"When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.
And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more."
I didn't really care for this story because it's just deceit and sin. Nothing that I want to emulate. Sadly, it's a story that plays out even today. What I could discern from this was that our sins will not remain hid. Things can and will come to light. We can then either repent or turn further away from God. If in this life we think we have gotten away from exposure of our sins, we know not how God deals with men.
"And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh."
This is the story of Joseph with the coat of many colors. His brothers are jealous of their father's love for him. They cannot even speak peaceably to him. Then when Joseph tells of his dreams, and how they will bow down to him, they hate him all the more. This hatred reaches a point that when they see Joseph coming to them they plot to kill him. In mercy they finally just sell him to passing Midianite merchants.
As I read these verses I was reminded of some "dreamers" I have known in my life, and how I have mocked them. They were so righteous and god-fearing I just wanted to see them teared down. No one can be that good. They were just a little too nutty. When miracles happened to them I was simply jealous. How could they be worthy of such blessings and not I? I have been so ashamed of myself. I have watched these people over the years and all I want to be is like them. Worthy to dust their shoes. They are the salt of the earth and much loved of God. That is why miracles come as answers to their prayers. The problem was never them it was simply me.
"Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.
And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir.
Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.
These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.
And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.
I love genealogy, but honestly not other people's. My eyes just blurred trying to figure out Esau's family. It's not until someone's line crosses into mine that I take an interest. As I read this I kept thinking some how this will be important later on. Then again isn't every family, every person, important to the Lord? Will not the record we present recording the families of humankind to the Lord have chapters like this in it. If the Lord will love that record, I should be more tolerant of other's records of their families. For we really are one big family. The names in this chapter are my cousins after all.
I looked up the name Edom and why Esau was given it. It goes back to Genesis 25:30 "And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom."
Esau was born red and hairy, so the combination of his red hair and wanting red pottage, gave him this name it appears. Interesting that this nickname was carried on for generations. A whole tribe of people carried on this form of his name.
"Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
And let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went."
All I could think of is "arise and put on thy beautiful garments". In searching for that verse I found Isaiah 52:1 very similar to Moroni 10:31. I like the later for the action of awaking and arising, and mentioning Israel.
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments. O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean."
"And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled."
Even today there is a need, maybe even a greater need, to "put away the strange gods" among us. I pondered on how I cannot learn in the temple, unless I have removed the false gods I have adapted, and become clean. It is such a concern to me, that I purge out all the false concepts I have adapted in my brain. I humbly ask God "What truths do I have twisted? Help me learn to purge them out." I have found them as I read the scriptures and attend the temple, because the spirit casts a light on the truth. There is a danger of living on borrowed light, because I do not know where others can lead me. My God will never lead me astray.
"And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land."
That is the only nice verse in this whole chapter. Innocent Dinah going out to meet the people in her new community. Then she taken my Shechem and raped and basically held hostage. He says he loves her and asks his father to speak to Jacob, making any deal so Dinah can be his wife. The sons of Jacob will only give their consent if all the men are circumcised. This was done in deceit because 3 days after they are circumcised and sore, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi go into the city and kill all the men. It's just horrible. I simply cannot judge the matter.
All I know is that bad things can happen to good people. Good people can have their bad moments too. In all things the Lord will heal if I but turn to him.
"And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept."
That just touched my heart and made me weep. Sometimes when we are estranged from family, we have no idea that the other person is just waiting for us to come back. So we can fall upon each others necks and embrace them.
"And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
Jacob is afraid and distressed over his brother Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men. He is afraid for the lives of his wives and children and his own. He is afraid for the stewardship the Lord had given him, a posterity that cannot be numbered. I am sure through the guidance of the spirit he does all that he can in his power to divide and save his family and property, then he humbly turns it over to the Lord. That is a man of faith. That is why angels can attend him. That is why he can wrestle with an angel and not let go, until he receives a blessing. He believed in and wanted a blessing from God. It is how he knows he will be preserved. And as Jacob sent good gifts to his brother Esau before he would see his face, so did Jacob give good gifts to God. For that Jacob was found worthy to see the face of God.
"And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad."
I just pondered on how marvelous a means of communication God has in sending us dreams. In this chapter the dreams are given to the righteous in a new direction they need to take, and to the wicked to leave those that God is protecting alone.
