JMS Sunday School Lesson #8

February 15, 2006 | 21 comments
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Read Genesis 18:17-21

–Considering that the Lord appears to be shown ‘making up his mind’ (v17-18) and verifying if something is true (v21), I’m not sure that a strictly literal reading of this passage is the best choice. How, then, do you interpret what is happening here (and, what might we learn about the Lord from it)? Or: if you read v17-18 and/or v21 differently, what do you think is happening in those verses?

Read Genesis 18:23-26
–And then summarize: Abraham basically ‘bargains’ with the Lord—in increments of five or ten—until v32, where the Lord says that he will not destroy the city if ten righteous people can be found.

–This is a very unusual story. What do you make of it? How does it compare with other stories about prayers—particularly, say, Joseph Smith’s repeated requests to let Martin Harris see the 116 pages? How do we know if/when it would be OK to ‘bargain’ like this? Have you had any similar experiences and, if so, what did you learn from them?

–V23: Does the Lord destroy the righteous along with the wicked? What scripture stories are evidence for your answer?

Read Genesis 19:12-16

–Here the angels are trying to round up Lot’s family to leave before the destruction.

–Note that apparently Lot’s sons-in-laws are worthy to be spared from the destruction, but they choose not to leave. What happened here and what might you learn from it?

–Why on earth is Lot lingering in v16?!?

Read Genesis 19:24-26

–(Note that in v17 they were specifically told not to look back.)

–Remember that Lot’s wife has left at least two daughters, two SILs, and possibly (but we don’t know) some grandchildren in Sodom, not to mention friends and possessions. Her look back is easy to sympathize with, perhaps. Why does it get the punishment that it does and what might be some modern parallels to her act?

–When Jesus recounts this story in Luke 17:32, he doesn’t say ‘remember Lot’ or ‘remember the people of Sodom who were destroyed’, he says, ‘remember Lot’s wife.’ What exactly do you think he wanted us to remember?

Read Genesis 19:29

–We so rarely get a lovely summary statement like this in the OT!

–Why do you think it says that the Lord remembered Abraham—not Lot?

The Post-Mortem on the Rescue of Lot

–Read Ezekiel 16:49-50. Note how the sins of Sodom are described. I think that we tend to overemphasize the idea of homosexual sin in Sodom because most of us are not tempted to commit those sins. But I would imagine most of us are tempted to commit the sins that are mentioned in this passage. What are some ways that we can avoid the fate of Sodom?

–This whole saga begins in Genesis 13, where Abraham and Lot separate because their herdmen cannot get along (see esp. v7). Read v8-12.

–I don’t think the references to the garden (presumably the Garden of Eden?) and Egypt in v10 are accidental—what might they suggest about Lot’s choice?

–Note that, in addition to the reference to the garden, we get Lot journeying east in v11—just as Adam and Eve did when they left the garden and just as Cain did when he was cursed and just as the people of Babel did. Can you make a useful comparison here? If so, what do you learn from it?

–First, he ‘lived in the cities of the plain,’ then he ‘pitched his tent toward Sodom’ (13:12), then he is in the city itself. (But note that the text never describes him actually moving into the city—it is almost as if it crept up on him.) (Cf. King Benjamin’s people, who pitched their tents toward the temple. Mosiah 2:6.) This is a good moment for reflection—in what direction does our home open up?

Conclusion
There seems to be a tension in the scriptures between (1) showing Lot as making really poor choices (to take the land closer to Sodom, to open his tent toward Sodom and finally to live in Sodom, to linger) and (2) being a righteous person (who was saved from Sodom and who is later described at ‘just’ in 2 Peter 2:7). What are some ways of resolving this tension? My thought: this isn’t the first time that Abraham [in effect] rescues Lot (see Genesis 14). It may be that Abraham is a Christ figure in this story and Lot is shown to be the redeemable but imperfect sinner in need of intervention.

21 Responses to JMS Sunday School Lesson #8

  1. MahNahvu on February 15, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    –Why on earth is Lot lingering in v16?!?

    Because it increases the suspense and excitment of the story.

  2. grego on February 16, 2006 at 2:05 am

    “–Note that, in addition to the reference to the garden, we get Lot journeying east in v11—just as Adam and Eve did when they left the garden and just as Cain did when he was cursed and just as the people of Babel did. Can you make a useful comparison here? If so, what do you learn from it?”

    get ready to move to missouri? :)

    julie, even though i disagree with some of your comments sometimes, i am happy to read them. i enjoy the thinking. and who hasn’t ever had a thought “out there”, wrong, lacking in understanding, etc. at least once, if not many times (daily, for some of us?)? i hope all the negative comments, which have come and will, don’t upset you, but that they help you as they can help us all.

  3. AlexG on February 16, 2006 at 2:46 am

    Julie:

    I love your Sunday School postings. It adds a lot of understanding to an otherwise bland manual. This lesson also includes Gen. chapters 13 and 14, which you somehow reference in the end, was this deliberate? A suggestion that I would like to make is that the links to scriptures (when they refer to a few verses) could be done with a hyperlink, so that we can open another tab (users of Mozilla Firefox and Opera, for instance)and compare.

