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Title1 Nephi 10
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute, Volume 1: First and Second Nephi
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
Keywords1 Nephi

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1 Nephi 10

Lehi Makes Several Prophecies

1 Nephi 10:1–2

1 And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry; wherefore, to proceed with mine account, I must speak somewhat of the things of my father, and also of my brethren.

2 For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews—

Comments

Nephi clearly knows that what we know as Chapter 9 was a diversion from his planned text. Therefore, he explicitly notes that he is going to “proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry.” Note that he uses some literary parallels to tie the aside to what he will do. Nephi brings his readers back with artistry.

First, he notes that he has made a diversion and must now return. He returns to give an account “upon these plates.” It was the mention of the plates that triggered the aside. By mentioning them at this point, the diversion is less jarring. He also specifically mentions that he will record his proceedings, his reign, and his ministry.

Nephi had been required to tell part of his father’s story to introduce his own. By this time, however, he is firmly giving the account of his own proceedings. Mentioning that he speaks of his ministry reinforces the division in function that he mentioned in Chapter 9. However, he also notes that he will speak of his reign. Even though the deeds of the kings are more properly on the large plates, Nephi is creating this account as a justification for his eventual position as a ruler and teacher. Thus, some account of his reign will be required to demonstrate the fulfillment of that prophecy. We, his readers, should also note that we will hear little of his actions as king. Once he has justified that position, he will decline to give much more history.

It will be after the event of his acceptance of the kingship that he will add material that we will more clearly see as part of his ministry in the book of 2 Nephi.

1 Nephi 10:2–3

2 For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews—

3 That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance.

Comments

Verse 2 was part of the previous comment and is repeated here. There are two parts to the verse, and one looks back, while the next looks forward. When Nephi spoke of his father making an end of speaking of the dream, Nephi looks back to the end of the last story. He is now moving to the next, and his father’s words are still part of the development of the next story.

The next story is really about Nephi and his own vision of the tree. However, we will understand both Nephi’s and his father’s dream better if we understand that what Nephi expounds, concerning what his father taught after the end of speaking of the symbolic dream, will also be the very thing that Nephi learns from his experience.

The introduction to what Lehi says returns to Lehi as a prophet in Jerusalem. It reprises Lehi’s call to preach repentance, else Jerusalem would be destroyed. The point here is not that prophecy, because Nephi has written of that before.  The point was to return to the beginning point of Jerusalem and use their departure as a starting point for prophecy of the coming Messiah. The Messiah is the focal point of Lehi’s next teaching.

1 Nephi 10:4

4 Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.

Comments

The last episode examined verse 4 as part of the transition to Lehi’s discussion of the coming Messiah. That verse is repeated here because the 600-year prophecy is both important to the Book of Mormon, and a difficulty that needs to be examined.

The first year of the reign of Zedekiah was 597 B.C. Lehi was called as a prophet during that year, but likely did not leave Jerusalem until later. Randall Spackman has calculated the probable departure as 587 B.C., or soon before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Those are firm dates. Scholars place the birth of Christ around 4–6 B.C. In between we have to fit a 600-year prophecy into what is clearly less than 600 years.

The first question is whether the 600-year prophecy was approximate or precise. The Book of Mormon clearly answers that by counting down the years and marking 600 off them. This must be calculated across different starting dates for the Nephite calendar, but when those correlations are made, we have 600 years. The answer to the question of precision is that it is precise.

Now, the obvious question is how can we have 600 years in less than 600 years? The answer is that while it is obvious to the modern world that we should count the year as one revolution of the earth around the sun, that is not the only way a year can be defined. At the time Lehi left Jerusalem, the Israelites used a lunar calendar, which has fewer days than a solar calendar.

If we understand that the Nephites arrived in Mesoamerica, there was also a calendar in use that had a number of days that was closer to the lunar year than the solar. If we calculated the lunar years (without adding the extra days to reconnect to the solar calendar), then we have 600 years. In this case, the Book of Mormon is seemingly wrong in the 600 years, but it is wrong in just the precise way as to actually be accurate.

1 Nephi 10:5-7

5 And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.

6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.

7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

Comments

Lehi preached more than repentance to prevent destruction in Jerusalem. He preached of the coming Messiah (see 1 Nephi 1:19). During Lehi’s lifetime the concept of the Messiah was being redefined to overlap with the earthy king. As a coming and conquering ruler, the current king became a representative of that aspect of the Messiah. Thus, the officially taught aspect of the Messiah was as the coming king. That is certainly part of the ultimate mission of the Messiah. However, it is the mission of the Messiah in the end of times. In the meridian of time, the Messiah came to be an atoner, not a conqueror. Yahweh came to earth to conquer death, not countries. It is this atoning mission of the Messiah that Lehi preached in addition to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is the theme that Nephi will preach throughout his available writings.

As Nephi concludes his father’s description of the symbolic dream, he changes to a more direct discourse. We do not know how long after the discussion of the dream that Lehi taught this next lesson, but Nephi presents it as the natural result of the dream. Indeed, when he wrote, he clearly had his own vision, and that vision taught him that a discussion of the atoning Messiah was precisely what should follow from the symbols in the dream.

Therefore, Lehi teaches about the coming Messiah, the Redeemer of the world.

1 Nephi 10:8–10

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.

