"Tried Even as Abraham"

Kevin L. Tolley

Kevin L. Tolley, "'Tried Even as Abraham'," Religious Educator 22, no. 3 (2021): 23-35.

Kevin L. Tolley (TolleyKL@ChurchofJesusChrist.org) is a coordinator for Seminaries and Institutes in Riverside, California.

In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith in December 1833, the Lord said that the persecuted Saints in Missouri “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4–5). [1] The road to sanctification requires many steps and is not the result of a single Abrahamic trial. As Elder Richard G. Scott taught, an “absolute requisite of ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ prescribes the need to be submissive, compliant, humble (that is, teachable), and willingly obedient”[2] are all necessary for this soul-cleansing process. If we desire to “have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, . . . whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white” (Alma 5:24), then we must expect to experience a similar process as Abraham. President Spencer W. Kimball explains how this Abrahamic process relates to us: “We must lay on the altar and sacrifice whatever is required by the Lord. We begin by offering a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We follow this by giving our best effort in our assigned fields of labor and callings. We learn our duty and execute it fully. Finally, we consecrate our time, talents, and means as called upon by our file leaders and as prompted by the whisperings of the Spirit.”[3]

Abraham becomes a model of someone who was willing to humble himself and put all he had on the altar. Elder Bruce C. Porter taught, “Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them.”[4] What is actually laid on the altar of sacrifice is secondary to the individual’s willingness to follow God. The inspired intent of the biblical narrative of the life of Abraham is a pattern of covenant, trial, and renewal. With each trial, Abraham demonstrated an attitude and a willingness to sacrifice to fulfill the covenant despite opposition. The Hebrew Bible often emphasizes action over emotion. Abraham is often depicted as reacting to difficult circumstances. Through his actions, the reader can see his humility and obedience. One sees his heart through his actions. [5]

God appears to Abraham multiple times in Genesis, giving additional light and knowledge with each experience. In every encounter with the divine, Abraham’s potential is further revealed. The covenant becomes a symbol of hope in Abraham’s life. Following each revelatory experience, Abraham is tested. The reader is given a glimpse into his character. We see his heart in his humble actions. Jon D. Levenson writes, “This dizzying sequence of hopes and frustrations, blessings and curses, fulfillments and setbacks serves to underscore the magnitude of Abram’s faith and obedience.”[6] With each trial, Abraham lays a piece of himself on a symbolic altar. The story illustrates Abraham placing his love, his hopes, his ambitions, his safety on the altar. These ordeals culminate in Genesis 22 when Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. To illustrate the point of Abraham symbolically laying a piece of himself on the altar, Elder Tad R. Callister taught that “this sacrifice of all sacrifices” is no longer Abraham offering up Isaac, but “Abraham is now offering up Abraham.”[7]

By looking at the biblical story of Abraham’s life, we can see that Abraham’s sanctification came as a process of sacrifice and obedience. The trial of Abraham is more than a singular event but rather is a demonstration of an attitude of humility over a lifetime of trials. Applying this example of an Abrahamic approach can be used to overcome our challenges today. Each trial Abraham faced in the biblical account was followed by an experience with the divine as God revealed more about his covenant. God did not reveal this covenant to Abraham all at once; rather, he revealed it “line upon line, precept upon precept” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; 2 Nephi 28:30). Each “line” was shown after Abraham successfully completed a specific trial. Throughout the whole narrative, the following pattern emerges: (1) the covenant is made; (2) a test of faith is given that makes the covenant appear difficult or seem impossible to be fulfilled; (3) an opportunity follows for Abraham “to act” (2 Nephi 2:26) and prove his humble trust in the Lord; and (4) the covenant is renewed with added insight—and then the cycle begins again. It appears that the covenant renewal with added insight is contingent upon Abraham’s humble willingness to act. By stepping back and looking at the whole story of Abraham’s life, we can see that Abraham’s sanctification came as a process of trials that tested his faith, as well as his obedience to the revealed covenant. Looking at the larger biblical narrative of the story of Abraham can also help us gain greater insights regarding revelation, covenants, and the test of mortality.

God Reveals the Covenant to Abram (Genesis 12:1–3)

The biblical narrative reveals little about Abram other than his lineage before the promise in Genesis 12:1–3. While living in the spiritually caustic “Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 11:31; compare Abraham 1:1), the Lord promises Abram that he would be “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). This introductory element of the covenant emphasizes the individual Abram, multiplying into a nation or having a great posterity, and a place to put them. He is also promised that God “will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). Finally, the Lord promises Abram’s righteous influence would extend to “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3).

