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The name "Sidon" in the Book of Mormon
Parent page: Book of Mormon Names
Lehi's favor toward Sidon is appropriate in the time and place of the Book of Mormon, given his other beliefs
Even the Egyptians of 600 B.C., striving as they were to regain supremacy of sea trade, had their huge seagoing ships manned exclusively by Syrian and Phoenician crews, though Egypt was a maritime nation.14 But Israel had no ports at all; her one ambitious maritime undertaking had to be carried on with the aid and cooperation of Tyre, who took unscrupulous advantage of her landlubber neighbor.15
But for centuries it had been Sidon that had taken the lead; it was Sidon that gave its name to all the Phoenicians—Homer's Sidonians—and Sidon still remained in business.16 But now was Tyre's great day; by pushing and aggressive tactics she was running the show, and no doubt charging excessive rates.17
Now it is significant that whereas the name of Sidon enjoys great popularity in the Book of Mormon, in both its Egyptian (Giddonah) and Hebrew forms, the name of Tyre never appears in the book. That is actually as it should be, for in Lehi's day there was bitter rivalry between the two, and to support the one was to oppose the other. The upstart nobility that were running and ruining things at the court of Zedekiah were putting their money on Tyre, so to speak, and when Nebuchadnezzar came west on the fatal expedition that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, one of his main objectives, if not the main one, was to knock out Tyre.18 Up until quite recently it was believed that his thirteen-year siege of the city on the rock was unsuccessful, but now it is known for sure that Tyre was actually taken and destroyed, upon which Sidon enjoyed a brief revival of supremacy.19 Now Lehi shared the position of Jeremiah (1 Nephi 7:14), who was opposed to the policy of the court in supporting Egypt against Babylon; that meant that he was anti-Tyre and pro-Sidon
Lehi in political context
- But how do we know that Lehi was a member of the old aristocracy? His probable association with Jeremiah, his education, his noble ancestry that could be traced back to Joseph and related him to Laban himself, the fact that a family record had been kept from very ancient times on expensive bronze plates, his close and long-standing cultural ties with Egypt and Sidon (rather than Tyre, which was favored by the ruling group), the quantity and nature of his possessions—all tell the same story; but the key to the situation is to be found in the frequent mention by Nephi of "the land of his inheritance," which was both the source of his wealth and the place where he kept it. The pronounced distaste with which Nephi so often refers to "the Jews . . . at Jerusalem" (1 Nephi 2:13) as a group to which his own people definitely do not belong makes it apparent that he is speaking of the Jewish faction that controlled Jerusalem, both the government and the populace, and also implies that Lehi's family did not think of themselves as living in the city. They are apparently the old landed aristocracy that do not go along with the crazy ways and policies of the new rulers.
- Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 7, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
- Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 8, references silently removed—consult original for citations.