Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ether Chapter 14

The iniquity of the people brings a curse upon the land—Coriantumr engages in warfare against Gilead, then Lib, and then Shiz—Blood and carnage cover the land.

1  AND now there began to be a great curse upon all the land because of the iniquity of the people, in which, if a man should lay his tool or his sword upon his shelf, or upon the place whither he would keep it, behold, upon the morrow, he could not find it, so great was the curse upon the land.
Prior to this time, the land was generally blessed.  However, because of the pervasive wickedness of the people, the Lord removes His blessing, and instead curses the land.  One effect of this curse was that the people's possessions became "slippery" and would disappear.  We are not told how this happened but it seems to result from times when cultures degenerate into continual sinful behavior; when satanic influences rule in the lives of the children of men. 
2  Wherefore every man did cleave unto that which was his own, with his hands, and would not borrow neither would he lend; and every man kept the hilt of his sword in his right hand, in the defence of his property and his own life and of his wives and children.
This would be a terrible way to live.  Samuel the Lamanite describes a similar situation that was to come upon the Nephites.  "In the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts.  And then shall ye lament, and say: O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out.  Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us.  Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle.  Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land.  O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them.  Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls.  Behold, our iniquities are great.  O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us?  And this shall be your language in those days.  But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head ( Hel. 13:32-38)."
3  And now, after the space of two years, and after the death of Shared, behold, there arose the brother of Shared and he gave battle unto Coriantumr, in which Coriantumr did beat him and did pursue him to the wilderness of Akish.
It has now been six years since Ether was first cast out and he has been living in the cave (or caves) for this length of time.  Coriantumr has now recovered from his leg wound and is able to lead his troops again.  In the mean time Gilead, the brother of Shared, has replaced him as the leader of their secret society.  When Giliad attacks the army of Coriantumr, thousands are killed in battle.  Coriantumr prevails and Gilead retreats to the wilderness of Akish, which may have been a mountainous, forested area, with limited access.  It is possible that this wilderness was named after the original Akish who plotted to kill king Omer.  
4  And it came to pass that the brother of Shared [whose name was Gilead]did give battle unto him in the wilderness of Akish; and the battle became exceedingly sore, and many thousands fell by the sword.
5  And it came to pass that Coriantumr did lay siege to the wilderness; and the brother of Shared did march forth out of the wilderness by night, and slew a part of the army of Coriantumr, as they were drunken.
Coriantumr besieges the wilderness, but is outmaneuvered by the troops of Gilead.  These troops leave the wilderness at night and surprise Coriantumr's drunken soldiers, killing many of them.
6  And he came forth to the land of Moron, and placed himself upon the throne of Coriantumr.
While Coriantumr is still trying to recover from Gilead's surprise attack, Gilead marches his army to the capitol, at Moron, and places himself on the throne.
7  And it came to pass that Coriantumr dwelt with his army in the wilderness for the space of two years, in which he did receive great strength to his army.
Coriantumr's army was apparently weakened to the point that he couldn't challenge Gilead in Moron.  He camped in the wilderness for two years until he had attracted sufficient force to his army to attack Gilead.  Eight years had now passed since the beginning of the civil war.
8  Now the brother of Shared, whose name was Gilead, also received great strength to his army, because of secret combinations.
Gilead was also able to recruit many to his side.  He did this by means of the secret societies, probably offering them promises of plunder and gain, or threatening their lives if they did not join him.
9  And it came to pass that his high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne.
Unfortunately, loyalty is not one of the virtues of members of the secret societies (in fact of any of Satan's followers).  They are always looking for opportunities to advance their own cause.  Such was the case with Gilead.  His high priest conspired against him and murdered Gilead as he sat unawares on his throne.  This would have been the throne at Moron.  The fact that the king has a "high priest" suggests that they had reverted to the Sumerian pattern of idolatry.
10  And it came to pass that one of the secret combinations murdered him in a secret pass, and obtained unto himself the kingdom; and his name was Lib; and Lib was a man of great stature, more than any other man among all the people.
