Monday, April 17, 2017

Character of the Jewish Elders in Jerusalem in Nephi’s day

There’s an interesting series of observations we can make about the Jewish elders in Jerusalem from the details Nephi provides in his interactions with Laban and Zoram.

First, when Nephi finds Laban drunk, we get this:

7 Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.
8 And when I came to him I found that it was Laban. (1 Nephi 4:7-8)

Laban is in a drunken stupor. Fact.

Then when Nephi is dressed as Laban, we get this detail:

And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them. (1 Nephi 4:22)

So Laban has been out by night among the elders of the Jews, and he got falling-down drunk. Is it logical to think that Laban was the only one of the gathering who got drunk? Probably not. That means it was a party of drunk people. And these are the elders of the Jews. They are supposed to be the righteous ones, the decision-makers, the wise ones, the ruling body.  But they are getting together to party and get drunk.  That is definitely the wrong kind of elders’ quorum party right there.

Then we get some other interesting info in some other verses:

24 And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the plates of brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls….
26 And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.
27 And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls. (1 Nephi 4:24, 26-27)

If Zoram had known about the drunken character of the elders’ parties, he would have found this Laban’s sudden interest in retrieving the plates and taking them to “brethren outside the walls” odd, unusual, and suspiciously out-of-character.  Drunken loutish bully has suddenly turned pious and wants to give/show archived scriptures to someone outside the city?  Hmmm…

But Zoram doesn’t seem to have any idea that this is out of character, which means it may be possible that Laban had concealed what was happening with the elders.

What does this add up to? Hypocrisy among the elders.  Meeting to party and drink themselves into a stupor while everyone else thought they were taking care of important business and making momentous, important decisions. They were taking the status of their position and using it to cloak their self-indulgence and decadence.  It seems that part of their wickedness was the fact that they were hiding it and not repenting of it. (This could also explain why Laman and Lemuel later argued against Nephi that the Jews at Jerusalem were righteous and Lehi had judged them unfairly.)

Would these elders be able to handle a real crisis when it comes up? Probably not. They were destroying their character instead of building it up.

I think the lesson for us today is to avoid hypocrisy. If we say we’re busy because we’re engaged in something important, we’d better be doing important stuff and not mucking about wasting time. We'd better be repenting and not hiding our sins.