Mosiah 11:20 — LeGrand Baker — Abinadi’s self assurance
20 And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord–Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.
Abinadi has just committed what Noah can define as high treason – and he has to know that, and he has to know there are only two possible results: either Noah and his people will take his words seriously and repent, or Abinadi will be killed. I have often used this great man as one of the ultimate examples of meekness in the sense “meek” is used in the Psalms 15 and 37, and the Beatitudes. That is, one who keeps the covenants he made with his Heavenly Father. Abinadi does that – understanding at the onset that it will cost him his life.
Let’s look at the nature of his treason. It is summed up in three accusations and one ultimatum: Their abominations, wickedness, and whoredoms; and “except they repent” the Lord will exercise his power against the kingdom.
Once again, we can go to the Bible to discover the meaning of the Book of Mormon words, lets check out “abominations.”
In the Old Testament the word almost always has not just religious, but cultic connotations. (By cultic, I mean having to do with the rites and practices of the religion, rather than just the beliefs.) Here are just a few examples to give the flavor of how the word is used.
In the word of wisdom portion of the Law of Moses, the Lord gives specific instructions about which birds may not be eaten. “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,” (Leviticus 11:13)
Relative to the ancient Israelite sacrifices, the Lord insists that no animal may be sacrificed which is not perfect: “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God.” (Deuteronomy 17:1)
The Canaanite religious practices, especially that of sacrificing of children, are called “abominations” “But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel.” (2 Kings 16:3) “Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 28:3)
The gods of the heathen nations are frequently referred to as simply “the abomination.” “And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.” (2 Kings 23:13)
So when Abinadi says the Lord “has seen their abominations,” he is condemning their religious practices and worship ceremonies – and that is treason for the king is believed to be the spokesman for God.
Throughout the ancient Near East (and since the Book of Mormon culture is an offshoot of the Near Eastern culture, we can assume this is true among the Book of Mormon people also) the king is the principle representative of the gods. In Egypt and Mesopotamia the king himself was a divine god, being a son of the chief god. In Israel the king was not deified, but he was the chief representative of Jehovah and his adopted son. The sanctity of the king, and therefore the stability of the state, rested upon the fact that the gods had appointed the king to be king, and that they would sustain him as such. In return for the support of the gods, the king built temples to them, conducted wars in their behalf, and enforced the rules and practices of their religion.
When Abinadi said that his God, had declared Noah’s cultic practices to be an abomination, and would take the necessary steps to put them down, Abinadi was challenging the legitimacy of king’s relationship with the true God, therefore challenging Noah’s right to rule, and essentially doing what Elijah did when that prophet challenged Baal, the Canaanite god, to a dual. Thus Noah responded, “Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?” (v. 27)
As a side note, I have often wondered at the method which Noah used to put Abinadi to death. “…they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death. And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying:” (17:13-14) Abinadi was burned to death, but not in the medieval European manner of tying him to a stake and lighting a bonfire under him. They “scourged his skin with faggots even unto death… and when the flames began to scorch him…” It appears that he was beaten with flaming sticks. That kind of death may have been designed as prolonged torture, but it sounds like it may have been a ceremonial thing. If that is true, Noah challenged Abinadi and his God by making Abinadi a human sacrifice.