Sunday, February 28, 2021

Noah, the ark, and "rest" -- part 4 ('Tevah' and 'the word')

This post continues a series of posts connecting Noah, his ark, Enoch, his city, and the "rest" we find as we enter into the everlasting covenant.

In this post, I'll lay out the case connecting Noah's ark to 'the word' of God, which is an expansive concept Stisa and I have both discussed many times (see here, here and here for some examples).  In that first link, written in February 2020, I said the following:

I believe ... that we can greatly benefit by seeing the rod as an implement of gathering in the hands of a divine messenger. It is more than just printed words on a page, it is divinely inspired messages, the voice of the Spirit, and invitations to follow the Savior.

A rod is a very apt metaphor for the word of God, a tool used by shepherds to direct their flock. How we choose to respond to the portion of the word we receive is what will ultimately determine our destiny.

In that same post, I outlined how Nephi connects "the word" with the power to save (particularly power over the waters) and do "great work" on the earth. (See 1 Nephi 17:26.)

My recent studies on the topics of Noah and 'entering into His rest' have repeatedly led me back to the concept of the word.  I'll attempt to illustrate how intimately connected these concepts are in this post.

Let's take a closer look at the two Old Testament stories in which the Hebrew word 'tevah' is used: the story of Noah and the story of infant Moses.

  • In both cases, a group of people faces death by drowning: all humanity in the case of Noah (see Genesis 6:7) and all male sons of Hebrew women in the story of Moses (see Exodus 1:22). 
  • Both vessels were covered in pitch (Genesis 6:14 and Exodus 2:3). 
  • In both cases, only a single family or individual is saved from the waters.

These specific parallels to tell me that a deeper message connecting these two stories can be found here. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the Hebrew word 'tevah' -- only used to describe these two life-saving vessels -- can also mean 'the word' of God! The connection is very old, so old that two main branches of Judaism and the Ethiopian Christian church use the word in a similar context yet in different ways:

Post-biblically, however, the use of tevah to signify the ark in the synagogue is old, going back to early rabbinic times, in which the word also meant “box.” (As it does today in such contemporary words as tevat-do’ar, or “mailbox.”) We know this not only from the Talmud, but also from the more exotic evidence of Ge’ez, the ancient sacred language of the Ethiopian Christian church, in which tabot means “holy ark,” too. This usage has, according to the scholars, no indigenous Ge’ez derivation and must have entered Ge’ez in the early centuries C.E. from a Hebraic source. (The old legend that the original Ark of the Covenant was taken to Ethiopia after the destruction of the Temple may be related to this.) ... The word teva does designate the pulpit in Sephardic synagogues, i.e., the table or stand on the bima or platform from which prayers are recited and the Torah is read. The ark, on the other hand, is called by Sephardic Jews the hehal (pronounced “HEY-khal”), from the Hebrew heykhal, “temple.” (source)

It's very intriguing to realize that 'tevah' can refer to the pulpit in a Sephardic synagogue or the box in which the Torah scrolls are kept in an Ashkenazi synagogue. A variant of the same word refers to a replica of either the Ark of the Covenant or the Tablets of Law (ten commandments) in the Ethiopian Church. (Not to mention that Sephardic Jews refer to the ark using the Hebrew word for temple.)

This is particularly interesting because in the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant is not referred to using the word 'tevah.' Rather, 'aron' is used.  But the fact that three very old Judeo-Christian religions substituted a form of 'tevah' to refer to 'the word' is quite telling. 

In light of all of this, it seems that one deeper message we can take from both stories is this: 'the word' can save us from death if we "enter into" it. On that, it seems there is general consensus.  This begs this question, though: How do we enter into God's word? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is uniquely positioned to offer a deep answer to that question, which has to do with Christ, covenants, baptism, temples, and latter-day revelation.

