Last Sunday's lesson covered Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Because we were traveling, we listened to a podcast of the Tyler and Taylor show from Book of Mormon Central.
Always fun to see their ridiculous M2C logo, featuring a Mayan glyph to represent the Book of Mormon.
There were two points in these books relevant to Book of Mormon geography/historicity. Naturally, Tyler and Taylor didn't mention them, but we shouldn't overlook these points.
In Nahum, we learn about the original (ancient Hebrew) word translated into English as "sea." The term "sea" is used 302 times in the KJV Old Testament to translate a variety Hebrew words referring to various bodies of water.
This is significant because the Book of Mormon uses the English term "sea" 95 times. Most people (particularly M2Cers) simply assume it refers only to oceans. That's not unreasonable, but it's only one of multiple working hypotheses.
Other readers (including me) think the term can refer to a variety of bodies of water, including oceans, large lakes, and mighty rivers--just as it does in the KJV Old Testament.
The Hebrew word used in Nahum 3:8, translated as "sea" in the KJV, is yam. You can see it in Strong's Concordance here:
6 of a mighty river, the Nile Nahum 3:8 (twice in verse); Isaiah 19:5 ("" נָהָר); compare הַתַּנִּין אֲשֶׁר בַּיָּם Isaiah 27:1 and כַּתַּנִּים בַּיַּמִּים Ezekiel 32:2 (simile of Pharaoh); of Euphrates Isaiah 21:1; Jeremiah 51:36 (according to Che Gf and others; Isaiah 21:1 perhaps better of Persian Gulf, see Di).
In Nahum 3:8, the term "sea" actually means "a mighty river," in this case the Nile River.
The KJV verse refers to "No" which is Thebes, near Luxor, and which is far from any oceans and even far from the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Alternative translations make the meaning a little clearer:
The bottom line here is that the term "sea" in the Book of Mormon may refer at times to "a mighty river," just like the term "sea" does in Nahum.
Thus, the "west sea south" (Alma 53:8) can refer to the Mississippi River, as I discussed in Moroni's America and other places.
This interpretation not only correlates with Nahum and Isaiah, but the lower Mississippi River as the "west sea south" fits the overall geographical descriptions in the text.
Zephaniah 3 deserves an entire article, but in the interest of time, I'll mention just a few things.
Zephaniah 3:10 references Isaiah 18:1. These are the only two verses in the Bible that use this phrase.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering. (Zephaniah 3:10)
Woe [i.e., hail] to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: (Isaiah 18:1)
This is one way we can tell that Lehi traveled around Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World, as we depict in the Lemurs book.
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Alternative translations of Zephaniah make the meaning a little more clear.
New Living Translation
My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings.
“From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, [the descendants of] My dispersed ones, Will bring My offerings.
Two additional notes.
Zephaniah 3:14 says "Sing, O daughter of Zion." Moroni invoked that term in Moroni 10:31: "put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion." This is the only reference in the latter-day scriptures to "O daughter of Zion." (2 other references in the Book of Mormon quote Isaiah 52:2 "O captive daughter of Zion").
D&C 82 further links the passage to the land of the Restoration:
13 For I have consecrated the land of Kirtland in mine own due time for the benefit of the saints of the Most High, and for a stake to Zion.
14 For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.
(Doctrine and Covenants 82:13–14)
Other passages in Zephaniah refer to the gathering, the restoration, and "my holy mountain," all of which are significant to our day.
One Christian commentator interprets this chapter to the "Promise of Restoration."
The Lord will rejoice with His people in Zion.
To help class members find hope for the future in Zephaniah 3:14–20, you could write on the board “Be glad and rejoice with all the heart” because … Then class members could search these verses for blessings promised for the future that can help them rejoice today. How do these promises help us during difficult times?
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