“Unit 4: Day 3, Genesis 10–11; Abraham 1:1–7,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 4: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
After the Flood, the posterity of Noah began to multiply and establish cities and kingdoms upon the earth. Many of the people turned from the Lord and became wicked, and they began to build a great tower in Babel. Because of the wickedness of the people, the Lord confounded their language and scattered them to different places upon the earth. You will also learn more about the faithful patriarch Abraham in this lesson.
Imagine that after you are married you have a newborn son. Scan the list of Noah’s descendants in Genesis 10 to find a name you would be willing to name your son.
Read Genesis 10:8–10, looking for the description of Nimrod, who was a great-grandson of Noah through Ham.
The Joseph Smith Translation changes the phrase “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord” in verse 9 to “He was a mighty hunter in the land” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 10:5). Make a note in your scriptures of this change.
What do you think is significant about this change?
The reference to Nimrod being a “mighty hunter” refers not only to his ability in killing animals but also to his use of violence to gain power over and influence other people. “Though the words are not definite, it is very likely he was a very bad man. His name Nimrod comes from … marad, he rebelled; and the Targum [ancient Jewish translations or paraphrases of the scriptures], on [1 Chronicles 1:10], says: Nimrod began to be a mighty man in sin, a murderer of innocent men, and a rebel before the Lord” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 6 vols., 1:86; see also Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 57–58).
Circle the names of the cities in Genesis 10:10 that were included in Nimrod’s kingdom.
Imagine you have a friend who appears to be happy and successful even though he is involved in serious sin. Because he appears to be happy and successful, some of your other friends are also considering committing serious sins. What would you say to your friends to help them avoid making that mistake?
As you study Genesis 11, look for principles that will help you know how to respond to those who believe sinning can bring true happiness and success.
Read Genesis 11:1–4, looking for what the people in Nimrod’s kingdom—the land of Shinar—began to do.
This tower is often referred to as the Tower of Babel. According to verse 4, why did they build the tower?
Read and cross-reference Helaman 6:28, looking for who influenced these people to build the tower.
You may want to mark the phrase “reach unto heaven” in Genesis 11:4. It could mean the people were making a tower that would physically reach heaven so they could avoid the consequences of sin. It may also mean the people were attempting to set aside true temple worship and build a counterfeit temple in order to reach unto heaven (see Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 38).
You may also want to mark the phrase “make us a name” in verse 4. The biblical meaning of making a name is to build a reputation, fame, or a monument. By building the tower, the people may have been trying to obtain the glory of the world, to create something that would last of their fame or wickedness.
- In your scripture study journal, draw a picture of what you think the Tower of Babel may have looked like. Use the details in Genesis 11:3–4 to help you visualize it.
Slime (or bitumen, as referenced in the footnote to verse 3) was a substance like asphalt or tar that was used not only as an adhesive for the bricks but also to seal objects against water or moisture. Some think that the people used slime as mortar to make the tower waterproof so it would keep them safe in their sins if God decided to flood the earth again (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, chapter 4, paragraphs 2–3).
Read Genesis 11:5–6, looking for what the Lord said about the people who were building the tower.
The phrase “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” means the people believed that once the tower was built, they could commit any sin without having to worry about God’s punishments.
Read Genesis 11:7–9, looking for what God did because of the wickedness of the people. (The word confound in these verses means to confuse.)
According to verse 8, what happened to the construction of the tower after God confused the language and scattered the people?
Complete the following principle we can learn from this scripture account: If we choose to turn away from God, we bring upon ourselves and others.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How could believing that when we turn away from God, we bring undesirable consequences upon ourselves and others help someone decide not to become involved in serious sin?
Reflect back on those who feel sinning can bring happiness and success. What are some possible consequences that they might experience because of their involvement in serious sin? What are some possible consequences those around them might experience?
Think about the choices you are currently making, and consider what consequences might come to you and those around you because of those choices. Seek Heavenly Father’s help to repent of anything that might bring undesirable consequences to you and to those around you.
Notice that Genesis 11:8 indicates the people “left off to build the city.” The Joseph Smith Translation adds the following phrase: “and they hearkened not unto the Lord” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 11:6 [in Genesis 11:8, footnote a]).
While there were many people who hearkened not unto the Lord, there were other people who were righteous and did not have their language confounded. The Lord blessed those who were righteous. From the Book of Mormon we learn that the brother of Jared called upon God and was promised that his language and the language of his brother and certain family members and friends would not be confounded. The Lord led them to a choice land where they were able to worship Him in righteousness and raise up seed unto Him (see Ether 1:33–43).
Beginning with Genesis 11, the Bible is mainly the story of some of Shem’s descendants. The term “Semite”—usually referring to the Jews—means “a descendant of Shem.”
Read Genesis 11:26–29 and see if you can identify the name of an important patriarch and prophet.
Abram was a prophet whose name the Lord later changed to Abraham, which means “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4), or “father of a multitude” (Bible Dictionary, “Abraham”). The Lord also changed the name of his wife Sarai to Sarah (see Genesis 17:5, 15). As you continue to study the Old Testament, you will learn about a covenant God made with Abraham and Sarah to bless all the people of the earth.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What brings you happiness and peace?
Read Abraham 1:1–2, looking for the spiritual blessings Abraham desired and sought to obtain in order to find greater happiness and peace.
In Abraham 1:2, Abraham wrote that he desired to obtain certain blessings in his life. Do you desire any of the same blessings Abraham described?
In the following statement, underline how Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defined desire:
“… What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity” (“According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 21).
Read Abraham 1:3–4, looking for what happened to Abraham because he desired and sought for the blessings of the gospel.
Abraham received what he sought, and the blessings of the priesthood were conferred upon him. The phrases “it was conferred upon me from the fathers” (verse 3) and “mine appointment unto the Priesthood” (verse 4) refer to Abraham receiving and administering the blessings of the priesthood (see D&C 84:14).
From Abraham 1:1–4 we learn the following principle: If we seek for righteousness, God will bless us according to our desires.
- In your scripture study journal, write about one way you can better seek for righteousness in your daily life.
As you continue studying the life of Abraham, look for how God blessed him because of his desires and diligent efforts to seek righteousness.