Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Prophets of Lehi’s Time

In 597 B.C., the first year of Zedekiah’s reign, conditions in Jerusalem had grown intolerable to the Lord. He called many prophets (1 Nephi 1:4). Jeremiah was, perhaps, the best known, and both he and Habbukuk left writings of that era. In addition, the Lord called Lehi to preach in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:18; 2:1), and like the others, the Jews sought his life (1 Nephi 1:20).

Jeremiah. Since Assyria controlled Israel in the 100 years before Lehi led his family out of Jerusalem, the Jews were inundated with pagan culture, gods and worship. By the time Jeremiah was called to preach in Jerusalem, the city was strife with wickedness. Jeremiah took up his mission in Jerusalem with a heavy heart. Like prophets before him, he admonished the throngs of shoppers and merchants in the marketplaces and the crowds in the temple courtyard to listen to the Lord. At the annual Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), in 608 B.C., when pilgrims from all Judah flocked to Jerusalem, Jeremiah was instructed by God to stand in the Lord's house. As priests circled the altar, worshipers waved their lulabs (ceremonial plumes woven of branches from palm, willow and myrtle trees) and joined in the singing, Jeremiah stepped forward and loudly interrupted the ceremony. He denounced the display of superficial orthodoxy and predicted the fall of the temple and the captivity of the Jews.

Habakkuk. A relatively unknown prophet, Habakkuk wrote after the fall of Assyria, but before the fall of Jerusalem, making him contemporary with Jeremiah and Lehi. An impatient man, he was filled with chagrin over the evil of Judah, and wanted to know when the Lord was going to follow through on the predictions of his prophets who had been predicting the terrible consequences of the Jews' crimes and punishment for some time. "O, Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! Even cry out unto thee of violence and thou wilt not save!" The Lord's answer to his prophet's question was to declare that Judah would be conquered by the new world power—the Babylonians.

Lehi. A contemporary of Jeremiah and Habakkuk, Lehi was born about 650 B.C. Like Zephaniah and Jeremiah, he was a prophet of doom to his nation. Lehi received a vision (1 Nephi 1:8) of God, Christ and the Twelve Apostles (1 Nephi 1:10), and the terrible abominations of Israel, the eventual destruction of Jerusalem, and their captivity in Babylon (1 Nephi 1:13). He prophesied all of these things to the Jews in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:14) and kept a record of his life and work (1 Nephi 1:17). The Jews tried to kill him (1 Nephi 1:20) and the Lord commanded him to take his family and flee into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:2), which he did.
Lehi was not the only Old Testament prophet whose name has been forgotten. There were Jasher (Jos 10:13; 2 Sam 1:18); Nathan (1 Chron 29:29; 2 Chron 9:29); Schemaiah (2 Chron 12:15); Iddo (2 Chron 13:22); and Jehu (2 Chron 20:34); while the Book of Mormon suggests other forgotten Old Testament prophets in Zenock (1 Nephi 19:10); Zenos (Jacob 5:1; Hellaman 15:11; Alma 38:3); and Ezias (Helaman 8:20). How many others are missing we simply do not know, though Nephi says that just prior to his father's prophetic calling, “there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city of Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4). No doubt these were among those now forgotten, and probably some of the messengers of God that the Bible tells us were mocked, their messages despised, and themselves misused (2 Chron 36:15-16).

Thus, Lehi was told to take his family into the wilderness, which begins the monumental epic of the Book of Mormon.


  1. I wonder if, in Heaven at least, we might learn that some of these missing prophets were directed to promised lands of their own and that they kepta record of their lives and development. Other sheep they might be....