Abram’s Test of Obedience (Genesis 12:4–6)

Before outlining the blessings of the covenant, the Lord instructs Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house” (Genesis 12:1). Abram must take a step into the unknown, moving to “a land that God does not even name yet.”[8] Understanding that receiving blessings from God is predicated upon obedience to his laws (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21), Abram moves forward, humbly acting according to the Lord’s command to leave home, family, and familiar surroundings. To receive the blessing of becoming “a great nation,” he would have to leave part of his family, and to gain a land of inheritance, he would have to leave his country. So, at age seventy-five, Abram left Haran with a small group consisting of his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and “the souls that they had gotten in Haran” (Genesis 12:5; see also Abraham 2:15). Abram moved forward in faith, leaving the familiar behind.

Abram’s Witness (Genesis 12:7)

Undoubtedly, Abram understood the principle that Moroni would later articulate: “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). Faith cannot be fully expressed without humility before the Lord (Proverbs 15:33), without a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 12:19). For Abram, that witness came as soon as he entered the land of Canaan. At that time, the Lord appeared to Abram, elaborating on the covenant by declaring, “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). Jon D. Levenson emphasizes how miraculous the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises would be. He writes, “The man without a country will inherit a whole land; the man with a barren wife will have plenteous offspring, and the man who has cut himself off from kith and kin will be pronounced blessed by all the families of the earth.”[9]

The Egyptian Trial (Genesis 12:10–16)

No sooner had Abram received the promise of a land inheritance (and taken his tour of the land) than the hope of its fulfillment was put at risk. In the life-threatening circumstances of an extensive famine, Abram had to leave Canaan for Egypt. Insights from the personal narrative found in the Book of Abraham are invaluable to understanding the next trial. Sarai would also have to prove worthy of the blessings previously outlined. Sarai would have a challenge of her own as her safety and integrity were tested in the house of Pharaoh.[10]

Under the Lord’s command (Abraham 2:22–25), Abram instructed Sarai that, while in Egypt, she should refer to herself as his “sister” (Genesis 12:13).[11] Abram was warned that if he did not do this, his life would be in danger (Abraham 2:23). Soon after they entered Egypt, Abram and Sarai’s trial of faith intensified as Pharaoh took Sarai into his house (Genesis 12:15). Now the man to whom a land was promised was in exile; the man who was to beget a nation was without a wife; and the man whose enemies God had promised to curse had just lost his wife to the Pharaoh. Sarai could have stopped this trial at any time by explaining the true nature of her relationship with Abram. Because of her humble trust in the word of the Lord through her prophet husband, the Lord protected Sarai from Pharaoh’s advances (Genesis 12:17).[12] Both Abram and Sarai’s “contrite spirit” had been tested.

The Covenant Is Partially Fulfilled (Genesis 12:17–13:2)

With this traumatic episode in Egypt drawing to a close, Abram found himself with his wife safely returned to him and, likely, with a strengthened testimony of his covenant with God. During his time in Egypt Abram amassed a fortune (Genesis 13:2) that would no doubt help him finance the growth of his “great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Sarai saw firsthand the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to “curse him that curseth thee” when “the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues” (Genesis 12:17). Genesis 13 begins just like Genesis 12, with Abram and Sarai departing for the promised land. Unfortunately, the couple was in the same situation as when they began: without a posterity.

The Trial of Divided Lands (Genesis 13:7–12)

So far in the narrative, Lot has been seen as ever following the patriarch Abram. Lot is the son of Abram’s elder brother (Genesis 11:31). After the Lord commanded Abram to leave Haran, “Lot went with him” (Genesis 12:4); he was with Abram and Sarai during their trial in Egypt (Genesis 13:1); Lot also enjoyed the rewards of their Egyptian experience (Genesis 13:5). Thus far, Lot has always been in the background of the story, but he plays a more central role in Abram’s next trial.

When herdsmen contended over grazing lands (Genesis 13:7), Abram decided to divide the land. Abram did not dispute when Lot took the better part (Genesis 13:11). Nahum M. Sarna points out that “although [Abram was] the older man, the uncle, and the erstwhile guardian, he does not insist on seniority or priority of rights.”[13] As had happened before, an apparent fulfillment of the covenant (in this case concerning land inheritance) seems frustrated when Lot leaves with his portion of the land—the visibly better part of the land.[14] Abram doesn’t react adversely to this apparent greed; instead, he humbly trusts in the Lord’s promises.

