1 Nephi 2


Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land

     (1 Nephi )


 

1 Nephi 2:1 For Behold:

 

     Dennis and Sandra Packard note that at the end of 1 Nephi chapter 1 we read, "I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." Nephi then proceeds in the second chapter to do just that, showing how the Lord's mercy in warning Lehi to flee from Jerusalem made Lehi "mighty even unto the power of deliverance." So Nephi isn't using the words "for behold" simply as a stylistic marker, but as a signal to the reader that he is about to explain how he knows the Lord supports those who place their trust in him. Connecting words like "for," "but," and "thus" imply relationships of explanation or contrast between passages; and we can miss these relationships if we don't as a matter of habit, ask ourselves why these connecting words are used. [Dennis and Sandra Packard, "Pondering the Word," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, FARMS, Vol 8, Num 2, 1999, p. 58]

     Question: Is the answer to Nephi's statement answered so quickly in one chapter or are more of his writings implied?

 

1 Nephi 2:1 The Lord Spake unto My Father . . . Behold, They Seek to Take Away Thy Life:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, that there was a conspiracy in Jerusalem in the days of Lehi is confirmed by Jeremiah 9:2-8, where we read of the "secret lying conspiracy" (the term is also used in Jeremiah 11:9; see 12:6). The Lord told Jeremiah that "a conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 11:9). Ezekiel spoke of the same in these terms: "There is a conspiracy of [Jerusalem's false] prophets in the midst thereof . . . they have taken the treasure and precious things" (Ezekiel 22:25). Again, we are reminded that the goal of the conspirators among the Nephites was to murder and "get gain." The existence of a conspiracy is also suggested by the fact that Jeremiah's enemies said, "Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah" (Jeremiah 18:18).

     Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Lehi and Nephi may have learned by revelation of the intrigues going on in Jerusalem in their day. Lehi spoke of the "abominations" in Jerusalem and prophesied its destruction (1 Nephi 1:13, 18-19). Nephi, noting that he had "dwelt at Jerusalem" also wrote of the "works of darkness" and "doings of abominations" he had observed there (2 Nephi 25:2, 6, 9-10).

     Is it possible that the attempts to slay the prophets Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:23) and Lehi (1 Nephi 1:18-2:1) resulted from such a conspiracy, designed to silence those who warned that Jerusalem would fall captive to Babylon?

     There is, in fact, evidence from the Bible that there was such a secret combination in Jerusalem in Lehi's time. Ezekiel, a contemporary of Lehi, writing in the year 593 B.C. (or the sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin--Ezekiel 8:1), saw in vision a group of seventy elders in the temple, doing things "in the dark . . . for they say, The Lord seeth us not" (Ezekiel 8:11-12). He was then shown in vision a group of 25 men living at Jerusalem. They were worshiping the sun, with their backs toward the temple (Ezekiel 8:16). When next he saw the group of 25, he was told that these "princes of the people" were the men responsible for the impending fall of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11:1-13). Of particular note are the facts that (1) these men evidently thought their actions to be secret (Ezekiel 11:5), and (2) they had slain many people (Ezekiel 11:6; cf. Jeremiah 5:26-28; Ezekiel 7:23). [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Elders at Jerusalem in the Days of Lehi," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 67, 73] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:19; 2:13; 10:5; Alma 51:8]

     

1 Nephi 2:2 The Lord Commanded My Father, Even in a Dream:

 

     Nephi records that the Lord commanded his father, "even in a dream" (1 Nephi 2:2). According to Brant Gardner, the prophetic mode of communication by the Lord to Lehi seems to have been through the medium of dreams. Nephi even comments that his father had "written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams " but that he (Nephi) "shall not make a full account [of them]" (1 Nephi 1:16). In Old Testament times, dreams were an acceptable means of receiving communication from God. It is interesting that one of the most famous dreamers of the Old Testament was Joseph of Egypt (see Genesis 37:5-10). Joseph not only received dreams which indicated that he would eventually rule over his brethren, but also served as the dream interpreter for Pharaoh.

     Dreams are full of images. These images can be symbolic, sometimes heavily so as with the Apocalypse of John. The difficulty in interpreting the symbolic dreams is probably one of the reasons why Lehi's family will not give him full support during the times of crisis. Not only will Laman and Lemuel deride their father as a "visionary man" (1 Nephi 2:11) but even his wife Sariah will emphasize her concerns by referring to him as such (see 1 Nephi 5:2). Even Nephi will apparently struggle to understand that which his father saw (1 Nephi 2:16; 11:1). It might be for this reason that Nephi's accounts of his father's dreams, with the exception of the Tree-of-Life dream, are typically quite abbreviated, and relegated to a restatement of the purpose rather than the precise content of the dream. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page, "http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/1 Nephi/1 Nephi2.htm, pp. 1-3]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 The Lord Commanded My Father Even in a Dream, That He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness:

 

     Joy Osborn notes that in the Apocalypse of Baruch, treasured in the Legends of the Jews, we read that Baruch and other pious men and prophets were "sent away" by God, from Jerusalem, before the day of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians. The Lord also sent warning to the righteous Rechabites who fled into the desert before the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. [See the commentary which follows.]

     The Dead Sea Scrolls also tell of forgotten prophets who were driven out of Jerusalem because they prophesied of wicked Judah's destruction and of the coming of the Messiah.

     In the Lachish Letters, Number 8, is a complaint "that the prophets of doom are undermining the morale of the people in town and country." These ancient letters, discovered in 1938, were written in the days of the prophet Jeremiah (and Lehi) just before the destruction of Jerusalem and they echo the warning of Jeremiah and other prophets who warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah because they no longer believed in, nor looked forward to, the coming of the Messiah! [Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, p. 171]

 

     Richard Anthony writes some interesting items related to the Rechabites. He quotes first from the book of Jeremiah:

           The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,

           Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink. . . . And [Jeremiah] brought them into the house of the Lord . . . and set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

           But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

           Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents. . . .

           [Thus] we have dwelt in tents and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.

           But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, . . . so we dwell at Jerusalem.

           Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying: thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the Lord. . . . [The Rechabites] obey their father's commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.

           I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them . . . but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.

           Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:

           Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

           And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus said the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. (Jeremiah 35:1-19; emphasis added)

 

     Who were these Rechabites, and how do they relate to the Book of Mormon narrative? According to 1 Chronicles 2:55, the Rechabites were a branch of the Kenites. The Kenites were a Midianite tribe (Numbers 10:29; Judges 1:16; 4:11). The Kenites first appear as inhabitants of patriarchal Canaan (Genesis 15:19). Subsequently Moses became the son-in-law of a Kenite named Reuel [Jethro] (see Exodus 2:18).83

     According to Exodus 2:16-22, "the priest of Midian [Jethro] had seven daughters." One named Zipporah married Moses. They had a son named Gershom. Zipporah and Gershom were Kenites, as well as the other children of Moses. The other six daughters of Jethro were also Kenites, as were their offspring. In Judges 1:16 we find that "the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad."84 They dwelt on the southern frontier of the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 15:6; 27:10; 30:29)85 But the "Rechabites--a nomadic tribe belonging to the Kenites of Hemath (1 Chronicles 2:55). . . in order to preserve their independence, chose a life in tents without a fixed habitation. Besides the branch of them associated with Judah, and extending to Amalek, there was another section at Kedesh, in Naphtali (Judges 4:11, 17)86

     The Kenites were known for their zeal toward Jehovah. It is noteworthy that the Kenites were spared by Saul in his Amalekite war (1 Samuel 15:6), and David cultivated their friendship (1 Samuel 30:29)87

     The Kenite name means "smith," and the presence of copper southeast of the Gulf of Aqabah, the Kenite-Midianite region, confirms this interpretation.88 Thus, the Kenites were metalsmiths:

           In his comprehensive study of Metallurgy in Antiquity (1964:64-68), Forbes makes several observations about the smith in antiquity which are pertinent to an assessment of the Rechabite discipline. In a pre-industrial society, the smith had to be familiar with many technical procedures, the knowledge of which was handed down and guarded jealously from one generation to the next. . . . Metallurgist in antiquity, as a rule, formed proud endogamous lines of families with length genealogies, which could account for the staying power of the biblical Rechabites, who apparently maintained their discipline at least from the 9th to the 6th centuries B.C. . . . The nature of the work prevented the smith from establishing a permanent domicile or from engaging in agriculture. Smiths would stay in one general local from a few months up to several years, or until the supply of ore and/or fuel at that place was exhausted. . . . The smith's work required such skill and long practice that he could not farm. The Rechabite discipline might thus be seen as one appropriate to smiths. . . . Like other measures which were designed to guard the secrets of the trade, such as living apart from urban centers, so too might abstention from intoxicants be yet another safeguard to prevent "loosed lips" from "sinking ships"89

 

     With this information about the Rechabites/Kenites in mind, Richard Anthony asks the following questions:

     1. Considering the insistence of Nephi to repeatedly inform the reader that "my father dwelt in a tent" (1 Nephi 2:15; 9:1; 10:1, 6; 16:6), did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     2. Lehi's family traveled in the wilderness to the Red Sea (near the Gulf of Aqaba), and their valley of Lemuel was probably located in the ancient land of Midian. Thus did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     3. Nephi is constantly bringing up the name of Moses, whose father in law was a Kenite. Once again, did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     4. In time, Lehi's family will finally get to the land Bountiful where the Lord commands Nephi to build a ship. Nephi's concern is where to find ore, but not what to do with the ore once he finds it (1 Nephi 17:9-10). Did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     5. Eventually Nephi will take the sword of Laban and make many swords "after the manner of it" (see 2 Nephi 5:14). If the phrase "after the manner of it" refers to the metallurgical technique and not necessarily the size and shape, did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     6. Nephi recorded his record on plates "which I have made with mine own hands" (1 Nephi 2:17). Did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     7. Hugh Nibley states that "Lehi and his family were Rechabites."90 He says that "Lehi was, no doubt, a friend of the Rechabites because he was close to Jeremiah. He was in the Jeremian party you might say."91 Once again, did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     8. If there was a connection between the Kenites and the Kenizzites, and a connection between Zenos and Zenez or Kenaz (see the commentary on Jacob 5), did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     9. The nearest we come in the scriptures to the name Hem (Mosiah 7:6) is Hemath. Did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

     10. A group of Nephite apostates who surface in the Book of Mormon narrative from unknown origin are called "Amalekites" (Alma 21:2-5). In view of the close connection of the Kenites with the Amalekites of the Old World, did Lehi have some connection to the Rechabites?

 

[Richard D. Anthony, "Rechabites-Kenites-Kenizzites," Unpublished paper, 1997]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness:

 

     Lenet Read relates the following:

           When I was a young girl I loved to read. . . . I often went to the library and chose books for which I had little guidance in reading. Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter--I loved them because of the adventure, the intrigue, and the beautiful language they contained. As years passed and I studied these works again in school with a teacher as a guide, I learned that I had, on my own, missed much of the impact and meaning of these books. Many of the people, items, and events in them were used as symbols to portray perspectives or truths about life. Each book became much richer to me when I began to explore its full depth of symbolic meaning.

 

     The scriptures make a great deal of the wilderness. Adam and Eve were cast out into the wilderness; Israelite groups wandered in the wilderness, were tempted in the wilderness, worshipped false images in the wilderness, and were fed and watered in the wilderness; while throughout, prophets cried repentance out of wildernesses. These events are history, but they are also similitudes. They illuminate the reality of man's mortal experience as a true wilderness, and of his relationship to the Savior. [Lenet Hadley Read, "All Things Testify of Him--Understanding Symbolism in the Scriptures," in The Ensign, January 1981, pp. 5, 6]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness:

 

     The Lord warned Lehi in a dream to take his family and depart into the wilderness. Kelly Ogden writes, Why Lehi? What qualified this Judahite92 to lead a colony of Israelites through the wilderness to a new Promised Land? There are hints in the scriptural record that Lehi was wealthy. (1 Nephi 2:4; 3:16, 22.) The Mediterranean world was alive with mercantile activity in this period of time, Syria/Palestine being the hub of sea and commerce, the place where continents and cultures come together. Caravans traversed Judah from all directions: side roads off the Coastal Highway and the King's Highway, the distant Frankincense Trail, pilgrims' highways and trade routes connecting Moab, Edom, and Arabia with Gaza and Egypt. Lehi could have been a trained and experienced caravaneer and trader. He knew what provisions to prepare and what route to take. Knowing how God has worked in other periods of history, it is not unlikely that he selected a man who, in addition to his spiritual maturity and responsiveness, was already adapted to the particular task at hand, in this case one acquainted with the rigors of desert travel and survival. Here again was the right man for the right time. [D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 21] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:4]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness (Potter Theory):

 

     According to George Potter, the world of Nephi was partitioned into two spheres, the civilized world, and the rest, devoid of civilization, a political and cultural wilderness. What is important for understanding Nephi's text is that the nearest uncivilized part of the "known world" of Nephi's era, that is, lands outside the direct control of the dominant empires, was Arabia (see map--1 Nephi 2:4). In Nephi's period, Arabia was considered by the Jews to be a wilderness and a place of refuge when persecution and repression became too difficult. Northern Arabia was, for the most part, inhabited by nomads. Concerning this region of Arabia, the LDS Bible Dictionary states, "In northern Arabia were a large number of wandering tribes." To this day, the Arabian bedouins travel from camp to camp seeking fresh pasture for their goats and camels. Jeremiah referred to those living in this desert as "the Arabian in the wilderness" (Jeremiah 3:2).

     Abu Hurairah, an early Islamic period geographer, wrote of the Jews who escaped into northwest Arabia to avoid the persecution of Nebuchadnezzar.93 These Jews were Nephi's contemporaries and compatriots. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 12-13] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 16:14]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness (Potter Theory):

 

     Lehi was commanded that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:2). The text states that Lehi was obedient to this commandment, coming down by the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:3-5) in what is now Arabia. According to George Potter and Richard Wellington, Jeremiah spoke of "the Arabian in the wilderness" (Jeremiah 3:2). Such prominent authorities as Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.,94 James E. Talmage95 and B. H. Roberts96 believed that Lehi fled into Arabia. Hugh Nibley also believed that the great Arabian desert was Nephi's wilderness. He reminded us that the word wilderness "has in the Book of Mormon the same connotation as in the Bible, and usually refers to desert country."97 Nephi's reference to a wilderness beyond the Red Sea, Arabia, is totally correct because it was not only a physical wilderness, it was also considered a geopolitical one in Nephi's time.