It is unclear whether this is a second murder, or if Moroni is just giving details of the first one.  It is possible that the high priest who murdered Gilead was then murdered by Lib.  But I prefer the simple explanation that Lib was the original high priest who murdered Gilead.  Either way, Lib assumes the reins of the kingdom in Moron.  Lib is described as being taller and larger than any other man in the land of Moron.
11  And it came to pass that in the first year of Lib, Coriantumr came up unto the land of Moron, and gave battle unto Lib.
This is probably the ninth year of the civil war in the land of Moron, and the first year in the reign of Lib.  Coriantumr leaves the wilderness, where he has been waiting and building his forces, and invades the land of Moron attacking Lib and his army.  This wilderness of Akish would have been some distance from Moron, out of the general area controlled by Lib, but not too distant. 
12  And it came to pass that he fought with Lib, in which Lib did smite upon his arm that he was wounded; nevertheless, the army of Coriantumr did press forward upon Lib, that he fled to the borders upon the seashore.
During this battle, Coriantumr fought face to face with Lib.  It seems to be a tradition among the Jaredites that the leaders of each army fight personally.  In this encounter, Lib wounds Coriantumr's arm.  In spite of a wounded commander, Coriantumr's army succeeds in routing the army of Lib, and they flee to the seashore, probably somewhere near the Gulf of Fonseca.
13  And it came to pass that Coriantumr pursued him; and Lib gave battle unto him upon the seashore.
Coriantumr's wound must not have been too severe as he pursued Lib to the seashore.  Here, cornered with their back to the sea, the army of Lib fights desperately and beats the army of Coriantumr, driving them clear back to the wilderness of Akish.  This was probably the same wilderness where Coriantumr's army spent the two years in exile while Giliad occupied the throne.  
14  And it came to pass that Lib did smite the army of Coriantumr, that they fled again to the wilderness of Akish.
15  And it came to pass that Lib did pursue him until he came to the plains of Agosh.  And Coriantumr had taken all the people with him as he fled before Lib in that quarter of the land whither he fled.
Apparently they were not able to make a stand in the wilderness of Akish, but were then driven farther on to the plains of Agosh.  During his retreat, Coriantumr compelled all the people in the course of his march to join his army, probably men, women and children.
16  And when he had come to the plains of Agosh he gave battle unto Lib, and he smote upon him until he died; nevertheless, the brother of Lib did come against Coriantumr in the stead thereof, and the battle became exceedingly sore, in the which Coriantumr fled again before the army of the brother of Lib.
On the plains of Agosh Coriantumr felt he was strong enough again to stand against Lib and gave him battle.  They fought personally and Coriantumr was able to kill the strong man Lib.  As usual, there was an ambitious lieutenant waiting in the wings for an opportunity for fame and glory (and riches are welcome as well).  In this case it was Shiz, the brother of Lib who assumed command.  He rallied his army and beat Coriantumr, who retreated with his army farther east.
17  Now the name of the brother of Lib was called Shiz.  And it came to pass that Shiz pursued after Coriantumr, and he did overthrow many cities, and he did slay both women and children, and he did burn the cities.
Shiz pursued Coriantumr's retreating army, destroying all the cities they encountered.  He killed all the women and children, and burned their cites.  Men are not mentioned, so it would appear that either Coriantumr had already compelled the men to join his army, or Shiz incorporated then into his forces.
18  And there went a fear of Shiz throughout all the land; yea, a cry went forth throughout the land—Who can stand before the army of Shiz?  Behold, he sweepeth the earth before him!
The notoriety of Shiz's depredations caused fear among all the people yet in his path.  They doubted that anyone, or any army could withstand him.  He swept the earth like a fire, destroying all in his path.  Hugh Nibley comments on this military tactic: "'If the neighboring province to that which they invade will not aid them, says an eyewitness of the Tartar technique, they waste it and with the inhabitants whom they take with them they proceed to fight against other provinces.' That's the way they sweep them and build up their armies. They place their captives in the front of the battle, and if they fight not courageously, put them to the sword. In such a way the Asiatic warlords from the beginning swept the earth before them, like Shiz. The hordes of our own day did that, forcing all that lay in their path to become part of them. 'I counted them among my people,' says the Assyrian conqueror of one nation after another. This ancient formula goes back to our old friend Nimrod. We are told that Genghis Khan, like Nimrod, became a mighty hunter. He learned to steal men and to take them for prey. He ranged into other countries, taking as many captives as he could and joining them to himself to build his army. He bound them, as Nimrod had done, by awful oaths, this system of sweeping the earth, and the Schrecklichkeit [A military policy of terrorising an enemy, especially the civilian population] we mentioned."   (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, BYU 1988--1990, p 261.)
