Mosiah Chapter 7
Mosiah 7-8, 21-22 The rescue of the people of Limhi by Ammon and his men.
1 And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them from the time they left the land of Zarahemla; therefore, they wearied him with their teasings.
verse 1 "the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi" The only previous reference we have to these "people who went up to dwell" in this land in the Book of Mormon text is the prophet Amaleki's mention of them in Omni 1:27-30. These people, the so-called Zeniffites, are the subject of the next eighteen chapters of the Book of Mormon-Mosiah 7 through 24.
We have developed a peculiar habit of assigning names to peoples in the Book of Mormon when those names are not actually contained in the Book of Mormon text. Zeniffite is an example. Can you think of any others? Mulekite and Lehite are two other examples.
If the history of the Zeniffites is not already familiar to you, then please take a few minutes and read the Narrative Historical Summary of the book of Mosiah.
"the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi" This is the first reference to the "land" and to the "city" of "Lehi-Nephi." These locations are apparently identical with the land and city of Nephi first mentioned in 2 Nephi 5:8. The origin of these names is not clear. Perhaps they are simply later terms used to designate the land and city of Nephi. It is the same land and the same city to which the prophet Nephi led those that would follow him after separating from his older brothers Laman and Lemuel in the land of their "first inheritance" (see 2 Nephi 5). When or why or by whom the name was changed is not clear.
"the time they left the land of Zarahemla" The events of this verse occurred in about 121 BC. Zeniff had led his followers out of Zarahemla ("the time they left the land of Zarahemla") almost eighty years previously, in about 200 BC.
2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah granted that sixteen of their strong men might go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi, to inquire concerning their brethren.
verse 2 Notice that the land of Lehi-Nephi is "up" in elevation from Zarahemla. I have often thought to myself that perhaps Zeniff and his followers, in their desire to return to "the land of their fathers," had been less influenced by idealistic concerns and more influenced by the cooler temperatures of the mountains that prevailed in the higher land of Lehi-Nephi (see the commentary for Mosiah 9:3).
3 And it came to pass that on the morrow they started to go up, having with them one Ammon, he being a strong and mighty man, and a descendant of Zarahemla; and he was also their leader.
verse 3 Ammon was a Mulekite-a "descendant of Zarahemla." It is interesting to note that Ammon is the most common name in the Book of Mormon. We have discussed previously the considerable Egyptian influence that existed in ancient Judah at the time Lehi and Mulek departed that land. It is interesting to note that Ammon is also the most common name in the 26th Egyptian Dynasty from 664 to 525 BC (Hugh Nibley, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, volume 1, "Book of Mormon Near Eastern Background").
4 And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander.
verse 4 It has been speculated that the distance from Zarahemla to the land of Lehi-Nephi was about 250 miles on land or more like 180 miles as the crow flies (see the commentary for Mosiah 24:25). The senior Alma and his followers will make this same trip in the reverse direction in about twenty-four or so days, traveling with families and flocks. Perhaps Alma had a better idea of where he was going or perhaps he was guided by the Lord.
5 And when they had wandered forty days they came to a hill, which is north of the land of Shilom, and there they pitched their tents.
verse 5 We learn here that within the greater land of Nephi there was a land of Shilom. We will later read of other smaller lands located within the land of Nephi. These include the land of Ishmael, the land of Shemlon, and the smaller land of Nephi or Lehi-Nephi. Apparently each smaller land had at its center a city with the same name. In modern parlance, we would be more likely to refer to these cities as "villages" or "towns," and the smaller lands might correspond to "counties." The Zeniffites occupied the land of Lehi-Nephi and the neighboring land of Shilom. The Lamanites occupied the other lands. It is, of course, not possible to know exactly how these lands were oriented with respect to one another. For a plausible model of the arrangement of these lands see the map, Hypothetical Map of Book of Mormon Lands.
6 And Ammon took three of his brethren, and their names were Amaleki, Helem, and Hem, and they went down into the land of Nephi.
verse 6 "they went down into the land of Nephi" To what specific land does the phrase "land of Nephi" refer here? As mentioned in the previous verse, within the greater land of Nephi there was apparently a smaller specific land of Nephi. This was likely the specific area surrounding the city of Nephi. It is probably this smaller land referred to here in this verse. Note that the terms "land of Lehi-Nephi" and "land of Nephi" are apparently being used interchangeably by the writer Mormon.
7 And behold, they met the king of the people who were in the land of Nephi, and in the land of Shilom; and they were surrounded by the king's guard, and were taken, and were bound, and were committed to prison.
verse 7 "they met the king of the people who were in the land of Nephi" We will learn that this king is Limhi, the son of Noah and the grandson of Zeniff. The people are the Zeniffites, those Nephites who had descended from those who had originally come up from the land of Zarahemla with Zeniff.
