Monday, February 22, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #9 - God will provide himself a Lamb

Lesson 9 - “God Will Provide Himself a Lamb” – Abraham 1; Genesis 15-17; 21-22

Over the last few lessons, we’ve covered several events in Abraham’s life, including early stories of his childhood in Chaldea, being cast into a raging furnace, his sojourn in Egypt, his triumphs in battle, being blessed by Melchizedek, entertaining heavenly hosts, and receiving the Abrahamic Covenant.

Patterns emerge in the scriptures, as God creates events that will symbolize future events (Melchizedek symbolizing both God and Christ). Abraham has been promised vast posterity and power, but in his older years the odds of such an event occurring becomes less and less probable.

Already, we’ve seen that some ancient texts, including the Quran discuss Abraham being cast into a fiery furnace. His father, Terah not only worships idols, but has become a maker of idols. As a youth, Abraham destroys the idols as part of his stance to worship Jehovah/Yahweh.

Why would his father and others turn to idols of wood and stone? Because such idols do what they are told to do: sit there. Man can use his imagination to advance wonderful stories about gods, but the reality was still there. When Abraham blamed the biggest idol for killing the others because they were all greedy for the food offering he brought them, Terah and the others knew Abraham lied. They knew their idols were incapable of reaching for the food, eating it, or fighting over it. For Terah, it meant he would have to go through the trouble of carving replacements. However, it also brought reality to the forefront. These idols did not have the ability to do anything, therefore they were impotent. They were carved and recast by Terah, so that man had more power than the idols had.

Abraham would face other attempts on his life.

Abraham and the priest of Elkenah

In Abraham 1, we find that Abraham is once again getting himself into trouble. A major sacrifice to the gods of Chaldea and of Egypt is occurring. It may have been a part of the Year Rite – a ceremony many Middle Eastern kings performed (including Israelite and Nephite kings). This ceremony would show the power of the king as a divine son of the national god. In the case of Abraham and Israel, it would represent the king/Abraham being the divine son of Jehovah/Yahweh, who was the divine son of Elohim, the chief God.

Imagine slaying the divine son of Yahweh! This would show the world that the gods of Chaldea/Egypt were more powerful. Previously in the ancient texts, we read how Abraham confounded King Nimrod, even when cast into a fiery furnace. Imagine Nimrod’s surprise when Abraham did not die after days in the furnace. The king would have to admit that Abraham’s god was stronger than his own gods.

We will see such contests again and again in the Old Testament. Jehovah is pitted against other gods, some of whom would traditionally be other divine sons of El Elyon. These gods competed for primacy among the nations and in the divine council, just as Lucifer sought to obtain preeminence in the premortal grand council (Abraham 3, Moses 4:1-4).

At this time in Chaldea, such major ceremonies would require the sacrifice of not just animals, but also human flesh. The ancient belief was that gods obtained greater power from the flesh of humans. And the ultimate sacrifices of power were little children.

Abraham notes that 4 virgins, direct descendants of Ham, one of the holy sons of Noah, refused to worship the gods of the nation. It is likely that these girls were abducted during a military campaign or while plundering a nearby nation. In many instances, the acceptable worship would have required the girls to submit themselves sexually to their conquerors, perhaps even to the priest of Elkenah. When they refused to be sexual slaves, perhaps living comfortably in a harem, they were taken for the sacrifice.

In Abraham 1:8-9, we find that Pharaoh offers the sacrifice at this special Year Rite. He would have chosen foreigners, slaves, and non-believers to sacrifice. Pharaoh offered sacrifice to two gods: Osiris and Ra. Osiris was the first born god of the earth. He was god of the Underworld, who was slain by his enemy Seth, and resurrected by Isis. Pharaohs saw themselves as the descendants and incarnation of Osiris through his divine son, Horus (Osiris - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Shagreel or Ra (the Egyptian name) was the Sun. The traditions on Ra changed over time, as Ra was initially viewed as the Sun at mid-day only, but later became the Sun at all times. At one point, he was considered Horus, the son of Osiris, and other times as the brother of Osiris (Ra - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

With this relationship between Pharaoh, Osiris and Ra/Horus established, we can see how important it would be to destroy the son of Jehovah, Abraham. As with the four virgins, Abraham would not bow down and worship the gods of Chaldea or Egypt. Abraham believed Jehovah to be greater than the Sun itself!

Abraham was violently laid upon the lion bed, which anciently was used for both sacrifice and mummification. As the priest of Elkenah lifted up the knife to slay him, Abraham prayed for deliverance. Abraham has a vision of God Almighty (El Elyon/Elohim), and the “angel of his presence” appeared and released him. As seen previously, the “angel of his/El Elyon’s presence” is Jehovah/Yahweh. God the Father sent his divine Son down to rescue Abraham, who was Jehovah’s divine son (Abr 1:13-16). Jehovah then informs Abraham that it is time to depart of the land, and go to a land of promise.

The Land of Promise

Interestingly, Abraham is delivered from the sacrifice, only to immediately be called to leave. The land is full of idolatry. As with the people of Sodom discussed last week, they have become inhospitable. They seek to force their beliefs upon foreigners. Rather than destroy Chaldea, the Lord removes the prophet to a new land.

The Lord makes promises to Abraham in verse 18: “I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee.” Let’s break this apart.

At this time, Abraham’s name is technically still Abram. The promise of a name change is decades away. In Genesis 17, Jehovah (YHWH) literally puts his name on both Abraham and Sarah by giving each of them a letter from his name (H). To put upon Abraham the “Priesthood of thy father” would suggest not the priesthood of Terah, but of Noah and Shem, his predecessors. God’s name is synonymous with His Priesthood. For this purpose, in the last lesson on Melchizedek, we found that El Elyon IS Melchizedek, as is Jehovah IS Melchizedek. Such is a holy title: Melchizedek literally means “king of righteousness” and that is what Abraham shall become.

The facsimiles in the Book of Abraham are beyond the scope of the Gospel Doctrine lessons, but I refer you to Kerry Shirts’ excellent in-depth articles on the Book of Abraham and the facsimiles: Papyri & Book of Abraham Articles, Analysis & Reviews

Abraham seeks an eternal seed

Once finally established in Canaan after his sojourn in Egypt, Abraham realizes that his time to have children is quickly passing him by. At first, he hoped Lot would be his adopted son. However, contentions forced Abraham to send Lot and his people to their own land. Lot was a decent man, but not the valiant servant of God that Jehovah wanted.

Abraham asked God if he would accept one of his faithful servants to fill the void, but God insists that it will be his literal seed. Sarah, wanting Abraham to be blessed with children, gives Hagar to him as a slave-wife (concubine). Hagar brings forth a son, Ishmael, and Abraham temporarily believes this is the child of the promise. Visited by three angels, one of whom was the Angel of the Lord’s Presence (Jehovah), Abraham again is promised he will bear a son through Sarah. It is such an amazing statement at their advanced ages that Sarah laughs at the thought.


In Genesis 17:9-13, God establishes circumcision as the external evidence that man has entered into the Abrahamic covenant with Him. All boys are to be circumcised at 8 days of age. Abraham immediately circumcises his entire group, including slaves. While circumcision is not required today, we use baptism as a symbol of entering into the Abrahamic covenant, and are to “circumcise your hearts, and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16). Abraham being the obedient divine son of Jehovah ensured that “in the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son” (Gen 17:26), as well as all the other males in his household.

This began the new covenant between Abraham and Jehovah in the new land of promise. It was Abraham’s purification test in entering into the new land. At 99 years old, Abraham was purified and ready to prepare to have the promised child in the Promised Land.

Isaac and Ishmael

When Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90, Isaac was born. Ishmael was 14 years of age. Ishmael was soon to be at the age to inherit his father’s lands and receive his blessings. However, he was now the second-hand son. Semitic tradition gave all blessings to the first born son. Here continues the tradition of the second son receiving the birthright and blessings of first-born, which also occurred between Cain and Abel. It seems the older son tends to never understand why he should not inherit the first born’s blessings, for the simple fact of being born first.

Abraham had asked the Lord to accept Ishmael as his first born: “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen 17:18). The Lord promised that Ishmael would become a mighty nation, but the promise was to be with Isaac.

The first-born position was one of great honor. All were expected to respect the first-born, even like they would the father. In Genesis 21, Ishmael mocks the child, Isaac. Ishmael knows this small child is taking away everything from him. Had the child not been born, he would have received the birthright. With this in mind, we perhaps can understand why Ishmael would mock his younger half-brother. For all his life, Ishmael was treated like a king, and now would be nothing but the son of a concubine.

Sacrifice of Ishmael

To ensure Isaac’s safety, Sarah had no choice but to insist that Hagar and her son leave. If at 14 years of age Ishmael was already teasing and mocking the new born baby, what would he do a few years down the road? The possible murder of Isaac would end the covenant God said he would make through Isaac, and Sarah was already past her prime.

Abraham was saddened, but reassured by the Lord that it was the best thing to do. Hagar and Ishmael were sent out into the wilderness with the Lord’s promise. Ishmael receives his own covenant in the wilderness with God. While the first born son receives the greatest blessings and promises, often other blessings can be reserved for the other children. In this instance, God promised Abraham to make a great nation out of Ishmael. An angel reaffirms this promise to Hagar when she was about to give up and die.

Ishmael became an archer or hunter (Gen 21:20). Genesis seems to be antagonistic towards hunters, viewing them as the enemy of the good. The good are described as shepherds: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Hunters are wild and ferocious, undeserving of the blessings of the firstborn or of God: Nimrod, Ishmael, and Esau.

There was another reason for Ishmael to leave. In the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 16), the high priest annually performed rites to cleanse the entire congregation of God. This rite, which occurred on the Day of Atonement, included the scapegoat. All the sins and wrongs of the people were blamed on the goat. The high priest would lay his hands on the goat’s head to transfer all the sins to the goat. The goat was then led out into the wilderness, away from the people (Scapegoating - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Ishmael represented the world of Abraham before the full covenant was established. Ishmael represented Abram, not Abraham. He represented Hagar, the slave-wife, not Sarah the covenant and free wife. He represented the mistakes of the past, not the promises of the future. In this instance, the scapegoat and Ishmael symbolize Jesus Christ. As an innocent being, Jesus took our sins upon himself, so we would not have to bear them. He is the world’s scapegoat. And even though rejected and cast out into the wilderness by his people, Jesus has become a mighty nation of Christians, as Ishmael became a mighty nation.

