Category: Lesson Aids

Old Testament Lesson 23 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24

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I apologize for the rough status of these study notes. They are not yet finished, but they are as good as they are going to get this week. As you read these chapters, ask yourself why they are included in scripture. Do they testify of Christ? If so, how? Do they serve some other purpose? History is important in its own right, but it isn’t clear why this particular history is important as scripture. How would you explain its importance? Perhaps the answer is “Ultimately this isn’t an important story,” but that ought to be our last conclusion rather than our first, the conclusion we come to only after the others fail. After all, people have found meaning in these passages for millennia. It would be brash, to say the least, to dismiss the collective judgment of millions of people without good reasons for doing so. Though David has been anointed to be king, he does not become king immediately.…

Though the lesson doesn’t include chapters 12 and 14, the manual recommends them as supplemental reading and I agree. We need to read them to see the full story. There is quite a bit in this section, from the choice of Saul as King, to his usurpation of Samuel’s authority and consequent loss of authority, to the choice of David to replace him, to Saul’s madness, to the story of David slaying Goliath. Rather than try to cover all of that material, these study questions will focus on chapters 9-10, 13, and 16: Saul’s selection and downfall; David’s election. Chapter 9 Verse 2: The phrase “a choice young man” is a hendiadys: “young and tob.” What the word tob means is debatable. Some translate it here as “handsome,” others as “impressive,” others as “good.” The root of tob means “pleasant,” so perhaps the majority of translators assume that the tob means “good-looking” as it is used here, particularly since the…

Old Testament Lesson 21 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 2-3; 8

One can reasonably argue that the book of Judges shows us the decline of Israel to a situation in which they have to have a king to lead them, and that the treatment of women that we see in Judges is a sign of that decline. One can also argue that Ruth is a response to that theme in Judges. How does the story of Hannah fit into that theme? Chapter 2 Verses 1-10: These verses are a song, perhaps not one that Hannah composed, but one she knew already and applied to herself, much as we might choose to sing a hymn that reflects our circumstances. Note the parts of this song: thanksgiving (1-2), a warning to the arrogant (3), the reversal of fortune (the high are brought down, the low are exalted—4-8), and an expression of confidence (9-10). (The song is, roughly, chiastic.) What is the overall theme of the poem? How does this song fit Hannah’s situation?…

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The story of Ruth occurs “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). It is not, strictly speaking, in chronological order. Indeed, from here on out, you may wish to consult the Old Testament chronology in the Bible Dictionary if you wish to see the historical connectedness of the various stories. What do Naomi, Ruth, and Hannah have in common? Why is it appropriate that this lesson is about these three women? The story of Ruth is completely different than any of the stories we have read so far. God is only mentioned obliquely and plays no intervening role in the story, nor do any of his prophets or judges. It is not about a struggle between the forces of good and evil. It is a simple love story of sorts about common people, living common lives. They are not the heroic (or anti-heroic) individuals we have seen so far in the Old Testament. Why is this book scripture?…

OT Lesson 19 Study Notes: Judges 2; 4; 6-7; 13-16

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The notes this time are shorter than usual, for which you may well be grateful. I’ve had much more difficulty thinking of verse-by-verse study questions for these chapters. Judges The translation “judge” is misleading, for it suggests that the person it describes had judgment as his or her primary duty. However, the judges of Israel lived in a time before the powers of government had been separated into anything like legislative, executive, or judicial functions. As a result, “leader” or perhaps even “chief” would be a more accurate translation, for the people that the King James translation calls the judges of Israel were leaders more than they were judges. They were leaders of the groups they oversaw, persons to whom one could go for advice and good judgment, who would consult the law and use it to give wise advice or to make a wise decision—more than someone whose job was to apply the law to a case and render…

OT Lesson 17 Study Notes: Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32:1-4, 15-18, 30-40, 45-47

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Background Feel free to skip this background discussion if you aren’t interested in it. You can skip to the study questions without losing anything. Before taking up two points, however, let me say that I am not generally in favor of bringing much scholarly discussion into Sunday School lessons or our study for them, I don’t think those discussions have much relevance to our understanding of the Bible as a religious text or our application of its teachings to our lives. Scholarly information and ideas have an important place in our studies and in my experience they can sometimes add significantly to our spiritual insights, but they are ultimately collateral to what we do in Sunday School. One need not be a biblical scholar to study and learn from the Bible. Point 1: The title of this book, “Deuteronomy,” is the result of a 3rd century BC Greek mistranslation of Deuteronomy 17:18. “A copy of this law” in Hebrew gets…

