1 Nephi 16

Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land

     (1 Nephi )


 

  

1 Nephi 16:6 Now All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent in the Valley Which He Called Lemuel:

 

      After an unspecified amount of time, Nephi records: "Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel" (1 Nephi 16:6). We at least know, however, that Lehi's family dwelt in the wilderness of Arabia long enough for:

     (1) Nephi & his brothers to return to Jerusalem to seek out Laban, make a round trip to their land of inheritance to obtain gold & silver, obtain the plates of brass, hide for some time in a cave, and then make the return trip to the valley of Lemuel.

     (2) Lehi & Nephi to extensively read and ponder the plates of brass such that they knew and understood their content in depth.

     (3) Nephi & his brothers to return to Jerusalem after Ishmael & his family. The time it took for Ishmael and his family to set their affairs in order is not recorded. The return trip to the valley of Lemuel was delayed by quarreling.

     (4) Lehi & Nephi to be prepared by the Lord through visions and the understanding of those visions.

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 16:6 All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent:

 

     George Potter and Richard Wellington write that they were confused for a long time as to why Nephi would inform the reader multiple times that Lehi "dwelt in a tent" (see 1 Nephi 2:15, 9:1; 10:16; 16:6). They note that they had stopped to take a photo of a Bedouin tent on the edge of the desert. A woman came out with her husband to pose. They couldn't help but notice inside the tent the family's entire possessions could be wrapped into a couple of bed rolls; a few pots and pans, plats, cups and a few blankets. Here this noble man stood, his thawb (Arab clothing) threadbare in places. Lehi left his house, gold, jewelry and land and lived in a tent like a poor man, yet he never complained about leaving his possessions behind. Moreover, Lehi and his wife Sariah, along with Nephi and Sam were blessed abundantly by the Lord in these humble circumstances. What a contrast we see in Laman and Lemuel, who never let Lehi forget that they wanted to return to their wealth and circumstances at Jerusalem. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 2, p. 10, Unpublished] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:15]

 

1 Nephi 16:6 Now All These things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent:

 

     According to Terrence Szink, to better understand any writing, we need to consider several issues: when it was written, who wrote it, what the author's purpose was, and what ideas or attitudes may have influenced the author.

     The first six verses of 1 Nephi 16 can best be understood when seen as the conclusion of the previous section, 1 Nephi 8 through 15. These chapters contain visions, prophecies, and finally an explanation by Nephi to his hardhearted brothers. Laman and Lemuel complained that Nephi had spoken "hard things" to them. He responded by reasoning that the teachings were hard only to those who were condemned by them. Verse 6 seems to conclude this section: "Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel." [Terrence L. Szink, "To a Land of Promise," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 60-61]

 

1 Nephi 16:6 All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent:

 

     Nephi did not record how long they camped in the valley of Lemuel before they knew that they would never return to Jerusalem. Of this period Nephi wrote only that "all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley of Lemuel" (1 Nephi 16:6). Nephi will say later in his record that they "did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness. And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful" (1 Nephi 17:4-5). Thus, according to Potter and Wellington, eight years would elapse from the time they left Jerusalem until they arrived at their last camp in Arabia.

     Strabo wrote that a caravan journey from "Minaea to Aelena" (Yemen to Aqabah) took seventy days.347 Nigel Groom, an expert on the Frankincense trade, estimates that a commercial camel caravan could travel from Gaza to the Frankincense growing area at Dhofar in southern Arabia in 69-88 days. He estimates the entire distance as 2,110 miles.348 The difference between 88 days and 8 years suggests that Lehi might have lived in the fertile valley of Lemuel for some time. Lehi's family appears to have been comfortable in the valley of Lemuel and probably felt no urgency to move on. Nephi would describe their time in the valley as a period of his life when he was "blessed by the Lord exceedingly" (1 Nephi 16:8). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 69] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:4]

 

1 Nephi 16:6 All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent:

 

      Concerning Lehi's stay in the valley of Lemuel, Lynn and Hope Hilton write that here they may have stayed for as long as four very busy years, which would have included twice sending the sons back to Jerusalem on errands, travel time being a month each trip plus time needed to prepare for and recuperate from the journeys plus the days spent haggling with Laban and collecting the family's gold and silver. There followed long days of studying and digesting the teachings of the brass plates. How long would it take to read thoroughly most of the Old Testament, carefully thinking out its teachings, and then present them to a large family? And when Ishmael and his family joined Lehi's family, there would have been preparations for the five weddings, with the celebrations that followed.

     It is also probable that Lehi would have used the time profitably by planting crops. This seems to be indicated by Nephi's statement when the colony was about to leave the Valley of Lemuel: "We did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind." (1 Nephi 16:11)

     The Bible tells us that Midian (the name for the region where the valley of Lemuel was located) had supported an animal poopulation of over 800,000 head just 800 years previous. (see Numbers 31:32-34) Consequently, it must have been more fertile than the eroded landscapes that the Hiltons looked at as they drove through it. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 54-55, 50, 70]

 

1 Nephi 16:7 I Nephi Took One of the Daughters of Ishmael to Wife:

 

     According to John Sorenson, when we consider the interrelations between Ishmael's and Lehi's families, the age distribution of Ishmael's offspring probably was about like this:

 

Child                              Age on Leaving Jerusalem

Daughter 1 (married Zoram)                  31

Son 1                                    29

Son 2                                    26

Daughter 2 (married Laman)                  24

Daughter 3 (married Lemuel)                  21

Daughter 4 (married Sam)                  19

Daughter 5 (married Nephi)                  16

 

(The order and ages of Daughter 1 and Son 1 might be reversed.)

 

[John L. Sorenson, "The Composition of Lehi's Family" in By Study and Also by Faith, Vol. 2, F.A.R.M.S., p. 187] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:1]

 

1 Nephi 16:7 I Nephi . . . and Also, My Brethren Took of the Daughters of Ishmael to Wife:

 

     The Hiltons suggest that if Ishmael and Lehi were related (see Erastus Snow statement in commentary on 1 Nephi 7:1), all the marriages between the sons of Lehi and the daughters of Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 16:7) would be condemned under our modern laws and statutes, but not under the law of Moses.

     Perhaps the best known consanguineous marriages were those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see illustration). In one non-biblical account Abraham married Sarai, his brother's daughter (Jasher 12:44). The Bible says she was Abraham's half-sister (Genesis 20:12). Isaac married Rebecca, his double first cousin once removed (his mother's sister's granddaughter and his father's brother's granddaughter). Jacob married Rachael and Leah, his first cousins (his mother's brother's daughters).

     Among desert tribes of today, cousin marriages are a common practice. . . . Additionally in ancient times and continuing to the present in the Middle East, marriages were not love marriages but were arranged by the parents. Indeed, in many cases the bride and groom met for the first time on their wedding day. . . . This pattern may appear strange to the liberal western mind. . . . More especially it would have been strange to the mind of Joseph Smith. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 69-74]

 

1 Nephi 16:7 I Nephi . . . and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife (Illustration): Near Kin-Marriages of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 71]

 

1 Nephi 16:8 I, Nephi, Had Been Blessed by the Lord Exceedingly:

 

     Near the end of a somewhat lengthy stay in the valley of Lemuel, Nephi writes: "my father had fulfilled all the commandments of the Lord which had been given unto him. And also, I, Nephi, had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly" (1 Nephi 16:8). There is a perspective to the physical attributes of the valley of Lemuel that is seldom thought about. George Potter writes:

     One final question should be discussed pertaining to the [valley of Lemuel]. It is not a direct query about physical attributes of the site, but how the sight of this natural monument [the canyon oasis at the southern end of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism] has made me feel each of the four times I have visited there. Each time I ask myself, "Why did the Lord have Lehi bring his family into the wilderness? Why didn't He have the family flee to Egypt or Greece or into a village deep in Arabia?" Instead, the Lord commanded Lehi to bring his family into the desert, where he preserved them with a river of water in a firm, steadfast and immovable valley. Why such a place? And why such grand statements of nature?

     I believe there are several reasons for such a natural setting. Could there be a more powerful and striking expression of the creation and the power of God? A river of pure water flowing in an otherwise totally dry wasteland. Lehi was "obedient unto the word of the Lord," wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him. He "departed into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:2) In what was a matter of days, Lehi's family went from a comfortable home with gold and silver, to a barren waste looking for the means to survive. Undoubtedly Lehi feared that his family would perish unless they found water. No wonder Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (2 Nephi 25:5):

     When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst,

     I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

     I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys:

     I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. (Isaiah 41:17-18)

 

     Nephi must have taken courage from the Lord's assurance that he "leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst go" and that those who trust in him "thirsted not" because "he led them through the deserts" and "caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them" (1 Nephi 20:17, 21; see also Isaiah 48:17, 21). Moreover, continuing the desert imagery: "They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them" (1 Nephi 21:10; see also Isaiah 49:10)349

 

     The Qur'an reminds the Bedouins living in this same desert today of this ageless principle, "He is the Most Gracious: we have believed in Him, and on Him we put our trust, . . . If your stream be some morning lost, Who then can supply you with clear-flowing waters?" (Qur'an 67:29-30) Undoubtedly [Nephi] knew the answer to that question, the Lord is the "fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13). [Nephi] had entered the same wilderness as Moses, and probably for the same reason, to be taught a deeper understanding of and dependence on God [in order to lead the children of Israel through the wilderness to the promised land. "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10).

     William Wordsworth penned, "Two Voices are there; one is of the sea, One of the mountains; each a mighty Voice."350

     For the prophet to camp in the wilderness by as pure spring was a time for healing and a place where he could freely build an altar and give thanks to God.

     I have drunk from the pure spring fed flowing waters of what I believe is the River Laman. In the smiting heat of 120 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, I have walked into the cool confines of a great canyon that I believe is the Valley of Lemuel. I have sought the safe confines of the canyon after having the tents of my camp on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba blown over by torrential winds that blow nightly. Here in this canyon is the handiwork of God. The imagery is truly profound, and reminds me of a passage from the Qur'an: "Withersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God, . . . all that is in the heavens and on earth; everything renders worship to Him." (Qur'an 2:115, 116)351 Could this natural imagery have been a giant learning aid? Was this imagery symbolic of the Messiah?

     Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and the covert from the tempest; as a river of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1-2)

 

[George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 61-63, 80]

 

1 Nephi 16:8 I, Nephi, had been blessed by the Lord exceedingly (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: A hiding place from the wind, and the covert from the tempest . . . a river of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1-2). Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 64]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 A Round Ball [the Liahona]:

  

     According to Hunter and Ferguson (Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 70-71) the Nephite name for the divine instrument, Liahona, may possibly be a composite of the two Hebrew words which describe the functioning of the instrument, "Lahab-hennah." These words mean "point" and "whither."

     According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, the term Liahona is Hebrew with an Egyptian ending. It is the name which Lehi gave to the ball or director he found outside his tent. L is a Hebrew preposition meaning "to." Iah is a Hebrew abbreviated form of "Jehovah," common in Hebrew names. On is the Hebrew name of the Egyptian "City of the Sun." . . . L-iah-on means, therefore, literally, "To God is Light"' or, "of God is Light." That is to say, God gives light, as does the Sun. The final a reminds us that the Egyptian form of the Hebrew name On is Annu and that seems to be the form Lehi used. [Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, pp. 178-179]

     Whatever the derivation of the name, this "round ball of curious workmanship" had "two spindles and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness." Although the key to having it work was faith, it was called a "compass" in five different places in the Book of Mormon. Considering the direction that Nephi gave ("south-southeast"-1 Nephi 16:13), one could ask if the use of magnetic fields was part of the way this ball worked. With sea travel as an option, with the "trail" some forty-eight miles at its widest point, with Nephi in search of game, with major forks in the road, and with water wells sometimes sixty-six miles apart, whatever the mechanism, this "round ball" was a valuable travel aid. This ball is referred to as a "director" in Alma 37:38, wherein it is said that "our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass."

     According to Robert L. Bunker, the Liahona was given by the Lord as a communications device for Lehi to determine the appropriate direction of travel. This device in 1 Nephi contained two pointers, only one of which was necessary to provide directional information. But the Liahona was more than just a simple compass in function, for it additionally required faith for correct operation. Since a single pointer always "points" in some direction, the additional pointer was necessary to indicate whether or not the first pointer could be relied upon. This proposed purpose for the second pointer conforms to a well-established engineering principle used in modern fault-tolerant computer systems called voting, in which two identical process states are compared and declared correct if they are the same, and incorrect if they are different. Hence the second pointer, when coincident with the first, would indicate proper operation, and when orthogonal, would indicate nonoperation. [Robert L. Bunker, "The Design of the Liahona and the Purpose of the Second Spindle," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1994, F.A.R.M.S., p. 1]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 A round ball of curious workmanship (Illustration): Liahona depiction with crossed pointers indicating "not in service." [Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1994, p. 1]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 He [Lehi] beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship (Illustration): The Liahona. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #302]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 He beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship (Illustration): Lehi and the Liahona. Artist: Ronald Bergen. Painted for the Second International Art Competition, this painting by Ronald Bergen of Tempe, Arizona, illustrates Lehi's finding the Liahona. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, August 1994, inside back cover]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 He [Lehi] beheld . . . a round ball of curious workmanship (Illustration): Lehi. Artist: Stuart Heimdal. [Paul R. Cheesman, Great Leaders of the Book of Mormon, p. 13]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 A Round Ball [the Liahona]:

 

     Hunter and Ferguson write that according to both the Popol Vuh [an ancient Guatemalan Indian history] and the Book of Mormon, the original ancestors had a sacred instrument. As indicted by the Popol Vuh, it was symbolic of the power of God which power was possessed by these early colonizers. . . . Concerning the deathbed statement of the original head of the colony, the Popol Vuh says: "Then Balam-Quitze left the symbol of his being: 'This is a remembrance which I leave for you. This shall be your power. I take my leave filled with sorrow,' he added." Then he left the symbol of his being, the Pizom-Gagal, as it was called. The Totonicapan [Guatemalan] account states that the Lord supplied the Giron-Gagal [director] and led the colony across the sea because they were "the sons of Abraham and of Jacob." [Milton R. Hunter and T. Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, pp. 66-72]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 Curious Workmanship:

 

     The author Brenton Yorgason tells of a professor Sami Hanna, an Egyptian who was especially schooled in the Arabic language and who accepted the assignment of the First Presidency to translate the Book of Mormon into the Semitic cultural format. According to the words of Dr. Hanna, "When I began reading the Book of Mormon, and began making myself familiar with it, I expected to find a very poorly written book, as I had been told by critics . . . but to the contrary, I found myself reading the most beautiful Semitic book I had ever read!"

     According to Dr. Hanna, the word "curious" in 1 Nephi 16:10 referring to the workmanship of the Liahona does not mean "strange" as many have presumed, but actually designates an instrument of "skilled" or "elegant" workmanship. [Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, pp. 32,36] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 18:1]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 The One Pointed the Way Whither We Should Go into the Wilderness:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, Lehi would have had some sense from Nephi's vision and from his own knowledge of the huge task which lay ahead in getting across the "many waters" to the promised land (1 Nephi 13:12). There were only a few places where ships large enough to even attempt to take them such a distance were built and sailed. When the Liahona pointed "the way whither [they] should go into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:10) and that direction turned out to be "south-southeast" (1 Nephi 16:13), Lehi and Nephi must have realized that the Lord was leading them toward the ports which sat at the end of the Frankincense trail.

     One might ask, How can anyone claim that Lehi really knew these ports existed? The valley of Lemuel in which Lehi camped was less than twenty miles from the Gaza branch of the Frankincense trail. The Frankincense trail got its name from the product which was primarily transported along it--frankincense, a sweet smelling gum, the sap of the Frankincense tree (Boswelia sacra). The Frankincense trees were native to southern Arabia, specifically the Dhofar region and the Hadramawt region. Thus the southern Arabians became wealthy on the sale of this aromatic, highly prized substance. Evidence suggests it was used in Egypt as early as 5,000 B.C., and eventually became an integral part of temple ceremonies in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Israel.

