Birthright Blessings; Marriage in the
Abraham emphasizes the importance of marriage in the covenant (eternal
Esau sells his birthright to Jacob.
Jacob marries Leah and Rachel in the covenant, and through him the Abrahamic
A study of this lesson will help us strengthen our desires to live worthy of
our birthright blessings and of eternal marriage.
Scripture references for study: Genesis
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
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notes: Click on links for expanded information.
Lesson 10 Handout (PDF
Abraham & Marriage In The Covenant - Genesis 24
Abraham's Servant Seeks A Wife For Isaac.
Marriage In The Covenant.
Abraham commissioned his eldest servant, a man who ruled over all of Abraham's
possessions, to arrange a marriage for Isaac. He caused this servant
to swear "that thou shalt not take a wife unto
my son of the daughters of the Canaanites" (v3). This
servant was probably Eliezer (see
Genesis 15:2-3). The servant was
charged with going to Abraham's home country and choosing a wife, for Isaac,
from among his kindred (v4).
The servant then asked Abraham what he should do if the woman refused to
come with him? He asked if he should come back for Isaac? (v5).
Not knowing the custom of the day, we are left to wonder if the servant
felt he might have more success with the prospective bride if she met Isaac
Abraham warned his servant not to take Isaac back amongst his kindred. Abraham said the Lord would "send his angel"
before him (v7).
Like Abraham, we want our children to marry a righteous young man or young
woman in the covenant. Are we living our lives in such a manner as
to be worthy to have the Lord "send his angel" to aid our children
in their quest for an eternal companion?
Abraham's servant took ten camels and traveled to Nahor, near the town
of Haran, in Mesopotamia (v10).
He arrived in Nahor near the well in the evening, at the time "the
daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water" (v11). He asked the Lord, "And let it come to pass, that
the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that
I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink
also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac;
and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master"
Rebekah came out to draw water. Rebekah was the granddaughter of
Abraham's brother Nahor (v15).
"And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let
me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. And she said, Drink,
my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave
him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw
water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And she hasted,
and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to
draw water, and drew for all his camels." (v17-20)
The servant still wondered whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous
He then asked Rebekah, "Whose daughter art thou?
tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge
Rebekah told the servant of her parentage and welcomed the servant to her
"And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped
the LORD" (v26).
Laban, Rebekah's brother, came out to the well and brought the servant
into their home (v29-31).
A meal was laid before the servant, "but he said,
I will not eat, until I have told mine errand" (v33).
The servant then explained who he was and the reason for his journey from
Laban and Bethuel answered and said, "The thing proceedeth from the
LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before
thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the
LORD hath spoken" (v50).
Lest one think that Rebekah had no say in the matter, she was asked if
she would go with Abraham's servant back to Hebron. She responded,
will go" (v57-58).
Rebekah returned to Hebron with Abraham's servant.
It must have been love at first sight, for when she saw Isaac she did not
hesitate, "...and when she saw Isaac, she lighted
off the camel" (v64).
"And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's
tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her"
WHY WAS ABRAHAM SO INSISTENT THAT ISAAC MARRY A WOMAN FROM HIS KINDRED
RATHER THAN FROM THE CANAANITES, IN WHOSE LAND ABRAHAM AND ISAAC LIVED?
President Spencer W. Kimball: "Marrying
outside the faith has always been forbidden. For example, the Lord inspired
Abraham to marry a near relative rather than a Gentile. In respect of his
son's bride, Abraham commissioned his servant to go on a long and uncomfortable
journey to obtain a girl of Isaac's own faith." (Miracle of
According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Abraham had "entered
into celestial marriage" (Mormon Doctrine, p13). Thus
the sealing keys were upon the earth. Isaac could not be married
in the covenant unless he married a righteous woman, one who was prepared
for celestial marriage, a woman of the faith.
The Canaanites were not a righteous people and had evil practices, including
the worship of Baal and witchcraft. Not only would the Abrahamic
covenant not have been perpetuated through Isaac by marriage to a Canaanite,
it is possible that Isaac could have been led into their evil practices.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT WE MARRY IN THE COVENANT?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Those portions
of it (the Abrahamic covenant) which pertain to personal exaltation and
eternal increase are renewed with each member of the house of Israel who
enters the order of celestial marriage; through that order the participating
parties become inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
(Mormon Doctrine, p13)
President Spencer W. Kimball: "Plans and decisions
relating to marriage for a Church member should be geared to the goal of
exaltation and to a program for the unborn children who can bring glory
to the parents. When children come into a true Latter-day Saint home, through
a marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, into a home where there
is peace and contentment, common ideals and common standards, life has
great promise." (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp236-237)
In a sense, we also live among the "Canaanites" today. The strength
of a righteous spouse is becoming increasingly important, if not essential,
as we attempt to avoid the temptations and evil practices that surround
HOW LONG HAS MARRIAGE IN THE COVENANT BEEN A COMMANDMENT OF GOD?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Celestial marriage
is a holy and an eternal ordinance; as an order of the priesthood, it has
the name the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Adam was the first
one on this earth to enter into this type of union, and it has been the
Lord's order in all ages when the fulness of the gospel has been on earth.
