Genesis 12:1-3; Abraham 1:1-19 Abraham Leaves His Homeland
For our study of the prophet Abraham (Abram), we are blessed to have the Pearl of Great Price’s book of Abraham to supplement the Bible’s book of Genesis. Abraham left his homeland of Ur (in the land of the Chaldeans, or Babylonians; in modern-day Iraq) for several reasons:
- Abraham found it needful to leave because his “fathers” had turned from their righteousness to the worshiping of the heathen Egyptian gods. They offered up their children in sacrifice to these idol gods, and forcibly took Abraham in an attempt to do the same. They “utterly refused” to listen to Abraham’s pleas (Abraham 1:1, 5-14; see also Abraham Facsimile 1).
- Abraham desired “greater happiness and peace and rest,” and he “sought for the blessings of the [patriarchal] fathers,” including the priesthood, gospel knowledge, posterity, and other promises given to preceding prophets (Abraham 1:2).
- Abraham sought for his “appointment unto the Priesthood” and was ordained to the same priesthood and order as Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, and others (Abraham 1:3-4; see also D&C 84:14-16).
- The Lord saved Abraham from death, gave him visions, and commanded him to leave his father’s house; promising to take him to “a strange land” (Abraham 1:15-16, 20; Abraham 2:3-4; see also Genesis 12:1).
- The Lord had smitten the land of Ur with famine (Abraham 1:29-30; Abraham 2:1).
What did Abraham give up for the gospel? What have you given up, in order to be a follower of righteousness? So far, what promises has Abraham gained from the Lord? (Genesis 12:2-3; Abraham 1:16, 18-19). What blessings have you been promised, based upon obedience?
Abraham 1:15-28, 31 “The Right of the Priesthood”
These verses expose an issue that began in premortal life, has persisted throughout history, and continues in our day: Who is authorized to represent God, invoke His name, and do His work? Note the following:
- After saving Abraham from the false priests who endeavored to take Abraham’s life, the Lord promised him that He would put His name upon him, “even the Priesthood” (verses 15-18).
- The Lord also promised Abraham that through his ministry, the Lord’s name “shall be known in the earth forever” (verse 19).
- The Lord slew the priest of Pharaoh and broke down the heathen altars (verse 20; note that the influence of Egypt’s heathen religion had spread over 1,200 miles to Ur).
Abraham continues by providing the following information:
- Ham (son of Noah) married Egyptus#1, and their daughter was Egyptus#2 (verses 21-23).
- The son of Egyptus#2 was the first Pharaoh (king) of Egypt; the Pharaoh of Abraham’s day being a descendant of this first Pharaoh and, like the other Pharaohs, “was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth” (verses 21-22).
- The Egyptians, all of whom came from this same descendancy, “preserved the curse in the land” (verses 22, 24), which appears to refer to a priesthood ban (verse 26; no specific explanation is given, except that verse 23 says Egypt means “that which is forbidden”).
- Nonetheless, Pharaoh#1 was righteous and sought to “imitate” the priesthood order, even though he was “of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would would fain [alternatively] claim it from Noah, through Ham” (verses 26-27; note that “fain” has a different meaning than “feign”).
- However, this eventually led to idolatry, which was adopted in Ur by Abraham’s father, Terah (verse 27).
- Abraham clears up the issue of priesthood authority in his day, declaring that he can “delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands” (verse 28), and that “the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands” (verse 31; this could be compared to the priesthood lines of authority that are prominent in the Church today).
We do not know when nor how Abraham came to possess these authoritative records, but we may speculate that his insistence regarding true authority was at least partly why the Egyptian priests attempted to kill him.
Genesis 12:4-9; Abraham 2:1-20 Abraham in Haran and Canaan
In Ur, Abraham’s father, Terah, was “sorely tormented because of the famine, and he repented” for having determined to kill Abraham (Abraham 1:30). Abraham left Ur and traveled some 700 miles to Haran (in modern-day Turkey), along with his wife Sarah (Sarai), his nephew Lot, and others (Genesis 12:5; Abraham 2:2, 15). Terah followed Abraham’s party to Haran, where “the famine abated” and Terah then “turned again to his idolatry” (Abraham 2:4-5).
Read Helaman 12:3-5 and ask yourself, how can I remain humble and willing to follow the Lord, whether I am living in conditions of hardship or of prosperity?
In Haran, Abraham’s party converted others to the gospel (who subsequently went with Abraham, traveling with them the 600 miles into the land of Canaan; Genesis 12:4-5; Abraham 2:15). As He had done in Ur, the Lord again revealed Himself to Abraham in Haran:
- What did the Lord teach Abraham about Himself? (see Abraham 2:7-8). In what ways do you see that the Lord’s hand is “over” you?
- What commandments/instructions did the Lord give Abraham? (see Abraham 2:6).
- What additional promises did the Lord make to Abraham? (see Abraham 2:6, 8-11).
- After this revelatory experience, Abraham understatedly declared, “Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee” (Abraham 2:12). Find the additional solemn and sweet declarations Abraham made in Abraham 2:13, 16. Do you share those same feelings toward God?
- Abraham and his fellow travelers arrived in and traveled through Canaan, the land promised to Abraham and his seed. Note in Abraham 2:17-20 Abraham’s continued devotion to the Lord (see also Genesis 12:6-9). Could your prayers be described as “devout”?
Genesis 12-13, 15, 17; Abraham 2 The Abrahamic Covenant
Perhaps the most significant scriptures related to the Abrahamic Covenant are Genesis 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18; 17:1-9, 15-16, 19; Abraham 1:18-19; 2:6-11. Carefully read these verses, marking and pondering the things that stand out for you. See also “Abraham, covenant of” in the LDS Bible Dictionary.
President Russell M. Nelson has repeatedly taught of the implications for us of the Abrahamic Covenant. In the October 2020 general conference, he said, “Everything about [the gathering of Israel] has intrigued me, including the ministries and names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their lives and their wives; the covenant God made with them and extended through their lineage; the dispersion of the twelve tribes; and the numerous prophecies about the gathering in our day…. As an essential prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord, it is the most important work in the world!… And as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or ‘latter-day covenant Israel,’ we have been charged to assist the Lord with this pivotal work…. We are referring, of course, to missionary, temple, and family history work. We are also referring to building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve…. Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day?”
Genesis 12:10-20; Abraham 2:21-25 Abraham Enters Egypt
The famine became severe in Canaan, so Abraham “concluded to go down into Egypt” (Abraham 2:21). As Abraham is about to enter Egypt, he is concerned that Sarah’s beauty will entice the Egyptians to kill him and take her. Therefore, Abraham instructs Sarah to claim that she is his sister. This has been bothersome to some readers, but from the account in the book of Abraham we learn that the Lord instructed Abraham to carry out this plan. Thus—as in the case of Nephi killing Laban (see 1 Nephi 4)—whatever God commands is right.
Genesis 13-14 Abraham Returns to Canaan
After Abraham’s return to Canaan (Genesis 13:1), two stories unfold that portray Abraham as a righteous, compassionate follower of Jehovah. What virtues does Abraham display in these two accounts?
- Abraham and Lot determine where to live in the land of Canaan (Genesis 13:5-12, 18; remember, the Lord had promised all the land to Abraham).
- Lot is taken in battle (Genesis 14:8, 12-16, 21-23).