Friday, July 6, 2018

The Journey to Bountiful and the Building of Nephi’s Ship – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the journey to the land of Bountiful and the building of Nephi’s ship.
Ras al Hamra in Qurm in the north; Salalah, Khor Rori and Sumhuram in the south—White Circle: Early development area, as early as 2000 BC; Purple Circle: Much later development area, Salalah, Khor Rori and Sumhuram after 400 BC

Regarding the area where Nephi built his ship being populated at the time Lehi arrived, we need to look at the fact that Oman’s oldest settlement according to the Sultan Qaboos University, was Ras al Hamra in Qurm in northeastern Oman along the Gulf of Oman in 2000 BC, an area that repeatedly played a significant role in Oman development in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula off the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
    Other sites in Oman, such as al Dahwi, Wadi Al Sukhn, Al Thaqibah, Al Hajr, and Al Saham, date to as early as 1900 to 1100 BC, however, the sites along the Salalah Plain are much more modern, with nothing earlier than about 400 BC and continued much later into the AD period. This Salalah Plain, sometimes referred to as the Garbeeb, is a fertile land that can produce three crops in a year and has been cultivated for thousands of years
    These latter sites were exceptionally fortified and built for the purpose to guard and protect the Frankincense Trail. Wadi Dawkah is an outstanding example of the growth of the frankincense tree (boswellia sacra) from which the resin was produced, collected and traded.
    The area where Nephi built his ship, as shown in the last post, was a verdant paradise along the Salalah Plain, in an eastern area today called the port of Khor Rori (Moscha Limen in classical geographical texts) lies 25 miles to the east of Salalah on a hilltop on the eastern bank of a sweet-water outlet (khor). About 1300 feet from the open sea, it dominates the khor which opens to the sea and served as a natural harbor. The remains of the fortress are located on a rocky spur running east-west, forming part of a wider defensive system, details of which are still evident. The walls have dressed stone faces with rubble cores. The most heavily fortified part is on the north, where the entrance is located, itself a massive structure with three successive gates on the steep entry path. It is flanked by the remains of towers. The port was founded around 400 BC and refounded at the end of the 1st century by LL'ad Yalutas (evidenced by an inscription still in situ) to control the trade in Dhofar incense. It was the hub of the trading settlements on this coast at that time, all of which took place long after Lehi had left the area. The process of disintegration of this ae and its settlements began in the 5th century AD.
    When the party first came over the mountains and saw the green plain and the vast ocean beyond, it must have been a startling site, especially after being eight years in the wilderness and moving through the largest sand desert in the world. In this open plain along the sea and protected by the inland circle of mountains, Lehi “pitched their tents by the seashore” (1 Nephi 17:6). Because of the khor or river mouth and interior protected harbor, this is no doubt where they settled—east on the plain, next to the site where Nephi would have built his ship.
No doubt, at first Laman, Lemuel and the others must have thought this was their final destination—Bountiful looked like a veritable paradise, with its “much fruit” and wild honey, all watered by the monsoons which touch this area and no other area on the entire southern coast of the Arabian peninsula. However, Lehi, and Nephi as well, would have known that their Land of Promise lay beyond this vast ocean before them—so large that Lehi named it Irreantum, meaning “many waters.” Each of their visions (1 Nephi 10:12-13) provided a visionary view of the Land of Promise, and Nephi in particular saw the wars upon it and the Europeans sailing to it across the ocean (1 Nephi 13:12-14).
    While it was “many days” later, that the Lord told Nephi to get to the mountain where he told him he was to build a ship, the Jaredites before them spent four years on the seashore waiting for further instruction from the Lord. How long were these “many days” is unknown, but the instruction of the Lord was quite clear: “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters” (1 Nephi 17:8). Now in building a ship, one might think of the wood that it would take, but Nephi’s first question was “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I make tools to construct the ship?” (1 Nephi 17:9). Evidently, the land all about him was full of trees and that part of the need was obvious, but as to metal ore, that would not have been visible.
    When it became common knowledge in the group that Nephi intended to build a ship to take them to the Land of Promise, his brothers rebelled, to which he said: “when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17).