I haven't really dreamed in a while. I used to all the time. I'm sure I will when I need to. Things changed instead. It started by being awaken from my sleep hearing a single word spoken to me. Then the interpretation of its meaning is given. Lately I've noticed another new pattern happening. I will just wake up about 3:00-4:00 in the morning and lay there wide awake. Then into my mind I begin pondering on different gospel matters. Connections are made that I had never thought upon before. In fact it is becoming so common I often wonder before falling asleep what I will learn new tonight. As I wake in the middle of the night I ask "What am I ready to learn?" I will lay there and soon new thoughts come into my mind. Sometimes I just fall back to sleep thinking about these great thoughts I just learned. It is all very peaceful and comforting with no feeling of insomnia or anxiety. In fact the more this is happening the calmer I am becoming.
Interestingly, last night the thought came to me about first sleep and second sleep. Something our ancestors used to do. A full eight hour straight sleep was unheard of as we do today. People would wake up and read or sew, go visit neighbors, do all sorts of things in the middle of the night between these sleeps. This makes me wonder if prophets of old dreamed in their first sleep and then pondered on it during their awake periods that followed. Seems like the perfect time for instruction.
I'm not sure why things are exactly changing for me, but I'm totally ok with it. Especially, if the spirit wants to take the time to instruct me during this period of wakefulness. There is nothing better than falling back to sleep thinking about the Lord.
"And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her."
In this chapter Leah and Rachel are in some sort of contest to have children. After Leah has four sons, Rachel gives her maid Bilhah to Jacob to build up children by her. Bilhah has two sons. Leah finds she is now barren so she gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob to build up children by her. Zilpah has two sons. Then Leah has two more sons and a daughter. It is then that Rachel finally has Joseph. With that the twelve tribes of Israel are born. Well, almost Benjamin comes later.
As I read this verse the though came to me that the maids having children for their mistresses sounded like surrogacy. Someone told me the Church didn't allow surrogacy, but I didn't know if that was true or not. I looked and found the Church's statement on surrogacy in Handbook 2. "Surrogate Motherhood: The Church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgement of the husband and wife. Responsibility for the decision rests solely upon them."
So, basically it is discouraged, but left up to the couple. As I pondered on that I think the reason it's discouraged is because the surrogate is not under that law like what was allowed by the Lord in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's time.
I found in Doctrine & Covenants 132: 37 "Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded......"
I'm certainly in no position to judge this matter. I'll leave it up to the couple. I just found what I read interesting. But, what I really came away from all this was the act of the surrogate having the child for the mother ultimately leads to adoption. It fascinated me thinking about Leah and Rachel adopting these children, just like gentiles can be adopted into the House of Israel as they are converted. This is the law of adoption. What Jacob saw happening in his household was exactly what we are seeing today. The gathering into the House of Israel. I had never looked at it this way.
"And when the Lord saw the Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called him Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me."
I used to just look at this as the great love story between Jacob and Rachel. Now I just wept for Leah. I could feel her pain. Jacob didn't want her and because she was the oldest daughter her father put her in Rachel's place. This was not the fault of Leah that Jacob felt deceived. Then after a week of marriage her sister marries Jacob and I am sure she felt so forgotten. She then has four of her sons, that last being Judah in this chapter. Each time she knows she is hated and not loved. That is so sad. I have such compassionate and tender feelings for her. I am grateful that it was from her son Judah's line that the Savior came through. For she was a mother that knew what it was like to be despised and afflicted, and faithful through it all. It is in the end that Jacob is buried by her side. So that is a true love story.
"And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
Three times today at church we touched upon "enduring to the end", each time I listened and wanted to say something but it was never the right moment. Again as I am reading this I think about what I wanted all day to say.
"Enduring to the end" is my favorite part of the gospel. This is how I come to know my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is by my side and I am never left alone. I cannot endure without him. To try and hang in there and suffer it all alone, is not to understand what the Savior's atonement was all about. He suffered so I would never be alone in my trials, if I but turn to him. He will carry my burdens if I only let him. In doing so I come to know and love him. This is what brings eternal life. Enduring to the end is the best part of this whole earth existence. As I read Jacob's words I see the Lord telling him this very same thing.
"And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
As I read this chapter I just didn't understand. How can Jacob obtain the blessing Isaac was to give to Esau by deception? It was stolen from him, no wonder Esau got so upset after finding out what happened. I just had to sit and ponder on this chapter today because I didn't understand. It was Rebekah's doing that all this intrigue took place. I had to sit and wonder about this family, even Sarah and how she treated Hagar and Ishmael too. The covenant fathers seemed to have wives that did things I wouldn't agree with. I had to work it out by pondering on these wives, because I knew the issue wasn't them, it had to be me.