The Lord Shows Abram the Covenantal Land (Genesis 13:14–17)

Another revelatory experience occurred in which the Lord identified Abram as the beneficiary of the land covenant. The Lord assures Abram, “I will give [the land] unto thee” (Genesis 13:17), making Abram the clear beneficiary of the land grant, which was not the case previously (Genesis 12:7). The Lord also invites Abram to “arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it” (Genesis 13:17). The land inheritance “walk-through” was a legal claim on the property.[15] Even though Lot had taken the better part of the land, Abram was reminded that his covenantal property did not diminish in size.[16]

The Trial of Adoption (Genesis 14:12–24)

Despite the emphasis the biblical record places on Abram’s literal posterity and not on a surrogate son, Abram’s attention appears to have been placed on adoption as he made every effort to fulfill a seemingly impossible covenant. The practice existed in ancient Israel of elevating a relative to sonship.[17] Josephus later states, “Abram having no son of his own, adopted Lot.”[18] Although adoption is not explicitly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, it was a custom of neighboring civilizations.[19] The Jewish Study Bible suggests that “Abram’s childlessness (Genesis 11:30) could raise the suspicion that the ‘great nation’ that God promises to make of him will descend, biologically, from his nephew Lot, whom he may have adopted (Genesis 11:31; 12:5).”[20]

When Lot was captured and his property was taken (Genesis 14:12), Abram came to the rescue (Genesis 14:14). After the rescue, Lot disappears from the story and is not mentioned again until the tragic episode in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Lot no longer followed Abram but rather chose to remain living outside the covenantal land.[21] If Lot was ever considered an adoptive heir, it appears that was no longer the case.

Abram suggested another possible heir by adoption during his next interview with the Lord: “Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).[22] Eliezer apparently had been a trusted servant and was considered a potential heir of the covenant.[23] Sarna tells us, “God’s emphatic and unambiguous reply in verse 4 can only mean that the patriarch, despairing of having children, had decided to resort to the adoption of his servant but has not yet acted. God assures him that this will not be necessary.”[24]

The Promise of a Literal Heir (Genesis 15)

Each time the Lord interacts with Abram, he gave more information concerning aspects of the covenant. Previously, Abram had been told concerning his posterity that God would make him into a “great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Later, Abram learned his posterity would be as numerous as “the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16). Despite these promises, Abram remained childless. He struggled to understand how these blessings would be fulfilled. Finally, he posed this problem to the Lord: “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed” (Genesis 15:3). The Lord answered this concern with additional information about the previous promises and how they would be fulfilled. The heir would not be Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, nor the trusted servant Eliezer; the heir, the Lord told Abram, would “come forth out of thine own bowels” (Genesis 15:4). This literal posterity would eventually exceed the number of stars in heaven (Genesis 15:5). In the Joseph Smith Translation of the story, God expanded the timetable for the complete fulfillment of the covenant when he stated, “Though thou wast dead, yet am I not able to give it thee? And if thou shalt die, yet thou shalt possess it” (JST Genesis 15:10–11). To receive all the blessings promised to him, Abram would need to be obedient, patient, and humble.

The Trial of a Literal Heir (Genesis 16)

After the vivid revelation of Genesis 15, ten long years passed without Sarai providing an heir (Genesis 16:1, 3). Thus far, nothing in the scriptural text indicates Sarai as the matriarch of the covenant. The emphasis of the covenant pertaining to an heir points directly at Abram, not Sarai. In Genesis 15:4, the Lord states that the heir would “come forth out of thine own bowels.” In the King James Version of the Bible, this verse reads “thine,” which, in the Hebrew text, is singular, not plural. Sarai appears to be the obstacle in giving Abram an heir, yet she is shown as altruistic and exhibiting faith. Hermann Gunkel wrote, “According to Israelite legal practice, the wife can, if she is infertile, substitute another wife for herself and adopt her children.”[25] So Sarai offered Hagar, her handmaid, as a surrogate mother (Genesis 16:1–2; compare Exodus 21:2–6), and Hagar is given to Abram “to be his wife” (Genesis 16:3; compare Doctrine and Covenants 132:34). This course required the humility to acknowledge that Abram’s childlessness appeared to be the result of her own physical deficiency. Sarai’s humility and obedience were in the service of her exaltation; it contributed to the fulfillment of the promise, by which she became the mother of progeny as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars of heaven.

