Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch18:1:Matters of desert travel which match 1 Nephi

Matters of desert travel which match 1 Nephi

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World

Matters of desert travel which match 1 Nephi

Turning now to the corpus of inscriptions, we find an eloquent commentary to Nephi's text. An inscription of Lehi's own contemporary, Nebuchadnezzar, tells us, referring to the deserts between "the upper sea" and the "lower sea," i.e., North Arabia, of "steep paths, closed roads, where the step is confined. There was no place for food, difficult roads, thirsty roads have I passed through."3 "O Radu," says one old writing scratched by some Bedouin in the rocks of Lehi's desert, "help Shai' in a country exposed to the sun!"4 Here Radu is a tribal deity, and Shai is the wanderer. Another writes: that "he journeyed with the camels in the years in which the heat of the sun was intense [?], and he longed for Saiyad his brother. So O Allat [a female deity] [grant] peace and coolness!"5 "O Radu," another prays, "deliver us from adversity, and may we be saved!"6 The word for "saved," nakhi, reminds us of what was said above of the feeling of dependence on God which the desert forces upon men. The constant feeling of being lost, and the realization that without help one can never be saved, is a real as well as a "spiritual" one in the desert. "O Radu, deliver us from misfortune, that we may live!"7 This inscription from the Thamud country just east of Lehi's route, sounds like scripture—but there is nothing figurative about it. "O Allat," another traveler prays, "deliver 'Abit from burning thirst!"8 "On a journey," Burckhardt tells us, "the Arabs talk but little; for . . . much talking excites thirst, and parches up the palate."9 No wonder they give the impression of being "a lonesome and solemn people!" "It is no exaggeration," writes a present-day authority, "to say that the Bedouin is in an almost permanent state of starvation."10 "Many times between their waterings," Doughty reports, "there is not a pint of water left in the greatest sheykh's tent."[1]


  1. 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 18, references silently removed—consult original for citations.