OT Lesson 16 Study Notes: Numbers 22-24, 31

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Who is Balaam? All of a sudden a non-Israelite prophet appears. Who is he? Based on Numbers 23:7, Word Biblical Commentary: Numbers, page 263) suggests that he is a Syrian. Is he really a prophet? If no, why not? If yes, in what sense of the word? (Archaeologists have discovered an inscription mentioning Balaam in a probable temple complex in Transjordan. The inscription comes from the 8th or 7th century BC—Ashley, The Book of Numbers 437.) New Testament writers took Balaam as a negative object lesson. Peter, speaking of those who left the church because of lust, refers to Balaam “preferring the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2: 15-16); Jude compares Balaam’s transgression to Cain’s (Jude 1:11); and the Lord, speaking to John on the Isle of Patmos, speaks of the doctrine of Balaam, who taught “the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2: 14). However, it is not clear from the…

OT Lesson 15 Study Notes: Numbers 11-14, 21:1-9

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Besides the chapters of Numbers assigned for this lesson, I also recommend chapters 16, 17, and 20. It is unfortunate that we have no lessons from Leviticus. Though it is not immediately obvious how we should understand those scriptures and apply them to ourselves, the exercise of doing so can be very beneficial. I have depended on study notes prepared by my friend, Art Bassett, several years ago. But I’ve edited and expanded them since then—more than once—so I am no longer sure who wrote what. So I take responsibility for what you see here, though I’m not sure how much credit I can take. God’s Wrath It is “common knowledge” that the God of the Old Testament is a god of wrath, and the God of the New Testament is a loving God—though each is the same God. Part of this confusion may stem our not understanding the subtleties of love and what it means for God. Or we…

OT Lesson 14 Study Notes: Exodus 15-20, 32-34

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As ever, there is a great deal of material in this reading. Perhaps the overviews I provide of each chapter (including some material on chapters 21-21) will help put matters in context. As you read the chapters ask yourselves what kinds of parallels, types, and other meanings you see. How do these things help us understand our own lives? How do they help us understand our relation to Christ? To help you think about that more profitably, also ask yourselves “What did these things mean to the Israelites when they happened?” “What might they mean to Jews today?” Thinking about how someone else understands these things might help us see things we would otherwise miss. For this lesson, rather than asking questions about each verse, I will give an overview of selected chunks of verse and then ask questions about them. I’m trying to figure out a manageable way of dealing with the large portions of text assigned. I worry…

OT Lesson 13 Study Notes: Exodus 1-3, 5-6, 11-14

Before looking in detail at the scriptures for this week, consider the following possible chiastic parallels between the story of Moses’s life and the story of Israel’s experience. Of course parallels are what we make of them. Some may see these as more tightly like one another than others do. Some may be skeptical about these chiasmuses, especially since one of them has missing parts. Some may see nothing at all. If you don’t find these parallels interesting, or at least thought-provoking, skip them and go on to the questions. If you do find them interesting, perhaps they will be useful for thinking about these stories—but don’t make more of them than is reasonably possible. (Some of the tables I used to diagram the chiasmuses turned out strange, though readable, when I pasted this from Word. The others turned out fine. I don’t have a clue why, so I also don’t have a clue how to fix them. Thanks for…

OT Lesson 12 Study Notes: Genesis 40-45

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Genesis 40 Verse 1: How long do you think “after these things” might represent, a long time or a short time? Why do you think we hear nothing further about Potiphar’s wife and what became of her? Verse 2: Note that “butler” is probably better translated “cup bearer,” and “baker” is probably better translated “royal scribe.” These are important palace officials. Does that suggest anything about the prison director’s thoughts about Joseph? Why doesn’t the writer tell us anything about how they have made the Pharaoh angry? Are we supposed to see a parallel between the servants of Pharaoh who (literally) “sinned against their master” and Joseph who has refused to do so because it would be a sin against God (Genesis 39:9)? What do you make of the fact that in chapter 39 (22), Joseph was put in charge of all of the prisoners, but here he must wait on two of them? Has his status changed or does…

OT Lesson 11 Study Notes: Genesis 34 and 37-39

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Genesis 34 What was the sin of Dinah’s brothers? Was it that they took vengeance? Reread the Abrahamic covenant to see what it promises, and think about that covenant as it relates to this event. Did they violate that covenant? How does this chapter portray Jacob? Beyond the rape, what does Shechem do, through his father, that is an affront to Jacob and his sons? For an excellent discussion of this chapter, read Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative 445-475. Chapters 37-47 It is obvious that, like we who try to study and teach the large amounts of material assigned for each lesson, those who created these Sunday School lessons have struggled to deal with the amount of material to be covered. They have had to divide the story of Joseph in two, chapters 37-39 in this lesson and chapters 40-45 in lesson 12, and they have had to omit the denouement of Joseph’s story, chapters 46-47 as well…

