In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nephite Assembly under King Benjamin\ New World Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot)

While thumbing through recent notes I’ve scrolled all throughout the margins in my scriptures I stumbled across an informative parallel that seems to be a direct hit found in the comparison of King Benjamin’s speech to the assembled Nephite nation. I had originally come across this study that was put together on the Neal A. Maxwell Institute website in an article put together by John A. Tvedtnes entitled “ King Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles”. Without going into the exhaustive study that he did I will try to break this wonderful information down to apples and crayons for those of us simple minded people.

In the many Israelite observances that find parallels with King Benjamin’s speech none fit it better than Sukkot or the “Feast of Booths” or “The Feast of Ingathering” also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles”. This festival was to take place on the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the seventh month. At this time the Israelites were to construct rough temporary living quarters, called sukkot (singular sukkah), or “booths”, in order “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43).

According to the Jewish tradition, the first Sukkot was celebrated at the foot of Mount Sinai, six months after the Exodus from Egypt.

The biblical Sukkot celebration is closely paralleled by the account of King Benjamin’s assembly recorded in Mosiah 1:1-6:6. Upon first reading the text it appears that King Benjamin is assembling his numerous people together so that he can hand the thrown to his son Mosiah but at Tvedtnes points out it is evident from the actual text of Benjamin’s discourse that it was a speech of religious instruction even more so than a coronation ceremony. In fact only three versus are devoted to Mosiah becoming the new king.

There are numerous characteristics of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) that are also found in connection with King Benjamin’s Nephite assembly. These are as follows.

- the people assemble at the temple
- king or political leader reside on a raised platform
- people or families dwell in booths or tents
- special sacrifices are offered
- exhortations addressed to the adults specifically exclude the children
- the Law is read (especially the paragraph of the king)
- God’s mercy and salvation are mentioned
- recitations are made of God’s dealings with his people
- recitations are made of the commandments of God
- recitations are made of the cursings and blessings of the Law
- people are exhorted to love and serve God
- people are promised prosperity if they serve God
- the people in unison or chorus make a covenant of obedience
- the people prostate themselves to worship
- sometimes the coronation of a king is involved
- sometimes the names of the covenanters are recorded or announced
- king blesses the people

John W. Welch has done a comparative study relating certain sections of Benjamin’s speech to Leviticus 25-26, suggesting the possibility that the coronation of Mosiah occurred during a jubilee year. Jubilee was practiced as a year of rest to be observed by the Israelites every 50th year, during which slaves were to be set free, alienated property restored to former owners, and the lands left untilled it was usually known as a time of peace and prosperity in the land. The parallels between the passages in Leviticus and Mosiah are outlined as follows.

Return possessions - Leviticus 25:1 - Mosiah4:28
Not to injure one another - Leviticus 25:14, 17 - Mosiah 4:13
Render according to due - Leviticus 25:15-16, 50 - Mosiah 4:13, 28
Prosperity in the land follows obedience - Leviticus 25:18-19 - Mosiah 2:22
Aid the poor - Leviticus 25:35 - Mosiah 4:16, 26
Use of riches - Leviticus 25:35-37 - Mosiah 4:21
Peace in the land - Leviticus 26:6 - Mosiah 2:31
Covenant with God - Leviticus 26:9 - Mosiah 5:5-6
Lord’s dwelling - Leviticus 26:11 - Mosiah 2:37
Lord to be with his people - Leviticus 26:11-12 - Mosiah 2:36
Curses for disobedience, including burning - Leviticus 26:14-33 - Mosiah 2:38; 3:25-27

Although there is nothing completely conclusive from this study there are many open ended questions about where the influence for these practices started and to what extent the Nephites continued to observe Jewish rites. This does verify what Nephi stated in (2 Nephi 5:10) “And we did observe to keep the judgments, and statues, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the Law of Moses”

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