“A Critique of S. Kent Brown’s Book of Mormon Article: ‘A Case for Lehi’s Bondage in Arabia'”
(Original article information: A Case for Lehi’s Bondage in Arabia S. Kent Brown
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Volume – 6, Issue – 2, Pages: 205-217
Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1997 The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
(c) 2009; 2011 (updates)
S. Kent Brown wrote an article making a case for Lehi’s family being in bondage/ being slaves while in the desert, and that’s a big part of why it took them eight years to get through it. I will comment on that article here.
(And hey, while I’m at it, let me add: “The views expressed in this article are the views of grego and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”)
First, I really like the thinking that brought this article to existence! Much has been discovered in the Book of Mormon like this, and I am certain more will be. Congratulations!
Overall, it’s possible—especially in light of the Lihayanites, possibly “Lehi” and “Nephi” in the ruins in Arabia, and with Nephi’s preaching in the wilderness (as in Doctrine and Covenants). But even if so, I don’t see it in the Book of Mormon like Brown sees it.
Unlike most of my previous article/ response critiques, I will first comment up front, then put the original article and my responses afterwards.
I think there are a few things to think about:
1. The Book of Mormon is about deliverance (see my article on deliverance), and there is story after story with this theme; yet, a deliverance of Lehi’s group from bondage and captivity, which would be a strong story, is missing.
2. Like Laman and Lemuel wouldn’t have complained about or mentioned this in 1 Nephi 17 or elsewhere??! Note the following:
1 Nephi 17:20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.
1 Nephi 17:21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.
Compare “we have wandered”–what Laman and Lemuel actually said–to what they could have said: “we have been put in chains, and fallen to the earth under the labors required of us by our task masters”… It seems Laman and Lemuel were really into the wandering part, which means living years in bondage doesn’t seem to fit.
Every time trials are mentioned during or after—by anyone—it is always hunger, thirst, wandering, afflictions, children—never slavery, bondage, captivity. Comparing them, I imagine Laman and Lemuel would have complained much more about the latter…
3. Lehi blames Jacob’s suffering on “the rudeness of [his] brethren” only—no mention of servitude, etc.:
2 Nephi 2:1: And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
4. It never comes up in the future traditions: not by the Lamanites, not by any prophet such as king Benjamin or Alma or Nephi—not anyone in the Book of Mormon.
The deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt is brought up many times, Lehi’s deliverance from Jerusalem is brought up many times (even by Nephi), the deliverance of Alma from the Amulonites/ Lamanites is brought up, the deliverance of Zeniff from the Lamanites, etc.—but never the deliverance of Lehi’s group from bondage/ slavery.
5. How would the family have been able to keep the brass plates safe and secured during all that time of bondage/ captivity/ slavery, especially among a wandering group of herdsmen/ robbers/ protectors? That would have taken more miracles than Joseph Smith’s keeping the records safe.
6. How many task masters would want their slaves bearing lots of children? Especially if they are older, like Lehi and Sariah—who bore two children in the wilderness, in Lehi’s “days of my tribulation in the wilderness”.
All those are points that, like the points in the original article, add up—but on the other side.
6. About “sojourn”… Much ado is made about this word, and it might be about nothing, really. I’ll mention a few things about it. Basically, does the word mean what S. Kent Brown wants it to mean?
In one sense, we are all sojourners here on earth–we have left our heavenly home, and are kept away from it, in a wilderness/ desert, so to say. Many hymns and scriptures allude to this (Redeemer of Israel, etc.). Though “sojourn” might not be the word to describe this situation, stranger, pilgrim, wanderer, etc. are other synonyms.
Lehi’s group left home, and was kept from their promised land destination, sojourning in the wilderness. This was truly a feeling for most in the group. Can “to sojourn” can also mean “to remain temporarily, to live in a termporary dwelling”, especially if it were in a lower state of environment compared to what one was used to or in a nomadic state(not just freedom/ slavery)? Nephi writes a whole lot about tents, his father dwelling in a tent, living in a tent, etc. People who live in tents are naturally wanderers.
Looking at the word sojourn in the Bible, I really have a heard time believing it
1. “often refers to servile relationships”;
2. “a biblical sense of a stranger or refugee living under the protection of another person”;
3. “placing oneself under the care of another by selling one’s services. In the best of situations, one became an employee, a day-laborer as it were. In the worst of cases, one became a slave, or the property of another, so that one’s freedom had to be obtained by purchase”;
4. “a refugee enjoying the protection of God”.
I also note that Brown changes the meaning when he summarizes, from “a stranger… living under the protection of another person” to an “[i]n the best of situations… an employee, a day laborer”. That’s a big leap that I do not see the scriptures supporting.
The question that Brown most deals with is the slavery part of the definition. I believe his article would have been more success had he dealt with the complete fullness of the definition, including slavery or servitude as one possibility.
Abraham sojourned in Egypt:
Abraham 2:21 And I, Abraham, journeyed, going on still towards the south; and there was a continuation of a famine in the land; and I, Abraham, concluded to go down into Egypt, to *sojourn* there, for the famine became very grievous.
Was he an employee? A servant? A slave? Or other?
And there are many more similar situations from the Bible…
I personally find that the uses of “sojourn” fit more:
2. “a biblical sense of a stranger or refugee living under the protection of another person”; and the
4. “a refugee enjoying the protection of God” definitions.
However, I would change #2 to say, “a stranger or refugee living in a foreign, temporary land”, and #4 to read, “a refugee, wanderer, or stranger enjoying the protection of someone”. I believe that is closer to the Biblical meanings.
At the end of this, I will list the uses of “sojourn” in the scriptures, and leave it up to the reader to see what connotations the word may have.
About the uses of sojourn in the Book of Mormon, here is the context in which they occur:
1 Nephi 17:1-5:
1 Nephi 17:1 AND it came to pass that *we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth*. And we did *travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness*.