    In Gen 19:29 God is mindful of Lot. He took him out of the midst of the cities that God destroyed. Yet I believe that since the covenant was made with Abraham, this is how the Lord ‘remembered’ Abraham, that he would dwell safely in a land preserved for him. I would agree that Lot did some rather poor choices, yet a purely geographical perspective of his actions would render that we need to be righteous even if we live in Sodom, which I would believe that is the whole point of . Lot’s defence of the angels shows his integrity, and is better appreciated in the Joseph Smith Translation of Gen 19:9-15.

    Just my two pennies.

  4. AlexG on February 16, 2006 at 5:17 am

    Even though Lot made some poor decisions, yet he was able to live righteously among Sodom. We can argue about the spiritual consequences of ‘pitching our tents’ to Sodom or to the temple, yet from a geographical stance, the spiritual lessons might deepen. Abraham was set upon a land that did not have the problems that Lot had. Yet, when Lot defended the angels from the mob, he showed courage and a desire to follow the Lord’s messengers. His wife defied what the angels told Lot and had dire consequences. Lot, if any, can be seen as a model of righteous living among great wickedness. I suggest the complementary reading of Joseph Smith Translation of Gen 19:9-15.

    My thoughts on Gen 19:29 are more in line with the Abrahamic covenant and promise, Lot being of the ‘seed’ of Abraham. Lot was spared from the destruction of the cities that the Lord overthrew. Although Abraham had rescued him previously, I fail to see the proposed relation of Abraham-Christ. It is the Lord who takes Lot out of the city (Gen 19:16). Abraham dwelled on a land of promise. Lot made a unwise choice, yet the Lord was still mindful of him. Could we get an interesting story out of it?

  5. Julie M. Smith on February 16, 2006 at 11:14 am

    MahNahvu, it certainly does have that _effect_, but that doesn’t account for Lot’s _motivation_.

    Thanks, grego. But Missouri isn’t east for me :).

    AlexG, thanks for your comments. I’m not entirely sure I understand your question about Gen 13 and 14; I felt that (as usual) there was too much material for the lesson and so I focused on 18-19, but I did want to bring 13 back in at the end because it is the ‘root’ of the separation between Abraham and Lot and I put it at the end of the lesson (instead of the beginning) because I don’t think 13 makes full sense unless you know the effects of that separation, if that makes sense.

  6. nhilton on February 21, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for your brain activity! I enjoy reading your comments after I’ve reviewed the manual and the scriptures. I read many GD postings & find yours one of the best! Question: how do you manage the class time?! Last week I felt so flustered in my effort to share so much in so little time.

  7. nhilton on February 23, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    This is a series of extremes: Beatings, threatened rape, human sacrifice, homosexuality, turned to salt!, cities destroyed by fire, incest…. Why? I don’t think we’re getting the whole story, i.e. the details surrounding the incest story, and I think over time things may have been blown out of proportion resulting in folklore and allegorical story telling. So the real question with regard to each of these stories is: How can knowing this story aid me in my quest for exaltation? I’d like to know what you think about the strange end to Lot & his daughters–there are so many questions regarding this drama.

  8. Ben S. on February 23, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    ” How can knowing this story aid me in my quest for exaltation?”

    I think sometimes we ask questions of the text that it is not meant to address.

  9. Julie M. Smith on February 23, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    “Question: how do you manage the class time?”

    This is always a tough one. I usually have 2-3 questions that I want to explore in depth and 1-2 main points that I want to be sure to bring out. Sometimes the conversation develops in ways that I don’t anticipate. This is the aspect of teaching that I try to be most prayerful about–how to allocate time and what to emphasize.

  10. Jim F. on February 23, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    Ben S: You may be right that we sometimes ask questions that the text isn’t meant to address. We do far too much of that when we read scripture. however, surely there is some spiritual point to the story of Abraham and Isaac. If there isn’t what is the point of including it in scripture or studying it? Wouldn’t that spiritual point(s) be an answer to Julie’s question?

  11. Kathy Jackson on February 25, 2006 at 3:22 am

    I suppose it depends on why you are studying the text. If it is for academic or historic reasons, then one would be extremely interested in what the text was meant to address. If, however, one is studying it in reference to a Gospel Doctrine class or lesson (as I am), then the issue of how a text aids one in their eternal progression is always relevant.

    Besides, even at an academic level, as any good modern or post modern literary critic will tell you, the author’s intent is only a part of the meaning of a text. That’s what makes for all those great debates in literature classes :-). I think that principle is even more true with scripture. I think it can be used as a springboard for teaching things the authors may never have considered. That’s why we keep it around and talk about it in depth at least every 4 years or so.

  12. Ben S. on February 25, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Jim, I was was thinking of the Lot/Sodom part of the story when I wrote that comment, nto the Abraham/Isaac section.

