Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: A Brotherly Reunion

At the time Jacob and Esau parted, they weren’t on very good terms. Jacob had received the birthright blessing, and Esau felt he had been robbed of it, even though the Lord had made it clear that Jacob had been the one to live faithful enough to receive that blessing. Esau was bitter enough about the whole thing that he made plans to kill Jacob.

Talk about sibling rivalry.

Jacob’s mom, recognizing the danger he was in, succeeded in getting Jacob sent away to find a wife. That effort not only saved Jacob from his brother, but he succeeded in getting a wife – in fact, he got two wives, and had twelve kids. Kind of a cheaper-by-the-dozen deal, I suppose.

After a while, however, Jacob decides it’s time to return, with all his household and the possessions he had accumulated. Only problem is, that means he’s got to face Esau again. Not sure whether his brother was over his grudge or not, he sends messengers to Esau with gifts, effectively saying, “Here’s a gift, I’m coming to visit.”

Esau sends back word that was more or less, “I’ll meet you part way – with 400 men.”

You can imagine Jacob’s anxiety. Sure that his brother plans on killing his whole family, Jacob prays and begs for help. This is when he is given the name change from Jacob to Israel.

Finally they meet across a field, and Esau comes running at Jacob. Jacob bows down, ready to beg for mercy, but his brother gets there and hugs him. They cry and sob over each other – Esau excited to finally see his brother again, and Jacob probably out of relief.

Here’s the account:

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Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: The Purpose of Circumcision

Have you ever wondered why the Lord has his people practice the law of circumcision? Obviously it was part of the Abrahamic covenant, but what did it represent? Sacrifice was a reminder that Christ would one day sacrifice His own life, so what was circumcision supposed to remind them of?

The answer is kind of interesting, actually. Here’s the account in Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis 17:3-12


3 And it came to pass, that Abram fell on his face, and called upon the name of the Lord.

4 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;

5 And they have not observed mine anointing, and the burial, or baptism wherewith I commanded them;

6 But have turned from the commandment, and taken unto themselves the washing of children, and the blood of sprinkling;

7 And have said that the blood of the righteous Able was shed for sins; and have not known wherein they are accountable before me.

• • •

11 And I will establish a covenant of circumcision with thee, and it shall be my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations; that thou mayest know for ever that children are not accountable before me until they are eight years old.

12 And thou shalt observe to keep all my covenants wherein I covenanted with thy fathers; and thou shalt keep the commandments which I have given thee with mine own mouth, and I will be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Melchizedek

There is a tradition in the church (based on a statement in the Lectures on Faith) that Melchizedek was Shem, son of Noah. While this may or may not be true, there is a great deal more that we know about him from the Joseph Smith Translation of the bible. For example, we know that:

He had strong faith, and even as a child stopped the mouths of lions.

Through his faith, he quenched the violence of fire.

He was a high priest in the Melchizedek (or Holy) priesthood.

He was the King of Salem, and was called a prince of peace.

He and his people sought to join their city with that of Enoch.

Having obtained such peace, he was called by his people the king of heaven, or the King of peace.

He was keeper of the storehouse of God, and collected the tithes of the people.

Obviously, Melchizedek was a great man, and though we know little about the details of these facts, they certainly cast a light on the righteousness of the man, and his closeness to the Lord.

Here’s the record:

Genesis 14:25-40

25 And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.

36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.

37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;

38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.

39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.

40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Abram Rescues Lot

A funny thing about a lot of the forgotten stories in the bible is that while they are often interesting stories, they contain no particular lesson. Perhaps that’s why they are forgotten.

One such story involves a little mess that Lot, Abram’s (Abraham’s) brother got into. You probably remember that when Abram and Lot first arrived in the land of Canaan, they divided the land in half, and each took a half. Well, there were still people and cities in those lands, and Lot picked a land that was more fruitful, but it was also in the middle of a pretty nasty war.

Lot built a home on the outskirts of Sodom. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were apparently losing the battle, because the armies of those cities fled to an area that was full of “slime-pits,” or bitumen pits – a sticky, petroleum-based goop. The few who were left back at home fled into the mountains, and when the opposing armies collected spoils of Sodom, they took Lot and the people of his household prisoner.

Among the group taken, one escaped and ran to tell Abram about it. Abram, not involved in the war, but having a decent size household of his own, sent his men to rescue Lot.
After having success, two kings came to Abram – the king of Sodom and the king of Salem, who’s name was Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abram, even offering Abram some sort of sacrament.