Why did King Limhi and his guards not recognize Ammon and his men as Nephites who likely had come from Zarahemla. Shouldn't the very appearance of Ammon and his men have alerted Limhi's men as to the probable identity of their captives? Who else could they have been other than Nephites from Zarahemla? In verse 13, Ammon identifies himself as a "descendant of Zarahemla" or a Mulekite (see also verses 3, 13). Perhaps the descendants of the people of Zarahemla had an appearance unlike that of the other Nephites. Or perhaps, as we have argued previously, there were many other indigenous peoples in the land whose identity would have been difficult to sort out by their appearance alone (see the commentary for Jacob 7:6).
"they were . . . committed to prison" Perhaps Limhi and his men mistook Ammon and his three companions for some of the priests of Noah (see Mosiah 21:23). We will read about this interesting group later on.
8 And it came to pass when they had been in prison two days they were again brought before the king, and their bands were loosed; and they stood before the king, and were permitted, or rather commanded, that they should answer the questions which he should ask them.
9 And he said unto them: Behold, I am Limhi, the son of Noah, who was the son of Zeniff, who came up out of the land of Zarahemla to inherit this land, which was the land of their fathers, who was made a king by the voice of the people.
10 And now, I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city, when I, myself, was with my guards without the gate?
verse 10 "ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city" The city of Nephi (Lehi-Nephi) has walls. Doubtless these were erected as defensive fortifications and probably patterned after those around Old World Jerusalem. These are the earliest defensive fortifications mentioned in the Book of Mormon text. Mesoamerican archaeologists have discovered numerous examples of walls around ancient cities (Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice, "Topoxte, Macanche, and the Central Peten Post-Classic," in The Lowland Maya Postclassic, ed. A. F. Chase and Prudence M. Rice [Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985], 166-83, especially 176).
Without the gate, of course, means outside the gate.
11 And now, for this cause have I suffered that ye should be preserved, that I might inquire of you, or else I should have caused that my guards should have put you to death. Ye are permitted to speak.
12 And now, when Ammon saw that he was permitted to speak, he went forth and bowed himself before the king; and rising again he said: O king, I am very thankful before God this day that I am yet alive, and am permitted to speak; and I will endeavor to speak with boldness;
13 For I am assured that if ye had known me ye would not have suffered that I should have worn these bands. For I am Ammon, and am a descendant of Zarahemla, and have come up out of the land of Zarahemla to inquire concerning our brethren, whom Zeniff brought up out of that land.
14 And now, it came to pass that after Limhi had heard the words of Ammon, he was exceedingly glad, and said: Now, I know of a surety that my brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla are yet alive. And now, I will rejoice; and on the morrow I will cause that my people shall rejoice also.
verse 14 "Now, I know of a surety that my brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla are yet alive" What reason did Limhi have to think that those people in Zarahemla had been destroyed? We will soon learn the interesting answer to this question (see Mosiah 8:7-10; Mosiah 21:25-28).
15 For behold, we are in bondage to the Lamanites, and are taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne. And now, behold, our brethren will deliver us out of our bondage, or out of the hands of the Lamanites, and we will be their slaves; for it is better that we be slaves to the Nephites than to pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites.
verse 15 "we will be their slaves" It is interesting that Limhi is willing to accept a second-class status for his people once they are back among the Nephites. This causes one to wonder if there had been a socially stratified society among the Nephites when Limhi's grandfather Zeniff departed Zarahemla. Perhaps there had been, and Limhi assumed that such a dependent category still existed.
16 And now, king Limhi commanded his guards that they should no more bind Ammon nor his brethren, but caused that they should go to the hill which was north of Shilom, and bring their brethren into the city, that thereby they might eat, and drink, and rest themselves from the labors of their journey; for they had suffered many things; they had suffered hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
verses 17-18 King Limhi here begins a sermon that will extend through the end of chapter 7. We will learn that the account given here of this sermon by the prophet Mormon is but a small part of Limhi's entire sermon (Mosiah 8:1).
17 And now, it came to pass on the morrow that king Limhi sent a proclamation among all his people, that thereby they might gather themselves together to the temple to hear the words which he should speak unto them.
verse 17 "on the morrow" We will later learn that one of the items Limhi included in this sermon to his people was a discussion of "all the things concerning their brethren who were in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 8:1). Perhaps he had learned much of this from his father and grandfather, but it is logical that he had also spent the previous evening with Ammon bringing himself up to date on the happenings in Zarahemla.
Note that the Zeniffites had a temple. Perhaps the Zeniffites restored the temple that Nephi had built centuries before in the same area (2 Nephi 5:16).
18 And it came to pass that when they had gathered themselves together that he spake unto them in this wise, saying: O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made.
verse 18 "notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made" We have experienced many frustrations and hardships in the past in bondage to the Lamanites, but now there is real hope for the future. Read of the fulfillment of this prophecy in Mosiah 22:13-14.
