Old Testament Lesson 08 (Genesis 18–23)
ABRAHAM & SARAH ARE PROMISED A SON
● Genesis 17:15–21 The Lord blessed Sarah and prophesied of the birth of Isaac.
— v. 17 Abraham “fell on his face” and “laughed” at the idea that he at 100 years old and his wife at 90 years could have a son.
— JST Genesis 17:23 Joseph Smith corrected this verse to say that Abraham rejoiced.
— vv. 19, 21 This is substantiated by the boy’s name. The boy’s name was to be “Yitzkhaq” (Isaac), meaning “rejoice” or “laugh.”
— v. 19 The birthright was to be given to Isaac, the first son of the first wife, rather than to Ishmael, who was the first son of Abraham and Hagar and was about fourteen years older than Isaac.
— v. 20 Abraham prayed concerning Ishmael and his posterity and received the promise that his posterity would be numerous and fruitful. He will have twelve sons and become a great nation. This is speaking of the Arab nations, which are indeed numerous and are also children of Abraham.
Abraham Entertains Three Holy Men
● Genesis 18:1–8 The Lord appeared to Abraham again as he sat in the door of his tent in the heat of the day (v. 1). Then Abraham saw three holy men standing nearby and ran to them and bowed down before them (v. 2). He referred to them as “My Lord,” which they did not correct (v. 3), and he fed them and they ate bread, meat, butter, and milk (vv. 4–8).
— We are not certain who these men were but the fact that they ate before him indicates that they were not angels. They were either earthly holy men or translated beings.
● Genesis 18:9–15 They promised again that Sarah will have a son, which caused Sarah to “laugh” (rejoice?), because she was old and beyond childbearing age (v. 11).
— v. 14 The holy men chided Sarah for her lack of faith and ask, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” They promised to return again the next year when the child will be born.
● Genesis 21:1–8; JST Genesis 21:1–2, 5–7 In keeping with this covenant promise from the Lord, Isaac was born the following year.
● Genesis 18:18–19 The holy visitors had great respect for Abraham, noting that “he shall become a great and mighty nation,” all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him (v. 18), and “he will command his children . . . and they shall keep the way of the Lord” (v. 19).
THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM & GOMORRAH
Abraham Pleads for Sodom
● Genesis 18:20–22 Abraham’s godly visitors also had distressing news. The Lord was sending these three visitors to Sodom in order to destroy it because “their sin is very grievous.”
● Genesis 18:23–33; JST Gen. 18:19–42 Because his nephew Lot resided in Sodom, Abraham besought the Lord to refrain from destroying it, asking “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous the righteous with the wicked?” (v. 23). He then bargained with them concerning the destruction of Sodom.
— vv. 24–26 If they can find 50 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
— vv. 27–28 If they can find 45 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
— vv. 29 If they can find 40 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
— vv. 30 If they can find 30 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
— vv. 31 If they can find 20 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
— vv. 32 If they can find 10 righteous people, He will not destroy it.
● As a result of this visit, Lot’s household was miraculously preserved (Genesis 19:1–13; JST Gen. 19:9–15).
The Sins of Sodom
● Genesis 19:1–9 The people of Sodom had given in to their lusts for both heterosexual and homosexual sins. When these angels were found to be living in Lot’s home, the citizens literally threatened violence if Lot would not turn them over to them so that they could satisfy their lusts upon them.
● Genesis 19:8; JST Genesis 19:11–12 Contrary to what the Bible suggests, Lot did not offer his daughters to the men of Sodom. When Lot refused to allow them to satisfy their evil and depraved desires, they became angry and said: “We will have the men, and thy daughters also. . . . Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom.”
● Genesis 19:9–11 When they threatened to break down the door to have their way, the holy men pulled Lot back into the home for safety and then struck the attackers with blindness.
● Ezekiel 16:49–50 The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah was not just lust and homosexuality. Ezekiel also identified pride, fulness of bread, idleness, and an unwillingness to help the poor as some of Sodom’s most grievous sins.
● Genesis 19:12–14 Lot seeks to save his daughters and sons-in-law who lived elsewhere in the city, but they rejected his warnings.
Lot’s Family Flees and Sodom is Destroyed
● Genesis 19:12–23; JST Gen. 9:18–20 With little time to spare, Lot was warned and fled with his wife and two daughters to safety.
● Genesis 19:24–29 As Lot and his family escaped, the cities of Sodom were destroyed in a fiery cataclysm of some kind.
— v. 26 Lot’s wife and the pillar of salt. Lot’s wife was not turned to salt, nor was she punished for simply looking back at the city they were fleeing. The phrase “looked back” was an idiomatic way of saying “she turned back” or “returned to Sodom.” Thus, she was destroyed when the city was destroyed, and given the fiery nature of the blast she was, with the rest of the city, turned to ashes.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
“Apparently, what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before she was past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her. . . . She did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. . . .
“To all [people] of every generation, I call out, ‘Remember Lot’s wife’ [Luke 17:32]. Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the ‘high priest of good things to come’ (Hebrews 9:11).”1
● D&C 133:15 The Lord gave a similar warning to the Saints in Kirtland. Those who ignored this warning and failed to flee to the west were caught up in the awful destruction of the Civil War, and many died.
● Genesis 19:30–38; JST Gen. 19:35, 37, 39 Lot’s daughters did not return to the city of Sodom, but the sins of Sodom remained in their hearts. Fearing that they would never have offspring, they tricked their father into incestuous intercourse. Through this wickedness, two nations—the Moabites and Ammonites—were established as descendants of Lot.
● Today we are faced with similar choices as we live in the midst of a Sodom-like society. The worldly choices that Lot made led to the destruction of his family. Abraham, meanwhile, lived in righteousness and peace in this life and inherited celestial glory in the world to come. The choices have never been more stark, the enticements so visible and wicked than they are today. We are invited to live righteously in a wicked world, and our decisions will affect our families for many generations to come.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
“In the Church, we often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ As we observe television shows that make profanity, violence, and infidelity commonplace and even glamorous, we often wish we could lock out the world in some way and isolate our families from it all. . . .
“Perhaps we should state the couplet previously mentioned as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved; be informed. Try to be understanding and tolerant and to appreciate diversity. Make meaningful contributions to society through service and involvement. Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right. . . .
“Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced. We should work to stem the tide of sin and evil instead of passively being swept along by it. We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it.”2
ABRAHAM OFFERS ISAAC
An Abrahamic Test
● Genesis 22:1–3 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
— v.1 God did not “tempt” Abraham. The word translated as “tempt” comes from the Hebrew word nissah, which means “to test, try, or prove.”
● Genesis 17:19 Not only was Isaac his son, but God had promised that the Abrahamic covenant would continue through Isaac and his descendants. This commandment to offer his son as a sacrifice would have seemed completely contrary to all that God had promised to Abraham previously.
● Abraham 1:12–20 Also, bear in mind that Abraham was saved from a similar fate instigated in wickedness by his own father. Abraham must have absolutely abhorred human sacrifice.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Exceeding faith was shown by Abraham when the superhuman test was applied to him. His young ‘child of promise,’ destined to be the father of empires, must now be offered upon the sacrificial altar. It was God’s command, but it seemed so contradictory! How could his son, Isaac, be the father of an uncountable posterity if in his youth his mortal life was to be terminated? Why should he, Abraham, be called upon to do this revolting deed? It was irreconcilable, impossible! And yet he believed God. His undaunted faith carried him with breaking heart toward the land of Moriah with this young son who little suspected the agonies through which his father must have been passing.”3
● Genesis 22:2-3 Abraham’s response was immediate. Genesis records that he “rose up early in the morning” to take his son to the place of sacrifice. We learn much about faith and obedience from Abraham’s response (see also Hebrews 11:17-19; James 2:21-23).
● Genesis 22:3-10 Isaac was also obedient. There is no indication that Isaac opposed the intention of Abraham to sacrifice him. He went willingly with his father.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: “When they came to the prescribed place, Abraham built an altar and laid wood upon it. Then, the Bible says, ‘Abraham . . . bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood’ (Genesis 22:9). What did Isaac think when Abraham did such a strange thing? The Bible mentions no struggle or objection. Isaac’s silence can be explained only in terms of his trust in and obedience to his father.”4
● Jacob explained the Lord’s purpose in testing Abraham in this manner (Jacob 4:5).
The Similitude of Abraham’s Sacrificing Isaac
● Genesis 22:3–19 The sacrifice of Isaac was in similitude of the Atonement of Christ.
— Abraham and Isaac were symbolic of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (Jacob 4:5).
— Abram means “exalted father.”
— Abraham means “father of a multitude.”
— Isaac was a product of a miraculous birth.
— Isaac was Abraham’s “only begotten son.” (Hebrews 11:17)
— The sacrifice took place on Mt. Moriah (the site of the Crucifixion).
— Isaac took the wood “on his back” (JST Genesis 22:7).
— Isaac was in his early 30s, as was Christ (Genesis 23:1).
— Isaac submitted willingly to the offering.
— Abraham named the place “Jehovah-jireh”(“on this mount, the Lord shall be seen”).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said. “This story . . . shows the goodness of God in protecting Isaac and in providing a substitute so he would not have to die. Because of our sins and our mortality, we, like Isaac, are condemned to death. When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice.”5
Learning from Trials
● President Hugh B. Brown said that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham.”6
● D&C 101:4–5, 35-38; 122:5-7 The Lord revealed in our own day that we must be tried “even as Abraham”. This is necessary so that we can demonstrate to ourselves and to God that we are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary in the cause of our Master.
● D&C 136:31 As the Saints were making their way west from Nauvoo, the Lord gave them this profound standard by which their fitness fo exaltation might be known: “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.”
● The story of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac can be an inspiration to all of us as we seek to do the will of the Lord in our lives and as we face our own “Abrahamic tests” of life.
1. “The Best Is Yet to Be,” Ensign, Jan 2010, 24, 27.
2. In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 100-101; or Ensign, May 1989, 80.
3. In Conference Report, Oct. 1952, 48.
4. In Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 51; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 37.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 51; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 37.
6. In Truman G. Madsen, The Highest in Us , 49.