Thursday, September 13, 2018

What Prompted Ishmael to Leave His Home? – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding Nephi being sent back for Ishmael and his family (1 Nephi 7:2); and his lack of resistance to taking his family into the wilderness to join Lehi (1 Nephi 7:4-5).
    Continuing with Lehi’s connection with Ishmael’s family, a statement by the Apostle Erastus Snow, who was a farmer, teacher, merchant publisher, and manufacturer from Vermont, and who served thirteen missions between 1834 and 1861 in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts, helps shed some light on these two events when he stated:
    "Whoever has read the Book of Mormon carefully will have learned that the remnants of the house of Joseph dwelt upon the American continent; and that Lehi learned by searching the records of his fathers that were written upon the plates of brass, that he was of the lineage of Manasseh. The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis, which says, 'And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the land.'  thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, pp184-185). 
Ishmael’s two sons were married and had families of their own by the time Nephi and his brothers arrived as Ishmael’s home

It can be concluded that Ishmael's two sons had already married (1 Nephi 7:6) and had families of their own prior to the time they joined this wilderness journey. If these two sons had married daughters of Lehi as explained by Erastus Snow (see previous post), then the relationship between these two families had been established as "in-laws" long before the time when Lehi’s sons showed up on Ishmael’s doorstep. Lehi and Ishmael were therefore not only entirely familiar with each other, but were probably the closest of friends (W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1067), or related as Hugh Nibley stated (see last post).
    Therefore, once into the desert with a place secured far enough away from Jerusalem to insure Lehi’s safety, the Lord commanded Lehi that "his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise" (1 Nephi 7:1).  We also note that one of the first divine commandment to men created in God's image, was: "Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28).
    In order to enable Adam to keep this divine law, God formed a woman of a "rib" taken from the side of Adam, wherefore he, on seeing this new, glorious creation, said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." The Creator added to this: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:22-24; 19:4-5). The commandment to replenish the earth has not been canceled; it will be in force until the entire earth is filled with the children of God, and obviously was an integral part of the plan of taking Lehi and his family to the Land of Promise.
    It might be noted that the Hebrew word ("zelah”) which is translated "rib," occurs 38 times in the Old Testament, yet, nowhere, except in the Genesis account, is it rendered "rib." In a number of passages it is translated "side" (Exodus 25:12,14; 26:20; 27:7; 36:25,31; 37:35; 38:7). In 2 Samuel 16:13 it is rendered "hillside.”
The chambers of the temple were built along the southern western and northern sides
In Ezekiel 41 the word zela occurs ten times and is rendered, "side chambers." 
    Why the translators of Genesis should have preferred "rib" to "side" is unknown. "Chamber" would, in the opinion of Reynolds' and Sjodahl, be preferable. These side chambers were built around the Temple (1 Kings 6:5–10), and formed a part of the building. They were used for sacred and other purposes, and were one story high at first; two more may have been added later. Thus, the body of Adam was a temple of God, with its side chambers, as well as main chambers, in which the main springs of life were stored.  From these chambers it pleased God to draw his material for the second sacred structure, to be joined to the first. And so Adam, who was perfectly conscious of what the Lord had done during his sleep, exclaimed, as soon as he saw the new creation, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (George Reynolds and Jane M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, Deseret News, Salt Lake City, 1951, pp55,59).
    It should also be considered that Ishmael, a righteous man, either acknowledged that Lehi was a prophet, called of God, or that God had specifically chosen Lehi for a special event, one in which Ishmael’s own family was to be involved. The fact that the Lord “softened the heart” of Ishmael and his family, no doubt played a big part in Ishmael’s agreement to follow Nephi down to Lehi’s tent near the Red Sea (1 Nephi 7:5). It is very possible that in the conversation between himself and Nephi, that Lehi’s message of Jerusalem about to be destroyed by the enemy armies who already occupied the city was conveyed (D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1988, p. 30).
    Nephi tells us that when the Lord softened the heart of Ishmael, he added: “and also his household” (1 Nephi 7:5), and such term denotes a “family” quite different than what is considered a family today.
Lehi, being a wealthy man and living outside of Jerusalem, would have had a farm and subsisted on his own produce, which would have required several people as part of his household

First of all, we need to keep in mind that ancient Israel was an agrarian society, as would Lehi have been living outside of Jerusalem, that required extensive cooperation for economic survival. As Leo Perdue, one of the leading international scholars in the field of biblical wisdom” and Dean and Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, and editor for The Library of Biblical Theology at Abingdon Press and Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht's Library of Wisdom, writes:
    “Social cooperation among families in the clan (mispahah) was necessary for building and maintaining terraces to conserve the soil and reduce water runoff, for sharing a common water source (wells or streams), for constructing cisterns that retained water for the rainy season, for establishing and supporting the boundaries of fields, for harvesting of crops, for judicial settlements, and for a common defense. A network of mutual care was necessary for households to survive crop failures and food shortages caused by drought, blight, and disease. This network of care extended beyond individual to tribes and to the “sons of Israel” (Leo G. Perdue, “The Israelite and Early Jewish Family,” Families in Ancient Israel, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1997, pp169-170).
    Secondly, was the bayit, or the household. This was similar to our family of parents with probably two to four children, as well as multiple generations, but it also would include debt servants, slaves, concubines, resident aliens, sojourners, day laborers and orphans. Stated differently, the term “household” in ancient Israel included all who lived and worked upon the property, including servants, slaves, and their families. Thus, we do not know how many people were involved within Ishmael’s household, but it would have been more than just Ishmael, his wife, two sons and their families and his five daughters, otherwise the correct term to be used would have been Ishmael and his family.
    Here it should be noted, that one of the reasons why Ishmael followed Lehi, was that their two families were interwoven in ancient Hebrew commitments, no doubt Ishmael’s daughters (at least the younger four) and Lehi’s sons (Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi) were promised and betrothed to one another—an act often entered into among very close friends and relatives in ancient Israel from an early age.
Lehi and his family and that of Ishmael and his family on their wilderness journey

Thus, where Lehi and his sons went, Ishmael, with his daughters, was bound to follow. It was to be a journey into the wilderness that would last eight years, and turn normally near-urban people into future prophets and leaders, capable of creating a civilization where none had existed before them.

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