1 Nephi 2:11-13 — LeGrand Baker — About Laman and Lemuel

1 Nephi 2:11-13 

11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.

If we follow the same chronology as used above (see comments on 1 Nephi 1:4), then Laman was about seven years old{1} when King Josiah was killed in battle with the Egyptians. Josiah’s son Jehoahaz ruled for three months until Pharaoh Necho replaced him and made Jehoiakim king of Judah. For the Jews, having a foreigner decide who would be king of Judah would have been a traumatic experience, and even Laman and his younger brother Lemuel would have been aware of the tension it caused. Jehoiakim ruled until Laman and Lemuel were in their late and middle teens. Then Nebuchadnezzar’s army marched into Jerusalem, took King Jehoiakim, Ezekiel, Daniel (who was probably about Nephi’s age), and many others captive to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne, so Judah had another king who was ruling under the authority of a foreign country. Both Laman and Lemuel had lived their teenage years under the tensions of those international intrigues. Jeremiah, Lehi’s friend, had supported an alliance with Babylon. It is reasonable to assume Lehi did also. However, the two boys had grown up under Egyptian influence, and probably saw Nebuchadnezzar as an alien invader. If that is correct, the boys had a different political philosophy from their father.

Their religion was probably different also. The official Israelite/Jewish religion had changed during the years of Josiah, and had changed again after his death. Lehi was a prophet whose priesthood and religious training had roots back at least as far as the construction of Solomon’s Temple. It is apparent that his teenage sons had rebelled against this old religion and supported the new less observant form. It may have been their enthusiasm for those changes that would later cause them to insist that the Jews were a “righteous” people. “Righteous,” if translated from zedek, did not mean “good” or “worthy,” but rather “correct.” That is, the boys were asserting that the Jews were performing the ordinances of the Law of Moses in the right way, using the right words, in the right place, dressed the right way, and with the right authority. If so, then they were not arguing for the goodness of the people but rather that the correctness in the performances made up for anything lacked in the character of the rulers.

There was another complication. Laman was the oldest son. Under Jewish law, he would inherit his father’s family status as well as a double portion of his father’s wealth. Nephi’s comment that his father “left his house, and the land of his inheritance” (1 Nephi 2:4), suggests that Lehi may have had a house in Jerusalem as well as a country estate. If that is so, Laman, who was just coming of age, saw that their leaving Judah would cost him a lot of wealth, power, and prestige. In his short lifetime he had seen Jerusalem overcome by two foreign powers (once by Egypt and once by Babylon), but neither had done substantial harm to the city itself. There seemed to be no reason to believe the city would be more vulnerable in the future. Only a testimony like Nephi’s could outweigh such rationale. It is almost understandable, then, that Lehi’s oldest sons did everything in their power to resist going, and that they resented their younger brother’s interference.

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FOOTNOTE

{1} For a discussion of the ages of Lehi’s children, see “1 Nephi 1:4 — LeGrand Baker — reign of Zedekiah.”

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