Posted by: isaiahsfan | March 4, 2007

1 Nephi 2: Lehi and the Exodus

posted by Isaiahsfan 


The Exodus pattern in the Book of Mormon intrigues me (and those of you who know my love of the OT will not be surprised by this!)  Several authors have written on this subject, and we are fortunate that their work is available on the internet.  This post will summarize what I find of interest, and I will include links to several authors at the end, if you wish to read about it in more detail. 


The Book of Mormon begins with the Exodus of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem. Their exodus is captured in summary in 1 Nephi 2:1-4.  In these few verses, the first four elements of the Exodus pattern are briefly outlined: Lehi’s life is threatened (1) because he has performed his duty as a prophet (2). He is commanded to depart into the wilderness (3) before Jerusalem is destroyed (4).


The Exodus Pattern


1. Oppression (Ex. 2:23-25; 1 Ne. 1-2)

2. A Prophet Leader is Called (Ex. 3; 1 Ne. 1)

3. A Flight into the Wilderness (Ex. 12-14; 1 Ne 2:1-4)

4. Destruction of Enemies (Ex. 12:29-30, 14:27-28; 1 Ne. 4:10-18, )

5. Wandering in the Wilderness (Ex. 13-17; 1 Ne 16-18)

6. Divine Guidance in the Wilderness (Ex. 13:21; 1 Ne 16:9-10, 1 Ne 17:13)

7. Crossing Water (Ex. 14; 1 Ne 18)

8. Murmurings (Ex. 15:24, 16: 2, 17:2; 1 Ne. 2:12, 3:29-31, 17:17)

9. Manna Provided (Ex. 16; 1 Ne 17:2-3)

10. Entrance into the Promised Land (Joshua 3; 1 Ne 18:23)


Other Parallels


Besides this basic pattern, there is an extended list of parallels between the experiences of the Israelites and those of Lehi’s family.  Moses’ and Lehi’s prophetic calls were both accompanied by fire (Ex. 3:2–4; 1 Ne. 1:6); aid was requested from both oppressors Pharoah and Laban (Ex 10:3; 1 Ne. 3:12-13); signs and wonders were manifest (Ex. 7-10; 1 Ne 4:20); the despoiling of the Egyptians and the taking of Laban’s possessions (Ex. 12:35–36; 1 Ne. 4:38; 2 Ne. 5:12, 14);  a new law that was to govern the Lord’s people (Ex. 20:2–17; 1 Ne. 2:20–24); transfiguration (1 Ne 17:52; Ex 34:30; burial in the desert (1 Ne 16:34; Joshua 24:32); and others.


Nephites’ Awareness of the Reenactment


Most Book of Mormon scholars agree that the Nephites were aware that they were reenacting the Exodus.  Some say that Nephi only becomes aware of this gradually, after a period of many years, when he is looking back and writing his history.  However, I think that Lehi and Nephi, as students of Israelite history, were able to recognize the parallels quite soon.  Here in Chapter 2, Nephi is given promises by the Lord that echo those given to Moses and his people:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.  And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.  (1 Ne 2:19-20)

I think that this blessing would immediately have called to Nephi’s mind the Promised Land that the Lord had given to the children of Israel.  We will see as we continue through the Book of Mormon that Nephi uses Moses and the Exodus as a lesson and example to his brothers and his people.  Nephi understands that the Exodus is a metaphor which gives spiritual significance to their wanderings.


Continuing Exodus in the Book of Mormon


There is a continuing pattern of Exodus throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon.  In fact, there are six accounts of a Lehi-type exodus during the following thousand-year  history.  In each, the Lord directs prophets to take their people and depart into the wilderness.  Nephi’s exodus is found quite soon after the arrival in the Promised Land. (2 Nephi 5:1-5). The other exodus accounts are found in Omni 1:13, Mosiah 18:34, Mosiah 22:11, and Alma 27:11-14. Another took place in 2,200 BC (Ether 1:39-42). 


A Metaphor for Journey Through Mortality to Eternal Life


Because of their Israelite heritage and the records they brought with them (Brass Plates), the Nephites understood the biblical Exodus.  They knew that it was a type and shadow of their own wanderings as well as the spiritual condition of humanity.  We are all wanderers seeking for an inheritance in an eternal Land of Promise. Applying our spiritual situation to the Exodus Pattern can be instructive as we read through this second chapter of First Nephi. 




Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon by S. Kent Brown

Lehi and his family saw their flight out of Jerusalem as a replication of the Exodus of Israel. 


