Mosiah Chapter 10Mosiah Chapter 10
1 And it came to pass that we again began to establish the kingdom and we again began to possess the land in peace. And I caused that there should be weapons of war made of every kind, that thereby I might have weapons for my people against the time the Lamanites should come up again to war against my people.
verse 1 "we again began to establish the kingdom" This phrase does not have reference to the kingdom of God, but rather to the organization of the community of the Zeniffites under the leadership of Zeniff as their king.
2 And I set guards round about the land, that the Lamanites might not come upon us again unawares and destroy us; and thus I did guard my people and my flocks, and keep them from falling into the hands of our enemies.
3 And it came to pass that we did inherit the land of our fathers for many years, yea, for the space of twenty and two years.
verse 3 "we did inherit the land of our fathers for many years" We know that the Zeniffites lived in the land and city of Shilom and in the neighboring land and city of Nephi or Lehi-Nephi. At this early stage in their history, these two areas must not have been more than small settlements. We are not told the numbers of people that were involved. The Lamanites apparently lived in the neighboring land of Shemlon. Zeniff is likely a bit presumptuous when he writes that they did inherit the land. The word inherit implies divine intention which was probably lacking here (see the commentary for Mosiah 9:3).
4 And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.
5 And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land-thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.
6 And it came to pass that king Laman died, and his son began to reign in his stead. And he began to stir his people up in rebellion against my people; therefore they began to prepare for war, and to come up to battle against my people.
7 But I had sent my spies out round about the land of Shemlon, that I might discover their preparations, that I might guard against them, that they might not come upon my people and destroy them.
8 And it came to pass that they came up upon the north of the land of Shilom, with their numerous hosts, men armed with bows, and with arrows, and with swords, and with cimeters, and with stones, and with slings; and they had their heads shaved that they were naked; and they were girded with a leathern girdle about their loins.
9 And it came to pass that I caused that the women and children of my people should be hid in the wilderness; and I also caused that all my old men that could bear arms, and also all my young men that were able to bear arms, should gather themselves together to go to battle against the Lamanites; and I did place them in their ranks, every man according to his age.
verse 9 "all my young men that were able to bear arms" The term "young men" in the Book of Mormon almost always refers to soldiers. In Hebrew culture it appears that any male who had reached the age of twenty was responsible to render military service, though in a state of emergency perhaps those younger than twenty might be utilized (Warfare in the Book of Mormon, Edited by Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin, Deseret Book Company and FARMS, 66). Since Zeniff is mobilizing both the young men and the "old men," he is obviously utilizing all available man power.
10 And it came to pass that we did go up to battle against the Lamanites; and I, even I, in my old age, did go up to battle against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle.
verse 10 "we did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle" Does the Lord really take sides in war? As we look back in history, it seems obvious that the Lord's purposes might have been thwarted, but for a key victory, in battle, of a more righteous people. How might the Lord assist his people? It would seem that when two opposing forces collide in battle, providing one of the sides does not have an overwhelming technological or manpower edge, then the victory will go to the side that has genuine courage and a positive outlook about their chances for victory. Through the influence of the Spirit, the Lord can buoy up the fighting forces of a country.
11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the strength of men.
verses 12-17 "tradition of their fathers" In the Book of Mormon text we will often read of the Lamanites' "tradition" or "traditions" of their fathers. These are the false oral traditions handed down by the Lamanites from generation to generation which formed the basis of the hatred which the Lamanites held toward the Nephites. All Lamanite children were doubtless indoctrinated with these traditions from the time they were able to understand. The central features of these traditions include:
1. Lehi was actually forced to leave Jerusalem because of his iniquities.
2. Lehi used unrighteous dominion in forcing his family to leave behind their choice possessions and their beloved home and land to travel into the wilderness.
3. Once in the wilderness, the family was unfairly dominated not only by their father Lehi, but also by their younger brother Nephi. The birthright or the right to govern, after all, rightfully belonged to the oldest son Laman and not to Nephi.
4. When Laman and Lemuel expressed fear of boarding a ship and sailing into the unknown sea, they received no understanding or sympathy. Rather they were forced to board the boat against their will.
5. Once in the New World in the land of their original settlement, the land of their "first inheritance," Nephi continued to rule over them. When they tried to resist, Nephi stole their brass plates and departed into the wilderness.
The Nephites also had a set of unwritten traditions that were handed down. See the commentary for Enos 1:14.
12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this-Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord-therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.
verses 12-13 In these two verses, the author Zeniff starts out his explanation of the traditions of the Lamanites' fathers by speaking from the vantage point or perspective of the Lamanites. Then, he suddenly switches from the Lamanites' perspective to his own more objective perspective between the words "sea" and "and" of verse 13. He maintains his own perspective through verse 17.
14 And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.
verse 14 Wroth means very angry; exasperated.
"they hardened their hearts against the Lord" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
verse 15 "he [Nephi] had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands" The bitter resentment of Nephi's older brothers may have had, in part, a cultural basis (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 16:37).
16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
verse 16 "they said that he had robbed them" This accusation against Nephi-that Nephi stole the plates of brass from the Lamanites-of course, is ludicrous. One has but to recall Laman's and Lemuel's ignorance of and indifference toward spiritual matters to appreciate this.
17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
verse 17 "they have taught their children that they should hate them" The Lamanites had utilized these erroneous "traditions of their fathers" as propaganda to brainwash or mislead their children into hating the Nephites. It is peculiar that Zeniff refers to the Nephites as "them," though he and his people were all of Nephite descent.
Truly, the Lamanites had "eaten a sour grape, and [their] children's teeth [were] set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:29).
18 For this very cause has king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived me, that I have brought this my people up into this land, that they may destroy them; yea, and we have suffered these many years in the land.
verse 18 Zeniff is speaking. Certainly Zeniff is not implying that king Laman had anything to do with Zeniff's leading his people from Zarahemla to the land of Nephi initially. The idea for that migration seemed to be largely Zeniff's. Rather, Zeniff implies that King Laman's strategy in allowing the Zeniffites to occupy the lands of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom was to place the Nephites in a disadvantageous military strategic position where they might well fall under bondage to the surrounding Lamanites.
"his fair promises" Fair is an English word that has several possible meanings. The meaning which is most applicable here is "apparently favorable but really false; specious" (Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, second college edition, 1970).
19 And now I, Zeniff, after having told all these things unto my people concerning the Lamanites, I did stimulate them to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord; therefore, we did contend with them, face to face.
20 And it came to pass that we did drive them again out of our land; and we slew them with a great slaughter, even so many that we did not number them.
21 And it came to pass that we returned again to our own land, and my people again began to tend their flocks, and to till their ground.
verse 21 There was no rejoicing after their victory. They had fought because they were attacked and were forced to defend themselves.
22 And now I, being old, did confer the kingdom upon one of my sons; therefore, I say no more. And may the Lord bless my people. Amen.
verse 22 We have no information to indicate Zeniff's age. Zeniff was succeeded as king of the people by his son Noah.