1 Nephi Chapter 15


thekabalist

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Here's chapter 15. Hope you find it useful:

1 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.

Return to the tent: In ancient Judaism this would have been understood as a return to the physical world after Nephi had experienced a glimpse of the reality of the spiritual world:

“Said Resh Lakish: Come let us render gratitude to our forebears, for had they not sinned, we should not have come to the world, as it is said: I said ye are gods and all of you sons of the Most High; now that you have spoilt your deeds, ye shall indeed die like mortals etc. Are we to understand that if the Israelites had not committed that sin they would not have propagated? Had it not been said, And you, be ye fruitful and multiply? — That refers to those who lived up to the times of Sinai. But of those at Sinai, too, it is said, Go say to them, Return ye to your tents which means to the joy of family life? And is it not also said, that it might be well with them and with their children? — It means to those of their children who stood at Sinai.” (b. Avodah Zarah 5a)

2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.

3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.

Nephi seems to be making an allusion to an ancient Israelite proverb which the Zohar preserves and says the following:

“If you inquire, inquire" as it is written: "Seek out of the Book of the Lord, and read". You will find there just what your exile and deliverance are dependent on. If you inquire of it, it will say and proclaim you to "return, come" in complete repentance, and immediately you will come and get close to Me.”

(Zohar Terumah 10:79)

4 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.

Unavoidably come to pass: We have already seen how the Hebrew term ויהי (vayechi) which is translated as “and it came to pass” is a reference to something that happened given G-d’s own plans. Why then does Nephi bother to apparently in a redundant way say that something would “unavoidably come to pass”?

The answer could be in the underlying Hebrew. The term “unavoidable” in Hebrew would be the compound expression בלתי נמנע (bilti nim’nah – literally “that cannot be avoided”). This is particularly relevant because the gematria value of nim’nah is 210. Remember how we’ve already seen Nephi use this number which is the number of years that the sons of Israel remained captive in Egypt.

And the word bilti has the gematria value of 442. This is the same gematria of the expression האלות (haalot – literally “the curses”) which appears in Deuteronomy 30:7:

“The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.”

This is exactly what happened after the exile of Egypt. So we can see that Nephi is hinting to the fact that the persecution he was shown would be like the exodus: that eventually G-d would set His people free and bring curses upon their enemies.

5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.

The Hebrew term for “fall” is ליפול (lifol) which can be used for dying in combat, for disappearing or even for abandoning one’s spiritual path of righteousness for good. It is likely that all these things were true and were grieving Nephi greatly as he knew that whereas a remnant would be saved still many would meet this fate given their disobedience.

6 And it came to pass that after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.

7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.

8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

The Hebrew word for “natural” is the word טבעי (tibi) which also means “good quality”. This reflects an old and incorrect assumption that the Israelites were somehow superior to other nations. Such a misunderstanding comes from the incorrect comprehension of the election and special mission of Israel.

10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

It is interesting that Nephi is making mention of this in connection to a dispute. Psalm 95:8 usually reads as follows:

“Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness.”

However if one looks at the ancient Aramaic Targum of the Psalms one will find this interpreted as meaning this:

“Do not harden your heart as in the dispute, as on the day you tested God in the wilderness.”

Nephi seems to be aware of such a traditional understanding of the text.

12 Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?

13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—

The idea of being broken off from the olive-tree would have sounded as quite a shocking imagery to the ancient Israelite. One of the reasons why Israel is compared to the olive-tree is the ancient understanding that the olive-tree is very hard to break. The Zohar cites an ancient understanding:

“What is her reward? It is "your children like olive plants." Just as the leaves of the olive plants never fall, but are attached to the tree all the time, so "the children like olive plants round about your table" shall always be attached to you.” (Zohar Vaera 31:432)

The misunderstanding of G-d’s promise that Israel would always have their children before them lead some to a false sense of security. It was as if individual deeds didn’t matter as long as the people were as one before G-d. However Nephi teaches them that their attachment to the olive-tree relied on their willingness to obey the commandments of G-d – something they evidently cared very little for.

