Ether 2

 

A Confirming Covenant Witness

      Mormon 8 -- Moroni


  

 

Ether 2:1 [They] Went down into the Valley Which Was Northward . . . Nimrod:

 

     In Ether 2:1 we find that Jared and the brother of Jared led their followers "into the valley which was northward, and the name of the valley was Nimrod." According to Hugh Nibley, it's very interesting that in the north end of Mesopotamia all the places bear the name Nimrod. There's Bir Nimrod and dozens of Nimrod names up north in Mesopotamia where you go through. Then you go east and what do you do? You cross many waters. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 253]

 

Ether 2:1 Nimrod:

 

     Glenn Scott notes that Jubilees 8:12-30 tells us the following about the lands of inheritance for the three sons of Noah after the Flood:

           To Shem . . . the whole land of the Red Sea, and the whole land of the east and India . . . all the land of Lebanon . . . and the mountains of Ararat" [obviously the Middle East].

           And for Ham came forth the second portion beyond the Gihon [Nile] towards the south . . . and toward the west to the Sea of Atel [the Atlantic], towards the north to . . . the Great Sea [the Mediterranean] of God [Sythia] and to all of the country east thereof . . . This is the land which came forth for Japheth and his sons . . . for their generations forever . . . a great land in the north but it is cold [obviously Asia].

 

     However, Hugh Nibley notes that Clement of Rome, in his Homilia (9:3) wrote, "Noah's descendants waged bitter war among themselves, after his death, to see who would possess his kingship; finally one of the blood of Ham [Nimrod] prevailed." (Nibley 1988 World of the Jaredites, 165)

     Genesis 10:8-10 tells us, "He [Nimrod] began to be a mighty one in the earth. . . . And he began a kingdom, and the beginning was Babel . . ."

     Josephus (4:2) indicated that the original purpose of the tower of Babel was to unite the people in a vast project of constructing a refuge in case of another flood.59 That was to them a real and terrifying prospect in view of their recent past. The construction of such an artificial mountain on the flat alluvial plain, was an understandable response by those former hill people. However, through the years, the emphasis shifted to a "Mountain of God" or "Hill of Heaven" concept, perhaps from placing a temple on its summit, which permitted them to worship their God (or gods) on high places . . . The translator of the Book of Jasher, in a footnote, suggested that Nimrod's desire to teach idolatry and to raise the tower was a means of uniting all peoples under his standard. . . . [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust: New Light on an Ancient American Record, pp. 17-19]

 

Ether 2:1 Nimrod:

 

     In Ether 2:1 we find the name "Nimrod." According to Warren and Palmer, after the Flood, in 2811 B.C., a king by the name of Etana ruled in the city of Kish, in Mesopotamia. The same individual is in the list of kings at the city of Uruk under the name of Lugal-Banda in 2805 B.C. (Warren, B.S., and Tvedtnes, J.A., 1983). Warren and Tvedtnes have concluded that not only are Etana and Lugal-Banda the same individual, but also that their description contains many elements which are similar to the famous Nimrod of the Old Testament account. Specifically, Lugal-Banda was known earlier as the Lord of Marad (Semitic word) or Martu (Sumerian word), meaning the Lord of the West. The consonants of that title (NMRD) are consonants in the name, NiMRoD. In the Semitic scripts from the ancient Near East, only the consonants were included, not the vowels. Thus, it was concluded that Lugal-Banda was the best candidate for the Nimrod of the Genesis account. He ruled until about 2797 B.C. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, ch. 2, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:1 Nimrod:

 

     The name "Nimrod" is mentioned in Ether 2:1. According to Hugh Nibley, in Genesis 10:4 we read that Nimrod, the "mighty hunter against the Lord," founded the kingdom of Babel, and in the next chapter that Babel was the name of the tower built to reach to heaven. (Note that the vague "before the Lord" of the Kings James version (Genesis 10:9) conceals the true meaning, rendered "against the Lord" by the Rabbinical and early Christian writers60) This Nimrod seems to be the original arch-type of the "Mad Hunter." (Note that under the direction of Nimrod men said, "We will ascend to heaven and smite him (God) with bows and spears; and God knew all their works, . . . and he saw the city and the tower which they were building," (Jasher 9:20).61

     A very early Christian writing tells how Noah's descendants waged bitter war among themselves after his death, to see who should possess his kingship; finally one of the blood of Ham prevailed, and from this the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians derive their priesthood and kingship. "From the race of Ham," says the text," came one through the magical (as opposed to the holy) succession named Nimrod, who was a giant against the Lord . . . (p. 165) Even Isaiah (Isaiah 14:12-14) recalls that in the beginning the adversary himself set up his throne "upon the Mountain of the assembly in the regions of the North," and there pretended to be "like the Most High."

     Nimrod claimed his kingship on the ground of victory over his enemies. His priesthood, however, he claimed by virtue of possessing "the garment of Adam." The legends of the Jews assure us that it was by virtue of owning this garment that Nimrod was able to claim power to rule over the whole earth, and that he sat in his tower while men came and worshiped him. The Apocryphal writers, Jewish and Christian, have a good deal to say about this garment. To quote one of them: "the garments of skin which God made for Adam and his wife, when they went out of the garden, were given . . . after the death of Adam . . . to Enoch"; hence they passed to Methuselah, and then to Noah, from whom Ham stole them as the people were leaving the ark. Ham's grandson Nimrod obtained them from his father Cush. As for the legitimate inheritance of this clothing, a very old fragment recently discovered says that Michael "disrobed Enoch of his earthly garments, and put on him his angelic clothing," taking him into the presence of God. This garment of Enoch was supposed to be the very garment of skins that John the Baptist wore, called by the early Christians "the garment of Elias." An Arabic "Life of John the Baptist" says that Gabriel brought it to John from heaven as "the garment of Elijah"' "it went back," says John Chrysostom, "to the beginning of the world, to the times before which Adam required covering. Thus it was the symbol of repentance. . . ." (pp. 168-169)

     Incidentally, the story of the stolen garment as told by the old rabbis, including the great Eleazer, calls for an entirely different rendering of the strange story in Genesis 9 from the version in our King James Bible. They seemed to think that the erwath of Genesis 9:22 did not mean "nakedness" at all, but should be given its primary root meaning of "skin covering." Read thus, we are to understand that Ham took the garment of his father while he was sleeping and showed it to his brethren, Shem and Japheth, who took a pattern or copy of it (salmah) or else a woven garment like it (simlah) which they put upon their own shoulders, returning the skin garment to their father. Upon awaking, Noah recognized the priesthood of two sons but cursed the son who tried to rob him of his garment. By an extremely common type of substitution, the simlah of Genesis 9:23 could very easily stand for an original tsimlah, a copy, imitation, pattern, or by an equally common type of transposition for Salmah, a garment or mantle, as in Micah 2:8. Even as it stands simlah means only a woven garment and can hardly refer to the original skin article. This is, apparently, the source of the widespread legend that Ham stole the garment of Noah and claimed to possess the priesthood by virtue of his illegal insignia. Ham's descendants, Cush and Nimrod--both Africans, though Nimrod in his wandering moved to Asia62--made the same claim. It is interesting that according to certain ancient scriptures which the Latter-day Saints claim have been restored by revelation in our own age, Pharaoh (who represents the Afro-Asian line of Cush-Nimrod) was blessed as to the kingship but cursed as to the priesthood, and he offered Abraham the privilege of wearing his own royal insignia in hope that Abraham would return the compliment by allowing Pharaoh to wear his priestly ones (Abraham 1:26-27). According to a very old tradition, Pharaoh coveted the priesthood of Moses exactly as his ancestor Nimrod did that of Abraham, and it was said that the Pharaohs of Egypt dressed in a skin garment "to show that their origin was older than time itself." (Note, Abraham's refusal to make the exchange was the real reason for his being expelled from Egypt, according to apocryphal writers.)63

     Whatever the details, the priests and kings of antiquity certainly wore such garments,64 and the skin garment was often imitated in woven materials,65 in fact, the skin garment was itself held to be a substitute for a still older garment made of the leaves of the ficus religiosus.66 (pp. 169-171) [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 165, 168-169]

 

Ether 2:1 Jared . . . Went down into the Valley Which Was Northward [Valley of Nimrod]:

 

     Nibley has suggested that the valley of Nimrod known to the Jaredites is "the great valley system due north of upper Mesopotamia," in the region of Lake Van in eastern Turkey. In this area, the explorer and scholar Emin found the name of Nimrod attached to many legends and place names during the late 1800's. According to Randall Spackman, the huge valley system of the Euphrates-Murat Rivers, referred to by Nibley, is north of Mesopotamia . . . (see illustration). Near both ends of the valley system, approximately 225 miles apart, there are mountains known today as Nemrut Dagi or "Mount Nimrod." The Jaredite travelers could have gone "down" into this great valley system if their route from Babylonia took them along the favored nomadic route, the pastoral corridor. . . Following the pastoral corridor away from lower Mesopotamia, their route would have run roughly parallel to the Tigris River for nearly 500 miles before crossing over the Eastern Taurus Mountains and down into the Murat River valley. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 34-36]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Ether 2:1 Jared Goes down into the Valley of Nimrod (Year)

 

Ether 2:1 Jared . . . went down into the valley which was northward (Illustration): Map II The uprooting of the Jaredites should not be viewed as a unique phenomenon, but as part of a much larger scattering of vast numbers of people in ancient Mesopotamia. Map II shows three established trade routes along the Euphrates River or from Asshur on the Tigris River across northern Mesopotamia to Harran and Carchemish (the land northward). [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 27-29, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:1 Jared . . . went down into the valley which was northward (Valley of Nimrod) [Illustration]: Map III, A proposed Jaredite route from Babylonia] [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America,, p. 37, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:1 [They] Went . . . with Their Flocks . . . Fish . . . Bees . . . All Manner of That Which Was upon the Face of the Land:

 

     In relating the account of the Jaredites, Moroni writes:

           [They] went . . . with their flocks which they had gathered together, male and female, of every kind. and they did also lay snares and catch fowls of the air; and they did also prepare a vessel, in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters. And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land . . . (Ether 2:1-3)

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, it is a remarkable thing that the mention of flocks of any kind is conspicuously absent from the story of Lehi's exodus to the promised land. What an astonishing contrast from the story of the Jaredites! The one group hastening away from Jerusalem in secrecy to live a life of hunting and hiding in the desert and almost dying of starvation, and the other accepting volunteers, as it were, from all sides, moving out in a sort of massive front, driving innumerable beasts before them and carrying everything from libraries to hives of bees and tanks of fish! It would be hard to conceive of two more diametrically opposite types of migration, yet each fits perfectly with the customs and usages recorded throughout history for the part of the world to which the Book of Mormon assigns it.

