Saturday, November 9, 2013

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

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. 
    Background: Since we know that Lehi was from a northern tribe (Manasseh) and Sariah was also from a northern tribe (Ephriam), and we know that both lived at Jerusalem, Lehi all his days, we can assume their parents, grandparents, etc., came to Jerusalem at some time in the past. Based on secular history, we can assume that was probably after both the division of the kingdoms and the Assyrian attacks.
According to the Bible, before the United Monarchies of Saul, David and Solomon, the tribes lived as a confederation under ad hoc charismatic leaders called Judges. Around 1020 B.C., under extreme threat from foreign peoples, the tribes united to form the first United Kingdom of Israel. Samuel, the prophet, anointed Saul from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king, but it was really David around 1009 that created a strong unified Israelite monarchy. David, who succeeded in truly unifying the Israelite tribes, and set up a monarchical government, was the second king—or third, if Ish-bosheth is counted, who was proclaimed king by Abner, the captain of Saul’s army, at Mahanaim in Transjordan (2 Samuel 2:8), when Saul, Ish-bosheth’s father, and three brothers were killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa in 1047. 
    David established Jerusalem as its national capital—before then Hebron had been the capital of David’s Judah and Mahanaim of Ish-bosheth’s Israel, and before that, Gibeah had been the capital under Saul. During David’s time, the borders were secured and the united Kingdom of Israel achieved both prosperity and superiority over its neighbors, and grew into a regional power. Under Solomon, David’s son, the United Monarchy experienced a period of peace and prosperity, and cultural development. Much public building took place, including the First Temple in Jerusalem.   
David’s united kingdom included vassal states, however, on the succession of Solomon's son, Rehoboam around 930 B.C., the country split into two kingdoms and the vassal states fell away. The two kingdoms were Israel in the north, including the cities of Shechem and Samaria, and Judah in the south, including Jerusalem and Hebron. It was at this time that Israel’s king, Omri, took steps to establish close ties of affiliation with Phoenicia to offset the threat of Syrian commercial monopoly, which resulted in the marriage of his son and successor, Ahab, to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 18:18). 
    During these 300 years before Lehi left Jerusalem, and about 250 years before he was born, Syria invaded the northern kingdom of Israel at the request of Judah in 917 B.C., and the constant fear of a growing Syrian power caused Omri, the king of the northern kingdom, to take steps to establish close ties of affiliation with Phoenicia to offset the threat of Syrian commercial monopoly, which resulted in the marriage of his son and successor, Ahab, to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 18:18). However, this did not solve the problem with Assyria, and in 722 B.C. they conquered the northern kingdom and deported 200,000 Israelites who were never heard from again. Then in 701 B.C., Assyria attacked Jerusalem, which history was written in the last post.
    Now, continuing with Chadwick’s article:
    Comment: “Ancient Israelite territory east of Jordan was not brought under Judah's umbrella—lands east of Jordan were controlled by Ammon, Judah's traditional rival. In terms of the ancient lands associated with Manasseh, this meant that Josiah's Judah only controlled the western part of Manasseh. But it also meant that any Judean whose great-grandparents had owned property in western Manasseh (or any other former northern kingdom territory west of Jordan) could lay claim to that land if they happened to be in possession of century-old deeds to such real estate. Lehi seems to have been in just this situation.” 
Response: We have no idea what situation Lehi was in and no assumptive situation can be claimed regarding any titled land. Land was owned, of course, by those whose ancestors was granted it at the time the Twelve tribes moved into the lands granted them. From the beginning there were specific requirements and rules governing such lands, which can be found in Leviticus chapter 25. As an example, a person may have owned a dwelling house in a walled city (Leviticus 25:29); houses owned in a village with no wall about it was considered “fields of the country” (Leviticus 25:31); the field of the suburbs of the cities could not be sold but owned perpetually (Leviticus 25:34).
    During this time of granting the lands among the tribes, a Title Deed was drawn up and recorded on a scroll detailing the inheritance received by each family in Israel. Under the law outlined in Leviticus chapter 25, the inheritance of land that each Israelite family received was to belong to them “forever” (Leviticus 25:23). The land was never to be sold, though it could be “leased out” in the event that poverty, sickness, catastrophe, etc. made it necessary on the part of the owner (Leviticus 25:24-28). In such cases the land would pass to a new tenant until the year of Jubilee, or until the land was “redeemed” by the rightful owner or a “kinsman” related to the owner.
    When the land then changed hands, the terms of “redemption” were recorded on the Title Deed, and the deed was then “sealed.” The various deeds were always kept in a safe place, where at anytime during a fifty year Jubilee cycle a legally “qualified” person could call for the deed, break the “seals,” read the terms of redemption,” pay the price required, and the land would revert to his ownership. But unlike today, where a person keeps his own deed in his possession, Jeremiah tells us:
    “I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy—and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard. In their presence I gave Barush these instructions, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time” (Jeremiah 32:14). Whether or not it was the custom to have another party hold deeds and documents is not known, but in this case it was done that way.
    The point of all this is to show that we do not know: 1) which side of the Jordan was the land of Lehi’s ancestors (half of Manasseh’s land was east of the Jordan River, in which case no deeds would have survived and held in Lehi’s time); 2) where specifically in Manasseh Lehi’s ancestors owned property, if in fact they did (the northern portion of Manasseh was 75 miles away from Jerusalem); 3) if Lehi was one who inherited such property (after all, property could only be divided so much, with the first deed issued no earlier than 50 years after the exodus, and the time between issuance and Lehi was  about 500 years, which is at least 15 to 20 generations). 
(See the next post, “Where did Lehi Live Before Departing into the Wilderness? Part VIII,” for more of Chadwick’s comments regarding where Lehi lived before he and his family went into the wilderness)

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