Parallels to Christ

I believe the symbolism embedded in the story of Noah is intended to point our minds to Christ's atonement, which is the ultimate means by which we can obtain everlasting life. Just as Noah entered the ark after hearkening to God's command to build it, each of us must build an ark of sorts from the word of God in our own lives and enter into it by trusting God to lead us and guide us through the chaos of mortality in safety. Recall that the ark had no sail and no oars.

Christ is the Word, who was with God and was God from the beginning. Those who receive Him obtain power from Him "to become the sons of God" by becoming "born ... of God." (See John 1:1-2, 12-13.)

I like the connection between baptism and the story of Noah. When we are baptized, we lay down the old creature into the water and allow a "new creature" to arise. (See Mosiah 27:25-26.) 

This new creature rejoices and diligently serves God for the rest of his or her time on earth. As discussed in this post, we do not serve Him to somehow earn eternal life. As I stated in that post:

...our good works are not performed in an effort to be saved. They are not the cause of salvation, they are an effect of it! These good works spontaneously appear when we truly recognize by what power we are saved.

The new creatures are the sons and daughters of God (Mosiah 27:25). His children perform good works such as baptism "as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world." (Mosiah 18:13)

There isn't a set number of "good works" we must perform in order to qualify for salvation.  Rather, we must use our agency to bring about a "mighty change in [our] hearts" (Alma 5:13-14), after which good works flow naturally from us like pure water from a fountain.

Baptism as the gate by which we "enter in"

The connections to Noah and baptism go a little bit deeper, too. 
  • Noah "enter[ed] into the ark" (Genesis 7:13) prior to the flood. 
  • Baptism is the "gate by which [we] should enter" in order to "receive." (See 2 Nephi 31:9, 17-18.) 
  • This is the beginning of the process by which we become "peaceable followers of Christ" who "have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven." (Moroni 7:3)

Alma masterfully connects the covenant and "entering into His rest" in Alma 12-13. We've touched on this a little already in this series and we'll come back to it as we contrast God's "wrath" and His rest in the next two parts of this series.

I'll give Alma-2 the last word:

37 And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word. (Alma 12)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Tents and houses

There are many similarities between Israel's exodus in the Book of Exodus and Lehi's exodus in 1st Nephi. These may be amplified by Nephi's writings, who probably sees these parallels and uses them to teach his readers deeper lessons.

One of the Jewish feasts is called Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) and is a harvest festival akin to Thanksgiving. But it is also a commemoration of the exodus, and how God provided for his people during the years in the wilderness. As part of the celebration, they build temporary structures or use their tents, where they eat their festive meals and even sleep when the weather is nice. Nephi's focus on his father's tent is but one of many indications that they left Jerusalem at the time of Sukkot.

I believe that the tent, booth or tabernacle as a temporary dwelling has symbolic significance. The people of Israel were in the wilderness temporarily because they really were on a journey to the promised land. The exact same thing can be said for Lehi and his family. Lehi embarked on a journey to a new land that would be the promised land for him and his posterity. During the journey, he "dwelt in a tent". The Israelites had a tabernacle in the wilderness as a portable temple. But in the promised land, Solomon built a temple as a permanent structure, as did Nephi in his promised land.

Conversely, the house or mansion signifies the permanent residence, the end destination. These are not found in the wilderness, but in cities like the New Jerusalem. In heaven, there are no tents but rather mansions.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
And I also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have a more excellent hope; wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared. (Ether 12:32)

It follows naturally from this, that our mortal body is the tent/tabernacle while the immortal, resurrected body is the house for our spirits. This mortal journey is a wilderness and our destination is the promised land. 

For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay (Mosiah 3:5)

In other words, the eternal being would have a temporal residence on earth in a physical, mortal body, like the rest of us. This same idea is also conveyed in the Gospel of John, although more subtly for those of us who don't read it in Greek.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14)

The word "dwelt" here comes from the Greek word, "skenoo", which is based on the word for tent, and indicates only a temporary residence, as in "encamp".

The righteous believers past and present, know that mortal life on earth is only temporary and long for the permanent residence in the eternal promised land.

