1 Nephi Chapter 12


thekabalist

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I have some spare time so I'm moving on with my studies. Hope you enjoy them: :)

1 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld the land of promise; and I beheld multitudes of people, yea, even as it were in number as many as the sand of the sea.

Multitudes of people: What is most fascinating about this expression is that in Genesis 48:19 when the same promise is given to the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim the Hebrew reads מלא הגוים (meloh hagoyim). The word meloh can mean multitude but it can also mean fullness. And the word goyim can mean peoples but it can also mean gentiles. So this expression could read “fullness of the gentiles”. This cannot be a coincidence. In chapter 10 Nephi mentions the fullness of the revelation of the gentiles as a condition to happen before the regathering of Israel. It is likely that Nephi makes a connection between their own descendants and the fullness of the revelation that would happen in the times before the regathering of Israel.

2 And it came to pass that I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against the other; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people.

3 And it came to pass that I beheld many generations pass away, after the manner of wars and contentions in the land; and I beheld many cities, yea, even that I did not number them.

Slaughter with the sword: Why does Nephi bother to mention that the slaughter would be with the sword? Considering how we have seen that the symbolism of sword in Jewish thought represents the word of G-d it could be that Nephi was saying that those in his people who would perish would be for not following the word of G-d.

There’s also possibly interesting word-play in the Hebrew with the word “city” which in Hebrew is עיר (yir). One of the interesting features in Hebrew is the permutation of letters. Scribes often change the order of the letters to convey an additional layer of meaning. Notice how Nephi uses the expression “I beheld” a great deal in this passage. With the same letters of the word “city” you can write the word רעי (roi) which means “my shepherd”. Why is this relevant? Because the word “shepherd” in Hebrew is literally “he who sees”, or even perhaps “he who beholds”. This could reveal that Nephi felt that he had the duty of a shepherd with the future generations that would be scattered by these wars and felt that his visions could serve as a guide for them.

4 And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.

To fully understand this verse it is important to understand as stated before that when there is a sin the punishment or the atonement usually are related to the sin. The interpretation below doesn’t mean the events aren’t literal but yet offer a possible spiritual interpretation according to Hebrew thought:

Darkness, Thunder and Lightning: One of the prayers recited in the Jewish New Year says the following:

“In thunder and lightning You were revealed to them, and with the sound of the horn You appeared to them, as it is written in Your Torah.”

The thunder in Jewish thought represents the fierceness of the wind. Bear in mind that the word for “wind” in Hebrew is the word רוח (ruach) which is also exactly the same word as “spirit”. Also remember that in Hebrew the word “hear” and the word “obey” are the same word. So because they did not hear or obey the voice of the Spirit then they were punished with hearing thunders.

As for the lightning in Hebrew it is the word ברק (barak) which can also mean shining. The shining of light is figurative in Scripture for living in obedience to the word of G-d. Now what happens with the people when they don’t proceed as such? Light becomes darkness and the shining which was something meant to edify becomes lightning which comes to destroy.

Tumultuous noises: There is a word-play only evident in Hebrew because the word “tumult” in Hebrew is רעש (raash). Once again if you apply a permutation of letters you have רשע (rasha) which means wicked. So the noises they were hearing is because their own wickedness made them give ears to other words which didn’t come from G-d.

Rocks rent: The verb to rend in Hebrew is לקרוע (lekeroah) which also means “to form a schism or division”. The rock symbolizes the word of G-d. So perhaps this punishment has to do with people being divisive over the word of G-d because of their own personal agenda.

Mountains tumbling: As said before mountains represent idolatry so the idea of mountains tumbling would symbolize that those who put their trusts in idols would be brought to shame.

Broken plains: Another evident word-play in Hebrew. The word plain is בקעה (bikah) and the verb to break or split is לבקע (lebakeiah). In Jewish thought a “plain” symbolizes someone with no good or special attributes. This means those people who put absolutely no efford in their religious experience.

Cities sinking: The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of such an event is the earth opening its mouth and swallowing a city like the episode that occurred with Korah when he rebelled against Moses. About this Rabbi Avigdor Miller used to teach that the earth opened its mouth because Korah opened his. In other words the punishment of being swallowed by the earth came as a result of the sins of the mouth. So this could likely mean that those cities were blaspheming against G-d.

Burning with fire: Fire represents the very essence of G-d. When you put metal inside a fire what is good remains and that which is unclean burns. Those who were burned with fire were those who failed to purify themselves in order to enter the presence of G-d but attempted to enter anyway.

Earthquake: In Jewish literature the earthquakes are the punishment inflicted upon the nations for the sufferings of the children of G-d such as described in the Talmud:

“When the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to mind His children, who are plunged in suffering among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the ocean, and the sound is heard from one end of the world to the other, and that is the rumbling.” (b. Berachot 59a)

5 And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.

Vapor of darkness: Rashi when commenting on Proverbs 21:6 compares the vapor of the lying tongue to the snares of death. I believe that a similar imagery would apply at this point.