     The oral traditions of several Jewish colonies tell of other groups leaving Jerusalem and going into Arabia to avoid Nebuchadnezzar's captivity. Abu Hurairah, an early Islamic period geographer, wrote of the Jews who settled in northwest Arabia to escape the persecution of Nebuchadnezzar.98 This flight resulted in large numbers of Jews settling at towns of al-Hijr, Khaibar and Medina. According to Reuben Ahroni: "As a result of this prophecy of doom (Jeremiah 38:2), seventy-five thousand courageous men . . . who firmly believed Jeremiah's prophecy of impending national catastrophe accompanied by priest, Levites, and slaves . . . crossed the Jordan River and went into the desert . . . and arrived in the land of Eden. From there they turned south until they arrived in Yemen."99 A similar story of escape from Nebuchadnezzar is told by the descendants of a Jewish colony in India.100

     Concerning the cultural and geographical background against which the story of Lehi and Nephi is portrayed, the reader should be aware of the fact that until Arabia opened up to westerners after the discovery of oil, little was known about its interior. At the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, only 25% of the supposed 1700 mile course that Lehi traveled through Arabia had been seen and subsequently described in writing by westerners (Verthema, Wild and Pitt). The accounts that do exist lacked specifics and were considered unreliable. The likelihood that Joseph Smith had access to these vague accounts is very unlikely. So scanty was the west's knowledge of even the northernmost 25% of the frankincense trail is brought out in the words of the distinguished explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, who wrote of this area in 1878, "The eastern frontier is still unexplored, and we heard of ruins far in the interior."101

     Lord Derby wrote of Burton that "before middle age he had compressed into his life more study, more hardship, and more successful enterprise and adventure, than would have sufficed to fill up the existence of half a dozen ordinary men."102 By his death Burton had mastered 41 foreign languages. If the brilliant and scholarly Burton, who had traveled to Arabia twice before, considered even the part of the trail that was seen by Varthema, Wild and Pitts, unexplored in 1878, what knowledge could Joseph Smith have had about this land? How could the twenty-four year old Smith, who had no formal education and had never left the farming communities of New England have known about such obscure and nebulous writings, or for that matter, how could he have even hoped to write about the other 75% of the trail which no westerner had ever reported seeing before 1830. Yet if the First Book of Nephi is true history, as they believe it is, it not only represents the oldest existing record on travel along the Gaza Branch of the ancient frankincense trail, but a record subject to verification. They believe they have provided that verification. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Preface, p. ii, Chapter 1, pp. 5-6, Unpublished] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5: Route #3 & 4]

 

1 Nephi 2:2 He Should Take His Family and Depart into the Wilderness (Spackman Theory):

 

     During Zedekiah's reign, long-term accessibility to the city of Jerusalem was interrupted only by the Babylonian siege that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem and Zedekiah's death. In the autumn of 589 B.C.E., the Babylonian army invaded Judah to punish Zedekiah for his alliance with Egypt. The fortified cities of Judah were systematically destroyed and Jerusalem was encircled with an ever-tightening blockade. The siege of Jerusalem finally began on January 9, 588 B.C.E. (2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 39:1, 52:4; Ezekiel 24:1). A Jewish military envoy was dispatched to obtain help from the Egyptians immediately. When the Egyptian strike force approached Palestine, the Babylonian army withdrew from its siege of Jerusalem. For a short time, the great powers threw their armies at each other. According to the words of Ezekiel, the siege was lifted for five months, between August 588 B.C.E. and April 587 B.C.E. This respite allowed Jerusalem to open its gates and augment its siege provisions. According to the theory of Randall Spackman, this period proves to be the right time in many ways for not only the departure of Lehi from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:4), but also the return trips for the plates of brass (1 Nephi 3-4) and for the family of Ishmael (1 Nephi 7). [Randall Spackman, "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology," F.A.R.M.S., p. 11] [See also the commentary on 1 Nephi 10:4 for a different opinion] [See also Appendix A--Chronology]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He Departed into the Wilderness (Ogden Theory):

 

     According to Kelly Ogden, the word wilderness occurs over 300 times in the Book of Mormon and may at some later time in the western hemisphere refer to the thick forests or jungle, but not while in Judah and its neighboring deserts. Two Hebrew terms for wilderness are midbar and jeshimon. Midbar is generally land to the east of the central hills, east of the agricultural fields, out into the rain shadow, with a feeble vegetation. These are tracts for pasturing flocks. Jeshimon is the desolate wasteland beyond where little rain falls. The Judean Desert through which Lehi and his family probably journeyed is at first midbar and then jeshimon. It is known scripturally as a place of flight and refuge. It is a frightening, foreboding place for the uninitiated. [D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 22] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He Departed into the Wilderness (Hilton Theory):

 

     The term "wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:4) is associated with either wandering away from civilization, traveling in desert valleys and rugged mountains, or traveling in the midst of a different political culture and environment. Whatever the case, the term "wilderness" is tremendously important to the development of a Book of Mormon geographical and cultural scenario and should be specifically defined at every step of the way through the book. Concerning the reference in 1 Nephi 2:4, eastward from Jerusalem is a very large and long wadi or desert valley that contains the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea, and that extends to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The southern extension of this giant rift is called Araba, which means "wilderness.” Lehi could have taken a number of directions in traveling from Jerusalem to the Red Sea (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5); however, according to the Hiltons (In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 56), this route would be the quickest and most logical way for Lehi to go. Dropping down over 3000 feet to the shores of the Dead Sea, and proceeding south, Lehi would follow a well traveled "highway" that would lead him out of the land of Judah, whose southern political borders were by the tip of the Red Sea. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 56] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5]

 

Geographical Theory Map: 1 Nephi 2:4 Lehi Departs into the Wilderness (Year 001)

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He departed into the wilderness (Illustration): The ancient King's Highway in modern Jordan is a likely route for Lehi and his family to have traveled as they journeyed south. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 16-17]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness (Illustration): Lehi's Family Leaving Jerusalem. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #301]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness (Illustration): Lehi's Family Leaving Jerusalem. The Lord warned Lehi in a dream to "take his family and depart into the wilderness." Artist: Scott Snow. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 4]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness (Discovering Lehi, pp. 17, 19]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 And . . . and . . . and . . . and (Polysyndeton--The Excessive Use of the Conjunction "And"):

 

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley note that the excessive use of the monotonous conjunction "and" in the Book of Mormon seems awkward and somewhat annoying to the western reader, however, it follows perfect Hebrew syntax. The word "and" often stands before each word (or phrase) in a series; possibly because there was no punctuation in the Hebrew language.

     Notice the structure of 1 Nephi 2:4:

     And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness.

     And he left his house,

     and the land of his inheritance,

     and his gold,

     and his silver,

     and his precious things,

     and took nothing with him, save it were his family,

     and provisions,

     and tents,

     and departed into the wilderness.

 

Other uses of polysyndeton in the Book of Mormon are found in 2 Nephi 33:9; Enos 1:21; Alma 1:29; 7:27; 8:21-23; 9:21; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 4:7; 11:19-20; 17:13-25; 4 Nephi 1:5-7; Mormon 8:37 and Ether 9:17-27. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 262]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He Left His . . . Gold, and His Silver, and His Precious Things:

 

     The Hiltons make note of the fact that according to the Middle East Semitic mind, security was in material possessions. For Lehi to leave anything behind of monetary value was a statement that something profound had occurred. . . . Lehi's leaving of his ["gold, and his silver, and his precious things" (1 Nephi 2:4)] emphasizes the impact that visions and a heavenly messenger had on Lehi's soul. It was the most emphatic statement that Lehi could have made. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 18]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 He Left . . . His Gold, and His Silver, and His Precious Things:

     

     Nephi said that his father left his possessions behind (see 1 Nephi 2:4), however he made no such claim for his mother's wearable wealth. According to Camille Fronk, in recent centuries nomadic women, such as Bedouin women, possessed one simple locked box to hold their valuables. Each woman wore the key on her headscarf.103 Even wives of the very wealthy had only one box, albeit a very lavish box. Bedouin women also wore their valuables, in the form of coins and jewelry, around their necks and wrists. One wonders whether Sariah did the same. The wealth around her neck or niceties in her box may have gradually disappeared as necessity to survive in the desert required trading or selling them. [Camille Fronk, "Desert Epiphany: Sariah & the Women in 1 Nephi," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, p. 8, 80]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Family, and Provisions, and Tents:

 

     Hugh Nibley claims that there is ample evidence in the Book of Mormon that Lehi was an expert on caravan travel. Consider a few general points. Upon receiving a warning dream, he is ready apparently at a moment's notice to take his whole "family, and provisions, and tents" out into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:4). While he took absolutely nothing but the most necessary provisions with him, he knew exactly what those provisions should be, and when he had to send back to the city to supply unanticipated wants, it was for records that he sent and not for any necessaries for the journey. This argues a high degree of preparation and knowledge in the man, as does the masterly way in which he established a base camp in order to gather his forces for the great trek, in the best manner of modern explorers in Arabia. Up until Lehi leaves that base camp, that is, until the day when he receives the Liahona, he seems to know just where he is going and exactly what he is doing . . .

     His family accuse Lehi of folly in leaving Jerusalem and do not spare his personal feelings in making fun of his dreams and visions, yet they never question his ability to lead them. They complain, like all Arabs against the terrible and dangerous deserts through which they pass, but they do not include ignorance of the desert among their hazards, though that would be their first and last objection to his wild project were the old man nothing but a city Jew unacquainted with the wild and dangerous world of the waste places.

     Lehi himself never mentions inexperience among his handicaps. Members of the family laugh contemptuously when Nephi proposes to build a ship (1 Nephi 17:17-20), . . . but they never mock their brother's skill as a hunter or treat him as dude in the desert. The fact that he brought a fine steel bow with him from home and that he knew well how to use that difficult weapon shows that Nephi had hunted much in his short life. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 36]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Family, and Provisions, and Tents:

 

     In a F.A.R.M.S. article, John Tvedtnes disagrees with Nibley: "I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Lehi was involved in caravan trade." . . . I argue that [1 Nephi 2:4] bespeaks a man who was not prepared for a sudden journey into the wilderness. While most things are labeled (in true Hebraic style) "his . . . and his . . . ," the pronoun's absence is striking when it comes to "provisions and tents,” which are the very things one would expect a caravaneer to have on hand. Because the rest of the verse is so consistent in using the possessive pronoun, its absence here may mean that Lehi had to procure provisions and tents for the trip. If so, this would imply that he was not involved in the caravan trade. . . . Indeed, shortly after Nephi's group separated from that of his elder brethren, the Nephites began planting crops, raising herds and constructing buildings, including a temple (2 Nephi 5:11-17)--hardly typical of a nomadic life. Later, the Nephite pattern of settlement was to establish city-states, wherein cities would control the land surrounding them, hence giving rise to lands and cities having the same names in the Book of Mormon. This is typical of Judah of the time of Lehi, but not of nomadic peoples or of caravaneers. . . .

     If Lehi and his family were metal-workers (living on a plot of land sufficiently large to grow crops as well), then the source of their wealth is readily explained. From Biblical passages (2 Kings 24:11-15; Jeremiah 24:1, 29:2) as well as the Assyrian and Babylonian documents of that era, we learn that craftsmen and smiths were considered in Lehi's day to belong to the upper class. [John Tvedtnes, "Was Lehi a Caravaneer?," F.A.R.M.S., p. 1]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 [Lehi Took] His Family, and Provisions, and Tents, and Departed into the Wilderness:

 

     George Potter and Richard Wellington note that some have suggested that Lehi was in the caravan business because Lehi had tents (1 Nephi 2:4) and camels. However, this would also be the case for most wealthy men in ancient Palestine (1 Nephi 3:25). Ownership of tents seems to have been very common amongst the descendants of Lehi also (for example, see Mosiah 2:5, 6) yet they were neither nomads nor long distance travelers. The wealthy families of Palestine maintained vineyards and pasture lands some distance from the city where their urban homes were located. An example of this form of commerce is the parable of the householder who planted a vineyard in a far off place (Matthew 21:33-34). Householders, such as the house of Lehi, would have required tents ad camels for these operations. Even if Lehi had no provincial vineyards or pastures, he could have simply gone to the camel and tent markets and acquired these items on demand. To this day every sizeable town in the Middle East still has a camel market and a "souk" (market) where traditional goat hair tents can be purchased.

     The text of the Book of Mormon seems to bring up a few things which put into question the idea that Lehi and his sons were anything but professional desert haulers:

     1. While according to Middle Eastern tradition sons are trained in the occupation of the father, Laman and Lemuel are constantly murmuring and become convinced that they will perish i the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:11)

     2. Contrary to a seasoned caravan captain, Lehi began "to murmur against the Lord" (1 Nephi 16:20) in times of difficulty.

     3. Caravans did not take eight years to travel the frankincense trail.

     4. During certain parts of the journey they became lost.

[George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 4, p. 7, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Provisions and Tents:

 

     According to the Hiltons, the living conditions of the Bedouin have changed little since 600 B.C., the possessions of the family they visited may be similar to what Lehi's group took with them on their journey. As they approached the Bedouin tent they could see everything they owned. There was a donkey in the dooryard, a horse and camel in the distance, sheep and a turkey walking underfoot. Entering the flap of the stiff black tent they saw handwoven baskets hanging on the center poles filled with cooking pots, some half-filled with waterskins. They could see their entire wardrobe in a box pushed into the corner.

     Lehi probably carried his provisions in goatskin bags, which are still used all along the trail in the Arabian peninsula. These bags typically hold about four gallons. These bags probably held such food as wheat, flour, barley, dried sour milk, olive or sesame oil, olives and dates. There also must have been bedding, weapons such as bows, arrows, and knives, and cooking utensils, although according to research, no spoons or forks were used in Lehi's day among the Hebrews s or the Arabs. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 57-59]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents:

 

     The Hiltons comment that Lehi had "tents" (1 Nephi 2:4), had them at a time when making them was a laborious and time-consuming process of weaving. . . . And according to one of [their] guides, Salim Saad, an eminent historian, travelers in Judea generally camped in caves; tents were for desert travelers. Why would a city-dweller have tents in his possession, ready when he wanted to leave? . . . If Lehi had some type of dealing with desert people, it might explain several things: (1) why he apparently had sufficient tents and animals to move his family without making extraordinary preparations; (2) why his sons knew how to handle tents and travel in the wilderness; and (3) how he had sufficient knowledge of the main routes and water holes to survive prior to receiving the Liahona.

     Historians say that the beit shaar (house of hair) has not substantially changed with the passing of time. The Old Testament describes tents as "black" (Song of Solomon 1:5), made of "goats' hair" and containing partitions of curtains (Exodus 36:14), with a "hanging for the door of the tent" (Exodus 26:36). The houses of hair we visited and studied were oblong and had a long pitched roof with drooping ends. The smallest tents had nine poles, the three tallest down the center with the three shorter ones running down each side. Guy ropes, also handwoven from goats' hair, extended outward to stakes (also called nails anciently) driven in the ground. (See Judges 4:21.) Each tent was divided laterally into two or more living sections by a curtain or curtains: at least one section for the men and one for women and children. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 68-9]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents [Donkeys & Camels]:

 

     According to the Hiltons, when Lehi left Jerusalem, they probably used donkeys to carry their tents and provisions. The land around the city is very sharp and rocky; consequently, very few camels, with their soft padded feet, are in evidence. The Hiltons were assured by the Bedouins with whom they visited that each tent would weigh about 500 pounds and would have been packed separately as walls, partitions, and roof on three different donkeys. Thus, with three donkeys needed for one tent, and a donkey per person for provisions, one arrives at a minimum figure.

     No matter which route Lehi might have used to leave Jerusalem, he would have run into camel markets where he could have traded his donkeys for camels. He might even have had money with him that he used--leaving his gold and silver behind does not mean that he departed penniless. Those camel markets are still there, large, dusty, and noisy with haggling buyers and sellers.

     The unique qualities of the camel not only allow it to survive, but also to thrive under harsh desert conditions. Camels in Arabia are not the two-humped Bactrian animal from Asia, but the single-humped dromedary. To the Arabian desert dweller, the camel is more than the "ship of the desert." It represents a way of life, a special gift from God, a source of food, clothing, shelter, transportation--an animal so important that over seven hundred Arabic names exist to describe it in its numerous varieties, breeds, conditions, and stages of growth. Camels have a life expectancy of forty to fifty years, and female camels will lactate as long as four years after giving birth. Bedouins can and do live for months and even years at a time with nothing but camel's milk and dates as the staples of their diet. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 49, 52-53, 91]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents [Camels] (Illustration): This stone relief from the palace of Sennacherib in ancient Nineveh illustrates the 701 B.C. (probable date) Assyrian capture of the city of Lachish in Judah . . . within 25 miles of Lehi's city of Jerusalem. It also shows how seventh-century B.C. Jews loaded a camel. Lehi and his group, once they were on the desert probably looked much like this. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, "In Search of Lehi's Trail -- Part 1: The Preparation," in The Ensign, September, 1976, p. 39]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents [Donkeys & Camels]:

 

     Did Lehi use camels to cross Arabia? According to George Potter, the answer is a given. Camels are the only way anyone could have crossed Arabia before the twentieth century. Donkeys and horses would have quickly broken down under the burden of the sands. Besides, there is neither enough water nor the proper fodder for such animals in most of Arabia. The camel is still highly admired in Arabia and it has only in relatively recent times been replaced as the prime mode of transport for long journeys. The English explorer H. St. J. Philby praised the camels he used in crossing Arabia: "To my companions and the great beast that bore us--hungering and thirsting but uncomplaining--the credit of a great adventure."104 [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 74]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents [Camels]:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, for travel through the desert no animal can compare with the camel. It is singularly adapted for life in the desert. Even on the hottest day the camel hardly perspires. A fine layer of fur near the skin protects the camel from the sun and yet is ventilated in such a way as to allow sweat to evaporate. A shorn camel loses 50% more water than one with a long coat.