11 Wherefore, hearken ye together and let me show unto you even my wisdom—the wisdom of him whom ye say is the God of Enoch, and his brethren,

12 Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations;

13 And confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (D&C 45)

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)

Jewish cemeteries are frequently called "beth olam", which means "eternal house". This is the permanent dwelling on the other side, when the journey of life is over. This is also considered a place of rest. When the journey/pilgrimage is over, you can dwell and rest at your destination. Lord Wilmore is currently writing a fascinating series on rest and I might have some more to say about that in future posts as well. For now, I will let Enos have the final word

And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen. (Enos 1:27)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Noah, the ark, and "rest" -- part 3 (Enoch's vision of Noah's salvation)

With part 2 in this series about the connections between Noah and the everlasting covenant as a backdrop, let's get into Noah's role in this vision.  Here's what comes next:

42 And Enoch also saw Noah, and his family; that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation;

43 Wherefore Enoch saw that Noah built an ark; and that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand; but upon the residue of the wicked the floods came and swallowed them up.

44 And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look.

45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?

To understand this passage more deeply, it is important to understand that the name Noah means "[divine] rest" and that the passage in Genesis which introduces Noah plays on a root which sounds very similar to his name which can either mean "comfort" or "sorrow/regret." Notice how Enoch's reaction to seeing Noah and his family saved from the flood causes him to say: "I will refuse to be comforted." Quite understandably, he's thinking of all those who weren't saved. Follow this link to Bowen's presentation for a more in-depth analysis of the Hebrew undercurrents in this passage.

The Lord corrects Enoch's refusal to be comforted by reminding him of the most important element of the plan -- the redemption offered by Jesus Christ -- which rightfully gives us reason to "lift up [our] heart, and be glad, and look." The story of Noah is one illustration of how we pass through this probationary period of our journey in safety -- it has everything to do with hearing the voice of the Lord and "entering into" safety.  This is the purpose of the everlasting covenant. 

We see this theme play out as the question "when will the earth rest?" echoes multiple times throughout the remainder of the vision (see verses 48 and 54), with the answer finally arriving after the question is asked one final time in verse 58:

58 And again Enoch wept and cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the earth rest?

59 And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father; and he called unto the Lord, saying: Wilt thou not come again upon the earth? Forasmuch as thou art God, and I know thee, and thou hast sworn unto me, and commanded me that I should ask in the name of thine Only Begotten; thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne, and not of myself, but through thine own grace; wherefore, I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth.

60 And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;

61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;

62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.

63 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other;

64 And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest.

"Noah built an ark." The Lord "smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand." 

In the first instance, only Noah and his family were preserved from the flood.  Notice how this is inverted in verse 62, where "truth and righteousness" are caused "to sweep the earth as with a flood" to gather those who will hear to safety in Zion. In this verse I see a direct connection between Noah's ark, Enoch's Zion, and the latter-day work of gathering Israel. It all has to do with preparing the elect for the return of Jesus Christ.

Verse 64 offers a remarkably succinct summary of the central purpose of the creation (as a means of dividing the righteous from the wicked). This is the "creation-covenant connection" on full display. When that work of sorting is complete, the earth can finally rest.

In Zion, no one waits for rest

One final point for today's post is that those who enter into His rest by abiding in the covenant begin to experience eternal, unshakable joy immediately and forever (so long as they abide in the covenant). It isn't a future state to anticipate. Rather, it becomes a constant source of "hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God" and "an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." (Ether 12:4.) 

Perhaps paradoxically, entering into His rest comes with the responsibility to get to work declaring the glad tiding to all the inhabitants of earth. We'll get into this aspect in more depth in the next part of this series, but I'll close with these words from Alma-2. Notice how he speaks of the order of the high priesthood and its high priests in verses 7-9 in a way that transcends time:

6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest

7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—

8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end

Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.

