1 Nephi 4:19 — LeGrand Baker — Laban’s Armor

1 Nephi 4:19 

19 And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.

After describing the sword, Nephi tells us that he removed all of Laban’s clothing and put them on himself. Nephi makes it very clear that he did not simply take Laban’s outer garments and put them over his own in order to disguise himself. Rather, what he writes is that “I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” The implication is that Nephi removed his own clothes and replaced them with everything Laban had been wearing—even every whit. Given the nature of the sword of Laban, it is reasonable to suppose that his clothing had the same ceremonial and symbolic significance as the sword. If that were so, that would certainly account for why Nephi was concerned that he let us know that he put on all of Laban’s clothing. His phrase, “upon mine own body,” implies that included Laban’s undergarments.{1} If that is so, then when Nephi had finished dressing himself he was wearing the royal and priesthood birthright apparel of the prince of the family of Manasseh, of Joseph, and of Abraham. At that point Nephi was dressed in accordance with the Lord’s promise that he should be made a king and a priest

After that, Nephi writes, “I did gird on his armor about my loins.” Later he writes that the “sword,” as well as the “armor,” was “girded about my loins” (1 Nephi 4:21).

That is one of the hundreds of incidental statements in the Book of Mormon that demonstrate that its author had a first-hand knowledge of what he was talking about—the kind of knowledge that Joseph Smith, with his back-country New England education, could never have guessed correctly.

The word translated as “armor” in the Old Testament “properly means ‘girdle belt,’ an important part of a soldier’s defensive armor.”{2} The full battle dress of an ancient Israelite soldier consisted of a “girdle belt” that protected his loins and held the sheath of his sword, a helmet, a shield, and perhaps also a breast covering of mail.{3} That description would fit perfectly with Nephi’s account. The belt would be necessary to carry the sword’s sheath, and would account for Nephi’s later words, “the sword girded about my loins.” So Nephi’s description of what he did with the armor—that is he fastened it around his loins—is correct.

If Laban had been dressed in his full military uniform, he also would have had on a helmet, and he would have been carrying a shield. However, since Nephi mentions neither of those things, we can be comfortable in understanding Laban’s “armor” was only the protective belt that carried the sword.{4}
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FOOTNOTES

{1} For a discussion of the royal clothing see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 265-67, 483-95; Second edition, p. 189-91, 397-98.

{2} “Weapons and Implements of War,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols., Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1990), 4:825.

{3} “Weapons and Implements of War,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4:820-25.

{4} The Nephites continued to call the “girdle belt” their armor. When Captain Moroni “fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins” (Alma 46:13).

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