    I’m not current on the terminology or the literature, but I tend to be an intentionalist, probably simply as a function of my studies.

    When we have a difficult passage that is far removed from us culturally, I think extracting a principle applicable in our time and culture requires distancing oneself from the text so much as to render the text itself completely superfluous.

  13. nhilton on February 25, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    Ben S. and All, reading the Bible would be a waste of time for me unless I had forefront in my mind the question: “How does this teach of Christ?” Without that question, I would be wading through drivel. The stories are interesting, but so are the stories on the current best seller list. And, when I’ve read it once, why would I re-read it if the take home message was immediately apparent? I believe the key to scripture reading is in the re-reading, especially across the cannonized spectrum, i.e. James 2 linked with Abraham being called “the friend of God.” Without pulling on the tapestry string woven from one book to the next, I wouldn’t be able to make a significant link to my own life and thus making the reading meaningful.

    But what do ya’ll think of Lot & his daughters? Nobody seems to want to talk about that question. Are we all going to just glaze over it tomorrow in class?

  14. Julie M. Smith on February 25, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    “Are we all going to just glaze over it tomorrow in class?”

    Yes, because one cannot do justice to Abraham and Isaac in 35 minutes anyway.

  15. BrianJ on February 25, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    RE posts #6, 9, 13,14 and choosing what to teach:

    I think Nephi said something profound in 1 Nephi 6 (read the whole chapter; it’s only six verses). That chapter meant something different to me once I began teaching and had to go through exactly what Nephi describes therein. A question for the teachers out there: do you find that being short on class time is a blessing or a curse?

  16. Julie M. Smith on February 25, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    “do you find that being short on class time is a blessing or a curse?”

    I think it can be a blessing because it forces you to focus on key issues. It also requires a lot of discipline. It also creates a situation for me where I end most lessons by saying “I REALLY wanted to compare this story with X/consider Y/try to answer Z, but we’re running low on time, so take a look at it/think about it when you get home–it’s fascinating!” and that is probably better than discussing it in class.

  17. Kathy Jackson on February 26, 2006 at 2:01 am

    “do you think that being short on class time is a blessing or a curse?”

    I suppose it would be a curse if I felt I had to share everything of interest and wrap it all up in a nice tight package, but I don’t. That is for institute class. I think the point of Gospel Doctrine is to give the class a chance to interact with one another, the scriptures, and most importantly, the Spirit. As long as that happens, the Spirit will teach, the class will be edified, unified, and hopefully motivated to have personal interaction with the scriptures at home. If all that happens for a good part of 35 minutes, then the lesson is a success no matter what we cover or skip.

    I remember when I learned that principle on my mission. The discussions weren’t about the material covered per se. The material was just a medium for bringing the Spirit. The Spirit was the point. Several years serving in Primary definitely reinforced that point.

    It takes a lot of pressure off me and the class and I don’t feel obligated to truncate a good discussion or someone’s comment for the sake of covering the material.

    I also agree with Julie that it is good to leave the class with some things to think about/look up/compare on their own. I find I do that alot too.

  18. Clair on February 26, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    nhilton >>> But what do ya’ll think of Lot & his daughters? Nobody seems to want to talk about that question. Are we all going to just glaze over it tomorrow in class?

    Okay, I’ll bite. Using the story as a jab against the Moabites and Ammonites, later enemies of Israel, weakens it for me. It is like someone today co-opting a scriptual event to make a current political point.

    Otherwise, I am not sure what to make of it. The daughters’ actions seem tawdry and faithless on the surface. Why is the story there? Was there once a deeper meaning, or was it added later?

  19. Julie M. Smith on February 26, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    “suppose it would be a curse if I felt I had to share everything of interest and wrap it all up in a nice tight package, but I don’t. That is for institute class.”

    Ha! I crunched the numbers once and Institute classes get only about 10% more time than SS classes on the same topic.

  20. Jim F. on February 26, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    nhilton: Should you have decided to take time in class to discuss Lot’s daughters, I think you could have used my questions to do so: “Given the names that the daughters gave their sons, were they ashamed of what they had done? Why not? Is it legitimate to compare this story to that of Tamar, who was forced to conceive a child by her father-in-law Judah because he would not fulfill the Levirate law and provide her a husband from among his sons?”

    Though the story has been used to make a political point for a very long time, like Clair, I’m not comfortable leaving it at that.

    Is the time available for class a curse? If it is, then it is a curse shared by all classes. Unless you are dealing with something completely trivial, mechanical, and boring, there is not enough time in any class to cover everything. A good class should get students interested, show them the kinds of things that they may find interesting, give them some tools for dealing with those things, etc. But it should leave the real work to the student, something to be “finished” outside of class.

  21. DanL on March 4, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    If nothing else, I think the story of Lot and his daughters shows what kind of an effect living in such a wicked environment can have on one’s family. I tend to think of Lot as an overall good guy, but, like many of us, may not have had FHE and family prayers as often as he should have, and without that spiritual shielding, left his children to gain their understanding of right and wrong from the environment where they were spending most of their time.

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