Mosiah Chapter 12
Chapters 12 through 16 contain the eloquent warnings and preachings of Abinadi to King Noah's people and to his court. One might wonder how we happen to have a record of these preachings since Abinadi was preaching in a hostile environment in which very few believed his words, and he was martyred immediately after delivering his message. Who recorded his words? We will later learn that Alma made the record (see Mosiah 17:4).
verses 1-7 Notice that the nature of Abinadi's warning has changed. No longer is he saying, "Repent or be taken into bondage." It is too late for Noah's people to avoid captivity. The time for repentance is past. Abinadi is no longer issuing warnings of consequences that can be avoided. He was now delivering unconditional pronouncements of impending destruction: "You shall be visited by the Lord in his anger."
In these verses we learn the fiery quality of Abinadi's speech. He uses colorful and descriptive phrases and metaphors that are unique to the Book of Mormon and unique to the prophet Abinadi. Examples include: "king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace" (verse 3), "I will cause that they shall howl all the day long" (verse 4), and "they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass" (verse 5).
1 And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying-Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.
verse 1 It would be a shame if we could not maintain a twinkle in our eye as we read the scriptures. There is a bit of slap-stick comedy in this verse which should not be missed. Enter Abinadi in a clever disguise-perhaps false mustache and wig-feeling smug because no one recognizes him. Then his C.I.A. training lets him down when he announces to King Noah's people, "Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying, Abinadi, go and prophesy . . ." oops!
verses 2-12 In these verses, the Lord, speaking through his prophet Abinadi, curses king Noah because of his great wickedness. Following the Lord's command, Abinadi stretches forth his hand, introduces his words with the phrase "Thus saith the Lord," and pronounces three curses upon Noah's head. These three curses are given in a form characteristic of Hebrew cultural tradition. They are "simile curses." A simile curse combines the elements of a simile (a comparison of two things or a resemblance, marked with like or as) with a curse. An example of an Old Testament simile curse appears in 1 Kings 14, which registers Jeroboam's evil deeds and idolatries in verses 7-8: "Therefore, behold, I [the Lord] will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam . . . and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone." Note the simile marker as, which connects the two points of comparison (house of Jeroboam and dung) to graphically portray the manner whereby the remnant of Jeroboam's family will be exiled. In another example, in 2 Kings 21:12-13, the Lord curses Judah's king Manasseh, members of the tribe of Judah, and Jerusalem for their considerable iniquities. The curse compares the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah to the cleaning of a dirty dish: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. . . . I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down."
Given the Hebrew roots of the Book of Mormon, the presence of simile curses should not be surprising to those of us who believe in the book as an authentic ancient record. For those who believe otherwise, the presence of simile curses is difficult to explain, since not many examples of simile curses appear in the Old Testament, and it is doubtful that Joseph Smith was aware of their form or setting in scripture. The simile curses in the Book of Mormon provide additional indication that the Book of Mormon was indeed framed in antiquity (see the supplemental article, Evidences of the Book of Mormon).
2 Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.
verse 2 As we will learn, Noah and his adherents will eventually be driven and smitten and brought into captivity by the Lamanites and also by some of their own people (see Mosiah 19:20).
If, indeed, the Book of Mormon story did take place in Central America, then what might be the "wild beasts" spoken of in this verse? One carnivorous wild beast indigenous to that area is the jaguar.
3 And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.
verse 3 "the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace" (italics added) Note the form of the simile curse here. See the commentary for verses 2-12 above. See also a reiteration of this simile curse in verse 10
"for he shall know that I am the Lord" Here is the Lord's rejoinder to Noah's blasphemous question in Mosiah 11:27: "Who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction."
4 And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long.
5 Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass.
verse 5 "they shall be driven before like a dumb ass" (italics mine) Again, the form of a simile curse.
6 And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.
7 And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence-and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations.
verses 6-7 See the discussion on the concept of the "east wind" in the commentary for Mosiah 7:31.