     There were three main ports in southern Arabia: Aden, Cana and Moscha (see illustration). The merchant ships of these three ports virtually monopolized trade with India and the Far East until the first centuries B.C.-A.D.352 Aden (Eden) and Qana (Canneh) were known to the people of Palestine in Lehi's time (see Ezekiel 27:23). Moscha ("Mesha"--Genesis 10:30) was the major port in Dhofar. The Frankincense trail ended only when it reached one of these ports. Moscha was a place where ships and captains could be found that were capable of sailing in the open waters of the Indian Ocean.

     Nephi's assignment was basically to build a ship and sail it across "many waters" to the promised land. In our times it might be somewhat comparable to the Lord asking you to go to the moon. Even if you had inspiration from the Lord you would probably want to visit a large aerospace manufacturer, find out where suppliers are located so you could acquire the necessary components, and finally consult with an experienced astronaut for lessons. Nephi had to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to make this ocean voyage, and he had limited time. What more could he seek than a place where he could draw on accumulated experience and tradition. That place existed at the end of the Frankincense trail.

     But what evidence is there that Nephi and Lehi really knew such a place existed? Lehi was of the "free class" and a land owner (1 Nephi 4:33; 2:4). He was wealthy (1 Nephi 2:4), multi-lingual (1 Nephi 1:2), and therefore probably of the noble or merchant class. Most likely, Lehi had as good, if not better, knowledge of the overland and seafaring routes of his day than did his contemporary prophets. And if Ezekiel and Jeremiah353 (Jeremiah 10:9) knew about these large ocean-going ships of the Indian Ocean and the overland trail route leading to the Indian Ocean ports (Jeremiah 49:7-8), then certainly Lehi knew about them. Moreover, the brass plates told of these ships (see 2 Nephi 12:16). These plates mentioned Ophir (2 Nephi 24:12) which, according to the LDS Bible dictionary was "probably a port of southern Arabia." According to Oman historian S.B. Miles, Ophir appears to have been the port of Moscha (Mesha) in Dhofar (Sephar)354 (Genesis 10:29-30; 1 Nephi 5:11). The scriptures told of Solomon sending his navy to Ophir to acquire gold (1 Kings 9:28), a "great plenty of almug trees," and precious stones (1 Kings 10:11). "By the time of Job 22:24, Ophir had become a synonym for a gold producing land."355 Over hundreds, even thousands of years, gold and precious things had come to that area through the sale of the precious Frankincense, native to only that area. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 71-73]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 The one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness (Illustration): The Three Ancient Ports of Southern Arabia: Aden, Cana, and Moscha. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 88]

 

1 Nephi 16:10 The one pointged tehway whither w should go into thewildlrness (Illustration): The three aNcient Ports of Southern Arabia: Adan, Cana, and Moscha. (George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Tehi-Nehi Trial. P 88+

 

1 Nephi 16:10 The One Pointed the Way Whither We Should Go into the Wilderness:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, phrases in Nephi's record appear to describe a journey to and then along the Frankincense trail. There are multiple corroborative references like coming "down by the borders of the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5), traveling "three days" in "borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5-6), then traveling "nearly a south-southeast direction" (1 Nephi 16:13) "keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:14). But one might ask, Why was it necessary for the Liahona to point "the way whither we should go" (1 Nephi 16:10) if Lehi and Nephi were traveling on such a well established trail such as the Frankincense trail? There are a number of reasons:

     1. Water: The course of the Frankincense trail can be explained in one word, "water." Lynn Hilton notes: "Where there is water--that is the inescapable fact of Arabian life--and the great oases of the Arabian peninsula do not move from place to place"356 The great oases of western Arabia, Tabuk, Hijra, Dedan (Ula), Medina, Mecca, and Najran are all found on the Frankincense trail or a branch of it. The eastern side of the coastal mountains forms an underground sea, trapping large pools of water in aquifers. The inland underground reservoirs, called the Basalt Aquifers, run almost the entire length of the northern and central parts of the Frankincense trail, providing dependable wells and springs along its course. The Frankincense trail was used because it had a reliable water supply. Yet water was not a free resource for all but rather a jealously guarded commodity. Water holes were guarded and regulated public property of the ruling tribe.357 Without permission from the local tribe one cannot drink from them. And those wells which were not part of a settlement were often covered with a large rock and a bush so that one could even stand on the well and never know it was there unless informed of such by one of the local tribesman.

     Some might argue that the Liahona could have directed Lehi through the desert without a trail. Even if that were possible, the party needed to rejoin the trail at the wells. They had no other choice. The need to find water in the desert made it relatively easy for the emirs to control passage through their lands. Taylor writes:

           Like the soldiers and traders who had made their way through Arabia before them, they (pilgrims) knew there were supplies of water, scanty and brackish through they might be, on the road ahead. Fortified kellas or water stations, protected by iron-plated doors and garrisons of soldiers, dotted the route at long and irregular intervals. Although it might have been two or three days' march form one to another, at least the water supplies were known and plans made accordingly.358

  

     2. Supplies: The Frankincense trail also provided the other important elements needed to survive the trip through the desert: food and, when needed, fresh camels. At the camps or "caravansaries" along the trail, the traveler could also share news and companionship with other travelers as well as inquire about the trail ahead. Every Bedu herdsman was responsible to the local emir to be an informer. To this day, they still receive rewards for notifying authorities of strangers traveling in their lands. Andrew Taylor writes of the earlier Europeans that journeyed into the Arabian wilderness: "Like other explorers before and after them, the Blunts (Wilfrid and Ann Blunt) were amazed at how news of their presence had spread among the tribes."359 Lehi would have understood that in order to travel through Arabia he would need the continued information and supplies offered by an authorized trail.

     3. A Good Road: Mohammed Al-Mansour and his family were wealthy caravan-traders from Qassim, due east from Medina. His great grandson, Waleed Al Mansour, keeps a long genealogy that includes personal histories. He notes that to this day, his uncles can describe the footing of each of the main camel trails in Arabia, that is, gravel, hard sand, dry river bed, etc. The routes were not straight courses, but often deviated far distances to avoid lava beds, mountains or soft sand, none of which were good terrain for camels. Such considerations were far from incidental. If one's camels became lame in the desert, the traveler's fate was in serious jeopardy. The courses of the Frankincense routes were derived from thousands of years of experience, and were faithfully followed in an effort to minimize the risk of losing camels or of getting lost.360

     4. Places to Acquire Income: Besides money for tributes, Lehi would have needed funds for acquiring provisions, and probably for replacing camels that became lame or died on the trail. Lehi apparently did not take his gold and silver into the wilderness. However Randolph Linehan, an international attorney specializing in international commerce, and one who practiced law in Arabia, speculates that in the commercial centers that were located along the Frankincense trail, Lehi and his older sons could have exchanged their highly valued personal services for tribute and provisions. Lehi was wealthy. He had taught not just his oldest sons, but his younger ones as well, reading, writing, and the trade languages: Egyptian, Canaanite script, Judahite Hebrew. They made written records and had scriptures in their possession.361 This might, to some degree, explain why it took Lehi eight years to cross Arabia.

     5. Protection from Plunder: Remaining on the Frankincense trail would have provided Lehi with a couple of good security measures: (1) they would have been traveling with many other people; and (2) they would have the opportunity to pay proper tribute to local authorities who guarded the trail. The Bedouins of Arabia watched the passages and wells and knew who traveled in their lands. To wander off this trail invited death from those officials who derived their income from the caravan trade. Those entering tribal lands without permission were considered by those in authority to be trespassers, tribute dodgers or what we might call illegal immigrants. The family would thus have been fair game for plunder, enslavement and perhaps even death.

     Staying on the trail also meant traveling with large groups. Waleed Al-Monsour relates that his grandfather's caravan's numbered two to three hundred camels, each few camels being accompanied by an armed man.362 When a smaller group wished to make a long journey they would wait at a village (or caravanserai) until enough people could band together to make a sizable traveling party.363 The caravan was thus a small army traveling across the desert. The same strategy applied to the pioneers of the American West.

Arabist Alan Keohane explains why it was in the interest of the tribes to encourage travel:

           Traders and cultivators paid them protection money, called khawah to keep themselves safe from raids. The desert sheikhs--a title of respect derived from the Arabic word for "to be old"--became so powerful that many were given the grander title of emir or prince. They were also fabulously wealthy.364

 

     For this reason, the tribes that ruled trade routes went to great efforts to protect their trails and to organize small parties into larger groups for travel between villages. These tribute-paying travelers needed a degree of safety or they would find other routes. The travelers were their customers, and the tribute from the trail was their main source of income. Andrew Taylor writes of one nineteenth century Emir in northern Arabia:

           Emir Mohammed ibn Rashid at Hail, who would briskly lop off the heads of strangers found loafing around near the rods in his domain as an example to anyone thinking of mounting an armed attack on passing travelers. It was . . . an effective policy--there had been no robberies on the Emir's highways for years . . .365

 

     Nigel Groom notes of the Minaeans, one of the incense kingdoms of southern Arabia that controlled the trade in Lehi's time:

           Over the long period of the overland incense trade, power and influence will have shifted among the different tribes of central Arabia and it seems likely that the Minaeans organizing the trade will always have been much concerned in dealings to ensure the safe passage of their caravans through the territories of tribal chiefs with varying and fluctuating degrees of authority. A general measure of law and order must have been maintained, however, ford the trade to have continued over the centuries without, so far as we know, any major interruption.366

 

[George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 74-83; see also George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 4, p. 4, 8, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We Did Gather . . . All the Remainder of Our Provisions Which the Lord Had Given unto Us:

 

     The family of Lehi dwelt in a tent in the valley of Lemuel for apparently quite some time (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 16:6), yet Lehi's family came upon this valley while traveling in the Arabian wilderness. Lawrence of Arabia, the British Intelligence officer who served with the Bedu during the First World War and became a national hero, wrote that "the Bedouin ways were hard even for those brought up in them," that they were "a death in life." If one asks the old Bedu today what life was like in the old days, they will generally not speak of a romantic past. Their tales are of constant thirst and hunger, of great journeys to bring water from the wells or to seek out areas that had received some rain.

     [It is against this backdrop that one might contemplate what Nephi was talking about when he recorded as they prepared to leave the valley of Lemuel: "we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us" (1 Nephi 16:8) Lehi's family was living in one of the harshest lands in the world, yet Nephi talks about "provisions which the Lord had given us." Was Nephi living in Arabia? Are we facing a contradiction here?] Either Nephi knew nothing about the difficulties of dwelling in a tent in Arabia and his record's credibility must be questioned, or there must have existed a valley three days into the wilderness of Arabia where the Lord was able to provide Lehi and his family with provisions. If the latter is true, then there must be a valley 60-90 miles into Arabia that provides [many of ] the necessary conditions for a good life, and it must do so against the backdrop of terrible living conditions around it. If the southern end of the wadi Tayyib al-Ism is to qualify as the valley of Lemuel, it must pass a difficult test. It must possess some basic elements for making life relatively comfortable. Here is a list of it's qualifications:

     1. Cool Campsite During the Hot Season: The land of Midian in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia is a wilderness second only in barrenness to the great Rub'al Khali, or Empty Quarter, of the central Arabian Peninsula. Hardly a blade of grass breaks up the monotony of the terrain. Temperatures average between 115o and 125o Fahrenheit during the summer months. During the springtime, daytime temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Arabian sun will kill a man within hours if he cannot find shade. The towering cliffs of the canyon of granite of wadi Tayyib al-Ism would have provided a likely solution. The shade from the canyon walls keeps the environment in the canyon cool. We estimate that the temperature in the canyon can be up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit lower than in the rest of Midian. To this one must add the avoidance of direct sunlight. For any one place on the floor of the canyon, it is only directly hit by the sun for a few minutes a day. It is possible to live in the canyon without ever moving out of the shade. There are several good campsites next to palm groves and the river in the canyon. The shape of the canyon also tends to funnel the sea breezes which leads to ready evaporative cooling--a natural air conditioning. With plentiful drinking water, a cooling breeze and abundant shade, the family of Lehi enjoyed the coolest possible camp conditions.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: A Cool Campsite During the Hot Season. The Upper Valley with it's oases of date palms and springs. Located in Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (proposed Valley of Lemuel). Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 88]

 

     2. A Dry and Safe Rainy Season Campsite: As ideal as the canyon would have been as a campsite in the summer, it would have been unattractive and possibly even dangerous in the rainy season, from November to March. We have located the ruins of two elevated campsites in the wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Both are located just above the Waters of Moses, part of wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Both campsites are on a slight incline, allowing drainage in the camp. The largest of the two sites, the one that would seem more the size of one used by Nephi's family is located on the north side of the upper valley next to the middle groves of date palms. The middle grove is the largest of the three date palm groves of the Waters of Moses. The middle grove contains four wells. The ruins are built on a shelf a few feet above the wadi floor, well out of danger of flash floods.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: A Dry and Safe Rainy Season Campsite. Ruins of a long-term camp elevated above the wadi floor. Stone circles and circle with palm fronds are corrals next to the camp. Located in Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (proposed Valley of Lemuel). Photo by Tim Sedor. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 113]

 

     3. Building Materials:

           (A) Materials for Corrals: It is certain that Lehi's party had a large number of camels. Camels require pens so they do not wander off and become lost at night. In Nephi's time, a stray camel would be prey for lions and wolves. Lehi would have needed to build corrals from the natural materials found in the wadi Tayyib al-Ism. The traditional corral in Arabia consisted of a circle of large stones that supported sticks or palm fronds. One can trace the ancient caravan routes through Arabia by looking for the ruins of these corrals (circles of single stones). Lehi's camp probably needed several camel corrals to accommodate their animals. We found ruins of these corrals on both sides of the Waters of Moses, including several adjacent to the large long-term campsite ruins above the middle grove. The Bedouins still graze camels in the valley and use the traditional corrals. Due to the availability of free palm fronds in the groves, the Bedouins seem content to use the traditional materials rather than modern methods.

           (B) Safe Box Materials: The brass plates were a key in preserving the faith and language of their new nation (see 1 Nephi 4:13). Lehi taught that the plates should "never perish" (1 Nephi 5:19). Would Lehi have left the plates unprotected in a wilderness valley? Tent walls held little security for the priceless records or the valuable sword of Laban. If bandits raided their camp or a thief ventured in while they were away from the tents, they might have lost these treasures. One could speculate that Lehi might have used a practice still found in the area today, that of building a stone box in the earth, placing the plates in it for safe keeping, and then covering the stone box with a large uncut rock. We can also speculate that if this was so, then the Nephite practice of keeping the plates in a stone box in the earth started as far back as the Valley of Lemuel. [Note* One might wonder if this manner of security was also the case in Lehi's land of inheritance where Nephi went to retrieve gold and silver" (see 1 Nephi 3:22).]

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Illustration): Typical Bedouin stone storage box. This one found approximately ten miles from wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Photo by Chris Hamilton. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 117]

 

     4. Drinking water: The water situation in Wadi Tayyib al-Ism is unique to the Midian region of Arabia. Here one can choose a campsite next to any one of twelve wells or the only continuously flowing river in all of Saudi Arabia.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Richard Wellington drinking from what we believe is the River of Laman. Photo by Ed Benson. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 119]

 

     5. Food: Our survey of the flora of the valley was strictly amateur, and based only on what grows there presently. We are convinced that the last four miles of the wadi Tayyib al-Ism is the only place in all of the Midian region of Arabia that could possibly have met Nephi's flora requirements. The only other place we have seen fruits and vegetables grow in this region in any significant amount is in the area around al-Bada. However, that area seems to have always been a cultivated place (grown by man not God), for its fields rely today, as in ancient time on the deep wells of Jethro.

           (A) Fruits: If the local legend is true that the Waters of Moses is the Bible's Elim, then we known that the date palms in wadi Tayyib al-Ism have existed there well before the time of Nephi (see Exodus 15;27). So far we have found five varieties of dates at the Waters of Moses and the canyon. They represent all three varieties of palm that grow wild in Arabia, the Phoenix caespitosam, the Phoenix dactylifera, and the Hyphaene thebaica, with its giant, lemon-size dates.