Effectual means producing the desired or intended effect.
19 Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.
verse 19 The story of Moses's parting the Red Sea is an important and appropriate motif in the Book of Mormon (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 4:2). Hence, divine deliverance is also an important and recurring theme in the Book of Mormon. Lehi and his family were delivered from Jerusalem. Nephi and his followers were delivered from Nephi's brothers Laman and Lemuel in the land of their first inheritance (2 Nephi 5). Mosiah (the father of Benjamin) and the Nephites were delivered from the land of Nephi (Omni 1). Now Limhi is hoping for deliverance of his people from bondage.
20 And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now; and behold, it is because of our iniquities and abominations that he has brought us into bondage.
21 And ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers, therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land, or even the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom; and the land round about-
verse 21 "he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers" Limhi's grandfather, Zeniff, had himself admitted that he had been "over-zealous" to reclaim the land of his fathers. The implication is that the desire to return to the land of Nephi was his own and was not obtained in counsel with the Lord. He had been careless of the Lord's desires in the matter. Here is a reminder that there is a proper balance between lethargy with its inevitable idleness and overzealousness with its associated fanaticism. Either extreme tends to subject an individual or a people to those who would seek dominion or power over them and hold them in bondage.
"deceived by the cunning and craftiness of King Laman" The word cunning here means deceitful, designing, tricky.
"having yielded up into his hands" A careful reading of this verse indicates that it was the crafty King Laman who was doing the "yielding" here.
22 And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives.
verse 22 "one half of our corn" The mention of "corn" in this verse is interesting. "Corn" is almost certainly maize, the native American plant that has been the mainstay of the native Americans' diet for centuries. Maize is so totally domesticated a plant that it will not reproduce without human care. It is therefore impossible that they would have found it growing wild on their arrival. Also there is no possibility that Lehi's party would have brought this American crop with them since it does not exist in the land of Judah from whence they came. Zeniff's people could only be growing corn because people already familiar with the complex techniques had passed on the requisite knowledge and seed to him. Here, then, is further evidence that "others" passed on the knowledge to the descendants of Lehi (John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?" in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 1, number 1 [Fall 1992], 1-34).
"one half of . . . our barley" Prior to 1983 there was no evidence that pre-Colombian domesticated barley ever existed in the western hemisphere. In the December 1983 edition of the magazine Science, archaeologists reported the discovery of what appeared to be this type of barley in Phoenix, Arizona (see also Alma 11:7).
verses 21-22 Sentence structures in Hebrew differ from those in English. For example, long strings of subordinate clauses and verbal expressions, such as is found in these two verses are acceptable in Hebrew, though unorthodox and discouraged in English.
"or our lives" Obviously the people of Limhi were threatened by the Lamanites with death if they did not comply with all of the various taxations to which they were subject.
23 And now, is not this grievous to be borne? And is not this, our affliction, great? Now behold, how great reason we have to mourn.
24 Yea, I say unto you, great are the reasons which we have to mourn; for behold how many of our brethren have been slain, and their blood has been spilt in vain, and all because of iniquity.
25 For if this people had not fallen into transgression the Lord would not have suffered that this great evil should come upon them. But behold, they would not hearken unto his words; but there arose contentions among them, even so much that they did shed blood among themselves.
verse 25 "they did shed blood among themselves" What are these incidents of bloodshed? We do know of blood-shed during the incident involving the "austere and blood-thirsty man" who originally led Zeniff and the other Nephites up to the land of Nephi (Mosiah 9:2). We will read in the next verse of King Noah's ordering the execution of the prophet Abinadi. There may have been other unmentioned incidents of fratricide particularly during the reign of King Noah.
26 And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ.
verse 26 Who is this "prophet of the Lord" who was slain? Of course it is the prophet Abinadi who was burned to death about 150 BC. We will read the complete story of the prophet Abinadi in Mosiah chapters 11 through 17. In the Book of Mormon, we will learn that Abinadi is a type of Christ as well as a messenger of him. Nothing is known of Abinadi's parentage or place of origin or life, whether he was old or young, large or small. We will learn, however, that he was a man of great courage. We will read of his boldly confronting the priests of Noah and then baiting, challenging, and questioning them.
27 And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth-
verse 27 In this verse Limhi summarizes the teachings of the great prophet Abinadi. We will encounter these teachings in detail in Mosiah 11 through 17.
Abinadi was the first Nephite in the Book of Mormon to die as a martyr. He was killed by fire-primarily for the clear testimony that he bore. That testimony was essentially that Christ was the God of the Old Testament, "the Father of all things," and would eventually come to earth among men and take upon himself flesh and blood (see Mosiah 17:7-8).
