Book of Abraham Insight #22
One of the important doctrinal contributions of the Book of Abraham is its elaboration on the nature of the Abrahamic covenant (Abraham 2:6–11).1 While some details about the Abrahamic covenant can be read in the book of Genesis (12:1–5; cf. 26:1–4, 24; 28; 35:9–13; 48:3–4), it is in the Book of Abraham where additional important aspects about this covenant are revealed.
The significance of the Abrahamic covenant as explained and expanded upon in the Book of Abraham is that it involves blessings for and responsibilities of priesthood holders and includes a charge to Abraham’s descendants to share the gospel with all the families of the earth.
Also significant is that it “has several features that appear in other covenants and treaties of the ancient world. Treaties and covenants in Abraham’s day typically have a preamble or title, stipulations, an oath or other solemn ceremony, and, more rarely, curses conditional on violation of the covenant. . . . The covenant in the Book of Abraham follows the pattern for Abraham’s day.”2
With this in mind, the Abrahamic covenant as depicted in the Book of Abraham can be structured as follows:
|ANCIENT COVENANT PATTERN||ABRAHAM 2:6–11|
|SOLEMN CEREMONY||But I, Abraham, and Lot, my brother’s son, prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me:|
|PREAMBLE||Arise, and take Lot with thee; for I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice. For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains—Depart hence—and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly. My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.|
|STIPULATIONS||And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.|
As one scholar has observed, “the covenant in the Book of Abraham follows the pattern of treaties and covenants in his day and not the pattern of later times. The covenant pattern is thus an indication that the text dates to Abraham’s day.”3 While the content of the Abrahamic covenant is what’s most important for Latter-day Saints today,4 the form or structure of the covenant as depicted in the Book of Abraham is one way the text can be grounded in the ancient world from which it purports to derive.
John Gee, “The Abrahamic Covenant,” in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2017), 107–113.
Janet C. Hvorka, “Sarah and Hagar: Ancient Women of the Abrahamic Covenant,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 147–166.
Michael Goodman, “The Abrahamic Covenant: A Foundational Theme for the Old Testament,” Religious Educator 4, no. 3 (2003): 43–53.
Monte S. Nyman, “The Covenant of Abraham,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 155–70.
1 See Michael Goodman, “The Abrahamic Covenant: A Foundational Theme for the Old Testament,” Religious Educator 4, no. 3 (2003): 43–53; Monte S. Nyman, “The Covenant of Abraham,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 155–70.
3 Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, 111.