1 Nephi 10
Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land
(1 Nephi )
1 Nephi 10 (Testimonies of Christ and the Covenant People):
Two short chapters, 9 & 10 of First Nephi, are very special chapters in that they not only detail the importance of a written record, but they mark the convergence of a number of important testimonies of Christ and His covenant with the house of Israel. Nephi puts Lehi's prophecy of the Messiah side-by-side with the prophet Isaiah's prophecy of John the Baptist's preparatory work relative to the Messiah. Nephi also ties Lehi's prophecy concerning the scattering and gathering of covenant Israel to Zenos' Olive tree prophecy.
In chapter 10 we find the center of Nephi's conceptual chiastic outline for his whole book of First Nephi. Yet one should compare the wording of that conceptual center with Nephi's reasons for making his plates in chapter 9:
Chiastic center: "For [God] is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him." (1 Nephi 10:18)
Reason for the plates: "The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is amen." (1 Nephi 9:6)
Nephi ends chapters 9 & 10 by declaring that "the Holy Ghost giveth authority that [he] should speak these things, and deny them not" (1 Nephi 10:22).
As a final thought, it is noteworthy that chapters 9 & 10 not only lead into Nephi's vision concerning his seed, but that they follow Lehi's vision. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:2]
1 Nephi 10:1 An Account . . . of My Proceedings, and My Reign and Ministry:
Hugh Nibley asserts that indeed, Nephi speaks of his history as "an account . . . of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry" (1 Nephi 10:1) as if the wandering family recognized no government but that of its own head. This reminds one of the terms in which one of the earliest Bedouin poets, Ibn Kulthum, speaks of "many a chief of a tribe, whom they had crowned with the crown of authority and who protects those who seek refuge with him," as if every sheikh were truly a king. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 67-68]
1 Nephi 10:1 And Now I, Nephi, Proceed to Give an Account upon These Plates of My Proceedings, and My Reign and Ministry:
Noel B. Reynolds has shown that Nephi's record in the book of First Nephi is composed of two parallel accounts. He calls the first part, found in chapters 1-9, "Lehi's account" because it is Nephi's abridgment of Lehi's record, and the second, found in chapters 10-22, "Nephi's account" as here he makes his own record. Each of these individual records parallels the other in both structure and content while at the same time each one is a chiasm within itself. According to Reynolds the central point around which the first chiasm turns is the obtaining of the brass plates. The central point of the second is the building of the boat. [As noted by George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript (July 2000), pp. 261-262; see also Noel B. Reynolds, "Nephi's Outline," in Book of Mormon Authorship, New Light on Ancient Origins], p. 53] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:20]
1 Nephi 10:1 I, Nephi, Proceed to Give an Account upon These Plates of My Proceedings:
In 1 Nephi 1:17, Nephi says (referring to his writings on the small plates), "I shall make an account of my proceedings, in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life." 1 Nephi 10:1 contains a similar phrase "And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry." Some have supposed this later verse to be the place in the record that Nephi begins to make an account of his own proceedings (see Sperry, Compendium, p. 94). However, the "proceedings" of Nephi do not immediately follow. In fact, Nephi specifically states in verse 10:1 that “[in order] to proceed with mine account I must speak somewhat of the things of my father and also my brethren.” Nephi doesn't fully get to himself until verse 17 of chapter 10. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:2 (global chiastic structure), 1 Nephi 10:18, and 1 Nephi 2:22]
1 Nephi 10:1 I Must Speak Somewhat of the Things of My Father:
In a very interesting textual note, Nephi tells the reader that in order to explain "my proceedings, and my reign and ministry" (1 Nephi 10:1), he must comment on the teachings of his father. He then gives a summary of Lehi's teachings. Why are these teachings so interesting? And why is Nephi's comment so interesting? Because according to Garold Davis, Nephi's summary of Lehi's teachings is a rather precise outline for all the commentaries on Isaiah that follow in the Book of Mormon. 1 Nephi 10 indicates that:
(1) Jerusalem will be destroyed and the Jews will be carried away (v. 3);
(2) the Jews will return and "possess again the land of their inheritance" (v. 3)
(3) the Messiah will come and "take away the sins of the world," but he will be rejected and slain and will then "rise from the dead" (vv. 4-11);
(4) the house of Israel will then be scattered "upon all the face of the earth" (vv. 12-13);
(5) the gentiles will receive "the fulness of the Gospel,," and then the house of Israel will be gathered together and "come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer" (v. 14).
[Garold N. Davis, "Pattern and Purpose of the Isaiah Commentaries in the Book of Mormon," in Davis Britton ed. Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 281-282] [See the commentary on Words of Mormon 1:5]
1 Nephi 10:4 Six Hundred Years from the Time That My Father [Lehi] Left Jerusalem, a Prophet Would the Lord God Raise Up among the Jews--Even a Messiah:
There are some questions that need to be answered regarding Nephi's account of his father Lehi's prophecies. Nephi asserts that, "six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews--even a Messiah" (1 Nephi 10:4). Joseph Allen introduces the dilemma:
The traditional Book of Mormon dating for Lehi's departure from Jerusalem is 600 B.C., the first year of the reign of King Zedekiah/Mattaniah. Modern Biblical scholarship, as outlined above, places the first year of the reign of King Zedekiah/Mattaniah at 597 or 598 B.C. The question is, did Lehi leave Jerusalem around 600 B.C., or 597 B.C., three years later?
The issue is further complicated because Biblical scholarship places the birth of Christ at 4 B.C. If we use the 600 B.C. Lehi departure date, the birth of Christ would need to be at 1B.C./A.D.1
If the first year of the reign of Zedekiah/Mattaniah was 597 B.C. and if Christ was born at 4 B.C., why does the Book of Mormon say that in 600 years the Savior would be born? If we subtract 4 B.C. from 597 B.C., we come up with 593 years instead of 600 years. [See Appendix A]
The years from 597 B.C. (the first year of the reign of Zedekiah/Mattaniah and the departure of Lehi out of Jerusalem) to 4 B.C. (the death of Herod and the birth of Christ) are 593 years (365.24 days to the year). But 597 B.C. to 4 B.C. is 600 Maya years (tun, or 360 days).
Therefore, Lehi left Jerusalem at 597 B.C., in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah/Mattaniah. Six hundred Maya years later, Christ was born, which is the year 4 B.C.
Nephi was writing his record in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon record keepers [might have] adopted the tun year.
The Mesoamericans adjusted their calendar in A.D. 6 when a mass planetary conjunction occurred. This adjustment is consistent with the Book of Mormon wherein it states that nine years after the birth of Christ (4 B.C.), the people adjusted their calendar system in the beginning of A.D. 6 or at the end of A.D. 5 (3 Nephi 2:7-8) . . . (thus) all is well. Or is it? [Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 22] [See Appendix A]
According to a F.A.R.M.S. article by Jay Huber, even before the days of Lehi, a 360-day year had historical precedence. Many of the ancient calendars had a 360-day core. The Egyptian standard civil calendar, dating from the early third millennium B.C. consisted of a core of 12 months of 30 days each, with five extra days tagged onto the end of the year. In Mesopotamia a similar schematic calendar was used, although it never became dominant as it did in Egypt, being overshadowed by the lunar calendar. It is even speculated that the pre-exilic Israelite calendar used a 360-day base. [Jay Huber, "Lehi's 600-Year Prophecy and the Birth of Christ," F.A.R.M.S., p. 12]
The notion of a 360-day year has a number of interesting scriptural echoes. The apostle John, in the Book of Revelation, seems to equate 42 months with 3.5 "times" (or "years"; compare Rev. 12:14 with 12:6), as well as 42 months with 1260 days (Rev 11:2 and 3). Both usages seem to imply a 12 month "year" with 30 days per "month." Similarly the Genesis account of the flood implies the use of a thirty-day month in its equating the five "months" of the flood to 150 days (see Genesis 7:11-12, 24; 8:2-4) (p. 14).