8 And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations. And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people.
verse 8 "except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth" Abinadi was addressing the people of King Noah yet this prophecy seems to apply to a broader group of Book of Mormon people. The fulfillment of this prophecy will occur in the early fifth century when the Nephite people were annihilated, or nearly so, by the Lamanites. The people of Noah were never actually destroyed "from off the face of the earth."
"they shall leave a record behind them" This record is, of course, the Book of Mormon.
"I will preserve them for other nations" The construction here is unusual. The antecedent for the plural pronoun "them" is the singular noun "record."
"that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations" The meaning intended for the verb "discover" here is an archaic one-to uncover, reveal, or disclose.
9 And it came to pass that they were angry with him; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them.
10 And he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life, and saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire.
11 And again, he saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot [emphasis added].
verse 11 Here is the third of the four simile curses (see the commentary for verses 2-12 above). Don't fail to notice the delicious imagery present in this verse.
12 And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities.
verses 10-12 "he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land" (emphasis mine) Here is the last of the four simile curses pronounced by Abinadi. The wind drives away the blossom or the down of a thistle flower.
In these verses, Noah's people report to their king a few unflattering metaphors that Abinadi has been using in accusing and condemning King Noah. These include "a garment in a furnace of fire," "a dumb ass," "a dry stalk of the field," and "blossoms of a thistle." We have record, here in Mosiah 12, of Abinadi's using only the first two of these four (see verses 3, 5). Alma, in recording his record of this event and in later summarizing the preaching of Abinadi (or perhaps the prophet editor himself, Mormon) omitted the latter two, but there is no reason to doubt that Abinadi utilized these latter two in his fiery rhetoric.
13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
verse 13 What great sins indeed! Review the rather long list contained in the introduction to Mosiah chapter 11.
14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain.
verse 14 "he has prophesied in vain" Abinadi is accused of being a false prophet. According to Hebrew law, a false prophet is guilty of a capital crime and deserves execution.
15 And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.
verse 15 "thou shalt also prosper" This phrase means thou shalt yet prosper in the future.
16 Behold, here is the man, we deliver him into thy hands; thou mayest do with him as seemeth thee good.
17 And it came to pass that king Noah caused that Abinadi should be cast into prison; and he commanded that the priests should gather themselves together that he might hold a council with them what he should do with him.
18 And it came to pass that they said unto the king: Bring him hither that we may question him; and the king commanded that he should be brought before them.
19 And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words.
verse 19 "that they might cross him" That they might ensnare him by causing him to contradict himself.
"for he did withstand them in all their questions" Although this phrase says that Abinadi did answer all their questions, in our Book of Mormon text we have record of only one question which a priest of Noah asked and which Abinadi answered. This question is found in the next five verses-20 through 24. What were the other questions? The fact that we do not have an account of others is evidence that either the prophet Mormon did not include Alma's entire account (Mosiah 17:4) of the prophet Abinadi when he engraved his abridgment upon the plates of Mormon, or perhaps that Alma himself omitted parts of the story of Abinadi.
20 And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
verse 20 "one of them said unto him" Do you suppose this questioning priest could have been Alma? Whoever he was, he asked Abinadi to explain the meaning of four verses from chapter 52 of Isaiah, verses 7-10. These verses contain prophetic material that deals with a time period in the last days just prior to the Millennium. They foretell the gathering of the house of Israel. By what line of reasoning do you suppose this questioning priest might have been seeking to "cross" or ensnare Abinadi (see verse 19)? The priest might have been saying: "The message of gloom and doom which you have just delivered is inappropriate and incompatible with the scripture. Look here at this inspired message by Isaiah in which he foretells a bright future wherein the Lord's servants will proclaim the good tidings. How do you explain this?" Perhaps he hoped to catch Abinadi in conflict with the scripture and thereby convict him of false prophecy, a capital offense under the law of Moses. The priest might also have been motivated by the fact that he did not understand the passage, and he likely assumed that Abinadi would not understand it either. Perhaps he hoped to place Abinadi in an embarrassing situation.
