"For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land." ~ 1 Nephi 7:14
This fourth chapter presents a new timeline to the Book of Mormon's early activities. The traditional accepted timeline to the first chapters of the small plates of Nephi are concerning Lehi leaving Jerusalem in 600 BC and arriving in the land called by Lehi's party Bountiful, where a ship was built around 592 BC, eight years after Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. This is according to Elder George Reynold's time analysis of the Book of Mormon which was generously adopted by Apostle James E. Talmage when in 1920-1921 he was primarily responsible for the adoptiong and placement of Elder Reynold's suggested dates as footnotes throughout the 1921 published edition of the Book of Mormon (See article - 'George Reynolds: Loyal Friend of the Book of Mormon' by Bruce A. Van Orden, Ensign, August 1986). Those suggested date footnotes have seemingly prolipherated through all the subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon to the current edition today without further assessment or concern. After all they are but 'suggested dates', though some Mormon critics presume to take them as absolute 'scripturally supplied' dates and attack the Book of Mormon by using them beyond their 'merely suggested' intent.
In this chapter under further detailed assessment of those suggested dates it will be substantiated that Lehi departed from Jerusalem in 600 BC according to 'Book of Mormon time', and then spent approximately eight years living and dwelling in the Valley of Lemuel. And then Lehi's party spent eight more years in the wilderness traveling from the Valley of Lemuel before arriving in that 'first land of Bountiful'. That is eight years multiplied by two and it at least doubles the time from Lehi's departure from Jerusalem to Lehi's arrival in the first land called Bountiful prior to when Lehi would eventually arrive in the promised land of the Western hemisphere. This doubles the 8 years suggested by Elder Reynolds and adopted by Elder Talmage than what is still currently 'suggested' in the provided footnotes of the Book of Mormon.
This will for the most part be based upon the conflicting time sequence of events as held in Biblical history, which places Jeremiah's imprisonment in the 8th or 9th year of the reign of Zedekiah. This is alluded to by the opening verse of this chapter taken from the Book of Mormon, wherein Nephi references Jeremiah's imprisonment during the journey of the family of Ishmael from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel with Nephi and his brothers. That verse's reference to Jeremiah's imprisonment was correctly cross- referenced by Apostle Orson Pratt in the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon to the following Biblical verse citing that imprisonment.
"Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison." ~ Jeremiah 37:15
Prior to that time, all during the reign of King Zedekiah, Jeremiah had not been placed in prison. This point is clearly established by the statement, which is associated with Jeremiah's prophecies against King Zedekiah and the princes and people of Jerusalem in that same chapter 37. It is upon the occasion of the interim withdrawal by the Babylonians to confront the Egyptians in the desert that Jeremiah is confronted by Jehucal, who had been sent by the King. Verse 4 of chapter 37 clearly states, "Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison." Thus the only time to which Nephi could have been referring in the opening verse quoted in this chapter would be to this 'first' imprisonment during the reign of Zedekiah, which is properly cross-referenced by Apostle Orson Pratt.
As seen in the previous table, if Nephi cites Jeremiah being imprisoned in a past tense in 1 Nephi 7:14 and Jeremiah is not placed in prison until the 8th to 9th year of Zedekiah's reign, then Lehi's family must have lived in the Valley of Lemuel for some 8 years. And Lehi's family cannot still be in the Valley of Lemuel and a thousand miles away in a place called Bountiful at the same time. Nephi cannot be traveling from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel with the family of Ishmael, referencing Jeremiah’s recent imprisonment and at the site of Bountiful over a thousand miles from there building the ship at the same time. Therefore, the timeline of the Book of Mormon as suggested by Elder George Reynolds and adopted by Apostle James E. Talmage as the basis for the suggested dates in the footings of the pages of the Book of Mormon need to be adjusted to reflect a more accurate suggestive calculation.
Now come critics of the Book of Mormon who ignorantly use this time discrepancy caused by the erroneous quickly accessed timeline of Elder George Reynolds and Nephi's reference to Jeremiah's imprisonment as a claim that there is an irreconcilable anachronism within the pages of the Book of Mormon. Of course that is due to their lack of understanding and intelligence upon the matter. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 and did not have any such suggestive dates as footnotes then. It was not for some 90 years before Apostle James E. Talmage would adopt Elder George Reynold's assessment of suggested dates and place them as footnotes to the Book of Mormon. Certainly the inspired translation of Joseph Smith of the Golden Plates is not the cause of the incorrect scholarly dissected suggested dating. It only occurs out of the good intentions of scholarly efforts, which attempt to offer learning aids of understanding to the pages of the Book of Mormon.
It is this well intended scholarly deduction, which has unfortunately caused the misunderstanding coupled with the obvious incorrect assumption that such scholarly footnotes and cross-references are an integral part of the inspired scriptural translation, which of course they are not. Such scholarly dissections of men are merely intellectual deductions, which are separate from such inspired translation. And in this case, part of the man’s derived intellectual deduction is in error, which is ‘elementary my dear Watson’. What mere mortal of even the greatest of intelligence has not erred and is subject to making such errors?
Thus in this chapter a new timeline will be deduced and set out along with all the reasoning and wherefore of the matter. All of which will be put forth with additional matters which support the conclusion of the erroneous suggested dating up to 2 Nephi chapter 5 as set out by Elder George Reynolds and adopted by Apostle James E. Talmage in the 1921 edition of the Book of Mormon.
Eight Years Multiplied ~ Eight years in Lemuel and Eight more years in Wilderness Journey's
In correlation with the concept of correctly reading a highly condensed abridgement as discussed in Chapter 1 and in connection with the proper correlation of the Book of Mormon and Bible events and their time perspectives, a new timeline to the Book of Mormon's first 27 chapters is justified. Exactly how that is justified and what exact adjustments should be made will be presented in some detail next in this chapter. Further, a number of the resulting effects of these adjustments upon the thinking of the Book of Mormon will be discussed. And since all is relative, references to other Chapters and how their information fits into the picture will be pointed out. And in those other Chapters, additional implications resulting from this new timeline will be discussed.
The Book of Mormon does not attempt to give a day by day, week by week, month by month, or even a year by year account of its events. This stems in part from its abridged nature and in part because Nephi only selects the more spiritual experiences to make a part of his small plates, which is the source of the first six books of the Book of Mormon. Over its first 27 chapters, which comprises all of 1 Nephi and the first five chapters of 2 Nephi, there are only three actual date references anchored to a precise calculated reference mentioned by Nephi. The first of these has reference to the first year of Zedekiah's reign, which we learn later in the Book of Mormon is equated to about 600 years before Christ (1 Nephi 10:4, 19:8; 2 Nephi 25:19).
This 600 BC date as the beginning of Zedekiah's reign is in Book of Mormon time and of course it assumes Lehi left in that same portion of the first year of Zedekiah's reign in which it would still be 600 BC. Otherwise, if Lehi did depart in the very last of the first year of Zedekiah, that could then imply that Zedekiah's first year actually began sometime in 601 BC and ended in 600 BC when Lehi actually left.
The other two precise date reference are later in the Book of Mormon. They are when there is a reference to it being 30 years after leaving Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28) and a reference to it being 40 years after they left Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:34). Both mentioned by Nephi in chapter 5 of his second book. Thus when Elder George Reynolds calculated his suggested Book of Mormon dates, he would have to attempt to calculate the events of the interim from 600 BC to 570 BC from other references stated in the Book of Mormon.
