Friday, November 8, 2013

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

Continuing with Chadwick’s article sent to us by one of our readers, the “comments” are Chadwick’s writing regarding his belief in where Lehi’s home and property were located, the “response” is our reply based on the scriptural record. 

Comment: “The point of reporting this involved history of the Assyrian deportations of both Israel and Judah is to demonstrate where Lehi's great-grandparents must have settled after leaving Manasseh and where his grandparents must have lived—they had to have settled and lived in Jerusalem. Had they settled and lived anywhere else in Judah, they would have either been killed or deported in the Assyrian attack of 701 BC.”
    Response: This is strictly an assumption on the part of Chadwick, as was shown in the last post for there are several other ways in which these people could have survived Senneacherib’s Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.
    Comment: “This is important not only in locating Lehi's house (which seems most likely to have been in Jerusalem's Mishneh) but particularly in locating the land of his inheritance. Models that suggest that the land of inheritance was somewhere in Judah very near Jerusalem, in other words in the greater land of Jerusalem, are likely incorrect. If Lehi's ancestors had obtained land and settled anywhere outside the actual limits of Hezekiah's Jerusalem walls, those people would have disappeared (along with the memory of their having owned any land) in the 701 BC debacle.”
    Response: Several assumptions are made here by Chadwick without any supportive proof other than historical information that does not include, surround, or involve Lehi and his ancestors, whom we know nothing about. After all, any scenario can be assumed against the background of history, but the Lord’s method of bringing about his plans are often hidden from us.
    Comment: “Models that suggest that the land of inheritance was somewhere in southwest Judah (the so-called Beit Lei area and the tomb mistakenly called the Lehi Cave) are not supported by the evidence.”
Response: For those who are not familiar with the Lehi Cave (left), in 1961 Israeli Military Engineers while building a road exposed an ancient Judean tomb containing eight human skeletons in two burial cavaties. There were multiple drawings and etchings and inscriptions on the walls including the name Yahuweh (Jehovah) and the city name Yerushalem (Jerusalem).  The Israeli archeologists named it the Jerusalem Cave but in the 1970's many of the Latter-day Saint community attempted to connect Lehi to this village of ruins and it became known as Beit Lehi and the Lehi Cave. But like all things when people get to wanting some physical proof of the Book of Mormon, they start making assumptions. This is merely another assumption of Lehi's house. However, it cannot be over-emphasized that we do not know where Lehi’s house and land of inheritance was located other than it was at Jerusalem (which translates to outside the city walls), which could mean close by or within a few miles location. Nor is their any evidence he lived within the city walls, or had land 50 miles away in western Manasseh as Chadwick insists.
    Comment: “Had Lehi's ancestors obtained land and settled in that region, or anywhere else outside Jerusalem, they would likely have fallen victim to the Assyrians—having been killed or deported—and Lehi would not have eventually been born at Jerusalem.”
    Response: Once again, we do not know where Lehi was born. Nephi only tells us he lived all his days at Jerusalem. At the same time, there has never been, to my knowledge, anyone claiming Lehi’s ancestors lived at Jerusalem, or in Jerusalem, or elsewhere. The scriptural record begins with Lehi and that is where we need to concentrate—and we are told he lived at Jerusalem, not in Jerusalem. If his ancestors lived there during the Assyrian sieges, we are not told how they survived, or if they moved into the city at the time, then back out afterward, or whatever. This is all speculation and the scriptural record is totally silent on the matter.
    Comment: “Two things about Lehi's heritage emerge very clearly from the study of Assyrian actions in Israel and Judah: (1) Lehi's eighth century BC progenitors have to have settled in Jerusalem and cannot be expected to have obtained land elsewhere in Judah; therefore, (2) Lehi's land of inheritance must have been a tract in the north—a tract in western Manasseh—for which his ancestors, perhaps his great-grandparents, had retained a written deed when they fled around 724 BC.”
Response: It seems rather simple to suggest that even if Lehi’s grandparents or ancestors lived in Jerusalem, that does not suggest that Lehi lived there during the time Nephi mentions. A simple answer could be that Lehi’s parents moved out of Jerusalem to an area left desolate around Jerusalem after the attacking Assyrians retreated in 700 B.C. After all, Lehi was not born until some 50 years after the Assyrian siege. To continue to press such a point about Lehi’s ancestors when not a single suggestion is made anywhere in the scriptural record about them other than that they were of the tribe of Manasseh is simply a waste of time, since nothing more than guesses are possible to make.
