The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 24:1 Amalekites:
Who were the "Amalekites" mentioned in Alma 24:1? According to George Reynolds, they were a sect of Nephite apostates whose origin is not given. Many were after the order of Nehor. Very early in the days of the land of Nephi, they affiliated with the Lamanites and with them built a large city near the waters of Mormon, which they called Jerusalem. [George Reynolds, A Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, p. 31] [See the commentary on the following: Alma 21:2,3,4,5,16; 22:7; 23:14; 24:1,28,29; 27:2,12; 43:6,13,20,44]
Alma 24:1 Amulonites:
Who were the "Amulonites" mentioned in Alma 24:1? They were descendants of the corrupt priests of King Noah. Amulon and his fellow priests had taken the "daughters of the Lamanites" and carried them away (Mosiah 20:5). [See the commentary on the following: Mosiah 19:23; 20:1-5,18-21; Alma 21:2,3,4; 23:14,31-35,39; 24:1,4,5,8,9,11,28,29; 25:4,7,8]
Alma 24:1 Amalekites, Amulonites, and Lamanites Who Were in the Land of Amulon, Helam, Jerusalem:
The fact that "the Amalekites and the Amulonites and the Lamanites who were in the land of Amulon, and also in the land of Helam, and who were in the land of Jerusalem" (Alma 24:1) are mentioned together in the same verse might imply that these lands were generally grouped together and located somewhat apart from the general area where the converts had been coming from. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 24:1 The Lamanites . . . Stirred Up by the Amalekites and by the Amulonites:
It appears that many Lamanites started to worry that their king was now sympathetic to a religion and a historical interpretation of the acts of Laman and Lemuel--(that they were in the wrong). This might have been too much. However, it was the Amalekites and the Amulonites that stirred them up to anger to the point that they came to kill the people converted by Ammon and his brethren. The Amalekites and Amulonites might have been caught geographically and culturally between the church of God in the land of Zarahemla and the church of God in the land of Ishmael, which could have been a forecast of political and economic disaster. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 23:18]
Alma 24:1,3 Had Taken upon Them the Name of Anti-Nephi-Lehi:
Anti-Nephi-Lehi was the brother of Lamoni and because of their father's death, was now the current king (Alma 24:3). Apparently, Anti-Nephi-Lehi was sympathetic to Ammon's cause (Alma 24:5) and the converted Lamanites might have either taken on his name or he had given the people his name in some connection with rights, freedoms, or privileges that they were allowed (Alma 23:17,18). This special protection and name might have been the cause of the "hatred which became exceedingly sore against them" (Alma 24:2), yet it also might have been the reason for the king's action--to set them apart and protect them from this hatred. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 24:5 Ammon and His Brethren . . . Came Forth to the Land of Midian:
Alma 24:5 says that Ammon and his brethren "came forth to the land of Midian," but where did they come forth from? Aaron was originally in the land of Nephi (Alma 23:16). Ammon, on the other hand was originally in the land of Ishmael (Alma 21:8; 22:1). However, according to Alma 23:4-5, it says that after the king had sent forth his proclamation, "Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city." Thus it seems that although Aaron, Ammon, and their brethren were going from city to city doing missionary work, Aaron's base was probably in the local land of Nephi and Ammon's base was in the land of Ishmael.
The missionaries gathered for a strategy session in the face of preparations for war by the unconverted people against the converted ones. They first gathered to "the land of Midian," a place only mentioned in Alma 24:5 and nowhere else. From there they moved to the land of Ishmael. We might presume that the land of Midian was a convenient gathering point from the areas where the different missionaries had been serving, more especially between the land of Ishmael and the local land of Nephi. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Geographical Theory Maps]
Geographical Theory Map: Alma 24:5 Ammon Meets with His Brethren in Midian and Ishmael (10th Year)
Alma 24:10 God . . . Hath Forgiven us of Those Our Many Sins and Murders:
According to Brant Gardner, Mesoamerican warfare is not European warfare. The ends, methods, purposes, and results are very different. Where European warfare is typically a struggle for territory, Mesoamerican warfare is a conflict between the gods, with the outcome directly linked to their concept of the universe. The motivations of Classic Maya warfare are so distinct from the European territorial struggles that one author notes:
"The aim of warfare, in part, was to capture prominent individuals from an enemy state, put them to torture and finally to sacrifice them normally by beheading. . ."107
The sacrificial letting of blood becomes both the food for the Gods, and the substitute sacrifice that renews creation. This principle of creation through sacrifice appears to have great antiquity in the Mesoamerican region.108
These were people who had grown up with a worldview that saw the waging of war or the capture of sacrificial victims as essential to continued existence. Men, women, and children all supported this worldview, whether or not they participated in the actual warfare, capture, or torture. [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma24.htm, pp. 7-8]
Alma 24:12 Let Us Stain Our Swords No More with the Blood of Our Brethren:
According to an article by William Hamblin and Brent Merrill, there is an interesting incident in the Book of Mormon which involves the staining of swords with blood (see Alma 24:12-15). The Lamanites who had been converted by Ammon refused to take up arms saying, "let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren" (Alma 24:12).
