“He Came Down by the Borders Near the Shore of the Red Sea”

Brant Gardner notes that one of the unasked questions about Lehi’s flight is why he “came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). Assuming that they were to eventually build and board a ship, why didn’t Lehi flee west to the Mediterranean? The easy answer is that Lehi was fleeing, and to go in virtually any other direction led him into thicker civilization, and possibly into the waiting arms of enemies. Toward the desert was the sure path of escape, a route which had been an historical option for those fleeing difficulties in their cities (see Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, p. 82). [Brant Gardner, “Book of Mormon Commentary,” 1Nephi/1Nephi2, p. 5]

“Borders”

The term “borders” is mentioned not only here in 1 Nephi 2:5, but also later on in regard to the Land of First Inheritance being “on the west in the borders by the seashore” (Alma 22:28, italics added), and later in reference to the cities or lands of Antionum, Moroni, Nephihah, Lehi, Morianton, Omner, Gid, Mulek, and Bountiful “all of which were on the east borders by the seashore” (Alma 31:3, italics added; 51:22, 26, 32). The Book of Mormon reader should be aware of the fact that although “borders” can be political, they usually involve some geographical features which by nature tend to separate people (such as rivers, mountains, and seas). In this instance, the political borders of Judah stopped at the tip of the Red Sea near where the port city of Aqaba is now located. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

“He Came Down by the Borders Near the Shore of the Red Sea”

Joseph Allen notes that while on tour retracing the steps of Lehi, most members of the group felt that it was more probable that Lehi crossed the Jordan River near Jericho, and then traveled south for two reasons. First, his family would have immediately been out of danger from the Jewish king, Jehoiakim-Zedekiah. Second, the well-marked Frankincense Trail (dated to before 900 B.C. along established caravan routes) would have streamlined their journey. [Joseph L. Allen, “LDS Group Blazes Lehi’s Trail” in Joseph L. Allen ed. The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Volume II, Issue V, 2000, p. 6 ]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] Map: Lehi Departs into the Wilderness. Adapted from a map by Randall Spackman [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

“By the Borders near the Shore”

George Potter notes that according to the text, Nephi traveled “by the borders near the seashore” (1 Nephi 2:5). According to Potter, to fully appreciate the historical accuracy of this statement, one needs to consider the geography of northwestern Arabia. Assuming that the term “borders” means “mountains” (as discussed previously), as a traveler moved southward along the historic camel trail from the northern end of the Red Sea or Gulf of Aqaba into Arabia, he found on his right the waters of the Red Sea, and on his immediate left he found mountains (“borders”). Thus he was traveling “by” the mountains or borders on his left. The area in which he traveled (between the sea and the mountains) was a narrow, relatively flat coastal plain called the Thema. As Nephi entered Arabia at sea level, the mountain peaks rose on the east (his left) to a height of 3570 feet. By the second day of his journey, the peaks were towering over 6,000 feet above the plain. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 22, 24]

1 Nephi 2:5 BY the borders near the seashore ([Illustration] The shore of the Red Sea or Gulf of Aqaba going south into Arabia. The reader should notice the mountain “borders” on the left (east). Photo by George Potter. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 24]

“He Came Down by”

In 1 Nephi 2:5, Nephi mentions “the borders” twice. According to Hugh Nibley that should be capitalized because that’s what that area has been called, the Jabal, which means “the Borders.” Joseph Smith didn’t know that. Neither did Oliver Cowdery, so they left it uncapitalized. But that area in which they went was the Jabal. Jabal is the range of mountains that separates one country from another. This had the name, Jabal. So they went down into the Borders. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 122]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] The tremendous Dead Sea rift zone, of which this Wadi Al-Arabah gorge is part, extends through parts of Jordan and Israel … The Arabah is the deepest rift on the face of the earth and plunges to over 1,300 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, pp. 26-27]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] The Wadi al ’Araba runs between Aqaba and the Dead Sea. During a rainy period, the wadi is filled with water; when it is dry, it becomes a trail through the desert area. [Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail, pp. 54-55]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] Today the Jordanian port of Aqaba (foreground) and the Israeli town of Eilat (background) on the Red Sea mark the end of Wadi Arabah. [Warren and Michaela Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, pp. 66-77]

“He Came Down by the…”

In the first six verses that describe the first camp of Lehi’s family in the wilderness, Nephi used the word “borders” three times (1 Nephi 2:5-10). Knowing what Nephi meant by the term “borders” is an important key for identifying the location of the valley of Lemuel. As one traveled south from the land of Jerusalem in Nephi’s day, the final outpost of civilization was a shipping port called Ezion-Geber on the tip of the northeastern branch of the Red Sea (known today as the Gulf of Aqaba). Today the town of Aqaba is a mile east of the ruins of that biblical city (Ezion-Geber).

