In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Bible gives justification to Nephi slaying Laban

Nephi about to slay wicked King Laban
 Those familiar with the Book of Mormon know very well that one of the most detailed events is that of Nephi slaying wicked King Laban who was a ruler of a military garrison of 50 if not more in Jerusalem.  Around 600 B.C. Nephi's father Lehi a prophet of God receives a vision prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem.  He warns the residents of Jerusalem that they need to repent of their ways but instead finds himself with a bounty on his head. He follows the Lords advice and takes his family and departs into the wilderness.  It was during their escape from Jerusalem that Lehi receives further instruction to send his son's Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi to return to Jerusalem and obtain the brass plates that contain the records of their forefathers or writings of the prophets.  This record would be something similar to portions of our modern day Old Testament but probably larger.

  The first attempt was unsuccessful as Laman attempted to ask King Laban for the plates. In the second attempt the brothers went back to their previous residence and obtained all their precious items of silver and gold and tried their hand at bartering for the plates but wicked King Laban had his guards chase them and attempted to have them killed and in the process he was able to obtain their silver and gold.  It was at this point that the two older brothers Laban and Lemuel started to hit Nephi and Sam with their staffs and threatened to take their lives.  It took the appearance of an angel who rebuked Laman and Lemuel to stop the assault on Nephi and Sam.  Nephi took courage after they had been visited by the angel and in the third attempt he was lead by the spirit.  It was this third attempt that has drawn much debate among the scholarly community.  Nephi in following the spirit was lead into Jerusalem city limits and went towards the house of King Laban where he found a drunken King Laban who had been out with councilors and had apparently passed out.  It was at this point that the spirit told Nephi that he was to slay King Laban.  This was the only time that I know of that Nephi actually questioned the motives and the direction of the Lord.  Now Nephi admits that "Never at any time have I shed the blood of man and would that I might not slay him" but the spirit told him again to slay him "for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands."  It is this phrase that helps us gain the added insight.

Nephi was later told that "the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes". He was also told that "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." Nephi did have ample reason to slay King Laban when you realize that King Laban had attempted to kill Nephi and his brethren and he had taken their property.  You can't help but to feel that Nephi would be completely justified in taking this one life. Nephi also realized that he could not fulfill the commandments of the Lord without obtaining the brass plates, thus he must also kill King Laban.  Many scholars have pointed out that in 600 B.C. this would be commonly looked upon as justified but additional justification can be found when you look in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament.  As pointed out by Steven L. Olsen in his Neal A. Maxwell Institute article entitled, "The Death of Laban" Nephi not only shrunk away from killing King Laban because he had never killed before but also because intentional murder was punishable by death of the guilty under the Law of Moses.  However as Steven Olsen points out "a subsequent provision of the law qualifies this absolute prohibition""He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall surely be put to death.  And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee" (Exodus 21:12-13).  The specific wording of Nephi's decision to follow the spirit and slay King Laban places him securely under the justification given in the Law of Moses.  This not only shows Nephi's innocents but also his amazing ability at using literary devices such as this to portray his life story and help those of us who were not extremely familiar with the Law of Moses come to a complete understanding of his reasoning.  Well done Nephi, well done!