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 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?

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