19  And it came to pass that the people began to flock together in armies, throughout all the face of the land.
Unarmed individuals and small villages were at the mercy of these marauding armies, and the roving bands of robbers. The only safe place to be was in one of the armed bodies.  The people flocked to them for protection, and to assist their chosen leader.
20  And they were divided; and a part of them fled to the army of Shiz, and a part of them fled to the army of Coriantumr.
It seems that the division must have been somewhat even, with about half in the army of Shiz, and half in the army of Coriantumr.
21  And so great and lasting had been the war, and so long had been the scene of bloodshed and carnage, that the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead.
This is referring to of the local area of the land of Moron and its environs.  This war had gone on for about ten years by now.  The entire surface of the land (where the battles had been waged) was littered with the dead, and their rotting, and unburied bodies.
Such have been the results of wars throughout the ages.  Nibley, commenting on these Jaredite battles, relates the following: "What the Jaredites left behind was a land littered with bones, for 'so swift and speedy was the war,' that 'the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead' (Ether 14:21), and a generation later 'their bones lay scattered in the land northward' (Omni 1:22). A medieval traveler, passing Kiev years after the great wars between the Mongol and Russian hordes, reports: 'When we were traveling through this country, we found an innumerable multitude of dead men's skulls and bones lying upon the earth.' Far away, in Commania and Cangle, 'we found many skulls and bones lying upon the ground like cattle-dung.' All the living inhabitants, he notes, were reduced to slavery.46 Where burial was at all possible after these great battles, the only practical procedure was to heap up the bodies in great piles and cover them up with earth, 'erecting great tumuli over them.' The entire Naiman nation was thus buried after its destruction.  Joinville, traveling a whole year through Asia to reach the court of 'the cham of Tartary,' saw all along the road of Tartar conquest 'large mounds of bones.'"  (Hugh Nibley, World of the Jaredites, Chapter 5)
22  And so swift and speedy was the war that there was none left to bury the dead, but they did march forth from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood, leaving the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land, to become a prey to the worms of the flesh.
23  And the scent thereof went forth upon the face of the land, even upon all the face of the land; wherefore the people became troubled by day and by night, because of the scent thereof.
Anyone who has been around a rotting animal carcass has a small idea of what this must have been like.  But these were human bodies rotting away.  It must have been horrible for Ether to observe all this day after day (or more correctly, night after night).
In order for the stench of the rotting flesh to become oppressive, as is described here, I believe you would need a minimum of 10 dead bodies per acre, or 6400 per square mile.  I believe the numbers given in chapter 15 verse 1 (2 million men, plus wives and children - see ch. 15:1) would equal, at a minimum, 6 million dead Jaredites.  At 6400 dead per square mile you would need a rough area about 1000 square miles, or a square of 100 miles per side.  This area would barely cover the countryside around the bay of Fonseca, which according to my model, is where the land of Moron was located.  For a comparison, the country of Honduras, the area east of the Bay of Fonseca and heart of my proposed Jaredite homeland, has a surface area of 43,000 square miles, 43 times as large as the necessary surface area.  This gives us some idea of the size of the Jaredite homeland.  It did not cover the entire continent!
24  Nevertheless, Shiz did not cease to pursue Coriantumr; for he had sworn to avenge himself upon Coriantumr of the blood of his brother, who had been slain, and the word of the Lord which came to Ether that Coriantumr should not fall by the sword.
