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

Posted by Jim F. on December 21, 2009

Abraham 3

Verses 1-19: Why did the Lord reveal these things to Abraham? More important: why did he think it important to reveal them to us?

Verse 1: Why is it important that Abraham tell us that he received the revelation that follows through the Urim and Thummim?

Verse 2: Assuming that the throne of God is on a planet, why say that the star is near that throne / planet rather than that the throne / planet is near the star? In contrast, we don’t say that the sun is near the earth, but that the earth is near the sun. To what does the word ones in the phrase “there were many great ones” refer? Stars? Why is it important that we know this detail?

Verse 3: What does it mean to refer to a star as governing? How can multiple stars govern? What do they govern? When the Lord tells Abraham that the star Kolob governs “all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest” what is he saying?

The word kolob may be related to a Hebrew root, klb, that appears to mean “bind,” though the words that follow from that root appear in late Hebrew rather than early.

Verse 4: Why is this difference in time between the orders of stars and planets important for Abraham to know? Does “one thousand years” mean “a very long time” or is it being used as an exact measurement? How would you decide?

Verses 5 and 7: What are we to make of these verses? Are they about the moon? What does it mean to say that the moon is greater than the earth? Why does moving more slowly make one planet greater than another? If we went to the moon, presumably we wouldn’t experience time differently than we do on the earth. So what does it mean to say that the reckoning of time for the moon is different than it is for the earth?

Verses 6 and 8: The word “fact” isn’t often used as we use it until the mid- to late-nineteenth century—after the Book of Abraham was translated. Prior to that, it usually meant “something done.”

The word “feat” is related to the word “fact,” and both are related to the French verb faire, “to do.” The Latin root for all these words is facere, “to do or make.”

So the word probably meant “something done” for Joseph Smith and those reading this book of Abraham in the first half of the nineteenth century. If you use that meaning for the word “fact” to understand these verses, what do they say? (Try substituting feat for fact when you read these verses to better see how readers prior to about 1850 would have heard them.)

For more on the history of the idea of facts, see Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact.

Verses 5-8: Is the structure of these verses significant: verses 5 and 7 are parallel to one another, and verses 6 and 8 are parallel?

Verses 9-10: Do these verses add any new information, or are they a summary of the preceding verses?

Verses 11-12: How does the Lord give his revelation to Abraham differently than he did to Moses (Moses 1)? Do you see any meaning in those differences?

Verse 11: Here and in verses 12 and 21, the Lord speaks of the things his hands have made. The creation stories show the Father making things by his word, by commanding them to happen and being obeyed, rather than making them by his hands. Why do you think he uses the image of hands here?

Verse 12: What is the significance of the Lord’s address to Abraham, “My son, my son”? What is the significance of his outstretched hand? How does this event compare to the experience of the Brother of Jared (Ether 3:6-7)? In both Moses 1 and here the prophets learn the innumerable character of the Lord’s creation. Why is that an important thing for them to learn?

Verse 14: Do the preceding verses have anything to do with the promise that the Lord makes to Abraham? Why is it relevant that this revelation occurred at night?

Verse 15: Does this answer the question about why the Lord revealed these things to Abraham? What does the Lord mean when he says “that ye may declare all these words”? What would be the point of such a declaration in Egypt? Does this verse help us understand why the Lord revealed these things to us? How so?

Verse 16: Is the word “exist” here parallel to the word “facts” in verses 6 and 8? If so, what do you make of that parallel? Why does the revelation use the word kokaubeam rather than stars since, as we know from verse 13, that is what kokaubeam means?

Verse 17: What is the relation of the first part of this verse to the second? What is the second part telling us? Does it mean “God is arbitrary, doing whatever occurs to him” or does it say something about his character: “He does whatever his pure heart desires and we can trust him because of the purity of his heart”? Or does it say something else?

Verse 18: Why is the analogy between the relation of the stars and the relation of intelligences important?

Verse 20: Verse 19 is about the relation of intelligences and verse 21 is about God’s relation to intelligences. Why is this verse inserted between them? What does the near sacrifice of Abraham have to do with the hierarchy of intelligences? Does it tell us anything about how we should understand the teaching in verses 19 and 21? Or do those verses tell us anything about how to understand the fact that God saved Abraham from sacrifice?

