Lesson Aids

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 »

OT Lesson 4 Study Notes: Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

January 17, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 4 Study Notes: Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

These notes focus on Moses 4, giving less attention to the other scriptures for this lesson. However, the other readings are necessary to understanding chapter 4. (The study questions for Moses 4:1-4 were part of the materials for lesson 2. I repeat them here so that they will be convenient.) Note that if Moses 2 tells of the spiritual creation (as is commonly but not universally believed among Latter-day Saints), then chapters 3 and 4 correspond to Moses 2:24-30, the sixth day. That would mean that carrying out the physical aspect of each day’s creation involved considerably more than... Read more »

Underwhelming Thoughts on Correlation

January 13, 2010 | 83 comments
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I confess that I am not a regular reader of the Church News, but I did happen to run across this recent piece, “Using proper sources.” I will note a couple of quibbles I have with the piece (which, as an unsigned post in the “Viewpoints” section, I take to be essentially a staff editorial), but in the end I think I agree on the need to avoid the use of “uncorrelated” supplementary sources or materials in class. Read more »

OT Lesson 3 Study Notes: Moses 1:27-42, Moses 2-3

January 11, 2010 | 3 comments
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OT Lesson 3 Study Notes: Moses 1:27-42, Moses 2-3

A reminder about these notes: They are intended to help people study the assigned material for this week’s Sunday School lesson. They are not intended as an outline for how to teach that lesson, though I assume that by studying the material a person might get ideas about how to teach it. And a note about these notes: These questions are for one particular kind of study, not the only kind nor necessarily the best kind. Sometimes we study a book of scripture from cover to cover, learning or reminding ourselves of its overall teachings and how the parts... Read more »

OT Lesson 2 Study Notes: Abraham 3; Moses 4:1-4

January 2, 2010 | no comments
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OT Lesson 2 Study Notes: Abraham 3; Moses 4:1-4

Abraham 3 Verses 1-19: Why did the Lord reveal these things to Abraham? More important: why did he think it important to reveal them to us? Verse 1: Why is it important that Abraham tell us that he received the revelation that follows through the Urim and Thummim? Verse 2: Assuming that the throne of God is on a planet, why say that the star is near that throne / planet rather than that the throne / planet is near the star? In contrast, we don’t say that the sun is near the earth, but that the earth is... Read more »

OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1

December 29, 2009 | no comments
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OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1

As the title of this post says, these are notes for studying the lesson rather than for teaching it, though presumably one who studies the lesson will have material from which to teach it. Read more »

Studying the Old Testament

December 29, 2009 | no comments
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Studying the Old Testament

What are the scriptures for? How should we use them? How do we use them? “Proof-texting” is a procedure that begins by assuming we know the doctrines and then searches through the scriptures to find something to back up the belief. Because it begins with what we assume we know rather from what the scriptures teach, proof-texting always runs the danger of “wresting” the scriptures. Jesus accuses the Jews of wresting the scriptures by proof-texting in John 5:39. See also 2 Peter 3:16, Alma 13:20, and D&C 10:63. “Wrest” is the word from which the modern word “wrestle” comes,... Read more »

Understanding the Old Testament

December 29, 2009 | no comments
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Understanding the Old Testament

Don’t expect Old Testament writers to have written their histories the way we would have written them. Read more »

What is the Old Testament?

December 27, 2009 | no comments
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What is the Old Testament?

The version of the Old Testament used by Protestants and Jews today contains 39 books. Catholic Bibles include 9 more books, as well as 2 additions to Daniel and 1 to Esther. At least some of those 9 additional books were used as scripture by Saints of the 1st century AD. For various reasons (mostly historical rather than doctrinal or revealed, I would guess) Latter-day Saints use the same version of the Bible as do the Protestants. The major difference between the Protestant and Jewish Bibles is that the order of the books in each is different. The Protestants... Read more »