The Exodus of Lehi Revisited by Mark J. Johnson

Additional parallels between the exodus of the children of Israel out of Egypt and the exodus made by the Lehites from Jerusalem: death and burial in the desert, and transfiguration. 


Moses Typology in Lehi’s Farewell Address by Noel B. Reynolds

Lehi’s farewell address used several devices to signal that he had been called and directed of God, as was Moses of old, to lead a branch of
Israel into a new dispensation.


Wanderers in the Promised Land: A Study of the Exodus Motif in the Book of Mormon and Holy Bible  by Bruce J. Boehm

Lehi’s exodus to the promised land is only the first of a series of exoduses occurring throughout the Book of Mormon.  Continuing exodus is not only a historical fact in the Book of Mormon, but it becomes a metaphor which teaches important doctrines as well.



  1. It will take a month to read all of your references Cheryl, but hey, I’ve got the time!
    Jawi? I liked your metaphor of eating the scriptures and hope that you don’t mind being quoted. We seminary teachers collect all information and stash it for use at a latter time!
    Cheryl–I truly did enjoy your comments and have a couple of your references to read before I comment furthur on exodus.
    I kinda liked the way the cast of characters is introduced in this chapter. We learn right off that Lehi is obedient.(vs 3) He has endured and will endure many persecutions, but is not in the least dissuaded from obeying the Lord. Even though what he is being asked to do is incredibly difficult and even his family is not all that excited to follow his counsel. I think vs. 15 ,”And my father dwelt in a tent.”, says a lot about his devotion to the Lord and his commitment to do what is required at his hand. This is a man who has lived with wealth and honor among his friends and community. He walks away from it all and does as he is commanded.(Is it any wonder we have 1Ne3:7 ?)
    Then in spite of all, he builds an altar and thanks the Lord and gives an offering! (How many times have I “thanked the Lord’ right in the middle of a trial?) I stand in awe of his unwavering devotion to do as he is commanded, in spite of personal loss, and family dissention.
    Next we meet Laman and Lemuel. What’s a good book without the bad guys? Vs.9-10 tell us what Lehi thought about them. It helps us to understand why Nephi has been ‘taught in the ways of my father’.(1Ne1:1)Isn’t it usually the right of the firstborn to be taught in the ways of the father and the younger children are just given a regular education? (Please correct me if I am wrong.) I wonder, do either of them care about anything that is not of a worldly nature? They seem to think very lightly of their father and the things he stands for. Lehi seems to be very aware of their attitude toward him and spiritual things and wished that they could be more like….. They seem to be totally oblivious to the sacred nature of his calling as a prophet to the people and only demean him as being ‘visionary’.
    Nephi folows in his father’s footsteps for a while and we will soon find him surpassing his father in faith, though never in any way tring to usurp his role as patriarch of the family. His desire to know of the mysteries of the Lord will bring him closer to God than any of his brothers. His faith in the things that are revealed to him is unwavering, and he desires to share with all–however only Sam will listen to the things he has to say.
    Sam seems to be the good follower. The one who believes the things he is told, doesn’t need to have them revealed to him personally. He supports Nephi and Lehi and will do as he is told.
    As I think about each of these men, I find attributes that I wish to emulate and those that I wish to disdain. I wish that I could always be like Lehi and Nephi and Sam and go and do—however many times I find that I lean toward the murmuring. (that reminds me -there is a new t-shirt out that says—I will go and do, but I will murmur all the way!)
    Reading this chapter has made me ponder what I would be willing to give up for the Lord. Sometimes, I stuggle just to do the simple things like giving of my time for service, VT, temple work, Enrichment Night, helping someone with rides, visiting friends, when the issue isn’t really how much time I have. When I have the chance to think about all that I have been given and that it truly belongs to Him not me, I wonder at how selfish I can be with what is not mine to hoard. Lehi’s family exodus is a great reminder to me that I can and could be called to give all and will I be willing to go and do or will I whine constantly about how much I’m being asked to do.
    I think perhaps I’m a little like Sam. I will be a good follower, and I will always try to support those who lead.
    I desire to be more like Nephi–having great desire to know and do what is necessary to learn of the mysteries of God.
    I’m off to read your references.

  2. Kelly, Enjoyed your introduction of the cast of characters. What you said about Sam reminded me of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings. He’s the true hero of the tale. Without his humble loyalty, Frodo would never have been able to “save the world.” He’s so steady, never gets the praise, but so essential. A lot like our Book of Mormon Sam. We don’t hear much about him, but I wonder how much of Nephi’s success as a Prophet is due to Sam following faithfully, lovingly, and dililgently?