           In the context of the provisions needed for traveling across Arabia, it is safe to assume that among the "seed of every kind" (1 Nephi 16:11) which Nephi took into the wilderness were dates. Dates hang in clusters, from the top of the palms as if they are giant balls of seed. The date, consisting of the sweet outer flesh and the pit, is the seed of the palm. Dates are a traditional food source for travelers in Arabia. Nephi's family would have either known this fact or have been told it by the locals. An Arab colleague whose great grandfather marketed camels from central Arabia to Palestine, Cairo, Baghdad, and as far as India, claims that his great grandfather and his crews ate only dates and tea during the days they traveled. Together with the camel the Arabs consider the date to be one of God's greatest gifts to them. Without the camel gravel across the desert would have been impossible and without the date, one of the few foodstuffs that do not perish in the heat of the desert, they would have had nothing to eat. Long distance desert travel anciently without the came and date would have been impossible.

           There are other fruits growing wild in the wadi. So far we have found a variety of edible berry and two vine fruits. The berry is called the Teen by the Bedouins. We have not been in the valley when fruit has been on the teen bushes, but the Bedouin tell us that the berry is about the size of a strawberry and is delicious.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Fig. 6.6 Dates are the seeds of the seeds of the date palm. They hang in clusters given the appearance that they are seeds. Photo by George Potter. Fig. 6.7 Dates still in the tree of the middles grove. Photograph taken at the end of January. Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 122]

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Fig. 6.8 The Hyphaene thebaica, found growing in the canyon. Bedouins peel the date before eating. Photo by George Potter. Fig. 6.9 Giant dates still uncollected months after the harvest season. Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 123]

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Fig. 6.10 The bush of the Teen Berry, found in the canyon along the river bank. Photo by George Potter. Fig. 6.11 Fruit of the vine Cucumis prophetarum.. Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 124]

 

           (B) Grains: The canyon, at least in the areas where the river runs above surface, is full of grasses. Grains grow on grasses. Arriving in the canyon in January, 1999, well after the time grain would have been harvested, we still found large amounts of grain hanging from the grasses. Not only did this grain seem to grow in ample quantities in the canyon, it was also easy to strip from the bush and separate. Using a plastic bag to gather some of it, I then crushed it. In a total of ten minutes I separated enough wheat size grain for several bowls of cereal. Of the four grasses we have identified so far in the valley, only one would probably qualify as a human food source, unless they used the seed grains of the smaller varieties as spices.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Fig. 6.12 Grain growing in the Canyon. Photo by George Potter. Fig. 6.13 Grain collected and separated in about ten minutes. Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 125]

 

           (C) Protein:

                 Seafood: The Red Sea has one of the world's richest sea life environments. The family could have constructed nets from the fibers of palm fronds and netted fish, or picked lobsters from the crevices of the reef. An even easier source of seafood would have been to harvest the large shellfish found along the shoreline of the Gulf of Aqaba.

                 Birds: A number of birds make their nests in the wadi. The most common is the Rock Dove (Columba livia), which nests in rock crevices. Palm Doves (Streptopelia senegalensis) and Namanqua Doves (Oena capensis) also nest in the area, as well as Tritam's Grackle (Onychognathus tristramii), all of which would have produced eggs large enough to make a meal.

                 Small game: Small game animals are also found in wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Of the 15 species of larger carnivores recorded in Arabia almost all are confined to the western mountains. These include the Leopard, Striped Hyena, Arabian Wolf, Caracal and Wild Cat.367 While these would not necessarily be primary food sources, their presence suggests numerous smaller prey items such as the Rock Hyrax (Procavia caapensis), the "Coney" of the Bible.368

     6. Drinks or Beverages: Although Nephi brought back "seeds of every kind" (1 Nephi 8:1) from which various teas or drinks could have been made, the wadi Tayyib al-Ism's flora would also have provided Lehi's family with a range of free beverages. Date pits abound beneath the palms. Arabs roast these to make a coffee substitute. Dates themselves can be used to make date tea and wine.369

     7. Salt: In Arabia, with its blustering temperatures, salt takes on its own importance. Heat causes the loss of body fluids through perspiration. As fluids are lost, so are the body's mineral salts. To stay healthy, Lehi's family would have needed to maintain a healthy salt balance in their bodies. In the wadi Tayyib al-Ism, salt can be laboriously harvested from the Gulf of Aqaba, or in a most convenient manner by simply scraping it off the rocks along the river where it accumulates in large deposits.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Salt deposits on the rock in the river bed. The highest deposit is 11 inches above the current water line. Photo by Richard Wellington. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 55]

 

     8. Medicine: The vine fruits Citrillus colocynthis and the cucumis prophetarum are found in the valley, and are used to cleanse the digestive system of parasites and as laxatives. The mint that is found in the valley is used by Arabs to cure stomach problems.

     9. Fuel for Cooking and Heat: Local bedouins simply feed dried palm fronds toward the center of a fire. They are easily lighted on the end that has the split (finger like) leaves, so there is no need for kindling. As they burn down, the Bedouins push more of the unburnt frond into the coals. From nearly any point in the canyon or Waters of Moses, dried fronds can be gathered and a fire started within a few minutes.

     10. Fodder for the Camels: Bertram Thomas, the first westerner to cross the great sand desert of Arabia, the Empty Quarter, wrote:

           The traveler in the desert soon discovers that the welfare of the camel is the supreme consideration. . . . Fodder is almost more important than water, for the camel can carry a load for a week or more without water, but food is a daily want.370

 

     The wadi Tayyib al-Ism would have provided for Lehi's camels. Camels still graze in the canyon and through the entire wadi system. The thorny acacia bush is also a favorite fodder of the camel.

 

1 Nephi 16:11 We did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given us (Illustration): Camels in the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 31]

 

     In summary, it is impossible, of course, to know exactly the conditions in the Midian region of northern Arabia during Nephi's time. However, we have good reason to conclude that before the use of extensive pumping there were only three true oases in the region of Midian, and only one of those, the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism had a river. Sir Richard Burton cited that these oases were all within a space of thirty-five geographical miles. Burton reported (1878) the Khedivial Expedition found three oasis.371 He reported seeing two of these, at Al-Bada'a and Maqna. Neither of these oases have what could be considered a river. Musil reported a spring at al-Bada'a, but no river. This leaves the waters of Moses as the unique site in Midian with a river.372 The Wadi Tayyib al-Ism contains a unique ecology. It appears to be the only wilderness valley in all of the Midian region of Arabia that could have provided the campsite and the provisions for the length of time described by Nephi. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 58, 71, 86, 110-132]; see also George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 3, pp. 4-5, Unpublished]

 

Geographical Theory Map: 1 Nephi 16:9-13 Lehi Travels to Shazer & "Broken Bow" (Year 005)

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A South-Southeast Direction:

 

     In 1 Nephi 16:13, Nephi mentions the directional term "south-southeast." According to John Sorenson, directions and how they are referred to are cultural products, not givens in nature. Both the conceptual frameworks which define directions and the languages of reference for them differ dramatically from culture to culture and throughout history. . . A person may say that "east is obvious," it is "where the sun comes up." But as I write, in Utah in December, the sun is rising in the southeast . . . while in, say, Norway or northern Canada the sun is coming up only in what we call the south. . . . On the other hand, in the tropics, sunrise is at astronomical "east" on only two mornings per year. On every other day its rising point at the horizon is either to the north or south of astronomical "east," for much of the year by many degrees of arc. . . .

     Clearly, Old World civilizations held many ideas about how directions were to be determined, assigned significance, and labeled. The cardinal points were only a relatively late, technical answer to the question "what directions are there?" From a survey of ideas such as these that were known in the part of the world where Book of Mormon peoples originated we see some possibilities that enlighten us about how the Nephites may have oriented themselves, but by no means do exclusive answers to what their conceptions actually were leap out at us. [John L. Sorenson, A Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 401,407. (For an extended discussion on cultural disparities in directional systems, see pp. 401-415)]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A South-Southeast Direction:

 

     Nephi explicitly informs us in 1 Nephi 16:13 that the direction his family traveled was "south-southeast." In using such descriptive directional language, Nephi (and indirectly Mormon and Moroni), have opened the door for a discussion of directions in the Book of Mormon, more particularly a discussion of some of the primary building blocks for a standard of directions: consistency among the recordkeepers, range of variance in directional terms, and directional orientation from a point of reference.

     1. Consistency Among the Recordkeepers: The Book of Mormon is made up from original writings of many writers: Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, etc. of the small plates of Nephi; Lehi, Nephi . . . Benjamin, Zeniff, Mosiah2, Alma2, etc. of the large plates of Nephi; the Brother of Jared, Ether, etc. of the Jaredite history. Many of these writings were either abridged or translated by Mormon and Moroni. In our present Book of Mormon, we find examples of directional notations given by Nephi (1 Nephi 16:13 -- small plates); Zeniff (Mosiah 9:14 -- large plates); Mormon (Alma 22:27-24 -- Mormon's Abridgment); and Moroni (Ether 1:1 -- Moroni's Abridgment). Were these directions from the same standard? In other words, were the directions of every writer on the small plates the same as the directions of every writer on the large plates? And was the directional system established first by Nephi on the large plates (1 Nephi 19:1-5) and years later by Nephi on the small plates (2 Nephi 5:28-34) (both from a location on the American continent), according to the same directional standard as that of Mormon and Moroni?

     Whether the directional ideas in the Book of Mormon were expressed in the beginning of Nephite history according to "the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2), or whether in the end of Nephite history directional ideas were expressed according to "Hebrew" or "reformed Egyptian" which had been "altered" (Mormon 9:32-33), if the directions mentioned in our present Book of Mormon didn't become standardized when they went through the editing and compiling process of Mormon and Moroni, or more importantly, if they didn't become standardized when they came through the mind of Joseph Smith, then trying to make sense out of the geographical terms in the Book of Mormon would be helplessly frustrating. Although we find that Mormon used many different geographical and directional notations in trying to describe not only Nephite and Lamanite territories but the lands of Mulekite and Jaredite origins as well (see Alma 22:27-34 for an example), he apparently did not make any mention of having to change any system of directional standards relative to any recordkeeper on the large plates. Nor did he mention any directional system changes relative to the authors of the small plates when he wrote his editorial introduction to that record (see Words of Mormon). In the writings of Moroni we find that even though he tried to correlate some Jaredite locations with those of the Nephites (hill Shim -- hill Cumorah -- hill Ramah -- Ether 9:3, 15:11), he failed to mention any major differences in directional reference systems.

     Thus, the directional and geographical references in the Book of Mormon appear to be consistent and standardized. If we choose not to accept this reasoning, we are left with one or more of the alternative conclusions that: (1) consistent directional terms and consistent geographical references were not factors in telling the Book of Mormon story (see 1 Nephi 6:6); (2) Mormon and Moroni were lacking in their understanding and responsibility as abridgers to describe the geographical picture through the different chronological and cultural time frames of the Book of Mormon; or (3) Joseph Smith was lacking in his ability as a translator to properly convey a meaningful directional system or an understandable geographical picture from the writings on the plates. Although it seems logical to accept the idea of consistency, it might be wise to leave the matter matter open to discussion.

     2. Range of Variance in Directional Terms: In the Book of Mormon, we are not dealing with all the cultural variations by which people orient themselves or have oriented themselves throughout history, we are only dealing first with how directions were sent out to the world by Mormon and Moroni, and second, with how those directions came forth in translation from the mind of Joseph Smith. By the use of such a term as "south-southeast" (1 Nephi 16:13), the directional system of the Book of Mormon becomes divided into sixteen parts: the terms "south" + "east" are two terms of an implied four-part system (north-south-east-west); the term "southeast" implies eight divisions of direction; and the term "south-southeast" implies sixteen divisions. This 16-part division of direction tends to limit the range of variance in defining such specific words as "north," south," and "east" (at least in the small plates). However, the terms "northward" and "southward" might be somewhat more open for interpretation.

     3. Directional Orientation from a Point of Reference: In order to orient ourselves to a directional standard, we must have a point of reference:

     (a) If Lehi's "valley of Lemuel" was near the northern tip of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:4-14), and if Lehi traveled "south-southeast" in "nearly the same course as in the beginning" until he reached Nahom (1 Nephi 16:33-34), then the direction of "south-southeast" can be correlated with ancient travel routes paralleling the coast of the Red Sea.

     (b) Lehi eventually reached Nahom before he mentioned turning "eastward" (1 Nephi 17:1). Scholars have found evidence for the site of Nahom on ancient maps (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 16:34). Thus, if the position of Nahom can be confirmed, then by having the beginning point and the ending point of Lehi's "course" of travel, a definite directional orientation and comparison can be made relative to our modern day system of cardinal directions. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [For a continuation of the discussion of directions, see the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:1; Mosiah 7:5]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 South-southeast (Illustration): A south-southeast direction would be within an arc on either side of south-southeast. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, p. 72, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 South-southeast (Illustration): Illustration of the direction of south-southeast superimposed on the Red Sea. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, p. 73, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A South-Southeast Direction (Hilton Theory):

 

     The Hiltons suggest that from this point of their journey near the northern tip of the Red Sea until they reached Bountiful, Lehi was probably traveling on what was called the “Frankincense Trail.” Frankincense was highly valued and came from certain locations in the southern part of Saudi Arabia. It was shipped overland along major trails that soon became major highways of commerce. As water was the determining factor of any travel in Arabia, these trails connected hand-dug wells all along the way (p. 77).

     They found that there existed a well-traveled, south-southeastern route along the Red Sea coast. They believe that Lehi would not have left an established path to roam on waterless mountains and deserts. The Book of Mormon does not say he was hiding on his journey, nor does it say he was fleeing from pursuit as some have thought; so it is likely that he kept to the known highways of the day. Further evidence for this supposition is Nephi's statement that they traveled in the borders of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:5), right where the frankincense trail has existed from ancient times (pp. 32-33).

     The Hiltons note that the word trail is apt to be misleading. It does not refer to a well-defined, relatively narrow path or roadway, but to a more general route that followed through this valley, that canyon, etc. The width of the route varied with the geography, ranging from a half mile to a dozen (even at one point up to fifty) miles wide. Travelers could thus camp great distances from one another and still be at the same point on the same trail (p. 32). [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 32-33, 77]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A South-Southeast Direction (Hilton Theory):

 

     In an interesting note regarding directions, Lynn Hilton writes that the south-southeast direction in the borders of the Red Sea is very close to the actual direction. The actual reading averaged over the Red Sea coast is a bearing of 149 degrees, whereas the true direction of south-southeast is a bearing of 157.5 degrees, or a deviation of only 8.5 degrees to the east or left. But this direction of travel, 149 degrees, is much closer to "south-southeast" than to southeast, where the deviation is 14 degrees, or to any other cardinal point of the compass. [Lynn M. Hilton, "Nephi's 'Eastward' Journey," in Ancient America Foundation (AAF) Newsletter, Num. 5, August 1995, p. 1-2]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A south-southeast direction (Frankincense Trail) [Illustration]: The Arabian peninsula, including incense trade routes and major centers. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, p. 6]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 A south-southeast direction (Frankincense Trail) [Illustration]: The Frankincense Trails: The ancient caravan route that is known as the frankincense trail follows almost exactly the theoretical trail constructed from the account recorded in the Book of Mormon. The much traveled trail begins at the coast of modern Oman. From there it goes from ancient waterhole to waterhole throughout the Middle East. We should note that the word trail does not refer to a well-defined, narrow path or roadway, but to a more general route that followed a valley or canyon. The width of the route varied with the geography, ranging from a half mile to up to fifty miles wide at one point. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 22-23]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We Traveled for the Space of Four Days, Nearly a South-Southeast Direction (Hedengren Theory):

 

     According to Paul Hedengren, one site only appears to satisfy the textual requirement for the site of Lehi's camp. It is the valley through which runs Wadi an Nuwaybi (see illustration). It contains a river which the Army map indicates flows continuously and empties into the Red Sea. By crossing it and continuing up Wadi Umm Jurfayn, one can continue on for several days in a "nearly south-southeast direction" (1 Nephi 16:13). Only from the upper half of the Gulf of Aqaba is it possible to travel four days in a "nearly south-southeast" direction. Attempted from the lower half, the traveler runs into the Red Sea. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, pp. 21-22, 26]

