1 Nephi 5
Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land
(1 Nephi )
1 Nephi 5:2 She Had Supposed That We Had Perished in the Wilderness:
Nephi records that when he and his brethren did not return on time from their trip to Jerusalem to recover the brass plates from Laban, their mother, Sariah, "had supposed that [they] had perished in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 5:2). Despite the life-threatening happenings that Nephi and his brethren had to endure at the hands of Laban, it is interesting to note here that it was the dangers of the wilderness that Sariah was keenly afraid of. George Potter notes that the land of Midian in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia is a wilderness second only in barrenness to the great Rub'al Khali, or Empty Quarter, of the central Arabian Peninsula. Hardly a blade of grass breaks up the monotony of the terrain. Temperatures average between 115o and 125o Fahrenheit during the summer months. During the springtime in Arabia, day time temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Survival experts advise downed pilots in the desert to first find shelter from the heat, then look for water, and finally to seek food. The Arabian sun will kill a man within hours if he cannot find shade. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 71]
1 Nephi 5:2 She had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness (Illustration): Northern border of Arabia, the red sands of the great Nafud desert and the barren plains of the former Midian region. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 10]
1 Nephi 5:2 She Had Supposed That We Had Perished in the Wilderness:
Facing the potential loss of all four of her sons, Sariah had "complained" against Lehi, for "she had supposed that [they] had perished in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 5:2). According to Camille Fronk, it was one thing for Sariah to leave a comfortable lifestyle, but quite another to have her most precious blessing torn from her. Children were the focus of life for women in ancient Israel (see Psalms 127:3; 128:3). Only in their roles as mothers did Israelite women receive honor and authority. "The [Israelite] woman's primary and essential role within the family . . . accounts for her highest personal and social reward."186 More specifically, being a mother of sons created a woman's greatest source of joy and comfort. Sons were seen as a particular blessing not only because they could defend the family in the face of opposition, but because they promised a continuation of the family name.187 A reciprocal love was typical among the sons of these mothers. Charles A. Doughty, a 19th-century British explorer who made the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) by traveling by camel through some of the same deserts that Lehi's family traveled, observed that among Bedouin women "the grown son has a tender regard toward his mother, . . . before the teeming love even of his fresh young wife" and could be depended on to welcome his mother as matron in his tent should something happen to her husband.188 This relationship may partially explain why Nephi spoke more of his mother than of his wife.
Such strong family ties made the tragedy of losing a son especially traumatic--almost insurmountably devastating if a mother like Sariah were to lose all of her sons at one time. Centuries after Sariah's time, but within a similar desert cultural tradition, Doughty encountered a woman who attempted to offer him an armful of fresh produce while pleading,
I have lost my children, one after [the] other, four sons, and for the last I besought my Lord that He would leave me this child, but he died also . . . and he was come almost to manly age. And there are times when this sorrow so taketh me, that I fare like a madwoman; but tell me, O stranger, hast thou no counsel in this case? And as for me I do that which thou seest,--ministering to the wants of others--in hope that my Lord, at the last, will have mercy upon me.189
Coupled with this profound motherly love was Sariah's knowledge of specific dangers awaiting her sons in Jerusalem. Many Jerusalem men holding positions of power had a vendetta against "the prophets" who vehemently warned against resistance to the Babylonians (see 1 Nephi 7:14-15).190 We can therefore understand some of Sariah's fears when her sons did not return from Jerusalem in the time frame she anticipated. So again we ask, why did the Lord inspire Nephi to include this incident in his narrative? Obviously, Nephi's intent was not to demean his mother, nor to lead readers to write her off as a faithless murmurer. It is noteworthy that Nephi was not personally present to witness Sariah's fears, but he recorded her experience as among those "things which are pleasing unto God" (1 Nephi 6:5). [Camille Fronk, "Desert Epiphany: Sariah & the Women in 1 Nephi," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, pp. 9-11, 80] [See the rest of the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:2]
Note* Does the word "complained" as it is applied to Sariah imply something different than the word "murmur" as it is applied to Laman and Lemuel? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 5:2 Behold Thou Hast Led Us Forth from the Land of Our Inheritance . . . and . . . and:
According to Richard Rust, the skillful use of repetition in the Book of Mormon as a principle of reinforcement and witness can be appreciated by close examination of various narrative threads woven by Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni. An excellent example of this repetition can be found in 1 Nephi 5, starting with Nephi's reference to Sariah's lament:
For she [Sariah] had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying:
(1) Behold thou has led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and
(2) my sons are no more, and
(3) we perish in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 5:2, emphasis added)
In Nephi's narrative, Sariah's worries are counterbalanced six verses later by her three-part witness uttered at the return of her sons:
Now (1) I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and
(2) I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and
(3) given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. (1 Nephi 5:8)
The reader should note that Sariah's final statement reinforces and echoes Nephi's initial covenant commitment: "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)
With this covenant relationship in mind, we now view Lehi and Nephi (and Sariah) as they rejoice that they had:
(1) kept the commandments,
(2) obtained from Laban the records which the Lord had commanded, and
(3) now could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto their children (1 Nephi 5:20-21)
[Richard D. Rust, "Recurrence in Book of Mormon Narratives," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 3, Num. 1 (Spring 1994), pp. 46-47] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 3:7; 1 Nephi 5:4; 1 Nephi 5:8; 3 Nephi 14:23]
1 Nephi 5:3 After This Manner of Language Had My Mother Complained Against My Father:
According to Kevin and Shauna Christensen, the story of Sariah's complaint and testimony deserves a closer reading than it has received thus far:
And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto our father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad, for she truly had mourned because of us. For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness. And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father. (1 Nephi 5:1-3)
At first glance, we might want to dismiss this part of the story as a negative image, since it depicts Sariah as "complaining." But in structuring the account, Nephi starts with the end, highlighting her gladness and joy in contrast to her mourning over her sons and sacrifices. This shows that his focus is not on the fact that she complained, but on the outcome of the experience. Nephi recognizes the validity of both her fears and her joy. Of all the stories he could tell about his mother, why does he give the most space to this one? Sensitized by readings on allusion and type-scenes by Alan Goff191 and Robert Alter,192 we should hear an echo of the account of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah in 1 Kings 17:9-24. Like Sariah, the widow had been asked by a servant of God to sacrifice all her material goods and subsequently seems to have lost her son. She too complains and the prophet recognizes the validity of her concerns. He offers no rebuke; instead, Elijah prays to the Lord on her behalf. Lehi's response to Sariah is just as exemplary (see 1 Nephi 5:4-6).
