1 Nephi 7 tweet: Ih family leave Jrsm. L&L rebel. N rebukes. L&L bind N. Repeat. Ih women plead w/ L&L, L&L plead w/ N & N forgives. Lh and Ih families join.
The previous post provides the context with which I’ll read the next couple of chapters. In this chapter in particular, we read about a second return trip to Jerusalem. While the first journey was about obtaining the brass plates, this second return to Jerusalem was about persuading another family to join them in the wilderness so that Lehi’s children might marry and therefore receive the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I think this second return trip and its purpose also helps us to better understand the focus of Lehi’s vision. In this post I’ll consider why Nephi tells the story in that way that he does and compare and contrast this journey with the first trip to obtain the brass plates.
v1: When we compare this verse with Genesis 2:18 we see that Nephi may be drawing a parallel with the account of the creation of Eve (“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” and “it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone”). Perhaps Nephi is telling the story of Ishmael’s family joining them in the wilderness as a foundational creation story, i.e. God provided wives for Lehi’s sons in the same way He created Eve as a help meet for Adam. Do you see any other allusions to the story of Adam and Eve in 1 Nephi 7–8?
v4–5: It may be that the story of the visit to the house of Ishmael is supposed to sharply contrast with the experience of the visit to the house of Laban. How do these stories compare and contrast?
v6–7: While persuading Ishmael’s family to join Lehi in the wilderness appears to have been relatively uneventful, the drama of this story is in the return leg of the journey. Nephi highlights the rebellion of Laman, Lemuel and several members of Ishmael’s family. When we remember the promise made to Nephi in 1 Ne. 2:20–24, I think his use of the word rebel/rebellion is quite deliberate. Although Nephi describes it as a rebellion of one half of the travelling party against the other half, verse 7 seems to suggest that rather than a rebellion it is more a desire for a certain way of life, i.e. the social and economic advantages of life in Jerusalem. How do you think these verses compare with the Israelites longing for Egypt (e.g. Exodus 14:10–12)?
Over the next several verses Nephi emphasises his concern for the wellbeing of Laman and Lemuel, i.e. if they return to Jerusalem they will perish in the impending destruction. However, he must also have been motivated in part by self-interest. Presumably, Jerusalem would have been aflame with talk of the family who fled into the wilderness only to return to murder a prominent member of society and then steal his property. It seems unthinkable that Laman and Lemuel would be able to walk back into the city and pick up their old lives without first explaining exactly what had happened that fateful night at Laban’s house and then providing the wilderness location of Nephi. Therefore, I think that in addition to his concern for his brothers, Nephi knew that if he wasn’t able to keep the fractious party together he would realise the fear of 1 Ne. 4:36.
v15: Nephi only uses the word ‘constrain’ twice in 1 Nephi – in this verse and in 1 Ne. 4:10. Do you think Nephi is trying to draw a comparison with the struggle to obtain the brass plates? The struggle is different, but there is a struggle.
v16: Why do you think that Laman and Lemuel reacted so violently to Nephi’s words? Why did they not just disregard what he said or even mock him as the Jews had Lehi (see 1 Ne. 1:19)? Do you think that really they knew that what Nephi was saying was true but they hated that he was making them face that reality? Alternatively, the punishment for false prophecy was death (Deut. 13:5 and 18:20). Nephi had just prophesied of the holy city’s destruction. If Laman and Lemuel considered this false prophecy (and why would they want to return to Jerusalem if they believed Lehi’s prophecies), then perhaps in seeking Nephi’s life they thought they were keeping the Law of Moses. What other possible reasons might explain their murderous intent?
v16–18: Again, I think in the way that he tells this story, Nephi is trying to draw parallels with the events associated with obtaining the brass plates. Here, Nephi is delivered from Laman and Lemuel as previously the sons had been delivered from the hands of Laban. Additionally, Nephi also clearly wants the reader to draw a comparison between him and Joseph of Egypt (compare v16 with Genesis 37:18–20 and v20 with Genesis 37:10 and 50:18).
v19: It’s a shame that Nephi didn’t record what was said by Ishmael’s wife and daughter, given that it was evidently more effective than what he himself had said! Whatever it was it brought about a massive reversal in the intentions of Laman and Lemuel – from murder to pleading for forgiveness. What do you think was said in v19 and why do you think Nephi didn’t record it?
In the next chapter we’ll work through Lehi’s vision (1 Ne. 8), which is at the heart of the original chapter II (1 Ne. 6–9). In what ways do chapters 6 and 7 provide context for and introduce Lehi’s vision?
Next week’s reading: 1 Nephi 8 (but probably not all of it)