14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

The Doctrine of the Redeemer: The Hebrew word used in Scripture for doctrine is the word לקח (lekach) which can mean a “lesson” or a “moral-code”. But what is interesting is that it comes from the root “to acquire”. Rabbi Shlomo Katz explains it as follows:

“The Hebrew root which shares the same letters as lekach means, to acquire. One who gives rebuke is referred to as acquiring souls, as we read in Mishlei/Proverbs (11:30), A wise man acquires souls.¨”

So when nephi says that they would come to knowledge of the doctrine of the Redeemer the use of the term “Redeemer” is by no means incidental. Nephi is saying that through his teachings of righteousness the Messiah would acquire their souls for G-d.

15 And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?

16 Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree.

Vine and olive-tree: Why does Nephi mention the vine and the olive-tree together? Again, this is no coincidence.

We have already seen how the olive-tree was seen as very hard to break. The vine on the other hand was exactly the opposite. Thus the Zohar says:

“And so with the trees, no tree is so broken like the vine. In planting, it is hammered, as it has no strength to stand but lay on the ground. Its grapes are broken, crushed under feet. And so the olive is crushed. Israel is compared to them in the exile, as written: "You have brought a vine out of Egypt". And so in the fourth exile, "For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts is the House of Israel". And likewise Israel is likened to the olive, as it is written, "A green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit". Therefore, it is written, "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your house: your children like olive plants". They here are side by side, because Israel becomes broken like them in the exile. After the grapes and olives are cleaned from all refuse, they become sanctified for the Temple: wine for libation upon the altar, the olives for kindling the candle, meaning the candles of the lamp. Who merits this? Wine not libated in idolatry. The mixed multitudes are like wine poured for idol worship, among them are apostates and non-believers, that transgress the whole Torah.” (Zohar Mishpatim 18:490-491)

Notice how Nephi makes mention of these two kinds: the olives and the vines. The olive is broken because of its stiffneckedness in not following the ways of G-d and in its arrogance. And the vine has its grapes trampled on because it has no strength in the word of G-d and so it offers its grapes to idol worship.

However Nephi says that they become the true olive and the true vine. How would that have been interpreted? As seen from above this was imagery that referred to the olive that was used to produce oil for the Menorah and to the vine that was used to produce wine for the libation. In other words these people who were once cut off would then eventually be consecrated unto the holiest service they could possibly have in the Temple of G-d.

17 And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.

Way of the Gentiles: The use of the term “way” is important. Jewish Kabbalah makes a difference between “way” and “path”. The first refers to a wider acceptance and the latter to a smaller:

“He questions: Sometimes it is written, "a way," and sometimes, "a path." What is the difference between them? And answers: "A way," implies a way that all the feet of people tread. "A path," is a recently opened path and has not been trodden long by many people. About this path does the verse say, "But the path of justmen is like the gleam of sunlight, that shines ever more brightly, until the height of noonday"” (Zohar Kedoshim 23:134)

So when Nephi says that it should come the way of the Gentiles he is referring to the fact that had he believed Messiah would be rejected by the Jewish people in order to receive a much wider acceptance among the Gentiles. According to Nephi if the Jewish people accepted Messiah then very few would come towards the path of redemption.

18 Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

19 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake much unto them concerning these things; yea, I spake unto them concerning the restoration of the Jews in the latter days.

Restoration of the Jews: The Biblical word for restoration which is likely the word Nephi had in mind is the word השבה (hashavah) can also be translated as “return” because the words share the same root. It is possible then that Nephi was also giving a prophecy that in the end of times the Jewish people would be returning to the land of Israel.

20 And I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again. And it came to pass that I did speak many words unto my brethren, that they were pacified and did humble themselves before the Lord.

21 And it came to pass that they did speak unto me again, saying: What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream? What meaneth the tree which he saw?

22 And I said unto them: It was a representation of the tree of life.

As seen before the tree of life can also be a representation of the Torah-law of G-d or even of the divine attributes which one only gets to understand through the means of abiding to his law and developing a relationship with Him.

23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

24 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.