     But how could the Jaredites have carried all that stuff with them? The same way other Asiatics have always done--in wagons (see illustration). And such wagons! "Measuring once the breadth between the wheel ruts of one of their carts," William of Rubruck reports, "I found it to be twenty feet over . . . I counted twenty-two oxen in one team, drawing a house upon a cart . . . the axletree of the cart was of huge size, like the mast of a ship. "

     It is generally agreed that ox-drawn vehicles were older than horse-drawn, but both go back to the fourth millennium B.C. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 187-189]

 

Ether 2:2 They Did Also Lay Snares and Catch Fowls of the Air:

 

     According to Warren and Palmer, in the Sumerian culture there were fowlers who caught birds with an arsenal of nets. Deliveries of fifty-four roasted birds are recorded in Sumerian documents. This would explain the phrase in Ether, "and they did also lay snares and catch fowls of the air" (Ether 2:2). Many of those fowl were taken on the final boats used by the Jaredites to cross the ocean (Ether 6:4). According to Mesoamerican scholars, birds were also an important part of the diet in the Olmec site of San Lorenzo (Coe and Diehl, 1980). [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, ch. 4, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:2 They Did Also Prepare a Vessel, in Which They Did Carry With Them the Fish of the Waters:

 

     According to John Heinerman, fishing activity and a thriving fishing industry were already in place and served as a major source of Sumer's food supply, especially during construction of the Great Tower on the plains of Shinar. However, it is interesting that the world's first glass fish aquarium was built in Sumer by some unidentified individual, who, according to historian Samuel Noah Kramer,67 "for one reason or another was an ardent lover of fish." A single cuneiform clay tablet, appropriately called by archaeologists the "Home of the Fish" document, "begins with a reassuring announcement that the speaker has built a house for the fish, large, spacious, and unapproachable, and provided it with fine food and drink, especially beer and sweet cookies." The speaker then urges his friends and acquaintances to join him in his "house of fish" and watch various live specimens swim around, while enjoying the food, snacks, and free beer and wine provided for that occasion.

     The Book of Mormon tells of a similar portable aquarium being constructed by the Jaredites at the time they were told to abandon their residences near "the great tower at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people" (Ether 1:33) and venture forth into the wilderness under the guiding influence of God. "And they did also prepare a vessel, in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters" (Ether 2:2). The ancient "Home of the Fish" tablet mentions sixteen different fish, only a few of which can be described with some reasonable degree of certainty--the carp, the sturgeon, the catfish, and the trout. [John Heinerman, Hidden Treasures of Ancient American Cultures, Springville: Cedar Fort, Incorporated, 2001, pp. 106-107]

 

Ether 2:2 Fish:

 

     It is interesting that the people who followed Jared and his brother "did also prepare a vessel in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters" (Ether 2:2). According to Randall Spackman, more than fifty different types of fish were known to Mesopotamian fishermen, but it is not known how many freshwater varieties the Jaredites were able to carry in their specially constructed, watertight containers. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 30, unpublished]

     Note* Considering the fact that water weighs approximately eight pounds per gallon, some form of heavy transport would have been required--Nibley speaks of the cultural heritage of large wagons for land transport. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Ether 2:2 They did carry with them (Illustration): Rock carving of a wagon from Syunik Region, Western Armenia, 2nd Millennium B.C. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 31, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:3 They Did Also Carry with Them Deseret, Which, by Interpretation, Is a Honey Bee:

 

     The word "deseret" is evidently transliterated from the original record, but fortunately the interpretation is included in Moroni's abridgment: "a honey bee" (Ether 2:3). This is one of the few Jaredite words transliterated in our present Book of Mormon; therefore it is of special significance to the scholars.

     Dr. Hugh Nibley has written extensively on the background of this word, including the following ideas:

           By all odds the most interesting and attractive passenger in Jared's company is deseret, the honeybee. We cannot pass the creature by without a glance at its name and possible significance, for our text betrays an interest in deseret that goes far beyond respect for the feat of transporting insects, remarkable though it is. The word deseret we are told (Ether 2:3), "by interpretation is a honeybee," the word plainly coming from the Jaredite language, since Ether (or Moroni) must interpret it. Now it is a remarkable coincidence that the word deseret, or something very close to it, enjoyed a position of ritual prominence among the founders of the classical Egyptian civilization, who associated it very closely with the symbol of the bee. The people, the authors of the so-called Second Civilization, seem to have entered Egypt from the northeast as part of the same great outward expansion of peoples that sent the makers of the classical Babylonian civilization into Mesopotamia. Thus we have the founders of the two main parent civilizations of antiquity entering their new homelands at approximately the same time from some common center--apparently the same center from which the Jaredites also took their departure. The Egyptian pioneers carried with them a fully developed cult and symbolism from their Asiatic home. Chief among their cult objects would seem to be the bee, for the land they first settled in Egypt was forever known as "the land of the bee," and was designated in hieroglyphic by a picture of the bee, while the king of Egypt "in his capacity of 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt'" bore the title, "he who belongs to the sedge and the bee."

           From the first, students of hieroglyphic were puzzled as to what sound value should be given to the bee-picture. . . . We know that the bee sign was not always written down, but in its place the picture of the Red Crown, the majesty of Lower Egypt was sometimes "substituted for the superstitious reasons." If we do not know the original name of the bee, we do know the name of this Red Crown -- the name it bore when it was substituted for the bee. The name was dsrt (the vowels are not known, but we can be sure they were all short). The "s" is dsrt had a heavy sound, perhaps best represented by "sh," but designated by a special character -- an "s" with a tiny wedge above it by which the Egyptians designated both their land and crown they served. . . . The bee symbol spread in other directions from its original home, wherever that was. . . . In all of these the bee is the agent through which the dead king or hero is resurrected from the dead, and it is in this connection that the bee also figures in the Egyptian rites. Now the original "deseret" people, the founders of the Second Civilization, "the intellectuals of On," claimed that their king, and he alone, possessed the secret of resurrection. That, in fact, was the cornerstone of their religion; it was nothing less than "the king's secret," the power over death by which he held his authority both among men and in the hereafter. . . . I am personally persuaded that the archaic and ritual designation of the bee was deseret, a "word of power" too sacred to be entrusted to the vulgar, being one of the keys to "the king's secret." [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 191-192]

 

Ether 2:3 Deseret (Illustration): The Red Crown (Dsrt Crown) is clearly depicted on a prehistoric potsherd from Nakada, thus placing it among the oldest known symbols of royalty. It is the crown of the Lady Neith and is often substituted for the sign of the bee. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 9, Plate XX (after Wainwright). [Hugh Nibley, There Were Jaredites, p. 321]

 

Ether 2:3 They Did Also Carry with Them Deseret, Which, by Interpretation, Is a Honey Bee:

 

     In Ether 2:3, mention is made that the people of Jared and his brother took with them the "honey bee." According to Randall Spackman, honey was rare and expensive in Babylonia; so, the transportation of honey bees by the Jaredites indicates that they carried the luxury items with them as well. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 30, unpublished]

     J. Eric Thompson wrote that not only was the domestic bee in ancient America but that there were gods of bees and beekeepers. Honey was considered a real treat for the Indians. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 56]

 

     According to Verneil Simmons, the stingless bees (Meliponidae) of the tropical areas of the Old World were also found in the tropical areas of the New World, although they were unknown in Peru. Columbus found honey from these bees in his first landing in Cuba. The Mayas of today still raise them and Maya lore concerning beekeeping was ancient long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Sahagun, the great Spanish priest historian of the early days of the Conquest in Mexico, wrote that the Aztecs kept three kinds of honeybees. In a newly discovered wall painting at the ancient city of Cholula, in Mexico, a bee is depicted hovering over a drinking scene. . . . The stingless bees of the Maya are hived in hollow logs. Left to themselves they will build nests in hollow trees or even in the ground. Their nests are well insulated and the bees are capable of surviving for long periods sealed up in the nests. This type could have survived the long journey of the Jaredites. (See The Social Behavior of the Bees, Michener, pp. 23, 329). [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 32, 120, 272]

 

     According to Warren and Palmer, linguistic data on the proto-Mixe-Zoque speakers (the Mesoamerican equivalent of Jaredite times) gives evidence for things spoken of in the Book of Ether, such as the honey bee, not explicitly proven archaeologically for that time period. There was a word for honey (spelled one way) and also a word for bee (spelled another way). [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, pp. 8-6,7, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:3 Seeds:

 

     The people who followed Jared and his brother took with them "all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind" (Ether 2:3). According to Randall Spackman, the Jaredite inventory of seeds certainly would have included barley and onions, the staples of the Babylonian diet. Other plants represented could have been wheat, millet, rye, lentils, beans, garlic, turnips, peas, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, apples, pomegranates, figs, apricots, grapes, pears, plums, cress, cumin, coriander, and mustard. Nuts such as pistachios and almonds could have been gathered from the foothills. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 30, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:4 The Lord Came down and Talked with the Brother of Jared; and He Was in a Cloud:

 

     According to Lee Donaldson, anciently covenants that man made with God were entered into with a specific formula which bound both parties. The biblical scholar George Mendenhall identified six common steps in ancient covenants and treaties (Interpreter's Dictionary 1:714). These elements are as follows: (1) the preamble, (2) historical prologue, (3) stipulations, (4) blessings and curses, (5) witnesses, and (6) deposit and public reading of the covenant.