Now any other mention of time during the period from Lehi's departure from Jerusalem to the 5th chapter of II Nephi, is not one that can be tied to any 'calculated' precise event. Some may disagree, but it is a matter of reading perspective associated with reading a condensed abridgement too quickly as explained in chapter 1. I will also further justify and explain this comment as this chapter proceeds.
Most of us are very highly associated with time and the chronology of time. We count our birthdays, holidays, special occasions, beginning and ending of school, church once a week, and all of the other events in our life associating them with time. We post calendars upon our walls, in our wallets, and upon our computer desktops. Our daily newspapers are time dated daily. We wear watches, have clocks on our walls, and begin and end our work days and weeks according to the passage of time. Holidays are marked and celebrated, numbered anniversaries are celebrated, and we do categorize all types of events and histories according to the chronology of time. We are very 'time' oriented. Thus it is not surprising that Elder Reynolds attempted to assign the dates to events in the Book of Mormon in as correct and proper chronological sequence as possible from the beginning of the book to its end. In so doing Elder Reynolds did many scholarly calculations considering any and all statements mentioning time passage. And then he would add them all up to give a suggested time chronology to the Book of Mormon. And he did this without considering whether the author, namely Nephi in this case, had specifically anchored such time relevance to any prior statement of precisely stated chronological time or not.
For example, I worked 4 years at a Business School and 3 years for the IRS. Does that mean I worked continuously over a seven year period of time? No, it does not. I could have worked 4 years at a school from age 28 to 32 and 3 years at the IRS from age 46 to 49. Or I could have worked only 4 years in terms of chronological time having worked two jobs over the same period of time. In fact almost any chonological time could have passed other than 7 chronological years in association with my statement. That is my one sentence statement is not necessarily chronological in nature though it does mention two periods of time. And that is the rub.
Thus the flaw in such an attempt as Elder George Reynolds made is that Nephi never was so 'time' motivated or oriented in his small plates account to give a chronologically set out account. That is, it was chronological in nature in that one event followed another, but Nephi never does account for every passage of time year by year. Nephi's prime concern was to give a spiritual history not a 'time' history chronologically set out day by day, week by week, and year by year. This should be easily seen by the fact that Nephi mentioned time very rarely. He only precisely supplied exact time chronology in the three instances already mentioned.
In Nephi's other references to time and its passage, he does not maintain a precise reference to the passing of chronological time. He only mentions the passage of time duration in terms of the immediate related correlated events relative to that time passage. For example, when Nephi mentions the three days travel in the wilderness associated with their journey to the Valley of Lemuel, logic reveals that it was the distance from the 'traveled merchant road' near the Red Sea to the Valley of Lemuel he really was referencing. He was not stating the passage of time since Lehi had left Jerusalem in their Journey. The distance from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel along the east side of the eastern arm of the Red Sea is quite prohibitive to have been traveled in just three days. This logic is set out in Chapter One.
Thus there is this precedence set out that Nephi is not so chronologically oriented in his presentation. And when Nephi states that they traveled eight years in the wilderness in their sojourn to the first Bountiful, he was not referencing their journey since Jerusalem. Nephi was referencing their time of travel since they had left the Valley of Lemuel until they had reached that first Bountiful as having been eight years. While the logic that sets out this fact is found primarily in this chapter, it is also supported by corroborating evidences found in other chapters as well.
Wait a minute you say. You say Nephi states that it was 8 years from Jerusalem to the place they called Bountiful where they built the ship. And I answer, "No, Nephi did not say that. Elder George Reynolds said that."
What Nephi said in chapter 17 verse 4 is, "And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness." He never says it was eight years from Jerusalem. He says it was a eight year journey in the wilderness. And the closest reference to when that eight-year journey began is in the immediate previous chapter in today's Book of Mormon. In that chapter in verses 10-12, it says:
"And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness. And it came to pass that we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness. And it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman." ~ 1 Nephi 16:10-12
Now I will not include this point as one of my later 'indicators' as some would argue that it is merely a matter of syntax not worthy of such distinction. But do note the four underscored uses of the word 'into.' Four times Nephi clearly states that from the Valley of Lemuel they were then going 'into' the wilderness from thence, not from Jerusalem. The Valley of Lemuel had become their home for an extended amount of time. Though they lived in tents, they had made it a home and it was no longer a wilderness to them. For 8 years from when Lehi left Jerusalem in the first year of Zedekiah's reign until Jeremiah had been placed in prison and beyond, Lehi's family had lived in the Valley of Lemuel. They had mad it their home. Lehi and his family 'dwelt' there. Thus when they left it, they were then once again departing 'into' the wilderness from their home in the Valley of Lemuel.
Now what Elder George Reynolds has done is the same that most all have done in their reading of Nephi's very condensed abridgement, and that is not to read the text fully understanding that it is a very condensed reader's digest account not overly concerned with precise chronological dating. And the common assumption is to take the 'eight years sojourn or journey' all the way back to chapter 2 verse 4 when Lehi departs from Jerusalem into the wilderness in the first year of Zedekiah's reign. That is a mighty big jump to reference a eight year journey mentioned in chapter 17 all the way back to chapter 2 just because there are no other time passages mentioned prior to that. And there are many indicators which would suggest that the 8 year sojourn should not count all the way back to the Jerusalem departure, but that it should more logically date back to the party's departure from the Valley of Lemuel in the previous chapter 16 instead. In conjunction with what has already been stated upon this matter, I will now set out what I consider to be five such strong indicators
Now the first indicator is one that Elder Reynolds did ignore. In terms of the logic of communications and as to what one is or is not referencing, the association of 'near reference' and 'distant reference' needs to be considered, especially in the English language. When a writer make an open reference to an item such as a 'journey in the wilderness,' the reader logically begins to search for the referenced 'journey in the wilderness' within the 'near' previous text rather than in the 'far removed' text. One looks in the same paragraph to see if that 'journey in the wilderness' is clarified there. And if it is not clarified there, then one looks back to the previous paragraph. And if that 'journey in the wilderness' is not clarified there, then one will logically scan through the text of the immediate chapter to see if the corresponding clarification can be found at least within the same logical chapter of information being presented. In our current arrangement of chapters and verses, this logic connection cannot be found even in the same chapter. And thus we are even more prone than Elder Reynolds would have been to jump all the way back to a number of chapters previous to clarify which 'journey in the wilderness' was being spoken of.
Now Elder Reynolds would have had an original Book of Mormon printing of 'paragraphs' instead of verses and variously fewer 'chapters' as that was how it was arranged in first printings of the Book of Mormon. Our modern day division into the chapters and verses we are familiar with, which give a more consistent appearance of being scripture, did not occur until 1879. Thus if Elder Reynolds would have applied the logic of applying the same chapter reference to the 'journey in the wilderness' reference, he would have found such in the same chapter. Both chapter 16 and 17 were in the same chapter, chapter five of the original organization to the Book of Mormon. But even with that clarifying reference being in the same chapter, Elder Reynolds, being very set on organizing the Book of Mormon chronologically, did take the Chapter Five reference of the 'eight year journey in the wilderness' all the way back to what was Chapter One at that time. He ignored the first 'near' clarification of that 'journey in the wilderness,' which in his Book of Mormon was in that very same Chapter Five which from the immediate Valley of Lemuel to the first Bountiful. Of course this singular evidence item alone might only give rise to a variance of opinion. But there are five more points to consider.