Shiz is not deterred by the number of dead or the suffering of the living.  He continues his relentless pursuit of Coriantumr, motivated by a spirit of revenge for the death of his brother Lib, and a passion to disprove the prophecy of Ether (that Coriantumr would be the last surviving Jaredite).  We see here an illustration of Satan's ultimate goal in influencing man--to cause as much death and destruction as possible.  He has threatened to reign in terror on the earth and has effectively carried out this threat.  Elder Hamula, of the Seventy, has told us: "Unfortunately, Satan’s war did not end with his expulsion from heaven. As John observed, Satan and his followers were 'cast out into the earth' and have come here with 'great wrath.'  The evidence of their wrath can be seen in the blood and horror that has afflicted man from the beginning of time.  So profound and extensive have been the wounds suffered among men that God Himself wept as He surveyed man’s condition."  (Elder James J. Hamula, Oct. 2008 General Conference.)
25  And thus we see that the Lord did visit them in the fulness of his wrath, and their wickedness and abominations had prepared a way for their everlasting destruction.
The Lord, in His displeasure, allows Satan to gain full control over these Jaredites.  Their wickedness and abominations allowed Satan to completely dominate them.  The Lord's Spirit had been withdrawn and had no influence over them.  When this happens to a people, we can expect the worst.
26  And it came to pass that Shiz did pursue Coriantumr eastward, even to the borders by the seashore, and there he gave battle unto Shiz for the space of three days.
Coriantumr continues his retreat eastward until he reaches the sea.  There was nowhere else to retreat and Shiz caught up with him.  The battle commences again and goes on for three days (probably resting at night).
27  And so terrible was the destruction among the armies of Shiz that the people began to be frightened, and began to flee before the armies of Coriantumr; and they fled to the land of Corihor, and swept off the inhabitants before them, all them that would not join them.
With their back to the sea, Coriantumr and his troops fought desperately, and began to prevail.  So much so, that his army routed the opposing forces.  Shiz and his army fled away from the seashore to the land of Corihor.  This was probably in a new direction as they swept off the new inhabitants as the went.  There wouldn't have been any people left going back on their old route.  They gave the people a difficult choice--join us or die!
28  And they [Shiz' army] pitched their tents in the valley of Corihor; and Coriantumr pitched his tents in the valley of Shurr.  Now the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor; wherefore, Coriantumr did gather his armies together upon the hill Comnor, and did sound a trumpet unto the armies of Shiz to invite them forth to battle.
Shiz encamps in the valley of Corihor, and Coriantumr camps in the adjacent valley of Shurr.  The hill Comnor was close to the valley of Shurr.  This hill probably separated the two river valleys.  This would have been about a days march from the seashore.  The armies of Coriantumr sound a trumpet to summon the armies of Shiz to battle.  This likely occurred the following day.  I suppose that these ancient battles would have been conducted in this formal manner.
Ancient Warfare
29  And it came to pass that they came forth, but were driven again; and they came the second time, and they were driven again the second time.  And it came to pass that they came again the third time, and the battle became exceedingly sore.  
The army of Shiz responded to the call and attacked.  Coriantumr probably had the advantage being on the high ground on the hill.  Shiz' forces are repulsed the first two assaults, but hold their ground the third time. This third assault results in a pitched battle with many casualties.
30  And it came to pass that Shiz smote upon Coriantumr that he gave him many deep wounds; and Coriantumr, having lost his blood, fainted, and was carried away as though he were dead.
During the battle, Shiz wounded Coriantumr so severely that he lost consciousness.  He is carried from the field as a dead man.  Coriantumr must have been a strong, courageous and healthy man to have survived so many serious wounds.  This is the third life-threatening injury he has received, plus the time he spent in captivity.  He would had to have been in the prime of life.  
31  Now the loss of men, women and children on both sides was so great that Shiz commanded his people that they should not pursue the armies of Coriantumr; wherefore, they returned to their camp.
The casualties are so severe on both sides that even the "destroying angel" Shiz is appalled.  He didn't take advantage of his victory over Coriantumr and pursue the retreating foe.  He halted the fighting and returned with his soldiers to their camp.  Notice that the casualties were among men, women and children.  The women and children were apparently armed and fighting alongside the men.

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