1 Nephi Chapter 5


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Here's chapter 5 fresh from the oven:

1 And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto our father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad, for she truly had mourned because of us.

The Hebrew word for "exceedingly" is the word מאוד (meod). According to the Kli Yakar and the Chaza"l the term can also mean physical goods. This is very relevant because in Israelite culture the sons were the main possession a mother could have. Without them it would not only have meant that she lived her life in vain but also that she would be condemned to poverty in her old age when her husband was gone and she became a widow. So it's possible that Sariah was not only mourning for the supposed death of their children but also because of what could have become of her as well.

2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had acomplained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.

How can we understand the fact that Sariah called Lehi a visionary man if she was complaining to him? To understand her we need to look at the Hebrew form she used. The term for visionary in biblical Hebrew is ראה (roeh) which literally means "he who sees". Now the term is not only used for someone with spiritual insight but is also the very same term used to describe a shepherd. The role of a "roeh" was to lead the flock unto safety and abundant pastures. So Sariah's irony becomes evident in this wordplay. How can he being a "roeh" lead them to a bare land and to great danger? That would be the very opposite of what is expected from "he who sees".

3 And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.

4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.

5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.

The Hebrew expression for "land of promise" is ארץ הבטחה (eretz havtachah). The word "havtachah" doesn't mean only promise, but also safety and assurance. In other words in Hebrew a "land of promise" is a land that is safe and with enough abundance to allow its inhabitants to rest assured that they will have food and water to survive. When we look at the Hebrew meaning it becomes clear why this is the answer given by Lehi to Sariah since her main concerns were exactly with safety and with their possibility of being fed.

6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.

7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.

The Hebrew term for "comfort" is the word נחמה (nechamah) doesn't only mean comfort but is specifically used for the consolation of someone who has lost a loved one.

Their joy was full: This is a brilliant wordplay from Nephi! Because in Hebrew the word for full in this kind of context of plenitude is the word שלם (shalem). This is also the ancient name of the city of Jerusalem. Now if you recall the previous chapters we commented on how Lehi most likely fled Jerusalem during the time of the feast of tabernacles. In Jewish law we are told that the "feast" is a time of "joy" (שמחה - shimchah) and from the most ancient days in these times of the year Jews greet each other with the expression "chag sameach" which means "a happy feast to you". Now notice how Nephi said that their "simchah" (joy) was "shalem" (complete). In other words they were enjoying the same experience of rejoicing in the presence of G-d that one would expect to in Jerusalem at this time of the year. Only in Jerusalem at this time it was not possible because of the sin of the people.

8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.

Once again Sariah resorts to the wordgame involving "roeh" (ראה – seer/visionary) and "surety".

9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

This shows that they were celebrating the feast of tabernacles (סוכות - sukot). Curiosly this has everything to do with the theme of joy because it is the most joyful feast in the Jewish calendar so much that it's called "Zeman Simchatenu" or the "Season of our Joy".

The customs of sukot involve living in tents for a week and bringing the first fruits of the Autumn harvest and offering them unto G-d as burnt offerings just as Lehi and his family were doing and as it is said in Exodus 23:16: "Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field"

One of the most traditional portions of this feast involves the Arba Minim ארבע מינים (arba minim). The arba minim or four species are commanded in Leviticus 23:40: "On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the L-RD your G-d for seven days."

Why is this relevant? Because the four species represent the abundance of G-d over that which men rely on. And because Jewish law requires them to be bound together and waved. And we wave the four species in all cardinal directions as well as up and down. This represents the fact that wherever we go we will have provision and abundance from G-d. And this was exactly the theme in connection to the departure of Lehi.

10 And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.

11 And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;

It may seem odd to the reader at first that Lehi would so immediately look at the plates when they had so much to worry about. And why mention the books of Moses first?

To understand this we must once again look at Jewish law. Immediately following the feast of Sukot is a Jewish holiday called שמחת-תורה (Simchat Torah) which happens on the eighth day assembly immediately following the feast of Sukot. In this feast of Simchat Torah the five books of Moses are the central part of the feast. Jewish people will take the scrolls and parade them proudly during this which is an event that also marks the end of the old and the beginning of the new study cycle for the Law of G-d. This is why Lehi was so anxious to see that they had recovered the Torah-law and this is why Nephi mentions it before anything else.

