Saturday, April 13, 2013

Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part III

In 600 B.C. and earlier, stone was plentiful in most of Palestine and was a common building material throughout the land. People in Galilee used basalt, and those in the villages and cities of the coastal plain used sandstone.  Stone was generally used at least in the foundations of houses. In addition, Palestine was a fairly well-forested area in biblical times, and wood was also used for houses. Ordinary people used the local sycamore, and the rich imported cedar and fir from Lebanon and Syria; but this wood was used mostly for decoration and interior, exposed beaming.
Top Left: Framing of a window interior in an ancient stone structure; Right: Ancient oak addition to a stone structure with second story roof poles showing; Bottom: Roof and Support beams of a house made of stone
In working with stone, iron tools made stone-dressing easier. The stone was smoothed on three or four sides, with dressed margins and a projecting boss (a carved projection along the edges of the stone). In Megiddo, ashlar pillars were built into the wall at regular intervals to give strength to the structure. In Herod's time, large blocks of up to 30 feet were used. These stones were polished along the edges, leaving either a shallow boss or a projecting boss in the center.
The basic floor plan used for houses was usually similar to the one used for the Roman insula: a central courtyard with a number of rooms opening off it. These rooms were small by our standards, with a minimum of windows. Lattice work and shutters were used to cover window openings (Judges 5:28).
The size of the rooms was limited by the fact that they could only be as wide as the beams that supported the roof. Beams, usually wooden, reached from one wall to the other, and were covered with a mixture of woven branches and clay, which was smoothed with a stone roller.
Two beams support the second floor in this excavated Jewish upscale home in B.C. Jerusalem
The inner walls were finished with a smooth coat of clay or plaster, which could be decorated with frescoes, elaborate ones in the houses of the rich, simpler ones in peasant houses. Wide stone benches for sitting and sleeping, and shelves for storage were built into the structure itself.
In the courtyard was the mikveh, for both men and women, a cooking area with a fire, cooking utensils and possibly an oven, implements for grinding small amounts of grain, a covered area where people sat while they worked or talked. In addition, in Jerusalem homes the family animals also occupied the courtyard, possibly a donkey, goats or a cow, while those that lived outside Jerusalem had stalls for the animals.
As can be imagined, this area was crowded with people, animals and activity at almost any time of the day. In the summer and warmer periods, the flat roof was used for gathering, eating, sometimes cooking, and often for sleeping.
The conditions of homes and living in 600 B.C. Jerusalem have been well documented and established, and scholars should not have any trouble finding out what it was like. To make definitive statements to the contrary and try and show ancient living in Jerusalem inaccurately in order to prove a different life style in some so-called Nephite land, is not worthy of a scholarly effort.
On the other hand, the living style that existed in Mesopotamia among the population is not so well known, but enough is known not to make such glaring mistakes as Nebuchadnezzar II having anything to do with the Tower of Babel construction or plans.
Left: The Tower of Babel stele from The SchØyen Collection. It is dated to about 600 B.C., some 1700 years or more after the Tower of Babel was built and depicts Nebuchadnezzar II; Right: A copy of a drawing of what is engraved on the stone, showing the outer walls and the inner arrangement or rooms
While scholars like to claim the Tower of Babel stele is an indication of Nebuchadnessar II with the plans of the Tower in his right hand (i.e., a foundation nail), this could not be the Tower of Babel spoken of in Genesis for two reasons: 1) Nebuchadnezzar II lived from 634 to 562 B.C., some seventeen or eighteen centuries after the Tower was built, and would not have been involved in the building of the Tower, and probably would not have known anything about its construction or appearance; and 2) The drawing shows a building, some call a temple, on the top of the structure suggesting two things: the tower was finished, and that it had some other purpose than to build a structure to heaven.
More than likely, the drawing and stele itself was for the purpose of showing one of Nebuchadnessar II’s achievements in life, the building of a seven-story ziggurat around the time Lehi left Jerusalem. His other accomplishments, besides the destruction of the First Temple of the Jews and sending them into exile, was his building of the hanging gardens of Babylon.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II in about 600 BC to please his foreign wife, who longed for the plants of her homeland. The gardens were destroyed by earthquakes after the 2nd century BC
On the other hand, the Tower built at the time of the Jaredites was most likely not completed, since the scriptures make no mention of a completion (Genesis 11:4-6), and Josephus merely says that they made it very high, sooner than any could expect (Josephus 4:3). Genesis and Josephus both say the Lord scattered them abroad because of the confusion of the languages, while the Sibylline Prophecies claims the “gods sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower,” while also making the broad statement that the Tower “was destroyed.”
If the Tower, was in fact, not destroyed, there would be no small temple on top, as in the image used. And, if in fact, the tower was built as Nimrod feared that God might destroy the world again with another flood, Nimrod “would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers, there would not be a building on top of the tower.
Obviously, the Tower was never finished, for in its building, Nimrod gained power over the people as his plan was to make people fear him so they would turn away from God.
The point of all this is merely to suggest that we do not know the shape and size of the tower, nor how men got upon it, or if it was stepped, as later pyramids were built, if it had ramps, or in what manner it appeared. Such is simply not known. And combining this with the previous two posts should show the fallacy of thinking the Nephites didn’t build out of stone. The Israelites built houses, temples, synagogues, and city walls out of stone at the time of Lehi and long before, even though the area was plentiful with wood. It is hard to imagine anyone saying they did not build with stone when their history was in doing so, as was the Nephite history.
(See the next post, “Did the Nephites Build out of Stone? Part IV,” for more on the building of the Jaredites and the Nephites)

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