By Chris Layton
February 3, 2020
If there is one thing which is common to the children of Israel shown throughout the scriptures, it is that they forget God and tend towards idolatry and wickedness. The kings of Israel and Judah were no exception.
One righteous king of Judah in 640 BC named Josiah gave them one last chance to repent before they were destroyed and taken captive into Babylon. Many prophets were raised in his day who also would warn of the impending destruction. The people of Jerusalem provoked God’s anger under Josiah’s grandfather King Manasseh, an idolatrous king of Judah who caused his sons to pass through the fire.
Lehi, also living at this time, heard the warnings of the prophets to the people, knowing of their wickedness, began to warn the people of Jerusalem of its impending destruction. When God revealed to Lehi that Jerusalem is about to be destroyed because of the wickedness of the people in following other gods and worshiping the hosts of heaven rather than the one true God he fled with his family into the wilderness to the promised land.
Lehi is shown in vision a book which the angel told him to read:
“And it came to pass that he saw one descending out of the midst of Heaven, and he beheld that his lustre was above that of the noon-day; and he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament; and they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a Book and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the spirit of the Lord, and he read saying, Wo, wo unto Jerusalem! for I have seen thine abominations; yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem- that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof, many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.” 1 Nephi 1:9-13
So what was this book that Lehi was shown? Was it a copy of the future Book of Mormon? No it couldn’t be that since its purpose was to testify of the inhabitants of the Promised Land here in America. This book testified of things pertaining to the people of Jerusalem.
Is there any other reference in the scriptures to this book? There is and it comes when we read of a book which is discovered in the house of the Lord at the time of the righteous king of Judah, King Josiah who did not follow in the wicked ways of his father Amon and grandfather Manasseh.
The Book of the Law
“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem…
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left…
the king sent Shaphan… to the house of the Lord saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord… to repair the breaches of the house… to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house…
And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it…
And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.” (II Kings 22:1-12)
It is in the book of Chronicles that we find the true authorship of The Book of the Law of The Lord:
“And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses.”(2 Chronicles 34:14)
It was Moses who wrote the five “books of Moses” starting from Genesis to Deuteronomy and this same description is given of the brass plates of Laban who held these plates in the treasury of the temple in Jerusalem. It is no wonder that they should be so highly prized by Lehi and so carefully guarded by Laban.
Josiah sends his priest Hilkiah with his scribe Shaphan with Ahikam and Achbor to a woman known as Huldah the prophetess to inquire of the Lord for the king and for all Judah regarding this book they found.
Huldah the Prophetess’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem:
“ And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, (King Josiah) Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read; Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place (Jerusalem) and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thy heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.” (II Kings 22:15-20)
In the chronology of the kings from the time of Josiah’s birth to the time of his finding the book of the Law of God written by Moses, King Josiah found the Book of the Law and had it read to the people at age 18 and lived to the age of 39. We then learn that his sons and one grandson (who were without exception wicked) ruled in his stead for a period of 11 years 6 months up to the time that King Zedekiah (born as Eliakim, son of King Josiah) was installed as king by Nebuchadnezzar. From the time the Book of the Law was discovered to the first year of Zedekiah’s reign as king 32 years had passed. We find upon reading the first chapter of Nephi that it was in this first year of the reign of Zedekiah that Lehi began warning the people.
“For it came to pass, in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father Lehi having dwelt in Jerusalem in all his days;) and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people, that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.” ( 1 Ne. 1:4)
Striking similarities between the Book of the Law of God by Moses and the Brass Plates
we find that The Book contains the five books of Moses and the words of the prophets up to the time of Zedekiah.
“And after that they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father Lehi took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.
And he beheld that they did contain the five Books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, which was our first parents; and also a record of Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, King of Judah;
And also the prophecies of the Holy prophets (including the prophetess Hulda who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem on account of them serving other gods and the hosts of heaven) from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah (who was living at the same time in Jerusalem as Lehi)
And it came to pass that my father Lehi also found upon the plates of brass, a geneaology (such as is found in the book of Numbers) of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea even that Joseph which was sold into Egypt, and which was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preseve his father Jacob and all his household from perishing with famine.
And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt by that same God who had preserved them (from the famine).
And thus my father Lehi did discover the geneaology of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph (a relative) , wherefore he and his fathers kept the records (by virtue of the birthright). 1 Nephi 5:10-16
The Book of the Law of God as given by Moses is read to ALL the inhabitants of Jerusalem by command of King Josiah.
This audience would have included most notably the prophets Lehi, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Ezekiel, and Huldah the prophetess:
“And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.” (2 Kings 23: 1-3)
“And it came to pass, as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard, he did quake and tremble exceedingly” (1 Nephi 1:6)
When Lehi and the other prophets began to testify again in Jerusalem of the wickedness of the people, the prophecy of Huldah the prophetess 32 years prior should have still been ringing in their ears. Why wouldn’t they hearken this time? Because 32 years passed since it was first prophesied and “nothing happened” – yet.
It was 597 BC when Zedekiah, the puppet king of Nebuchadnezzar II began to reign and it was in this year when Lehi and his family began to make their exodus from Jerusalem taking with them “The Book”. Fast forward 11 years however and we find Zedekiah who rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar hiding in a cave. Legend has it as Nebuchadnezzar’s troops were searching for Zedekiah, God sent a deer ahead of the troops who hunting it, chased it to the entrance of the cave where he was hiding. They put Zedekiah’s eyes out and killed his sons except one who escaped named Mulek which means “little king” who, like Lehi albeit under a greater sense of urgency being pursued by the kings men, with his family fled to the promised land and were known as “Mulekites”, the royal line of Judah.
The Mulekites had one problem though, they either misplaced their scriptures or forgot them on their way and we pick up on these Mulekites in the book of Mormon as the people of Zarahemla, a people who were described as being altogether without faith and without God and incomprehensible in their language to Mosiah and his men who found them in Omni 1:14-18.
In a divine irony however, we find in verse 14 that Mosiah just happened to have those seemingly missing brass plates with him.
“And they discovered a people, which was called the people of Zarahemla. Now there was a great rejoicing among the people of Zarahemla; and also, Zarahemla did rejoice exceedingly because that the Lord had sent the people of Mosiah with the plates of brass which contained the record of the Jews.” (Omni 1:14)
Zarahemla and his people rejoiced exceedingly because Mosiah had this record of the Jews and so they were taught in his language. The people of Judah so named the Mulekites did however have another record which testified of the Lord but because of the corruption of their language, they couldn’t read that either. It was the record of the people who came from the tower of Babel at the time of Nimrod known as the Jaredites.
“And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah, there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it; and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God. And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons.”
Lehi was warned by God and prepared but Mulek, having delayed 10 years from the time the warning was given, he fled with his people in haste because they didn’t first hearken to the prophets warnings. Because they didn’t take their scriptures with them they forgot the Lord their God who preserved them and thus will it happen to all who do not add to their faith daily being nourished in the good word of God.
Final Notes Regarding the Book:
The Book of the Law of God as written by Moses is not to be confused with the Bible though both contain covenants of the Lord and prophecies. The angel who ministered to Nephi describes the two books which are similar in nature but different:
“And I Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles which had gone out of captivity, were delivered by the power of God, out of the hands of all other nations.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a Book; and it was carried forth among them.” (1 Nephi 13:19-20)
The book which the gentiles carried with them to the promised land was the Bible which as the angel explained is a record similar to the brass plates but not identical, with engravings not so numerous as the brass plates:
“…it is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord which he hath made unto the House of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophesies of the Holy Prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many.” (1 Nephi 13:23)