Monday, December 10, 2012

Ether Chapter 6

The Jaredite barges are driven by the winds to the promised land—The people praise the Lord for his goodness—Orihah is appointed king over them—Jared and his brother pass away in death.

1 AND now I, Moroni, proceed to give the record of Jared and his brother.
Moroni discontinues his commentary and resumes the narrative of the Jaredite history.
2 For it came to pass after the Lord had prepared the stones which the brother of Jared had carried up into the mount, the brother of Jared came down out of the mount, and he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels.
We are not told how long Moriancumer was up on the mountain. It could have been only a day, or a longer period involving intense fasting and prayer. They mounted the luminescent stones in each end of the ships.  These were sufficient to give them light when the ships were sealed. We are not told if the vessels were open inside, but I would imagine that they were divided into compartments, especially compartments separating the people and animals, and other compartments for supplies. How much light did the stones emit? It could have been as little as a candle, or as much as a small light bulb.
3 And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.
In a sense, this is symbolic of life here on the earth. We are constantly in spiritual darkness, but the Lord has give us the light of the Spirit to illuminate our perilous journey here in mortality.
4 And it came to pass that when they had prepared all manner of food, that thereby they might subsist upon the water, and also food for their flocks and herds, and whatsoever beast or animal or fowl that they should carry with them—and it came to pass that when they had done all these things they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.
This event is passed over quickly, but it was a momentous undertaking - to prepare and store a years supply of food for the people, as well as all the animals that they carried with them. For example, an adult horse would need about 2-3 tons of hay for the years journey. We are not told exactly which animals they took with them, but I am sure that they took an assortment of each species, needed to populate the new world, which had probably been vacant of animal life since the time of the flood. They could have lessened the amount of food and space needed if they had taken only young animals with them. It is likely that they were previously aware of the time they would be on the water, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to prepare properly for the voyage. Water isn't mentioned, but would have been an important item. They probably couldn't have carried enough with them for the entire 344 days. However, it would have been possible to collect rainwater from the many storms to replenish their supplies. The account doesn't mention how the group was divided up, but it probably would have been by family groups. The animals probably weren't divided up equally among the ships, but specific species assigned to certain ships. This voyage was to be longer than the voyage of Noah and his family at the time of the flood.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
The first point is that the Lord caused this wind -- it was not the normal wind pattern.  Second, it would have created tempestuous conditions for the entire voyage.  Third, the wind would have influenced the ocean currents, which is what would have propelled the ships.  They did not use sails, so were not propelled by the wind  in a significant way. 
Due to the rotation of the earth, the prevailing winds always blow from east to west around the globe.  These winds normally blow between the thirtieth and sixtieth parallels in the northern hemisphere.  
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
How deep were they buried? It does not seem likely that they would have been driven deeply into the sea, but only been covered periodically by mountain waves. However, this verse seems to imply that they had to call on the Lord to bring them up from the depths. Perhaps the violent weather caused so much turbulence that they were driven deeper. For their entire voyage, they were completely dependent upon the Lord. One would constantly be on edge. It would have been difficult to rest or sleep and anxiety would have been the norm.
What was the environment on-board these ships? It would have been a dark, humid, claustrophobic place, with frequent violent rocking and shaking. For those prone to sea sickness, it would not have been a pleasant experience. They would have know when they were buried underwater as it would be quiet and there would be no noise from the wind. If the ships were designed as Hugh Nibley suggests, with extended prows elevated on each end (or peaked at both ends forming a "crescent shape" ), these would have kept the ships upright and oriented so that they would not roll sideways. The question arises, how did the ships stay together, and how could they communicate? I do not see how they could have remained together. They must naturally have separated, unless the Lord, by miraculous means, kept them together. They could not have communicated between ships with the technology available to them, however, the Lord may have provided some miraculous means for them to keep in contact with each other.
In this verse, the Jaredite ships are compared with Noah's ark. It is likely that they were built after the same pattern, only smaller.

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.
Some have suggested that the Jaredites must have stopped periodically during their journey to re-provision and take on drinking water. However, as we learn from these verses, they had no means of steering the ships, and were completely at the mercy of the wind and currents. Therefore it is highly unlikely that they stopped anywhere during the journey, or disembarked for any reason.
9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
In this way they maintained their faith and confidence in the Lord and avoided the negative thoughts of a watery doom. This verse suggests that they continued their devotions during the night. Did they not sleep?
10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
11 And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.
The ocean current in the northern Pacific that would have transported the Jaredite ships is the Japanese (or Kuroshio) current. This current flows northward from the Phillipines, past Japan, curving east under Alaska, and then flowing southward along the west coast of North America, then circling back along the equator to the Philipines to complete the circle. This current travels at a flow rate of between 25-75 miles per day. The distance from the shores of China to my suggested landing site at the Bay of Fonseca, in Central America (see verse 12), is a distance of 9,900 miles. Traveling 9,900 miles in 344 days would give a rate of 29 miles per day. One would think that with the "furious wind" that the speed of the ships would have been faster. However, the tumultuous weather conditions would have actually slowed their travel speed lengthening the journey. We can use the raft journey of Thor Heyerdahl from Peru to Micronesia on the Peruvian Current as a comparison. On this journey he traveled at a rate of 40 miles per day.

