1 Nephi Chapter 19
1 Nephi 19 Nephi commanded to make the large plates of Nephi and begin engraving upon them.
1 Nephi 19:23 I did liken all scriptures unto us.
This chapter provides us with the account of Nephi's making the large plates of Nephi and starting his engravings upon them.
1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.
verse 1 About ten years after Lehi's family's departure from Jerusalem-the family's departure was likely between 587 and 577 BC-Nephi was commanded to begin a record which we now know will become part of the "large plates of Nephi." If the reader does not have a clear understanding of this set of plates, please review the article Those Confusing Book of Mormon Plates.
"I did engraven the record of my father" We are taught that Nephi's early engravings on the large plates of Nephi included a record of his father Lehi. Nephi likely used, as his source for his father's record, Lehi's personal journal (S. Kent Brown, "Nephi's Use of Lehi's Record," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, 3-5). Nephi probably copied his father's record onto the large plates of Nephi in the same way that he later copied the Isaiah chapters from the brass plates onto the small plates of Nephi. The fact that Nephi copied his father's record onto metal plates suggests that Lehi's record was written on perishable material rather than on more durable metal plates.
Do we have access today to the book of Lehi? Actually, in a way, we do. We have access to a version of a part of the book of Lehi. Apparently, the 116 pages of manuscript lost by Martin Harris contained the complete book of Lehi. This book had been translated by Joseph Smith from the plates of Mormon. It included an account of the period of time from Jerusalem down to the reign of King Benjamin. The first eight chapters of 1 Nephi contain another abridgment father Lehi's journal. This abridgment was written onto the small plates of Nephi and is found in the book of 1 Nephi-chapters 1 through 8. These chapters, of course, will not be written by Nephi upon the small plates of Nephi for another twenty years.
2 And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken; wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth, more particularly made mention upon the first plates.
verse 2 Don't be confused by this verse. Remember, as we read 1 Nephi, we are reading from the small plates of Nephi. See if you can keep straight the various references to the two sets of plates, the large plates of Nephi and the small plates of Nephi.
"Them" refers to the large plates of Nephi. "These plates" are the small plates of Nephi. "Those first plates" are, again, the large plates of Nephi. Again, "these plates" refers to the small plates of Nephi. Finally, "the first plates" are the large plates of Nephi.
Nephi would not even begin the small plates of Nephi, those from which we are now reading, until at least twenty years following the events about which we have been reading in chapter 18 (567 to 557 BC-see 2 Nephi 5:28-33).
We learn that some precious things were contained on the large plates of Nephi to which we do not have access today, including the genealogy of Lehi. This genealogy was probably taken from the brass plates. We also learn that the account of the party's sojourn in the wilderness was found in more detail on the large plates of Nephi. In fact, every event that occurred between the exodus from Jerusalem and Nephi's creation of the small plates, was described in more detail on the large plates of Nephi.
"genealogy of his fathers" A point of some interest but minor importance is that In the first edition, the printers skipped from one "f" to another in the same word, which shortened "genealogy of his forefathers" to read "genealogy of his fathers" in this verse. The longer word is supported by the original manuscript, the printer's copy, and the 1840 edition.
3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
verses 3-4 Both references to "these plates" in verse 3 and the single reference to "these plates" in verse 4 refer to the small plates of Nephi. Here we learn that the small plates of Nephi were to contain the more "plain and precious parts" of "the ministry and the prophecies"-the more spiritual record. The "other plates," or the large plates of Nephi, were to give a "greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions" of the people-a more secular record.
By our reading of the small plates of Nephi, we are made aware, in general terms, of the tensions between Nephi and his followers and the adherents of Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Nephi 5:1-5). In the lifetime of Nephi, however, we do not have any record of "wars and contentions and destructions of [Nephi's] people." Apparently, there was open conflict, and the record of this would have been recorded on the large plates of Nephi.
One further question for clarification: When Martin Harris lost the 116 pages of manuscript, did he lose only the book of Lehi? We know that he lost all the secular writings of the prophets from the exodus from Jerusalem down to the reign of King Benjamin. While today we are inclined to refer to this entire lost segment of scripture as "the book of Lehi," if we did have access to these lost materials today, we may find that they were organized and divided into a few books, not just the book of Lehi.