     Man reacts to the heat by keeping body temperature steady and losing fluids constantly. He can control his temperature until finally the body fluids are so concentrated that the blood can no longer flow fast enough to dissipate the body's heat and very rapidly the body temperature rises resulting in death. On the other hand, the camel can vary its body temperature depending on the air temperature, thus making it unique amongst mammals. The body temperature of the camel can range from 34o C at night up to 40.7o C in the heat of the day without impairing its ability to function. By storing heat and then releasing it at night the camel needs to perspire much less than any other mammal.105

     Camels can withstand severe dehydration far better than humans. Camels can lose up to 30% of their body weight without fatal consequences and when water is available they are able to drink huge quantities that would result in water intoxication in any other mammal. The camel can survive this because its red blood cells can expand up to 240 times their size in order to soak up every drop of water.106

      The camel has an ingenious method of cutting water loss through the kidneys. While humans routinely expel urine which is 95% water, the camel does not excrete all its urea. Much of the urea passes to the rumen where microorganisms in the saliva are able to break it down, thus saving the camel considerable amounts of fluid loss. A study undertaken at the University of Riyadh compared camels with donkeys under desert conditions and found that by weight the donkey requires more than three times as much water as the camel. The kidneys of the camel are able to concentrate the urine far more efficiently than donkeys, which lose water in their feces and through sweating.107

     Not only is the camel superbly designed for life in the desert but it is also a strong pack animal. The Arabs use the camel to carry salt mined in Yemen (close to where Lehi's family would have passed). Each camel can carry two "skins," each weighing 150 to 200 pounds (for a total of 400 lbs). Lehi took tents with him into the desert (1 Nephi 2:1). In a visit to a traditional Middle Eastern tent maker in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Potter and Wellington weighed a small goat hair tent. The 10' x 10' tent weighed 160 pounds, and with tent poles, guy ropes and tent pegs they estimated the total weight would have been in the region of 240 pounds. They postulated that because a camel can carry 240 pounds, but unlikely 480 pounds, then one camel could carry only one small tent. They reasoned that Lehi's party would have had multiple tents as well as supplies and would therefore have had multiple camels. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 52-54]

 

1 Nephi 2:4 Tents [Camels] (Illustration): Camels can carry loads of up to 1,000 pounds, go two or three weeks without water, and survive in scorching heart of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So important are camels "there are a thousand Arabic terms for (them) in various stages of growth. They still supply the desert nomad with transport, food, and wealth. He drinks their milk, eats their flesh, weaves their hair into tents and cloaks, burns their dung for fuel, uses their urine for medicine and hair tonic, and uses the beast to turn his waterwheel and pull his plow." The lack of mention of them in the record is not surprising, as they were the common means of transportation in the desert. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 23]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders near the Shore of the Red Sea:

 

     Brant Gardner notes that one of the unasked questions about Lehi's flight is why he "came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5). Assuming that they were to eventually build and board a ship, why didn't Lehi flee west to the Mediterranean? The easy answer is that Lehi was fleeing, and to go in virtually any other direction led him into thicker civilization, and possibly into the waiting arms of enemies. Toward the desert was the sure path of escape, a route which had been an historical option for those fleeing difficulties in their cities (see Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, p. 82). [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," 1Nephi/1Nephi2, p. 5]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders near the Red Sea (Potter Theory):

 

     Nephi says that they departed "into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:4) and that they "came down by the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5). According to Potter and Wellington, there are four possible routes of escape that Lehi could have used to reach the shores of the Red Sea (see illustration #1 below). These are:

     (1) Southwest from Jerusalem via Beersheba to Ezion-geber.

     (2) Eastward from Jerusalem to Jericho then south, passing to the west of the Dead Sea, through wadi Araba to Ezion-geber.

     (3) East from Jerusalem towards Heshbon, then south via the King's Highway to Ezion-geber.

     (4) East from Jerusalem to join the Way of the Wilderness, then southwest to join the King's Highway to Ezion-geber.

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration #1]: Lehi's Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. Four proposed routes of escape. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

 

     After leaving Jerusalem, apparently Lehi's family headed immediately for the wilderness on their way to Arabia. Lehi would have wished to travel quickly, so he would no doubt have chosen an existing route in order to escape Zedekiah's sphere of influence as quickly as possible. All of the routes mentioned above would have led the family to the Red Sea, however there are some problems to consider:

     Routes 1 & 2: Since Lehi would have doubtless wanted to escape Judean influence as quickly as possible it seems unlikely he would have taken routes 1 or 2. Route #1 passes southwest via Beersheba in territory almost exclusively under the control of Zedekiah. (see illustration #2)

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration #2]: Lehi's Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. Route #1. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

 

     For route #2, both the Hiltons and Kelly Ogden have proposed that Lehi could have initially traveled eastward and then come down the west side of the Dead Sea to En-gedi, then southward by the "Way of the Red Sea," which runs through Wadi Araba, a large valley that leads from the Dead Sea south to the Gulf of Aqaba (see illustration #3). [see the comments of Kelly Ogden on the initial part of this route] They state "The very name 'Araba' means wilderness," giving exact conformation of the way Lehi was commanded to travel into the "wilderness." The problem here is twofold: (a) the initial journey down the west side of the Dead Sea would have been within the power of king Zedekiah, and (b) the rift valley of al-Araba was never traversed by any large transport route. Musil noted: "During the dry season many animals and human beings would have perished from the heat there, nor would it have been possible to avoid the steep ascent [or descent]. The transport routes of antiquity pass only through places which offer a minimum of obstacles."108

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

 

          Routes 3 & 4: The quickest and safest initial route away from Zedekiah's influence and into the "wilderness" would have been east from Jerusalem to Jericho and then continuing on across the Jordan River. The recent discovery of the remains of churches at Wadi el-Kharrar (see illustration below), marking the place where John the Baptist ministered and where Elijah was caught up into heaven (see 2 Kings 2:11-13) would seem to add weight to the hypothesis that Lehi's family indeed went eastward "into the wilderness."109 The scriptures tell us that John the Baptist was "preaching in the wilderness of Judea" (Matthew 3:1). Wadi el-Kharrar is a little over one mile east of the Jordan river across from Jericho. [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 10:9]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: Escape From Jerusalem. The ruins of the church at wadi El Kharrar which, according to tradition, marks the hill where Elijah was taken into heaven. On the opposite bank of the wadi are the ruins of another church which marks the spot where John the Baptist is supposed to have preached. This area immediately to the east of Jerusalem, was known in the New Testament as the "wilderness" (of Judea). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

 

     Nevertheless, according to Potter and Wellington, while these initial correlations with Lehi's travel route seem enlightening, there is a need for more information because after crossing the river Jordan and heading east, the family would have had to choose between two roads headed south, "The Kings Highway" (route #3) and "The Way of the Wilderness" (route #4).

 

     Route #3: After crossing the river Jordan, the first route leading south to the Red Sea would have been the "King's Highway" (Numbers 20:17; 21:22). (See illustration #4) The King's Highway would have been the most direct route out of Ammon and south into Moab, Edom and finally Midian. However, the part of the King's Highway south of Rabbath-Ammon (Amman) ran along high ground through good arable land or farmlands. Accordingly, Graeme Donnan notes: "all of the principle settlements south of Amman, with the notable exception of Ma'an lie astride the King's Highway."110 In view of these farms and settlements, Nephi's description of traveling in the "wilderness" does not sound like a journey down the King's Highway south of Amman.

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration #4]: Lehi's Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea--The King's Highway. Also showing wadi El-Kharrar and the Wilderness of Judea. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: The King's Highway south of Rabboth Ammon ran through fertile farmlands where most of the settlements of the Ammonites and Moabites were situated. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

 

     Route #4: By continuing about 5 miles further east of the King's Highway, Lehi would have reached a second major route leading south towards the Red Sea. This desert highway was known as "The Way of the Wilderness" (2 Samuel 15:23-28). (See illustration #5) This route avoided the settled areas of the King's Highway and seems to fit perfectly with Nephi's description of traveling in the wilderness (uninhabited desert areas). (See the illustration below) Taking The Way of the Wilderness south would have led to the oasis town of Ma'an, where mineral springs still flow. At Ma'an, rather than continue on south into Arabia, Lehi would have taken a branching route which led southwest from the Way of the Wilderness to join the King's Highway at Naqab in the Se'ir Mountains. From Naqab the King's Highway led along the "Araba Road" to the ancient town of Ezion-geber (Tell al Khalaifah), situated near the modern town of Elath, and 2 miles west of the modern town of Aqaba. This last 50-mile southern section of the King's Highway was out of the control of king Zedekiah with noticeably fewer settlements in desert terrain (see illustration). Thus, the "wilderness" route #4 seems to be the most logical route of escape for Lehi's family. It allowed Lehi the greatest freedom of movement and the least possibility of interception by Judean authorities.

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration #5]: Lehi's Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea--The Way of the Wilderness. Also showing wadi El-Kharrar and the Wilderness of Judea. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: Escape from Jerusalem. A Bedouin stands by his tent against a backdrop of the Jordanian desert. The desert highway, or "Way of the Wilderness" ran along the edge of this desert terrain. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: Escape from Jerusalem. The southern part of the King's Highway ran through the mountains, through far less fertile country than the northern part. This wadi marks the border between Moab and Edom. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

 

     There would also seem to be a historical precedent for the family escaping to the east. Burton MacDonald stated that the "Judaeans fled east of the Jordan river when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and scattered themselves among the lands of Ammon, Moab and Edom."111 Abu Hurairah, an early Islamic period geographer, wrote of the Jews who settled in northwest Arabia to escape the persecution of Nebuchadnezzar.112 This flight resulted in large numbers of Jews living in al-Hijr, Khaibar and Medina. These Jews were contemporaries of Lehi's family. Additionally, as the walls of Jerusalem were being breached, we find that king Zedekiah and his sons tried to escape (2 Kings 25:4), but they were captured when they reached the plains of Jericho (Jeremiah 52:8). In other words Zedekiah was also heading east apparently to cross the river Jordan.

     In 1949, operation "Flying Carpet" began in which some fifty thousand Yemenite Jews were flown back to Israel for resettlement.113 These Yemenite Jews had no remaining written records of their history, all having been destroyed in numerous purges, or left behind as they escaped the mobs.114 Thus their traditions were oral. A number of different traditions exist as to how they reached the Yemen but according to Reubon Ahroni:

     The most prevailing tradition, however, relates that the earliest Jewish immigration to Yemen took place forty-two years before the destruction of the first temple [587 B.C. plus 42 years = 629 B.C]. This immigration, so it is claimed, was prompted by Jeremiah's proclamation: "He who remains in this city [Jerusalem] shall die by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence: but he who goes forth to the Chaldeans shall live" (Jeremiah 38:2). As a result of this prophecy of doom, seventy-five thousand courageous men from the nobles of the tribe of Judah, who firmly believed Jeremiah's prophecy of impending national catastrophe, left Jerusalem accompanied by priests, Levites and slaves. This multitude, carrying their possessions with them, crossed the Jordan River and went into the desert in search of a place of refuge, thus tracing back the route of their entry into Canaan. They traveled eleven days in the desert and arrived in the land of Edom. From there they turned south until they arrived in Yemen.115

 

     Here we see an almost perfect description of Lehi's journey east from Jerusalem then southwards down the Way of the Wilderness for 135 miles, to join the King's Highway just before Naqab, the same route by which the children of Israel entered Canaan. (see the LDS Bible Dictionary, Map 3 below); see also Deuteronomy 2:1-37); Numbers 20:14-17).116 Lehi would then have traveled the last 50 miles to the Gulf of Aqaba along the King's Highway, the final 23 miles of which passed through the Se'ir Mountains to Ezion-geber. It may well be that the precedent for Lehi's journey had already been set, and Lehi initially just followed a large contingent of Judaeans who had already headed south. Readers should note that a recurring theme in Nephi's account is that of the Exodus.117 Nephi repeatedly uses it when attempting to call his brothers to repentance (1 Nephi 4:2-3; 1 Nephi 17:23-43). Further on in Nephite history, King Limhi will draw a parallel between the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem (Mosiah 7:19-20). Alma will use the same analogy when teaching his son Helaman (Alma 36:28-38). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 9-18]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: The Route of the Exodus. This map shows that in retracing the route of the Exodus, the Jews would have headed east past Jericho, across the river Jordan into the wilderness and then south to the Red Sea. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Bible Dictionary, Map 3]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Lehi's Trail into Wadi Tayyib al Ism (The Valley of Lemuel). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 26]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders near the Shore of the Red Sea:

 

     Kelly Ogden notes that in recent years, researchers have ventured to describe the route Lehi and family took from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. In 1968, Sidney B. Sperry wrote as follows:

           As for a route to the Red Sea, they had two choices they could go either directly south of Jerusalem by the road through Hebron and Beersheba and thence through the great wilderness to the northern tip of what is now the gulf of Aqaba, or they could go directly east across the Jordan until they struck the ancient "King's Highway" and then proceed south, or nearly so, until the Gulf of Aqaba was reached. Lehi probably used the western route." (Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 97-98)

 

     Thus, the first two options are:

     (1) from Jerusalem southward past Hebron and Beersheba and then eastward to join the Rift Valley, called the Arabah;

     (2) eastward from Jerusalem though the Judean Wilderness to the plateau on the eastern side of the Rift Valley to the King's Highway.

 

     In 1976, Lynn Hilton added a third possibility to the previous two:

     (3) straight east to the northern end of the Dead Sea, past Qumran, En Gedi, Masada, and on the south to the Red Sea.

 

     The Hilton's saw the first option as improbable since the route remains in the hill country, near population centers, instead of entering the wilderness as the account says. They objected to the second option, the King's Highway, because of passage through foreign lands with border complications, taxes, and so on. The Hiltons therefore concluded that the third option was the likely route. (Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 38)

     Interestingly, Ogden states that during 1986-1987, accompanied by students and faculty from various Brigham Young University study groups, he walked the full distance from Jerusalem to the Red Sea and formulated certain opinions about the route from firsthand experience:

           It seems to me unlikely that they would have used the King's Highway, or that they would have journeyed straight southward though populated centers like Hebron and Beersheba. The account specifically points to immediate entry into the wilderness. The Hiltons' preference, east to the area of Qumran, then south, however, is also most unlikely, as the fault escarpment of the Rift Valley drops down sharply and dramatically to the waters of the Dead Sea and allowed no passage to the south. There was no evidence of a road along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea until the Israelis cut and paved one in 1967. A viable course for Lehi's journey is southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then along an ancient road to En Gedi (called the cliff or ascent of Ziz in 2 Chronicles 20:16), and thence southward through the Rift Valley, and Arabah. An alternate route could have been from Tekoa southward, passing between Juttah and Carmel, down into and across the eastern Negev to Mampsis, then eastward to the Arabah.

[D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 22-23]

     Note* Thus, Ogden added a fourth and fifth option:

     (4) southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then along an ancient road to En Gedi (called the cliff or ascent of Ziz in 2 Chronicles 20:16), and thence southward through the Rift Valley, and Arabah.

     (5) southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then from Tekoa southward, passing between Juttah and Carmel, down into and across the eastern Negev to Mampsis, then eastward to the Arabah.

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): Map showing three routes from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. [Kelly Ogden, unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders near the Shore of the Red Sea:

 

     Joseph Allen notes that while on tour retracing the steps of Lehi, most members of the group felt that it was more probable that Lehi crossed the Jordan River near Jericho, and then traveled south for two reasons. First, his family would have immediately been out of danger from the Jewish king, Jehoiakim-Zedekiah. Second, the well-marked Frankincense Trail (dated to before 900 B.C. along established caravan routes) would have streamlined their journey. [Joseph L. Allen, "LDS Group Blazes Lehi's Trail" in Joseph L. Allen ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue V, 2000, p. 6 ]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): Map: Lehi Departs into the Wilderness. Adapted from a map by Randall Spackman [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders near the Shore of the Red Sea:

 

     In 1 Nephi 2:5, Nephi mentions "the borders" twice. According to Hugh Nibley that should be capitalized because that's what that area has been called, the Jabal, which means "the Borders." Joseph Smith didn't know that. Neither did Oliver Cowdery, so they left it uncapitalized. But that area in which they went was the Jabal. Jabal is the range of mountains that separates one country from another. This had the name, Jabal. So they went down into the Borders. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 122]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): The tremendous Dead Sea rift zone, of which this Wadi Al-Arabah gorge is part, extends through parts of Jordan and Israel . . . The Arabah is the deepest rift on the face of the earth and plunges to over 1,300 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 26-27]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): The Wadi al 'Araba runs between Aqaba and the Dead Sea. During a rainy period, the wadi is filled with water; when it is dry, it becomes a trail through the desert area. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 54-55]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): Today the Jordanian port of Aqaba (foreground) and the Israeli town of Eilat (background) on the Red Sea mark the end of Wadi Arabah. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, pp. 66-77]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down by the Borders Near the Shore of the Red Sea (Potter Theory):

 

     In the first six verses that describe the first camp of Lehi's family in the wilderness, Nephi used the word "borders" three times (1 Nephi 2:5-10). Knowing what Nephi meant by the term "borders" is an important key for identifying the location of the valley of Lemuel. As one traveled south from the land of Jerusalem in Nephi's day, the final outpost of civilization was a shipping port called Ezion-Geber on the tip of the northeastern branch of the Red Sea (known today as the Gulf of Aqaba). Today the town of Aqaba is a mile east of the ruins of that biblical city (Ezion-Geber).

