“He Caused a Tower to Be Erected”

In Mosiah 2:7 it says that Benjamin "caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them." Matthew Roper notes that the prophet Ezra, in celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, is said to have "stood upon a pulpit of wood" to address the people. Scholars have recently pointed out that the Hebrew word migdall, which the King James Version renders as "pulpit," should in fact be translated as "tower." It is interesting that the Book of Mormon never uses the words "pulpit" (see Nehemiah 8:4), or "scaffold" (see 2 Chronicles 6:13), or "pillar" (2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 23:13)---all words available in Joseph Smith's English Bible---in describing Benjamin's stand. Rather, the Book of Mormon employs the word "tower," which is closer to the Hebrew.

In an interesting discussion of the coronation of Joash, which took place in Solomon's temple, Geo Widengren has stated that, "at least towards the end of the pre-exilic period, but possibly from the beginning of that period, the king, when reading to his people on a solemn occasion from the book of the law and acting as the mediator of the covenant-making between Yahweh and the people, had his place on a platform or dais." This, of course, puts the practice squarely in the world of Lehi, who left Jerusalem shortly before the Exile (and thus the practice would have been passed on to Benjamin in the New World). [Matthew Roper, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4 1992, p. 180]

Mosiah 2:7 He [king Benjamin] caused a tower to be erected ([Illustration]): King Benjamin Preaches to the Nephites. King Benjamin "caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them." Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 191]

“A Tower to Be Erected”

According to Hugh Nibley, when Jerusalem was destroyed, they went to Babylon. They were kept there for many years, and many of them stayed over. That became the Jewish center of the world, so the great Talmud is the Babylonian Talmud, written in Babylon down to the year A.D. 1040. From this period of captivity Nibley lectures from the book Nathan the Babylonian (Nathan ha-Babli) discovered in the late nineteenth century sometime. Nathan the Babylonian witnessed the crowning of the king in captivity. . . . He describes the coronation. Here is how the Jews really crowned their kings. . . .

. . . They would have the big feast. It was a feast and celebration, the great assembly. It was usually a two--day affair, and the day before a wooden tower (this is very important) was erected. Note that Benjamin "caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them" (Mosiah 2:7). They did the same thing here in Nathan's account. There's no mention of towers like that in the Bible, but here it is. It was ten-and-a half feet high, four-and-a-half feet wide, and broad enough to have three seats. In the center is the big seat for the king, and on either side are his two counselors--the head of the School of Sura on the right, and the head of the School of Pumbeditha on the left. (You always have to have the president and his two counselors.) The king is the one who sits on the central throne, the empty throne. It was covered with costly cloths and things. Underneath this tower was a choir of young men, chosen for their voices and for their nobility. They had to belong to illustrious families; it was a very great honor to belong to the choir. They played an important part.

They open with prayer in which they ask for revelation, that the Spirit of the Lord might be with them. After the opening prayer, there is a sabbath hymn. The people sing an antiphonal hymn--the people sing and the chorus replies. Then there is the universal acclamation; they all stand up and go along with this. It is an antiphonal chorus. Then they sing the Creation Hymn which is very important. They are celebrating the foundation of the world. Here they sing a song called "By the Spirit of All Living Things." The meeting is opened by the hazzan. Remember, he is the person who takes the place of the old king. The hazzan is a cantor today, the one who sings in the synagogue. But the hazzan is the praecentor who takes the place of the old king and acts as master of ceremonies. He is the principal person there, but the other king is the one who gives the great sermon, of course. Then they give the holiness shouts. The people repeat the prayer, the qiddush, which is a prayer for the dead actually, so that all people are present on this occasion. Remember, this is a great feast of the ancestors throughout the world when they make this great assembly. The qiddush is actually the hymn for the dead and has to do with work for the dead. But while the people say it in a low voice, the chorus under the tower gives the hallelujah shouts. Then all the people arise and utter the Eighteen Benedictions which have to do with the creation of the world. Some people think the Eighteen Benedictions were the oldest text there was. Then they are all seated and the king appears. It says the king has been kept in concealment until now. He mounts the tower and, of course, all the people arise then. The king sits down, but the people remain standing while the two counselors come in and sit down on either side. then all the people sit down again. But there is also a proskynesis. They fall down in the presence of the king. We saw that before. when people are overwhelmed or want to appear overwhelmed, they go through the act of falling down on their faces. That happens here.

Then what happens? Over the king's head alone there is a magnificent baldachin cover, and the seats of the other two are separated. They are not right close to his. In the Temple Scroll living in the tents and the baldachin are important. The master of ceremonies, the hazzan, enters the tent in which the king is sitting and gives him a blessing in a low voice that only he, the people on the stand, and the chorus underneath can hear. It's a confidential thing, and all the other people hear is the chorus shouting Amen at the end of certain sentences on certain occasions. So they know that big things are taking place. It's all hush, hush and in a low voice when the hazzan goes in. It's the old king handing over personally the rule to his son. It's done in a mystical sort of fashion, with great silence and reverence. He comes from the tent and gives his royal blessing, and the old king blesses the new king. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 441, 443-444]

Mosiah 2:7 He [king Benjamin] caused a tower to be erected ([Illustration]): King Benjamin Addresses His People. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #307]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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