     Note* This is a good point to consider. Keith Christensen has also addressed this aspect. However, one does not have to travel in a direct line all the time. It is the sum total of all the correctional changes that determine direction. The reader will notice that Hedengren uses the "sum-total" approach when considering Lehi's travel "eastward" from Nahom to Bountiful (see his Illustration on page 31). As for his location for the valley of Lemuel, there are problems not thoroughly investigated: (1) Wadi an Nuwaybi lies only about 15 miles from Aqaba. Does this constitute only "three days" travel into the wilderness? (2) Although he might interpret the map as a river, there has been no actual confirmation of a continually running river. (3) There has been no actual confirmation of conditions (food, fodder for the animals, shade, etc.) necessary to sustain a family for possibly a number of years. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction (Illustration) [Hedengren Theory]: U.S. Army Map K502XNH3612, 1961 Grid Lines 10 kilometers (about 6 miles). Contour Intervals 100 meters. An X marks the approximate area of the mouth of Wadi an Nuwaybi. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, p. 22]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We Did Call the Name of the Place Shazer:

 

     The phrase "we did call the name of the place Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13) is apparently an Hebraism. According to John A. Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic. . . . When a child is born, we say in English that his father and mother "called him X" or "named him X." The same is true in naming places, for example, "He called his ranch Pleasant Valley." But Hebrew expresses it quite differently: "He called the name of his son X." In Hebrew, it is the name that is "called," not the child or the place. Perhaps the best-known example from the Bible is the one found in Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon" in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 89]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We Did Call the Name of the Place Shazer (Hilton Theory):

 

     In 1976 the Hiltons wrote that a four-day journey in a south-southeast direction carried Lehi to a place they called Shazer. This part of the journey probably continued down the shores of the Red Sea, which is oriented in the same direction. If they averaged 24 miles per day, then a four day journey would cover about 96 miles. This distance would bring the colony approximately to Wadi Al Azlan, long an important and large oasis on the Red Sea coastal plain, which may have been the location of Shazer (see illustration below). [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 77, see also p. 50]

     In 1988, Paul Cheesman also notes that Shazer could be the modern oasis of Azlan in the Wadi Azlan. [Paul R. Cheesman, "Lehi's Journeys," in The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, p. 246]

     In 1996 the Hiltons write that there is a surprising corroboration of Nephi's statement about finding a camping site four days journey south-southeast from the Valley of Lemuel (al-Bad). Seventy-six miles down the Tihama (or shores of the Red Sea) and within four miles of our forecast location, we burst out of the arid desert into a large green and fertile oasis in the mouth of Wadi Surr. This place now bears the name of al-Muwaylih, Saudi Arabia. We offer it as our candidate for the likely place of Nephi's Shazer (1 Nephi 16:13). Comprising about 80 acres of date palms, it rises immediately adjacent to the beach of the Red Sea. This lovely spot is the only oasis with more than a handful of palm trees between al-Bad and al-Wajh, a distance of 124 miles, and therefore is the most likely site for Shazer. (see illustration below)

     We accepted as added evidence of the location of the ancient trail a string of 300-400 year old Turkish forts built to protect the water sources. Here at al-Muwaylih we found the ruins of one of the largest forts, which covers an area the size of a city block. Approaching Duba, we found another fort at al-Azlam, built around an ancient well. Another fort is located at al-Wajh, also built around an ancient water well. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 111] [See also Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, p. 90]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 Shazer (Potter Theory):

 

     When the time came, Lehi's party left the valley of Lemuel and traveled to their next halting place where Nephi notes, "we did pitch our tents again and we did call the name of the place Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13). According to Potter and Wellington, while the number of helpful pieces of information Nephi gives about this stage of the journey are scant, they are nevertheless insightful:

 

     A. They departed into the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:12).

 

     From the valley of Lemuel (proposed wadi Tayyib-al-Ism) Nephi notes that they traveled south-southeast. Taking this heading would have led them back into the mountains and towards the huge wadi Ifal which runs north/south some 13 miles from where they were camping and towards the town of al Bada'a. Al Bada'a was a major stop on the Frankincense trail373 some 20 miles to the southeast. Lehi or Nephi may have even visited it during their long stay in the valley of Lemuel. The terrain between the valley and al Bada'a is essentially the same as they had encountered entering the valley; mountains interspersed with winding wadis, and the occasional stunted tree. Certainly this was still "wilderness," the very word Diodorus uses to describe this area around wadi Ifal.374

 

     B. They traveled in "nearly a south-southeast direction" (1 Nephi 16:13).

 

     Nephi tells us that the trail they took ran in the direction nearly south-southeast. A bearing of south-southeast is 1571/2o from north. This bearing took Lehi's family down one of the branches of the frankincense trail. In fact, various Arab geographers have given us the names and order of the rest stops along this branch. (see chart below) However, some items of caution regarding direction should be noted:

     a. "Nearly south-southeast" could mean a bearing anywhere between 147o and 170o.

     b. We do not know by what method Nephi was measuring north. He may have been referring to the north celestial pole (pole star)375 or to magnetic north. Magnetic north varies from true north by a little over 3o at the Gulf of Aqaba.

     c. Nephi gave only one direction to cover the entire trip from the valley of Lemuel to Nahom, a journey of approximately 1200 miles. There were obviously twists and turns in the journey which would allow the family to follow the logical course.

     d. Nephi wrote his account on metal plates over 30 years after he made the trip to Shazer (2 Nephi 5:28, 34). The details he chose not to include are unknown to us.

 

     C. A "commandment" to "take [their] journey" "on the morrow." They traveled "for the space of four days" (1 Nephi 16:13).

 

     From the text of 1 Nephi 16:9, 11-13 it would appear that prior to Lehi receiving a "commandment from the Lord "by night" to depart from the valley of Lemuel (Tayyib al-Ism) "on the morrow," that the family did not know that they would be departing the following day. Dismantling their camp and packing for their journey would have taken some time, however, they would have probably reached al-Bada'a the following day. Since al-Bada'a was on the main trail, the family would then have been synchronized with the subsequent rest stops which travelers were accustomed to reaching after each day's journey. Day 3 would have taken them to as-Swer, and by the end of day 4 they would have reached al-Agharr and "pitched their tents."

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We traveled for the space of four days (Illustration-Potter Theory): The town of Midian (al-Bada'a), home of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, would have been the first town the family of Lehi would have encountered after leaving the Valley of Lemuel (Tayyib al-Ism). It was a major halt on the trail that led from Egypt to southern Arabia. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 104]

 

     D. They stopped at a place they called "Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13).

 

     Could Lehi have named the location "Shazer" because of some obvious feature which might have survived to this day? Dr. Hugh Nibley wrote of the meaning of the name Shazer:

           The first important stop after Lehi's party had left their base camp was at a place called Shazer. The name is intriguing. The combination shajer is quite common in Palestinian place names; it is a collective meaning "trees," and many Arabs (especially in Egypt) pronounce it shazher. It appears in Thoghret-as-Sajur (the Pass of Trees), which in the ancient Shaghur, written Segor in the sixth century. (Nibley, (1) pp. 78-79)

 

     The De L'isle's map of 1701376 shows this interchangeable situation of Shajer and Segor by using both names for a given location (see map #1). Nigel Groom uses a number of variations of the place name: Shajir, Shajirah, Shajra, Ashjar, Mushjir and Mashjarah.377 These variations are explained by the fact that Arabic is a vocalized language where the vowels are interchangeable. While Groom uses "Shajir" and Nibley "Shajer," both words are identical. Groom's definition of Shajir is almost identical to Nibley's, being: "a valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs."378 The plural for "trees" is pronounce "Ash-jar" by Saudi Arabs and "Ash-gar" by Egyptian Arabs. This leads to Groom's variant spelling of "Ashjar."

     A variant spelling of "shasar" means a "cleft." Dr. Nibley also indicates that the name Shazer might be "connected somehow or other and denoting either seepage--a weak but reliable water supply--or a clump of trees." (Nibley, (1) pp. 78-79) In Hebrew the word "Shazer" is associated with twisting or intertwining.

     George Potter happened to stumble across an old map made by Ptolemy (see map #2). On this map there is a location of Segir (the old name for Shajir) past al-Bada'a and to the east of Macna (Maqna). Musil commented on Ptolemy's record: "That the names of these towns or settlements in many cases denote only the ore important wells or camping places is evident from the character of the country."379 Obviously Lehi's journey far predates this map, but to Potter and Wellington, it was encouraging to see that historically, the first halt after al-Bada'a was considered worthy of the name "tree, the same name which Lehi appears to have given to their first stopping place after joining the trail at al-Bada'a. At the very point that Ptolemy placed a location named "Segir," Potter and Wellington found an oasis with a few small farms and a handful of humble dwellings. This may be just as it was two and a half thousand years ago. It must surely be a great coincidence that not only do we find an ancient trail leading south-southeast from the valley of Lemuel (Tayyib al-Ism), but also a place called Segir (Shazer) on that trail about a four-day journey from the valley. The assumption is often made that this campsite had no name since Nephi records, "we did call the name of the place Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13), however, this statement of Nephi's does not preclude that the place already had a variant on the local name.

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name of the place Shazer (Illustration-Potter Theory): Map #1 showing the double listing of the names Seger and Schajar. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 102]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name of the place Shazer (Illustration-Potter Theory): Map #2 The Halt Called Segir -- Shazer. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 103]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name of the place Shazer (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: Figure 9-1 shows a dotted line for the ancient caravan trail (now a modern highway) between al-Muwaylah, the Book of Mormon "Shazer" and al-Wadjh. Note there are at least 23 ancient ruins, mostly villages, marked along this section of the old trail. {Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton. Discovereing Lehi, p.106]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name ofl the place Shazer (Hilton Theory) [Illustration}: Figure 9-4, One of the ancient trtae routeas in Arabia. this trail runs along thebeach of theRed Sea, all theway from aynima inthe lnorth to the tip of theperninsula in the south. On the map, the Hilton's p;roposed locationof Sshazer--al-Muwaylah would be just north of Duba. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton. Doscovering Lehi, p. 113]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name of the place Shazer (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: The Frankincense Trials.This map shows the Hilton's proopossd location for Shazer--theWadi al Azlan. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In search of Lehi's Trail.p 22-23]

 

1 Nephi 16:13 We did call the name of the place Shazer ["Trees"] (Illustration- Potter Theory): Wadi Al-Gharr has 18 miles of cultivation running through it, including thousands of date palms. There is simply no other place in the northwest corner of Arabia that the expression, "Shazer," which means "a valley with trees," more aptly describes. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 104]

 

     E. Shazer was a place where they could hunt (1 Nephi 16:14).

 

     It seems strange that the family would go to the effort of breaking camp and then, after only four days of travel, unpack everything and set up camp again. Besides, Nephi had mentioned only three verses earlier that they took their provisions with them when they left the valley. It would seem unlikely that the family had run low of food after only four days. What seems likely is that they reached an area of excellent hunting and here was the opportunity to eat well and stock meat before they continued. (see 1 Nephi 16:14) It seems possible that the Lord took this opportunity to have the men hone their skills. Diodorus, who wrote of this area in 20 B.C., mentioned that the local people lived primarily by hunting: "The inhabitants . . . are called Banizomeneis. They engage in hunting and eat the flesh of animals of the mainland." Wadi Gharr has steep mountains on each sided of it standing nearly 7000 feet high (see illustration). According to Groom the place name Aghar means a "precipice, crevice or cave, depressed place in a mountain; wild animal lair, a steep place.380

     Note* The ibex (capra ibex nubiana) is a shy animal with curved horns resembling a rather stout goat. It lives high among the steep craggy mountains, where few other animals can survive.381 The ibex does not obtain all of its water requirements from its food and so must come down from the peaks to drink. It is at this time that it is susceptible to ambush by hunters. We would suggest that the men in Lehi's group may well have left the rest of the family in the protected halt and traveled into the mountains just as the text infers in order to hunt this most noble of beasts.

 

1 Nephi 16:14 We did . . . go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families (Illustration-Potter Theory): The mountain range immediately east of Al Gharr (Shazer) provides good hunting to this day. The local residents have told us that the best ibex hunting in Midian is found in these mountains. this was an excellent place for the men to go and hunt. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 104]

 

     F. After leaving Shazer they were still in the "borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:14).

 

     As discussed earlier, the "borders" to which Nephi refers were the mountains which formed the border between the Tihama (beach) and the Negev (desert). These mountains were known as the Hijaz. The fact that after leaving Shazer the family kept "in the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:14) implies that they must have been close to or in the Hijaz mountains. It also implies that Nephi could tell they were near the sea, or in essence, they were on the seaward side of the range and could still see the Red Sea.

 

     Conclusions:

 

     The halt of al-Aghra qualifies in every important way as Shazer. It was the first authorized halt on the Frankincense trail after leaving al-Bada'a. Shazer was Lehi's first halt after restarting his trail into the wilderness. It is a four-day journey from the valley of Lemuel (Tayyib al-Ism) and is in a nearly south-southeast direction. Indeed it is in the same basic location to where an old map shows "Segir," and established variant spelling for Shazer. Unlike the rest of Midian, which is barren and almost entirely void of trees, wadi Algharr has miles of trees growing within it, and the most likely meaning of Shazer (Shajir) is a "valley abounding with trees." It may be that Lehi chose a name for the halt which was a clever word play combining a number of meanings of the word "Shazer": a valley with trees, a cleft in a rock with water, and an intertwining (here the trail intertwined with the valley track, all three being found at this location. Finally, there would have been a good reason for Lehi to stop; at Agharr as it is surrounded by tall mountains that abound with large game. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 91-103]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 We Did Go Forth . . . Keeping in the Most Fertile Parts of the Wilderness, Which Were in the Borders Near the Red Sea (Hilton & Potter Theories Compared):

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, the Hijaz mountain range runs the entire length of Arabia in an approximate north-south direction paralleling the coast of the Red Sea and just a few miles to the east of the Red Sea. In traveling "south-southeast," Lehi's party had two choices in making their way southward towards the place which they called "Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13) and beyond: (1) They could either cross through the heart of the Hijaz mountains and continue on the Frankincense trail which followed along the east side of the mountains; or (2) They could travel down the coastal shoreline of the Red Sea on the west side of the mountains. Obviously they could not travel directly along the mountain chain because they would have been traversing one thousand miles of jagged peaks from six to ten thousand feet in height.

     The Hiltons have suggested that the family traveled to the western side of the Hijaz range, down the Red Sea shoreline382 (see illustration below). In 1 Nephi 16:14, Nephi informs the reader that from the place called Shazer "they did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea. Adherents to the Hiltons' theory interpret the word "borders" in 1 Nephi 16:14 to mean the shoreline plain, which is called the Tihama.

     Potter and Wellington disagree with the Hiltons' proposed shoreline manner of travel for a number of reasons. Some of the main reasons are listed below:

     (1) The first and most notable of these is that there is no evidence that a trail existed down the shore of the Red Sea until well after Lehi's time. Crossing Arabia was a very difficult process. Such long journeys in the desert would have required logistical support, or in essence dependable and maintained wells, fodder for animals, and provisions. A review of the official maps of the pre-Islamic trade routes in Arabia exhibited at the National Museum of Bahrain and the Antiquities Museums of Saudi Arabia at Najran and Damman show a network of trading routes through Arabia--yet none are located along the shoreline of the Red Sea. Virtually all of the texts, printed in English, that deal with the pre-Islamic trade routes show the Frankincense trail inland and no trail along the coastline.383 For a short distance in the south of Arabia a branch of the incense route traveled along the coast but then joined up again with the Frankincense trail.384 However, it was fifteen hundred years after the time of Lehi before a trail existed along the Red Sea coast, with its infrastructure of supply stations and wells, from Palestine to the Hadramawt in southern Arabia.

     (2) Nephi noted that they traveled in "the most fertile parts." The entire northern two thirds of the Red Sea coastal plain is barren wasteland. The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture has tested the soils along the Red sea plain and determined that they are "non-arable soil due to the high salinity."385

     (3) A journey along the coast would provide terrain that is the direct opposite to what Nephi describes. Nephi states that they traveled first in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, then in the more fertile parts. He also says that on the last part of the journey south, at Nahom, the family was suffering from starvation. Yet a look at a map showing areas of cultivation on the west of Arabia shows that the coastal route is just the opposite of that. There are no areas of cultivation on the first part of the trip, then they increase in number by the time one reaches Jeddah, and on the final southerly stretch on the Tihama plain they are plentiful.