According to the theory of George Potter, as Lehi led his family south of this site, he would have “departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). (see illustration) South of the port of Aqaba, the ancient caravan route passed by mountains on the east. Thus according to George Potter, the mountains of northwest Arabia are the “borders” described by Nephi. Sir Richard Burton called these borders, the “kingly Mountains of Midian” (the “land of Midian” being the name that the region was called by in Bible times during the life of Moses--see Exodus 2:15). Potter notes several reasons why the term “borders” should be correlated with mountains:

(1) The wilderness itself distinguished political borders.

(2) The mountains form the natural borders that separate the tribal lands of this region.

(3) The Hebrew word gebul means border. Gebul cognates with Arabic jabal (colloquial jebel) which means mountain. Hugh Nibley explains:

It mentions “the borders” twice in the fifth verse [1 Nephi 2:5]. That should be capitalized because that’s what the area has been called, the Jabal, which means “the Borders.” Joseph Smith didn’t know that. Neither did Oliver Cowdery, so they left it uncapitalized. But that area in which they went was the Jabal. Jabal is the range of mountains that separates one country from another. This had the name Jabel.120

(4) Another name given to the mountains in this part of Arabia is “Hegaz” or “Hijaz,” meaning “the Borders or Barriers.” Hijaz (“Borders”) is still today the place name used for these mountains, and its label stands as a testament to the purity of Joseph Smith’s translation.

(5) The Semitic language association of mountains to borders is illustrated in the language of the Old Testament when the children of Israel were commanded of the Lord: “go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it” (Exodus 19:12)

[George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 17-20, 22, 24]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the Borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] The Borders near the Red Sea. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 34]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the Borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] The borders near the shore of the Red Sea. Adapted from a general map of the area of the travels of George Potter and Craig Thorsted. (George D. Potter, “A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel,” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, Num. 1, FARMS, 1999, p. 58) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Collection]

“He Came Down by the Borders Near the Shore of the Red Sea”

Kelly Ogden notes that in recent years, researchers have ventured to describe the route Lehi and family took from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. In 1968, Sidney B. Sperry wrote as follows:

As for a route to the Red Sea, they had two choices they could go either directly south of Jerusalem by the road through Hebron and Beersheba and thence through the great wilderness to the northern tip of what is now the gulf of Aqaba, or they could go directly east across the Jordan until they struck the ancient “King’s Highway” and then proceed south, or nearly so, until the Gulf of Aqaba was reached. Lehi probably used the western route." (Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 97-98)

Thus, the first two options are:

(1) from Jerusalem southward past Hebron and Beersheba and then eastward to join the Rift Valley, called the Arabah;

(2) eastward from Jerusalem though the Judean Wilderness to the plateau on the eastern side of the Rift Valley to the King’s Highway.

In 1976, Lynn Hilton added a third possibility to the previous two:

(3) straight east to the northern end of the Dead Sea, past Qumran, En Gedi, Masada, and on the south to the Red Sea.

The Hilton’s saw the first option as improbable since the route remains in the hill country, near population centers, instead of entering the wilderness as the account says. They objected to the second option, the King’s Highway, because of passage through foreign lands with border complications, taxes, and so on. The Hiltons therefore concluded that the third option was the likely route. (Lynn and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail, p. 38)

Interestingly, Ogden states that during 1986-1987, accompanied by students and faculty from various Brigham Young University study groups, he walked the full distance from Jerusalem to the Red Sea and formulated certain opinions about the route from firsthand experience:

It seems to me unlikely that they would have used the King’s Highway, or that they would have journeyed straight southward though populated centers like Hebron and Beersheba. The account specifically points to immediate entry into the wilderness. The Hiltons’ preference, east to the area of Qumran, then south, however, is also most unlikely, as the fault escarpment of the Rift Valley drops down sharply and dramatically to the waters of the Dead Sea and allowed no passage to the south. There was no evidence of a road along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea until the Israelis cut and paved one in 1967. A viable course for Lehi’s journey is southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then along an ancient road to En Gedi (called the cliff or ascent of Ziz in 2 Chronicles 20:16), and thence southward through the Rift Valley, and Arabah. An alternate route could have been from Tekoa southward, passing between Juttah and Carmel, down into and across the eastern Negev to Mampsis, then eastward to the Arabah.

