Sunday, November 17, 2013

Comments Received from Readers – Part I

We seem to be receiving a lot more questions and comments lately and we will endeavor to answer them all; however, it might take a while because of our backlog of articles we are also posting. 
    Comment #1: You state that the Sidon River ran from south to north, yet there is not a single passage in the Book of Mormon that states this. It appears from the record that the head of the Sidon was south of Antionum and near Nephihah, both of which were near the east sea,” Ridley E.
Response: The River Sidon “ran by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15), to the West of the river (Alma 2:26; 6:7) and to the north was the Wilderness of Hermounts (Alama 2:35, 37). The South Wilderness, or the narrow strip of wilderness (Alma 22:27), was to the south of Zarahemla, and was “away up beyond the borders of the land of Manti (Alma 16:6). Thus, the River Sidon flowed from this high ground in the narrow strip of wilderness past the city of Zarahemla, which would make the river flowing from the south to the north, from the border area between the Land of Nephi, to the south, and the Land of Zarahemla, to the north (Alma 22:27). As for Antionum, the wilderness to the south is the narrow strip of wilderness (or border between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla), which is where the headwaters of the River Sidon up in the mountains were located; however, as for Nephihah, it was not located near the River Sidon. The scripture involved is: “Neither durst they march down against the city of Zarahemla; neither durst they cross the head of Sidon, over to the city of Nephihah” (Alma 56:25). Now the Lamanites were in the narrow strip of wilderness, up in the hills or mountains, to the west of the River Sidon, on somewhat of a strait line with the city of Zarahemla. At that time they did not dare march down to the city of Zarahemla, nor could they go to the east in the wilderness, around the head of the River Sidon, to go down and attack the city of Nephihah, which was inland from the East Sea, on the other side of the land of Moroni. This suggests the head of the River Sidon was no more closer to the city of Nephihah than it was to the city of Zarahemla, the former on the east and the latter on the west of the river. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that the head of the river Sidon was in the east, as you suggest.
    Comment #2: The land southward was divided by a strip of wilderness which separated the land of Nephi to the south from the land of Zarahemla to the north. Similarly, the empire of David and Solomon was later divided into the southern kingdom of Judah, comprising the territories of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the northern kingdom of Israel, which included the lands allotted to the other ten tribes. The Lamanites occupied wilderness areas along the west coast and also to the east and north of Zarahemla; Judah was bordered on the west by the lands of the Philistines along the Mediterranean coast, while Ammonites lived to the east of Israel, and Phoenicians dwelled farther north on the west coast. North of Zarahemla was a narrow neck of land; Israel also narrows in the north between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). I found this very interesting. What do you think?” Larissa P.
Left: Jordan River, Utah; Right: Jordan River, Israel. Both Jordans run between a feeding lake and a salt-laden dead sea lake 
    Response: These type of comparisons are always interesting, but nothing more. As an example, there is "a striking comparison" between Utah and the Holy Land in the Near East with the Great Salt Lake area and an upside-down Dead Sea region side-by-side producing similarities in hydrology, names and geographic placement: such as both the Great Salt Lake and Dead Sea are salty bodies of water so laden with salt that bathers can usually float like a cork, and both fed by fresh waters from "Jordan" rivers — the River Jordan from the Sea of Galilee in the Near East and the Jordan River coming out of Utah Lake. In addition, both Jerusalem and Salt Lake City are situated similarly along the shores of their salty seas. The two regions are bordered by mountains and a desert, and it could be said that Mount Nebo is somewhat like the Golan Heights. However, only the Lord could say if this was by design, or happenstance.
    Comment #3: “We tend to associate "up" with "north" and "down" with "south," but certainly there is no necessary reason to do this. Egypt may have set a precedent for reversing these associations. The southern portion of the country was called Upper Egypt and the northern portion was called Lower Egypt, probably because the Nile runs from south to north. Perhaps this should be included in the Book of Mormon understanding of the Lamanites going down to do battle with the Nephites, and Nephi and his brothers going down to their father’s home and up to Jerusalem, etc. Similarly, in Judah, Upper Beth-horon was southeast of Lower Beth-horon.” Brendon K.
    Response: Up and down tend to be universal understandings, however, up can mean “to the north,” you go up to Ogden from Salt Lake City; “toward high ground,” you go up the mountain; or “from a certain point” like “up the block”; or rising, like getting up in the morning. Down can be described in the same manner. As for Egypt, the Egyptians lived beside the Nile River, which was their lifeblood, annually providing flooded soil, which grew their crops in the desert, provided food in the way of fishing, and their transportation, which included trade. Therefore, distance, direction and measurement was based upon the river. In this sense then, the Nile River flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, which was the lower end of the river, or the area called Lower Egypt; the headwaters or beginning of the Nile was in the south, and therefore the upper regions of the land, or Upper Egypt.
As for Bethoron, these two cities are modern remnants of the ancient villages of Beit Ur al-Fouqa, which meant “Upper House of Straw,” and Beit Ur al-Tahta, which meant “Lower House of Ur.” In neither case were these meant as directional statements as you have suggested. We need to be careful when looking at modern words, thinking they always meant what the words mean today. It also helps to know where words came from, since other language definitions are not always based upon what we might think, especially when it comes to names, like Beth-Horon.
    Comment #4: “It appears that the geography of the Book of Mormon was not worked out by either Joseph Smith or by any other Mormon leader. The route I believe would carry Lehi across Arabia at about the thirtieth or thirty-first degree of north latitude. But, as we have seen, the statement copied by both Frederick G. Williams and John Bernhisel places Lehi's trek along the nineteenth degree of north latitude, which would bring him to about the middle of the coast of Oman along the Arabian Sea. This route may follow what appears to be the surface meaning of the text, but it makes no sense for Lehi to travel so far down the coast of the Red Sea and then turn inland, cutting all the way across the Arabian peninsula to the coast of Oman. The course across northern Arabia to the Persian Gulf would be more direct and a good deal shorter” Abbott C.
    Response: First of all, Joseph Smith never made any attempt of which we have record in trying to work out geography of the Book of Mormon. It would appear he was far too busy dealing with the doctrinal information of that, the Doctrine & Covenants, and trying to correct errors in the Bible. However, in considering the rest of your comment, we need to keep in mind that when looking on a map, many routes seem better than others. The problem is, especially in the Middle East, there is a very large desert to the east of Jerusalem that even today has few, if any roads eastward along the 30º-31º North Latitude simply because there is nothing there but 800-miles of uninhabited desert. While this route may seem the shortest, it never would have been crossed in 600 B.C. simply because there are no water holes along this route. As for the trip down the Red Sea, and turning east at around the 19º North Latitude, it just so happens that this was the route of the Frankincense Trail, where the Arab camel caravans traveled, because of the water holes along this route.
The Old Frankincense Trail ran for 2000 miles from the Southern coast of Oman, where Frankincense trees grew in the area of Salalah, to the Holy Lands. This trail was in use for at least two thousand years before the birth of Christ when Frankincense was more valuable than gold
    This was the only route anyone would have traveled in the B.C. period and for more than a thousand years after that. To stray off that route meant death, and no one would have been foolish enough to  have tried.

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