     The first element, the preamble, like all ancient preambles, contains the names of both parties to the covenant. This preamble also mentions the physical location where the covenant is established. . . . This is accomplished in Ether 2:4 which says, "And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not."

     Anciently, the preamble also contained a token of the superior authority of the one setting the terms of the covenant. The same is true with the Book of Mormon covenant to serve the God of the land, as found in the book of Ether. Moroni noted that the Lord came down in a cloud. The cloud was a divine token of the power and glory of the king of heaven. For instance, this was the same token of authority that the Lord used in creating the preamble to the Sinai covenant with Moses (Exodus 199). The cloud also led the covenant people through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21) and was a heavenly sign of the Lord's authority in the Savior's transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). Additionally, the Doctrine and Covenants equates the clouds of heaven with "the glory of the Lord" (D&C 84:5). [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, pp. 70-71]

 

Ether 2:4 The Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared (Illustration): The biblical scholar George Mendenhall identified six common steps in ancient covenants and treaties (Interpreter's Dictionary 1:714). [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 73]

 

Ether 2:5 They Should Go Forth into the Wilderness, Yea, into That Quarter Where There Never Had Man Been:

 

     The Lord commanded Jared and his brother that "they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been" (Ether 2:5).

     According to Randall Spackman, the "wilderness" or "quarter where there never had man been," into which the Jaredites moved from the valley of Nimrod, may be the vast mountainous region around Lake Van and Mount Ararat. This region had been populated prior to 2000 B.C., but the area was basically deserted for about 500 years. Perhaps this depopulation was connected with the tremendous climatic changes that resulted in the diminished flows of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the warm sub-Boreal period across all of Asia. . . . The phrase "quarter where there never had man been," as a description of this area, may be reflected by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1077 B.C.) who campaigned in these Armenian highlands. His annals record: "By toilsome paths and arduous passes, through which no king before me had gone, by hidden tracks and unmade roads I led my armies . . ." [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 35, unpublished]

       The Book of Mormon student might wonder if the definition of the term "wilderness" here in Ether 2:5 gives the reader any help with understanding that term as it is used in other parts of the Book of Mormon story. If we were to go strictly by the text, then the term "wilderness" would apparently refer to a region where "there never had man been." However, by placing the story in a real-world setting, the term "wilderness" might also imply a mountainous region. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Ether 2:5 They Should Go Forth into the Wilderness, Yea, into That Quarter Where There Never Had Man Been:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, from the plain of Shinar (the location of the tower), the Jaredites moved northward into a valley named after Nimrod, the mighty hunter, and thence "into that quarter where there never had man been." This would take them into the land of great broad valleys where the Tigris, Euphrates, Kura, and Araks rivers have their headwaters, a "hub of radiating valleys and routes to which the Euphrates owes its importance as a highway of commercial and military penetration. The frequent occurrence of the name of Nimrod in this area may not be without genuine significance, for no historical phenomenon has been more thoroughly demonstrated than the extreme tenacity of place names. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, p. 181] [See the commentary on Ether 2:1]

 

Ether 2:5 Into that quarter where there never had man been (Illustration):

     A. The Land of Shinear, where the Great Tower was (P. Dhorme, in Rev. Biblique (1928): 509-511). Ether 1:33.

     B. "The valley which was northward" (2:1). (The northern headwaters of the Euphrates "command a hub of radiating valleys and travel routes, to which the Euphrates owes its importance as a highway of commercial and military penetration." A. Moret, Hist. de l'Orient 1:306).

     C. "And the name of the valley was Nimrod" (2:1). Nimrod country: home of Nimrod place-names and legends. (N. Emin).

     D. "That quarter where there never had man been" (2:5). Anau, once thought to be the oldest city in the world, was originally built in a wilderness.

     E. "The sea in the wilderness" (2:7). Both the Aral and Caspian Seas were much larger in ancient times than they are today.

     F. "Many waters" (2:6). The Turanian plain was anciently full of lakes, marshes, and streams. The Oxus Delta was a vast lake.

     G. Ancient course of the Oxus (as recently as the time of Alexander), now dried up.

[Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, p. 202]

 

Ether 2:5 Into That Quarter Where There Never Had Man Been:

 

     According to Glenn Scott, as Jared's colony traveled northward, they probably followed the course of the River Tigris because had they followed the other great river, the Euphrates, they would have been diverted far to the west of the mountain valley named for Nimrod (Ether 2:4). It would also have added some 270 miles to their journey, only to bring them to the same area near Mount Ararat.

     Following the Tigris River, at about 260 miles north of Babel, they would reach one of the major cities of that distant time. Originally named Calah, it is said to have been built by Asshur, one of the sons of Shem (Genesis 10:11). Later it was renamed Nimrud, no doubt by (or in honor of ) the mighty hunter who unified the cities of Mesopotamia under his rule. Another 180 miles north they would pass a mountain called Nimrut Dagi and a small lake called Nimrut Golu, just west of a much larger lake named Van Golu or Lake Van. Lake Van may have been the first of the "many waters" they crossed on their long journey (Ether 2:6). [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 25]

 

Ether 2:5 Into that quarter where there never had man been (Illustration): The Initial Migration Route of the Jaredites. The Jaredites left the site of the Great Tower and traveled north to the valley called Nimrod. Sometime thereafter they crossed the Sea in the Wilderness beginning their long, long migration across central Asia. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 26]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Ether 2:5 Into That Quarter Where Never Had Been Man (Year )

 

Ether 2:6 They Did Travel in the Wilderness:

 

     According to Glenn Scott, there are many reasons for concluding that as Jared's colony "traveled in the wilderness" (Ether 2:6) from the Valley Nimrod, they probably traveled east rather than west.

     First, had they gone west, they would likely have encountered other peoples (from the great tower) known to have appeared in Europe in the latter part of the fourth millennium B.C.68

     Second, was the extreme length of their migration as indicated by the Brother of Jared's cry to the Lord, "thou . . . hath driven us forth, and for this many years we have been in the wilderness" (Ether 3:3).

     Third, the customs of the Jaredites, as described by Ether, were remarkably like those of the Mongol tribes of east Asia.69

     Fourth, "the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land" (Ether 3:3). From the rotation of the earth, the prevailing westerlies blow around the earth from west to east.

     Fifth, the extreme length of their sea voyage (344 days) could only have been across the Pacific which covers one-third of our world, and is many times wider than the Atlantic.

     We have no way of knowing exactly how many years Jared's colony may have wandered on their long migration across the uncharted steppes and mountains of Asia. Ether 3:3 records the brother of Jared as saying, "O Lord, thou . . . has driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness . . ." For an idea of the length of their journey, let us make a comparison. The famous Lewis and Clark expedition went a straight line distance of approximately 1,800 miles, but by following the winding rivers and mountain valleys from St. Louis to the Pacific coast, they actually travelled about 4,000 miles.70

     By the same ratio, the roughly 7,000-mile airline distance from Babel, north to Valley Nimrod then east to the Pacific coast of China, would represent over 15,000 rugged land miles. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 27]

 

Ether 2:6 They Did Build Barges, in Which They Did Cross Many Waters:

 

     According to Warren and Palmer, in the Sumerian culture from which the Jaredites came, model boats have been found in excavations of houses in various places. A model boat (see illustration) gives some idea concerning typical Mesopotamian water-borne commerce. Such a boat could have been a major mode of transportation by the Jaredites on the first part of their journey up the Euphrates River. The Jaredites also built large "barges" (Ether 2:6) to cross the inland seas ("many waters"--"the sea in the wilderness"--Ether 2:6,7) and "barges after the manner which they had built" (Ether 2:16) to cross the ocean ("that great sea which divideth the lands"--Ether 2:16) In the Sumerian culture, commerce extended throughout the Persian Gulf and even outside of it into Oman and Pakistan. Ocean-going vessels were constructed from wood in large shipyards.

     It is also clear that large barges were constructed in Mesoamerica subsequent to 1500 B.C. They would have been used among other things to move enormous Olmec heads over long distances in the state of Veracruz. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, ch. 4, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:6 They did build barges, in which they did cross many waters (Illustration): A model boat that gives some idea concerning typical Mesopotamian water-borne commerce. [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, ch. 4, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:6 They Did Cross Many Waters:

 

     While traveling in "the wilderness," the group who followed Jared and his brother "did cross many waters" (Ether 2:6). According to Hugh Nibley, it is a fact that in ancient times the plains of Asia were covered with "many waters," which have now disappeared but are recorded as existing well down into historic times; they were of course far more abundant in Jared's time. . . . "The face of the country may have differed considerably from what it is now," says Vernadsky, "the rivers were much deeper and many lakes were still left from the glacial age which later turned into swamps." . . . The steady and continual drying up of the Asiatic "heartland" since the end of the last ice age . . . is a relatively recent discovery. Whoever wrote the book of Ether showed remarkable foresight in mentioning waters rather than deserts along the migrants' way, for most of the deserts are of very recent origin, while nearly all the ancient waters have completely vanished. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 183-184]

     Glenn Scott writes that one of those records which documents these vast areas of water in central Asia was written in the fifth century B.C. by Herodotus,71 who explored the land of the Sythians between the Caspian Sea and Lake Balkhash.72 Even as late as his time, the land presented formidable water barriers to travel. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 29]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Ether 2:6 Travel in the Wilderness--across Many Waters (Year )

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord Would Not Suffer That They Should Stop beyond the Sea in the Wilderness:

 

     The Lord would not allow Jared's group to stop "beyond the sea in the wilderness" (Ether 2:7). According to Hugh Nibley, they had to cross the Caspian Sea, which was a vast sea at that time, twice as large, at least 2,000 miles long. It was huge, and after they'd crossed it, the Lord said that they had to keep going. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 4, p. 254]

 

     According to Randall Spackman, the Jaredites, having entered "that quarter where there never had man been," first traveled through "wilderness," and then built "barges" and crossed "many waters," including a body of water large enough to be referred to as "the sea in the wilderness" (Ether 2:7). A northeasterly journey up the Murat River valley would have led the Jaredites into the depopulated region near Lake Van, past Mount Nimrod, and onto the vast empty plain at the foot of Mount Ararat. Not far from this plain, there was a passable route leading southeast toward the Caspian Sea and another route leading northward toward the Black Sea. Because of the ease of the water route using barges, the journey to "the sea in the wilderness" probably would have led toward the Caspian Sea, although a route to the Black Sea cannot be ruled out. . . . Hugh Nibley stated that his own "guess" was that the Caspian Sea was the Jaredite "sea in the wilderness." Upon reaching the Caspian Sea, the Jaredites would have encountered the largest landlocked body of water in the world, a great salt lake lying below sea level. Virtually surrounded by desert areas, the Caspian Sea's major sources of water were the Volga and Ural rivers (see illustration). The sea may have been shrinking because of the diminished flow from the rivers, creating salt flats near the shoreline. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 41,45, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:7 The sea in the wilderness (Illustration): Map IV, Possible Jaredite routes near the sea in the wilderness. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 47, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord Would Not Suffer That They Should Stop beyond the Sea in the Wilderness, but He Would That They Should Come Forth:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, there were a number of alternative routes that the Jaredites may have taken "that they should come forth" (Ether 2:7) and reach the borders of East Asia. The northern routes assume that the nomadic community traveled via the broad highway of the steppes of inner Asia. Based on the available information, this steppe highway would have been the most traveled and, therefore, most likely route. Whether they reached this highway through the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea, they would have moved eastward along a well-traveled trade route, through hospitable grasslands and across the "many waters" of southern Siberia. Eventually, the Jaredites would have been required to choose whether they would follow the trade route that led into the mining areas of the Altai Mountains or the less traveled route that led to Lake Baikal. These northern routes eventually would have led the wanderers through the mountains north of the Mongolian plateau and into the river valleys and grasslands of the plateau (see illustration).

     It is interesting to note that several modern communities in northern Mongolia are named Moron, the same name given by the Jaredites to the first land they settled when they reached America. In Mongolian the word moron means river, and it would not seem unlikely that the steppe valleys of the Mongolian plateau were known as the land of rivers. It is certainly too bold to assert that the name given by the Jaredites to their American land of Moron (Ether 7:5) may have been taken originally from the beautiful river valleys of Mongolia where they attempted to stop; however, the exact correspondence of the names is intriguing. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 50-52, 62, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but He would that they should come forth (Illustration): Map V, Possible Jaredite routes from the "sea in the wilderness" toward the "great sea which divideth the lands." [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America,, p. 51, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands (Illustration): Map VI Three probable routes of the Jaredites into East Asia from the Mongolian Plateau] [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 56, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord Would Not Suffer That They Should Stop beyond the Sea in the Wilderness, but He Would That They Should Come Forth:

 

     According to Scott Glenn, from a study of the physical characteristics of the terrain which the Jaredites traveled and from records brought back by later travelers through Asia, the only practical route for them must have been very close to one which, centuries later, was named the "Silk Road"73 (see illustration).

     Of course, that famous route over which were carried spices and silk from China (mentioned as early as 302 B.C. by the Greek historian Megasthenes) did not yet exist in Jared's time. So the Jaredites had to break the trail (led by the Lord) from oasis to oasis.

     History records that from 206 B.C. to A.D. 220, there were more than forty intermediate caravan stops along that famous road. It is worth noting that many of those still bear the same or similar names which have come down to our time after more than 2,200 years.

     Where the steppe (grassland) and the mountains meet is the ancient Silk Road caravan stop named Alma Ata, one of the most beautiful sites in Kazakhstan, with meadows in the foothills and snowcapped mountains beyond.74 From there, the Jaredites would have entered the region named by the Chinese, Xinjiang (New Marches), a vast empty land of steppes, desert, and mountains, which seem to have been designed by nature as a barrier between east and west.

     According to Scott, recent archaeological evidences confirm that East Asia was indeed a land through which the Jaredites might have migrated. This evidence appears in reports by Dr. Nobuhiro Yoshida, vice president of the Japanese Petrograph Society, in which he describes petroglyphs found in north central China and southwest Japan which indicate that early Chinese ideograms evolved out of proto-Sumerian glyphs. About 200 of these petroglyphs have been found in China on Mount Garan (Sacred Horse) in the Quwu mountain range (less than ninety miles from the Huang Ho River and the ancient Silk Road site of Lanzhou). The most remarkable thing about these inscriptions is that they can be deciphered by using proto-Sumerian glyph codes very similar to those in use at the ancient Mesopotamian cities of Ur and Uruk about 50,000 years ago and to others found along routes where Sumerian peoples are known to have traveled. Dr. Yoshida's reports were printed in the Japanese science magazine, The Moo, for March 1990.75 [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, pp. 29,32]

 

Ether 2:7 The Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the Sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth (Illustration): The Most Probable Route Taken By the Jaredites Across Central Asia. The proposed route of the Jaredites shown on this map, stretching from the Great Tower to camp Moriancumer, is the most likely of the very few practical routes across central Asia. That route is basically the same as the one which, centuries later, became known as the "Silk Road," over which silks and spices were brought from the Far East to Europe. [Scott A. Glenn, Voices from the Dust, pp. 30-31]      

 

Ether 2:8 Whoso Should Possess This Land of Promise . . . Should Serve Him . . . or They Should Be Swept Off:

 

     According to Lee Donaldson, the second element of ancient covenants was the historical prologue. The historical prologue of a covenant focuses the people's minds and hearts as they remember their history. Ancient Israel, for instance, always remembered the Exodus and the Sinai covenant as they recited their history. The brother of Jared's covenant to "serve the God of the land" (Ether 2:12) became the focal point of Jaredite historiography. In addition the Lord clearly states the stipulations of this covenant (covenant element #3):

           "And he [the Lord] had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them." (Ether 2:8)

 

     The reader should take note that Moroni repeats the stipulations of this covenant three additional times in the verses which immediately follow (Ether 2:9, 10, 12).

     Moroni also concludes his tragic record of the Jaredites with Coriantumr remembering "the words [concerning the covenant] which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit" (Ether 15:3). [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 71] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:5; 1 Nephi 17:36-38; 2 Nephi 1:5-12]

 

Ether 2:8-10 This Land of Promise (Extended Alternate Parallelism):

 

     According to Donald Parry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. (p. i)

     Apparently, the prophets and writers of the scriptures employed the repetition of alternating parallel lines for the purpose of reinforcing their teachings and doctrines. (p. x)

     An "extended alternate" type of parallelism takes the form A-B-C-D/A-B-C-D. (p. xiii)

     A fine example of this Extended Alternate Parallelism is found in Ether 2:8-10 and deals with the decrees of God concerning the land of promise.

     a. And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land

           of promise,

        b. from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God,

           c. or they should be swept off

              d. when the fulness of his wrath would come upon them.

     a. And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise;

        b. and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God,

           c. or they shall be swept off

              d. when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh

                 upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

     a. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands;

        b. wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God

           c. or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God.

              d. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., p. 455]

 

Ether 2:9 We Can Behold the Decrees of God concerning This Land:

 

     In Ether 2:8-9, Moroni is careful to record the covenant between the Lord and the brother of Jared. That covenant concerned a "land of promise which was choice above all other lands which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people." The Lord "swore in his wrath unto the brother of Jared that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them." Then in the very next verses which follow, Moroni declares, not only in sad retrospective, but also as a warning to the future Gentile inhabitants: "And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land . . ." (Ether 2:9).

     According to Lee Donaldson, the covenant to obey Jesus Christ as the God of the land fits a very old pattern. . . . Anciently, the covenants that man made with God were entered into with a specific formula which bound both parties. The biblical scholar George Mendenhall identified six common steps in ancient covenants and treaties (Interpreter's Dictionary 1:714). These elements are as follows: (1) preamble, (2) historical prologue, (3) stipulations, (4) blessings and curses, (5) witnesses, and (6) deposit and public reading of the covenant. . . A close look at the second chapter of Ether illustrates each of these six elements (see the illustration). It is interesting that the same covenant is given in all three sets of plates that make up our Book of Mormon. In view of the requirement of "three witnesses" (Ether 5:4), it is significant that the Lord selected three different sets of plates (the plates of Nephi, the plates of Mormon, and those of Ether) to stand as vital components in establishing the Book of Mormon covenant. [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, pp. 70-74] [See the commentary on Ether 5:4]

 

Ether 2:9 We can behold the decrees of God concerning this land (Illustration): The overarching Book of Mormon covenant to obey Jesus Christ as the God of the land fits a very old pattern] [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 73]

 

Ether 2:9 And Now, We Can Behold the Decrees of God concerning This Land:

 

     According to Lee Donaldson, the fifth element of ancient covenants deals with witnesses. In Ether 2:9, Moroni makes the statement, "and now, WE can behold the decrees of God concerning this land."

     The prophet Ether personally stood as an eyewitness to the terrible fulfillment of the curses of the covenant and "beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record" (Ether 15:33). However, a broader look at the Book of Mormon reveals that this same covenant to serve Jesus Christ as the God of this land is also part of the plates of Nephi and the plates of Mormon (see illustration). Why is this same covenant given in all three sets of plates? Is it significant that the Lord selected three different sets of plates to establish his covenant? And is this the reason why Mormon wanted the message of the plates of Ether to be included with his record? (Mosiah 28:19).