     According to the theory of George Potter, as Lehi led his family south of this site, he would have "departed into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:4). (see illustration) South of the port of Aqaba, the ancient caravan route passed by mountains on the east. Thus according to George Potter, the mountains of northwest Arabia are the "borders" described by Nephi. Sir Richard Burton called these borders, the "kingly Mountains of Midian"118 (the "land of Midian" being the name that the region was called by in Bible times during the life of Moses--see Exodus 2:15). Potter notes several reasons why the term "borders" should be correlated with mountains:

     (1) The wilderness itself distinguished political borders.

     (2) The mountains form the natural borders that separate the tribal lands of this region.

     (3) The Hebrew word gebul means border. Gebul cognates with Arabic jabal (colloquial jebel) which means mountain.119 Hugh Nibley explains:

           It mentions "the borders" twice in the fifth verse [1 Nephi 2:5]. That should be capitalized because that's what the area has been called, the Jabal, which means "the Borders." Joseph Smith didn't know that. Neither did Oliver Cowdery, so they left it uncapitalized. But that area in which they went was the Jabal. Jabal is the range of mountains that separates one country from another. This had the name Jabel.120

 

     (4) Another name given to the mountains in this part of Arabia is "Hegaz" or "Hijaz," meaning "the Borders or Barriers."121 Hijaz ("Borders") is still today the place name used for these mountains, and its label stands as a testament to the purity of Joseph Smith's translation.

     (5) The Semitic language association of mountains to borders is illustrated in the language of the Old Testament when the children of Israel were commanded of the Lord: "go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it" (Exodus 19:12)

[George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 17-20, 22, 24]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the Borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): The Borders near the Red Sea. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 34]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the Borders near the shore of the Red Sea (Illustration): The borders near the shore of the Red Sea. Adapted from a general map of the area of the travels of George Potter and Craig Thorsted. (George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num. 1, FARMS, 1999, p. 58) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 BY the Borders Near the Seashore (Potter Theory):

 

     George Potter notes that according to the text, Nephi traveled "by the borders near the seashore" (1 Nephi 2:5). According to Potter, to fully appreciate the historical accuracy of this statement, one needs to consider the geography of northwestern Arabia. Assuming that the term "borders" means "mountains" (as discussed previously), as a traveler moved southward along the historic camel trail from the northern end of the Red Sea or Gulf of Aqaba into Arabia, he found on his right the waters of the Red Sea, and on his immediate left he found mountains ("borders"). Thus he was traveling "by" the mountains or borders on his left. The area in which he traveled (between the sea and the mountains) was a narrow, relatively flat coastal plain called the Thema. As Nephi entered Arabia at sea level, the mountain peaks rose on the east (his left) to a height of 3570 feet. By the second day of his journey, the peaks were towering over 6,000 feet above the plain. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 22, 24]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 BY the borders near the seashore (Illustration): The shore of the Red Sea or Gulf of Aqaba going south into Arabia. The reader should notice the mountain "borders" on the left (east). 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. 24]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Borders:

 

     The term "borders" is mentioned not only here in 1 Nephi 2:5, but also later on in regard to the Land of First Inheritance being "on the west in the borders by the seashore" (Alma 22:28, italics added), and later in reference to the cities or lands of Antionum, Moroni, Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, Mulek, and Bountiful "all of which were on the east borders by the seashore" (Alma 31:3, italics added; 51:22, 26, 32). The Book of Mormon reader should be aware of the fact that although "borders" can be political, they usually involve some geographical features which by nature tend to separate people (such as rivers, mountains, and seas). In this instance, the political borders of Judah stopped at the tip of the Red Sea near where the port city of Aqaba is now located. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Borders near . . . Nearer:

 

     1 Nephi 2:5 says that "[Lehi] came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea" (italics added). Keith Christensen theorizes that a close look at this statement about borders shows that it deals with Lehi's travel before he reached the Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba and does not describe a route after reaching it. A border is "a dividing line or territory between two countries, states, etc." When Lehi left Jerusalem, Judah was weak as shown by the Babylonians placing Zedekiah on Judah's throne. Whenever Judah was weak the Edomites took control of the territory of Elath near the tip of the Red Sea called Elath. They would also take control of a port at the tip of the Red Sea called Ezion-geber. Following the time of King Solomon, the activity of this port (Ezion-geber) was a key to the prosperity of the land. Those kings of Judah who desired to show themselves powerful attempted to re-establish the fleet out of Ezion-geber. So, if the Edomites were in control of their own land (which would have been the circumstances at the time of Lehi) this would have resulted in there being an Edomite border north of Ezion-geber. Lehi would have come to this border at some point. The phrase relating that Lehi was "by" borders could refer to this political border or to arriving at the edge of the geographic borders in which he subsequently traveled. Either way, the description in 1 Nephi 2:5 would reflect the progress in Lehi's journey from the wilderness frontier south of Beersheba, going near and then nearer the Red Sea. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, pp. 237-238, unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Borders near . . . nearer (Illustration): Map of the wilderness and political borders from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, pp. 237-238, unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The Borders Near . . . Nearer the Red Sea (Hilton Theory):

 

     Nephi talks about coming down "by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea" and traveling "in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5). What distinction was he making? The Hiltons note: once we arrived on the site it became clearer what Nephi might have meant.

     Traveling south from Aqaba, the western Arabian Tihama or coastal plain is squeezed into the area lying between the Red Sea and the mountains of the Arabian peninsula. Called Tihama by the local residents, this coastal plain is the location of the ancient route of the frankincense trail and the most logical route for Lehi's party as well--we believe the only route possible.

     We went straight south from Aqaba down the coast in the Tihama about eighteen miles to Wadi Umm Jurfayn, which comes down (westward) through the steep mountainside to a small oasis on the Red Sea called al-Humaydah. This oasis is, in one sense, the end of the Tihama or plain, since a little ways south, steep cliffs fall precipitously, straight into the sea, obviously blocking the trail farther down the beach. The geographically logical thing to do--indeed, the only thing to do--is to turn away from the Red Sea and go east up the hills in Wadi Umm Jurfayn through the mountain range in wide, sweeping bends. Storms have long ago filled in the rough places with a sand and gravel "roadbed" for all of the twenty miles to the head of the wadi (elevation 3,135 feet). This is the route of the ancient frankincense trail and in more recent centuries the Egyptian Hajj trail down the Red Sea coast to Mecca.

     At the summit of Jurfayn, the wadi branches. One branch leads out to the desert on the east toward Tabuk, while the other wadi (Wadi al-Afal) slopes downhill to the south in a sweeping curve all the way to the Red Sea shore. . . . We drove down Wadi al-Afal, which we think represents the "borders near" the Red Sea, in contrast to the actual beach of Tihama which Nephi could have referred to as "borders nearer" the Red Sea. We finally stopped at Wadi Afal's only oasis, a major village called al-Bad, Saudi Arabia. . . .

     Once again, we believe the borders "nearer" the Red Sea are the eighteen miles between Aqaba and al-Humaydah, where the trail is right on the beach. The borders "near" would have been the route where Nephi turned east and then south through the 58 miles of the Wadi Umm Jurfayn and Wadi al-Afal to al-Bad.

     [Some might say that the Hilton's have the term's "nearer" and "near" in reverse chronological order, however they try to clarify.] When Lehi's party finally broke camp in the valley of Lemuel and traveled further on down the seacoast from al-Bad, then they would have returned to the Tihama trail and been in the "borders nearer" the Red Sea again. When Nephi, after his family moved on past "Shazer," again referred to "keeping in the borders near the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 16:4), he was probably designating the area about halfway down the coastal plain where the trail widens near Jiddah; they were once again traveling farther inland from the coast itself. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, pp. 49-51]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: Adapted from a photograph, taken from space, of northwest Arabia near the Gulf of Aqaba. Those geographical places mentioned by the Hiltons in describing Lehi's journey to the valley of Lemuel are highlighted and labeled. Photo by Landsat, US Geological Survey, EROS Data Center. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 50]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: Modern Road from Aqaba through al-Bad. The modern highway mostly follows the ancient trail. Map from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Petroleum. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 52]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Came down BY the Border(S) Near the Red Sea . . . He Traveled IN the Wilderness Nearer the Red Sea (Potter Theory):

 

     Nephi talks about coming down "by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea" and traveling "in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:5). One might ask, What distinction was he making? George Potter notes that on leaving the port town of Ezion Geber (Port Aqaba), Lehi would have been traveling on the eastern shoreline of the Red Sea, still on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. Between the shoreline and the mountains (or "borders") on his left was a sandy plain never more than three miles in width. Nephi's description defines exactly this topography along this shoreline. That is, he says that they "came down BY the borders [mountains] NEAR the shore of the Red Sea."

     One next finds that after traveling southward along the shoreline for about twenty miles, the mountains (or borders) that parallel the coast on one's left split into two parallel ranges (see illustration). While both branches or ranges continue to parallel the shoreline southward, and while the eastern range is a little over 20 miles inland, the western branch continues to be on one's immediate left. Thus, one can continue to travel another 25 miles southward along the shoreline and still be "by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea."

     At a point 45 miles from Aqaba, one runs into a blocked trail caused by the mountain range immediately on the left running into the sea (see illustration). Potter describes the situation Lehi would have faced at this blockage:

           In front of him the trail was blocked by the borders/mountains. To his left were mountains towering over six thousand feet. His only realistic option was to turn into the mountains. Apparently, this seems to be what Lehi did . . . we rather unsurprisingly found the only valley or wadi that leads from the shoreline and into the mountains. . . As we explored the wadi, it narrowed to where at points we were certain it was a dead end, however, around each bend, we were delighted that the trail would continue on deeper [southward] into ["in"] the mountains [ or "borders nearer the Red Sea"]. What we also found was that the wadi "in the borders" provided a good camel trail that had a level gravel bed and a smooth upward grade. . . . We learned from the Bedouins in the area that the valley's name was Wadi Tayyib al-Ism, the Wadi of the Good Name. . . . . We had wondered how Lehi and his family could have traveled "in" the mountains of Midian on camels. Here was the answer, a straight level wadi with an ideal camel trail of sand and gravel. A trail near the shore, yet still "in the borders." (see illustration)

 

     Thus the text is correct when it says that after Lehi traveled "by the borders [or mountains] which were near the Red Sea," he then traveled "in the wilderness IN the borders NEARER the Red Sea" [or in the branch of parallel mountains which was nearer to the Red Sea]. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 24-31]

       

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): The two mountain ranges of Midian. Map: The Ancient World at the Time of the Patriarchs. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS King James Bible, 1979 edition]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Blue boxes denote the two mountain ranges in Midian. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 1, p. 3, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Mountain range or borders slightly inland from the shoreline of the Red Sea. The second and more easterly mountain range is twenty to thirty miles inland, and its peaks reach a height of over 7,800 feet. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 25]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Shoreline mountains blocking passage down the shoreline. 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. 24]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Diagram of how the trail deviates eastward, because of the trail blockage, into the wadi . [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 25]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near . . . nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Hilton Theory and Potter Theory compared: According to the Hilton Theory, Lehi took another branch of the trade route from Aqaba to al-Bada'a. Adapted from a general map of the area of the travels of George Potter and Craig Thorsted. (George D Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num. 1, FARMS, 1999, p. 58) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 He Did Travel in the Wilderness with His Family:

 

     Although Nephi refers to his "family" (1 Nephi 2:5), there are no sisters listed. Yet in 2 Nephi 5:6, sisters are included in the list of those accompanying Nephi in his flight to the land of Nephi. How old were these sisters? Were these sisters married to the sons of Ishmael who joined the group later? [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:6]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Sariah:

 

     According to research by Jeffrey Chadwick, the Book of Mormon introduces "Sariah," the faithful wife of the prophet Lehi and mother of Nephi and his brothers (1 Nephi 2:5). The conjectural Hebrew spelling of Sariah would be sryh and would be pronounced something like sar-yah. The skeptic might suggest that this name was an invention of Joseph Smith, since Sariah does not appear in the Bible as a female personal name. However, in a significant historical parallel to the Book of Mormon, the Hebrew name Sariah, spelled sryh, has been identified in a reconstructed form as the name of a Jewish woman living at Elephantine in Upper Egypt during the fifth century B.C. [Jeffrey R. Chadwick, "Sariah in the Elephantine Papyri," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1993, F.A.R.M.S., p. 196]

     Daniel Ludlow writes the following:

           George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl explain that the name of Lehi's wife, Sariah, is probably a compound of two Hebrew words: "Sarah-Jah" meaning literally "Princess of the Lord." (Commentary on the Book of Mormon [Deseret News, 1955], 1:25) The "Jah" suffix often appears as "iah" and was frequently used by the Hebrews to refer to the name of God. This suffix is found in such biblical names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zedekiah.

[Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 92]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 My Elder Brothers [Which] Were:

 

     Throughout the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, the modifier "which" was changed to "who" for grammatical reasons. Most of these changes have been retained to the present day. The Hebrew word asher may be translated either "which" or "who." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 6]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Laman:

 

     Hugh Nibley comments that the only example of the name of "Laman" (1 Nephi 2:5) to be found anywhere to the writer's knowledge is its attribution to an ancient Mukam, or sacred place, in Palestine. Most of these Mukams are of unknown date, many of them of prehistoric. In Israel only the tribe of Manasseh [from which Lehi descended--Alma 10:3] built them. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 41-42]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Lemuel:

 

     Hugh Nibley asserts that the name of "Lemuel" (1 Nephi 2:5) is not a conventional Hebrew one, for it occurs only in one chapter of the Old Testament (Proverbs 31:1,4), where it is commonly supposed to be a rather mysterious poetic substitute for Solomon. It is, however, like Lehi, at home in the south desert, where an Edomite text from "a place occupied by tribes descended from Ishmael" bears the title, "The Words of Lemuel, King of Massa." [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 41]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Sam:

 

     According to Cleon Skousen, the name "Sam" (1 Nephi 2:5) is not an abbreviation for Samuel as many have supposed, but it is a pure Egyptian name of great dignity. It is the Egyptian word for Shem, son of the prophet Noah. It also takes this same form in the Arabic (Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, pp. 62-63). This is of particular significance when it is realized that the highest order of the priesthood among the Egyptians was the "holy priesthood" after the order of Sam (Shem). The great Rameses, himself, belonged to the order of Sam (Reynolds, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. I, p. 26). The original Pharaohs were of that lineage which could not hold the true Priesthood but they claimed it through their ancestor, Ham (Abraham 1:27). It is highly interesting that they later attributed their priesthood to Shem or Sam, apparently intending to give it an air of greater authenticity. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1031]

 

1 Nephi 2:5 Sam:

 

     Hugh Nibley claims that there have been discovered lists of the names of prisoners that Nebuchadnezzar brought back to Babylon with him from his great expedition into Syria and Palestine. These represent a good cross section of proper names prevailing in those lands in the days of Lehi, and among them is a respectable proportion of Egyptian names, which is what the Book of Mormon would lead us to expect. . . . Himni, Korihor, Paanchi, Pakumeni, SAM, Zeezrom, Ham, Manti, Nephi and Zenoch are all Egyptian hero names. [Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 246]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When He Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness, He Pitched His Tent:

 

     According to Daniel Ludlow, the exact distance of the Valley of Lemuel from Jerusalem is not made clear in the Book of Mormon. The superscription to the First Book of Nephi (wherein Nephi states that Lehi "taketh three days' journey into the wilderness with his family" from the land of Jerusalem) seems to indicate a distance between the two locations which can be covered in a three-days' journey. However, some students of the Book of Mormon interpret 1 Nephi 2:4-6 to mean that Lehi and his group traveled an indefinite number of days until they arrived "in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea"; then they traveled through that wilderness for three days to the Valley of Lemuel. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 92]

 

1 Nephi 2:6-7 When He Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness . . . He Built an Altar of Stones, and Made an Offering unto the Lord:

 

     Nephi recorded of his father Lehi "that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness . . . that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God" (1 Nephi 2:6-7). According to David Seely, this statement may simply be due to the historical fact that Lehi and his family traveled for three days before they stopped for a significant rest. But the note on the three days' journey may also be Nephi's way of saying that Lehi and his family were acting in accordance with an understanding of the law of Moses found in Deuteronomy 12.

