Friday, October 20, 2017

The River Sidon, or its Head, is Not Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the “waters of Sidon” and how they are used differently than the “river Sidon” by Mormon in the scriptural record.
First of all, it cannot be said that because the “river Sidon” is mentioned 26 times in Alma prior to the crucifixion, and not once after that time (like the Sea East and the Narrow Neck of Land are not mentioned after the destruction) that these areas did not exist after the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi; however, it does suggest a possibility that the damage that “changed the face of the entire land” (3 Nephi 8:12) might have altered the river Sidon, its course, or its existence and such a fact cannot be arbitrarily ruled out.
    What is definite, is that the “river Sidon” and the “head of the river Sidon” are terms not mentioned after the destruction that followed the crucifixion and the only mention of the word “Sidon” in the scriptural record after this destruction period found in Mormon 1:10, does not suggest that the river Sidon still existed, only that there was a place Mormon called “the waters of Sidon.” In the previous post on this subject, the meaning of “waters” was described.
    Now, as far as the scriptural record is concerned, the term “waters of Sidon” is mentioned seven times in Alma, rather than the “river Sidon.” Those exceptions are: “waters of Sidon” (Alma 2:34), though in the same sentence he uses River Sidon. Why the difference? He follows this up a few verses later (Alma 3:3) with “waters of Sidon” but again in the exact same sentence uses River Sidon. Does this mean the Lamanites were slain on the banks of the river, but thrown into the waters, that perhaps formed a lake, marsh, or swamp? We do not know if there is a difference, but as a friend and scholar of the Book of Mormon used to tell me of the scriptures, “you have to evaluate each word—each word has meaning.” This suggests that there is a reason Mormon used “waters” and not “river” in some of these sentences.
    Another use of “waters of Sidon” is found in that “many were baptized in the waters of Sidon and were joined to the Church of God” (Alma 4:4). Here again is a corollary to baptism like in the “Waters of Mormon.” Now one might want to keep in mind that all of these statements evidently have to do with the same general area of the Sidon. On the other hand, another mention of the Waters of Sidon is found in “Lehi and his men and they were driven by Lehi into the Waters of Sidon, and they crossed the waters of Sidon. And Lehi retained his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross” (Alma 43:40). And also in the same area is “the Lamanites began to flee before them; and they fled even to the waters of Sidon” (Alma 43:50)—why not “fled to the river Sidon”?
    We are not making this case—but a case could be made that all of this is in the same general area, and that there was a lake or body of water called after 3 Nephi “the Waters of Sidon,” to differentiate it from the earlier river Sidon, which possibly the river Sidon flowed into and out of, or that it flowed past with water seeping into the lake area. The point is when there is another possibility that the scriptures fit, we are not willing to make a commitment that something else is the case. Even later when it says “they did cast their dead into the waters of Sidon, and they have gone forth and are buried in the depths of the sea” (Alma 44:22), it could mean that this lake or seepage area drained into the river, at least before 3 Nephi.
    It also might be of note that the name “Sidon” is mentioned only in the Book of Alma (plus once in Mormon), while “river Sidon” is mentioned 27 times in Alma, and “waters of Sidon” is mentioned only 7 times in Alma and once in Mormon, and the latter seem to refer to the same general area as though the “waters of Sidon” might be a singular place, while the river flows from mountains to sea.
    A South American historian told me that he had spent several years studying the terms “up to the Land of Nephi” and “down to the Land of Zarahemla” and had not come to a conclusion about what exactly those terms meant. Many of us are quick to jump to conclusions, however, sometimes common phrases carry deeper meanings that we at first attribute to them. Take, as an example, the meaning of Moses term in Genesis: "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so" (Genesis 1:7). Much has been written and discussed about this statement, yet few satisfactory answers seem available.
    The point is, there is not a single mention of a river Sidon after 3 Nephi, and the only mention of Sidon is in regard to the Waters of Sidon. Thus one, in good conscience, cannot claim the River Sidon continued after the destruction of tumbling mountains and valleys that rose into mountains “whose height is great.” The changes that such dramatic changes might have altered the flow of a river seems too great to dismiss out of hand.
