Sunday, August 23, 2015

Uses of towers in the scriptures


When the trouble starts for King Noah and Gideon fights with him, King Noah does something that has puzzled me for a long time – he runs and gets on the tower he’d built next to the temple.

It seems like a tower is an odd place to flee to, since it’s sort of a dead end. Once you get to the top, there is no where else to go.

Also, we have a European idea of what towers look like – straight vertical walls, parapets and crenellations, whereas it probably was built more like a ziggurat or a pyramid.

Probably the best thing getting on the tower would have done for King Noah was that it would require Gideon to fight up against gravity, while King Noah would have gravity helping him.

I wanted to see if there were other incidents in the scriptures of people using towers and fleeing to them.  And there were.

In Judges 9:51, the people of Thebez had their city taken, so they went to the strong tower in the city and got on the top of it and used it as a place of defense.

In 2 Samuel 22:3, there is a psalm of David in which he extols the Lord as his defense, and he says:
The God of my rock;
in him will I trust:
he is my shield,
and the horn of my salvation,
my high tower, and my refuge,
my saviour;
thou savest me from violence.
So it seems that towers were definitely considered a refuge. 

Also, as I was surveying across the scriptures, I found towers used for watching. They seem to have been placed where they could be used to see who was coming.

The scriptures also mention them as landmarks for readers to orient themselves (assuming the towers were still there and one knew where was what).

Isaiah prophesied in several places of high towers being thrown down, along with other imagery about pride being humbled. Clearly he wanted to make the point that military advantages and refuges were not sufficient to save without trusting in the Lord.

In the Book of Mormon, in Helaman 7, the prophet Nephi gets on a tower in his garden to pray. It’s a curious place to pray, but perhaps he may have sought spiritual refuge there.

In D&C 101:12 there is a curious promise – “And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.”  This combines the sense of watching and prophetic foresight with the sense of finding refuge and defense in the Lord. It is also possible that it captures a picture of a situation in which Israel and the righteous are under siege and attack.

Back to King Noah, though.  The tower gave King Noah the ability to observe the Lamanites invading, but by then he couldn’t do much besides warn them to flee.  I really like how later King Limhi used the tower to observe the Lamanites preparing for war.  This implies that he got up on that tower to observe much more often.  Discovering Lamanite preparations gave him and his people time to prepare themselves and fight, instead of just fleeing.

The spiritual counterpart of the tower as a place of refuge corresponds to the home and the temple.  The spiritual counterpart of the tower as a means of early warning corresponds to the counsel of the prophets.  Are we taking refuge as much as we can?  Are we listening to the warnings the prophets are giving in our day?

It seems to me that two big warnings we are being given today are about defending the family and standing up for religious freedom.  We need to figure out ways to do that as part of our everyday life of teaching and speaking.  I’m still working out for myself what I can do pertaining to those warnings.   Will you share what you are doing with regard to those two things?