Then I had to forgive them in order to understand them. That what they did actually wasn't wrong. Rebekah had been told by the Lord before Esau and Jacob's birth of who they were and which would have the blessing. She was put in a position like Nephi was being told to smote off Laban's head. Her actions blessed the nations. The birthright and blessing belonged to Jacob. Esau showed by his selling of his birthright for so little to Jacob, and his anger and threats towards his brother for taking his blessing, that he could not be the covenant father of the nation. As I began to see who Rebekah was and her great faith, I came to love her. I was ashamed to have thought badly of her. She had such faith and did all that she was called to do. She was tested just like Abraham was in being asked to sacrifice Isaac upon the altar.
The other thing that came to me was how close Rebekah was to the Lord. She knew when God was speaking to her. She was not doing anything because she willed or wanted it. She sought only to do the will of the Lord. If any cursing was to come to Jacob for following her directions she was willing to have it fall on her head. For she feared God and his will more than any cursing that could come from a man. That shows to me how strongly her witness was of the Lord's will prior to the twins birth. She never deviated from it.
"Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him."
When I read this I thought "I can't imagine being given a hundredfold of anything I already have." That would be an incredible change of circumstance.
The reference to "an hundredfold" made me check the footnotes. I was referred to Doctrine & Covenants 98:25 "And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred-fold."
With that I pondered on a very trying circumstance I had over a year ago. Even though I was abused by a repeat offender, I had an incredible sense of calm and peace, and could turn the matter totally over to the Lord. I saw the hand of the Lord in the scenarios leading up to the event. The Lord having told me earlier something I needed to do, and for it I would be blessed. Because of following that council the outcome of the attack was so very different than what it could have been. I never dreamed of how these two things would be connected. I look at the circumstances then, and were I am today, and I have been blessed in so many ways, spiritually, physically, and materially. It may not be an hundredfold, but that's totally ok. God blesses me for the mission I have in life. I have sufficient for my needs. What a great man Isaac must have been, for indeed through him all the nations of the earth are blessed.
"And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived."
As I was reading this chapter I read of Abraham marrying again after Sarah died. He had 6 more sons by Ketrurah. Then his son Ishmael by Hagar has 12 sons. While his son Isaac wife Rebekah is barren. Just like his mother Sarah struggled to have him. I couldn't but help think of the promised children and how hard it was for their parents to have them.
It made me think of Isaiah 54:1 "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord."
I see today many good, faithful and wonderful, temple covenant couples unable to have children or have to take extraordinary means to get the children they do have. Why is that? Does this all bring us closer to the Lord to entreat him for our blessings? Are the children that are coming now so choice they must be yearned for so deeply? Something is happening and I don't know what it is, but a connection between the covenant with the fathers and covenant parents today is happening. I do feel I am seeing the prophesy of Isaiah being fulfilled.
"And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not let destitute my master of his mercy and his truth; I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren.
And he said unto me, The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house:"
I love this story of Isaac and Rebekah. I do believe that the Lord will send his angels and prosper the way. His ways will not be frustrated but move forward. It is only "I being in the way" that hinders it. I wondered how many times have I been in the way of what the Lord has prepared for me to go? Maybe I don't want to know that answer. I pray with the spirit as my guide I will stop hindering the way.
"And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan."
I had a hard time finding a favorite verse in this chapter. I then set about reading all the footnotes. I soon learned that this burial site for Sarah was also were Abraham was buried, along with their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah. This is also where Jacob and Leah were buried. I don't know who else may have been buried there, but this was holy ground. This is where all the father's laid. Then I just wept. This was a beautiful chapter of remembering and honoring our dead.
"And it came to pas after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."
Abraham wasn't tempted by God, for in the Hebrew it means to test or prove. I pondered on several different times I have had sore tests in my life and the great blessings that came out of them for faith. I did learn more about myself, and the love God has for me. I understood His mercy in a better way. Why do seemingly bad things happen to good people? So we can prove to God we love him and will do his will regardless of what we may pass through. Then He will open the windows of heaven and bless us. For blessings come after the trial of our faith.
"And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed."
It seemed so harsh to me of Abraham to then just give Hagar some bread and water and make her leave with Ishmael. They then go off into the wilderness and almost die of thirst. Abraham was a wealthy man. Could he have not set her up with a home and made sure she arrived safely there? I know an angel spared them, but I still didn't get it.
As I was researching this I found in Galatians 4:23-24
"But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar."
I also read again where God promised Abraham that Ishmael would be a wild man and his hand against every nation. When Sarah saw 13 year old Ishmael mocking the infant Isaac could she not already know what was promised, and how his presence could effect raising her dear child. I thought "Do we not all have to put aside the things of the flesh for the things of the spirit?"