  3. I was thinking about vs. 22. We know how that works out for Nephi. But it seems to me that we are partakers in that promise also. By being obedient to the commandments (repentance, baptism, receiving the HG, temple endowments) we will – if we continue worthy – be made rulers and teachers (most especially) over our brethren and sistern (why isn’t the plural of sister-sistern?) I think it comes into play in earthly life but I seem to see it very clearly in the life to come. Those who have taken all the right steps and endured to the end will be called upon to teach the true gospel of Christ to those who didn’t have a chance or wouldn’t take the opportunity. They being in ‘spirit prison’-us being in ‘paradise’. Any thoughts?

  4. I found your Exodus pattern interesting Cheryl. I wonder how much of this pattern exists with our own modern day pioneers. It seems as if the subsequent generations that came after at least the Moses Exodus and the Lehi Exodus were asked to keep a remembrance of it. I think you are right in your feeling that Lehi and Nephi probably knew fairly soon that they were following that pattern. The story was too familiar for them not to have. I think the importance of remembering these Exoduses (Exodi, not sure what that plural of Exodus is?) is that our own mortal existence and striving to find our own promised lands will also follow these patterns. What can we learn to help us in our own journey? The first thing we learn is that Lehi was spoken to by the Lord in a dream. The importance of revelation in our lives is so crucial to us not only making it to, but receiving our inheritance in the “promised land”. Even Laman and Lemuel made it to the promised land, but they did not receive the inheritance of the firstborn. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering if the Lord ever spoke to you in dreams? He has to me several times. I shared one time with you when we were studying Isaiah. I’m currently having a recurring dream that I know is from the Lord, but I’m having a hard time knowing exactly what the meaning is. I wonder if Lehi’s dream was exactly clear to him or if he had to interpret symbols the Lord might have used in the dream and come up with the meaning. It says that the Lord at least spoke to Lehi in part of the dream, but I wonder if the whole dream was the Lord speaking or if part of it was in symbols. At any rate, Lehi was obedient to the commands that he received through revelation. If we expect help from the Lord in our own mortal journey, we must also be obedient to the revelation we receive, whether it be from dreams, the still small voice, a feeling in our hearts, or the words the prophet reveals to us. The next step was that Lehi was willing to leave behind the things of the world. The things he took with him were his family, provisions and tents. It looks as if family is a pretty important thing in our journey to our own promised land. It seems as if the Lord is acknowledging the necessity of fulfilling our basic needs. We can not spiritually progress unless our vital basic needs are met. I have a hunch that there are symbolic spiritual counterparts to provisions and tents, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out. Right in the middle of the chapter, where it doesn’t seem to make any sense is that verse: And my father dwelt in a tent. Why? The space on the plates was far too limited to just have that random phrase in there. What do you think is the significance of tents? Moving on. We next find out that Lehi is traveling near the Red Sea and then it restates he is traveling nearer the Red Sea. A few verses down we see the paralellism between the Red Sea and the “fountain of all righteousness”. To me this is saying the importance of staying near to the “fountain of all righteousness” in our own journey. He then pitches his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water. We are told the valley compares to being firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord (I always think of humility when I see the word valley in the scriptures) and the river compares to continually runs into the fountain of righteousness (again when I see water mentioned I think of Christ). Are we pitching our tent in humility by the side of Jesus Christ? Like Kelly mentioned Lehi then made a thanks offering to the Lord. Yes, how often do we give thanks in the middle of a trial?
    The comparison/contrast of Laman & Lemuel to Nephi then comes into play.

    Laman & Lemuel / Nephi
    eldest/ exceedingly young
    know not God (murmur)/ great desire to know God
    Father speaks to them/ Lord speaks to him
    They are confounded/ Heart is softened
    They did as commanded/ Did not rebel

    Do we do as we are commanded because we are confounded or because our hearts are softened.