10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. (Alma 13)

As discussed above, in a later post in this series, we'll dive into how themes from Enoch's grand vision make their way into the Book of Mormon, specifically four sermons I've studied and connected to each other and Moses 7, given by men who each had access to the brass plates. 2 Nephi 2, Mosiah 2-5, Alma 12-13, and Alma 42. In the next post, we'll go deeper into the meaning of some words related to Noah's ark.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Water, bread, fruit and the temple

This post is a continuation of previous posts on food and drink metaphors in the Book of Mormon. See here, here and here. To enable the reader to skip those post, the next paragraph gives a short summary:

The scriptures and the Book of Mormon in particular are full of food and drink metaphors: (Living) waters, bread (of life) and fruit (from the tree of life). The symbolism is obvious. Just like food and water is necessary to sustain physical life, we need spiritual nourishment to gain eternal life. But this is scratching the surface and I want to dig a bit deeper. The previous posts I linked show a pattern where food and drink metaphors are coupled with judgment. At first, this seemed puzzling. Then I realized that these metaphors represent the word of God. Judgment consists of an examination to see if the word is found in us (see Alma 12:12-13). This is only the case if we have partaken of the fruit, the bread and the living waters.

Having pondered this some more, I realize this is rooted in the ancient temple. This video is a good explanation of the temple of Solomon. It contains all the elements I mentioned, water, bread and tree/fruit. As explained in the video, the water was outside in the molten sea and in the bronze water basins for washings. Fruit is found in the form of pomegranates on the pillars at the entrance and the clothing of the high priest. The menorah, that was in the form of a tree, was inside the holy place as was the table with the shewbread.

As the video also explains, the Garden of Eden is believed to be the first temple of sorts, or at least the tabernacle was modeled after or representing the Garden of Eden. The tree and fruit symbolism is obviously very prevalent there, but there is also water in the form of four streams. See Lord Wilmore's post about that here. What about the bread? It is not something that is found in the Garden of Eden per se as far as we know, but it is mentioned. 

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19)

When man was cast out of God's presence in the Garden, it was not meant to be forever. The temple represented the journey back. When the Book of Mormon prophets talk about water, bread and fruit in a spiritual sense, I believe these to be temple references. This is part of the spiritual journey, represented by the temple, back to God's presence, represented by the Holy of Holies. When I have noticed previously that these metaphors appear together with judgment in the Book of Mormon, I now understand that they appear together with the concept of being in God's presence. The journey there is what the temple symbolizes. In order to get there, we need to drink or cleanse ourselves with the living waters, eat the bread of life. We need to produce good fruit to one day be able to partake of the fruit of the tree of life.

This would be well known to Alma, who was the high priest.

Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely (Alma 5:34)

It is also believed that this sermon in Alma 5 was spoken in conjunction with renewal of covenants and admission of temple entry in a so-called sabbatical year, according to the Law of Moses. See this article for more information. After asking several probing questions related to worthiness in Alma 5, Alma extends this invitation to partake of the fruit, bread and water. In other words, he invites the people to temple worship and the preparation that is necessary to enter into God's presence. If we have not done that, we will also be brought before him, but we will be judged and not able to dwell in his presence.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Noah, the ark, and "rest" -- part 2 (Enoch's vision of the wickedness of the residue)

This is part 2 in a series of posts intended to connect a lot of seemingly unrelated ideas, as listed in part 1 here

In the next two posts, we'll be looking at Enoch's vision found in the Book of Moses and how that connects to Noah and "rest."

Last week I linked to a 2017 FairMormon presentation by Matthew Bowen on "Semitic Semiotics" and discussed the meaning of the name "Cain" and its association with secret combinations.  One point that I made was that the Book of Mormon references to Cain harmonize with the deeper Hebrew meaning of the name.  This suggests the authors of that book understood the Hebrew to a degree that modern readers do not. The same is true with the name Noah in the Book of Mormon, a concept which is discussed by Stisa here.