In conclusion, only the 360-day year allows Lehi's 600-year prophecy to be fitted between Herod's death and Zedekiah's accession. Whether such a year length was fixed by revelation, by Old World tradition, or by personal preference is uncertain (p. 34). [See Appendix A]
Joseph Allen suggests that before we get too excited about a 597 B.C. departure date for Lehi, let us take a look at what was going on in Jerusalem at 597 B.C., which suggests that Lehi and his family had been long gone from their homeland.
1. Jehoiakim, who had been the king of Judah for 11 years, was thrown against the wall by the Babylonians and denied a burial in 598/597 B.C. The reason the Babylonians took such drastic action is that Jehoiakim did not send the last month's rent as had been agreed in a treaty three years previously. The Babylonians simply foreclosed on Jehoiakim. They took 3,000 of the principal leaders of Judah captive into Babylon (Josephus 217).
With this type of turmoil going on at 597 B.C. in Jerusalem we would expect Nephi to mention it in his account as opposed to just prophesying about it (1 Nephi 2:11).
In addition, if what we read above happened in 597 B.C., the gold and silver and land would already have been confiscated by Nebuchadnezzar. Laman and Lemuel would probably be grumbling in Babylon.
2. In the same year, 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians, placed the son of Jehoiakim, whose name was Jehoiachin, on the throne. However, fearful that the son might retaliate for his father's death, the Babylonians took Jehoiachin into captivity to Babylon after Jehoiachin had reigned for only three months and ten days.
The Babylonians carried away the king's mother, the king's wives, his officers, and mighty men of the land. The Babylonians also took captive into Babylon all the craftsmen and smiths and the mighty men of valor, consisting of 10,000 captives. Only the poorest part of the people were left at Jerusalem. (2 Kings 24:14-18). In this way, Nebuchadnezzar was assured of getting his tribute and of keeping Jerusalem under control.
Had Lehi and his family still been around in 598/97 B.C. when the above activity was taking place in Jerusalem, he and his sons, as well as Laban who had the brass plates, would have been deported into Babylon. They would certainly qualify as "men of valor" and would not be considered "the poorest sort of the people" (2 Kings 24:14).
Nebuchadnezzar had been the king of the Babylonians for four years. During those four years, he had carried on a Napoleon-type program wherein he gained control over Egypt, Syria, and a good share of the Mid-Eastern world. In the year 601 B.C., he marched with a mighty army to Jerusalem. In no uncertain terms, he informed Jehoiakim, who had been the king for eight years, that Jehoiakim needed to sign a treaty and to pay a heavy tribute to Babylon or Jerusalem would be destroyed on the spot. Jehoiakim complied with the request and paid tribute for three years, or until about 598/97 B.C. During the three years, the calm before the storm occurred. To the vain people, like Laman and Lemuel, peace was apparently guaranteed.
3. To extract 600 years [from a 601 B.C. departure date], we must place the birth of Christ at 1 B.C./A.D.1 [This] is not difficult to solve, as many scholars feel comfortable with a 1 B.C. birth date for Christ. (See the book April Sixth, by John Lefgren. See also the articles by John P. Pratt in The Ensign, 1985:59-68) [Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 22-23] [See also John P. Pratt, "Lehi's 600-year Prophecy of the Birth of Christ, Http://www.meridianmagazine.com/articles/000331sixhundred.html] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:13; 10:4] [See Appendix A]
According to Randall Spackman, if we follow the latest scholarly research, the first year of the reign of Zedekiah (and therefore the earliest time at which Lehi could have departed Jerusalem) was 597 B.C.E. This creates a problem: 600 years from 597 B.C.E. does not correlate with the time of the birth of Christ. The principal timekeeping system throughout the Middle East in the sixth century B.C.E. was a 12-moon calendar (which averages 354.36705 days per year). The priests also recognized that the solar year (365.2422 days) was about 11 days longer than the 12-moon calendar. In Lehi's days, a thirteenth moon was added (or "intercalated") to a year when it became clear that the religious festivals were starting to occur too early in the agricultural or seasonal cycle. However, it is unlikely that Lehi would have attempted to intercalate his calendar even for a short period of time because the methods used were secret and closely guarded by the priests of the temple. In the same way, the traditional calendar of the Arabian desert was a nonintercalated 12-moon calendar. In addition, with Lehi traveling through different climate zones, there would have been no constant seasonal frame of reference. Moreover, Lehi's descendants would have been in conformity with Mesoamerican astronomical and calendrical practice if they simply continued to count a 12-moon year. Thus, the 600 years of Lehi's prophecy appear to have been counted as 600 x 12, or 7,200 moons, a period of about 212,620.2 days or 582.13 of our solar years. As we shall find in future commentary, scholarly calculations place the birth of Christ around 5 B.C.E. If that is the case, then Lehi might have left Jerusalem almost right as the siege was lifted in January 587 B.C.E. [Randall Spackman, "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology," F.A.R.M.S., pp. 15-17]
According to John Tvedtnes, it is very doubtful that we can take the "600 years" of Nephi's prophecy as literal, since Lehi left Jerusalem no earlier than the first year of Zedekiah (1 Nephi 1:4), which would have been 598 B.C.--already too late for the prophecy to have been fulfilled precisely 600 years later. Thus, Alma (see Alma 3:14-17) could have been aware of Nephi's statement and taken it as an approximation only, rather than as a precise date. It is Mormon's rewriting of the history which has the birth of Christ occurring in the six hundredth year (3 Nephi 1:1). And it was this same Mormon who acknowledged that there could have been errors in the chronology (3 Nephi 8:1-2). [John A. Tvedtnes, "Book Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, FARMS, Vol. 3, 1991, p. 199]
1 Nephi 10:4-5 A Messiah . . . a Savior . . . This Redeemer:
Lehi prophesied that "a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews--even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the World. He also spoke of how many prophets had testified of this Messiah, this "Redeemer of the world" (1 Nephi 10:4-5)
As Christians we refer to Jesus as "the Christ." This comes from the Greek Christus meaning "the anointed one." Christus was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word also meaning "the anointed one." The Hebrew word is Meshiach, or Messiah as we have anglicized it. Therefore, it is proper that Lehi would refer to this prophet as "the Messiah," the Savior, or "the Redeemer" (1 Nephi 10:5). [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 1981, p. 26]
1 Nephi 10:5 And [Lehi] Also Spake concerning the Prophets . . . This Messiah . . . This Redeemer:
According to Brant Gardner, perhaps as no other verse, 1 Nephi 10:5 indicates the quantity of material which has been excised from the report of Lehi's sermon: "And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world."
