Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch18:3:The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness

The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness

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

The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness

"The goal of the migration is always the watering place," we are told.18 "Ranging from one spring to another," writes Condor," . . . the nomads seem to resemble the Jews at the period when, for forty years, they lived in the wilderness."19 The resemblance was not lost on Lehi's people. Speaking of the wells which Abraham dug, "and which had to be re-opened by Isaac," Conder notes that they "were perhaps similar to the HÅ­feiyir, or 'pits,' which the Arabs now dig in the beds of great valleys."20 These were "the more fertile parts of the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:16) of which Nephi speaks. "The wadis," writes Norman Lewis, ". . . actually simplify long distance travel. In the dry season they become natural roads of great length and in places are often several hundred yards wide. Their beds are firm and flat, and in them is to be found whatever moisture or vegetation exists in an arid country. For these reasons they are a boon to caravans, which often follow their courses for hundreds of miles."21 Not long ago Professor Frankfort wrote of the south desert, "The secret of moving through its desolation has at all times been kept by the Bedawin [sic]."22 Intrepid explorers of our own day have learned the secret, however, and Lehi knew of it too. Like a sudden flash of illumination comes the statement that Lehi by divine instruction "led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness" (1 Nephi 16:16). Woolley and Lawrence describe such "more fertile parts" as "stretching over the flat floor of the plain in long lines like hedges." 23 They are the depressions of dried-up watercourses, sometimes hundreds of miles long. They furnish, according to Bertram Thomas, "the arteries of life in the steppe, the path of Bedouin movement, the habitat of animals, by reason of the vegetation—scant though it is—which flourishes in their beds alone."24 In Arabia it is this practice of following "the more fertile parts of the wilderness" that alone makes it possible for both men and animals to survive. Cheesman designates as "touring" the practice followed men and beasts of moving from place to place in the desert as spots of fertility shift with the seasons.25[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.