A second quite telling indicator considers that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book upon the earth. In Chapter 2 verse 4, the Book of Mormon records that 'Lehi' departed from Jerusalem and we naturally included Lehi's immediate family who is subject to Lehi in that party. In chapter 17 verse 4, it does not say Lehi sojourned for eight years, it says 'we' journeyed in the wilderness for eight years. Written in what would be considered a Hebrew frame of reference, this becomes significant in and of itself, as simple as it seems and as easily as it might be dismissed if it were the only item of evidence, which it is not. What had occurred since the time 'Lehi' left Jerusalem is that Lehi's family no longer had only one male family head. Ishmael had jointed them and both of Ishmael's sons and their families had joined them. Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi and even Zoram were all now married and had become the heads of their own families. No longer was it proper to just say 'Lehi' as Lehi was no longer the only family head in the party. Nephi had to now refer to their travels from the perspective of ‘we’. He could no longer just say 'Lehi' in his proper Hebrew manner of speech and written reference to the traveling caravan. And Joseph Smith correctly translated the difference. From Jerusalem, ‘Lehi’ had departed. From the Valley of Lemuel, ‘We’ departed. This is the proper Hebrew etiquette coming through in the translation. Thus the references in chapter 16 and 17 with all the ‘WEs’ in them could only be from the departure into the wilderness from the Valley of Lemuel and not from Jerusalem.
Now thirdly, Nephi’s abridged record never was intended to yield a precise chronology as Elder Reynolds presumes it to be by taking the scantily supplied dates and adding them up. For example, Nephi states that they traveled in the wilderness ‘three day’ before arriving in the Valley of Lemuel. Of course the 250 mile journey from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel along the eastern shore of the eastern arm of the Red Sea took more than just three days from Jerualem. Nephi was not stating that distance traveled to have taken three days. It was three days from the time they left the traveled caravan trade trails near the once named port of Ezion-Geber, along the eastern shore line of the Red Sea that took three days. The greater distance from Jerusalem would have taken more like two weeks. Nephi never intended to give a chronological day by day timeline which Elder Reynolds based his calculations upon. The eight years journey mentioned was not meant by Nephi to just be added to the departure date from Jerusalem. Nephi was not giving a chronological travel log. His immediate statement of 8 years in the wilderness from the Valley of Lemuel to the first land of Bountiful in the more ‘fertile’ regions was more to be understood that they did from season to season, plant and harvest to help replenish their food supply. This more logically accounts for an eight year journey from the Valley of Lemuel to the first land of Bountiful than to force it to be 8 years from Jerusalem to Bountiful just to presume a continue chronological timeline being supplied by Nephi’s small plate abridgement, which Nephi was not doing.
Now fourthly, when Lehi came to the Valley of Lemuel, Nephi points out that his father had left all behind in Jerusalem, and he was now living or 'dwelling in a tent.' Nephi states, 'And my father dwelt in a tent' (1 Nephi 2:15). During the time that Lehi ‘lived’’ in the Valley of Lemuel, many things had happened. Nephi had found the Lord. The sons of Lehi had returned to Jerusalem on an 'extended' journey to retrieve the Brass Plates. Laban had been killed by a very young Nephi. Sariah had complained against Lehi. Lehi had studied the Brass Plates from beginning to end and found what all there was upon them including his genealogy. Lehi had prophesied concerning his seed and the preservation of the plates. Lehi had gathered ‘all manner of seed’, and he certainly did not gather them from wilderness sources but more likely frequented the trade caravans as the passed through the trade port once called Ezion-Geber. And certainly all the life processes of maintaining a family were being carried on day in and day out. Nephi may have even learned his knowledge and skills in metallurgy from the copper mines and refineries of the region and developed some skills which would be used to later build a ship. It may have even been the very source of Nephi’s ‘steel bow’.
Eventually Lehi send his sons back under God's direction to obtain the family of Ishmael. And it was upon that return journey back from Jerusalem that Nephi references the fact that Jeremiah had been placed in prison. Then upon there arrival back, many spiritual events did occur of visions and teachings during the time which was also involved with the 'courting' process before the various marriages of Zoram, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi to the daughters of Ishmael. And then there where the marriages, five of them, which occurred. And then in the 16th chapter verse 6, Nephi records, "Now, all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel." The valley of Lemuel was no longer a 'wilderness' to them. It had become their home. And considering Lehi's profession discussed in Chapter 3 of this text, there would have been seasons of plating and harvesting those seeds for the providing for his family during this time of living (dwelling) in the Valley of Lemuel. And as well be further illustrated, all this was happening over a matter of years, not just a few weeks and months.
Further, not only was Lehi planting and harvesting seeds, Lehi was in the process of gathering and testing seeds of every kind for their eventual arrival in the promised land. And Lehi had selected those seeds from experience as to which would be 'good' seeds to be taken with them to the New World. And Lehi did a grand job of selecting these seeds of every kind, for when Lehi planted them in the new promised land, they grew in abundance (1 Nephi 18:24).
Fifth, just after arriving and beginning to live in the Valley of Lemuel, Nephi refers to his age. In verse 16 of chapter 2 he states that he was 'exceedingly young.' Now just how young was exceedingly young to a Hebrew? There are certain events, which occur in a Hebrew boy's life. Christ after arriving at the age of twelve was found teaching in the temple, this was immediately after his ‘barmitzvah’ where he was properly recognized as a male in Israel, a ‘son of the Law’, having completed his preliminary course of Jewish studies and entered into the first phase of adulthood, to be questioned by the learned of the temple, and to have the right to read in the Temple before the congregation. (Note: counting Jesus’ day of birth, by age 12, he would have had 13 ‘birth days’. Ancient societies often counted such dates differently.) He was young, but certain events had transpired to at least establish him as recognized member of the community, having been presented at the temple during the time of that Passover (See 'Jesus The Christ' by James E. Talmage, page 87, 113, also see a good dictionary under ‘barmitzvah’).
If Nephi considered himself 'exceedingly young,' then Nephi may not have even reached the age of 'Jewish traditional recognition,' twelve years old. And perhaps Nephi was only about the age of 10 or 11 years old when Lehi's family first departed into the wilderness in the latter end of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah. The perception of the common reader of the Book of Mormon, who does not consider the very condensed nature of its abridgement, is to think in terms of weeks and month rather than years being spent in the Valley of Lemuel. But at what age would Nephi have come to know the Lord? And after that then traveled to Jerusalem to have killed Laban? And at what age does one think that Nephi married? Would Nephi have married at only age 13 or 14?
From being 'exceedingly young,' to coming to 'know God,' to killing Laban, and then to being married, one should certainly understand that it all just did not occur over a hand full of months. So how much time would have come to pass in the Valley of Lemuel? Just how many years would likely have needed to have transpired from being 'extremely young,' possibly from an age of 10 to 11, to being at an age to be married and have children? Certainly 8 years is more reasonable than a few months or even a year or two. Fifth, in 2 Nephi chapter three, Lehi states that Joseph was his last born child and that he was born in the wilderness at Lehi’s greatest time of sorrow and suffering. “AND now I speak unto you, Joseph, my last-born. Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.” ~ 2 Nephi 3:1
This correlates well with the description of the events of the time of Nephi’s broken steel bow (1 Nephi 16:18-23). It is when the company was in a state of starvation and even Lehi did murmur against the Lord being exceedingly sorrowful. If this is when Lehi’s wife had Lehi’s last born child, Joseph. And Jacob was also born in the wilderness, then the company had been as many as three years in the wilderness by that date and event. Thus when does Lehi have Nephi’s other younger sisters? Nephi’s older sisters would have been with the sons of Ishmael and would have not departed from their husbands to accompany Nephi when in departed the first settlement in the land of first inheritance. Nephi’s sisters who would have left at that juncture in time would have been his younger sisters. When were they born?
