Mosiah 12

 

Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah


 

 

Mosiah 12:1 After the Space of Two Years . . . Abinadi Came among Them:

 

     Where Abinadi lived in exile is unknown. Similarities between his and Benjamin's words (cf. Mosiah 16:1; 3:20; 16:5; 2:38; 16:10-11; 3:24-25) could mean that he spent some time in the land of Zarahemla with King Benjamin and his people (Words of Mormon 1:16-17) or received similar revelation during this period. [Lew W. Cramer, "Abinadi," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, p. 5]

 

Mosiah 12:1 After the Space of Two Years . . . Abinadi Came among Them in Disguise:

 

     If "after the space of two years . . . Abinadi came among them" (Mosiah 12:1), where had Abinadi been? From his prophecy in Mosiah 12:1 that the people had "repented not of their evil doings" it seems that they had not heeded his warnings from two years previous. Perhaps Abinadi had converted followers who had stayed in contact with him during those two years, but if so, they apparently had no success among the rest of the people. One might wonder why Abinadi would disguise himself when his message would betray him immediately? Perhaps the word disguise connotes something different than our modern-day interpretation. According to research by Cynthia Hallen, one of the definitions for the word "disguise" in the Webster's Dictionary of 1828 was "to alter the form and exhibit an unusual appearance." (Cynthia Hallen, "Webster's 1828 Dictionary and the Book of Mormon," personal communication). Such terms would seem suitable if Abinadi was not trying to totally conceal himself but came dressed distinctively (and meaningfully) for the celebration of an important Israelite religious festival. If Abinadi was to give a distinctive covenant message, what better way to illustrate it. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 12:6; 12:33]

 

Mosiah 12:1 Abinadi Came among Them in Disguise:

 

     According to Alan Goff, the Book of Mormon student should notice that after two years in hiding, Abinadi comes back in disguise (Mosiah 12:1). While the idea of a "disguise" is interesting in itself, one should also note that in the same verse which describes Abinadi's coming forth in "disguise" after two years of hiding, Abinadi also asserts that the people are the Lord's and not Noah's.

     Since the arrest warrant had been out for Abinadi for those two years, he might have had good reason to be in disguise. But why blow your disguise immediately by citing the Lord's command to prophesy and thus identify yourself?

     Since the text claims to be a product of an ancient Israelite culture, we might look to the Bible to see some meaning in this puzzling passage. We might consider that a type-scene is at work and we might look for similar type-scenes. . . . A number of biblical stories are found which repeat a theme of conflict between a king and someone else (usually a prophet). Someone is in disguise, the disguise is made known, and God's will (usually concerning kingship) is unexpectedly revealed through the act of unveiling the disguise. In two stories (1 Samuel 28, 1 Kings 20) the disguise story ends with the same warning: the defeat of the people in battle, and the death of the king. Moreover, in the story in 1 Kings 20, the "servant of God" does the disguising to ensure that his message would be conveyed unmistakably to the king. This sounds like the Abinadi-Noah story in the Book of Mormon. [See the commentary on Mosiah 11:27, 12:2; 12:3 12:11] [Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7, Num. 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1995, pp. 194-196]

 

Mosiah 12:1 Abinadi Came among Them in Disguise . . . Saying: Thus Has the Lord Commanded Me, Saying--Abinadi:

 

     In Mosiah 12:1, Abinadi enters among the people of king Noah "in disguise," and then he says to them, "Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying--Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words." To the reader this seems absurd. Why would Abinadi appear in disguise and then identify himself? According to Hugh Nibley, you see the same thing in the Old Testament and in the New Testament when Jesus went in disguise to the Passover so they didn't know him. In John 11:54 the Lord is disguised, and the prophets went about in disguise. Saul was in disguise when he visited the Witch of Endor, etc. Disguising is very common; Isaiah is an example. They go and hide themselves. Elijah hid and was fed by ravens. They hide and disguise themselves and circulate among the people. They are also hid by the people in their houses. That's the normal career with the prophets. . . . To get into the town Abinadi was disguised. But when he was in there, he cast off his disguise and preached to them as a prophet.. It hit them like a bolt of lightning and there was more trouble. . . . As it says here: "and it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them." [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 59]

 

Mosiah 12:1 Abinadi . . . Began to Prophesy among Them:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, if Joseph Smith were the author of the Book of Mormon narrative he would have been faced with the formidable task of keeping track of all the prophecies recorded within that narrative in order to record the fulfillment of each of the details, especially when one considers that he dictated the narrative only once through to Oliver Cowdery. One of the more complex set of prophecies was that of Abinadi, found in Mosiah 12-17. Subsequent events in the narrative not only vindicate Abinadi's words, but they point to the author's reliance on a written text for such information. We thus have evidence that the author (abridger) of the Book of Mormon is who he says he is: Mormon. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Mormon As an Abridger of Ancient Records," in The Most Correct Book, pp. 12-13]

 

Mosiah 12:2 And the Dogs . . . Shall Devour Their Flesh:

 

     In Mosiah 12:2, there is a simile curse advanced by Abinadi regarding king Noah:

           Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts shall devour their flesh.

 

     According to Alan Goff, since the Book of Mormon is supposed to be a product of an ancient Israelite culture, we might look to the Bible to see some meaning of this passage. The faithful Book of Mormon student should realize that both Hebrew narrative and biblical narrative relish repetition. Thus, one should look to instances in the Bible where a king and his people are judged sufficiently wicked to have dogs and fowl lick their blood and eat their flesh.

