“Every Family Being Separate One from Another”

Anthropological: We will examine the question of the tents after the next verse. In this verse we are given some important organizational information about Benjamin’s people. The first important piece of information is that when the people come, they come as kin groups. In a politically and religiously important ceremony, they come officially, and officially means in family groups. This is a different type of gathering that coming to market. In a market atmosphere we would not expect the entire family. That the family comes indicates both the importance of the event and the fact that the basic organizational mode of society is still kinship based.

The next type of information we can derive from the presented information is a little bit of the organization and ranking of the family. Nephite society at this time is patriarchal, as evidence by the emphasis on the man as head of the family. It is his family, his wife, his sons, his daughters. Of course this is no surprise as Hebrew society is also patriarchal, but this text confirms the continuation of the practice in the New World.

We may also suppose that they also continue the law of primogeniture, the inheritance of the oldest. Notice that the children are specifically ranked from oldest to youngest. This suggests both an attention to that age order, and a significance that is attached to it. This serves to confirm the hypothesis (again not surprising) that Mosiah II is the eldest son of Benjamin.

Historical: The gathering by families echoes the Feast of Tabernacles: “The Mosaic law specified that ”all…males shall appear before the Lord God“ (Exodus 23:17), and in Deuteronomy the entire family was expected to participate: ”And thou shalt rejoice in they feast, thou, and they son, and thy daughter, and they manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates“ (Deuteronomy 16:14; compare 31:10-12) (Szink, Terrence L. and John W. Welch. ”An Ancient Israelite Festival Context." In: King Benjamin’s Speech. FARMS, 1998 p. 184).

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon