Monday, September 13, 2010

How Did Jacob Know?

In 2 Nephi 10:20, Jacob, in preaching to the Nephites, claimed the Land of Promise upon which they lived was actually an island. The Prophet Nephi wrote this statement down, and the following statement claiming that others have been led away from Jerusalem and occupy other islands of the sea.

This statement occurs between 559 and 545 B.C. At this time, the Nephites knew only of the area of First Landing (1 Nephi 18:23-25) and the area they called the Land of Nephi (1 Nephi 5:7), which was “many days” journey in the wilderness to the north of their landing (Alma 22:29). This Land of Nephi is later described as being south of the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Bountiful, and the Land of Desolation (Alma 22:29-33).

In 559 to 545 B.C., the Nephites did not know of the Land of Zarahemla, the Land of Bountiful, the Narrow Neck of Land, the Land of Desolation, etc., etc., etc. They knew only of the area of First Landing to the Land of Nephi. It is not known if they even knew at this time of an East Sea or South Sea.

So how did Jacob know they were on an island? Certainly when a prophet preaches, he is speaking the truth. This fact of their land being an island was known to both Jacob and Nephi, but not necessarily known to the Nephites to whom Jacob was preaching. The purpose of this preaching was to teach the Nephites that they were not cast off from the presence of the Lord—and though they were far from Jerusalem, and upon an island of the sea, the Lord knew of their whereabouts for he had led them to that island (2 Nephi 10:20), and that their brethren, other Jews from Jerusalem, were also upon other islands like theirs (2 Nephi 10:21).

The question is: How did Jacob know the Land of Promise, upon which they resided, was an island? Even if the Nephites knew there was a sea to the east at this time, they knew nothing of the land to the north of them, which was not even entered until sometime after 279 B.C. when Mosiah led those who followed him to the Land of Zarahemla. And even then, nothing was known of the land to the north of that until Limhi sent a 43-man expeditionary force that entered the Land Northward sometime around 130 B.C.

So how did Jacob know they were on an island?

There were two sources for that information: 1) A vision or inspiration from the Lord, and 2) Isaiah’s writings (2 Nephi 6:4), which they had on the Brass Plates. Even if it were the latter, how would they have known Isaiah, whose book was written between 701 and 681 B.C, about 40 years before Lehi was born, was speaking of the Nephites? Obviously, only through a vision or inspiration of the Lord!

Certainly, Jacob, or the Nephites, could not have known they were on an island from any other means. It was something that could not be guessed at for the Land of Promise, including both the Land Southward and the Land Northward, covered a fairly large area. Nor could it be suggested that Nephite sailors had circumnavigated the island by sea, for by the time Jacob is preaching in 559 B.C., not long after landing upon the shores of the land—left Jerusalem in 597 B.C., spent 8 years in the wilderness, one or two years building a ship, which would place their time of landing at 588 or 587 B.C. During that time, Nephi was occupied with his father and possibly his mother, and his own family, and after his father’s death, with troubles from his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, who continually sought his life (2 Nephi 5:2).

It is not known how long Lehi lived in the Land of Promise. The Book of Mormon dating suggests sometime between 588 B.C. and 570 B.C., as the date when Lehi died and Nephi was told to leave with those who would go with him—a period of about 18 years, making it about 10 years they were in the Land of Nephi. It is unlikely that any sailing ventures would have been taken during that calamitous time, nor in the first several years after reaching the Land of Nephi when they were busy building places to live, planting seed for sustenance, and building a temple like unto Solomon’s. By the time Jacob is preaching, the Nephites had little time to wander beyond their immediate land.

So how could Jacob know they were upon an island?

Only by vision or inspiration from the Lord. Thus, one must wonder why every single scholar and theorist delving into describing the Land of Promise and its location, and developing their maps, completely ignore this most vital descriptive information that came to Jacob and Nephi, and to us, directly from the Lord?

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