Abraham’s well and his Asherah

We see in Genesis 21:22-32, Abraham meets up with Abimelech, a Philistine neighbor. The Philistines were probably Sea People, who came from islands near Greece. They settled the coast line of Canaan not long before Abraham entered the area, and were involved in conquest of much of the coast line of the eastern Mediterranean (Sea Peoples - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Abimelech knows that Jehovah has greatly blessed Abraham, and realizes that a peace covenant through the generations would ensure his own family’s future existence and prosperity. Before a covenant could be established, political issues had to be ironed out.

Abraham notes that he had dug a well for his flocks, and that Abimelech’s men had violently stolen it from him. Such a claim was very serious in the extremely arid Middle East. Water meant life. It meant crops could be grown and flocks fed. As a testimony of his statement, Abraham gives Abimelech 7 ewes, female sheep.

Both cut the covenant, by offering oxen and sheep on an altar to Jehovah. As mentioned in a previous lesson, covenants were very important. The breaking of a covenant meant the worst curse of God would befall the family – being cast off or totally wiped off the face of the earth.

Abraham then planted a grove in Beersheba and worshiped God (Gen 21:33). Groves of trees were a symbol of the consort/wife of God. Canaanites called her Asherah, and early Semites and Canaanites believed that both El Elyon and Yahweh had a wife, named Asherah (a title). Asherah depicted wisdom (see Proverbs 3) and fertility (multiply and replenish the earth) (Asherah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

BYU professor Daniel Peterson discusses Lehi and Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life and how it fits in as the mother of God (Nephi and His Asherah - Daniel C. Peterson - Journal of Book of Mormon Studies - Volume 9 - Issue 2), and Old Testament scholar and Methodist minister, Margaret Barker noted that Nephi’s Asherah is a perfect symbol for the First Temple’s belief in a mother Goddess (Margaret Barker - A Transcript of Her Response The Worlds of Joseph Smith).

It is very possible that Abraham created the grove as an outdoor temple, where he could worship his God Jehovah, while having the inspiration of Jehovah’s consort Asherah all around. He would have been thankful that Sarah was made fertile at such an advanced age, and safely gave birth to Isaac.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

It has been said that Isaac could not have been a teenager when Abraham sacrificed him, because it would not have been a sacrifice.

All around Abraham, human sacrifice was occurring in the names of the gods. Since the days of Adam and Noah, animal sacrifice was demanded by Elohim/El Elyon and Jehovah/Yahweh. Human sacrifice was demeaning and the apostate form of worship. Or was it? While some rabbis thought that Abraham just did it on his own without God's command, Rabbi J. H. Hertz wrote that child sacrifice was "rife among the Semitic peoples" and "in that age, it was astounding that Abraham's God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it." (Binding of Isaac - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Regardless of whose interpretation one uses, Jehovah commanded Abraham to perform a human sacrifice! This special event is known as the Akedah, or Binding of Isaac. Unlike other times when Abraham plead with God to spare the lives of those in Sodom, or to accept someone else as his chosen son, Abraham quietly accepts God’s command and prepares for the trip.

Why such a long trip? The travel gave opportunity for Abraham to ponder what he was going to do. Yet he did not back down or change his mind. It also brought them to the traditional Mt Moriah, the holy mountain upon which the temple would one day be built by Solomon. Abraham was sacrificing Isaac on what would be the future altar of the temple of Jehovah.

Isaac accepts his part. In the ancient writings, we are told he calmly allows Abraham to bind him and lay him on the altar. In the final moments, as Abraham is about to plunge the knife, the angel of the Lord stops him. He is told the sacrifice is sufficient enough to show their obedience as father and son.

Represented in this sacrifice was the future sacrifice God the Father would make of his Son, Jesus Christ for all mankind. When Isaac asked his father where the animal was for the sacrifice, Abraham responded, “God will provide himself a lamb.” (Gen 22:8). When the angel told Abraham to stop, he provided a ram, with its horns caught in a bush. For us in our day, God has provided Jesus Christ as our sacrificial lamb. Without Jesus as a stand-in for Isaac and for the rest of us, none of us could return to God’s presence and live again.

Isaac as the Atoning One

In conjunction with the scapegoat (Ishmael), would be the atoning sacrificial goat (Lev 16:15-19). This goat was pure, without blemish. It would be the perfect sacrifice to atone for the congregation’s sins. It would cleanse them. Anciently, after Aaron and the priests sacrificed the goat, its blood would be taken by the high priest into the Holy of Holies of the temple and sprinkle the Mercy Seat – God’s throne. Then the high priest would sprinkle the altar, the temple’s instruments, and finally the people. The blood would atone for their sins. Isaac and the atoning sacrificial goat represent Christ as sacrifice for all mankind.

No one but the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, and then only on this one day each year. This was Jehovah’s Year Rite ceremony, where He proclaimed himself king of Israel. Instead of offering up his enemies as a sacrifice, Jesus Christ offered himself. Paul teaches us that Jesus, the Great I AM and Jehovah was the Great High Priest, who entered alone into the Holy of Holies. He sprinkled his own blood on the altar and the Mercy Seat. And we are cleansed in his blood as we humbly join his congregation through faith, repentance, and baptism of water and spirit.




Kerry Shirts (Backyard Professor) on the Book of Abraham’s Facsimiles:


Philistines as Sea People:

Asherah – God’s consort:
Nephi’s Asherah by Daniel Peterson:

Margaret Barker’s talk on Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life (from the 2005 Joseph Smith Conference at the Library of Congress):

Akedah or Binding of Isaac:

Ardis Parshall’s Keepapitchinin Blog on how this lesson was taught in the past:

The Akedah or Binding of Isaac: Binding of Isaac - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ardis Parshall’s Keepapitchinin Blog on how this lesson was taught in the past: Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 9: “God Will Provide Himself a Lamb”

Monday, February 15, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #8

Lesson 8 Gen 13-14, 18-19

Abraham, Melchizedek and Lot

Background: The Flood has caused a restart of the human family. In the days of Peleg, the nations are divided among the divine sons of El Elyon, God Almighty. The greatest group, Israel, is given to Elohim’s son, Jehovah (Yahweh). Beginning with the man, Abram, Yahweh promises him great blessings of land and posterity if Abram is faithful to him. With his faithfulness, Abram proves he is worthy to be a divine son of Yahweh/Jehovah and the Lord gives him a new name, Abraham. The name change, an “H” possibly coming from Yahweh’s own name (YHWH), shows that Abraham is his divine son.

Abraham has spent a cycle of drought in Egypt, where both he and Sarah are tested. He leaves with great riches, and returns to the Promised Land, Canaan. Others also dwell in the land, and Abraham seeks to dwell peacefully among his neighbors.

Established in the land of Canaan

Returning from Egypt with great riches and flocks, Abraham and Lot soon find there is not enough room for the two to remain together. Even though Abraham has already received the promise of the lands he would inherit, he allows Lot to choose which area he would prefer.

Seeing that the low lands were very fertile, Lot chooses to go east to the plain, leaving the dry highlands for Abraham. In the area Lot goes to are several city-states, including Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen 13:12). The big city lights tend to be attractive to people, including farmers and shepherds. Shepherding is a difficult job, and we will see that Lot eventually moves into the big city, enjoying the comforts and companionship of those dwelling therein.

Abraham, meanwhile, would build an altar to Jehovah wherever he went. Whether it was between Bethel (House of God) and Ai (Heap of ruins), or near Hebron, Abraham immediately set about building altars and establishing his home as a holy place for God.

Genesis tells us that the plain of Jordan was a very pleasant land until the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The Dead Sea may not have been as dead as it is today, nor the area as dry as we now know it. Still, it was an area fraught with dangers.

Because the area was fertile and prosperous, it became the perfect spot for marauding peoples to invade and plunder. In Genesis 14, the kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam and Tidal the king of nations made war with the people around Sodom and Gomorrah. They obtained control of the area for 12 years, turning the local cities into vassal states that paid tribute. Shinar and the other invading kingdoms came from near the land of Babel (modern day Iran/Iraq). After 12 years, the kings of the plains tried to rebel. It seemed to have been an easy win for the foreigners, as both local kings fled from the battle near the Dead Sea, and fell into a slime pit. What is a slime pit? The slime is probably a liquid mix of bitumen, a low-grade petroleum fuel, which during earthquakes tends to bubble up in and around the Dead Sea. When you think of the La Brea Tar Pits in California, you get the idea.

Often when a vassal state would rebel, the sovereign king would order the people carried away into other lands, so that they could no longer pose a threat to the kingdom. That is exactly what the foreign kings did. They carried away treasure and people, including Lot, who by this time dwelt within the city of Sodom.

When Abraham learned of Lot’s capture and fearing he would be carried off as a slave elsewhere, Abram gathered with his neighbors in the plain of Mamre the Amorite. Abram had his own personal, trained army of 318 (Gen 14:14), who pursued the foreign kings into what would later be known as the land of the tribe of Dan in northern Israel. After a night battle that included stratagem, Abram recovered the people and treasures of Sodom, including Lot.

Significance of the number 318

What is significant of the 318 specially trained soldiers that Abraham had? According to the Epistle of pseudo-Barnabus (an early Christian book), Abraham had all 318 circumcised to make them holy. Barnabus then explained
“For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household
eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge
given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first,
and then after an interval three hundred In the eighteen 'I'
stands for ten, 'H' for eight. Here thou hast JESUS (IHSOYS). And
because the cross in the 'T' was to have grace, He saith also three
hundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the
remaining one the cross.”
. (Barnabas 9:7,

Early Christians saw the 318 circumcised soldiers of Abraham as a metaphor of Christ. Just as they redeemed Lot and the wicked of Sodom, so would Christ show grace on the cross.

