Monday, December 1, 2014

Did Lehi Have Animals?

Recently, I ran across a series of articles entitled “Directions: A Study of Book of Mormon Geography,” written by Gaylord E. Shaw, Ph.D, (on the “Christian Center for Book of Mormon Study and Research” website), in which he states quite clearly that Lehi did not have animals when leaving Jerusalem and on his wilderness travel.
Lehi’s two-leg journey to the Valley of Lemuel; white line the first leg of about 250 miles; blue line, the second leg of about 100 miles. The Gulf of Aqaba anciently was known as an extension of the Red Sea, and the Valley of Lemuel was near the Red Sea
Many scholars and researchers have worked on Lehi’s route from Jerusalem southward to the Red Sea. This initial journey consisted of two distinct parts: 1) “came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea”; and 2) “traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5).
    This first leg would have consisted of about 250 miles from Jerusalem to the area just southeast of the eastern arm of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, around the ancient city of Ezion-Geber, or present-day Eliat. From there, the second leg, which included a final trip of three days (1 Nephi 2:6), would have been around 100 miles to a valley, which Lehi named after his son, Lemuel, and a river he named for Laman.
    In all we are talking about a trip of some 350 miles or so.
    Now Shaw writes: “No mention of camels or other beasts of burden was made, but Lehi who "...left his house, and the land of his inheritance and his gold and his silver and his precious things," (1 Nephi 1:29), with four healthy sons, may have had animals to ride and to carry "provisions and tents". However, "may have" is not a good phrase to use for one who wants to rely solely on the words found in the book to establish the geography. In fact, the next words indicate that animals were not used in their travels. "...And took nothing with him save it were his family and provisions and tents, and he departed into the wilderness." (1 Nephi 1:29). Animals require a lot of food, and a lot of water, and, on a journey like this may also have been detrimental to the success of their trip to the Promised Land.”
    In response, one might want to consider the facts involved before one starts making such claims. First of all, we know of six people—two older parents and four sons between the ages of about 25 and 32. We also know from Lynn and Hope Hilton  (In Search of Lehi’s Trail; their work with the Bedouins and the understanding that the tents Lehi would have taken into the desert weight five hundred pounds each, of which they had at least three (1 Nephi 3:9; compare 1 Nephi 5:7), consequently, there was at least 1500 pounds of tents to carry, plus food, clothing, seeds of every kind, etc. Divided between five people, the tents alone would have been a 300-pound burden for each man to carry—a most unlikely scenario, even if they had been Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson, “the Rock.”
It took three camels (or donkeys) to carry on 500-pound Bedouin-type tent
    So getting practical, they obviously had animals—at least beasts of burden. From the Bedouins, we also learn that one animal, either a donkey or camel, could carry one-third of a tent—one animal carried the tent walls, one carried the tent partitions, and one carried the tent roof, making three animals per tent. In addition, these animals upon leaving Jerusalem would have been donkeys, since the land around Jerusalem is very sharp and rocky, and camels with their soft padded feet, are rarely seen and do not travel there. Even the famed camel caravans from Arabia that passed by the foot of the hills where Jerusalem is located did not venture up to the city--a major trading center.
    Once down from the rocky areas surrounding Jerusalem, no matter which route he would have taken, Lehi would have run into camel markets, where he could have traded his donkeys for camels. He might even have carried money with him knowing he would have to make such a trade, though he left his great wealth behind (1 Nephi 2:4).
The camel markets are still there, large, dusty, and noisy with haggling buyers and sellers, along with goat herds for sale or trade
    The point is, on this first leg of the journey, Lehi would have started out with donkeys and no doubt exchanged them for camels once along the roadway or the wadi, which he took down to the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba). They would also have had a donkey per person for supplies and provisions, and probably others to handle feed for the donkeys and camels, and the “seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1), which they carried all the way to the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:24).
    It should also be kept in mind, that when the four sons returned to Jerusalem, they tried to purchase the Brass Plates from Laban by going down to their father’s house outside the city to “gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things,” and took them back to the house of Laban (1 Nephi 3:22-23). It is not very likely these were items the boys would have carried openly across the land and through the city to Laban, but would have placed them on a donkey and wrapped up the precious cargo—nor would they have been able to carry the weight of it for Lehi was a wealthy man with much “gold and silver, and all manner of riches” (1 Nephi 3:16).
    In addition, when the sons returned to get Ishmael and his family, Ishmael would have had tents and donkeys of their own in order to transport their belongings; then when the five couples got married, each would have needed their own tent ( 1 Nephi 16:7). There were also the pregnancies and births (1 Nephi 17:1), and by the time they reached Bountiful, each family, after eight years, would have had a few children each.
By this time, they crossed the Empty Quarter, they would have had near 50 people, a lot of belongings, at least 9 or 10 tents, and made up a considerable caravan
    All of this would have required numerous animals, like camels, to carry it all, including the need for their milk, and probably their meat from time to time. This would have been a special need, since there would have been few animals across the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter desert to kill for food, other than the Sand Gazelle, Arabian or White Oryx, Reem gazelle, and Sand or Rüppell's Fox—the only indigenous animals in that desert.
Left: the Arabian Oryx; Right: the Sand Fox, both would have been in the general vicinity of where Lehi traveled across the Rub' al Khali
    There is no mention of Lehi taking any animals on their ship to the Land of Promise; however, animals were found once they arrived, no doubt one of the plans the Lord had when he chased the Jaredite animals via poisonous serpents out of the Land Northward into the Land Southward—sort of a Divine Redistribution Project.

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