I then pondered on the various examples of hardships covenant people have had to pass through. Joseph of Egypt, who's brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites, for one. Another was Lehi and his family. I don't understand all things, but I do know that God has me pass through things and later I understand them. I can then use them as my own allegory to emphasis gospel principles. No experience is for not, for there is wise purpose in the Lord in all that we pass through.
"But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the women which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her."
I just sat and reflected on a few "dreams by night" I have had. I have experienced warnings, instruction, revelation of other's deeds, acknowledgements, and gospel truths brought to light. I do believe that God can speak to his children in dreams. I also believe that dreams need to be interpreted or understood through the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a needed element to have such understanding. To ask another the meaning of a dream, gives up an opportunity to learn how the spirit speaks to me. My council often to others is "Did you pray?" I have absolute faith that when a dream is given the interpretation is also available if we but ask.
I have seen books and websites that give interpretation of different elements of a dream. I have long realized they are nonsense. For they will take me off on a path that the dream's true message never intended me to go. Often the meaning of the dream is some smaller element, that is understood against those larger symbols, which can appear deceiving. Sometimes God just wants me to turn to him in prayer, to receive the true message. Dreams are special and unique to the individual, and are often meant to be embraced between me and God alone.
"But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.
And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to the find the door.
And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city"
This whole chapter made me ill, seriously sick to my stomach, and I just wept. It was too much to read of the level of wickedness that called for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in turn seeing it in the faces of people today and in the future. All of it just made me sit pretty still, in stunned silence for a while.
Then I started to hear music to a familiar hymn, but couldn't make out the words. I couldn't place it, but knew I knew it. Soon my mind was not drawn towards the wickedness and destruction anymore. I had a peace come over me but I still couldn't make out the words. I read the chapter again which started to make me feel ill, until I noticed the angels hands. They were leading Lot and his family to safety. Their hands were guiding and protecting them. I needed to focus on their hands. Like grasping firm to the iron rod, the word of God. Finally the words of the hymn playing in my mind became audible, it was "Be Thou Humble".
"Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answers to thy prayers.
Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee,
Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares.
Be thou humble in thy calling, and the Lord they God shall teach thee
To serve his children gladly with a pure and gentle love.
Be thou humble in thy longing, and the Lord thy God shall take thee,
Shall take thee home at last to ever dwell with him above."
What comfort this hymn brought to me. Regardless of what I see or experience around me, if I humbly seek the Lord I will always know he cares. He will guide me to safety and protect me come what may. I feel like I was being told don't look back towards wickedness like Lot's wife, move forward towards eternal hope and joy.
"And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake."
Abraham knows the Lord will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for its wickedness. Abraham knows his nephew Lot is there. He asks the Lord if the city will be spared for the sake of 50 righteous and the Lord agrees he will spare it. Then the numbers decrease until we are left with only 10 righteous in the city will He spare it? Again the Lord agrees that he would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous people.
As I reflected on this I thought about the great wickedness, and anger that I see coming out of people. All they seem to want is their own will and to destroy if they do not have it. Right now I know their hands are held back because there are many good and righteous people throughout our nation. How important it is for every righteous person to remain righteous, even if our numbers are few. For the hand of the Lord is held back for the righteous sake. It is because of the righteous that God can bless and heal our great land. When that day ever comes, that we alone are left righteous, he will remove us from among the wicked and gather His saints under his wing to preserve us. Fear not, trust in the Lord, he has this under control. What I can control is where I stand with Him.
"And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
I felt like something was missing. In the footnotes I found the reference to the Joseph Smith translation of this chapter.
JST, Genesis 17:3-4, 8
"And it came to pass, that Abram fell on his face, and called upon the name of the Lord.
And God talked with him, saying, My people have gone astray from my precepts, and have not kept mine ordinances, which I gave unto their fathers;
But as for thee, behold, I will make my covenant with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
There is more, but basically the part missing is people had already strayed from the covenants with God. God was re-establishing them again with Abraham. From the covenants Abraham made with God all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The promises made to the fathers, were made from the very beginning. It didn't just start with Abraham, just like it won't end with me. Covenants are so beautiful. It is sad they were removed from the bible. For God's people are a covenant making people.
"And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sari.
And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife."
I had heard the practice of plural marriage was called the "law of Sarah". I did a little scripture chase to find the reference to it.
Doctrine & Covenants 132: 34, 65
"God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.
Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I command Abraham to take Hagar to wife."