Verse 21: What does it mean to say that the Lord dwells “in the midst,” in other words, in the middle of, among, all the intelligences? We could paraphrase the first part of this verse in this way: “Because I dwell in the midst of all the intelligences, I have come down to tell you of the works I have made.” How does the first claim (“I dwell in the midst of all intelligences”) explain the second (“I will tell you . . .”), as the word “therefore” (“because”) suggests that it does? What is prudence?

The Webster’s dictionary of 1828 has as one of its definition of intelligence “a spiritual being; as a created intelligence.” Does this tell us anything about how to understand the use of the word here?  

In 2 Chronicles 2:12, prudence translates a Hebrew word (sekel) meaning “understanding” or “ability to discriminate.” The King James translators also translated that Hebrew word as “understanding,” “wisdom,” and “knowledge.” Sometimes the English word prudence translates a different Hebrew word (orem), as in Proverbs 8:12. That word can be translated “subtlety” or “guile,” as well as “understanding” or “wisdom.” In Ephesians 1:8, “prudence” translates a Greek word (phronesis) meaning “reason, cleverness, or insight.”

What do you think the English word prudence meant in this translation when it was written? Which meaning of the word ought we to use as our reference point for understanding this verse, a biblical meaning or the ordinary meaning in Joseph Smith’s day? Why?

Verse 22: How were the intelligences organized before the world was? By what principle? How do you know? Why is it important that Abraham know they were organized?

Verse 23: To which intelligences does “these souls” refer to? What does it mean to be chosen before one is born? What does it mean to be chosen at all? Chosen for what? Why is it important for Abraham to know that he was among those chosen? Why is it important for us to know that he was? In this verse does spirits mean the same as intelligences did in earlier verses? Why or why not?

Verses 24-26: Who is speaking in these verses? To whom is he speaking? Is he suggesting a plan or telling them what is going to happen? What is said in this chapter that answers that question? What does prove mean in this context?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word prove first means “to demonstrate the truth of [something] by evidence or argument.” Is that meaning relevant to its use here?

In verse 26, why does the speaker speak of those who do not keep their first estate when that has not yet happened? Why do you think the verse uses the word “estate” to describe the various states of existence? What does estate mean? What does it mean to keep an estate? Will those who did not keep their first estate have glory in a kingdom? If not, why is this worded as it is: “They who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate” (my emphasis)?

Verse 27: To whom does the word Lord refer here, to the Father or to the Son? Why does the Lord ask “Whom shall I send?” after the one “like unto God” has already said what he will do? Why does this say that the first person to respond was “like unto the Son of Man” rather than that he was the Son of Man?

In the Old Testament, the phrase “Here I am” translates a Hebrew verb that could also be translated “Look at me” or “I am ready.” It is the standard, idiomatic response to someone if one’s name is called (as it is in Arabic today). If we assume that the same Hebrew word is in Abraham’s original account, what does the meaning of the word tell us about the answer to God’s question?

You can find the same phrase in these scriptures: Genesis 22:1, 7, 11; 27:1, 18; 31:11; 37:13; 46:2; Exodus 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:4, 5, 6, 8, 16; 12:3; 22:12; 2 Samuel 1:7; 15:26; 6:8; 58:9; 2 Nephi 16:8; and Moses 4:1. Do any of those uses add depth to your understanding of what is happening here?

Moses 4
 
Verse 1: Why does the Lord say “that Satan,” using a demonstrative pronoun, rather than just “Satan”? Perhaps knowing what the word satan means will explain why the Lord refers to this being as “that Satan.” (How would we find the meaning of the word satan?) The Lord’s reference to Moses commanding Satan takes us back to Moses 1:13-15. Why is that reminder here? What does it mean to say that Satan was with the Father from the beginning? Compare the offer, “I will be thy son,” with what happens in Moses 1:19 and 5:13. What do we see? Why does Satan say “I will be thy son” rather than “I am thy son?” Isn’t he already a son of God? Does D&C 29:36 shed any light on why Satan’s request, “Give my thine honor,” was wrong? Do we ever try to assume the honor of God? If so, how?

Verse 2: What do you make of the difference between the way that the Father describes Satan in the previous verse and the way he describes Christ in this verse: “my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning” compared to “the same which was from the beginning”? Does that tell us anything about what Satan was suggesting in the previous verse?