Melchizedek the High Priest of El Elyon/Elohim

After the prisoners of war were rescued, Abraham delivered all things back to the king of Sodom. Except for the food his men had eaten, he refused to take anything else from the booty, because he did not want anyone to think that the wicked in Sodom had made him rich and powerful. Abraham stood by his God, Yahweh.

A feast is called for, where Melchizedek comes forth to bless bread and wine, and to accept the tithes of Abraham. Who is Melchizedek?

The Jewish historian Josephus tells us:
“Melchisedec, king of the city Salem, received him (Abraham). That name signifies the righteous king; and such he was without dispute, insomuch that, on this account, he was made the priest of God; however they afterward called Salem Jerusalem. Now this Melchisedec supplied Abram’s army in an hospitable manner, and gave them provisions in abundance; and as they were feasting, he began to praise him (Abram), and to bless God for subduing his enemies under him. And when Abram gave him the tenth part of his prey, he accepted of the gift” (Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews I, ch X, 1-2, pp 33-34).
The name, “Melchizedek” actually means Righteous (Zadok) King (Melchi). It is possible this was not Melchizedek’s original name, but a name/title given him later by either God or the people of Salem (peace). Some Jewish traditions believe that Melchizedek was Shem, the son of Noah. In the Apocalypse of Abraham, mentioned in last week’s lesson, Abraham flees to the home of Noah and Shem for a period of time. If Shem IS Melchizedek, then it may be this was the time when Abraham received the priesthood and when he literally “sought for the blessings of the fathers” (Book of Abraham 1:2).

The Gods El Elyon/Elohim (God Almighty) and Jehovah/Yahweh (the Angel of His Presence)

Melchizedek was the high priest of the Most High God (El Elyon or Elohim). He would have recognized the god of Abraham, Yahweh, as the rightful God-heir of Israel, son of El Elyon. Melchizedek would have approved and blessed Abraham, while Abraham would also recognize El Elyon as the chief of Gods (God Almighty, or Most High God).

In fact, we find this to be the case for Abraham. In Abraham 1:15-16, we read:
15 And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up
and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and
the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the
Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed
my bands;

16 And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah,
and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee
away from thy father's house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land
which thou knowest not of;
In other words, when Abraham needed help, he called upon his God Jehovah. He sees a vision of God Almighty (Elohim/El Elyon) and then is rescued by the “Angel of His Presence,” Jehovah. Margaret Barker, Old Testament scholar and Methodist pastor notes that the Angel of His Presence is the Great Angel who stands in the presence of El Elyon, and that this angel is both Jehovah and Jesus Christ (Margaret Barker, the Great Angel, a Study of Israel’s Second God). So Abraham learns the proper difference between God Almighty and the God of Israel, his Savior.

In fact, Melchizedek favorably compares Abraham and God, blessing both of them (Gen 14:19-20). God is the possessor of heaven and earth, but Abraham has been promised his own promised land and a multitude of descendants.

Melchizedek, the Man

In the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, we read regarding Melchizedek that he was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness. When he was still young, he performed miracles, such as stopping the mouths of lions and calming the violence of fire. These suggest events similar to Daniel and his fellows (Daniel in the lion’s den; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace), as well as the Qumran’s teaching that Abraham was also cast into a furnace at one point.

After God approved Melchizedek’s worthiness, he was ordained a HP after Enoch’s and the Lord’s priesthood order. We find that he became the Prince of Peace/Salem, a title also used by Isaiah to describe Jesus Christ. Melchizedek and his city sought for and found Enoch's city. The book suggests they were translated and taken up to Enoch’s city. He became the king of heaven, a king in Enoch’s City of Zion (JST Gen 14:25-40). This contrasts with Nimrod’s failed attempt to overthrow heaven (possibly the City of Enoch), by building a tower. There is a way to become divine, but it is not by force, but by faith and obedience.

The Priesthood Order of Melchizedek

The apostle Paul explained that Jesus was able to perform the works of a high priest because he was after the order of Melchizedek, and not of Aaron/Levi. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, even though Melchizedek was not a Hebrew. According to Paul, this shows that Jesus’ priesthood was greater than the priesthood of Aaron. Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek forever (Hebrews 4-7). In the Joseph Smith Translation, we read that those ordained to this priesthood, become “like the son of God” (JST Hebrew 7:1-3). While Paul states that Melchizedek was with neither father nor mother and was timeless, modern LDS scriptures note that it is the priesthood of Melchizedek which is timeless.

Melchizedek becomes the archetypal high priest, and the priesthood becomes synonymous with his name. D&C 107 teaches that it is actually the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God”, and was known as the Priesthood of Enoch in a previous generation. We call the priesthood after Melchizedek to refrain from the overuse of the Lord’s title of “Son of God”. However, as we shall see, Melchizedek also becomes a title for the Lord.

There are those who claim Jesus is the only person ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, early Christians did not view it as such. In his book “Restoring the Ancient Church”, Barry R. Bickmore states that besides Christ,
“Were there other high priests after this order? It seems obvious that Melchizedek was one, at least, and it is called an ‘order’ after all. Theophilus of Antioch taught that Melchizedek was the first of many priests of his order: ‘and at that time there was a righteous king called Melchizedek, in the city of Salem, which now is Jerusalem. This was the first priest of all priests of the Most High God; and from him the above-named city Hierosolyma was called Jerusalem. And from his time priests were found in all the earth. (Theophilus, To Autolycus 2:31, in Ancient Nicene Fathers 2:107).” (Bickmore, ch 5. Restoring the Ancient Church, Table of Contents).
Margaret Barker noted:
“In all probability, Melchizedek represented the priesthood of El Elyon as distinguished from that of Yahweh….Melchizedek was associated with the royal house….the Elyon cult was practiced in Jerusalem at that time’ and if it were a composition from the time of the Maccabees who adopted the title priests of El Elyon, it would testify to the survival of the cult of El Elyon at least until the second century and to its association with the royal house” (the Great Angel, A Study of Israel’s Second God, Margaret Barker, pp 88-89).
So the Melchizedek priesthood probably continued through the Maccabbees, and was then brought about again by Jesus Christ, who as the mortal Jehovah/Yahweh, would promote the ideas of El Elyon/Elohim, his Father.

Melchizedek as a Title for God

In the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ancient Gnostic/Coptic Christian writings of the Nag Hammadi, we find more writings regarding Melchizedek and his ties to the Messiah/Jehovah.

In the Nag Hammadi is found the Apocalypse of Melchizedek.. Translator Birger A Pearson notes concerning this book that it is a series of revelations wherein the "Readers are implicitly invited to see themselves as sharing in these special revelations, as members of these privileged few." We are invited to join Melchizedek in his spiritual journey, his apocalypse.

According to Pearson, there are three main points discussed in the book:

1. Melchizedek sees Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection.

2. Melchizedek performs priestly rites: he offers a thanksgiving prayer, receives baptism, receives a new priestly name, gives spiritual offerings to God, and provides invocations to other divine beings.

3. Visions take Melchizedek to Jesus Christ’s resurrection again, where he is told the "spiritual triumph of Christ over his enemies will be that of Melchizedek himself!" ... “Melchizedek’s appearance in the end time is tied to the career of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, death, and resurrection. In other words, Jesus Christ is Melchizedek!"

The Apocalypse of Melchizedek tells us of a "race of the High priest." And the prophet proclaims,
"For I have a name. I am Melchizedek, the Priest of God Most High; I know that it is I who am truly the image of the true High-priest of God Most High" "And according to the perfect laws I shall pronounce my name as I receive baptism now and forever."

"Be strong, O Melchizedek, great High-priest of God Most High, for the archons, who are your enemies, made war; you have prevailed over them, ...and you endured, and you destroyed your enemies...." (Nag Hammadi, Apocalypse of Melchizedek, pp438-444).
Here we see certain key points brought out. First, there is priesthood other than that of Levi. Next, prophets prior to Jesus Christ received and performed rites, such as baptism. Finally, through the priesthood ordination, Jesus Christ becomes the fulfillment of Melchizedek, just as Melchizedek is the symbol of Jesus Christ. Also, all those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, become a symbol of Christ. These priests, including Jesus, have dual role as warrior-priest. As a priest, they are to perform the ordinances necessary for salvation. As a warrior, they are to overcome the wicked of this world, both physical and spiritual. Just as Melchizedek overcame the violence of fire and stopped the mouths of lions, while perfecting the city of Salem, so too did Jesus overcome the violence of hellfire, and stopped the mouths of devouring demons from dragging us down.

The concept of Melchizedek as a "prophet warrior" also is found in Dead Sea Scrolls. Scholar Geza Vermes discussing the battle between the sons of Darkness and the sons of Light notes, "The hosts of the sons of Light, commanded by the 'Prince of the Congregation', were to be supported by the angelic armies led by the 'Prince of Light', also known in the Scrolls as the archangel Michael or Melchizedek."(Geza Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p53).

In the scroll 11QMelch, The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek, we read of the final days when liberty is proclaimed to the captives (Is 41:1). The Day of Atonement is a day of Jubilee "when all the Sons of Light and the men of the lot of Melchizedek will be atoned for." It foretells a "Year of Grace for Melchizedek." Melchizedek judges the "holy ones of God" as predicted in Psalms 82:1 "ELOHIM has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement." “Melchizedek will avenge the vengeance of the judgements of God....And all the gods of justice will come to his aid to attend to the destruction of Satan." "And (i)your(/i) ELOHIM is Melchizedek, who will save them from the hand of Satan."

Here we see that the “holy ones of God” or the divine sons/council of God are judged by Melchizedek, or through his priesthood power. Elohim takes his place at the head of the divine council. He and the other gods judge through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood. Elohim IS Melchizedek! In other words, this is the priesthood power of God Almighty, which the mortal Melchizedek symbolizes in his role as Prince of Peace and king of Salem/heaven.