     Only the most wicked monarchial characters in the Bible deserved such punishment. Elijah prophesied that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs (1 Kings 21:23), and the text describes the fulfillment (2 Kings 9:8-10). Likewise, the punishment is foretold of Ahab (1 Kings 21:19,24) and is fulfilled (1 Kings 22:37-38). The same prediction was made of Jeroboam and his house (1 Kings 14:10-11). The king-figure who was a stand-in for king Saul, Nabal, had a similar imprecation pronounced against him by David (1 Samuel 25:22,34), which is also notable because Nabal was from the house of Caleb; the wordplays throughout the chapter on Caleb and keleb, "dog," are noteworthy. Because of these predictions, the reader can connect wicked king Noah in the Book of Mormon with the wicked kings of northern Israel.

     But the allusions don't just stop there. Abinadi's judgment doesn't just pertain to Noah, but to all his people. The punishment of having dogs and fowls lick the blood and eat the flesh applies not only to kings and their dynasties but to their subjects also. Jeremiah foretells the punishment for Judah. They will be exiled, an exile that specifically invokes the figures of Moses and Samuel (Jeremiah 15:1). The punishment for neglecting God's law is famine, captivity, and the sword: "I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the Lord: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy" (Jeremiah 15:3). [See the commentary on Mosiah 11:27; 12:1; 12:3; 12:11] [Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7, Num. 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1995, p. 206]

 

Mosiah 12:3 The Life of King Noah Shall Be Valued Even As a Garment in a Hot Furnace:

 

     According to Alan Goff, there is a simile curse advanced by Abinadi regarding king Noah: "the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace" (Mosiah 12:3) Since the Book of Mormon is supposed to be a product of an ancient Israelite culture, we might look to the Bible to see some meaning of this passage. The faithful Book of Mormon student should realize that both Hebrew narrative and biblical narrative relish repetition.

     Six biblical king/prophet narratives demonstrate that even kings are obligated to obey the law. In many, the garment is rent to indicate symbolically that the kingdom is taken from the unworthy king:

     (1) King Saul (1 Samuel 15:28; 24:3-5)

     (2) King David

     (3) King Solomon (1 Kings 11:11-12, 28-31)

     (4) King Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:14)

     (5) King Ahab (1 Kings 21:21)

     (6) King Josiah (2 Kings 22:19)

 

     These stories follow a pattern to demonstrate that the king must also obey the law:

     (1) The king's crimes are recounted.

     (2) The prophet indicts the king for his crimes.

     (3) The king repents (in the Jeroboam story remorse does not occur).

     (4) God determines a punishment to be imposed in the next generation.

 

     In the Book of Mormon, the confrontation between the prophet Abinadi and king Noah follows this pattern:

     (1) Noah's crimes are recounted (Mosiah 11:1-15)

     (2) The prophet indicts the king for his crimes (Mosiah 11:20-28; 12:1-13:35)

     (3) The king attempts to repent, but his priests talk him out of releasing Abinadi. (Mosiah 17:11-12)

     (4) A punishment is imposed (Mosiah 17:18; 12:5-7)

 

     Noah's life is to be valued as a garment in a fire (Mosiah 12:3). Perhaps in isolation, this analysis stretches Noah's garment in the fire too far in alluding to these stories of garments being cut (indicating the covenant that was cut with the kings now being torn). But taken with the preponderance of allusions to the interrogation of kingship in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, we ought to give some weight to the notion that Noah's garment is an invocation of these earlier king's garments. [See the commentary on Mosiah 11:27; 12:1; 12:2; 12:11] [Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7, Num. 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1995, pp. 204-205]

 

Mosiah 12:3 The Life of King Noah Shall Be Valued Even As a Garment in a Hot Furnace:

 

     The servants of king Noah took Abinadi before the king and they accused him of false prophecy. According to Hugh Nibley, this is a very interesting study in textual criticism because this is what he said:

           The life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord . . .[verse 11] And again, he saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot. And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land." (Mosiah 12:3, 11)

 

     These passages are very interesting because they are found in another place--a parallel case of the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls, who goes through the same routine--the same persecution, the same hiding, and everything else--as Abinadi. And it happened about the same time, but it was in the Old World. He prophesied, too, and he used the same expressions. We see that these expressions come from a common source. There are references in chapter 50 of Isaiah. This is what it comes down to. First, put down Isaiah 50:9-11. This is the prophet speaking, just as Abinadi is speaking, just as the Teacher of Righteousness is speaking. They both quote Isaiah, and they quote it in a very interesting way for an older text. We find the parallel texts not in Joseph Smith and the Bible, which he could have used, but in Joseph Smith and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which he couldn't have used because they are a recent discovery. They quote it in the same way that Joseph Smith quotes it. If you can keep this straight, it is a neat example of textual criticism. So Isaiah says, "Who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment [he is not talking about the garment being burned]; the moth shall eat them up [that's what happens to garments] . . . . Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled," you people that play with fire. These irresponsible priests in their wickedness are playing with fire, and they will be burned up by it.

