Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jacob Wasn’t Speaking in Metaphors – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding Jacob’s message to the Nephites in the Temple.
The Greek researcher and storyteller (5th century B.C.), considered the world’s first historian, in his work The Histories, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, implies that the Gaza remained an Egyptian stronghold (Herodotus 2.159). At this time Egypt was having military problems along their northeastern border, and to arrive at a satisfactory solution, Necho, considered the possibility of attacking southern Babylonia by sea. He ordered a canal to be constructed between the Nile and the Red Sea, but discovered that he was giving free access to his enemies too. Consequently, the canal remained uncompleted until the Persians had taken over Egypt in the last quarter of the sixth century.
    The pharaoh was in big trouble for some time, and hired Phoenician sailors to conduct a circumnavigation of Africa in Egyptian ships to survey the land. In some way, he thought this might help him in his difficulties with Babylonia, or at least with his defense projects. He asked for Phoenician assistance because the Phoenicians (who lived in modern Lebanon) were excellent sailors and had several colonies in the West, such as Carthage and the islet of Mogador opposite modern Essaouira—and, most importantly, they were also enemies of Babylon.
So Necho sent out his fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail down the Gulf of Arabia (Red Sea), around Africa, and then up the coast to the Mediterranean, entering through the Straits of Gibraltar. The trip took two years, stopping each autumn to plant and harvest before continuing on. Thus was the extent and condition of the knowledge of the land about them in the Mediterranean at the time. 
    To those of the Mediterranean world, such as Isaiah and the House of Israel, the “isles of the sea” (note the plural use of isle) referred to those parts of the world that no one knew about, or where they were located. It would be something like saying today:  “they are in far away lands” “He lives in a land faraway” “far and near” “over the next hill” “far and wide” “he went overseas” “in a green and faraway place” “in the beyond” “just beyond the horizon” “beyond the sea,” etc. It is unspecific, but conveys a definite place though not knowing exactly where it is.
Now we come to Jacob’s comment about the Nephites living on an isle of the sea. We have to keep in mind that Jacob is not speaking about Isaiah here, he is speaking about the location and condition of the Nephites who evidently felt they had been cast off (from the land of their inheritance, Jerusalem), and feared the Lord had both forgotten them or would forget them. Or that he even might not know where they were anymore.
    So when Jacob uses the term, he uses the singular and in a specific way—that is, he and the Nephites knew where they were located and Jacob stated it as a fact. That would be like changing from the Idiom “raining cats and dogs” to saying “it is pouring down rain.” One is general, unspecific, the other is specific and direct.
    Also when Jacob says to his fellow Nephites, over whom he has been called as a Priest and a Teacher (2 Nephi 5:26). And in that capacity, Jacob is talking during a two-day session in the Temple in which he reminds the Nephites, “And now, my beloved brethren, I have read these things that ye might know concerning the covenants of the Lord that he has covenanted with all the house of Israel (2 Nephi 9:1), and he reminds them of their need to repent “O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (2 Nephi 9:45), he leads up to one of his main points on the second day, “Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God” (2 Nephi 10:19), Jacob then hits home his point, “And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off…”
    Jacob is now answering the Nephites expressed concern, adding, “…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).
Not only does he tell them something they would already have known, that the Lord brought Lehi and the others across the open sea in a ship, but he makes it clear that they are upon an isle in that same sea! 
    Why would he remind them they were on an island of the sea if they already knew that? No doubt because Isaiah centered much of his speaking to the scattering of the House of Israel and that they are on far off islands of the sea, whether meaning far off lands or not, Isaiah’s words would have rang true to the Nephites. They would have identified with his manner of speaking. They would have understood the points Jacob was trying to make:
1. The Nephites had been led away from the House of Israel (“the Lord made the sea our path”);
2. They were still part of the House of Israel (“for we are not cast off”);
3. But were no longer in Jerusalem, the land of their inheritance (“we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance”);
4. Their present land of inheritance is a better land than Jerusalem (“but we have been led to a better land”);
5. They knew the history of the Jews inheritance and where they were and that the Lord had driven them out of Jerusalem (“Our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things”);
6. They were now on an isle of the sea (“And we are upon an isle of the sea, but great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea”);
7. Their circumstances were not unknown to God, or unplanned (“The Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel”);
8. He knows what he is doing (“According to his will and pleasure”)
9. God will remember them (“The Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also”).
10. So stop complaining and being fearful you are forgotten (“Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves”);
11. Your future and salvation are in your own hands (“To choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life”);
 12. But that salvation is through the Lord (“reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved”).
    The Nephites understood who they were, where they were, and their circumstances, and Jaccob is reminding them that their salvation is in part dependent upon their own behavior and choices. Nowhere is he speaking in metaphors but in absolutes. They were on an island in the midst of the sea over which they had sailed. How much clearer can a writing be? And this was written by Nephi, who delighted in plain and simple language! A man who had a vision of the Land of Promise and the man who both built the ship and sailed it across the open seal. He knew where they were and wrote down Jacob's words. The were on an island in the midst of the very sea they had sailed across! Jacob understood that. Nephi understood that. They both wanted the Nephites to understand that.
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