"Christ was the God, the Father of all things" We have previously reviewed the four reasons why Jesus Christ is considered "the Father of all things." First, he is the Father because of his central role in the creation of all things. Secondly, he is the Father because those sons of man who obey him and progress in his gospel become the "children" or "sons and daughters" of Christ. Third, he is the Father because in his role as Jehovah, God of the Old Testament, he became known as the God and Father of Heaven. Finally Christ may be considered the Father by the principle of the divine investiture of authority. The Father has invested in the Son his power and the right to act in his name.
"he said that man was created after the image of God" Note that Abinadi had taught that man was created, at least in part, in the image of Christ, the God who was to "come down among the children of men." Christ was the Firstborn in the spirit. That is his intelligence was the first to be "begotten" by the Father and clothed with a body of spirit. Jesus was then tutored and tested, and he developed from "grace to grace" and eventually received a "fulness of truth" (D&C 93:11-14). The fulness of truth is defined in scripture as "a knowledge of things past, present, and future" (D&C 93:24). Then the Son became a God and was placed in charge of the creation or organization of all the rest of the Father's kingdom (Moses 1:32-33). He even somehow assisted with the creation of the spirit bodies of all men (D&C 93:10). This clarifies the Genesis account of "let us make man in our image" (1:26). The plural pronouns us and our in Genesis must refer to Christ being with his Father from the beginning and being involved in the plan to people the earth.
28 And now, because he said this, they did put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them. Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions?
verse 28 "Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage" Limhi said of those people who murdered Abinadi, in effect, "No wonder our people are living in bondage."
verses 29-31 John Gee has pointed out that in these three verses, Limhi finishes his speech by quoting three items of scripture, prefacing each with "the Lord hath said" (verse 29) or the equivalent "again he saith" (verses 30-31). But these items of scripture are unavailable to us outside of Limhi's quotations. These three items are:
1. "I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them" (verse 29).
2. "If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof and the effect thereof is poison" (verse 30).
3. "If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind which bringeth immediate destruction" (verse 31).
These passages are not found in any of the scriptures presently available to us. The closest parallel is Hosea 8:7: "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." We might guess that Hosea relied on the same scripture that Limhi did, although what that source might be remains unknown. We are told that the biblical records were "not so many" as the brass plates of Laban (1 Nephi 13:23), so we should not be surprised that we cannot find these quotations in the Bible ("Limhi in the Library," FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 1, number 1 [Fall 1992], 63).
Previously in verses 27 and 28, Limhi quoted from the prophet Abinadi. It seems possible that in verses 29 through 31, he is still quoting the words of Abinadi. Perhaps Abinadi simply found these metaphorical concepts on the plates of brass.
29 For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them.
verse 29 To "succor" means to help or nourish. To "hedge up their ways" means to obstruct or block their path (with a hedge) or impede their progress (Hosea 2:6; Ether 9:33; D&C 122:7).
30 And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison.
verse 30 Here is a reference to the principle of the so-called "law of the harvest" which, simply stated, is that men are accountable for all of their acts, both spiritual and temporal. Alma the younger will later refer to this principle as the "law of restoration" in giving counsel to his son Corianton (see the introductory commentary for Alma 41). This law holds that man will be judged by his works and the intentions of his heart. If a man's works and the desires of his heart in this life are good, then in the judgment the man will be restored to that which is good. If his works and desires are evil, then in that last day, evil will be restored to him.
"they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind" Another well-know scriptural verse contains the idea of the whirlwind's being associated with Satanic influences (see Helaman 5:12).
31 And again he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.
verse 31 The "east wind" is a biblical concept that had its origins in Palestine. The term is used on one additional occasion in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 12:6). In Israel the prevailing winds are west winds that come off the Mediterranean. They are cooling and refreshing. When the winds change, however, and blow from the east off the desert, there is great heat, blown sand, and even pestilence in the form of plagues of grasshoppers and other insects. Thus, the east wind metaphorically represents the judgment and destruction from God (Genesis 41:23; Ezekiel 19:12; Hosea 13:15; Jonah 4:8).
It is interesting that we have a man in 120 BC in the western hemisphere using the concept of the "east wind." How might we explain this? The first person or speaker in this verse is Limhi. As mentioned above, the concept of the "east wind" may have originated in the plates of brass. Or, perhaps Limhi was actually referring to the weather patterns in his own land. In Mesoamerica there were certainly destructive "east winds"-hurricanes that came in from the east. Thus the concept of destructive "east winds" might also have been a valid one among the people of Limhi.
32 And now, behold, the promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and ye are smitten and afflicted.
33 But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.
verse 33 "with full purpose of heart" This expression is found exclusively in the Book of Mormon and in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 17:1; D&C 18:27-28). Its meaning is evident. In contrast we often use the expression "halfhearted."