Posted by: isaiahsfan | February 19, 2007

1 Nephi 1

Posted by Isaiahsfan 


A quick perusal of the first chapter of First Nephi reveals several directions for further study.  I will mention several that strike me, and ask the rest of you to indicate what interests you.


The Egyptian Connection

Verse 2 suggests cultural connections between Israel and Egypt in Lehi and Nephi’s time.  Hugh Nibley has done some work on this, as well as the FARMS group.  For example, the name “Nephi” is authentically Egyptian.  In addition, ancient documents that were discovered many decades after the publication of the Book of Mormon speak of a Jewish woman named “Sariah” who was a member of a Jewish colony in
Elephantine in Upper Egypt.  This colony built a Temple in Elephantine with the written approval of the High Priest at Jerusalem.  There are many other Egyptian connections.


Historical and Biblical Background

Verse 4 places Lehi’s ministry as a prophet in the historical period of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.  This was the year that Nebuchadnezzar subdued Jerusalem and deported many of its citizens to Babylon (598 BC).  Verse 4 states that the same year many prophets were speaking to the people.  One of these prophets was Jeremiah. 


Lehi’s Vision

Verses 5-15 give an account of Lehi’s vision.  There are several areas of study we could pursue in connection with this vision.  It has been suggested that the mention of “numberless concourses of angels” fits well with the idea of the Heavenly Council.  Lehi’s call matches the ancient Jewish belief that prophets learned the mysteries of God and validated their authority by participation in the Heavenly Council.

The “Motif of the Heavenly Book” is another theme which appears in the ancient Near East, early Christianity, and early Arab-Islamic lore.  It includes the following elements: (1) A divine being gives a book to a mortal. (2) The mortal is commanded to read the book. (3) He is next told to copy the book. (4) Finally, he is commanded to preach the book’s message or content to other mortals.  It might be interesting to compare and contrast prophets who were given this commission.


Tender Mercies

Verse 20 is the first place in the Book of Mormon we read about the tender mercies of the Lord.  Here Nephi tells us that one of the purposes of his abridgement is to show us that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he has chosen.  Since the theme of tender mercies continues at a later place, I think it might be better to save a detailed discussion of this topic until later.


Now, some questions for you.  Do you have an interest in learning more about any of the above topics?  Do you have any questions on 1 Nephi 1?  Do you have any insights about this chapter?  What would you like to do some research on?  Please answer in the comments section of this post, and let’s get some discussion going!  Anyone who is reading this is welcome to comment.



  1. I hope this is going to work. How do we communicate with each other? Video conferencing is looking better and better to me. Typing is not one of my strong suits.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the vision Lehi had and all of the symbology contained therein. Sometimes I think that I’ve got it all and the next time I read thru I find yet another thing to ponder. Life has carried me away this week so I really haven’t looked too closely at chapter 1 but I will and get back to you.

    Hoping this works and will talk to you later.

  2. This is a great direction to take. Lehi’s early visions are full of symbols, just like his tree of life vision. Let’s look at the elements of the two visions in Chapter 1.

    In the first vision, we are told that “as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him.” This is very reminiscent of Moses’ vision when the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. What do you think the fire represents? Do you think the rock and the bush that could not be consumed are analogous? What do they represent? (I have some ideas, but would like to get your opinions first!)

  3. The second vision is a little more straightforward. Lehi sees the heavens opened, and God on a throne surrounded by angels. He sees a shining One descending out of heaven whose brightness exceeds that of the sun. Twelve others follow him, and their brightness is greater than the stars. I think most would agree that these beings represent our Heavenly Father, pre-existent spirits (angels), Jesus Christ, and the Apostles. I’m intrigued by the images of the sun and the stars here. I’ve also wondered if these are any specific Twelve Apostles, or just representations of the Apostolic authority which follows Christ.

    Next, Lehi is given a Book, reads about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, and praises the Lord in a short Magnificat. Do you think this Book is a specific book, i.e. the Book of Isaiah (in which we read of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity!) or is this Book symbolic?

