforts to one day obtain the blessings of eternal marriage.
Remind students that Abraham and Sarah entered into a covenant with God, and this covenant allowed them to have an eternal marriage. Summarize Genesis 23 by explaining that Sarah died and Abraham mourned for her and arranged for her body to be buried.
Remind students that the Lord had promised Abraham and Sarah that their son, Isaac, would receive the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Isaac’s descendants (see Genesis 17:19, 21; 22:17–18).
What did Isaac need to do in order for these promises to be fulfilled? (Enter the covenant of eternal marriage.)
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify who Abraham did not want Isaac to marry.
Who did Abraham not want Isaac to marry?
Explain that because the Canaanites did not believe in the Lord, no Canaanite woman would have been prepared to receive the responsibilities and blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and eternal marriage. The decision Isaac faced concerning whether or not to marry in the covenant is just like our choice today of whether to receive the marriage sealing ordinance in the temple.
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:4 aloud. Ask the class to look for an assignment Abraham gave to his servant.
What assignment did Abraham give to his servant?
Point out that the journey from Abraham’s location in the land of Canaan to Mesopotamia where his relatives lived was a distance of approximately 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) round-trip. This journey would require substantial time, effort, and provisions.
What do Abraham’s instructions to his servant teach us about the importance of obtaining the blessings of eternal marriage? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: It is worth great effort and sacrifice to obtain the blessings of eternal marriage.)
What efforts and sacrifices might today’s youth have to make in order to obtain the blessings of eternal marriage?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“There is no substitute for marrying in the temple. It is the only place under the heavens where marriage can be solemnized for eternity. Don’t cheat yourself. Don’t cheat your companion. Don’t shortchange your lives. Marry the right person in the right place at the right time” (“Life’s Obligations,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 2).
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:10–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Abraham’s servant did to fulfill the promise he had made to Abraham. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:15–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how the servant’s prayer was answered.
How was the servant’s prayer answered?
Display the picture Rebekah at the Well (Gospel Art Book , no. 10; see also LDS.org). Write the following heading on the board: Character Traits of Rebekah. Invite students to review verses 16–20 silently and look for words and phrases that imply some of Rebekah’s character traits. Ask students to report the character traits implied by these verses. List their responses under the heading on the board. The list could include the following: virtuous, eager to serve, generous, hard-working.
Point out that the servant did not yet know whether this young woman was a relative of Abraham. Summarize Genesis 24:21–25 by explaining that the servant asked Rebekah about her family and learned that she was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:26–28 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Abraham’s servant did and what Rebekah did after they realized their mutual connection through Abraham. Ask students to report what they find.
Summarize Genesis 24:29–49 by explaining that Abraham’s servant was invited to eat with Rebekah’s family. He told the family that Abraham had directed him to find a suitable woman for Isaac to marry among Abraham’s relatives and that the Lord had led him to Rebekah.
Invite a student to read Genesis 24:50–51 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Rebekah’s brother Laban and her father, Bethuel, responded to Abraham’s servant. Ask students to report what they learn.
Explain that after this response, Abraham’s servant provided gifts to the family, and there was a celebration. The next morning, Abraham’s servant and Rebekah’s family discussed her departure. Invite students to read Genesis 24:54–56 silently to learn when Abraham’s servant wanted to depart and when Rebekah’s family wanted her to depart. Ask students to report what they find.
Ask a student to read Genesis 24:57–60 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for how this difference was resolved. Ask students to report what they learn.
Why do you think Rebekah would commit to leave her family immediately to go and marry Isaac, even though she had never met him?
What qualities did Rebekah exemplify when she stated, “I will go”? (Add students’ responses to the list on the board. Responses may include faith in the Lord and courage.)
Point out that the phrase “be thou the mother of thousands of millions” in verse 60 suggests that Rebekah and her family understood that she would play a pivotal role in helping to accomplish the divine promise that Abraham’s descendants would be numbered as the stars in the heaven and the sand upon the seashore.
How do you think Rebekah’s righteous qualities helped prepare her to enter the covenant of eternal marriage?
What principle can we learn from Rebekah’s example? (Students may give a variety of answers. As they respond, you may want to emphasize the following principle by writing it on the board: If we develop righteous qualities now, we will be better prepared for eternal marriage.)
To help students understand how this principle relates to them, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“If you hope to have an eternal companion who has certain spiritual qualities, then you must strive to develop those spiritual qualities in yourself. Then someone who has those qualities will be attracted to you” (in “Understanding Heavenly Father’s Plan”; lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/understanding-heavenly-fathers-plan).
Invite the class to imagine what feelings Rebekah may have had as she traveled the long distance to meet Isaac or what Isaac may have felt as he awaited the servant’s return.
Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 24:61–67. Invite the class to follow along and look for words or phrases suggesting that Isaac and Rebekah were happy to meet and be married to one another. Ask students to report what they find. (You may want to explain that when Rebekah covered herself with a veil, she was demonstrating modesty and respect for Isaac.)
Point out that prior to their marriage, both Isaac and Rebekah had demonstrated faithfulness to the Lord (see Genesis 22:6–13; 24:57–58). As a result, the Lord had provided a way for them to receive the blessings of eternal marriage.
What principle can we learn from the example of Isaac and Rebekah as we seek the blessings of eternal marriage? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we are faithful to God, He will provide a way for us to receive the blessings of eternal marriage.)
To help students deepen their understanding of this principle, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:
“Now, there are those among you fine young members of the Church who might never marry. Although they are worthy in every way, they may never find someone to whom they will be sealed in the temple of the Lord in this life. …
“… I cannot tell you why one individual’s prayers are answered one way while someone else’s are answered differently. But this I can tell you: the righteous desires of your hearts will be fulfilled.
“… The brief span of this life is nothing in comparison with eternity. And if only we can hope and exercise faith and joyfully endure to the end … there, in that great heavenly future, we will have the fulfillment of the righteous desires of our hearts and so very much more that we can scarcely comprehend now” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System devotional, Nov. 1, 2009]; LDS.org).
How does this statement help you understand Heavenly Father’s love for His children who may not have the opportunity to receive the blessings of eternal marriage in this life?
Testify of the importance of eternal marriage. Invite students to write down a goal that will help them prepare for eternal marriage. You might suggest that they write about a righteous quality they will seek to develop in their lives.