     Having a set of three in making covenants is an ancient pattern. For instance, the baptismal covenant is made "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (3 Nephi 11:25). Moroni, in the middle of his abridgment of the Jaredite record, prophesies that "in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three . . . shall stand against the world at the last day" (Ether 5:4). [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, pp. 72-74] [See the commentary on Ether 5:4]

 

Ether 2:12 Free from Bondage, and from Captivity, and from All Other Nations under Heaven:

 

     According to Lee Donaldson, the biblical scholar George Mendenhall identified six common steps in ancient covenants and treaties (Interpreter's Dictionary 1:714): (1) the preamble, (2) historical prologue, (3) stipulations, (4) blessings and curses, (5) witnesses, and (6) deposit and public reading of the covenant.

     Moroni cites the blessing part of the Lord's covenant with the brother of Jared in Ether 2:12: "Whatsoever nation shall possess it [the promised land] shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven . . ." The curses are enumerated by Moroni in Ether 2:8-9, "they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them," and "the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 72]

 

Ether 2:12 That Ye May Know the Decrees of God . . . by the Things Which We Have Written:

 

     Moroni brings forth the last element of ancient covenant-making demonstrated in the Lord's covenant with the brother of Jared with these words, "And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God . . . by the things which we have written" (Ether 2:11-12)

     According to Lee Donaldson, this covenant was deposited and read publicly for every nation that came, or will come, to the promised land. Prophets sent to the Jaredites either read or quoted the covenant to them frequently (Ether 7:23; 9:28; 11:1,12,20). They reminded the Jaredites to serve the Lord or "the Lord God would send or bring forth another people to possess the land, by his power, after the manner by which he brought their fathers" (Ether 11:21). The final recorded act of Ether's life was to deposit the record in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them" (Ether 15:33). The Jaredite covenant was read during the reign of king Mosiah (Mosiah 28:17-19). Finally, Moroni promises that "the Gentiles" possessing the promised land will not only have access to the words of the covenant, but that the covenant will apply to them (Ether 2:12). [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 72] [See the commentary on Ether 5:4]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Ether 2:13 Jared Comes Forth to the Great Sea and Moriancumr (Year )

 

Ether 2:13 They Called the Name of the Place Moriancumr:

 

     According to Warren and Palmer, after many years of travel in the wilderness the Jaredites arrived at the "great sea which divideth the lands." They called their settlement "Moriancumr" (Ether 2:13, apparently after the name of the brother of Jared. Although the actual name of the brother of Jared is not mentioned in the scriptures, many Latter-day Saints quote the following story related by George Reynolds to indicate that his name was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith after the translation of the Book of Mormon:

     "While residing in Kirtland, Elder Reynolds Cahoon had a son born to him. One day when President Joseph Smith was passing his door he called the prophet in and asked him to bless and name the baby. Joseph did so and gave the boy the name of Mohonri Moriancumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child on the bed, and turning to Elder Cahoon he said, 'The name I have given your son is the name of the brother of Jared; the Lord has just shown (or revealed) it to me.' Elder William F. Cahoon, who was standing near, heard the Prophet make this statement to his father; and this was the first time the name of the brother of Jared was known in the Church in this dispensation." [George Reynolds, "The Jaredites," in The Juvenile Instructor, Volume, 27, p. 282. Also Improvement Era VIII:705; Also Sperry, 1968]

 

Ether 2:13 Moriancumr (Moriancumer)?:

 

     In 1999, the Zarahemla Research Foundation (RLDS) finished an exhaustive review of all known manuscripts and editions of the Book of Mormon in order to restore the text "to its purity." The result was the Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon. One of their "restorations" involves the geographical place name "Moriancumr" (Ether 2:13), which they have changed to read "Moriancumer." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Geography Concordance" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 1005]

     This must be considered tentative subject to the verification of Royal Skousen, director of the Book of Mormon manuscript project, who will not comment at this time relative to such changes. [Personal communication, 11/22/1999]

 

Ether 2:14 For the Space of Three Hours Did the Lord Talk with the Brother of Jared:

 

     In the book of Ether, we read this account:

           And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. (Ether 2:14)

 

     According to Bruce Dana, one could infer from this verse that the Lord chastened him for three hours for not praying. However, it seems that the brother of Jared never stopped praying to the Lord; he committed a sin of omission by not praying "for [or performing something for or with] his brethren who were with him." This is borne out in the subsequent verse: "And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. (Ether 2:15) Moreover, the Lord said unto him: "I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins."

     Dana believes that, for three hours, the Lord was giving instructions on how to build the barges for the long journey upon the water. In support of this belief, verse 16 reads: "And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren." [Bruce E. Dana, Mysteries of the Kingdom, pp. 49-51]

 

Ether 2:14 And [the Lord] Stood in a Cloud and Talked with [the Brother of Jared]:

 

     According to Millet, McConkie, and Top, just as Jehovah appeared to and conversed with Moses and led the children of Israel in the wilderness in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire at night (see Exodus 13:21; Numbers 11:25; 12:5), so did he lead the Jaredites as they were in the wilderness. Ether 2:14 states that the Lord "stood in a cloud and talked with [the brother of Jared]." From this cloud of glory the Lord directed both of these prophets and gave them directions for their journey. The image of a cloud associated with the Lord's appearance is not unique to his dealings with ancient peoples. In this dispensation the Lord also spoke of a cloud of glory, one that will surround him when he again returns to earth and appears to man (see D&C 34:7). [Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet, and Brent L. Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, pp. 266-267]

 

Ether 2:14 [The Lord] Chastened [the Brother of Jared]:

 

     After four years at the place called Moriancumer, the Lord chastened the brother of Jared "because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord" (Ether 2:13).

     According to Thomas Valletta, many modern readers are puzzled by this apparently ungrateful behavior. One recent commentary notes that "it seems highly unlikely that a man of the spiritual stature of the brother of Jared--one who had received marvelous manifestations and had previously exercised great faith in the Lord--would suddenly cease praying to his Maker." The commentary continues: "It may be that what this verse is saying to us is that [the brother of Jared] was chastened by the Lord because he had not fully followed and implemented the counsels of the Lord previously received. It may be that in the relative comfort of the seashore he had allowed his prayers to become less fervent, more casual and routine. He may have been calling upon the Lord in word, but not in faith and deed" (J. McConkie, Millet, and Top 4:269). Whatever the reasons for the Lord's chastening Jared's brother, it is important to remember that other great prophets were also rebuked by the Lord. Moses was reproved for not explicitly following God's instructions in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 20:7-11; 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 32:51-52). The Apostle Peter received a sharp rebuke for letting his love of the Lord get in his way of comprehending the need for the Atonement (Matthew 16:21-23). Even the Prophet Joseph Smith was reprimanded for having "feared man more than God" (D&C 3:7). There is nothing demeaning in being corrected by the Lord, that comes from not humbly receiving the correction. The book of Job reads "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17). The Lord has declared, "as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelations 3:19). Jared's brother, like the rest of God's prophets, took immediate action to turn away the Lord's wrath (Ether 2:15). [Thomas R. Valletta, "Jared and His Brother," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, pp. 312-313]

     Could the textual setting of this recorded "chastening" of the brother of Jared carry any meaning? In other words, this "chastening" directly follows a recorded covenant. Could it be that the brother of Jared was not approaching the Lord in a covenant manner? (or teaching his people to approach the Lord in a covenant manner?) The oddly distinct wording of the text says that the Lord chastened the brother of Jared because "he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord" (Ether 2:14). [Thomas Cherrington, Personal communication]

 

Ether 2:16 Jared . . . Built Barges after the Manner Which They Had Built:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, the Jaredite watercraft are described in the book of Ether as "barges" (Ether 2:16). Barges are normally defined as flat-bottomed cargo vessels used chiefly for canal and river navigation. In addition, the Jaredite record implies a box-like form by its references to the top, bottom, sides, and ends of the barge (Ether 2:17). Both the definition of "barges" and the implied box-like form are in harmony with the eminent nautical scholar Casson's representation of the earliest Egyptian and Mesopotamian planked boats as square-ended and flat-bottomed, "more barge than boat, a form that might have been chosen because it involved simpler carpentry." These vessels were common on the rivers and canals of lower Mesopotamia and would have been familiar to the Jaredites. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 64, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:16 According to the Instructions of the Lord:

 

     According to Lee Donaldson, the family of Jared received "instructions of the Lord" (Ether 2:16) on how to construct a vessel to cross the ocean; the Lehites received similar divine instructions (see 1 Nephi 17:8). Their ships' design came from the Lord and not man. This same divine help protected the two different families as they crossed the ocean. This ocean was described by the same term, "many waters," in both texts (1 Nephi 17:5; Ether 6:7). Many waters is "an Old Testament expression which often designates the waters of chaos" (Interpreters's Dictionary 4:816). The Lord was the only one who could help both families pass through the chaos to the promised land. [Lee L. Donaldson, "The Plates of Ether and the Covenant of the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, p. 77]

     Similar to the Israelites, the Jaredites also had to "cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord" (Ether 2:6; compare 2 Samuel 22:16-18; Psalms 18:15-17). Moreover, the Lord "did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel" (Ether 2:5; compare Exodus 13:21-22). Inasmuch as the Apostle Paul compared the Israelites' crossing the waters and being led by the cloud to baptism and the Holy Ghost, such a comparison might also be made with the Jaredites (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). From the scriptural motifs it seems evident that the Lord often leads his children into the wilderness, but he does not leave them alone. He gives them ordinances, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and even his own presence. [Thomas R. Valletta, "Jared and His Brother," in The Book of Mormon: Fourth Nephi through Moroni, From Zion to Destruction, pp. 311-312]

 

Ether 2:16 They Were Small:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, as to the size of the barges, the Book of Ether states simply that they were "small" (Ether 2:16) and "the length of a tree" (Ether 2:17). The barges may have been small in comparison with typical sea-going craft from lower Mesopotamia. Casson reported that the capacity of Mesopotamian vessels ranged from an extremely large ship of 300 gur or approximately 31 tons, to a normal vessel of 60 gur, about 6 tons, to the smallest craft which only carried a single ton of cargo. Casson estimated that a small barge carried about 30 gur or 3 tons of cargo. Several sea-going junks were described by Donnelly, ranging from 30 to 70 feet in length. Thus, the declaration that the Jaredite barges were small could reasonably mean that they were approximately 30 to 40 feet long and capable of carrying about 3 to 5 tons of cargo.