In 1 Nephi 5:4-6, Lehi comforts Sariah; he does not rebuke her or belittle or dismiss her concerns. The story continues (see 1 Nephi 5:7-8) in a way that strengthens the association between Sariah and the widow, and, by extension between Lehi and Elijah as servants of God. The allusion to the story of Elijah is confirmed on comparing Sariah's response to the delivery of her sons and the restoration of the widow's son. Sariah "spake saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them." The widow says, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth" (1 Kings 17:24). The comparison makes Lehi an Elijah in the same way that biblical stories of Elisha parallel Elijah's acts and demonstrate that Elisha was Elijah's successor. So, of all the stories Nephi could choose to tell about his mother, he chooses one that "likens" her to an exemplary woman in the scriptures. [Kevin and Shauna Christensen, "Nephite Feminism Revisited: Thoughts on Carol Lynn Pearson's View of Women in the Book of Mormon," in FARMS Review of Books, Volume 10, Number 2, 1998, pp. 21-22]
1 Nephi 5:4 I Know That I Am a Visionary Man:
In 1 Nephi 5:4, Lehi states: "I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God." John Tvedtnes notes that Lehi is three times referred to as "a visionary man" (1 Nephi 2:11; 5:2, 4). The term does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible, but is nonetheless authentic. It is the Hebrew word hozeh, the active participle of the root from which derive the words hazon and hizzayon, "vision."193 In each case, the King James Version translates the term as "seer," which is the same as the KJV rendering for ro'eh (from the verb to see).194
Both Hebrew roots have the verbal meaning of "to see," but it is likely that hozeh is behind the Book of Mormon term visionary man, while ro'eh is probably the word behind seer in 2 Nephi 3:6-7, 11, 14 and Mosiah 8:13-17. The latter passage, along with Mosiah 28:13-16 and Joseph Smith History 1:35, indicates that the term seer was used by the Nephites to designate one who had power to use the interpreters, which have come to be known to us as the Urim and Thummim. [John A. Tvedtnes, "A Visionary Man," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., 1999, pp. 29-30] [See the commentary on Mosiah 28:20]
1 Nephi 5:5 Behold, I Have Obtained a Land of Promise:
Angela Crowell explains that in Hebrew thinking, an action is regarded as being either completed or incompleted. Hebrew, therefore, knows no past, present, or future tenses, but instead a Perfect and an Imperfect [form]. . . . The Hebrew Perfect [form] may be taken to represent action in the past (Weingreen 1959:56-57). The prophetic perfect [form] is a common usage in the language of the prophets. The prophet so transports his mind ahead "that he describes the future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him." This happens often in making promises or threats and also in the language of contracts. A good example is found in 1 Nephi 5:5, "But behold, I have obtained a land of promise . . ." The reader should note that this phrase was spoken while Lehi was still in the wilderness by the Red Sea. [Angela M. Crowell, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 7]
Note* Prophetic language is also covenant language. It is interesting that the idea of obtaining "a land of promise" was a covenant blessing not only for Lehi but for Nephi. So when did Nephi make any covenants with the Lord? Before Nephi ever accepted the task of recovering the plates of Laban. He says:
"having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me . . . And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart, And inasmuch 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 2:16, 19-20)
Nephi then says that he returned to the tent of his father (1 Nephi 3:1) where Lehi was waiting with a commandment of the Lord to "seek the records and bring them down hither into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 3:4). It is then that Nephi said his famous words, which have been quoted as an example of faith, but are in actuality much more. They are an affirmation of a covenant with the Lord:
"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes][See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:20; 1 Nephi 17:36-38; 2 Nephi 1:5; Ether 2:8] [See the commentary on Mosiah 15:12; 1 Nephi 31:8]
1 Nephi 5:8 I Know of a Surety:
The words of Nephi: "I know" (1 Nephi 3:7), and of Lehi: "I know" (1 Nephi 5:4), and of Sariah: "Now I know of a surety" (1 Nephi 5:8) might not just be representative of simple faith, but a genuine witness to a covenant relationship with the Lord, and the power of His covenant word both in person and in written record to preserve them and their posterity while journeying in the wilderness to the promised land. Can we liken this to (1) the sign of the covenant; and (2) the sure sign of the covenant? If the words "I know" are covenant words, did Sariah also make a covenant with the Lord similar to Lehi and Nephi? Or is Sariah's covenant with the Lord implicit in Lehi's covenant? In other words, had Sariah covenanted to obey her husband as he obeyed the covenant he had made with the Lord? When Nephi says "after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father" (1 Nephi 5:3), is he referring to covenant related language? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary of 1 Nephi 1:3; 1 Nephi 3:7; 1 Nephi 5:2; 3 Nephi 14:23; 1 Nephi 5:4]
1 Nephi 5:8 Now I know of a surety (Illustration): Sariah's Epiphany. Artist: John S. Lepinski. [Camille Fronk, "Desert Epiphany: Sariah & the Women in 1 Nephi," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, p. 4] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:2]
1 Nephi 5:9 They Did Rejoice Exceedingly, and [They] Did Offer Sacrifice and Burnt Offerings unto the Lord:
In 1 Nephi 5:9, Nephi writes: "And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel." Camille Fronk notes that Nephi reported that "they" offered the sacrifice. Since Nephi was writing in the first person, he tells us that he was not included as a primary participant in the ordinance. The context suggests that Lehi and Sariah together performed this sacred act of worship. One can feel the renewed personal commitment that Sariah reverently placed on the altar alongside the animal sacrifice. And, most important, there is no indication that Sariah ever "complained" again. [Camille Fronk, "Desert Epiphany: Sariah & the Women in 1 Nephi," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, p. 11] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:2]
1 Nephi 5:9 They . . . Did Offer Sacrifice and Burnt Offerings:
Under the Deuteronomic Code a man could offer sacrifice for his own family, even though he was not of the tribe of Levi. Elkanah, an Ephraimite, in 1 Samuel 1:3-4 went yearly to "sacrifice unto the Lord" at Shiloh. Gideon of the tribe of Manasseh, built an altar and offered burnt offerings at the command of the Lord (Judges 6:24-26). [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 12]
1 Nephi 5:10 The Records Which Were Engraven upon the Plates of Brass:
Are there any evidences of records which were engraven on metal plates such as were "the plates of brass" ? (see 1 Nephi 5:10) While the brass plates might have required a knowledge of Egyptian to read them (see Mosiah 1:4), the records primarily concerned the history of the Israelites. According to William Hamblin, specific Hebrew examples of writing on metal plates are relatively limited in number, but clearly attest to the practice. For example:
(1) The oldest example of Hebrew writing on metal is the engraved gold plate attached to the front of the turban of the high priest. According to Exodus 28:36, Moses was ordered to "make a plate (tzitz) of pure gold, and engrave upon it as an engraved seal (khotem), "Holy to Yahweh."
(2) Excavations in the late 1970's uncovered First Temple period tombs at Ketef Hinnom, near Jerusalem. Among the artifacts discovered in this dig were two small silver plates dating to the seventh century B.C., containing the priestly benedictions found in Numbers 6:24-26 and representing "the earliest known fragments of the biblical text."
(3) In 161 B.C. Judas Maccabaeus concluded a treaty with the Romans which "the Romans engraved on bronze tables and sent to Jerusalem for the Jews to keep there as a record" (1 Maccabees 8:22). Josephus' account states, however, that the Jews themselves engraved the document in bronze. In his analysis of this incident Jonathan Goldstein concludes that since there are no other known instances of Romans sending bronze treaties to their allies (as opposed to keeping copies of the treaties on bronze plates in Rome), Josephus' account is probably more accurate. Later, in 140 B.C., when Simon was proclaimed by the Jews as both high prist and prince, "they ordered that this text [of Simon's privileges and responsibilities] be drawn up on bronze tablets and set up in the precinct of the sanctuary [of the temple] in a conspicuous place and that copies of the tablets be placed in the treasury [of the temple] so as to be available for Simon and his sons." These examples clearly indicate that, following the common practice of most other cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, the Jews kept records of important historical documents on bronze plates in their temple.
(4) The most well-known example of Hebrew writing on metal plates is the famous Copper Scroll (3C15) from Qumran (1st Century A.D.), containing a list of hidden temple treasures.
The evidence leaves no doubt that the Hebrews had a longstanding tradition dating at least to the First Temple period (well before 587 B.C.) of writing sacred texts on metal plates for amulets, inscriptions, and literary documents. [William J. Hamblin, "Sacred Writings on Bronze Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, p. 2]
1 Nephi 5:10 He Did Search (the Plates of Brass) from the Beginning:
In view of the visions that followed directly after Lehi (and Nephi) searched the plates of brass "from the beginning" (1 Nephi 5:10), Lehi and Nephi probably received their visions while pondering, studying, and trying to convey the message of the brass plates to others. The visions that followed these scriptures undoubtedly added to their spiritual insight and made them great teachers (D&C 33:8) of gospel principles. In the same way, visions and revelations were granted to Joseph Smith (see the headings in the D&C).
Chronologically speaking, one might wonder how much time it took Lehi and Nephi to read through the gospel teachings contained in the Brass Plates. Nephi mentions that the plates of brass contained:
1. The five books of Moses (1 Nephi 5:11)
2. A record of the Jews up to the reign of Zedekiah (1 Nephi 5:12)
3. Prophecies of the holy prophets to Jeremiah (1 Nephi 5:13)
4. A genealogy of Lehi's ancestors (1 Nephi 5:14)
It is interesting to note that when prophesying about the Bible, Nephi said that it was "a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many . . . [in the Bible]" (1 Nephi 13:23). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 13:23] [See Appendix A]
1 Nephi 5:10 He did search [the records] from the beginning (Illustration): "Lehi took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning," by A&OR. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1062]
1 Nephi 5:10 Lehi took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and did search them from the beginning (Illustration): Lehi Studying the Plates of Brass. Lehi "found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph." Artist: Clark Kelley Price [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 16]
1 Nephi 5:10 Lehi took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning (Illustration): Lehi Studying the Plates of Brass. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, January 1988, p. 28]
1 Nephi 5:11 The Five Books of Moses:
In 2 Kings 22:2-13 there is an account of the discovery of the Book of the Law by Hilkiah, the high priest during the renovation of the temple in the days of Josiah, the king of Judah. How could the Jews in the days of Josiah be without the Book of the Law when the brass plates which contained the "five books of Moses" (1 Nephi 5:11) were in the hands of Laban or one of his predecessors? Sidney B. Sperry asks, are we to suppose that the keepers of the brass plates deliberately withheld the Book of the Law from the Jews? They must have known the Jews were without it. Such an action would seem strange because certain individuals were allowed access to the plates in order to write the prophecies of Jeremiah. Perhaps the Book of the Law was some other book than we have supposed, but that seems quite unlikely. At present we are unable to answer, with any certainty. [Sidney B. Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, pp. 41-42]
According to Verneil Simmons, one can only ask why the earlier find of the Book of the Law in the Temple was such a shock in the days of Josiah, when apparently the writings on the brass plates of Laban were up-to-date and available. Perhaps the situation was similar to that evident later in the Nephite history when the records kept by the priest line seemed to be totally separate from the civil records of the king line (see Jacob 1:1-3; Omni 1:11). And it would appear that neither of the records had much influence with either the kings or priests in the old world or the new. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 71]
Perhaps the record keepers feared that if they made things known to the king of Judah, he would confiscate the records entrusted to the tribe of Joseph since members of that tribe were now living in Judah instead of in Northern Israel. Or perhaps there was a conspiracy to keep this information from the people. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:13, 3:3]
1 Nephi 5:11 He Beheld That They Did Contain . . . :
According to Hugh Nibley, the contents of the brass plates is an amazing thing. At that time the Old Testament was not in the possession of Jews. You couldn't have it because it was a secret book. The circulation was very limited. The law was read publicly once a year, but only by the Scribes and Pharisees. That's why they were so jealous of their rights. The Scribes and Pharisees were the ones who started interpreting the law in Babylon where they didn't have a temple. They got a proprietary claim. They called themselves the rabbis, which means "the great ones." It's their own title. . . . It wasn't until the third century that Ptolemy had the seventy Jews come down. He was the king of Egypt and direct successor of Alexander the Great. He was a great and competent ruler, and he was collecting the greatest library in the world. . . . He thought he had every book on religion, but he was told, "There's one book you don't have, and that's the book of the Jews." So he ordered the seventy Jews to be brought back to Alexandria. He shut each one up in a special cubbyhole by himself and gave him a copy of the Old Testament to translate. Then he compared the translations. . . . That's why it's called the Septuagint: it was a translation by seventy Jews. By comparing them he knew that they were right. What's more, the Septuagint is far older than any Hebrew text we have. The oldest Hebrew text we have is the Ben Asher Codex from the ninth century. . . .
