Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Value of Omni – Part II

Continuing with our previous post regarding the more or less unknown books of the Small Plates, Jacob through Omni, and especially the latter in Omni.
    Like Mormon, Amaleki, the last historian of the Nephite’s first 400 years in the Land of Nephi rose to the occasion and, filled with a sense of longing for what has been lost, eloquently recounted the last days of the Nephite people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Nephi.
The assemblies at the city of Nephi when prophets called the Nephites to repentance in their final days before he told Mosiah to leave Nephi
We also see from this period how much the Lord blessed the Nephites, even in their frailties, constantly bringing them to the peak of achievement before allowing their re-occurring evil practices to throw them back into a depraved state. We also see from these periods how quickly the change can occur. Sometimes in only a two or three year period, sometimes longer.
    We also encounter Jarom’s son, Omni, a Hebrew name meaning “all” or “every.’ Omni actually  tells us a great deal about himself in just a couple of sentences: “Wherefore, in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done” (Omni 1:2).
    We also know from Omni, that within a ten-year period (328-318 B.C.) that the lives of the Nehites experienced both peace and serious wars, which suggests that when the Nephites were not directly involved in battles, they were preparing for them; and that these battles may well have been far more serious and bloody (meaning more deaths) than might have occurred before this time.
    Omni has been called the self-centered soldier. He was the first of five authors in this book, ending with Amaleki. In verse 5 we find "the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed." There is little detail about the destruction, except to say that the Lord did visit them in great judgment because of their wickedness.
We quickly read through four writers in the first dozen verses of Omni, each telling us within a few words much about themselves. Omni, himself, uses the pronoun “I” ten times in three verses, focusing his writing on himself rather than events, and as a soldier he makes it clear he is a wicked man, though he carries out the commands of his father. His interest, however, is about his own valor in battle and obvious thinks about his time in terms of war and peace as he writes: "We had many seasons of peace, and we had many seasons of serious war and bloodshed" (Omni 1:3).
    That reference to "serious war" shows us that he does not consider war to be evil and without merit, but merely sees it as a vocation to which he is quite adept. While Omni is up front about himself and paints us a picture obviously of not being a prophet but merely a custodian of the records, his words seem to tell us a lot about those of his day—warlike, but staunch defenders of the Nation. He reminds one of Douglas MacArthur, when he is awakened one night that the North Koreans had attacked South Korea, is credited with saying, “I’ve been blessed with one last war.”
    We also see in such recording an increase in both wars and savagery of the Lamanite psyche and their desire to increase their hatred and response to those whom they felt had stolen the birthright from them. Obviously, the wars had continued for so long, that among the Nephites there would have been many such men as Omni, those professional soldiers who either gloried in war, or found great satisfaction in its pursuit—a very real and drastic change in the Nephite psyche, which looked forward to battle or did not object to it when it occurred.
    We know almost nothing from this point on of Omni’s son, Amaron, a name meaning “to hear, to obey,” yet can see where the teachings of his grandfather, Jarom, regarding the Lord had left an imprint upon him when he tells us: “he did spare the righteous that they should not perish, but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies” (Omni 1:7); and his careful and organized manner seen in his writing show us he was more like his grandfather than his father, though he seems to lack Jarom's writing ability and sensitivity (Jarom, by the way means “to be prosperous, happy). His sentences, unlike Omni's, are neatly balanced, but appears to be a mechanical neatness. As others have suggested we find in his writing that he either was torn between his parent and grandparent, or was trying very hard to be like both.
When it comes to Chemish, we know even less about him than we do of his brother, Amaron. According to Avigad and Nahman in their scholarly West Semitic onomasticon and iconography of the biblical period, Chemish is a name related to that of the Ammonite god Chemosh, spelled Kmš in prevocalic Hebrew and Ammonite languages. A number of names containing the element Kmš are known, in which it is clear that the divine name was meant. Also known is a seal currently in the Israel Museum that has Kmš as the name of a man or woman (Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem, 1997) pp373–374, 380–388).
    One can only wonder the motivation of Che4mish, who would have surely known about the record he jotted a few words in and that it would “come forth in the latter-days," yet, it appears rather than writing in it, he couldn’t wait to get rid of it, and his few words tell us nothing of himself and nothing to increase our knowledge of his time or circumstance. He strikes one as being like many members today who move through life adding and taking away little or nothing, and provide no mark of their existence or passing.
    When Abinadom, a name meaning “wandering stone” or “father or people of my wandering,” perhaps from the categorization of the Nephites as “wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem,” or “wanderers in a strange land.” However, it appears he little interest in leaving much for postrrity—in his two verses, using words reminiscent of Omni and Jarom, he tells us only that he fought the Lamanites with the sword and knew of no additional revelations to write about.
    In fact, of these three generations, we have but 480 words, 165 written by the last two of these, that describe very little other than the wars with the Lamanites continued, nor is there any suggestion that they lessened, suggesting that they continued unabated in their ferocity.
    By this time, as Amaleki steps onto the scene, the Nephites in the city and Land of Nephi had become so wicked, that Mosiah I is told to take those who “obey the voice of the Lord” would go with him and leave the city and go into the wilderness—a trek that was closely directed by the Lord, for “they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. 
And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13).
    Interestingly, we are told nothing about Mosiah I background, who his father was, his right to the kingship, if indeed he had one, and in what capacity the events prior to Amaleki’s words had taken place. 
(See the next post, “The Value of Omni – Part III,” for more information regarding these oft-skipped over words of men we sometimes think little about, and seldom consider the significance of what we can learn from them)

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