1 Nephi 17:2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that *while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their *journeyings* without murmurings.
1 Nephi 17:3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God *he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them*; wherefore, *he did provide means for us while we did SOJOURN in the wilderness*.
1 Nephi 17:4 And *we did SOJOURN for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness*.
1 Nephi 17:5 And *we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish*…
In these verses, consider that:
–Nephi continually alludes to this as a “journey”, “travel”, “wade”, “journeyings” (1 Nephi 17:1, 2).
–Nephi stresses it is the Lord that provides for them (not others) (1 Nephi 17:3).
–the nourishing and strengthening is for the journey (not for being slaves and bearing their tasks) (1 Nephi 17:3).
–the sojourning itself was eight years, but that it includes the time in the wilderness before this section.
–the sojourning ends when they come to the land of Bountiful, not when they escape from their captors (1 Nephi 17:5).
Consider also these verses, just a short distance away:
1 Nephi 17:12-14:
1 Nephi 17:12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we *journeyed* in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;
1 Nephi 17:13 And *I will also be your light in the wilderness*; and *I will prepare the way before you*, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and *ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led*.
1 Nephi 17:14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that *I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem*.
Not “much fire”—but if they were slaves, why not? Or why not, “our masters had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire”?
Not that other men or tribes delivered them, but the Lord. Yes, it would still be possible to fit them together; but I believe that if there was some sort of exchange, it was that—-an exchange–not slavery, bondage, or captivity.
Of course, when these types of topics are brought up, there is always the question, “Well then, if it wasn’t A, then what was it?” This is not a valid line of countering for any topic in any way—it’s substituting the “how” for the “what” (oranges for apples)—but discussing it can shed light on the topic.
When considering what some other reasons might have led to a long journey, it’s best, when possible, to see what problems they might have already had. So, here they are: returning for something (plates and Ishmael’s family), rebellion and indecision (Laman, lemuel, sons of Ishmael want to go back to Jerusalem), repentance and discussion (Nephi talking about the group wanting to go back), worship (building an altar, sacrificing), gathering seeds (1 Nephi 8:1), teaching and preaching (Lehi’s vision, Nephi’s vision, and the discussion in Laman and Lemuel’s tent), getting provisions together, and customs and life events (marriages, and later the death and mourning of Ishmael)—all which occurred before the “real” journey into the wilderness; searching for and killing food (the broken bow incident), etc.
Then, consider other groups and journeys, and just other possibilities: resting for children and more children (and I doubt all the couples were all on the same bearing schedule!), the endless search for food and water, sicknesses and injuries to party members or possibly animals, dust storms, staying out of physical trouble (dangerous animals, robbers), impassable mountains/ gullies/ rivers, etc. (During this time of eight years in the desert, would the war against and the destruction of Jerusalem, the carrying away of captives, etc. which might have possibly influenced the wilderness situation; could it have? I suggest not much, because of this verse and other similar later verses in the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 17:43 And now, after all these things, the time has come that they have become wicked, yea, nearly unto ripeness; and I know not but they are at this day about to be destroyed; for I know that the day must surely come that they must be destroyed, save a few only, who shall be led away into captivity. The Lehites didn’t know about the destruction of Jerusalem, and wouldn’t for a while.)
So why all those problems? Lehi’s group was to use the Liahona to travel:
1 Nephi 16:9 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.
1 Nephi 16:10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.
1 Nephi 16:16 And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.
Here’s more about the Liahona:
1 Nephi 16:26 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
1 Nephi 16:27 And it came to pass that when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly, and also my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and our wives.
1 Nephi 16:28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
1 Nephi 16:29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
1 Nephi 16:33 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning; and after we had traveled for the space of many days we did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry for the space of a time.
Mosiah 1:16 And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him.
Mosiah 1:17 Therefore, as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty.
I believe the Lord allowed it/ made it such that not using it would cause unforeseen and unseen problems for the group. Can you imagine taking a route all the way to the end, only to find the only exit has robbers camping there for an extended stay? Or finding a dead end, and having to go all the way back? Or the well is dry, and you have to backtrack to your last camp, then go another direction? Can you imagine thinking you could get a boat ride at the docks, only to show up and find they wanted cash only? Etc.
In fact, Alma 37:41-42 says:
Alma 37:38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
Alma 37:39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
Alma 37:40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.
Alma 37:41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
Alma 37:42 Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.
Alma 37:43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
Nephi says, after it all:
2 Nephi 4:20 My God hath been my support; *he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness*; and *he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep*.
If Lehi’s group were in bondage, Alma could have taught his son, “If you don’t do the things to have the Spirit, you can easily be brought into bondage”—which fits in nicely with what he was trying to get his son to understand—but he didn’t.
While S. Kent Brown concludes: “[text in the Book of Mormon] most likely points to a period of servitude and conflict during the desert journey”, I conclude that while this idea is possible, there really is very little in the Book of Mormon text that supports his conclusion.
A Case for Lehi’s Bondage in Arabia
S. Kent Brown
Abstract: The lengthy sojourn of Lehi’s family in the Arabian desert invites the almost inevitable question whether circumstances forced family members to live in the service of tribesmen either for protection or for food. In my view, enough clues exist in the Book of Mormon—they have to be assembled—to bring one to conclude that the family lived for a time in a servile condition, a situation that apparently entailed suffering and conflict.1
“Eight Years in the Wilderness”
The extended family of Lehi and Sariah required eight years to travel from Jerusalem to the seacoast of southeastern Arabia (1 Nephi 17:4). This span of time suggests that the party spent a considerable period in at least one location.
As travelers, they took far more time than caravans did in that era. To illustrate, a loaded caravan of several hundred camels could travel from the coast of the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea—approximately the assumed route traveled by Lehi and his family, though in reverse—in a matter of weeks, not years.2
That would be four months, or 120 days for a business caravan, which I imagine was well-stocked and well-protected, with no women or children, no babies, clear and direct path, deadline to meet.
The family seems to have spent most of the eight years along the southern leg of their journey, from the point where they began to “travel nearly eastward” until they reached “the sea, which we called Irreantum” (1 Nephi 17:1, 5). Evidently, each of the two earlier stages of the journey—from Jerusalem to the first camp and from that camp to Nahom where the party buried Ishmael—took less than one year. The first stage comprised the flight to a locale “three days” south of the northeastern tip of the Red Sea, some 250 miles south of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:5–6), as well as the two times that Lehi’s sons returned to the city, first for the brass plates and then for the family of Ishmael (1 Nephi 3–5, 7). One must also add time for the visionary experiences of Lehi and Nephi (1 Nephi 8, 11–14) and the marriage festivities of the children of Lehi and Ishmael (1 Nephi 16:7). Under normal circumstances, all these events would have required possibly seven or eight months, certainly no more than a year. Any suggestion that Lehi’s family farmed for a season or two at the first camp does not take into account the observation that in a desert clime all arable land and all water resources have claimants.3
I don’t see the need to rush Lehi and group out of the first campsite. If one assumes that the marriages took place very soon after the bringing of Ishmael’s family out into the desert, then yes, this time frame would make sense. However, that could have also been a while. They gathered seeds of all kind (1 Nephi 8), and I imagine that there might have been seasonal plants that required… seasons.
As to whether “in a desert clime all arable land and all water resources have claimants”, I would like to ask, who else was there when Lehi and group was camping there? Someone, or no one? Either way, it seems they could have stayed longer–either they lived with others, or they were alone.
I would also like to ask, when the researchers have gone back, who claimed the land at that time, were people there, were they growing things? If not, I think it’s clear that it wasn’t necessarily the case at that time, either.
The second stage of the journey covered the ground from the first camp to “the place which was called Nahom” (1 Nephi 16:34), a segment that Nephi narrates only in moderate detail (1 Nephi 16:12–39). In my view, this took less than a year. The keys lie in two notations: the marriages and the subsequent births of the first children. Evidently, the weddings took place not long before the family departed the camp (1 Nephi 16:7, 12). Then traveling in “a south-southeast direction,” the party reached Nahom, where Ishmael died (1 Nephi 16:13, 34). It is only after relating events associated with Ishmael’s burial that Nephi mentioned the first births (1 Nephi 17:1). Hence, it is reasonable to reckon that this stage of the trip required less than a year, assuming that two or three daughters of Ishmael became pregnant soon after their marriages and that they bore their first children soon after the death of their father, about the time the party turned “nearly eastward.”
It is this eastward stage of the journey that apparently took the most time. And it may well have been in this segment that, in the recollection of King Benjamin, the party “did not . . . progress in their journey, but were driven back, . . . and . . . were smitten with famine and sore afflictions” (Mosiah 1:17). While “famine and sore afflictions” occasionally characterized the family’s trip from the first camp to Nahom, their eastward route along the south edge of Arabia’s Empty Quarter would have brought more intense troubles since they were leaving areas of population and cultivation. In addition, we know of no specific instances of an extended break in the journey in the earlier two stages, except for the few days that they stopped because of Nephi’s broken bow (1 Nephi 16:17–32). Further, at no time in his narrative of the journey from the camp to Nahom did Nephi write of being “driven back.” Whatever King Benjamin had in mind, it seems not to have been a part of the trip to Nahom.
Correct. And there is a big clue:
Mosiah 1:16 And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and *the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him*.
Mosiah 1:17 Therefore, *as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty*.
“Famine and sore afflictions”–not bondage or captivity, not slavery or subjugation.
In this light, the family apparently spent the bulk of the eight years between Nahom and “the sea.” Even if only a part of the difficulties listed by Benjamin occurred during this stage, it seems reasonable that this segment formed the most troublesome part of the journey. Southern Arabia has been known from antiquity to modern times as a place of inhospitable tribes and slave trafficking, including the subjugation of entire tribes.4 Moreover, the family evidently had little or no expendable property to exchange for food. For Lehi had left his moveable wealth behind in Jerusalem, and it was later lost to Laban (1 Nephi 2:4; 3:22–26). In addition, the family seems not to have taken clean animals, since they hunted regularly and ran out of food at least twice between the camp and Nahom (1 Nephi 16:14–15, 18–19, 39). Further, the fact that they twice faced starvation before starting the eastward leg of the journey hints strongly that family members were by now in no position to avoid seeking assistance from tribesmen in exchange for their services, even if such a situation led to severe difficulties either during the period of such services or when the family tried to move on.5
The fact they faced starvation had to do with situations and faithlessness and the Liahona.
“We Did Sojourn”
A further key lies in the verb to sojourn, which appears twice in Nephi’s narrative, both occurrences coming after his notation that the party turned “nearly eastward.” This observation may be significant in light of what we have just learned. Nephi recorded that “we did travel nearly eastward . . . and wade through much affliction. . . . [God] did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness. And we did sojourn for the space of . . . eight years in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:1, 3–4).
In the Bible, the term to sojourn often refers to servile relationships.6 On one level, Nephi’s choice of the verb to sojourn mirrors a meaning found in the Old Testament, that of a refugee enjoying the protection of God, a point that Nephi noted. On another level, to sojourn may also reflect the biblical sense of a stranger or refugee living under the protection of another person.7 The remaining sense in which Nephi seems to use the term has to do with placing oneself under the care of another by selling one’s services. In the best of situations, one became an employee, a day-laborer as it were. In the worst of cases, one became a slave, or the property of another, so that one’s freedom had to be obtained by purchase.8
In this light, did Nephi’s parents and siblings experience subjugation to, or dependence on, desert dwellers?9 As far as I am aware, no one has suggested such a possibility.10 Instead, most interpreters have focused only on what Nephi himself recorded in his typically understated way about the severe difficulties encountered by the family.11 But hints elsewhere in the text point to a period when family members lived in contact with desert dwellers—they could not have escaped such contact—suffering troubles and conflict in the process.