Nephi clearly sets out that when Lehi left Jerusalem there where only Lehi and his wife and his four sons. The two elder daughters of Lehi already having married to the sons of Ishmael and by the time Nephi and his brothers retrieves the family of Ishmael from Jerusalem, these two older sisters already have ‘families’ of their own by the sons of Ishmael. Now, if Lehi’s last son, Joseph, was born during the ‘broken bow’ incident, then when where these other sisters born? Logic suggests that these younger sisters where part of Lehi’s ‘second’ family, began and being born in the Valley of Lemuel. Eight years in the Valley of Lemuel logically allows for Lehi and Sariah to have daughters born to them in the valley, and may just be an added cause of Sariah’s harsh rebuke of her husband when she considered that they were now left alone in the wilderness, her 4 strong sons presumed to have been killed.
In the sixth and final consideration there lies a conclusive scriptural answer, which should put the final nail into the matter due to the nature of the added evidence it does confirm and reveal. From the first year of Zedekiah's reign to the time that Jeremiah was imprisoned in Jeremiah 37:15, about 8 years had passed by. From when Lehi left Jerusalem, in the later half of the first year of Zedekiah's reign, to when he sent his sons back to obtain the family of Ishmael, about seven and a half to eight years would have had to have elapsed. And that would yield the over eight years being spent in the Valley of Lemuel before the arrival of the family of Ismael's and prior to any of the marriages having occurred and before the families departed into the wilderness again. This is good chronology. The apostle Orson Pratt footnotes it as such.
And every good Bible scholar should have to agree, as they would tell you that during the reign of Zedekiah, Jeremiah was first imprisoned after the beginning Nebuchadnezzar's first encampment against Jerusalem in about the eighth or ninth year of Zedekiah's reign. Then Nebuchadezzar's first encampment against Jerusalem had a set back, having to go out and meet the Egyptians in the desert as noted in both chapters 34 and 37 of Jeremiah. And by the time Nebuchadnezzar's forces had defeated the Egyptians and returned to take up the siege again, some months later, Jeremiah was then in Jonathan's prison from whence he would be recalled by Zedekiah. And then Jeremiah would spend time is various prison settings throughout the entire final siege of Jerusalem until over a year to two years later the Babylonian forces did over come and destroy Jerusalem. From the 9th year the 10th month of that year until the 11th year, the 4th month and the 9th day of the reign of King Zedekiah was Jerusalem under siege by the Chaldean's after their return from subduing the Egyptians (see Jeremiah 39). And Jeremiah had been placed in prison while the Chaldeans where withdrawn to confront the Egyptians (see Jeremiah 37).
As stated, Jeremiah had been sent to prophecy against Zedekiah and the Jews at the point of Nebuchadnezzar's first encampment against Jerusalem according to Jeremiah chapter 34. Jeremiah related to Zedekiah and the rulers, princes or Sarim of Judah that Jerusalem would be destroyed and he told them exactly why. They had broken the Law of Moses. And they could not deny it for the matter he had accused them of was no private matter that they could deny, but it was that part of the covenant which required the releasing of the Hebrew servants after a seven year period. And as will be further discussed in detail in Chapter 8, it was a matter of public record that they had entered under the covenant of the Law of Moses at the beginning of King Zedekiah's reign. And at that time they almost immediately reclaimed them and had consistently refused to release their Hebrew servants not only then, but after over seven years since that covenant, they did still persist in their refusal to release those Hebrew Slaves. This they could not deny as they could other matters of 'personal' sin. They could not lie about this. All knew who had Hebrew slaves. All knew who had not and would not release them even after this last period of seven plus years. In this they could be condemned without question or argument because well over seven years had lapsed since they themselves had entered into the covenant. No wonder the Jewish rulers, princes, and priests where so upset with Jeremiah. He had caught them in their sins without question. (See Jeremiah 34 and Chapter 8 in this text for further explanation.)
After Jeremiah had prophesied so harshly against the rulers, princes and priests of Judah, they where out to get him. And they did just that when Jeremiah attempted to leave the city to return to the land of Benjamin, which was his homeland. That was Jeremiah's first and only imprisonment under King Zedekiah. This was the only period of imprisonment and it spanned over a year and a half to two years in various prison settings. And as recorded in Jeremiah chapter 37, Jeremiah had walked free during Zedekiah's reign up and until that time. Jeremiah's previous imprisonment had occurred back in the time of the reign of Jehoaikim, and that could hardly be the one which Nephi was referencing as being concurrent with the obtaining of Ishmael's family, as Lehi had not departed until the first year of Zedekiah's reign after the death of Jehoaikim and the short reign of Jehoiachin.
Now all the various recorded 'imprisonments' under Zedekiah where just extensions of this single imprisonment, as Jeremiah would be transferred or relocated to differing facilities. And it is verse 15 of chapter 37, which is crossed-reference with Nephi's citing the fact of Jeremiah's imprisonment and that is in the later end of the 8th year or first part of the 9th year of the reign of Zedekiah (1 Nephi 7:14). Thus Nephi was persuading his brethren with the logic of Jeremiah's imprisonment exemplifying the Jewish wickedness, why Babylon would destroy Jerusalem, and why they should not return to Jerusalem as Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael wanted to do.
Now it was Apostle Orson Pratt in 1879 who was authorized to divide the Book of Mormon into more chapters and 'scriptural' numbered verses as we now have them. And it was Elder Orson Pratt, who at that time, was also authorized to include the first footnotes and cross-references. And it was Apostle Orson Pratt who cross-referenced 1 Nephi 7:14 with Jeremiah 37:15. It is in my grandfather's 1909 edition that way with that cross-reference from Orson Pratt in it. And in that 1879 edition until 1920-21, there were no suggested date footnotes in the Book of Mormon. Later, those suggested chronological dates, as already previously noted, would be pretty much based on Elder George Reynold's Chronology of the Book of Mormon, being added by Apostle James E. Talmage. Elder Talmage added further footnotes, cross-references, and the suggested chronological dates to the bottom of the pages of the Book of Mormon in 1920 for the 1921 edition of the Book of Mormon. And at that moment, there came into existence an anachronism into the pages of the published Book of Mormon to the world. This was some 90 years after the first printing of the Book of Mormon and it was only caused by the good intentions of scholarly dissection of well intending men who had erred, and it was not from the original divine translation.
Of course that anachronism is not a part of Joseph's inspired translation of the Book of Mormon. And certainly Elder George Reynolds, Apostle Orson Pratt, and Apostle James E. Tallmage did not purposefully create it. They each were doing the best they could to make the Book of Mormon more easily studied, understood, and correlated with the other scriptures. And they all did just that. They just were not perfect in their effort and who is? But what they did do, for any bright and thorough student of the Book of Mormon, is to bring to light the disparity that can be caused by not fully considering that the Book of Mormon is a highly condensed abridgement in reading, studying and dissecting the book. Without their efforts we would be the one who would have to be making all the cross-referencing and without 'properly' provided scriptural chapter and verses. And without any such references already there, we would have to be the ones who would have to start from scratch and provide them for ourselves. And without the suggested dates to give suggested time continuity, we would have to figure and supply our own throughout the entire book. In so doing we would more than likely have much fewer references and many more errors in our Book of Mormon, than those of Apostles and General Authorities of the Church. Certainly we are indebted to these fine brethren for the volumes of work and dedicated hours of time put forth in their scholarly provided aid and assistance in these matters.
