Lesson Aids

Sunday School Lesson 28:1 Kings 17-19

July 12, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 28:1 Kings 17-19

Elijah We know from passages in the New Testament and, especially, from Latter-day revelation, that Elijah is one of the most important prophets to have lived. (In the Jewish tradition, he is second only to Moses.) Yet we know almost nothing about him. Why do you think that is? In addition to the story of his life, in these and the next few chapters of scripture, we have Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would come to bind the hearts of the fathers and the children (Malachi 4:5), as well as the repetition of that prophecy in several places, notably in... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 27: 1 Kings 12-14; 2 Chronicles 17, 20

July 12, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 27: 1 Kings 12-14; 2 Chronicles 17, 20

The material of this lesson, especially that of chapters 12-13, is important to understanding the rest of Old Testament, for the eighty years that it covers details the split that occurred between the ten tribes of Israel in the north and the tribe of Judah/Benjamin in the south. Since these accounts, like the rest of the Old Testament, were edited many years later (for example, after the return from Babylon) by descendants of those in the southern kingdom, you should think about what their point of view would have been and how that might have shaped their version of... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 26: 1 Kings 3; 5-11

July 4, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 26: 1 Kings 3; 5-11

The Story This week’s lesson focuses on the construction of the first temple. Previously there had been many places for offering sacrifices and several buildings that we would call temples. But this is the first one built on the site traditionally associated with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. As this temple came to prominence, it overshadowed the others and, by the time of the return from Babylon, it became the only one recognized. The first two chapters of 1 Kings are the background for that temple-building. Chapters 1-2 deal with the final days of David, when his son, Adonijah, aided... Read more »

How to write a revelation

July 1, 2010 | 31 comments
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How to write a revelation

I have been working on a paper looking at the Doctrine and Covenants, and my research has me thinking about how the texts of modern revelation were produced.  I think that there are a lot of Mormons who assume that the words of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were dictated word for word to Joseph.  On this model, the Doctrine and Covenants is rather like the Qua’ran, which also consists of a series of revelations given to a prophet over a period of years in response to concrete historial circumstances.  Pious Muslims affirm that the Qua’ran was... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 25: Psalms

June 27, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 25: Psalms

I’m going to skip my usual whine about how much material is covered in the reading for this lesson (unless announcing that I won’t whine counts as a whine). Overview One traditional division of the book of Psalms—often called “the psalter”—divides it into five sections, on analogy with the five books of Moses: Psalms 1-41, Psalms 42-72, Psalms 73-89, Psalms 90-106; and Psalms 107-150, with Psalm 150 being the closing doxology for the whole collection. Those who accept this division understand the first and second psalms to be an introduction to the psalter as a whole, so some manuscripts... Read more »

Sunday School Lesson 24: 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51

June 27, 2010 | no comments
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Sunday School Lesson 24: 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51

2 Samuel 11 Verse 1: What do you make of the fact that the story is set at the time of the year when “kings go forth to battle,” but David sent his army to battle and stayed behind himself? What is the writer telling us about David when he says “But David tarried still at Jerusalem”? (Note: presumably the time when battles could once again commence was at the end of the rainy season, approximately the beginning of May.) Verses 2-5: How do you suppose that David could see Bathsheba bathing? Where do you think people would usually... Read more »

Old Testament Lesson 23 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24

June 17, 2010 | no comments
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Old Testament Lesson 23 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24

I apologize for the rough status of these study notes. They are not yet finished, but they are as good as they are going to get this week. As you read these chapters, ask yourself why they are included in scripture. Do they testify of Christ? If so, how? Do they serve some other purpose? History is important in its own right, but it isn’t clear why this particular history is important as scripture. How would you explain its importance? Perhaps the answer is “Ultimately this isn’t an important story,” but that ought to be our last conclusion rather... Read more »

June 5, 2010 | no comments
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Though the lesson doesn’t include chapters 12 and 14, the manual recommends them as supplemental reading and I agree. We need to read them to see the full story. There is quite a bit in this section, from the choice of Saul as King, to his usurpation of Samuel’s authority and consequent loss of authority, to the choice of David to replace him, to Saul’s madness, to the story of David slaying Goliath. Rather than try to cover all of that material, these study questions will focus on chapters 9-10, 13, and 16: Saul’s selection and downfall; David’s election.... Read more »

Old Testament Lesson 21 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 2-3; 8

May 29, 2010 | no comments
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Old Testament Lesson 21 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 2-3; 8

One can reasonably argue that the book of Judges shows us the decline of Israel to a situation in which they have to have a king to lead them, and that the treatment of women that we see in Judges is a sign of that decline. One can also argue that Ruth is a response to that theme in Judges. How does the story of Hannah fit into that theme? Chapter 2 Verses 1-10: These verses are a song, perhaps not one that Hannah composed, but one she knew already and applied to herself, much as we might choose... Read more »