We will learn that Abinadi's answer to the priest is a brilliant explanation of the true essence of redemption and how it brings a bright outlook to those who accept Christ.
If you have not recently reviewed the salient features of the scattering and gathering of Israel, you might want to do so by reading the introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 20.
21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
verse 21 This verse speaks of the Lord's messengers, especially his prophets and missionaries, taking the gospel to scattered Israel. To an individual held captive, what can be more beautiful than the sight of someone coming to rescue them?
"Good tidings," "peace," "good tidings of good," and "salvation" are all terms that refer to the good news of the everlasting gospel. To "publish" is to announce, proclaim, or promulgate.
"Thy God reigneth." Behold, it is thy God that is the true God.
22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
verse 22 A watchman is a prophet who is commissioned to watch over God's people. In this case the "watchmen" are the prophets of scattered Israel.
"they shall see eye to eye" They shall see clearly the coming gathering of Israel and shall lift up their voices and proclaim ("sing") it.
"when the Lord shall bring again Zion" When the Lord restores Zion.
23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
verse 23 "ye waste places of Jerusalem" This expression refers to the ancient ruins of Jerusalem about to come alive again as the saints gather there.
24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?
verse 24 "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations" The Father has prepared for battle and has shown his strength. The expression has its origin in the Hebrew practice of throwing back the cloak from his right arm so that it does not produce an impediment.
Abinadi's response to this priest's question is not a brief one. It will extend through the rest of chapter 12 and the entirety of Mosiah chapters 13 through 16.
25 And now Abinadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean?
26 I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord.
verses 25-26 It is ironic that the priest had quoted a verse which spoke of the concept of the "watchmen," those servants of the Lord charged with the responsibility of warning his children of the vicissitudes of life. In a sense Noah's priests had assumed the role of the watchmen of their people. They had perverted the ways of the Lord by not only failing to warn their people, but also by contributing to the people's wickedness with their evil examples.
27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?
verses 25-27 Abinadi eventually does answer the priest's question and gives them the interpretation of these verses (see Mosiah 15:28 through 16:1). First, however, he scolds him and the other priests for not knowing the answers themselves.
verse 27 The concept of "applying one's heart to understanding" is contained elsewhere in the scriptures (Psalm 90:12; Proverbs 2:2; Proverbs 2:22:17, 23:12), and carries the meaning of taking mere knowledge and turning it into real wisdom.
28 And they said: We teach the law of Moses.
verse 28 One can just picture the confidence with which this answer was given. Could there be anything as safe as that? Again, we should be reminded that even though the Nephites were taught and intended to live the law of Moses, it was a somewhat modified version of the law of Moses. They did not, for example, observe the Levitical regulations concerning rites of purification and dietary codes. Their concern was mainly with the moral and ethical restrictions (see Bruce R. McConkie's Promised Messiah, 427).
29 And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?
verse 29 "If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it?" Abinadi throws them off balance.
"spend your strength" Why do you waste the vital fluid of your manhood?
"and cause this people to commit sin" Again, we are reminded that the Lord holds responsible those leaders who lead their people away from truth and righteousness.
The "great evil" that Abinadi prophesies "against this people" is their eventual destruction by the Lord because of their unrighteousness.
30 Know ye not that I speak the truth? Yea, ye know that I speak the truth; and you ought to tremble before God.
verse 30 Abinadi perceives that Noah's priests actually believed or at least suspected that Abinadi was teaching the truth. This probably explains their aggressive and angry reaction to him. They could not rest until they had put him to death.
31 And it shall come to pass that ye shall be smitten for your iniquities, for ye have said that ye teach the law of Moses. And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?
verse 31 "Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?" Abinadi will answer his own question in Mosiah 13:28. The answer is that salvation, actually exaltation, comes only through Christ and not through the law.
32 And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.
verses 33 through chapter 13 verse 24 Here Abinadi quotes the Ten Commandments. He obviously had had prior access to the account of the giving of the Ten Commandments contained on the brass plates. This account contains verbatim renderings from the King James Bible's book of Exodus (see Exodus 20:1-17).
The context in which Abinadi quotes the Ten Commandments seems to be this: After Noah's priests stated in verse 32 that they did believe that salvation came by living the law of Moses, Abinadi intended to correct their misconception. Before doing so in Mosiah 13:28, however, he decided first to point out that they were not even living the Ten Commandments which were a fundamental part of the law of Moses which they allegedly espoused. Abinadi will then teach that salvation cannot come through these commandments or even through keeping all of the laws of Moses. It may come only through Jesus Christ. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet compared the law of Moses to "ethics without doctrine." They wrote:
[The law of Moses] is like the body without the spirit-it may have the same appearance but is void of the power of life. The Ten Commandments, independent of the fulness of the gospel, are little more than an anemic theology in the hands of social reformers, being bereft of the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Similarly, Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, detached from the testimony of Christ's divine sonship, is but a curriculum for a civics class, rather than a testament of those verities by which one obtains [eternal] life (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, volume II-Jacob through Mosiah, 215-16).[The law of Moses] is like the body without the spirit-it may have the same appearance but is void of the power of life. The Ten Commandments, independent of the fulness of the gospel, are little more than an anemic theology in the hands of social reformers, being bereft of the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Similarly, Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, detached from the testimony of Christ's divine sonship, is but a curriculum for a civics class, rather than a testament of those verities by which one obtains [eternal] life (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, volume II-Jacob through Mosiah, 215-16).
The Ten Commandments were not only an integral part of the law of Moses, but they are also a vital component of the higher law, the complete gospel (see D&C 59:5-12). In the New Testament Jesus acknowledged them as the foundation of the law when he recited them to the rich man seeking eternal life (Matthew 19:17-19; Mark 10:19; Like 18:20), and in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) wherein he made reference to murder, adultery, and foreswearing or bearing false witness.
In Moses's day the Ten Commandments constituted a covenant between God and the house of Israel. They are a list of imperatives applicable to every individual Israelite. They represent a summary of the basic demands made by the God of Israel upon all those covenanted to him. Hence the chest in which the tablets were housed was the "Ark of the Covenant." Moses eventually told the Israelites that breaking this covenant would result in their dispersion and destruction (Deuteronomy 28:64).
The first five commandments deal with the relationship between God and man, and the second five with the relationship between man and man. The exception to this scheme might seem to be number five: "Honor thy father and thy mother" because this is clearly a commandment dealing with the relationship of man to man. This has been explained by Bible commentators by noting that commandment number five is the transition from those between "man and God" and those between "man and man." After all, parents are in a position of unique authority, as is God. When Jesus was asked, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" he answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). Some have felt that the first great commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God" refers to the first five of the Ten Commandments, and that the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" refers to the latter five. Perhaps Jesus was summarizing the Ten Commandments into two commandments.
In pointing out to King Noah and his people that they had broken this covenant, Abinadi taught them that had forfeited their right to heavenly protection.
33 But now Abinadi said unto them: I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai, saying:
verse 33 "if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved" The salvation spoken of here may be just as much temporal as eternal. A similar juxtaposition between salvation and obedience is found in Alma's counsel to his son Helaman: "for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; . . . But behold, my son, this is not all; for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God, ye shall prosper in the land" (Alma 36:28-30). The survival in the land of the Lehites depended on their strict adherence to the laws of God.
34 I am the Lord thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
35 Thou shalt have no other God before me.
verse 35 Note that this commandment differs slightly from the version in Exodus 20:3. Abinadi quotes, "thou shalt have no other God [rather than gods] before me."
36 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath.
37 Now Abinadi said unto them, Have ye done all this? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not. And have ye taught this people that they should do all these things? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not.
verse 37 "Have ye done all this?" Have you been careful not to worship the temporal gods instead of the true God?