In this post, I'll set the stage to explain in the next post how the Book of Moses similarly demonstrates a thorough understanding of the deeper meaning of the name 'Noah' in an entirely different way, and how this helps unfold a deeper understanding of what it means to "enter into His rest." The big lesson I've taken away from this is that Noah is an archetype, whose story illustrates how we can overcome chaos and inevitable death through the everlasting covenant mediated by the atonement of Jesus Christ. We can very directly connect Noah's ark with the everlasting covenant in several profound ways, which I hope to outline in this series.

Enoch's vision of Noah

Before we get into the vision Enoch had of Noah, we need to set the stage by discussing what led up to that part of the vision. Understanding why the Lord showed Enoch the vision of Noah when He did helps explain what Noah's story is intended to teach us.

Knowledge, agency, commandment, consequence

The Book of Moses contains an expansive account of Enoch's vision of the arc of human history on the earth.  In verse 28, Enoch sees "the God of heaven" weep over the "residue of the people" (those who were left behind when Zion was taken up to heaven). I've discussed this verse before, as I believe it forms a foundational set of symbols which are referred to repeatedly in the Book of Mormon.  See here, here, and here for some examples of how this symbol plays into Book of Mormon imagery. 

Enoch then asks God how He, being holy and "from all eternity to all eternity," can weep?

Here is the Lord's reply:

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them. (Moses 7)

In these verses we find an important pattern related to the plan of salvation. By choosing to leave God's presence, we obtained (1) knowledge of good and evil and (2) agency. These gifts came with commandments to love each other and choose God over the devil. Inherent in this is the fact that we will sin, and so the need for a savior was known from the beginning. We'll get to this pattern in more depth in a future post (part 4), including four masterful sermons from the Book of Mormon which echo this pattern.

For now, let's move on in Moses chapter 7 and discuss the remaining foundational element to later set the significance of Noah in Enoch's vision into proper context. The final element of this pattern, of course, is Jesus Christ.

After God explains why His fierce anger is kindled against the residue of the people, who "hate their own blood" and have achieved unprecedented levels of wickedness (see verse 36), God then begins to unfold the plan of mercy, set from the beginning to save those who will repent from that awful fate:

39 And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment;

Christ and His atonement offer us an escape from death, if we choose to "enter in." 

At this point in the vision, Enoch seems to be sharing many of the same feelings as God, which is a very significant detail.

41 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook.

A heavenly vision gave Enoch eyes to see humanity the same way God sees us.

In the next post, we'll begin with Moses 7:42 and start to connect Noah to the everlasting covenant and entering into God's rest.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Shema and the covenant

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 are very well-known verses to Jews. It is a prayer that is often cited on various occasions, similar to the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 for Christians. It is called "the Shema" after the first word of the prayer, which is translated into "hear"

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

When Christ was asked what is the greatest commandment, he quoted the Shema. 

I find it interesting how words can have slightly different meanings in different languages. For instance, the word "love" is typically translated into "elske" in my language, Norwegian. But it's not a 100% match. The Norwegian word is a bit more intimate and it would usually be strange or awkward to use it about a friend, for instance, whereas in English speaking countries, it is quite ok to love a friend. Learning the meaning of the original language of the scriptures can therefore be quite eye-opening, as they might also have slightly different meanings. So how would an ancient Israelite understand the word, ahava (אהבה), that has been translated into love in verse 5?

Just like the English word, it signifies a close emotional bond. But the English word is more related to feelings, while the Hebrew word is more related to action and commitment. Especially when there is talk about love between God and man in the Old Testament, it is an indication of a close covenant relationship based on commitment and obedience. The Book of Deuteronomy is full of covenant language and lays out the terms of the covenant between the God of Israel and his people. The Shema is the heart of this covenant. Moroni understood this when he quoted part of the Shema in Moroni 10:31-33

31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

Even though the Law of Moses was fulfilled, loving God with a "Hebrew" love is still an important part of the new and everlasting covenant.