Well, there it is–“THEY COULD NOT HAVE ESCAPED SUCH CONTACT–SUFFERING TROUBLES AND CONFLICT IN THE PROCESS”. And thus the need to fulfill an assumption raises its head…
The first person to refer back to this period was Lehi. When he blessed his younger sons Jacob and Joseph, he called the years of his family’s sojourn in the wilderness both “the days of my tribulation” (2 Nephi 2:1) and especially “the wilderness of mine afflictions” and “the days of my greatest sorrow” (2 Nephi 3:1). For Lehi, it was the worst of times.12 How so? To be sure, Lehi was evidently well-equipped for desert living, for he lived on the edge of the desert that extends east and south from Jerusalem; he must have known the rigors that one encounters in such a clime.13 If Lehi, then, was equipped and reasonably experienced, there must have been an event–or series of events–that had soured him.
Yes, I agree. Here is an example:
1 Nephi 16:19 And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.
1 Nephi 16:20 And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.
1 Nephi 16:25 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow.
1 Nephi 16:37 And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.
There is never mention that that event or series of events had to do with bondage and captivity. However, there are some other possibilities, in addition to the above verses: Laman and Lemuel tried to kill Nephi, and plotted to kill him; Lehi felt hunger enough to speak against the Lord, which must have caused much pain and sorrow for him; their lives were in a constant state of danger; he was constantly being blamed by others, such as Laman and Lemuel, and the daughters of Ishmael; he had to try to keep the family together; Laman and Lemuel grew more and more wayward, and grew stronger and stronger in iniquity. Now, if those wouldn’t make a parent sad, I would strongly consider Brown’s argument… In fact, take a look at the ship episode:
1 Nephi 18:17 Now my father, Lehi, had said many things unto them, and also unto the sons of Ishmael; but, behold, they did breathe out much threatenings against anyone that should speak for me; and my parents being stricken in years, and having suffered much grief because of their children, they were brought down, yea, even upon their sick-beds.
1 Nephi 18:18 Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave.
1 Nephi 18:19 And Jacob and Joseph also, being young, having need of much nourishment, were grieved because of the afflictions of their mother; and also my wife with her tears and prayers, and also my children, did not soften the hearts of my brethren that they would loose me.
This was but a continuation of the wilderness situation, and Lehi was older now and had already been through a lot.
Turning to Alma the Younger, we note that he recalled the kindnesses of God to Lehi and his family in the desert in the following: “[God] has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also . . . delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day” (Alma 36:29). The last phrase, of course, tells us that Alma had in mind all the generations from Lehi to his own, some of whom had suffered “bondage and captivity.” In my reading, Alma is saying that Lehi’s generation had also experienced “bondage and captivity.” Besides the evident sense of the passage, one compelling point has to do with the parallelism set up by the prior verse wherein Alma notes in almost identical language that the Lord had “delivered [our fathers] out of bondage and captivity from time to time,” the reference pointing to “our fathers [in] Egypt” (Alma 36:28). Thus the phrase from time to time, which appears in both verses 28 and 29, strengthens the observation that, in common with the Hebrew slaves, the generation of Lehi had suffered “bondage and captivity.”
Here is the verse:
Alma 36:29 Yea, and *he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day*; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.
There is nothing to support anything about Lehi being in bondage and captivity in the wilderness. It could be. It could also be, the Lord delivered Lehi from bondage and captivity–from the Babylonians. It could be neither.
This comment leads to another reminiscence of Alma. In an earlier address to people in Ammonihah, Alma recounted that “our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God . . . through the wilderness.” Immediately thereafter Alma asked the question: “have ye forgotten . . . how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed?” (Alma 9:9–10). Enemies? Destroyed? Do these expressions fit into a picture of Lehi in the desert? To be sure, the phrase “our fathers” may point to an intermediate generation, nearer Alma’s time, who had suffered difficulties with “their enemies.” But the context also allows the possibility that Lehi, too, had experienced troubles with “enemies.”14
Barely, at most. Here are the verses:
Alma 9:9 Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness?
Alma 9:10 And have ye forgotten so soon how many times he delivered our fathers out of the hands of their enemies, and preserved them from being destroyed, even by the hands of their own brethren?
Alma 9:11 Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his long-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe.
It seems that Alma splits the Lehi in the wilderness part and the delivering and preservation–note especially the phrase, “even by the hands of their own brethren”–that doesn’t apply to Lehi, only Nephi on down.
As an additional consideration, in another part of this speech Alma observed that these same Nephite ancestors, led “out of the land of Jerusalem,” had also “been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases, . . . they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed” (Alma 9:22). Certainly, Alma had in mind here more than Lehi’s party because he went on to speak of those “brought out of bondage time after time . . . until now” (Alma 9:22). But the fact that the events of Lehi’s generation had triggered such reminiscences illumines the likelihood that references to physical difficulties, such as “sickness” and “diseases,”15 as well as to “enemies” and to “battle,” point to hardships experienced in the harsh environment of Arabia, what with a lack of food, water, and fuel, and the presence of unfriendly tribesmen.16
Here are the verses:
Alma 9:18 But behold, I say unto you that if ye persist in your wickedness that your days shall not be prolonged in the land, for the Lamanites shall be sent upon you; and if ye repent not they shall come in a time when you know not, and ye shall be visited with utter destruction; and it shall be according to the fierce anger of the Lord.