Verse 3: When did Satan rebel? Have we seen that happen yet? If so, where? If not, why does the Lord speak of it here in the past tense? What do you make of the difference between the way Satan describes his plan—”I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost”—and the way the Father describes his plan: “Satan . . . sought to destroy the agency of man”? According to the scriptures, what is agency? (See 2 Nephi 2:16, 23, 27; Romans 8:2.)

Verse 4: What does it mean to say “he became Satan” (my emphasis)? The answer to the question about the meaning of the word satan may also be the answer to this question. Why is “father of all lies” such a descriptive title for Satan? (Remember this name for him when we study the story of Adam and Eve.) What does it mean to say that those who follow him will be led “captive at his will”? What does it mean to say that those who follow Satan are those who will not hearken to God’s voice? What makes a person a follower of Satan? How does one avoid being one?

14 Responses to “OT Lesson 2 Study Notes: Abraham 3; Moses 4:1-4”

  1. [...] on this post should be made at Feast Upon the Word 0 people like this post. [...]

  2. MCR said

    Re: Verse 11 where you write, “the Lord speaks of the things his hands have made. The creation stories show the Father making things by his word, by commanding them to happen and being obeyed, rather than making them by his hands. Why do you think he uses the image of hands here?”

    When the Father ‘speaks of things his hands made’ and ‘making things by his word” perhaps He was referring to creating by his Only Begotten, as in John 1:1-3 (“In the beginning was the Word….all things were made by him, and without him was not anything that was made”) and Isaiah 48:10 (“Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the aearth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together”)? Is not His Only Begotten Son, his ‘right hand’ or on his ‘right hand’?

  3. Clean Cut said

    Just to add to the discussion, I think we might gain some new insight by challenging the manual linking Abraham 3:27 and Moses 4:1-2. It seems obvious that in the Moses scripture it is Jesus Christ who says “here am I, send me” in reference to being the Savior. But in the Abraham scripture it seems very possible that the “one like unto the Son of Man” is not the Son of Man himself, but one (Michael/Adam) answering like unto Jesus, saying “here am I, send me”. This is not in reference to becoming the Savior, but perhaps rather in reference to beginning the “second estate”, or earth life. In context, the verse directly preceding this discusses keeping the first and second estate.

    I think it’s worth considering:

    “Reading Abraham 3:22-28 through new eyes”
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/12/reading-abraham-322-28-through-new-eyes.html

  4. Robert C. said

    CC #3, this is great, thanks for posting the link. I esp. like the possibilities you’ve opened regarding Abraham 3:27, and the temple significance this reading highlights—I’ve often wondered about this “like unto the Son of Man” phrase:

    [Abraham . . . as narrator] And the Lord [Jesus/Jehovah] said: ["]Whom shall I send?["] [to be the first to experience the next estate] And one [Michael/Adam] answered like unto the Son of Man [Jesus, Son of Man or Son of God]: ["]Here am I, send me["]. And another [Lucifer] answered and said: ["]Here am I, send me["]. And the Lord [Jesus] said: ["]I will send the first.["]

  5. KirkC said

    Does anyone see any relation to the “stars” in v1-3 and D&C 29:14 in relation to the last days?

    “But, behold, I say unto you that before this great day shall come the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and there shall be greater signs in heaven above and in the earth beneath.”

    We know one star had already fallen, Isa. 14:12 where Satan is the morning star. However, I am not sure if all three of these stars are related or not.

  6. KirkC said

    Verse 11: Here and in verses 12 and 21, the Lord speaks of the things his hands have made. The creation stories show the Father making things by his word, by commanding them to happen and being obeyed, rather than making them by his hands. Why do you think he uses the image of hands here? -Jim

    Maybe to put emphasis on the Atonement? Isa. 49: 15-16

    “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

    The obvious difference between Moses and Abraham is that God touches physically touches the latter. In Abr. 3:12 God “put his hand upon {Abraham’s] eyes.” I am unsure of the usage of the word “hands” in this book, and this passage confuses me. Is it figurative or literal? We read in Ether 3:16 that God tells the Brother of Jared,” Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” Yet, God touches Abraham?

