Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What Nephi Found Upon Landing Compared to Other Sites – Part I

A point often missed by Theorists in trying to determine the location of Lehi’s landing site is the fact that Nephi gave us an exact explanation of four very important things he found in the area of their First Landing in the Land of Promise—what was called “their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28). These four things are covered in the two verses following the statement of their landing, which Nephi describes as:
     “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).
     Nephi goes on to then describe what was done and found at the site of this first landing: “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance. And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper (1 Nephi 18:24-25).
These four things or descriptions were:
1. They found an immediate area to set up a permanent camp, where they pitched their tents.
    This means there was well-drained land, tillable soil present in which to plant seed and grow life-saving crops, drinkable water, fuel for fires, protection and shelter, such as trees for shade, a leeside to block wind, etc.
    To better understand this, we need to keep in mind that these ancient tents were large, heavy and unwieldy, typically requiring three camels or donkeys to carry just one tent, and that "pitching tents" was an all-day event, requiring the effort of the women, girls and children, while the men and older sons settled down the flocks and cattle, feeding them and making arrangements for their pasture or protection—and when needed, took care of the hunting and supplying the camp. The ancient tents were made of black goat’s hair, and were called beit shaart, meaning “house of hair.” They were handed down from father to son without it being completely new or completely old at any one time—instead of making a new tent, they simply added another section to the old one. Thus, a prophet’s statement to ancient Israel: “"Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes" (Isaiah 54:2).
    In the case of the Nephites initial camp site, there would have been separate tents for each adult family, meaning one each for the two sons of Ishmael (Ishmael's widowed wife would have been living in a separate apartment within the oldest son's tent), one for each of Lehi's married sons, making four more, and likely others for any servant families brought with them; Jacob and Joseph, and Nephi's two sisters, would likely have been in a third apartment within Lehi's larger tent.
These tents in ancient Israel had a main overhead portion composed of one large awning held up by several poles, with the ends drawn out by cords tied to pegs driven into the ground with wooden mallets. Tents were usually oblong, divided into two or three apartments by goat's hair curtains, which screened out view but not sound, with the entrance leading into the apartment for the men, which also served as a reception area. Beyond this was the apartment for the women and children, and there even might have been an apartment for servants or for cattle.
    There were heavy rugs that covered the ground, numerous inner curtains to divide and screen areas, and hanging from the poles were skin bags or clay jugs for water and other liquids. Holes would have been dug for hearths, one inside the tent and one outside, where fires were kindled with stones stacked about them, since most cooking was done outside and, in fact, the tent-living nomad (as in this case Lehi would have become), spent most of his time outdoors, using his tent only for inclement weather or for nighttime retirement).
    The arrangement of the tents would have been an encampment or "tent village," not pitched in a promiscuous cluster, but in a large circle to make it possible for at least some of the flocks to be protected inside the circle. Lehi's tent, as that of the sheik, or "father of the tribe," would have been larger than the others, and if following custom, a large spear would have been inserted in the ground outside it as an emblem of his authority (1 Samuel 26:7).
    In addition, all the pots, pans, cooking and eating utensils and as well as the tent furniture (usually that used on the camels for sitting while enroute) and nighttime sleeping mats, pillows and rugs would have been set up and arranged. Lamps, that is earthenware saucers to hold olive oil, with a pinched lip to hold a wick, formed the ancient candle, would be arranged and lighted at night, with bags of grain, especially packed around the base of tent poles, as well as the handmill and mortar for grinding cooking grains.
    All of this would have taken some time to set up and arrange, and would have been the work of the first day upon disembarking from the ship. Had they been intending to move elsewhere, they would not have bothered the difficult and time-consuming task of "pitching tents," but done what they did while traveling along the Red Sea, and that was pitch their tents only when staying for a lengthy amount of time (1 Nephi 2:6; 16:6,13,14-17), otherwise, they slept in the open at night.
    This is understood even more when it is noted that the ancient nomadic Jew and Arab did not consider “home” in the sense that we do today—to them, their tent was their home, but not a permanent location like we have when purchasing as home and land today, but the little spot where his tent was pitched and his flocks were gathered at night. His country, his land was the limited area over which he roamed, considering themselves pilgrims in the land, guided by faith in their movements. This is seen in Abraham, who “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (Hebrews 11:9).
    Lehi and his party, upon landing, would have seen their world much like that—their home in the Land of Promise was where they placed their tent, gathered their flocks, and first settled. They would not have moved from there except by Divine direction, such as what the Liahona provided or the Lord directed.
    Thus, they landed, pitched their tents, and stayed there in the area of their First Landing, and did not move from there until the Lord directed Nephi to flee his brothers and the sons of Ishmael who sought his life.
2. They tilled the earth, and planted seeds—the seeds they brought from the land of Jerusalem, which grew exceedingly.
    Note the three important points Nephi makes:
    [1] They immediately planted seeds;
    [2] These seeds were brought from Jerusalem;
    [3] They grew exceeding.
(See the next post, “What Nephi Found Upon Landing Compared to Other Sites – Part II,” for the other two things they found in the area of First Landing)

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