     According to Deuteronomy 12, after Israel entered the promised land the place of sacrifice was to be confined to a single altar at the place where the Lord would choose to put his name (see Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 10-11, 13-14). While the temple in Jerusalem is not specified at the time of Deuteronomy 12, in biblical tradition that temple became the authorized place. When King Solomon dedicated the temple, he declared it to be the place where the Lord would put his name (1 Kings 8:29).

     Yet even after the temple was built, sacrifices and offerings continued throughout Israel, most notably at the high places (1 Kings 12:26-33; 2 Kings 16:4), which were uniformly condemned by the prophets (Isaiah 57:7; Hosea 10:8; Amos 7:9). Matters changed during the reigns of two later kings of Judah. Hezekiah (715-687 B.C.) "removed the high places" and eliminated idolatry throughout Judah so that the religion in Judah was reformed (2 Kings 18:4). Later, Josiah (640-609 B.C.) finally centralized worship in Jerusalem according to the injunction in Deuteronomy 12 (2 Kings 23:7-9, 15). It should be remembered that during his reign a book was discovered in the temple that many scholars believe was some form of the book of Deuteronomy.

     According to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls called the Temple Scroll, all nonsacrificial slaughter within the boundaries of three days' distance from Jerusalem were prohibited. Put another way, only sacrifices beyond a three-day journey from the temple in Jerusalem were acceptable under the law of Moses. Thus one might ask, Was Lehi conforming to a Mosaic requirement when he traveled 3 days in the wilderness before he built an altar and offered sacrifice?

       Before one jumps to any conclusions, they need to consider the fact that the patriarchs of old, officiating with Melchizedek Priesthood authority, built altars and offered sacrifice in various locations. Furthermore, the Church of Jesus Christ builds temples throughout the world. This suggests that the centralized worship apparently prescribed in Deuteronomy 12 was either misunderstood or was part of the lower law. It is also possible that the injunction of Deuteronomy 12 concerning altars, sacrifices, and temples applied only to the land of Israel as suggested by Deuteronomy 12:1. [David R. Seely, "Lehi's Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies , vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, p. 67]

     Note* If Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood, and started his three day journey into the wilderness from the borders of Israel rather than from Jerusalem, he would have been free of any violation here. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When They Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness (Hilton Theory):

 

     According to the Hiltons, after Lehi [and family] reached the "borders" of the Red Sea, they continued to travel for "three days" (1 Nephi 2:6) before they pitched their tents at the valley they called Lemuel. Nephi doesn't mention how long it took them to travel from the city of Jerusalem to the Red Sea; however, we know that the trip covers over 200 miles. But how fast do camels move? Donkeys? For this information the Hiltons relied on the assistance of Salim Saad, an experienced camel rider and a former British Army officer. Stationed in the Wadi al 'Araba, he had become friends with many desert Bedouins. He explained that a loaded donkey caravan can travel twenty miles in six hours. Drawing on his astonishing library of Arab history, he showed us an example of a camel caravan consisting of thousands of camels averaging twenty-four miles a day on the Haj (Islamic pilgrimage) from Cairo to Mecca. The famous archaeologist Nelson Glueck, a novice camel rider, reported he personally averaged thirteen miles a day on a camel ride from Jerusalem to Aqaba. Pliny tells of a journey from Timna in Yemen to Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea coast in Palestine that required "sixty-five stages," which presumably meant sixty-five days on the road. From Timna to Gaza is a distance of 1,534 miles, an average of twenty-four miles per day.

     Thus Lehi's family probably required nearly two weeks to get to the borders of the Red Sea. Another three days' travel time was required to get them to the Valley of Lemuel. If we take into consideration the added time that might be needed because of adverse weather conditions of extreme heat or cold, and the slow movement caused by provisions, we might expect the journey to take at least two and perhaps three weeks. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 49]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When He Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness, He Pitched His Tent, in a Valley, by a River of Water (Hilton Theory) :

 

     The Hiltons determined how far Lehi might have been able to travel in three days. Using a pencil compass, they marked 60 miles, plus or minus, and made a sweep on the map that distance out from Aqaba, the place where Lehi would have first approached the Red Sea, to see if they might identify possible locales for the valley of Lemuel and the River Laman. They targeted al-Bad! (see illustration) [This would have been 60 miles "as the crow flies" however] In actuality, they traveled 18 miles south from Aqaba to al-Humaydah. There they turned east and then south through 58 miles of the Wadi Umm Jurfayn and Wadi al-Afal to al-Bad. [This makes an total of 76 actual miles.] [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, pp. 49, 51]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When He Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness, He Pitched His Tent, in a Valley, by a River of Water (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: Modern Road from Aqaba through al-Bad. The modern highway mostly follows the ancient trail. Map from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Petroleum. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 52]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When He Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness, He Pitched His Tent, in a Valley, by a River of Water (Potter Theory) :

 

     The valley of Lemuel was "in the borders" (1 Nephi 2:8). This valley was also a journey of "three days in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:6). According to George Potter, if the meaning of "borders" can be correlated with mountains, and if the term "wilderness" is associated with Arabia and started at the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, then the search for the location of the valley of Lemuel becomes much more specific.

     Frankincense trail expert Nigel Groom noted that a loaded camel travels "slightly less than 21/2 miles an hour" and "rarely exceeds 25 miles" per day.122 Alan Keohane, who actually lived and traveled with a Bedouin tribe for a year reports that they traveled up to 40 miles in a day when they were traveling to winter pastures.123 Reasonably speaking, Lehi's family could have traveled by camel on the good trails proposed anywhere from 25-30 miles a day. Potter records:

           To be conservative, we felt we had to have an odometer reading of less than 75 miles. As our trail odometer read seventy-one miles from Port Aqaba, the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism changed course from due south to southwest and headed toward Jabel (Mount) Mazenfah and the Red Sea. At the seventy-three mile marker we came to the eastern-most grove of the oasis of the Waters of Moses. (see illustration) One mile further down the valley the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism narrowed into a spectacular canyon. In the canyon we came to the small [continuously running] river. (see illustration) [Amazingly we had duplicated what would have been a "three days" journey "in the wilderness" and come to "a river of water" which was "in a valley" (1 Nephi 2:6) and now we were about to set up our camp (or "pitch our tents") by that river. ]

           When one thinks about it, Nephi's account is truly exceptional. There appears to be only one perennial river in all of Saudi Arabia, a country almost the size of Europe, and Nephi's words still lead to it. How could [Joseph Smith] have known the specific geography seen when travelling south along the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba? How could he have known the name of the mountains in Midian is "the Borders." How could he have known there are two mountain ranges in Midian, one near and the other nearer the Red Sea? How could he have known there was a good camel trail through the shoreline mountains of "Rocky Arabia," and that the trail led to [a unique] place--a river of flowing water. There can be only one explanation. Nephi [had actually traveled this trail.]

 

[George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 21, 32-34, 74]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent, in a valley, by a river of water (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: A Three Day Journey. A map adapted from a general map of the area of the travels of George Potter and Craig Thorsted. (George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1999, p. 58) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent, in a valley, by a river of water (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: The desert stream that runs "continually" toward the Red Sea. [George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1999, p. 62]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 When They Had Traveled Three Days in the Wilderness (Christensen Theory):

 

     In contrast to the Hiltons’ theory which has Lehi's group traveling an additional "three days in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 2:6) after reaching the Red Sea from Jerusalem, Keith Christensen proposes another scenario. According to Christensen, Lehi's family entered the "wilderness" from near the land of their inheritance, which was well south of Jerusalem, and the total time spent to get to the valley of Lemuel (near Aqaba) was three days. The average rate of travel for a party such as Lehi's would have been about 35 miles a day for a total of 105 miles. Camel caravan speeds are about 3 miles per hour with thirty miles being a good average for the day, and sixty miles being the absolute maximum. The usual estimate for a good day's march is reckoned by Arab writers at between twenty-eight and thirty miles (Nibley, p. 60). So using round figures, the wilderness Lehi entered could have been about 100 miles north of the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba and his land of inheritance could have been somewhat further north. The idea of only a three day journey in the wilderness seems to be reinforced by the headnote summary paragraph for the book of First Nephi. [B. Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, pp. 45, 226, unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 River of Water:

 

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, it is only in the springtime that most of the stream beds in Palestine and the desert by the Gulf of Aqaba contain water. In fact, the writers note that the Hebrew language has one word, "nahar", for "river of water" (see 1 Nephi 2:6) and another for the dry stream bed, "nachal." [Milton Hunter and T. Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 77]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 Water:

 

     The Hiltons explain that the history of Arabia is written with water, not ink. Where there is water, there is life--that is the inescapable fact of Arabian life--and the great oases of the Arabian peninsula do not move from place to place. . . . As the Hilton's traveled through the Middle East, they never saw a fresh-water source devoid of people; where water is so precious, it is unlikely that many waterholes are unknown.

     In the journey of Lehi's family through the wilderness, no waters are reported gushing miraculously from their own rocks of Horeb as Moses had produced with the touch of his rod. The family, therefore, must have traveled and survived as other travelers of their day did in the same area, going from public waterhole to public waterhole. Of course they also had the heaven-sent Liahona to help them find watering places along any route the Lord may have chosen, but the human-made wells so important in crossing the worst desert areas would have been only along established routes like the frankincense trail.

     The frankincense trails were designed to follow the line of oases or ancient wells. On a modern map, drawn by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Natural Resources, the route shows 118 water holes at an average distance of thirty kilometers (eighteen miles) from each other. Lehi could not have carved out a route for himself without water, and for a city dweller to discover a line of water holes of which desert-dwellers were ignorant is an unlikely prospect, nor does the text suggest that the Lord took them to undiscovered water. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 27, 33]

 

1 Nephi 2:6 Water (Illustration): Old hand-dug water wells average every 18 miles on the Lehi Trail. This one was found in the Tihama of Saudi Arabia. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 109]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 He Built an Altar of Stones:

 

     After Lehi reached the Valley of Lemuel "he built an altar of stones" (1 Nephi 2:7). Brant Gardner notes that an altar of stones was a typical Arab/Hebrew wilderness altar. However he asks, Why was the sacrificial site not a pit ringed by stones? Or why was it not simply a brush pyre?

     The elevation of stones probably served two purposes: the first was to create a miniature "high place" which through its symbolic elevation provided a sacred location. The second was that the use of stones connected the altar to the natural order, and built a symbolic miniature sacred mountain upon which the offer of sacrifice would be effective. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page, "http://www. highfiber.com/~nahualli/ LDStopics/1 Nephi/1 Nephi2.htm, p. 8]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 He Built an Altar of Stones, and Made an Offering unto the Lord:

 

     George Potter and Richard Wellington note that an altar must first be purified by an anointing (Exodus 40;10). Randolph Linehan suggests that when the temple in Jerusalem was rededicated, the altar was purified for sacrifices in a ceremony called the Naphthar or Nephi ceremony. He cites 2nd Maccabees of the Apocrypha 1:33-36. Given the importance that the altar ceremony was to Lehi, we perhaps have a clue as to the Hebrew origins of Nephi's name. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 3, p. 10, Unpublished] [See the commentary on the name Nephi in 1 Nephi 1:1]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 An altar of stones (Potter) [Illustration]: The location of the "altar of stones" (right hand side) provides a magnificent view of the valley of Wadi Tayyib al-Ism. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi's Trail, Chapter 3, p. 10, Unpublished]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 Altar of Stones:

 

     The form "altar of stones" (1 Nephi 2:7) instead of the customary English form "stone altar" conforms to standard Hebrew construction, called the "construct state." Examples from the Bible are "gods of gold" (Exodus 20:23), "altar of stone" (Exodus 20:25), "bedstead of iron" (Deuteronomy 3:11), "helmet of brass" (1 Samuel 17:5), "house of cedar" (2 Samuel 7:2), "throne of ivory" (1 Kings 10:18), "girdle of leather (2 Kings 1:8), and "pulpit of wood" (Nehemiah 8:4). [D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 32-33]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 Altar of Stones:

 

     In Nephi 2:7 we find that Lehi and Nephi offered sacrifices upon an "altar of stones" after keeping their covenants with the Lord and successfully completing an assignment to obtain the plates of brass (the word of the Lord). The fact that they offered sacrifice on an altar of stones is full of covenant symbolism.

     In Exodus 20:24-26 God instructed Moses to tell the people to make an altar of earth (mizbah) or (unhewn) stones (mizbah), upon which to sacrifice their offerings. . . . The form of this passage, in which God tells Moses to pass on this instruction to the people, suggests that it, like the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the chapter, was addressed to each Israelite individually . . . [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol 1, p. 36]

     According to Lenet Read, from earliest times, stones have been employed in symbolic use in various ways to testify of Christ and his earthly work. Anciently, offerings to God were made on altars built of stones "not hewn" (that is uncut) by tools of human hands (see Exodus 20:25). Jacob, after an encounter with the Lord at Bethel where eternal promises [covenants] were made, set up a stone for a pillar, signifying the presence of the Lord in that place (see Genesis 28:10-22). Daniel saw the kingdom of God as a stone "cut out without hands" that "became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34-35). Under Mosaic [covenant] law stones symbolized judgment and justice, stoning being the means by which those who committed the most serious crimes were put to death. [Lenet Hadley Read, "All Things Testify of Him--Understanding Symbolism in the Scriptures," in The Ensign, January 1981, p. 7]

     The common word "stone" is used in the Bible with a variety of references . . . figurative as well as literal. Notably the "stone" image is used in the New Testament to describe the person of Jesus. In the Synoptic Gospels, for example, the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-11 and parallels) is followed by the Lord's citation of Psalms 118:22, which is obviously applied to himself ("The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner"). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol 3, pp. 1488-1489]

 

     In Romans 9:29-33 we find:

           And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

           What shall we say then? that the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

           But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

           Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone (see Isaiah 8:14-15);

           As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

 

     Isaiah 8:14-15 reads as follows:

           And he ["The Stone"--the Rock upon which all covenants are built] shall be for a sanctuary [or covenant Church]; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel . . . and many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

 

     In Psalms 50:5 and 51:17 we read:

           Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice [upon altars of stone]. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart . . .

     At the time John the Baptism was baptizing in the river Jordan, he said unto the Pharisees and Sadducees, who touted themselves as covenant children through birth, "think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones [or covenants with the Lord] to raise up children unto Abraham." (Matthew 3:9)

 

     In 3 Nephi 9:19-20 we read:

           And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

           And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites . . .

 

           . . . he [Alma the elder] began to establish a [covenant] church in the land . . . which was called Mormon; . . . (Alma 5:3) . . . And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the [covenant] church among the people, yea, the first [covenant] church which was established among them after their transgression. . . . Yea, and surely shall he again bring a remnant of the seed of Joseph to the knowledge of the Lord their God. . . . And as he hath covenanted with all the house of Jacob, even so shall the covenant wherewith he hath covenanted with the house of Jacob be fulfilled in his own due time, unto the restoring all the house of Jacob unto the knowledge of the covenant that he hath covenanted with them. And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God; . . . (3 Nephi 5:12, 23, 25-26)

           If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:3-5).

