Alan C. Miner

According to Lynn and Hope Hilton, of all the subjects we have advanced concerning the Lehi Trail, the one that evokes the greatest surprise is the Lihyanites. There was an ancient Arab tribe with that name. . . . Their name, "Lihyan," means in English "the people of Lehi." . . . They rose to political prominence in the fifth century B.C., from the former Dedan civilization. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, p. 77]

It is interesting that the Dedan nation replaced the Midian nation. Both were located near the tip of the Red Sea. It was to the land of Midian and to the tent of Jethro that Moses fled (Exodus 2:15). This former land of Midian (or Dedan) is also the location proposed for the valley of Lemuel, to which Lehi fled (1 Nephi 2:14). [Lynn Hilton, Personal Communication] [See the commentary and illustration on 1 Nephi 2:14]


Verneil Simmons explains that Joseph Smith has been accused of inventing the names of "Lehi" (1 Nephi 1:4) and "Nephi" (1 Nephi 1:1), yet both appear in the Old Testament. Lehi is a place name described in Judges 15 as the locality of the story of Samson. It was a land, or perhaps a village, close to the Philistine border somewhere southwest of Jerusalem. In recent years a hill in that area has been found by modern archaeologists to have the Arabic name of Khirket Beit Lei. The name can be translated as "Ruin of the House of Lehi." A tomb discovered in this hill contained inscriptions scratched in the soft stone walls, written in the Old Hebrew script of the sixth century B.C. If Lehi's ancestral lands lay in the area of Samson's homeland, then he would have had easy access to the highway leading to the Red Sea. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 64]


According to Hugh Nibley, Lehi was a man of three cultures, just like Moses and Lehi's ancestor Joseph. He was educated not only in "the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2), but in the ways of the desert as well. . . . The dual culture of Egypt and Israel would have been impossible without the all-important Arab to be the link between, just as trade between the two nations was unthinkable without the Bedouin to guide their caravans through the deserts.

One might, in a speculative mood, even detect something of Lehi's personal history in the names he gave to his sons. The first two (Laman and Lemuel -- 2 Nephi 2:5) have Arabic names--do they recall his early days in the caravan trade? The second two (Sam and Nephi -- 2 Nephi 2:5) have Egyptian names, and indeed they were born in the days of his prosperity. The last two, born amid tribulations in the desert, were called with fitting humility, Jacob and Joseph (1 Nephi 18:7). Whether the names of the first four were meant, as those of the last two sons certainly were (2 Nephi 2:1, 3:1), to call to mind the circumstances under which they were born, the names are certainly a striking indication of their triple heritage, and it was certainly the custom of Lehi's people to name their children with a purpose. (Helaman 3:21, 5:6) [Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 1957, p. 63]


Hunter and Ferguson report that the very name "Lehi" (see 1 Nephi 1:4) was discovered on a piece of broken pottery that was found in 1940 at the site of King Solomon's copper refineries near the northern end of the Red Sea. It dates from the fifth or fourth century B.C. [Milton R. Hunter and T. Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 75]

According to the Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the meaning of the name "Lehi" is "jawbone" (Judges 15:9, 14,19; 'Ramath-lehi' in Judges 15:17). Lehi was the name of the place in Judah where Samson slew 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass. The site is unknown. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 895] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:9]

Of interest to Book of Mormon readers is that the "jawbone" glyph was used in Mesoamerica to identify an ancient patriarchal figure. [See the commentary on Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life -- 1 Nephi 8]

1 Nephi 1:4 Lehi ([Illustration]): Potsherd found in 1938 on the Gulf of Aqaba, dating from approximately the time of Lehi, and bearing the name Lehi (from BASOR, #80, 1940). [Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, F.A.R.M.S., p. 169]

1 Nephi 1:4 In the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedikiah (Allen Theory) [(Illustration]): Chronology of Kings of Judah Who Were Named Zedikiah. by Dale Parkes [Joseph L. Allen, "Zedikiah 1," in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol 111. issue 111 (September 2001), p. 11]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary