Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Location of Lehi’s Home

A few clues in 1 Nephi open up some interesting questions and perhaps shed light on the location of Lehi's home, when Nephi says his father, Lehi, dwelt “at” Jerusalem all his days (1 Nephi 1:4). He did not say that his father dwelt “in” Jerusalem, but “at” Jerusalem. The word “at” is defined as “within the limits of; in the region or vicinity of; in proximity to,” while the word “in” is defined as “within the bounds of; contained or included within; to be part of; contained by.” The use of this particular preposition (which specifies place, direction, and time) would suggest that Nephi's home was near Jerusalem, but not within the old, walled city itself. Nephi also states that Lehi “went forth, then returned to his own house at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:5,7). Was Lehi engaged in some business that took him away from the area of Jerusalem, to which he returned when he went back to his house?

Nephi goes on to say that after he and his brothers returned to Jerusalem for the brass plates and Laman entered the city and confronted Laban, they ran into trouble (1 Nephi 3:13). Immediately afterward, they decided to go “down to the land of their inheritance” and collect some of the gold and silver and their precious things, which they had left in the family home (1 Nephi 3:22). Nephi continues the account by saying that he and his brothers then “went up again unto the house of Laban,” which was in the walled city of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 3:23). Did the brothers leave Jerusalem and travel south to their land of inheritance, or former home at Jerusalem? Then, on obtaining some of their gold and precious things, travel back “up” and “into” the city of Jerusalem again?

A further clue is shed on this intriguing language when we read earlier that when Nephi and his brothers left the camp of their father by the Red Sea, they took their tents and “went up to the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 3:9). Later, after returning with the brass plates to Lehi's camp, the boys were sent back to Jerusalem to obtain Ishmael and his family. Again Nephi uses the term “up” to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:3) and “down” to the wilderness (1 Nephi 7:5). Finally, after discussing the rebellious attitudes of his two older brothers and two of the daughters of Ishmael, Nephi says “we did come down unto the tent of our father” (1 Nephi 7:22).

Generally speaking, when discussing directions, “up” can mean north, or higher in elevation. From Salt Lake City, you go “up” to Logan, or “down” to St. George. Or, a person may live up the block or down the block, depending on the direction or elevation, or the beginning or ending of the street. In addition, the topography of the Holy Land shows that Palestine is a series of hills and mountains that basically run east and west, lifting upward from the Mediterranean Sea to their peaks, then dropping off back down to sea level in the east. In the area of Jerusalem, the hills increase in elevation from the Mediterranean coast upward to Jerusalem, then down to the Dead Sea. Thus, anywhere to the west or east would also be “down” from Jerusalem.

Whether the Lehi home was to the west, east or even south of Jerusalem is not known, but it does seem likely that the patriarch had his home in an area near Jerusalem, but not within the city walls. It also seems certain that Nephi and his brothers came up to Jerusalem from their father's camp near the Red Sea, encountered Laban unsuccessfully, then left the city and went down to their former home, finally to return by going back up to Jerusalem.

Thus, it seems likely that Lehi, a wealthy man, had his house and property outside of Jerusalem at a lower elevation than the city itself. The fact that the brothers had to go down to the house and then back up to Jerusalem even suggests a journey of some distance and lower elevation. So how would Lehi have made a living in such an area away from Jerusalem? That is the topic of the next post "Lehi's Possible Business."

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