     It is interesting that the Jaredite record speaks of the barges as "small" in direct proximity with references to the vessels being "light upon the water" (Ether 2:16). A small barge may have been more seaworthy than a larger vessel. Heyerdahl's experience with small craft is instructive: "Speaking of aboriginal watercraft, safety at sea does not increase with the size of the vessel; indeed, numerous experiments in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans have convinced the writer and others of the fact that primitive vessels less than thirty feet in length have a greater chance of survival in stormy seas than similar vessels of larger dimensions. It is a great advantage to a vessel to be small enough to move freely between and over the swells, since a boat much over thirty feet long will either be forced to bury bow or stern into surrounding waves, or will bridge two waves simultaneously with the risk of breaking amidships."

     An alternative meaning of the word "small" may mean that the barges were overcrowded when they were loaded. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 74-76, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:16 They Were Light upon the Water, Even Like unto the Lightness of a Fowl:

 

     Richard Gudmundsen has designed a barge according to the specifications given by the Lord to the

brother of Jared (see illustration). Readers should note the peculiar shape of the boat's hull. It is designed so that when the wind blows, aerodynamic forces will cause the boat to point in a direction which will have the least hydraulic (water) drag. Thus it will skitter across the water like a duck, yet will not spin in a manner which would cause sea sickness to the occupants. (Note the reference to ducks in the abridger's description--Ether 2:16). [Richard A. Gudmundsen, Scientific Inquiry Applied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pp. 99-103]

 

Ether 2:16 They were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water (Illustration): Possible Jaredite Barge Construction. [Richard A. Gudmundsen, Scientific Inquiry Applied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 99]

 

Ether 2:16 They Were Light upon the Water:

 

     The barges are described as being "light upon the water" (Ether 2:16). According to Paul Hedengren, this is probably referring to draft, the nautical term for how far into the water a floating object extends. Any object settles in water until the weight of the water it displaces is equal to the weight of the object. If it cannot displace water equal to its weight, it sinks. Since the object will settle until it displaces water equal in weight to the vessel's weight, the wider and flatter the bottom of a vessel, the lighter upon the water it will float.

     Sitting light upon the water has two effects on a vessel. First it makes it less sensitive to currents in the water, since there is less surface for the water to push on. Second it makes it more sensitive to wind, since there is more surface for the wind to push on.

     In heavy seas, besides being watertight, a vessel should be able to avoid rolling, either end over end or sideways. The design of the Jaredite barges may have made them less susceptible to some common causes of rolling in small sailing vessels. The end over end roll may be caused by racing down the face of a high wave and burying the bow of the craft in the water at the bottom. Before the buoyancy can lift the bow, the stern may be lifted up and over the bow by the following wave. If a boat is light upon the water, with peaked ends, it is less likely to plant the bow deep enough to allow the stern to be pivoted over it.

     In regard to lateral rolling, although there is no statement in the text about whether the barges were self-righting, the weight of secured supplies plus any secured ballast may have made the barge self righting. Had it not been, it certainly would not have been a voyage conducive to singing of God's praises during severe tempests as the text says occurred (see Ether 6:9). [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, pp. 78-79]

 

Ether 2:16 They Were Light upon the Water, Even Like unto the Lightness of a Fowl upon the Water:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, the Jaredite record describes the barges as "light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water" (Ether 2:16). For a hull to be "light upon the water" indicates that the boat had a shallow draft. The barges sat on the water rather than in it. This type of displacement pattern is typical of vessels with wide flat bottoms. . . . It might be well and good to have a shallow draft, but how do you get a wide barge to slip through the water as efficiently as possible, or with the "lightness of a fowl upon the water"? In the western world, the mould of the hull was patterned after a fish, with the greatest fullness towards the bow or the front. However, in East Asia, the hull was molded after the outline of a swimming bird, with the widest part of the boat towards the stern or towards the rear. The first European to observe and write about this difference was Admiral Paris in 1840: "For our best hulls we have taken the fishes as models, always larger at the cephalic end, but the Chinese, who also copied Nature, imitated the palmipeds, which float with the greatest breadth behind . . . In this they were acute, for aquatic birds, like boats, float between the two media of air and water, while fish swim only in the latter." [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 69-71, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 The Ends Thereof Were Peaked:

 

     The ends of the Jaredite barges were described as "peaked" (Ether 2:16). According to Paul Hedengren, one way of producing peaks is to taper and bend up the ends of hull planks. This technique can produce a very strong hull.

     There are some marked similarities between the Jaredite barges and the earliest known examples of merchant ships. The National Geographic of December, 1987, presents an artist's reconstructive drawing of a 14th century B.C. trading vessel based upon what the article calls the oldest known shipwreck. Excavation of the vessel provided information for drawing the bottom of the vessel. As the upper portions had decayed, the upper portions of the drawing were modeled after a 14th century B.C. Egyptian tomb painting showing the arrival of a Syrian fleet. The ship is fifty feet long. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, pp. 78-79]

     

Ether 2:17 The ends thereof were peaked (Illustration): 14th Century B.C. Mediterranean Trading Vessel. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, p. 79]

 

Ether 2:17 The Ends Thereof Were Peaked:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, in what is a striking modern parallel to the Jaredite description of the "lightness" of the barges and their "peaked" ends (Ether 2:16-17), Laechler and Wirt wrote of the Chinese junk, "It does not cut through the water but skims across its surface . . . It is modeled after water birds, and its stern resembles their upswept tails in form." Commenting on this quality in sea-going junks, Donelly wrote: "The stern is always higher than the bow . . . The vessel will more easily lie head to wind in a gale, and . . . stands a better chance against being 'pooped' by an overtaking wave in a heavy sea. Also from this point of vantage on the high poop where he works the unwieldy tiller, the steersman commands a good view over the bow of the boat." [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 71-73, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 The ends thereof were peaked (Illustration): Included in the famous Dorak treasure from Turkey is a silver sword. Down the length of the silver blade is engraved nine seagoing ships. All have peaked prows. . . . The sword is dated c. 2500 B.C. (It can be seen in color in The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, Vol. 1, Yigael Yadin, p. 144.) [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 30, 272]

 

Ether 2:17 The Length Thereof Was the Length of a Tree:

 

     According to Dr. Sami Hanna, an expert in Semitic languages, in Ether 2:17 we learn that the Jaredites built their barges under the direction of the Lord, and that "the length thereof was the length of a tree." In the Semitic culture, common objects are used to relate distances, etc. Therefore, this phrase is completely within Semitic context. [Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 38]

 

Ether 2:17 The Length Thereof Was the Length of a Tree:

 

     The Jaredite barges were built to "the length of a tree" (Ether 2:17). According to Paul Hedengren this might have been to avoid having joints at the ends of planks. The movement of a vessel through waves produces longitudinal flexing that would tend to separate joints at the ends of planks. Thus the Jaredite ships were not longer than the length of the available trees. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, p. 79]

 

Ether 2:17 The Length Thereof Was the Length of a Tree:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, Worcester has written that "most of the timber" used in East Asia for boatbuilding was pine. This "light, soft and tough" wood was obtained from trees that were cut for sale when they were "over 20 years old and about 50 feet high." If the same sort of materials were used by the Jaredites, then the phrase "the length of a tree" (Ether 2:17) might simply mean that the barges were about 50 feet long or less.

     On the other hand, the phrase "the length of a tree" could also be interpreted as a reference to the Jaredites' use of a particular method for constructing their barges. Unlike modern boatbuilding techniques, which involve the creation of a keel and frame before the planking is applied, Mesopotamian boatbuilders first created a box-like hull of edge-joined planks into which they inserted frames, a central shelf or spine, and deckbeams. For the greatest rigidity and strength, a single beam made from one large tree was required for the central shelf of the vessel. . . . Thus it would seem logical to assume that "the length of a tree" had some direct connection with the extreme tightness of the Jaredite hulls. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 76-77, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 The length thereof was the length of a tree (Illustration): Figure 11, Mesopotamian And Egyptian Boatbuilding System, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 78, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 The Door Thereof, When It Was Shut, Was Tight Like unto a Dish:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, each vessel had a "door" (Ether 2:17) which, "when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish." The Jaredites would have required some means of putting their provisions into the barges; so, at least one opening of some kind may be assumed. That this opening was merely a hatch is unlikely. Pictures and models of ancient barges nearly always show a deck house of some type. Furthermore, a flush-decked vessel with one or more hatches would provide no protected area from which the helmsman could steer the vessel during storm conditions. There was such an area because the brother of Jared complained about it: "O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer?" (Ether 2:19) That is, with the door closed and without a window or opening in this protected area, the helmsman either could not tell where to steer or could not steer at all. Thus it seems that there must have been some form of deck house with a door, but no windows, covering at least part of the stern of the vessel. Of course, there may have been several additional hatches through which the Jaredites loaded their provisions and animals. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 86, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 Tight Like unto a Dish:

 

     Noah, the first shipbuilder of Biblical record, was commanded to make an ark of "gopher wood" and to coat it inside and out with pitch (Genesis 6:14-16). According to Randall Spackman, pitch is also mentioned as material for coating boat hulls in documents from the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, about 2000 B.C., and it is clear from Mesopotamian records during the 2nd millennium B.C., that it was standard practice in Jared's Babylonia to coat the outside of the vessel with pitch and the inside of the planks with fish oil. In northern China, however, the ancient waterproofing technique was to coat the hulls with tung oil, sometimes mixed with fish oil or lime, a practice which one early European traveller noted "suffereth no wormes, which is the occasion that one of their shippes doth twice last out one of ours."