    It might also be added that on occasion, some of the comments on this subject we receive state: “When Mormon moved from the Land Northward with his Father to the land of Zarahemla and that soon after a war broke out in the borders of the land, by the head of the River Sidon.” However, it seems a little odd that a war would break out high up in the mountains where the head of the river Sidon was located. First of all, we know this area was at a much higher elevation than the Land of Zarahemla—and at a common elevation with the Land of Nephi, so what were the Nephites doing up in that area for a war to break out there?
    On the other hand, if the term “waters of Mormon” had reference to a standing body of water, such as a lake, pond, lagoon or even a seepage or swamp, where perhaps the river once flowed at a lower elevation, such as along the borders of Zarahemla and Gideon in the Valley of Gideon, it would make sense that a war could break out there where Lamanite armies were infiltrating northward into the Land of Zarahemla, and along what used to be the eastern seaboard or coast where the cities of Moroni, Lehi, and Morianton once stood and northward to Mulek, Omner and Gid in the northern coastal area and were often the subject of Lamanite attacks in the past (Alma 51:26) as well as the city of Nephihah (Alma 59; 59:5). It might be assumed that the three northern cities were much further northward, since the citizens of the three southern cities (Moroni, Lehi and Morianton) fled to Nephihah for protection when the Lamanites attacked, but when the three northern cities (Mulek, Omner and Gid) were attacked, they did not flee to Nephihah, suggesting that city was too far away. While this is simply a guess, we might say that the distance between these two groups of cities might have been as much as 200 miles.
    Since the “head of Sidon” or even “the river Sidon” is not in any way mentioned in Mormon 1:10 or at all after the cataclysmic destruction in 3 Nephi, it seems very possible not only did the river not exist, but that the “waters of Mormon” as indicated were at a much lower elevation, and along the path the Lamanties took to attack the eastern cities, which now would not have been along the coast, for that sea, too, is not mentioned, and very possibly had been replaced in the east by the rise of the range of mountains prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 14:23) where mountains rose out of valleys “whose height is great,” and covering a large enough area in both the Land Northward and the Land Southward to be a “sign” to all the occupants of the Land of Promise, “to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).
    One reader on this subject wrote: “I feel that you are rejecting too much information that exists right in front of you.” Yet, nowhere after 3 Nephi 9, and the description of the destruction that “changed the face of the entire land” is the word Sidon mentioned in connection to a river or its head (headwaters), only the “waters of Sidon.”
    The river Sidon is simply not mentioned anywhere after that destruction. Nor can it be said that the statement in Mormon 1:10 makes a claim of a “river.” The scripture simply does not say “river” or “head” or “headwaters” or “source” or anything to lead one to believe that the river Sidon is being described by Mormon there.
(See the next post, “The River Sidon, or its Head, is Mentioned After the Destruction in 3 Nephi – Part III, to see how the question “What other river in the Book of Mormon land fits so well?”)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Del- I always appreciate how you stick to the text of the Book of Mormon. I've been intrigued lately with what the lands looked like before and after 33 AD and have been studying the text to better understand it. You've always said there is not enough data to say where the River Sidon was and that it most likely was changed in 33 AD and I agree.

    Just a guess at this point, but to me it seems feasible that Lake Junin is the "waters of Sidon" mentioned by Mormon. When I look at a topographical map of the Andes mountains, they are both on the east side of Lake Junin but also on the north. If (just speculation here) the Mantaro River was the River Sidon (like Priddis hypothesized), and flowed from south to north (like the scriptures say it did)-- and if they emptied into the Sea East (just speculation again), then when the Andes rose to where they are now, it could have stopped the River Sidon from flowing east and either created Lake Junin or simply stopped the River Sidon there.
    The location does seem to fit with being on the north east border of where the land of Zarahemla most likely was. Again, just speculation.
    I appreciate the distinction between "waters of Sidon" and "river" and will study those verses in Alma more.