Sodom, on the other hand, tried to cut a strange deal with Abram. Having retrieved much of the spoils that the captor army had stolen from Sodom, Abram had returned the stuff where it belonged, but the king of Sodom was more interested in having people than stuff. He offered Abram the recovered stuff in exchange for the recovered people.

I don’t know exactly what Sodom wanted with the people, but remember that the city of Sodom was deeply entrenched in homosexual practices – so much so that Lot later had to flee with his family for their lives while being chased by overanxious Sodomites.

Of course Abram flatly refused any kind of deal with the king of Sodom.

Here’s the account:

Genesis 14:8-24

8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 ¶ And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17 ¶ And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: The Origins of Egypt

Most of the world believes that the origins of mankind started in Africa, particularly around Egypt. This makes sense, since the ark landed in the Middle East.

Noah’s son, Ham, and Ham’s wife, Egyptus, had a daughter who was also named Egyptus. Egyptus the younger was the one to discover Egypt. The flood must have taken a long time to dissipate from most of the world, because when she first discovered it, Egypt was covered in water. Later she returned to settle the land with her sons.

Her oldest son, who’s name was Pharoah, established a kingdom in the land. Though Egyptus and Pharoah were Canaanites, Pharoah was a righteous man, and tried to organize his kingdom the same way that the patriarchal order of the priesthood was organized. I don’t know what generation fell away from trying to follow the order of the prophets, but the religion of Egypt eventually broke off from the original attempts to follow the gospel, and became idolatrous, believing in the worship of multiple gods, including gods made of earthly materials.

It was this fallen, idolatrous religion that Abraham’s father belonged to, and it was by the priest of this religion that Abraham was taken to be sacrificed. Accordingly, Abraham did not receive the priesthood from his Father. Rather, he received it from Melchizedek, king of Salem – who we will talk about another time.

Here’s the account of the origin of Egypt from the Pearl of Great Price:

Abraham 1:20-27

20 Behold, Potiphar’s Hill was in the land of Ur, of Chaldea. And the Lord broke down the altar of Elkenah, and of the gods of the land, and utterly destroyed them, and smote the priest that he died; and there was great mourning in Chaldea, and also in the court of Pharaoh; which Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood.

21 Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.

22 From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.

23 The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;

24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.

25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.

26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;

D&C 84: 14

14 Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah;

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Three Virgins

Shortly before Abraham’s father offered Abraham up as an offering to idol gods, there were three virtuous women offered up – killed because they refused to bow down to idols. I’d sure love to hear the rest of their story. Who were they? What was the situation that led up to their death? Martyrs like this are heroes in every sense of the word, and they are remembered through history for their faithfulness.

Here is the account, given in Abraham 1 from the Pearl of Great Price:

9 And it came to pass that the priest made an offering unto the god of Pharaoh, and also unto the god of Shagreel, even after the manner of the Egyptians. Now the god of Shagreel was the sun.
10 Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of Pharaoh offer upon the altar which stood by the hill called Potiphar’s Hill, at the head of the plain of Olishem.
11 Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians.
12 And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar;

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: After the Ark

There is a little story about Noah that takes place a short time after the Ark was landed. It is an odd story, and without a wider context, can be very perplexing.

From what the story says, Noah got drunk, and his son, Ham, found him in his tent naked. So Ham came out and told his brothers, who backed into the tent and covered him with a garment. Then when Noah woke, he cursed Canaan.

It sounds a little odd, I know, but the Church’s Institute Student Manual has an interesting explanation. I’ll paste it after the verses. Basically, Noah got drunk in his tent and passed out (remember the word of wisdom was not revealed until this dispensation). Then Ham, who held the priesthood, but who’s son could not hold the priesthood, thought that he could give his son the priesthood by giving him Noah’s garment, so he stole it off his father. When Shem and Japeth discovered what had happened, they made him a new garment and put it on their father. So when Noah woke, he realized what happened and cursed Canaan, who had the stolen garment.

Here’s the account:

Genesis 9:20-27

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

And here’s the explanation given in the Institute Student Manual:

(4-20) Genesis 9:20–27 . Why Did Noah Curse Canaan in This Event When He Was Not Even Present?

The account of Noah’s “nakedness” and the role his sons played in the event is a puzzling one, especially the part in which Noah awakens and pronounces a curse upon Canaan, the son of Ham (see Genesis 10:6 ), who does not even seem to be present at the time.