     (4) Nephi's text states that they turned east only after Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1). The Hiltons propose that Lehi's family used the Shar ascent to go from the shoreline up into the mountains, turning east after al-Qunfidhah to pass through Abha and Khumis Mushayt, before coming to Nahm.386 This route runs east for 75 miles from Ash Shi'b to Ash Sh'ar, 400 miles before reaching Nahm. The western side of the mountains in southern Saudi Arabia is the most fertile portion of all of Saudi Arabia with terraced cultivation on the mountains and fields on the Tihama. Since the area supported a larger population anciently than it does today this was probably also the case in Lehi's time. Yet by the time they reached Nahom the family was starving (1 Nephi 16:35).

[George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, July, 2000, pp. 83-84]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 We did go forth . . . keeping in the most fertile parts of the wildereness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea (Hilton & Potter Theories Compared) [Illustration]: The Frankincense Trails. This map shows the Hilton's proposed route along the shore of the Red Sea as opposed to the more eastern route on the eastern side of the Hijaz mountains. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 22-23]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 And We Did go Forth Again . . . in the Most Fertile Parts of the wilderness (Potter Theory):

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, after Lehi's group finished hunting at Shazer (al-Gharr), they continued south-southeast ("the same direction") on what appears to be the Gaza branch of the Frankincense trail and kept in what the text describes as "the most fertile parts of the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:14). One might ask, How could there be "most fertile parts" in the desert land of northwest Arabia, where rainfall averages less than four inches per year and extreme summer temperatures bake everything? Isn't this a contradiction?

     In order to solve this problem, some LDS scholars have suggested that the phrase "most fertile parts" meant that Lehi rode his camels through the lowest spots in the wadis where slightly more desert bushes are found.za387 This notion would seem to reinvent the definitions of "most" and "fertile," especially in light of what these words would have meant to the author Nephi and Joseph Smith, the translator. Nephi came from Jerusalem, part of the "fertile crescent." He came from an agrarian society and undoubtedly knew the precise meaning of fertility. Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that the words Nephi used for "most" and "fertile" meant just what they imply.

     As in many other instances, what might at first seem to be a great flaw in Nephi's text is actually one of the most compelling witnesses for its historical accuracy. Based on research and explorations by Potter and Wellington, they believe there are two rational explanations for Nephi's wording:

     (1) Based on broad assumptions, the phrase "keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness" might have meant that Lehi's family visited the large oasis towns which were mostly located on the Frankincense trail. These were, in order: al-Bada'a, Al-Aghra at wadi Sharma, Shuwaq, Shagbh, Dedan, Medina, Najran, etc. (see illustration below). Each of these oases had a farming community associated with it.

     (2) It is more likely, however, that "the most fertile parts" was the particular section of the Frankincense trail from Dedan to Medina. That is to say, "the most fertile parts" was an actual place, a series of villages and farms called the Qura Arabiyyah which were found on the Frankincense trail.

 

1 Nephi 16:14 And we did go forth again . . . in the most fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration-Potter Theory): Halts on the Frankincense Trail. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 122]

 

     According to Groom, Qura or Qara means "a region or place of fixed abode; villages, a cultivated land."388 Thus Qura Arabiyyah means villages of Arabia. To Nephi and fellow Palestinians of his day, the Qura Arabiyyah were the settled villages of the "'Arabs" who lived in a great desert; everything else in the peninsula was Bedouin country, the land of the "A'rabs." The distinction of the two words in quotation marks is very important. Al-Wohaibi explains:

           It is from Qura Arabiyyah that the name "'Arab" as opposed to "A'rab" is to be derived, since the word "Arab" denotes the settlers, as opposed to "A'rab" the Bedouin. This distinction is definitely pre-Islamaic and can be assumed to have originated in this region which is known to have possessed commercial, agricultural centres.389

 

     Al-Wohaibi infers that in ancient times, the only lands considered Arabia were the villages (occupied by "'Arabs") between Wadi Qura, the home of the empire of Dedan, and the great oasis of Medina. Thus Qura Arabiyyah included twelve villages, a chain of fertile farmlands which ran for over two hundred miles to the south-southeast. Only these Qura villages are what ancient Palestinian and Syrian historians considered Arabia or Arabiyyah. The term Arabia or Bilad al-Arab ("the land of the Arab") did not apply to the entire peninsula until well after the advent of Islam.390 Even more interesting to the Book of Mormon reader is the fact that the Prophet Mohammed referred to these villages as the Muhajirun, which means "the fertile parts [pieces] of land."391 In essence, the title Muhajirun (fertile parts) or Qura Arabiyyah (villages or cultivated lands) seems only to have applied to the villages that were located on the Gaza or Egyptian branch of the Frankincense trail, the exact route that Lehi would have taken from Tayyib al-Ism (the valley of Lemuel) to Medina. In other words, when Nephi referred to the "most fertile parts," he appears to have been using the actual place-name for the area that Lehi's family was traveling in.

     With this in mind it is interesting to note two things about the 1830 original translation of the Book of Mormon:

     (1) capitalization was generally not a part of the text; and

     (2) the phrase actually read, "keeping in the most fertile parts, which WAS in the borders."

     This implies once again that "the most fertile parts" was a place-name for a unique area, in essence, the Muhajurin, the Qura Arabiyyah.

     One final note. No reliable record existed of a westerner visiting these most fertile parts of the Frankincense trail until after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Department of Antiquities and Museums of Saudi Arabia cites: "Charles Doughty was the first who visited al-Ula (Dedan) in 1876 and opened the doors for study and research for the others."392 [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 105-120]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 And we did go forth again . . . in the most fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration-Potter Theory): Map showing the Trail Taken by the Family through Arabia. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 260]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 And we did go forth again . . . in the most fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration-Potter Theory): Fields and palm groves line the route for many miles leading up to Medina. Amid the desert a line of farms stretches like a string across the barren terrain. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 124]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 KEEPING in the Most Fertile Parts (Potter Theory):

 

     Potter and Wellington note that the title of "the most fertile parts" seems to have been derived from the productivity of the farmlands. In writing about the period of Mohammed, Hitti notes of these oases that "most of these fertile tracts were cultivated at the time of the Prophet by Jews."393 It has already been noted that these villages would have been home to the escaping Jews in Lehi's time. (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:2) If such was the case, could Lehi's family have stayed for some time there among people who were inclined to believe as they did? Nephi's text seems to give a number of clues in this regard:

     (1) The phrase "keeping in the most fertile parts" might be interpreted to mean "staying or remaining for some time in the most fertile parts."

     (2) During almost the entire journey in the wilderness, Nephi reports that they hunted or ate raw meat. The only part of the trail where he fails to refer to eating flesh seems to be in the most fertile parts. This makes sense. Why would they hunt while in rich farming villages?

     (3) The absence of murmuring through the most fertile parts could also testify that they felt safe during this part of the journey. The fact that Jews were fleeing Jerusalem and coming to the Arab villages in large numbers suggests that the migrants from Jerusalem in Lehi's time were welcomed in this part of Arabia by the controlling tribes. These were skilled craftsmen and farmers, both valuable assets in a wilderness community.

     (4) One additional factor might have to do with Lehi and Nephi's calling to be the Lord's servants. D&C 33:7-8 implies that somewhere Nephi might have been a missionary. Lynn and Hope Hilton suggested that it was perhaps to the predecessors of the Lihyanites (the people of Lihy) at al-Bada'a, Midian394 who came to power in northwest Arabia over four hundred years after the passage through Arabia of Lehi's family.395 However, it also seems likely to Potter and Wellington that Nephi might have taught for a lengthy time in the most fertile parts. The Lihyanite capital city was in the Wadi Ula, and their temple at Dedan. The Hiltons go into great length to associate the cistern at the Dedan temple to the Brazen Sea of Solomon's templeza396 Apparently someone was a gospel missionary in this area. An intriguing story is related by al-Wohaibi of the old Arabia geographer "Ibn Zabalah and recorded by both al-Samhudi and al-'Abbasi, . . . they allege that there is an inscription on two stones at Medina, one of which says that a messenger of Solomon or Jesus was sent to Qura Arabiyyah or Yathrib (Medina) or to 'this village.'"397 It is worth noting from a missionary aspect that Arabiyyah villages were so close to each other that "travelers would leave a village in the afternoon and spend the night in another and so on for several days."398 Thus, Nephi could conveniently move from village to village preaching the gospel. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 118-123] [See the Hiltons' commentary on 1 Nephi 2:14]

     Note* The Hiltons note that history and tradition tell of the Jewish and Israelite families that settled in the northwestern part of the Arabian peninsula, called the Hijaz, from the time of Moses to the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Sir Richard F. Burton, the famous nineteenth century English explorer, reports a fascinating tradition of an Israelite army sent by Moses (on the island route paralleling this part of the western coast) to purge Mecca and Medina of all their "infidel" inhabitants. The army saved a young man of the royal family and some women and children. "When the army returned [to the children of Israel], they found that Moses had died during the expedition, and they were received with reproaches by the people for having violated his express command. The soldiers, unwilling to live . . . under this reproach, returned to al-Hijaz and settled there."399

     Numerous traditions account for the origins of other Jewish families in Arabia. One is that some came during the reign of David, and many more during the reign of Hezekiah. It is well known in Islamic circles that much of the population in the Hijaz (the state in northwest Arabia) was Jewish when Mohammed rose to power in the seventh century A.D.400 [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 117] [See the commentary on Helaman 7:7]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 Keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration-Potter Theory): After traveling down wadi Jizl the family would have reached Dedan. A beautiful and fertile town in one of the most picturesque settings in Saudi Arabia. The ruins of the old town of Dedan are just a short way from the modern town of al Ula. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 124]

 

1 Nephi 16:14 Wilderness:

 

     Nephi noted that they traveled in the wilderness "keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:14). Nephi thus tends to at least divide the term "wilderness" into parts, and it seems that "the most fertile parts" of that wilderness were "in the borders near the Red Sea." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 16:15 Slaying food by the way with our bows and our arrows (Illustration): Ashurbanipal's servants stringing bows for hunting. Nineveh. c. 650 B.C. Photograph of a wall relief. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 114]

 

1 Nephi 16:15-16 We Did Travel . . . in the More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness:

 

     After showing a number of photographs of the Palestinian Desert, Hugh Nibley points out that there are long stretches of fertility in the desert. Bushes grow over underground water channels or aquifers. Sometimes in the photographs you will see them running as far as a hundred miles, and you follow them. In the wilderness Nephi said, "We survived by keeping to the more fertile places of the wilderness" (see 1 Nephi 16:15-16). Well, there are more fertile places of the wilderness, and you stick to them. The Arabs survive by following these places where the underground water produces vegetation. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 120]

 

1 Nephi 16:15 Slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings (Illustration): Nephi Hunting [Gary E. Smith, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 3]

 

1 Nephi 16:16 The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, in Arabia it is this practice of following "the more fertile parts of the wilderness" (see 1 Nephi 16:16) that alone makes it possible for both men and animals to survive. Cheesman designates as "touring" the practice followed by men and beasts of moving from place to place in the desert as spots of fertility shift with the seasons. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 59]

 

1 Nephi 16:15-16 And It Came to Pass That We did Travel for the Space of Many Days . . . in the MORE Fertile Parts of the Wilderness (Potter Theory):

 

     After describing how they kept in "the most fertile parts of the wilderness," Nephi states the following about the next section of their journey:

           And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days, slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings. And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the MORE fertile parts of the wilderness. (1 Nephi 16:15-16; emphasis added)

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, it is intriguing that the Book of Mormon account of these different parts of the journey conforms to the actual fertility of the lands along the main branch of the Frankincense trail as it proceeds through the "most fertile" Qura Arabiyyah, and then through the "more fertile" parts south-southeast from Medina to Bishah.

     Just south of Medina (Yathrib) there were two branches of the trail that Lehi could have taken:

       (1) The more westerly one followed the Wadi al-Aqiq in a southwesterly direction to Mecca, and then in a southeasterly direction to Bishah. This branch of the trail would have provided Lehi with a milder climate and established trails, however the coastal mountain route was rocky and not as well suited for camels. The mountains in this part of Arabia are called the Asir, which means "difficult" "because of the impact of the terrain on travel."401

     (2) The alternative route, or more easterly route, traveled on a general south-southeast bearing, skirting the lava fields and staying in the Arabian shelf desert. Frankincense trail expert Nigel Groom believes that this route was the main one for reasons of topography.402 After leaving Medina, this easterly main trail exited the mountains and into the flatlands. This inland route through the flat desert plain, called the Arabian shelf, had its own problems, yet these were more than outweighed by the benefit of good footing for the camels.

     The Book of Mormon text seems to favor the more easterly main trail. That route's exit from the mountains would explain why Nephi no longer makes any mention of "the borders near the Red Sea." Furthermore, as one traveled on this trail south of Medina, farms became fewer and farther between. Potter and Wellington write of using Tactical Pilotage Charts (TPC) which indicate areas of cultivation in order to verify this information. Between al-Ula and Medina ("the most fertile parts"), there were 25 places marked. On the average, there was a cultivated area every 11 miles. However, from just south of Medina past Turbah and on to Bishah ("the more fertile parts"), the land was markedly less fertile (see illustration). There were only 6 areas labeled "cultivation" on the charts, an average of roughly one cultivated area every fifty miles. Thus hunting would shifted from a nicety to more of a necessity, a fact alluded to in the text.

     The entire course from Medina to Bishah (the "more fertile parts") would have been approximately 350 miles. Groom estimates that an incense caravan would have taken fifteen to eighteen days to complete this part of their journey. Lehi's family would have traveled at a slower pace. Nephi notes that they traveled "for the space of many days." [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 127-129]

 

1 Nephi 16:15-16 And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days . . . in the more fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration--Potter Theory): The More Fertile Parts. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 140]

 

1 Nephi 16:15-16 And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days . . . in the more fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration--Potter Theory): By the time the family reached Turbah the terrain had changed. Fertile rest stops were much fewer and further apart. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 141]

 

1 Nephi 16:15-16 And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days . . . in the more fertile parts of the wilderness (Illustration--Potter Theory): Map Showing the Trail Taken by the Family through Arabia. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 260]

 

1 Nephi 16:17 And After We Had Traveled for the Space of Many Days We Did Pitch Our Tents for the Space of a Time That We Might Rest Ourselves and Obtain Food (Potter Theory):

 

     After noting that they "had traveled for the space of many days" (1 Nephi 16:17) through "the more fertile parts of the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:16) Nephi notes: "we did pitch our tents for the space of a time", that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families. For Lehi's family, travel along this part of the journey had become strenuous. This is not surprising, especially if there were now pregnant wives and newborn children in the party. Lehi's decision was to stop, rest and resupply.

     At this stop some interesting events takes place. Nephi breaks his bow (1 Nephi 16:18) and then Makes a new one out of wood )1 Nephi 16:23). Nephi's description of the events surrounding these actions are very pertinent to the verification of Lehi's position on the Frankincense trail. According to Potter and Wellington, while we will probably never know with great certainty where the campsite of the broken bow was, they can propose a reasonable scenario.

     They note that the entire course through the more fertile parts of the wilderness from Medina to Bishah would have been approximately 350 miles. Towards the end of that journey, it is highly probable that Lehi passed along the main Frankincense trail through the rough terrain between Turabah and Bishah. The trail passed through the rocky and barren lava fields. By the time they reached the leg of the journey between Bishah and Najran, they would have been exhausted and ready to rest and prepare themselves for the even more difficult trail which lay ahead. To make matters worse, the hot season may well have been upon them which brought the tormenting exposure to the sun. If such was the case, the caravan traffic would have already ceased for the summer. As a result, the commercial interests at Bishah would have closed their shops and the residents would have departed to the cooler mountains. Thus, there would have been no help for Lehi in Bishah, a virtual ghost town during the off overly-hot summer season.