12 And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.
Where did they land? If they crossed the Pacific, it would have been on the west coast of North America. According to my model Jared's group would have landed near the Gulf of Fonseca, a perfect bay shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. However, it is possible that they didn't all land in the same area. Some of them may have made landfall farther north. One Aztec legend has their ancestors migrating south from the region near San Diego, California. Also, some of the early formative people of Mexico appear to have first developed on the coastal area of Oaxaca, Mexico.
They must have felt extremely relieved and grateful for their safe arrival and undoubtedly offered abundant prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving.
13 And it came to pass that they went forth upon the face of the land, and began to till the earth.
Soon after their arrival they begin the serious business of growing food to provide for their needs. This would have been at a time and season appropriate for growing crops, and would have precluded severe winter weather or drought conditions. The Lord had earlier commanded the people to spread out and populate the earth. It is likely that the Jaredites did this, at least to a limited extent. It is possible that the family groups separated and established separate colonies, although this is speculation and isn't mentioned in the record.
14 And Jared had four sons; and they were called Jacom, and Gilgah, and Mahah, and Orihah.
The four sons of Jared are listed. Note that Orihah was apparently the youngest son.
15 And the brother of Jared also begat sons and daughters.
To my mind, this verse suggests that these children were born (or begotten) after they left Sumer. Note that daughters are mentioned for Moriancumer, but not for Jared. However, in verse 20 it mentions that Jared has eight daughters. Also in verse 20 the exact number of children born to Jared and Moriancumer is given.
16 And the friends of Jared and his brother were in number about twenty and two souls; and they also begat sons and daughters before they came to the promised land; and therefore they began to be many.
This was undoubtedly a count of the adult men in the company. These friends had also borne many children before they arrived in the Americas so the population began to increase. This verse gives the impression that Moriancumer, Jared, and their friends were still together in one group contrary to my earlier suggestion that they had separated. This would mean that the ships landed relatively close together. How many is “many?” Allowing at least four children for each of the friends, Jared and Moriancumer and their wives, four children for Jared, and probably 10-20 children for Moriancumer, we would have a population of at least 160.
17 And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.
Moriancumer and Jared taught the people the correct principles of the gospel. They probably established a church with the proper ordinances and covenants. “Were taught from on high” implies revelation or the ministering of angels. Some have suggested that the Jaredites were not Christians, in the proper sense of the word. I don't believe that could have been the case when you consider all the miracles and revelations that Moriancumer experienced. Although they still possessed a knowledge of their past origin in Sumer, they started out on a firm gospel footing, and it was only later that apostasy began to creep in.
18 And it came to pass that they began to spread upon the face of the land, and to multiply and to till the earth; and they did wax strong in the land.
Here they begin to spread abroad as the Lord had wanted them to do in the beginning. They were probably inclined to bear many children and were blessed with a high rate of birth, so the population quickly increased. In the beginning, they would have established agricultural communities. Only after achieving a certain level of population could they begin developing “advanced” communities. “Waxed strong in the land” probably means gaining control of their environment. I doubt whether they had any enemies at this point in time.
19 And the brother of Jared began to be old, and saw that he must soon go down to the grave; wherefore he said unto Jared: Let us gather together our people that we may number them, that we may know of them what they will desire of us before we go down to our graves.
As they advanced in age, Jared and Moriancumer would have been concerned about the future governance of their posterity. By now they would probably have been close to 200 years old. They gathered their people together for a census. We are not given the results of this census, but it was apparently an ancient tradition to annually gather the people for such a count, and especially when a change in leadership is to be made, or the old leader sustained anew. Nibley suggests that it would have been done annually on a specific day.
20 And accordingly the people were gathered together. Now the number of the sons and the daughters of the brother of Jared were twenty and two souls; and the number of sons and daughters of Jared were twelve, he having four sons.
The people were gathered to the capitol, Moron, for this special meeting, and probably came in from a wide area. It is likely that Moriancumer had more than one wife and as a result had a large family. Jared has a fairly large family as well, and his daughters are mentioned.
21 And it came to pass that they did number their people; and after that they had numbered them, they did desire of them the things which they would that they should do before they went down to their graves.