     

     Jesus said unto Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 He built an altar of stones and made an offering (Illustration): Lehi built an altar from stones and made an offering to God. Illustrators: Jerry Thompson and Robert T. Barrett. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Book of Mormon Stories, p. 6]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 [Lehi] built an altar of stones and made an offering unto the Lord (Illustration): Lehi Building an Altar of Stones in the Valley of Lemuel. Lehi built an altar and "gave thanks unto the Lord." Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 5]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 Altar of Stones:

 

     Hugh Nibley attests that to this day the Bedouin makes sacrifice on every important occasion, not for magical and superstitious reasons, but because he "lives under the constant impression of a higher force that surrounds him." St. Nilus, in the oldest known eyewitness account of life among the Arabs of the Tih, says, "they sacrifice on altars of crude stones piled together." That Lehi's was such an altar would follow not only from the ancient law demanding uncut stones (Exodus 20;25), but also from the Book of Mormon expression "an altar of stones" (1 Nephi 2:7), which is not the same thing as "a stone altar." Such little heaps of stones, surviving from all ages, are still to be seen throughout the south desert. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 62-63]

     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the law of Moses required that if an altar were built of stones that they be unhewn stones (Exodus 20: 24-25). An example of such an altar in the New World is the one at the early site of Cuicuilco just south of Mexico City. It is a well-fashioned altar of river stones. [Milton Hunter and Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 77]

 

1 Nephi 2:7 An Offering unto the Lord:

 

     McConkie and Millet explain that throughout the generations following the death of Aaron and the translation of Moses, the sacrifices in ancient Israel were of various types, such as trespass or sin offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings (see Bible Dictionary, LDS Edition of King James Version of the Bible, pp. 765-67). The Book of Mormon writers made no attempt to elaborate upon the nature or types of their offerings (see 1 Nephi 2:7). The Aaronic Priesthood was the province of the tribe of Levi, and thus was not taken by the Nephites to America. It would appear, therefore, that the sacrifices performed by the Lehite colony were carried out under the direction of the higher priesthood, which comprehends all the duties and authorities of the lesser. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 31]

 

1 Nephi 2:8 He Called the Name of the River:

 

     John Tvedtnes notes that the words used by Nephi to record the naming of the river, " . . . he called the name of the river, Laman," (named the name) is an idiom not used in English but present in Arabic as well as Hebrew.124 [John A. Tvedtnes, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon: A Preliminary Survey," in BYU Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, Provo, p. 57]

 

1 Nephi 2:8 River Laman:

 

     Lehi named the river by which they first camped "the river Laman" (1 Nephi 2:8). Hugh Nibley asks rhetorically, by what right do these people rename streams and valleys to suit themselves? No westerner would tolerate such arrogance. But Lehi is not interested in western taste; he is following a good old Oriental custom. Among the laws "which no Bedouin would dream of transgressing," the first, according to Jennings-Bramley, is that "any water you may discover, either in our own territory or in the territory of another tribe, is named after you." So it happens that in Arabia a great wady (valley) will have different names at different points along its course, a respectable number of names being "all used for one and the same valley. . . . One and the same place may have several names, and the wady running close to the same, or the mountain connected with it, will naturally be called differently by members of different clans," according to Canaan, who tells how the Arabs "often coin a new name for a locality for which they have never used a proper name, or whose name they do not know," the name given being usually that of some person. However, names thus bestowed by wandering tribesmen" are neither generally known or commonly used," so that we need not expect any of Lehi's place names to survive. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 75]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The River Laman . . . Emptied into the Red Sea . . . This River, Continually Running (Hilton Theory):

 

     After naming the river of water by which they pitched their tent "the river Laman" (1 Nephi 2:8), Lehi mentioned that it "emptied into the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:9). Because of this drainage, and because of the mountains which parallel the Red Sea on the east, the route of Lehi would probably have been somewhere between the mountains and the sea. Lehi also uses a figure of speech in comparing Laman to a river that was "continually" running (1 Nephi 2:9). The Hilton's mention in their first book that there is not a single river of any significance that flows year round and reaches the sea in all the Arabian peninsula. This means that the reader must consider the possibility that this river was the direct result of spring rains (a wadi may flow temporarily with water in the rainy season). If so, the beginning of Lehi's journey may have begun in the rainy season (Dec-Feb); and if so, the word "continually" may refer to the nature of a "flowing" river and not to the length of time it flowed. [See In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 65]

     Since the Hiltons first made the journey along Lehi's Trail, vast new research efforts have been published by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education under the acronym ATLAL, the Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology. ATLAL says that the Wadi Afal (which the Hiltons have identified as the River Laman of the Book of Mormon) drains the largest watershed in the entire area; the delta of the wadi where it enters the Red Sea is a vast triangle extending from Jebal al-Shu'aytijah to Khuraybah (a delta identified by the Hiltons as the Fountain of the Red Sea; see 1 Nephi 2:9). It was of no small interest to the Hiltons that the Book of Mormon locates Lehi's camp, the probable place of his longest stay and the site of a "river of water," inside this largest wadi system. In fact, this wadi system is the largest the Hiltons would see anywhere on Lehi's trail to Bountiful. According to the Hiltons, Wadi Afal could qualify as the river of water in Lehi's day and be dry now. The sharp escarpment of the canyon bears clear marks of erosion of the passing of much water in former ages. In fact, the Hiltons have seen a "river" flowing after a rain storm and waded in it. Perhaps the weather has become arid since Nephi's time. In view of what they have found, the Hiltons feel that just because now, 2,500 years later, the Wadi Afal is mostly dry, we should not disqualify this area as the site of the river Laman when there is such clear evidence of ancient waters. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 12-13, 45-46]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The Waters of the River Emptied into the Fountain of the Red Sea . . . This river, Continually Running (Hilton Theory):

 

     The Hiltons note that nowadays, in all the Arabian peninsula, not a single river of any significance flows year round and reaches the sea. . . . Hence, there are no real rivers of water that we can identify today as the River Laman. But this does not end the matter.

     Old Testament Hebrew uses two words that in English are both translated as "river." One word, nachalah, means "winter torrent," but is translated as "river" when it describes the Wadi al Arish or the River Arnon.125 In both cases, these "rivers" dry up in the summer. . . .

     The second Hebrew word, nahar', means a perennially "running stream." The word is used in the Old Testament for the Euphrates River and the Nile, both of which are indeed everflowing. Thus Hebrew takes account of variations in the meaning of "river" to which our language is deaf.

     Quite probably, after seeing a thunderstorm on the watershed of Wadi al-Afal, Nephi may have referred to a "winter torrent" or nachalah when he described the "river of water." Perhaps also, a spring at al-Bad formed a stream that flowed south for eighteen miles and emptied into the Red Sea. What may have been a surplus of water at that time would now be absorbed by intensive cultivation of the oasis. . . .

     It seems clear to us that Lehi could have used the "big water" as an object lesson for his son. . . . More likely, the weather has become more arid over the intervening 2,500 years. Nephi's river of water simply dried up, leaving a mostly dry, sandy river bottom. . . .

     Nephi makes a point of recording that Lehi drew a moral from the river for his son when he "saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:9). Perhaps this implies that Nephi could not tell at first from his campsite, but only later, that the waters emptied into the Red Sea. Al-Bad (the Hilton's proposed Valley of Lemuel] is located eighteen miles northwest from where the Wadi al-Afal empties into the Red Sea. An examination of geographical maps (see illustration) suggests a meaning of the phrase "fountain of the Red Sea." A fountain is a headwater, a spring, a source. Since Wadi al-Afal empties into the very upper reaches of the Red Sea (and not the Gulf of Aqaba), Nephi's meaning seems clear: this spot is the "fountain." It was exciting to follow the ancient stream bed south-southeast from al-Bad through its vast triangular delta until the main stream entered the salt waters of the Red Sea. A few date palms along the beach now mark the site. (see illustration) [In other words, the river Laman would have eventually "emptied" or merged with other drainage from the Wadi al-Afal. The site where this total drainage flowed into the Red Sea would have been termed the "fountain of the Red Sea] [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, pp. 52-54]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: An map showing the major wadi drainages into the Red Sea from the ancient land of Midian. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 79]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Hilton Theory) [Illustration]: The Fountain of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:9), where Wadi al-Afal flows into the Red Sea, about 20 miles south southeast of al-Bad, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Gerald Silver. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 57]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The Waters of the River Emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . This River, Continually Running (Potter Theory):

 

      George Potter begins his argument by noting that according to Hugh Nibley, Hogarth argues that Arabia "probably never had a true river in all its immense area."126 The United States's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that Arabia has, "no perennial rivers or permanent water bodies."127 The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture and Water, with the assistance of the US Geological Service (USGS) spent 44 years surveying the kingdom's water resources. Their study consisted of seismic readings, surface and aerial surveys and even landsat satellite photo analysis. They concluded that Saudi Arabia may be the world's largest country without any perennial rivers or streams.128 The satellite photograph of northwest Arabia reveals a terrain that appears as arid and barren as the surface of the moon. Clearly from space, it appears impossible to find a river in this naked desert land of granite mountains, dark lava flows, sandstone hills, and sandy wadis where dried up rivers last ran during the previous ice age.

     Some author's attempts to explain why their proposed "River Laman" is not at this time a "continually running" stream are grounded on the idea that significant changes in the Near East climate have taken place since Lehi's time. Kelly Ogden presented a version of this theory in the LDS Church News in 1996.129 It is also alluded to in the Book of Mormon itself (see 1 Nephi 2:6 footnote 6b, Joel 1:20:

     The beasts of the field cry also unto thee; for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

 

     However, this theory does not square with Biblical or meteorological history. Midian was the land where Moses lived with his father-in-law Jethro (D&C 84:6-7). While there, Moses lived in a desert. (Exodus 3:1) Scientists, including those of the United States Geological Service, cite of Arabia: "The past 6000 years have been marked by more arid conditions, similar to those of the present."130 Hugh Nibley explains: "though some observers think the area enjoyed a little more rainfall in antiquity than it does today, all are agreed that the change of climate has not been considerable since prehistoric times--it was at best almost as bad then as it is now."131

     So where is this "river" which "emptied into the . . . Red Sea," and which is described as "continually running" (1 Nephi 2:9)? First of all, the "river of water" mentioned in 1 Nephi 2:6 was probably only a small stream. When translating Nephi's description of the river, the Prophet Joseph Smith did not specify the size of the river. The Semitic language expert, Dr. Hugh Nibley notes that, "The expression 'river of water' is used only for small local streams."132 [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 39, 42-43]

     In May 1995, George Potter and Craig Thorsted were searching for one of the Arabian candidates for Mount Sinai when they stumbled on a "continually running" stream by the Red Sea. This stream was part of a valley complex that seemed to fulfill all the requirements for the "valley of Lemuel."

     Potter and Thorsted had first traveled to al-Bad to explore the Wells of Jethro, the priest of the ancient land of Midian. (see illustration) On a suggestion from a town official, they traveled 20 miles west to the village of Maqna where supposedly the Waters of Moses were located. (see illustration) According to local tradition, Maqna had been the first camp of Moses after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba (see illustration), and the Waters of Moses was where Moses had touched his staff to the rock and 12 springs gushed forth (see illustration), one for each tribe (see Qur'an 7:160). However, they were additionally directed to another site 12 miles to the north.

     Eight miles north of Maqna, Potter and Thorsted found that the southern end of a mountain range forced them towards a small coastal road running northward along the Red Sea. After 4 more miles they came upon a magnificent narrow canyon. (see illustration) They decided to walk up this canyon and after 33/4 miles it opened into a beautiful oasis with several wells and three large groves of date palm trees. However, what caught their interest most was the stream that started in the canyon near its upper end and ran down the wadi virtually all the way to the sea.

     Potter and Thorsted found that the stream in the canyon met all of the physical criteria for the valley of Lemuel and the river Laman.

     (1) This valley lies just over 70 miles (on the ground, not in a direct line) south of Aqaba. Thus it was within a journey of "three days in the wilderness" by foot or camel ride beyond the northeast tip of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:5-6).

     (2) If Lehi gave the river a name (1 Nephi 2:8) then it might not have been a major stream. Otherwise, in the hot dry Near East, a permanent settlement and a name would have already been in place.

     (3) The "waters of the river [Laman] emptied into the . . . Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:9).

     (4) Lehi referred to the stream as "continually running" (1 Nephi 2:9).

 

     Potter and Thorsted confirm that after having visited the valley in the months of January, April, May, November, and December, and after colleagues have visited in July and August, they have observed that "the volume of water in the river seems rather constant throughout the year (even though from 1995 to 1999 the volume seems to have decreased perhaps 50 percent due to the continued effects of pumping the water in the upper valley)."

     A consulting geologist, Wes Garner, gave the following explanation for this water system (see illustration):

           When the occasional rains fall in the long wadi to the north, they are trapped in the sands. This watershed of sand runs southward for 20 miles until its downward course to the sea is blocked by the granite underpinnings of the towering cliffs to the west. (Richard Wellington, Potter's writing and exploring companion, has estimated the size of the watershed to be approximately 105 square miles). This subterranean rock runs deep beneath the surface, forming a dam. The subsurface waters are thus trapped at the upper end of the canyon in an underground reservoir. The canyon and its stream run westward from the area of this underground reservoir for 33/4 miles, starting at an elevation of 750 feet and ending at sea level in the Gulf of Aqaba. The floor of the canyon descends steadily. Within a few hundred feet, a spring begins to flow as the canyon floor drops to the level of the underground reservoir. The waters form the small river that runs above ground almost the rest of the way. At the point where the river comes to a level grade in the canyon floor, it runs just underground, leaving the soil most. But soon the grade increases in its descent, and the river reappears. It is last seen as it reaches a gravel bed in the lower part of the canyon about 3/8 mile from the beach. From there, the water runs underground to the gulf where it feeds a well used by the coast guard post a short distance away. (see illustration)

 

     The narrow gorge or valley, cut through a massive granite mountain, was composed of three sections starting from Potter and Thorsted's beach area on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba: (1) the lower canyon, (2) the canyon of granite, and (3) the upper valley, (see illustration). The upper valley (or what local people called the Waters of Moses) was situated at the south end of a twelve mile long wadi--known as Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (see illustration). This upper valley spread out over approximately one square mile with several hundred palm trees and 12 wells. The canyon of granite consisted of an approximately 33/4 mile long fracture in the granite mountain which permitted the stream to flow towards the Red Sea. The 2,000 foot height of the canyon walls provided a dramatic shelter from the intense 120 degree Fahrenheit heat and torrential winds. The lower canyon walls ended within 60 feet of the waters of the gulf.

     If Lehi's camp were upstream a bit from the mouth, in the shade of the precipitous cliffs, as one might suppose, the stream would still have appeared to Lehi to flow right into the Gulf. However the reason the river does not reach the Red Sea today is simple. The elevation of the floor of the canyon is not the same as it was at the time of Lehi. According to geologist Garner:

           in Lehi's era this lowest part of the canyon was submerged by the Red Sea. Where the river ends today was below the surface of the Red Sea in ancient times. . . . During the 2,600 years since Lehi would have camped in the area, the canyon floor has risen out of the Red Sea, perhaps as much as 200 to 400 feet.

 

     Again, we believe that the river does not flow the same today as it did in 600 B.C. or even in 1970 (A.D.). Evidence suggests that up to just a few years ago a greater volume of water ran through the canyon. such a river would have undoubtedly run the entire distance to the Red Sea regardless of the changes in height of the floor of the lower canyon.

     Even though only a small flow remains from what was probably a much larger stream, this desert river flows continuously, and, in so doing, it washes away any assertions that there are no qualified candidates for the river of Laman in Midian. Even the name of the Wadi (Tayyib al-Ism) possibly alludes to this unique attribute. It's name is now written Tayyib, or "good" a rather odd placename. It is possible that over time, the name has become confused with another arabic placename, Thaab, meaning "flowing water."133 [George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1989, pp. 54-63] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:2; 3 Nephi 25:4]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Larger of Wells of Jethro, al-Bada'a. 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. 45]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Map showing the location of Maqna (the Waters of Moses) and al=Bad (the Well of Jethro). Adapted from a sketch by Timothy Sedor. (George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1989, p. 58) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: The Path of the Exodus. Adapted (Howard Blum, The Gold of Exodus, 1998, preface) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: George Potter at the twelve natural springs at Maqna. 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. 46]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Narrow canyon opening up on the shores of the Red Sea, which George Potter and Craig Thorsted came upon while traveling eight miles north of Maqna in search of the Waters of Moses. Photo by George Potter. (George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1989, inside back cover) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Sketch of the winding 33/4 mile course of the canyon, Tayyib al-Ism (east-west). The exit on the Gulf of Aqaba lies southwest of the point at which one enters the canyon from the upper valley. Sketch courtesy of Timothy Sedor. [George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1989, p. 57]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Cross-section of the canyon showing the drop of the stream from the upper end (750 feet) to sea level. Courtesy of George D. Potter. [George D. Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num.1, FARMS, 1989, p. 63]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 The waters of the river emptied into the . . . Red Sea . . . this river, continually running (Illustration): Cross Section Model of the Valley Lemuel. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 69]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 Fountain of the Red Sea:

 

     Nephi mentions that "the waters of the river [Laman] emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea" (1 Nephi 2:9). According to Hugh Nibley, the 100 mile long northeastern extension of the Red Sea, (or the sector where Lehi's party possibly first came upon the sea) is not an open sea at all, and is not the Red Sea, . . . but opens out to the sea at its mouth. A glance at the map will show that there is a northwestern extension of the Red Sea also, closely resembling the one on the northeast. This western arm anciently had the mysterious and much-discussed name of "Yam Suph," Sea (or fountain) of Weeds (or rushes)." If the one on the west was called a "yam" (or fountain), what is more natural than that its twin gulf to the east should bear the same designation? [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 76]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 Fountain of the Red Sea (Illustration): View at sunset across the Gulf of Aqaba near the border of modern Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Lehi refers to such an area in the record as the "fountain of the Red Sea." [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 28-29]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 O That Thou Mightest Be Like unto This River, Continually Running into the Fountain of All Righteousness:

 

     After fleeing from the land of Jerusalem, Lehi's family came down by the Red Sea and traveled in the wilderness until they came to a valley with a river of water (1 Nephi 2:5-6) After offering sacrifices and giving thanks to the Lord, Lehi spoke to his eldest birthright son, Laman, saying: "O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness" (1 Nephi 2:9). This statement was obviously metaphorical, but the extent of this metaphor is worth investigation.