The union between Abram and Hagar caused friction within the family, especially when Hagar conceived so quickly, and Sarai “was despised in her eyes” (Genesis 16:5; compare Proverbs 30:21–23). The situation escalated to a point where “Sarai dealt hardly with” Hagar, causing her to flee (Genesis 16:6). Although an heir had been conceived, the family began to fall apart. Through divine intervention, Hagar returned, Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:7–15), and Hagar’s posterity would be, in part, a fulfillment of God’s promises (Doctrine and Covenants 132:34, 65).[26]

Sarai Is Named as Part of the Covenant (Genesis 17)

In Genesis 17, the Lord again renewed the covenant. In addition to what had previously been revealed, the Lord now commanded Abram to “walk uprightly before me, and be perfect” (JST Genesis 17:1).[27] Details were expanded as the Lord revealed more information about particular blessings (Genesis 17:4–8), including information concerning circumcision as a token of the covenant (Genesis 17:9–14). In association with the covenant, Abram and Sarai received new names and would thenceforth be known as Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5, 15).

For the first time in the many revelatory experiences Abraham had, Sarah was mentioned by name. Previously, Abraham had been the focus of the covenant; as mentioned above, the Hebrew text records the blessings in the singular, suggesting that they applied only to Abraham. However, at this time, Sarah was explicitly identified as the mother of the future heir of the covenant (Genesis 17:16). There would be no further question as to her role in the covenant’s fulfillment. Soon after Abraham’s theophany “in the plains of Mamre” (Genesis 18:1), Abraham received three visitors. The messengers foretold the coming of Isaac. The long-awaited appointed heir would finally come (Genesis 18:10).

A Second Kidnapping (Genesis 20)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has stated, “It is the plain and very sobering truth that before [and after] great moments, certainly . . . great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness.”[28] Abraham and Sarah’s trust would be tested again as the cycle of covenant and trials continues in Genesis 20, where Sarah was once again taken, this time by Abimelech (Genesis 20:2).[29] The Lord identified Sarah specifically as the one through whom the covenant would be “established” (Genesis 17:19), a fact that was confirmed by the messengers who appeared to Abraham in Mamre (Genesis 18:10). When Abimelech took Sarah, the fulfillment of the promise appeared to be frustrated once again, as the scenario from Genesis 12:10–17 was repeated. Both stories end with plagues on the kidnappers’ households (Genesis 12:17; 20:18)[30] and with Abraham and Sarah receiving a material gain (Genesis 13:2; 20:14). The one difference between the two stories seems to be that God warned Abimelech “in a dream by night” (Genesis 20:3) of Sarah’s true relationship to Abraham.

Sarah Is Promised a Son (Genesis 21:1–8)

Following the ordeal with Abimelech, the Lord revisited Abraham and Sarah. Unlike every other heavenly manifestation in Abraham’s story, this time, Abraham was not the focus. Here “the Lord visited Sarah” (Genesis 21:1), and here Sarah began to understand her central role in the covenant. Sarah first heard of her role in the covenant from her husband (Genesis 17:16), then overheard the news from the messengers on the plains of Mamre (Genesis 18:9–12). Now the revelation had come directly to Sarah, and sometime after this experience Isaac was born (Genesis 21:2–3). As with Abraham, the “witness” came after the trial of Sarah’s faith (Ether 12:6).

The Final Trial (Genesis 22:1–14)

Abraham’s final test was given in Genesis 22.[31] In reply to the Lord’s call, Abraham replied, “Here I am,” a reply that demonstrates a “broken heart and contrite spirit.”[32] God’s command was to “take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). This command was similar to the first command God gave Abraham in Genesis 12: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” Both commands told Abraham to go without giving a specific destination. But there is also a difference. The revelation in Genesis 12:1 instructed Abraham to give up his past, his homeland, and his family, while the revelation in Genesis 22:2 instructed him to give up his future and his son Isaac.

The Hebrew text of Genesis gives four titles to describe Abraham’s son: (1) “your son,” (2) “your one,” (3) “the one you love,” and (4) “Isaac.”[33] Abraham knew unmistakably whom the Lord wanted for the sacrifice, and he humbly and obediently “rose up early in the morning” and made preparations to fulfill the command.[34] There is no question concerning Abraham’s willingness to obey.[35]

The Covenant Is Renewed for the Final Time (Genesis 22:15–18)

After Abraham had proven himself worthy, the covenant was again restated (Genesis 22:15–18). Throughout the biblical account, Abraham never faltered, and he proved worthy of the promised blessings. As before, the Lord reassured Abraham and promised once again Abraham’s posterity would be comparable in number to the “stars of the heaven” or “the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). The genealogy listed at the end of Genesis 22 acts as a bookend with the genealogy in Genesis 11. The two lists encapsulate the story of Abraham. Although few women are mentioned in genealogies found in the Bible, one female name stands out in this list: Rebekah, the future spouse of Isaac and mother of Jacob (Israel) (Genesis 22:20–24), foreshadowing how the covenants would bless “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18).