It is hard to imagine Lehi expounding on the great number of prophets which had predicated the coming of the Messiah without naming them, and probably citing their clearest prophecies. Nephi chooses not to repeat this information, and suffices himself with only the briefest of mentions. It is not clear from the available information how much of the plan of life Lehi expounded. Clearly he made explicit the connection of the Messiah to the Fall of Man (see 1 Nephi 10:6), but again Nephi only records this very brief synopsis of what must have been a much larger original text. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, 1Nephi/1Nephi10.htm, p. 3]
1 Nephi 10:5 [Lehi] Also Spake concerning the Prophets, How Great a Number Had Testified of . . . the Messiah:
In the tenth chapter of his first book, Nephi makes the following statement:
For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting [my brethren] to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews . . . after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance. Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews--even a Messiah, or in other words, a Savior of the world. And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah of whom he had spoken or this Redeemer of the world. (1 Nephi 10:2-5)
This statement sounds strange in view of the fact that there are only two references to the term "Messiah" in the Old Testament, and both references are found in succeeding verses in the book of Daniel (Daniel 9:25-26). One might wonder just what happened to all these references. Were they part of the "plain and most precious things" which Nephi in vision would foresee to be taken out of the holy writ? (see 1 Nephi 13:26). In view of this paradox, I find it very interesting that Alfred Edersheim, one of the most noted commentators on the life and times of Jesus, makes the following comments:
Perhaps the most valuable element in Rabbinic commentation on Messianic times is that in which, as so frequently, it is explained, that all the miracles and deliverances of Israel's past, would be re-enacted, only in a much wider manner, in the days of the Messiah. Thus the whole past was symbolic, and typical of the future--the Old Testament the glass, through which the universal blessings of the latter days were seen. It is in this sense that we would understand the two sayings of the Talmud: "All the prophets prophesied only of the days of the Messiah (Sanh. 99a) and "The world was created only for the Messiah." (Sanh. 98b).
In accordance with all this, the ancient Synagogue found references to the Messiah in many more passages of the Old Testament than those verbal predictions, to which we generally appeal; and the latter formed (as in the New Testament) a proportionately small, and secondary, element in the conception of the Messianic era. This is fully borne out by a detailed analysis of those passages in the Old Testament to which the ancient Synagogue referred as Messianic. [Note* Edersheim refers the reader to Appendix IX, where a detailed list is given of all the Old Testament passages which the ancient Synagogue applied Messianically, together with the references to the Rabbinic works where they are quoted] Their number amounts to upwards of 456 (75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the Prophets, and 138 from the Hagiographa), and their Messianic application is supported by more than 558 references to the most ancient Rabbinic writings. But comparatively few of these are what would be termed verbal predictions. Rather would it seem as if every event were regarded as prophetic, and every prophecy, whether by fact, or by word (prediction), as a light to cast its sheen on the future, until the picture of the Messianic age in the far back-ground stood out in the hundredfold variegated brightness of prophetic events,, and prophetic utterances. (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Part 1. Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971, pp. 162-163)
If the term and concept of "the Messiah" had to be salvaged in Rabbinic writings, which were written commentaries based on oral traditions dating back to after the fall the Jerusalem (and to the Dispersion of which Daniel was a part), then the taking out of many "plain and most precious" parts of the holy writ could have already occurred at the time Lehi was called as a prophet to warn the people of the destruction that was waiting for them if they did not repent. It is interesting that when Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of their wickedness they only mocked him, but when he preached to them that "the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world" the Jews sought to take his life (see 1 Nephi 1:19-20). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:19-20]
1 Nephi 10:7 And He Spake Also concerning a Prophet Who Should Come Before the Messiah:
Cleon Skousen notes that John the Baptist had been born in the vicinity of Bethlehem where his parents lived in "the hill country" of Judea. (Luke 1:39-40) Thus he would have also had a connection with the massacre of the children at Bethlehem, the purpose of which was to eliminate the Christ child (see Matthew 2:16). Joseph Smith described these circumstances as follows:
When Herod's edict went forth to destroy the young children, John was about six months older than Jesus, and came under the hellish edict, and Zacharias caused his mother to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locust and wild honey. . . . When the father [Zacharias] refused to disclose his [John's] whereabouts, and being the officiating high priest at the temple that year, he was slain by Herod's order, between the porch and the altar, as Jesus said. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 261).
During his ministry, Jesus referred to this tragic event and equated it with the murders of many other prophets down through the years. He said:
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation . . . From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple. (Luke 11:49-51)
Notice that according to Luke, Jesus made no attempt to identify which Zacharias he was talking about, because no doubt this heinous murder of the priest at the temple just three decades earlier was fresh in the minds of all the people. However, since there were numerous prophets by this or similar names in the Bible, some ancient scribe who was working on the Gospel of Matthew decided to identify this Zacharias mentioned by Jesus as the "son of Barachias."(Matthew 23:35) This created all kinds of problems because the ancient prophet Zechariah (note the slight difference in spelling)--who is described as "the son of Berechiah," (Zechariah 1:1)--was not slain in the temple. He was one of the prophets involved in the building of the second temple (Temple of Zerubbabel dedicated in 516 B.C.), but there is no indication he was slain there. (see LDS Dictionary under 51 "Zachariah")
Nevertheless, there was another ancient prophet named Zechariah who was slain in the temple, but he was the "son of Jehoiada" (2 Chronicles 24:20-21).228
All of this confusion was eliminated when Joseph Smith learned that Jesus was not talking about either of those ancient prophets. He was talking about Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
Many years after Joseph Smith's death, Bible scholars found certain early Christian writings that sustained Joseph Smith's statement concerning Zacharias.
Dr. Robert Matthews, in his splendid definitive work on the life of John the Baptist, quotes this material. He said there is:
A very old tradition, as old at least as the second century, that Herod also sought to destroy at the same time the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth--the young St. John, whose greatness had been foretold to him; that Elisabeth escaped with her son from amid the slaughter, and was afterwards miraculously preserved, and that Herod, in his rage at being thus baffled, sent and slew Zacharias between the altar and the Temple. (Robert Matthews, A Burning Light, Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 1972, p. 25: a similar account has also been found in the Apocryphal New Testament, published in 1953, and quoted by Dr. Matthews in his book on p. 26.)
[W. Cleon Skousen, Days of the Living Christ, Vol. 1, pp. 64-66]
Note* Early Christian tradition states that the elderly Elisabeth died while John was still a boy and he was thereafter adopted by one of the desert communities. (Matthews, A Burning Light, p. 27; see also W. Cleon Skousen, Days of the Living Christ, Vol. 1, p. 67). Was the community to which John the Baptist was supposedly sent a rightful heir to priesthood authority, or just a devout group of humble Jews?