5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
verse 5 Here Nephi refers to his account of making the small plates of Nephi found in 2 Nephi 5:28-33.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
verse 6 "if I do err, even did they err of old" Some of the sacred teachings that Nephi will enter onto the small plates of Nephi will be based on the writings of prophets that preceded him. In this verse he suggests that he might be excused if he includes any erroneous materials from the writings of these earlier prophets.
verses 7-10 Secular biblical scholars, in general, do not believe that a prophet can prophesy outside of his own life's time reference. They also would not allow that a prophet could prophesy explicit particulars about any matter. Indeed, biblical prophecies about Jesus Christ are scarce, and those few that do exist are veiled. However, in the Church today we are committed to the idea that a prophet can predict specific events to occur in any era of the earth's future existence. These verses contain remarkable prophetic detail concerning the Messiah.
7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words-they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
8 And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel, in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.
verse 8 Who is the "angel" spoken of here? He is "the angel" who assisted Nephi in his vision experience in 1 Nephi 11-15. He is first introduced in 1 Nephi 11:14.
9 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.
10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
verse 10 It is made clear in this verse that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ.
Here also are reiterated the non-biblical prophets, Zenock, Neum, and Zenos, who are quoted in the Book of Mormon and whose writings were presumably found on the brass plates. These prophets prophesied and testified of Christ with unparalleled plainness. A fourth such prophet was Ezias who is mentioned in Helaman 8:20. For speculation concerning these four non-biblical prophets, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 5:16. We know very little of these prophets. We do know that they lived "since the days of Abraham" (Helaman 8:19). An interesting verse in 3 Nephi (3 Nephi 10:16) suggests that the Nephites actually descended from the prophets Zenos and Zenock. It is likely that Zenos and Zenock were descendants of ancient Joseph, the son of Jacob. Of the prophet Ezias, we know only that he prophesied of the coming of the Messiah (Helaman 8:19-20). The prophet Zenock was apparently martyred for his beliefs (Alma 33:15-17), as was Zenos (Helaman 8:19). For further commentary on the prophet Zenos, see the introductory commentary for Jacob 5.
A point of little importance but of some interest is that the name Zenock was spelled Zenoch in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon. There is good evidence to suggest that during the translation process, when a proper name was initially encountered, Joseph actually saw the specific spelling of that name and spelled it out for the scribe. We may thus wonder if a more appropriate spelling of this prophet's name would be Zenoch rather than Zenock. Zenoch is, incidentally, more appropriate as a Hebrew name.
A profoundly important and revolutionary concept, as far as our present-day world is concerned, is taught explicitly in the brass plates. This concept is that Christianity, with its doctrines and ordinances, began at the time of Adam (see D&C 20:25-26; Jacob 4:4-5; Alma 39:17-19). All of the prophets since Adam were Christian prophets. They prophesied of Christ, taught Christian doctrine, and administered Christian ordinances. Bruce R. McConkie taught, "What interests us more than the books included on the brass plates is the tone and tenor and general approach to the gospel and to salvation that they set forth. They are gospel oriented and speak of Christ and the various Christian concepts which the world falsely assumes to have originated with Jesus and the early apostles" (The Doctrinal Restoration, 17). This concept is also taught in the Bible by the Savior himself. Study carefully Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44.
The phrase "isles of the sea" found here and in subsequent verses (1 Nephi 19:12; 1 Nephi 19:16) is metaphorical and refers simply to scattered Israel, wherever they may be found upon the earth. This phrase is found exclusively in 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. It has been suggested that the Nephites might have been especially inclined to use this phrase since they at first thought they were living on an island. These Israelites are far removed from Jerusalem. We thus learn here that the three days of darkness to occur at the Lord's death were intended as a specific sign to scattered Israel, probably especially to those in "Book of Mormon country," and perhaps not to those in Jerusalem. Was there a specific sign given to those in Jerusalem? Matthew described, "The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" (Matthew 27:51; see also Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). The gospel writers also describe darkness at the time Jesus was on the cross, but there was apparently no three-day period of darkness in Jerusalem.
verses 11-12 The signs described in these verses, of course, would occur at the time of Christ's crucifixion.