    If the word hand is figurative here, rather than literal, because God is a spirit, then that makes Jim’s question regarding v11 extremely interesting. If hands=atonement, maybe the knowledge of the atonement allows Abraham to see the coming “here am I, send me” scene? However, that might be a stretch. I will have to think more on this.

  7. KirkC said

    #2, MCR, I hate to even ask this question (because of the discussion on the other thread/lesson 1), but are you reading the text as Abraham talking with The Father? Your comments seem to imply so; I just want to make sure I understand where you are coming from.

    I forgot to put in my above post that I recognize God touches the stones of the Brother of Jared in Ether 3, but I am unsure if he physically touches them, or simply appears to touch them when they light up. Just wanted to point that out.

  8. KirkC said

    Verse 23: To which intelligences does “these souls” refer to? What does it mean to be chosen before one is born? In this verse does spirits mean the same as intelligences did in earlier verses? Why or why not?

    I think this might have something to do with our spiritual progression at the time of the council. In v22, Abraham saw intelligences, “and among those were many noble and great ones.” However, in v23, the noble and great ones are referred to as “souls.” Therefore, I think these might be two different groups at differing times in their spiritual progression.

    However, v23 also appears to possibly introduce a third group. v23, “for he [God] stood [I think this is in addition to the "souls"] among those that were spirits.” Abraham was a spirit.

    Souls and spirits are both “noble and great ones,” but spirits appear to be a step above the rest.

  9. KirkC said

    Just to add to my last comment (#8), Abr. 3:15-21 is already talking about how intelligences differ from one another.

    On another interesting note, D&C 138:53 describes the prophets as “choice spirits.” In v55, these choice spirits “where also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning.” The “choice spirits” of v53 again seem to differ from the “noble and great ones” who they were among.

  10. garnet said

    “Verses 5-8: Is the structure of these verses significant: verses 5 and 7 are parallel to one another, and verses 6 and 8 are parallel?”

    Doesn’t this also extend through the chapter? I think there is chiasmus through all of the verses 1-11.

  11. jennywebb said

    I was thinking about the question Jim poses for vs. 17 today in Sunday School. Jim asks “Verse 17: What is the relation of the first part of this verse to the second? What is the second part telling us? Does it mean “God is arbitrary, doing whatever occurs to him” or does it say something about his character: “He does whatever his pure heart desires and we can trust him because of the purity of his heart”? Or does it say something else?”

    I wonder if the two segments of the sentence could be related in terms of integrity. That is, the integrity of God—his utter lack of deception, misdirection, forgetfulness, etc. and his complete commitment to any task he decides to accomplish—is reflected in the integrity of the structure of the universe. The complete order running throughout the universe (if two things exist, they will exist in an ordered relationship to each other) provides us with a sense of structural integrity (every part will fit into the whole following this logic, even if the parts are infinite). Therefore, as a response to Jim’s formulation, the second half does reveal something about God’s character (his integrity), but it reveals that integrity in the structured, ordered terms presented in the universe/al description of the first half.

  12. Robert C. said

    I really appreciate the post and comments here. I really have a hard time making any sense of this chapter. In fact, it’s Jim’s very first question, before I even read it in Jim’s notes, that has really been haunting me:

    Verses 1-19: Why did the Lord reveal these things to Abraham? More important: why did he think it important to reveal them to us?

    Of course this could be asked about any passage of scripture, but it was esp. bothering me with regard to this chapter as I sat in Sunday school today, and it seemed we were floundering to understand the significance of any of this.

    Is Jenny (#11) onto something here that can be applied to the whole chapter? God is providing Abraham with an analogy of the structural integrity of the universe as a metaphor for the structural integrity of the human family, or at least the covenantal family that Abraham will be the father of?

    Any comments in response will be much appreciated, this is one of those burning questions that’s really eating at me (and it’s related in so many ways to questions I have about the creation story and the temple…)!

    • jennywebb said

      Robert, I like your application to the overarching question. Any covenant emanating from a God with integrity would, necessarily, be similarly structured. Perhaps that’s where v.18 is going when it provides a relationship between the stars and the spirits?

  13. J. Madson said

    I personally think much of this relates to facsimile 3 and that the astronomy abraham is explaining is demonstrating that his God lives near the planet Kolob which encircles or controls, as the egyptian verb for a planets rotation would also mean, the bodies within its orbit. This would of course include the egyptian pantheon of gods.

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