Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ether Chapter 9


The kingdom passes from one to another by descent and intrigue and murder—Emer saw the Son of Righteousness—Many prophets cry repentance—A famine and poisonous serpents plague the people.

1 AND now I, Moroni, proceed with my record. Therefore, behold, it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish and his friends, behold, they did overthrow the kingdom of Omer.
The preceding has been a commentary by Moroni and he now returns to the abridgement. Akish and his secret combination succeeded in toppling Omer's kingdom.
2 Nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons and to his daughters who did not seek his destruction.
Omer must have been a righteous man to have received this warning from the Lord. Many, if not most, of his children were not involved in the plot to kill him.
3 And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family.
Omer is given a warning by means of a dream. We don't know how quickly he responded, but he took it seriously.  He must have been a very faithful and believing man to have left all, his kingdom, his throne, his power, and whatever wealth he had accumulated, and walk away from it all, trusting in the wisdom of the Lord. If he hadn't left, of course, he would have been dead. He left the land of Moron where the kingdom was established, and taking all his family (except Jared and his clan), goes off into the wilderness.
This verse gives us valuable information about the Jaredite geography. First, Omer and his group traveled many days – perhaps 10 to 20. This would result in a distance of 150 to 300 miles, at 15 miles per day. If this estimate is correct, it means that the Jaredite lands were limited in extent, and didn't cover an entire continent as some have assumed.
Central America showing
possible routes and locations
Using my model, with Moron near the Bay of Fonseca, they would have traveled this distance outward from the Jaredite capitol. I believe that they traveled northward until they reached the shores of the Gulf of Honduras. En route they passed by the Hill Shim.  This is the same hill where Ammaron later hid all the Nephite records (see Mor. 1:1-3) which was in the land of Antum. Traveling on, they then passed by the hill Ramah (or Cumorah) where the Nephites were annihilated. Finally, traveling eastward, they arrived at the place called Ablom which was by the seashore.
If my model is correct, there are two routes that they could have taken (refer to first map). The easiest would have been to go straight north over the Honduran mountains and down the Ulua River valley to the coast. However, this would not have taken them by the hill Cumorah (which I believe is the modern Cerro San Gil in Guatemala). The other route would have been to travel northwest through El Salvador, or western Honduras, cross over the mountains, and drop down into the Motagua River valley. This is a broad, straight valley which is an ancient and easy route to the east coast. Going down this valley would have taken them directly by Cumorah, and then east to the sea.
Here at Ablom they pitched their tents and encamped for a number of years. It doesn't mention them building structures or homes, only pitching tents. Perhaps they didn't plan to remain very long, or possibly this was the way they lived while in the wilderness.
Shim, Ablom and Antum – These were probably originally Jaredite 
place names, later adopted by the Nephites. They are characterized by mimation, or the m ending of each word. Mimation refers to the 

suffixed m (the letter mem) which occurs in some Semitic 

languages. Hugh Nibley has elaborated on this unusual feature of 

Jaredite language. 

"Mimation (ending with -m) predominated in Jaredite names, nunation (ending with -n) in Nephite and Lamanite names. This is strictly in keeping with the development of languages in the Old World, where mimation was everywhere succeeded by nunation around 2000 B.C., that is, well after the Jaredites had departed, but long before the Nephites ... Mimation was still current in the Semitic dialects of Palestine and Syria between 2100 and 1800 B.C., when the nominative case still ended in -m. From Egyptian and Hittite records it is now clear that the dialects of Palestine and Syria dropped this mimation in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and it is preserved in the Bible only in a few pre-Hebraic words used in very ancient incantations and spells, and in the mysterious and archaic words Urim and Thummim, which it now appears are not Hebrew plurals at all. This is significant, since the Book of Mormon favors -m endings for Jaredite names. The Jaredites must have taken mimation with them some time before 2000 B.C., when the change to nunation occurred. Nunation itself, however, which is extremely common in the Book of Mormon proper names, is an old-fashioned thing which in Lehi's day was a sign of conservatism and most frequently found among the desert people. It turns up in old Hebrew genealogies in which "the nomenclature is largely un-Hebraic, with peculiar antique formations in -an, -on, and in some cases of particular Arabian origin." This nunation or ending in -n has left traces in all Semitic languages, but mostly among the desert people, being retained completely in classical Arabic." (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=60&chapid=605) 
4 And it came to pass that Jared was anointed king over the people,
With Omer gone into self imposed exile, Jared assumes the throne and is apparently accepted and anointed king by the people. Perhaps this wasn't a popular thing, but was achieve “by the hand of wickedness” (ie by means of the secret society). Although Akish didn't actually provide Jared with Omer's head, he is still given the daughter's hand in marriage.