     Thus, the use of pitch, fish oil or tung oil for waterproofing and protection from worms may have been comprehended in the words "tight like unto a dish" (Ether 2:17). [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 79-80, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:17 Like unto a Dish (Epistrophe - Parallelism):

 

     According to Donald Parry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. (p. i)

     Apparently, the prophets and writers of the scriptures employed the repetition of alternating parallel lines for the purpose of reinforcing their teachings and doctrines. (p. x)

     Epistrophe, or "like sentence endings," is the repetition of an identical word or expression at the end of successive sentences.

     For instance, in the description of the Jaredite barge, as described in Ether 2:17, the writer makes clear the point that the boats were built "like unto a dish."

     And they were built after a manner that they were exceeding tight,

     even that they would hold water like unto a dish

     and the bottom thereof was tight light unto a dish;

     and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish;

     and the ends thereof were peaked;

     and the tops thereof was tight like unto a dish;

     and the length thereof was the length of a tree;

     and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish;

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., p. xliv]

     Note* Richardson, Richardson and Bentley note that while epistrophe is used in the poetic writing of sentence endings, Amoebaeon is used in narrative writings for paragraph endings. While these literary techniques seem awkward and redundant to the modern reader, they were quite fashionable in ancient times.76 Other Book of Mormon examples of epistrophe and amoebaeon can be found in 1 Nephi 10:12-13; Mosiah 1:6; Alma 9:2-3, 323-33; 14:4-5, 8-14, 18-19; 26:31-32; 29:11-12; 31:7-8; 33:11-18; 35:1-2; 37:9-10; 39:16-->40:2; 40:18-20; 62:18; Helaman 7:23-24; 10:8-10. Biblical examples of epistrophe and amoebaeon include Deuteronomy 27:16-26; Job 1:15-19; Psalms 115:9-11; 118:10-12; 136:1-26; Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21; Joel 2:26-27; Amos 4:6-11. [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]

 

Ether 2:19 In Them There Is No Light, Whither Shall We Steer? . . . in Them We Cannot Breath:

 

     According to Warren and Palmer, it is unlikely that the first set of Jaredite barges was completely enclosed, because enclosure posed added construction challenges. Thus, we can assume that the first set of barges was a rehearsal for the construction of the second set. The first set of barges probably had a rudder. When the second set was built, totally enclosed, they asked not only "whither shall we steer? (Ether 2:19) but exclaimed "in them we cannot breathe!" (Ether 2:19) and "behold, O Lord, in them there is no light!" (Ether 2:19). [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, ch. 5, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:19 In Them Is No Light . . . In Them We Cannot Breathe:

 

     Paul Hedengren notes that the Jaredites constructed two sets of barges. After leaving the valley of Nimrod, the Jaredites traveled in the wilderness for a while, built barges, crossed "many waters" (Ether 2:6) and then traveled in the wilderness to "that great sea which divideth the lands" (Ether 2:13) before finally being directed to build barges again. Of the second set of barges we read, "And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built" (Ether 2:16).

     There are some indications, however, that the design of the second set of barges was not exactly like the first. The phrasing "after the manner" permits possible accommodations for a much longer and more arduous ocean voyage.

     For the first set of barges, apparently the deck only needed to keep rain and occasional boarding waves from flowing down into the vessel. As a consequence, this lighter deck contained sufficient openings to provide adequate ventilation and needed light below.

     For the Jaredite ocean voyage, however, the waves were so high that "they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them" (Ether 6:6) To do this, the force exerted on the deck would have been much greater than was normally exerted on the hull. Thus the deck must have been very strong. To achieve this strength, traditional openings for ventilation and light were apparently not possible.

     Thus the reader should notice that only with the second construction of barges are concerns about the absence of light and ventilation expressed. As the brother of Jared says, "Oh Lord, in them there is no light . . . And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe" (Ether 2:19). [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, pp. 77-78]

 

Ether 2:19 In Them There Is No Light (Revelation & Individual Responsibility):

 

     Many readers skip over the process of shipbuilding by the brother of Jared (and also by Nephi) as if the Lord gave them a revelation and the next day they went out in their backyard and put a ship together with a little help from a few brothers. The Book of Mormon student would do well to ponder the words of Elder Harold B. Lee:

     The Lord gave to the brother of Jared, that great prophet, a blueprint of the ships that he was to construct, by which he was to take his people across large bodies of water to a promised land. [But] as he surveyed these and began to build, he faced two problems: (1) no provision was made for ventilation and (2) there was no light. The ventilation problem was solved rather simply [by the Lord?] by having holes at proper places that could be opened and closed [see Ether 2:20-21]; but the matter of light was [quite different or was it?]. . . . The Lord said to the brother of Jared, "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" (Ether 2:23)--as much as to say, "Well, have you any good ideas? . . . [The Lord then details the problem but instead of providing an answer He just leaves the brother of Jared on his own.] It was as though the Lord were saying to him, "Look, I gave you a mind to think with, and I gave you agency to use it. Now you do all you can to help yourself with this problem; and then after you've done all you can [both temporal and spiritual], I'll step in to help you." . . .

           [The next thing we find is the brother of Jared gathering sixteen stones molten out of rock to the top of the mountain and petitioning the Lord to (1) forgive his sins (see Ether 3:2); (2) forgive the sins of his people (see Ether 3:3); and (3) touch the stones that they might give off light (see Ether 3:4-6)]

           This is the principle in action. If you want the blessing, don't just kneel down and pray about it. Prepare yourselves in every conceivable way you can in order to make yourselves worthy to receive the blessing you seek. (Harold B. Lee, "How to Receive a Blessing from God," Improvement Era, Oct. 1966, pp. 862-63, 896)

 

     While in no way trying to lessen anyone's appreciation for the faith that it took to ask the Lord to touch sixteen stones and make them give off light, or the additional spiritual lessons conveyed by the scriptural story or by Elder Lee's remarks, I have to wonder at this point just how much time and how many failed attempts on his own it took the brother of Jared before he felt like he had done all that he could mentally, physically and spiritually do in order to feel worthy to return to the Lord for help. For example, what prompted him to "molten" stones out of rock in the first place? Why didn't he just ask the Lord to light up any old stones? Or for that matter, why didn't he just ask the Lord to control the seas so that they could have windows which were not dashed out by the "mountain waves"? To me it is obvious that in stressing the spiritual, most of the cultural details concerning the brother of Jared's required study and experimentation with existing maritime lore has been left out of the story. The same can also be said for Nephi and his struggle to build his ship. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:8; 18:2]

 

Ether 2:19 Whither Shall We Steer?:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, the book of Ether contains only four brief references to the technology used by the Jaredites for the propulsion and control of their barges. First, the complaint of the brother of Jared, "O Lord, . . . whither shall we steer?" (Ether 2:19) indicates that the vessels had some method of steering which was interfered with by the enclosed deck house. Second, after the vessels were loaded, the Jaredites are said to have "set forth into the sea" (Ether 6:4). Presumably, they did not attempt to drift away from the seashore, but used some means of propulsion. Third, the record states that "they were driven forth before the wind" (Ether 6:8) implying that some form of sail may have been used when weather conditions permitted it. Finally, the Book of Ether says that "they did land upon the shore of the promised land" (Ether 6:12). This is not very helpful, but it does not say their barges were "wrecked" upon the shore. It would seem, therefore, that they used some method to control their landing, probably similar to what they used to "steer" and to "set forth" in the beginning. Hence, it would not be contrary to the record to assume that the barges had one or more forms of propulsion and control.

     Mesopotamian carved seal stones from the 4th millennium B.C. show reed craft with a man "at the stern, either paddling or steering, while another man stands in the bow holding a forked stick for punting or sounding the river bed." In Mesopotamia several hundred years before the time of Jared, the single steering oar attached to the stern of the vessel (see illustration) was common. . . . Because of the size of the barges and their use at sea, long oars manned by a standing oarsman must have been considered a key element in the propulsion and control system for each barge. There may have been some type of steering oar which could be manned during good weather, but which was impossible to use from within an enclosed deck house. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, pp. 86-89, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:19 Wither shall we steer? (Illustration): Egyptian steering oar attached to the vessel's stern] [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 90, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:20 A Hole in the Top [Thereof] . . . [Thereof] . . . [Thereof] . . . [Thereof]:

 

     In providing a solution for the difficulty of obtaining air, the Lord informed Jared: "Behold thou shall make a hole in the top thereof, and in the bottom thereof; and when thou shalt suffer for air, thou shalt unstop the hold thereof, and receive air. And if it so be that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole thereof, that ye may not perish in the flood" (page 542 of the first edition).

     This quotation is taken from the first edition of the Book of Mormon because the four thereofs italicized above appear in the early editions, but for some unexplainable reasons were deleted from the 1920 edition and all subsequent editions--see Ether 2:20. (Perhaps the revising committee thought they were superfluous.)

     A careful reading of this verse in the first edition seems to indicate that the terms "in the top" and "in the bottom" do not refer to the barge itself. Rather, they refer to the top and bottom of something else such as a chamber or cylinder (designated here as "thereof") which could be used to admit air.