     Bearing that in mind, what does the Dead Sea Scrolls man say? "For those who stubbornly oppose God, there shall be violence and overpowering and a flame of fire. They are playing with fire and throwing sparks around." I suppose he got that from Isaiah. This is from the Damascus Covenant 5:13. Then the next verse is interesting. "Their weaving is a flimsy thing, the weaving of spiders." Notice how Abinadi combined them. If you play around with flimsy old garments and put them in the fire, they will be burned in a hurry. Here he says they are playing with sparks and throwing fire around, and their weaving (their arguments, etc.;) is flimsy, as the weaving of spiders. Then he says another thing, "Thou scatterest the remnant of the men who fight against me, like chaff before the wind." Now Abinadi "saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire. . . . And again he saith that thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land." Well, I guess they got that from the first Psalm about the wicked man. He shall be "like chaff which the wind driveth away." but the thing is that Abinadi put them in the same combination that the Teacher of Righteousness did n the Old World. They both used the same old text is the point. It's an older text. Remember, we have the Isaiah text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is a thousand year older than our Old Testament Isaiah. Ours comes from the ninth century and this is the first century B.C. This is the older text, and Abinadi cites the older text. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 63-64]

 

Mosiah 12:3 As a Garment in a Hot Furnace:

 

     John Tvedtnes notes that in Mosiah 12:3, Abinadi prophesied "that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace." Noah's priests reported the words a little differently, "thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire" (Mosiah 12:10). This prophecy was fulfilled when King Noah was burned to death (Mosiah 19:20).

     Mark Morrise has shown that Abinadi's words fit the pattern of a simile curse (Mark J. Morrise, "Simile Curses in the Ancient Near East, Old Testament, and Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 2/1, 1993: 133)

     It is interesting that we find mention of both a garment and a king in a simile curse in Isaiah 14:19-20:

           All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.

           But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.

           Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

 

     Hugh Nibley (The Prophetic Book of Mormon, 1989:305) suggests that Abinadi borrowed from the simile curse in Isaiah 50;90, 11 (cited in 2 Nephi 7:9,11) . . . but this Isaiah parallel is only a partial one, for verse 11 (which mentions fire) has nothing to do with the garment, which is consumed by the moth, not the fire. . . .

     The law of Moses provides that a garment visibly tainted by the plague is to be burned (Leviticus 13:52,57; cf. Jude 1:23). . . .

     A ceremonial burning of worn-out priestly clothing took place in the Jerusalem temple of Christ's time during the Feast of Tabernacles. Located above the court of the women were huge cups in which olive oil was burned; these garments served as wicks. (Mishnah, Sukkah 5:2-3). Just as priests who developed bodily infirmities were disqualified from performing priestly functions under the law of Moses (Leviticus 21:17-23), so, too, their worn clothing became unsuited for temple service. . . .

     Tvedtnes suggests that Abinadi's curse of King Noah, with the specific mention of fire, was intended to indicate the very serious nature of Noah's sins. Like the diseased garment in Leviticus 13:52,57), and the useless garment in Isaiah 14:19-20, he is not to be honored with burial. Instead, he will suffer death by fire, which is the ultimate punishment of the wicked. [John A. Tvedtnes, "As a Garment in a Hot Furnace," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, pp. 76-79]

 

Mosiah 12:5 They Shall Be Driven before Like a Dumb Ass:

 

     Abinadi prophesies in the name of the Lord to the people of Noah that "I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass" (Mosiah 12:5). What might be problematic here is the possible lack of "asses" on the American continent at this time period. Yet from another perspective this prophecy might be understood from the scriptures. Additionally, iff this is like other prophecies Abinadi foretold of king Noah and his people, then it mirror what Noah and his people would do to Abinadi.

     Whether or not such was the case might not be answered so easily, however, it might be interesting to see if the people's understanding of the phrase "driven before like a dumb ass" could have been scriptural. In Numbers 22:1-38 we have an account of a man named Balaam traveling with an ass against the commandment of the Lord. An angel appeared in front of the ass to halt this behavior, but the light of this angel was only visible to the ass. Thus, Balaam kept beating or driving the ass forward, but the ass would not go. Finally the ass spoke to Balaam, saying, "What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? . . . Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?

     It is possible that Abinadi might have been likening the people's disobedient attitude toward the Lord's commandments to the story of Balaam. The reader should note that the term "dumb" means unable to speak. The ass would have been considered "dumb" before he spoke to Balaam. Abinadi had been away from the people for two years without speaking to them. Thus he could have been considered "dumb" or unable to speak. The reader should also note that after Abinadi had appeared to them in the name of the Lord they did not repent of their evil doings and sought to take away his life (Mosiah 11:26-29), possibly beating him in hopes that he might move in the disobedient directions that they wanted him to go.

     Now I understand that we have always understood that the fulfillment of Abinadi's prophecy of being "driven before like a dumb ass" will come to Limhi and his people just before the coming of Ammon as they are oppressed by the Lamanites, and it will come to Alma and his followers in the land of Helam as they are oppressed by the wicked priests of Noah. However, I find it appropriate here to consider some expanded possibilities. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mosiah 12:6 I Shall Send Forth Hail . . . the East Wind; and Insects . . . to Devour Their Grain:

 

     According to Amy Hardison, along with covenant blessings, ancient Near Eastern treaties and covenants contained covenant curses. Curses were basically a reversal of blessings, though the curses were typically far more detailed and extensive. For instance, in Deuteronomy 28, fourteen verses are dedicated to describing covenant blessings; the covenant curses go on for fifty-four verses. The curses are graphic and horrifying. They are filled with images of devouring beasts, cities that are conquered and deserted, the end of all joyous sounds, parents eating their children because of the privations of famine resulting from siege, etc. "The curses aim at total destruction of the offender, all he is and all he has."142 They were meant to strike horror and fear into the vassal, for, human nature being what it is, the loss of a blessing is not nearly as powerful a deterrent to rebellion as the fear of impending doom and the curse of the gods. Some may wonder at the appropriateness of such explicit and grisly curses in a religious record, but virtually all the curses in the scriptures represent common, ancient Near Eastern treaty/covenant curses.143

