1 Nephi 5:10-13 — LeGrand Baker — Contents of the Brass Plates.

1 Nephi 5:10-13 

10 And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.
11 And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
12 And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
13 And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.

Even though Nephi tells us something of what was on the brass plates, we still cannot be sure what else was there. It is easier to know what was not on them. The history books in our Old Testament that comprise Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles were all written or compiled after the Babylonian captivity. Second Kings ends with the story of what happened to the Jewish royal family who were captive in Babylon. Second Chronicles concludes with Cyrus’s decision to send the Jews back to their homeland. Since Lehi left before either of those events, they could not possibly have been included on the brass plates.

Of the writings in our Old Testament that we can be sure are on the brass plates, we have Moses and Isaiah, who are quoted frequently. Job is paraphrased,{1} and the Psalms are quoted and paraphrased.{2} We also know of two ancient Israelite prophets, Zenos and Zenock, who are quoted repeatedly in the Book of Mormon, but whose records are not found in our Old Testament. It is likely that there were many others, such as Neum (1 Nephi 19:10).

Another thing we do not know is what was in brass plates version of the Books of Moses. Nephi wrote that the Law and apparently all else in Moses writings was a testimony of the Savior and his mission, yet, evidence of that is hard to come by in our biblical version of the five books of Moses.

The Book of Mormon contains many references to the ancient Israelite temple services.{3} It is likely that they were a part of the original Law of Moses but were edited out of our Old Testament.{4} The Biblical books of Moses tell us what the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood holders did, but nothing about the parts played by the people, the king, or other Melchizedek priesthood holders such as the prophets. Yet, it is apparent from the psalms that they played significant roles.{5}

{1} Job 10:21 is found in 2 Nephi 1:14 and probably in Mosiah 3:25. Job 19:26 is in 2 Nephi 9:4.

{2} See above, 1 Nephi 2:20-22, “prosper” as a code word in the Psalms, for a discussion of the psalms in the Book of Mormon.

{3} Two examples are in Alma 12 and Moroni 10.

{4} For evidence of how severely the Bible version of the five books of Moses was edited compare Genesis 6:1-13 with Moses 8:15-30.

{5} For a discussion of ancient Jewish temple drama in the Psalms see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, all of part 1.


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