     According to Ted Chandler, Nephi (and presumably Lehi) intentionally paralleled his narrative with historical narratives. Thus we find that in their exodus from what was considered by the children of Israel as the Promised Land, Lehi's group traveled a course opposite to that of the Israelites when they originally crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan near Jericho.

     With respect to the historical subject of "fountains" Josephus describes "a fountain by Jericho." Originally, this fountain of water had "a sickly and corruptive nature," causing harm to vegetation and new-born children. Elisha prayed over the fountain and made it "wholesome and fruitful." Josephus says that the ground watered by the fountain grew "most excellent gardens that are thick set with trees," and that the area produced honey and balsam. According to Chandler's proposed exodus route, Lehi's family would have viewed this area on their journey into the wilderness.

     In another reference to Israelite history and fountains, Josephus says that after Samson repented of his pride, God "raised him up a plentiful fountain of sweet water at a certain rock; whence it was that Samson called the place the Jaw-bone, and so it is called to this day." As William Whiston, the translator, pointed out, the Hebrew word for "jaw-bone" is Lehi: "This fountain, called Lehi, or the jaw-bone, is still in being. . . ." (See Josephus 12984, 1:77, 329; 2:334-35) [Ted Chandler, "Recent Defenses of the Book of Mormon," http://www.mormonstudies.com/defense2.htm, p. 1]

     Note* The Bible refers to this incident in Judges 15:16-19:

           And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-lehi. And he was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof En-hakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.

 

     The footnote at the bottom of the LDS Bible defines "En-hakkore as "the spring of him who calls." So, one might ask, Could Lehi's use of the "fountain" metaphor be alluding to any of the following:

     (1) Samson's repentance episode?

     (2) the "sweet waters" which were an answer to Samson's prayers to avoid death?

     (3) the name "Lehi" which was where Samson was miraculously delivered by the Lord?

     (4) the Lord's restitution to life of the sickly waters by Elisha?

 

     In other words, was Lehi metaphorically asking Laman to realize that he had been miraculously delivered by the Lord and to repent and live up to his responsibilities as the eldest son of "Lehi."? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

     Additional Note* There is another "river continually running into [a] fountain" worthy of note on the route going south along the barren west side of the Dead Sea. At the present-day site of En-gedi, there is a nature preserve trail going back up into the wadi David. As visitors hike along this nature trail they can view herds of grazing Ibex (wild goats which live on the steep, rocky slopes) and Hyrax (rabbit-size rodent-looking animals) sunning themselves upon the rocks. About a mile up into the wadi, visitors come upon a natural wonder, a continually flowing waterfall which cascades from the upper rim of an open circular cavern into a refreshing pool below. Some visitors choose to continue their hike beyond the upper rim to a cave above, but many biblical tour groups choose to stop at the refreshing pool in order to recount the story of David and Saul which took place in these surroundings many years before.

     In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, chapter 24, we find that when king Saul learned that David was in the wilderness of En-gedi, he took three thousand of his chosen men and went after him to kill him because he knew he was destined to be Israel's future king. But the men of David hid in the cliffs among the caves. Saul, in need of going to the bathroom, entered a cave and shed his robe. In this vulnerable position, David had a chance to kill him and assume Saul's leadership position, but chose not to raise his hand against the Lord's anointed. Instead he secretly cut off some of the skirt of Saul's robe. When Saul eventually left the cave and was apparently down the wadi some distance, David hollered out to Saul and made him aware of what had taken place and that it was a token of David's loyalty to the Lord's anointed king. "And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." (1 Samuel 24:16-17)

     The lesson of David's loyalty to the Lord's anointed at this "river continually running into the fountain" at En-gedi could also have been alluded to in Lehi's admonition to his son Laman at the river Laman in the valley of Lemuel. In fact, it might have been a subtle warning to Laman concerning his not-so-total support of his father, who was the Lord's anointed. A question might also arise as to whether Nephi could have chosen to include this passage not only as a prophetic view of Laman's future rebellion on their returns to Jerusalem for the plates of Laban and Ishmael's family, but also as an indicator of a travel route along the west side of the Dead Sea? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:9 O That Thou Mightest Be Like unto This River, Continually Running into the Fountain of All Righteousness:

 

     Kelly Ogden writes that all hills, rock outcroppings, wadis, and other topographical details were and are given names in the Near East. The ancient Hebrew people loved imagery and figures of speech. The most powerful way to illustrate a truth was to find something in human nature or conduct that corresponded to something in nature. If only Laman could be like this river, continuously flowing toward the source of righteousness! The prophet Amos pled with northern Israelites to "let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty [or everflowing] stream" (Amos 5:24). [D. Kelly Ogden, "Answering the Lord's Call," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 24] [See 1 Nephi 20:18]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 Like This Valley, Firm and Steadfast, and Immovable:

 

     Lehi rhetorically challenged Lemuel to be like "this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable" (1 Nephi 2:10). Hugh Nibley questions who, west of Suez, would ever think of such an image? We, of course, know all about everlasting hills and immovable mountains . . . but who ever heard of a steadfast valley? The Arabs to be sure. For them the valley, and not the mountain, is the symbol of permanence. It is not the mountain of refuge to which they flee, but the valley of refuge. The great depressions that run for hundreds of miles across the Arabian peninsula pass for the most part through plains devoid of mountains. It is in these ancient riverbeds alone that water, vegetation, and animal life are to be found when all else is desolation. they alone offer men and animals escape from their enemies and deliverance from death by hunger and thirst. The qualities of firmness and steadfastness, of reliable protection, refreshment, and sure refuge when all else fails, which other nations attribute naturally to mountains, the Arabs attribute to valleys. [Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 234-235]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 This Valley, Firm and Steadfast, and Immovable (Hilton Theory):

 

     Nephi describes the valley of Lemuel as "firm and steadfast, and immovable" (1 Nephi 2:10). According to the Hiltons, the modern appearance of Wadi al-Afal is indeed that--a sandy bottom firmly delineated by the high canyon walls and solid mountains. [They] felt confident [they] had located a strong candidate for the site of the Valley of Lemuel. [They] also felt a special spirit in the Wadi al-Afal near the oasis of al-Bad in Saudi Arabia. could this be the very place where father Lehi pitched his tents for about four years? [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 55]

   

1 Nephi 2:10 This Valley, Firm and Steadfast, and Immovable (Potter Theory):

 

     Lehi described the valley as "firm, steadfast, and immovable" (1 Nephi 2:10). According to George Potter, while the very image of Arabia is that of sand dunes, desert plains and sand stone hills melting away by the wind into the great sand deserts, it would seem unlikely that such a valley could be found. Thus the valley of Lemuel must have been impressive. As Albert Einstein noted, "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts." A garden-variety valley would not have found its way to the plates.

     The grandeur of the valley, which I believe was the site of Lehi's first wilderness camp, is difficult to portray in words or even photographs. The valley consists of three sections. I refer to these as the Upper Valley or the Waters of Moses (9/10ths of a mile long), the Canyon of Granite (the valley of Lemuel proper, 33/8ths miles long), and the Lower Canyon (3/8ths of a mile long). These three geological features are found together at the western end of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (see illustration).

     Coming from the north, the first section of what I call the "Valley Lemuel" that Lehi would have entered would have been what local residents call the Waters of Moses. This oasis is located in the last mile of the wadi Tayyib al-Ism before it veers west and enters the shoreline mountains where a narrow canyon leads through the mountains to the sea. This upper valley is a pleasant jewel, with several hundred palm trees and twelve wells, spread out over approximately half a square mile. The date palms and the wells suggested to us that this could have been the second campsite of Moses after crossing the Red Sea. The site he called "Elim." Moses recorded finding twelve wells and three score and ten palm trees (Exodus 15:27). As implied in the name (Waters of Moses), the idea that Moses camped here was not new to the local "Midianites."

     The second section I call the "Canyon of Granite." This great fracture in the granite mountain border provides a passage to the sea. The "Canyon of Granite" provides a pleasant environment year round, even during the terrible heat of an Arabian Summer. On several occasions I have escorted groups into the Canyon of granite. Each time those in the party are astounded by the sight of the canyon. Not once has anyone seeing the canyon questioned its qualifications as a candidate for the "firm, steadfast, and immovable" valley of Lemuel. The towering cliff walls of the valley are so tall that it is difficult to photograph the canyon. Small groupings of date palms, berries, gourds, patches of tall grass and grain and other plants are found intermittently throughout the Canyon of Granite. . . . Temperatures average between 115o and 125o Fahrenheit in the Midian region of Arabia during the summer months. The Canyon of Granite would have been an ideal camp in which to wait through these months before continuing south in the Fall.

     The final section of the "Valley Lemuel" I term the "Lower Canyon" (see illustration) and the beach (see illustration). The Granite Canyon ends in a section that has a flat floor a few feet above sea level. This level area of the canyon runs for about 3/8ths of a mile. This is perhaps the most impressive section of the canyon. Here the height of the canyon walls are at their maximum. The granite cliffs rise over 2,000 feet straight up from the canyon's floor. The floor of the lower canyon was underwater during the time of Lehi. Dr. Wes Garner noted that the valley floor has risen over two hundred feet since Lehi's era. The smooth stone bed of the lower canyon and the cave-like undercuts at the base of the walls would have been caused by wave action over countless years. Yet even now, the lower part of the canyon starts within sixty feet from the waters of the Gulf. Not surprisingly, the canyon ends just as Nephi indicated, with the stream "empt[ying] into the Red Sea. The beautiful palm laden beach cove, with its narrow canyon exit from giant granite cliffs is a spectacular scene.

     Does the river run through a firm, steadfast, and immovable valley? Yes. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 48-49, 81, 65-73]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 This valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: West most of three groves of date palms found in the upper valley or Waters of Moses. Photo by JS. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 49]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 This valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: The Canyon of Granite. Three adults walking through the canyon, only half way to cliff face in background. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 80]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 This valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Sunset in the Lower Canyon, notice the man standing in the canyon floor. 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. 72]

 

1 Nephi 2:10 This valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable (Potter Theory) [Illustration]: Shoreline ending of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism. Photo by GW [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 48]

 

1 Nephi 2:11,13 Neither Did They Believe That Jerusalem . . . Could Be Destroyed According to the Words of the Prophets:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, the apparently strong reaction of the people of the city to Lehi's message, their hard-hearted rejection to the call of repentance from a Prophet of the Lord, can best be understood in the light of the events of the previous century. In 701 Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, mounted a campaign against Syria and Palestine with the aim of capturing the road to Egypt in preparation for his campaign against the Egyptians. Egypt's allies surrendered one by one as the Assyrian army approached and the Egyptian army was defeated at Eltekeh in Judah. Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem. Attempts to buy off the Assyrian army proved fruitless (2 Kings 13-16) and without allies Hezekiah's position seemed hopeless. Yet, at this time of near desperation, the Prophet Isaiah came forward to bolster the courage of the people by saying "He shall not come into this city . . . For I will defend the city to save it . . ." (Isaiah 37:33,35). Despite attempts to incite insurrection in the ranks of the defenders Hezekiah's resistance was successful. Sennacherib cut short the attack and left Palestine with his army which, according to the Old Testament (2 Kings 19:35), had been decimated by an epidemic, leaving some 185,000 dead.

     In the years that followed, this event would be recounted until "Later generations could ascribe this deliverance to nothing less than a supernatural intervention, second only to one which had secured the freedom of the Israelites from the Egyptian captivity."134 Regarding this event Professor Benjamin Mazar wrote:

           Embellished by legendary accretions, it strengthened the popular view of the impregnability of the city, and the ultimate sanctity and inviolability of mount Zion and the Temple. This confidence remained intact through subsequent generations down to the last years of the monarchy, until the day that the city walls were breached, the defending forces overwhelmed, and the city itself destroyed by the armies of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezaar."135

 

     In Laman and Lemuel we see the perfect embodiment of that same mindset:

           Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father. (1 Nephi 2:13)

[George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript (July 2000), p. 2]

     Note* How could the Jews at Jerusalem feel that the city was impregnable until the destruction in 587/6 B.C. when in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar had just taken 10,000 people, including the royal family, the palace officials, members of the army and all the craftsmen and smiths to Babylon (see 2 Kings 24:14-16)? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:22]

 

1 Nephi 2:11,13 Neither Did They Believe That Jerusalem . . . Could Be Destroyed According to the Words of the Prophets:

 

     In considering the chronological theories of those who propose that Lehi left Jerusalem after 597 B.C. (historically considered as the "first year of the reign of Zedekiah" -- 1 Nephi 1:4), one might wonder how Laman and Lemuel could say that they did not believe "that Jerusalem . . . could be destroyed" (1 Nephi 2:11,13). History records that the events preceding the reign of Zedekiah resulted in the overpowering of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the deportation of 10,000 of the most important and wealthy people (2 Kings 24:14). Perhaps in reading 1 Nephi 2:11-13, we should not stress the words "could be destroyed" and instead stress the phrase "according to the words of the prophets."

     If Laman and Lemuel truly believed what they said, and had survived all these historical events, they might have felt that the worst was over. But why would they feel that way? One reason has to do with which "prophets" Laman and Lemuel were referring to. Although Jeremiah foretold an exile of 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), the false Jewish prophets in both Babylon and Judah argued that it would last only two years (see Jeremiah 28:1-4). Zedekiah, along with the false prophets and princes surrounding him, looked to Egypt as a way of rebuilding Judah's army and making a stand against Babylon. Laman and Lemuel knew that the army of Egypt had forced the Babylonians to withdraw from Israel once before in 601 B.C. Perhaps they felt that with only a two year exile "according to the words of [their] prophets," and Zedekiah's alliance with Egypt, they would have been secure in Jerusalem. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A]

 

1 Nephi 2:11,13 Neither Did They Believe That Jerusalem . . . Could Be Destroyed According to the Words of the Prophets:

 

     According to Gerald Lund, in those last ten years of the reign of Zedekiah, the question that was asked again and again by the Jews was, Is Jerusalem really going to be destroyed? This was partly because the false prophets were confusing the people and partly because the Jews couldn't believe "God's people" would ever fall. . . . During the reign of Zedekiah, who was appointed to replace Jehoiachin as the ruler in Jerusalem, Zedekiah did not learn a thing from the previous tragedies brought on by Nebuchadnezzar, nor did the people of Judah. In Jerusalem, false prophets began to abound, predicting that Babylon would be overthrown and the captives returned. While both Jeremiah and Ezekiel strongly denounced these men (see Jeremiah 28, 29; Ezekiel 13), their presence added to the general confusion abounding in Jerusalem.

     In the face of Nebuchadnezzar's successes in Palestine and the eventual fall of Judah, four important questions naturally arose in the minds of the people:

     1. Is Jerusalem really going to be destroyed?

     2. If God is really God, and we are really his chosen people, why is he allowing this to happen? (See Ezekiel 4-24)

     3. If we are being destroyed for being like the other nations (which Ezekiel and other prophets had said many times), then why aren't those nations destroyed?

     4. What will this tragedy mean for the covenant? What will happen to all of the promises God has made about Israel's eventual triumph and salvation?

