Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part I

One of our readers asked the question that prompted the title of this post, and he also included a copy of a website that had an extensive article on the subject. The article was written by Jeffrey R. Chadwick (left), and contains a little over 11,500 words, which is obviously far too long to answer in our small blog, but there were so many inaccuracies in the article that it seems prudent to correct those areas inconsistent with the scriptural record. We will post comments from the article and our response, beginning with where Lehi’s house was located:
    Comment: After assessing all the data, I suggest that Lehi's house was located in the city quarter of ancient Jerusalem called the Mishneh (the same location today is part of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City).” 
    Response: In both references of location, Nephi uses the wordage “at Jerusalem,” i.e., “he lived all his days at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:4) and “returned to his own house at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:7). In neither instance does Nephi use the word “in” Jerusalem. Within the city walls, old quarter or whatever, would be “in Jerusalem.” 
Outside the city walls, but within an associated distance, would be “at Jerusalem.” The word “in” is defined as “within, inside, inward” and when combined with a place or location (Jerusalem), means within or inside that place, or “in or within Jerusalem.” On the other hand, the word “at” is defined as “near to, near the area, near the location of, nearness, toward, close to,” and when combined with a place or location (Jerusalem) means “near Jerusalem.” Thus, Lehi lived near Jerusalem and his house was close to Jerusalem.”
    Comment: “I further suggest that Lehi's land of inheritance was a piece of real estate about thirty miles north of Jerusalem, in the former tribal area of Manasseh, which Lehi owned by virtue of having inherited a deed to the property and which he probably visited on occasion in order to manage the affairs of the land.” 
    Response: Of less interest to any discussion about the Book of Mormon, are suggestions by writers who disagree with the scriptural record, or try to insist that the record implies something other than what is written. After all, there is absolutely no reference in the scriptural record to indicate any connection with Lehi and any other land of inheritance other than what is described by Nephi, whose first comment about that land was when the he and his brothers left Jerusalem and “went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things” (1 Nephi 3:22). This is the wealth described earlier that Lehi left behind: “And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). After obtaining Lehi’s riches, the boys went back up to Jerusalem to Laban’s house (1 Nephi 3:23). This should, without any question, show that Lehi’s house and property were outside the city walls. Besides, what man would live in a city and leave all his wealth, riches, gold and silver on a property 30 miles away, etc., as Chadwick suggests?
    Comment: “Reading through the evidence from which my data is culled may seem, for some readers, somewhat long and circuitous. Those readers may trust, however, that by the end of this study they will be much more informed about the world of Lehi preceding 1 Nephi and that the above conclusions will be logically supported and understandable.” 
Response: In his extensive and laborious writing, much about the Jews and Jerusalem, particularly around 800-700 B.C. is covered quite thoroughly, and of interest to the historian, however, none of it shows any logical support for a separate locations for Lehi’s house and property, nor is it understandable, for what took place in 701 B.C. (the Assyrian attack on the Northern Kingdom) is still 100 years prior to the events that begin the Book of Mormon. A lot can happen in 100 years, about three generations, in terms of living location, etc., and the events described by Chadwick are general from which he culls specifics that are not supportable.
    Comment: “Before examining the evidence, it will be necessary to dismiss a misconception that has been in circulation among Latter-day Saint students for many years. In his 1952 book Lehi in the Desert, Hugh Nibley suggested the following about the residence of Lehi: "Though he 'dwelt at Jerusalem,' Lehi did not live in the city, for it was after they had failed to get the plates in Jerusalem that his sons decided to 'go down to the land of our father's inheritance' (1 Nephi 3:16), and there gather enough wealth to buy the plates from Laban.” 
    Response: It is always interesting that writers want to dismiss common thought based upon scriptural references so they can introduce something new, but not found in scripture, but by historical matters that cannot be proven or shown to have existed at the time of Lehi or that they had any impact upon Lehi, etc. As explained earlier, “dwelt at” means exactly what Nibley interpreted it to mean, is consistent with every and all dictionaries, from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, to all current dictionaries today. After all, if Nephi’s writing meant inside or within Jerusalem, then certainly the Spirit would not have acknowledge the correctness of “at” instead of “in.”
    Comment: “The oft-repeated notion that Lehi's house was not inside the city of Jerusalem but somewhere well outside the city on his land of inheritance is simply incorrect.” 
    Response: It is exactly what the scriptural record tells us, which was written by Nephi, who ought to have known where he and his father lived at the time of these events. How odd, but consistent, is the modern historian, writer, or theorist when talking about the Book of Mormon to take a stance that is directly opposite of what the scriptural record tells us and what most members have come to undertsand about the Book of Mormon. It is almost as if these people enjoy the idea that they can shock everyone and make people feel inadequate to read and understand the writings of the prophets.
     Comment: “Also incorrect is the idea that Lehi's land of inheritance was a plot of real estate close enough to the city of Jerusalem to be within the boundaries of the greater land of Jerusalem. Lehi's house is sometimes said to have been "at Jerusalem" but not in the city Jerusalem, but this whole notion is not tenable since it does not correspond to the information in the Book of Mormon text.” 
Response: Maybe Chadwick has a different Book of Mormon than the rest of us. For instance, “my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days” (1 Nephi 1:4), and “returned to his own house at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:7), show us he did not live in Jerusalem. In addition, the boys left Jerusalem and “went down to the land of our inheritance” (1 Nephi 3:22), and “we went up again unto the house of Laban” (1 Nephi 3:23). When reaching Jerusalem, where Nephi’s brothers hid themselves “without the walls. And after they had hid themselves, I, Nephi, crept into the city” (1 Nephi 4:5) and went to Laban’s house (1 Nephi 4:7). After killing Laban and obtaining the brass plates, Nephi took Zoram “without the walls” (1 Nephi 4:24, 27) where his brothers were hiding. That all seems quite clear. Lehi’s house, where he had his wealth, was not within the city walls!
(See the next post, “Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part II,” for more of Chadwick’s comments regarding where Lehi lived before he and his family went into the wilderness)

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