Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Importance of the Ages of Lehi’s Family – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the age of Nephi, both when he left Jerusalem and when he arrived in the Land of Promise, and its importance in better understanding the scriptural record and these events.
These events, of convincing Ishmael the Lord wanted he and his family to join Lehi in the desert; presenting their father’s wealth to the powerful Laban; the moral difficulty in killing Laban; and the overpower of Zoram are all incidents of a much more mature and knowing individual than a young teenager

Thus, as stated in the previous post, Nephi would have been 22 when he left Jerusalem. This fits better with the events that took place. However, some theorists claim he was “young in age,” but Nephi does not say that.
    His statement is: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 2:16, emphasis added). Now “being young” is not necessarily the same as “being a young age.” We need to keep in mind that Nephi is writing this some thirty years after the events.
    In fact, Nephi tells us: “And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem. And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far. And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people” (2 Nephi 5:28-30). Consequently, the “kept the records upon my plates,” refers to the Large Plates, from which Joseph Smith first translated and Martin Harris recorded and then lost those 116 pages. The “other plates” Nephi mentions were the Small Plates that the Lord told him to later make “for a wise purpose,” from which the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi through Omni) were eventually translated.
    So Nephi would have been about 52 when he wrote the statement “being exceedingly young.”
    First of all, a mid-teen seldom has “great desires to know of the mysteries of God.” This usually comes with age. Secondly, and most importantly to interpreting this passage correctly, when we are older, we often see age very differently than when we were young. As an example, when I was 37 years old, I was called to be a Bishop. At the time, I was married and had four children, ages 9 down to 3, with the fifth child born a month after being called. At the time I’m sure I considered myself a mature adult; however, some thirty years later, I remember thinking back while updating my personal history, I realized that I was extremely young when serving as a Bishop.
    It is all a matter of perspective.
    However, if that is not sufficiently significant, then consider Nephi’s own words when he described himself a few days later: “And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee” (1 Nephi 4:31, emphasis added).
    It is one thing to be large in stature (how large and strong would a teenager be compared to a man in his twenties who would know much better how to use his strength and leverage), but something else entirely to be confident enough to use that strength to overpower the adult Zoram both physically, and to out-think and out-maneuver him mentally by convincing Zoram that he, Nephi, was indeed the servant’s well known master (1 Nephi 4:20-27).
    Yet, despite Nephi’s strength and stature, he could not withstand the ability and strength of his older brother, Laman, who on more than one occasion overpowered him, tied him up, and was on the verge of killing him. Obviously, Laman felt completely capable of taking care of his youngest brother, though Nephi was “large in stature,” and physically capable of subduing an adult man like Zoram. This should suggest that while Nephi was old enough at 22 to have the wits and confidence to impersonate Laban (which he most likely would not have had as a young teenager), he did not have the knowledge and experience to stand up to his older brothers (1 Nephi 7:16; 17:48; 18:11).
A final comment about this is in the fact that under Judaic custom, for a man to marry at an early age was unthinkable, since he had no way of supporting his wife. To marry as a teenager was simply unheard of and there is no way Nephi would have been of a marrying age under twenty, let alone at 13 or 15 or even 18 in that day. To think that Nephi was 13 or a teenager when he left Jerusalem and married within two years would be unthinkable to a Hebrew of the time. He would have to have been somewhere around at least 20 or older when he left Jerusalem. And being that age or older makes the rest of the events, his thinking and actions, more realistic and understandable.
    It should also be noted that when Lehi sent his sons back to get the Brass Plates from Laban, it was to Nephi he spoke of the event and its importance, and that the Lord commanded it (1 Nephi 3:2-8). Again, under ancient Judaism laws of Primogeniture, the role of the firstborn son carries significance (it is compared to the redemption of the firstborn son of God), with the masculine noun bekhor, meaning “firstborn son,” and stands for “birthright,” related to primogeniture wherein the firstborn son was “the father’s favorite,” entitled to a double portion, and the rightful leader in the family after the father. In fact, when the father died, his place was almost always taken over by the eldest son, who then became the father of the whole household, including its aged members. Unless he proved unworthy of his position he received all the rights loyalty, and privileges of his father before him.
    Thus, under all normal circumstances, Lehi would have told this information and given this direction to go back and obtain the Brass Plates to his oldest son, Laman, not to Nephi, especially a 13 or 14 year-old Nephi. The fact that he told Nephi is significant in Lehi’s preference to his youngest son, because as he said, “Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured” (1 Nephi 3:6). Lehi fully understood that the Lord had chosen Nephi over his other sons, to be the leader of the nation Lehi was to establish in the Land of Promise. For this to have been the case, Nephi would have had to have been an adult and warrant the special attention and usurp the rightful position of Laman in the family order.
    Thus we can see that when the party landed on the shores of the Land of Promise, Lehi, who would have been about 63 when leaving Jerusalem, would have been about 73 upon landing and around 75 when he died; Sariah would have been about 48 when leaving Jerusalem, about 50 thru 55 when giving birth to two sons, and 58 when landing, making Jacob as old as 8 years upon landing.
    So when the family landed their ages would have been:
Lehi – 73
Sariah – 58
Sister that married Ishmael’s first son – 32
Sister that married Ishmael’s second son – 30
Laman – 28
Lemuel – 26
Sam – 24
Nephi – 22
Jacob – 6 to 8
Joseph – 4 to 6
    So when Nephi transcribed the record he kept on the Large Plates to the newly made Small Plates, he would have been about 52, Jacob 38 to 40 and Joseph 36 to 38. 
    In addition, when Nephi turned over the records to his younger brother Jacob (Jacob 1:1-2), Nephi was about 77 years old, and Jacob would have been about 61. Within a handful of years, Nephi “anointed a man to be king and a ruler over his people” (Jacob 1:9), and probably died about 80 years of age.
    It should be kept in mind that while these dates and ages fit the scriptural record, they are still assumptive in many ways and cannot be suggested to be scripturaly accurate. They do fit the narrative and the understanding of age during the time frame of the Book of Mormon according to Judaic laws and customs, as well as the events described in the scriptural record.


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  2. Del,

    What do you think about the possibility of the sons of Ishmael having married two of Lehi's daughters who were younger than Nephi?

    Wouldn't this make more sense if the average age women were married at the time was 15, and the average age men were married was 30?

    This would also eliminate the large gap between Nephi and Jacob were Sarah didn't have any recorded children. There's enough space in between Nephi and Jacob for 5 more children.

    If Sarah has 4 or 5 unnamed daughters in between Nephi and Jacob this would make sense as to why additional daughters are mentioned later besides the two who married the sons of Ishmael.

    What do you think?


  3. MC: Erastus Snow, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in the 1849-1888, etc., claimed that the two sons of Ishmael married two of Lehi's daughters. They would have been older than Laman, though, since they had families when we first learn of them in (1 Nephi 7:6). As for a gap, Nephi tells us that he had two sisters that went with him when he left after Lehi's death. It is doubtful that the older sisters would have left their husbands and children to follow Nephi, but these two sisters did, leading one to suggest that they were younger and unmarried at this time.