Ahava comes from the Hebrew root, hav, which means to give. As stated on this website:

True ahava, true love, is more concerned about giving than receiving.  Being the center of someone's attention isn't love.  And love isn't about getting some feeling or fix.  Ahava is about giving devotion and time.  Giving is the vehicle of love. YHWH so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son.  Meaningful relationships have mutual giving.  Love may focus on receiving, but ahava is all about giving.  There is a difference.  Consider that the Hebrew word "ahava" is not an emotion but an action.  It is not something that happens "to you" but a condition that you create when you give.  You don't "fall" in love - you give love! 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Noah, the ark, and "rest" -- part 1

In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark (Genesis 7:13)


And the ark rested ... upon the mountains of Ararat. (Genesis 8:4)

This post will begin a series on connections between the following concepts:

  • Noah
  • The ark that protected Noah's family from the flood
  • The mount upon which the ark came to rest
  • The tabernacle in the wilderness
  • The ark of the covenant
  • The everlasting covenant
  • "entering in" (either to the ark, the covenant, or His rest)
  • "swearing in His wrath"
  • Enoch testifying from "the hills and the high places"
  • The city of Zion

I'll say as I begin that I only have a few loose ideas where this study will take me, but I'm confident it will be worthwhile based on some discoveries I've already made.

We've previously discussed King Noah from the Book of Mormon and Mormon's clever description of his wickedness in connection to the meaning of his name in Hebrew, "rest." You can read that here. That is part of a larger series on the subject of "entering into His rest" written by Stisa (the other parts of that series are found here and here). All of that is important background, but I'll be taking this connection a little bit deeper and focusing my attention on the Noah of Genesis and how his story and his name connect to the concepts of "enter[ing] in" at the strait gate.

The two arks

Let's begin with the similarities between the ark that Noah built and the tabernacle in the wilderness built by Moses, at the center of which rested the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies. Jeffrey Bradshaw points out in this paper on that topic many important connections:

  • Noah's ark is the only man-made structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was directly revealed by God.
  • It was designed in three tiers with dimensions paralleling the tabernacle.
  • The ark was to be made of "gopher wood" which is taken by modern scholars to mean cypress wood, which is the same material used to build some temple doors. 
  • "Gopher" also sounds similar to the word for "pitch" (kopher) which is mentioned in the same verse as a covering of the wood. Kopher derives from the same Hebrew root for atonement.
  • Both instances of "ark" (Noah's ship and the object at the center of the tabernacle) eventually came to be known by the same term in Hebrew (tevah).
  • The waters of the flood dried up on the the first day of the new year, similar to the day of the dedication of Solomon's temple.

Having established these connections between the tabernacle and Noah's ark, I'll push forward in the next posts with many interesting symbols connected to Noah's ark, Enoch, and the temple covenant. In the next post we'll begin with Enoch's vision found in the Book of Moses and how that connects to Noah and "rest."

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Treasures on earth and in heaven

When writing about symbolism of swords and the sacred Nephite relics, I started noticing the use of the word, treasures, in the scriptures. We are all familiar with the Savior's words at the Sermon on the Mount in the Old World and the Sermon at the temple in the New World.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal;
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (3 Nephi 13)

One may think that the Savior tells them something new since this sermon generally marks the transition from the old covenant to the new. However, this is just a reiteration of an old covenant term. I noticed this in Exodus 19 as I read this post from Lord Wilmore and discussed this whole concept with him.

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19:5)

This is repeated in Psalm 135:4.

For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

A covenant people is God's treasure. In return, the covenant people should collect treasures in heaven. Their treasure should be God and his word.

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdomand apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2)

We have seen on this blog before that Proverbs often speaks of wisdom personified as the female deity, or our Heavenly Mother as we would call her. The author advises to seek Wisdom as a treasure. The Book of Mormon prophets clearly understood this idea of heavenly treasures, even before the coming of Christ and his famous words in the sermon at the temple. Nephi-2 warns both his sons...

