Friday, June 9, 2017

Second Nephi Six Taken in Context

This is a great guest post from Andy Norman:

2nd Nephi 6 is a great example of how you can miss deeper meaning by not looking at the context.

Taken at face value it’s about the prophecy and explanation of the great help that the gentiles will betothe House of Israel in restoring them to their native lands.

On second look, in context, it actually doesn’t make sense that Nephi desired Jacob to speak about this passage.

One could sit and argue with the fact that it was written for our generation, I would argue that there’s many times Nephi writes just to us. In this case Jacob is talking to the Nephites.

Consider the following when thinking about why Nephi would ask Jacob to expound on this passage:

1) Nephi knows that he’s in his land of promise

2) The people he’s speaking to will not be assisted by the gentiles in returning home

3) He knows that the generation he’s speaking to will all live and die in the land they’re in (see 2nd Nephi 1:5)

Let’s take a step back and take a second look at the audience to whom Jacob is speaking.

Brant Gardner points out that 2nd Nephi 5:6, Nephi recounts all who went with him and identifies literally every person that has been pointed out to us previously in 1st Nephi except Laman, Lemuel, and the Sons of Ishmael. He then adds, "...and all those who would go with me"

Also we know that Sherem said "Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you;" If we assume that the Nephites were just Nephi’s brothers and Zoram, then Sherem would have been Jacob’s nephew and his line about seeking much opportunity seems overly rhetorical and silly.

If instead, we look at the Nephites as a mix of 1) Nephi’s immediate family and 2) the indigenous population, then the picture changes.

While we can’t say for certain, it would make sense that Nephites might have considered themselves superior to the indigenous population since they were the House of Israel and the locals were gentiles. My suspicion is also based on the fact that the Mulekites were explicitly mentioned later on, while these locals were only implicitly mentioned. Additionally, the Judaic view of the Samaritans also sheds light onhow those who mixed with the local population would have been viewed by those who "stayed pure."

So now in context, Jacob’s audience would be actually two bodies of people who very realistically may not have been mixing well since the second group were gentiles.

Suddenly the passage he reads and expounds on has a different spin.

1) Had we stuck around Jerusalem, we still would have been scattered among the gentiles anyways.

2) Being of the House of Israel does not mean you’re righteous. Those Israelites that did return were hard hearted and killed their god.

3) Killing their god will cause them to get scattered again and severely humbled at which point it’s the righteous gentiles who will gather and foster the House of Israel

4) The righteous gentiles will be saved

With this background, we see that this a great way for Jacob to show both groups that they are equally important in the sight of God and while they may have different promises, in the end they both need each other.

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