    Their lack of faith caused Nephi to sorrow in his heart, and that sight gave the brothers encouragement for they did not want him to succeed. They said, no doubt gleefully: “for we knew that ye were lacking in judgment,” the judgment his brothers knew Nephi lacked was in knowing anything about a ship or the building of one. After all, Laman and Lemuel, as his older brothers, knew, not just thought, about what Nephi was capable of doing. They knew well his abilities and experiences—sailing, ship building and shipping were simply not in Nephi’s repertoire. They also knew that Nephi had never built anything so grand as a ship large enough to carry the entire party across the sea, and said, “wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work” (1 Nephi 17:19, emphasis added).
    While Laman, Lemuel and the others might have thought Bountiful was their final destination, especially in light of its beauty after traversing the largest sand desert in the world, Lehi and Nephi understood that the Land of Promise was beyond the sea. This obviously meant a ship of some kind was needed to transport them there. However, it appears that Laman and Lemuel and perhaps others in the party did not understand that at all.
In fact, seeing that wide expanse of ocean and thinking about crossing it in a ship their inexperienced younger brother built, must have filled them with unchecked fear. They either expected to stay in Bountiful, or thought it would be a far better choice than betting their lives in crossing that sea on a homemade ship.
    Nor were they willing to labor on a project they believed was beyond their brother to manage, nor did they believe the Lord had instructed Nephi to do so (1 Nephi 17:18). Yet, it is interesting that while the Lord needed to show Nephi how to build the ship after His plan, and not that of men, to work timbers differently than shipwrights of Nephi’s day (1 Nephi 18:1), and follow a plan that produced a far different ship than those available at the time (1 Nephi 18:2), Nephi evidently needed no help or assistance in knowing what tools to make and how to make them—he only needed to know where the ore was so he could obtain the metal to make the tools (1 Nephi 17:9). Nor did he need to know how to build a bellows (1 Nephi 17:11), or where to place it, or how to build a fire out of nothing but natural rocks. Thus it might be assumed that Nephi had some metalsmith ability, certainly as would have been found in a family-owned working farm of his day.
    Even his brothers didn’t question his ability to make tools—only his ability to build a ship capable of taking them across that large ocean.
    As for Khor Rori meeting the criteria of the scriptural record, the following points can be made:
1. KhorRori is about 3º off due east of Nehem (1 Nephi 17:1);
2. There was reasonable access from Nahom to Khor Rori (not a trivial requirement given the difficult obstacles posed by mountains along much of the coast);
3. Khor Rori was on the coast, providing an area for camping by the sea (1 Nephi 17:5,6);
4. Khor Rori had an inlet and protected harbor in which to launch a ship (1 Nephi 18:8);
5. Khor Rori and the entire Salalah Plain was not only fertile, but the soil considered to be remarkably rich and capable of growing three crops per year. There was also much fruit, especially from the wide fig trees bursting with apple-like fruit, and the plentiful bitter limes (1 Nephi 18:6);
6. Khor Rori has numerous honeycombs scattered about, and ancient honeycomb-lined caves for wild honey (1 Nephi 18:6);
7. Khor Rori had numerous forests about, especially in the area of wadi Darbat, including sycamore, myrtle, willow, and  even Baobab trees. These trees would have been upstream from the area of shipbuilding where logs could be floated downriver to the building location (1 Nephi  18:1,2);
8. There is a nearby mountain that Nephi described as ‘the mount” (1 Nephi 17:5; 18:3);
9. Cliffs existed on either side of the khor mouth, each towering about 90’ above the sea, from which Laman and Lemuel could have thrown Nephi into the sea (1 Nephi 17:48);
10. Freshwater was available year-round to enable a prolonged stay, both along the khor, and at the waterfalls above khor Rori (1 Nephi 18:1);
11. Ore and flint were available at Khor Rori (1 Nephi 17:9-11,16);
12. The wind blows along the cliff tops at the river’s mouth, providing a perfect place for a bellows (1 Nephi 17:11);
East and West cliffs protecting the transition from the khor into the sea

13. The mouth of Khor Rori is protected by cliffs on either side, allow for easy entrance from the khor into the sea (1 Nephi 18:8).
    Thus, not only was Khor Rori well qualified as the place Nephi built his ship, but it provided the perfect example of an inner harbor, nearby ore, complete resources, and near-perfect climate were quite conducive to building his ship. The calm waters of the inlet were also conducive to allow for the floating of the ship, once built, and any maneuvering or practice of guidance could be tested.
(See the next post, “The Journey to Bountiful and the Building of Nephi’s Ship – Part III,” for the building of Nepih’s ship and their journey across the sea)

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