     By this time in his narrative, Nephi has dropped the term "fertile" altogether. Indeed the TPC maps show that from Bishah to Najran and then approximately another 100 miles south to the end of the Dahm Sand Dunes where the Frankincense trail turned east, there are no areas marked "cultivation." Hilton provides an appropriate comparison for this land: "the last 60 miles of this route [to Najran] might be situated in Death Valley California, so similar is the landscape."403

     With the Asir mountains within sight of the trail at Bishah, but with the trail now detouring to the southeast, it would have made sense for Lehi to have left the unbearable heat of the flats, waiting out the summer in the foothills or high valleys of the Asir mountains where the summer temperatures are relatively pleasant, usually remaining in the eighties Fahrenheit. These Asir mountains are blessed with rains from summer thunder storms. The TPC maps also confirm that there are numerous wells in the high wadis on the eastern side of the mountains. From the Frankincense trail staging center at Bishah, the high wadis of the Asir mountains are no more than sixty five miles distant. At least in the mountains Lehi could obtain food by hunting. Lehi probably followed the migrant workers of Bishah in a westerly to southwesterly direction up the wadi Tabalah to the high valleys. Tired and afflicted, the party finally reached the temperate climate of the high wadis, and knew that meat would be available from the hunt. However, Nephi's bow broke and his brother's bows were found to have lost their spring. Tired and hungry, the tolerance of the family members was at a minimum and they began to complain (1 Nephi 16:20). Instead of joining the others in murmuring, the ever self-reliant Nephi may have discovered from the locals that a bow could be made from a branch of the Atim tree that grows on the nearby slopes, or perhaps he recognized as much. They may well have already been camped in the wadis that are between 5,000 and 7,000 feet elevation. Still Nephi knew from experience that the best hunting would be in the mountain tops. But where? There are numerous high peaks between 8,000 and 9,300 feet at the ends of the wadis leading west from Bishah. Guided by the Liahona Nephi went to the top of the mountain (1 Nephi 16:26-30) and there he found and hunted wild "beasts" (1 Nephi 16:31), providing enough meat to satisfy the family to the point where the murmuring stops, as well as enough to restore their provisions (1 Nephi 16:31-32). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 127-140]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 My Bow, Which Was Made of Fine Steel:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, it should be noted that when Nephi mentions his "bow, which was made of fine steel" (1 Nephi 16:18), he did not necessarily imply that the whole bow was made of steel. Anciently, a steel bow was not necessarily a solid piece of metal, any more than the Canaanites' "chariots of iron" (Joshua 17:16-18; Judges 1:19; 4:3) were solid iron, or than various implements mentioned in the Old Testament as being "of iron," e.g., carpenter's tools, pens, threshing instruments, were iron and only iron. It was in all probability a steel-ribbed bow, since it broke at about the same time that the wooden bows of his brothers "lost their springs" (1 Nephi 16:21). Only composite bows were used in Palestine, that is, bows of more than one piece, and a steel-backed bow would be called a steel bow just as an iron-trimmed chariot was called a "chariot of iron." [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 59]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 I Did Break My Bow:

 

     According to an article by Nahum Waldman (reprinted by F.A.R.M.S), "the breaking of the bow" was a symbol in the ancient Near East for (1) the breaking of one's military power and (2) the establishment of general peace by military or political master. The bow is also discussed as a symbol for (3) a person's "strength and vigor." [Nahum Waldman, "The Breaking of the Bow," pp. 82-88]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 As I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow (Illustration): Nephi's Broken bow. "As I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow." Artist: Michael Jarvis Nelson. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 47]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 I Did Break My Bow, Which Was Made of Fine Steel:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, Nephi was a youth when he left Jerusalem with a boy's bow. He was now a powerful young man with strength far beyond what the bow was designed to withstand. It follows that the bow, now potentially many years old, most likely broke because it was stressed beyond its designed limits. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript (July 2000), p. 310]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 I Did Break My Bow (Location) [Hilton Theory]:

 

     When Lehi and his family moved on past "Shazer," Nephi referred to "keeping in the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:14). According to the Hiltons Nephi was probably designating the area about halfway down the Red Sea coastal plain where the trail widens near Jiddah. The bow breaking incident occurred after the party had traveled "for the space of many days" (It is interesting that Nephi repeats that phrase twice, both in 1 Nephi 16:15 and in 16:17). Since Nephi says that they again traveled "for the space of many days" (1 Nephi 16:33) to reach Nahom after leaving this camp of the broken bow, it may have been halfway between Shazer and Nahom. If so, the incident may have been roughly in the vicinity of the ancient port of Jiddah, on the shores of the Red Sea. Here the weather is a merciless combination of heat, humidity, sand, and salt--forces strong enough to destroy steel by rust. Between March and November the heat is pitiless. Even in late January the daytime temperature hovers around 85 degrees. Humidity averages about 60 per-cent year round, and in the more moist part of a fifteen-year cycle the humidity rises to a yearly average of 92 percent. Unpainted iron or steel simply cannot survive long in such conditions. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 51, 114]

     It was at Jiddah that the Hiltons experienced "a merciless combination of heat, humidity, sand, and salt--a force strong enough to destroy steel." They were stunned to see holes rusted through car fenders in a few months' time. This climate, plus the fact that Lehi's party had moved away from the dry climate of Jerusalem, might explain why Nephi's steel bow was broken, and how the other wooden bows might have lost their spring by absorbing moisture. The Hiltons also found that, according to knowledgeable Arab sources, the pomegranate trees which grow around Jiddah would have provided good wood for Nephi to have used in building a new bow. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 81,82]

 

1 Nephi 16:18 I did break my bow (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: The Frankincense Trails. This map shows the Hilton's proposed location for where Lehi's group "pitched their tent for a time" and where Nephi "did break [his] bow." [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 22-23]

 

1 Nephi 16:20 To Murmur Exceedingly:

 

     According to Terrence Szink, quite probably, Nephi, the author of this section, consciously wrote his account of the wilderness journey in a way that would remind the reader of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. . . . The wilderness of Sinai and the wilderness of the Arabian peninsula were both harsh environments. Both the Israelites and the people of Lehi suffered hunger during their journeys, and they complained about it (see Exodus 16:2-3,8; 1 Nephi 16:20).

     In both cases the uncommon word murmur is used. In both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, murmur is used primarily for the exoduses. Forms of the Hebrew root lwn (translated "to murmur" in the King James version) occur eighteen times in the Old Testament. All but one of them are connected with the Exodus. How is the English word murmur used in the Book of Mormon? It appears thirty-three times; of these, nineteen describe events in the Old World wilderness.

     Apparently Nephi used the wording from the brass plates (essentially like our Bible) to remind his audience of the previous Exodus, and Joseph Smith's translation of this material was literal enough to preserve the similarity. [Terrence L. Szink, "Nephi and the Exodus," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, pp. 38-40] [See also Terrence L. Szink, "To a Land of Promise," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 62-63]

 

1 Nephi 16:20 They Were All Exceedingly Sorrowful:

 

     According to George Potter and Richard Wellington, only by knowing the harsh conditions found along the southern section of the frankincense trail, can one appreciate the emotional trauma placed on Lehi's family. Nephi wrote that his family was "exceedingly sorrowful" (1 Nephi 16:20). It appears they were suffering from depression or something closely related. Andrew Taylor who studied in detail the journeys of the early Europeans who traveled across the Arabian wilderness wrote:

           For a few, there was the crippling sense of loneliness to contend with, . . . During the day, they would often be parched and burning from the blazing sun--but at night, they might wake shivering with cold and damp. For all of them, occasionally, there was the specter of abject despair: the challenges to be met were psychological as well as physical.404

[George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 4, p. 15, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 16:21 Lost Their Springs:

 

     The phrase "lost their springs" (1 Nephi 16:21) seems out of place according to modern English usage, but not according to the Hebrew. According to Hugh Nibley, one should note the peculiarly Semitic use of the plural for a noun of quality. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 60]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 A Bow and . . . a Sling:

 

     Hugh Nibley claims that hunting in the mountains of Arabia to this day is carried out on foot and without hawks or dogs; in classical times the hunter in this area was equipped with a bow and a sling--exactly like Nephi. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 60]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 I Nephi Did Make Out of Wood a Bow:

 

     The mention by Nephi that he "did make out of wood a bow" (1 Nephi 16:23) might be a significant geographical and cultural statement. Hugh Nibley asserts that according to the ancient Arab writers, the only bow-wood obtainable in all Arabia was the nab wood that grew only "amid the inaccessible and overhanging crags" of Mount Jasum and Mount Azd, which are situated in the very region where, if we follow the Book of Mormon, the broken bow incident occurred. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 61]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 I, Nephi, Did Make Out of Wood a Bow (Potter Theory):

 

     This statement by Nephi that he "did make out of wood a bow" (1 Nephi 16:23) has some significant geographical and cultural aspects, especially when put in context with the other statements which Nephi makes concerning this part of their journey. One might ask, Were there any woods in this part of Arabia, especially near the Frankincense trail, that were suitable for making a bow? Could Nephi have made a bow from the chosen wood? And would the length of this process have affected the family in the same way that the text records?

     According to Potter and Wellington, in order to make a bow Nephi would have needed a quality hardwood that would remain flexible when it was dead. Since most trees in Saudi Arabia are brittle and only a few hardwood species exist, an investigation into woods available to Nephi is both apparent and required. After detailing the qualities of a number of woods (Nab' wood (Ziziphus), pomegranate, acacia, tamarisk, and olive, they noted that while it is impossible to know with certainty what wood Nephi used to make his bow, we may assume a few things in accordance with the text:

     (1) We may assume that he used a wild tree, since the loss of the bows seemed to lead to hardship and lack of food. This seems to imply that they were not near an area of cultivation. This would probably rule out pomegranate wood since the tree is rarely seen in the wild and seems to be associated solely with cultivation in Saudi Arabia.

     (2) Since Nephi would have probably used the most readily available wood for a bow, Ziziphus, or what might have been termed "Nab wood" would seem the least likely choice, for it grows "amid the inaccessible and overhanging crags" of mount Jasim and mount Azd. Mount Jasim is on the west of the mountain range, so Nephi wouldn't have been close. Ziziphus. is also far less common than acacia, tamarisk or olive.

     (3) If the bow were made below 1,000 meters then tamarisk is a possibility; up to 2,000 meters then more likely acacia; above 2,000 meters then olive becomes more probable. Since Nephi did not leave when he made the bow (1 Nephi 16:23) like he did when he went to hunt (1 Nephi 16;23), the bow appears to have been made from wood near the family's camp. When Nephi went to hunt he followed the direction he was given on the Liahona. He tells us, "I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain" (1 Nephi 16:30). The Hijaz is a mountain range with hundreds of peaks but Nephi seems to mention a specific one and so it may be that he was already on the slopes of the mountain. If he were far away from the mountains it seems more likely he would have written, "I did go forth to the top of a mountain," or "to the top of the mountains." If the family were already at the base of a mountain, then his terminology is correct. And if this were the case and the family were already in the mountains, then olive wood becomes the most likely choice for Nephi's bow.

     (4) Knowing what we do about Nephi, it seems most likely that he would have made the best bow possible. And we do not read of Nephi making another bow, so it must have been powerful enough to bring down enough big game to supply the family for the remainder of their journey. Therefore, we would look towards the olive tree ("Atim wood") as the most likely candidate. A fact confirmed by research.

     Bruce Santucci contacted the Department of Antiquities in Riyadh concerning bow woods. The Department indicated that there had never been a study conducted of ancient bow woods in southwest Arabia. The oldest wooden bows they have in their collection dated back only 150 years. They noted that these bows were made form "Athl" wood (Tamarisk). The Department suggested that we contact tribal authorities in the southwest and ask what wood they traditionally used. Niel Holland did just that.

     Niel Holland is a retired F-15 pilot living near the Frankincense trail in southwest Arabia with a university degree in history and a keen interest in archaeology, desert exploring and the Book of Mormon. He was asked to explore the mountains west and southwest of Bishah relative to bow wood. He provided some excellent insights:

     This was the first Saudi I have talked to who knew what we were talking about. He said the tree we were look at was the Dharu tree and was not good for bows-it broke when dry (we confirmed this). He said there was another tree further down the mountain that was good for bows. We went lower and stopped when we spotted another variety of tree. He pointed to one and said that was very good. He called it the Atim.

 

     Subsequently Neil dried the Atim wood and found that it still retained its flexibility and was very strong and springy. The problem Neil faced was that he was not able to find a straight piece of Atim long enough to make a "self-bow" (one made from one continuous piece of wood) but when visiting an Arab cultural festival being held in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, he noticed an old bow on display that was made out of three pieces of wood. This type of design is known historically as a built bow. The bow had a center piece and two end pieces joined to it. Armed with the "new" idea for a design Neil returned to his home in Khamis Mushayt and, once the wood was dried, fabricated a bow similar to the one he had seen displayed at the Arab cultural festival. Initially his bow could shoot an arrow just over 100 feet. Neil then offered a second report on his findings:

           I had an interesting experience yesterday (3 December 1998). I went by the local Dhafir Bin Hamsan Traditional Village to see if they knew anything about bows being used here anciently. It turns out that Dhafir represents the Asir region at the annual cultural festival in Riyadh which is held just after Ramadan. . . . I explained to Dhafir that I had made the bow from Atim. . . . He agreed that Atim was used anciently for bows and that they had been replaced by the gun. He knew no examples of remaining bow artifacts. He knew of Athel wood and that it also had been used for bows but that Atim was the best. He described Atim as being the best wood in the world.405

 

     Making a weapon from olive was a lengthy and exacting process. The piece of wood was first chosen and roughly shaped. Anthony G. Miller & Miranda Morris describe how these weapons were constructed ancient in southern Arabia:

           He put it [the bow wood] in a liquid mixture of cow dung, urine and earth to soak for at least a week, after which time the bark was easily removed from the heartwood. Then the stick was carved into the final shape, hardened over a slow fire, then planed and rubbed down. Finally it was oiled and burnished at intervals with butter until it was smooth and glossy. Such sticks had a real marketable value, and were always in high demand.406

 

     Niel Holland adds the following:

           Matt Fortner told me that the Native Americans steamed the wood to straighten their bows. I tried that with the Atim since it was very hard to find straight pieces and my bow had quite a curve to it. By saturating he wood with hot steam I found it to be easy to shape. . . . As a result I have straightened the bow considerably and improved it's performance about 20%. Dhafir also showed me how they used intestinal walls of animals for "string."407

 

     After much field reconnaissance and study, Holland proposed that the southern edge of the range of the Atim trees was Jabal Azzah, one hundred miles south-southwest of the Frankincense stage center at Bishah. Holland took Potter and Wellington into the mountains and showed them the Atim trees in a high wadi near Al-Qadim. The next morning they set out to estimate the northern limits of the Atim trees. They discovered that within 15 miles south of Al-Baha, the Atim trees disappeared. This would mean that the extent of the Atim tree seemed to range only 72 miles north-south in a narrow band of slopes between 6,000 to 7,0000 feet in elevation. However all but the very northernmost trees of the Atim range were far too far from the Frankincense trail. The most copious Atim groves they found were due west of Bishah. They approximated the distance from the Frankincense trail at Bishah to the Atim groves to be about sixty-five miles, a journey of four days. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 132-140]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow (Illustration): Neil Holland demonstrates the bow he made from Atim wood (Olive) that grows above 6,000 feet up in the mountains. Atim was favored by the locals for making the best bows. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 141]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 Out of a Straight Stick, an Arrow:

 

     Three times in his record, Nephi mentioned that he had broken his bow, but not once did he say that any of his arrows were damaged. Yet in 1 Nephi 16:23, Nephi says that he "did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow." Why would he need to make a new arrow if his old ones were still intact?

     David S. Fox, in a letter to F.A.R.M.S., suggests an answer: . . . If a bow's draw weight and the arrow's stiffness are not perfectly matched, the arrow will stray off the intended course or fall short of the mark. . . . Nephi's steel bow likely used heavier, stiffer arrows than his simply fashioned wooden bow could handle. . . . The arrows from the steel bow when shot from the wooden bow would be like shooting telephone poles. . . . Anyone unfamiliar with the field of archery would have almost certainly omitted such a statement. Another bull's-eye for the Book of Mormon.