5 And it came to pass that Akish sought the life of his father-in-law; and he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, and they obtained the head of his father-in-law, as he sat upon his throne, giving audience to his people.
Now we see evil run its full course. Not satisfied with what they have achieved, Akish (and undoubtedly his wife) plot the overthrow of Jared. Seeing that they can gain their goals by means of the secret society, they mobilized their henchmen and brought upon Jared what he had planned for Omer. This verse seems to imply that other members of the society performed the evil deed. It must have been a very public event. Jared was in the presence of others hearing their concerns. They didn't just assassinate him on the throne and flee, they took the time to behead him and carry off the bloody trophy.
6 For so great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people; therefore Jared was murdered upon his throne, and Akish reigned in his stead.
This verse seems to imply an extended period of time for this “spreading” to occur. The people had seen how evil means could be used to gain wealth and power, and they wanted their share of the booty (see verse 11). It seems that the majority of the people came to support the society and its acts. The effect of this was the hardening of their hearts towards the truth and that which was good. Akish assumes the throne. We are not told how he achieved this as he had no obvious right to it. But in this case apparently might makes right.
7 And it came to pass that Akish began to be jealous of his son, therefore he shut him up in prison, and kept him upon little or no food until he had suffered death.
If Akish began with any redeeming virtues, these are all now gone. He now turned his malevolence on his son. There was probably a reason for his jealousy. This was probably an older son who was gaining favor with the people and had possibly shown and inclination to rebel. Akish had him incarcerated in an available prison. But that wasn't enough, he then starved the poor son to death.
8 And now the brother of him that suffered death, (and his name was Nimrah) was angry with his father because of that which his father had done unto his brother.
A brother of the starved son resents Akish and possibly tries to challenge him. The question arises, why was he not incarcerated as well as his brother? Perhaps he fled to the wilderness before his intentions were known. “His name was Nimrah.” This is a variation of the name Nimrod, and indicates a positive remembrance of the old king. It also illustrates the tendency of the Jaredites to look upon the past with nostalgia.
9 And it came to pass that Nimrah gathered together a small number of men, and fled out of the land, and came over and dwelt with Omer.
This probably happened before Akish was aware of their plans. Would he have prevented it? Nimrah apparently knew where Omer had gone, and was able to “travel many days” following him to Ablom.
10 And it came to pass that Akish begat other sons, and they won the hearts of the people, notwithstanding they had sworn unto him to do all manner of iniquity according to that which he desired.
Akish begat other sons – Many years had passed here in only a few verses. These would have been sons born after he took the daughter of Jared as his wife. He had other sons, in addition to Nimrah and his brother, and these sons grew to adulthood. Akish had required his family to be part of the secret society, but in spite of the oath, some of his sons betrayed him, and plotted against him. They won over the support of a substantial percentage of the people.
11 Now the people of Akish were desirous for gain, even as Akish was desirous for power; wherefore, the sons of Akish did offer them money, by which means they drew away the more part of the people after them.