But notice what was in the brass plates. It was the Tanach he brought back. It wasn't just the plates of Moses. T is for Torah: that's the five books of Moses. N is for Nebi im, the prophets. And K is for the Ketubim, which are the literary works (like the Psalms) and the histories. They call the entire Old Testament the Tanach, and that's exactly what was in the bronze plates. . . . But remember, nobody outside of Israel ever thought about the Old Testament. Ptolemy didn't even know about it, though he was a very learned man. He didn't know about it until a Jew in his court told him about it. It was known only in Judah and only to a very select group of scribes who jealously guarded it. . . .
The brass plates also had a genealogy, and Lehi found out that he was a descendant of Joseph. Why didn't he, who was an important rich man, have it? Well, these documents were very rare, and they were secret. He wouldn't have been able to get them. Laban was also a descendant of Joseph in a direct line. that's probably why they were in his house. But only one person at a time could receive these genealogical records; that was the direct descendant. In this case it happened to be Laban. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 164-165] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:18; 13:23; 19:22; 19:23; also Alma 37:3-5]
1 Nephi 5:11 The Five Books of Moses:
According to Walter Kaiser, Jr., a great deal of skepticism remains around the oft repeated biblical claim that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But by the time of Joshua, this piece of revelation must have been coming to its completion, for only Joshua is said to have added any words to this legislation (Joshua 24:26). Its status as divine and holy seems to be indicated specifically enough by God's instructions to place it in the ark of the covenant. [Water C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, p. 25]
1 Nephi 5:11 They [the Brass Plates] Did Contain the Five Books of Moses:
Lehi took the plates of brass and searched them from the beginning. Nephi notes that Lehi,
beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; and also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; and also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
And it came to pass that . . . Lehi also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; (1 Nephi 5:11-14)
The following is a list of references to quotations from the plates of brass within the Book of Mormon:
a. Five books of Moses (1 Ne 5:11)
1. Creation (1 Ne 17:36) (2 Ne 2:14)
2. Fall of Adam (2 Ne 2:18) [2 Ne 2:14-26]
3. "All the holy prophets from Moses to Abraham" (Hel 8:16,18) [Alma 46:24-26]
4. Prophecies of Joseph (2 Ne 4:1-2) [2 Ne 3:5-21]
5. Life of Moses (Hel 8:11,14-15,16)
6. Law of Moses (2 Ne 25:24-25) (Alma 25:15) (2 Ne 9:17; 15:28) (Hel 13:1; 15:5)
b. Record of the Jews down to the reign of Zedekiah (1 Ne 5:12)
c. Prophecies of the Holy Prophets including many by Jeremiah (1 Ne 5:13)
1. Ezias (Helaman 8:20)
2. Isaiah [1 Ne 20,21] [2 Ne 6,7,8,12-24] [Mos 14] (Hel 8:20) [3 Ne 22 (Savior's quote)]
3. Jeremiah (Hel 8:20)
4. Neum (1 Ne 19:10)
5. Zenock (1 Ne 19:10) (Alma 33:15) (Hel 8:20) (3 Ne 10:16)
6. Zenos (1 Ne 19:10-17) [Jacob 5] (Alma 33:13) (Hel 8:19) (3 Ne 10:16)
7. Unknown Prophets197 (2 Ne 32:4) (2 Ne 9:10-13) (Mos 3:10) (Alma 11:40-45)
(Hel 5:8,12,25; 10:7; 12:25-26)
d. Genealogy of Lehi's fathers (1 Ne 5:14-16)
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix B of Volume 6]
1 Nephi 5:11 We beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses (Illustration): Moses [Clark Kelley Price, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1]
1 Nephi 5:11 Adam and Eve (Illustration): Adam and Eve. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #101]
1 Nephi 5:12 A Record of the Jews from the Beginning:
[See the commentary on Ether 1:3]
1 Nephi 5:12 A Record of the Jews from the Beginning, Even down to the Commencement of the Reign of Zedekiah:
After Nephi brought back the brass plates, Lehi searched through them and found that they contained "a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah" (1 Nephi 5:12). This phrase might imply that not much time had passed between the "commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah" (1 Nephi 1:4) and the time when Nephi retrieved the brass plates; otherwise, more writings would be on the plates. On the other hand, the phrase might imply that a wicked Laban just did not record anything after the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 5:11-13 The Plates of Brass (Knowledge of the Old Testament in Mesoamerica):
In Volume IV of his Antiquities of Mexico, Lord Kingsborough found so many evidences of Biblical stories among the Indians that he concluded: "It is unnecessary to attempt in this place to trace out any further scriptural analogies in the traditions and mythology of the New World, since the coincidences which have already been mentioned are sufficiently strong to warrant the conclusion that the Indians, at a period long antecedent to the arrival of the Spaniards in America, were acquainted with a portion at least of the Old Testament.” [Quoted in Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 409]
1 Nephi 5:13 The Prophecies of the Holy Prophets, from the Beginning [down to Jeremiah]:
According to Walter Kaiser, Jr., by the sixth century B.C., in the book of the prophet Daniel, there were clear references already to "the books" of the prophets (Daniel 9:2).198 In fact, what Daniel had reference to was the prophecy of Jeremiah about Judah remaining in captivity for seventy years. Since Daniel was writing during Judah's captivity, that means he was writing scarcely more than seventy years since Jeremiah wrote his prophecy, and already regarded it as "Scriptures." A similar situation can be observed in the way Jeremiah treated a prophecy of the prophet Micah, who preceded him by some 125 years. Jeremiah warned: "Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah . . . "This is what the Lord Almighty says: Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets'" (Jeremiah 26:18). Here is a strong argument for the progressive recognition of the Scriptures as they emerged from the hands of their writers rather than the more popular assertion that it was a church council or the like that declared what properly constituted Scripture and what did not.