Alma 9:19 For he will not suffer you that ye shall live in your iniquities, to destroy his people. I say unto you, Nay; he would rather suffer that the Lamanites might destroy all his people who are called the people of Nephi, if it were possible that they could fall into sins and transgressions, after having had so much light and so much knowledge given unto them of the Lord their God;
Alma 9:20 Yea, after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord; yea, after having been favored above every other nation, kindred, tongue, or people; after having had all things made known unto them, according to their desires, and their faith, and prayers, of that which has been, and which is, and which is to come;
Alma 9:21 Having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of translation;
Alma 9:22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things–
Alma 9:23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.
Alma 9:24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?
Once more, possible, but nothing supports that conclusion.
One further consideration is both relevant and illuminating. It concerns the principle that the Lord orchestrates experiences for prophets so that they come to see matters as the Lord sees them, thus adding intensity and acuity to their messages. Thirty-five years ago, Abraham Heschel noted this aspect of prophetic experience, selecting the marriage of Hosea as proof.17 This said, we turn to Lehi’s prophetic messages after he had emerged from the desert.
As he speaks to his children and grandchildren just before his death, Lehi brings to view the clashing concepts of captivity and freedom. For instance, in language that recalls slavery, he pleads with his sons that they “shake off the awful chains” by which “they are carried away captive,” being “led according to the . . . captivity of the devil,” with no control over their own destiny (2 Nephi 1:13, 18). Further, he urges them to “shake off the chains . . . and arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:23).18 As a second example, Lehi’s whole concern with “redemption . . . through the Holy Messiah” borrows language from the freeing of slaves (2 Nephi 2:6). Thus he declares that the Messiah is “to redeem the children of men,” making them “free forever,” terminology associated with ending servitude (2 Nephi 2:27). One naturally asks, does not the force of these concepts arise at least partially from Lehi’s shared experiences with his children? In light of our review so far, the answer has to be yes.
Let’s see if the answer “*has* to be yes”.
First, it is more possible than Brown’s explanation, that Lehi and his group saw other slaves in the desert. Perhaps the scenes of slavery and perhaps the brutalness of the masters towards the slaves was imprinted in their minds.
2 Nephi 1:2317, 18
2 Nephi 1:21 And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;
2 Nephi 1:22 That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body.
2 Nephi 1:23 Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.
2 Nephi 1:24 Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.
2 Nephi 1:17 My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;
2 Nephi 1:18 Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil.
At this juncture, we might venture a tentative reconstruction. Lehi’s family, finding themselves without disposable wealth when they turned “nearly eastward” at Nahom, were obliged at some point thereafter to sell their services to one or more local tribesmen for food or protection, or both. The labor was hard on all, particularly the women (1 Nephi 17:20). It was after family members tried to extract themselves from this situation that severe conflict arose—”battle” in Alma’s words—with “enemies,” whether tribal members whom they served or members of a rival tribe.
That’s making a speculation of a speculation…
I have another “tentative reconstruction”: the party split at some time–typical Laman and Lemuel and group, not wanting to follow the Liahona in what seemed an easy decision–and Laman and Lemuel and group were the ones put in bondage. Lehi and his party went back to find out what happened and to help, and possibly needed the help of others or another tribe to get Laman and Lemuel free.
Evidence from Isaiah 48–49
Nephi’s addition of Isaiah 48–49 to the end of his first book (1 Nephi 20–21) has partly to do with his conviction that Isaiah spoke of his family’s experience in the desert. To be sure, Isaiah 48–49 stands within the larger prophetic message about the scattering and gathering of Israel, of which Nephi and his family (the scattered) and their distant posterity (the gathered) were a part. But Nephi says that “the Lord “did show unto many [prophets] concerning us” (1 Nephi 19:21), a statement made after summarizing his family’s journey to the land of promise, now more than twenty years behind them, and just before introducing these chapters from Isaiah. Evidently in Nephi’s view, Isaiah’s prophesies had anticipated the family’s trip to the promised land. Nephi is thus saying, “Isaiah spoke about us.”19 As an example—and this point is important—Isaiah’s words about scattered Israelites also fit precisely the circumstances of the departure of Lehi’s family:
Hearken . . . all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. (1 Nephi 21:1 [= Isaiah 49:1])20
Obviously, Isaiah had anticipated a time when corrupt officials would rule people in the city, a situation that Lehi experienced in his day. And it seems evident that Nephi had seen the relevance of such passages to the family’s situation.21
To make a further point, we turn to a sampling of passages in Isaiah that have to do with Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, directed as it was by the Lord and forced by public pressure.22 One must understand that only a year or so earlier the Babylonians had forced the city to surrender and had installed Zedekiah as a puppet king (2 Kings 24:10–19). In this connection, one notices expressions in Isaiah that have to do with Babylonians. For instance, for those who find themselves captive to the Babylonians, the Lord will exercise his right of seeking the release of his people who are enslaved abroad,23 —an important point for our purposes—saying to them,
Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye . . . : The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. (1 Nephi 20:20[= Isaiah 48:20])24
Without multiplying examples, we note compelling allusions to servitude in the desert. The reference to “these . . . children” born while one is “a captive” (1 Nephi 21:21 [= Isaiah 49:21]) could certainly be understood as pointing to Jacob and Joseph, children born to Lehi and Sariah in the wilderness.
I understand comparing, but this is pretty detailed comparing.
Jerusalem was under Babylonia; wasn’t this “captive”?