The people by now had been exposed to the Gadianton environment which offered opportunities for easy profit, and fed their increasing desire for gain. These rebellious sons used this weakness to tempt the subjects of Akish with bribes and eventually gained the loyalty of the majority of the people.
12 And there began to be a war between the sons of Akish and Akish, which lasted for the space of many years, yea, unto the destruction of nearly all the people of the kingdom, yea, even all, save it were thirty souls, and they who fled with the house of Omer.
When these rebellious sons had sufficient power, they challenged Akish openly. Thus began a suicidal civil war that raged on for many years. The mortality increased year by year until there were only thirty survivors left of the large original population. I assume that Akish and his evil wife were killed during this fatal struggle. It is possible that a number of people left the area during this war to escape the carnage. Thus, halfway through their history, the Jaredites almost suffered the same fate that awaited them in the end.  Somehow, Omer, still in Ablom, learns of the state of affairs in Moron and returns with his family and followers and is re-instated as king.
13 Wherefore, Omer was restored again to the land of his inheritance.
Land of his inheritance – This apparently did not include Ablom, Nehor or Heth. It was the land of Moron. This implies that the land of these Jaredites was limited in extent.
14 And it came to pass that Omer began to be old; nevertheless, in his old age he begat Emer; and he anointed Emer to be king to reign in his stead.
Omer had quite a life. He first reigned for a number of years, during which time he raise at least three sons to adulthood. Then he spent a large part of his middle life as a captive of his son Jared. He is finally freed and re-instated as king for a period of time. Then he escaped an assassination attempt and fled to the land of Ablom where he lived for a number of years. Finally he returned to Moron and reigned for additional years during which he had another sons named Emer. This son was then raised to adulthood. Now Omer is old (probably between 100-200), and he anoints Emer to be the new king (Another youngest son as king). One has to wonder why he didn't reward Esrom or Coriantumr with the kingdom.
15 And after that he had anointed Emer to be king he saw peace in the land for the space of two years, and he died, having seen exceedingly many days, which were full of sorrow. And it came to pass that Emer did reign in his stead, and did fill the steps of his father.
Even though Omer's life had been one of adversity, he was able to enjoy the last two years of his life. He was retired from politics, and there was peace in the land. “Fill the steps” would indicate that Emer followed the righteous practices of his father.
16 And the Lord began again to take the curse from off the land, and the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong, insomuch that they became exceedingly rich—
Although it is not mentioned in the previous chapters, the Lord had apparently withdrawn his blessings from the land during the wicked reigns of Jared and Akish. Now that Omer and Emer were reigning in righteousness, the Lord restored the blessings of the land and it began to produce in abundance. After a period of 62 years the “house of Emer” prospered and became strong and wealthy. It does not mention the people in general, however, we can assume that they also benefited during this period of prosperity.
17 Having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things;
Moroni then provides a general list of the agricultural produce, cloth, minerals, food animals, and beasts of burden that the Jaredites used. All the seed and animals would have been carried with them to the Americas when they crossed the sea. Mention is made of silk. Most scholars assert that there was no silk production in the Americas, however, I think we can trust the scriptural account (see blog on this subject).  We only have gold and silver listed as a product of their mining (there is a mention of undefined“precious things” which may have included things such as jade), however, iron was also mentioned earlier.
18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.
Mastodon from Wikipedia
Next we have a list of Jaredite farm animals useful for food and clothing. Archaeologists deny the presence of cattle and sheep in pre-conquest America, but normally evidence from the written record should take precedence over the fragmentary evidence available to archaeologists. Other animals are mentioned, but not listed. This could include such things as chickens, turkeys, and of course wild game.
