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Ether Chapter 6

1 And now I, Moroni, proceed to give the record of Jared and his brother.

2 For it came to pass after the Lord had prepared the stones which the brother of Jared had carried up into the mount, the brother of Jared came down out of the mount, and he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels.

verse 2 "one in each end thereof" There were sixteen stones, and two were placed in each vessel or barge.

3 And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.

4 And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them-and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.

5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.

6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.

verse 6 "they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them" Don't fail to notice the exciting imagery in this verse.

7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

verse 7 "buried in the deep" In the scriptures, to cross the waters or seas, is, figuratively, to leave the old decadent world behind to receive the new pristine and promised land. The same symbolism applies in the ordinance of baptism of water.

"encompassed about" See a discussion of this interesting expression in the commentary for Ether 3:2. In this instance the Jaredites are frightened and threatened by the waters in which they are engulfed.

"they were tight like unto the ark of Noah" It is interesting to note the similarities between the Jaredite barges and the ark of Noah. According to the prophet Joseph Smith, "the construction of the first vessel was given to Noah, by revelation. The design of the ark was given by God, 'a pattern of heavenly things'" (TPJS, 251). Hugh Nibley has reported a description of Noah's boat in an ancient Babylonian account of the Flood. In that account Noah's boat is called the magur boat, peaked at the ends, completely covered but for a door, without sails, and completely covered by the waters from time to time, as men and animals rode safe within. This closely resembles the account of the Jaredite barges given in the book of Ether (An Approach to the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988, 343-48).

The King James Version of the Old Testament reports that Noah's ark was to have a "window" for a light: "A window shalt thou make to the ark" (Genesis 6:16). However, some modern Jewish translators of the Hebrew text render this passage: "A light shalt thou make to the ark." The word in question, tsohar, means "noon" or "midday." Ancient Jewish legend relates that it was not just a light in the ark but was actually "a precious stone which illuminated the whole interior of the ark" (Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 26-27). Actually, a number of early Jewish sources say that God had Noah suspend precious stones or pearls inside the ark to lighten it. The gems would glow during the night and dim during the day so Noah could tell the time of day and how many days had passed (see TB Sanhedrin 108b, TY Pesahim 1.1, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Genesis 6:16, Midrash Bereship Rabbah 31.11, Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer 23, and Rashi on Genesis 6:16. For a recap of the story, see Louis Ginzberg, ed., The Legends of the Jews [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1937], 1:162-63). The first person to bring this Jewish tradition to the attention of Latter-day Saints was Janne M. Sjodahl, in his An Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927], 248. The tradition is discussed at length in Hugh Nibley's "There Were Jaredites: The Shining Stones," Improvement Era, September 1956, 630-32, 672-75). In a medieval Arabic text we read that it was the pegs that Noah used to construct the ark that shone.

Another interesting correlation between the Jaredite barges and Noah's ark is the fact that similar terms are used in describing the Flood of Noah and the Jaredite experience. An Ethiopic Christian text, Conflict of Adam and Eve III, 9:6-7, describes the Flood of Noah in terms such as "waves . . . high like mountains," as in Ether 2:24 and 6:6. The Book of Mormon account indicates that the high waves resulted from intense winds from the Lord. Early Jewish and Christian traditions indicate that God sent strong winds to destroy the Tower of Babel, from which the Jaredites fled (Ether 1:33). Several early texts have the wind, sometimes called a "wind-flood," destroying the idols erected by Nimrod, to whom both Jewish and Christian traditions attribute the building of the tower.

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.

verse 10 "neither whale that could mar them" Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines mar as, "to injure; to hurt; to deform; to disfigure."

11 And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.

verse 11 Some have been critical of the 344 days they were on the water, claiming it is too long. Actually this is a reasonable length of time for trans-Pacific voyages drifting without sails. In fact 344 days is exactly the length of time it takes the Pacific current to go from Asia to Mexico (John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985], 111, 368 note 16).

12 And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.

verse 12 Here, the "promised land," as promised lands always are, is symbolic of the celestial kingdom.

If we do not feel gratitude to the Lord every day, then it would seem we simply don't fully understand our relationship to him (D&C 59:21).

13 And it came to pass that they went forth upon the face of the land, and began to till the earth.

14 And Jared had four sons; and they were called Jacom, and Gilgah, and Mahah, and Orihah.

verse 14 "Jared had four sons" Their names seem to indicate kinship to the Semitic Language.

Jacom may be related to the Hebrew Jakim (1 Chronicles 8:19; 1 Chronicles 24:12), signifying one who is raised up by the Lord; it evidently comes from the verb, kum, to stand up. It may also be related to khamamu, which is said to mean to hold, to fix, to grasp, and in Babylonian to fix the laws, to lead, to govern (H. F. Lutz, "Kingship in Babylonia, Syria, and Egypt," American Anthropologist, October and December, 1924).

