1 Nephi Chapter 7
1 Nephi 7 Lehi's sons return to Jerusalem for Ishmael and his family.
Chapter 7 provides us with the account of the family of Ishmael's joining Lehi and his family in the wilderness.
verses 1-5 Here Lehi receives another revelation: the sons must go back to the land of Jerusalem once again, this time to obtain future brides for the sons of Lehi.
It is a fair question to ask why another family would be willing to abandon their home and all they had known to join these refugees in the wilderness. The only plausible answer is that Ishmael believed the words of the Lord that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed by the Babylonian armies who already occupied the city. Also, Nephi and his brothers had quite a story to tell about how an angel appeared to them and how the Lord had miraculously made it possible to secure the brass plates from Laban. The text of the Book of Mormon itself says, "The Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness" (1 Nephi 7:5).
1 And now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.
verse 1 Lehi's "prophesying concerning his seed" began in 1 Nephi 5:17. The adjective "meet" here means suitable, proper, or advisable.
"his sons should take daughters to wife" One definition of "daughters" in Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the English Language is "a daughter in law; a son's wife."
2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.
verse 2 "return unto the land of Jerusalem" We have commented previously on the difference between the "land of Jerusalem" and the "city of Jerusalem" (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:4). To reiterate: it is likely that the "land" is the area surrounding the city. This pattern will hold throughout the remainder of the Book of Mormon after the group arrives in the western hemisphere. For example, "land of Nephi" and "city of Nephi."
"bring down Ishmael . . . into the wilderness" Again, the implication here is that the wilderness was lower in elevation-"down"-from the "land of Jerusalem."
In the Church, it has long been held that Ishmael's ancestry went back to Joseph through Joseph's birthright son Ephraim. This tradition is based on a discourse delivered by an apostle, Elder Erastus Snow, in the Logan tabernacle in Logan, Utah, on May 6, 1882. He said, "The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the first Book of Nephi [1 Nephi chapters 1 through 8], which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons [had] married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters" (JD, 23:184).
3 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did again, with my brethren, go forth into the wilderness to go up to Jerusalem.
verse 3 Notice that this time the brothers did not murmur. They were returning to Jerusalem for prospective wives!
4 And it came to pass that we went up unto the house of Ishmael, and we did gain favor in the sight of Ishmael, insomuch that we did speak unto him the words of the Lord.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness to the tent of our father.
6 And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
verse 6 This verse and the above quote by Elder Erastus Snow have caused some to speculate that Lehi's family and that of Ishmael might have already had a relationship either by prior marriage or by plans for marriage. This might explain Lehi's seeming nonchalance about instructing his sons to bring Ishmael's family down into the wilderness. It seems likely that Lehi had some older daughters who had already married Ishmael's sons. Perhaps Lehi and Ishmael had previously contracted with each other to have their children marry. Both were of the tribe of Joseph, and their families were nearly compatible in the number of matched pairs for marriage. When we include Laban's servant Zoram, there is a perfect numerical match of marriageable people.
7 And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.
8 And now I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, therefore I spake unto them, saying, yea, even unto Laman and unto Lemuel: Behold ye are mine elder brethren, and how is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds, that ye have need that I, your younger brother, should speak unto you, yea, and set an example for you?
verse 8 "I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
9 How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?
10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
verse 10 When did Laman and Lemuel see an angel? They were rebuked by an angel as they smote their younger brothers with a rod in the "cavity of a rock" (1 Nephi 3:27-30).
11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.
verse 13 "ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem" The final destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon occurred in 586 BC, and revelation concerning that event is recorded in 2 Nephi 6:8 (also 2 Nephi 25:10).
14 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.
verse 14 "the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them" Nephi refers here to the Jews in Jerusalem.
"they have rejected the prophets" "Jeremiah have they cast into prison" "they have sought to take away the life of my father" Nephi implies that the actions taken against Jeremiah and the other prophets and the threats on Lehi's life were all a part of the same rebellious mind set in Jerusalem.