In conclusion to these six indicators, the new timeline to the Book of Mormon provided by this perspective and set of insights would be that Lehi left Jerusalem when Nephi was exceedingly young at age 10 or 11. Then for approximately eight years Lehi and his family lived and dwelt in tents in the Valley of Lemuel. Lehi would have proceeded to plant and harvest according to the seasons in the Valley of Lemuel, according to the rotation of the dry season and the rainy or wet season year in and year out. The eastern arm of the Red Sea extended a few miles further north then than is does today. And the climate was a bit more temperate and not quite as dry as it is today as is the case all across that latitude through all of northern Africa.
And as these seasons would cycle from the wet season of planting and growing and harvesting to the dry season when the river of Laman would all but dry up, Nephi would have time to grow and develop in his formative teens and puberty, separate from the influence of Jerusalem. Already the elder Laman and Lemuel had been affected by such Jewish exposure. And there seems to be an irony presented in the cycle of the seasons and the river of Laman, for in the dry tough season, like the river drying up and the valley becoming parched, so it would be with Laman and Lemuel. When things were going along easy, Laman and Lemuel did not complain and find fault and in such times they even exhibited levels of faith and belief. But when the going became difficult and was not easy to deal with, Laman and Lemuel would begin to complain and their levels of faith and belief would dry up and wither away.
In this new perspective of time, Sariah's complaining under such duration of time is much more compelling and 'justified' by such circumstances of not having four strong sons to help them survive in such a situation of needed planting and harvesting. And likely even during the birth of new young baby sisters. Not only would Sariah have been concerned for her sons long absence of being gone to retrieve the Brass Plates, but she would be concerned that they where not back to help the rest of the family of Lehi survive. And the rest of Lehi's family most likely did included younger baby sisters not able to perform the labors of their older brothers of plowing, cultivating, planting and harvesting.
And after the eight years or so in their 'new home' in the Valley of Lemuel, they all then 'journeyed in the wilderness' from the Valley of Lemuel to the placed they called Bountiful. And that sojourn took them 8 years journeying in the wilderness between their adopted home in the Valley of Lemuel and the first land of Bountiful where the ship was to be built. (See Elder Neal A. Maxwell's October 1999 Conference address concern the two lands of Bountiful being both the port of departure and the site of Lehi's landing.) And with children being born and the means of survival needing to be provided, they would most likely search to find lands and water suited for periodic seasonal plantings and harvesting during that eight-year journey. And those 'seasonal' duration camps would be more like what the casual reader of the Book of Mormon has in the past thought the Valley of Lemuel to be.
Further, this continual need to plant and harvest is why Nephi specifically states that they did travel and stay in the more 'fertile' parts of the land (1 Nephi 16:14 & 16). They stayed in the 'fertile' parts because they would seasonally plant, grow and harvest. 'Fertile' did not just mean where animals were to be found and hunted, and where wild plants to eat from could be found. 'Fertile' implies and means that over the 8 years sojourn of some 1000 miles, they were seasonally camping for near half-year durations of time to plant, grow and harvest their crops. How else could the seeds remain as strong and ready to use and not loose their own abilities to germinate if they were not periodically being renewed?
Now some might think that 1000 miles to travel in 8 years was but a little thing and that they should have been able to cover greater distances in much less time than that. Certainly if they traveled straight through at a mere rate of 10 miles per day, they could have reached the first land of Bountiful in somewhere between 100 to 200 days even with some stopovers for hunting, births and burials. But Nephi states that Lehi and Sariah themselves had two sons born during this time frame (1 Nephi 18:7). And Nephi further reports that each of the various marriages did have 'children' meaning more than one each during the sojourn from the Valley of Lemuel to the first Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:1. 2 & 20). And thus as verse 20 of chapter 17 of 1 Nephi stipulates, they with their wives and children had traveled 'many years' in the wilderness from the Valley of Lemuel to the first land of Bountiful. And that number of many years traveled was 8 years (1 Nephi 17:4).
Some Timeline Graphics and Tables
I will now present two graphic timeline charts and a detailed table of events, which should aid the reader in visualizing and comprehending the stated new perspectives and insights of time and what did occur during this time. The first will set out the reign of King Zedekiah and how Lehi's chronology fits into those years. It will tentatively place eight 'Red-letter Events' in proper perspective along that time line numbered in parenthesis and afterwards listed and explained.
Red-letter Events of Zedekiah's Reign
(1) Zedekiah was made King by Nebuchadmezzar who committed Zedekiah and the Jews to covenant in the name of the God, Jehovah, to honor their relationship to the Kingdom of Babylon. (2) Lehi left Jerusalem 600 years before Christ's birth. This was after Lehi's prophesies and his life had been sought. It would have been the latter end of Zedekiah's first year as king. (3) Lehi and family travel a standard trade route near to the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Then after three more day's journey in the wilderness parallel to the Red Sea, they enter and begin to live in the Valley of Lemuel, dwelling in tents. (4) The sons of Lehi return to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates. (5) Jeremiah is imprisoned while leaving Jerusalem during the interim of Nebuchadnezzar's attack when the Chaldeans withdrew from Jerusalem in order to contend with the advancing Egyptians in the desert. (6) Lehi's sons return to Jerusalem to persuade the family of Ishmael to join them. Nephi references Jeremiah's imprisonment upon the return trip to the Valley of Lemuel. Thus Jeremiah who was imprisoned in the eighth or ninth year of Zedekiah's reign was already in prison. (7) Lehi's party leaves the Valley of Lemuel to journey in the wilderness to the site of Bountiful upon the shore of the Ocean. (8) Jerusalem is destroyed.
Now these eight 'Red-letter Events' are just the more significant events, which are presented in Nephi's account. Now this next table listing spanning the next four pages will attempt to place a more detailed analysis of what the occurrences were and how they inter-relate over the reign of King Zedekiah. In setting these events out, the dates will use the Book of Mormon suggested dates beginning with 600 BC, the first year of Zedekiah's reign when Lehi departed into the wilderness. As previously pointed out, that first year of Zedekiah's reign may have been from 601 to 600 depending. Further, these dates and events are only educated dissections and such deductions are like any such my the hand of man, they are subject to error and many not be as exact as the table may portray them to be.
