Monday, February 22, 2016

Clarification for Another Reader – the Isle of Promise - Part I

While this is a different reader than the previous one, he had a question that needs more space than a quick comment in our periodic comments section. This question overall is about Jacob’s comment regarding the isle of the sea.  While we have a lot of these questions, evidently since no other theory or person seems to accept Jacob's statement and does not include it in their descriptions of the Land of Promise, we seem to get our share--but more importantly, it is the most important key to understanding the Land of Promise between the landing of the Jaredites and later Nephites, we feel it cannot be discussed too much, for it surely shows Andean South America to be "Lehi's Isle of the Sea."
    Reader: “When quoting Jacob about being on an isle of the sea, it is important to remember two things. First, Nephi also mentions the isles of the sea when discussing the lost tribes of Israel. In 1 Nephi 22:4 he said "...and they have been scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and wither they are none of us knoweth..."
Response: We need to keep in mind we are dealing with two distinctly different types of people. The Lost Ten Tribes are, by definition, “lost.” Therefore, since no one knows where they are, as Nephi says, writers typically refer to the Hebrew idiom of “isles of the sea,” which means just about any distant place. The same can be said about any and all groups or people who have been led away from the House of Israel by the hand of the Lord, of which we know nothing. However, the other group—the Nephites, while lost to the House of Israel, were not lost to themselves, and Jacob is referring to he and the other Nephitres in this two-day conference being held in the temple. Since the Hebrew term “isles of the sea” is just that, an idiom, which is “an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements.” That is, the Nephites knew exactly where they were, what they did not know, or at least were concerned about leading Jacob to make the comment, was they they thought they had been cut off from the Lord, no longer being in Jerusalem.
    As was said earlier, "...and they have been scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and wither they are none of us knoweth..."(1 Nephi 22:4), by Nephi in answer to his brothers’ question for clarity, he also clarified it more by saying: “Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations” (1 Nephi 22:3).
    Reader: If we are to take this literally, Nephi states that the lost tribes are on islands, but in the same sentence he says that nobody knows where they are (so he wouldn't know if they were only on islands).”
Response: Idioms, or sayings, like English “its raining cats and dogs,” “I’m hungry as a horse,” “Old Man Jones kicked the bucket,” are never meant to be taken literally. And in this case, it is clarified within the same set of sentences: “And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 22:4). The entire idea really needed no explanation to the listeners for they fully understood the idiom just like we understanding someone saying: “That car cost an arm and a leg.”
    Reader: “This was just an expression used to say that they were scattered across the earth.”
    Response: Exactly. Scattered in places no one knew, therefore the idiom “isles of the sea” is the same as saying “in places no on knows.”
    Reader: “Jacob uses the phrase in 2 Nephi 10 referring to the lost tribes being gathered "from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth."
    Response: Thus, we can conclude without disagreement, that the idiom made sense when used in this case, since neither Jacob nor his listeners knew where the lost tribes or those others cast off or led away from Jerusalem were located.
    Reader: “Jacob then says that they (Lehi's seed) are not cast off and that the promises made to those upon the isles of the sea also pertain to them.”
    Response: Now we get to the heart of the matter. The Nephites to whom Jacob is speaking were concerned about being forgotten of the Lord. This had nothing to do with them not knowing where they were—they were uncertain that God would remember them and not forget them.
    Reader: “In other words, they were likening the scriptures to themselves as they were also of the house of Israel. They had been scattered, but would also be gathered again.”
    Response: Jacob’s effort is to call the people to repentance as it is throughout all scripture by all prophets, etc. His basic message is that the Lord will not forget the Nephites if they repent. He says: “Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations. But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:6-7).
    Reader: “We have to look at the context of what they are talking about. They were reading the scriptures about the promises made to scattered Israel, not describing where they lived.”
The reason they were talking about promises made to Israel was because the Nephites were afraid they had been cast off and no longer would be gathered in—Jacob is assuring them they had not been cast off and in so doing, reminds them not only where they lived, but how they got there, via the hand of the Lord
    Response: No, you have this wrong. Jacob has to assure them that the Lord knows where they are. The Nephites evidently had been complaining that they would have been better off to have remained in Jerusalem (a common complain of Nephites and Lamanites throughout their history when they lacked faith and found their location and circumstances difficult) where the Lord would have known who they were and their chance at deliverance would have been greater. Jacob’s message is to assure them of their current location is still within the purview of the Lord—his entire message is basically about reminding them that they had been led to where they were by the hand of the Lord and he both knew where they were and had not forgotten them. Evidently, the Nephites were using an argument of "why be good when the Lord doesn't even know where we are," much like a teenager uses an argument of "why study when the teacher gives unfair tests," etc. We have to keep in mind that this discussion is about not being cast off into an unknown land and being forgotten of the Lord, for being in Jerusalem (Israel) was a key to the very fiber of Hebrew thought since the building of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem several centuries before this time. It is difficult for us to understand this today, since we live in a religiouis era that Zion is wherever the members of the Church arein the time frame of Lehi, Zion was Jerusalem, an idea and ideal handed down over time.
    Reader: ”Secondly, Jacob would not have known if they were on a literal island.”
    Response: And how do you know that? There are three ways Jacob could have known this: 1) Approaching from the sea, one has an unobstructed view for a great distance, and based on the currents leading up the coast of South America, they would have sailed from the south to the north, thus seeing that the bottom half of the Land of Promise had water all around it as far as they sailed; 2) The Lord could have told him or given him a vision of this; and 3) Nephi could have told him who had a vision of the entire Land of Promise, including the seas to the east and the arrival of others, including the gentiles coming to the Land of Promise. In addition, much earlier, Lehi was given a vision of this Land of Promise that he was given as a promise—he may well have seen this, told either Nephi about it or both Nephi and Jacob directly. We need to be careful with thinking that puts words and ideas into the scripture that are neither stated nor implied.
    Reader: “They had no knowledge of that land so they would not have known if it was surrounded by water to the north.”
    “We do not know what kind of knowledge they had of the land. We do knot know what the Lord had already told them. First of all, it is at least 30 years from the time they left Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28), and at least 20 years since they had arrived in this area of the City of Nephi. Obviously, some serious exploring would have taken place by this time to at least make sure of the security of their position in case Laman and Lemuel gave chase and eventually found them. One of the first things they would have done was to go to the highest ground and survey their surroundings--which would  have provided a view, very possibly of the East Sea, and since they were on the West coast when they landed (Alma 22:28), and Cuzco would have been near to the East coast at the time, it seems likely that both Jacob and Nephi would have at least known they were surrounded on three sides by the ocean (the sea over which they sailed). Also, they are in the temple during a two-day conference where a prophet (Jacob) is speaking to the people and another prophet (Nephi) is recording what is being said, of which he concludes "And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me" (2 Nepih 11:1), which should tell us that Nephi agreed with what Jacob said.
From high ground they would have seen the sea to the east and probably knew about it as they came up the Altiplano earlier, after all the entire Land Southward was surrounded by water, a fact Mormon tells us (Alma 22:32), a fact that would have become quite apparent to the Nephites after the sailing into the land and then walking across it and up the east coast to Cuzco.
(See the next post, “Clarification for Another Reader – The Isle of Promise – Part II,” for more on why the Nephites and particularly Jacob knew they were on an island”

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