In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Sword of Laban and the War Scroll (of the Dead Sea Scrolls) Description of Ancient Israelite Swords

War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls
I will be briefly summarizing some of John W. Welch's notes on the correlations between how the Book of Mormon's description of the Sword of Laban and the War Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls and how it describes ancient Israelite swords and I will leave a link to the article from John Welch entitled "The workmanship Thereof Was Exceedingly Fine" below for further research.  To start off with we will remember that Nephi obtained the Sword of Laban when he found Laban the Jewish Military leader drunk in Jerusalem and Nephi used Laban's sword to decapitate him.  Because of Laban's political/military position it is safe to assume that his sword would probably differ to some degree from the average Israelite soldiers sword but probably not by much maybe by length and workmanship.

In 1 Nephi 4:9 Nephi states, "And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof: and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of most precious steel.

Luristan, circa 1500–500 BC. A cast bronze short
 sword with parallel-sided blade, integral guard
 and hilt
In the War Scroll it states, "The swords shall be of purified iron, refined in a crucible and whitened like a mirror, work of a skillful craftsman; and it will have shapes of an ear of wheat, of pure gold, encrusted in it on both sides.  And it will have two straight channels right to the tip, two on each side.  Length of the sword: one cubit and a half.  And its width; four fingers.  The scabbard will be four thumbs; it will have four palms up to the scabbard and diagonally, the scabbard from one part to the other (will be) five palms.  The hilt of the sword will be of select horn, craftwork, with a pattern in many colours: gold, silver and precious stones."

Welch points out that Laban's sword blade is made of "the most precious steel," while the swords of the Israelite army will have blades "of purified iron...whitened like a mirror." Nephi describes the hilt as being made "of pure gold."  The Israelite swords will have a hilt "of select horn...with pattern in many colours: gold, silver and precious stones," though designs in pure gold are also mentioned.  Both the Nephite and Qumran descriptions speak of the quality or "workmanship" of "craftwork" of the swords saying they were "exceedingly fine" or "of a skillful craftsman."

John Welch then goes on to compare the lengths.  Because the War Scroll is very precise in the description of the length of the sword it makes it interesting because the Book of Mormon does not give the length of the Sword of Laban.  Without knowing the measurement of a cubit used by the Israelites it can give us a couple of interpretations of the War Scroll sword length.  It tells us that it was a cubit and a half in length, so if a cubit measured 17.5 inches then the total sword length would have been 26.25 inches long (just over two feet) while a cubit of 20.4 inches would give a length of 30.6 inches or 2.5 feet long.  Welch reminds us at this point of a 7th century sword found in Verde Jericho which measured 3 feet in length and quotes William J. Adams who purposed that Nephi would have had a much easier time decapitating Laban using the longer sword.  So is it possible that an Israelite leader such as Laban may have had a longer sword than the average soldier?  This may or may not be the case but either way because Laban would have taken place before the War Scroll his type of sword may have been a direct influence for the "ideal" Israelite sword described in the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Layard’s Monuments of Nineveh, published in 1853, all of which I believe come from the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal (ruled 883-859 BC) at Nineveh and show the use of long swords.


1 comment:

  1. I literally found this site by accident while looking for other things. I too am interested in ties between ancient Israel and Native American cultures of the Americas, and of indigenous cultures in other parts of the world. I am glad someone has the knowledge to do a site such as this one, and has the desire to share it.
    I have a cash flow problem, but when I am able to get to a book store or used book store I am always looking at books about indigenous peoples of the Americas. I also like to read books about the history of religions, Israel, etc. I usually find interesting things about the native people of the Americas. One book I looked at was written by a Native American who is a Professor at a university. The book talked about a tribe in Washington state that has an oral tradition that they came by boat from the east to this land. They even have a pendant passed down that proves it - the pendant has Jewish writings on it. He blasts the Bering Strait theory. It is just a blip in the book, but the author has many other interesting things to say about how non Native (white man) peoples have discounted stories from all the tribes in the Americas. There is a lot of truths in those stories. Some critics don't like the author, naturally. Anyway it is interesting reading whether one believes it or not. I appreciate what you are doing. And I am excited to have found this site. I was raised in the southwest, still live in the southwest, and have Crow, Armenian (my maiden name is Armenian) and European ancestry. Thank You! I always appreciate the effort of sites like this to help understand and learn different things. Thanks for all the hard work you do!