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3 Nephi Chapter 7

1 Now behold, I will show unto you that they did not establish a king over the land; but in this same year, yea, the thirtieth year, they did destroy upon the judgment-seat, yea, did murder the chief judge of the land.

verse 1 These judges and lawyers, actually a group of king-men, have become a secret combination bound to each other by evil covenant (see 3 Nephi 6:28). By destroying the governor or chief judge they succeeded at least partly with their plan-that is, to rid themselves of the limitations imposed by the democratic form of government. They wanted to silence the "voice of the people" and install a leader who would not be hampered by legislative checks and restraints of any kind. They may have been, however, somewhat chagrined to discover that they had also succeeded in destroying the entire central government of the Nephites causing the people to divide themselves into independent tribal units. Thus, there was no longer a cohesive body of people over whom their hand-picked king might rule.

2 And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.

verse 2 The Nephites were obviously not an entirely homogeneous group. Among the Book of Mormon peoples, at least seven tribal groups maintained their identity over the thousand years of Nephite History. Please review this concept in the commentary for Jacob 1:13. It is apparent that following the collapse of their government, the Nephite people moved directly into this tribal structure. This suggests that the infrastructure was already in place for these tribes. This "tribal" organization will prevail even following the final collapse of Nephite society in about AD 400. When the Americas were "discovered" by the Europeans in the sixteenth century AD, a tribal organization was found to still exist among the descendants of these people.

3 And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.

4 Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great.

verse 4 The wording of this verse suggests that because the tribal units afforded each man a ready and abundant supply of relatives and friends, the tribes became very large. This is a cause/effect relationship that the writer probably did not intend to imply. We might alternatively word this verse for clarity: Because the tribes were very large, each and every man within the tribes had many relatives and friends.

5 Now all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them; and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan.

verse 5 Initially the tribes existed without overt war among them. It will soon become evident, however, that there did exist considerable tension and rancor among the tribes.

6 And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combination of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets.

7 And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.

8 And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.

verse 8 "six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness" This phrase may be restated: In less than six years the Nephites had gone from being righteous to wicked. Six years from when? The date referred to here is probably about AD 24, when the Nephites had banded together under the leadership of the chief judge Lachoneus and the chief military captain Gidgiddoni, had repented of their sins, and had routed the Gadianton robbers. In AD 24 the Nephites were, almost to a man, righteous and repentant (see 3 Nephi 5:1-3).

During the time the Hebrew world was living the Law of Moses, any reference made by an Israelite to a pig was likely be in a negative context. See also another negative reference to a pig in 3 Nephi 14:6. In contrast, study the reference to pigs in Ether 9:18. Is this reference positive or negative? It is positive-pigs are a valid source of food for man in Jaredite times. Why the difference? Because the Jaredites lived before the Mosaic Law was established.

If one sincerely repents and is cleansed from sin and then later returns to his evil ways, he is here likened to a dog eating its own vomit, or to a sow that is cleansed but then returns to wallow in its mire or excrement.

9 Now this secret combination, which had brought so great iniquity upon the people, did gather themselves together, and did place at their head a man whom they did call Jacob;

verse 9 Two possible meanings are suggested for the name Jacob-(1) "supplant" or "replace" and (2) "deceive" (O. Odelain and R. Seguineau, Dictionary of Proper Names and Places in the Bible, 182). It would seem that the latter meaning is applicable here.

10 And they did call him their king; therefore he became a king over this wicked band; and he was one of the chiefest who had given his voice against the prophets who testified of Jesus.

verse 10 "Chiefest" implies that Jacob was a "top-ranking leader." He had been the primary advocate for martyring the prophets. He became king of the secret combination. His supporters may have intended that he be regarded as king over the entire land, but the new fragmented social order prevented that.

11 And it came to pass that they were not so strong in number as the tribes of the people, who were united together save it were their leaders did establish their laws, every one according to his tribe; nevertheless they were enemies; notwithstanding they were not a righteous people, yet they were united in the hatred of those who had entered into a covenant to destroy the government.

verse 11 This verse seems to contain three separate ideas:

1. The "tribe" or group of those bound together by evil in the secret combination was smaller than the other family tribes.

2. The family tribes each existed independently from one another with their own separate laws established by the leader of each tribe. Nonetheless there was some semblance of unity among the tribes.