6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.

7 And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.

8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the Twelve Disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.

If we consider what we saw at the very beginning of the chapter how the seed of Nephi was associated with the fullness of the gentiles then this verse gains an additional layer of meaning.

9 And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall bjudge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.

10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.

11 And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld athree generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.

As we have already discussed before the white garments also represent the mourning of death. So at the same time that it conveys purity it also conveys the sadness for the death of their Messiah.

It is also important to notice that it is a very Jewish belief that a righteous person may die to atone for the sins of an unrighteous generation:

“But it sometimes happens that the righteous are inflicted with diseases throughout their lives in order to protect the generation, at a time when the sins are heavier. When the righteous die, then everything is healed, and atoned for.” (Zohar Pinchas 15:113)

12 And I, Nephi, also saw many of the fourth generation who passed away in righteousness.

Why would Nephi mention the fourth generation separate from the others? The number four in Jewish imagery is important on many levels. One of them is that it is associated with the Holy Jewish Calendar because the Jewish Calendar relies on the observation of the heavenly lights that were created on the 4th day. So when Nephi makes a separate mention of this fourth generation he is telling the reader that the chronology of events that would befall upon his people had been foreordained by G-d himself.

13 And it came to pass that I saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.

14 And the angel said unto me: Behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren.

15 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes against the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together to battle.

16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.

It is interesting that the word hell as said before is the Hebrew word גיהינום (geihinom) which originally was a valley outside Jerusalem considered a place of great filth both physically and spiritually. So you can see where the fountain of filthy water imagery comes from.

17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.

18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.

You can clearly see the Hebrew concept of time measuring expressed here. As stated before the word עולם (olam) which means world or interpretatively could also mean universe is used as a way of measuring time. Time was measured by the duration of the created world. To a reader that bears in mind the Greek way of thinking about eternity the words of Nephi not only make little sense but also seem like an unnecessary waste of space. But if you apply the Hebrew logic you have the following timeline:

The beginning of the world until this time: That is, the current duration of this world.

From this time henceforth: Most likely the original would read something like the expression מעולם ועד עולם (meolam vead olam) found in Psalm 103 and which literally means “from (this) world until (the next) world”.

And forever: This would read like “and unto the next world”. Most of Jewish eschatology concerns itself only with this world and the next creation. Nephi is attempting to say that even further then that the justice of G-d would still last.

19 And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.

20 And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land.

The word temptation in Hebrew is פיתוי (pitui) which means seduction or attraction. We have already seen how the word “devil” in Jewish writings is connected to the worship of pagan gods. So it could be that the descendants of Nephi would be lured into the worship of other gods or to some kind of pagan religious practices.

21 And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.

22 And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.

23 And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

It is important to understand that in Hebrew there is a special word used for Negros. A Negro in Hebrew is called a כושי (cushi) which is often translated as cushite. The most likely word used here is חשוך (chashur) which would translate quite literally as “shadowy”. A dark man would be called something like “גבר כהה” (gever keiheh). The word likely used here probably matches expressions otherwise seen in Jewish literature such as the בני חושך (bnei choshech – sons of darkness) found in the Qumran literature. This would mean those who deliberately opposed to living the law of G-d.

As a side note about the issue of racism it is important to note that dark skin was a common feature amongst Israelites and never seen as an issue. So when the BoM says later on that their skin became dark as a mark of sin it must be understood that it doesn’t mean all the skin became black. It most likely means that the skins developed large dark spots. In ancient Israel there was a disease called צרעת (tzaraat) which is modernly translated as leprousy but had nothing to do with leprousy as we know it. According to our sages and as seen in Numbers 12:10 this disease came as a consequence to the sins of speech such as slander and blasphemy. This disease no longer exists but its main feature was to develop spots that looked like the person was really marked. The spots were of the opposite color of the person’s skin meaning that if the person was white then their skin became covered with black spots whereas when the person’s skin was darker (which is what most people was in such times) then the skin developed white spots. These marks were warnings that the people must stay away from them until they repented.

It was not the color of the skin that determined that the person had a spiritual disease but rather the presence of such spot marks. So I believe that the accusation that the BoM is somehow racist is ignorant and misses the point that such a disease already existed and was not about changing a person’s racial status but rather it gave people spots that were clearly seen by others. The Talmud explains this further:

“R. Hisda has said that a white spot on black skin or a black spot on white skin is a mark of disease.3 They examined and found that it was so.” (b. Gittin 68a)

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On the issue of dark skin, there was a Jewish tradition of dark skin being a punishment for sin, a tradition which seems to be found in the first chapter of the Song of Songs where the girl has to make excuses for being swarthy, that it is a natural result of working outdoors.

Said tradition also forms the basis for the medieval Ladino romance Morenika (shecharchoret).

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About the dark skin. What I been thinking it is, that when you are a good person and in connection with God, you shine, you look "whiter" than you are. And when you sinn you are as if you were surrounded by darkness, your skinn looks dark your whole person looks dark.

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I have some spare time so I'm moving on with my studies. Hope you enjoy them: :)

1 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld the land of promise; and I beheld multitudes of people, yea, even as it were in number as many as the sand of the sea.

Multitudes of people: What is most fascinating about this expression is that in Genesis 48:19 when the same promise is given to the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim the Hebrew reads מלא הגוים (meloh hagoyim). The word meloh can mean multitude but it can also mean fullness. And the word goyim can mean peoples but it can also mean gentiles. So this expression could read “fullness of the gentiles”. This cannot be a coincidence. In chapter 10 Nephi mentions the fullness of the revelation of the gentiles as a condition to happen before the regathering of Israel. It is likely that Nephi makes a connection between their own descendants and the fullness of the revelation that would happen in the times before the regathering of Israel....

As usual, I find your posts absolutely marvelous. Thank you so very much for all the effort you put into your words. You have opened my eyes in fantastic ways, and for that I will forever be grateful to you.

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2 And it came to pass that I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against the other; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people.

3 And it came to pass that I beheld many generations pass away, after the manner of wars and contentions in the land; and I beheld many cities, yea, even that I did not number them.

Slaughter with the sword: Why does Nephi bother to mention that the slaughter would be with the sword? Considering how we have seen that the symbolism of sword in Jewish thought represents the word of G-d it could be that Nephi was saying that those in his people who would perish would be for not following the word of G-d.

There’s also possibly interesting word-play in the Hebrew with the word “city” which in Hebrew is עיר (yir). One of the interesting features in Hebrew is the permutation of letters. Scribes often change the order of the letters to convey an additional layer of meaning. Notice how Nephi uses the expression “I beheld” a great deal in this passage. With the same letters of the word “city” you can write the word רעי (roi) which means “my shepherd”. Why is this relevant? Because the word “shepherd” in Hebrew is literally “he who sees”, or even perhaps “he who beholds”. This could reveal that Nephi felt that he had the duty of a shepherd with the future generations that would be scattered by these wars and felt that his visions could serve as a guide for them.

One of the themes you will encounter throughout the Book of Mormon, is the promises of the Lord concerning the inhabitants of the Americas. In the narrative you are reading now, they have not yet made it to America, but the prophecies concerning the seed of Lehi are fulfilled in America. Throughout the BoM we learn that those who possess the land will be blessed greatly if they are righteous and worship God, but will be cursed with destruction if they become wicked. Even before the time of the Nephites, the Jaredites were aware of this promise.

And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath. (Ether 9:20)

Both the Jaredites and the Nephites ultimately saw the destruction of their civilizations because of their wickedness. Because they would not follow the word of God. And in each case, the destruction was by sword.

Nephi, is not only trying to shepherd his own people into righteousness, that they would not be destroyed, but he is also shepherding the future readers of his words... us, that we should be aware, and follow the word of God, or we will be destroyed by the sword.

The United States has enjoyed many blessings and prosperity from the Lord in this land, because the people have worshiped righteously the God of this land, who is Jehovah. However, our destruction will surely come if we forsake him and his word, like other civilizations before us.

Regards,

Vanhin

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  • 1 month later...

Vanhin....One of the themes you will encounter throughout the Book of Mormon, is the promises of the Lord concerning the inhabitants of the Americas. In the narrative you are reading now, they have not yet made it to America, but the prophecies concerning the seed of Lehi are fulfilled in America. Throughout the BoM we learn that those who possess the land will be blessed greatly if they are righteous and worship God, but will be cursed with destruction if they become wicked. Even before the time of the Nephites, the Jaredites were aware of this promise.

And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath. (Ether 9:20)

This began long long ago. I always think of Deu: 28....for me it begins there and continues thruout G-ds word, which is all His word.....O.T. New T. and b0m..........

we sure are a slow to learn people, are we not?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sword in scriptures is an interresting theme. Makes me wonder when the sword in BoM means a real sword and when G:ds word. Even a sword of iron... is not nessesarily a sword made of iron.... Just an interesting remark, especially, when critics critizise us for iron swords as they have not found big iron mines or even old iron weapons as many as they count thnere should be according to the BoM. :D

I am just translating this, so I kind of get deeper in the understanding of it. I may add something to thsi as I go on with the translation.

This is so facinating!

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  • 2 years later...
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