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|Parsing Nephi: First Nephi II (1 Nephi 6-9)|
Jun. 29th, 2010 at 1:29 pm
So, Nephi has written the first chapter of his “reign and ministry” record on what we refer to as “the small plates”. As noted, Nephi touches on almost every major point of contention between him and his brothers: primogeniture leadership, the brass plates, the sword of Laban, divine calling, being led by God out of Jerusalem, and so on.
Nephi’s second chapter (which maps to 1 Nephi 6-9 in modern editions) is shorter and covers just three major themes:
Let’s look at each of these (after the jump).
Nephi’s second set of plates
Chapter II starts and ends with this topic, in which Nephi further clarifies what will and will not be on his reign-and-ministry (“small”) plates.
Remember that Nephi is working on these plates some 30 to 40 years after he and his family left Jerusalem. He’s already fled “with those who would follow me” and set up a city and culture center distinct from that of Laman and Lemuel. As a literate student of the (then-extant) Hebrew scriptures, Nephi is familiar with the contents of the brass plates, which he describes at the end of First Nephi I as containing (among other things):
Nephi most likely sees his large and small plates as a direct and unbroken continuation of these two portions of the brass plates (history and prophecy, respectively), since he starts his small plates (and likely his large plates as well) “in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” In other words, he sees himself as a prophet/king with the responsibility for keeping the scriptures going forward. As such, he would therefore have the divine claim to the brass plates, as opposed to having stolen them from his older brothers (as the Lamanites would later claim).
Return for Ishmael’s Family
The second major topic for First Nephi II is the return trip to Jerusalem for Ishmael’s family. There are numerous parallels with the earlier trip to get the brass plates:
Nephi’s account in Chapter I of the first trip back to Jerusalem, among other things, legitimized his claim to both Laban’s sword and the brass plates. This account shows the divine commandment that brought Ishmael’s family out of Jerusalem and to the Americas. This was likely a sore point with Ishmael’s sons, who pretty much threw in their lot with Laman and Lemuel. Again, Nephi is most probably trying preemptively to set the record straight as to how Ishmael’s family ended up in the Americas.
The Tree of Life Vision
The third major topic for First Nephi II is Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Unlike Nephi’s own vision (found in First Nephi III), which is focused on the coming of a Messiah, Lehi’s vision (as recounted by Nephi) is focused almost entirely on his family and emphasizes once again the differences between Laman and Lemuel and the rest of Nephi’s family (including Nephi). As Lehi puts it:
The rest of Lehi’s account of his vision pretty much focuses on individual choice, including falling away even after partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. And he ties it twice more to Laman and Lemuel:
Nephi then says that Lehi “exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel . . . lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.” So, once again, Nephi shows why he is the favored one, the one to inherit Lehi’s authority and his prophetic mantle, while Laman and Lemuel have been rejected of the Lord.
So far, in his first two chapters, Nephi has been setting forth his version of events surrounding Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families coming out of Jerusalem into the wilderness. At the same time, he has been demonstrating repeatedly God’s (and Lehi’s) acceptance of him and rejection of Laman and Lemuel, as well as Nephi’s legitimate claims to the brass plates and Laban’s sword. The next two chapters will focus largely on prophecy and revelation rather than history — but that won’t let Laman and Lemuel off the hook. More next week. ..bruce..