3. Even though the family tribes and the secret combination were all made up of people who were unrighteous from the standpoint of gospel principles, the family tribes regarded the secret combination as their enemy because the wicked covenant group (the Gadiantons) had been responsible for destroying the people's government.

12 Therefore, Jacob seeing that their enemies were more numerous than they, he being the king of the band, therefore he commanded his people that they should take their flight into the northernmost part of the land, and there build up unto themselves a kingdom, until they were joined by dissenters, (for he flattered them that there would be many dissenters) and they become sufficiently strong to contend with the tribes of the people; and they did so.

verse 12 Jacob and his followers decided to leave the country, build up their strength, and then return to Zarahemla hoping to take control of the country. We will learn that they never were able to achieve their goal-even though Jacob was charismatic and persuasive, and he was able to "flatter" or persuade his people to do his will.

"northernmost part of the land" For a suggestion as to the specific city to which Jacob and his people fled, see the commentary for Alma 63:4. This city apparently came to be called Jacobugath (see 3 Nephi 9:9) and may have been north of the narrow neck of land, and even north of the land Desolation.

13 And so speedy was their march that it could not be impeded until they had gone forth out of the reach of the people. And thus ended the thirtieth year; and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi.

14 And it came to pass in the thirty and first year that they were divided into tribes, every man according to his family, kindred and friends; nevertheless they had come to an agreement that they would not go to war one with another; but they were not united as to their laws, and their manner of government, for they were established according to the minds of those who were their chiefs and their leaders. But they did establish very strict laws that one tribe should not trespass against another, insomuch that in some degree they had peace in the land; nevertheless, their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them.

15 And it came to pass that Nephi-having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, and also being eye-witness to their quick return from righteousness unto their wickedness and abominations;

verse 15 This period in Nephite history was one of terror, anarchy, and bloodshed. But also, on the scene, was one the great prophets of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi, the son of Nephi and the grandson of Helaman (see 3 Nephi 1). Obviously Nephi's degree of righteousness qualified him for high spiritual privilege.

16 Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds-went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

17 And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.

18 And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily.

verse 18 Obviously the personal spiritual power of Nephi was enormous and was the product of his profound faith in the Savior. Others in scripture who have taught with like power have included the mortal Christ (Matthew 7:29), Nephi the son of Lehi (1 Nephi 17:52), the sons of Mosiah (Alma 17:2-3), and Enoch (Moses 7:13).

19 And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.

verse 19 "even his brother did he raise from the dead" This is Nephi's brother Timothy (3 Nephi 19:4) who will later become one of Jesus's twelve disciples or apostles in the New World.

It will always be true that the truth angers the wicked. When truth is preached with great spiritual power to the wicked so that they cannot help but believe, the result is that the wicked seek to shut the mouth of the prophet by destroying him. Since we know that Timothy will later become one of the twelve, we might surmise that Timothy, like his brother Nephi, also had the power to preach so that the people could not disbelieve his words. This resulted in his being stoned to death by his wicked hearers. Timothy's death would have provided a type of false relief to those who slew him who felt they were thus spared from Timothy's unsettling and disturbing preachings which made them so keenly aware of their guilt and impending destruction. Their false sense of comfort would have lasted only until Nephi exercised his priesthood to raise Timothy from the dead. This miraculous healing must have sent the wicked into a blind rage because they were then left without satisfaction.

For notes on the Greek derivation of the name Timothy, see the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.

20 And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

21 And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed.

verse 21 "they had been visited by the power of Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ" They had received, by personal revelation, through the Spirit of God, a testimony of Christ. One cannot help but wonder whether in a time of near universal wickedness, those few who resist the evil tide and remain converted to the Lord's gospel might be especially blessed by the Spirit's visitations.

22 And as many as had devils cast out from them, and were healed of their sicknesses and their infirmities, did truly manifest unto the people that they had been wrought upon by the Spirit of God, and had been healed; and they did show forth signs also and did do some miracles among the people.

23 Thus passed away the thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins.

verse 23 Yet a final time the Lord extends to the people an opportunity to repent.

24 Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water.

verse 24 Baptism is obviously a most vital ordinance! As taught in the following verse, baptism witnesses to both God and our fellow man contrition and a belief in and an acceptance of Christ and his gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ himself will clearly teach of the necessity of baptism during his visit to the Nephites in Bountiful (3 Nephi 27:20).

25 Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins.

verses 24-25 Obviously Nephi had some limited success in his preaching.

26 And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away.

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