One of the criteria found within the text of Scripture is that there was a passing of the mantle, as it were, from one writer to another.199 Indeed, a veritable chain of verses in Chronicles could well set the scene for this thesis. For example, 1 chronicles 29:29 declared that the history of David was written in the books of the prophets Samuel, Nathan and Gad. This is followed by a notice in 2 Chronicles 9:29 that the history of Solomon was written by the prophets Nathan, Ahijah and Iddo. Similarly, the work of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15) was composed by the prophets Shemaiah and Iddo. Then Abijah's history was composed by the prophet Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22); Jehoshaphat's by the prophet Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34); Hezekiah's by Isaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 32:32); and Manasseh's by "seers" (another name for prophets) who went unnamed (2 Chronicles 33:18-19). This chain of prophets existed from before the days of David up to the end of the Judean kingdom. Accordingly, the case for a succession of prophets is a real phenomenon of the biblical text. In effect, the prophets passed the baton from one to the other, thereby setting up a stream of thought and an indication of where to look for that which was to be regarded as canonical. [Water C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, pp. 26, 32-33]
1 Nephi 5:13 The Prophecies of the Holy Prophets:
According to McConkie and Millet, the "prophecies of the holy prophets" (1 Nephi 5:13) which were on the brass plates would have been similar to those contained in our Old Testament, but much more extensive and complete. The brass plates contained, for example, the prophecies of Abraham concerning the coming of Jesus Christ (Helaman 8:16-17), the prophecies of Jacob concerning the Nephite branch of his descendants (Alma 46:23-26), and prophecies of Joseph concerning Moses and Joseph Smith (2 Nephi 3). In addition we become aware, through references in the Book of Mormon relating to the brass plates, of such noble but little-known prophetic figures as Zenos, Zenock, and Neum. (1 Nephi 19:10-17; Jacob 5; Alma 33:3-17; 34:7; 3 Nephi 10:16.) [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 49]
1 Nephi 5:13 By the Mouth of Jeremiah:
John A. Tvedtnes informs us that Hebrew often uses compound prepositions, made up of a preposition plus a noun, in places where English would normally use just a preposition. For example, Hebrew uses compound prepositions that would be translated literally as "by the hand of" and "by the mouth of [Jeremiah]" (1 Nephi 5:13). English would normally use just "by [Jeremiah]." [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon" in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 81]
1 Nephi 5:13 Many Prophecies Which Have Been Spoken by the Mouth of Jeremiah:
Question: How did the prophet Jeremiah's words get in records kept by a wicked Laban? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 5:13 Many Prophecies Which Have Been Spoken by the Mouth of Jeremiah:
According to David and JoAnn Seely, the Book of Mormon records that the brass plates contained "the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah" (1 Nephi 5:13).
200 Although we do not know the process by which the keeper of the brass plates acquired and wrote the prophecies on the plates, the book of Jeremiah is the only book in the entire Bible that tells us how it originated.
In 605 B.C. the Lord commanded Jeremiah to recite to his scribe Baruch all of the word of the Lord from the time of Josiah down to that moment (see Jeremiah 36:1-4). Jeremiah then commanded Baruch to take this scroll and read it to the people in the precincts of the temple (see Jeremiah 36:8). This Baruch did, but, when King Jehoiakim heard about it, he ordered Baruch to deliver the scroll to the king. Jehoiakim had a servant read the scroll to him and as he heard the words of the Lord read to him he took his knife and cut the scroll in pieces and burned it (see Jeremiah 36:20-26). The Lord then commanded Jeremiah to take a fresh scroll and give it to Baruch and to dictate again the prophecies. Baruch wrote down all of the prophecies that had been lost, together with many similar words (see Jeremiah 36:32).
From this account we learn many significant things about the book of Jeremiah, and several possibilities emerge as to how Jeremiah's writings were preserved on the brass plates. First, it seems clear that Jeremiah maintained the prophecies in his memory for a long time. Jehoiakim's destruction of the scroll of Jeremiah may have provided the impetus for the keeper of the record on the brass plates to acquire a copy of the prophecies of Jeremiah. The keeper of the brass plates could have had Jeremiah dictate the prophecies directly to him to be recorded on the plates; possibly Baruch loaned him the scroll; or perhaps the keeper of the brass plates copied the record from the second scroll as a backup in case the scroll was again destroyed. It is interesting that the Book of Mormon does not specify that the prophecies of Jeremiah up to the time of Zedekiah were preserved. Perhaps this is an indication that the sayings of Jeremiah were copied onto the brass plates in conjunction with the attempt to destroy the prophecies of Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (see Jeremiah 36). [David Rolph and JoAnn H. Seely, "Lehi & Jeremiah: Prophets, Priests & Patriarchs," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, FARMS, Vol 8, Num 2, 1999, pp. 29-30]
Note* The book of Jeremiah records that it was Baruch, son of Neriah, who transcribed the prophet Jeremiah's words (Jeremiah 32:12; 36; 43:1-7; and 45). According to Walter Kaiser, through a most amazing combination of circumstances, it would appear that we now have two extraordinary reminders of reliability of the witness to Baruch's presence in the time of Jeremiah (thus giving added credence to Jeremiah's words).
A bulla is a lump of clay impressed with a scribe's seal. Bullae were used to seal documents written on papyrus or parchment. After the document was rolled and secured with a string, a glob of clay was applied to the knot and then a seal was affixed to show ownership or the name of the sender. One particular bulla that has been found bears the same name as the scribe in the book of Jeremiah. In three lines of ancient Hebrew text, written in the formal cursive style of the seventh century B.C., the seal reads, "belonging to Berekhyahu, the scribe."201 Berekhyahu is almost certainly the complete name of the shortened form Baruch, which means "Blessed of Yahweh." Baruch's father, likewise, in its full form is also Neriyahu, called Neriah in the Bible. The suffix -yahu is a shortened form of Yahweh and appears on many Israelite names in this period of history. The bulla has been designated "the seal of Baruch."
Now a second bulla has shown up in a privately printed book entitled Forty New Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions. Even though no authors are listed in the book, it is said that one is Robert Deutsch, a self-described archaeologist, and the other is Michael Heltzer, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at the University of Haifa. The same seal that impressed the bulla just described as belonging to Baruch was used on this one, for the three registers of writing are identical. The whole seal is also surrounded by a double framing line. On the back of this bulla are impressions of the papyrus fibers from the document to which it once was tied. What is remarkable about this second bulla is that its edge is embossed with a fingerprint, which is presumably that of Baruch the scribe himself. Baruch must have written and sealed the document to which it was attached. Thus we not only have evidence of the accuracy of the claim that Baruch was a scribe; we may even have the very fingerprint of Jeremiah's scribe.202 [Water C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, pp. 158-159]
1 Nephi 5:13 Many Prophecies Which Have Been Spoken by the Mouth of Jeremiah:
Nephi declares that the plates of brass contained "many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah" (1 Nephi 5:13) and that they were "a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah" (1 Nephi 5:12). One might wonder, How did the prophet Jeremiah's words get in records kept by a wicked Laban who sided with the king? Jeremiah' words had been considered subversive to the state and the scroll upon which they were written was cut up into little pieces by king Jehoiakim. Why would Laban even consider engraving those words on metal plates? According to Potter and Wellington, Zoram might have been the one responsible. Zoram appears to have been in charge of the plates so presumably he could determine what was placed on, or removed from, them. When Nephi eventually revealed his true identity to Zoram something interesting happened. Zoram was afraid for his life and had to be restrained by Nephi. Nephi first promised that he would spare Zoram's life if he would listen to what Nephi had to say (1 Nephi 4:32). He then made an oath that Zoram would be a free man if he accompanied them into the wilderness (1 Nephi 4:33). Zoram remained apparently unconvinced at this stage because Nephi had to speak to him still further. Nephi next told Zoram that it was the Lord who had commanded him to "do this thing" (1 Nephi 4:34). Only at this stage does Nephi tell us that Zoram was satisfied.
