There are 11 thoughts on “A Passover Setting for Lehi’s Exodus”.

  1. Pingback: 9 things we now know about the lost manuscript of the Book of Mormon - Noticias de La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Días

  2. Hey Bob,

    If there is, in some objective sense beyond this particular account justification under the Law for Nephi killing Laban, that’s great. What I’m saying is, I don’t see Nephi, here _in_ the account, appealing to that. Rather, Nephi says he “obeyed the voice of the Spirit.” So if I want to understand _Nephi’s_ message in writing this, then I won’t focus on concerns outside the text where I can hypothetically justify Nephi under the Law; I’ll focus instead on how Nephi obeys the Spirit without making an appeal to the Law and when, at least on the surface, he looks like he’s violating it. I just don’t see why I would cloud what Nephi describes in what he highlights in his own account by bringing in precisely the factors he does _not_ appeal to in justifying his action.

  3. Hey again Bob,
    On one point here, I have a different reading of the text’s import.
    I’m aware of arguments (e.g., per John Welch) that Nephi’s killing of Laban was legally justified. Be that as it may, if we go with the _text_ itself, we don’t find _Nephi_ appealing to the Law to justify his slaying of Laban but, rather, appealing to the Spirit. And this is a vital feature of the text’s meaning.

    It strains the text to see Nephi as perceiving his killing of Laban as something that would be morally right apart from the Spirit’s express command that he do it. He seems, rather, to see this act as something that would, without the Spirit’s instruction, be morally wrong and a violation of the commandments. So, to overlay legal justifications onto his own justification is to miss _Nephi’s_ moral dilemma, and therefore part of his message. In the context of the text itself, the theme is raised of Law vs. Spirit, and part of the event’s implicit larger meaning is conveyed through Nephi’s account: the Spirit over-rules “the Law.”
    In line with looking at the Book of Mormon as beginning with Passover,
    I think it’s also intriguing, and potentially very fruitful, to look at the Book of Mormon beginning (in its first narrative and initial Chapter I of 1 Nephi, in the translation-numbering of the small plates text) with an action that would ordinarily be morally repulsive. The prophetic action that readers of the Book of Mormon across time have found most disturbing–the beheading of an unconscious, and therefore defenseless, man–occurs right at the _beginning_ of the book! Why? 

    I perceive in this providential design. Readers _cannot_ simply go along with the book here as a book that teaches nice ideas. They are forced to make a judgment, to take a stand, to exercise discernment and make a commitment: Am I going to embrace that this man _really did_ have divine inspiration to guide his otherwise-morally repellent action, or am I going to reject his supposed inspiration, and therefore reject him as a prophet? It is–by design–a forced choice.

    Deep and complex meanings are at play in the text, which–as I know you very much agree on–there are depths we have not begun to mine. I’m very glad to have others like you working to mine these out as well! =)


    • Your points are all well taken here, Don, except that there is no violation of the Law by killing, unless it is not justifiable homicide. I gave two possibilities which scholars have suggested, (1) death for armed robbery, and (2) death due to Divine Will.
      The angel assures Nephi that Laban must die, which is obviously a matter of Divine Will. Naturally Nephi is hesitant, since he has never killed before.
      As to killing an unarmed man, it is probably more important to compare the beheading of Goliath with his own sword by David as he lay helpless. This is an ancient trope, and one finds it also at the climactic center of the Egyptian tale of Sinuhe — who does the same thing.

      • Hey again Bob,

        I posted another comment, but it may have gone to the wrong spot in this thread.

        I just want to explain that I’m not saying Nephi wasn’t justified under the Law. I’m saying Nephi’s primary concern doesn’t seem to be whether he was justified under the Law. If he’s trying to emphasize the primacy or supremacy of the Law, he has a funny way of doing it, because what actually comes across is the primacy of the Spirit–and I’m seeing that as a takeaway from the incident.

  4. Thanks, Bob!

    I appreciate your well informed thoughts and will be taking these into account as I do a future edition and/or overlapping writing on this and related topics.

    You’re right about the Red Sea. I’ll have to emend that in future versions.

    I believe I included those other Lehi-exodus references in my earlier chapter. They were definitely in the thesis version and my manuscript, and I believe they made it into the final version of the book, but since this is just a portion of a single chapter, they wouldn’t appear here. But I’ll double-check and ensure that those references, and a few others that come to mind, are included.

    About “Egyptian language”–ah, yes, that’s interpreted various ways. The script we have (e.g. the “Caractors”) is clearly not Hebrew, and shows a greater overlap with Egyptian; so I’m comfortable stating that Egyptian script is, in some way, intended here. But you’re definitely right that it would be better to word this more closely in line with what the Book of Mormon directly states.


  5. Very nice chapter, Don. However, I do have some additional observations:
    –in addition to George Tate in n. 13, Exodus themes throughout 1 Nephi are detailed by Kent Brown, “The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, 30/3 (Summer 1990):111-126; Terrence Szink, “To a Land of Promise,” in K. P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 (SLC: Deseret, 1987), 60-72; Szink, “Nephi and the Exodus,” in J. L. Sorenson and M. J. Thorne, eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 1991), 39-42. The Exodus motifs come thick and fast.
    –the three days travel by Lehi & Clan is taken after arrival at the Red Sea. As with the original Israelites, Lehi & Clan immediately find themselves in Midian.
    –the best etymology for the word Liahona (Alma 37:38), the formal name of the brass ball or compass used by Lehi (1 Ne 16:10, 18:12), includes the Hebrew participle ḥone “encamping, pitching (tent),” Exodus 33 alone listing 13 stations/ encampments, reusing that verb each time. Another Exodus motif.
    –there is no Hebrew commandment not to kill. The correct translation is “Do not murder.” Murder is the unlawful taking of human life, and Nephi must be convinced that killing Laban is not murder, but justifiable homicide against an armed robber of the family jewels, and who stands in the way of Divine Will.
    –the BofM never claims that the Brass Plates were Hebrew written in Egyptian script, as you suggest: They are always specified as being in the “language of the Egyptians” (Mosiah 1:3-4; cf. 1 Ne 1:2).

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged. Individual authors are given the option to disallow commenting or end commenting after a certain period at their discretion.

Close this window

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This