“Borders Near Nearer”

1 Nephi 2:5 says that “[Lehi] came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (italics added). Keith Christensen theorizes that a close look at this statement about borders shows that it deals with Lehi’s travel before he reached the Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba and does not describe a route after reaching it. A border is “a dividing line or territory between two countries, states, etc.” When Lehi left Jerusalem, Judah was weak as shown by the Babylonians placing Zedekiah on Judah’s throne. Whenever Judah was weak the Edomites took control of the territory of Elath near the tip of the Red Sea called Elath. They would also take control of a port at the tip of the Red Sea called Ezion-geber. Following the time of King Solomon, the activity of this port (Ezion-geber) was a key to the prosperity of the land. Those kings of Judah who desired to show themselves powerful attempted to re-establish the fleet out of Ezion-geber. So, if the Edomites were in control of their own land (which would have been the circumstances at the time of Lehi) this would have resulted in there being an Edomite border north of Ezion-geber. Lehi would have come to this border at some point. The phrase relating that Lehi was “by” borders could refer to this political border or to arriving at the edge of the geographic borders in which he subsequently traveled. Either way, the description in 1 Nephi 2:5 would reflect the progress in Lehi’s journey from the wilderness frontier south of Beersheba, going near and then nearer the Red Sea. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, pp. 237-238, unpublished]

1 Nephi 2:5 Borders near … nearer (Illustration): Map of the wilderness and political borders from Jerusalem to the Red Sea. [Keith Christensen, The Unknown Witness, pp. 237-238, unpublished]

“He Came Down by the Borders Near the Red Sea He Traveled in the Wilderness Nearer the Red Sea - Potter 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). One might ask, What distinction was he making? George Potter notes that on leaving the port town of Ezion Geber (Port Aqaba), Lehi would have been traveling on the eastern shoreline of the Red Sea, still on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. Between the shoreline and the mountains (or “borders”) on his left was a sandy plain never more than three miles in width. Nephi’s description defines exactly this topography along this shoreline. That is, he says that they “came down BY the borders [mountains] NEAR the shore of the Red Sea.”

One next finds that after traveling southward along the shoreline for about twenty miles, the mountains (or borders) that parallel the coast on one’s left split into two parallel ranges (see illustration). While both branches or ranges continue to parallel the shoreline southward, and while the eastern range is a little over 20 miles inland, the western branch continues to be on one’s immediate left. Thus, one can continue to travel another 25 miles southward along the shoreline and still be “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea.”

At a point 45 miles from Aqaba, one runs into a blocked trail caused by the mountain range immediately on the left running into the sea (see illustration). Potter describes the situation Lehi would have faced at this blockage:

In front of him the trail was blocked by the borders/mountains. To his left were mountains towering over six thousand feet. His only realistic option was to turn into the mountains. Apparently, this seems to be what Lehi did … we rather unsurprisingly found the only valley or wadi that leads from the shoreline and into the mountains… As we explored the wadi, it narrowed to where at points we were certain it was a dead end, however, around each bend, we were delighted that the trail would continue on deeper [southward] into [“in”] the mountains [ or “borders nearer the Red Sea”]. What we also found was that the wadi “in the borders” provided a good camel trail that had a level gravel bed and a smooth upward grade… . We learned from the Bedouins in the area that the valley’s name was Wadi Tayyib al-Ism, the Wadi of the Good Name. … . We had wondered how Lehi and his family could have traveled “in” the mountains of Midian on camels. Here was the answer, a straight level wadi with an ideal camel trail of sand and gravel. A trail near the shore, yet still “in the borders.” (see illustration)

Thus the text is correct when it says that after Lehi traveled “by the borders [or mountains] which were near the Red Sea,” he then traveled “in the wilderness IN the borders NEARER the Red Sea” [or in the branch of parallel mountains which was nearer to the Red Sea]. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, pp. 24-31]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea ([Illustration] The two mountain ranges of Midian. Map: The Ancient World at the Time of the Patriarchs. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS King James Bible, 1979 edition]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea (Illustration): Blue boxes denote the two mountain ranges in Midian. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi’s Trail, Chapter 1, p. 3, Unpublished]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea ([Illustration] Mountain range or borders slightly inland from the shoreline of the Red Sea. The second and more easterly mountain range is twenty to thirty miles inland, and its peaks reach a height of over 7,800 feet. [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 25]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea ([Illustration] Shoreline mountains blocking passage down the shoreline. 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]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea ([Illustration] Diagram of how the trail deviates eastward, because of the trail blockage, into the wadi . [George Potter with Richard Wellington, Following the Words of Nephi: Part One: Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999, p. 25]

1 Nephi 2:5 The borders near … nearer the Red Sea ([Illustration] Hilton Theory and Potter Theory compared: According to the Hilton Theory, Lehi took another branch of the trade route from Aqaba to al-Bada’a. 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]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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

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