But we find that Melchizedek is not only Elohim, but also Jehovah/Yahweh.

Margaret Barker, Methodist pastor and Old Testament scholar tells us,
“The Great Angel was also Melchizedek. There were some groups in the early (Christian) church who regarded Melchizedek as an angel. Origen, for example, regarded him thus, although later writers such as Jerome rejected the idea….Two things only are said about Melchizedek in the Old Testament. First, he was the priest of El Elyon (Elohim) in Jerusalem, who met Abraham and blessed him…. In all probability, Melchizedek represented the priesthood of El Elyon as distinguished from that of Yahweh. Second, Melchizedek was associated with the royal house….”
Then she compares the Old Testament’s view of Melchizedek with that in the 11QMelchizedek scroll.
“The texts link various attributes and functions of Old Testament ‘figures’ which were also linked and applied to Jesus. If the 11QMelch associations were traditional, then the Christian use of these texts would not have been original, not creative theologizing on their part, but rather the fulfillment of an existing pattern of expectations derived from the Old Testament.” In other words, from such ancient texts, it was natural to establish that the Great Angel of God’s Presence went by the names of holy prophets and angels of old, including Michael, Metatron (Enoch), and Melchizedek. She shows in her book how the Great Angel was Yahweh/Jehovah of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ in the New Testament. (the Great Angel, A Study of Israel’s Second God, Margaret Barker, pp 88-89)
Later, she writes about the priesthood in Hebrews,
“It is the role of the high priest which is most fully explored in Hebrews, and since the writer (Paul) is clearly relating the work of Jesus to an existing pattern of belief, we must assume that this was what was believed of the high priests. Like Philos’ Logos, the true high priest had to take material form: ‘Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people’ (Heb 2:17). It was the temple veil which was his flesh (10:20). The true high priest passed through the heavens and was the Son of God (4:14). Jesus had become that high priest, in the manner of Melchizedek (6:20), and would continue as high priest for ever (7:24). He was a priest in the heavenly sanctuary (8:1), the mediator of the new covenant. It had been promised that the Lord would establish a new covenant (8:8-12) and this he had done with his own blood.
“The true high priest was also the heavenly judge, as can be seen from the Qumran Melchizedek text, in which history culminates on the great Day of Atonement at the end of the tenth jubilee. Melchizedek is the God who takes his place in the heavenly council to preside at the great judgment. He is the God of whom Isaiah said to Zion: ‘Your God reigns’ (Isa 52:7). But he was also Melchizedek the high priest. Melchizedek must have been one of the titles or manifestations of the second God. The heavenly priest/judge in Hebrews is the Lord, and those who spurn the Son of God and the blood of his covenant incur his wrath.” (ibid, p224).
Melchizedek truly is the archetypal symbol of the King of Heaven, representing both God Almighty and his Son, Jesus Christ, the Great Angel of His Presence.

Abraham’s Hospitality
In Genesis 18, we find that Abraham receives visitors. One of these is described as the Lord, or the Angel of God’s Presence. Abraham immediately goes to work caring for his visitors: a fine meal made from a tender calf, good wine, the best food he has available. Some early writings suggest he washed their feet, which was a symbol of great honor. A man’s feet touched the dirt, and was thought to be a source of disease. To wash another’s feet showed Abraham set himself below the lowest body part of his visitors. The men leave, and again, the great host insists on walking with them most of the way, to ensure they arrive safely.

Here, the Lord stops on an overpass with Abraham, as the two angels continue towards Sodom. The Lord reveals to Abraham his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin. Abraham, now a friend of Yahweh’s and knowing the Lord respects him, pleads for the righteous in the city, knowing full well that his nephew resides there. He begins to plead if there are 50 good people the Lord should spare the town. The Lord agrees. Abraham continues begging, reducing the number, until he gets the Lord agreeing to spare the city if there are ten righteous. Abraham is content. He has done all he can do as a host and neighbor.

Lot and the people of Sodom

In Genesis 19, Lot sits in the front gate of Sodom, where the people often gathered to share news with travelers entering the city. Lot recognizes the two angels as men of God, and bids them stay with him. While Lot shows hospitality to the angels, he has not been privileged with the opportunity to entertain the Lord, as did Abraham.

Why does God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? While the cities were very wicked, the scholar Harold Bloom explained that the final straw for God was their inhospitable actions against visitors and their own people. The angels destroy Sodom because the “cry of them is waxen great” depicts not just a sinful people, but a people intent on imposing their own desires upon all within their gates. The men of Sodom come at night and demand Lot give up the men for their own pleasure. It isn’t that the men of Sodom are homosexuals that the town is being destroyed, but that the town of Sodom is imposing their sexual depravity upon all others. As Satan sought to force his ways upon his fellows, so the men of Sodom sought to deprive everyone of their right of safety and morality. There were no safe places left in Sodom. Only a miracle that blinded the men of the city protected Lot and those with him.

Lot was unable to find 10 righteous people. His sons-in-law and their wives (his daughters) refused to believe him. He was only able to convince his wife and two youngest daughters to flee. Lot was resistant, and had to be pushed to leave. The angels were patient with him, first telling him to flee to the mountains, but then agreeing to allow him to settle in Zoar, a little city.

Lot’s wife dies in the destruction. Instead of obeying the angels and fleeing with all haste, she tarried. In turning to watch the destruction behind her, she was turned into a pillar of salt. At least, that’s what the story tells us. According to an article in Biblical Archaeological Review, the area around the Dead Sea contains many caves. Some of these caverns are completely enclosed by the salty rock of the area. Occasionally, especially during earthquakes, some of these caverns collapse, often leaving pillars of salt remaining from the collapsed cavern. It is possible that rather than her literally turning into a pillar of salt, the ground around her collapsed in the destruction, leaving a pillar/portion of the cavern wall remaining near where she once stood.

A collapsed cavern leaving a pillar behind may explain the death of Lot’s wife

Lot’s Aftermath
Lot did not make choices like Abraham. He made choices out of comfort and fear. He chose the plains of Jordan because of the beauty and fertility of the area. He pitched his tent near Sodom, and later moved into the city for the ease of life. He dwelt among a violent and evil people, but did nothing about it. His choices made him a prisoner of war, yet he returned to Sodom. Then, his choices made him a refugee and a widower. Still, with the protection of angels and a promise that he would be safe, Lot fears too much to trust God. He initially feared fleeing to the mountains, and begged to be able to stay in Zoar. The angels allowed it. Yet, Lot also fled the small town, fearing it would end badly for him. He fled into the mountains, without finding mates for his daughters, possibly fearing any repercussions.

We often discuss the wickedness of Lot’s daughters for sleeping with their drunken father. However, wrong their logic, I believe Lot’s choices were worse. They felt they had to leave a remnant, a seed to their father. Yet, he did not give them the opportunity to find husbands. He feared to allow them to leave the mountain. They felt their options limited. Also, did Lot not realize, even in his drunken state, what he was doing? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. It was because Lot feared and was not as obedient to God that such travesties fell upon him and his family.

In these stories, we find that Abraham represents the Celestial man. He stands in the Lord’s presence. He does not fear, but faithfully follows Jehovah, regardless of the command. While he lives in the world, his first step wherever he settles is to build an altar to God. He has made his home a Beth-El (House of God).

Lot represents the Terrestrial man. He abides in the presence of angels and is hospitable to them. Yet, while he is an honorable man, he is not valiant in his testimony. He still fears, and it keeps him from the full blessings. He does not reach the promised land, as does Abraham.

Sodom represents the Telestial man. They despise righteousness. They are not hospitable, charitable, nor kind towards any others. They mock the prophets, and seek to harm them. They refuse to repent, loving to sin. These are the ones headed toward destruction.

Melchizedek and Abraham

We find a pattern that is common between Melchizedek and Abraham. Both are dedicated and valiant believers in God. Both have sought out God and Jesus, and found them. Melchizedek may have ordained Abraham to the Holy Priesthood. Not only is there a mortal Prince of Peace and King of Heaven, but there is a Heavenly Prince of Peace and King of Heaven. Melchizedek is a special name/title for one who holds the priesthood, which includes Almighty God and Jesus Christ.

In receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood today, we are explained the oath and covenant of the priesthood:
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I
have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit
unto the renewing of their bodies.

34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and
the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore
all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the
priesthood. (D&C 84)
We become the literal seed of Abraham in receiving the priesthood. And we become the literal seed of God, children of God and members of his divine council. In receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, we become types of Christ and God Almighty.

Epistle of Barnabas: Epistle of Barnabas
Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews:
Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Restoring the Ancient Church, Table of Contents
Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, a Study of Israel’s Second God: Margaret Barker
Nag Hammadi, Melchizedek (Translated by Søren Giversen and Birger A. Pearson): Melchizedek -- The Nag Hammadi Library
Geza Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls in English: Complete Dead Sea Scrolls (9780140278071): Geza Vermes: Books
Dead Sea Scrolls, 11QMelchizedek scroll: 11QMelchizedek
Biblical Archaeological Review, How Lot’s Wife Became a Pillar of Salt, May/Jun 2009: How Lot’s Wife Became a Pillar of Salt | Biblical Archaeology Review | Bible History Articles
Harold Bloom, Book of J, pp 299-300: Read at Google Books

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lesson 7, the Abrahamic Covenant, part 2

A few more things I wanted to add to this week’s lesson in Sunday School:

Cutting a Covenant

Anciently, the phrase for making a covenant was “cutting a covenant.” Abraham was first commanded to offer a sacrifice. This was a key part of an ancient Semitic covenant, the shedding of blood, to establish it forever. In doing so, God could promise Abraham seed from his own loins, and a multitude of nations coming from him. He also promised that through his priesthood, all could be adopted into the line of Abraham/Israel, and receive the fullness of the blessings of God.
The second half of the covenant also required God to perform a cutting. He performed this second part by sacrificing Jesus Christ. Through the shedding of Christ’s blood, the covenant of Abraham was finalized for all mankind. It is through Christ’s atonement that all can become not only the sons and seed of Abraham, but can become the sons of God.

