Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Mystery of Nephi's Broken Bow

"Now, all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel." 
(1 Nephi 16:6)

Interwoven in the stories we read in the Book of Mormon are ancient Israelite teachings designed to communicate essential principles of salvation. The story of Nephi and the breaking of his bow is one such story.  This portion of Nephi's account begins with a description of the ball or Liahona leading them in the wilderness along the more fertile paths.  

The symbol of the wilderness represents our journey of correction like the Children of Israel who were lead into the wilderness by Moses on their ascent to the Mountain of The Lord. The Liahona as a symbol of the Tree of Life and the 32 Paths of Wisdom serves to direct an individual through this wilderness journey. (See article: The Mystery of the Liahona & The Paths of Wisdom)

Nephi then records:

"And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer." (1 Nephi 16:13)

The mention of the four days journey directs the reader to the creation account as recorded in Genesis 1:14-19):

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day." 

The mention of the the sun, moon, and stars as mentioned are associated in ancient thought not only with eternal principles of astronomy but also are a prophetic marker highlighting a wisdom teaching. The mention of "south-southeast direction" being tied to the endowment and development of the attributes of mercy (chesed) and beauty (tipheret). The usage of the word Shazar connected to the Hebrew word sazar meaning twist or intertwine as would be depicted by the twisted or intertwined path of the Tree of Life:

Nephi then goes on to record that as he went forth to slay food he broke his bow:

"And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food." (1 Nephi 16:18)

The mentioning of the bow of fine steel is also meant to connect the reader to the Song of David in 2 Samuel 22:31-37 when he was delivered our of the hands of Saul:

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip.

This Psalm containing a very ancient Israelite teaching of YHVH as the rock (Malkuth) of our redemption and our source of strength (gevurah) and power (hod).

The Bow of Hope

In the minds of The Fathers, Hope was not mere wishful thinking, but an expectation based on a promise. To claim the fruits of the promise, certain conditions had to be met. This condition was a condition of the soul wherein the heart of the person resonated with the conditions that existed in the Heavens- As Above, So Below, As within, So Without.  In order to connect with God, the disciple had to be in a true alignment with the center pillar or “The Way”.  It was a condition where the heart, mind, and desire of the disciple were in a state of oneness with God.  The more aligned a person was with God, the greater the connection.  In ancient Israel prayer is equated with a bow and arrow.  When the disciple’s intention or desire was aligned with Heaven their prayer like an arrow shot with a bow would reach the Throne of God.  The diagram below depicts this relationship:

In this teaching regarding the Bow of Hope, the "holder of the bow" was termed The Maggid or teacher while the group who followed the teacher was said to hold the arrow of intention or desire.  As Nephi relates, the journey toward the Promised Land does cause fatigue and hunger just as the Children of Israels journey in the wilderness caused much fatigue and hunger.  Nephi and Moses as a Maggid must realign the arrow of intention or desire from one of complaining to one of humility and hope which can hit its' mark-Judgment without criticism and Mercy without over indulgence leading to true charity.

"And it came to pass that he did inquire of the Lord, for they had humbled themselves because of my words; for I did say many things unto them in the energy of my soul.

And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow." (1 Nephi 16:24-25)

In so doing, they obtained the necessary chastisement, mercy, and instructions to obtain food and deliverance with Nephi's ascent up the mountain being a symbol for his ascent into the Heavens to obtain food (prophecy, instruction, revelation) for his group. 

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball.  And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.

 And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him. (1 Nephi 16:30-32)

Instead of just a story of "What's for Dinner?" and "I am starving to Death Dad!" we see that the ancient teaching of the Bow of Hope becomes instruction for how a teacher like Nephi and his followers must  not only follow the paths of wisdom, but must also have the correct intention to launch the arrow of desire to it's target and obtain the food from Heaven they so desperately need. 

"The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.

It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. He is the tower of salvation for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore." (2 Samual 22:47-51)

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