OT Lesson 10 Study Notes: Genesis 24-29

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I will concentrate my questions on Genesis 25:19-34 and 27:1-45, and I will add Genesis 33:1-20 to the reading because I think it rounds out the story of Genesis 27. Chapter 25 Verse 19: We expect a genealogy to follow when we are told, “these are the generations of so-and-so,” but here none follows. What meaning does the word “generations” have in this verse? Does that tell us anything about the usual meaning of genealogy? Does it add any depth to our understanding of genealogy? The form of this genealogy is unusual in that it first mentions Isaac and then goes back to Abraham, his father, rather than going immediately to Isaac’s descendants. How would you explain this unusual form? Verse 20: Why do you think the writer mentions Isaac’s age when he married? Why is it important that we know the ethnic identify of Bethuel—and therefore also Rebekah and Laban? (See also Deuteronomy 26:5.) Most modern translations identify Bethuel…

OT Lesson 9 Study Notes: Abraham 1; Genesis 15-17, 21-22

I repeat the reminder: these are notes for study rather than notes for a lesson. Of course study notes can help one prepare a lesson, but my intention is less to help teachers prepare lessons (though I have no objection whatever to them finding my notes useful for that purpose, if they do) than it is not help class members prepare to participate in the lessons taught. Those who use these notes should feel free to add to them with their own comments and observations—and, of course, corrections. Because there is so much material to cover I’m going to abbreviate some of what I do. I’ll feel guilty about skipping over Abraham 1 and try to get it into these notes the next time around. I’ll deal with Genesis 15-17 and 21 relatively briefly and then concentrate on Genesis 22. As you can well imagine, the scholarly literature on Genesis 22 is enormous, thousands and thousands of pages. I don’t…

OT Lesson 8 Study Notes: Genesis 13-14, 18-19

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Chapter 13 Verses 1-2: Are there elements in Abram’s journey to Canaan that typify Israel’s later exodus from Egypt? If there are, what would be the point of that parallel? Verse 1: Notice the difference in the way the families are described in Genesis 12:5 and here. Does anything in these verses suggest a change in the family situation? If yes, of what sort? Journeys from Egypt to Canaan are said to be “up” and journeys from Canaan to Egypt are said to be “down.” We might use the same metaphors because of the way we have constructed the map of the world, with Canaan to the north of Egypt, but that similarity is misleading since they didn’t have maps or use the points of the compass as we do. So why would ancient people have used that language of up and down? Verse 2: What is the point of this detail? Does the comment about their wealth in verse…

OT Lesson 7 Study Notes: Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

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Abraham 1 Verse 1: Why does this work use the name “Abraham” for the person in question when we know from Genesis that his name was as yet still “Abram”? What does it tell us that Abraham says “the residence of my fathers” (plural) rather than “the residence of my father” (singular)? Why did Abraham think he needed to “find another place of residence”? (Compare Genesis 12:1 as well as Abraham 1:5-12 and 2:1-4.) What do you make of the dispassionate, deliberate character of Abraham’s language in this verse and, in the later verses, of his account of the Chaldean attempt to sacrifice him? Is that an artefact of translation, perhaps, or does it show us something about Abraham? Verse 2: What does Abraham mean by “the blessings of the fathers”? Verse 4 tells us that the phrase refers to the priesthood. Then why is it plural? If it does not refer to the priesthood in this verse, to what…

OT Lesson 6 Study Notes: Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6:5-22; 7:11-24; 8:1-22; 9:8-17; 11:1-9

Moses 8 Verse 9: The Hebrew of Genesis 5:29 shows us that Noah’s name means “rest.” How does his father, Lamech, explain the name? Is Noah’s name significant to the story of the flood? Verses 19-21: Why don’t the people listen to Noah? What do the things they say about themselves tell us about them? (Compare verse 21 to verse 14.) Why does what they say focus on marriage and children? How is what they say a reply to Moses’ message of repentance? Do we see anything here about how they understand what it means to have dominion? Verse 22: Compare this verse to what God says of creation (e.g., Moses 2:10, 31). What has happened to creation? How has it happened? Verse 23-24: What does Noah promise the people of the earth if they will repent? How is the reception of the Holy Ghost a blessing? Verses 25-26: Why does the Lord decide to destroy the earth? In Genesis…

