Sunday, April 6, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part VII

Here are more comments, questions and criticisms that have been sent in from readers of our blog, along with our responses. 
    Comment #1: Nephi wrote, "We are upon an isle of the sea" (2 Nephi 10:20). It seems strange to have Nephi call the American continent an island. But the Hebrew word generally translated isle in the Bible has a wider range of meaning than just island. It most often refers to coastal lands” Brayden F. 
    Response: First of all, whatever word Nephi wrote down, Joseph Smith, through the Spirit, translated as “isle” (in 1828, the word “isle” was used in American language and not “island”), which has the same meaning today in our language as the word “island.” As the map below shows, anciently the western shelf of South America, that land today that is west of the Andes Mountains, was isolated from the rest of that continent by inland seas that were open to the ocean, forming an island along the Pacific Ocean.
Left: Map of South America showing the ancient inland seas and the isolated “island” of the western coastal lands; Right: A drawing showing the islands surrounding the present continent 
    Secondly, it was Nephi who recorded this statement, but it was spoken by Jacob when he was preaching to the Nephites. It would be strange, of course, for anyone to refer to the American continent as an island; however, there is no indication that Jacob was referring to the American Continent in total, but the very land upon which the Nephites were then living.
    As has been reported in this blog many times, Jacob was explaining to the Nephites, who must have been concerned or complaining about being cast off from Jerusalem, or the lands of Lord, being out in the middle of nowhere on an island in the midst of the sea. To clarify for them that the Lord had not forgotten them, he makes this statement, “for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20).
    Almost always, it makes a difference when you read before and after a brief statement in the scriptural record for you get a different view of what is being said and, most importantly, why it is being said. In this case, Jacob, for whatever previous understanding, knew that their Land of Promise was an isle (island) and it was in the middle of the sea (ocean). After all, he was old enough when they sailed and landed to have seen where they landed, and obvious Lehi, Nephi, Sam and others would have talked about it for years. Lehi and Nephi had visions of the land, so why would they not have known where they were and upon what land they stood?
    Comment #2: “We were having a discussion about who was the first chief captain of the Nephite armies and the one that Moroni replaced. Can you help us out?” Peder V.
Response: The first chief captain or leader of the Nephite armies mentioned in scripture is Zoram, around 81 B.C., and along with his two sons, Lehi and Aha, they led the Nephites against the Lamanites (Alma 16:5, 7). The Nephites must have had captains before this time, but none are mentioned other than prophets themselves (Nephi, King Benjamin, Alma, etc.), and it may be that Zoram was appointed to relieve Alma the Younger of his responsibilities in this important leadership assignment. The next captain mentioned, about 7 years later, is Moroni, at the age of 25 (Alma 43:16-17). By the way, though we do not know for certain, it may well be that one of the sons of Zoram, Lehi, was the Lehi mentioned under Captain Moroni (Alma 43:35). 
    Comment #3: “You have mentioned that Ishmael’s daughters (the youngest four) had been betrothed to Lehi’s four sons form an earlier age. If these sons were as old as you claim when they left Jerusalem (you said Nephi was about 22 to 25 as I recall), then why weren’t they married already? Actually, John L. Sorenson said of this, “we would be hard put to explain why marriages had not previously been contracted under normal instead of these urgent conditions” of their fleeing into the wilderness” Murphy O.
Response: We’ve also pointed out that it was customary among the Jews for the oldest daughter in a family to marry before her younger sister (note the story of Jacob and Rachel Genesis 29:26). This had not happened with Ishmael’s daughter, and until Zoram was brought into the picture, the oldest daughter seems to have had no suitors and had not been betrothed by her father, yet being the oldest, and within two years the youngest is married (1 Nephi 16:7), it must be that the oldest was at least eight years older than the youngest, thus she would have been quite old for marrying at the time. Under the custom of the oldest marrying first, the younger sisters would have been without husbands despite being “promised” to someone.
   Keep in mind that Sorenson is always hard-pressed to explain things and often goes far afield to find an explanation that fits his thinking, but in this case, it is a rather simple matter of Jewish tradition known to nearly all those who have studied that ancient people. It is interesting in the scriptural account, once Laman and Lemuel got their companions with them, they rebelled against Nephi (1 Nephi 7:6) and wanted to go back to the land of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:7). Up until that point, they seem to have been willing to wait, but once Zoram is involved, they seem to see no reason that they cannot marry.
    Comment #4: “You claim that the American continent is to be divided between the tribe of Ephriam and Manasseh. How do you know that?” Moran G.
Response: Actually, it is something that has been known by members of the church for many years, and has been spoken by some of the brethren in conferences (unfortunately, I do not remember by whom or when). However it should be kept in mind, that Lehi was from the tribe of Manasseh, and Ishmael was from the tribe of Ephriam, thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, and it was promised to them forever. It also can be pointed out that there was a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from which Mulek descended (people of Zarahemla), and probably Zoram as well, and for all we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek.    It might also be of note that though we are not told that the Prophet Joseph and the first Elders of this Church at that time were descended from any portion of those remnants that peopled America anciently, yet we find in the Doctrine and Covenants the declaration concerning the first Elders of this Church, that they were of the house of Ephraim; and another passage referring to the wicked and rebellious, says, they shall be cut off from among the people, for the rebellious are not of the seed of Ephraim. In fact, some claim that the scripture in the blessing of Joseph: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim an they are the thousands of Manasseh” (Deuteronomy 33:17) relates to the missionaries going out from the American continent bearing the Gospel message to the ends of the earth, and gathering Israel from the four quarters of the world in the last days. You also might want to study the blessings given by Isaac upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Menasseh. You also might want to read “The United States of America in Biblical Prophecy,” by Steven M. Collins for an interesting viewpoint.

1 comment:

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