As discussed previously, Lehi’s vision is at the heart of the original Book of Mormon chapter II. It is preceded by Nephi stating that his purpose is to persuade readers to come unto the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e. those fathers who received great promises concerning their seed, as discussed here, and by Lehi’s sons returning to Jerusalem, ostensibly to find wives that they might have seed, as discussed here. I will keep these thoughts in mind and the preliminary thoughts re. the vision from last week as I begin to work through chapter 8.
In verse 1, Nephi mentions gathering seed of every kind, perhaps as an allusion to the creation. Do you think this is a throw-away line or does the context of chapters 6 and 7 (discussed above) suggest Nephi’s talk of seed was quite deliberate and perhaps an interpretive key to the vision?
In verse 3, Lehi speaks of Nephi and Sam (and their seed) being saved. Joe Spencer asks:
What does [Lehi] mean by [saved]? Should this be understood in a strong soteriological sense—saved from death and hell, etc.? Or does it have a more down-to-earth meaning—saved, say, from the destruction of Jerusalem?1
Notice also in verse 3 and 4 that joy and fear are the contrasting emotions. Typically we talk of joy and pain or faith and fear as opposites. Does pairing joy with fear change how we understand either or both of these emotions?
v5–8: We tend to assume the man in the white robe is a heavenly messenger of some sort. But a straightforward reading suggests this man does nothing but lead Lehi into a dark and dreary waste in which he travels for many hours. Consider 2 Ne. 9:9. Do you think we might be too quick to assume the good intentions of the messenger? Is this perhaps like Joseph Smith’s experience – an encounter with the adversary before the light? Also, why do you think it took Lehi many hours before he prayed?
Regarding verse 9, Julie Smith asks the following questions:
Mosiah 11:8–9 and Ether 10:5 are the only times outside of Lehi/Nephi’s vision that ‘spacious’ is used in the scriptures; both refer to buildings made by the wicked. Is the field evil? Neutral? Good? Why is it described as ‘spacious’ and what does that mean, given that other scriptural uses of ‘spacious’ are negative?2
v10: Genesis 3:6 reads:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
What do you make of the similarities and differences between Genesis 3:6 and 1 Ne 8:10?
In verse 11, the fruit that Lehi partakes of is described as sweet. In the Old Testament, ‘sweet’ is typically used as a reference to ceremonial incense, which was symbolic of prayer. Do you think that is relevant to Lehi’s experience? Rev 10:9–10 also refers to a sweet taste. Again, do you think this is relevant to Lehi’s experience? Additionally, one definition of partake implies to take a part or portion, or to share something in common with others. Do you think Lehi is trying to emphasise the communal nature of the partaking of the fruit?
Alma 32:42 reads:
And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
How does the tree and the fruit that Alma speaks of in Alma 32 compare and contrast with those in Lehi’s vision?
Finally, I’d like to consider the symbolism of the rod of iron. If you read Rev 19:15 and the Joseph Smith Translation in the footnote, it suggests that Joseph Smith may have viewed the rod of iron and the two-edged sword as synonymous (see also D&C 19:15).
You will recall that in the last post we started to consider some similarities between the symbols in Lehi’s vision with those in the Exodus story and in the Temple. If you add a flame to the rod/sword of Lehi’s vision you get a flaming sword, which protected the way of the tree of life. We typically think of the rod of iron as a guide to the tree of life, but I think in the context of the whole vision it might also be considered as a barrier to divide the wicked from the way of the tree.
A similar symbol is found in the Exodus story. When the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea they were lead by a pillar of fire as they crossed the gulf that would soon separate them from the Egyptians (or perhaps the wicked). Interestingly, it was a pillar of fire to the children of Israel, but it was a cloud of darkness (or perhaps a mist of darkness) to the Egyptians (see Exodus 14:20). A rod was also used by Moses throughout his encounters with Pharaoh and to divide the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:16).
How does it add to your understanding of Lehi’s vision if you consider the rod of iron as a two-edged sword or as a flaming sword/pillar of fire?
In the next post, I’ll cover the last half of chapter 8 and in particular consider the various groups of people that Lehi sees in his vision. I’ll also include a 1 Nephi 8 tweet.
Next week’s reading: 1 Nephi 8:20–38