Comment: “Why western Manasseh? The answer to this question requires us to explore yet another page of historical geography. For over half a century following the 701 BC attack, the Assyrian empire controlled all territory in Judah. Sennacherib granted the Philistines, Judah's neighbor-enemies, permission to occupy and farm the hilly, fertile lands of Judah left behind after the deportation of their Israelite inhabitants. By 652 BC Judah's territory had been under Assyrian dominion and Philistine occupation for some fifty years. During those five decades what existed of the actual kingdom of Judah was found essentially within and directly around Jerusalem's limits. Also, by 652 BC the Assyrian empire had stretched itself to the limits of its capacity to control its far-flung territories both in the east and in the west, and when Babylonians rebelled, Assyria moved its military assets from the west to the east in order to meet the challenge. This spelled the beginning of the end for its control of Judah, which meant that it was probably only after 652, that Judah was again able to control areas outside the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem.”    
    Response: This obviously means that people moved out of Jerusalem to occupy the lands once controlled by the Jews and controlled by the Philisintes. Such a vacuum would have drawn many Jewish families into the outskirts to live and farm for 50 years before 600 B.C. This is right about the time that Lehi would have been born (about 650 B.C.), which fits in perfectly with the fact that Lehi lived at and not in Jerusalem all his days.
    Comment: “Josiah had been born in 648 BC, and it may be surmised that Lehi and Ishmael, as well as the prophet Jeremiah, were probably born about this time (the 640s)—all of them born into a Judah ready to rise again.”
    Comment: At which time, Lehi’s parents could have been living outside Jerusalem as has been suggested several times, and the scriptural record lends credence.
Comment: “When Josiah was twenty-one (627 BC), the emperor Assurbanipal died, and the Assyrians completely withdrew from the western part of their former empire in order to concentrate on defending the east. Judah became fully independent under the adult King Josiah, and many Judeans were able to move from the crowded precincts of Jerusalem back to the sites of cities in the Judean countryside, forcing Philistine farmers off Judean lands and resettling and rebuilding towns from Beersheba and Arad in the south to Lachish and Azekah in the west to Gibeon and Mizpah in Judah's north.”    
    Response: There is no reason to believe that some of this didn’t start earlier, once Assyria began shifting troops to the east in 652 B.C. By 627 B.C., all the lands were available for resettlement, but that does not mean they some areas were not during those 25 years between these two dates. In any society, there are always those who lead out in such endeavors, ahead of the rest. It should also be kept in mind that just because we can draw an area around Jerusalem and label it Assyrian control, does not mean that Assyrian troops occupied every square mile of that area--nor does it suggest that Assria had any real interest to the south of Jerusalem, except to the southwest and the route to Egypt. What or who may have been in those areas is merely speculation based solely upon Assyrian records of the events, which concentrated on Jersualem and Egypt at this time, and Jewish records, which concentrated on the city of Jerusalem and its siege by the Assyrians.
    Comment: “Josiah sent forces north to take control of the tribal lands of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and Naphtali in the regions of Samaria and the Galilee (2 Chronicles 34:6–7). By 622 BC, when Josiah reinstituted the Passover festival (2 Kings 23:21–23—by this time Lehi had reached adulthood, and Nephi was just about to be born), Josiah's government controlled both the ancient kingdom of Judah and the territory of the former kingdom of Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.”
    Response: Nephi was more likely born about 625 B.C., Lehi  had been living outside the walls of Jerusalem for about 50 years, and whatever connection he had with the land of Manasseh must not have been important since it is neither mentioned or suggested in the scriptural record, which does suggest that Lehi did not even know of his genealogy and his connection to Manasseh (which might suggest that his family had been in Judah so long, they had forgotten any ties with the land of Manasseh).

(See the next post, “Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part VII,” for more of Chadwick’s comments regarding where Lehi lived before he and his family went into the wilderness)

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