Its importance in the plan of salvation and exaltation cannot be overestimated.
The most important things that any member of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints ever does in this world are: 1. To marry the right
person, in the right place, by the right authority; and 2. To keep the
covenant made in connection with this holy and perfect order of matrimony
-- thus assuring the obedient persons of an inheritance of exaltation in
the celestial kingdom." (Mormon Doctrine, p118)
HOW CAN WE HELP CHILDREN AND YOUTH PREPARE TO BE MARRIED IN THE TEMPLE?
Teach the principles contained in the pamphlet
For The Strength Of Youth.
Teach the counsel of our latter-day prophets.
President Spencer W. Kimball gave this strong warning: "Clearly,
right marriage begins with right dating. A person generally marries someone
from among those with whom he associates, with whom he goes to school,
with whom he goes to church, with whom he socializes. Therefore, this warning
comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers,
or members who are untrained and faithless." (Miracle of Forgiveness,
President Ezra Taft Benson: "Now, I want
to speak frankly to you young men and young women of the Church. When you
marry, your decision not only affects you, but your future children and
generations after you. Every child born to Latter-day Saint parents deserves
to be born under the covenant of temple blessings.
"Don't trifle away your
happiness by an involvement with someone who cannot take you worthily to
the temple. Make a decision now that this is the place where you will marry.
To leave that decision until a romantic involvement develops is to take
a risk, the importance of which you can't calculate now.
"I would urge you further
to pray about this matter. Obtain the testimony of the truth of these things
before a romantic involvement can take root. Covenant with your Heavenly
Father that you will do His will. Live a clean, moral life, and be worthy
of His spirit to bless you.
"No sacrifice is too great
to have the blessings of an eternal marriage. To most of us, a temple is
easily accessible, perhaps so conveniently that the blessing is taken too
casually. As with other matters of faithfulness in gospel living, being
married the Lord's way takes a willingness to deny yourself ungodliness—worldliness—and
a determination to do our Father's will. By this act of faith, we show
our love to God and our regard for a posterity yet unborn. As our family
is our greatest source of joy in this life, so it may well be in the eternity."
(CR, Apr 1979)
As parents and youth leaders, we must set a proper example in our marriage
relationships and by keeping the commandments. How is it possible
for our youth to grow up believing the importance of these principles, if
we do not treat them as sacred and important?
President Howard W. Hunter: "Let us plan for and
teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does
matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and
wife." (Ensign, Nov 1994, p88)
Esau Sells His Birthright To Jacob
Esau Sells His Birthright.
GENESIS 25:21-23. Rebekah receives a revelation
about her sons.
WHY WAS THE LORD'S STATEMENT THAT "THE ELDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER" AN
The principle of Birthright: At this time in Biblical history
there were two birthrights.
The firstborn son had the first right to receive the birthright inheritance.
It dealt with physical property, such as flocks and herds.
Unless the father determined otherwise, at his death the physical property
was to be divided into balanced portions equal to the number of sons, plus
one (I don't think my daughters would appreciate this arrangement).
The eldest son received the double portion. With this he assumed
responsibility for his mother and unmarried sisters.
He usually served as the social-political leader of the family.
After the time of Moses, the birthright inheritance automatically went
to the eldest son, regardless of whether or not his mother was the first
or favored wife.
This was a spiritual blessing.
It included the keys of the priesthood and the authority to preside as
the religious leader of the family or clan.
It did not automatically belong to the oldest son, but fell to the most
righteous. Examples: Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim, Nephi.
WHAT DOES RECEIPT OF THE BIRTHRIGHT BLESSING SUGGEST ABOUT HOW WE BECOME
QUALIFIED FOR GOD'S CALLINGS AND BLESSINGS?
Even though we may be richly blessed because of the actions of our forbears,
we are not granted callings nor do we receive additional blessings
based on that heritage. We are judged and called on our own merits.
