“He Departed into the Wilderness”

According to Kelly Ogden, the word wilderness occurs over 300 times in the Book of Mormon and may at some later time in the western hemisphere refer to the thick forests or jungle, but not while in Judah and its neighboring deserts. Two Hebrew terms for wilderness are midbar and jeshimon. Midbar is generally land to the east of the central hills, east of the agricultural fields, out into the rain shadow, with a feeble vegetation. These are tracts for pasturing flocks. Jeshimon is the desolate wasteland beyond where little rain falls. The Judean Desert through which Lehi and his family probably journeyed is at first midbar and then jeshimon. It is known scripturally as a place of flight and refuge. It is a frightening, foreboding place for the uninitiated. [D. Kelly Ogden, “Answering the Lord’s Call,” in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 22] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5]

“He Departed into the Wilderness - Hilton Theory”

The term “wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4) is associated with either wandering away from civilization, traveling in desert valleys and rugged mountains, or traveling in the midst of a different political culture and environment. Whatever the case, the term “wilderness” is tremendously important to the development of a Book of Mormon geographical and cultural scenario and should be specifically defined at every step of the way through the book. Concerning the reference in 1 Nephi 2:4, eastward from Jerusalem is a very large and long wadi or desert valley that contains the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea, and that extends to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The southern extension of this giant rift is called Araba, which means “wilderness.” Lehi could have taken a number of directions in traveling from Jerusalem to the Red Sea (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5); however, according to the Hiltons (In Search of Lehi’s Trail, p. 56), this route would be the quickest and most logical way for Lehi to go. Dropping down over 3000 feet to the shores of the Dead Sea, and proceeding south, Lehi would follow a well traveled ”highway" that would lead him out of the land of Judah, whose southern political borders were by the tip of the Red Sea. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail, p. 56] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:5]

Geographical Theory Map: 1 Nephi 2:4 Lehi Departs into the Wilderness (Year 001)

1 Nephi 2:4 He departed into the wilderness ([Illustration] The ancient King’s Highway in modern Jordan is a likely route for Lehi and his family to have traveled as they journeyed south. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 16-17]

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness ([Illustration] Lehi’s Family Leaving Jerusalem. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #301]

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness ([Illustration] Lehi’s Family Leaving Jerusalem. The Lord warned Lehi in a dream to “take his family and depart into the wilderness.” Artist: Scott Snow. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 4]

1 Nephi 2:4 He [Lehi] departed into the wilderness (Discovering Lehi, pp. 17, 19]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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