|Nephi/Lehi and family traveling in the wilderness|
Heading eastward from Nahom towards present day Wadi Sayq takes one through territory controlled by warring tribes. Dr. Brown shows that this has been the way it has been for the last 2000 years. "Its been a place of inhospitable tribes and slave trafficking. Modern explorers have learned about the hazards of crossing from one tribal area into another. There is a system known as "rafiq" It means that travelers must be accompanied by a member of a tribe while they are moving throught the tribes territiory. This is the only way for guarenteed saftey. This also means bargaining with tribal leaders for safe passage and paying the agreed price for such protection and other services. However, when travelers reach the tribe's boundary, they have to negotiate with the leaders of the next tribe, again paying an agreed price."
According to S. Kent Brown there are keys or subtle hints that can be found in the Book of Mormon that could lead one to believe or at least speculate that Lehi and his family could have spent a portion of their time while traveling from Nahom to what they considered Bountiful in “bondage” or “captivity”. As stated by Brown,
|Arabian Map of Lehi's Travels|
The first key leading to this conclusion is in regards to Nephi’s use of the phrase, “to sojourn”. He stated that “we did travel nearly eastward…and wade through much affliction... [God] did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness. And we did sojourn for the space of …eight years in the wilderness.” Kent points out that the Bible term to sojourn usually refers to a servile relationship. This in the worst case scenario could be a slave and owner or best case scenario could be an employer and employee relationship. The fact that Nephi modeled his story on the Israelite slaves in Egypt is also a point of consideration. Dr. Brown also noted the phrases used in 1 Nephi 17 when Nephi stated, “we did…wade through much affliction”; “our women did bear children in the wilderness”; “our women have toiled, being big with child”; “it would have been better that [our women] had died” and posed the question of, “Do undocumented challenges lie within these lines?” To me this does bring up the question why did it take Lehi’s family (with Ishmael’s family and any others) 6 years to cross something that most Bedouin tribes can cover in a matter of months?
The next key is when Lehi is blessing his youngest son Joseph. When referring to his families sojourn in the wilderness he describes it as “the wilderness of mine affliction” and “the days of my greatest sorrow” (2 Nephi 3:1). As pointed out by Hugh Nibley, Lehi was more than likely a very prosperous trader and knew the life of traveling in a caravan and the dangers associated with being a trader in the desert. Although his family does complain about his visions they never complain about his ability to survive in the wilderness and this seems to be because it may have been his profession. So traveling through the wilderness shouldn’t have been the cause of his “greatest sorrow”. So we ask the question, was there more to Lehi’s sojourn in the wilderness that caused this sorrow? It seems to be the case. As a matter of fact the case seems to be supported when compared to the language used by Lehi when speaking to his children and grandchildren before his death. He uses language that recalls slavery such as “shake off the awful chains” by which they “are carried away captive,” being “led according to the …captivity of the devil”2 Nephi 1:13, 18).
When we look at the evidence being presented it should be obvious that something does not add up. There had to be something that delayed Lehi and Nephi’s group and caused them to take 6 plus years to cover 700 miles. Even when taking into consideration that they would have probably planted some crops and had to farm the territory to survive (if possible in this area) it still shouldn’t have taken more than two to three years. With that knowledge Dr. S. Kent Brown’s theory does make sense and would add clarity. Unfortunately we will have to put this in our speculation file and wait for further revelation or for the other two thirds of the plates to be translated to know for sure.