1 Nephi Chapter 17
I am taking it slow because of my back. But here's a first bit:
1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.
The Hebrew word for "east" is the word מזרח (mizrach) is also the root for the word להתמזרח (lehitmazreiach) which means to be orientated or guided. Now with that in mind notice how Nephi says that they traveled in such a way from that time forth. In other words from that time forth they were guided by G-d and the rebellious attitude of their party no longer prevented them from keeping on the path.
2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
Raw meat: Why does Nephi seem to say that despite the raw meat they had plenty for their children? It is because in ancient Jewish tradition the only meat that was proper to eat raw was that of kosher birds. For example the Talmud says:
"Raba retorted: But that I am a person of importance, would I need a knife on a young dove? surely it is fit for me as raw meat. Thus the reason is because it is fit as raw meat; but if it were not fit as raw meat it might not [be handled]: shall we say that Raba agrees with R. Judah? But surely Raba said to his servant, Roast me a duck and throw its entrails to a cat" (b. Shabbat 142b)
Now this is particularly relevant because birds in those times were considered to be the food of the poor. It comes as no surprise that the Torah-Law when listing sacrifices says to us:
"But if he is poor and his means are insufficient, then he is to take one male lamb for a guilt offering as a wave offering to make atonement for him, and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil, and two turtledoves or two young pigeons which are within his means, the one shall be a sin offering and the other a burnt offering." (Leviticus 14:21-22)
So if they were eating raw meat it is likely that they were eating birds. It also makes sense because it would have been the easiest meat to find in such a place. Now if they were eating birds and even without cooking then they were having one of the poorest kinds of meals there is. And even so their women were bearing strong children. Again this indicates that Nephi was indeed living in a Jewish community. It also contains a possible spiritual lesson: That if they had faith then the little they had would amount to much.
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.
Number eight in gematria is particularly relevant because it represents the beginning of a new cycle. Number seven represents a full cycle so eight years means that they completed the cycle that was before them for their spiritual maturity and were ready for a new cycle.
In ancient Kabbalah it is also relevant because it is associated with the Messianic Age. While the universe will last for a period of six epochs then the seventh epoch will be the Messianic Age which will be an age of abundance. And if we look at the next verse we see that the land which Nephi finds is exactly that: abundance after a cycle of spiritual trials.
5 And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.
What is interesting about the name "Bountiful" is that in Hebrew it would be שופע (shofeia) which has the gematria value of 456. This is also the gematria value of the biblical name יותם (Yotham - Jotham) which means "The L-rd is perfect". So it could be that the name Nephi gave was intentionally meaning that the place was a reflection of G-d's perfection.
Name etymology: Irreantum could come from ירה-אמתם - Ireh (He shall see) - Amtem (their truth/truthfulness). Alternatively, it could also be תם-ים-ירה - Ireh (He shall see) - yam (seas) - tem (end).
6 And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit.
7 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord.
8 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.
Pitching the tent is a sign of confidence that the place is safe and it was often used in ancient times as an allegorical way of expressing trust. Now what is also important is that Nephi says that they pitched their tents by the seashore. The biblical word for shore is the word שפה (shafah). This word can also mean "voice".
Is it then a coincidence that from a deeper level of understanding Nephi's text can be read that they found confidence in the voice of G-d, and then immediately afterwards G-d begins speaking to them?
It is also interesting that the word ship in Hebrew is the word (אניה - oniyah) and it has the gematria value of 66 which is also the gematria of the word (גלגל) galgal which appears in Ezekiel 10:13 referring to the chariots of G-d:
"The wheels were called in my hearing, the whirling wheels." (Ezekiel 10:13)
Now this word also means "cycle" and it is an indication that Nephi's family was about to begin a new cycle just like the number eight mentioned a few verses above. This cannot be a coincidence.
9 And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?
10 And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.
There is more to Nephi's sentence than meets the eye. The Hebrew word for ore is עפרה (afrah). Now the root of this word is עפר (afar) which means dust or dirt. This is a common term for humility in Hebrew thought and a way to say that one is uncapable or unworthy. So Nephi's sentence is more than simply finding the materials. He was anguished because he didn't feel worthy of the task that G-d had laid ahead of him. This is why G-d comforts him and says that he will show him what he needs to find. This Hebrew word-game is naturally lost in the translation process but is nevertheless very interesting.
11 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make a bellows wherewith to blow the fire, of the skins of beasts; and after I had made a bellows, that I might have wherewith to blow the fire, I did smite two stones together that I might make fire.
Please refer to our comment on the significance of the word "beasts".
Also it is important to understand that if Nephi didn't have much space to write why would he bother giving us the details about how he made fire? And why make a point out of saying that he had two stones?
The interesting part of this is that the word "stones" is the Hebrew word אבנים (evanim) which has the gematria value of 169. That is: 13x13.
Two very important Hebrew words have the gematria value of 13. One of them is the word אהבה (ahavah) which means love. The other of them is the word אחד (echad) which means one or unity. This shows the great lengths that Nephi was going in order to keep love and unity in the family. But it is also important to notice that we have twice the number 13 and that this would add up to 26 which is the Holy Name of G-d in Judaism that is the Tetragrammation. So Nephi was doing all of this for G-d and through G-d's power.
12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;
This is a fantastic verse to prove the Hebrew origin of the text. How come G-d says that their food would become sweet? Raw meat would taste rather strange if it became sweet! But in Hebrew the word for sweet is the word מתוק (matok) which doesn't mean only "sweet" as in having a sugary flavor but it also means "pleasant" or "desireable". So G-d was saying that their food would taste pleasant even though they couldn't cook it. This sentence that may sound a bit odd in English makes absolutely perfect sense in Hebrew which is why it proves its Hebrew origin.