"Jeremiah have they cast into prison" Brother Randall P. Spackman regards this verse as one of the most important clues for dating the time of Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. The most notable incident of Jeremiah's being cast into prison occurred within a year or two of Babylon's captivity of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 37:11 to 38:6). This would have occurred about 588 or 587 BC. Zedekiah was king of Jerusalem for about ten years from 597 BC until the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. Jeremiah was probably imprisoned in the last year or two of Zedekiah's reign. After Jeremiah was imprisoned, Zedekiah sought him out to see if Jeremiah had a message from the Lord for Zedekiah. Jeremiah did indeed have a message. It was that the king of Babylon was about to capture and destroy Jerusalem! This was an unacceptable message, and because of it Jeremiah was remanded to prison where he was "sunk in the mire." If Nephi was referring to this episode of Jeremiah's imprisonment, then Lehi and his family could not have exited Jerusalem until after Jeremiah was imprisoned in 588 or 587 BC. There were perhaps other incidents of Jeremiah's being cast into prison well-known to Lehi's family, since Lehi and Jeremiah were contemporary prophets. Perhaps it is to one of these other incidents that Nephi is referring. We still cannot be certain as to exactly when Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. It could have been any time between 597 BC and 586 BC.
15 Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.
verse 15 Why didn't Laman and Lemuel and the other members of their rebellious group abandon Lehi's family and return to Jerusalem? Apparently at this point in time they were irresolute, uncertain, and ambivalent in their disbelief. They probably half believed Nephi's warnings (cf. verses 19 and 20 in this chapter).
The phrase "if ye have choice" doesn't question whether or not they had their agency. Certainly they had that. Rather the phrase seems to mean, "if it is your choice."
16 And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
verse 16 How like human nature! If Laman and Lemuel and the other rebellious members of the traveling party had made the decision to return to Jerusalem, they probably would have done so and not bothered to become angry with Nephi. It appears, however, they were afraid to disregard Nephi's warning. They thus wanted to return to Jerusalem but were frightened to do so. Thus, frustrated by their dilemma and ambivalent feelings, they took out their frustrations on Nephi.
"that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts" Were there wild beasts in Arabia? We should remember the origin of the word "wilderness." Its old English form was wilddeoren, meaning "of wild beast." The Greek Agatharkides wrote of Midian, "The country is full of wild camels, as well as of flocks of deer, gazelles, sheep, mules, and oxen." As a result he also noted that the game "attracts numerous lions, wolves, and panthers" (Burton, Gold-Mines of Midian, 108). Nephi's concern for his life was real. The last lion in Arabia was killed in Midian in 1926.
17 But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.
18 And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.
19 And it came to pass that they were angry with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.
verse 19 "one of the daughters of Ishmael" I am asking you to speculate, of course, but do you suppose that it was this daughter of Ishmael that Nephi eventually married (see 1 Nephi 16:7)? And what about those two daughters of Ishmael that sided with Laman and Lemuel (verse 6)? Might they have been the two that married the two rebellious brothers?
20 And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
21 And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so. And after they had done praying unto the Lord we did again travel on our journey towards the tent of our father.
verse 21 "I did frankly forgive them all that they had done" This simple phrase speaks powerfully of the magnanimous nature of Nephi's character.
22 And it came to pass that we did come down unto the tent of our father. And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him.
verse 22 At this point in time, the traveling party consisted of at least eighteen people. These were Lehi, Sariah, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Zoram, Ishmael, his wife, five daughters, and two sons with their wives. There may also have been children from two married sons of Ishmael. It is interesting to ponder why two married sons of Ishmael would have opted to come into the wilderness with their wives. Could it have been family loyalty? Or perhaps they were touched by the Spirit and believed that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed.
Again, we see the custom of offering appropriate sacrifices to the Lord in appropriate circumstances. See the commentary for 1 Nephi 2:7.