And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers. (Helaman 5:8)

...and the people of Zarahemla

But behold, ye have rejected the truth, and rebelled against your holy God; and even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, and where nothing can come which is unclean, ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment. (Helaman 8:25)

There is beautiful symmetry and balance in a covenant relationship when God reaches down to his people, makes them his treasure and draws them to him, while the people in turn reach upwards to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. This covenant relationship is a binding of hearts because "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". This is why Book of Mormon prophets consistently warn against seeking earthly riches

But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also. (2 Nephi 9:30)

When God/the heavenly treasure is replaced by earthly treasures, their hearts are not seeking him and the covenant is violated. The end result is disastrous and the Book of Mormon conveys that message in no unclear terms. A very common sign of pride in the Book of Mormon is when the people does what Jacob describes in this quoted verse. The combination of "heart" and "riches" in the same sentence is found 13 times in the Book of Mormon, usually in the form of "set their hearts upon their riches" or similar.

I posted recently about the swords and treasures slipping away from the people right before they were destroyed, according to the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite. Pondering the covenant relations of all this, I noticed that this is described as a consequence of a "curse of the land". Both the Jaredites and Nephites received a land of promise as part of a covenant. The Nephites were constantly reminded of the covenant, that like the Israelites of old, they would be blessed in the land if they kept the commandments. But in the end they didn't and the land was cursed. The curse of the land is also mentioned 5 times in the Book of Ether. It is a general principle conveyed in 1 Nephi 17.

38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes.

39 He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.

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.

The "curse of the land" is a sign of covenant violation, just as "prosper in the land" is a sign of covenant keeping. What kind of riches or treasures they searched for and where their hearts were, was apparently an important indicator of their covenant keeping. Let's have another look at the prophecies of Samuel:

18 And it shall come to pass, saith the Lord of Hosts, yea, our great and true God, that whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land, save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord.

19 For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land.

20 And the day shall come that they shall hide up their treasures, because they have set their hearts upon riches; and because they have set their hearts upon their riches, and will hide up their treasures when they shall flee before their enemies; because they will not hide them up unto me, cursed be they and also their treasures; and in that day shall they be smitten, saith the Lord. (Helaman 13)

The land of promise became cursed because of wickedness, because the Nephites did not keep the commandments so they could prosper in the land as promised. Setting your heart upon riches and hiding treasures in the earth, symbolically binds your heart to the earth. Hiding your treasure "up unto the Lord" or laying up for yourself treasures in heaven, on the other hand, binds your heart upward towards God. There is a lesson here for all of us. What are our riches and where are our hearts?


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Cain, קַיִן, and "getting gain"

As has been demonstrated many times in various ways, the writers of the Book of Mormon understood Hebrew. This post gives an overview of many examples.  Today we'll discuss an additional example, which also lends credibility to the idea that the Book of Mormon writers had access to some form of the Book of Moses., perhaps on the brass plates.

I'll be summarizing many ideas presented by Matthew Bowen in this 2017 FairMormon presentation.

Bowen points out that unlike in English, ancient Hebrew names are important signals of meaning:

Names, as signals or signs, communicated much more in terms of meaning anciently than they often do today. As Michael P. O’Connor has noted, “Semitic names are often linguistically transparent, i.e., meaningful as ordinary words (or compounds of them) in the language of their hearers.” In other words, names in the ancient Israelite onomasticon most often meant something to ancient Israelites in the Hebrew language or in languages of neighboring cultures with which at least some members of their society (e.g., scribes) were familiar (e.g., Egyptian, cf. Egyptian names Phinehas, Hophni, Pashhur, Miriam/Mary, etc.). With the exception of a few linguistically transparent personal names like Rose, Lily (and other “flower names”), Sunny, Hope, and so forth, English names overwhelmingly tend to be linguistically opaque.