Comments

Since the publication of the Book of Mormon, it has been easy to understand these verses. They reference John the Baptist in his role of precursor to Jesus, and specifically Jesus’s baptism by John. The reference includes language that is repeated in Mark 1:7 and John 1:27. Obviously, since that language is from the New Testament, its presence is the result of translation and was not the particular language on the plates.

This is one of the explicitly Christian passages that are peppered throughout the Book of Mormon, and one that is so obviously Christian that modern readers seldom take the time to understand how Lehi would have understood this vision.

Lehi was not surprised to know of one who would cry in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. Although Christians are most familiar with the phrase in connection to the mortal Jesus, it is a phrase from Isaiah 40:3. Thus, Lehi could have seen John the Baptist, but would have placed the forerunner in Isaiah’s context. Lehi would see this as a forerunner to Yahweh. Indeed, he saw Yahweh as God in heaven, and Yahweh on earth as the Messiah, or Jesus.

It is more difficult to know just how Lehi understood baptism, since that concept embodies the Christian meaning. Lehi would have known that washing is for restoring oneself after becoming unclean. The concept of sin as making oneself unclean and in need of washing is no great step, and certainly one that John the Baptist used when he taught his baptism for remission of sin.

It is altogether plausible that Lehi saw a vision that made complete sense in his pre-Christian world, and which the translation had moved into the more Christian terminology. Lehi saw what we understand that he saw. He simply would have interpreted it slightly differently, before the fact than we do after the fact.

1 Nephi 10:11–12

11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.

12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.

Comments

We see another shift in Lehi’s discussion. Where he begins with the person of the Messiah, or Yahweh come to earth, he prophecies that the Messiah will come not only for Israel, but also for the gentiles. The mention of the gentiles in verse 11 allows Lehi to turn the lesson to the future of the gentiles, which he begins in verse 12.

Lehi’s prophecy moves beyond Israel and includes the gentiles. Specifically, Lehi notes that they will be “compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.” Although Romans 11:11 cites an allegory of an olive tree, Paul is only interested in the gentiles as wild branches being grafted in. Lehi specifically speaks of branches broken off and scattered.

This is a clear indication that Lehi has read Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree as recorded on the brass plates. There is enough in Paul’s allegory to suggest that it descended from this earlier version, but Zenos’s version is much more complicated, and more related to a scattering.

In the land in which Zenos gave the allegory, it is possible that it was understood as discussing the scattering and gathering of the ten tribes. That would suggest that Zenos would be dated to somewhere after the Assyrian invasion and at least prior to the final writing on the plates of brass.

1 Nephi 10:13–16

13 Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.

14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.

15 And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.

16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.

Comments

Why would Lehi emphasize the role of gentile branches? Of course, one answer would be simply that he saw that in his vision, and therefore recorded it. However, that is not a satisfying answer, because it simply shifts the question to why God would give him that information.

The key is that Lehi is making this personal for his family. Note in verse 13 that he says “that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.” He is certainly part of Israel, but at this point in time, Lehi’s interest is in his own family. Remember that his dream was about his immediate family, not all of Israel—not even about Ishmael’s family.

The reference to the gentiles is probably foreshadowing of the importance of the New World gentiles to the children of Lehi. The concept of the label gentile is that there is a difference, an opposition. Lehi accepts the difference but makes certain that the gentiles come to the knowledge of the Messiah. Through that process, they would no longer be gentiles, but become children of Israel, children of the Messiah.

Nephi once again signals the end of a substory by noting that “all these things. . . were done as my father dwelt in a tent.” He is ready to begin a new story, but not a new chapter.

Nephi Seeks Confirmation of Lehi’s Words

1 Nephi 10:17

17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

Comments

Although Nephi begins a new story here, Orson Pratt made the chapter division a little later. This is the introduction to Nephi’s vision. The importance of that vision is clear, so Pratt set it off. Nevertheless, there was no chapter break after our Chapter 10, and Nephi considered what we have as 1 Nephi 10:17–22 as his beginning to that story.

When Nephi created his outline, he knew that right after discussing his father’s lesson on the coming Messiah and their involvement in scattering and gentiles, he would discuss his own vision. As he began, he testified that his father “spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God.” The mention of the Son of God triggered another of Nephi’s asides. He spoke of Lehi’s faith in the Son of God, and now cannot help but testify himself. Therefore, even though he opens with the idea that he was desirous to see and hear what his father had said, he launches into a discussion of Yahweh. That discussion is found in the next several verses—to the end of our modern Chapter 10.

1 Nephi 10:18–22

18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.

21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.

22 And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.

Comments

Having brought up his father’s faith in the Son of God, Nephi began an aside that would give more information about that God. Nephi not only testifies, but elaborates on God. Verse 18 echoes Hebrews 13:8, which says “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

In verse 19, the language echoes Deuteronomy 4:29, which says “thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, and thou shalt find him.” The language of the mysteries comes from the New Testament, as the word mysteries is not found in the King James Version of the Old Testament.

These are examples of the process of translation, which often pulls language from the Bible, including phrases from the New Testament.

Nevertheless, the concepts that Nephi is explaining are not unusual for his time. In particular, the concept embodied in the phrase “no unclean thing can dwell with God” is an expansion of the cleanliness laws. While other phrases are found in the Bible, that one is not. What is found is the concept of separation for uncleanliness, and here Nephi expands the mortal physical separation into a spiritual separation required by spiritual uncleanness.

Scripture Reference

1 Nephi 10:1-22