"And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.
And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem.
And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the Wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper." ( 1 Nephi 18:23-25)
The mention of horses in The Book of Mormon has been quite controversial. Over the years many critics of The Book of Mormon have disputed the presence of horses and other animals in the Americas. While some declare the presence of many of these animals in the new world before European incursions, others claim that many of these animals (specifically horses) were not to be found. However, an ancient Israelite approach to this scripture actually reveals something entirely different.
Pitching Our Tents
"And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land. "
The phrase "pitch our tents" is an Israelite prophetic marker that is meant to communicate to the reader of the text that the account they are about to read has a connection with Moses Tabernacle in the Wilderness. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness is the pre-cursor of the physical temple constructed by King Solomon. The Tabernacle or tent in the Wilderness is a pattern of the astronomical heaven above containing the planets, the constellations, and other celestial signs and markers. In other words, when we "pitch our tents," the reader is meant to view the text from the context of Temple and the heavens above.
So the question is then asked, "What do the Tent in the Wilderness and Astronomical bodies have to do with horses?"
SeedTime and Harvest:
Nephi's account then goes on to state:
"And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance. "
In ancient Israel, the cycles of the constellations and various stars determined the seasons for seed time, planting, and harvesting. There are also ancient traditions that planting certain crops under the light of various stars and celestial bodies caused the crops to produce in greater abundance in conjunction with nourishment and influences provided by the sun, moon, moisture, and the soil.
Again what does this have to do with Horses?
"And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the Wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper."
Nephi then goes on to describe the beasts of the forests found upon the land of promise as they journeyed in the Wilderness. While the peshat or literal level of interpretation tells of the story of the animals they found upon the land of promise, the verse is also meant to communicate an astronomical principle. In the ancient Israelite astronomical view, the land of promise is our viewpoint from the earth as we look into the sky, with the Wilderness being the night sky above with the varying stars and constellations. Thus, the animals that Nephi describes are the symbols of the stellar bodies that they used to determine seedtime and harvest and symbols meant to convey higher teachings.
the cow= Aldebaran (in some traditions, this gets switched with Taurus as well)
the ox = Taurus
and the ass = Issachar- What we call the Constellation Cancer
the horse- asher- three horse-related constellations were found. Bootes rose in the East, while Scheat and Pegasus, the flying horse, were setting, and Sagittarius, the centaur.
the goat - Naphtali - Capricorn
the wild goat-Aries
But what about the mention of Gold, Silver, and Copper?
"And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper."
In addition, Nephi also communicates the types of knowledge that they obtained from the signs in the heavens using the following symbols:
Gold: Knowledge of The Throne of Heaven, The Galactic Center, or Celestial.
Silver: Knowledge of the Creation and the Stars of Creation.
Copper: Knowledge of the Angels and the Earth here below.
We find a second witness of this prophetic pattern regarding the connection between seedtime and harvest and the constellations in Enos:
"And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the Wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.
And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses." (Enos 1:20-21)
We also find a third witness of this prophetic pattern in Ether:
"And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family... And the Lord began again to take the curse from off the land, and the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong, insomuch that they became exceedingly rich-- Having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things; And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms." (Ether 9:3, 16-19)
While there are those who want to argue the zoology of The Book of Mormon. It may also be prudent to consider these descriptions in light of their cosmological significance. While the mention of cureloms and cumoms gets a laugh from a gentile audience, it might be wise to consider these were also ancient astronomical symbols. Much of the knowledge of the fathers like Abraham has been lost through the millennia, but The Book of Mormon preserves much of this ancient knowledge of the heavens encoded into the text.
Copyright Robert Kay November 5, 2021