Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where Was Lehi’s Home Where He “Lived All His Days at Jerusalem”?

Nephi gives us a few clues regarding the family home at Jerusalem that opens up some interesting questions and perhaps sheds light on both the location of Lehi's home, and the type of business enterprise he engaged in that brought him an abundance of gold and silver and precious things (1 Nephi 2:4).

We are told that Lehi dwelt at Jerusalem all his days (1 Nephi 1:4). Nephi 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 word 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 after gathering the objects from their father’s home, 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 that “we did come down unto the tent of our father” (1 Nephi 7:22).

Generally speaking, when discussing directions, “up” can mean north, or “up” in elevation. From Los Angeles, you go “up” to San Francisco or “down” to San Diego; 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 of, or the elevation of, the street. In addition, the topography of the Holy Land shows that Palestine is a series of hills and mountains that basically north and south, 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 and at a much lower elevation. Not only when talking to Zoram without the city walls of Jerusalem, and Nephi said, “if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father” (1 Nephi 4:34), but also when 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.

While we are not told how far away from the city walls the family home was located, Nephi does describe that when they fled Laban’s guards who sought their lives, they “fled into the wilderness…and hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock“ (1 Nephi 3:27). This must have been some distance from the city, where there was wilderness (unoccupied land) and caves, and both at a lower elevation, because later, after the angel appeared and after Nephi chastised his brothers, he said “they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 4:4).

Thus living some distance down the mountain from the walled city of Jerusalem--the site of Beit Lehi (shown above), discovered in 1983, a possible site for Lehi's home, is 22 miles from Jerusalem--the family would have been dependent upon themselves for food, supplies, and most of their daily and immediate needs. This would also suggest that the family had some type of farm where they could grow sufficient crops for at least their own use. All of this suggests why Lehi had such supplies when told by the Lord to leave his home and lands and depart into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:4).

No comments:

Post a Comment