Talk:Gen 15:6-10

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Robert, take a look at Moro 7:7 for the negative version. I've been very interested in this same question before, but you've opened a new aspect of it all by drawing the justice/mercy business into it through D&C 98. I'd like to discuss this at some further length. --Joe Spencer 16:01, 11 Nov 2006 (UTC)

Thanks a lot Joe, that's a great reference I hadn't thought of. Interesting that intent is such a key idea there, as it is throughout the BOM's discussion of the law of Moses (and the OT prophets' discussion of sacrifice and offerings...).
More generally, I'm trying to think about the plan of salvation in pre-Law-of-Moses terms. One idea is that justice is a term that is used after the Law of Moses to help explain the Plan rather than something that is an eternal law or principle (I think the only hint at an "eternal law" in scripture is D&C 130:21-22, and I don't think it's talking about justice per se there...). I'm also trying to think about God's statement in Abr 3:25 from this perspective--it seems that call-and-response is key to understanding what is most essential (I don't like using the word essential but can't think of anything better right now) about the plan of salvation. This call-response view highlights the Hebrew meaning of "belief" (amn in the "amen" sense) here in verse 6: it seems Abraham is being praised precisely b/c he is repeating/confirming (saying amen) to what God has promised. This, I think, is an essential covenantal feature--not only a willingness to sacrifice everything, but a trusting of (saying amen to) the other's promise. God offered Abraham an unconditional promise before Abraham had proven his unconditional loyalty (this dialectical development of the covenant is where I think Alma 32 sheds interesting light...), just as Abraham believed that God would fulfill his promise. This relational-, covenant-based (rather than law-based) view of God and Abraham's relationship suggests a mutual willingness to completely respond to each other (rather than any other desire/attachment), a willingness that is made fully manifest by the Father's sacrificing his Son and Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son (perhaps Abraham is not required to carry this out b/c the Father knows Abraham's thoughts, but the Father must carry it out b/c Abraham doesn't know the Father's thoughts?).
Hmmm, none of this really very coherent yet, but I think I'm moving closer to something.... --RobertC 22:35, 11 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Good thoughts. This call-response approach seems both so foreign and so familiar at the same time. Breath-taking and elegant.--Rob Fergus 04:57, 12 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Not coherent? You have the foundation here for a paper worth working out for that book, I think. There is something very profound in your comments. I especially enjoy the quickening of the word "amen" you have performed. If I can push you along in this direction, let me. --Joe Spencer 21:02, 12 Nov 2006 (UTC)


You have been listening to my seminary lessons, Robert? That really struck me while we worked through Genesis 15 during class. I'm not sure what to make of it. I want to look at this as a theme in the scriptures: where else does this kind of sign-seeking appear? I can't help but think of the temple, but the scriptures seem to have reference to this kind of thing also: the Ahaz thing is an example. Hmm.... --Joe Spencer 17:17, 14 October 2007 (CEST)

I actually posted this question before listening to your lesson on the topic. I had a few ideas listening to your lesson--I'll elaborate when I have more time. --RobertC 17:26, 14 October 2007 (CEST)
I'm juggling kids this morning, but I'll try to sketch out some things, probably piece-meal. The main thought I have is in thinking about the two covenants in Gen 15 and Gen 17 as roughly paralleling the Levitic and Melchezidek covenants. I'm trying to think of Abraham's asking for a sign as pertaining then to the Levitic order (I haven't read your comments yet, but I noticed you posted something on "outward ordinances" so maybe we're thinking on the same track here...). More later, hopefully. --RobertC 17:49, 14 October 2007 (CEST)
I think the word "wild" is used in the discussion of Hagar (Gen 16?), which makes me think of the Gentiles and trees etc. Something interesting here to pursue, I think, regarding Gentiles and non-Gentiles.
Also, in Gen 22:16, the "because" makes me think of the "whosoever receives shall receive more" BOM passages we've talked about before. It seems that grace is offered, and if it's received, then the grace is multiplied, or some such thing (an interesting tension with the notion of testing/proving/trying/trials--Brueggemann talks about this tension a bit, I think, in his Genesis commentary, which I was recently leafing through via Amazaon...). All the while, I'm thinking of the two creation accounts being paralleled here (incl. the fact that "everlasting" is only used with the second covenant, I think at least...). --RobertC 18:24, 14 October 2007 (CEST)

Hold on, why are we calling this sign-seeking? In Alma 32 (and I would think in the NT cases and generally throughout the scriptures) the purpose of sign-seekers is to seek the damnable knowledge of Alma 32:17-18 which is contrary to belief. The sign-seeker says, "If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe." Here God answers Abraham with a covenant. I think Abraham's attitude is closer to the attitude of, "You're going to give me all this land? You want to put that in writing?" That sounds more like a contract, but Abraham, I think, is asking for a covenant, not a knowledge. --Mjberkey 18:10, 15 October 2007 (CEST)

Mike, I think you're right to point to differences, but what is the essential difference? That is, how is Abraham's motivation to ask for something in writing fundamentally different than to ask for a sign? The similarity I'm thinking about is that in both cases is that more is asked for, God's word is not accepted as sufficient.
I'm wondering how the fact that land is being promised makes this promise different than the promise of future seed for which no covenant is asked for (Joe talks a lot about covenants always being associated with land in the OT in his seminary lessons, but I haven't studied or thought about this much myself...). Also, I'm wondering about the larger theme of "engaging God" as opposed to sort of walking away, as Ahaz seems to in Isaiah (which is also important in Job; the whole book of Job seems very closely related to these Abraham stories, so I think studying similarities and differences between Abraham and Job would be very helpful...). --RobertC 19:32, 15 October 2007 (CEST)

Regarding this business of whether or not Abraham is seeking a sign or a covenant, I think it is clear that he is not seeking a covenant: he has already received the covenant (at least in part), and he is now asking for something else. Moreover, what he asks, specifically, is how he shall know: this is undeniably a question of knowledge, precisely as in Alma 32. It seems quite clear to me that what we have here is a sign-seeking, but perhaps it is a kind of reversal of Alma 32: notice that Paul's favorite verse, in which Abraham believes the Lord, is only two verses previous to this. Perhaps Alma even has this text in mind: one must believe and then ask for a sign, not ask for a sign in order to believe? Rich passage. Too rich. --Joe Spencer 16:56, 16 October 2007 (CEST)

Cutting a Covenant

The article here says that there is no reason to suppose this is animal sacrifice but is some sort of symbolism. But there is a reason to think that at least in this instance it *is* animal sacrifice. These animals are cut in half and the pieces laid next to each other. The animals died. This was part of the cutting of the covenant. As I understand it, the idea was in early times that a person (or both people) would take one animal, cut in in half, stand between the two halves and (perhaps pointing to them) saying - this much and more happen to me if I should fail to live up to my part of this deal. So later, when "a lamp" is seen passing between the animals, this is a fragmentary and obscured account where God is actually standing between the animals and making sacred covenant with Abraham. As I understand it in later times, this became more symbolic with people simply saying "May God do so much and more to me", possibly at the same time making some symbolic gesture of violence upon their persons, such as cutting them up in some way, or rending their garments. That later would have been far more symbolic than cutting two animals in half, standing in the blood pool between them and saying "May God do this to me if I fail". I think the current commentary takes away from that dramatic and powerful impact. --CASteinman 22:01, 12 September 2010 (CEST)