    I’m off to study more about the Motif of the Heavenly Book!

    • What did you find? Heavenly Books! Yea!

  4. This is kind of a simplistic view on this chapter, but I like it because it encompasses basically everything that matters in our spiritual lives:
    God (and angels!)
    Prophet and Apostles
    The Spirit

    + revelation
    + prayer
    + faith

    Not a bad way to begin a sacred book of scripture, IMO. 🙂

  5. Incidentally, the theme of tender mercies is a huge one, too. It was one of the things I looked for and marked when we did the 2005 BoM reading challenge. It is woven throughout the BoM. Love it.

  6. ok, hoping this works. First of all, I’m really loving that we are doing this. I am wondering Cheryl if we can spend two weeks per chapter, rather than one. I would really love to hear everyone’s insight on this chapter before we move on to the next. I’m just going to check if this posts than will add my comments on another post if it does work.

  7. I hereby second Cheryl N.’s suggestion to spend 2 weeks on each chapter. It is sometimes hard to check often enough to see what all of you have come up with.

    As I have been teaching the D&C this year in Seminary, I am literally amazed at the light that is shed by immersing ourselves in the gospel. I, too, thank most graciously, whosever idea this was to start studying together again.

    Please forgive me in advance if I lag a little behind, in commenting and participating. Along with Seminary I have the priveledge of teaching the 12s in Primary and that is the NT this year. They are way smarter than they look and they keep me on my toes with their questions and their comments.

    I have decided after a lot of thought and prayer that I want to concentrate my studies of the BoM this time on documenting all the references that teach the Plan of Salvation (happiness,mercy, redemption, restoration)I’m not sure why I’m being led this direction, but ‘I will go and do.’
    Any comments and observances that you have will be greatly appreciated and studied.

    Now for chapter 1:
    I’m not sure about the little ‘book’. It could be figurative. However, on the Lord’s ‘time plane’, past ,present, and future are all before him. It could be a literal history of what happens and only in our ‘time plane’ does it seem to be events from the future allowing Lehi to see the destruction of Jerusalem and propelling him toward the idea of leaving before all heck breaks loose.

    M&M I like simplistic. Thanks for joining us.

    We are currently in Section 121-123. the time period when the Prophet Joseph is in Liberty Jail and trying to comfort the people in Missouri who are enduring all manner of persecution. He himself has been unjustly accused and sentenced to die for his “crimes.” He has been inquiring of the Lord what he and the people should do. I have felt so badly for him and the people of his day. However, it seems that prophets in all dispensations have been ridiculed and punished, and the end their lives have been sought as a way of shutting up the messengers of God. Lehi being no exception. How grateful I am for those tender mercies of the Lord, both in my life and preserved on these pages, to give me strength and understanding. As I look at our dear President Hinckley, I wonder does he have the same types of trials and tribulations that beset the prophets of old. How can I help to alleviate those? Have I not been given a ‘little book’ of my own that tells me what will come of me and those around me if I don’t listen and heed the promptings of our modern day prophet? Do I ever mock him-not willfully maybe? Do I take lightly the thing that he testifies of? Do I prayerfully and intently study out in my mind and my heart the counsel he gives? Do I pick and choose just what things fit comfortably into my life right now and ignore the rest?
    What a horrible feeling it must be to know that you have been given a message from God to spread to the world and no one is interested in hearing what you have to say. What a testament Lehi leaves as he is willing to endure to the end and the Lord is willing ‘make him mighty even unto the power of deliverance.’ vs.20

    “…let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” D&C 123:17

    Cheryl and Cheryl-I leave the really deep stuff for you guys to dig out and excavate and share with us. I really appreciate your knowledge and understanding of the OT and I know that I will learn much as we pursue the BoM.


  8. Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

  9. The word deliverance hit me in verse 20. I will study this. The questions I had for myself in this verse were “Am I chosen?” “What areas can God deliver me? Does this include from fatigue, sadness, and fear?”

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