Zoram obviously held a high position in his master's household and presumably had some power and authority therein. He had a great deal to lose by joining with Nephi and yet as soon as he heard that the Lord had commanded them to do this thing he immediately joined them and even made an oath to remain with them from that time forth. Zoram left all his possessions behind, perhaps even family, to be with the Lord's anointed. This sounds very much as though Zoram, although associated with those in authority, in fact sided with the prophets and saw this was an opportune time to depart. This assumption is further born out when we look at Zoram's actions following this time. We never read of Zoram murmuring against Lehi or Nephi. Nephi is the only other one who is not reported to murmur on the entire journey. When the family reached the promised land, Nephi eventually left with the righteous members of the family. Zoram and his family went with him (2 Nephi 5:6).
Could one possibly conclude that Zoram had placed the records of the prophet Jeremiah on the brass plates, unbeknownst to Laban? That instead of following his master he had followed the Lord, that his interest in the plots of the elders of the Jews was as much in the interest of self-preservation as current affairs? He must have known that his position was precarious. If Laban ever read the plates he would immediately become aware of Zoram's politics. Who can know how Zoram felt when he thought that Laban (Nephi in disguise) wanted to see the plates? How must his heart have pounded as his mind raced to think of excuses? At first he was confused when he found that Laban was in fact Nephi, but quickly regained his composure and came to the conclusion that now was the time to make the transition from siding with Laban to siding with the Lord's servants.
The obtaining of the brass plates is the central portion of the chiasm of the first nine chapter. Nephi is bringing this part to our attention in order to prove his purpose to show us "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" (1 Nephi 1:20). Nephi tells us that he is abridging the record of his father (1 Nephi 1:17) and yet this part of the story is composed entirely of intimate details of what went on in Jerusalem that would only have been available to Nephi. This part is obviously an insertion by Nephi to create that chiasm and to place it at the center of the narrative. As such, it is interesting to note what Nephi is teaching us here. Not only is Nephi successful, an obvious conclusion to anyone reading the story, but also the Lord's tender mercies are extended to Zoram, who has been faithful, even unto the power of his deliverance from the predicament he finds himself in. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript (July 2000), pp. 265-266] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:20; 4:35]
1 Nephi 5:14 Plates of Brass:
Some might consider the recording of scriptures on "plates of brass" (1 Nephi 5:14) an anomaly. But according to Diane Wirth, Isaiah was commanded to engrave prophecy on brass. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 8:1 reads "take thee a great Gillayon and write in it . . . the word." "Gillayhon" was observed by Dr. Adam Clarke, a celebrated Biblical scholar, to mean a polished tablet of metal upon which the prophecy was to be engraved. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 42]
1 Nephi 5:14 Joseph . . . who was sold into Egypt (Illustration): Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #109]
1 Nephi 5:14 Plates of brass (Illustration): A chart compiled by Franklin S. Harris, Jr. lists 63 instances where ancient Old World writing has been found on metal plates. The following is documented: Object and Material; Civilization, Place; Language and Script; Time; and Remarks. The accompanying map above, illustrated by Charles J. Jacobsen, shows the discovery locations for the 63 records. [Book of Mormon Charts, pp. 12-13, compiled from The Instructor Magazine by M. Ross Richards and Marie Curtis Richards]
1 Nephi 5:14 Plates of brass (Illustration): Page 2 A chart compiled by Franklin S. Harris, Jr. lists 63 instances where ancient Old World writing has been found on metal plates. The following is documented: Object and Material; Civilization, Place; Language and Script; Time; and Remarks. The accompanying map above, illustrated by Charles J. Jacobsen, shows the discovery locations for the 63 records. [Book of Mormon Charts, pp. 12-13, compiled from The InstructorMagazine by M. Ross Richards and Marie Curtis Richards]
1 Nephi 5:14 Wherefore He Knew That He Was a Descendant of Joseph:
After Nephi retrieved the plates of Laban, he notes that his father Lehi took them and searched them from the beginning. Among other things, Lehi "also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph: yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt" (1 Nephi 5:14). Critics of the Book of Mormon have wondered how a devout Jew could fail to know what tribe he was from until he saw the plates.
Charles Pyle replies with the following question, "How many devout Jews today know, by heart, their genealogy, or what tribe that they are from? Sometimes, historical circumstances make it such that a genealogy may be forgotten, or the details of their tribal lineage may not be remembered correctly. Such was the case with certain individuals who were of the priestly line, who required a tracing of the genealogies, only to find that they had been omitted from the genealogy of the priesthood (Nehemiah 7:63-64). Nephi's comments could easily lend themselves to the interpretation that Lehi, upon actually seeing his lineage, then knew, beyond oral tradition, of his line of descent. Before Nephi even was sent to retrieve the plates, Lehi proclaimed that "Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of thy forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass" (1 Nephi 3:3; see also 3:12). [D. Charles Pyle, "Review of 'The Book of Mormon Vs. the Bible (or Common Sense)'" http://www.linkline.com/personal/dcpyle/reading/bodineco.htm, p. 4]
Note* Perhaps Lehi found that he was a direct descendant of Joseph. In other words, that Nephi was entitled to be the caretaker of the plates because of his blood lineage. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 5:16 My Father, Lehi, Did Discover the Genealogy of His Fathers:
It is recorded in Ezra 2:62-63 and Nehemiah 7:64-65 that upon return from the Babylonian captivity, some could not identify their lineage. It is possible that some of those genealogies had been kept on the plates of brass which had been removed to the New World by Lehi. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 13]
1 Nephi 5:16 Laban Was Also a Descendant of Joseph, Wherefore He and His Fathers Had Kept the Records:
Daniel Rolph notes that in Nephi's record, the prophet and his successors fail to mention or reveal the provenance or pre-Laban origin of the sword of Laban. Moreover, up until now, most scholarly attention regarding the sword of Laban has been focused on it's "steel" blade. According to Rolph, the true significance of what was to become a Nephite heirloom may have been hitherto completely overlooked. In this respect it is noteworthy that Nephi records that "Laban also was also a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records" (1 Nephi 5:16, emphasis added). Could the sword of Laban also have been "kept" and handed down as part of these records? Could ancestry play an important role in relation to the sword of Laban prior to Laban's ownership?