     An understanding of the curses also grants us understanding of the words of the prophets. Whenever Israel was in spiritual danger (which was the precursor of temporal danger), a prophet was sent to raise a warning voice. The prophets who cited covenant curses were not limited to the eastern hemisphere. Abinadi warned King Noah and his court that:

           This generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh. . . . And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them . . . and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain. (Mosiah 12:2, 6)

 

     These curses of Abinadi in Mosiah 12 are of the same pattern as Old World scriptural curses. Abinadi was citing covenant law.

     We also read of similar curses from Nephi, son of Helaman, as he castigated the people from the tower (Helaman 7:19), from Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 13:9), and from Alma to the inhabitants of Ammonihah (Alma 9:24). [Amy Blake Hardison, "Being a Covenant People," in Covenants Prophecies and Hymns of the Old Testament, pp. 28-30]

 

Mosiah 12:6 I Shall Send Forth Hail . . . the East Wind; and Insects . . . to Devour Their Grain:

 

     According to research by Gordon Thomasson, John Welch and Robert Smith, both of Abinadi's speeches deal with the themes of Pentecost. He reversed the festival's blessings and rejoicing, and turned them into curses and predictions of gloom.

     At the time when a bounteous grain season would have been at hand, Abinadi cursed the crops: he prophesied that hail, dry winds, and insects would ruin their grain (Mosiah 12:6). While Israel's deliverance from bondage was traditionally being celebrated, Abinadi called upon Exodus terminology to proclaim that bondage and burdens would return to the wicked people in the city of Nephi: "They shall be brought into bondage; . . . and none shall deliver them" (Mosiah 11:21, 23), "and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs" (Mosiah 12:2, 5; compare Exodus 1:11). [Gordon C. Thomasson, John W. Welch and Robert F. Smith, "Abinadi and Pentecost," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 135-138] [See the commentary on Mosiah 12:33]

 

Mosiah 12:6 I shall send forth hail . . . the east wind; and insects . . . to devour their grain (Illustration): Chart: "Did Abinadi Prophesy against King Noah on Pentecost?" [John W. & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart #124]

 

Mosiah 12:6 I Shall Send Forth Hail:

 

     Some believe that it does not hail in Mesoamerica (see Curtis: Christ In North America, 1993, p. 10). However, according to Lowe, Lee, and Espinosa, hail is a common occurrence. In their writings about Izapa and the surrounding Soconusco area (on the Pacific Guatemala-Mexico border) they say, "on the steeper slopes of the Soconusco . . . hail falls frequently on the coffee in April and May, generally with little intensity, but there are years (as in April 1948) when coffee plantations do suffer damage. On the plains hail is unusual and very light." [Gareth W. Lowe, Thomas A. Lee, Jr., and Eduardo Martinez Espinosa, Izapa: An Introduction to the Ruins and Monuments, p. 61] [See the commentary on Alma 46:40]

 

Mosiah 12:6 I Shall Send Forth Hail . . . the East Wind; and Insects . . . to Devour Their Grain:

 

     According to John Sorenson, a number of features of life among the Zeniffites and their Lamanite neighbors in the land of Nephi in the late second century B.C. are illuminated by a knowledge of cultural and geographical characteristics of southern Mesoamerica.

     The prophet Abinadi warned Noah and his priests on the Lord's behalf:

           It shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain. And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence--and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations. (Mosiah 12:6-7)

 

     No scriptural record tells of the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the threat turns out to be a valid one on the Guatemalan scene where it seems to have been uttered. The conditions foretold are phrased in such a way as to indicate they were within the realm of nature's recognized potential, yet they were so rare that the listeners normally did not contemplate such a combination of calamities as a serious possibility. Highland Guatemala does occasionally suffer just those prophesied conditions under unusual circumstances. Abinadi's point was that God would cause these rare phenomena to come about jointly as unusual punishment for the Zeniffites' gross wickedness.

     Geographer F. W. McBryde explains that certain meteorological situations produce an extremely drying north or northeast wind. (Recall that the "east" among pre-Columbian peoples in highland Guatemala coincided with what on our present maps is north or northeast.) These freak "norte" winds hold back the moist air from the Pacific side that normally flows into the highland valleys daily. As a result, the normal pattern of life-giving showers is upset. Fire danger heightens under these unusual conditions, with drying gusts reaching as high as 35 miles an hour. Great hailstorms occasionally (March through May) accompany these winds, as the strong surge of dry air converges along the coast with moist Pacific air, forming huge hail-generating thunderheads that drift inland above the north (Nephite "east") wind.144 Thus, a period of "east wind' could cause disastrous weather problems in Guatemala/Nephi, in just the terms the prophet said.