Moreover, the remark about the one who would “deal very treacherously” but from whom the Lord would “defer mine anger . . . that I cut [him] not off” (1 Nephi 20:8–9 [= Isaiah 48:8–9]) could apply not only to Nephi’s older brothers, for whom the Lord showed abundant patience during the journey and whose posterity was to survive,25 but also to a desert tribesman to whom Lehi’s family owed temporary allegiance.26 Another strong statement on difficulties in the desert has to do with the refining process in “the furnace of affliction,” which of course can allude to the heat that one experiences either in the desert or a place of trial.27 I “do this,” the Lord says, because “I will not suffer my name to be polluted” (1 Nephi 20:10–11 [= Isaiah 48:10–11]).28
So how did those sufferings “not suffer [His] name to be polluted?
On the side of assuring the Lord’s assistance to those who may struggle in the desert, one finds a number of examples in these chapters of Isaiah, including those that allude to the Lord guiding his people away from trouble. For instance, Nephi, if not others, must have taken courage from the Lord’s assurance that he “leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst go” and that those who trust in him “thirsted not” because “he led them through the deserts” and “caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them” (1 Nephi 20:17, 21 [= Isaiah 48:17, 21]). Moreover, continuing the desert imagery:
They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. (1 Nephi 21:10 [= Isaiah 49:10])
Plainly, one can identify a number of passages that naturally would have spoken to the situation of the family while traveling through Arabia,29 including several that point to servitude and God’s merciful rescue of his people from such a state.
Taken together, it seems reasonable that the years spent by Lehi and his family in crossing the desert were characterized by the not uncommon practice “in times of scarcity” of “the bargaining away of freedom—or part of it—in return for food.”30 Whether the “enemies” (Alma 9:10), the escape from destruction “in battle” ( Alma 9:22), and the “bondage and captivity” (Alma 36:29) had to do with a single experience with desert dwellers is impossible to determine. Whatever the case, Nephi’s choice of the term to sojourn—also an Old Testament term commonly denoting servanthood—when combined with Lehi’s remarks and the chapters chosen from Isaiah, most likely points to a period of servitude and conflict during the desert journey.31
The strongest I would rewrite the conclusion would be: “from Isaiah, make possible or even likely a period of servitude during the desert journey”.
1. To my knowledge, no one has explained why the family spent this extended stay in the desert. Commentators have only attempted to outline how Lehi and his family coped in the desert, including the Lord’s requirement that they not “make much fire” (1 Nephi 17:12). For example, George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1955), 1:166–67, 173, portray the family as successfully avoiding contact with desert peoples because of the aid of the Liahona. Hugh Nibley similarly observes that the desert was a dangerous place and that Lehi’s family did their best to avoid contact with its inhabitants, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 47–49, 63–67.
2. According to Nigel Groom, the usual time for a caravan to travel from Zofar (or Dhofar) on the Indian Ocean to Gaza on the Mediterranean coast was 120 days, a distance of 2,100 miles, Frankincense and Myrrh (London: Longman, 1981), chart on 213.
3. Such a suggestion would rest on Nephi’s statement that “we did gather . . . all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us” (1 Nephi 16:11). These “provisions” could have been brought by Ishmael’s family. Nibley points out that all desert land that can grow crops is claimed, Lehi in the Desert, 66.
4. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an anonymous work dated to about AD 150, describes places and peoples of Arabia, chiefly those near the coastline, and calls the people of the northwest coastal area, where Lehi’s family first camped, “rascally men” who “plundered” ships and took “for slaves” those who survived shipwrecks. The south coast was characterized by traffic in “slaves,” including “female slaves,” and its “inhabitants are a treacherous lot, very little civilized,” Groom, Frankincense, 90, 94, quoting the translation of W. H. Schoff. From the Islamic period, the Koran refers often to slaves, both in terms of booty (Sûrah 33:50) and in terms of manumission (e.g., Sûrah 4:92; 5:89). In modern times, Bertram Thomas spoke of slaves in the south of Oman in the 1920s and 1930s, noting the remarkable, continuing phenomenon that the entire Shahara tribe lived “in groups among their Qara overlords, hewing their wood and drawing their water.” Referring to tribes of south Arabia, Thomas observed that “Instability is the chief characteristic of any regime in tribal Arabia,” Arabia Felix (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1932), 47, 15, 22–35. Thirty years later, Wendell Phillips wrote of the extreme difficulties of moving from one tribal area to another in southern Arabia, some tribes living in a state of perpetual war with others, Unknown Oman (New York: McKay, 1966), 230–31.
5. The complaints of the two older sons, which Nephi kept in his account, speaks of the general suffering of all members of the party: “we have suffered in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:21; compare the complaints of Ishmael’s daughers in 16:35).
6. Although one cannot consult the original ancient text of the Book of Mormon from which Joseph Smith translated, one has to assume—correctly, in my view—that the English text represents a reasonably accurate translation. For the biblical text, David Daube sets out servile connections for the verb to sojourn in The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 24–26.
7. Nephi’s meaning would not be that of one sense of the biblical noun sojourner (Hebrew ger), which in the later books means “protected citizen,” because the family seems not to have sought citizenship during their journey. See the discussion of Diether Kellermann, “gûr,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringren (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 2:448; and Robert Martin-Achard, “gûr,” in Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1977), 1:309.
8. The full discussions of gûr are instructive in Theological Dictionary, 2:439–49, and Theological Lexicon, 1:307–10. The sense that I am suggesting for the term in the Book of Mormon is that, in preexilic Israel, the sojourner “is usually the servant of an Israelite, who is lord and patron,” Theological Lexicon, 1:308. On this point, see Daube, Exodus Pattern, 24–26. Kellermann’s rendition of the term sojourners as “protected citizens” while enslaved in Egypt (Leviticus 19:34) is naïve at best, Theological Dictionary, 2:449.