By Joseph Smith's day the sword of Laban was at least twenty-five hundred years of age, and evidently in excellent condition. Joseph Smith, Jr., was the first individual permitted to view the ancient sword and its accoutrements long after their interment at Cumorah by Moroni; though he was a Latter-day prophet of God, Joseph Smith was also directly descended from the biblical patriarch, Joseph of Egypt.203 [Note* Some of these sacred objects of veneration had not only been transmitted through the lineage of the Nephite prophets, who also stemmed from Joseph, but had been passed down from earlier times (D&C 17:1) through a special lineage (see Ether 1:6-34, 3:23-28; 4:4-5).]
The birthright, or rights of inheritance connected with the firstborn, generally included land acquisition, along with the authority to preside (see, for example, Abraham 2:9-11; Genesis 48 and 49; Deuteronomy 33:13-17; D&C 86:8-10). Since Jacob and Leah's eldest son Reuben had "defiled his father's bed" (1 Chronicles 5:1), thus losing his right to succession, his birthright and inheritance were given "unto the sons of Joseph" (1 Chronicles 5:1). Though out of Judah would come the Christ or the "chief ruler," the "birthright was Joseph's" (1 Chronicles 5:2). As a result of this event, a birthright sword and other sacred regalia of the patriarchs would naturally come into the possession of Joseph and his descendants, which included both Laban and Nephi.
Had the sword of Laban, like the brass plates, come down from the fathers, as a regal treasure of Joseph? Was it accidental, or an act of Providence, that Nephi brought the sword as well as the plates out of Jerusalem to the land of promise? According to Rolph, evidence suggests that the weapon may have been the birthright sword of biblical tradition, a sacred heirloom that may have been wielded by the patriarchs up until the time of Joseph of Egypt. Laban, being a descendant of Joseph, inherited the birthright sword and the plates of brass, both treasures eventually coming into the possession of Nephi, who was both a prophet and a descendant of Joseph, as was Joseph Smith, Jr. [Daniel N. Rolph, "Prophets, Kings, and Swords: The Sword of Laban and Its Possible Pre-Laban Origin," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 73, 75-76] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:9]
1 Nephi 5:16 Laban Also Was a Descendant of Joseph, Wherefore He and His Fathers Had Kept the Records [the Brass Plates]:
According to Robert Millet, there is no specific reference in the Book of Mormon to the origin of the brass plates. After retrieving and reading the plates, Nephi explained that "Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records (the brass plates]" (1 Nephi 5:16). Exactly how long before the time of Laban the brass records were begun is unknown. The record was probably kept in the tribe of Ephraim, and thus Laban may well have been of that tribe (see Genesis 48:5, 13-20; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2). In suggesting how it was that the families of Ephraim and Manasseh (from whom Lehi and Ishmael were descendants) came to settle in Jerusalem, Sidney B. Sperry has written:
The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians when its capital of Samaria capitulated to Sargon II in 722 B.C. The forebearers of Laban may have fled to Jerusalem to prevent the sacred records from falling into alien hands. Lehi's grandfather or great-grandfather may have left his northern home for Jerusalem in order to prevent his children from intermarrying and making religious compromises with the foreigners brought into the land by the Assyrians (Sidney B. Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, pp. 43-44)
Brother Sperry then asked the following question in regards to this matter: "What happened to the keeping of sacred records when the Israelites became sharply divided on political grounds--so much so that the two nations were enemies?" He then suggested an answer:
The prophets in both nations probably paid little attention to the political lines of division, but it is improbable that all of them had their words recorded in the scriptures of both nations. From the time of the division until the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., the brass plates may well have been the official scripture of the ten tribes. It is probable that some prophets wrote on these plates whose writings may not have been recorded on the records kept in Judah [meaning in the Southern Kingdom]. Were Zenos, Zenock, Neum, and Ezias (1 Nephi 19:10; Helaman 8:20) among them? They were all Hebrew prophets known to the Nephites, but their names do not appear in our current Old Testament. It is also possible that the writings of some prophets in Judah were not placed on the brass plates during the period under consideration, but of this we have no way of knowing. (Sidney B. Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, pp. 43-44)
The fact that Lehi's genealogy could be traced back to Joseph--specifically Manasseh (Alma 10:3)--also implies that the record had its origins in the Northern Kingdom rather than in Judah in the south (1 Nephi 3:3, 12; 5:14-16). In one of those prophecies of Zenos are founds these words: "And as for those who are at Jerusalem . . ." (1 Nephi 19:13; emphasis added), suggesting that Zenos was speaking form somewhere other than Jerusalem. Further, not Mormon's words concerning the prophets Zenos and Zenock:
Behold, I say unto you, Yea, many have testified of these things 'signs of the death of Christ] at the coming of Christ, and were slain because they testified of these things.
Yea, the prophet Zenos did testify of these things, and also Zenock spake concerning these things, because they testified particularly concerning us, who are the remnant of their seed (3 Nephi 10:15-16; emphasis added).
This passage certainly suggests that Zenos and Zenock were both of the tribe of Joseph (Robert L. Millet, "The Brass Plates: An Inspired and Expanded Version of the Old Testament." The Old Testament and the Latter-day Saints, pp. 421-423)
Robert Millet, "The Influence of the Brass Plates," in Nyman and Tate eds. The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, pp. 208-209]
In a review of Robert Millet's video entitled, "The Prophets of the Brass Plates" and his Book of Mormon Symposium paper ("The Influence of the Brass Plates"), Richard Grant writes that King Benjamin's identification of the language of this record as Egyptian (Mosiah 1:4) introduces a further line of speculation. Could this record have originated as the family record of Joseph the son of Jacob? His wife was Egyptian. His sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were Egyptian. That may have been the only language they knew. Of course, Joseph would have had a copy of the then extent scriptural record in Egyptian. Might not his family have continued to maintain that Egyptian (Maybe reformed Egyptian) language record? [Richard G. Grant, "The Brass Plates and Their Prophets," http://www.cometozarahemla.org/brassplates/brass-plates.html] [See also Robert Millet, "The Prophets of the Brass Plates," FARMS video; and Robert Millet, "The Influence of the Brass Plates," in Nyman and Tate eds. The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure]
Note* Scholars now believe that a significant number of Israelites fled the Northern Kingdom, seeking refuge in Judah. Their evidence is consistent with Dr. Sperry's speculation-they brought Scriptures with them and those Scriptures were different from the Scripture of Judah. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:7] [For further information on the brass plates, see the commentaries on 1 Nephi 5:11 13:23, 19:22; 2 Nephi 2:17, 3:18-19; Mosiah 1:3-4; Alma 37:4-5; 3 Nephi 10:16;]
1 Nephi 5:16 Laban Also Was a Descendant of Joseph, Wherefore He and His Fathers Had Kept the Records:
According to Noel Reynolds, two decades before Lehi received the visions and revelations that sent him and his family into the wilderness, a manuscript now generally believed to have included all or part of the book of Deuteronomy was discovered in the temple at Jerusalem. This occurred during the 18th year of the reign of the righteous king Josiah (approximately 621 B.C.). After the discovery, Josiah went up to the temple with "all the people from the least to the greatest" and read the book to them, renewing the covenant contained therein in the presence of the Lord," and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant" (see 2 Kings 22-23, especially 23:1-3; see 2 Chronicles 34-35). The book and this event then provided the basis for Josiah's reforms by which he overthrew idol worship and centralized worship of Jehovah at the Jerusalem temple. Some of Lehi's own understanding of the covenant with Israel might have derived from that memorable event. The discovery of that version of Deuteronomy was without doubt the manuscript find of the century. It occurred while Lehi, an exceptionally literate and learned man in the prime of his life, lived in or near Jerusalem. Reynolds writes:
While I do not want to develop an account of the origin of the brass plates in this paper, I would note that it is even possible that the late-seventh-century discovery of this new text provided someone with the motivation to create the brass plates as an enlarged and corrected version of the Josephite scriptural record."
