Sunday, April 18, 2010

Egypt and Egyptian

The brass plates of Laban were also in Egyptian.  Mosiah Chapter 1, verses 1-4 discuss the education of Mosiah's sons.  They were taught "in all the language of his fathers."  That phrase gets explained.  But before clarifying what "all the language" included, the brass plates are mentioned in verse 2.  These plates contained the commandments that the sons of Mosiah needed to understand and were not possible for father Lehi to remember.  Therefore it was necessary for them to possess the brass plates to stimulate their memory of the commandments.

Continuing on with the explanation, and addressing specifically the brass plates, it is written:  "it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children."(Id. v. 4., emphasis added.)

This somewhat changes the picture of Jerusalem at the time of Lehi's departure.  The record of the brass plates included what we would recognize as the Old Testament record, from Moses' five books down to the time of Lehi's exodus.  (See 1 Ne. 5: 10-16.)  For the entire Old Testament account to have been written in Egyptian onto the brass plates means that Egyptian was a preferred language.  It wasn't just an efficient language that Nephi selected for his own record, but instead a preference that was widespread among the Jews throughout Jerusalem at the time of Lehi's departure.

By the time Mormon took over abridging the record, the language had been further modified for efficiency and reduced effort in carving the record onto metal plates.  (See Mormon 9: 32-34.)  It was a more efficient, though less exact, form of language than Hebrew.

The Egyptian influence upon ancient Jerusalem and our own Bible should be studied.  The presence of Egyptian hieroglyphs in our scriptures (Book of Abraham Facsimiles 1-3) also puts us on notice that we need to look into Egyptian matters.  Hugh Nibley has written a number of books on the matter, the most recent of which was released as One Eternal Round on the occasion of Nibley's 100 year from birth.  Abraham in Egypt was an earlier work also on this subject.  And there has been a three volume set on the Early Life of Abraham published through BYU (quite an expensive set to own).  It is interesting how much Egyptian influence there has been in our faith.  Remember that the Egyptians sought to preserve the faith which existed before the flood and was practiced from Adam to the time of Noah.  (Abraham 1: 26.)  It may have become eroded and drifted, but it nevertheless preserved truths from the beginning.  Abraham was sent to them to help restore the original faith which they originally tried earnestly to preserve.

Whether we like it or not, we have an interest in knowing more about ancient Egypt than any other Christian faith.


  1. In "The Second Comforter" you state that Laban was Nephi's cousin. How do we know that?

  2. This might be false, but I was told at one point in some religion class that the Book of Mormon being written in reformed Egyptian didn't necessarily mean that it was written in the spoken language of the Egyptians, but rather the spoken language of Hebrew written with Egyptian characters.

    The best evidence that I know of that this might be a true view is Morm. 9:32 where it says, "And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech." Here Moroni is talking about the characters and also mentions their manner of speech.

    This theory also seems more plausible to me than believing that all the little guys who wrote on the plates in Jarom and Omni (especially in Omni) actually had learned enough reformed Egyptian to do it.

    Do you think this theory might be true? I'm sure you have a lot of knowledge on this subject and can add something to our understanding here.


  3. Denver, in addition to your blog about "Egypt and Egyptian", ... I've also wondered if it is significant that one of our important ancestors was Egyptian? I don't know enough to be sure so ...seems Egyptian is part of the blood of two of the tribes of Israel.... I checked this brief note about Asenath (wife of Joseph) and mother of Ephriam and Manasseh on wikipedia (I thought the bee's in her story were curious and interesting):

    Asenath (Hebrew: אָסְנַת, Modern Asənat Tiberian ʼĀsənạṯ) or Asenith (in modern times sometimes transliterated as Osnat) is a figure in the Book of Genesis, an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph son of Jacob to be his wife. The daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On, she bore Joseph two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, who became the patriarchs of the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim.
    Modern scholarship says her name derives from the Egyptian "holy to Anath", and that her name may be phonetically transliterated from the New Kingdom Egyptian hieroglyphs as Ns-Nt.
    Genesis records nothing more about Asenath, but her story is elaborated in the apocryphal Joseph and Asenath. There, she is a virgin who rejects several worthy suitors in favor of Joseph, but Joseph will not have a pagan for a wife. She locks herself in a tower and rejects her idolatry in favor of Joseph's God Yahweh, and receives a visit from an angel who accepts her conversion. A ritual involving a honeycomb follows. Bees cover her and sting her lips to remove the false prayers to the pagan gods of her past. Joseph now consents to marry her. She bears him their sons Mannaseh and Ephraim. Pharaoh's son wants Asenath for himself, however, and with the aid of Joseph's brothers Dan and Gad, he conspires to kill her husband. The loyal brother Benjamin interferes, and Pharaoh's son is ultimately slain. Asenath forgives the conspirators, and she and Joseph rule over Egypt for 48 years, after which they pass the crown to Pharaoh's grandson.

  4. Mark Peterson: The following verses let us know that there was a shared genealogy between Laban and Lehi's family:

    1 Ne. 3: 3, 12:
    3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
    • • •
    12 And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father.

    1 Ne. 5: 14, 16:
    14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
    • • •
    16 And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.

    The choices are:
    1. Laban and Lehi are brothers, making Laban Nephi's uncle. I rule this out because there is no appeal made to Laban on the basis of being an uncle, no acknowledgment by Lehi that he was sending his sons to visit with his brother, or other mention. It would be likely to have appeared in the record had that been the association.
    2. Laban and Lehi share ancestors, but are not brothers. I assume this must be the case as a result of ruling out brotherhood above. This makes Nephi a cousin of Laban's.


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