    Now we come to Sam. I appreciate both your words Kelly and Cheryl about Sam. I have always felt a little Samish and worried I was not more of a Nephi. I’m not a natural leader, but I try with all my heart to follow the leaders that are chosen to lead me. It has always been a comfort to know that Sam received that inheritance right along with Nephi. I find it ironic that one of the major complaints of Laman & Lemuel was the giving up the land of their inheritance and their precious things. If they only could have quite literally caught the vision they would have seen that the Lord had so much more of an inheritance and precious things in store for them. What is it in our own lives that we aren’t willing to leave behind for the better things the Lord has in store for us?
    Like Kelly mentioned Nephi quite literally becomes like his father. His father talks to Laman & Lemuel being filled wih the Spirit and Nephi seems to take that role with Sam. He also tries with Laman & Lemuel to no avail. It is only after his heart is grieved because of them and he turns to the Lord in pray for them that he receives the promise of the blessing from the Lord. It again reminds me of Lehi when he goes to the Lord in prayer in behalf of his people. In order to receive the right to be a “teacher and a ruler” I think we need to have true charity. Of course we will have this blessing in the life to come, but don’t we also have it now in the form of our callings. Not a ruler in a despotic sense of course, but hopefully if our hearts are full of charity to those we serve we can hopefully lead them to the Savior. That is what I think of when I see the word “ruler”, someone who leads those they serve to Christ. I think Nephi tried his whole life to be a “teacher and a ruler” to his family. Laman & Lemuel had their free agency , however, and chose to view things in a different light.

  5. Enjoyed your comments Cheryl N. This is a lot of fun! I find myself hurrying home from seminary to see what you guys have posted so I have something to think about during the day.
    In your personal exodus you have taken family, provisions, and tent. Only a few things can be taken thru the veil, our ultimate destination. Family organizations are #1. We are told in D&C 130:18-19-“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” Could this apply to provisions? Knowledge keeps us alive and sustains us and comforts us. When I think of a tent I think of protection from the outside elements and dangers. Might temple ordinances, namely our personal endowments, and temple marriage be like a tent to us? It helps us to ward off the evils of the world and opens our eyes to the ways of the Lord, thus protecting us in our journey. They, too, will go with us thru the veil. Just a quick thought, I’ll think more as the day goes on.

  6. Kelly I’m just like you. The first thing I did this morning was read 1 Nephi 2 again and then race on here to see what you all had to say. I really like your ideas of provisions/knowledge and tents/temple ordinances. It is interesting that it says my father dwelt in a tent. It doesn’t say that our family dwelt in a tent. It makes me wonder if one of the things Lehi received in that first vision could have been his endowment. Thanks for posting Kelly. You’ve given me a lot to ponder this morning. I’m thinking more about the implications of the spiritual provisions (necessities) and spiritual tents (protection) we have. What would you all consider spiritual necessities and protection? Just a few necessities:
    priesthood, faith, repentance, priesthood ordinances. A few protections: temple ordinances (as stated previously), personal and family scripture study, personal and family prayer, family home evenings, church attendance and participation. Can’t wait to hear more.

  7. OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH, goosebumps!

    You guys are so awesome. It just occurred to me that our ability to study the Book of Mormon this year is really going to be enhanced with Kelly and her D&C perspective from Seminary, Marilyn with New Testament (isn’t she still teaching Sunday School?) and my Old Testament thing. (Don’t worry, we’ll get Marilyn over here yet.)

    OK, I’ve read a little on the tent thing, so I may do another post on that. I know I’ve never heard it compared to temple ordinances before, and I’m so anxious to see how that fits in. I almost fell off my chair when I read that and the Lehi endowment idea!!!!! High five. Back to the scriptures…..

  8. Regarding tents and the temple:

    This is awesome.

    According to Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (, the root Hebrew word often translated into English as ‘atone,’ ‘atonement’ is ‘kaphar,’ meaning ‘to cover.’ See Elder Nelson’s Oct ’96 Conference talk entitled “The Atonement,” particularly under the heading ‘Meaning of Atonement.’

    Speaking of falling out of chairs, that’s what I almost did one time while studying Nephi’s narrative in 1 Ne 16 and noting the presentation of the principles associated with certain sacred marks, in a familiar order…

  9. mistaben, you are right, I just fell off my chair for the second time today. Did you realize that immediately preceding this account in 1 Ne 16 we have verse 6, which reads:

    “Now, all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel.”

    A couple of days ago we discussed how there might be many mysteries hidden within the pages of the Book of Mormon for us to discover. I didn’t realize we would come upon so many big ones so soon! I wonder what is in store for us ahead?!?

  10. p.s. I absolutely love the Exodus theme. I think this is something we could spend weeks discussing! My favorite scripture that comes to mind on this theme is at the end of Alma 37, where he talks about how the words of Christ (our own Liahona) can “carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” I like to think of that land of promise as not only existing into the next life, but finding a “far better” state in this life, carried by the Spirit beyond the trivial and temporal and living in a spiritual state of peace during mortality, in spite of trials and afflictions.

  11. I’m glad you added the part about the land of promise not only existing in the next life. Can’t wait to explore this topic more, as well.

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