After they had conducted the national census, they polled the people to see what they desired of them before their deaths. One gets the impression that the government of Jared and Moriancumer was fairly egalitarian and not at all repressive. The people looked to them for leadership, but they were probably more on the order of judges or chiefs. The people apparently had a lot of freedom with very little interference. Neither Jared or Moriancumer could be classified as a monarch.
22 And it came to pass that the people desired of them that they should anoint one of their sons to be a king over them.
They are surprised by the people's request. Even though they had the fairly recent experience of an oppressive monarchy under King Nimrod, they wanted to return to this same type of government. It reminds one of the “pig returning to his wallow.” This must have been a little offensive to Moriancumer who had tried to instill a love of freedom in his people. But the people must have still retained many of the old Sumerian traditions as we will clearly see later on in their history. Moriancumer and Jared are still regarded as the primary leaders, so they asked for one of their sons to be the new king.
23 And now behold, this was grievous unto them. And the brother of Jared said unto them: Surely this thing leadeth into captivity.
Jared and Moriancumer were pained by this unexpected turn of events. Moriancumer probably reminded them of their servitude under King Nimrod. He warned them that they could easily return to such a condition under the rule of kings. At the very least, their freedom would be limited and their resources taxed.
Mosiah (in the Book of Mormon) and Samuel (in the Bible) give discourses on the problems with monarchy. I will quote the one from Samuel. When the people of Israel decided they didn't want the Lord's judges to govern them, but wanted to have a king like their neighbors the Canaanites and Philistines, the Lord reveal the following to Samuel which he was to tell the people:
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day (1 Sam. 8:10-17).”
24 But Jared said unto his brother: Suffer them that they may have a king. And therefore he said unto them: Choose ye out from among our sons a king, even whom ye will.
Jared, apparently does not have the inspired foresight that Moriancomer possesses, and gives in to the desires of the people. Moriancumer, seeing that he cannot persuade them to choose the path of freedom, relents and tells them to chose one of their sons.
25 And it came to pass that they chose even the firstborn of the brother of Jared; and his name was Pagag. And it came to pass that he refused and would not be their king. And the people would that his father should constrain him, but his father would not; and he commanded them that they should constrain no man to be their king.
We see here an example of the preeminence of Moriancumer. His sons are preferred and chosen first. But they, sharing the vision of their father, refused to be appointed king. When the people wanted Moriancumer to force them to accept the anointing, Moriancumer forcefully commanded them to not force anyone to be their king.
26 And it came to pass that they chose all the brothers of Pagag, and they would not.
27 And it came to pass that neither would the sons of Jared, even all save it were one; and Orihah was anointed to be king over the people.
The older sons of Jared were likewise wise in distrusting a monarchy and show their conviction and sincerity by refusing this position of power, which would have been tempting to most. However, Orihah, who is apparently the youngest son of Jared, is either tempted by the offer, or inspired by the Lord to provide righteous leadership, accepts the appointment and is anointed king of the Jaredite nation. This appointment may have perpetuated the tradition begun by Nimrod of having the youngest son as king. We are not told whether Orihah was king over all the Jaredite people, or only over the house of Jared and Moriancumer. With this appointment, the government passes from the linage of Moriancumer to that of Jared.
28 And he began to reign, and the people began to prosper; and they became exceedingly rich.
29 And it came to pass that Jared died, and his brother also.
Likely this would have been a momentous event entailing a period of national mourning. These were beloved leaders who would be remembered for generations in the subsequent histories and legends. If the Aztec legends are correct, they would have been near 200 years old when they died as they spent 104 years on their journeys, and were probably at least 30-40 when they began this odyssey. This would not be an unusual age for men of their time. We have a number of the contemporaries of Jared and Moriancumer who lived longer than this (ie. Peleg–239 years, Reu-239, Serug-230, Nahor-148, Terah-205, Abraham-175, and of course Shem who outlived them all and reached the age of 600 before he was translated).
30 And it came to pass that Orihah did walk humbly before the Lord, and did remember how great things the Lord had done for his father, and also taught his people how great things the Lord had done for their fathers.
Orihah follows the righteous example of his progenitors, and remembering the miracles and blessings that they had received (after all he was an eye witness of these) he reminds his people and teaches them all these things, and to follow the commandments of God. We are not told whether Orihah assumes the mantle of a prophet/king, but he may have followed the tradition of his uncle, the prophet/leader Moriancumer.


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