     He also warned that insects would come to attack the crops. Migratory locusts periodically caused great destruction to corn fields in the Yucatan Peninsula and highland Guatemala.145 The dry interior Motagua River valley, only 15 miles north (Nephite "east") from our Nephi, had a climate that particularly favored the pests. The dry "norte" winds would drive the swarms those few miles onto the Zeniffites' fields. The Annals of the Cakchiquels, one of the traditional histories from the highlands, mentions two locust infestations shortly before the Spanish conquest, and there must have been many more.146 Food shortages that result from destructive weather and locust infestations are known historically to have brought malnutrition and pestilence in the wake.147 As Abinadi foretold, the pattern of wind, hail, insects, and famine, which on the surface seems rather arbitrary, turns out to be logically, integrally linked when we have our geography correct. They could happen, and would be devastating, if the Lord chose to trigger them. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 182-184]

 

Mosiah 12:8 Except They Repent I Will Utterly Destroy Them:

 

     [See the commentary on Mormon 1:19]

 

Mosiah 12:9 They took him [Abinadi] and carried him bound before the king (Illustration): Abinadi the Martyr. Artist: Stuart Heimdal. [Paul R. Cheesman, Great Leaders of the Book of Mormon, p. 61]

 

Mosiah 12:9-10 (Abinadi) Has Prophesied Evil concerning Thy People . . . and He Also Prophesieth Evil concerning Thy Life:

 

     According to Todd Parker, the priests of Noah who brought charges against Abinadi wanted to get rid of him because he was testifying of their iniquities. But they couldn't just pull a charge out of the air; they had to have legal charges according to the law of Moses. These legal charges have been summarized in a chart (see illustration). [Todd Parker, "Abinadi: The Man and the Message (Part 1)," F.A.R.M.S., Figure 5]

     Abinadi was first accused of lying about the king and prophesying falsely. Both accusations were violations under the law of Moses (Mosiah 13:23; Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Abinadi was next accused of blasphemy (Mosiah 17:8), another capital offense under the law of Moses (Leviticus 24:10-16). Lastly, the priests accused Abinadi of reviling against the king (Mosiah 17:12; Exodus 22:28). On this ground Noah condemned Abinadi, and his priestly accusers scourged and burned him. [Lew W. Cramer, "Abinadi," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, p. 6]

 

Mosiah 12:9-10 [Abinadi] has prophesied evil concerning thy people . . . and he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life (Illustration): Legal Charges Brought Against Abinadi. [Todd Parker, "Abinadi: The Man and the Message (Part 1)," F.A.R.M.S., Figure 5]

 

Mosiah 12:11-12 Thou Shalt Be As a Stalk, Even As a Dry Stalk:

 

     In Mosiah 12:11-12, Abinadi delivers the Lord's decree to a wicked king Noah. He compares king Noah to a "dry stalk" and the people to scattered blossoms. According to Alan Goff, since the Book of Mormon is supposed to be a product of an ancient Israelite culture, we might look to the Bible to see some meaning of this passage. The faithful Book of Mormon student should realize that both Hebrew narrative and biblical narrative relish repetition.

     In 1 Kings, the narrative speaks of a man named Jeroboam. Jeroboam was the first of the Northern Israelite kings (who were breakaway kings from Judah and the Southern kingdom). In order to consolidate power and prevent his subjects from continuing to participate in southern religious festivals in Jerusalem, Jeroboam sets up two shrines ("two calves of gold"--1 Kings 12:28)--one at the northern end of his kingdom and one at the southern end--to prevent religious boundary crossings from lapsing over into political border violations. . . . Thus, Jeroboam's kingship is intricately wound up, in the writer's eyes, with the prototypical instance of idolatry in Israelite tradition, a bad omen for his reign.

     When Jeroboam's son, Abijah, becomes sick, Jeroboam sends his wife in disguise to the blind prophet Ahijah to discover his son's fate. The blind prophet sees through the disguise and pronounces a curse on Jeroboam and his house. The prophet Ahijah declares in the Lord's name that Jeroboam "hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images to provoke me to anger" (1 Kings 14:9) The prophet Ahijah then pronounces on Jeroboam a simile curse similar to the curse pronounced on king Noah by the prophet Abinadi. Ahijah says the following:

           The Lord shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger (1 Kings 14:14-15)

 

     King Noah is also compared to a plant uprooted, and the people to scattered blossoms. Abinadi delivers the Lord's decree as follows:

           He saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot. And again, he said thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land" (Mosiah 12:11-12)

 

     In summary, the Northern Israelites are to be punished for Jeroboam's sins by being driven into exile and slavery. Abinadi pronounces similar punishment on the people of Noah. [See the commentary on Mosiah 11:27; 12:1; 12:2; 12:3] [Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7, Num. 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1995, pp. 196-200]

 

Mosiah 12:11-12 Thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk (Illustration): The parallels between king Jeroboam and king Noah. [Alan Goff, "Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7, Num. 1, F.A.R.M.S., 1995, pp. 201-202]

 

Mosiah 12:19 He [Abinadi] answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions (Illustration): Abinadi before King Noah. Artist: Arnold Friberg. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #308]

     Note* In an interview with Margot Butler,148 Arnold Friberg, the artist who did the painting Abinadi before King Noah, had some interesting comments concerning it's creation:

           I composed it the opposite of the well-known principle in art, the "Principle of the Jewel." . . . It is like a jewel setting--the central figure is the most interesting part. You use the strongest color and the strongest and most vibrant contrast around the center of interest, and then it goes into surrounding neutrals. I reversed it here for the purposes of this picture. Against the simplicity of Abinadi in his grey prison garb was the opulence of the court. The richness of the colors set off this simple, humble man.

