How did Lehi and his family escape the devastating Babylonian deportation of 597 BCE?
The Book of Mormon makes no mention of the either of the first two Babylonian deportations, the first in 606 BCE and the next in 597 BCE (although it foretells the third which occurred in 587 BCE when Jerusalem was destroyed). The second deportation was devastating (2 Kings 24:8-17) where only the poorest class of people were allowed to remain in Jerusalem. The literate Nephi and his seemly well-to-do and skilled family appear to be totally unaffected by this dramatic event.
What are the main aspects of this most serious challenge to the Book of Mormon?
1) There were three different deportations of those living in the kingdom of Judah
by the Babylonians that together make up what we know as the Babylonian captivity.
2) The first deportation consisted of selected children (including Daniel) taken
from the households Judah, the king and princes. Some of the treasures from the
Temple were also taken back to Babylon at this time.
3) The Book of Mormon account named 1st Nephi is set at a time in history after the
first two deportations have already occurred but before the final deportation and
destruction of Jerusalem.
4) The second deportation was the largest deportation in the area since the days of
the Assyrians and left Jerusalem stripped of at least 10,000 people, including
those in the army and those with skills, leaving behind only the poorest of the
people. The Temple was sacked and all its remaining treasure was taken into
5) Nephi and his family appearing to be totally unaffected by either of the first two
deportations have managed to keep enough of their possessions to make an
attempt to buy the Brass Plates. Other recording prophets at the time (Jeremiah
and Ezekiel) are very much impacted by the second deportation however Nephi acts
like nothing has happened and even writes that father Lehi is prophesying about a
captivity that is already well underway so much so that Jeremiah writes letters to
those that are already in captivity in Babylon.
6) The Babylonian Captivity (save a few only) had already occurred before Nephi supposedly
begins his record, and yet he joins his father Lehi in prophesying that MANY will be taken away captive into Babylon and that those captured after the destruction of Jerusalem will return. These events are both inconsistent with Nephi's own record and with the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
There are three books in the OT that all have the same story and the same
chronology (Chronicles, Kings, Jeremiah). These all have King Zedekiah installed
as the puppet ruler in Jerusalem after the captivity of Judah had already
begun. Daniel and his three fiery furnace friends were long gone before the
Book of Mormon begins.
The Book of Mormon makes no mention of the first Babylonian deportation (Daniel 1) which took away Daniel and other selected children in 606 BCE. In this, the first of the three deportations into Babylon, it looks like Nephi must have been a child with a blemish or was not favored or was not skilled in wisdom, knowledge, or science. Maybe he failed the Chaldean language exam (Daniel 1:4). This is not the image we get from Nephi's account, written by a literate person who portrays himself as having some
knowledge and skills that should have qualified him for a trip to Babylon with
Daniel. Maybe he was much older than Daniel and was therefore not considered
a child. Maybe he was out of town when Daniel and the other children and then
later thousands of residents of Jerusalem were deported. Maybe he was sick or
asleep. Maybe he never existed except in the creative mind of Joseph Smith!
The Book of Mormon also makes no mention of the second Babylonian deportation (2 Kings
24:8-17) where only the poorest class of people were allowed to remain in
Jerusalem. The literate Nephi and his seemly well-to-do and skilled family appear to be totally unaffected
by this dramatic event.
Lehi is even portrayed as a prophet who in a vision was told that "many should be
carried away captive into Babylon" even though all but the poorest had already
been carried away. Doesn't seem like much of a prophesy if it had already come
true for those who used to live in Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 1:4 is very clear that the story begins "in the commencement of the first
year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah" and that Lehi lived in Jerusalem all
the days of his life. If Lehi had spent all the days of his life in Jerusalem, he
and his family would have lived through two separate devastating Babylonian deportations and would have been living under the rule of the puppet king Zedekiah with the other poor and unskilled people not taken away into Babylon.
All the educated and skilled classes of people were already gone into captivity at
the time the Book of Mormon is supposed to begin. And with them went the wealth
and riches of Jerusalem. How did Lehi protect all his gold and belongings used in
the fruitless attempt to buy the Brass Plates?
