Thursday, March 1, 2018

When You Read the Scriptures Correctly – Part I

Amazing things come to light when one reads the scriptural record correctly—things that are missed when one has a hidden agenda or predetermined viewpoint as they read, or tries to fit what is written into a context not originally intended. What happens is that when the scriptural record is read correctly, all other things fall into place in such a way that the overall storyline makes good sense and one is not left to try and figure out what something means—or, as in the case with of many Theorists, have to alter, change, or explain away what becomes inconsistent writing when they try to impose their pre-determined views.  
    As an example, Nephi gives a very innocent comment, almost hidden with a parenthetical statement, that is easy to pass over—but if not correctly understood, other passages later on are left meaningless or at least hard to make sense of in the context they appear. His comment is a simple one, meant to add a piece (a significant piece) of information to the comment he is making.
    Nephi, telling us a brief story of his father and the time frame in which he is writing, provides a simple insertion—and to understand its simplicity we have to keep in mind that the Book of Lehi was already written by his father on the Large Plates that Mormon abridged (which first 116 pages Martin Harris would eventually lose after they were translated by Joseph Smith), and Nephi is simply abridging onto the Small Plates that record as the Lord instructed (2 Nephi 5:30; see also 1 Nephi 1:17; 6:1,3; 9:2-5;2 Nephi 4:14; WofM 1:3).
    Nephi writes: “…in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4, emphasis added). Now, truthfully, where Lehi lived is not an important comment in relationship to the time frame of which Nephi is writing. First of all, Nephi is writing this some thirty years after leaving Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28).
    So why tell us where Lehi lived? What difference does it make to the storyline? After all, there are other, seemingly more important questions that need to be asked about the situation surrounding Lehi, his family, and the equipment, supplies and provisions he immediatgely had available in order to “take his family and depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2).
These questions arise because if Lehi lived within the city of Jerusalem, then one familiar with the times and area might have questioned these first seven points given within the first seven verses of Nephi’s writing:
1. Why would Lehi have had tents? And more than one? (No one living in the city would have needed tents, and since they are large and bulky to store (not like modern tents), would not have had room in a house inside the city for such unnecessary items);
2. Why would Lehi have had donkeys to transport the tents? There was very little room inside the city for animals—certainly not the number needed to transport at least two of the type (Bedouin) tents known at the time;
3. Why would Lehi have had seeds of every kind (there was no room inside the city for planting crops other than, perhaps a very small garden);
4. Living inside the city, how would Lehi have earned a living and acquired such great wealth?
5. Where was Lehi going as he “went forth” if he was inside the city? Went forth suggests in the Hebrew that these were trips of some duration, in which he had encounters with the Spirit, and as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly (1 Nephi 1:6);
6. When he “returned to his own house at Jerusalem,” where had he been? Again, the Hebrew suggests that he was some distance from Jerusalem and his house in which a return was an event;
7. Where had he been that he was “overcome with the spirit” that exhausted him and he required rest upon his bed.
    In addition, there are three other important points that Nephi mentions about his father.
8. Why did Lehi have to “go forth” (went forth) among the people or Jews in Jerusalem if he lived within the city? (1 Nephi 1:18). To go forth suggests travel to a place, go away from a place, beyond the boundary of a place, depart, leave, get there, etc. Such a comment would be in keeping with leaving one’s house and going elsewhere, like in this case, going into the city from outside the city;
9. If Lehi lived within the city, how could he have left into the wilderness with his family and entire entourage without being noticed by those who sought his life? (1 Nephi 1:20; 2:4);
10. If Lehi lived within the city, he would not have had “land of his inheritance,” i.e., that is, Nephi writes: “he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). It is also not very likely that Lehi had such great wealth in his house if he lived within the city where thieves of every kind would have had access. Living apart, where no one knew what he had, would have been a safer bet to have such wealth in one’s house.
    It is obvious that when Nephi says his father lived “at Jerusalem all his days,” that he was telling us that he lived outside the city walls, not within Jerusalem, or inside the city walls. After all, “at” means “without,” while “in” means “within.” So the question is asked again, “Is it important?”
    It is if you are knowledgeable of those ten questions above in relation to Jewish life in 600 B.C., otherwise the scriptural record would appear to be inaccurate, thus casting doubt on the rest of the storyline.
    Consequently, in following Nephi’s words, and understasdning that “in” means “within” and “at” (the word Nephi uses) means “outside” or “without,” we understand that Lehi “lived outside of Jerusalem.”
    Thus, living outside the city, in 600 B.C., he would have had ground for planting—a necessity in 600 B.C.—which meant having seeds of every kind, and leads us to understand a possible occupation that would have provided sufficient opportunity to acquire wealth. Thus, if he was also a merchant, dealing with the camel caravans that passed Jerusalem on their way to Damascus and the north, as Lynn and Hope Hilton have extensively shown (In Search of Lehi’s Trail, Ensign, September, 1976), since the caravans did not ascend the mountain up to Jerusalem because camel’s soft underfoot would be cut to ribbons by the sharp shale on the mountains around Jerusalem.
    In this way, Lehi could have purchased items from the merchants and resold them in Jerusalem for a considerable profit. And in such case, Lehi would have had donkeys to go down to the King’s Highway, which ran along the east shore of the Dead Sea, then follows the Wadi al’Araba to the Gulf of Aqaba (the likely path Lehi later took when he “went into the wilderness” and “toward the Red Sea”).
Merchants (green line) traveled to the King’s Highway from Jerusalem to meet with camel caravans along the (red line) King’s Highway in order to trade with the caravans coming from Egypt and Oman toward Syria 