May 17, 2010 | no comments
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The story of Ruth occurs “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). It is not, strictly speaking, in chronological order. Indeed, from here on out, you may wish to consult the Old Testament chronology in the Bible Dictionary if you wish to see the historical connectedness of the various stories. What do Naomi, Ruth, and Hannah have in common? Why is it appropriate that this lesson is about these three women? The story of Ruth is completely different than any of the stories we have read so far. God is only mentioned obliquely and plays no intervening... Read more »

OT Lesson 19 Study Notes: Judges 2; 4; 6-7; 13-16

May 2, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 19 Study Notes: Judges 2; 4; 6-7; 13-16

The notes this time are shorter than usual, for which you may well be grateful. I’ve had much more difficulty thinking of verse-by-verse study questions for these chapters. Judges The translation “judge” is misleading, for it suggests that the person it describes had judgment as his or her primary duty. However, the judges of Israel lived in a time before the powers of government had been separated into anything like legislative, executive, or judicial functions. As a result, “leader” or perhaps even “chief” would be a more accurate translation, for the people that the King James translation calls the... Read more »

OT Lesson 17 Study Notes: Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32:1-4, 15-18, 30-40, 45-47

April 28, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 17 Study Notes: Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32:1-4, 15-18, 30-40, 45-47

Background Feel free to skip this background discussion if you aren’t interested in it. You can skip to the study questions without losing anything. Before taking up two points, however, let me say that I am not generally in favor of bringing much scholarly discussion into Sunday School lessons or our study for them, I don’t think those discussions have much relevance to our understanding of the Bible as a religious text or our application of its teachings to our lives. Scholarly information and ideas have an important place in our studies and in my experience they can sometimes... Read more »

OT Lesson 16 Study Notes: Numbers 22-24, 31

April 18, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 16 Study Notes: Numbers 22-24, 31

Who is Balaam? All of a sudden a non-Israelite prophet appears. Who is he? Based on Numbers 23:7, Word Biblical Commentary: Numbers, page 263) suggests that he is a Syrian. Is he really a prophet? If no, why not? If yes, in what sense of the word? (Archaeologists have discovered an inscription mentioning Balaam in a probable temple complex in Transjordan. The inscription comes from the 8th or 7th century BC—Ashley, The Book of Numbers 437.) New Testament writers took Balaam as a negative object lesson. Peter, speaking of those who left the church because of lust, refers to... Read more »

OT Lesson 15 Study Notes: Numbers 11-14, 21:1-9

April 17, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 15 Study Notes: Numbers 11-14, 21:1-9

Besides the chapters of Numbers assigned for this lesson, I also recommend chapters 16, 17, and 20. It is unfortunate that we have no lessons from Leviticus. Though it is not immediately obvious how we should understand those scriptures and apply them to ourselves, the exercise of doing so can be very beneficial. I have depended on study notes prepared by my friend, Art Bassett, several years ago. But I’ve edited and expanded them since then—more than once—so I am no longer sure who wrote what. So I take responsibility for what you see here, though I’m not sure... Read more »

OT Lesson 14 Study Notes: Exodus 15-20, 32-34

April 11, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 14 Study Notes: Exodus 15-20, 32-34

As ever, there is a great deal of material in this reading. Perhaps the overviews I provide of each chapter (including some material on chapters 21-21) will help put matters in context. As you read the chapters ask yourselves what kinds of parallels, types, and other meanings you see. How do these things help us understand our own lives? How do they help us understand our relation to Christ? To help you think about that more profitably, also ask yourselves “What did these things mean to the Israelites when they happened?” “What might they mean to Jews today?” Thinking... Read more »

OT Lesson 13 Study Notes: Exodus 1-3, 5-6, 11-14

March 21, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 13 Study Notes: Exodus 1-3, 5-6, 11-14

Before looking in detail at the scriptures for this week, consider the following possible chiastic parallels between the story of Moses’s life and the story of Israel’s experience. Of course parallels are what we make of them. Some may see these as more tightly like one another than others do. Some may be skeptical about these chiasmuses, especially since one of them has missing parts. Some may see nothing at all. If you don’t find these parallels interesting, or at least thought-provoking, skip them and go on to the questions. If you do find them interesting, perhaps they will... Read more »

OT Lesson 12 Study Notes: Genesis 40-45

March 16, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 12 Study Notes: Genesis 40-45