He makes this footnote:
John W. Welch suggests that the plates of brass might have been produced for King Josiah himself, after the discovery of Deuteronomy (see his study "Authorship of the Book of Isaiah," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch [Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998], 430-32.
[Noel B. Reynolds, Lehi As Moses," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, pp. 27-28, 81]
1 Nephi 5:17 When My Father Saw All These Things, He Was Filled with the Spirit, and Began to Prophesy concerning His Seed:
According to Brant Gardner, the effect of reading the scriptures of the brass plates had a profound effect on Lehi, sufficient to induce prophetic vision: "And now when my father saw all these things [on the plates of brass], he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed" (1 Nephi 5:17). While the scriptures may have a similar effect on all of us--to inspire us to greater receptivity to the things of the spirit--the brass plates had a particular strength for Lehi due to their relationship to his ancestry [and to his posterity]. . . . Note also that it was not only Lehi who searched the brass plates. Nephi himself is involved in understanding the import of the records which he gave so much to obtain (v. 21 "we had obtained the records . . . and searched them . . .)
We have the information about the brass plates because we have the Book of Mormon. Is it possible that we have the Book of Mormon because Lehi and Nephi had the brass plates? In other words, did the brass plates provide many of the models used in the development and transmission of the Book of Mormon texts up to the time of Mormon's compilation?
(1) The first obvious similarity is the preservation of the sacred text on metal. . . . From a physical standpoint, the brass plates provided a model for the Nephite plates.
(2) The language of the Nephite plates may also have been influenced by that of the brass plates. There is reference to the necessity of having an understanding of Egyptian to be able to read the brass plates (Mosiah 1:4). If they were written using any form of Egyptian, the decision to use Egyptian, or later reformed Egyptian on the Nephite plates would be clearly taking a model from the brass plates.
(3) The brass plates contained a collection of the words of individual prophets. This was also the case in the Nephite plates; the tradition was kept that each person writing on the plates would contribute their "book." (The reader should note that this tradition was departed from in the book of Omni.) The construction of a canon which consisted of the collected works of individuals follows the brass plates.
(4) The brass plates were kept by the lineage of Joseph. . . . That model, of having a set of scriptures related to a particular lineage can be seen with the Nephite records.
As a matter of note, the dual transmission line of the large and small plates may also have some connection to the model of the brass plates. Clearly the brass plates followed a lineal transmission, and were known to the members of that lineage. Just as clearly, however, there were other sets of scripture available (if only that of the line of Judah). We therefore have a model of multiple sets of scripture which could serve for the large/small plates distinction. Since the large plates became the politically transmitted set, there may have been precedence in Jerusalem for an "official" record which followed the political power, with the brass plates representing the smaller lineage tradition. That conceptual model fits directly with the known transmission lines of the large and small plates in the Book of Mormon. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," 1Nephi/1Nephi5.htm, pp. 8-9]
1 Nephi 5:18 These Plates of Brass Should Go Forth unto All Nation, Kindreds, Tongues, and People:
According to Hugh Nibley, this prophecy has reference to the Old Testament going forth to the world. When Lehi said, "that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations kindreds, tongues, and people" (1 Nephi 5:18), it was very shocking news, but it was fulfilled. The copies were made in Alexandria. That's were we got our Septuagint. It spread throughout the whole world from there, and all the world has the Bible now. Nobody ever dreamed that this local, national record would become the world record. Verse 19: "Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed." Notice, this doesn't refer to the Book of Mormon; this refers to the brass plates. They are still bright. They have come down to us, and we still have them to this day. He said the records were "of great worth unto us." Why did they need them on the trip? Verse 21: ". . . that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children" (the commandments in the prophets, in the writings, and in the book of Moses). [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 165-166] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:11, also Alma 37:3-5]
1 Nephi 5:19 Neither Should They Be Dimmed Any More by Time:
McConkie and Millet explain that among Lehi's joyous prophecies was the full assurance that "these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time" (1 Nephi 5:19). From a very temporal perspective, perhaps Lehi was indicating here a neglect by Laban of these brass treasures, a neglect which would have allowed the plates to become tarnished or corroded. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 50]
1 Nephi 5:19 Neither Should They Be Dimmed Any More By Time:
According to Brant Gardner, Lehi's prophecy that the plates would not "be dimmed any more by time" (1 Nephi 5:19) has two possible references. One is that the words of the plates would be preserved and be present in the minds of his descendants. The second is a near magical contention that the effects of time would not diminish their sheen. To be read in this latter sense, we would have to accept some tarnishing of the plates already ("neither should they be dimmed any more by time"). Perhaps they had required cleaning from during the years of storage, and from then on were miraculously kept free of age. As Brant Gardner knows of no further reference to their miraculous state of preservation, he prefers the former reading. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page, "http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/1 Nephi/1 Nephi5.htm, pp. 12-13]
Note* Accepting the first supposition also requires that through the years, the message contained on the brass plates had been "dimmed," either from neglectful non-use, or from intentional misrepresentation or intentional silence. It is worth noting that for whatever the cause, this "dimming" of the message on the brass plates was significant enough to cost Laban, their caretaker, his life. One wonders if the "dimmed" message was Christ. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]