One king succeeds another—Some of the kings are righteous; others are wicked—When righteousness prevails, the people are blessed and prospered by the Lord.
1 AND it came to pass that Shez, who was a descendant of Heth—for Heth had perished by the famine, and all his household save it were Shez—wherefore, Shez began to build up again a broken people.
Shez was the next king, although there was not much prestige in being king over a "broken" people . This verse tells us that he was a descendant of Het, but the genealogy in chapter one indicates that he was the son of Heth. Heth and all his family, had died during the famine. This gives us some idea of how severe the famine was. If the king could not get food, the situation was indeed dire. Shez attempted to re-establish the kingdom with a “broken” people. This probably means that the people had been “broken” in numbers (many deaths), “broken” spiritually and humbled, and “broken” temporally (reduced to poverty).
2 And it came to pass that Shez did remember the destruction of his fathers, and he did build up a righteous kingdom; for he remembered what the Lord had done in bringing Jared and his brother across the deep; and he did walk in the ways of the Lord; and he begat sons and daughters.
With the recent calamity fresh in his mind, Shez remembered the Lord and followed his ways. It is obvious that the memory of the Jaredite origins was kept alive in the traditions of the people. Shez established a righteous kingdom, and probably encouraged and taught his people in the ways of righteousness. This would include avoiding idolatry.
3 And his eldest son, whose name was Shez, did rebel against him; nevertheless, Shez was smitten by the hand of a robber, because of his exceeding riches, which brought peace again unto his father.
His eldest son, who was his namesake, rebelled against Shez, the king. The son was old enough to have accumulated riches. Shez, the son, was killed by a robber before he could accomplish his designs. This would imply that all in the kingdom were not righteous. At least, the son and this robber hadn't repented.
4 And it came to pass that his father did build up many cities upon the face of the land, and the people began again to spread over all the face of the land. And Shez did live to an exceedingly old age; and he begat Riplakish. And he died, and Riplakish reigned in his stead.
Built up cities - what does that mean? The cities of this time period were centered around a central plaza with an elevated platform. If they were apostate, they would probably construct a stepped pyramid, or ziggurat, in the central area. Shez started many of these community centers, spread outward from the capitol of Moron. It appears that these people did not have private property and everything belonged jointly to the community. Individuals would have been assigned ground to care for, to farm, to construct homes, etc. Shez had a long life, perhaps in the 100-200 year range. His last son was Riplakish. This is another example of the youngest son becoming king.
5 And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men's shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.
Riplakish was of the rising generation. He had not experienced the famine, being born much later. He did not follow in the footsteps of his father, but choose to live a worldly lifestyle, with many wives and concubines. He supported his extravagant living by heavily taxing his subjects. With the tax revenue he also built spacious buildings, palaces, and possibly idolatrous temples. Most of these would have been for his own benefit and use.
6 And he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death.
He constructed a majestic and spectacular throne for himself, and there he would sit and judge the people. This is reminiscent of King Nimrod's throne and it may have even been patterned after it for they had a record of this history.
|Magnificent throne in Palace|
of Heavenly Purity, China
Louis Ginsberg describes Nimrod's throne: “[Nimrod] did all he could to make [the people] pay Divine honors unto himself. He set himself up as a god, and made a seat for himself in imitation of the seat of God. It was a tower built out of a round rock, and on it he placed a throne of cedar wood, upon which arose, one above the other, four thrones, of iron, copper, silver, and gold. Crowning all, upon the golden throne, lay a precious stone, round in shape and gigantic in size. This served him as a seat, and as he sate upon it, all nations came and paid him Divine homage.” (Louis Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, V. I, ch. 4)
For those disobedient souls who would not comply with his demands, or were not able to pay his taxes, he built prisons and imprisoned many of his subjects. Any of these prisoners who refused to work was executed.
It is instructive to compare the reign of a righteous king with that of an unrighteous one, such as this Riplakish. The Nephite king Benjamin (see Mosiah 2) was such a good king, and his example was diametrically opposed to that of Riplakish.
7 Wherefore he did obtain all his fine work, yea, even his fine gold he did cause to be refined in prison; and all manner of fine workmanship he did cause to be wrought in prison. And it came to pass that he did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations.
The prison slaves were required to do all kind of special work for the king's pleasure, including the refining and working of gold. The people were afflicted with his wickedness - what does this mean? They were taxed heavily, he was a terrible moral example, and he probably did not judge fairly in disputes brought before him. He needed large amounts of money to support his whoredoms resulting in additional taxation . In addition, he probably practiced and engaged in abominable rites such as human sacrifice, which were current in the ancient American cultures.
8 And when he had reigned for the space of forty and two years the people did rise up in rebellion against him; and there began to be war again in the land, insomuch that Riplakish was killed, and his descendants were driven out of the land.
