Mosiah Chapter 13
1 And now when the king had heard these words, he said unto his priests: Away with this fellow, and slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad.
verse 1 Notice how King Noah can no longer endure the truths of Abinadi's preaching, and he interrupts the prophet before he finishes his message.
"for he is mad" By pronouncing Abinadi "mad," Noah provided his priests with a legal excuse to condemn him to death, since a madman posed a threat to the community. It is interesting to note that other righteous men were accused by the people of being "mad," including Enoch (Moses 6:38), Christ (John 10:20), Paul (Acts 26:24), and Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:24-25).
2 And they stood forth and attempted to lay their hands on him; but he withstood them, and said unto them:
verse 2 Abinadi refuses to be interrupted.
3 Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time.
verse 3 "neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell" Remember that one of Noah's priests had asked Abinadi a question (see Mosiah 12:20-24), and Abinadi has not as yet answered the question. For Abinadi's answer to this question see Mosiah 15:28 through Mosiah 16:1.
4 But I must fulfil the commandments wherewith God has commanded me; and because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. And again, because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad.
5 Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses' did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.
verse 5 Abinadi was "transfigured" by the Holy Ghost. It would seem that our knowledge of this special state is limited. It seems to involve a change from the mortal telestial state to a higher or more exalted condition and appearance. The change in appearance is visible to the mortal eyes of others, and this transformation enables the individual so favored to stand in the presence of God and view the things of God. The scripture refers to these individuals as having "spiritual eyes" (Moses 1:11). The scriptures report the "transfiguration" of several prophets and even the Lord himself (see Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28-36; Moses 1:11; D&C 67:11; Exodus 34:29-35; 3 Nephi 28:13-17; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Even the earth itself will be transfigured during the Millennium (D&C 63:20-21).
For a broader application of the phenomenon of transfiguration, see the commentary for D&C 67:10. For a more complete discussion of the phenomenon of transfiguration, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 14, Transfiguration.
It has been suggested that Abinadi may have carefully chosen the time of his second entry into the city of Nephi to coincide with the Zeniffites' celebration of the ancient Israelite festival of Pentecost (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, John W. Welch, Gordon C. Thomasson, and Robert F. Smith, Deseret Book Company and FARMS, 1992, 135-138). The law of Moses required the children to annually observe this three-day festival (see Exodus 23:16) which is also know as the Festival of the First Fruits. It came fifty days after Passover (thus its name-Pentecost-which means fiftieth day) and marked the time of the harvesting of the first crops. It also apparently celebrated the Lord's giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses, since it was this time of the year when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive these commandments (see Exodus 19:1). Accordingly, it was a time of stern admonition.
Consider the following observations regarding the validity of this suggestion: (1) Abinadi's reentry into the city of Nephi at the time of a pilgrimage festival would have given him a ready audience. (2) At the time when King Noah's people were celebrating the harvest, Abinadi cursed the crops. He prophesied that insects, hail, and dry winds would ruin their "grain" (Mosiah 12:6). (3) At the very time when Noah's priests were pledging allegiance to the Ten Commandments, Abinadi critically rehearsed them on those very commandments. (4) How appropriate that Abinadi's "face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses' did while on the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord" (see also Exodus 34:29-30). This divine manifestation was quintessentially pentecostal. (5) Abinadi's trial was postponed for "three days" (Mosiah 17:6), perhaps to coincide with the conclusion of the festival. (6) Psalm 50, which has been identified as a psalm of Pentecost, asks what a person must do to teach the law (Psalm 50:16). The answer is that one must keep the law, and Abinadi previously made this point (Mosiah 12:29).
6 And he spake with power and authority from God; and he continued his words, saying:
7 Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.
verse 7 Brigham Young articulated a divine principle: "The Lord never let a prophet fall on the earth until he had accomplished his work" (HC, 7:302). On several occasions, people sought to kill Jesus. On two of these occasions, he simply went "through the midst of them" and escaped unharmed (Luke 4:30; compare John 8:58-59). On two other occasions, we read that "no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come" (John 7:30; John 8:20; John 2:4; John 7:6; John 7:8). Only when he had completed his mortal ministry did he declare that "the hour is come; [and] the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Mark 14:41; compare John 12:23; John 13:1; John 17:1).
8 Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.
9 But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved.
verse 9 "then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved" Abinadi says, "After I have delivered my message, it really doesn't matter what you do to me, so long as I am ultimately allowed to return to God's presence."