     Dr. Hugh Nibley has explained the possible significance of the "thereofs" and the possibility of an air chamber as follows:

           An exacting editor by removing those very significant "thereof's" has made it appear that when Jared wanted air he was to open the top window of the boat and admit fresh air from the outside. But that is not what the original edition of Book of Mormon says. For one thing, the ships had no windows communicating with the outside--"ye cannot have windows. . ." (Ether 2:23); each ship had an airtight door (Ether 2:17), and that was all. Air was received not by opening and closing doors and windows, but by unplugging air holes ("thou shalt unstop the hole thereof, and receive air. . ."), "when thou shalt suffer for air" i.e., when they were not able to open the hatches, the ships being submerged. (Ether 2:20)

           This can refer only to a reserve supply of air, and indeed the brother of Jared recognizes that the people cannot possibly survive on the air contained within the ships at normal pressure: ". . .we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish." (Ether 2:19) So the Lord recommended a device for trapping (compressing) air, with a "hole in the top thereof and also in the bottom thereof," not referring to the ship but to the air chamber itself. Note the peculiar language: "unstop" does not mean to open a door or window but to unplug a vent, here called a "hole" in contrast to the door mentioned in verse 17; it is specifically an air hole--"when though shalt suffer for air, thou shalt unstop the hole thereof and receive air." (1st Ed.) When the crew find it impossible to remain on the surface--"and if it so be that the water come in upon thee" (Ether 2:20), they are to plug up the air chamber: "ye shall stop up the hole thereof, that ye may not perish in the flood." This, I believe, refers to replenishing the air supply on the surface, lest the party suffocate when submerged--"that ye may not perish in the flood." [Bookcraft, A Book of Mormon Treasury, pp. 136-137]

 

     It is entirely feasible that such an air chamber could have been constructed in each boat. Some of the advantages of such an air chamber have been suggested by A. L. Zobell, Sr., as follows:

           A tube is built from the bottom to the top of the barge, housing in both holes completely. Now we have a funnel right through the boat. Water can come into the tube as high as the water line of the vessel.

           The model of the barge we have built has a stop hole both in front and in back of the tube, . . . These stop holes can easily be opened or closed as needed.

           The purpose of the bottom hole is at least two-fold: First, it acted as a stabilizer to keep the barge at an even keel; second, it could be used to get rid of refuse. ("Jaredite Barges," A.L. Zobell, Sr., Improvement Era, April 1941, pp. 211, 252) [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 313-315]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou Shalt Make a Hole in the Top, and Also in the Bottom:

 

     In the Lord's instructions to the brother of Jared concerning the barges he was to build, He said:

           "thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood." (Ether 2:20)

 

     According to Richard Gudmundsen, in reading the remarkable account of the eight barges designed by the Lord for transporting the Jaredites to the new world, it seems at first somewhat ludicrous that one should make a hole in the bottom of the boat and one in the top of the boat as described by the writer and translator. However, when one realized that the abridger Moroni was probably not an expert in hydraulics and pneumatics, then his explanation of the truth seems more reasonable.

     The account requires a design which will remain upright in heavy seas which on occasion break completely over the vessels. The stones touched by the finger of the Lord provide the light necessary. The air conditioning system as envisioned by Gudmundsen consists of a wave-driven water-piston which when falling, allows air from the top to be admitted by a flapper valve normally held upwards by a stretchable cord made of animal skin. (see illustration for Ether 2:16))

     When the water in the "pump" made of a hollowed out tree, rises due to wave motion, the water piston drives the trapped air into the vessel's interior. Fresh air is pumped into the vessel on one side, and foul air is exhausted at the other end of the boat through a flap valve also made of animal hide. In this design, the air is admitted through the pump's entrance valve placed such that any water which washes over the top falls back into the sea in rough seas. In really terrible storms, it would be necessary to clamp the exit valve closed if too much water flowed into the pump volume. By making the pump's exit port face into the human quarters, a natural draft would be set up to insure that only the stale air from the animal quarters will be pumped out of the vessel's exit flap port. [Richard A. Gudmundsen, Scientific Inquiry Applied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pp. 99-103]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom(Illustration): Possible Jaredite Barge Construction. [Richard A. Gudmundsen, Scientific Inquiry Applied to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 99]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou Shalt Make a Hole in the Top, and Also in the Bottom:

 

     According to Paul Hedengren, it should not be assumed that just because the Lord authorized the cutting of two holes in each vessel, one "in the top, and also in the bottom" (Ether 2:20), He was also acknowledging that the vessel could be used either right side up or up side down. Since the ends of the barge were peaked, it would not move so easily upon the water upside down as right side up. Furthermore, tumbling about with other people and unsecured cargo is likely to produce serious injuries. It is difficult to imagine a nearly year long voyage in which this was a normal occurrence.

     One might ask, If the plug in the hole in the bottom of the barge were removed, would not the barge sink? Not necessarily. Remember, the barge settles in the water only as far as is necessary to displace water of the same weight. Since the barge is light upon the water, it is not settling far. All that would be necessary to keep the barge from sinking would be to place a watertight extension around the hole and extend it from the bottom of the barge higher than the water line outside the barge. Water would then rise in that extension up to the level of the water line outside the barge and no further (see illustration). If the Jaredite boats had a watertight extension from the hole on the bottom to the hole on the top, with stops near and above the waterline, then in addition to ventilation, the stops could also have served as a source of seawater for washing and as a source for waste removal. [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, p. 79]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom (Illustration): Barge Cross Section, Opening with Plug [Paul Hedengren, The Land of Lehi: Further Evidence for the Book of Mormon, p. 79]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou Shalt Make a Hole in the Top, and Also in the Bottom:

 

     According to Randall Spackman, in certain types of Asian vessels, the foremost (and less frequently the aftermost) compartment is made free-flooding. Holes are placed in the planking; however, the vessel does not sink because the watertight compartment bulkhead keeps the remainder of the vessel dry. According to Chinese tradition, a free-flooding compartment reduces the vessel's resistance to water to a minimum and cushions the shocks of pounding when the vessel pitches in rough water. The vessel acquires and discharges water ballast just at the time when it is most desirable to counteract the buffeting at the bow or stern.

     Assuming that the Jaredites used extremely tight construction methods, placing holes in the tops of the free-flooding compartments would have been required for the free movement of the water ballast. The illustrations below show the "normal" and "submerged" conditions of such theoretical free-flooding compartments. While there is no way of determining that the Jaredite devices were like those proposed, this interpretation is much more simple than one requiring submarines and compressed air devices and it is based upon East Asian technology. Except for an occasional stoppage due to "mountain waves," the air supply could have been continuous. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey To America, p. 96-97, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom (Illustration): Free-flooding compartment under submerged conditions [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey to America, p. 98, unpublished]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou Shalt Make a Hole in the Top, and Also in the Bottom:

 

     Glenn Scott asks the question, Now what kind of oceangoing vessel would be built intentionally, with "a hole . . . in the bottom" (Ether 2:20)? Scott then says that Edward Butterworth (Pilgrims of the Pacific, 1974, pp. 64-65) has suggested what is probably the most logical solution to this intriguing problem. Scott feels that Butterworth "may have reasoned that the barges the Jaredites had built in the wilderness were most likely a kind of raft, consisting of a simple platform supported on two large logs. They would have built them as simple and easy to construct as possible for they had to build them again and again as they crossed many waters in the wilderness. That concept certainly agrees with the description given Butterworth by two elderly Tahitians, of the great oceangoing catamarans in which the ancient Polynesians sailed the Pacific (Pilgrims, pp. 56-59).

     Those long-distance vessels were basically two long, hollow logs, connected by a platform which might explain the Lord's instruction to build them "after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built" (Ether 2:16). Those Polynesian catamarans were up to one hundred feet long, and the platform sometimes had a double-deck superstructure. The largest Polynesian oceangoing catamarans carried more than 200 warriors or migrating colonists, for thousands of miles across the Pacific.77 However, since Ether wrote that the Jaredites took "flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast, or animal, or fowl that they should carry with them" (Ether 6:4) it is not likely that there were half that many persons in each barge.

     The most convincing reason for accepting this design, is that it provides a reasonable solution for a ship; having a hole in the bottom. His concept would in all but the roughest weather have kept the hole above the water and at the same time provided means for air circulation, fishing, and disposal of refuse. When the weather became rough, the holes could be sealed by doors making them as watertight.

     Some have suggested that the Jaredite barges may have looked like a submarine (essentially a tube pointed at both ends), but that would not fit the description of being "light . . . like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water" (Ether 2:16). Neither would it explain how they could have had a hole in the bottom without sinking. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, pp. 38, 40]

 

Ether 2:20 Thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom (Illustration): These illustrations show how the Jaredite barges may have looked based on F.E. Butterworth's concept of seagoing Polynesian catamarans in his book Pilgrims of the Pacific. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 42]

 

Ether 2:23 Ye Cannot Have Windows for They Will Be Dashed in Pieces:

 

     According to Hugh Nibley, for some it might be perplexing that the reference in Ether 2:23 to "windows . . . [that] will be dashed in pieces seems to refer to glass windows, since no other kind would be waterproof and still be windows, and the windows would have to be brittle enough in order to be dashed "in pieces." Moreover, Moroni, in actually referring to "transparent glass" in Ether 3:1, is probably following the words of Ether.

     This would make the invention of glass far older than anyone dreamed it was until the recent finding of such objects as Egyptian glass beads from "the end of the third millennium B.C." Nevertheless, "very little . . is known," writes Newberry, "about the early history of glass," though that history "can indeed be traced back to prehistoric times, for glass beads have been found in prehistoric graves." We need not be surprised if the occurrences of glass objects before the sixteenth century B.C. "are few and far between," for glass rots, like wood, and it is a wonder that any of it at all survives from remote antiquity. . . . The finding of the oldest glass and ironwork in Egypt is not a tribute to the superior civilization of the Egyptians at all, but rather to the superior preservative qualities of their dry sands. [Hugh Nibley, The World of the Jaredites, pp. 216-217]

     Windows were also a part of Noah's ark: "A window shalt thou make to the ark" (Genesis 6:16).