Chapters 8 & 9 may have connections or allusions to the Abrahamic Covenant in some senses, but chapter 10 is so clear that today I’m just going to skip there.
The Israelites are something like a boomerang. Whenever they leave the promised land, they eventually return. The Israelites go to Egypt, but then they return. The Jews get carried to Babylon, but then they return. This is part of God’s promise that he will never forget the covenant people.
But, not every single person in Jerusalem survives the attack or lives long enough to return from Babylon. This is part of the Abrahamic Covenant as well. As a people, God doesn’t forget his covenant, but individuals within that people may have varied experiences. For example, Nephi will say at another time that those who repent are God’s people and those who will not repent are not God’s people. Individuals born into the covenant are still responsible for their relationship with God.
But that’s not to say that every single person who is righteous will be protected in war, and so forth. There’s a dual nature to this covenant, I believe. I think that God will not give up on Israel as a people, and God will not give up on Israelites as individuals. I think this promise extends beyond the veil where messengers teach those who did not repent or did not know while they were in their earthly life. And I think temple work is a fulfillment of God’s promise not to forget, too. Why else are we remembering names of ancestors from hundreds of years ago? God promised not to forget. We are either redeeming those of Abraham’s family that God promised not to forget, or, we are sealing others not of Abraham’s family into that family, and thereby granting them and their posterity the promise that God will never give up on them, too. I think it is a bit crafty, and marvelous, that we can extend those promises to every person who was ever on the earth!
So back to chapter 10. I want to focus on verses 11-14. Part of the grand plan of the Abrahamic Covenant is that somehow, it’s got to go to the Gentiles — those who, by very definition, are the ones without the covenant. Why? Well, remember the promise to Abraham, quoted here here here and here in the Book of Mormon: “In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” The Book of Mormon picture of the Abrahamic Covenant takes that “all” very seriously. Let’s look at verses 11-14:
11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.
First Christ comes to those who have had the blessings of being the covenant people. But, most of the Jews (the only collection of covenant Israel left in the promised land at that point) dwindle in unbelief. When Christ arises from the dead, he chooses to make himself manifest to the Gentiles. Here is the great switching point, the pivoting point, of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Gentiles receive God’s manifestation! Do they receive covenant blessings along with that? I’m going to keep my eyes open for specific talk of covenant blessings.
12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. 13 Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
I think this scattering comes for at least two reasons, but we’ll see if Nephi tells me I’m way off. 🙂 I think it comes because it preserves some of the Covenant people in little pockets all over the earth. It’s a chance to grow another people out of a small number who still hold true to their covenant with God. The other reason, I think, is so that the main location of Israelites (Jerusalem and the holy land generally) can be seen to genuinely dwindle in disbelief, and this allows God to leave them alone for a time and manifest Himself to the Gentiles. I think it’s for that purpose, too. I think.
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
This verse is part of the reason I think what I do. “After the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel…” then Israel gets to come back together, or at least come back to the knowledge of the Savior and the Covenant their fathers had. But it’s as if Israel has to wait its turn now. The Gentiles are getting their fair chance to accept and repent and thereby bring their families into the Abrahamic Covenant.
(Now, tangent here: I don’t think that for most of Christian history the Gentiles knew a thing about bringing their families into the Abrahamic Covenant. But that’s why, I think, God chooses to restore this knowledge through the Book of Mormon first to the Gentiles. They’ve spent hundreds of years hoping they’re living the gospel as the Bible tells them too, but they have no idea that the covenant promised to Abraham has anything to do with the gospel in the Bible. So God brings for the Book of Mormon to the Gentiles first, and gives them a chance to build temples and seal families and start to share it with those who are literal descendants of Abraham — most immediately, to the descendants of the Lamanites. Anyway, I’m way ahead of myself on this 1 Nephi project, but this is helping me to put the pieces together, so apologies for the tangents along the way!)
So, the point for my project, I suppose, is to show that Lehi and Nephi are talking about the Abrahamic Covenant and its relation to the Gentiles very early on. And as I’ve said in other posts, I think this is because we modern readers need to understand the Covenant. We’re inheritors of the Gentile way of interpreting the Bible and the Book of Mormon is trying to open up our understanding.