Nephi talks his brothers into going back into Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban. He tells them that this is an opportunity for them to show the strength of faith Moses showed in leading the children of Israel through the parted Red Sea. Nephi reminded them that God was able to free their ancestors from bondage, so why wouldn’t God be strong enough to overcome Laban and his servants?
Once again, Laman and Lemuel whined and complained about what they had to do, but had enough faith to do it anyway. I think we’re all guilty of this kind of behavior at times. We know what is right, we know we’re eventually going to do it, but we seem to reserve the right to let the world know how we feel about it first.
When they got back to Jerusalem, Nephi told his brothers to hide outside the city walls, then used the cover of darkness to get to Laban’s home. On his way, he tripped over a drunk man, lying in the road. As he moved closer, he saw that it was Laban.
Nephi must have been some kind of metallurgic craftsman. Every time he comes into contact with fine things made of metal, he gets pretty descriptive. He has an appreciation for craftsmanship and detail that I think most people (even for the day) probably didn’t pay a lot of attention to.
The spirit that promised the brothers that God would show him the way to accomplish the goal came to Nephi again. This time the message was different, and harder for Nephi to accept. The spirit commanded Nephi to take Laban’s sword and kill him.
Nephi wondered why the spirit would tell him to do something that seemed to go against everything he’d been taught. The angel told him that his family needed the brass plates because it contained the teachings of Moses to the Jews.
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; 13 Behold the Lord aslayeth the bwicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is cbetter that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in dunbelief. 14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: aInasmuch as thy seed shall keep my bcommandments, they shall cprosper in the dland of promise. 15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the alaw of Moses, save they should have the law. 16 And I also knew that the alaw was engraven upon the plates of brass. 17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. 18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own asword. 1 Nephi 4:14-18
This passage also teaches us the nature of “sin”. There isn’t a laundry list written somewhere designating which actions are sins and which aren’t. Sin is nothing more than going against the will of Our Heavenly Father. Yes, there are 10 Commandments, and we are to obey them, but scripture is full of examples of times God commands individuals to commit acts that would seem to run contrary to them.
The angel explained the situation pretty well, saying “it is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle in unbelief. Laban had 2 chances to assist Nephi and his brothers in carrying out God’s purposes, but put power and greed ahead of faith.
Note to self (and others) : When going up against someone who has the power of God backing him… there is no win to that fight!
Another note to self (and others): If what the Lord is commanding you to do seem to run contrary to the commandments, make sure you KNOW that you are listening to the right spirit. ;~D
After slaying Laban, Nephi took his clothes and put them on. In doing so, he took on the countenance of Laban to the point that even his own servants saw and heard the voice of Laban when Nephi approached them. He instructed them to get the brass plates for him.
Laban’s servant, Zoram brought him the plates and asked him about the Elders of the Jews whom Laban had been out with that night. This is another example of Laban’s position in Jerusalem at the time. Not only was he powerful enough to “command 50” or more men, but he was hobnobbing with the Elders. It also makes sense that he would be a man of stature because he was one of very few who would have had plates containing the Law of Moses.
Nephi invited Zoram to join him and his brothers. Zoram, still under the impression that Nephi was Laban, thought that he meant the Elders, so he went with Nephi. The miracle of the disguise continued to work though, because Laman and Lemuel saw what they thought was Laban and one of his servants coming to kill them.
Nephi called out to his brothers, in his own voice, and the miracle disguise ended. This, of course, made Nephi’s brothers happy, but didn’t sit too well with Zoram. He “began to tremble and was about to flee”. However, Nephi was no weakling (either in physical strength or in spirit), so he held Zoram down.
Nephi promised Zoram his freedom if he would come to the wilderness with them. He then appealed to Zoram’s spiritual nature, saying that he was on a mission from God to get the brass plates. Between the promise of freedom, the faith of Zoram in Our Heavenly Father, and relief that the big guy with Laban’s sword wasn’t going to kill him, Zoram agreed to join them in their wilderness wanderings.
With plates in hand, the brothers and Zoram headed off into the sunset, happy in the knowledge that they completed their task and would soon have Jerusalem behind them.
I’m sure at this point; even Laman and Lemuel relized that the Jerusalem that that celebrated them as citizens, was no longer safe for them…no longer “home”.
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