Friday, November 1, 2013

Why Did Ishmael Follow Lehi into the Desert? Part IV

Continuing from the last post about why Ishmael followed Lehi into the wilderness and more about Nephi’s sisters.    
    In the last post we discussed the role of fathers in ancient Israel, and both the power and authority they had over their children, and especially married sons and their wives living with him. We are continuing here with the two sons of Ishmael:
As for Ishmael’s two sons, they were married and had families (1 Nephi 7:6), making them older, possibly in their early to mid thirties. We don’t know how many children each had, but some were probably old enough to help build Nephi’s ship. As for some views that Ishmael’s sons were young since they acquiesced to Laman and Lemuel in their rebellions, it would be unlikely that these two married sons would be younger than Laman and Lemuel. It just might be that Lehi’s wealth gave his family special consideration and standing with Ishmael’s sons, especially if Ishmael had not also been wealthy—or, that Lehi had a greater standing in the community, or in position with God, to bear sway on Ishmael’s household. The point is, we simply do not know exactly what that relationship was and cannot speculate on it.
    As for Lehi having younger, unmarried daughters, a case is made by Nephi’s off-handed remark that he made about his sisters after the colony reached the Land of Promise and after Lehi blessed his family. After Lehi died, and during the time the Lord told Nephi to flee from his older brothers, he said, “I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:6).
Who were these sisters? There are four choices: 1) Older sisters who had married Ishmael’s two sons; or 2) daughters born to Lehi and Sariah before leaving Jerusalem, and not mentioned, or 3) daughters born to Lehi and Sariah in the wilderness, or 4) daughters born to Lehi and Sariah after reaching the Land of Promise. First of all, we simply do not know the answer to this. In looking at each of these four possibilities, we find:
    1. Erastus Snow claimed he heard it from Joseph Smith that Lehi’s older daughters married Ishmael’s two sons. He wrote, "The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi, was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgement is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis, which says: "And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the land." (From a speech delivered in May 6, 1882 recorded in Erastus Snow Journal of Discourses, 23:184-185). 
    Thus, it would appear that Nephi had sisters married to Ishmael’s sons. However, were these the sisters mentioned by Nephi? If so, it would be extremely unusual for Jewish women of the day to leave their husbands and children, to follow their younger brother. After all, when a Jewish man married a woman, he “ruled” over her in a firm patriarchal system. Of course, stranger things have happened in the love of God, but this would have been very unusual.
2) Most people feel it strange that Nephi did not mentioned any unmarried sisters when listing his family, including Sariah, Laman, Lemuel and Sam (1 Nephi 1:5); however, it was customary in the Middle East at the time, and even somewhat today, not to mention girls, or even women, as well as others in a household, such as servants (1 Nephi 5:14; 7:5). Even though it was necessary to include Ishmael’s daughters, we do not know their names, or that of their mother.
    3) Since two sons were born in the wilderness, and they were in the wilderness for eight years (1 Nephi 17:4), and at Bountiful resting, then building a ship, probably for two years more. It can be understood that in those ten years, four children could have been born to Lehi and Sariah, making room for two sisters to be born at that time. That they were not mentioned along with Jacob and Joseph (1 Nephi 18:7) is typical of the Middle East at the time. If they were, they would not have been married at the time Nephi fled his older brothers, no more than were Jacob and Joseph (2 Nephi 5:6).
    4) If two daughters were born once the colony reached the Land of Promise, they would have been very young when Nephi fled his older brothers, and both Lehi and Sariah would have been quite old to have given birth, but it would have been possible in the Lord.
    Of the four possibilities above, numbers 2 and 3 make the most sense. At the same time, we do not know how many sisters Nephi had, though since the plural is mentioned, there were at least two. With the size of Jewish families at the time (Ishmael had 7), two sisters would make Lehi and Sariah’s family 8, with two older girls married to Ishmael’s sons, it would be 10—a very workable figure at the time, while 12 would still be within reason, but larger would seem excessive.
It might be considered that for any weather sailing ship to withstand the deep ocean in 600 B.C., as well as later during the Age of Discovery in the 14th through 18th centuries, the vessel would have been long enough to withstand the open sea, with high bows and prows to keep from being swamped by high waves. The baghlah (bagala or baggala), meaning “mule,” was a large deep-sea Arabic dhow, with 100 foot length, 275 tons, two masts, and two to three lateen sails, requiring a crew of at least 30, and just as often 40 men to handle. On Columbus’ Santa Maria, there were 40 able men in the crew, 26 on the Pinta, and 20 on the Niña. Thus, we might suggest that there were more people in the Lehi colony than is mentioned in the scriptural account, which based on the scriptural record, totals 29, with only 8 adult men, including Lehi. 
    Obviously, when we are told Ishmael and his household, we are talking about more than his sons and daughters and their families, just as Jacob’s  household meant more than just his immediate children (1 Nephi 1:14). After all, it was not uncommon for people to have household servants, including stewards (like Zoram) who supervised lesser servants and often managed the master’s finances (Matthew 24:45). It should be noted that anciently a Hebrew that fell upon hard times could offer to work for someone else who would in turn look after them (Lev 25:39), debtors who went bankrupt could be forded to sell their children into slavery (2 Kings 4:1), some even sold themselves into slavery to pay off a debt, or to help others out of debt. Many such slaves worked in domestic service, which was much easier than those working the land.
    Generally, such servants lived in or on the master’s home, or on his property with their own families. In such cases, the master of the house was responsible for the servant and his family, and often considered them as part of the family (extended family). So what exactly is meant by Ishmael’s household?

(See the next post, “Why Did Ishmael Follow Lehi into the Desert? Part V,” for the continuing discussion of not only why Ishmael followed Lehi into the wilderness, but who was meant by the Household of Ishmael, and what about Lehi’s household?)

No comments:

Post a Comment