Youâ€™ll notice that, as usual, the best questions are plagiarized right out of Jim F.â€™s lesson materials.
Genesis 24: Best Supporting Actor
–Background: Abraham has covenanted with his servant (who, triangulating from Genesis 15:2, is most likely named Eliezer) to go his homeland and find a wife for Isaac. But he didnâ€™t tell him how to do it.
–Read Genesis 24:10-14.
–The issue of asking God to ratify plans that we come up with is a little tricky (we wouldnâ€™t want to say, for example, â€œIf you donâ€™t want me to smoke this cigarette, then move that mountain.â€?). At the same time, this is clearly the right thing for Eliezer to do.
–Do you have any personal experiences with figuring out whether you are supposed to present a plan for something to Godâ€”or wait for God to present one to you? How do you negotiate these situations?
–Read Eliezerâ€™s prayer of gratitude in Genesis 24:26-27.
–Note that later on, Eliezer will repeat his agreement with Abraham to Rebekahâ€™s family almost verbatim. There are, however, a few significant differences: he has omitted the covenant language and he mentions Abrahamâ€™s wealth. What does this teach you about Eliezer?
–We donâ€™t usually focus on Eliezer in this story:
The Church [needs] more people who will just do what they have agreed to do, people who will show up for work and stay all day, who will quietly, patiently, and consistently do what they have agreed to doâ€”for as long as it takes, and who will not stop until they have finished. One of my heroes has always been the servant of Abraham who was sent to find a wife for Isaac. . . . We do not know much about his life, but we know a great deal about his character. It was he who governed everything that Abraham had. He was trustworthy and he was trusted. The day came when Abraham put into the care of this servant the most important matter of allâ€”the exaltation of his son. He wanted Isaac to be an heir of the covenant which he had made with the Lord. He knew that the blessings of that covenant could not be realized if Isaac didnâ€™t marry a good and worthy woman who believed in God. . . The kinsfolk wanted a 10-day celebration. The servant replied, â€œHinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my masterâ€? (Gen. 24:56). Many would have tarried. Others would have justified unwinding a little by saying that the journey had been long or that they were tired or hungry or thirsty. Some, not wanting to appear too zealous, would have stayed. A few, not understanding the significance of the errand, might have tried to talk Abraham out of the assignment, claiming that it was foolishness to travel so far in search of a wife. Some would not have had the faith necessary to discover which of all of the young women of the city was the chosen one. Yet this servant did. He knew how to magnify his calling and accomplish that which he had promised his master. He understood a very important truth. Promises are not just pretty words. Promises have eternal consequences. We are a covenant people. If there is a distinguishing feature about members of the Church, it is that we make covenants. We need to be known as a covenant-keeping people as well. Making promises is easy, but to follow through and do what we have promised is another matter. That involves staying the course, being constant and steadfast. It means keeping the faith and being faithful to the end despite success or failure, doubt or discouragement. It is drawing near to the Lord with all our hearts. It is doing whatever we promise to do with all our mightâ€”even when we might not feel like it.â€? –F. Burton Howard, First Q of 70 â€œCommitment,â€? Ensign, May 1996, 27.
–I really like this because one of the marks of Eliezer as a hero is his quiet commitmentâ€”he isnâ€™t the one we focus on in this story, and that is part of his charm. He fades into the background, but heâ€™s the one that got the job done.
Genesis 25: Personal Revelation
–Read Genesis 25:21-23.
–This is a wonderful little story about a person with a real concern who takes it to the Lord and receives an answer to prayer.
–If we were to consider this story as a template, for receiving personal revelation, what would you conclude?
–From Elder McConkie:
Now note it well. She did not say, â€œIsaac, will you inquire of the Lord. You are the patriarch; you are the head of the house,â€? which he was. She went to inquire of the Lord, and she gained the answer.
–Do you think that Rebekah understood what this poem meant until later? If so, how would she have? If not, why was she given this answer when she asked?