House of God

In Genesis 12, we read that after leaving Haran and going to the promised land of Canaan, Abraham settles down between Bethel and Hai (Ai). In Hebrew, Beth-El means “House of El/God.” Hai/Ai means “Heap of Ruins.”
How often do we find ourselves settling in between God and a Heap of Ruins/World? Abraham’s first act was to offer sacrifice. While living between Bethel and Ai, spiritually he was completely in God’s camp. He established his own home as a House of El, as well. Today, Latter-day Saints enjoy serving God in their temples. Each temple has on its front piece the title: “House of the Lord. Holiness to the Lord.” They clearly are examples of Beth-El. Mormons and other Christians worship God in their sanctuaries, cathedrals, chapels, and other places of worship.
While we set apart such places for holy worship, each of us lives our daily lives outside of the temple/House of God. Jesus taught us to be in the world, but not of the world. We are physically parked between Bethel and Ai, God’s house and a heap of spiritual ruin. Our homes are what we make of them. Do we immediately offer up prayer and dedicate our home to God? Or do we follow the world, and eventual ruin?
Abraham made his home a holy place, a symbol of Bethel. He intentionally brought into it elements of worship, such as building an altar. He kept the world’s influence out of his home.

Abram to Abraham

In making the covenant with Abram, the Lord changed both Abram’s and Sarai’s names. Anciently, when a person went through a major change in life, there would be a new name would be given, reflecting the event.
It was once suggested to me that he names Abram and Sarai were changed to Abraham and Sarah because God’s covenant with them also included making them his literal children. Yahweh/Jehovah gave each of them an “H” from his name YHWH. This has interesting connotations. First, if God gives a man a part of his name (and God’s name is so powerful that Jews are not allowed to pronounce it to this day) that would suggest God is also giving divine power to the person. Abraham is not only “father of many nations,” but a literal divine son of Yahweh/Jehovah.
In this manner, Paul wrote about the adoption into Israel for all those who took upon themselves the name of Christ (Romans 8-9). When we receive Christ, and take upon ourselves his name, we are given a new name by God (Revelation 3:12, D&C 130). This new name, like Abraham’s new name, signified his new relationship with God. Abraham was now the symbol of God. As mentioned before, in the ancient tradition, Yahweh had recently been given his assigned kingdom. He was just starting out. But he foresaw that through Abraham, His kingdoms would expand and through Abraham, the priesthood, and Abraham’s seed (Jesus Christ), the Lord would eventually bless all the nations of the earth.

Our Own Abrahamic Covenant

Now, LDS believe that Jehovah has always had preeminence in the world. But we also know he was challenged in the pre-mortal existence by Satan and others. We know that Satan continues to challenge God hear on earth for souls. In the world, the ancient division of the peoples into nations meant that gods, whether idols or real, would eventually have to succumb to God’s glory through Christ.
Each of us must cut our own Abrahamic covenant with God. Today’s covenant is not made by sacrificing animals on altars, but as the Lord told the Nephites, by sacrificing our own hearts and spirits on the altar (3 Nephi 9:20, 2 Nephi 2:7). We give up our worldly desires, and determine to be as faithful as Abraham ever was. In doing so, we are adopted in as the seed of Abraham and children of Christ (4 Ne 1:17).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lesson 7, the Abrahamic Covenant

Lesson 7 – The Abrahamic Covenant – Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

According to the Bible, in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided (Gen 10:25). There are a variety of modern readings of this. Creationists (those who believe the earth to be only 6000 years old) believe this is when the continents divided. Many believe this is when the earth was divided up among the sons of Noah (see: Peleg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

However, the oldest and perhaps best reading comes from ancient Semite/Hebrew belief. In Genesis 10-11, we see the “Table of Nations”, when the 70 major descendants of Noah established themselves. According to the older traditions, these are the men from whom the first kingdoms of earth came about.

It also has another context. In the earliest Semitic traditions, God has a divine assembly of sons (Hebrew: bene ‘elim or Sons of El/God). In the earliest traditions, there were 70 of these divine sons. Elohim divided up the nations among his sons, for each of them to rule and reign over a kingdom. His eldest son, Yahweh/Jehovah was given the prize kingdom: Israel. As we go through the Old Testament, we shall see hints of the divine council at work, and times when they actively seek to overthrow one another (see Job 1 for an example of the competitive nature among the gods in the Old Testament).

Yahweh/Jehovah was given Israel as his people. But they were not yet a people. Yahweh received only one individual with whom to begin his kingdom: Abraham. But it is in Yahweh’s goal of conquest of the world (over the other inferior gods) that he foresees the expansion of his reign through Abraham. It is in this beginning that we will be able to approach the Abrahamic Covenant.

Stories of Abraham’s Early Years

Outside of the Bible, we have access to a variety of stories regarding Abraham. Several of the stories overlap, and some use different stories to explain events in the Bible. The books we’ll review are: the Quran, Genesis Apocryphon (from the Dead Sea Scrolls), Book of Jasher (medieval Midrash), Testament of Abraham (ca 100-200 AD), Apocalypse of Abraham (ca 100-200 AD), and Book of Jubilees (2nd century BC).

As for his birth and childhood, we find, “Some Muslim accounts also place Abraham in a cave for fifteen days after his birth. During this period his mother was not able to breast-feed him because she could not risk being seen going to the cave and arousing suspicion. One day she sees Abraham sucking his fingers and she notices that from one finger he is sucking milk, from another he is sucking water, from another honey, and from another he is sucking butter. In the fifteen days that Abraham stays in the cave he grows in one day as if it were a month and in one month as if it were a year. Abraham is said to have been the equivalent of fifteen years old when he left the cave.32 Jewish tradition also places Abraham in a cave at birth. In one tradition God opens two windows in the cave: one puts forth oil and the other a fine flour.33 In another "Abram, lying alone in the cave without food, began to weep; but God sent the archangel Gabriel to give him milk, which flowed from the little finger of his right hand—and so the child was suckled."34 The motifs of the cave and miracle feedings can also be found in the Christian tradition in which angels bring sustenance to saints in need” (Brian M. Hauglid, The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition, Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant - The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition ). The concept of Abraham gaining nutrition from sucking his fingers was also known in Egyptian thought. There are reliefs and statues, showing Ramses II sucking his finger as to gain the knowledge of Horus.

Ramses imitates the young Egyptian god Horus in gaining sustenance and wisdom by sucking on his finger. It also represents maintaining holy silence/stillness.

In the Book of Jubilees, we find Abram’s story beginning in chapter XI. Abraham sees the evils in the world around him. At 14 years of age, he decides the time has come to be his own man. He goes out to try his hand at farming. As the ravens come to eat the grain, Abraham finds the birds will obey his command to leave. The other farmers hire him to protect their crops, and he blesses them. For 33 years, he experiments, learns and teaches improved farming techniques, such as using furrows. In chapter XII, Abram returns to Terah to call him to repentance. Abram sets Terah’s idols on fire to destroy them. Haran, his older brother, tries to rescue the idols, but is killed in the fire. Abram studies astronomy, determining how to use it to improve farming techniques, among other things. In verses 23-26, we see the first time Yahweh calls upon Abram to make his covenant. Abram is given the ability to speak and read Hebrew, the original language of Adam and creation. He finds some Hebrew books in Terah’s home, and studies them. In chapter XIV, verses 1-20, Yahweh repeats and expands his covenant with Abram (Jubilees 11)

In the Testament of Abraham, the Lord commands Michael the archangel to go down and prepare the elderly Abraham for his death. There are two versions of the story, one in which Abraham is very reticent to die, and refuses often to go with Michael. In the other version, the Lord wishes to prepare Abraham by granting him a wish: to see the world. Michael takes him above to view the world. But as Abraham sees evil occurring, he curses the wicked and they quickly die. To stop Abraham from annihilating the world, God tells Michael to take Abraham instead to the doors of heaven. There are two doors, one leading to heaven and the other to hell. Abel, Adam’s son, sits in judgment before the two doors. Each person’s good and bad acts are weighed, and the person goes according to which is greater. This goes back to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where the dead’s earthly works are judged on a great scale.

Two parts of an Egyptian Judgment scene. Osiris sits on his throne, as the person is brought forth (man dressed in white). His deeds are placed on the balance and compared with a feather of truth (Maat). If viewed as righteous, he will dwell in peace in the underworld. If wicked, he shall be devoured.

In the Testament of Abraham, Michael leaves Abraham occasionally to return and report his actions and questions to God. Finally, God sends down Death, dressed in glorious attire, to take Abraham to his final resting place.

The Quran

The Quran is broken up into main chapters, called Surahs. Each Surah has a focus on an event or individual. Abraham is mentioned in several Surahs.

Surah 19 (Mary) – In this Surah, Abraham tries to convert his father to worship God. Terah threatens to stone Abraham is he does not leave him alone. Abraham chooses to leave the area, and God promises to create a great people out of him through his children.
41. (Also mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of Truth, a prophet.
42. Behold, he said to his father: "O my father! why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing?
43. "O my father! to me hath come knowledge which hath not reached thee: so follow me: I will guide thee to a way that is even and straight.
44. "O my father! serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against ((Allah)) Most Gracious.
45. "O my father! I fear lest a Penalty afflict thee from ((Allah)) Most Gracious, so that thou become to Satan a friend."
46. (The father) replied: "Dost thou hate my gods, O Abraham? If thou forbear not, I will indeed stone thee: Now get away from me for a good long while!"
47. Abraham said: "Peace be on thee: I will pray to my Lord for thy forgiveness: for He is to me Most Gracious.
48. "And I will turn away from you (all) and from those whom ye invoke besides Allah. I will call on my Lord: perhaps, by my prayer to my Lord, I shall be not unblest."
49. When he had turned away from them and from those whom they worshipped besides Allah, We bestowed on him Isaac and Jacob, and each one of them We made a prophet.

Surah 21 (the Prophets) - Here, Abraham destroys the idols and blames it on the chief idol. The people anger against Abraham. Just as the Book of Abraham shows the prophet being sacrificed, the people seek to slay him in the fire pit (see also Surah 37:83-113).