In fact, Lehi most likely traveled toward the area of Petra where he met up with the caravan from Leucê Comê (coming north from the Red Sea), a route controlled by the Nabataeans, where he set up tents to wait for the merchants coming past in camel caravans—a wait that probably lasted a few days, or even a week or more, providing Lehi plenty of time to have his spiritual experiences along the trail in the wilderness. Of course, his sons and retinue would have accompanied him, but he also could have isolated himself from them for the space of a time to pray and receive visions.
    The King’s Highway began in Heliopolis, Egypt and traveled northward to Damascus, ending at Resafa on the upper Euphrates, providing trade for communities along the way, such as Edom, Moab, Ammon, and various Aramaean communities, carrying luxury goods such as frankincense and spices from southern Arabia. The Frankincense Trail from Oman turned northward along the Red Sea, picking up the King’s Highway on its trek northward, past Petra, around the Dead Sea and northward to Damascus. Much of it anciently was not a road at all, but just a broad swatch in the desert with periodic water holes in an occasional oasis.
    Because camels could not travel in the mountains of Jerusalem, the highway trade did not include Jerusalem directly. It took Jerusalem merchants, like perhaps Lehi, who traveled down to the trail, camped out, and then traded with the caravans as they passed. The merchants would then take the goods back up to Jerusalem and sell them to the city merchants, making a good profit on the transactions. A business that would have required tents, and camping supplies and provisions—something Lehi later needed when “going into the wilderness” with his family for eight years (1 Nephi 17:4).
    Once one realizes that Lehi lived outside Jerusalem, then all the other statements Nephi makes surrounding Lehi makes sense. However, if one believes Lehi lived inside Jerusalem, then these statements do not ring true.
    This is the case with those who misread, misunderstand or misstate the scriptural record based on their beliefs that run contrary to the facts of the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “When You Read the Scriptures Correctly – Part II,” to see how these contrary beliefs cause difficulty not just with one statement, but with several, since truth rings true through all statements and non-truths cause cascading problems)

1 comment:

  1. I like that you mention 2 Nephi 5:28 because it brings up another little detail that few people seem to notice. Only a few verses later he says:

    (34) And it sufficeth me to say that forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren.

    So, he is basically saying that when he was commanded to make the plates was 10 years earlier than the moment in which he is writing. So Nephi spent 10 years perfecting the small plates, so painstakingly that he filled it with poetic structure, great spiritual depth, thesis and proof of that thesis, plus important detail - so much so that Mormon couldn't help but want to include it with his already abridged record.

    Good work, Nephi!