Jacob Obtains The Birthright Blessing -
GENESIS 25:29-34. Esau sells his birthright for
a mess of pottage.
HOW DID ESAU FEEL ABOUT HIS BIRTHRIGHT COVENANT THAT HAD BEEN MADE BETWEEN
HIS GRANDFATHER ABRAHAM AND THE LORD?
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE ACTIONS OF ESAU?
We sometimes value too little that which is of great worth.
If we have not developed sufficient spiritual strength, the passions of
the flesh may lead us into temptation.
WHAT BLESSINGS MIGHT WE BE PLACING TOO LITTLE VALUE ON AS INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, AND A CHURCH?
We are entitled to a spiritual birthright that includes priesthood, temple
blessings, ordinances, revelations, and the potential for exaltation.
HOW DO OUR WORDS AND ACTIONS SHOW THE VALUE WE PLACE ON OUR BIRTHRIGHT?
Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "As we look at the
misbehavior we see in each of us, we see both aberrations and preoccupations.
Preoccupations can be a sign that some things have come to mean too much
to us. Though not necessarily bad in itself, a preoccupation can exercise
dominion over us. But whether obsessions, rationalizations, or preoccupations,
each is a diversion. Messes of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34) respond to the
'now' in us, whereas only the submissive heart and mind sees eternity's
considerations." (Not My Will, But Thine, p60)
Consider this passage: "And your minds in
times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have
treated lightly the things you have received--Which vanity and unbelief
have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation
resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain
under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant,
even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given
them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written--That
they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise
there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children
of Zion." (D&C 84:54-58)
HOW DOES WHERE WE MARRY AFFECT OUR ABILITY TO RECEIVE THE BLESSINGS OF
If we do not marry in the temple, by one who has the proper authority,
we do not qualify for the blessings of exaltation and eternal increase
which are part of the Abrahamic covenant.
Esau Marries Outside of the Covenant.
"When Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim"
he called upon Esau to go hunting and return and prepare him
meat." Isaac told Esau that he wanted to bless him before
he died (v1-4).
Rebekah overheard this conversation and told Jacob go to the flocks and
obtain "two good kids of the goats" and she would prepare a dish
of savory meat for Isaac. Jacob was to take the meat to his father
and obtain the blessing that Isaac had intended to give to Esau (v5-9).
Jacob raised some questions about this procedure and his mother responded,
"Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice,
and go fetch me them" (v11-13).
Jacob obeyed his mother. He put the skins of goats on his hands and
took the meat into his father and presented himself as Esau (v14-27).
Isaac blessed Jacob (v28-29).
No sooner than Jacob had obtained the blessing, Esau showed up. After
presenting the meat, Esau requested the blessing. Isaac responded,
"Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken
away thy blessing" (v30-35).
Esau obtained a less desirable blessing from his father and said, "The
days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother
This story raises some questions:
Do you think Rebekah was justified in the way she sought to secure the
birthright blessing for Jacob?
Can a person deceive a patriarch and get a blessing that belongs to someone
Was Jacob a deceitful and crafty man?
Was Isaac blindly favorable to certain children?
Can one be dishonest and still get a valid patriarchal blessing?
How would you answer these questions?
We may not have the entire story or it may be incorrect. We know
that much of the Bible has been corrupted through its transcriptions and
Rebekah knew by personal revelation that Jacob was to be the son of the
covenant (Genesis 25:22-23). Jacob reluctantly gave into his mother's
wishes after she told him that she would take the responsibility for what
they were about to do.
The Bible contains the stories of great and righteous men and women, but
they were not perfect while in mortality.
Isaac may have been temporarily shortsighted in favoring Esau.
Sister Joann Shields: "I used to wonder
how the Lord could have approved of Rebekah's plan to trick her husband
into blessing Jacob or of Jacob's outright lies to his blind, dying father.
The past few years, however, I've wondered how Isaac could have so obdurately
resisted foresight, common sense, personal revelation, and baseline tribal
loyalty. He knew. He had had years of powerful enlightenment. He understood
the import of the blessing. Yet he clung to a decision that would have
altered Jacob's foreordained course of events, destroyed the house of Israel,
and made prophecy a lie. Of course, that was not to be. Jacob's destiny
was the world's destiny. The Lord had to work around Isaac until he could
finally work through him—until Isaac's will matched the Lord's will."
(Hearts Knit Together, p47-48)
Rebekah may have had insufficient faith in the Lord to let him work his
will and therefore undertook a plan of her own.
Whatever the circumstances were, Isaac, holding the priesthood, had the
keys to bind and loose on earth and have it validated in heaven.
