“Unit 5: Day 3, Genesis 15–16,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 5: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
As he grew older, Abram was concerned about how God would fulfill the promises regarding his posterity. Abram conversed with the Lord in a vision in which the Lord comforted Abram, reassuring him that all of the promises would be fulfilled. In obedience to the Lord’s command, Sarai consented and gave her handmaid Hagar to Abram as a wife to raise up posterity to Abram. After Hagar conceived, a conflict arose between her and Sarai, during which Hagar received divine guidance.
You might recall that earlier in Abram’s life, the Lord had promised him that his posterity would be as numerous as the “dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16). Abram had waited for many years and still did not have any children. We see at the beginning of Genesis 15 that the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision. What might you have asked the Lord if you had been in Abram’s position?
Read Genesis 15:1–6, looking for the answers to the following questions:
What was Abram’s concern?
What was the Lord’s response?
Eliezer, mentioned in verse 2, was the man in charge of Abram’s house. Abram wondered if Eliezer would become his heir. What do you think about Abram’s choice to believe the Lord?
Abram also had a concern about the land that the Lord had promised to him and his posterity. The Joseph Smith Translation adds four verses to this account that show how the Lord addressed this concern. Read the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 15:9–12 in the Bible appendix or Guide to the Scriptures and look for what Abram learned. (As you read, it might be helpful to know that the phrase “Son of Man” is a title for Jesus Christ; see, for example, Moses 6:57.)
According to this passage the Lord told Abram that even if he were to die, God would be able to keep His promise. According to the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 15:11, why is this possible?
Abram was reminded that he would live again after mortality because of the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection and that God is able to keep His promises, whether in mortality or in the postmortal life. According to the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 12, what was Abram’s reaction when he understood this explanation and saw “the days of the Son of Man”? (You may want to mark what you find.)
We can learn the following principle from these verses: When we believe that the Lord will fulfill His promises to us, whether in mortality or eternity, our souls can find peace. Consider writing this principle in your scriptures.
- In your scripture study journal, make a list of concerns or worries you have about your future. Then write about how having faith in the preceding principle can help you have gladness and peace like Abram did.
Think about ways people certify or show that they will keep a promise. Examples may include shaking hands or signing their names to an agreement or contract. Can you think of other examples?
Genesis 15:8 shows that Abram asked the Lord how he would inherit the land. Genesis 15:9–18 contains the account of the Lord certifying in a unique way that He would keep His promises to Abram. Scan Genesis 15:9–10 and notice what the Lord asked Abram to do.
God commanded Abram to take various animals, cut their carcasses into two pieces, and set them apart from each other. In ancient times this symbolized what would happen to a person if he or she did not keep a covenant. Read Genesis 15:17–18, looking for what the Lord promised Abram. (The burning lamp and smoking furnace mentioned in verse 17 represent the Lord’s presence.)
Ponder the following questions:
What did the Lord promise Abram?
Although Abram was assured that the Lord would fulfill His promises to him, what did he still not know?
What lesson can you learn from Abram’s experience?
One principle these verses teach is that we can trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises even if we do not know how He will do so. Consider writing this principle in your scriptures.
As you read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, mark phrases that help you understand how to show your trust in the Lord:
“This life is an experience in profound trust. … To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5–7). …
“To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it” (“Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17).
- Think about promises the Lord has made to you (for example, through a patriarchal blessing and other blessings, ordinances and covenants, words of living prophets, or scriptures). In your scripture study journal, list two or three examples of situations or circumstances that would require you to trust in the Lord, and then answer the following question: What can you do to remember and trust that the Lord will keep His promises?
Ponder a time when you (or your family) experienced a challenge. How were you able to get through that challenging time?
As you study Genesis 16, you will learn a principle that can help when you face challenges in the future. Genesis 16:1–3 explains that Sarai could not have any children, so she gave her handmaid Hagar to Abram as a plural wife. From latter-day revelation we understand that Abram and Sarai were being obedient to a commandment from God (see D&C 132:34–35). In this way Sarai could obtain children through Hagar, thus fulfilling the Lord’s promise that Abram would have children.
It may be helpful to understand that at certain times in the history of the world, the Lord has commanded His people to practice plural marriage. Plural marriage was practiced by Abram, his son Isaac (see D&C 132:1), and his grandson Jacob, and it was practiced for a time during the early days of the restored Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In Genesis 16:4–6 we learn that Hagar conceived a child but began to look down upon Sarai. Sarai responded by dealing “hardly” with Hagar, who fled into the wilderness. How would you feel if you had been in Sarai’s position? How would you feel if you had been in Hagar’s position?
In the scriptures the names of people and places often have symbolic meanings. Read Genesis 16:11–14, and mark the names contained in these verses. If the definitions are included in your footnotes, search for and mark the meanings of these names.
If the meanings of these names are not in your footnotes, then next to each name, write the following definitions: The name Ishmael means “God hears”; the name Beer-lahai-roi means “the well of Him who liveth and seeth me.”
Consider for a moment what the meanings of these names and Hagar’s experience can teach you about your Father in Heaven.
One truth we can learn about the Lord from Hagar’s experience is that the Lord hears and sees us in our trials and can help us through them. You may want to write this principle in your scriptures.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency said: “You are not alone on this journey. Your Heavenly Father knows you. Even when no one else hears you, He hears you. When you rejoice in righteousness, He rejoices with you. When you are beset with trial, He grieves with you” (“Your Wonderful Journey Home,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 127–28).
- Think about challenges you have faced or are currently facing. In your scripture study journal, write about ways you have noticed that Heavenly Father has heard and seen you in your trials. You could also write about how you have noticed that He is currently hearing and seeing you as you deal with challenges.
Think about someone you know who might be facing a challenging time and needs encouragement. Consider giving the person a copy of President Uchtdorf’s statement and sharing your testimony with him or her.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Genesis 15–16 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: