Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Jatredite Direction of Travel – Part II – The Only Possible Routes

In the previous post, we discussed the impossibility of the Jaredite party traveling out of the Valley of Nimrod to the north, northeast, west, south or southwest, leaving the only possible means of travel to the northwest or the southeast. 
The route they took was evidently so critical and narrow, “that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel” (Ether 2:5).
    Before outlining this route, we should consider certain comments in the scriptural record that should be addressed when discussing any route the Jaredites might have taken from the Valley of Nimrod to the Great Sea.
    1. “The wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8)
    Whatever route the Jaredites traveled to the Great Sea, it had to take them to a place along an Ocean where the currents and winds would blow a drift voyage vessel constantly toward the promised land. There could be no course changes required, or passing through islands, or moving against currents and winds, for these were not maneuverable sailing ships. As an example, a drift voyage is dependent entirely upon the direction of the wind-driven ocean currents.
    2. “Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind” (Ether 1:41)
    The route had to take them through weather, temperatures and climatic conditions where the animals of Mesopotamia (basically sea level, and subtropical hot desert climate) would be able to survive. As an example, camels would not do well crossing snow-covered mountains, or fish in vessels of water that would freeze in sub-zero temperatures in high mountain passes.
Honey and wild bees can tolerate temperatures as high as 122º F, or as low as 45º F, temperatures, but do not hibernate so freezing temperatures would cause many fatalities, probably wiping out all of them.
    3. “Gather…thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families” (Ether 1:41).
    The route would have been conducive to the traveling for women and children, as well as flocks of animals of every kind, and would have avoided arduous travel conditions, such as mountains, climbing, difficult and dangerous terrain. As an example, ascending “extremely steep and difficult to access” mountains 14,700 in height, or climbing through 10,000 feet high mountain passes would be extremely difficult and grueling for just about anyone, but especially for women and children and older men. Many animals could not make such a journey, thus eliminating any travel easward to China and the Pacific Ocean.
    4. “The Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5).
    The route would eventually take the Jaredites into a land where man had never been. Since the Steppes and the areas around the Black and Caspian seas were inhabited by the descendants of Japheth by this time—the direction of the Jaredite travel according to Nibley—this could hardly be considered a quarter where man had never been. As an example, Japheth’s sons: Magog settled to the north of the Caspian; Madai to the south; Meshech and Tiras to the west, and Tubal to the south; Shem’s sons Lud settled to the north of Mesopotamia; and Elam, who settled northeast of the Persian Gulf—all of this is to the north and east of Mesopotamia and at the time of the Jaredites, not an area “where there never had man been.”
    5. “They did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters” (Ether 2:6).
    The route would have been through an area where there would have been no way to walk around the water(s) mentioned, since walking around lakes, even very large ones, would be faster and easier than trying to build barges capable of carrying men, women, children and animals to get across, especially when considering the size of thee Jaredite party. As an example, Nibley’s idea of lakes caused by earlier glaciers does not suggest an area that could not be circumvented by going around, rather than across.
    We also might want to consider the size of the Jaredite party and possibly the ages involved. The Lord states that there were twenty-two friends of Jared and his brother.
The Jaredite party left their homeland around Babylon and traveled northward to the Valley of Nimrod
    Consequently, with Jared and the brother of Jared, along with their twenty-two friends, there would have been a total of twenty-four couples. This is borne out by the fact that women are seldom mentioned or included in such writings unless specifically singled out, such as “there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children” (Alma 63:4), “to give light unto men, women, and children” (Ether 6:1), “bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land” (Ether 14:22), “the loss of men, women and children on both sides” (Ether 14:31), or “gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children—both men women and children being armed with weapons of war” (Ether 15:15). And since the wife of Jared, nor that of his brother, are mentioned, it seems likely that these twenty-two friends were men. Thus we have twenty-four couples.
    So, starting with this 24, and assuming an age of 35-45 years, being married 10 to 20 years, and having 5 to 10 children each, we come up with a party of 168 to 288 Jaredites. Now this, of course, is merely speculation, but the point is this was a fairly large group of people, especially in light of Ether’s comment: “And the friends of Jared and his brother were in number about twenty and two souls; and they also begat sons and daughters before they came to the promised land; and therefore they began to be many” (Ether 6:16, emphasis mine). In addition we find that the Jaredites had large families based on the examples of both Jared, who had twelve children, and the brother of Jared, who had twenty-two children (Ether 6:20).
Eventually, the Jaredites reached the Great Sea where they spent four years before building their barges—no doubt several children were added during this travel and camping
    This leads us to the understanding of where would routes have existed over which the Jaredites could have traveled with men, women, children and animals. Thus, as shown in the last post, in leaving the Valley of Nimrod, there were only two directions open for the Jaredites to travel toward an ocean, and that would have been:
    1. Northwest, traveling up the Euphrates River and eventually to the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. This would have taken them to Mari (Tell Hariri), which was a populated trading center during Jaredite times, and an intermediate stop between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west, where it could control the waterways of the Euphrates trade routes. This city was constantly at war with the important trade center of Ebla (Tell Mardikh), considered by Karl Moore as history’s first world power (Moore and David Lewis, The Origins of Globalization, Routledge, 2009, p 43), and according to Giovanni Pettinato, the first real capitalists of antiquity (A New Look at History, Johns Hopkins Press, 1991).
    Because of this constant war, Mari was anciently built behind an embankment that had a 25 to 30 foot wall surrounding it, and outside of that was a 1000-foot long section of gardens and craftsmen quarters. The wall contained a defensive rampart and guard towers, which protected them during their lengthy war with Ebla, which was located west of Emar, where the Euphrates curved northward and away from the Mediterranean. It is likely that any movement toward the sea would have been through Ebla and probably to Ugarit on the coast. And it is just as likely that any large group such as the jaredites of nearly two hundred people plus their animals would not have been well received in this war-oriented area.
The route to the northwest (white arrow), with the main cities (Babylon, Mari, Ebla and Ugarit) and Lake Tharthar shown
    However, in this direction there would have been no waterways (many waters) to cross as Ether stipulates (Ether 2:6).
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part III,” for the actual route the Jaredites took to reach the Great Sea)

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