Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ether Chapter 15

Millions of the Jaredites are slain in battle—Shiz and Coriantumr assemble all the people to mortal combat—The Spirit of the Lord ceases to strive with them—The Jaredite nation is utterly(1) destroyed—Only Coriantumr remains.
This is a good example of a people "ripened in iniquity."

1  AND it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him.
It must have taken Coriantumr some time to heal from these serious wounds.  All this time they were encamped in the valleys of Corihor and Shurr.  
2  He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.
Many times it takes our adversities to bring us to our senses and to humble us sufficiently to repent.  But in Coriantumer's case it was too late.  When he realized the horrific impact of their wars on his people, he came to see the true cost of their sins and pride.  His sorrow brings a belated desire for repentance. This passage gives us some indication of the size of the Jaredite population.  Appoximately two million men had been killed.  In addition, the wives and children of these men had been killed as well. If we add in two million wives, and an average of two children per family, we would have six million people destroyed.  I believe that this would have been no more than a quarter of the population, and probably less.  But if it were a quarter of the population, it would mean that a rough caluculation of the Jaredite population, in the land of Moron, would be twenty four million, significantly larger than the Nephite population at its peak.  
3  He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and refused to be comforted.
4  And it came to pass that he wrote an epistle unto Shiz, desiring him that he would spare the people, and he would give up the kingdom for the sake of the lives of the people.
5  And it came to pass that when Shiz had received his epistle he wrote an epistle unto Coriantumr, that if he would give himself up, that he might slay him with his own sword, that he would spare the lives of the people.
Shiz, in his pride, rejects Coriantumer's offer to step down and relinquish the kingdom.  He is determined to disprove Ether's prophecy that Coriantumer would be the sole survivor of his people.  
6  And it came to pass that the people repented not of their iniquity; and the people of Coriantumr were stirred up to anger against the people of Shiz; and the people of Shiz were stirred up to anger against the people of Coriantumr; wherefore, the people of Shiz did give battle unto the people of Coriantumr.
Even faced with their destruction, the people do not repent.  They react toward each other with an irrational rage and renew the war.
7  And when Coriantumr saw that he was about to fall he fled again before the people of Shiz.
Coriantumer's forces are on the point of defeat, so they retreat before the army of Shiz.  
8  And it came to pass that he came to the waters of Ripliancum, which, by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all; wherefore, when they came to these waters they pitched their tents; and Shiz also pitched his tents near unto them; and therefore on the morrow they did come to battle.
They flee eastward until they reach the seacoast and can go no farther.  I believe that this would have been on the Bay of Honduras in the Caribbean.  The word Ripliancum was probably a Jaredite word, referring to the vastness of the open sea,which had no equivalent in the Nephite language.  They pitched their tents on the seashore.  During their campaigns they would have lived in temporary shelters.  We don't know what their tents would have looked like, but they were likely of cloth, or some type of woven material.  Shiz, following them, camps nearby for the night, thinking he has them trapped on the coast.
9  And it came to pass that they fought an exceedingly sore battle, in which Coriantumr was wounded again, and he fainted with the loss of blood.
The next day they have a fierce battle wherein Coriantumer is severely wounded again.  He loses so much blood that he faints.  This wound would have seriously weakened him and would have required time to heal. 
10  And it came to pass that the armies of Coriantumr did press upon the armies of Shiz that they beat them, that they caused them to flee before them; and they did flee southward, and did pitch their tents in a place which was called Ogath.
Even with their leader wounded, Coriantumer's army, backed into a corner, fought with a renew vigor.  They beat the forces of Shiz, who retreated to the south, and encamped in a place called Ogath.  This was probably a Jaredite place name unfamiliar to the Nephites.  It would have been located near the eastern seacoast.
11  And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred.
The army of Coriantumer followed the retreating Shizites and camped for the night near the hill Ramah.  This would seem to indicate that Ogath was farther inland than Ramah.  Ramah is equivalent to the hill Cumorah.  Moroni reminds us that this is the same place where his father had hidden all the numerous Nephite sacred records.  
12  And it came to pass that they did gather together all the people upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether.
They apparently needed time to recover from their wounds and battle losses, and remained in their respective camps for four long years.  During this time they recruited all their respective supporters from the surrounding countryside, with the exception of Ether.  The people all join one side or the other.  The term "all the face of the land" would refer to the immediate local area, not the entire continent.  