Finally, after 42 years of his tyranny, the people rebelled against him and he was killed in the ensuing civil war. We are not told who instigated this rebellion, or who became the new king. After the death of Riplakish, all his family and relatives were driven out of the land, probably meaning the greater land of Moron. Where did they go? They probably establish another group and city outside the influence of the new king.
9 And it came to pass after the space of many years, Morianton, (he being a descendant of Riplakish) gathered together an army of outcasts, and went forth and gave battle unto the people; and he gained power over many cities; and the war became exceedingly sore, and did last for the space of many years; and he did gain power over all the land, and did establish himself king over all the land.
Many years later Morianton, who was one of this group of descendants of Riplakish who had been driven out of the land, recruited an army of outcasts from among these, and other outcasts, and attempted to retake Moron. The war went on for many years, with numerous casualties. But gradually Morianton gained control over the land, city by city, and region by region, until he finally defeated the old king and assumed the position for himself.
10 And after that he had established himself king he did ease the burden of the people, by which he did gain favor in the eyes of the people, and they did anoint him to be their king.
Establishing himself as king may have been a slow process, and it seems that at first he didn't have the support of the people. But Morianton wisely reduced the burden of his subjects by which means he gained their favor. Finally, they officially anointed him as their king. One would think that the new king, after Riplakish, would have eased the burden of the people, but apparently he hadn't, and continued the taxation and perhaps the slave labor.
11 And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself because of his many whoredoms; wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord.
Morianton was a just king, as far as the people were concerned. However he was not a righteous king in the sense of his own morality. His adultery and fornication were offensive to the Lord and he was cut off from His presence.
12 And it came to pass that Morianton built up many cities, and the people became exceedingly rich under his reign, both in buildings, and in gold and silver, and in raising grain, and in flocks, and herds, and such things which had been restored unto them.
Morianton was responsible for constructing, or improving many cities in the land. He promoted commerce and the people prospered under his rule; in buildings (public and private?), in mining and accumulating gold and silver, and in their agriculture (this was probably an agricultural society). Things restored to them - what does this mean? Possibly Morianton restored things that Riplakish or the previous king had taken away.
13 And Morianton did live to an exceedingly great age, and then he begat Kim; and Kim did reign in the stead of his father; and he did reign eight years, and his father died. And it came to pass that Kim did not reign in righteousness, wherefore he was not favored of the Lord.
Morianton, like many of the Jaredie kings, lived a long life. Apparently the Lord blessed him with longevity, even though he was personally wicked, because he had blessed and prospered the lives of his subjects. In his old age he fathers Kim. When Kim is of age and capable, Morianton anoints him king, and Kim reigns in his stead. Another example of the youngest son assuming the monarchy. This practice is known as ultimogeniture and although not as common as primogeniture, is practiced in some cultures (see discussion in Wikipedia) Morianton lives for another 8 years after Kim is anointed king, then dies. Kim did not reign in righteousness. Apparently, he was worse than Morianton, and as a result was not blessed or prospered by the Lord.
14 And his brother did rise up in rebellion against him, by which he did bring him into captivity; and he did remain in captivity all his days; and he begat sons and daughters in captivity, and in his old age he begat Levi; and he died.
Kim's brother (probably an older brother) rebelled against him. War is not mentioned, but it is probable that Kim was overthrown and taken captive in battle. Kim was a captive (and possibly a slave) the rest of his life (refer to commentary by Hugh Nibley in Ch. 7:7). As has been customary among the Jaredites, Kim was allowed to maintain a family, and fathered children while in captivity. In his old age he fathered Levi (probably his youngest son), then died.
15 And it came to pass that Levi did serve in captivity after the death of his father, for the space of forty and two years. And he did make war against the king of the land, by which he did obtain unto himself the kingdom.
Levi was kept in captivity for an additional 42 years following the death of Kim. This would probably have also been the case with all the rest of Kim's family. Somehow Levi was able to break away and accumulated an army. This was probably done outside the king's domains, possibly in the wilderness. Levi made war against the king, defeated him and his army, and became king. We are not told who the king was or what happened to him. He was probably a different one than Kim's brother mentioned in verse 14. The brother of Kim who usurped the kingdom would have likely been dead by now.
16 And after he had obtained unto himself the kingdom he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; and the people did prosper in the land; and he did live to a good old age, and begat sons and daughters; and he also begat Corom, whom he anointed king in his stead.
Levi was a righteous king and was blessed of the Lord. How did he know to be good? He certainly didn't have a good example in his father, unless Kim repented during his captivity. But even someone raised in an evil environment can choose righteousness if he follows the promptings of the Lord's Spirit. The people prospered under Levi's rule, and he was blessed with a long life. In his old age he fathered Corom who was anointed king in his place. Another example of the youngest son.
