Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch18:4:Fine points of bows and making them

The making of bows

Fine points of bows and making them

Things looked dark when Nephi broke his fine steel bow, for the wooden bows of his brothers had "lost their springs" (1 Nephi 16:21; note the peculiarly Semitic use of the plural for a noun of quality); and though skilled in the art of hunting, they knew little enough about bow-making, which is a skill reserved to specialists even among primitives. Incidentally, archery experts say that a good bow will keep its spring for about one hundred thousand shots; from which one might calculate that the party at the time of the crisis had been traveling anywhere from one to three years. It was of course out of the question to make the familiar composite bow, and was something of a marvel when Nephi "did make out of wood a bow" (1 Nephi 16:23); for the hunter, the most conservative of men, would never dream of changing from a composite to a simple bow. Though it sounds simple enough when we read about it, it was almost as great a feat for Nephi to make a bow as it was for him to build a ship, and he is justly proud of his achievement.
According to the ancient Arab writers, the only bow-wood obtainable in all Arabia was the nab wood that grew only "amid the inaccessible and overhanging crags" of Mount Jasum and Mount Azd, which are situated in the very region where, if we follow the Book of Mormon, the broken bow incident occurred.34 How many factors must be correctly conceived and correlated to make the apparently simple story of Nephi's bow ring true! The high mountain near the Red Sea at a considerable journey down the coast, the game on the peaks, hunting with bow and sling, the finding of bow-wood viewed as something of a miracle by the party—what are the chances of reproducing such a situation by mere guesswork?[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.