13  And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz were gathered together to the army of Shiz.
During all this time, Ether is concealed nearby, observing all the doings and conflicts of the people.  How did they all survive during these campaigns and extended time in the field?  The wild game must have been depleted to fill their needs, but they also might have been able to harvest wild fruits and plants, and may have even seeded and harvested crops during these four years.  One thing seems fairly obvious, they were probably in a moderate climate where they were not exposed to severe weather conditions. 
14  Wherefore, they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive.
15  And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would,with their wives and their children—both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war—they did march forth one against another to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not.
After they had recruited all the people who were available in the surrounding area, including men, women and children, they commenced the war once again.  It is interesting that they armed the women and children as well as the men.  These would probably have been children at least 10-12 years of age.  They were all provided with armor and weapons.  The battle lasted all the first day without either side prevailing. 
16  And it came to pass that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that they did rend the air exceedingly.
When they returned to their camps they mourned the loss of those killed that day.  Many of these would have been the women, children and the aged -- the weaker members of the army.  
17  And it came to pass that on the morrow they did go again to battle, and great and terrible was that day; nevertheless, they conquered not, and when the night came again they did rend the air with their cries, and their howlings, and their mournings, for the loss of the slain of their people.
The next day they returned to the battleground and that days loss is worse than the previous day, but still neither army prevailed.  During the dark of the night they again howled for the loss of their family members.  
18  And it came to pass that Coriantumr wrote again an epistle unto Shiz, desiring that he would not come again to battle, but that he would take the kingdom, and spare the lives of the people.
Coriantumer, still feeling a sense of remorse, offered a second time to forfeit the kingdom, but apparently Shiz refused again.  
19  But behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed; wherefore they went again to battle.
The Spirit of the Lord had completely withdrawn from them.  Satan had complete control over their thoughts and actions.  This is apparently the state of those who reach the level of "fulness of iniquity."  They have no wisdom.  They cannot make wise or intelligent decisions, do not perceive truth, and have no feelings of love, compassion, or concern.  
20  And it came to pass that they fought all that day, and when the night came they slept upon their swords.
They fought again the third day with neither side prevailing, but probably with severely reduced numbers and increased mourning.  They slept on their swords to be ready for battle at a moments notice, and to protect them from the "curse on the land."  
21  And on the morrow they fought even until the night came.
They fought again for the fourth straight day. 
22  And when the night came they were drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine; and they slept again upon their swords.
What does the term "drunken with anger" mean?  Probably that they had uninhibited, uncontrolled anger.  That they were irrationally reckless and focused completely on revenge.  
23  And on the morrow they fought again; and when the night came they had all fallen by the sword save it were fifty and two of the people of Coriantumr, and sixty and nine of the people of Shiz.
After five days of fighting there were only 52 of Coriantumer's combatants left (probably all male), and 69 of the Shizites.  Here Shiz's army has the advantage.
24  And it came to pass that they slept upon their swords that night, and on the morrow they fought again, and they contended in their might with their swords and with their shields, all that day.
25  And when the night came there were thirty and two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and seven of the people of Coriantumr.
On the sixth day of continual, strenuous fighting, 35 more of Coriantumer's men are killed, while 37 of Shiz's followers die.   
26  And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow.  And they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men.
The Jaredites, at least these survivors, were large, strong men.  They realized that they were probably going to die and prepared themselves for this outcome. 
27  And it came to pass that they fought for the space of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood.
On the seventh day of battle, they fought for three hours and were all (or mostly) wounded to the point that they fainted from loss of blood.  
28  And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives; but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr or he would perish by the sword.
When Coriantumer and his men had partially recovered, they fled for their lives trying to avoid the foolhardy suicide staring them in the face.  Shiz, seeing their flight, roused his men and followed them swearing that he would kill Coriantumer, or die trying.  
29  Wherefore, he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword.  And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.
We are not told whether they traveled that night, but the next day (the eighth day of battle) Shiz overtook Coriantumer and his men and the battle commenced once more.  In apparently furious battle all the men of both Shiz and Coriantumer are killed.  Either Shiz and Coriantumer were the largest and strongest warriors, and thus lasted the longest, or the other warriors protected their leaders up to the last.  Shiz was wounded to the point that he fainted from loss of blood. 
30  And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz.
Coriantumer, apparently in better condition that Shiz, rested by leaning on his sword.  In my mind, this would mean that his sword was in the range of three feet long in order to be long enough to lean on.  When Coriantumer gets his breath, he approaches the fallen Shiz, lifts his sword, and decapitates him, thus winning this suicidal contest and fulfilling Ether's prophecy.
31  And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.
Critics make fun of this event, however, anyone who has killed a chicken can visualize the scene.  The decapitated chicken will flap its wings and sometimes even run around for a few seconds.  In a similar manner, Shiz reflexively rises up on his hands, gasps for breath, and collapses.
32  And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life.
Coriantumer, completely exhausted by now, and perhaps wounded severely as well, faints, still alive, but comistose.  Ether had earlier prophesied that Coriantumer would be the last of his people to survive, and that he would be buried by others who would come to inhabit the land.  This prophecy was fulfilled, and now the Mulekites appear on the scene and fulfill the last part of the prophecy. We read in Omni:20  
"And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.  And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people.  And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons."
The Mulekites were apparently on their way down to inhabit what would be known as the Land of Zarahemla (named after their leader) when they found Coriantumer, problably somewhere near Cumorah.  This would have been in approximately 200 BC.  This scripture does not tell us that the Mulekites buried Coriantumer, but according to the prophecy of Ether, this was to be his end.  
33  And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth.  And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written) and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.
Ether was inspired to leave his hiding place and examine the final battle scenes.  He saw that all the prophecies that he had received from the Lord had all been fulfilled.  Ether finished writing his record and then hid it in such an obvious way that the Limhi expediton would find them. The records were probably not hidden in such a way that they would have been difficult to find otherwise the Limhi party would not have found them.  We have no indication that they were inspired or guided by the Lord on their journey.  They were probably the first people who passed that way following the Jaredite extinction.  This was apparently all planned by the Lord for the future event.  Ether would have had to travel from Cumorah (or Ramah), where the last battles took place, to near Moron, where some of the early Jaredite battles took place.  I believe Cumorah was the mountain presently called Cerro San Gil in southeastern Guatemala.  The farthest southern battlefields, which the Limhi party would have encounter first, would have been near the city of Lib, which I believe was near Managua, Nicaragua.  If this is correct, Ether would have traveled a considerable distance to hide the twenty four gold plates.  
Reviewing again the account of the Limhi party:
"And the king [Limhi speaking to Ammon] said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage.
And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.
And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold.
And behold, also, they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound.
And again, they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust; and there is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates (Mosiah 8:7-11)."  
Moroni explained that Ether's history was much larger than what we have in the current condensed version.  He only wrote a small part of the Jaredite record.  
34  Now the last words which are written by Ether are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God.  Amen.
Ether concluded his history by reflecting on the unknown end of his life.  He was alone and all his people had been killed.  What is left for him?  He leaves his destiny in the hands of the Lord.  All he was really concerned about is his final destination in the Celestial Kingdom.  

End Note: Hugh Nibley, in his book Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites (p. 235), comments on the ancient practice of royal battles.  
The insane wars of the Jaredite chiefs ended in the complete annihilation of both sides, with the kings the last to go. The same thing had almost happened earlier in the days of Akish, when a civil war between him and his sons reduced the population to thirty (Ether 9:12). This all seems improbable to us, but two circumstances peculiar to Asiatic warfare explain why the phenomenon is by no means without parallel: (1) Since every war is strictly a personal contest between kings, the battle must continue until one of the kings falls or is taken. (2) And yet things are so arranged that the king must be very last to fall, the whole army existing for the sole purpose of defending his person. This is clearly seen in the game of chess, in which all pieces are expendable except the king, who can never be taken. "The shah in chess," writes M. E. Moghadam, "is not killed and does not die. The game is terminated when the shah is pressed to a position from which he cannot escape. This is in line with all good traditions of chess playing, and back of it the tradition of capturing the king in war rather than slaying him whenever this could be accomplished."36 You will recall the many instances in the book of Ether in which kings were kept in prison for many years but not killed. In the code of medieval chivalry, taken over from central Asia, the person of the king is sacred, and all others must perish in his defense. After the battle the victor may do what he will with his rival—and infinitely ingenious tortures were sometimes devised for the final reckoning—but as long as the war went on, the king could not die, for whenever he did die, the war was over, no matter how strong his surviving forces. Even so, Shiz was willing to spare all of Coriantumr's subjects if he could only behead Coriantumr with his own sword. In that case, of course, the subjects would become his own. The circle of warriors, "large and mighty men as to the strength of men" (Ether 15:26) that fought around their kings to the last man, represent that same ancient institution, the sacred "shieldwall," which our own Norse ancestors took over from Asia and which meets us again and again in the wars of the tribes, in which on more than one occasion the king actually was the last to perish. So let no one think the final chapter of Ether is at all fanciful or overdrawn. Wars of extermination are a standard institution in the history of Asia.


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