Although today we speak of "stainless steel," in Joseph Smith's day, metals were not generally thought of as becoming stained. Staining was a term that generally applied to wood, cloth, or other substances subject to discoloration. Reference to staining swords with blood is not found in the Bible. Thus, although not impossible, the metaphor of staining metal swords with blood is somewhat unusual. However, if the Nephite sword were the Mesoamerican macuahuitl with a wooden shaft, blood would naturally stain and discolor the wood when an enemy was wounded. Furthermore, if a metal weapon becomes bloody, the blade can be easily wiped clean. Removing a bloodstain from wood is virtually impossible since the blood soaks into the fibers of the wood. Thus the metaphor of the great mercy of God in removing bloodstains from the swords becomes much more powerful and understandable if it refers to wood stained with blood, which only a miracle would remove, rather than if it refers to metal stained with blood, which a piece of cloth would clean. [William J. Hamblin and A. Brent Merrill, "Swords in the Book of Mormon," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 342]
Alma 24:16-17 They Did Bury Them Up:
According to Daniel Ludlow, the converted Lamanites (Anti-Nephi-Lehies) refused to take up their arms against their brethren because, as they stated, "It has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of our sins" (Alma 24:6, 11). As part of a covenant with God they would give up their own lives rather than shed the blood of anyone else in time of war, they "took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man's blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth" (Alma 24:16-17). It is entirely possible that this interesting incident could have served as the source of the "bury-the-hatchet" tradition of showing peace which was common among some of the tribes of American Indians when Columbus and other white men came to their lands. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 210]
Alma 24:17 They Did Bury Them up Deep in the Earth:
Brant Gardner notes that beginning with the oldest high culture in Mesoamerica, there is a tradition of burying important religious relics. At La Venta the Olmec created a massive mosaic picture made of hundreds of serpentine blocks, and then buried it. Other offering caches included polished jade, concave mirrors of magnetite or other iron ores, and other items sacred to the Olmec.109 [Brant Gardner, Book of Mormon Commentary, http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma24.htm, p. 10]
Alma 24:17 They Did Bury Them up Deep in the Earth:
According to Mark Morrise, the simile curse is a type of curse that appears in ancient Near Eastern, Old Testament, and Book of Mormon texts. It consists of two parts: (1) an event (e.g., "Just as this wax is burned by fire") and (2) an application of that event to the subject of the curse (e.g., "so shall Arpad be burned"). In ancient Near Eastern texts, simile curses appear in written treaties and were often part of a ritual acted out during a treaty ceremony. . . . An example of a group ritual occurs in the Book of Mormon when the Anti-Nephi-Lehies bury their weapons of war as a token of their decision never again to take up arms against their brethren:
And now it came to pass that . . . [the people] took their swords, and all the weapons of war which were used for the shedding of man's blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth. And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man's blood. (Alma 24:17-18)
[See also Mark J. Morrise, "Simile Curses in the Ancient Near East, Old Testament, and Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 124-138]
Alma 24:17 They [the Anti-Nephi-Lehies] did bury them [their weapons] up deep in the earth (Illustration): The Anti-Nephi-Lehies Burying Their Swords. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #311]
Alma 24:18 Covenanting with God:
In Alma 24:18, the Lamanites, having buried their weapons, covenanted with God "that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands."
According to Richard Rust, there is important imagery here which reflects back to the time of Enos. The Lamanites were described by Enos as extremely degraded, being "led by their evil nature that they became vile, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey" (Enos 1:20).