[D. Kelly Ogden, “Answering the Lord’s Call,” in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 22-23]

Note* Thus, Ogden added a fourth and fifth option:

(4) southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then along an ancient road to En Gedi (called the cliff or ascent of Ziz in 2 Chronicles 20:16), and thence southward through the Rift Valley, and Arabah.

(5) southeast out of Jerusalem toward Tekoa and then from Tekoa southward, passing between Juttah and Carmel, down into and across the eastern Negev to Mampsis, then eastward to the Arabah.

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea ([Illustration] Map showing three routes from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. [Kelly Ogden, unpublished]

“The Borders Near Nearer the Red Sea - Hilton Theory”

Nephi talks about coming down “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea” and traveling “in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). What distinction was he making? The Hiltons note: once we arrived on the site it became clearer what Nephi might have meant.

Traveling south from Aqaba, the western Arabian Tihama or coastal plain is squeezed into the area lying between the Red Sea and the mountains of the Arabian peninsula. Called Tihama by the local residents, this coastal plain is the location of the ancient route of the frankincense trail and the most logical route for Lehi’s party as well--we believe the only route possible.

We went straight south from Aqaba down the coast in the Tihama about eighteen miles to Wadi Umm Jurfayn, which comes down (westward) through the steep mountainside to a small oasis on the Red Sea called al-Humaydah. This oasis is, in one sense, the end of the Tihama or plain, since a little ways south, steep cliffs fall precipitously, straight into the sea, obviously blocking the trail farther down the beach. The geographically logical thing to do--indeed, the only thing to do--is to turn away from the Red Sea and go east up the hills in Wadi Umm Jurfayn through the mountain range in wide, sweeping bends. Storms have long ago filled in the rough places with a sand and gravel “roadbed” for all of the twenty miles to the head of the wadi (elevation 3,135 feet). This is the route of the ancient frankincense trail and in more recent centuries the Egyptian Hajj trail down the Red Sea coast to Mecca.

At the summit of Jurfayn, the wadi branches. One branch leads out to the desert on the east toward Tabuk, while the other wadi (Wadi al-Afal) slopes downhill to the south in a sweeping curve all the way to the Red Sea shore… . We drove down Wadi al-Afal, which we think represents the “borders near” the Red Sea, in contrast to the actual beach of Tihama which Nephi could have referred to as “borders nearer” the Red Sea. We finally stopped at Wadi Afal’s only oasis, a major village called al-Bad, Saudi Arabia… .

Once again, we believe the borders “nearer” the Red Sea are the eighteen miles between Aqaba and al-Humaydah, where the trail is right on the beach. The borders “near” would have been the route where Nephi turned east and then south through the 58 miles of the Wadi Umm Jurfayn and Wadi al-Afal to al-Bad.

[Some might say that the Hilton‘s have the term’s “nearer” and “near” in reverse chronological order, however they try to clarify.] When Lehi’s party finally broke camp in the valley of Lemuel and traveled further on down the seacoast from al-Bad, then they would have returned to the Tihama trail and been in the “borders nearer” the Red Sea again. When Nephi, after his family moved on past “Shazer,” again referred to “keeping in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 16:4), he was probably designating the area about halfway down the coastal plain where the trail widens near Jiddah; they were once again traveling farther inland from the coast itself. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, pp. 49-51]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea (Hilton Theory) [[Illustration] Adapted from a photograph, taken from space, of northwest Arabia near the Gulf of Aqaba. Those geographical places mentioned by the Hiltons in describing Lehi’s journey to the valley of Lemuel are highlighted and labeled. Photo by Landsat, US Geological Survey, EROS Data Center. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 50]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea (Hilton Theory) [[Illustration] Modern Road from Aqaba through al-Bad. The modern highway mostly follows the ancient trail. Map from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Petroleum. [Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia, p. 52]

“He Came Down by the Borders Near the Red Sea - Potter Theory”

Nephi says that they departed “into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4) and that they “came down by the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). According to Potter and Wellington, there are four possible routes of escape that Lehi could have used to reach the shores of the Red Sea (see illustration #1 below). These are:

(1) Southwest from Jerusalem via Beersheba to Ezion-geber.

(2) Eastward from Jerusalem to Jericho then south, passing to the west of the Dead Sea, through wadi Araba to Ezion-geber.

(3) East from Jerusalem towards Heshbon, then south via the King’s Highway to Ezion-geber.

(4) East from Jerusalem to join the Way of the Wilderness, then southwest to join the King’s Highway to Ezion-geber.