Fiery dart: Nephi mildly rebukes his brethren when he makes use of such an expression because the Hebrew word מסע (masah - dart) also means “quarrel”. The fiery dart would represent an unending quarrel because just like fire passes on from one thing to another so does the spirit of quarrelling pass from one person to another and makes their spirituality perish.

25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

Nephi’s energy: The most likely translation for the word “energy” in the context that Nephi uses it would be the word כוח (coach). What is interesting about this word is that it doesn’t only refer to physical strength. It also refers to one’s resources including one’s wealth. So this could mean that Nephi didn’t spare whatever resources he saw fit in his quest to get his brothers to keep the word of G-d.

26 And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?

27 And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.

Filthiness of the water: How could it be that Lehi would not see the filthiness of the water? After all filthy waters are quite distinguishable from clean ones.

This however has to be understood as a word-play used by Nephi. As explained before a source of living water such as river would be considered something not only extremely clean but also with the power to cleanse objects and even people according to Torah-law.

So when Nephi speaks of filthy waters he is making reference to that which has the aspect of something clean but is rather unclean. This would likely be a reference to the wicked assembly mentioned earlier by Nephi as something that people would expect to be of great piety but inside would be filled with idolatry.

28 And I said unto them that it was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God.

29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.

For explanation on the gulf please see previous commentaries.

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30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.

Flaming fire: There are two very important elements in Nephi’s description of the righteous as flaming fire. The first understanding comes from the Aramaic Targum. In Psalm 104:4 which mentions flaming fire the Targum says:

“Who made his messengers as swift as wind; his servants, as strong as burning fire.”

So the interpretation of “flaming fire” is something who has spiritual strength. But that is not all: There is an ancient Jewish prophecy that flaming fire running down the sea of Galilee would be an indication of the generation of the coming of Messiah after the exile:

“Rabbi Shimon raised his hands in prayer before the Holy One, blessed be He, and prayed. After he recited his prayer, his son, Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Aba sat before him. While they were sitting before him, they saw a ray of daylight become dim, and a conduit of flaming fire, that is, a stream of burning fire, sink into the sea of Galilee, and the whole place was agitated. Rabbi Shimon said: Certainly now is the time that the Holy One, blessed be He, remembers His children, and He lowers two tears into the Great Sea. As they descend, they touch this conduit of flaming fire and sink together into the sea, one with the other. Rabbi Shimon wept and the friends wept. Rabbi Shimon said: I have stirred in the secret of the letters of the Holy Name in the secret of the awakening of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, towards His children. But now I may reveal that which was not permitted to any other person to reveal, but the merit of this generation will preserve the world till the King Messiah will come. Rabbi Shimon said to his son Rabbi Elazar and to Rabbi Aba: Get up on your legs. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Aba got up. Rabbi Shimon wept a second time and said: Oh, who will arise then? For what I see is that the exile will be lengthened. Who will be able to endure?” (Zohar Shemot 15:134-136)

So when Nephi says that they would be like flaming fire he is saying that they would be the generation that would rule with Messiah in his kingdom.

31 And they said unto me: Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?

32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.

We have already talked about the Israelite understanding of retribution. This is how the questions from Nephi’s brothers must be understood: It was a common understanding among some primitive Jewish sects that the judgement we face for the deeds committed in this world would only be executed on this world. Therefore the soul would somehow be protected from this judgement. This idea though was deemed heretical within Judaism because from the times of Abel there has been situations in which a sin was not judged in this life.

33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.

34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.

It is to be understood that the Torah-law has great concern with cleanness and uncleanness. As already stated before the idea of uncleanness was associated with death. Therefore if G-d’s Kingdom were to have uncleanness then it would mean that G-d’s Kingdom would be equivalent to spiritual death.

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.

Awful hell: Why does Nephi bother to say that hell is awful? Certainly nobody would expect hell to be pleasant. So why does he make use of these words?

