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Relationship to Chapters 3-5. The relationship of Verses 3:22-28 to the rest of Chapters 3-5 is discussed at Chapters 3-5.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 3:22-28 include:
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- Abr 3:21: Declare or deliver. This verse read differently until the 1981 edition of the scriptures. Of the several manuscripts of the Book of Abraham (none of which were written in Joseph's hand), one has an alternate reading that was (in 1981) replaced with the more common reading. The text used to read "deliver" instead of "declare" in the first part of this verse: "I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to deliver unto thee the works which my hands have made...." While "declare" certainly seems to make more sense, if "deliver" is the correct reading, there may be an entirely different way of understanding this verse (and its implications for the whole of Abraham 3). (It might well be noted that "deliver" appears in verse 20. This may be a reason on the one hand to reject the alternate reading, and on the other hand to accept it. It may be that, on the one hand, some scribe copying accidently glanced at verse 20 rather than at verse 21 while copying, thus producing the alternate text. It may be that, on the other hand, the Lord used deliver in two very different senses to tie them together, and this may suggest a powerful literary tie in these two verses. If this were the case, the more common rendering might be explained as a later "cleaning up" that became quickly adopted by other scribes who worked on the Book of Abraham.)
- If, then, "deliver" is the correct reading, Abraham's experience here might be similar to Enoch's experience as described in Moses 7, one in which he is exalted and receives the right to sit on the very throne of God.
- Abr 3:23: These souls. Is God drawing a distinction between the "noble and great ones" and "those that were spirits"? Are they synonymous groups or is the latter all-inclusive? How do we reconcile this verse with the statement in Moses 2:21 wherein God "saw that all things which [he] had created were good"?
- Abr 3:23: Stood in the midst. Is this a scriptural way of saying the Lord already considered these individuals his disciples?
- Abr 3:23: Rulers. Should we find any discomfort in being told that we should be rulers, given that Nephi and the sons of Mosiah struggled with the expectation they should be kings?
- Abr 3:23: Chosen before thou wast born. How do square this statement with the concept that many were called in the premortal existence (see Alma 13:3) but relatively few are chosen in this life to minister in the Lord's kingdom (see D&C 121:34-40)? Or is this verse more compatible with scriptures such as Alma 7:10?
- Abr 3:22-23: Noble and great ones. What does it mean to be a "noble and great" one (v. 22)? Variants of "noble" show up 33 times in the Old Testament, and the word seems most closely associated with ruling, as nobles are listed alongside rulers, governors, princes, and kings (although in one instance, Neh 2:16, priests, nobles, and rulers are listed consecutively). This makes sense, since in verse 23 God decides to make the noble spirits He sees His rulers. Does this mean that a noble spirit is simply a spirit that is fit to be a ruler (of other spirits? of something else?)? Does being noble and being a ruler have anything to do with rights to the Priesthood? How are these two verses related to Abr 1:28, where Abraham tells us he plans on presenting a chronology showing Abraham's personal right as an heir to the Priesthood (cf. Abr 1:27 & Abr 1:31)?
- The same questions, put a bit differently: Abraham seems to be establishing his right to kingship (or at least rulership, and at least preliminarily) here in verses 22-23, and later one he'll be establishing his complementary right to the Priesthood, and all of this seems to be in order to contrast (and show the superiority of) his rights and powers with Pharaoh's purported, but ultimately self-made and unauthorized, kingdom and Priesthood (cf. Abr 1:25-27). Why is it that in Abr 1:28-31 Abraham only clues the reader in to the future portion of his record dealing with Priesthood, and that strictly in terms of possessing and expounding records and having a lineage? What is the relationship between Priesthood and kingship? Why is obtaining and keeping records an essential part of a right to the Priesthood? What is the relationship between kingship and being shown a massive revelation concerning "a knowledge of the beginning of creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers"?
- Abr 3:24: These may dwell. Why didn't the Lord say instead "whereon we may dwell" or "whereon all of us may dwell"? Are the future earth dwellers, who are labeled "these," a group that is separate from "those who were with" the Lord at this planning meeting?
- Abr 3:24: One among them that was like unto God. Does this just mean Jesus was the firstborn? If so, how did that make him like God? Is this saying nobody else was like God in the premortal existence? Should we read Moro 7:48 as saying that Jesus Christ was the only person capable of becoming like God prior to our mortal probation?
- Abr 3:24: Space there. Weren't they presumably already surrounded by empty space in the universe? Or was there something particularly fitting about the galaxy our planet ended up in?
- Abr 3:24: Take of these materials. Is this saying spirit beings transported physical matter to our galaxy to fashion a planet whereon God's children could dwell?
- Abr 3:24: An earth. If this is the only verse in scripture that talks of "an earth," as opposed to hundreds of scriptures that make reference to "the earth," then should we assume that the Lord and those who helped him followed a pattern or template in putting together a planet for us?
- Abr 3:24: Michael is the One Like Unto God? I know that we traditionally identify the "one among [those that were spirits cf vs. 23] that was like unto God as Jehovah or Jesus, or perhaps even Elohim, but might it not make more sense to identify that person as Michael (Heb. "who is like God"). Is it possible that the one "like unto God" here is not the same as the one "like unto the Son of Man" we read about in vs. 27? At minimum we seem to be dealing with four individuals here:
- God (Elohim?) who looks over the good souls and declares Abraham to be among them.
- Abraham as one of the noble and great ones.
- One "like unto God" (Michael/Adam) who declares the intention to create and people the earth.
- The "Lord their God" mentioned in vs. 25 who will be in charge--perhaps this is the call that is extended to Jehovah/Jesus in vs. 27?
- The Lord (Elohim again?) who asks "whom shall I send" in vs. 27.
- One "like unto the Son of Man (Jehovah/Jesus) who is sent down, though it isn't really explicitly declared for what purpose.
- A challenger (Satan) who kept not his first estate.
- I like this a lot, especially in light of a discourse by Brigham long about, say, 1852. I'd like to look at this more closely.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Abr 3:22: Intelligences. If these are not "created or made" (D&C 93:29), then what exactly happened when they were "organized"?
- Abr 3:22: Organized. Why does this word not appear in the Bible or Book or Mormon? What did community organizing look like in the premortal existence?
- Abr 3:27: Like. Why does this passage say "like unto the Son of Man" instead of just the Son of Man?
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- Abr 3:21: Deliver. For a poetic attempt to think the possibility of reading "deliver" in verse 21, see User: Joe Spencer/who is like God.
- Abr 3:23: Thou wast chosen before thou wast born. Compare Gen 11:26 where Abraham was the tenth generation patriarch from Noah, the prior major patriarch mentioned in the old testament, just as Noah was the tenth generation patriarch from Adam (cf. Gen 5:29). This similarity suggests both Abraham and Noah were foreordained to become great patriarchs.
- Abr 3:27: Like. In "Abraham's Creation Drama", Hugh Nibley suggests this is evidence that these passages are describing a reenactment of these events (as in modern temple endowments).
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