This is an important backdrop, because it suggests that if we can find relevance in the meaning of a name in the Hebrew Bible, that meaning is way more likely to be intentional than in a modern text.

The meaning of Cain

The Hebrew name for Cain is 

קַיִן - Qayin (source)

This name is related to the Hebrew root 'qanah' (קָנָה) which means 'to get, acquire.' The wordplay is transparent in the first mention of Cain in Genesis 4:1 --

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. (Genesis 4)

Cain's Fate

In Moses 5:24 we learn that God warns Cain that if he rebels against the covenant, his name "shalt be called Perdition." This is significant because 'perdition' is an antonym of 'qayin' meaning "eternal damnation, utter destruction, loss" (source).

Sadly, Cain rejects this warning and slays his brother.

It is very interesting to me that the Book of Moses intensifies the nature of the wordplay on the name of Cain. Think of the elements found in Moses 5 regarding secret combinations in verses 29-41, which specifically highlights the purpose of these combinations, which is to murder and get gain. This is certainly not a coincidence but rather a restoration of something very ancient which was literally built into the name given to Cain. After making this oath with Satan, Cain's new name for himself is "Master Mahan" which might derive from the Hebrew word for "destroyer" (see page 148 of this paper).

Connections to "the two churches" concept

Nephi plainly teaches there are two churches. (See this post for a longer discussion.) One, the church of the Lamb of God, invites all to "come unto [Christ] and ... eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely." (See Alma 5:34.) This activity ultimately leads to "works of righteousness" (discussed in more depth here and here) and eternal life. Some of these righteous works are sacred and only given to those who have fully committed to following Christ all their days (partly as a protection against the curses associated with breaking the covenant). The ultimate reward of belonging to this church is to be "gathered in" (see 3 Nephi 21:24, 28) and receive eternal life.

The church of the devil, on the other hand, seeks to produce "workers of iniquity" who are "puffed up in the vain things of the world" and who "have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray." (See Alma 5:37.) Some of their more advanced activity also involves secret agreements which involve "murdering to get gain" but leads to being cutting off, cast out, and experiencing spiritual death -- permanent separation from God. Alma-2 puts it this way in his masterful sermon in Zarahemla:

42 And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.

What does the Book of Mormon say about Cain?

Matthew Bowen points out that both times Cain is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, his name is used in close proximity to references to secret combinations for the purposes of getting gain:

Helaman 6

Mormon gives us an in-depth overview of the origin and purposes of secret combinations in this chapter, as he is explaining that the Nephites "began to set their hearts upon their riches" and "began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another" (see Helaman 6:17).  This begins a long passage about secret combinations, where we learn:

  • "those murderers and plunderers were a band who had been formed by Kishkumen and Gadianton" (v. 18)
  • the purpose was to allow them to commit crimes without having to suffer for them (v. 21-23)
  • Satan is the author of them (v. 26)
  • Satan plotted with Cain in a similar manner (v. 27)

We also learn from verses 21-22 that these secret combinations involved:

  • covenants
  • oaths to protect and preserve each other
  • secret signs
  • secret words

Ether 8

Moroni gives us a glimpse into the secret combinations which were had among the Jaredites, in which many of the same principles are outlined, including that these oaths "were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning." (See Ether 8:15.)

We also learn that these oaths "have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi." (See verse 21.)

The purpose of these oaths is to "get power and gain." (See verses 16, 22, and 23.) 


In conclusion, we learn a few important truths from this layer of meaning embedded in the name of Cain. 
  1. First, we learn that names are meaningful in Hebrew.  
  2. Second, we learn that Cain's association with Satan for the purpose of getting gain is an abomination and we should seek to identify it and eliminate its influence from our lives (See especially Ether 8:23-25.) 
  3. Third, we learn that the writers of the Book of Mormon seem to have understood the deeper Hebrew meanings of names. 
  4. Finally, we learn that the writers of the Book of Mormon seem to have had access to material that is similar to what we have in the Book of Moses.

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