The experience of Enos is a parable for the later conversion of many of these ferocious Lamanites. He goes "to hunt beasts in the forests," presumably for food, when he recollects the words of his father "concerning eternal life" (Enos 1:3). He thus discovers his need for spiritual food: "And my soul hungered," he says (Enos 1:4). Recognizing his soul's hunger, Enos fasts and prays all day and into the night. In answer to his prayer, he hears a voice forgiving him of his sins and instructing him concerning the future of the land. Then, in contrast with the idleness suggested in Enos's description of the Lamanites, he prays and labors "with all diligence" on behalf of the Lamanites, "that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation" (Enos 1:12-13). Enos and his compatriots are not successful in their efforts with the Lamanites, but from the time of his conversion he lives an exemplary life as a prophet among the Nephites who, by contrast with the Lamanites, "till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses" (Enos 1:21).
When the conversion of the Lamanites does come, under the missionary efforts of Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah, the converted people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi follow the pattern implicit in the story of Enos: They give up bloodshed . . . ["labor abundantly with their hands"] as farmers and herdsmen in Nephite territory, and are generous in their concern for others. [Richard D. Rust, Feasting on the Word, pp. 192-193]
Alma 24:19 They Buried Their Weapons of Peace, or Rather:
According to Daniel Ludlow, Mormon wrote his abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi on "plates of ore" which he had made with his own hands. He does not mention the technique used in writing the language characters on the metal plates (etching, embossing, etc.), but students have sometimes wondered how Mormon could correct something he had already written. Alma 24:19 might give us some clue to this matter. Concerning the converted Lamanites, Mormon had written that "they buried their weapons of peace." Then, evidently realizing that he had not intended exactly what he had written, he added "or they buried the weapons of war, for peace."
Other examples of similar changes in the Book of Mormon are found in Mosiah 7:8, Alma 50:32, Helaman 3:33, and 3 Nephi 16:4. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 210]
On the other hand, Mormon might have been deliberately stressing the peace covenant aspect of this act through the repetition of his phrases. According to Richard Rust, imagery in a literal sense is "a picture made out of words." . . . Though imprecise, Longman says, images are vivid and memorable, and present old truths in new ways, and speak directly to the heart. . . . King Lamoni advises his followers to keep their swords bright by hiding them deep in the earth and refusing to stain them with the blood of their brethren. [By means of this covenant ritual] these swords then become "weapons of peace" as their burial keeps the repentant people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi from using them [and thus renders them dependent on the Lord's might to fight their battles]. . . . In this respect we may think of other scriptural statements that "the sword of the Spirit . . . is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17) and "the word of God is . . . sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12).
Another play on word and sword is found in the confrontation between Nehor and Gideon. Because Gideon withstood Nehor "with the words of God," Nehor "drew his sword and began to smite him" (Alma 1:15). For this action, Nehor was condemned to death, and he acknowledged that what he taught was "contrary to the word of God" (Alma 1:15). After that, the people of Nehor did not dare to murder but still persecuted the people of the church of God "and did afflict them with all manner of words" (Alma 1:20).
Word and sword are connected in Alma's experience. Mormon observes that the preaching of the word "had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them--therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God" (Alma 31:5). [Richard D. Rust, Feasting on the Word, pp. 188-189]
Alma 24:20 The Lamanites Came up to the Land of Nephi:
Alma 24:20 states that the Lamanites "came up to the land of Nephi for the purpose of destroying the king . . . and also of destroying the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi out of the land." The words "came up" might imply that the Lamanites that were most interested in destroying the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi were living at an elevation lower than the local land of Nephi. These Lamanites might have been those descendants of Laman and Lemuel who were still steeped in their traditions and who lived nearer the land of first inheritance on the west coast of the general land of Nephi. (see Alma 22:28) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 24:20 The Lamanites . . . Came . . . for the Purpose of [Dethroning] the King:
According to Shirley Heater, the Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon differs somewhat from the Original Manuscript. . . . At present in the 1981 LDS edition, Alma 24:20 reads, "the Lamanites made preparations for war, and came up to the land of Nephi for the purpose of destroying the king, and to place another in his stead, and also of destroying the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi out of the land." The Original Manuscript clarifies the intent of the Lamanites who "came . . . for the purpose of dethroning the king" instead of "destroying the king" as found on the Printer's Manuscript (and in the 1981 LDS edition). [Shirley R. Heater, "Variances Between the Original and Printer's Manuscripts," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 80, 85]
Alma 24:28 The Order of the Nehors:
In Alma 24:28 it says: "Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after the order of the Nehors." What was this "order of the Nehors," and what did it motivate people to do? Apparently it related to the practice of priestcraft which was preached by the man called Nehor (Alma 1:1-20). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 1:1-20. See also the commentary on Alma 25:4]