The trials Abraham humbly endured became the means of his exaltation. The idea of covenant, trial, and renewal are themes that connect Genesis 12–22. At each renewal of the covenant, God expands Abraham’s view of its potential fulfillment.[36] Rather than seeing Abraham’s life only as a series of short stories, recognizing this pattern helps us identify the overarching message of this scripture block. Abraham’s heart is revealed throughout the narrative. Having a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” cannot be a passive ingredient; it is a willingness to continue on the upward path toward God.

When tests, trials, or challenges arise, first know that God does not leave you alone. God was with Abraham before, during, and after each of his trials. Mortality is not only a time of testing but a time of strengthening personal faith and trust in God. Opposition can bring opportunities for spiritual growth. Humility, determination, and trust in heaven are key ingredients for this type of growth and development.

The Lord said that his Saints “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4). The Lord uses Abraham as an example of one who has overcome chastening and trials and has become sanctified (Doctrine and Covenants 101:5). The Lord declared that “Abraham has entered into his exaltation” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:29). The road to sanctification requires many steps and is not the result of a single Abrahamic trial but an Abrahamic attitude. Faith, obedience, sacrifice, and covenant keeping are all necessary for this soul-cleansing process, but above all, the feeling of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “A broken heart is a repentant heart; a contrite spirit is an obedient spirit.”[37] Abraham becomes a model for the modern reader as someone who humbles himself before God and gives his will to him. A reader can find hope and courage to endure modern problems by looking at the lessons of Abraham’s life and how he navigated his own trials. Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy said, “The Lord invites all people to travel this perfecting pathway of divine truth. He promises joy and everlasting happiness as the reward. The entry fee: a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a willingness to continue in His footsteps.”[38] Finally, the Lord admonishes us, “Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:32).


[1] There is no biblical account of Abraham being “chastened” in the sense of being reprimanded. He appears completely obedient throughout the Bible and the Book of Abraham. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the term chasten nearly always refers to how the Lord responds to the sins of his people. Our current edition of scripture does not contain an account of the Lord “chastening” Abraham in this sense of the word.

[2] Richard G. Scott, “Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer,” Ensign, May 1997, 53.

[3] Spencer W. Kimball, “Becoming the Pure in Heart,” Ensign, May 1978, 81.

[4] Bruce C. Porter, “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” Ensign, November 2007, 31.

[5] Joseph Smith taught faith is “a principle of action,” Lectures on Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 1. Jon D. Levenson added that the Hebrew Bible does not typically “support an equation of faith with passivity.” Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (New Haven, NY: Yale University Press, 1993), 92.

[6] Levenson, Death and Resurrection, 85.

[7] Tad R. Callister, “Joseph Smith— - Prophet of the Restoration,” Ensign, October 2009, 35.

[8] Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 163.

[9] Levenson, Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, 84.

[10] Hugh Nibley wrote, “As in the case of Abraham, the sacrifice is arrested by an act of sudden divine intervention. . . . We have shown that the sacrifice of Sarah follows the same pattern, . . . Sarah must go to Pharaoh's bed-a lion-couch, where she prays fervidly for deliverance, which happens when at the last moment an angel arrives and Pharaoh is smitten and helpless.” See Abraham in Egypt, ed. Gary P. Gillum (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 82.

[11] Although marriage between half-siblings was not unheard of in ancient Israel (as in other nations; cf. 2 Samuel 13:13), Old Testament law later condemns the practice (Deuteronomy 27:22; Ezekiel 22:11; Leviticus 18:9, 11; 20:17).

[12] “Pharaoh, and his nobles, and his servants, the very walls of his house and his bed were afflicted with leprosy, and he could not indulge his carnal desires.” Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 7 vols., trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909–38), 1:224. Midrash Berashit 51:1–2, as cited in H. Freedman, et al., Midrash Rabbah (London: Soncino Press, 1939), 332–33. See also Gaye Strathearn, “The Wife/Sister Experience: Pharaoh’s Introduction to Jehovah,” in Thy People Shall Be My People: Sidney B. Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 150–65.

