2 Nephi 1:15 – LeGrand Baker – redemption and the sacred embrace

2 Nephi 1:15 – LeGrand Baker – redemption and the sacred embrace

Sometimes one finds things too good to not share. This is one of those things. This is what I found last week while I was working on a commentary on Second Nephi. It is about the sacred embrace.

15 The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Ne. 1:15 ).

Nibley ties the meaning of Lehi’s testimony to the power of the Saviour’s Atonement. He writes:

This is the imagery of the Atonement, the embrace: “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (“2 Ne. 1:152 Nephi 1:15). “O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!” (“2 Ne. 4:33). “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you” (“Alma 5:33).
This is the hpet, the ritual embrace that consummates the final escape from death in the Egyptian funerary texts and reliefs, where the son Horus is received into the arms of his father Osiris.” {1}

Earlier, Nibley had quoted Mayassis that “The ritual embrace is ‘the culminating rite of the initiation”; it is “an initiatory gesture weighted with meaning … the goal of all consecration.”{2}

Todd M. Compton explains further:

The relevance of this sort of adoptive ritual — defined by the specific act of embracing — to recognition drama should be clear. In recognition drama, the embrace is the immediate seal of recognition and love when the identity of the tested party has been proved. This is not exactly the same as adoption; it is more a re-adoption.
The embrace is the renewed outward token reflecting the renewed inward token of knowledge and love. {3}

In a footnote he adds:

In Egypt the embrace was closely tied to kingship succession: it was a paternal, father/son interchange, and also a means of transferring divine power.{4}

Sonship, coronation, consecration, and “transfer of divine power” are all tied so closely in meaning that it is difficult to make a hard distinction between them. Again it is Nibley who explains the ultimate meaning of the sacral embrace.

One of the most puzzling episodes in the Bible has always been the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord. When one considers that the word conventionally translated by “wrestled” (yeaveq) can just as well mean “embrace,” and that it was in this ritual embrace that Jacob received a new name and the bestowal of priestly and kingly power at sunrise (Gen. 32:24ff), the parallel to the Egyptian coronation embrace becomes at once apparent.

One retained his identity after the ritual embrace, yet that embrace was nothing less than a “Wesensverschmelzung,” a fusing of identities, of mortal with immortal, of father with son, and as such marked “the highpoint of the whole mystery-drama” (Spiegel, An. Serv., 53:392). {5}

In another place, Nibley adds this significant bit of information, “This same gesture of the upraised arms, the Ka symbol, also represents the sacred embrace.”{6}
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ENDNOTES

{1} Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1989], 559-60.)

{2} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975], 241.

{3} Todd M. Compton, “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” in John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990], 1: 611-631. Quote is on page 1: 627 – 628.

{4} Todd M. Compton, “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” 1:630-31.

{5} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 243-244.

{6} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 240.

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