     In addition, William Hamblin concludes that the length of Nephi's old arrows may have been another, perhaps even bigger, problem than their weight or stiffness. ["Nephi's Bows and Arrows," in John Welch ed. Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 41-43]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 A sling and with stones (Illustration): Assyrian slingers . . . from Sennacherib's palace at Nineveh c. 690 B.C. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 115]

 

1 Nephi 16:23 A sling and with stones (Illustration): Sling stones found at the main gate of Lachish. Probably used either during Sennacherib's siege of the city in 701 BC, or during the Babylonian attack c. 588/7 B.C. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 115]

 

1 Nephi 16:29 A New Writing, Which Was Plain to Be Read:

 

     Joseph McConkie and Robert Millet note that the language in which the messages of the Liahona were written was new to Lehi and his family and yet easily understood by them. No additional commentary is given on the matter. We are left to wonder whether it was pure Adamic language (see Moses 6:5-6) and whether or not it influenced the nature of their written language thereafter. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. I, p. 126]

 

1 Nephi 16:30 I Nephi Did Go Forth up into the Top of the Mountain:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, Nephi's discovery that the best hunting was only at "the top of the mountain" (1 Nephi 16:30) agrees with later experience, for the oryx is a shy animal that travels far and fast over steppe and desert in search of food but retires over to the almost inaccessible sand-mountains for safety." In western Arabia the mountains are not sand but rock, and Burckhardt reports that "in these mountains between Medina and the sea, all the way northward (this is bound to include Lehi's area), mountain goats are met, and the leopards are not uncommon." [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 60]

 

1 Nephi 16:30 I, Nephi, Did Go Forth up into the Top of the Mountain (Hilton Theory):

 

     The Hiltons explain that the old (frankincense) trail continues down the coastal plain all the way to Yemen. At al-Qunfidhah one branch of the old trail proceeds southeastward up the wadi Tayyah. It crosses the broad Tihama and winds up through the foothills until it enters the narrow, sand-bottomed valley between massive cliffs that tower up on either side. . . . At the approach to Abha the escarpment has been thrust higher than anywhere else in Arabia. . . . The road is cut into the face of the cliff and rises up from the seacoast to 8,000 feet in only 35 miles (see illustration). . . . Elevation at Soodah, 14 miles out of Abha, is 10,000 feet, the highest point in Saudi Arabia; the city of Abha is about 7,000 feet high. The rest of Arabia slopes gently eastward down from the top of the escarpment across the entire peninsula to the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf). Once on top, Lehi's party travelled mostly downhill the balance of his journey to Bountiful (Dhofar, Oman). [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 130-131]

 

1 Nephi 16:30 I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain (Illustration): Proposed routing of Lehi's trail, following one of the ancient frankincense trails from the Red Sea coast up the Sha'ar Ascent to Abha, Khamis Mushait and Nahom. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 131]

 

1 Nephi 16:30 I, Nephi Did Go Forth up into the Top of the Mountain (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: Figure 10-4. Proposed reconstruction of the Lehi-Nephi trail along one of the ancient frankincense roads from the Red Sea to Bountiful. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 133]

 

1 Nephi 16:31 I Did Slay Wild Beasts:

 

     A local guide told the Hiltons . . . "that in the hills are wild asses, gazelles, oryx, ibex, reem, pigeons, grouse, partridge, wild cows, hares, and such domesticated animals as goats, horses, donkeys, camels, and dogs." These might have been the "wild beasts" that Nephi says he slew (1 Nephi 16:31). [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 83]

 

1 Nephi 16:31 I did slay wild beasts (Illustration): Nephi and his brothers depended on wild game for a large part of their food supply. Gazelles, ibex, wild asses, and other game as recorded to have abounded throughout the wilderness area that their party passed through. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 82]

 

1 Nephi 16:31 I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families (Illustration): Nephi with Meat [Clark Kelley Price, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1

 

1 Nephi 16:32 I Did Return to Our Tents, Bearing the Beasts Which I Had Slain:

 

     Nephi says that he returned to camp "bearing the beasts which I had slain" (1 Nephi 16:32). According to Potter and Wellington, Nephi brought back "beasts" (plural). The animals must have been small enough for him to carry down the steep slopes. This might rule out the Ibex (Capra Ibex) which weighs 100-165 lbs (45-75 kg.) and the Wild Goat (capra aegagrus) which weighs 57-200 lbs (26-90 kg.). However there are two other likely candidates for the beasts he hunted at this altitude. One is the Rock Hyrax - Procavia caaapensis (the "Coney" of the Bible).408 This small animal, 20 inches long, weighing 51/2-10 lbs (2.5-4.6 kg.) lives in colonies high in the mountains. The second, though less likely, possibility is the Sacred Baboon (Papio hamadryas). Troops of these animals have been seen up to 2100 meters (6,825 feet) high and as far north as Taif.409 These animals are considerably larger than the Hyrax. The females weigh 171/2-33 lbs. (8-15 kg.)f and the males 33-66 lbs. The Sacred Baboon is not found as high as the Hyrax and so it would seem to be less likely that these were Nephi's prey item. The terrain here is too rugged for camels, so Nephi must have traveled to the hunting areas on foot. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 140-141]

 

Geographical Theory Map: 1 Nephi 16:33-39 Travel to Nahom (Year 005-006)

 

1 Nephi 16:33 And It Came to Pass That We Did Again Take Our Journey, Traveling nearly the same Course As in the Beginning (Potter Theory):

 

     Nephi records that from where Nephi broke his bow, they "did again take [their] journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning" (1 Nephi 16:33). He then records that "after [they] had traveled for the space of many days [they] did pitch [their] tents again, that [they] might tarry for the space of a time. And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom" (1 Nephi 16:33-34) The questions here are, How far did they travel before they reached Nahom and in what direction?

     Since Lehi's party traveled "south-southeast" in order to reach Nahom (1 Nephi 16:33), and since from the location of Nahom they would travel "nearly eastward from that time forth" (1 Nephi 17:1), then the position of Nahom would seem to correlate with the location of an easterly branch of an approximately north-south trail. According to Potter and Wellington, the first easterly trail that Lehi's family would have encountered on the Frankincense trail after leaving Najran (Okhdood) would seem to be the most likely to lead to the Nahom scenario as described by Nephi. (see illustration) One hundred miles southeast of Najran, this easterly trail initially splits off in a southeasterly direction.410

 

1 Nephi 16:33 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning (Illustration--Potter Theory): Major Trails in Ancient Yemen. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 160]

 

1 Nephi 16:33 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning (Illustration--

Potter Theory): The trail leading south from Najran to Nahom. The edge of the Rub'al Khali extends right down to the trail here. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 162]

 

     In order for the Book of Mormon to understand Potter and Wellington's choice of this first branching trail south of Najran as leading to Nahom rather than the main trail south, I will include some of their reasoning. For additional reasoning, the reader is referred to their commentary on Nahom (1 Nephi 16:34). It also goes without saying that one must consult the map as noted above to follow what is said.

     According to Potter and Wellington, in southern Arabia (Yemen, Oman) a number of the frankincense trails came together and formed into one main trail that headed north411 That means for Lehi's party heading south out of Najran along that main trail, they would have faced a decision on which of many routes to take.412 After leaving Okhdood (Najran), a well traveled main trail headed south past Ma'in (also known as QRNW, Qarnaw), the capital of the Minaean kingdom, and on to Marib, the Sabaean capital and then to Timna, the capital of Qataban. Once there the trail continued in a generally southern direction to Hagar and Nab and then turned east and then north to Shabwa, the capital of Hadramawt. After turning southeast at Shabwah, the trail ended at one of the major ports on the south coast of Arabia. This port was called Qana. Since Qana is the final coastal destination, this would imply that it would have to be a candidate for the land Bountiful. This hardly seems the case. The relatively short distance to Qana from Najran could have been traveled in about a week which would not seem compatible with Nephi's account of the journey as found in 1 Nephi 17:1-4, where he describes the women giving birth and the family living on raw meat. The area leading to Qana could hardly be described as a wilderness, yet Nephi states that they traveled in the wilderness for eight years. Finally, the harbor at Qana is not a verdant area.

     It is worthy to note, however, that the advantage of this well traveled trail was the combination of easy terrain through the cultivated valleys of Saba and Qataban and the protection offered by the kingdoms through which it proceeded. The down-side to this trail was that all of these kingdoms extracted a levy from the caravans as they passed. This meant that if Lehi chose this trail, they would be subject to expensive tribute money.

     Pliny recounts that in order to cut down the length of time of this enormously expensive journey along the frankincense trail and to avoid the levies that would be applied if one passed through all the "state capitals," a number of "shortcuts" or secondary trails came into existence.413 Thus other trails existed and all of them turned basically east from the main trail. But as they went east they traversed desert country--either the more southerly Ramlat Sabatayn, or the more northerly Ramlat Dahm. This desert travel offered more difficult going and a dearth of wells and caravansaries. Such was the desert trail Nephi chose to take according to Potter and Wellington. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 147-151] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 16:34; 16:38]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael Died, and Was Buried in a Place Which Was Called Nahom (Aston Theory):

 

     It should be noted that Ishmael was buried in the place "which was called Nahom" (1 Nephi 16:34). Thus we find that Nahom was probably in existence many years before Lehi ever arrived. According to the Astons, one of the most interesting discoveries in recent years is an ancient city of Nehem. This city is located on the Frankincense Trail in the general location necessary for Lehi's reference. The distance from Jiddah ("broken bow"), which is near the modern holy city of Mecca, to Nahom is about 160 miles. As such, this distance qualifies as the "many days’" journey dictated by the Book of Mormon. (Note* The term "many days" is used at different times and places in the Book of Mormon, and seems to be quite variable in its meaning of distance and time.) (p. 22)

     The Book of Mormon does not state that Ishmael died at Nahom, only that he was buried there. Likely the Lehite encampment was in the Jawf valley and Ishmael was carried up into the hills for burial. . . . Since the Book of Mormon Nahom was a burial ground, we were excited to discover on a later visit to Sana'a that an ancient burial ground had recently been located in the hills of Nehem itself. Warren [Aston] met with the leader of the French archaeological team that made the find and has worked in the area many years and was informed that the circular rock tombs may date to 3000 B.C. or earlier (pp. 13, 19).

     The name NHM (in any of its variant spellings, Nehem/Nihm/Nahm, and so on) is not found anywhere else in Arabia as a place-name. It is unique. It is known to appear only once in southern Arabian writings (as a personal name) and a handful of times in northern Arabian Safaitic texts. . . .

     This verse also is the clearest evidence in the text that Lehi's family had contact with other peoples during the journey; they could only have known about Nahom from someone outside the group. (pp. 10-12) [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi,]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (Aston Theory) [Illustration]: Figure 3. Map of southeastern Arabia showing the final stages of Lehi's journey and all locations referred to in the text. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, p. 11]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (Illustration): Niebuhr's 1763 map of Yemen showing the tribal district of NEHHM northeast of Sana'a. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, p. 15]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (Illustration): 3,000-year old city of Baraqish on the incense trails of Sheba with two ancient tombs in the foreground. The modern name of this region is Nehem, named after the Yemini tribe who have dwelt in the area for at least a thousand years. It is hard not to observe the similarities between this place and the Nahom mentioned in Nephi's account . . . Thousands of ancient graves have been discovered in this area, making this probably the largest burial site in Arabia. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 38]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (Illustration): The mountains of Nehem overlook the wide plain of Wadi Jawf in Yemen. While encamped in this area, Ishmael died and was buried. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, p. 69]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom (Illustration): Some of the thousands of rock burial tombs lining the low hills of Ruwaik and 'Alam Abyadh in the desert northeast of Marib. Rarely viewed by outsiders, they are similar in style and age to the Nehem tombs. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, p. 70]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael Died, and Was Buried in a Place Which Was Called Nahom:

 

     Hugh Nibley claims that when Ishmael died on the journey, he "was buried in the place which was called Nahom." Note that this is not "a place which we called Nahom," but the place which was so called, a desert burial ground. Jaussen reports (Rev. Biblilque X, 607) that though Bedouins sometimes bury the dead where they die, many carry the remains great distances to bury them. The Arabic root NHM has the basic meaning of "to sigh or moan," and occurs nearly always in the third form, "to sigh or moan with another." The Hebrew Nahum, "comfort," is related, but that is not the form given in the Book of Mormon. At this place, we are told, "the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly," and are reminded that among the desert Arabs mourning rites are a monopoly of the women. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 90-91]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael Died, and Was Buried in a Place Which Was Called Nahom:

 

     According to an article by Alan Goff, a connection with the Hebrew verb naham is suggested in a footnote to this verse in the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon. The Hebrew word means "to mourn or to be consoled." But a much stronger connection with biblical tradition unfolds in the account that follows the verse. The scholar Damrosch says this about the word: "It [the root for naham] appears twenty-five times in the narrative books of the Bible, and in every case it is associated with death." [Alan Goff, "Mourning, Consolation, and Repentance at Nahom" in John W. Welch ed., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 92]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Ishmael Died, and Was Buried in the Place Which Was Called Nahom:

 

     According to Mark Johnson, in the past decade, there have been many reports on what has been called the "Exodus Pattern" in the Book of Mormon. [See the commentary and chart on 1 Nephi 17:26] To the numerous comparisons that have been made I would like to add another. It deals with death in the desert. In 1952, Hugh Nibley first pointed out the significance of the name Nahom in relationship to the death of Ishmael, that is the name implied "mourning."414 He also mentioned the importance of Ishmael's daughters mourning his loss. What also becomes apparent is that, by the way Ishmael is buried in the desert, they (the Lehites) are following in the footsteps of their fathers (the children of Israel under Moses): "And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought." (Joshua 24:32) Just as Joseph was buried in a special parcel of land, it seems only natural that the Lehites would wait until they found a proper place to bury Ishmael.

     We cannot conclude whether the Lehites were aware of the parallels to the Exodus as they were reenacting them, although it appears that Nephi did at least thirty years later.415 We can be sure that, like the children of Israel, they honored their patriarchs and also were following ancient ritual in burying their dead. [Mark J. Johnson, "The Exodus of Lehi Revisited," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., 1999, pp. 54-55; see also Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994); pp. 123-26] [See the commentary and chart on 1 Nephi 17:26]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Nahom (Potter Theory):

 

     Potter and Wellington propose the location for Nahom to be somewhere in the 50 miles north of jabal al-Lawdh (N16o10', E45o 05') and south of wadi Khabb.(see illustration) (See also their commentary on 1 Nephi 16:38 for their reasoning). This location is not in accordance with the prevailing theory at the moment. In explaining the prevailing theory they note that in 1978 Dr. Ross T. Christensen published a brief article pointing out that in Yemen a community named "Nahom" existed 18 miles northeast of the modern capital San'a.416 In 1991 Warren and Michaela Aston also accepted this idea. They identified a map by Groom which showed a burial site on the southern edge of wadi Jawf, marked with the name Nehem.417 Furthermore, the recent finding by a German archaeological team, of an inscribed altar at Marib, bearing the name of Bi'athar . . . the Nihmite"418 and dated to around the time of Lehi, seems to confirm that the Nihm tribe existed at the time Lehi would have passed through southern Arabia. North of Sana'a is the Nihm tribal lands, near a mountain named Jabal Nihm. Thus, other scholars have generally accepted this reasoning on the location of Nahom. So why do Potter and Wellington suggest that Nahom and the events preceding it did not take place either at jabal Nihm or at the wadi Jawf burial ground Nehem? Clearly it could not have taken place at both places, but the present extent of the Nihmn tribal lands does not extend to the trail north of wadi Jawf, so why are they placing their location outside this area?

     According to Potter and Wellington, one needs to look further into the extent of the Nihm tribe. Multiple historical sources (which they cite) imply that the borders of the area of influence of the land of Nihm were not static through time. That the influence of these ancient tribes extended over a far greater area than they do today can be attested to by the fact that the tribes gave their names to features that are many miles from their present tribal homelands. They also note an old map of the Yemen showing the area "Nehem," which they superimposed onto a modern map and found that the area occupied by the place-name Nehem included part of the Rub'al Khali east of Ramlat Dahm. This location was where the most direct trail to Moscha (Dhofar), the most likely candidate for the place Bountiful, leads off to the east. They then ask a pertinent question: Why would the tribal place-names Nihm (Nahom), Dahm and Jahm be found so far north of the lands controlled by the tribes of that name? There are two probable reasons for this. First, these could have been the desert areas that the nomads originally came from carrying the name of their homeland with them. A second possibility exists, and once again Kamal Salibi can help with a possible answer:

     While their neighbors in the highlands to the south seem to have identified themselves in geographic terms according to the country to which they belonged (Saba', Qataban, Awsan or Hadhramut), the Minaeans thought of themselves in terms of community rather than land. Wherever they went to settle as traders, the people of Ma'in carried their tribal identity (and their tribal gods) with them.419

 

     So we see the possibility that the Minaeans carried the names of their tribal homelands with them as they pushed their control of the frankincense trail out into the desert to the north and east. As such is it not possible that if the Dahm tribe controlled the trail area east of wadi Jawf, and the Jahm the area to the east of that, then could not the Nahm tribe also have carried their name out to the area of the trail they controlled, the place called Nahom, to which Nephi refers? The idea is far from outrageous.