51. We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct, and well were We acquainted with him.
52. Behold! he said to his father and his people, "What are these images, to which ye are (so assiduously) devoted?"
53. They said, "We found our fathers worshipping them."
54. He said, "Indeed ye have been in manifest error - ye and your fathers."
55. They said, "Have you brought us the Truth, or are you one of those who jest?"
56. He said, "Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He Who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (Truth).
57. "And by Allah, I have a plan for your idols - after ye go away and turn your backs"..
58. So he broke them to pieces, (all) but the biggest of them, that they might turn (and address themselves) to it.
59. They said, "Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some man of impiety!"
60. They said, "We heard a youth talk of them: He is called Abraham."
61. They said, "Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may bear witness."
62. They said, "Art thou the one that did this with our gods, O Abraham?"
63. He said: "Nay, this was done by - this is their biggest one! ask them, if they can speak intelligently!"
64. So they turned to themselves and said, "Surely ye are the ones in the wrong!"
65. Then were they confounded with shame: (they said), "Thou knowest full well that these (idols) do not speak!"
66. (Abraham) said, "Do ye then worship, besides Allah, things that can neither be of any good to you nor do you harm?
67. "Fie upon you, and upon the things that ye worship besides Allah. Have ye no sense?"..
68. They said, "Burn him and protect your gods, If ye do (anything at all)!"
69. We said, "O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!"
70. Then they sought a stratagem against him: but We made them the ones that lost most!
71. But We delivered him and (his nephew) Lot (and directed them) to the land which We have blessed for the nations.
72. And We bestowed on him Isaac and, as an additional gift, (a grandson), Jacob, and We made righteous men of every one (of them).
73. And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practise regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only).

In Surah 29 (the Spider) verses 14-27, again Abraham chastises the people for idol-worship, seeking to have them obey God or be destroyed. Noah and the Flood are referenced, and God explains: 19. See they not how Allah originates creation, then repeats it: truly that is easy for Allah. 20. Say: "Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah produce a later creation: for Allah has power over all things.

God is continually in the process of creating and destroying. He created with Adam, destroyed in the Flood, and created again with Noah. Since Terah and the people are rejecting God and going after idols, God will recreate the earth through Abraham and the covenant.

Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen)

In the Dead Sea Scrolls was found the Genesis Apocryphon, or Tales of the Patriarchs. Because of the famine, Abraham goes down into Egypt, where Pharaoh takes Sarai, Abraham’s sister/wife, to be his own wife. Abraham thrived in Egypt. Pharaoh’s advisers “came having heard of my words….They asked me for knowledge of goodness, wisdom and righteousness, so I read to them the Book of the Words of Enoch.” This possibly was one of the Hebrew books that Abraham found in his father’s home, according to the Book of Jubilees (see above). Pharaoh weds Sarai and seeks to consummate the marriage, but he cannot approach her. Instead, a plague falls upon him. Abraham is called for “so I prayed for him, that blasphemer, and laid my hands upon his head. Thereupon the plague was removed from him…and he was healed” (The Dead Sea Scrolls - Revised Edition: A New Translation by Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg, and Edward M. Cook). In this, we see that Abraham had access to Enoch’s writings. We also see he had the power of God to heal the sick by the laying on of hands. After his sojourn in Egypt, Abraham returned to Canaan, the land of promise. Near Beth-el, he made the covenant with God.

The Book of Jasher tells us that Nimrod was king of the land (chapter XI). Terah is the captain of Nimrod’s host, and so has a very close relationship with Nimrod. You will remember from the previous lesson, the stories of Nimrod in the Bible and elsewhere tell us of a great hunter. He wore the stolen garment of Adam, which allowed him to approach man and beast with power. He became the sovereign king of the world, and built the Tower of Babel. After the crushing defeat at the Tower, Nimrod finds a new enemy: Abraham.

When he was 50 years old, Abram visited his father, Terah. He sees the 12 idols in their temple that all the people worshiped. Terah created all 12 of the idols. Abram decided to test the idols, to see if they were worthy of worship. Bringing them a meat offering, he found they could not reach for the food. They were unable to hear, speak, eat, or move. He mocks them, rather than worship them. He returns soon after with a larger offering. When they do not move, Abraham breaks them up with a hatchet, except for the largest idol. He places the hatchet in the biggest idol’s hand. Later, Terah finds the ruined idols and accuses Abraham. Abraham explains that he brought them meat. They all greedily reached for the offering; the biggest one freaked out and started chopping up the other idols. Terah sees through Abraham’s logic, because after all, he had created these idols in the first place. Terah complains to Nimrod.

Nimrod brings in Abraham, who commands the king to repent of his sins and idolatry. Abraham is imprisoned. Nimrod decides to make an example of him, and casts him in a fiery furnace, along with his brother Haran. Haran immediately dies in the intense heat, but Abraham continues for 3 days without suffering any harm. The story is very reminiscent of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3), who also went before a king of the region (Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar were both kings of Babylon/Assyria region). When Nimrod sees that Abraham cannot die, he releases him. However, he fears Abraham will overthrow him, and Abraham is forced to flee to Noah and Shem’s home. It is possible that this is when Abraham was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, as he was ordained by Melchizedek (Jewish tradition says this is Shem. See D&C 84:14). He hides there until God tells him to go to Canaan. In chapter XIII, Abraham is blessed with the covenant in Canaan (see vs 7-8, 17-19, 23). As Abraham goes down into Egypt, we get a new story regarding Sarai. In chapter XIV, she is held captive by Pharaoh, who seeks to bed her. But Sarai prays intensely to God for deliverance, and an angel delivers her by plaguing Pharaoh and his house.

The Apocalypse of Abraham begins with Terah building gods of stone and wood. As Abraham assists Terah in moving the idols, Merimath’s head falls off and the stone body breaks. Terah must create a new body for Merimath. Abraham thinks, this god is not that great, if he cannot stop himself from falling, and must have Terah recreate a body for him. Soon after, a wooden god catches flames in a fire, and ends up as ash. Terah makes a new one. Abraham asks Terah why he isn’t their god, as he has recreated them.
Abraham chooses to seek the true God, and is called to leave Terah and the idols. Abraham is taken to a high mountain top, where he sees the cosmos and the heavens. Then, Abraham sees a building with an altar, and asks: “what is the handsome temple which I see?” (chapter 25:3). The Lord answers: "Hear, Abraham! This temple which you have seen, the altar and the works of art, this is my idea of the priesthood of the name of my glory, where every petition of man will enter and dwell; the ascent of kings and prophets and whatever sacrifice I decree to be made for me among my coming people, even of your tribe” (ch 25:3-4). Abraham foresees his descendants rejecting the covenant, sacrificing God on his own altar (ch 25:1), and the Temple being destroyed by Israel’s enemies.
Abraham sees the restoration of the people and the temple. He then foresees the coming of the Messiah, whom the Gentiles would embrace, but many of Abraham’s descendants would mock and abuse him. In the last days, there would be 10 plagues sent upon the wicked nations, and then all would be judged a final time by the “Elect One,” who would come down from above. God’s hope is that all would repent, rather than burn in hell for following “strange gods” (chapter 31:61).

What is a Covenant?
Each of these stories at least hints at the Abrahamic covenant. A covenant is an agreement between two beings. Each promises to do his part. Ancient covenants were based upon a trust, most modern people in the West do not understand. When Nephi tackled the escaping Zoram, and promised to let him live as a free man IF Zoram agreed to come peacefully with them, all it took was an oath from Zoram to allow both men to breathe easily. Nephi used the two biggest things a person could use for promising: his own life and God’s: “as the Lord liveth, and as I live” (1 Nephi 4:32). Zoram “did take courage at the words which I spake” (vs. 35), as he knew Nephi would not lie in an oath like this. And once Zoram had also sworn the oath, Nephi and his brethren were no longer worried about him escaping back to Jerusalem.
This is the ancient Middle Eastern view of oaths and covenants. One truly was most evil if he ever broached an oath or covenant he had made. Abraham and Nephi’s covenants with God were so strong that both would obediently slay a person if God commanded (Nephi slew Laban, Abraham would sacrifice Isaac). These slayings were part and parcel of proving their loyalty to God and to the covenant.
Such dedication to covenants was not limited to the righteous, as Cain’s secret combinations contained covenants so compelling, to withdraw from the covenant meant a death sentence.

 The Abrahamic Covenant
As mentioned before, Yahweh/Jehovah was selected as God of Israel. But there was no Israel, yet. Instead, Yahweh searched through Babylon, the kingdom of Nimrod, for one who would be his loyal avant-garde. Abraham does not take the worship of God for granted, but in the above stories, tests out the gods, to see which one (if any) would be worth worshiping. Only the God who nourished him as a babe in a cave, who gave him knowledge and wisdom regarding his livelihood and astronomy, and who carried him through the cosmos so he could see the true power of Yahweh, was able to hold Abraham’s confidence and faith. This confidence would build, as God and Servant walk together from one trial to the next. Even Sarai was able to develop her faith in God, as she was tried by Pharaoh and later by her long-awaited desire to have a child.

The Book of Abraham teaches us that this covenant is tied to the priesthood, which Abraham eagerly sought for. As in the Apocalypse of Abraham, this covenant was one that would grow in power and stature, not just for Abraham, but for his descendants. Abraham was a nomad, but his descendants would build a temple, where Abraham’s priesthood would be in full display.

Multiply and Replenish the Earth

The commandment and covenant God made with both Adam and Noah included multiplying and replenishing the earth. Abraham is promised that his seed would be numerous, as the sands of the sea, or the stars in the sky. These are promises that extend beyond the mortal life.