Events Over Zedekiah's Reign (Using Book of Mormon Time)
600-599 - Zedekiah's first year ( or perhaps March 601 to March 600 and the rest adjusted accordingly in Book of Mormon time BC) - In December 601 BoM Time - BC, Jehoiakim is defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, bound in fetters and is forced to march toward Babylon (II Chronicle 36:5-7) dying a common death along the way. His body is left by the wayside like a discarded animal (an ass - Jeremiah 22:18-19) to waste by the elements which is a disgraceful and insulting way to allow a Jewish King to die without proper morning and burial procedures. - The newly installed 18 (8) year old King Jehoiachin, son of Jehoaikim, and all Jerusalem, is in an up roar over this disgrace and are in rebellion again. This causes Nebuchadnezzar to return and once again Jerusalem (II Kings 24:8-11) surrenders under defeat on March 16th (see 'A History of Israel' by Bright page 327). - Now it appears according to the Book of Ezekiel, that Ezekiel had been taken captive at the same time when Daniel and his companions had been, during the time that Babylon first subjected Jerusalem and King Jehoiakim in 608 BoM Time (605 BC) (see Ezekiel 1:1-3 & Daniel 1:1-3). Ezekiel had been among the captives 13 years by the 5th year of Jehoiachin's captivity. And it is at Jehoiachin's captivity that many other craftsmens of Jerusalem where carried away to Babylon (see II Kings 24:13-16). - Zedekiah was made King of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar March/April 601 BoM Time. (see 'A History of Israel' by Bright page 326-327) - In that first month, Nebuchadezzar's commands structured an oath to and by God - Jehovah. Nebuchadnezzar was not converted to Jehovah himself, but through Daniel and Daniel’s companions, Nebuchadnezzar had learn and gained respect for the fact that the ‘true God of Israel’ was this Jehovah. Thus perhaps these events were under the actual advice of Nebuchadezzar's top advisor, the Prophet Daniel. - Under Zedekiah, there was a return to the Law of Moses commitment AKA righteous King Josiah (II Kings 23:1-3), Zedekiah’s father, and a covenanted release of Hebrew servants (Jeremiah 34:8-11) at this time of Passover during the first year of Zedekiah’s reign occurred as the people were sworn to live faithfully by the Mosaic Laws and in subjection to Babylon. - All of Jerusalem complies by so releasing their Hebrew servants as per the command of King Zedekiah as backed by Nebuchadnezzar's presence and influence as possibly advised by Daniel. - Nebuchadnezzar then again withdraws leaving Jerusalem to fall back into the influence of the 'Princes/Sarim' of Jerusalem, the real ruling body of the Jews. - Under the influence of the ruling Sarim, the Hebrew servants are reclaimed under a proposed eventual release postponed 7 years from covenant date. (2 Chronicles 36:14 & Jeremiah 34 and also see chapter 8 of this text.) - Over 7 years later, it will be this undeniable breaking of the Law of Moses which Jeremiah will cite in condemning Jerusalem to her destruction. And while the Jews where guilty of much more wickedness than this, this is one thing they could not deny or lie about, as it would be a matter of general public knowledge. (Jer. 34) - Under such events as the braking of the just entered into temple covenants, Lehi goes to Lord in concerned prayer. (1 Nephi 1:5) - Lehi is called to be a warning Prohpet and prophesies against the people for a number of days. (1 Nephi 1:18) - There is a 'Sarim' conspiracy to kill Lehi & other Prophets who testify against Jerusalem. - Lehi is warned by God. (1 Nephi 1:19-20 & 2:1-2) - Lehi and his family departs from Jerusalem and journey some 250 miles by Merchant trade routes and thence on into the wilderness for 3 days. - Lehi's family arrives in Valley of Lemuel. - Other prophets come forth and are maltreated and likely killed as conspiracy against the prophets prevails (2 Chron. 36:15-16 & 1 Nephi 1:4) 599-598 - Zedekiah's second year - Lehi dwells (lives) in a tent in the Valley of Lemuel, their adopted new home for some years to come. - Lehi settles in tilling the earth and planting their seeds in the rainy season for their survival. - Lehi harvests. - Nephi comes to know God as an exceedingly young boy, perhaps now age 12. - Lehi commanded to obtain plates of Laban. 598-597 - Zedekiah's third year - Lehi's sons return to obtain Brass Plates - Task of obtaining plates takes longer than anticipated - Sariah complains against Lehi as planting season nears and sons have not returned, Lehi and Sariah may have baby dauther(s) by now. - Sons return belatedly with Brass Plates – Second/third year of planting and harvest - Lehi studies the Brass Plates 597-596 - Zedekiah's forth year - Lehi and sons likely frequent the port city known as Elath and/or Aqaba but under Babylonian rule, to obtain need supplies and to begin to gather seeds of every kind. 596-595 - Zedekiah's fifth year - As part of Lehi and sons off seasonal visits to the Gulf of Aqaba's sea port and trade center Lehi's, sons may have observed and/or participated in seasonal labor to obtain money in the smelters and/or shipyards thus learning such skills and obtaining such knowledge. (See Apendix V on the history of Ezion-Geber, and though ‘destoryed’ from a Jewish perspective, the new occupiers would have continued to utilize the port for trade and commerce.) - This may also be the source of Nephi's 'steel' bow as an 'exceedingly young' child of 10-11 as Nephi was, he would not likely have possessed such a weapon at the time when Lehi's family first came to the Valley of Lemuel. 595-594 - Zedekiah's sixth year - Rulers persuade Zedekiah to forsake Nebuchadnezzar's commitment and seek an Egyptian alliance 594-593 - Zedekiah's seventh year - Proposed delayed date of release of servants comes and passes as the alliance with Egypt is effective. - Jerusalem takes stance of rebellion against Babylon with new assurance of alliance with Egypt. 593-592 - Zedekiah's eighth year - Nebuchadnezzar learns of Jerusalem's rebellion and summons his troops. - Nebuchadnezzar's army first appears (Jeremiah 34) - The Hebrew slaves have not been released according to the Temple Covenants with the Lord taken back in the first year of Zedekiah's reign even after the contrived additional 7 year allowance by the interpretation of the Sarim. Thus it now stands as indisputable public record that the 'Jews' are indeed in violation of the Mosaic Law and can publicly be condemned without refutation that they are guilty of this offense against God. - Jeremiah is therefore sent by the Lord to Prophesy against Jerusalem and Zedekiah and the Rulers of Jerusalem. - During this same sequence of events, the Egyptians are found to be advancing toward Jerusalem and Chaldeans have determined to withdraw to meet them in the desert rather than to just wait for them outside of Jerusalem. - While the Chaldeans have withdrawn to fight Egyptians in desert Lehi has received instructions of the Lord to send his sons, now of marrying age, back to Jerusalem for the family of Ishmael, who not only consists of Lehi’s married daughters to the sons of Ishmael but young daughters suited to be wives to Lehi’s sons. - Messanger sent by Zedekiah to taunt Jeremiah - His response - Jeremiah taken prisoner and placed in prison - Jeremiah Imprisoned at the end of the 8th year as he was attempting to visit his homeland. - Lehi's sons have returned to Jerusalem to obtain Ishmael's family - Chaldeans are fighting and winning against the Egyptians in the desert. 592-591 - Zedekiah's ninth year - Lehi's sons have returned to Jerusalem, obtained Ishmael's family and are enroot to the Valley of Lemuel as Nephi references Jeremiah’s imprisonment (1 Nephi 7:14). - Chaldeans are mopping up against the Egyptians in the desert. - Victorious, the Babylonians return to their siege of the cities of Jerusalem. - 9th year tenth month - came Nebuchadezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it. This is the final siege to the fall of Jerusalem) 591-590 - Zedekiah's tenth year - a solid year of being under siege. - Lehi's party is engaged in visions, dreams and teachings of the Lord. - And they are involved in the courting of their future wives - Last planting and harvest season comes and goes - Jerusalem under seige all this year - Jeremiah variously imprisoned - Only Lachish and Azekah remains of the fortified cities of Jerusalem. - Sons of Lehi and Zoram marry daughters of Ishmael - Lehi's party departs the Valley of Lemuel - spends 8 years in wilderness journey to Bountiful 591-590 - Zedekiah's eleventh and last year. - By the 11th year forth month Jewish calendar in the month of July our calendar, Jerusalem falls - The final siege has lasted 18 months - Jerusalem Destroyed - Zedekiah's attempted escape and Mulek's successful escape
Now after the first graphic and this detailed table which covers the years and events of the time of Zedekiah and Lehi's time in the Valley of Lemuel, this second graph will appear on the next page. It will visually display the new Book of Mormon Timeline for the first 27 chapters of the Book of Mormon from the time of the first year of Zedekiah, 600 BC, when the Book of Mormon begins to 570 BC as recorded by Nephi in 2 Nephi 5:28.
