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Ether Chapter 9

Brother Hugh Nibley has added insight to the sordid story of the daughter of Jared and Akish:

There is one tale of intrigue in the book of Ether that presents very ancient and widespread (though but recently discovered) parallels. That is the story of Jared's daughter. . . . This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the old king, and mount the throne. I once collected a huge dosier on this awful woman and even read a paper on her at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association. You find out all about the sordid triangle of the old king, the challenger, and the dancing beauty from Frazer, Jane Harrison, Altheim, B. Schweitzer, Farnell, and any number of folklorists. The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern. . . . It is not without actual historical parallels, as when in AD 998 the sister of the Khalif obtained as a gift the head of the ruler of Syria, the episode of the dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual [albeit a sensual one], and the name of Salome is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts-secret directories on the art of deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization (Lehi in the Desert, 210-13; also Nibley's Prophetic Book of Mormon, 248).

1 And now I, Moroni, proceed with my record. Therefore, behold, it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish and his friends, behold, they did overthrow the kingdom of Omer.

2 Nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons and to his daughters who did not seek his destruction.

3 And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family.

4 And it came to pass that Jared was anointed king over the people, by the hand of wickedness; and he gave unto Akish his daughter to wife.

5 And it came to pass that Akish sought the life of his father-in-law; and he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, and they obtained the head of his father-in-law, as he sat upon his throne, giving audience to his people.

6 For so great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people; therefore Jared was murdered upon his throne, and Akish reigned in his stead.

7 And it came to pass that Akish began to be jealous of his son, therefore he shut him up in prison, and kept him upon little or no food until he had suffered death.

8 And now the brother of him that suffered death, (and his name was Nimrah) was angry with his father because of that which his father had done unto his brother.

9 And it came to pass that Nimrah gathered together a small number of men, and fled out of the land, and came over and dwelt with Omer.

10 And it came to pass that Akish begat other sons, and they won the hearts of the people, notwithstanding they had sworn unto him to do all manner of iniquity according to that which he desired.

11 Now the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them.

12 And there began to be a war between the sons of Akish and Akish, which lasted for the space of many years, yea, unto the destruction of nearly all the people of the kingdom, yea, even all, save it were thirty souls, and they who fled with the house of Omer.

13 Wherefore, Omer was restored again to the land of his inheritance.

14 And it came to pass that Omer began to be old; nevertheless, in his old age he begat Emer; and he anointed Emer to be king to reign in his stead.

verses 15-25 These verses describe an atypical period of over 225 years of peace among the Jaredites.

15 And after that he had anointed Emer to be king he saw peace in the land for the space of two years, and he died, having seen exceedingly many days, which were full of sorrow. And it came to pass that Emer did reign in his stead, and did fill the steps of his father.

16 And the Lord began again to take the curse from off the land, and the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong, insomuch that they became exceedingly rich-

17 Having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things;

18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.

verses 18-19 For a general discussion of animals in the Book of Mormon, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 18:25.

What about the elephant? Verse 19 is the only place in the Book of Mormon where the elephant is mentioned. Did elephants actually live in the Americas? Both mastodons and mammoths once lived throughout North America and parts of South America. The only controversy surrounding the elephant in the Book of Mormon is how late these early elephants survived. It has been generally assumed among zoologists that they mostly died out before Jaredite times, before 2500 BC. However, it is also agreed by the experts that they could have survived, particularly in some favorable locations, much later than the time normally assigned for their extinction. It seems possible that the mammoth or mastodon survived in Mesoamerica at least as late as 2500 BC. It has been suggested that the Jaredite mention of the elephant a single time-very early in their history-suggests that the creature became extinct in that area soon thereafter (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, John L. Sorenson, 298).

Did the Jaredites bring all these animals including the elephant with them over on the barges? Some five generations have passed since the Jaredite disembarkation, and elephants have not been mentioned until now. It seems more likely they found the elephants in the land after they arrived (Ludwell Johnson, "Man and Elephants in America," a FARMS reprint).

"cureloms and cumoms" What might these animals be? We are told that, like the elephant, they were especially useful to man. John L. Sorenson has suggested: "The failure of Moroni, the Nephite translator of the Book of Ether, to translate these names from the original tongue of the Jaredites indicates that the animals were probably extinct by his day" (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, John L. Sorenson, 298). Possibilities for these creatures include the giant sloth, the bison, or the tapir.

20 And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath.

21 And Emer did execute judgment in righteousness all his days, and he begat many sons and daughters; and he begat Coriantum, and he anointed Coriantum to reign in his stead.

22 And after he had anointed Coriantum to reign in his stead he lived four years, and he saw peace in the land; yea, and he even saw the Son of Righteousness, and did rejoice and glory in his day; and he died in peace.

verse 22 "he even saw the Son of Righteousness" Emer was a righteous leader and was favored with the Second Comforter, a visit from the Lord Jehovah himself. For a discussion on the peculiar phrase "Son of Righteousness," see the commentary for 3 Nephi 25:2.

23 And it came to pass that Coriantum did walk in the steps of his father, and did build many mighty cities, and did administer that which was good unto his people in all his days. And it came to pass that he had no children even until he was exceedingly old.

24 And it came to pass that his wife died, being an hundred and two years old. And it came to pass that Coriantum took to wife, in his old age, a young maid, and begat sons and daughters; wherefore he lived until he was an hundred and forty and two years old.

25 And it came to pass that he begat Com, and Com reigned in his stead; and he reigned forty and nine years, and he begat Heth; and he also begat other sons and daughters.

26 And the people had spread again over all the face of the land, and there began again to be an exceedingly great wickedness upon the face of the land, and Heth began to embrace the secret plans again of old, to destroy his father.

27 And it came to pass that he did dethrone his father, for he slew him with his own sword; and he did reign in his stead.

28 And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them-that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land; yea, even there should be a great famine, in which they should be destroyed if they did not repent.

29 But the people believed not the words of the prophets, but they cast them out; and some of them they cast into pits and left them to perish. And it came to pass that they did all these things according to the commandment of the king, Heth.

30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.

verse 30 "there began to be a great dearth upon the land" Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines dearth as, "scarcity, want, need, famine, barenness."

31 And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people. And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla.

verses 30-31 "And there came forth poisonous serpents" These serpents were likely venomous snakes. John A. Tvedtnes observed that in the Bible, incidents of poisonous serpents' threatening the people have often been associated with conditions of drought and famine (Numbers 21:5-9; Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:24; Jeremiah 8:13-17; 2 Nephi 25:20). From a personal observation he made on an abandoned farm in Israel, he suggested a natural reason why this might be so. In times of serious drought, rodents who normally feed in flourishing grain fields, are forced to move close to or even into populated areas looking for food. The rodents' natural predators are venomous snakes who follow the rodents wherever they migrate. This, of course, brings the poisonous serpents into close contact with people in populated areas ("Drought and Serpents," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6/1 [1997], 70-72).

32 And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward.

33 And it came to pass that the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents.

verse 33 "but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass" A hedge is planted to protect that which the hedge surrounds by blocking the intrusion of outsiders. To "hedge up the way" of someone is to block their path. In this case the poisonous serpents blocked the way of the people who were following their only food source, their cattle, into the land southward.

34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord.

verse 34 The poisonous serpents not withstanding, the people were able to follow their fleeing cattle and feed on them until they were all devoured.

35 And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine.

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