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] #1]: Lehi’s Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. Four proposed routes of escape. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

After leaving Jerusalem, apparently Lehi’s family headed immediately for the wilderness on their way to Arabia. Lehi would have wished to travel quickly, so he would no doubt have chosen an existing route in order to escape Zedekiah’s sphere of influence as quickly as possible. All of the routes mentioned above would have led the family to the Red Sea, however there are some problems to consider:

Routes 1 & 2: Since Lehi would have doubtless wanted to escape Judean influence as quickly as possible it seems unlikely he would have taken routes 1 or 2. Route #1 passes southwest via Beersheba in territory almost exclusively under the control of Zedekiah. (see illustration #2)

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] #2]: Lehi’s Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. Route #1. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

For route #2, both the Hiltons and Kelly Ogden have proposed that Lehi could have initially traveled eastward and then come down the west side of the Dead Sea to En-gedi, then southward by the “Way of the Red Sea,” which runs through Wadi Araba, a large valley that leads from the Dead Sea south to the Gulf of Aqaba (see illustration #3). [see the comments of Kelly Ogden on the initial part of this route] They state “The very name ‘Araba’ means wilderness,” giving exact conformation of the way Lehi was commanded to travel into the “wilderness.” The problem here is twofold: (a) the initial journey down the west side of the Dead Sea would have been within the power of king Zedekiah, and (b) the rift valley of al-Araba was never traversed by any large transport route. Musil noted: “During the dry season many animals and human beings would have perished from the heat there, nor would it have been possible to avoid the steep ascent [or descent]. The transport routes of antiquity pass only through places which offer a minimum of obstacles.”

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]]

Routes 3 & 4: The quickest and safest initial route away from Zedekiah’s influence and into the “wilderness” would have been east from Jerusalem to Jericho and then continuing on across the Jordan River. The recent discovery of the remains of churches at Wadi el-Kharrar (see illustration below), marking the place where John the Baptist ministered and where Elijah was caught up into heaven (see 2 Kings 2:11-13) would seem to add weight to the hypothesis that Lehi’s family indeed went eastward “into the wilderness.” The scriptures tell us that John the Baptist was “preaching in the wilderness of Judea” (Matthew 3:1). Wadi el-Kharrar is a little over one mile east of the Jordan river across from Jericho. [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 10:9]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] Escape From Jerusalem. The ruins of the church at wadi El Kharrar which, according to tradition, marks the hill where Elijah was taken into heaven. On the opposite bank of the wadi are the ruins of another church which marks the spot where John the Baptist is supposed to have preached. This area immediately to the east of Jerusalem, was known in the New Testament as the “wilderness” (of Judea). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

Nevertheless, according to Potter and Wellington, while these initial correlations with Lehi’s travel route seem enlightening, there is a need for more information because after crossing the river Jordan and heading east, the family would have had to choose between two roads headed south, “The Kings Highway” (route #3) and “The Way of the Wilderness” (route #4).

Route #3: After crossing the river Jordan, the first route leading south to the Red Sea would have been the “King’s Highway” (Numbers 20:17; 21:22). (See illustration #4) The King’s Highway would have been the most direct route out of Ammon and south into Moab, Edom and finally Midian. However, the part of the King’s Highway south of Rabbath-Ammon (Amman) ran along high ground through good arable land or farmlands. Accordingly, Graeme Donnan notes: “all of the principle settlements south of Amman, with the notable exception of Ma‘an lie astride the King’s Highway.” In view of these farms and settlements, Nephi’s description of traveling in the “wilderness” does not sound like a journey down the King’s Highway south of Amman.

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] #4]: Lehi’s Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea--The King’s Highway. Also showing wadi El-Kharrar and the Wilderness of Judea. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] The King’s Highway south of Rabboth Ammon ran through fertile farmlands where most of the settlements of the Ammonites and Moabites were situated. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

Route #4: By continuing about 5 miles further east of the King’s Highway, Lehi would have reached a second major route leading south towards the Red Sea. This desert highway was known as “The Way of the Wilderness” (2 Samuel 15:23-28). (See illustration #5) This route avoided the settled areas of the King‘s Highway and seems to fit perfectly with Nephi’s description of traveling in the wilderness (uninhabited desert areas). (See the illustration below) Taking The Way of the Wilderness south would have led to the oasis town of Ma’an, where mineral springs still flow. At Ma’an, rather than continue on south into Arabia, Lehi would have taken a branching route which led southwest from the Way of the Wilderness to join the King‘s Highway at Naqab in the Se’ir Mountains. From Naqab the King’s Highway led along the “Araba Road” to the ancient town of Ezion-geber (Tell al Khalaifah), situated near the modern town of Elath, and 2 miles west of the modern town of Aqaba. This last 50-mile southern section of the King’s Highway was out of the control of king Zedekiah with noticeably fewer settlements in desert terrain (see illustration). Thus, the “wilderness” route #4 seems to be the most logical route of escape for Lehi’s family. It allowed Lehi the greatest freedom of movement and the least possibility of interception by Judean authorities.