From a human perspective, one’s name lives on forever. Here we are, about 4000 years after Abraham lived, and we still remember him. He lives on in all those who honor him, and all those who carry on his DNA.
From a spiritual perspective, we understand that families go on forever. Abraham’s seed includes not only direct descendants, but all those who accept Yahweh/Jesus Christ as their God. Upon being baptized, a person inherits the blessings of Israel. Upon receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, we receive the same priesthood Abraham sought after. We “become the seed of Abraham” (D&C 84:34) through the ordination to the priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood becomes a major component of the covenant of Abraham. All of God’s eternal promises with Abraham become ours when we are ordained and receive all the ordinances of the Priesthood.
The highest form of Priesthood is the Patriarchal Priesthood. This occurs when a bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood and wife are sealed together for time and all eternity in the temple of God. Just as Abraham was promised eternal increase/seed, so shall we. Just as Abraham is called the “friend of God”, so shall we. Just as Abraham laid hands on people and healed them, so shall we. Just as Abraham was given great power from God, so shall we.

Ascension of Abraham

Part of the fullness of the covenant of Abraham is Abraham’s journey through the cosmos. While many think of destruction when they think of the term “apocalypse”, it actually comes from the Greek, meaning “lifting of the veil” or “revelation.” It is where God reveals his greatest secrets to an individual. In the scriptures and ancient texts, many people have received such revelations, including Adam, Enoch, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Nephi, Lehi, Brother of Jared, the apostles John and Paul, Joseph Smith, etc. Many of these visions began on a mountain top. Many of them included seeing the Lord. Lehi, Isaiah, and Abraham saw the Messiah come down to earth. Many of them saw the multiple levels of heaven and the cosmos. Some had temple experiences in their visions. Several of the visions included a book or books, which when read, allowed the prophet to prophesy. Lehi (1 Nephi 1) and Isaiah (Ascension of Isaiah) were given books to read and prophesied, Enoch wrote down in a book what he saw in heaven, Abraham read the Book of Enoch, John the Revelator ate a book and prophesied, Joseph Smith was given a prophetic book to translate.

Prior to entering into Egypt, Abraham sought greater knowledge of astronomy, and the Lord showed him the cosmos and Creation (Abraham 3-5). All of this is part and parcel of the Abrahamic Covenant. God brought up Abraham to not only be his servant, but also be his symbolic likeness upon the earth. Abraham was shown the Creation and the cosmos, because one day he also would create things on such a large scale. As Paul taught in Romans 8, we are “sons of God, and if sons, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” to receive of his glory and power, just as Abraham did.

Peleg: Peleg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Brian M. Hauglid, The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition: Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant - The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition
Book of Jubilees: Jubilees
Testament of Abraham: CHURCH FATHERS: The Testament of Abraham
Qumran: YHWH, Your People at Qumran Bet Community
Genesis Apocryphon: Translation of 1Q Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen)
Book of Jasher: Book of Jasher
Apocalypse of Abraham: The Apocalypse of Abraham __________________

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

LDS Gospel Doctrine Class - Old Testament #6

Lesson 6, Moses 8:19-30, Genesis 6-9; 11:1-9


"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" or so Charles Dickens described the circumstances in Europe when one compared London to Paris. The peaceful and calm order of London seemed preferable to the chaotic mob violence of revolutionary France. Yet while many fled France for safer shores, others were drawn to the insanity (Dickens, Tale of Two Cities).

So it was in the days of Enoch. Because violent secret combinations were abounding in the world, many sought safety and refuge in the City of Enoch. Over several centuries, Enoch's people had refined themselves spiritually. They found that great faith and obedience brought God's protection and blessings. Finding themselves surrounded by evil men and the Watchers (see lesson 5), meant they had to rely on God to survive. Under Enoch's guidance, they put their enemies to flight, even though they were vastly outnumbered. Enoch's city eventually became so righteous as to become Zion, the City of God. In time, Zion was taken from the world, as "God received it up into his own bosom" (Moses 7:18-21, 64-69), where it would remain until it returns to earth at the Savior's second coming.

Moses 8:1-30

With Zion gone, there are few righteous left on earth. Methuselah, Lamech and Noah preach repentance among the people. As additional people believe on their words, the Lord either translates them to the city of Enoch, or allows them to peacefully die prior to the Flood.

Apostate Lifestyle

Satan doesn't have original ideas. In deceiving the world, he convinces them of the rightness of his methods.

We are told that there are two people: the sons of God, and the sons of man (vs. 13-14). The sons of God gave heed to the things of God. Meanwhile, the sons of man focused on the worldly things, such as the physical beauty of their women. More and more of the sons of God were enticed by the pretty daughters of worldly men, and left their holy callings to become Watchers, fallen sons of God who used holy secrets for wicked purposes.

The Watchers are mentioned in several ancient writings, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. The early texts state that the women stayed fair and comely by taking a potion that terminated pregnancy. For those who did have children, they bore giants. The writings state they were as tall as a tree, consuming and destroying as they went forth. In Moses 8:18, we read that the giants sought to kill Noah. Moses 8 ties in perfectly with the stories of the Watchers.

Apostates always seek to have their methods accepted as part of the norm. They insist they are just as good as everyone else, and attempt to convince all to accept their ways. In vs. 21, the apostates begin by proclaiming they are "sons of God." They have worked hard in order to eat and drink. They married and had children, seeking to multiply and replenish the earth. And while their sons were not active priesthood bearers, they were "mighty men," like the ancient heroes (action figure sold separately). They were convinced that God accepted them on their terms. In reality, "God saw that the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually (vs. 20-22).

As with France in its revolution, violence became the norm. Mobs and secret combinations ruled, many innocent people were falsely accused and murdered. Spiritual peace was replaced with a frenzied blood lust. God had no choice but to destroy those who were ripened in iniquity.

And today?

Today we see nations, cultures, religions and people, who believe God will accept them on their terms. Our nation is obsessed with selfishness, sex and violence.
Potions and pills are used to end unwanted pregnancies. Our heroes are mighty men of renown on the gridiron or on the big screen. You can purchase the action figure separately. Spirituality is okay, as long as it's rules and expectations aren't imposed on everyone.

People eat, drink, marry and are given in marriage. In fact, when marriage bores us, society encourages us to divorce and marry several more times.

Sexual sin is no longer a sin, but a freedom of expression. True intimacy is replaced by a new norm: free sex. It is the norm in media and in most homes.

While the story of Noah briefly notes the apostate version of marriage and intimacy, violence is the big focus of concern. Our society is as addicted to violence as it is to sex. Movie blockbusters are exciting because of the violence. The biggest video games are based on some level of violence. Grand Theft Auto and other extremely violent games are based on glorifying vice and violence.
Our world is quickly resembling Noah's.

The Flood

Several issues come up when discussing the Flood. We’ll look at several of the issues.

Issue #1: Was it a global flood?

Various Christians, including LDS, are divided on this topic. The standard is to believe that the flood covered the entire earth. One of the main reasonings for LDS is because it was the baptism of the earth (which will also be baptized with fire/Spirit at the last day). Those who have this view see the earth as a sentient being, taking literally the event in Moses 7, where Enoch sees the earth languish and speak out against the wickedness of mankind. If the earth is a sentient being, can think and speak, and requires baptism, then the world would necessarily have to be fully immersed.

Global flood stories are found all over the world. One of the earliest stories is the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the story, Gilgamesh seeks the secrets of happiness. Through his world travels, he runs across an ancient man, who with his wife survived a global flood. Among the Inca of South America, the great Flood was a major event that occurred prior to their peoples being established.

The opposing viewpoint is that the Flood was a local phenomenon. Several arguments are used. First, there is no geological evidence for a global flood, at least not in human history. With a global flood, one should be able to find a very thick layer of sedimentary rock everywhere in the world dating to the time of Noah (believed to be around 2500-2000 BC). Geology has used such evidence to show major asteroid strikes in the past, including one 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. This strike left a global layer of iridium dating to that period.

Second, would be the problem of gathering all of the animals into the ark. With the thousands of species available today, there is no way he could easily have fit them into the ark. Or feed them for 13 months, for that matter. If we suppose there were just a few species that evolved later into other species (black bears into grizzlies, polar bears, etc), then we have a problem with the speed of species changing so dramatically. Evolution, according to science, does occur, but not quite that much in just a few thousand years. Also, each of these species would somehow have to repopulate the world, crossing oceans and other barriers. Polar Bears would only go to the Arctic. Penguins only go to the Southern hemisphere. Animals with placentas (kangaroo, koala) would go to Australia.

If Noah were to gather up two of every kind of insect (creeping thing), then the ark would have been filled with just the insects, which are found in the millions of species. And how would earth worms crawl from one continent to the next?

Finally, there is archaeological evidence of civilizations continuing throughout that period. If there were a global flood, we would not see thousands of human and millions of animal remains dating to that time period. If only two bears were on the ark, it would take hundreds of years for them to repopulate even a small portion of the earth.

So, did the global Flood really occur? Maybe.

It is in issues like this that, at least for now, we must separate science and religion. When God reveals all things, we will see the two work hand in hand. With science as incomplete and religious texts as occasionally literal and occasionally metaphor, it is difficult to know where the facts end and the theories/assumptions of either begin.
If we keep an open mind, we can gain much good from considering any or all theories regarding the Flood (and other Bible stories). For example, there are scientists and Bible scholars today, who suggest the Flood may have been a regional, rather than global, phenomenon. For Noah, such a giant flood would have seemed to engulf the entire world. Think about the tsunami of 2004, which inundated coast lines across the ocean, but primarily around Indonesia and Thailand. Over 100,000 people died that day. For those involved, it would definitely have seemed that the world was drowning in water.

Issue #2: Was it two or seven animals?

In Genesis 6, God commands Noah that the ark was to be loaded two by two. In Genesis 7:2, God commands him that 7 clean animals were to be loaded. Then in Genesis 7:9, only two of each are loaded. So, which is it?

The Documentary Hypothesis, which was discussed in a previous lesson, also applies to the Flood. In his book, Who Wrote the Bible?, scholar Richard E. Friedman shows that we actually have TWO stories of the Flood combined in one story. One story, from the ancient author J tells us that there were two of each animal going aboard the ark, and that “the flood was upon the earth 40 days” (Gen 7:17). The second story, from the Priest (P) source, was only interested in boarding the clean animals, and so updated the story to include 7 clean animals. The seventh animal was for an animal sacrifice. Meanwhile, P’s story had the waters “prevailing upon the earth” for 150 days (Genesis 7:24). In Genesis 8, we see the waters settling both after 150 days (vs. 3) and after 40 days (vs. 6). One story tells of Noah sending a raven out, while the other tells of a dove being sent out. Dr Friedman shows how you can literally pull two separate Flood stories out and have two perfectly good, but different, Flood stories.

We tend to read the Bible as if it were written by one person, or a closely knit group of people, who all had the same information and purpose. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Bible had several editor/authors, who took their oral/written version of ancient stories and spun them to meet their religious and political views. As we continue through the Bible, we’ll see more evidence of the DH and how the political winners tried to rewrite history. This is perfect evidence of the LDS teaching, “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far it is translated correctly” (Article of Faith 8).

Noah and the Jaredites

If the flood were a regional flood, Noah would not have to carry thousands of species with him, and then have them repopulate the entire earth after the Flood. Instead, he would stock the ark, just as the Jaredites stocked their barges (Ether 2). Since the Jaredites did not know where they were going, how long they would be traveling, or if the flora and fauna in their new promised land would be different than what they were accustomed to; they took everything in their own locale with them. They took fish and honey bees with them (vs. 2-3), as well as seeds of plants they were familiar with. Clearly they took their prophet’s guidance on food storage seriously. They had prepared their ark, just as Noah’s ark was prepared (Ether 6:7). In fact, according to Hugh Nibley, some ancient texts teach of an ancient stone/plant, called the Pyrophilus, which shined in the darkness and was used by Noah (

The Rainbow

Whether it was 40 or 150 days, the Flood eventually receded enough for Noah and the animals to disembark. Noah makes a sacrifice, obviously from the spare 7th clean animal. Had he sacrificed one of the two clean animals of J, there would not have been sufficient to repopulate the world. Of course, in Noah’s day, there was no separation of clean and unclean animals. The concept of clean and unclean came with the Mosaic Law, which would not happen for another thousand years. However, the Priest “P” author(s) who updated the Flood story, felt it imperative to ensure Noah was kosher in his sacrifices according to their own laws.

The Lord is pleased by the sacrifice and promises to never flood the earth by flood again. As a token of this promise, God places a rainbow in the sky. Some Christians believe this is the first time a rainbow was ever seen on earth. However, this is an argument from silence, as there is no evidence that rainbows were not seen prior to the Flood.
According to Joseph Smith, the bow does signify a major promise. “I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, “In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year; but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, section 6, pg 340).

I have seen a rainbow already this year (2010), so we’re safe for now.

The Noahic Covenant

The covenant of Noah is the covenant given to the Gentile nations, according to the Jews. It is the covenant Gentiles are expected to live by, if they wish to have God’s blessings; while the Jews have the Law of Moses to guide them.
The Noahic Covenant contains the following agreement: God will bless Noah and his children, and not destroy them by flood, if they do the following:

1. Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth (Gen 9:1).
2. You can eat meat, but do not eat blood of the animals you kill (9:4).
3. Do not murder (9:5-6).

Each of these commands ties in directly with the sins of Cain and the wicked, prior to the destruction of the world by flood. As mentioned above, ancient texts suggest the Watchers had potions to end pregnancy. The people were not interested in replenishing the earth. The people had blood lust, and were not concerned about eating not only the flesh of animals, but also the blood. And violence and murder had become the norm among mankind.

Curse of Canaan

For many years, traditional Christians and many Mormons believed that the Canaanites (Gen 9:18) were black skinned. This belief added to the concept of the “curse of Cain” being promulgated through the lineage of Ham (with a black wife descended from Cain). Archaeology has proven that the Canaanites were a Semitic/white group, not black. If there ever were a curse given to Canaan by Noah, or on Cain by God, it was not passed down to black Africans. Sadly, traditions that are based on speculation often hurt groups of people. The ban on the priesthood may have been put in place by God and his prophets, but it had nothing to do with a curse. As mentioned in an earlier lesson, Pres David O. McKay and other prophets researched the priesthood ban, and could not find an original commandment or revelation regarding it. All we know is it took a revelation in 1978 to lift the ban, and I’m thankful to live in this time when we are beyond the ban and embracing people of all races as members in full fellowship (see more at Black LDS Mormons).

So, Noah got drunk and Ham saw him naked. Why curse Canaan, if Ham saw him naked? Why not curse Ham, or why curse just one of Ham’s sons, and not all of them?
In the Book of Jasher (Sepir Ha Yasher or Book of the Upright), we find an interesting reason why this occurs. The tradition had it that Adam’s garment was a special treasure and keepsake for the sons of God. It was handed down from righteous father to righteous son (Jasher 7:24). Noah received the garments at the death of Methuselah and took them into the ark with him. It is possible the Noah used the garment to attract the animals, and to get them into the ark, just as Adam used them to name the animals in the beginning.

However, some time after leaving the ark, Ham stole the garment from Noah. It is very likely that Ham stole it while Noah was drunk in his tent, and the garment of Adam was replaced with another garment by Shem and Japheth. The Book of Jasher tells us that Ham gave it to his son, Cush, who passed them down through his own lineage. Cush gave the garments to Nimrod (the same one mentioned in the Book of Abraham), who used the garments to create his hunting prowess and power.

Is it possible that Noah cursed Canaan and the other children of Ham, because of this theft?

Jasher tells us:

27 And in their going out (of the ark), Ham stole those garments from Noah his father, and he took them and hid them from his brothers.
28 And when Ham begat his first born Cush, he gave him the garments in secret, and they were with Cush many days.
29 And Cush also concealed them from his sons and brothers, and when Cush had begotten Nimrod, he gave him those garments through his love for him, and Nimrod grew up, and when he was twenty years old he put on those garments.
30 And Nimrod became strong when he put on the garments, and God gave him might and strength, and he was a mighty hunter in the earth, yea, he was a mighty hunter in the field, and he hunted the animals and he built altars, and he offered upon them the animals before the Lord.
31 And Nimrod strengthened himself, and he rose up from amongst his brethren, and he fought the battles of his brethren against all their enemies round about.
32 And the Lord delivered all the enemies of his brethren in his hands, and God prospered him from time to time in his battles, and he reigned upon earth.
According to this story, due to his use of the garment, Nimrod gained control of the world around him. Just like the Watchers before the Flood, Nimrod was using the powers of heaven for evil purposes. (See: Book of Jasher 7)

The Tower of Babel

Eventually, Nimrod became powerful enough that he ruled everything. The Book of Jasher states:

45 And all nations and tongues heard of his (Nimrod’s) fame, and they gathered themselves to him, and they bowed down to the earth, and they brought him offerings, and he became their lord and king, and they all dwelt with him in the city at Shinar, and Nimrod reigned in the earth over all the sons of Noah, and they were all under his power and counsel.
46And all the earth was of one tongue and words of union, but Nimrod did not go in the ways of the Lord, and he was more wicked than all the men that were before him, from the days of the flood until those days.
Nimrod came up with the idea of creating a tower (Ziggurat temple) that could reach heaven. In so doing, he sought to kick God off his throne. Not only did he wish to rule the world, he also wanted to rule the heavens. How did Nimrod suppose he could reach heaven if he could not see it?

Or maybe he could see it. According to George Laub’s autobiography, Joseph Smith taught
“Now I will tell the story of the designs of building the tower of Babel. It was designed to go to the city of Enoch for the veil was not yet so great that it hit it from their sight, so they concluded to go to the city of Enoch. For God gave him (Enoch) place above the impure air for he could breathe a pure air and him and his city was taken” (George Laub Autobiography, pg 14).
Enoch’s city, as we saw earlier, was taken up to heaven. If George Laub’s account is correct, it was still in the process of being taken up, probably floating in the stratosphere. Nimrod could see it. He knew it was Enoch’s city, as his great-grandfather Noah and grandfather Ham would have told everyone. This was Nimrod’s chance to overthrow the holy city and ascend with it into heaven, where he believed he could toss God out on his ear. After all, Nimrod did possess the powerful garment of Adam, and had so far been invincible against his enemies.

God had no option but to scatter the people at the tower, for “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen 11:6).

Isaiah would prophesy centuries later against Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in 600 BC, who would seek to restore the glories of Nimrod’s Babylon:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations? For thous hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High (El Elyon). Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).
This perfectly describes Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar AND Satan. Each sought to overthrow God and his kingdom. The stars of God were the divine sons of God. The “mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” represented the divine council in heaven, all divine sons of El Elyon, God Most High. In overthrowing the city of Enoch, Nimrod sought to do exactly as Satan tried to do in the Grand Council in heaven. He gathered his strength and armies, and sought a war in heaven. Only God could end each rebellion.

Once the people at the Tower of Babel could no longer speak the same language, they were unable to continue in unity, and dispersed. Nimrod’s hopes of overthrowing Enoch’s city and the kingdom of Heaven were thwarted.

Nimrod’s power diminishes as his people disperse. But we will see more of Nimrod and Adam’s garment again.

Satan Seeks Continually to Overthrow Heaven

But a few centuries had past after the destruction of the world by the Flood, and Satan again had created a new set of Watchers, sons of Adam/Noah, who should have used their power and responsibility for good purposes, but used them to get gain and power, instead. Only by a show of great force was God able to thwart Satan’s efforts to unite the world in overthrowing heaven.

During the Millennium, Satan will be bound for a season. At the end of the thousand years of heavenly peace on earth, Satan will be loosed again. He will tempt and sway the sons of God in that day to reject the heavenly plan, and many will join him in the last day as Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38) in a final effort to throw God out of the earthly “heaven”, and to reestablish it as Satan’s throne.

In the temple, we practice ascending to the Celestial Kingdom. In our daily walk, do we seek to ascend in the manner God wants us to, humbly and meekly serving? Or do we seek to gain power and force our way into heaven?


Book of Jasher: Book of Jasher 7