1 Nephi 10:7 [Lehi] Spake Also concerning a Prophet Who Should Come before the Messiah to Prepare the Way of the Lord:
According to Robert Matthews, there is no missing the fact that John the Baptist was one of the most divinely heralded and preannounced figures of history. Very few persons have been so singled out and categorized in advance by the sacred writings. Not only was his name specified beforehand by revelation, but much information about his activities, geographical location, and eating habits, and even the precise words and topics of his preaching were revealed to various prophets before his birth. The earliest allusion to John the Baptist is found in Isaiah 40:3-5 (approximately 700 B.C.). Matthew, Mark, and Luke each interpret this prophecy as having reference to John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6), while John implies that the Baptist himself is quoted as saying that he is the one of whom Isaiah spoke (John 1:22-23). Mark infers that Malachi also spoke of John the Baptist's mission (Mark 1:2). The passage, although not specifically identified by Mark, is actually found in Malachi 3:1. Matthew and Luke imply that Jesus himself declared that John the Baptist was indeed the very one who Malachi had predicted would come (Matthew 11:10; also Luke 7:27).
A few months before John's birth into mortality, the angel Gabriel came to Zacharias and announced that he latter would become the father of a son (Luke 1:13-17; see also Luke 1:76-77, 79). In these words of the angel are several especially significant pronouncements:
(1) the child should be named "John";
(2) many should rejoice at this birth;
(3) he should be great in the sight of the Lord;
(4) he should be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb;
(5) he should turn many people to the Lord;
(6) he should go forth in the spirit and power of Elias.
In the Book of Mormon John the Baptist is not mentioned by name, but his mission is discussed with considerable detail in at least three instances:
(1) Lehi spoke concerning his mission (1 Nephi 10:7-10)
(2) Nephi saw in vision the work of John (1 Nephi 11:27); and
(3) Nephi later enlarged upon this part of his vision (2 Nephi 31:4, 8)
The ancient prophets could not have spoken so definitely of John's forthcoming mission if it had not already been known and arranged in heaven. Concerning the matter of pre-earth appointment the Prophet Joseph Smith explained: "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was." (Teachings, p. 365). One cannot avoid the conclusion that John particular mission of being forerunner, baptizer, and witness for the Redeemer of the world was assigned to him in the Grand Council of heaven, and that such a mission could be entrusted only to a special person capable of carrying out the responsibility.
In the selection of the mortal lineage through which John would come to earth, there was some ancient law and procedure to be followed, for in order to be legally entitled to the priesthood of Aaron and to function as a priest under the law of Moses one had to be a literal descendant of Aaron (see Exodus 30:30-31; 40:15) The things of the law of Moses, especially with regard to the qualifications of the priests and their functions in the offering of various animal sacrifices, were designed by revelation to prefigure and typify the Messiah and to bear witness of him. Heavy penalties were affixed to the performance of sacred rites and duties without the proper authority (see Numbers 16:1-40; 1 Chronicles 13:7-10; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21) It was, therefore, essential that when the Messiah came in person as the Lamb of God, John, the forerunner and witness of the Lamb, should be of the proper lineage to qualify him for the mission. If it was necessary for a priest to be of the lineage of Aaron in order to labor with the sacrificial symbols, which were only prefigures of the Messiah, how much greater the necessity that John, the forerunner of the Messiah in person, be of the proper priestly lineage and authority. The Lord, therefore, chose Zacharias, a priest of the family of Aaron, and Elisabeth, his wife, one of the "daughters of Aaron" (Luke 1:5) to be the mortal parents who would provide the right lineage to complete the inheritance.
In an interesting sidenote, one finds that Zacharias literally sacrificed his own life (putting in force the covenant he made with the Lord) that John would be able to complete his mission. Matthews comments that in order to rid himself of the child that was born "King of the Jews" he "sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old, and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men" (Matthew 2:16). How Jesus escaped this slaughter is familiar to us all: Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt until Herod was dead. But how did John the son of Zacharias escape? John was approximately the same age as Jesus and lived in the approximate area of Bethlehem. The common knowledge that was had of the miraculous events attending his birth and the prospect of his future mission would surely have placed him under the suspicion of Herod and made him subject to the king's envy. The scriptures do not discuss John's relationship to Herod's edict, but the Prophet Joseph Smith did, and his words enlighten us considerably:
We will commence with John the Baptist. When Herod's edict went forth to destroy the young children, John was about six months older than Jesus, and came under the hellish edict, and Zacharias caused his mother to take him into the mountains, where he was raised on locusts and wild honey. When his father refused to disclose his hiding place, and being the officiating high priest at the Temple that year, [he] was slain by Herod's order, between the porch and the altar, as Jesus said. (Teachings, p. 261).
This very interesting explanation by the Prophet Joseph throws light on an otherwise mysterious passage in Matthew 23:35, wherein Jesus said:
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
Bible commentators229 have been at a loss to identify the "Zacharias" referred to in Matthew 23:35, but in the light of the Prophet's identification of the man as the father of John the Baptist, the passage takes on considerable historical meaning.
There is an ancient tradition about the death of Zacharias that is similar to the foregoing explanation by the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is referred to by Anna Brownell Jameson in her book, The History of Our Lord as Exemplified in Works of Art:
There is a very old tradition, as old at least as the 2nd century, that Herod also sought to destroy at the same time the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth--the young St. John, whose greatness had been foretold to him; that Elizabeth escaped with her son from amid the slaughter, and was afterwards miraculously preserved, and that Herod, in his rage at being thus baffled, sent and slew Zacharias between the altar and the Temple.230
The legend is also mentioned in New Testament apocryphal materials:
Now Herod sought for John, and sent officers to Zacharias, saying: Where hast thou hidden thy son? And he answered and said unto them: I am a minister of God and attend continually upon the temple of the Lord: I know not where my son is. And the officers departed and told Herod all these things. And Herod was wroth and said: His son is to be king over Israel. And he sent unto him again, saying: Say the truth: where is thy son? for thou knowest that thy blood is under my hand. And the officers departed and told him all these things. And Zacharias said: I am a martyr of God if thou sheddest my blood: for my spirit the Lord shall receive, because thou sheddest innocent blood in the fore-court of the temple of the Lord. And about the dawning of the day Zacharias was slain. And the children of Israel knew not that he was slain. (Montague Rhodes James, trans., The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1953), p. 48. The Book of James, or Protevangelium, Chapter 23, verses 1-3)
[Robert J. Matthews, A Burning Light: The Life and Ministry of John the Baptist, pp. 3-8, 17-18, 24-26]
1 Nephi 10:7 A prophet [John] who should come before the Messiah (Illustration): John Preaching in the Wilderness. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #207]
1 Nephi 10:8 The Wilderness (Illustration): Wilderness of Judea, near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The wilderness of Judea covers an area approximately thirty miles long by ten miles wide. The Negev dessert surrounds it on the south, the hill country of Ephraim on the north, The Dead Sea on the east, and the hill country of Judah on the west. This wilderness receives very little rainfall, providing meager forage for flocks and very little water for Bedouin who still pitch their tents there. John the Baptist probably taught the gospel in this wilderness, and Jesus fasted here for forty days. Photograph by Tana and Mac Graham. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 63]
1 Nephi 10:8 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord:
According to Bruce R. McConkie, Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3-5), Lehi (1 Nephi 10:7-10), and Nephi (1 Nephi 11:27) all prophesied "concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord." As Nephi recorded: "Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight." (1 Nephi 10:7-8). This Book of Mormon account pertains only to John's ministry in the meridian of time. Isaiah, however, in his prophecy, is speaking only incidentally of the preparatory work of John and more particularly and extensively of the Second Coming when every valley shall be exalted and the Lord shall be revealed to reign personally on earth.