OT Lesson 5 Study Notes: Moses 5-7

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As always, remember that these are questions for studying the reading assigned more than for planning the lesson itself. Even then, you are certainly going to find more questions here than you can deal with in one study session, though not, perhaps, more than you can deal with in a week. However, that said, the lesson itself has turned out to be more than I could deal with in a week. I had most of the lesson revised by Sunday evening and thought I would be able to finish adding material for chapter 7 by Tuesday or Wednesday. I was wrong, so I’m posting the materials incomplete. Perhaps next time around. Chapter 5  Verses 1-2: How do these verses connect to the story we learned in Moses 4? Given what we studied in the last lesson, what is the point of the last sentence of verse 1? Does verse 2 suggest anything about how the Old Testament prophets understand knowledge?…

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

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

Underwhelming Thoughts on Correlation

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

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

A reminder about these notes: They are intended to help people study the assigned material for this week’s Sunday School lesson. They are not intended as an outline for how to teach that lesson, though I assume that by studying the material a person might get ideas about how to teach it. And a note about these notes: These questions are for one particular kind of study, not the only kind nor necessarily the best kind. Sometimes we study a book of scripture from cover to cover, learning or reminding ourselves of its overall teachings and how the parts of its story or stories fit together. This kind of study is essential to our understanding the message the scriptures has for us. Sometimes we study chronologically, beginning with the earliest book or section and working our way toward the end so that we understand better the divine history recorded in the scriptures. Other times we study topically, trying to learn…

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

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

OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1

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

Studying the Old Testament

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What are the scriptures for? How should we use them? How do we use them? “Proof-texting” is a procedure that begins by assuming we know the doctrines and then searches through the scriptures to find something to back up the belief. Because it begins with what we assume we know rather from what the scriptures teach, proof-texting always runs the danger of “wresting” the scriptures. Jesus accuses the Jews of wresting the scriptures by proof-texting in John 5:39. See also 2 Peter 3:16, Alma 13:20, and D&C 10:63. “Wrest” is the word from which the modern word “wrestle” comes, and it means “to twist or wrench; to pull violently.” How do we avoid wresting the scriptures? Read 2 Nephi 25:1. Why didn’t Nephi’s people understand Isaiah? According to Nephi, why do we find the Isaiah difficult? Why do we find the rest of the Old Testament difficult? What does Nephi say is necessary to understanding Isaiah (2 Nephi 25:4)? How…

What is the Old Testament?

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The version of the Old Testament used by Protestants and Jews today contains 39 books. Catholic Bibles include 9 more books, as well as 2 additions to Daniel and 1 to Esther. At least some of those 9 additional books were used as scripture by Saints of the 1st century AD. For various reasons (mostly historical rather than doctrinal or revealed, I would guess) Latter-day Saints use the same version of the Bible as do the Protestants. The major difference between the Protestant and Jewish Bibles is that the order of the books in each is different. The Protestants arrange the books chronologically, and the Jews arrange them according to the scriptural authority they give the books. (The New Testament is arranged, not chronologically, but according to type: Gospels, history of the early Church, then letters. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants are arranged more-or-less chronologically.) As you can see in Mike Parker’s chart of the Old Testament…

An Overview of Genesis

It is daunting to be posting anything about scripture when Eric Huntsman is posting alongside. It ought to be daunting in any case, but it is easier to ignore the fact that I am a mere dabbler when my posts stand alone. In any case, I will be posting revised versions of my study questions for the Old Testament Sunday School lessons. I begin with several posts of background. These will all be cross-posted from Feast Upon the Word, a site you should become acquainted with if you aren’t already (and it is the blog daughter of its more important mother site, a site for commentary and explication of LDS scripture, Feast Upon the Word). I will keep insisting on this as I go, but it is important to remember that these are not notes on how to teach a lesson, but study notes on the lesson material. Of course, one could study using the notes, then create a lesson. So they…

Faith and Healing

“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. He who hath faith to see shall see. He who hath faith to hear shall hear. The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.” (D&C 42:48-51)  

Sunday School Lesson Links

Owing to the fact that I am a moron, Jim F.’s excellent Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School lessons are inordinately hard to retrieve. Here are links to a few of them, and we’ll have the rest of them easy to get to by next week. Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 2 Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 3 Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 4 Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 5 Jim no longer posts at T&S, but he still reads here on occasion, so if you have nice things to say or helpful comments about any of these lessons, please feel free to post them below.