11 For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
verse 11 "The prophet" in this verse and also in verses 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 24 refers to the prophet Zenos. This designation as "the prophet" perhaps suggests an unusual degree of greatness and importance among other prophets.
"all the house of Israel" Aside from those who resided in Judah, the major elements of scattered Israel at the time of Christ's crucifixion consisted of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel taken captive by Assyria between 732 and 722 BC and the Book of Mormon peoples. The Lord will visit these either directly with his voice (and his presence) or by giving them a specific sign of his crucifixion. Apparently, it was and is the Lord's plan to visit directly the more righteous among scattered Israel. And whatever he plans to do, he will do.
12 And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.
verse 12 Here the prophet Zenos prophesies of the response of all nature to the Savior's atoning sacrifice (Matthew 27:52-54). His atonement permeates and applies to all reality, including the inanimate earth. When he suffered, creation itself responded (see Moses 7:56).
The phrase "wrought upon" means influenced or prevailed on.
13 And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.
verse 13 "as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet" Zenos's wording suggests that he was writing from somewhere other than Jerusalem. See the commentary for 1 Nephi 5:16. This provides some evidence that the brass plates, from which Zenos's writings were taken by Nephi, may have had their origins in the northern kingdom of Israel, rather than the southern kingdom of Judah some time between Israel's division into separate kingdoms in 931 BC and the fall of the northern kingdom between 732 and 722 BC.
Were the Jews scattered and scourged because they crucified Jesus? The answer is "certainly not." It is pernicious and inaccurate doctrine to believe that an entire progeny would be punished because those few ruling Jews in the Jerusalem Sanhedrin sought to and succeeded in having Jesus crucified by the Romans. The answer as to why all Israel, including the Jews, was scourged and scattered is found in the next verse.
14 And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.
verse 14 Here is plainly expressed by Nephi the reason the Jews, and indeed all Israel, were scattered-because they rejected the gospel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: "Our Israelite forebears were scattered because they rejected the gospel, defiled the priesthood, forsook the church, and departed from the kingdom. They were scattered because they turned from the Lord, worshiped false gods, and walked in all the ways of the heathen nations. They were scattered because they . . . rejected the Lord Jehovah, who is the Lord Jesus, of whom all their prophets testified. Israel was scattered for apostasy" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 515).
This verse contains a fundamental and important truth. A people is scattered when they reject Jesus Christ and his gospel. Apostasy leads to scattering. The converse principle is just as important. A people is gathered when they accept the Messiah and his message and become disciples (see 2 Nephi 9:2, 2 Nephi 25:14). Let us then summarize: Scattering results from apostasy, and gathering occurs as a result of repenting and accepting the gospel of Christ.
"Holy One of Israel" It is of interest that this expression is found several times in the Book of Mormon text but only in the small plates of Nephi (1 Nephi through Omni). The phrase appears thirty times in the Old Testament, and almost all of those occurrences are in Isaiah or in texts that originated around the time of Lehi. Perhaps this name reflects attitudes about God that were particularly relevant and current around Lehi's time.
"hiss and a by-word" This colorful expression is found in none of the other scriptures. In the Book of Mormon it is found here and in 3 Nephi 16:9. One of the definitions of hiss in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "An expression of contempt or disapprobation, used in places of public exhibition." As a verb, to "hiss" is to express disapproval by hissing. A "by-word" or "byword" is, in this context, a person or thing known for contemptible qualities.
15 Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers.
16 Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.
verse 16 The phrase "from the four quarters of the earth" means from all parts of the earth.
17 Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet; every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed.
verses 15-17 Nephi speaks of the great final gathering which will begin in the dispensation of the fulness of times and will continue through the Millennium. The expression "all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord" refers to the period of time of the Millennium. For a more complete review of the concepts of scattering and gathering of Israel, see the introductory comments for 1 Nephi 20.
The expression "the earth" has three meanings when it is used in the Book of Mormon:
1. This globe on which we live-one of the many worlds created by Jesus Christ. 2. A collective term referring to all the inhabitants of this world. This meaning applies in this verse (see also 2 Nephi 21:9).
3. The soil or ground (e.g., 1 Nephi 18:24; 1 Nephi 18:23:21; Mosiah 6:7; Alma 48:8).
18 And I, Nephi, have written these things unto my people, that perhaps I might persuade them that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer.