Matthew and Mark record John's true claim that he came to fulfil Isaiah's promise that one should come in that day to prepare the Lord's path. Luke does the same, but then continues the quotation, leaving the false inference that John claimed he was then fulfilling the glorious predictions relative to the Second Coming. But in Luke's account, as found in the Inspired version, the Prophet inserted more than five verses which show clearly that John was claiming to be the promised forerunner of time's meridian, and that the Isaiah quotation about the mountains being brought low and all flesh seeing the salvation of God, had reference not in the first but to the Second Coming of the Lord:
As it is written in the book of the prophet Esaias; and these are the words, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.
For behold, and lo, he shall come, as it is written in the book of the prophets, to take away the sins of the world, and to bring salvation unto the heathen nations, to gather together those who are lost, who are of the sheepfold of Israel;
Yea, even the dispersed and afflicted; and also to prepare the way, and make possible the preaching of the gospel unto the Gentiles;
And to be a light unto all who sit in darkness, unto the uttermost parts of the earth; to bring to pass the resurrection from the dead, and to ascent up on high, to dwell on the right hand of the Father,
Until the fulness of time, and the law and the testimony shall be sealed, and the keys of the kingdom shall be delivered up again unto the Father;
To administer justice unto all; to come down in judgment upon all, and to convince all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds, which they have committed; and all this in the day that he shall come;
For it is a day of power; yea, every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Inspired Version, Luke 3:2, 4-11)
John held the priesthood, received revelations, enjoyed the companionship of the Holy Ghost, angels ministered to him, and he was expressly commanded to stand forth as the Lord's forerunner. (D.& C. 84:26-28) The prophet Joseph Smith declared that "John, at that time, was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom there was then on the earth. And holding the keys of power, the Jews had to obey his instructions or be damned, by their own law." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 276).
[Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1, pp. 112-113, 115-116]
1 Nephi 10:8 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord, and Make His Paths Straight:
According to Adam Clarke, the idea of "Prepar[ing] . . . the way of the Lord," and "mak[ing] his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3; see also 1 Nephi 10:8 and Isaiah 40:3) is taken from the practice of eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey through a desert country, sent harbingers before them, to prepare all things for their passage; and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments. [Adam Clarke, Clark's Commentary: Matthew-Revelation, p. 51]
1 Nephi 10:8 There Standeth One among You Whom Ye Know Not; and He Is Mightier Than I, Whose Shoe's Latchet I Am Not Worth to Unloose:
In 1 Nephi 10:8 we find a prophecy, which also occurs in Isaiah 40:3-5, about one who would cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. However, there are some words that Nephi records of Lehi's vision that have been criticized because they seem to come exclusively from the New Testament. In 1 Nephi 10:8 we find the following:
"for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."
While in Luke 3:16 we read:
"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose; he shall baptize you with he Holy Ghost and with fire."
Thus the critics claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized the Bible in constructing the Book of Mormon.
While it is not readily apparent where these scriptural details came from, there are a number of logical explanations:
(1) Both Nephi and Lehi saw the same vision of the future. If that vision was detailed enough, they could have actually seen and heard John speak those words. In fact, those specific words might have been considered John's own prophecy. To this critics will cry "Foul!" How could John be speaking King James English? However, they fail to understand the process of revelation. Joseph Smith was inspired to translate in the style and composition of the day.
(2) There might have been more to the words of Isaiah on the brass plates than what was later conveyed to the King James Bible. Robert Millet says the following:
Let me say that I am convinced, after years of study, that the closest approximation you and I have to the brass plates, that is, one of the best ways we can get close to understanding what was on the brass plates, is Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible. If you want to know what was there beyond what is obviously in the Book of Mormon, look at the Joseph Smith Translation. (Robert L. Millet, "The Prophets of the Brass Plates," Video Transcript, FARMS, 1996, pp. 7-8; see also the commentary on Helaman 8:17)
(3) The words which are attributed to John might have come from prophecies of other ancient prophets not recorded in the King James Bible nor the Book of Mormon. Robert Millet writes that "there is a pattern among the Nephites as to how they preach the gospel. The great teachers in the Book of Mormon always do it a certain way. They stand up, introduce the subject, then they go back and cite the ancient prophets, and then they bear their own witness" (Millet, "The Prophets of the Brass Plates," pp. 10-11) So John could have been using ancient prophetic words to establish the validity of Christ. As to who originally spoke these words we have no record, however the Book of Mormon records that there were many who wrote concerning Christ (and presumably John):
Yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulcher, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel. (1 Nephi 19:10; see also Alma 33:15; 34:7; Helaman 8:20; 3 Nephi 10:16)
(4) As a final note, the reader should be aware that this particular section of First Nephi lies at the heart of a complete chiastic structure testifying that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. In doing so it overlaps the testimonies of Lehi and Nephi, and Isaiah, and presumably other prophets who have gone before them, (and in John's case, perhaps after them). Could they be doing this that perhaps we might "know what great things the Lord has done for their fathers; and that [we] may know the covenants of the Lord, that [we are not cast off forever" (Title Page, Book of Mormon)?
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 10:9 He Should Baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan:
Nephi records that according to the prophecies of his father Lehi, "he (the Messiah) should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" (1 Nephi 10:9). According to Cleon Skousen, this Bethabara seems to be identical with Beth-barah mentioned in Judges 7:24. It means "Fords of Abarah" and was the ford leading from the Jericho side of the river over across into Gilead. The town was located on the east side of the river adjacent to the crossing and was therefore called Beth-barah, "beyond" Jordan. Lehi's prediction was literally fulfilled as indicated in John 1:28, which says "these things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1083]
1 Nephi 10:9 And My Father Said He Should Baptize . . . the Messiah:
[See the commentary on 2 Nephi 9:23]
1 Nephi 10:9 He [John the Baptist] shall baptize the Messiah with water (Illustration): Christ's Baptism. As Lehi prophesied, the Messiah (Jesus) would be baptized by a prophet (John the Baptist) "who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord." Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 26]
1 Nephi 10:9 He Should Baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan:
According to Adam Clarke, the term "Bethabara" (1 Nephi 10:9) signifies literally the house of passage, and is thought to be the place where the Israelites passed the river Jordan under Joshua (Clark's Commentary, p. 518). According to another source, by the time of Origen (A.D. 250) the place where John baptized "beyond Jordan" was unknown. Origen preferred the reading "Bethabara," since this place was known in his day and, moreover, this choice might in his opinion be corroborated by allegory. . . . Origen preferred this reading while admitting that the majority of contemporary manuscripts were against him. He gives its etymology as "house of preparation," which he associated with the Baptist's "preparation." In his day he says, this place was shown as the place of John's baptism. (The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 186)
1 Nephi 10:9 Bethabara:
According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, the place where John baptized is called "Bethabara" (1 Nephi 10:9) The meaning of that word is "house" or "place of passing over," supposed to refer to the place where the Israelites passed over Jordan: "Beth-Abarah." It is also called "Bethany" from a word which is said to mean, "place of ships" (boats). It was a place "beyond Jordan," and is not the Bethany on the Mount of Olives, the name of which comes from a word meaning "place of dates." [George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 73]
1 Nephi 10:9 He [John the Baptist] shall baptize the Messiah with water (Illustration): John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #208]
1 Nephi 10:9 He Should Baptize in Bethabara, Beyond Jordan:
In John 1:28; 10:40; and 1 Nephi 10:9, there is a clear reference to a specific place for John the Baptist's work, stating that he was baptizing in Bethabara or Bethany beyond the Jordan. The question is, Where is Bethany (Bethabara) beyond the Jordan?
