The Abrahamic Covenant has never really made sense to me. I’m sure that I tried a few times when I was younger to understand it, but scriptural language combined with promises of land and posterity never did it for me, so I pretty much gave up on understanding it. In the past few years, I’ve found a renewed interest in studying the Old Testament (the impetus being women in the scriptures), and I’m trying harder to understand more of the scriptures and doctrine.
To put it really briefly, in the Abrahamic Covenant we (Abraham’s seed) promise to keep the commandments and share the gospel. The Lord promises us/Abraham land, posterity, and more blessings.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what “land” means to us as latter-day people, especially women. Most of us are not going to live in the land of Canaan anytime soon, and most of us don’t need land for our livelihoods. So, how can we relate and understand?
There’s a group of women in the Old Testament who can perhaps give us insight into how we can think about land in our day and time. Zelophehad’s daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah were part of the Israelites who were getting ready to enter the promised land. The custom at that time was the inheritances of land were given to men. Zelophehad had died in the wilderness; his daughters had no brothers, and they were not married. They were not going to have a place to live. What did they do to solve their problem?
“And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (Numbers 27:2-4).
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah went to the prophet. They went before their leaders. They asked for their inheritance. They sought to claim the blessings of land they felt they should receive as the seed of Abraham.
Gratefully, Moses who took them seriously and then asked the Lord what to do. The Lord told him, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them” (vs 7).
I’m sure they had prayed and thought about what they should do. Their prayers were answered by the Lord. And not only did they receive an answer to their question, guidance was given to other women in a similar position. “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (vs 8). These women helped themselves and others because they sought to claim their blessings and inheritances.
In the middle of the timeline of Abraham receiving the Abrahamic covenant, there is a moment when Abraham asked the Lord for an answer to a question that Abraham couldn’t understand. A few years prior, the Lord had made promises to Abraham that would become part of the Abrahamic covenant. One of these promises was that the Lord would make of Abraham a “great nation”. (Genesis 12:2) Years later, Abraham seems confused by this promise and says to the Lord, “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed” (Genesis 15:3).
The Lord responds to Abraham by telling him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Genesis 15:5).
I love that Abraham questions the Lord about something that didn’t make any sense to him. God answers him in a way that it seems brought Abraham peace.
How can we be more like Abraham, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah? What blessings and/or inheritances are we promised that we aren’t claiming? And how do we go about claiming these blessings in a positive way? If we go to the Lord in prayer and humility, “He shall lead [us] by the hand, and give [us] answer[s] to [our] prayers (D&C 112:10).