I am grateful that when the "law of Sarah" had to be restored in the fullness of times it was again by the first wife's consent. I am also glad that the law has been fulfilled and no longer practiced. To practice plural marriage outside of the Lord's command would be a perversion. Such things are only revealed through God's prophet.
"After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."
This reminded me of an interesting experience I had this past week. I had to go through some difficult choices and the person I was working with said he appreciated how calm and pleasant I was about the matter. Others he had worked with had been in tears or near violence. Yet, I could make clear decisions, to the point we could laugh about the situation. As he was telling me this I could feel this shield of protection that was surrounding me. That the decisions I had made were correct. I know the hard things I decided have consequences, and if they come upon me I will be protected no matter what. Even if that protection is only His peace to endure. There is no fear about what may come, for the Lord is my shield and protection. This is my reward.
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all."
The footnote says Melchizedek in Hebrew means "king of righteousness". When I read that he "brought forth bread and wine" I could not help but think of the sacrament. In the Joseph Smith translation it says "and he brake bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the most high God."
I had heard that Shem, son of Noah was identified as Melchizedek. I went on a scripture chase and other outside sources to find that reference. It was even in the Ancient History of the Jews. So, it wasn't just Joseph Smith that identified Shem as being Melchizedek that Abram paid his tithes too.
Shem lived to the age of 600. He was 390 years old when Abram was born. Abram would have been around 54 years of age when this battle happened and he met Melchizedek. I read in Doctrine & Covenants 138:41 "Noah, who gave warning of the flood; Shem, the great high priest; Abraham, the father of the faithful; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the great law-giver of Israel;"
As I sat and pondered on this, the fact that Abram name was changed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah by God, I could find no reason inside myself to not think God capable of changing Shem's name to Melchizedek if he saw fit. For new names are part of God's covenants with his people.
"Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.
Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord."
Abram was blessed with cattle, silver and gold. His nephew Lot was with him and their substance became so great it would not support them together. So they decide to separate. It's interesting that Lot decides to face his tent towards Sodom. The direction Abram went was towards the altar. I know what happens later to Lot and his family. They are found inside the city no longer in the plains. It just reinforces to me the importance of the direction I am are facing and where it will lead me. My face needs to be facing towards the alter of the Lord, for that is the direction I want to be found standing.
"And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee."
I sat here pondering on why it was ok for Abram to lie and say Sarai was his sister, instead of his wife? I went to the same story in the book of Abraham and the only difference I saw was that it clearly says the Lord told him to say this. I came back to the story in Genesis and could not wrap my head around this lie. Then as I read these verses again I could see this was a prophecy Abram was given. The Lord was truly trying to spare his life. They had to go into Egypt because of this famine. In so doing the beauty of Sarai would cost Abram his life. To say up front that she was his sister, I'm sure no one ever thought to ask if she was also his wife. I realized then that my husband could also refer to me as his sister. In the Church we call each other brother and sister. It would not be a lie to refer to me in such a way. What would be a lie is to deny that I was his wife. I'm sure that is why the Lord told Abram to have Sarai say she was his sister right up front. Then the other relationship would never to considered. This experience was also a test for Abram to see if he would be faithful in all things asked of him. For there were even greater tests to come.
"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood."
I sat and did some math and figured that Shem, the son of Noah, and witness to the flood was still alive when Abraham's grandson Jacob was alive. As I went through the generations listed in the chapter I see that the father's are younger when they had their sons. The youngest is 23 years old. It was interesting watching their life span get shorter through the generations. Shem was 600, and Nahor was 148.
Noah would have died before Abram or Abraham was born. I found that interesting because that is like what happened with Adam dying before Noah's birth. Then Shem dies before Jacob's son Joseph was born. For some reason being able to picture who was alive during these great prophet's lifetimes helps put it into context for me.
During Noah and Shem's lifetime the tower of Babel happened. I sat and pondered on why that needed to happen. Why would God see confounding their language, so they didn't understand each other, a good thing? Then I remembered that before the flood they all had a common language and grew so wicked that they needed to be destroyed. I'm thinking God must have saw the same thing beginning to happen again. That the confounding of language would actually prevent this increase in wickedness.
After the tower of Babel and the confounding of languages people scattered, separating into groups around the world. I cannot imagine what it would be like if I didn't have all the different flavors of people in the world. I feel that it is a blessing to me. Because of this I have been able to appreciate each race's beauty and uniqueness, along with seeing the commonality among us as God's children. I do not understand all the reasons, but I know when it looks like a hard thing God has done, it can if we let it be a blessing in the end.