     Research by the Italians into the prehistory of Yemen has provided evidence that there was agriculture in the highlands in the bronze age beginning about 3,000 B.C. and ending abruptly about 1,500 B.C. It has been concluded from this that "perhaps the civilization shifted eastwards and, as a result of population growth, gave rise to the early towns, principally Marib, the capital of Saba"420 According to Walter W. Muller, Yemen is unique inasmuch as "nowhere else in the Orient does there exist such a strong, unbroken continuity from the many names of places and tribes that have remained unchanged for almost 3,000 years"421 Since we know the NHM name goes back farther than that, is it not possible that the tribe and name also moved from the highlands out to the east, to the edge of the desert in seeking control of the frankincense trail? And with the collapse of the frankincense trade nearly two millennia later, could not the tribes have moved back to their homelands, abandoning their desert outposts and the ancient association of the name Nahom with the frankincense trial lands? In view of the historical evidence, and the correlation of Nephi's narrative with the frankincense trail, it is the contention of Potter and Wellington that indeed NHM may well have covered a larger area in Lehi's time than it does today and that the Nihm tribe probably held a position of greater prominence.

     They conclude by saying that with only 7 verses of scripture to guide the reader (1 Nephi 16:33-39) students of the Book of Mormon will probably never know exactly what took place at Nahom or where that was precisely. And like others before them they feel that the similarities between the location of the tribal lands of NHM and Nephi's "place which was called Nahom" are too numerous to be coincidental. Both are associated with the frankincense trail. Both are on the eastern side of the mountains. Both are in the area where there are trails heading to the east. The trail from Najran to Ma'in covers nearly 150 miles of desert terrain with few wells and no cultivation between the two cities. By assuming an expanded territory for the tribe of Nihm, and that an error was made in reading the Liahona, or a misdirection was made in travel, Lehi's family would have been led into affliction in the desert where their supplies would have been rapidly depleted. This is exactly the kind of location in which the drama at Nahom appears to have taken place.422 [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 152-158] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 16:33; 1 Nephi 16:38]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Nahom (Illustration--Potter Theory): Map Showing the Trail Taken by the Family through Arabia. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 260]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Nahom (Illustration--Potter Theory): The Extent of Nhm in 19th and 20th Century Literature. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 162]

 

1 Nephi 16:34 Nahom (Illustration--Potter Theory): Major Trails in Ancient Yemen. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 162]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 The Daughters of Ishmael Did Mourn Exceedingly:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, when it says that "the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly" (1 Nephi 16:35), this is following correct Arabic tradition. Whenever a person died among the ancient Arabs it was the daughters, and only the daughters, that had the privilege of mourning. Later on they hired professional male mourners, but in the early times that was unthinkable. It was the mothers and the daughters, but specifically the daughters, who mourned for the dead--both at the burial and at the funeral. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 219]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 Our Father Is Dead . . . We Have Suffered Much Affliction, Hunger, Thirst, and Fatigue (Aston Theory):

 

     According to the Astons, two closely related Semitic roots are possible for the term Nahom, NHM and NHM. What is important is that both these roots related in significant and very specific ways to the experiences of Lehi's group while at Nahom. The first root, NHM has the basic meaning of "to comfort, console, to be sorry," so in Hebrew we see it used extensively in connection with mourning a death. In Arabic the root (NAHAMA) refers to a "soft groan, sigh, moan."

     The second root, NHM, is also found in biblical Hebrew and means to "roar," "complain," or "be hungry." Similarly, in ancient Egyptian it refers to "roar, thunder, should," which are similar to the Arabic meanings of "growl, groan, roar, suffer from hunger, complain." This clear association with hunger may well have reference to the fasting usually associated with mourning for the dead anciently.

     It is hard to imagine any place-name that would be more appropriate in view of what Nephi tells us happened there ("our father [Ishmael] is dead . . . we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue" -- 1 Nephi 16:35). Not only do the two roots of Nahom refer unquestionably to both mourning and consoling (and perhaps also to fasting) in connection with Ishmael's death and burial, but they seem to go still further and echo the complaining and the rebellion that followed his burial. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, pp. 12-13]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 We Have Wandered Much in the Wilderness:

 

     Terrence Szink notes that Lehi's family did not always use the Liahona to its full potential; some five hundred years later, while delivering this spiritual compass to his son, Alma said:

           Because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. (Alma 37:41-42)

 

     This disobedience contributed to the group's eight years of wandering in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 17:4) Since the relationship between Lehi's party, the Liahona, and the Lord was one of faith and trust, the Liahona served well as a Christological symbol. Alma compared it to the words of Christ:

           Behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. (Alma 37:44-45)

[Terrence L. Szink, "To a Land of Promise," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 62]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 We Have Suffered Much Affliction, Hunger, Thirst and Fatigue (Potter Theory):

 

     Potter and Wellington note that between Najran and this first trail branch to the east, Lehi's family would have encountered a number of wells. The first well was Bi'r Khadra, about 15 miles out of Najran, the second at Al Muyayan another 30 miles further on. Sayh well was another 30 miles after that and then finally two wells came in rapid succession: Qurra about 20 miles after Sayh and bi'r Al Mahashimah, which marked the break where the trail headed to the east. (see illustration below) However, of all the branches heading east, this was the only place where there was no city at the junction point, and according to Groom, the next well on this eastern trail was at Mushayniqah some 60 miles across the edge of the rub'al Khali.423 Furthermore, after leaving Najran, one had to travel over 140 miles in order to reach the next fertile area (the settlements of wadi Jawf to the south). According to the TPC maps there are no areas of cultivation marked between the two oases. Thus there are indeed possibilities for Lehi's family to have "suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst and fatigue" (1 Nephi 16:35) during this part of the journey, especially if hunting proved unprofitable as the terrain would seem to dictate. But how and why did this suffering take place. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 150-151]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 We Have Suffered Much Affliction, Hunger, Thirst and Fatigue (Illustration--Potter Theory): The towering dunes of the Rub' al Khali, or Empty Quarter, sap the strength of the traveler who faces the full force of the sun. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 162]

 

1 Nephi 16:35 We Have Suffered Much . . . Thirst:

 

     Camille Fronk notes that Doughty observed that "the Arabians inhabit a land of dearth and hunger" and that "many times between their waterings, there is not a pint of water left in the greatest sheykhs' tents." He also noted that when scant water was available, it was often unwholesome "lukewarm ground-water" or else infected with camel urine."423 [Camille Fronk, "Desert Epiphany: Sariah & the Women in 1 Nephi," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, pp. 12, 80]

 

1 Nephi 16:36 [The Daughters of Ishmael] Were Desirous to Return Again to Jerusalem:

 

     If the daughters of Ishmael "were desirous to return again to Jerusalem" (1 Nephi 16:36), can we surmise that the destruction of Jerusalem had not taken place yet? Why would these daughters want to return when according to Spackman they left during a respite in the siege? Had enough time already passed to where Jerusalem was now destroyed? This verse needs to be explained in terms of Randall Spackman's chronological theory. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 16:37 [Nephi] Who Has Taken It upon Him to Be Our Ruler and Our Teacher:

 

     Note* There is a repetitive theme in the books of First Nephi and Second Nephi concerning Laman and Lemuel's rejection of Nephi as their ruler, their teacher, and their king (see 1 Nephi 3:29; 16:37-38; 18:10; 2 Nephi 5:19). It is interesting to note that the Pharisees reacted the same way to Christ:

           And they said unto him, We have the law, and the prophets; but as for this man we will not receive him to be our ruler; for he maketh himself to be a judge over us.

           Then said Jesus unto them, The law and the prophets testify of me; yea, and all the prophets who have written, even until John, have foretold of these days. . . . (JST Luke 16:16-17)

[Notes from a talk by Matthew B. Hilton, December 31, 2000]

 

1 Nephi 16:38 [Nephi] Worketh Many Things by His Cunning Arts, That He May Deceive Our Eyes:

 

     According to research by Robert F. Smith, shortly after the appearance of the Liahona at the door of Lehi's tent, Laman began complaining that Nephi "worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:38). While the Book of Mormon does not tell us whether the Liahona functioned partly on geomagnetic principles, Nephi did say that it contained two spindles, one of which functioned as a directional pointer, and that the body was made of "fine brass" (1 Nephi 16:10, 28). Brass is an excellent noncorroding and nonmagnetic case for a compass. Those who are familiar with modern compasses might naturally ask whether the Liahona worked on a similar principle, with a magnetic function for one spindle, and a possible azimuth setting for the other. Perhaps part of Laman's skepticism was based on some familiarity with just such a technology.

     But what sort of “cunning artifice" did Laman imagine Nephi employed in order to transmit divine messages to the surface of the ball-shaped Liahona (1 Nephi 16:28-29)? . . .

     Although we do not know specifically what Laman had in mind, it is worth noting that the function of magnetic hematite was well understood in both the Old and New Worlds before Lehi left Jerusalem. Magnetite, or lodestone is, of course naturally magnetic iron (Fe3O4), and the word magnetite comes from the name of a place in which it was mined in Asia Minor by at least the seventh century B.C., namely Magnesia. Parenthetically, Professor Michael Coe of Yale University, a top authority on ancient Mesoamerica, has suggested that the Olmecs of Veracruz, Mexico, were using magnetite compasses already in the second millennium B.C. This is based on Coe's discovery during excavations at San Lorenzo-Tenochtitlan of a magnetite "pointer" which appeared to have been "machined" and which Coe placed on a cork mat in a bowl of water in a successful test of its function as a true floater-compass.

     Whatever the nature of the Liahona, it is intriguing to note that certain properties of compasses might have been familiar to those who were blessed with its guiding functions, and that those who were skeptical of Nephi and the Liahona might have logically turned to those characteristics in seeking to find a plausible rationalization. [Robert F. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona," in John W. Welch ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 44-46]

 

1 Nephi 16:38 He Worketh Many Things by His Cunning Arts . . . That He May Lead Us Away into Some Strange Wilderness (Potter Theory):

 

     Laman and Lemuel complained that Nephi wanted to be their leader and teacher and that he wanted to "lead us away into some strange wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:38). If they were already in the wilderness, what would be a "strange" wilderness? They had essentially traveled the main frankincense trail the length of Arabia. they had described this as being in the wilderness. What could be different about this "strange wilderness"?

     Alma would seem to give us some insight into the answer to this question and what happened to the family at this time. In Alma we read:

     concerning the Liahona . . . it did work for them according to their faith in god; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold it was done. Nevertheless . . . they were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions. (Alma 37:38, 40-42)

 

     There are a number of reasons why Alma's words might apply to the events at Nahom:

     (1) Alma uses the word "tarry" to describe this time in the wilderness, the exact same word Nephi uses at Nahom (see 1 Nephi 16:33) The only other time this word was used was at the valley of Lemuel, where the family was clearly not lost, nor did they suffer hunger and thirst. It would therefore seem likely that alma is here referring tot he time they "tarried" to bury Ishmael.

     (2) Alma informs us that when the Liahona was not functioning they "did not travel a direct course." Compare this with the statement of Ishmael's daughters describing the time prior to tarrying at Nahom: "and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue" (1 Nephi 16:35). Previous to Nahom is the only occasion we read that Lehi's family suffered from hunger and thirst, exactly the afflictions Alma describes.

     (3) Alma notes that "they did not progress in their journey." In a similar comment on the family's journey, King Benjamin notes that "they did not prosper nor progress on their journey, but were driven back" (Mosiah 1:17) Thus it would appear that the family lost their way and were forced to backtrack. If this was the case, we realize that Lehi's tarrying at Nahom was not to relax and replenish their supplies in a fertile location, but it was when they "were afflicted with hunger and thirst because of their transgression."

 

     Using this reasoning, Potter and Wellington now propose an explanation of the "strange wilderness" that Laman and Lemuel spoke of. They write that after leaving Najran the family would encounter the first huge dune desert on their journey. Southeast of Najran is Ramlat Dahm, an arm of the rub'al Khali (the Empty Quarter). The trail skirts to the west of the dunes hugging the side of the mountains. If the Liahona had pointed for them to head east through the terrible desert of the Rub'al Khali, the family would have undergone extreme hardship. The sand dunes are huge and the soft sand quickly drains the strength of the traveler. It should not go unnoticed that Nephi uses the word "wade" (1 Nephi 17:1) in describing the journey eastward from Nahom.

 

     A final correlation deals with Laman and Lemuel's complaints at Nahom: "he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes . . . he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us" (1 Nephi 16:38) In a future record of Zeniff, we find that one of the major traditions of the Lamanites that caused them to hate the Nephites, and which was passed down through generations, was that Nephi "took the lead of their journey in the wilderness" (Mosiah 10:13). In Laman's complaint, he used the past tense ("he has thought") showing that this event had already taken place by the time they tarried at Nahom.

     If the family left the oasis city of Okhdood (Najran) and continued on the trail, they would have initially headed east along the wadi Najran and then after some 25 miles turned to the south-southeast. To the west of the trail were mountains and to the east the sand dune desert of Ramlat dahm. The route had little choice but to run along the edge of the mountains to avoid the soft sand. After 25 miles they would have come across the first well, Al Mayayn. The trail now turned to the southeast and 25 miles later the family would have encountered the second well at Sayh. Proceeding another 25 miles in a southeast direction, the trail suddenly took a number of twists and turns. (see illustration) In the space of a little over 40 miles it turned first to the north, then south, then west then south, skirting around the edge of the sand dunes. At this point the route split into two. Ten miles before the fork was the well of Qurra and at the split was the well of Bi'r al Mahashimah. The trail to wadi Jawf continued south while to route to Dhofar took many twists around Jabal al Burm, northeast, southwest, south, west, then southeast. Is it possible that here the Lord chose to test the group and chasten them? If here the Liahona led them into the edge of the Rub'al Khali they would have waded through the dunes until eventually the Lord brought them to a well and they made camp there. Presumably, the family had become hopelessly lost in the desert only to rest in the spot where they rejoined the trail? Somewhere in that wandering, hunger, thirst, and afflictions, Ishmael had died. Whether Nephi had been told the name of Nahom as the place they were going to beforehand, or whether they found this fact out later after rejoining the trail is unknown. Potter and Wellington propose the location for Nahom to be somewhere in the 50 miles north of jabal al-Lawdh (N16o10', E45o 05') and south of wadi Khabb. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 145-152]

 

1 Nephi 16:38 He Worketh Many things by His Cunning Arts, That He May Deceive Our Eyes . . . He Has Though to Make Himself a King and Ruler over Us:

 

     Concerning Nephi's wrongdoings, Laman and Lemuel complain at Nahom that "he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes . . . he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us" (1 Nephi 16:38) In a future record of Zeniff, we find that one of the major traditions of the Lamanites that caused them to hate the Nephites, and which was passed down through generations, was that Nephi "took the lead of their journey in the wilderness" (Mosiah 10:13). In Laman's complaint, he used the past tense ("he has thought") showing that this event had, at least in part, already taken place by the time they tarried at Nahom. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 146]

 

1 Nephi 16:39 After They Were Chastened by the Voice of the Lord They Did Turn Away Their Anger:

 

     According to Matthew Roper, the scholar Damrosch notes that the Hebrew term naham is sometimes applied to contexts involving "cases of regret or change of heart," frequently "when the repenter is meditating murder."

           Repentance [or change of heart] then involves either the decision to kill, or conversely, the decision to stop killing. . . . usually it is God who repents, either negatively or positively; negatively, by deciding to destroy his people; positively, by commuting a sentence of destruction.425

 

     This explanation clearly fits the context of 1 Nephi 16:34-39, where Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael contemplate the murder of their father Lehi and their brother Nephi, the Lord is angry with them, and after being chastened by the Lord they turn away their anger and repent of their sins. The Lord also apparently turns away his wrath and does not destroy them with hunger. [Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9/1 1997, p. 122]