19 Wherefore, I speak unto all the house of Israel, if it so be that they should obtain these things.
20 For behold, I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak, for those who are at Jerusalem; for had not the Lord been merciful, to show unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old, I should have perished also.
verse 20 "workings in the spirit . . . for those who are at Jerusalem" Nephi is emotional and distraught as he considers the fate of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon, and how he might have still been in Jerusalem when it was crushed.
"which doth weary me, even that all my joints are weak" See the commentary for 1 Nephi 17:47.
21 And he surely did show unto the prophets of old all things concerning them; and also he did show unto many concerning us; wherefore, it must needs be that we know concerning them for they are written upon the plates of brass.
verse 21 "all things concerning them" Old Testament prophets, whose writings are contained on the plates of brass, prophesied in depth about the fate of the people of Jerusalem.
"many [things] concerning us" Those same prophets prophesied concerning this branch of the tribe of Joseph, Lehi's colony. Even though the Old Testament of the Bible has not maintained its pure original form, we still find references which might well refer to Lehi and his group. Consider, for example, Genesis 49:22-26, Deuteronomy 33:13-16, Psalm 85:11, and Isaiah 29:9-14.
Nephi is about to quote chapters 48 and 49 of Isaiah (1 Nephi 20-21). It appears that his motivation for quoting these two chapters is to illustrate the truth contained in this phrase.
"we know concerning them" Since Old Testament prophets wrote of the prophecies of the fate of the people of Jerusalem, which writings are contained on the brass plates, Nephi and his people can read them.
22 Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things; and it came to pass that I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old.
verse 22 "the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old" In verses 20 and 21, Nephi has been writing of the prophecies of Old Testament prophets concerning Jerusalem and also prophecies concerning his own people. Here he expands his reference in space and time to include the Lord's dealings with people who had lived before the time of Nephi and in other lands as will be seen in the next verse.
23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.
verse 23 "I did liken all scriptures unto us" Some have suggested that as we study the writings of the Old Testament prophets today, we should be careful as we try to apply their teachings to ourselves. After all, they were speaking mainly to the people of their own day and addressing the problems of their own people. To apply a scripture to a different situation than that in which it originated may lead one away from the original meaning of that scripture. There is certainly merit to this argument, but here Nephi confirms the validity of seeking to apply the teachings of the ancients prophets to ourselves as he "did liken all the scriptures unto us [his own people], that it might be for our profit and learning." This is the so-called process of "likening" the scriptures, and it is often a valid process, particularly if we seek only to apply mainly the principles contained in the scriptures to ourselves (see also 2 Nephi 6:5).
In this verse, Nephi suggests that he prefers the writings of Isaiah over those of Moses for the purpose of teaching about Christ.
24 Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.
verse 24 "The prophet," of course, is Isaiah.
This verse forms an excellent introduction to the next two chapters which consist of some verses from the book of Isaiah. It is a message of hope to scattered Israel.
"a branch who have been broken off" Nephi informs his people that they are like unto a branch which has been broken off or scattered from the main olive tree (the main body of the house of Israel). For a discussion of the interesting word branch, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:12.
"which were written unto all the house of Israel" Here Nephi is "likening" the words of Isaiah to his own people-the "branch who have been broken off."
An interesting and important point is made by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet in their book, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon (150-51). They write: "A misunderstanding of scripture results when a prophecy made to all the house of Israel and then applied to the descendants of Lehi by Book of Mormon prophets is assumed to find its fulfillment only in the activities of the descendants of Lehi." In other words, we might today read prophecies in the Book of Mormon by prophets who specify that those prophecies apply to the remnants of the Nephites and Lamanites. We might then assume that those prophecies will find their fulfillment only among those native Indian peoples of North, Central, and South America who might be descended from Book of Mormon peoples. In fact, those prophecies might have been intended by the Lord to apply to all Israel. Millet and McConkie continue, "Some have erred by supposing that statements made by Book of Mormon prophets, in which they applied the prophecies of Old World prophets to their own people, applied only to the descendants of Book of Mormon people or the Lamanites. This has led them to greatly exaggerate the role the Lamanites will play in the events of the last days. Faithful Lamanites will play a role equal in importance to that of all the faithful descendants of Abraham" (Ibid.).