–Since the Lord could control birth order, why do you suppose he arranged things in this way, a way contrary to what would be expected? Why do you suppose the younger brother so often is the leader in both scripture and Church history?
Genesis 27: A Stolen Blessing?
–Summarize the story.
â€“Even the Institute manual concedes that this story â€œis a troubling one in many respects.â€? I want to use it as an example of how we should think about troubling stories.
â€“Theories on whatâ€™s going on here:
(1) Something is missing from the record but if we had it, all would make sense.
–This may very well be true and there might be no sense in beating ourselves over the head trying to make sense out of this story.
–On the other hand, it is possible the â€˜itâ€™s a corrupt textâ€™ theory is a copout when we donâ€™t want to wrestle with a story.
(2) This is another Cainâ€“she just did something wrong.
–This is how many Christians view this story.
–On the other hand, why would God honor the blessing if that were the case.
(3) She may have been inspired to do this unusual thing, perhaps on the basis of 25:23.
–This might be a Nephi and Laban type situation.
–On the other hand, are we really comfortable with the idea that someone would be told to trick their priesthood leader?
(4) Isaac is a weak link and she needed to work around him.
–Evidence for Isaac as a â€˜weak linkâ€™:
(a) Why on earth is he giving this blessing to his second son, anyway?
(b) Note that unlike Abraham and Jacob, his name isnâ€™t changed; does this mean he didnâ€™t enter into the covenant?
(5) We know that Rebecah received revelation but we donâ€™t know that Isaac does.
–On the other hand: Why is Isaac in this role if he isnâ€™t up to par?
(6) It is a womanâ€™s role to be sure that if her husband is not presiding in righteousness, that she acts. Note that in the Garden, while Eve is supposed to hearken to Adam, it is only when he is hearkening to the Lord. Hugh Nibley explained that this implies that Eve has a judging relationship over Adamâ€™s actions.
(7) Rebekah was simply fulfilling her obligation to maintain the covenant line. Elder McConkie:
It is an eternal principleâ€”the man and the woman are not alone: neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord. Women are appointed, Rebekah-like, to be guides and lights in righteousness in the family unit, and to engineer and arrange so that things are done in the way that will result in the salvation of more of our Father’s children.
–On the other hand, it would have been far more appropriate for Rebekah to counsel with Isaac than to try to trick him!
(8) Perhaps Rebekah was shortsighted and the Lord had another plan for making his prophecy come to pass.
–This may possibly be similar to Eve (who thought there was no other way) and Sarah (who thought that the covenant couldnâ€™t be fulfilled without Hagar) . . .
–. . .but there are many other ways to read Eve and Sarahâ€™s stories. Even if Rebekah was acting on the revelation that the older would serve the younger, was she right to try to make that happen by her own hand?
(9) Can a prophet be deceived? Issue of inerrancy. He can if God lets him. Why would God let him?
(10) The ends justifies the means. Isaac unfairly favored Esau and Rebekah corrected that.
(11) The irony of the cycle is that Jacob did not know he had been foreordained to prevail. He schemed to get what God had already granted him at birth.
(12) Rebekah was carefully selected to be Isaacâ€™s wife. Was it for this event?
(13) Some readers do not think that Isaac was really fooled. (He asks many questions that suggest that he had his doubts.) So then, why are Rebekah and Isaac playacting? I have no idea.
(14) Interesting that later, Jacob wants to favor the younger daughter (Rachel) over the older (Leah) but that doesnâ€™t quite work out . . . Are these stories related?
–Point: I cannot solve this for anyone else. But I want to present this laundry list as a way of suggesting that the best thing that we can do with the scriptures is to think about them and try, prayerfully, to understand them. Let me tell you what I do take from this story:
(a) Gratitude for the Book of Mormon and modern revelation and living prophets, who clarify the things that are necessary for our salvation.
(b) We donâ€™t always know; sometimes we need to live with ambiguity. This is OK. Cf. Mosiah 4:9 .
–A big picture: Why is Isaac so passive (sacrifice, marriage, blessing)? He is not the main character in his own story.