Genesis 40 Verse 1: How long do you think “after these things” might represent, a long time or a short time? Why do you think we hear nothing further about Potiphar’s wife and what became of her? Verse 2: Note that “butler” is probably better translated “cup bearer,” and “baker” is probably better translated “royal scribe.” These are important palace officials. Does that suggest anything about the prison director’s thoughts about Joseph? Why doesn’t the writer tell us anything about how they have made the Pharaoh angry? Are we supposed to see a parallel between the servants of Pharaoh... Read more »

OT Lesson 11 Study Notes: Genesis 34 and 37-39

March 6, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 11 Study Notes: Genesis 34 and 37-39

Genesis 34 What was the sin of Dinah’s brothers? Was it that they took vengeance? Reread the Abrahamic covenant to see what it promises, and think about that covenant as it relates to this event. Did they violate that covenant? How does this chapter portray Jacob? Beyond the rape, what does Shechem do, through his father, that is an affront to Jacob and his sons? For an excellent discussion of this chapter, read Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative 445-475. Chapters 37-47 It is obvious that, like we who try to study and teach the large amounts of... Read more »

OT Lesson 10 Study Notes: Genesis 24-29

March 4, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 10 Study Notes: Genesis 24-29

I will concentrate my questions on Genesis 25:19-34 and 27:1-45, and I will add Genesis 33:1-20 to the reading because I think it rounds out the story of Genesis 27. Chapter 25 Verse 19: We expect a genealogy to follow when we are told, “these are the generations of so-and-so,” but here none follows. What meaning does the word “generations” have in this verse? Does that tell us anything about the usual meaning of genealogy? Does it add any depth to our understanding of genealogy? The form of this genealogy is unusual in that it first mentions Isaac and... Read more »

OT Lesson 9 Study Notes: Abraham 1; Genesis 15-17, 21-22

February 25, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 9 Study Notes: Abraham 1; Genesis 15-17, 21-22

I repeat the reminder: these are notes for study rather than notes for a lesson. Of course study notes can help one prepare a lesson, but my intention is less to help teachers prepare lessons (though I have no objection whatever to them finding my notes useful for that purpose, if they do) than it is not help class members prepare to participate in the lessons taught. Those who use these notes should feel free to add to them with their own comments and observations—and, of course, corrections. Because there is so much material to cover I’m going to... Read more »

OT Lesson 8 Study Notes: Genesis 13-14, 18-19

February 14, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 8 Study Notes: Genesis 13-14, 18-19

Chapter 13 Verses 1-2: Are there elements in Abram’s journey to Canaan that typify Israel’s later exodus from Egypt? If there are, what would be the point of that parallel? Verse 1: Notice the difference in the way the families are described in Genesis 12:5 and here. Does anything in these verses suggest a change in the family situation? If yes, of what sort? Journeys from Egypt to Canaan are said to be “up” and journeys from Canaan to Egypt are said to be “down.” We might use the same metaphors because of the way we have constructed the... Read more »

OT Lesson 7 Study Notes: Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

February 7, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 7 Study Notes: Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

Abraham 1 Verse 1: Why does this work use the name “Abraham” for the person in question when we know from Genesis that his name was as yet still “Abram”? What does it tell us that Abraham says “the residence of my fathers” (plural) rather than “the residence of my father” (singular)? Why did Abraham think he needed to “find another place of residence”? (Compare Genesis 12:1 as well as Abraham 1:5-12 and 2:1-4.) What do you make of the dispassionate, deliberate character of Abraham’s language in this verse and, in the later verses, of his account of the... Read more »

OT Lesson 6 Study Notes: Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:11-24; 8:1-22; 9:8-17; 11:1-9

January 30, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 6 Study Notes: Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:11-24; 8:1-22; 9:8-17; 11:1-9

Moses 8 Verse 9: The Hebrew of Genesis 5:29 shows us that Noah’s name means “rest.” How does his father, Lamech, explain the name? Is Noah’s name significant to the story of the flood? Verses 19-21: Why don’t the people listen to Noah? What do the things they say about themselves tell us about them? (Compare verse 21 to verse 14.) Why does what they say focus on marriage and children? How is what they say a reply to Moses’ message of repentance? Do we see anything here about how they understand what it means to have dominion? Verse... Read more »

OT Lesson 5 Study Notes: Moses 5-7

January 30, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 5 Study Notes: Moses 5-7

As always, remember that these are questions for studying the reading assigned more than for planning the lesson itself. Even then, you are certainly going to find more questions here than you can deal with in one study session, though not, perhaps, more than you can deal with in a week. However, that said, the lesson itself has turned out to be more than I could deal with in a week. I had most of the lesson revised by Sunday evening and thought I would be able to finish adding material for chapter 7 by Tuesday or Wednesday. I... Read more »

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.