strtoupper('“A')nd I Nephi Did Take the Sword of Laban”

Just a few verses before Nephi records that his people desired that he should be their king (2 Nephi 5:18), he notes that the sword of Laban was in his possession: "I Nephi did take the sword of Laban . . . lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us" (2 Nephi 5:14). According to Brett Holbrook, in a survey of historical and mythical literature, two patterns of swords appeared: the kingly and the heroic. Both types function as symbols of divine authority. The sword of Laban can be included among them as a combination of the two patterns. Indeed, it is comparable with an ancient Near East prototype: the biblical sword of Goliath (which became the prize of the victorious David). . . . As a symbol of power in war, the sword came to be part of the regalia (royal objects) owned by kings that justified their transfer of authority, and the giving of a sword to the new king defined kingship in various ways, but the sword's symbolism in the royal regalia was the temporal representation of divine power in the sovereign. Yahweh himself is known to have a sword that he used in the cosmogonic battle before creation, and his word was frequently equated with a sword. As the Messiah of Christianity, Jesus Christ was to come a second time wielding a sword in the last days of judgment (Revelations 14:14-16).

The following is a comparison of the Swords of Goliath and Laban [and, to a certain degree, David and Nephi]:

1. Each sword was originally wielded by a man of might. (See 1 Samuel 17:4-7, 11; 1 Nephi 3:14, 31).

2. The sword's owner had his head cut off with his own sword by a faithful youth. (See 1 Samuel 17:51; 1 Nephi 4:18.)

3. The sword was unusual in appearance. (See 1 Samuel 21:9; 13:19, 22; 1 Nephi 4:9.)

4. Both of the swords were finely crafted for their time and were unique. (See 1 Samuel 21:9; 13:19, 22; 1 Nephi 4:9.)

5. The swords were revered by the people. (1 Samuel 21:9; 2 Nephi 5:14; Mosiah 1:16; Alma 37:14; Words of Mormon 1:13.)

Josephus recorded that after David slew Goliath he "carried the head of Goliath into his own tent, but dedicated his sword to God, [at the tabernacle]." The sword was then later kept with the ephod and priestly garments in Nob, where the tabernacle most likely was at the time (1 Samuel 21:9). The sword of Goliath was highly revered and kept with the implements of spiritual authority. When Saul found out specifically that David had obtained the "sword of Goliath" (mentioned by name), he was afraid and slew all the priests in Nob that helped David. Apparently Saul also respected the weapon and what it stood for, and feared when David possessed it.

6. The sword was used to lead people. (1 Samuel 23:1-5; 25:13; Jacob 1:10)

Although there is no direct mention of the name of Goliath's sword again, it is assumed that David retained and used it. Right after David acquired the sword of Goliath from Nob, the Lord instructed him to battle against the Philistines. In that battle David and his men were victorious.

7. The swords were symbols of authority and kingship. (1 Samuel 16:13; 18:6-7; 22:1-2; 22:20; 23:6, 9; 30:7(1 Samuel 24:20; 2 Samuel 5:3) (2 Nephi 5:18-19; 6:2; Jacob 1:9, 11, 15; Mosiah 1:15-16; Words of Mormon 1:13).

It was directly after David slew Goliath that the women sang, "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18:6-7). It was directly after David acquired the sword of Goliath from Nob again that he gained a following of four hundred men (1 Samuel 16:13; 22:1-2). And once he had the sword the priest Abiathar joined David, bringing with him the ephod that gave David added legitimacy (1 Samuel 22:20; 23:6, 9; 30:7). After David had the sword, Saul admitted to him, "I know well that thou shalt surely be king," and David was finally anointed king of Israel in Hebron (1 Samuel 24:20; 2 Samuel 5:3).

With the sword of Laban, Nephi led his people. As Nephi became king, and in fulfillment of the word of the Lord that he should be the ruler, he was divinely appointed (2 Nephi 5:18-19; 6:2; Jacob 1:9, 11, 15) The sword became part of the regalia, and was passed down among rulers as a sacred relic (Mosiah 1:15-16; Words of Mormon 1:13). [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 41-53]

2 Nephi 5:14 I Nephi took the sword of Laban (Similarities of Nephi and Laban to David and Goliath) [Illustration]: "A Comparison of the Swords of Goliath and Laban" [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 48-53]

2 Nephi 5:14 I Nephi took the sword of Laban (Similarities of Nephi and Laban to David and Goliath) [Illustration]: "The Transfer of Regalia in Nephite History" [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, p. 57]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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

References