19 And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.
Gomphothere
These last two verses are very informative in outlining the animals the Jaredites had available to them. All of these beasts of burden were supposedly not present in pre-conquest America. Scholars think that they were introduced by the Spaniards or the other European colonists, but there is mounting evidence to the contrary -- that they were in fact present and available to the ancient Americans. All of these animals would have been available to the Jaredites in Sumer, and they would have used them in their journey across Asia to the seashore. Why not take them with them across the sea? Of particular interest is the mention of elephants, cureloms and cumoms (note the mimation) which were especially useful. Why were they especially useful? Because they were the Jaredite's “heavy machinery.” Elephants and the Gomphotheres (elephant like aminals) could be easily trained to perform very heavy and laborious tasks normally extremely difficult for man, such as pulling, carrying, lifting, etc. They would have been very helpful during all the enormous construction projects that the Jaredites undertook. There has been a lot of curiosity and speculation about the terms Cureloms and Cumoms. The best explanation that I have come across is given by a private researcher on his website at http://www.cureloms.com/Cureloms.pdf. He logically claims that these were Jaredite names for now extinct types of elephants (mammoth, mastodon and Cuvieroniinae).
20 And thus the Lord did pour out his blessings upon this land, which was choice above all other lands; and he commanded that whoso should possess the land should possess it unto the Lord, or they should be destroyed when they were ripened in iniquity; for upon such, saith the Lord: I will pour out the fulness of my wrath.
Moroni reiterates that this is a choice land and its inhabitants must be righteous or they will be swept off. This applies to anyone inhabiting this land, including us. What does phrase "ripened in iniquity" mean? It probably means that the people have given themselves over to the influences of Satan and that the Spirit of the Lord has completely withdrawn from them. Their children have no chance of growing up with a knowledge of the Lord's plan and thus will continue on generation after generation in this same pattern. Examples of such groups were the Nephites, Jaredites, Jews (several times), Canaanites, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the pre-flood peoples. What is fulness of God's wrath? We find examples of the fulness of his wrath at the time of the flood, and also in the destruction in the Americas at the time of Christ's death. It's not something we would want to be part of.
21 And Emer did execute judgment in righteousness all his days, and he begat many sons and daughters; and he begat Coriantum, and he anointed Coriantum to reign in his stead.
Emer was personally righteous, and reigned in righteousness all his life. He had a large posterity. If this order can be taken as accurate, Coriantum was the youngest son. Emer anointed Coriantum as king in his place. This was probably during a public and official coronation ceremony.
22 And after he had anointed Coriantum to reign in his stead he lived four years, and he saw peace in the land; yea, and he even saw the Son of Righteousness, and did rejoice and glory in his day; and he died in peace.
Emer lived four more year after designating Coriantum king. During this time there was peace in land of Moron. He had the privilege of seeing Christ (see D&C 93:1). He lived his last years in peace, and died a peaceful death.
23 And it came to pass that Coriantum did walk in the steps of his father, and did build many mighty cities, and did administer that which was good unto his people in all his days. And it came to pass that he had no children even until he was exceedingly old.
Coriantum followed the righteous pattern of his father but was not blessed with offspring. He established a number of great cities and blessed the lives of his subjects.
24 And it came to pass that his wife died, being an hundred and two years old. And it came to pass that Coriantum took to wife, in his old age, a young maid, and begat sons and daughters; wherefore he lived until he was an hundred and forty and two years old.
Coriantum's wife died when she was 102 years old and he was widowed. He was likely this old, or older, himself. He was still vigorous and healthy, and married a young woman (probably meaning she was a single youth) by which he had posterity in his old age. The verse implies that because of his marriage and child bearing, he lived to the advanced age of 142. This verse illustrates the longevity of the Jaredites of that time.
25 And it came to pass that he begat Com, and Com reigned in his stead; and he reigned forty and nine years, and he begat Heth; and he also begat other sons and daughters.
Here again, Com appears to be youngest son who was anointed king in the place of his father. After Com had reigned 49 years he begat Heth, plus other children. This would have been when Com was about 69 years old. From this it appears that Heth was the oldest child, but it is likely that he had other children before Heth.
26 And the people had spread again over all the face of the land, and there began again to be an exceedingly great wickedness upon the face of the land, and Heth began to embrace the secret plans again of old, to destroy his father.