10 But this much I tell you, what you do with me, after this, shall be as a type and a shadow of things which are to come.
verse 10 "a type and a shadow of things which are to come" The allusion here seems to be to the future execution of the Savior. Abinadi apparently knows of his own impending death, and he views it as a "type and shadow" of the Savior's crucifixion (see the commentary for verse 31 below).
11 And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.
verse 11 The "commandments of God" are those commandments we know as the Ten Commandments. It seems likely that Abinadi could have quoted from memory the remaining commandments, but he chose to read them-probably to make a point: These commandments are written into your own law of Moses, and I am going to read them to you. Are you teaching them to your people? Are you obeying them yourselves? At this point Abinadi likely turned to a scroll, plates, or book of some kind containing Exodus. The brass plates contained this material.
12 And now, ye remember that I said unto you: Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth.
13 And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me;
verse 13 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them" See the discussion of idolatry in the commentary for Omni 1:20.
"visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me" Again, as we discussed in the commentary for Mosiah 11:22, when the Lord "visits" an individual's iniquities upon him, he punishes that person for his evil doings. The question may be asked: Is it fair for the Lord to punish a child for the sins of his father? Is a child responsible for his parents' sins? The answer is "no" to both questions. There can be no question, however, that the child of a sinner may have significant disadvantages in this mortal life. First, the child suffers from having had an unfavorable example set for him. He is naturally inclined to emulate his sinful parent. Secondly, the parents' evil acts may create for the child a less favorable spiritual environment. For example, because of the rejection of the gospel by Laman and Lemuel, several generations of Lamanites lived without the priesthood and without much of a chance to learn the gospel principles. It is clear, however, that a child is not culpable for the evil misdeeds of a parent. Reason indicates that he will not be punished for them. Rather, he will be judged by an all-knowing Lord, based upon what he does with what he received and the circumstances into which he is born. Will he be true to that eternal spark within him, the so-called spirit of Christ, or will he give himself over to the world and to the unrighteous example provided by his parents?
14 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
verse 14 Here the Lord contrasts the way he deals with those who love him and keep his commandments with the way he treats "them that hate me" (verse 13 above).
15 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
verse 15 What does it really mean to take the name of the Lord "in vain"? Today we refer to this unholy practice as "swearing" or "profaning." Solemn oaths in the Old Testament were sworn by invoking the name of the Lord. Such an oath made falsely without intent would be categorized as "taking the name of the Lord in vain." When a person today uses "profanity," he is speaking the remnants of a solemn oath and doing so obviously without any sincere intent or with evil intent.
16 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
verse 16 Other than this verse, there are only two references to this commandment in the Book of Mormon. Jarom, in speaking about the Nephites, said, "they observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord" (Jarom 1:5). Also Alma, at the waters of Mormon, instructed the new members of the church, "that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God" (Mosiah 18:25).
17 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
18 But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
verse 18 "nor thy stranger that is within thy gates" The word "stranger" might be alternatively translated traveler or sojourner.
19 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
20 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
verse 20 The only other reference to this commandment in the Book of Mormon is in 1 Nephi 17:55. Nephi was speaking to his older brothers Laman and Lemuel: "Wherefore, worship the Lord thy God, and honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee." Here Nephi was undoubtedly referring to the promised land in the western hemisphere which was promised to the posterity of Lehi.
21 Thou shalt not kill.
22 Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.
verse 22 In the Book of Mormon, the phrase "commit adultery" occurs only five other times (Mosiah 2:13; Alma 23:3; Helaman 7:5; and 3 Nephi 12:27; 3 Nephi 12:32). The word "adultery" is not found on the small plates. On the small plates the word used to mean adultery is most commonly "whoredoms" (David Rolph Seely, "The Ten Commandments in the Book of Mormon," a FARMS reprint, 14).
In the Book of Mormon text, there are words from four different roots used to mean stealing. These include "steal," thieve," "rob," and "plunder." Are all of these word roots synonymous? It has been suggested that in the Book of Mormon there might be a difference between stealing (or theft) and robbery (or plunder). Stealing (also theft) is a crime committed by an individual against his neighbor and is dealt with by the civil law. Robbery (or plunder) usually involves outsiders who attack in groups and is most often dealt with militarily (John W. Welch, "Theft and Robbery in the Book of Mormon and in Ancient Near Eastern Law," a FARMS reprint). See also the commentary for 3 Nephi 3:12.