 

 In the writings of Ezekiel, these four basic questions seem to be understood and answered

 

     As for the question of whether Jerusalem was really going to be destroyed, Ezekiel gives an unqualified, resounding, thundering, Yes! It is the major theme of chapters 4-9, 11-12, 15, 19, 21-22, and 24. They all say Jerusalem has had it. That is a pretty hard answer to miss. Ezekiel himself went through several topological or symbolic actions to dramatize the coming disaster. For example, in chapter 4 he took a tile and drew a picture of Jerusalem on it. Then he put an iron pan against it. In that same chapter, by command of the Lord, he had to lie on his side for so many days, symbolizing the captivity, and then he was told to cook his bread with cow dung to symbolize that the people in Judah would eat defiled bread in coming times. In chapter 5 Ezekiel cut his hair and divided it into thirds, burning some and scattering some, again symbolizing what the people would suffer. In chapter 12 he moved his whole household, showing that the house of Judah was going to be moved out of their dwelling place in Jerusalem. In chapter 24 we read that Ezekiel's wife died on the very day Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem . . . The Lord said in essence that the death of Ezekiel's wife would serve as a type and symbol of Jerusalem's destruction. . . . Ezekiel was told not to mourn for his wife. Jerusalem was the bride of Jehovah, but there could be no mourning, for her tragedy was just and fully deserved. [Gerald N. Lund, "Ezekiel: Prophet of Judgment, Prophet of Promise," in Isaiah and the Prophets , pp. 80-87]

 

1 Nephi 2:13 They Were Like unto the Jews at Jerusalem, Who Sought to Take Away the Life of My Father:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, one is intrigued by the possibility that the secret combination among the Nephites had its origin in Jerusalem. Who, then, brought the organization to the New World? While it is true that the Jaredites had such a conspiratorial group, the knowledge of its exact nature, including its oaths, was kept from the Nephites even after the Jaredite record was translated by king Mosiah2 (Alma 37:29). So one possible answer is Laman and Lemuel or the sons of Ishmael, whose rebelliousness and attempts to slay Lehi and Nephi betray their true allegiance (1 Nephi 7:16-19; 16:37; 17:44; 2 Nephi 1:24; 5:3). Hugh Nibley hinted that Laman and Lemuel may have had such ties (see his discussion of the Laban incident in High Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites,There Were Jaredites, 91-99). Nephi noted that they did not believe their father's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem "and they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father" (1 Nephi 2:11-13; see also 1:20; 2:1; 7:14). He also recorded their declaration "that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people" (1 Nephi 17:22). This declaration is reminiscent of the words of Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadianton band nearly six centuries alter, who wrote that his "society and the works thereof I know to be good" (3 Nephi 3:9). [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Elders at Jerusalem in the Days of Lehi," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 72-73] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:1; Alma 51:8]

 

1 Nephi 2:14 The Valley of Lemuel (Hilton Theory):

 

     The "valley of Lemuel" (1 Nephi 2:14) seemed to be a safe place for Lehi to rest. Its location according to some was probably "three days" beyond the governing borders of Judah (which stopped at the tip of the Red Sea) and therefore presumably beyond the reach of any political powers in Jerusalem that might harm him or his group. Just as important, or more, the valley was blessed with a "continual" flow of water (see 1 Nephi 2:9). Because of such conditions described, the Hiltons feel that the best location for the Valley of Lemuel is al-Bad in the Wadi El Afal. George Potter, however, proposes a valley at the southern end of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism as a candidate for the Valley of Lemuel. Nevertheless, what is important to consider here is that both of these areas are situated in the same area as the ancient land of Midian.

     According to the Hiltons, this area in northwest Saudi Arabia had a vast livestock population: the armies of Israel, after conquering Midian, took as booty 675,000 sheep plus much other treasure (Numbers 31:43). Jethro, "the priest of Midian" and father-in-law of Moses, lived as a Bedouin in the land of Midian. (Exodus 2:16, 3:1). Concerning the presence of other people in Lehi's time, there can be no doubt that nomadic Bedouin tribes occupied the Arabian peninsula from ancient times. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, pp. 27, 28, 33]

     Lynn and Hope Hilton note that from earliest times, the Midianites lived on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, ca. 1,500 to 1,000 B.C. We know of them through 68 separate Bible references from Genesis to Habakkuk.136 Although they were caravaneers and stock raisers, and somewhat nomadic, they did build cities, the foremost, their capital, Jethro of Midian, being located at al-Bad, Saudi Arabia. They left an extensive archaeological record buried in the ruins of 56 ancient city sites which have been identified as Midianite.137 Their nation was bounded by Wadi Tayyib al-Ism ("The good name") on the north, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea on the west, Wadis Tiryam and Sadr on the south, and the desert on the east (see illustration).

     Midianites are descendants of Midian, the son of Abraham and his plural wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1-4). In the days of Moses, the Midianites were a powerful people, kin to the Hebrews, but often in conflict with them. Midianites have been identified in the Bible as early as the second millennium B.C. They are mentioned by name as early as 1700 B.C. as those who carried Joseph, son of Jacob, into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37:28). Their archaeological remains are found today. In contrast, no Midianite shards were discovered by the 1980 Saudi Archaeological survey done in the area north of Tayyib al-Ism or south of Wadi Sadr. These limits138 identify the boundaries of ancient Midian.

     The Midianites were absorbed by succeeding civilizations, including the Dedanites. The Dedanite kings were in power when Lehi and Nephi made their visit about 600 B.C. However, when Lehi arrived in this area, he would have probably lived among the descendants of Midian while he remained in the Valley of Lemuel (al-Bad). The Dedanites prospered in this area from approximately 1,000 to 500 B.C. We know of the Dedanites because the Bible makes eleven references to them between Genesis and Ezekiel.139 The location of the ancient capital city of Dedan140 is just four kilometers north from the modern city of al-Ula. Later, after the fall of Dedan, the Lihyanites built their capitol on top of Dedan. The Lihyan ruin is called al-Kieribah. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, 1996, pp. 78-80]

     Note* The Book of Mormon reader should take note of the striking coincidences here between the life of Moses and the life of Nephi. Moses and Nephi were both forced to flee to the same land of Midian (see Exodus 2:15). While there they both were married (see Exodus 2:21), both were in the company of a father holding the priesthood (see Exodus 2:16), both talked with the Lord (see Exodus 3:2), and both were prepared and called to lead their respective children of Israel through the wilderness to the promised land (see Exodus 3:7-10). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 16:14]

  

1 Nephi 2:14 Valley of Lemuel (Illustration): The Wadi El Afal may be the Valley of Lemuel. It cuts in a north-south direction from high in the Saudi Arabian mountains down to the Red Sea. Through these meandering curves filled with sand and gravel, Nephi and his brothers probably made their journeys back to Jerusalem. Further down the wadi, high mountains are on either side. It could have been from them that Nephi was caught away by the Spirit. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 66]

 

1 Nephi 2:14 Valley of Lemuel (Illustration): We felt a special spirit near the oasis at Al Beda. The ancient ruins there are still called Jethro, for this reportedly was the home of Moses' father-in-law. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 75]

 

1 Nephi 2:14 The Valley of Lemuel (Illustration): Kingdom of Lihyan (Lehi-an) 500 B.C. - 200 B.C. and "Lihyanite Territory." These illustrations show that the area where Lehi first camped was associated with the Land of Midian (the land where Jethro lived) and the name of Lehi. [Hope A. and Lynn M. Hilton, "The Lihyanites," p. 7]

 

1 Nephi 2:8,14 (The River Laman) . . . the Valley of Lemuel:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, even more whimsical and senseless to a westerner must appear the behavior of Lehi in naming a river after one son ("the river Laman" -- 1 Nephi 2:8), and its valley after another ("the valley of Lemuel" -- 1 Nephi 2:14). But the Arabs don't think that way. In the Mahra country, for example, "as is commonly the case in these mountains, the water bears a different name from the wadi." Likewise we might suppose that after he had named the river after his first-born the location of the camp beside its waters would be given, as any westerner would give it, with reference to the river. Instead, the Book of Mormon follows the Arabic system of designating the camp not by the name of the river (which may easily dry up sometime), but by the name of the valley. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 76]

 

1 Nephi 2:15 My Father Dwelt in a Tent:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, to an Arab the phrase "my father dwelt in a tent" (1 Nephi 2:15) says everything. "The present inhabitants of Palestine," writes Canaan, "like their forefathers, are of two classes: dwellers in villages and cities, and the Bedouin. As the life and habits of the one class differ from the those of the other, so do their houses differ. Houses in villages are built of durable material; . . . on the other hand, Bedouin dwellings, tents, are more fitted for nomadic life." An ancient Arab poet boasts that his people are "the proud, the chivalrous people of the horse and camel, the dwellers-in-tents, and no miserable ox-drivers." [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., p. 51] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 16:6]

 

1 Nephi 2:15 Tent

 

     In the ancient Near East, to dwell in a tent was considered a great honor, especially compared to living in a house in the city. It represented living close to and trusting in the Lord. Also, the father's tent was considered the center of the whole community (see Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 243) [Cited in Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, p. 6]

 

 

1 Nephi 2:15 Dwelt in a tent (Illustration): A tent used by King Sennacherib near Lachish, Palestine, is supported by poles and cords. The upper canopy was designed to catch the cooling breezes, and imitates those built in Assyrian houses. Relief from Nineveh, 704-681 B.C. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1534]

 

1 Nephi 2:15 Dwelt in a tent (Illustration): Typical bedouin tent made of goats' hair. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1534]

 

1 Nephi 2:15 Dwelt in a tent (Illustration): The typical Arab tent, or beit shaar (house of hair) has not changed substantially with time. It provides cooling shade in summer and, with the sides down, warmth in winter. The tents are traditionally made of camel or goats hair that is spun and then woven into a fabric as thick as a carpet. Lehi's tents may have been like this, or they may have been more elaborate, with geometric panels like those we found on a tent in Cairo. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail, p. 70]

 

1 Nephi 2:16 Exceedingly Young, Nevertheless Large in Stature:

 

     By comparing the term "exceeding young" (1 Nephi 2:16) referring to Nephi at this time with a reference to him as a "man" given later on in 1 Nephi 4:31 ("and now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature" -- italics added), some have theorized that a number of years had passed in between these two verses. However, immediately after verse 2:16, which uses the term "exceeding young," the text says that Nephi, "having great desires to know of the mysteries of God . . . did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me." Soon after this experience, Nephi explains that "I returned from speaking with the Lord to the tent of my father." Lehi then commanded Nephi to return for the plates, and this trip for the plates is the account that contains Nephi's reference to himself as a "man." Because Nephi parallels being "exceedingly young" with being "large in stature," and because we don't know exactly the amount of time that passed between Nephi's descriptive terms "exceedingly young" and "man"; perhaps we can entertain the idea that the word "stature" connotes more than just physical size: (1) Nephi, by being large in "stature," might have been more capable than his older brothers not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to do all that the Lord required of him; but much more important; and (2) Nephi might have felt he was "exceedingly young" because it was "exceedingly" unusual for a "man" at his "young" age to be visited by the Lord (2:16). Nephi came to know that even for a man "large in stature,” in order to do things properly, he needed to receive "much strength of the Lord" (1 Nephi 4:31). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:16 Exceedingly Young:

 

     If we assume that Sariah was 18 years old at the birth of Laman, and Laman was 22 years old when Lehi left Jerusalem, Sariah would have been close to 40 years old at that time. If Jacob was born 3 years later, she would have been 43, and if Joseph came along 2 years after Jacob, Sariah would have ended her childbearing years at the age of 45 (which age is not completely unreasonable). Therefore, it is reasonable to say that when Lehi left Jerusalem, Sam would have been about 18 years old and Nephi would have been about 14-16 years of age, or "exceedingly young" (1 Nephi 2:16). Certainly these ages are estimates, but they accommodate the scriptural story. The reader should realize that there are many factors embedded in the scriptural story that have to be satisfied when one attempts to shift the ages. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 2:16 I Did Cry unto the Lord:

 

     The phrase "to cry" is a Hebraism meaning to pray (compare Psalms 30:2, "O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me"). [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 7]

 

1 Nephi 2:17 He Believed in My Words:

 

     Brant Gardner notes that in the relationship of Nephi and Sam ("he believed in my words") we find one of the clearer examples of two of the Gifts of the Spirit: "To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful." (D&C 46:13-14) [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page, "http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/1 Nephi/1 Nephi2.htm, p. 14]

 

1 Nephi 2:20 Inasmuch As Ye Shall Keep My Commandments, Ye Shall Prosper:

 

     David Seely notes that King Josiah (640-609 B.C.) was a contemporary of Lehi. In the course of Josiah's religious reforms, a book was discovered in the temple that many scholars believe was some form of the book of Deuteronomy. Josiah's reforms are described in language similar to that in Deuteronomy, and the nature of the reforms closely follows the laws found only in Deuteronomy. These reforms are significant for Book of Mormon studies since Lehi grew up in Jerusalem during the reign of Josiah and must have been influenced by the religious reforms that affected the lives of everyone living there.

     According to Seely, in recounting the history of his father's exodus some thirty to forty years after the fact, Nephi was undoubtedly influenced by the scriptures contained on the brass plates, which contained the five books of Moses--and thus the book of Deuteronomy (see 1 Nephi 5:11). The language and theology of the Book of Mormon seem heavily dependent on Deuteronomy, perhaps more than any other biblical book. The very basis of the oft-repeated covenant in the Book of Mormon that "inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper" (1 Nephi 2:20) reflects the theology of Deuteronomy: "Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do" (Deuteronomy 29:9).141 [David R. Seely, "Lehi's Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies , vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, p. 67] [See Vol. 6, Appendix C]

 

1 Nephi 2:20 Ye . . . Shall Be Led to a Land of Promise:

 

     With reference to the words of his father Lehi, Nephi declares that he had "great desires to know of the mysteries of God" and that he "did cry unto the Lord and behold he did visit me" (1 Nephi 2:16). He then quotes the Lord as saying to him: "And as much as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands" (1 Nephi 2:20). Nephi also stated that when he returned from speaking with the Lord he entered the tent of Lehi, who then told Nephi that he had had a dream that Nephi and his brothers needed to return to Jerusalem to acquire the plates of Laban which contained a record of the Jews and the genealogy of Lehi's forefathers (1 Nephi 4:13-14).

     According to Potter and Wellington, it seems reasonable to assume that at this point in time, both Nephi and his father realized that they would not be returning to live in Palestine, thus the need for the plates of brass. It would also seem likely that Lehi shared this information with the entire family, for Nephi, in rallying his brothers for a second attempt in acquiring the plates from Laban, reminded them that the plates would be necessary "that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers" (1 Nephi 3:18-19) However, it is not certain if Lehi's party knew at this point that they would be traveling the length of Arabia and building a ship large enough to take them to a land of promise across the many waters. One should keep in mind that in the years that surrounded the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, many other Jews fled into central Arabia seeking new homes far from the persecutions of King Nebuchadnezzar.142 There were many Jewish settlements in Saudi Arabia, Dedan, Khaibar, and Medina (Qura'Arabiyyah)143 in that era which indicate that other migration parties from Palestine entered Arabia looking for a "land of promise" in its wilderness. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 70] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 13:12]; 17:36-38; 2 Nephi 1:5; Ether 2:8]

 

1 Nephi 2:22 Inasmuch As Thou Shalt Keep My Commandments, Thou Shalt Be Made a Ruler and a Teacher over Thy Brethren:

 

     In the Lord's first recorded speech to Nephi, He explained the conditions surrounding some special promises to him:

     1. Nephi would be led to a land of promise and would prosper (1 Nephi 2:20).

     2. Nephi would be made a ruler over his brethren (1 Nephi 2:22).

     3. Nephi would be made a teacher (minister) over his brethren (1 Nephi 2:22).

     4. If Nephi's brethren rebelled against the Lord, they would be cursed with a sore curse (1 Nephi

           2:23).

     These promises all came to be dramatically fulfilled. Nephi's testament to the fulfillment of these promises might be a reason why the writings of Nephi were divided into two books (First Nephi and Second Nephi). Nephi could have very easily written just a single book, therefore he must have had some purpose behind his decision to write two books. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [For further discussion of this situation, see the commentary on 1 Nephi: Title "His Reign and Ministry"]

 

1 Nephi 2:22 Thou Shalt Be Made a Ruler . . . over Thy Brethren:

 

     The Jewish custom was for the first-born son to receive the largest inheritance, with some notable exceptions: Ephraim was chosen over Manasseh (Genesis 48:14, 20, 26), Isaac over Ishmael (Genesis 17:19-21 [25-28]), Jacob over Esau (Genesis 27:19:41), and Joseph over Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 7]

 

1 Nephi 2:23 In That Day:

 

     The phrase "in that day" is a Hebraism for on that day (compare Exodus 10:28, "And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die"). [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 7]