Having learned of the deception, he could have revoked the blessing. He did not.
Isaac confirmed his blessing to Jacob later (Genesis 28:3-4) when he conferred
upon Jacob the blessing of Abraham.
GENESIS 26:34-35. Esau marries outside of the
Jacob Seeks A Wife -
WHAT DOES ESAU'S CHOICE OF WIVES TELL US ABOUT HIS PRIORITIES?
HOW DID REBEKAH AND ISAAC FEEL ABOUT MARRYING WITHIN THE COVENANT?
When they learned of Esau's choice of a wife outside of the covenant it
was a "grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah"
When Isaac blessed Jacob "he gave him a charge,
saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan"
"And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters
of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which
are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" (Genesis
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE ISAAC AND REBEKAH PLACED SUCH STRONG EMPHASIS ON MARRYING
WITHIN THE COVENANT?
They understood the eternal importance of marrying within the covenant.
They knew the effect a marriage outside of the covenant would have on posterity.
"And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and
charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters
of Canaan" (28:1).
Jacob was then sent by his father to Pandanaran to take a wife "of
the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother" (28:2).
Jacob took his journey to Haran and arrived at a well in a field (29:1-2).
He inquired of the men there for Laban the son of Nahor (29:4-5).
While Jacob was conversing with the men, Laban's daughter Rachel came with
the sheep (29:6-9).
It must have been love at first sight, for shortly after they met, "...Jacob
kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept" (29:11) and
"...Jacob loved Rachel" (29:18).
When Jacob went into Laban he said: "I will serve
thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter" (29:18).
Laban agreed to Jacob's proposition.
I have wished I could work out such a deal with my sons-in-law and future
sons-in-law. Five daughters could make me a rich man.
"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and
they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her"
At the end of the seven years Jacob went to Laban and asked for Rachel
That night Rachel's sister, Leah, went into Jacob (29:23).
When Jacob discovered the deception he went to Laban, a bit upset. Laban replied: "It must not be so done in
our country, to give the younger before the firstborn" (29:25-26).
At the end of seven days, Jacob was allowed to marry Rachel, but he had
to serve another seven years for her (29:27-28).
The record states that the Lord saw that Leah was "hated" by Jacob (29:31). The Hebrew word used here is sahnay which may convey the idea of
Laban gave Zilpah to Leah as a handmaid and Bilhah to Rachel as a handmaid. It is from these four women (Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah) that the
twelve sons of Jacob or Israel were born and thus the beginning of the
twelve tribes of Israel.
Resource Note 1.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM JACOB ABOUT HIS EFFORTS TO MARRY IN THE COVENANT?
There is no price too great in order to marry the right person in the right
President Hinckley tells of a family who joined the Church in Australia
and then sold all their possessions so they could travel to New Zealand
and be sealed as a family. The father of this family said:
"We could not afford to come [to the temple].
Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our
dishes. I said to my family, 'We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will
give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture
and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed
in both life and in eternity'." (Be Thou An Example, p138)
GENESIS 28:10-22. Jacob dreams of a ladder
reaching to heaven.
WHAT PRINCIPLE IS TAUGHT IN JACOB'S DREAM OF THE LADDER?
Jacob said that "...this is none other but the
house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.... And he called the name
of that place Bethel" (Genesis 28:17, 19).
President Marion G. Romney: "When Jacob
traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, he had a dream in which he saw himself
on the earth at the foot of a ladder that reached to heaven where the Lord
stood above it. He beheld angels ascending and descending thereon, and
Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the
rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain
the promised blessings--blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven
and associate with the Lord." (Ensign,
Mar 1971, p16)
Joseph Smith: "Paul ascended into the third heavens,
and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob's ladder --
the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms,..."
Is not each modern temple "the house of God" or "the gate of
President Marion G. Romney: "Temples are to us
all what Bethel was to Jacob. Even more, they are also the gates to heaven
for all of our unendowed kindred dead. We should all do our duty in bringing
our loved ones through them." (Ensign, Mar 1971, p16)
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- Record your thoughts on marriage within the covenant as demonstrated in
the lives of Isaac and Jacob. How important is it for our children to marry in
the covenant? Are we willing to sell our birthright, as did Esau? Or are we
willing to wait seven years, or even a lifetime, in order to receive the
greatest blessings the Lord has to offer?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Be Thou An Example by Gordon B. Hinckley.
Conference Reports (CR).
Hearts Knit Together: Talks From the 1995 Women's
Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.
Not My Will, But Thine by Neal A. Maxwell.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding
The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
05 February 2014