The population had increased and the land became more thickly inhabited. This would be referring to the land of Moron and its environs. A period of wickedness began among the people. Perhaps the younger generation rebelled against
 the old teachings of the fathers as so often happens. Heth forms, or is part of, a secret society, and plots to overthrow his father.
27 And it came to pass that he did dethrone his father, for he slew him with his own sword; and he did reign in his stead.
Heth followed pattern of Jared and Akish and assassinated his father with Com's own sword, and reigns in his stead.
28 And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them—that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land; yea, even there should be a great famine, in which they should be destroyed if they did not repent.
The Lord sent prophets warning of impending destruction if they do not repent, including the warning of a famine.
29 But the people believed not the words of the prophets, but they cast them out; and some of them they cast into pits and left them to perish. And it came to pass that they did all these things according to the commandment of the king, Heth.
The message of the prophets is rejected and Heth directed his followers to persecute and kill them.
30 And it came to pass that there began to be a great dearth upon the land, and the inhabitants began to be destroyed exceedingly fast because of the dearth, for there was no rain upon the face of the earth.
In accordance with the prophecies, a severe drought came upon the land. There was no rain and as these people relied completely on the seasonal rains to water their crops, after a short time there was no more food and the people began to starve.
31 And there came forth poisonous serpents also upon the face of the land, and did poison many people.And it came to pass that their flocks began to flee before the poisonous serpents, towards the land southward, which was called by the Nephites Zarahemla.
In addition to the drought, the Lord sends snakes to harass the people and their flocks. There are always some poisonous snakes in this area, however, this must have been an unusual plague of serpents. Many Jaredites were bitten and died. The snakes were so numerous and thick that they also threatened and attacked the Jaredite's animals. These animals were frightened of the snakes and fled before the wave of snakes moving across the land. The animals fled southward, away from Moron, to the land of Desolation. Crossing that, they then passed southward through the narrow neck of land, penetrating into the land southward, that would be known as the land of Zarahemla to the Nephites.
32 And it came to pass that there were many of them which did perish by the way; nevertheless, there were some which fled into the land southward.
Many of these animals died along the way, either by snake bite, of lack of food and water. However some of them did make it south into the land of Zarahemla.
33 And it came to pass that the Lord did cause the serpents that they should pursue them no more, but that they should hedge up the way that the people could not pass, that whoso should attempt to pass might fall by the poisonous serpents.
The moving front of snakes stopped (probably at the narrow neck) and did not pursue the animals any farther. The narrow neck was blocked by the serpents. Any of the Jaredites who tried to pass through this area was bitten and killed.
34 And it came to pass that the people did follow the course of the beasts, and did devour the carcasses of them which fell by the way, until they had devoured them all. Now when the people saw that they must perish they began to repent of their iniquities and cry unto the Lord.
The surviving Jaredites followed the retreating animals toward the land southward. They were so desperate that they ate the carcasses of the dead and rotting animals until they are all consumed. They could not go past the narrow neck because of the snake barrier. In these desperate circumstances the people realized their dire situation and finally repented and called upon the Lord for assistance.
35 And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the earth; and the people began to revive again, and there began to be fruit in the north countries, and in all the countries round about. And the Lord did show forth his power unto them in preserving them from famine.
After the people had humbled themselves sufficiently (and presumably this took some time) the Lord began to bless them again and sent rain, and they were able to raise crops and finally feed themselves. This does not happen overnight, and the growing of crops, and the fruiting of trees, takes time. This was in the north countries (i.e. north of Zarahemla). Apparently the drought mainly affected the north country around the land of Moron, but also extended out into the surrounding areas, at least in the land of Desolation and to the narrow neck. During this time the rivers had probably dried up because of the severity of the drought, allowing the snakes to pass over on dry ground. The Lord showed those who survived his power in preserving their lives. The more wicked among them apparently perished.

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