9. Dependency should not surprise us because one would need protection in the desert. Even along the “incense trail” in areas inland from the Red Sea, as Nigel Groom reminds us, caravaneers “moved through harsh tribal areas inhabited by nomads, where unpredictable squabbles could put both their profits and, perhaps, their lives at risk.” Away from major centers of civilization, he notes, “in the absence of strong rule, law and order must have been precarious,” Frankincense, 197–98. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), in his Natural History, observed that “of these innumerable tribes an equal part are engaged in trade or live by brigandage,” 6.32 (§162).
10. Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, “In Search Lehi’s Trail, Part 2,” Ensign (October 1976): 38, suggest that the family may have sought “asylum” with a desert tribesman. The hint that Nephi preached while “in the wilderness” (D&C 33:8) does not alter this possibility.
11. Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary, 1:173–74; Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 63–65; Robert L. Millet and Joseph F. McConkie, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 1:131–32. Nephi seems to speak rather blandly about the severity of the problems that faced family members by noting generally “much affliction” (1 Nephi 17:1) and “many afflictions and much difficulty” (1 Nephi 17:6).
12. As one gauge of the severe impact of the desert experience, Jacob, who had been born in the desert to Lehi and Sariah, seems to have remained a sober, serious person all his life (see Jacob 7:26).
13. Lehi was equipped with “tents” and other means for desert living and was apparently able to leave his home without delay (1 Nephi 2:4; 3:9; 16:12; etc.). See Nibley’s discussion in Lehi in the Desert, 46–49.
14. The notation that immediately follows—”even by the hands of their own brethren” (Alma 9:10)—opens further the possibility that the reference is to Lehi and his children since the older sons sought at least once to kill Lehi (1 Nephi 16:37; 17:44) and three times to kill the younger son Nephi (1 Nephi 7:16; 16:37; 2 Nephi 5:3–4; cf. 2 Nephi 1:24), even though the word “brethren” can refer to unfriendly Lamanites (e.g., Mosiah 28:1; Alma 17:9; 48:21).
15. The Roman geographer Strabo, writing of an ill-fated military expedition to western Arabia in 25-24 BC, said that a majority of the original army of 10,000 died from “hunger and fatigue and diseases,” a tragedy that he attributed to “the water and herbs” of the region, Geography 16.4.23–24. Referring to the area inland and along the southern coast of Arabia, almost two hundred years later the author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea recorded that “these places are very unhealthy, and pestilential even to those sailing along the coast; but almost always fatal to those working there, who also perish often from want of food,” cited in Groom, Frankincense, 92.
16. For other summaries in the Book of Mormon of Lehi’s journey through Arabia, as well as aspects of their experiences there, see 1 Nephi 17:1–2, 12; 2 Nephi 1:24; 2:2; 3:3; Alma 18:37–38; 36:29; 37:38–42. King Benjamin characterized this era as one of “sore afflictions” (Mosiah 1:17), an expression linked elsewhere to “bondage” (Mosiah 7:28; 12:2–4), though not in all its other occurrences (Mosiah 9:3; Alma 61:4; 62:37).
17. Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1962), 56, wrote that Hosea’s strange marriage “was a lesson” instead of “a symbol.” Further, its “purpose was not to demonstrate divine attitudes to the people, but to educate Hosea himself in the understanding of divine sensibility.”
18. It is also important to note how he speaks of the promised land, calling it “a land of liberty,” whose inhabitants “shall never be brought down into captivity” and “shall dwell safely forever,” except for the cause “of iniquity” (2 Nephi 1:7, 9).
19. Nephi’s assertion that the Lord “did show unto many [prophets] concerning us” (1 Nephi 19:21) must also have included Zenock, Neum, and Zenos, whose words he had just quoted (1 Nephi 19:10–17; cf. 10:12–13). Nephi then immediately introduces Isaiah 48–49 by instructing his people not only to “hear. . . the words of the prophet [Isaiah]” but also to “liken [Isaiah’s words] unto yourselves” (1 Nephi 19:24; cf. Jacob’s observation in 2 Nephi 6:5).
20. The passage quoted here stands neither in the Hebrew nor in the Greek text of Isaiah 49:1.
21. One finds further reference to the corruption and iniquity in the city when Lehi began his preaching. Of that day, Isaiah holds that the citizens of Jerusalem will “swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness. Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel” (1 Nephi 20:1–2 [= Isaiah 48:1–2]). Of such wickedness among persons in Jerusalem, Nephi later said that “their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations” (2 Nephi 25:2). Incidentally, the Book of Mormon text of Isaiah 48:1–2 differs in important ways from that of the underlying Hebrew text of the King James Version.
22. See 1 Nephi 2:2, “the Lord commanded my father . . . that he should . . . depart”; and 7:14, “they have driven him [Lehi] out of the land.”
23. This legal right undergirds the entire exodus saga of the Hebrew slaves. See David Daube, Exodus Pattern, 39–41. In addition, I have set out the meaning of this legal right for the visit of the risen Jesus to the Nephites and Lamanites in “Moses and Jesus: The Old Adorns the New,” in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9–30: This Is My Gospel, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 89–100, especially 94–99.
24. In a further reference to Babylonians, affirming that the Lord is in charge, Isaiah says that the Lord “will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall come upon the Chaldeans” (1 Nephi 20:14 [= Isaiah 48:14]). Incidentally, these verses (1 Nephi 20:14; Isaiah 48:14) are not the same. The Book of Mormon text adds an entire sentence in the middle of the verse that concerns the fulfillment of prophecy and does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek texts of Isaiah.
25. For Nephi, the future survival of the posterity of his older and younger brothers was beyond question (1 Nephi 12:19–20; 2 Nephi 3:3, 23). Even though Nephi knew—and this knowledge brought him deep pain (1 Nephi 15:5; 2 Nephi 26:7, 10)—that his own descendants would eventually be destroyed, indisputable hints point to the survival of a remnant as well as descendants from the other members of the family. See 1 Nephi 13:30; 15:13–14, 18; 22:7–8; 2 Nephi 10:2; cf. 2 Nephi 3:3, 23; 4:7; 9:53; 25:8, 21; 3 Nephi 21:7; Ether 13:7.
26. One can also include reference to those whom the Lord looses from prison and darkness, whom he “shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places” because the Lord “will . . . not forget thee” since “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (1 Nephi 21:9, 15–16 [= Isaiah 49:9, 15–16]). On darkness and prison, see also Lehi’s appeal to his older sons to “awake from a deep sleep” in order to “shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound” that make them “captive” (2 Nephi 1:13; see also 1:21, 23). One is left to wonder whether Lehi’s vivid language arises from personal experience, including his words about the latter-day release from “captivity unto freedom” (2 Nephi 3:5).
27. As in the portrayal of Egypt in Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4.
28. I follow the reading of 1 Nephi, not that of the King James Version.
29. In addition, it is the Lord “who leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst go” (1 Nephi 20:17 [= Isaiah 48:17]). On feeding and pasturing “in all high places” (1 Nephi 21:9), as well as the Lord’s promise to “make all my mountains a way” (1 Nephi 21:11 [= Isaiah 49:11]), compare the function of the brass ball that “led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16). Moreover, the expression “those who are in the east” (1 Nephi 21:13 [= Isaiah 49:13])—certainly tied to “these . . . from afar” who are “from the north and from the west” (1 Nephi 21:12 [= Isaiah 49:12]), which matches the directions the family had traveled from Jerusalem—could be seen as referring not only to the extended family who traveled east through Arabia to reach the shore of the sea, but possibly even to the direction that they traveled on the sea in order to reach the Americas.
30. Daube, Exodus Pattern, 25. For the fleeing family of Lehi, food was crucial, “provisions” (1 Nephi 2:4; 16:11) and “seed,” (1 Nephi 16:11).
31. Whether it was to save fuel, along with the efforts that one expends to find fuel, or whether it was to avoid drawing attention to themselves that the Lord “suffered [not] that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness,” or both, is not clear from the account (1 Nephi 17:12). Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary, 1:173, and Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 63–67, opt for the latter explanation.
All forms of the word SOJOURN in the Text of the Scriptures.
Gen. 12: 10
10 ¶ And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
Gen. 19: 9
9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.
Gen. 20: 1
1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
Gen. 21: 23, 34
23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
• • •
34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.
Gen. 23: 4
4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
Gen. 26: 3
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
Gen. 32: 4
4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
Gen. 35: 27
27 ¶ And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.
Gen. 47: 4
4 They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.
Ex. 12: 40, 48
40 ¶ Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.
• • •
48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
Lev. 17: 8, 10, 13
8 ¶ And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice,
• • •
10 ¶ And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
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13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.
Lev. 19: 33
33 ¶ And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
Lev. 20: 2
2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Lev. 22: 10
10 There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.
Lev. 25: 23, 35, 40, 45, 47
23 ¶ The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
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35 ¶ And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
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40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
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45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
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47 ¶ And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:
Num. 9: 14
14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.
Num. 15: 14
14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord; as ye do, so he shall do.
Num. 35: 15
15 These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
Deut. 18: 6
6 ¶ And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose;
Deut. 26: 5
5 And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
Judg. 17: 7-9
7 ¶ And there was a young man out of Beth-lehem-judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
8 And the man departed out of the city from Beth-lehem-judah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.
Judg. 19: 1, 16
1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah.
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16 ¶ And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.
Ruth 1: 1
1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2 Sam. 4: 3
3 And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)
1 Kgs. 17: 20
20 And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
2 Kgs. 8: 1-2
1 Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the Lord hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.
2 And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.
1 Chr. 29: 15
15 For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.
Ps. 39: 12
12 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
Ps. 105: 23
23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
Ps. 120: 5
5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
Isa. 23: 7
7 Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.
Isa. 52: 4
4 For thus saith the Lord God, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
Jer. 42: 15, 17, 22
15 And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;
• • •
17 So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.
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22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.
Jer. 43: 2
2 Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:
Jer. 44: 12, 14, 28
12 And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.
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14 So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.
• • •
28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs.
Lam. 4: 15
15 They cried unto them, Depart ye; it is unclean; depart, depart, touch not: when they fled away and wandered, they said among the heathen, They shall no more sojourn there.
Ezek. 20: 38
38 And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
Ezek. 47: 22
22 ¶ And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
Acts 7: 6
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
Heb. 11: 9
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
1 Pet. 1: 17
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
1 Ne. 17: 3-4
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, *even eight years in the wilderness.
D&C 138: 36
36 Thus was it made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified of him in the flesh;
Abr. 2: 21
21 And I, Abraham, journeyed, going on still towards the south; and there was a continuation of a famine in the land; and I, Abraham, concluded to go down into Egypt, to sojourn there, for the famine became very grievous.
1 Ne. 8: 23, 32
23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
• • •
32 And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads.
1 Ne. 16: 35
35 And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.
1 Ne. 17: 20
20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.
1 Ne. 19: 14
14 And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.
Jacob 7: 26
26 And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.
Enos 1: 20
20 And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.
Mosiah 7: 4-5
4 And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander.
5 And when they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents.
Mosiah 9: 4
4 Nevertheless, after many days’ wandering in the wilderness we pitched our tents in the place where our brethren were slain, which was near to the land of our fathers.
Alma 13: 23
23 And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard.
Alma 26: 36
36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.
Alma 31: 17
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
Moro. 1: 3
3 And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.
Moro. 9: 16
16 And again, my son, there are many widows and their daughters who remain in Sherrizah; and that part of the provisions which the Lamanites did not carry away, behold, the army of Zenephi has carried away, and left them to wander whithersoever they can for food; and many old women do faint by the way and die.