Once again, while this graphic timeline is but a logically deduced arrangement of events, it is only a humanly dissected correlation and may have errors. But is felt that even with what errors there might be, it is a good representation useful in visualizing how the events and time fits together over the span of this new proposed timeline for the first 27 chapters.
Re-Dating Your Book of Mormon
Now if you'd like, I've provided how to newly adjust your Book of Mormon according to this new timeline consideration. I will present four steps to this process. And I would also suggest that you do not mark out the Church provided suggested dates, as you'll be lost when others refer to them if you have marked them out. Rather I would suggest that you mark the new dates beside the old ones but in a different color, like red. Thus the New Timeline dates would appear along with the old dates and be distinguishable by color from the printed suggested dates.
First, all time references up to and including chapter 7 should remain as is with the range of date being suggested as from 600 BC to 592 BC. This is because it is estimated that Lehi has lived in the Valley of Lemuel up and until that date at least into chapter 7. Now at the bottom of the page of verse 14 of chapter 7 a new suggested time footnote should be added by an asterisk in red which is also placed to the side of the name of Jeremiah in the 14th verse and at the bottom of the page. This footnote could possibly include a note concerning the imprisonment date of Jeremiah according to the 8th year of the reign of King Zedekiah and Jeremiah 37:15 as being in accord with the Biblical time frame.)
After adding the asterisk to the side of 'Jeremiah' as shown at the left, a corresponding note at the bottom of the page should be placed just below the current suggested dates as follows. [Between 600 and 592 B.C.} [* 592 B.C. according to Biblical imprisonment date Jer. 37:15. ]
Of course, I'd place the asterisk and added clarifying footnote in red so as to distinguish it from the regular black color of the printed text.
Second, for all dates after chapter 7 until the arrival in the first land called Bountiful an added date adjustment should be shown in red just below the provided suggested date. Thus below where it states [Between 600 to 592 B.C.) I would place in red [Between 591 to 583 B.C.] until the arrival in the land called Bountiful in chapter 17 of 1 Nephi. This includes passage of time in the Valley of Lemuel between the date of Jeremiah's imprisonment to the time Lehi's sons and Zoram where married to be about another year from 592- 591 B.C. Many visions, teachings, revelations, and prophesies where recorded during that time, including the 5 courtships and marriages. And then the 8 years in the wilderness from the Valley of Lemuel to the first place called Bountiful is to be calculated from 591 to 583 B.C.
Then third in chapter 17, the one year range which states [*592 B.C.] as the asterisk note to verse 4 should have a note added just below in red which states [* 583 B.C.]. And on the following pages where it states [About 591 B.C.] a note in red should list it as being [About 582 B.C.] for the next few pages. And then below the one note in chapter 18 which states [About 590 B.C.] a correcting note in red should state [About 581 B.C.]. And finally below the asterisk note on the next page which references Lehi's arrival in the pormised land in verse 23 as being [*Probably about 589 B.C.] there should be a correcting note in red that states [*Probably about 580 B.C.]. Thus we now have Lehi's party arriving in that 'second' bounteous Bountiful land referenced by Apostle Neal A. Maxwell in his conference talk of October 1999. m (590 to 589 BC) to (581 to 580 BC). This allows one growing season at the temporary colony site of Lehi's landing which is the second bounteous, Boutiful, land referenced by Apostle Neal A. Maxwell in his conference talk of October 1999?.
Now there is one growing season spent at this temporary landing site and then Lehi's party is soon on their way journeying from the second Bountiful land to the land of first inheritance finding domestic animals, wild animals, and metal ores, but to attempt precisely dating that journey seems futile. Thus the finally fourth step is to just follow suit by correting the dates from from chapter 19 of 1 Nephi until the specific date of chapter 5 of 2 Nephi is arrived at. At the bottom of these pages where it states [Between 588 and 570 B.C.] as the suggested range dates a note below in red should be placed which states [Between 579 and 570 B.C.]. This means that the journey in the wilderness to find animals, ores and the Land of First Inheritance, the death of Lehi, and the separation of Nephi's group from that of Laman's group all runs the duration of about 4 years from 579 to 575 BC. And then in about 5 years in the first land of Nephi, Nephi builds his Temple and settles his people until about 570 B.C. or 30 years since they had left Jerusalem.
From this point on the suggestive dates all stay the same as presented in the Book of Mormon. It is only the first 27 chapters that are effected by this new time perspective and insight of the correlation of Jeremiah's imprisonment with the report of Nephi upon the return to the Valley of Lemuel with Ishmael's family.
Line Upon Line ~ Here A Little, There A Little
Now in theory, with the matter properly settled that Lehi spent over eight years in the Valley of Lemuel, lets turn to what else that implies and what perspectives, perceptions and insights we may gain from that. First, recall that in chapter one it was discussed that Lehi's party traveled more than the commonly assumed time of 'three days' from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel. If that little presentation in chapter one left you wanting and questioning, perhaps now we are ready to put more 'meat' onto that picture. With the concept of 8 plus years spent in the Valley of Lemuel and the added 8 years spent in travel from the Valley of Lemuel to the first location called Bountiful, we have another striking example of the errors of condensation made by most readers.
Further, with the concept of what activities Lehi and his sons may well have been involved in during that eight plus years in the Valley of Lemuel which includes some visits to the trade center of the sea port of Aqaba by whatever name and under whatever national dominion. Imagine, Nephi building a ship. What did Nephi know about building a ship little alone what tools where required to so do? How ridiculous it was in Nephi's brothers' consideration that brother Nephi could build a ship. What, for that matter, did Laman and Lemuel know about building a ship? Well in the larger picture of reality, perhaps more than the condensed Book of Mormon has stated when we place Lehi's family into their historical setting.
Do you recall ever learning or hearing about a place called Ezion-geber? It is on your set of Bible Maps and in your Bible Dictionary in your current set of LDS Scriptures. The Bible Dictionary states: "A place of encampment for the Israelites during the exodus (Num. 33: 35; Deut. 2: 8); afterwards one of the headquarters of Solomon’s navy (1 Kgs. 9: 26; 1 Kgs. 22: 48; 2 Chr. 8: 17; 2 Chr. 20: 36). It was in the extreme south of the country of Edom, at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah." And while this brief mention of the site yields but little information, further study reveals that it was a 'principle' site and not one of mere passing. The port of Aqaba is perhaps more familiar, but in either case, the right or eastern arm of the Red Sea had a sea port city. Once it was called Ezion-geber and later Elath, and when the waters of the right arm of the Red Sea receded some 10 miles or so, it was called Aqaba. Today the Israeli city or town of Eilat and the Arab seaport named Aqaba are both associated with the once Ezion-geber. (See LaMar C. Berrett's 'Discovering the World of the Bible,' pages 125, 424-426 for Ezion-Geber, Elath and Eilat, and pages 530-531 for Aqaba.) And of course, Ezion-Geber, Elath, the port city of the Gulf of Aqaba was an important stop upon the King's Highway trade route.