[13] Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 98.

[14] Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12), literally the lowest spot on earth. See D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse: The Old Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), 93.

[15] Nahum M. Sarna writes, “Early Jewish exegesis . . . understood this traversing of the length and breadth of the land to be a symbolic act constituting a mode of legal acquisition termed hazakah in rabbinic Hebrew.” Sarna, Genesis, 100. See also Arnold B. Ehrlich, Randglossen zur Hebräischen Bibel; textkritisches, sprachliches und sachliches, 7 vols. (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1908–14), 1:53.

[16] Because Lot’s property was outside of the covenantal land, it might be concluded that Lot was living outside of the covenant, which is alluded to as the text describes him moving increasingly closer to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:12; 14:12; 19:1).

[17] See Genesis 48:5–20; Esther 2:7; See also Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1: Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 51–52; William Henry Propp, Exodus 1–18: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1999), 156.

[18] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1:154; English translation from The Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), 38.

[19] Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1: Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965), 51; Ze’ev W. Falk, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2001), 166–67. Compare Code of Hammurabi §185–93, as cited in James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 174–75.

[20] Jewish Publication Society, The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 33.

[21] Nahum Sarna suggests that “this indicates a tradition that the ‘cities of the Plain’ lay outside the borders of Canaan.” Sarna, Genesis, 99.

[22] Roland de Vaux wrote, “The story of Abraham’s planning to leave his goods to his servant because he had no child (Genesis 15:3) has been explained as the adoption of a slave, in conformity with a custom attested by the Nuzu texts.” Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1: Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 51.

[23] Coincidentally, the numeric value of the letters making up Eliezar’s name in Hebrew is 318, the exact number of soldiers that accompanied Abram on his mission to rescue Lot (Genesis 14:14).

[24] Sarna, Genesis, 113.

[25] Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 184.

[26] Andrew Smith, “Hagar in LDS Scripture and Thought,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8 (2014): 87–137.

[27] These requirements, (1) “walk uprightly” and (2) “be perfect,” give insight into the following verses as pertaining to unlocking the blessings and protection of the Abrahamic covenant: Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 2:7; Matthew 5:48; Mosiah 18:29; Alma 45:24; 53:21; 63:2; 3 Nephi 12:48; Doctrine and Covenants 109:1.

[28] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” Ensign, March 2000, 7.

[29] The Hebrew word translated as “to take” (לקח) can have the connotations of marriage. See Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 5 vols. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994–2000), 534. Compare Genesis 11:29; 16:3; 21:21; 24:67; 25:1; 26:34; 29:23; 30:9; 38:6.

[30] Hermann Gunkel states that the text alludes to Abimelech being plagued with a “sexual illness,” although the chapter certifies several times that nothing offensive took place. God himself hindered it. See Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 219.

[31] To test (נִסָּה) means “to see what condition someone or something is in”; in a religious sense, “whether someone will obey Command or not” (Exodus 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:4). See Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 233.

[32] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, and Wilhelm Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, Eng.: Clarendon Press, 1959), 244. “Each time the phrase is used, God asks the individual to do something staggering, something that defies rational explanation or understanding. Here then is an inkling at least that God is fully aware of the magnitude of his test for Abraham.” [Where does this quote begin? –MW]” Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 101.

[33] Victor P. Hamilton wrote, “The intensity of the test is magnified by the three direct objects of the imperative: your son, your precious son whom you love, Isaac. Each of the objects hits a little closer to home, as the list moves from the general to the more intimate. This specification is precisely what we encountered when God first spoke to Abraham: ‘’Leave your country, your homeland, your father’s house’ (12:1).” Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50, 102.

[34] As Abraham prepared for the sacrifice, one possible hint of frustration can been seen when Abraham prepares the wood for the sacrifice. He did not merely “cut” the wood, he “clave” the wood (Genesis 22:3). Here, the Hebrew text uses the “piel” or intensive form of the verb. Abraham did not just cut the wood; he smashed it. We might interpret from this the mixed emotions Abraham experienced as he contemplated what he was setting out to do.

[35] Hugh Nibley relates a series of legends that describe Isaac actually being sacrificed and then later being brought back to life! See Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 328–42.

[36] The promised number of his posterity goes from being a “great nation” (Genesis 12:2) to being as numerous as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16) and the stars of the heavens (Genesis 15:5; 22:17).

[37] D. Todd Christofferson, “When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 12.

[38] Dale E. Miller, “The Kingdom’s Perfecting Pathway,” Ensign, May 1998, 29.