Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Who Exactly Was Lehi? – Part I

Have you ever wondered about Lehi’s background or what Nephi knew and was capable of doing before Lehi took his family into the wilderness? We know from what Nephi tells us that Lehi was a wealthy man (1 Nephi 2:4; 3:16), middle-aged with four grown sons (1 Nephi 2:5), righteous (1 Nephi 1:16; 2:14), obedient to the Lord (1 Nephi 2:2-3), well known in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:20), and active in his business or activities (1 Nephi 1:7). The family had always lived at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), meaning outside the city walls upon farmland in the area of the city, but at a lower elevation (1 Nephi 3:16,22-23).
Let’s take a look at some of the traits that Lehi had, which his family unquestionably understood:
1. While his family accused Lehi of folly in leaving Jerusalem, they never at any time question is ability to lead them in the desert;
2. While the family complains against the dangers of the desert through which they traveled, they did not include ignorance of the desert among the dangers or fears or abilities of Lehi;
3. Among other things, Lehi never once mentioned inexperience among his handicaps;
4. While some of Lehi’s family complained frequently about their fathers questionable decisions, they never complain about his ability to take care of the family in the desert, his preparation for their journey, his knowledge for desert travel and how to live in the desert. In fact, his possession of at least three tents (his own and at least two for his sons) in an environment (Jerusalem) where no one had use for tents suggests he had been using his tent from time to time, and going into the desert and spending some time there;
5. Lehi’s family also complains about the dangers of the desert and being taken out of their home and its safety, yet never complain about Lehi’s ability to take care of them in the desert nor do they treat Lehi as though he was a city Jew and knew nothing about the desert. Again, suggesting Lehi was not only quite familiar with the desert and wilderness, but spent some time in it;
In fact, up until the time Lehi finds the Liahona, perhaps as much as three years after leaving the area of Jerusalem, there is nothing to suggest he doesn’t know where he is going or why—nor did he have to send his boys back to Jerusalem for any supplies, provisions, or equipment that he inadvertently left behind—only for the brass plates of Laban and for Ishmael’s family, both circumstances the Lord directed him to do for it had not been an oversight. 
As for Nephi:
1. While the family laughs contemptuously when Nephi announced his going to build a ship, and tell him he is lacking in judgment to build a ship, yet never question his ability or skill as a builder and cabapable of building things—only a ship, which by its very nature would have been a foreign idea to people living around Jerusalem at 2500 feet elevation and several miles from the sea;
2. Also when the Lord told Nephi to build a ship, he only asked where he could go to find ore to make tools to begin, evidently fully capable of making tools for building and his ability to build things;
3. When needing to make a fire hot enough to melt the ore to make the tools, Nephi merely builds a bellows, as though he was completely capable of doing so and knowledgeable of how to build it;
4. This is also borne out when Nephi separates from his older brothers and settles down in the area they called Nephi after him, and he goes about teaching his people how to build buildings, and working in all manner of wood, iron, copper, brass, and steel. Now working with iron, steel and brass requires a certain knowledge of alloying metals, i.e., removing the impurities such as nitrogen, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and excess carbon or mixing iron in carbon in order to make steel. While there is some leeway in how much carbon remains or is added, generally speaking the amount is less than one percent. Now it is true that the Lord could have told this to Nephi, but it still remains the actions had to be done by Nephi—as an example, how many readers now know how to remove or add carbon to smelted iron? 
    In addition, Nephi was either told or knew how to mix copper and tin to make brass, i.e., to strengthen copper so it could be used for more difficult tasks or stronger alloyed copper.
5. In addition, we can also add the fact that when Nephi left his home, he had with him a fine steel bow, which suggests that Nephi was not only a hunter, but well equipped and knowledgeable about bows and their use—which is borne out when he breaks his steel bow and his brothers’ bows lose their spring, the family looks to Nephi to correct the problem, again suggesting he was the main hunter and provider of the group.
    We do not know from the record what skills Lehi had beyond those mentioned above, but it is certain he was a man of the desert, familiar in the desert atmosphere and accustomed to the difficulties of wilderness and desert travel. It also seems certain he knew well the wilderness surrounding Jerusalem and extending at least to the south down the the wadi Arabah running southward from the southern tip of the Dead Sea, through what is today the Jordan Rift Valley, toward and to the Gulf of Aqaba. He also seems familiar with the hilly land and valleys to the east of this narrow gulf for that is where he traveled without the benefit of any guidance that we know about, such as the Liahona, and where he finally stopped and called this area the Valley of Lemuel, a distance of a little more than 200 miles. Whether he had personal knowledge of this area, or learned about it from caravan traders passing through the Levant on their way from Arabia to Syria with trade goods, including frankincense and myrrh.
We also do not know what skills Sam possessed—he may also have been experienced with metal work and building, living on the farm and being older than Nephi. Zoram, on the other hand, lived within the city where farm-style skills were neither taught nor learned, and he worked as a servant in a rather clerical capacity, taking care of his master’s treasure or storage house.
    While we do not know what occupation or trade Lehi had, we can easily see that it was something out of the ordinary for it allowed him to amass a good fortune that evidently came from various places in the world—or, traded through caravans who dealt with various places of the world, for he had many "precious things" and they likely did not all come from Jerusalem where he had lived all his life according to Nephi.
    So how did he come by them and what was his likely occupation that prepared him to be both ready and capable of taking his family into the wilderness where they could survive for eight years?
(See the next post,” Who Exactly Was Lehi? – Part II,” for more on Lehi and how he came to have the very things he would need to go into the wilderness on a moment’s notice—something few of his age would have possessed)

No comments:

Post a Comment