Most members of the Church are aware that a priesthood garment, symbolic of the covenants made in the temple, is worn by those who have participated in the endowment ceremony in the temple. This garment is a representation of the coat of skins made by the Lord for Adam and Eve after the Fall (see Genesis 3:21 ; Moses 4:27 ). The idea of a garment made of skins that signified that one had power in the priesthood is found in several ancient writings. Hugh Nibley discussed some of these ancient writings and their implications for the passage in Genesis:

“Nimrod claimed his kingship on the ground of victory over his enemies [see Genesis 10:8–10 ; Reading 4-21 ]; his priesthood, however, he claimed by virtue of possessing ‘the garment of Adam.’ The Talmud assures us that it was by virtue of owning this garment that Nimrod was able to claim power to rule over the whole earth, and that he sat in his tower while men came and worshiped him. The Apocryphal writers, Jewish and Christian, have a good deal to say about this garment. To quote one of them: ‘the garments of skin which God made for Adam and his wife when they went out of the garden and were given after the death of Adam . . . to Enoch’; hence they passed to Methuselah, and then to Noah, from whom Ham stole them as the people were leaving the ark. Ham’s grandson Nimrod obtained them from his father Cush. As for the legitimate inheritance of this clothing, a very old fragment recently discovered says that Michael ‘disrobed Enoch of his earthly garments, and put on him his angelic clothing,’ taking him into the presence of God. . . .

“Incidentally the story of the stolen garment as told by the rabbis, including the great Eleazer, calls for an entirely different rendering of the strange story in Genesis [9] from the version in our King James Bible. They seemed to think that the ’erwath of Genesis [9:22] did not mean ‘nakedness’ at all, but should be given its primary root meaning of ‘skin covering.’ Read thus, we are to understand that Ham took the garment of his father while he was sleeping and showed it to his brethren, Shem and Japheth, who took a pattern or copy of it (salmah) or else a woven garment like it (simlah) which they put upon their own shoulders, returning the skin garment to their father. Upon awaking, Noah recognized the priesthood of two sons but cursed the son who tried to rob him of his garment.” ( Lehi in the Desert and the World of Jaredites, pp. 160–62.)

Therefore, although Ham himself had the right to the priesthood, Canaan, his son, did not. Ham had married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain ( Abraham 1:21–24 ), and so his sons were denied the priesthood.

(OT Institute Student Manual)

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: The Rainbow

After the Lord destroyed every living thing on the earth except what was preserved on the ark – and I suppose some sea life, too, the scriptures say, “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Genesis 9:16-17) The rainbow was to be a sign of a covenant that God made between Himself and all flesh. But what covenant is it a token of? Part of the covenant was that God would no longer destroy the earth by flood. Genesis 9:11-15

11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

But the rainbow was also to help us look forward as well. It was to remind us that if we keep the commandments, Zion will return to the earth. Enoch’s people became so righteous that they were taken up into heaven. And when God’s people embrace the truth and look upward, Zion would look downward, and there would be great joy. The rainbow reminds us that not only is God in control, but someday the Savior will return as the rightful heir to the government of earth.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the verses (JST) gives the account:

21 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men shall keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.

22 And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy;

23 And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch.

24 And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will establish my covenant unto thee, which I have made between me and thee, for every living creature of all flesh that shall be upon the earth.

25 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and thee; for all flesh that shall be upon the earth. (JST GENESIS 9: 21-25 )

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Adam’s Baptism

Did you know Adam was baptized? I’m not exactly clear on how it happened, but the scriptures clearly tell that he was. After the Lord explained to Adam some of the important principles behind baptism, He was carried by the Spirit into the water.

Here’s the account, given in the Pearl of Great Price:

Moses 6:64-68

64 And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
65 And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
67 And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Adam was a Christian

Society often argues about when exactly Christianity began. I don’t know what other churches believe, but in the Lord’s true church, we know that Adam knew of Jesus Christ, and believed in Him. Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Genesis, known as the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, tells about Enoch’s ministry. Enoch became quite prominent in his time and ministry, doing great miracles, and stirring up attention wherever he went. But what is it that so riles up the people? It’s his teaching that Jesus Christ would come in the meridian (middle) of time.

Though people were deeply offended by his teachings, they were also fascinated to listen to a character who was so willing to say such “crazy” things. People are still like that today – they love a good controversy or fight. It’s kind of pathetic really, but it was very good in this instance, because it got them to listen to a prophet.

People would instruct their servants, “Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.” (Moses 6:38)

When Enoch was born, Adam was still alive. It’s likely that Enoch knew Adam personally as a young man (up to about age 60 – which was young in those days). But whether Adam himself told him, or the Lord revealed it to Enoch, Enoch explained to the people that Adam taught his posterity about Jesus Christ and the plan of Salvation.

Here’s the account:
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