EVIDENCE: The Judgments, the Statutes, the Commandments, the Law—Repetition of “The”

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

In English, a writer or speaker can introduce a list of nouns with a single article such as the. However, in Hebrew, the article is repeated before each noun. For example, in 2 Nephi 5:10, we read: “We did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord.” If Joseph Smith had written the Book of Mormon rather than translating it by the power of God, he would have probably worded this sentence in a more modern way, i.e., “We did observe to keep the judgments, statutes, and commandments of the Lord.” But he did not do so, and thus left for us yet another footprint of the divine influence upon the record called the Book of Mormon. (See Echoes, 176.)

Evidence: Hebrew Terms: Judgments, Statutes, Commandment, Law

Upon reading this passage in 2 Nephi, one might wonder why Nephi did not simply state that his people were “strict to observe the law.” Instead, he explains that they observed the law, statutes, judgments, and commandments of the Lord. The Hebrew language uses several words to imply different semantic aspects and subtle nuances of the English word law. One example is the word mishpat, which means “judgment” or passing a verdict; this concept embraces most phases of a legal trial. Another example is the word torah, a word that connotes more than just “the law” in the modern sense. Torah is derived from the verb yarah, meaning “to show, to instruct, to teach.” Joseph Smith, untrained in the Hebraic language when he translated the Book of Mormon, could not have understood the innate complexities of Nephi’s phrase (see Echoes, 353–56).

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1