Monday, August 8, 2016

Why Did Nephi Write….? – Part II

Continuing from the last post with why Nephi wrote so simply and why he actually wrote what he did. As an example, after this momentous trip sailing across the deep ocean, something no Israelite or Hebrew had done before him (not counting Noah), Nephi wrote “After we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:23). 
What is so significant about landing and pitching tents (buyout/bayt singular, meaning “house of hair”)?
 Tents of the desert were large and airy, with removable sides and front during the day for circulation and placed down at night for privacy; they had a ground cover between the tent floor mats and the sand or ground, and took advantage of whatever shade was available and always placed their tents facing the wind 
    In the time of Lehi, and for many centuries afterward, any traveler’s first thoughts upon reaching a destination was where they would be staying the night—where they would sleep and eat. After all, there were no Inns, nor were there any restaurants. Earlier, when Lehi was traveling along the Red Sea before they turned eastward, the first thing the party needed when stopping for the night was food and shelter. Typically, among Bedouin groups who traveled a lot, the women set up the tents, that were coarsely woven black goat’s hair that created a deep shade while the coarse weave diffused the sunlight, creating a beautifully illuminated and very cool interior, while the men hunted and obtained food for their evening and morning meals.
The women then, with tents up and prepared for the night (it gets dark at night without electric lights), would prepare the meal while the men sat around talking, or taking care of other evening arrangements, like watering the animals, herds and flocks, at the local waterhole by which they stopped and camped or made repairs to the tents or equipment—the herd of goats that accompanied all such movement was the fabric factor, providing the material for repairs that might be needed on the tent.
    These tents, which traditionally were rectangular in shape and consisted of two or occasionally three sections—one for the women’s domain, kitchen and storeroom; the other exclusively the domain of men and visitors. They are of a size and complex that it generally took several hours to put up and later take down these large tents, consequently, one did not travel for several days after the tent was up, resting from their travels, especially during the heat of the day within the tent, whose goat hair fabric caused it to heat up during the day, and as the hot air rises above the tent the air from inside is drawn out, in effect creating a cooling breeze. When it rained, the woven fibers swelled, the tiny holes in the fabric closed, and the structure became tight.  
    Consequently, we find the term “traveled for many days” (1 Nephi 16:15,33) then a pause while they set up their tents and rested up around an oases that were scattered along the trail in the Arabian deserts. While we do not know how long these “many days” travel were, today Beduoin nomads typically move for two weeks between such camps.
In addition, each family had its own tent, and in the case of Lehi, the four boys had at least two tents between them, as evidenced when Nephi and his brothers went back to get the Brass Plates form Laban. As Nephi writes: “And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 3:9), while Lehi had a single tent (1 Nephi 4:38; 5:7;7:5,21-22). It was outside his tent that he found the Liahona (1 Nephi 16:10). And when they left the Valley of Lemuel, where they spent the time between first stopping and getting ready, including marriages, to leave for their 8 year journey to Bountiful they took their tents (1 Nephi 16:12), which likely consisted of Lehi’s tent, and five others, one for each of the sons and their wife, and for Zoram and his wife.
    During the periods between setting up and taking down their tents along the trail, they would have slept in the outdoors using their camel’s saddle as a pillow and a rug or thick blanket to block the wind, if any, or a ground sheet if the temperature was warm and the evening chill not strong. 
    When Nephi broke his bow and he returned from his hunting trip to the families, who were much fatigued because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food—so much so that everyone, including Lehi, began to murmur exceedingly. Being without food was a serious issue—there was no local grocery store.
When the party eventually reached the area Lehi called Bountiful along the shore of the sea he called Irreantum (1 Nephi 17:5-6), they set up camp while Nephi was given instruction to build a ship and the adult males and older sons set about to build it. This may have taken upwards of two years, and during that time, no doubt the party remained in their tents they pitched along the area of the Khor Rori, a pure river of water that fell from the Wadi Dharbat above the area and ran through this fertile, green “bounty” of a land to the sea.
    This seems obvious since there is not a single mention or comment about any building of homes, Nephi didn’t even have any tools “many days” after their arrival (1 Nephi 17:7), nor did he know where to go to find ore to make them (1 Nephi 17:9).
    As mentioned, the first thing on Nephi’s mind must have been the comfort and care of his parents, for he said of their first act after landing and coming ashore was to pitch their tents (1 Nephi 18:23). It seems at this time that Lehi and Sariah (1 Nephi 18:17-18), and the idea of the party landing on some seashore and then walking many miles, some theorists claim over a hundred miles, to the site of their settlement would have been impossible for them. And since Jacob and Joseph were also quite young, needing much nourishment, any trek would have been hard on them as well.
These bulky and heavy tents were in three parts: the tent itself, which typically was made up strips of woven goat hair 25’ long and were packed on the back of a camel or two; tent parts, inner fabric for inside partitions (“walls”) and carpets, mats and rugs were packed on another camel, with the tent poles, ropes and other necessities packed on a separate camel. There were also pots and pans, shelves, stoves, and other household items requiring still other camels 
    Nephi, however, makes it quite clear that after landing and coming ashore, they “pitched their tents,” which would have been a natural thing to do, since shelter in a new land would have been a primary concern. The first thing on any trip we have taken with our family has always resulted in unloading the car, finding out where we are going to sleep, and getting the kids clothes into drawers and their beds ready for the night so the kids and the rest of us could know where things were when it got dark. This was especially true when we went camping with the family. Getting everything ready in advance for when it was dark, putting everything where it could be easily located, were essential first acts after reaching a destination. For Lehi and his family, when it got dark in the Land of Promise that first night, they would have needed everything for the night already in place, especially their tents set up and everything located.
    It is possible that they would have had some food stores on their ship when they landed, and these, supplemented with fishing from shore and hunting in the nearby forest, would have taken care of their immediate food needs. The next thing, of course, would have been to take care of their long range food needs and that would have been to till the ground and plant the seeds they brought from Jerusalem.

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