           And the jaguars--I spent days studying them at the zoo. There were several reasons for putting them in. One thing, it gives a royal touch to have the animals chained to the throne. They are not leopards; they are jaguars, which are more compact animals than leopards. Jaguars are found only in Central and South America, so they sort of help define the geographical setting. Animals are very sensitive to supernatural power. . . . The jaguars are snarling because they sense the awesome power that is surrounding Abinadi.

           Then there are the priests of King Noah. I had somewhat in mind the man back here at the right might be young Alma. He was mightily impressed by the courageous testimony of Abinadi, so much so that he became a prophet.

 

     This is the artist's favorite painting of the entire set. The figure of Abinadi held special meaning for Arnold Friberg. When his family was converted in 1921 in Arizona through the missionary efforts of a Brother Altop, Arnold was seven years old. He was baptized the next year and remembers fondly the missionary teaching his family received from Brother Altop. As Friberg was at work painting this picture, Brother Altop visited him in Salt Lake City. Lean and muscular from years of working as a carpenter, the revered friend was immediately put to work posing as Abinadi. [Vern Swanson, "The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg: "Painter of Scripture," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies , vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, p. 32]

 

Mosiah 12:20 What Meaneth the Words Which Are Written:

 

     In the hopes of ensnaring Abinadi, one of King Noah's priests said to him, "What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying . . . " (Mosiah 12:20) and then he quoted what we know as Isaiah 52:7-10: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth, etc. . . ." (Mosiah 12:21-24). According to McConkie and Millet, it is as though the priest had asked, "Why is it that you bring a message of gloom, a message of rebuke, given that Isaiah taught that the servants of the Lord would bring glad tidings?" Abinadi's explanation of these verses comes at the end of Mosiah 15. Before giving that response, however, he quotes from what we know as Isaiah 53 in bearing testimony of Jesus the Messiah. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 208]

 

Mosiah 12:20 What Meaneth the Words Which Are Written . . .:

 

     In Mosiah 12:19-20 we find the following:

           And they [the priests of Noah] began to question him [Abinadi], that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words.

           And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:

           How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings . . .

 

     According to Dana Pike, it is interesting to ask why this is the only question from the priests to Abinadi that is preserved for us. We are told that the apparently much questioning by the priests of Noah took place before they asked Abinadi the question regarding Isaiah 52:7-10. While it is not possible to discern which record keeper had the most effect on the story (Alma1 (Mosiah 16:4), Alma2 and Mormon2 all could have influenced the content), it seems to Pike that the singular reason for the decision to include this episode in our Book of Mormon is Abinadi's powerful teaching of the Savior, which the Nephite prophet delivered and then sealed his testimony with his life. All other questions and considerations regarding this pericope on Abinadi must be considered with this perspective in mind. [Dana M. Pike, "How Beautiful upon the Mountains": The Imagery of Isaiah 52:7-10 and Its Occurrences in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 289-290]

 

Mosiah 12:20 What Meaneth the Words Which Are Written . . . :

 

     After the priests of Noah had questioned Abinadi and he had "answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment . . . and did confound them in all their words" (Mosiah 12:19), one of the priests stepped forward and said unto Abinadi: "What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that . . ." (Mosiah 12:20-24).

     Hugh Nibley asks, Why is this priest of Noah asking this question? The answer is that he was implying that if Abinadi were a true prophet, he should be bringing them good news. Why don't you teach us to rejoice; that's what prophets teach. This is the kind of message a true prophet should deliver--good tidings that publisheth good and salvation, that bring joy and comfort to the people. Why aren't you bringing comfort and joy if you are a real prophet? That was a logical thing for the priests of Noah to ask because they believed that we should enjoy ourselves and teach people what they want to hear. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 71]

 

Mosiah 12-16 (Why Isaiah 53--Abinadi's Response):

 

     According to John Welch, Abinadi recited and interpreted Isaiah 53 because his accusers, the priests of Noah, had challenged him to explain the meaning of Isaiah 52:7-10 (see Mosiah 12:20-24). The reader might wonder what the thrust was of their challenge. According to Welch, the priests intended by their direct examination of Abinadi, to catch him in conflict with that scripture and thereby convict him of false prophecy--a capital offense under the law of Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:20).149 In essence, they were apparently asking Abinadi why he bore tidings of doom and destruction when Isaiah had declared that the beautiful and true prophet brings good tidings and publishes peace: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings" (Mosiah 12:20-22, emphasis added). Isaiah gave cause for great joy: "They shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion; break forth into joy" (Mosiah 12:22-24), and yet Abinadi had brought nothing but bad tidings of destruction.

     Abinadi's rebuttal was an extensive and brilliant explanation of the true essence of redemption and how it brings good tidings to those who accept Christ (see Mosiah 12:29-37 and chapters 13-16). His words comprise an elaborate midrash or explanation of the text quoted to him by the priests from Isaiah 52, especially in light of Isaiah 53. . . .

     Mosiah 13: After Abinadi called the priests to repentance, declared that salvation would not come by observance of the law of Moses alone, withstood the priest by radiating the power of God, and rehearsed to them the ten commandments, the prophet turned his attention to the coming of the Messiah to explain the true source of salvation and redemption.