In chapter one it was established that it took Lehi's party much more than three days to arrive at the Valley of Lemuel traveling from Jerusalem. And it was established that the 'three days journey in the wilderness' referred to in the Book of Mormon was most likely the three days from where Lehi's party departed the 'known' traveled ways and did in fact depart into 'untraveled' wilderness. For those three days they traveled along the eastern shores of the eastern arm of the Red Sea until they came to a satisfactory fertile valley in which they could dwell or live for a period or duration of some 8 years time. Thus it is that the Valley of Lemuel was about that same three days journey back to any then current 'harbor' or port city of the Eastern Arm of the Red Sea, Ezion-geber, Elath or Aqaba along the King's Highway, as you will have it.
If Lehi's family lived in the Valley of Lemuel for over eight years and the growing season did not take up all of a year's time, what do you suppose the sons of Lehi would do with their days when tending the fields were not of prime concern? Lehi's party was said to have continued to gather seeds of every kind. Where do you find seeds of every kind for planting in a desert wilderness? And where would Lehi go to trade and obtain the goods for daily living over an eight or nine year period of time? Certainly a 'visit to town' would be called for periodically for any number of various needs over some eight years of homesteading in a desert wilderness. Or would they stay in the Valley of Lemuel all the time? Would they not venture 'into town' so to speak and seek to trade with the caravans and visit the port city of the eastern arm of the Red Sea? Just where did Lehi gather all those seeds of every kind being in a desert wilderness?
Ezion-Geber means 'giant's backbone.' It was so called from the head of a mountain which runs out into the sea. It was an ancient city and harbor at the northeast end of the Elanitic (right or eastern) branch of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Akabah, near Elath or Eloth (Num. 33:35, Deut. 2:8). It was at Ezion-geber that Solomon built ships, 'Tarshish ships,' like those trading from Tyre to Tarshish and the west, which traded with Ophir (1 Kings 9:26; 2 Chr. 8:17). One modern historian points out that a 'tarshish' is a refinery (see Bright, A History of Israel, page 208). As stated the ships that Solomon built in Ezion-Geber were 'tarshish' ships. That is, they where not built in a place named 'Tarshish' but the descriptive identity of the ships where 'refinery' ships. They were large well built ships that could haul the product of a 'refinery' and that product was 'copper alloys' such as bronze and brass for trade with rest of the world during the 'golden bronze age era.' This perspective of the word 'tarshish' may well give additional insights into the two ports of Tarhish held to be in Spain and India by most scholars.
It was at Ezion-geber that Jehoshaphat's fleet was shipwrecked (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chr. 20:36). It became a populous town, many of the Jews settling in it (2 Kings 16:6, 'Elath'). Is is supposed that anciently the north end of the gulf extended further into the country than now, as far as 'Ain el-Ghudyan, which is 10 miles up the dry bed of the Arabah, and that Ezion-geber may have been there. A full history of Ezion-Geber is given in Appendix V.
Ports to the seas were of strategic importance to Kingdoms and Empires anciently, just as they are to the Countries of the world today. It is interesting to note from the provided map section of the Babylonian and Egyptian Empires of Lehi's time where the Empire line sat in terms of what would have been the port city of the Elanitic branch of the Red Sea. Though not totally clear, Lehi's Valley of Lemuel and the entire Gulf of Aqaba were completely contained within the Babylonian Empire. This meant that the Babylon Empire contained sea ports on the Persian Culf for trade with India and the east., ports along the Mediterranean for trade in the 'Grear Sea,' and the port city of Aqaba which laid on the King's Highway for trade on down and around Africa. Just what details of importance that port city would have been to Nebuchadnezzar is not totally known, but one must consider that the established trade patterns to Africa and the East out of Aqaba did continue.
Now one can easily imagine Lehi and his sons frequenting the trade port village, city or town for supplies and trade goods. And what better way for young Nephi to spend an afternoon than to watch the shipbuilders of the town fire their fires, pump their bellows, and proceed to build their ships? Yes, Laman and Lemuel would have watched too. And later when they mocked Nephi about his ability to build a ship, the skilled labor of ship builders would have been in their minds as part of their thoughts against Nephi. Who does Nephi think he is? Does he think that by just watching ships being built that he can now build one himself?
According to this perspective, Nephi would have watched ships being built from an exceeding young age, which he was when he arrived in the Valley of Lemuel. When the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship. Nephi did not stammer about wondering what to do. (1 Nephi 17:7-11) He knew that one of the first things he must do is to build a bellows and make the needed tools he had seen being used by the shipbuilders of Ezion-geber. Now Nephi does not ask the Lord how to construct a bellows and just what tools are needed to build a ship and how to make them. Ezion-Geber or Elath had a refinery, a tarshish, of copper product production. Could Nephi not only seen ships being built, but also could Nephi seen or even participated in the 'refining' of copper and even iron into various alloy products? Where does an 'exceedingly young' boy growing up in a desert wilderness obtain such knowledge?
And now comes a most interesting sequence in the scriptures. Christ the Lord instructs Nephi in a particular way of making a ship. It was not like unto the ships Nephi had seen the men making, the timbers where fashioned in uncommon and unique manners. (1 Nephi 18:1-2) Consider if Nephi would have built a ship like those Laman and Lemuel had seen being built, even though they mocked Nephi for thinking he could build a ship, certainly they'd just as quickly discount his ability for copying what other men before him had done. What a ship Nephi must have built with God Jehovah being his guide on how it was to be built.
On another level, consider Joseph, Christ's adoptive father, he was a master carpenter by trade. And here we have Christ, Jehovah, a master carpenter teaching Nephi to build a ship before Jesus ever worked in the carpenter shops of his temporal father, Joseph. One has to wonder what 'awe' Joseph and Mary would be in as they both watched their 'Son of God' not only teaching the Priest of the Temple at age 12 displaying his intellect, but also watching the physical skill and mastery of working the wood of the carpenter's shop. Joseph, would have loved him as his own, but he also knew Him to be the Son of God.
In Final Conclusion
Lehi traveled from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel as discussed in chapter 1. Lehi most likely traveled the known merchant trade routes to near the port city of the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Lehi then struck out into 'true wilderness' without any roads or paths along the eastern arm of the Red Sea for 3 days until arriving in the valley he'd call Lemuel after his second eldest son. That 3 day wilderness trip recorded in the second chapter of 1 Nephi is not to be considered a part of the later 8 year 'sojourn' in the wilderness from the Valley of Lemuel to the first Bountiful as recorded in chapters 16 and 17.
The Valley of Lemuel had become their 'home.' Lehi dwelt there year in and year out for over 8 years. Logically Nephi would state their 'next' journey's time from where they left their 'new' home in the Valley of Lemuel and not from their old home at Jerusalem. It was not one continuous journey in the wilderness from Jerusalem to Bountiful. There was one journey from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel. which took a matter of weeks. And then there was an extended time of living in the Valley of Lemuel. After living or dwelling in the Valley of Lemuel, a second journey in the wilderness was undertaken for over 1000 miles and 8 years to the first Bountiful. Nephi obviously is only referring to the second such journey or sojourn, else an non- reconcilable anachronism exists in the chronology of the Book of Mormon because Nephi cannot be citing the imprisonment of Jeremiah in 1 Nephi 7:14 in the wilderness, between Jerusalem and the Valley of Lemuel at the same time he is building a ship in the place named Bountiful in chapter 17.