1 Nephi 17:4 — LeGrand Baker — “eight years in the wilderness”

1 Nephi 17:4  

4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.

If we read this verse only in its immediate context, it might suggest that they remained in the desert between Nahom and Bountiful for a full eight years. However, that reading would not take into account the fact that Nephi had always used the word “wilderness” to describe the area through which they traveled.{1} So we may safely understand him to say that it had taken them eight years to travel from Jerusalem to Bountiful.

Nephi’s story began during the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, that is, in 598 B. C.{2} It is reasonable to assume that they left not long after that. Zedekiah reigned only eleven years, until 587 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. The city apparently had not yet been destroyed when Lehi’s party arrived at Nahom. At least it appears so, for their knowing nothing of the Babylonian invasion probably accounts for why the boys were so intent on returning to their homes and property. However, they may have learned of it soon after the older sons’ rebellion.

Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem began “on the tenth day of the tenth month of Zedekiah’s ninth year.”{3} In Babylon, preparations for that campaign would have taken some time, as would the army’s march toward Jerusalem. It is possible that the reason Lehi and his party left Nahom when they did, with apparently little or no resistence from the brothers who had been dissenters, was because they had learned of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Jerusalem

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Nephi begins his story by writing that Lehi “left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4).

{2} Here, I am using the dates given in the LDS Bible dictionary, under “chronology.”

{3} The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:569.
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