     Mosiah 14: Abinadi quoted Isaiah 53 near the middle of his response to the priests of Noah. Isaiah 53 is unsurpassed in the Book of Mormon, if not in all of scripture, for its detailed prophetic images of the suffering and death of the supernally meek servant of God. Quoted in its entirety by Abinadi in Mosiah 14, this beautiful poem formed not only the crux of Abinadi's theological testimony and legal defense, but also comprised one of the mainstays of prophetic knowledge in the Book of Mormon about the coming atonement of the Savior. . . .

     Mosiah 15-16: In his summation of the mission of the Messiah, Abinadi then wove together phrases from both Isaiah 52 and 53 .

 

     On more detailed examination, it appears that the priests intended, by their direct examination, to catch Abinadi in conflict with Isaiah 52 on five potential points:

     1. Why did he bear tidings of doom and destruction when Isaiah had declared that the beautiful and true prophet brings good tidings (see Mosiah 12:20-22)?

     2. How could he condemn them when Isaiah said that the redemption of the land was a cause for great joy, and they had redeemed the land of Nephi (see Mosiah 12:23-24)?

     3. How could he accuse the people of not keeping the law of Moses when Isaiah had said that the uncircumcised and unclean would not come in (see Isaiah 52:1)?

     4. How did Abinadi dare to prophesy that the people "shall be brought into bondage" (Mosiah 12:2), when Isaiah had spoken of Jerusalem loosing herself "from the bands of thy neck" (Isaiah 52:2)?

     5. How could Abinadi value Noah's life as a garment in a furnace when the true prophet had invited Zion to "put on thy beautiful garments" (Isaiah 52:1)?

     Potential arguments such as these made Isaiah 52 a potent choice as the point of departure in the priests' examination of Abinadi.

 

     Abinadi's detailed response was effective and inspired. By quoting Isaiah 53, Abinadi put himself in a position to answer each of these five potential arguments of the priests:

     1' Through Isaiah 53, Abinadi could explain the good tidings of the gospel; the suffering and death of the Lord's servant was a cause of eternally good news, and thus it pleased even God to bruise his servant.

     2' In Isaiah 53, one finds several clear statements about the correct meaning of redemption: Only when a person "makes [Christ's] soul an offering for sin" will the Lord "prolong his days" and bring prosperity to his hand (53:10). True redemption comes when the Father "shall see of the travail of [the Savior's] soul" and "shall be satisfied" (53:11). By bearing "the sin of many," the Savior shall make "intercession [redemption] for the transgressors" (53:12).

     3' The people did not keep the law of Moses because just like Isaiah 53 prophesied, the people would not esteem Christ (53:3) and would "esteem him stricken, smitten of God" (53:4). Thus they had not properly understood or kept the law.

     4' Because the people had not truly kept the law of Moses and would not esteem Christ (53:3), therefore the law would not protect them from bondage.

     5' Because Noah, as ruler and protector over his people, had not only allowed this to happen, but fostered it, he could not be protected from death and destruction.

     

     The priests had taken Isaiah 52:7-10 out of context in accusing Abinadi; he averted their attack by putting that passage of scripture back into its surrounding context. . . . But most importantly, Abinadi's use of Isaiah 53 not only provided him with a defense against his accusers, but it allowed him to take the higher ground of an affirmative defense. Abinadi used Isaiah 53 to declare the plan of salvation and testify of the resurrection and day of judgment whereby the wicked priests would be punished by God. Isaiah 53 teaches clearly enough the basic messages that were consistently promoted by Book of Mormon prophets. . . .

 

     Because Abinadi's interpretation and use of Isaiah 53 was complete, cogent, and bound up with Nephite tradition, one naturally wonders why the priests of Noah did not understand or accept what he said to them. . . . The ultimate answer involves the interpretive issue behind all of the priests questions, which was this: Was the servant a divine future being or was he not?. This is the crucial point of departure in determining how one reads Isaiah 53 . . . Because of the open texture of Isaiah 53 in this regard, Abinadi was textually vulnerable on this very point, and thus it is logical that the priests attacked him precisely on this position, that a divine being, "that God himself should come down" (Mosiah 17:8). . . . Abinadi insists that the Lord, "the Son of God," will subject his flesh "to the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:21). Nevertheless, Abinadi hastens to add that the Son of God is "one God," called the Father (not of the spirits, but "of heaven and earth") and also called the Son ("because of the flesh").150 Abinadi's words were carefully selected--perhaps to avoid further controversy with the priests and possibly another legal accusation, this time on the grounds that he had violated the commandment that is often read as requiring monotheism, "thou shalt have no other God before me" (Mosiah 13:35). On the subject of Him That Bringeth Good Tidings; That Publisheth Peace: That Bringeth Good Tidings of Good; That Publisheth Salvation; That Saith unto Zion Thy God Reigneth; Abinadi appears to teach the priests all that their understanding allowed. [John W. Welch, "Isaiah 53, Mosiah 14, and the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 293-311]

 

Mosiah 12:21 How Beautiful . . . Are the Feet of Him That Bringeth Good Tidings; That Publisheth Peace:

 

     The priests of Noah ask Abinadi the interpretation of Isaiah's prophetic words:

           And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:

           How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth; . . . (Mosiah 12:20-24)

 

     According to Dana Pike, given that the fullness of the prophecy of Isaiah in Mosiah 12:21-24 involves some future event or events through which a message of hope and comfort will be delivered, the reader should ask three questions:

     1. Is the herald in this passage a specific individual in the latter days, or should he be viewed as a type representing many people?

     2. Should Jerusalem (the destination of the herald) be understood as a type, depicting any city or group of people receiving glad tidings?

     3. What is the content of the message?

 

     With this in mind, it is interesting that this messenger imagery of Isaiah (from Isaiah 52) is found in the Book of Mormon mainly in five different circumstances:

     1. In 1 Nephi 13:35,37 where the Lord teaches Nephi concerning the latter-day restoration of the gospel.

     2. In Mosiah 12:21-24, Mosiah 13-15 where Abinadi explains the meaning of this imagery in depth.

     3. In Mosiah 27:35-37, which contains the post-conversion account of Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah, and how they "did publish peace" and "did publish good tidings of good."

     4. In 3 Nephi 16:18-20 where the Savior describes the future events that would take place in the Americas.

     5. In 3 Nephi 20:29-46 where Jesus reminds his audience that "the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled" when latter-day Israel had been gathered.

 

     While Abinadi declares that whoever has or will receive and proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ, including and especially the Lord himself, was, is, or will be a messenger with "beautiful feet," Jesus is the "founder of peace" (Mosiah 15:18).

     It is interesting that Jesus' arrangement of this Isaiah imagery in 3 Nephi suggests that Isaiah's prophecy will not be fulfilled until he comes again. Jesus' reference to himself in 3 Nephi 20:39 -- "I am he that doth speak" -- is also found in Isaiah 52:6. It is very informative that in 3 Nephi 20:40 the Savior begins to quote the very next verse (Isaiah 52:7 -- "how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them . . . which saith, Thy God reigneth!") which suggests to Dana Pike that Jesus Christ is the primary messenger who will announce deliverance to Israelites who have gathered to Jerusalem at the last day. They will know his name and will say how beautiful are his feet.! [Dana M. Pike, "How Beautiful upon the Mountains": The Imagery of Isaiah 52:7-10 and Its Occurrences in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 259-271]

 

Mosiah 12:21 How Beautiful . . . Are the Feet:

 

     Dana Pike notes that a fascinating feature of Isaiah's use of imagery here is that not only does he mention a messenger or herald, but he also focuses on the messenger's feet with the notation that they are "beautiful." Feet are not generally considered among the more attractive body parts; they are functional, yes, but not beautiful. What did Isaiah intend by this description?

     Interestingly, the word rendered "beautiful" in verse 7 is the Hebrew term na' wu the word from which Joseph Smith coined the city name "Nauvoo."151

     As far as "beautiful" feet are concerned, Pike proposes that it might not be the condition of the feet but their observable activity, their progress, that is being emphasized by the description "beautiful." . . . thus the emphasis in this passage is on the feet of the messenger because the focus of the passage is on the delivery of the message as well as on the arrival of the messenger.

     On the other hand, Pike notes a communication from Larry Dahl to effect that perhaps the feet are described as beautiful because they are clean. He observes that some of the scriptural passages that mention feet refer to the washing or cleansing of feet, symbolizing forgiveness of sins and acceptance by the Lord that can only come through the true gospel (see, for example, Exodus 30:17-21; D&C 88:74-75). Thus, in his view, the gospel is the message and the feet of the messenger(s) are clean because he/they represent the Lord. Those who accept the message share in the hope of becoming clean through Christ.

[Dana M. Pike, "How Beautiful upon the Mountains": The Imagery of Isaiah 52:7-10 and Its Occurrences in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 258, 288]

 

Mosiah 12:33 The Commandments Which the Lord Delivered unto Moses in the Mount of Sinai:

 

     According to research by Gordon Thomasson, John Welch, and Robert Smith, fifty days after Passover on the ancient Israelite calendar was the festival of Pentecost or Shavuot ("Weeks"). Just as Passover marked a time of poverty and bondage, Pentecost exulted in a time of bounty, with offerings of leavened bread baked from the new crop of wheat (see Leviticus 23:17) and of the choicest firstfruits.

     About this same time of the year was the day when Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:1). Thus, Pentecost probably also celebrated the giving of the law by God to Moses. The connection between Pentecost and the giving of the law is well-documented in the Talmud. A recent opinion of Professor Moshe Weinfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is that this connection was made very early in Israelite history, as evidenced by Psalms 50 and 81, which he concludes were sung at Pentecost.

     With this in mind, the story of Abinadi in Mosiah 11-17 comes to life:

     a. Abinadi's re-entry on a festival day would have given him a ready audience.

     b. Both of Abinadi's speeches deal with the themes of Pentecost. He reversed the festival's blessings and rejoicing and turned them into curses and predictions of gloom.

     c. At precisely the time when Noah's priests would have been hypocritically pledging allegiance to the Ten Commandments (and indeed they professed to teach the law of Moses; see Mosiah 12:27), Abinadi rehearsed to them those very commandments (see Mosiah 12:33). On any other day this might have seemed a strange defense for a man on trial for his life, but not on Pentecost--the day on which the Ten Commandments were on center stage!

     d. The connection with Pentecost could hardly have been more graphic than when Abinadi's "face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses' did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord" (Mosiah 13:5).

     e. The ancient festival appears to have been a three-day event (see Exodus 19:11), which may explain why Abinadi's trial was postponed for "three days" (Mosiah 17:6).

     No other day on the ancient Israelite calendar fits the message, words, and experience of the prophet Abinadi more precisely than does the ancient Israelite festival of Pentecost. [Gordon C. Thomasson, John W. Welch and Robert F. Smith, "Abinadi and Pentecost," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 135-138]