23 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
verse 23 This command likely refers to any untruth told which would injure one's fellow beings.
24 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
verse 24 The word "covet" is seldom used in the Book of Mormon text, the only other instance being in Mosiah 4:25. The Book of Mormon word for covet is "envy" (2 Nephi 26:32). To "covet" seems to mean more than lusting after someone or some thing that one does not possess. It also applies to an attitude toward one's own possessions (D&C 1; 9:26). To covet one's own possessions is to have an unhealthy fixation on them and on all material things.
25 And it came to pass that after Abinadi had made an end of these sayings that he said unto them: Have ye taught this people that they should observe to do all these things for to keep these commandments?
26 I say unto you, Nay; for if ye had, the Lord would not have caused me to come forth and to prophesy evil concerning this people.
27 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.
28 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.
verse 28 "salvation doth not come by the law alone" For a discussion of why it does not, see the commentary for Mosiah 14:11. You will learn in that commentary that it is impossible for a man to be justified and exalted without the benefits of the atonement of Christ which the Savior doles out to us sinners in his mercy (see also Alma 34:9). Salvation is found only in Christ and not in the law.
"the atonement, which God himself shall make" Abinadi in his teachings leaves no doubt that the God of Israel himself will be the Redeemer who will come to earth as the Son of God (see also 1 Nephi 19:7-10; 2 Nephi 9:5; 2 Nephi 10:3; Mosiah 3:5-10). Abinadi will yet give this teaching repeated emphasis (see Mosiah 13:32; Mosiah 13:33; Mosiah 13:34-35;15:1, 2-4, 5-7, 8, 23; 16:4, 15). Apparently he made his point well, since it was this very teaching that resulted in his being charged with the crime of blasphemy and condemned to death (see Mosiah 17:7-8).
"they must unavoidably perish" What would eventually become of mankind were it not for the atonement? They would all become sons of perdition and live with Satan forever (2 Nephi 9:8-9).
29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
verse 29 "it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel" In their weakness, the Israelites were given a lesser law of carnal commandments, the law of Moses (D&C 84:27; JST, Exodus 34:2).
"even a very strict law" The Mosaic law evolved to become a comprehensive law which covered almost every aspect of daily life. For a more complete discussion of the law of Moses, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 16, The Law of Moses.
30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.
verse 31 "types of things to come" We have discussed previously the fact that the law of Moses is replete with "types" or symbols of Christ (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 11:4). Especially obvious is the ritual of animal sacrifice which is a type of the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. The Mosaic Law was a temporary expedient that pointed to a greater reality to come, its "fulfillment." In a way, the law of Moses was a prophecy of which Jesus Christ was the fulfillment. Redemption could never come through the sacrifices of the Law of Moses. Rather, the higher law or the atonement is essential.
32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
verse 32 In general, the Israelites failed to understand the law of Moses in its proper perspective, and they tried to make it an end in itself. They did not comprehend that the law was completely unable to save anyone without the "redemption" and the "atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people."
It is not only ancient Israel that has failed to understand the law. Even today there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what the law was and why it was given. This misunderstanding may be found among Christians, Jews, and even among those within the Church today.
verses 33-35 These verses are profound and state clearly what has been taught by "all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began."
33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began-have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
verse 33 Do we actually have a prophecy of Moses wherein he prophesies of the birth of the Savior? Where is it found in the scripture? It is found in Deuteronomy 18:15-19:
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
This remarkable passage is perhaps the most often quoted messianic prophecy in all the scripture. Lehi quoted it to his children (1 Nephi 10:4). Nephi quoted it to his brothers (1 Nephi 22:20-21). Peter quoted it while preaching in the temple (Acts 3:22-23). Christ quoted it during his appearance to the Nephites (3 Nephi 21:11). Stephen quoted it before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 7:37). Moroni quoted it to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:40). And it is found in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 1:14; D&C 1:133:63).
We don't really have any scripture that plainly states that Moses clearly understood the concept of the atonement and knew precisely of its necessity. Do you think it is likely he did? Of course he did!
"have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?" What is the significance of the phrase "more or less" here? It probably refers to the fact that not all prophets are equal in their ability to prophesy.
34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
verse 34 "God himself should come down among the children of men" This is the very teaching that was responsible for Abinadi's being condemned to death (see also Mosiah 15:1 and its commentary and Mosiah 17:7-8).
35 Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?