I’m a bit distracted today, but here are some pieces of thoughts anyway:
Right about verse 22, we start to see comparisons between the Nephites and the Israelites again. This time, however, it’s sparked by something that Laman and Lemuel say:
22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.
It’s an odd thing that his brothers claim, in some ways. This is a tangent into thinking about human nature — sorry to anyone who might actually be reading this — When a prophet comes to say a people needs to repent, he comes because God has told him the people need to repent. I don’t know at what point “the people” have gone astray. When a majority of people have turned their hearts? When the dominant discourse is no longer faithful? When the leaders have influenced so many people that if there isn’t a stop to it soon the next generation will be lost? I’ve never been quite sure on that point, anyway. So it made me think of that when Nephi’s brothers talk about the people in Jerusalem. Who do you think they were referring to? Is this, “Everyone I knew was keeping the law,” or “I think the majority did,” or what? They knew prophets had come besides Lehi. But of course, there was debate at the time about who was a true prophet and who was preaching dreams they had that weren’t from God. Hmm.
But back on track now — Joe has pointed out that this verse right here opens up an opportunity for Nephi to distinguish between the law and the covenant. (The details are in a chapter of a new book he’s working on; I wish they were in a blog post I could link to!) Nephi relates the history of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness and all the help that God gave them. That’s really the focus, I guess: see how God guided them and helped them every step of the way, even when they hardened their hearts against Moses and so forth, he didn’t give up on them and eventually they were ready to go to the promised land. I don’t see the talk of the covenant as clearly as Joe does, so I’ll have to spend some more time talking to him about it and write another post, I think.
I do see the comparison here between the Israelites and the Lehites:
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.
This sounds like 1 Nephi 1:20:
I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
I also like how the conversation God has with Nephi nicely matches the conversation Nephi has with his brothers. In both cases, there is an emphasis on how God has led them and provided the way for them to leave one place and reach a promised land. There are specific details in each (for example, God making raw meat taste sweet, and God making manna rain from heaven).
I’m afraid I don’t have much to add this morning — mostly I’m distracted wondering exactly what Joe had in mind.