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] #5]: Lehi’s Route from Jerusalem to the Red Sea--The Way of the Wilderness. Also showing wadi El-Kharrar and the Wilderness of Judea. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 8]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] Escape from Jerusalem. A Bedouin stands by his tent against a backdrop of the Jordanian desert. The desert highway, or “Way of the Wilderness” ran along the edge of this desert terrain. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [[Illustration] Escape from Jerusalem. The southern part of the King’s Highway ran through the mountains, through far less fertile country than the northern part. This wadi marks the border between Moab and Edom. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 20]

There would also seem to be a historical precedent for the family escaping to the east. Burton MacDonald stated that the “Judaeans fled east of the Jordan river when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and scattered themselves among the lands of Ammon, Moab and Edom.” Abu Hurairah, an early Islamic period geographer, wrote of the Jews who settled in northwest Arabia to escape the persecution of Nebuchadnezzar. This flight resulted in large numbers of Jews living in al-Hijr, Khaibar and Medina. These Jews were contemporaries of Lehi’s family. Additionally, as the walls of Jerusalem were being breached, we find that king Zedekiah and his sons tried to escape (2 Kings 25:4), but they were captured when they reached the plains of Jericho (Jeremiah 52:8). In other words Zedekiah was also heading east apparently to cross the river Jordan.

In 1949, operation “Flying Carpet” began in which some fifty thousand Yemenite Jews were flown back to Israel for resettlement. These Yemenite Jews had no remaining written records of their history, all having been destroyed in numerous purges, or left behind as they escaped the mobs. Thus their traditions were oral. A number of different traditions exist as to how they reached the Yemen but according to Reubon Ahroni:

The most prevailing tradition, however, relates that the earliest Jewish immigration to Yemen took place forty-two years before the destruction of the first temple [587 B.C. plus 42 years = 629 B.C]. This immigration, so it is claimed, was prompted by Jeremiah’s proclamation: “He who remains in this city [Jerusalem] shall die by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence: but he who goes forth to the Chaldeans shall live” (Jeremiah 38:2). As a result of this prophecy of doom, seventy-five thousand courageous men from the nobles of the tribe of Judah, who firmly believed Jeremiah’s prophecy of impending national catastrophe, left Jerusalem accompanied by priests, Levites and slaves. This multitude, carrying their possessions with them, crossed the Jordan River and went into the desert in search of a place of refuge, thus tracing back the route of their entry into Canaan. They traveled eleven days in the desert and arrived in the land of Edom. From there they turned south until they arrived in Yemen.

Here we see an almost perfect description of Lehi’s journey east from Jerusalem then southwards down the Way of the Wilderness for 135 miles, to join the King’s Highway just before Naqab, the same route by which the children of Israel entered Canaan. (see the LDS Bible Dictionary, Map 3 below); see also Deuteronomy 2:1-37); Numbers 20:14-17). Lehi would then have traveled the last 50 miles to the Gulf of Aqaba along the King’s Highway, the final 23 miles of which passed through the Se’ir Mountains to Ezion-geber. It may well be that the precedent for Lehi’s journey had already been set, and Lehi initially just followed a large contingent of Judaeans who had already headed south. Readers should note that a recurring theme in Nephi’s account is that of the Exodus. Nephi repeatedly uses it when attempting to call his brothers to repentance (1 Nephi 4:2-3; 1 Nephi 17:23-43). Further on in Nephite history, King Limhi will draw a parallel between the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem (Mosiah 7:19-20). Alma will use the same analogy when teaching his son Helaman (Alma 36:28-38). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, pp. 9-18]

1 Nephi 2:5 He came down by the borders near the Red Sea (Potter) [Illustration]: The Route of the Exodus. This map shows that in retracing the route of the Exodus, the Jews would have headed east past Jericho, across the river Jordan into the wilderness and then south to the Red Sea. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Bible Dictionary, Map 3]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea (Potter Theory) [[Illustration] Lehi’s Trail into Wadi Tayyib al Ism (The Valley of Lemuel). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 26]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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

References