17 And it came to pass that Corom did that which was good in the sight of the Lord all his days; and he begat many sons and daughters; and after he had seen many days he did pass away, even like unto the rest of the earth; and Kish reigned in his stead.
Corom (another example of mimation) was righteous all his long life and had a large posterity. His son Kish reigned in his place (see genealogy in chapter one).
18 And it came to pass that Kish passed away also, and Lib reigned in his stead.
Lib, the son of Kish, assumes the throne, presumably on the death of Kish.
19 And it came to pass that Lib also did that which was good in the sight of the Lord. And in the days of Lib the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Wherefore they did go into the land southward, to hunt food for the people of the land, for the land was covered with animals of the forest. And Lib also himself became a great hunter.
20 And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.
The people of Lib constructed a large city by the narrow neck of land. This is an important geographical reference. The city was built by the narrow neck, by a place where the sea divided the land. I suggest that this place is on the shore of Lake Nicaragua where Zapatera Island is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. Refer to blog on this subject.
21 And they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants.
While the entire area of the land north of the narrow neck (ie the lands of Moron and Desolation) was covered with inhabitants, their dwellings, and their cities, the land southward (or the land of Zarahemla of the Nephites) was intentionally preserved as a wilderness for hunting. This means that by royal decree, no Jaredite cities, villages, or habitations were allowed in the land southwards (with the possible exception of renegades or outcasts). As a result, there should be no Jaredite (or Olmec era) ruins south of the narrow neck of land.
22 And they were exceedingly industrious, and they did buy and sell and traffic one with another, that they might get gain.
During the reign of Lib (and possibly other times as well), the Jaredites were engaged in extensive manufacturing and commerce. This would have involved community markets, traveling traders, the manufacture of goods to be sold outside their communities, etc. Long distance trade was common among pre-conquest peoples. This would imply that they had developed a specialized culture with farmers, tradesmen, artisans, merchants, etc. This verse, and the following verses, give us a good indication of how advanced the Jaredite civilization had become.
23 And they did work in all manner of ore, and they did make gold, and silver, and iron, and brass, and all manner of metals; and they did dig it out of the earth; wherefore, they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper. And they did work all manner of fine work.
They were skill in the metallurgy of gold, silver, iron, copper, brass (bronze?), and other metals. The scholars deny the existence of iron and bronze in the pre-conquest Americas. However, I believe we can trust the word of these historians. Iron and bronze tend to decompose over a thousand year period in a tropical environment, which may account for their absence in the archaeological record. They had the skill to find and develop ore bodies, as well as to mine the ore. They left large waste dumps near their mining operations and these should still be evident today, although disguised by tropical vegetation. They had the skill to manufacture many beautiful articles, probably speaking of metalwork.
24 And they did have silks, and fine-twined linen; and they did work all manner of cloth, that they might clothe themselves from their nakedness.
They possessed the skill and knowledge to manufacture all types of cloth to be used for clothing. This included silk, linen, and other unmentioned cloth. The knowledge to make silk required special knowledge and skill.
The following is from the paper "Jaredite Silk." Silk (or silks) is mentioned in the Book of Mormon in five separate places. Two of these are Jaredite references (Ether 9:17; 10:24) and three Nephite (1 Ne. 13:7-8; Alma 1:29; Alma 4:6). The references in Ether and Alma imply that the Jaredites and Nephites at least possessed silk garments, and probably produced them.
These references have generated criticism from critics of the Book of Mormon because silk production was unknown except in China until after the time of Christ. So the question naturally arises "how did Book of Mormon peoples acquire this technology?"
If we assume the Book of Mormon claim is correct and that these people actually did have the knowledge and skill to manufacture silk fabric, what are the implications of this assumption? In my opinion the possession of silk implies that the Book of Mormon peoples had early contact with China. Specifically, that the Jaredites passed through China during its early history, crossed the Pacific Ocean, and landed on the western coast of the new world. (the paper then discusses sericulture and its history)
There are a number of silkworm moths which are native to the Americas which could have been used by the ancient inhabitants to make silk if they were aware of the process. John Sorenson mentions that some of the early Spanish historians note the presence of a wild silkworm in Mesoamerica, and that wild silk was spun and woven in certain areas (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 232).
Now back to the Book of Mormon. If silk were in fact produced by the ancient Jaredites ... what are the implications of this fact? First it implies that the Jaredites had contact with the ancient Chinese (although it is possible that they developed the process independently, this is highly unlikely). Second, it implies that the Jaredites traveled eastward to the Pacific, rather than the western Atlantic route.
Their Chinese contact could have been a primary one, as they migrated eastward through Asia. If this were the case, they would have been in China during its earliest history and according to the history remained there for at least four years before crossing the Pacific. They could have easily acquired silk making skills during this period of contact, and taken these skills with them to the new world. On the other hand, the contact could have been through a secondary source such as Chinese mariners who may have later crossed the Pacific bringing the secret with them (such voyages have never been proven but are mentioned in Chinese legend). My contention is that the knowledge was gained while the Jaredites were in China.
25 And they did make all manner of tools to till the earth, both to plow and to sow, to reap and to hoe, and also to thrash.
They made all types of agricultural implements to assist in the cultivation and harvesting of their produce. Some of these may have been of their own invention, but most would have been similar to those used in their homeland of Sumer.
26 And they did make all manner of tools with which they did work their beasts.
These tools would have included many devices to use in managing and harnessing their animals, especially those used in the fields and for construction. This verse may have special reference to the equipment they used to work with the elephants, cureloms and cumoms.
27 And they did make all manner of weapons of war. And they did work all manner of work of exceedingly curious workmanship.
They manufactured all different types of weapons to use in their defense, and in their wars. These were probably defensive in nature as no wars are mentioned during this time period. Curious workmanship usually means "skilled" workmanship.
The Jaredite record mentions the use of “weapons of war, ..shields, and breastplates, and headplates” (Ether 15:15). The sword is the weapon most mentioned at the time of the last battles. It was probably 3-4 feet long as Coriantumr “leaned” on his sword to rest before killing Shiz (Ether 15:30). Even women and children were armed and fought during the final battles (Ether 15:15). The people of Limhi found rusted swords and brass and copper breastplates among the debris of the Jaredite destruction (Mos.8:11). A literal interpretation of the scriptures would indicate that the Jaredites were the first peoples on the American continent following the flood. As such, they likely introduced the working of obsidian from Asia. Obsidian was very useful in weaponry and for knives, and significant trade and commerce for this product existed throughout Central America.
It is uncertain whether the Jaredites used the bow and arrow. It is not mentioned in the Jaredite record, and Olmec/Maya art work, while illustrating the use of the spear, knife, ax and club, does not illustrate the bow. However, pre-Classic sites, pre-dating Nephite times, have yielded small lightweight points which may have been used as arrow heads.
At the time of the conquest, the native Americans were using a wooden club (macuahuitl-the Aztec name) which the Spaniards called a sword. It had a groove cut into each side into which obsidian blades were fastened. It was so sharp and effective that it could behead a horse in one blow. They also used the atlatl or spear thrower which increased the range and velocity of a spear.
28 And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it.
Moroni, speaking as a historian, who was highly qualified to make such an assessment, doesn’t exclude his own people when he observes "and never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord" (Ether 10:28). They were a very advanced culture and prospered because of their ingenuity and the blessings of the Lord. We remember the Lord's promise to them: “And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth.” (Chapter 1:43)
29 And it came to pass that Lib did live many years, and begat sons and daughters; and he also begat Hearthom.
Lib had a long life and a large posterity. His son Hearthom was apparently the last son born in his old age. Another example of the youngest son inheriting the throne.
|Captives before king Darius|
When Hearthom had ruled for 24 yrs he was dethroned. I assume that this would have been in a battle or civil war. We are not given any details about it. He was captured and served the rest of his life in slavery. As did his son Heth, and grandson Aaron, and great grandson Amnigaddah, and great great grandson Coriantum. So we had five generations of the royal line in captivity. It also was probably a period of peace under the opposing line of kings.
31 And he begat Heth, and Heth lived in captivity all his days. And Heth begat Aaron, and Aaron dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Amnigaddah, and Amnigaddah also dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Coriantum, and Coriantum dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Com.
32 And it came to pass that Com drew away the half of the kingdom. And he reigned over the half of the kingdom forty and two years; and he went to battle against the king, Amgid, and they fought for the space of many years, during which time Com gained power over Amgid, and obtained power over the remainder of the kingdom.
Finally, Com, the son of Coriantum, broke free of his slavery and enticed half the population to follow him. We are not told whether this was through warfare or the peaceful succession of that portion of the population. He assumed the rule over that portion of the land and ruled as king there for 42 years. Following this time, he attacked his opposing king and the war rages on for a long period of time. Finally, Com apparently defeated Amgid, the opposing king, and “gained power over him” whatever that means. Com then assumed control of all the kingdom. Amgid was apparently the last of the line of rival kings who had taken control during the reign of Hearthrom.
33 And in the days of Com there began to be robbers in the land; and they adopted the old plans, and administered oaths after the manner of the ancients, and sought again to destroy the kingdom.
At this time another secret society was formed using the ancient rites and oaths that were available in their histories. Their intent was to overthrow the king. Remember Moroni's warning about these combinations that “whoso buildeth [them] up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries (Ch. 8:25).”
34 Now Com did fight against them much; nevertheless, he did not prevail against them.
Apparently Com was a righteous man (as we shall see in the next chapter) and tried to root out these evil conspirators, but was unsuccessful. They were hidden and could not be discovered.