Potter and Wellington note that Theodosius (A.D. 530) says that it was five Roman miles from the Dead Sea to the place where Jesus was baptized, and to where there was a church of St. John, but it is not clear whether the church was on the east or west bank of the River. He says explicitly that the Jesus was baptized on the east site (Jordan) and he also refers to the little hill close by where Elijah was taken up. Obviously he means the little hill which was called Hermon, Elijah hill, Jebel MarElyas and recently, Tell el Kharrar. A team from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan has conducted Archaeological excavations in the area since March 1997. Archaeological excavations on the southern bank of Wadi el-Kharrar revealed the presence of several sites, with architectural remains scattered throughout the area. In July 1999 Dr. Mohammed Waheeb wrote concerning this site: "Not far from the Jordan River, at a distance of one mile to the east, is the place where the Prophet Elijah was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire (see 2 Kings 2:11-13).
This historical mixture of the place where John the Baptist preached his preparatory gospel of repentance and baptism, and where Elijah (Elias in the New Testament) was taken up into heaven raises an interesting point. Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine of the spirit and office of "an Elias," or one who prepares the way (see Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976, pp. 335-341). This doctrine is unique to Latter-day Saints. Both Elijah and John the Baptist were acting in the office and spirit of an Elias (see inspired version John 1:21-18 and Matthew 17:14). The association of John the Baptist and the prophet Elijah in the minds of the people can also be seen in the Apostle's response of "Some say thou art Elijah" in answer to Jesus' question, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" (Matthew 16:13-14).
What better way could John the Baptist have taught the principle of his calling of an Elias than by choosing to preach in the same place as the hill where Elias (Elijah) was taken into Heaven. It is interesting that Joseph Smith taught of the doctrine of an Elias when the knowledge of the relationship between the place where John the Baptist preached and the hill where Elias (Elijah) was taken into Heaven was only found in an obscure text. One has to question if this is more than coincidence. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 297-298] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5]
Note* Was this area of wadi El-Kharrar also the same place from which Joshua led the children of Israel through the water of the river Jordan and into the Promised Land? Could this have symbolic covenant significance? In other words, when Lehi and his family departed into the wilderness to escape the covenant destruction of Jerusalem (the capital city of the Promised Land), was Lehi symbolically retracing the path of Israel's entrance into the Promised Land? And if Moses and Joshua represented a type of Christ, did Jesus' (note the name) covenant baptism in the river Jordan and subsequent mission to the inhabitants of the Promised Land parallel Joshua's (note the name) leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land? And if so, then did Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness geographically parallel the sojourn of Israel? And if so, then did Jesus visit Mount Sinai preparatory to his mission just as Moses did? And if Elijah was a type for Elias, and if John the Baptist was an Elias, did John the Baptist visit Mount Sinai while he was in the wilderness just as Eliljah did? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 11:1; 4:2; 3 Nephi 25:4]
1 Nephi 10:10 He Should Behold and Bear Record That He Had Baptized the Lamb of God:
According to Robert Matthews, the accounts given in Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell of John's preaching to "prepare . . . the way" for the Lord, whereas the fourth Gospel emphasizes that John came to "bear witness" of the Lord. Matthew, Mark, and Luke deal with John's ministry before he baptized Jesus, and therefore emphasize preparing the way, while the fourth Gospel deals with John's ministry after he baptized Jesus, and hence the emphasis on being a witness.
An analysis of John the Baptist's words leaves one impressed with his extensive knowledge of the gospel and the wide range of gospel topics which are found in his teachings. Martin Luther felt that except for Jesus and possibly Paul, John the Baptist was better informed on the Old Testament than any other personality in the New Testament.231 Indeed, the Inspired Version by Joseph Smith projects an even greater image of John, especially with regard to the scope of his gospel knowledge (see JST Matthew 3:27-32; 3:33-36, 38-41, 45-46; 11:12-14; 17:9-14; Mark 1:5-6; 9:3, 9-11 Luke 3:3-11, 13, 17-20; 16:17-21; John 1:6-9, 15, 20-33; 3:26-36). John came both as a forerunner to prepare the way before the Lord and also as a witness that Jesus is the Messiah, and what we have of John's teachings are directed primarily to these ends. To prepare the way before the Lord and bear a witness of him required that John have considerably more to say than simply to mention the fact that the Messiah was coming. He was divinely commissioned to "overthrow the kingdom of the Jews," and "prepare . . . [a people] for the coming of the Lord" (D&C 84:28). An adequate testimony must include something about the purpose of the Messiah's coming, the work that he would do, the significance of that work, and something of the laws and principles pertaining to his kingdom. If such were not the case, then what was the need of the pre-earth appointment of the forerunner, the frequent mention of him in prophecy, the specific earthly lineage, the special ordination by an angel, and the years of training and preparation prior to the forerunner's public ministry? The responsibilities of John's divine commission included a proclamation of the laws and principles of the gospel as well as the announcement that the Messiah was among them in person. In addition to sealing this testimony concerning these things with his life, John also prepared a written record (see D&C 93:6-18). [Robert J. Matthews, A Burning Light: The Life and Ministry of John the Baptist, pp. 35, 45-78]
1 Nephi 10:10 He Had Baptized the Lamb of God:
This section may be called "the Lamb Section" because the word "Lamb," referring to Christ, occurs 59 times. The word "Lamb" is only found thirteen times elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 14:24] [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 19]
1 Nephi 10:10 The Lamb of God Who Should Take Away the Sins of the World:
John Tvedtnes reports that according to the writings of Theodor Reik and Karl Abraham, the prayer shawl, or tallith, worn by Jews during certain prayers,232 is actually a representation of the sacrificial ram.
Though often made of silk, the prayer shawl is ideally made of sheep's wool, and some worshipers prefer the wool of lambs raised in the Holy Land. The rectangular shawl has tassels (zizzith) attached to each corner,233 each tassel consisting of four white and four blue threads and bound together by knots formed by the longest thread.234 Reik suggest that "the tallith, made from the wool of a ritually clean animal, might be the substitute for the fleece of a ram, originally roughly cured and worn by the Hebraic tribes. The zizzith would then allude to the animal's four legs, and the knotting of the many threads would represent the joints,"235 to which [Tvedtnes] adds that the blue threads may have originally represented the veins running through the legs.
Reik concludes that wearing the tallith, a garment sacred to the Jews, was originally intended to identify the wearer with the God of Israel.236
To the Christian--and to Latter-day Saints in particular--this would suggest that the wearer "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27; compare Romans 13:14), thus representing "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).237 or to "The Lamb of God who should take away the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 10:10)]. When, therefore, the priests wore the prayer shawl and raised their arms to bless the people, they unknowingly symbolized the Messiah too. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Temple Prayer in Ancient Times," in The Temple in Time and Eternity, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 86-87]
John Tvedtnes notes that the tallith today is usually an undergarment covering the chest and upper back, worn by Orthodox Jewish men. For certain prayers, however, a larger version is worn draped over the head (hence the term "prayer shawl"). According to Jewish tradition, this tallith is at least dated back to the time of Noah and Shem.238 Anciently, it also appears to have been a long garment. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Priestly Clothing in Bible Times," in Temples of the Ancient World, p. 659]
1 Nephi 10:10 (The Tallith--Priestly clothing representing the Lamb of God) [Illustration]: Figure 53. In this Dutch engraving of 1725, the worshiper wears the tallith over his three-corner hat. The "prayer shaw" has four embroidered corners from which hand the tzitzith, consisting of eight threads and five knots each. He wears tefellin, or phylacteries, on his left hand and forehead. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Priestly Clothing in Bible Times," in Temples of the Ancient World, p. 660]
1 Nephi 10:10 The Lamb of God, Who Should Take Away the Sins of the World:
What cultural insight might one find in the title "The Lamb of God who should take away the sins of the world"? (1 Nephi 10:10). According to Alfred Edersheim, perhaps Jewish tradition may here prove both illustrative and helpful. That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, "the tower of the flock" (Targum Pseudo- Jon on Gen. xxxv 21). This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town [of Bethlehem], on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah (Shek. vii 4) leads to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for Temple-sacrifices. In fact the Mishnah (Baba K. vii. 7) expressly forbids the keeping of flocks throughout the land of Israel, except in the wildernesses--and the only flocks otherwise kept, would be those for the Temple-services (Baba K. 80 a). Accordingly, the shepherds who watched over them were not ordinary shepherds. [Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 186-187]
Thus, the shepherds who "were in the same country" "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night," and who were visited by "the angel of the Lord," who went to Bethlehem and "found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger," and who "made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child" (Luke 2:8-17) were perhaps no ordinary shepherds, but specially chosen men of the priesthood who had been assigned to watch over and testify of the quality of the special lambs who would be symbolically sacrificed in the temple to take away the sins of the children of Israel. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 7:10]
1 Nephi 10:10 The Lamb of God:
According to Joy Osborn, in the Old Testament, the Lord is never referred to as the "Lamb of God," yet the Book of Mormon repeatedly refers to the promised Messiah as the "Lamb of God." Herein lies a bit of evidence which verifies the fact that these Nephite descendants of Joseph did, indeed, have the writings of the ancient prophets with them, and especially the writings of Joseph.
Though he is never referred to as the "Lamb of God" in the Old Testament, prophecies of Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, as the sacrificial Lamb of God are clearly seen in the rituals and sacrificial beliefs of ancient Israel. Moses is instructed by the Lord to call and set Aaron and his sons apart as priests over Israel. A "firstling of the flock" - "without blemish" was to be offered up as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of Israel. Then there was to be a "scapegoat" who would carry away on his head the sins of Israel. This was symbolic of and in anticipation of the Lamb of God who would become the "scapegoat" and take upon himself the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16:21-22)
Several hundred years later after Israel had been divided into two separate nations, the northern House of Israel - Joseph, and the southern House of Judah became a wicked people. They turned away from the God of Israel and began to worship Baal - the god of the Canaanites. The former sacrifice of an unblemished lamb evolved into the cruel sacrifice of their children to the god Moloch. In their wickedness, belief in the God of Israel and the promised Messiah as the Lamb of God was lost.
That the ancient prophets had known, and prophesied of the Savior as the Lamb of God, is seen in the references to Jesus as the Lamb of God in the New Testament. The apostle John wrote that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he declared: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Later, the apostle Peter describes Jesus as a "lamb without blemish" who was foreordained to his calling before the foundation of the world:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (1 Peter 1: 18-20)
Then, in the Book of Revelation, the apostle John sees the final judgments that will come upon the earth, and describes the honor, praise, and glory that is bestowed upon the Lamb of God and his worthy followers, as they stand before the throne of God.
John sees that Babylon the Great "shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." (Revelation 17:14). In Revelation, Chapter 21, John sees the "holy city" - the new Jerusalem "descending out of heaven from God," and none shall enter in "but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
In the Book of Mormon both Nephi and his father Lehi were shown visions of the birth of the Messiah and his mission here on earth. Both were shown that a prophet would be sent to "prepare the way of the Lord" that he would baptize the Messiah with water, and would bear record "that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 10: 10, 11:27).
Joseph Smith's critics were quick to point to this as proof that he was simply plagiarizing from the Bible. Yet, Lord Kingsborough, in his Mexican Antiquities, stated: "The Aztecs have a tradition of a God suffering and crucified named Quetzalcoatl, and of one preceding Him to prepare the way and call them to repentance."
Why did the descendants of Joseph, who kept the records found in the Book of Mormon beginning in 600 B.C., refer so frequently to the promised Messiah as the Lamb of God, while the descendants of Judah in the Old Testament fail to refer to the Messiah as the Lamb of God, and only once even refer to him as the Messiah? (See book of Daniel) And why did these Nephite prophets, descendants of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh, constantly refer to the promised Messiah as the Lamb of God, and identify him as the one who should take away the sins of the world?
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi, who has already stated that they have the writings of Joseph with them, prophesies of the coming of the Messiah in almost the same exact words spoken by Joseph so many years earlier in ancient Egypt. In the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, in the Testament of Joseph, Joseph tells of a dream in which he saw that a virgin from the tribe of Judah would give birth to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world:
And I saw that a virgin was born from Judah, wearing a linen stole; and from her was born a spotless lamb. . . . And the angels and mankind and all the earth rejoice over him. . . . You, therefore, my children, keep the Lord's commandments; honor Levi and Judah, because from their seed will arise the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world, and will save all the nations, as well as Israel. (Testament of the Patriarchs, Testament of Joseph, 19:8-11)
The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, including the Testament of Joseph, was not available to Joseph Smith when he translated the Book of Mormon from the ancient record on the gold plates written by Mormon. Yet we now know ancient Israel once accepted them as authentic canon. And Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus, himself, quoted from the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.
This helps us understand why the Nephite descendants of Joseph so frequently referred to the future Messiah as the Lamb of God, whereas the Old Testament, as we have it today, never referred to the future Messiah and Christ as the Lamb of God. This again gives support to the Book of Mormon statement that many plain and precious parts had been removed from ancient Israel's scriptures.
According to Nephi's record, they had the writings of Joseph with them when they fled from Jerusalem about 600 B.C. The Mayas of Central America and Mexico say their ancient ancestors came from across the sea and brought their Scriptures with them when they came.
In the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the caves of Qumran, we find the Essene's had scrolls containing the writings of Isaiah, as well as the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.
