Mosiah 8:20 — LeGrand Baker — wisdom

Mosiah 8:20 — LeGrand Baker — wisdom

Mosiah 8:20
20    O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!

Here again, is one of those little technicalities where the Book of Mormon shows itself to be an ancient Near Eastern-type document. Wisdom is feminine, she is a ruler – that is, both a queen and a judge (that sounds very much like the male counterpart, which, in the Lord’s words to Nephi is “ruler and teacher” (1 Ne 2:22), and elsewhere is “king and priest.”)

Her qualities of queen/judge are best displayed in the first 9 chapters of Proverbs. For the most part, Proverbs is a lot of one-liners strung together in a more or less coherent manner. They are attributed to Solomon, but some are much older than Solomon, and a few have even been found on Egyptian papyri documents which date as far back as the time of Moses. Some scholars believe our book of Proverbs was a kind of school text book used for the education of elite boys in the schools of ancient Israel. If that is so, and if it remained so among the Nephite elite, then it is understandable that this king Limhi might remind his people of what it says.

The first chapter of Proverbs is a kind of preface, then the next 8 chapters are a very interesting essay about the powers and qualities of Wisdom – not wisdom as an abstract notion, but Wisdom personified as a woman, who, just as King Lemhi says, “should rule over them!” Following that essay, Proverbs becomes a bunch of “old sayings” strung together.

Let me pull just a few ideas out of those early chapters of Proverbs to illustrate what Limhi might have been referring to.

The essay on Wisdom begins:

“Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,(Proverbs 1:20- 21) [Here her importance is firmly established. The main gate of the city was the place where the king or chief magistrate sat to hear petitions and to pass judgement. If she – Wisdom – “crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates” she is being described as the city’s chief judge, or administrator, or probably both. For example, [Ester was written too late to have been on the brass plates, but the principle it there] remember Hayman’s lament in the story of Esther, “Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:13) Hayman didn’t object to the old jew sitting on some bench by the city gate. What he meant was that Mordecai was presiding as judge and magistrate of the city. And Hayman couldn’t handle that.

We get the same sort of thing in the story of King David, when his son Absalom tried to make himself king. The account reads,

2    And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.
3    And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.
4    Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!
5    And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
6    And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Samuel 15:2-6).

Here Absalom is not just down by the city gate preaching his brand of politics and trying to show off his wisdom. He is assuming the powers of judge and king – and to do that, he must occupy the place at the gate.

One gets the same idea from the prophet Amos when he says, “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)

Other scriptures may carry that same kind of connotation, where the gate itself suggests the power of judgement, such as 3 Nephi 27:33. ” Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” And, 3 Nephi 11:39, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell {judgement and power of hell ? } shall not prevail against them.”

Be that last bit as it may, if Wisdom sits at the main gate, she exercises the authority of the king. Proverbs continues with words which sounds just like the very scripture which king Limhi may have been referring to:

21    How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
22    Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
24    Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
25    I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27    When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
28    Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
29    For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
30    They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31     Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
32    For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
33    But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”(Proverbs 1:22-33)

Other characteristics of Wisdom are:

10    When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11    Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
12    To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;” (Proverbs 2:10- 12)

In the middle of this essay about Wisdom, there is this most important idea:

5    Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6    In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7    Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8    It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).

The Hebrew word translated “navel” actually means umbilical cord. Then they asked, why would an adult want a healthy umbilical cord. The answer, of course, was that the cord was symbolic of their attachment to the eternal world from which we gain sustenance. So the notion of a healthy cord suggests that one does not break his connection with God or the world from which we came.

Proverbs continues:

13    Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
14    For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
15    She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
16    Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
17    Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
18    She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her (Proverbs 3:13-18).

I recommend the rest of those chapters to your reading.

Some scholars have suggested that in the gospels and in Acts, when a scripture is referred to by only its first or most relevant lines, what the author is really saying is that in the story he is relating, the entire scripture was quoted, but the author of the written account believes that his audience knows the scripture well enough that he doesn’t need to quote any more than that portion. For example, when Jesus was at the synagogue at Nazareth and they brought the book of Isaiah to him, he read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:19) It is likely that what the author Luke is saying is that Jesus read all of Isaiah chapters 61 and 42 (both of which proclaim him to be the God of Israel and his eternal kingship), then he said to them, “This day is the scripture fulfilled in your eyes.” The Jews understood the meaning of those two chapters, so they got mad and tried to kill him.

Another example is on the cross where Jesus spoke the first lines of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” It is likely that while hanging on the cross, Jesus sang or spoke the full psalm which prophesied of his death and of his triumphal entry into the world of the spirits.

If this holds true in our king Limhi story, then it is possible that during his speech, the king quoted from Proverbs all or part of the essay on Wisdom, and used that to show why it was that the people who had murdered Abinadi, by that act subjected themselves to the sufferings and afflictions heaped upon them by their Lamanite overlords.

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