He’s actually referring to an Israelite concept that the “dread of hell” should serve as an incentive for those who judge not to judge wickedly. So when Nephi says that the “awful hell” is prepared for the wicked he is likely referring to those who thought they could pervert justice, namely those who followed the wicked assembly mentioned earlier, and still get away with it. The Talmud talks about this concept:

“R. Samuel b. Nahmani stated in the name of R. Jonathan: A judge should always imagine himself as if [he had] a sword lying between his thighs, and Gehenna was open beneath him; as it is said in Scripture, Behold, it is the couch of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about it, of the mighty men of Israel etc. because of the dread in the night: 'because of the dread of' Gehenna which is like 'the night'.” (b. Yebamot 109b)

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Good afternoon thekabalist! I hope you are doing well today.

“Said Resh Lakish: Come let us render gratitude to our forebears, for had they not sinned, we should not have come to the world, as it is said: I said ye are gods and all of you sons of the Most High; now that you have spoilt your deeds, ye shall indeed die like mortals etc. Are we to understand that if the Israelites had not committed that sin they would not have propagated? Had it not been said, And you, be ye fruitful and multiply? — That refers to those who lived up to the times of Sinai. But of those at Sinai, too, it is said, Go say to them, Return ye to your tents which means to the joy of family life? And is it not also said, that it might be well with them and with their children? — It means to those of their children who stood at Sinai.” (b. Avodah Zarah 5a)

I wanted to comment on this quote from Resh Lakish. Later in the Book of Mormon Lehi, the father of Nephi, said the following:

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).

Unlike much of the rest of Christendom, the LDS believe that the fall of Adam and Eve to be a necessary and also a desirable event, without which, like Lehi states, the rest of us could not be because Adam and Eve could not have children until after the Fall. It appears from the Resh Lakish quote that this idea, atleast, was not foreign to ancient Judaism.

Regards,

Finrock

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17 And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.

Way of the Gentiles: The use of the term “way” is important. Jewish Kabbalah makes a difference between “way” and “path”. The first refers to a wider acceptance and the latter to a smaller:

“He questions: Sometimes it is written, "a way," and sometimes, "a path." What is the difference between them? And answers: "A way," implies a way that all the feet of people tread. "A path," is a recently opened path and has not been trodden long by many people. About this path does the verse say, "But the path of justmen is like the gleam of sunlight, that shines ever more brightly, until the height of noonday"” (Zohar Kedoshim 23:134)

So when Nephi says that it should come the way of the Gentiles he is referring to the fact that had he believed Messiah would be rejected by the Jewish people in order to receive a much wider acceptance among the Gentiles. According to Nephi if the Jewish people accepted Messiah then very few would come towards the path of redemption.

I thought this was very interesting. So, Nephi seemed to reason that rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish people was according to plan, so that a wider acceptance through the Gentiles was possible. Am I understanding that right? If so, it is something I had not thought of before.

I also want to comment on Zohar Kedoshim 23:134, or I think I am actually commenting on Misheli (Proverbs) 4:18. This in particular - "But the path of justmen is like the gleam of sunlight, that shines ever more brightly, until the height of noonday". This is interesting in conjunction with traveling on the right path. Here are a couple of LDS scriptures that seem to correlate with that.

He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. (D&C 93:28)

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:24)

Now back to where I left off reading...

Regards,

Vanhin

Edited by Vanhin
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"Fiery dart: Nephi mildly rebukes his brethren when he makes use of such an expression because the Hebrew word מסע (masah - dart) also means “quarrel”. The fiery dart would represent an unending quarrel because just like fire passes on from one thing to another so does the spirit of quarrelling pass from one person to another and makes their spirituality perish."

We too believe that quarrel makes the spirituality perish, taht is why it is important for us on the internet to remember to stop before it makes a quarrell... and that is why those against us want to get into a quarell.

Thank you Kabbalah, most interesting!

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Long time reader here, just wanted to thank thekabalist for all the work he's been doing! It's fascinating and has helped me understand quite a few points of doctrine.

Also I have a question, thekabalist, I ran across this the other day and wanted to see if you think the translation is correct, or even close. It's a translation of the Book of Mormon into Hebrew by an amateur Hebrew student. It isn't authorized by the church, but I have a Hebrew speaking friend that would like to read it (her english is limited). What do you think?

http://www.vibrationdata.com/Book_of_Mormon_Hebrew.htm

Thanks again!

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