Then the most important piece of evidence to support the fact that writings of Joseph would have been available to these descendants of Joseph when they fled from Jerusalem, as described in the Book of Mormon, can be found in The History of the Church, written by Eusebius, who is recognized as the Father of Early Church History, which shows that the early Christians recognized the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs as a part of the Old Testament scriptures of ancient Israel. In this Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, we find the Testament of Joseph and the Testament of Benjamin. Both describe the coming Messiah as the Lamb of God. This explains why Lehi, Nephi, and the other Book of Mormon prophets so frequently referred to the coming Messiah as the Lamb of God and establishes the fact that these Book of Mormon prophets did actually and truly have the writings of Joseph with them. [Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, pp. 265-270]
1 Nephi 10:12 That They [the House of Israel] Should Be Compared Like unto an Olive Tree:
Brant Gardner notes that while the reader must wait until the book of Jacob for the extended allegory of the olive tree, Lehi and Nephi were obviously familiar with it, as Nephi made reference to the allegory in connection with the unfolding of Lehi's vision:
Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. (1 Nephi 10:12)
[Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/1Nephi/1Nephi10.htm, p. 4]
1 Nephi 10:12 The House of Israel . . . Like unto an Olive Tree:
In 1 Nephi 10:12 (and 1 Nephi 15:12), Nephi brings up the idea that in the teachings of Lehi, he compared the house of Israel to an Olive tree "whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth." This is not only subtle testimony to the truth of Isaiah's prophecies, but to the powerful allegory of Zenos recorded in Jacob 5.
McConkie and Millet state that the Lord chose an olive tree to dramatize the destiny of his chosen people. An olive tree almost never dies. It may be pruned and worked with over numerous generations before the fruit is such as to satisfy the owner of the vineyard; this is often after many and varied cuttings and trimmings and replantings. So it is with the house of Israel. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 69]
1 Nephi 10:18 He Is the Same Yesterday, To-day, and Forever:
In 1 Nephi 10:18 we find: "[God] is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him." According to Camille Fronk, any serious study of the scriptures elicits queries related to the nature of the Lord's Church before the dispensation of the meridian of time. While such language as baptism unto repentance, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is abundant in the New Testament record, such familiar terms are conspicuously absent in the Old Testament account. Are we then to conclude that these fundamental principles and ordinances of the gospel were not understood and practiced before the coming of Jesus Christ? Numerous LDS scriptural sources and words of modern prophets suggest that the answer is "no." God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (see D&C 20:12; Hebrews 13:8) and so are the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel.
Joseph Smith taught that the early inhabitants of this earth were as aware of the plan of salvation as those who have been instructed since the time of his coming. "We cannot believe that the ancients in all ages were so ignorant of the system of heaven as many suppose, since all that were ever saved, were saved through the power of this great plan of redemption, as much before the coming of Christ as since; if not, God has had different plans in operation . . . to bring men back to dwell with Himself; and this we cannot believe, since there has been no change in the constitution of man since he fell." 239
Those prophets who succeeded Adam knew the same gospel and ordinances. "How could Abel offer a sacrifice and look forward with faith on the Son of God for a remission of his sins, and not understand the Gospel?," the Prophet Joseph asked. "If Abel was taught of the coming of the Son of God, was he not taught also of His ordinances? We all admit that the Gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same?"240 [Camille Fronk, "The Everlasting Gospel: A Comparison of Dispensations" in Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, pp. 171-175]
1 Nephi 10:18 [God] Is the Same Yesterday, To-day, and Forever:
Matthew Brown notes that one fundamental teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the Savior's gospel has been on the earth "from the beginning" (D&C 20:21-26; cf Moses 5:58-59; JST John 1:1). This is in accordance with 1 Nephi 10:18 where we find that God "is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him."
Some Christian leaders who lived shortly after the apostolic age declared the same truth. Eusebius, who served as bishop of Caesarea in A.D. 339, said that "it is obvious that [the biblical patriarchs] knew God's Christ Himself, since He appeared to Abraham, instructed Isaac, spoke to [Jacob], and conversed freely with Moses and the prophets who came later. . . . Obviously we must regard the religion proclaimed in recent years to all nations through Christ's teaching as none other than the first, most ancient, and most primitive of all religions, discovered by Abraham and his followers."241 Many of the early Christian writers such as Tatian (ca. A.D. 150), Justin Martyr (A.D. 165), Tertullian (ca. A.D. 200), Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 115-202), Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 160-215), Theophilus of Antioch (ca. A.D. 100-200), and Origen (ca. A.D. 185-251) also taught that Jesus Christ was the divine being who appeared unto mortals in the Old Testament. Therefore, Christianity was "not a new religion" but was "connected with the birth of mankind."242 [Matthew B. Brown, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs, pp. 1-2]
1 Nephi 10:18 The Way Is Prepared from the Foundation of the World, If It So Be That They Repent and Come unto Him (Chiasm):
Raymond Treat reports that much linguistic evidence has come to light since 1830 supporting the Book of Mormon as an authentic document. One of the more recent such discoveries (Welch 1969) is the recognition that some writers in the Book of Mormon used an ancient literary form known as chiasmus or a chiasm.
A Chiasm is a statement containing two or more parts followed by a restatement in reverse order (ABC C'B'A'). The word chiasm is derived from the Greek letter chi (X) and the Greek word chiazeim (to mark with an x) because a two part chiastic statement may be diagrammed in the form of an X.
Dr. Noel Freedman, Ph.D., Director of Program on Studies in Religion, University of Michigan and General Editor of the Anchor Bible and Biblical Archaeologist discusses two kinds of chiasms in his preface to Chiasmus in Antiquity. One kind deals with words and the other with ideas. . . . The type of chiasm dealing with ideas is more difficult to identify because there may be disagreement over which ideas form the foundation of the chiastic structure. The author of this type of chiasm may use it to focus the attention of the reader (or hearer) on the central idea or turning point. A good example of this from the Book of Mormon is found in the First Book of Nephi:
C. God reigns
D. Lehi comes to know Christ
E. Testimony of Christ
F. God protects the chosen
G. A part of the House of Israel is being scattered
H. Obtaining the Plates of Brass
I. Keeping records
J. A narrative about the family of Ishmael, a journey, and rebellion against Nephi
K. Nephi exhorts his brothers and they turn to the Lord
L. The Tree of Life
M. Two sets of records
N. Prophecy of coming of Christ and other events
O. ". . . [Lehi] spake by the power of the Holy Ghost . . ."
P. Nephi desires righteousness "I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see,
and hear, and know of these things . . ."
Q. (a) ". . . the power of the Holy Ghost . . . is the gift of God unto all those
who diligently seek him . . ."
(b) ". . . in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself . . ."
(c) "For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
R. "And the way is prepared from the foundation of the world,
if it so be that they repent and come unto him;"
Q' (a) "For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God
shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost"
(b) "as well in this time as in times of old; and as well in times of old as in
times to come;"
(c) "Wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."
P' Those who desire wickedness" . . if ye have sought to do wickedly in the
days of your probation,"
O' "And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I [Nephi] should speak these things
and deny them not."
N' Prophecy of coming of Christ and other events
M' Two sets of records
L' The Tree of Life
K' Nephi exhorts his brothers, they humble themselves before the Lord
J' A narrative about the family of Ishmael, a journey, and rebellion against Nephi
I' Keeping records
H' Information from the Plates of Brass
G' The House of Israel is to be scattered
F' God protects the righteous
E' Testimony of Christ
D' All the righteous will know Christ
C' The Holy One of Israel reigneth
[Raymond C. Treat, "Chiasms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 1, pp. 64, 66]
1 Nephi 10:18 The way is prepared from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him (Chiasm) [Illustration]: Chiasm of First Nephi [Raymond C. Treat, "Chiasms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 1, pp. 64-66]