Gilgah may be a variant of Gilgal, which means a wheel, or a circle. It was the place where the Israelites made their first camp in Palestine, after having crossed the Jordan and occupied Jericho. It was there that Joshua set up twelve stones, possibly in a circle, forming a stonehenge in memory of that great event in Israelitish history-the Lord had led Israel into the Promised Land across the Jordan on dry land (Joshua 4:19-20; Joshua 9:16; Joshua 10:6-7).

Mahah may be the mahan of the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 5:31).

Orihah is, undoubtedly, the same as Urijah (2 Kings 16:10-12), meaning the light of the Lord.

15 And the brother of Jared also begat sons and daughters.

16 And the friends of Jared and his brother were in number about twenty and two souls; and they also begat sons and daughters before they came to the promised land; and therefore they began to be many.

17 And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.

verse 17 "they were also taught from on high" It would seem that the ideal formula for acquiring spiritual intelligence or light and truth is the combination of mental exertion and prayerful pleading and pondering. In this way we qualify for the Spirit's endowments.

18 And it came to pass that they began to spread upon the face of the land, and to multiply and to till the earth; and they did wax strong in the land.

19 And the brother of Jared began to be old, and saw that he must soon go down to the grave; wherefore he said unto Jared: Let us gather together our people that we may number them, that we may know of them what they will desire of us before we go down to our graves.

20 And accordingly the people were gathered together. Now the number of the sons and the daughters of the brother of Jared were twenty and two souls; and the number of sons and daughters of Jared were twelve, he having four sons.

verse 20 It has been speculated that the brother of Jared, who had twenty-two sons and daughters, was a polygamist. Whether or not he had more than one wife is not known, but we do know that polygamy was practiced among the Jaredites. We will later learn that Riplakish, an early Jaredite king, had "many wives and concubines . . . [and] did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations" (Ether 10:5-7). Jaredite polygamy was not restricted to royalty. Moroni will later record that in the final battle of the Jaredites every man kept his sword in hand "in the defence of his property and his own life and of his wives and children" (Ether 14:2).

21 And it came to pass that they did number their people; and after that they had numbered them, they did desire of them the things which they would that they should do before they went down to their graves.

22 And it came to pass that the people desired of them that they should anoint one of their sons to be a king over them.

verse 22 "anoint" To anoint is to place oil, usually olive oil, on the head or other prominent part of a person or building. The Hebrew term mashiach (Messiah) and Greek term christos (Christ) derive from the verb "to anoint" in their respective languages. They both mean "the anointed one."

Among both Nephites and Jaredites, anointing was practiced when enthroning kings (e.g., Jacob 1:19; Ether 6:22).

In biblical accounts, anointing was a part of the ceremony of divine investiture for prophets (e.g., 1 Kings 19:16), priests (e.g., Exodus 28:41), kings (e.g., 1 Samuel 15:1), and sanctuaries (Exodus 30:22-29). In addition, it was an element in certain blessings (Psalm 23:5; James 5:14).

Anciently, the olive tree was the source of oil for anointing and other dietary and medicinal purposes in the Mediterranean area (Judges 9:8-9; Zechariah 4:1-3; Zechariah 4:11-14). The source of oil among Book of Mormon peoples for such functions, if oil was used, remains unknown.

23 And now behold, this was grievous unto them. And the brother of Jared said unto them: Surely this thing leadeth into captivity.

verses 22-23 "Surely this thing leadeth into captivity." The Jaredite opposition to kingship may reflect the negative experience they had under the Mesopotamian king under whose reign the entire society collapsed.

The concerns of the brother of Jared will be fully realized as subsequent kings will turn from the ways of righteousness and lead their people into abominable practices of idolatry and other forms of wickedness that will contribute to their spiritual decline and ultimate destruction as a civilization.

24 But Jared said unto his brother: Suffer them that they may have a king. And therefore he said unto them: Choose ye out from among our sons a king, even whom ye will.

25 And it came to pass that they chose even the firstborn of the brother of Jared; and his name was Pagag. And it came to pass that he refused and would not be their king. And the people would that his father should constrain him, but his father would not; and he commanded them that they should constrain no man to be their king.

verse 25 To constrain in this context means to urge to action or to compel.

26 And it came to pass that they chose all the brothers of Pagag, and they would not.

27 And it came to pass that neither would the sons of Jared, even all save it were one; and Orihah was anointed to be king over the people.

28 And he began to reign, and the people began to prosper; and they became exceedingly rich.

29 And it came to pass that Jared died, and his brother also.

30 And it came to pass that Orihah did walk humbly before the Lord, and did remember how great things the Lord had done for his father, and also taught his people how great things the Lord had done for their fathers.

verse 30 In our tour through the book of Ether, we will encounter four kings who were righteous and presided over Zion-like societies. These include Orihah (introduced in this verse), Shule (chapter 7), Emer (chapter 9), and Lib (chapter 10).

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