12 And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;

13 And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.

Relatively unknown to those unfamiliar with Judaism is the fact that the Jewish Bible is actually composed of three independent sections: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Neviim) and the Records/Writings (Ketuvim). Notice how this is exactly the way Nephi divides the Scripture he has with himself.

Repetition: If Nephi was short on space why would he repeat that the records went down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah? It is important to understand that whenever a repetition comes up in Israelite text it is often there to establish the truth of the law of witnessing. It is required by Jewish law that truth is established by two witnesses. What is the truth thas is being testified here? We must look at the etymology of the name Zedekiah. In Hebrew his name was צדקיהו (Tzidkiyahu) which means "the L-RD is my justice." So the records of Nephi both the narratives and the prophets testified of this justice of G-d which ironically Zedekiah and the people of Judah were not following.

14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.

Considering that the other tribes of Israel had been scattered nearly a century before many of the northern israelites fled to the kingdom of the South. Several of those israelites lost track of their genealogy in the process.

15 And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them.

16 And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.

We see Laban conversing with the elders of Jerusalem in the former chapter. So it seems that Laban's family was among the chiefs of the tribes and this is why they would have been extremely interested in preserving their records when destruction hit the northern kingdom.

17 And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—

18 That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.

19 Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.

This prophecy of Lehi is of great importance. An ancient Israelite tradition says that G-d offered his laws unto every nation and only Israel accepted them. This is what the Talmud says about this event:

"This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it." (b. Avodah Zarah 2b)

"The nations will then plead. 'Offer us the Torah anew and we shall obey it.'... [Why then should they be offered this observance in the Messianic time?] — Because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deal imperiously with His creatures." (b. Avodah Zarah 3a)

As can be seen above it is equally understood that in the Messianic Age the nations would have another opportunity to hear the laws of G-d and decide to keep them. Lehi is not only in agreement with this ancient Israelite prophecy but as it appears he also prophecied that this ancient Israelite prophecy would be fulfilled through the means of his brass plates.

20 And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.

21 And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.

Why would Nephi say that they looked at the commandments and found them desirable? Had they not known the commandments before to find them desirable in the first place?

It is important to understand that the word in Hebrew for "desirable" is the word רצוי (ratzui) also brings an idea of expiation. Notice how Nephi then describes that they would preserve the commandments unto their children. It is because Nephi believed that the commandments would bring expiation to the House of Joseph in times of great sin.

22 Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.

Every israelite believes that the "land of promise" is a two-way covenant. Promise in the sense that we described before as abundance and safety comes as a consequence of keeping the commandments. That is why the commandments were given in the first place.

It interesting to notice that in the ancient gematria the expression "the commandments" (המצבות - hamitzvot) also has the same numeric value as the name "Israel".

An expression that appears in the book of Genesis in 26:16 also has the same numeric value: "Yesh HaShem hamakom hazeh" which means literally "The L-RD is in this place".

This is the ancient wisdom that Nephi is citing: That the identity of Israel and the dwelling of G-d in the land depend on the commandments. And both the commandments and the dwelling of G-d in the land are themes of the feast of Sukot which is all over this chapter. As you can see when looked upon from an ancient Israelite perspective Nephi's writings reveal great richness.

Edited by thekabalist
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It is required by Jewish law that truth is established by two witnesses.

I found this very interesting. In the LDS religion many of the things we do are done in pairs. At a baptism there must be two witnesses that hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. Our missionaries also go out in twos.

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I found this very interesting. In the LDS religion many of the things we do are done in pairs. At a baptism there must be two witnesses that hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. Our missionaries also go out in twos.

Exactly, and the Book of Mormon, along with the Holy Bible, stands as a second witness that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I just translated this and all I can say is, that I am out of breth! THIS is sooo special! WOW!

This text has so many layers! I feel so priviliged to be able to read this! It si good there is someone like thekabalist who takes time to open these treasures for such blokhead(s) as me!

That repetition taht the scolars call kiasmus... I think... it si amazing this two witnesses. It says in the cover of BoM second wittness.

What Talmud says about the Torah is so interesting. So the circle is colsing... adn thsi si excactly waht we believe in: "He, does not deal imperiously with His creatures."

and teh word Desirable... med expantion... commandments really expand ones possibilities NOT deminish as many have claimed.

"Every israelite believes that the "land of promise" is a two-way covenant." So do we.

Beautifull thank you...

I need to diggest this a bit. I dont have any questions now I just look amazed at the text.


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