These are the facts: 2 Kings 24, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah 24 all describe devastating events
that occurred in 597 BCE and are hardly "of relatively minor significance". Lehi and his family could not have escaped this second deportation
1) Lehi and his family really didn't live in Jerusalem as Nibley has suggested,
although Nephi clearly states that Lehi lived in Jerusalem all his days. Even if
Lehi lived outside of Jerusalem he eventually entered it to preach and his sons
entered it to try to get the Brass plates. Just who was Lehi preaching to since
the city was basically empty when the account of Nephi begins. (I suspect that
Nibley knew about this serious problem for the Book of Mormon.)
2) Lehi and his family were among the poorest of the people - which is hard to
believe given that fact that Nephi is portrayed as a literate and knowledgeable
person whose family had enough possessions to try to buy the Brass plates.
The question still goes unanswered: Why did the devastating deportation of
Jerusalem in 597 BCE have no impact at all on Nephi or his family?
The Bible clearly states in 2 Kings 24 that all in Jerusalem were deported except for
the poorest, at least 10,000 people and 10,000 people for an ancient city that had
already suffered an earlier deportation should have been significant enough to be
mentioned by Nephi. It made a difference to Jeremiah and what he had to say to
those that were left behind. It doesn't make a difference to Nephi because he is a
fictional character living in the year 600 BCE, living before Jerusalem is stripped
of its people and wealth.
The Book of Mormon footnotes tell us that the story of Nephi begins three years before
597 BCE in about 600 BCE. This places Nephi's account before events that in
actuality had already occurred. The mighty, the wealthy and those with skills had
been taken away into Babylon before the account of Nephi begins. Remember that in
597 BCE the king of Babylon "carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and
all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen
and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the lands." (2
Kings 24:14) Jerusalem, although not destroyed, was stripped of it's people and
it's wealth. Even the temple was sacked. Why does the family of Lehi appear to
be going on with life as though none of this had happened? Why are they acting
like they are living in 600 BCE when the first year of Zedekiah was 597 BCE? I
believe Joseph Smith made a major mistake in establishing an historical date for
the beginning of the Book of Nephi.
Jeremiah tells us about the people deported to Babylon in 606 BCE and 597 BCE and also the future destruction of 587 BCE. Lehi not to know anything about the first and the second deportations and foretells only the final destruction of 587 BCE, totally unaffected by the Babylonian Captivity that has already occurred.
The Babylonian Captivity (save a few only) had already occurred before Nephi supposedly
begins his record, and yet he and his family appear totally unaffected by the major
deportations of 606 BCE and 597 BCE.
Let's look at a few of the key Babylonian Captivity
verses from the Book of Mormon:
"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 1:13)
No hint here that the Babylonian Captivity of the "good figs" (the people that God
promised to protect and return to the land) had already occurred!
"And now, after all these things, the time has come that they have become wicked,
yea, nearly unto ripeness; and I know not but they are at this day about to be
destroyed; for I know that the day must surely come that they must be destroyed,
save a FEW ONLY, who shall be led away into captivity." (1 Nephi 17:43)
"For, behold, said he, I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is
destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished." (2 Nephi
This supports my reading of the Bible that only a few were deported after the
destruction of Jerusalem and that most of the people were killed. Again, no
mention ever of the many that were taken away in 597 BCE a group that made up the
largest part of the Babylonian Captivity.
"That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and MANY be
carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they
should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they
should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their
inheritance." (1 Nephi 10:3)
"Wherefore, it hath been told them concerning the destruction which should come
upon them, immediately after my father left Jerusalem; nevertheless, they hardened
their hearts; and according to my prophecy they have been destroyed, save it be
those which are carried away captive into Babylon. And now this I speak because of
the spirit which is in me. And notwithstanding they have been carried away they
shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem; wherefore, they shall be
restored again to the land of their inheritance." (2 Nephi 25:10-11)
Sounds right at first. The only problem with these verses is that the promise to
return to the land was made to those of the 606 BCE and 597 BCE deportations not to
those "bad figs" made an object of horror at the destruction of Jerusalem.
(Jeremiah 24) Also, Nephi is inconsistent in his own writing! In 1 Nephi 1:13 and
1 Nephi 10:3 he says that MANY will be carried away but in 1 Nephi 17:43 he says
that only a FEW ONLY will be taken captive. Same book only a few chapters apart -
what is this? I think he has the MANY (of 597 BCE) confused with the FEW ONLY (of
587 BCE). Too bad he wasn't really alive during this period of time to know the
difference as is evidenced by his giving credit for both of these captivities (the
MANY and the FEW) to the period following the destruction of Jerusalem.
The Book of Mormon concept, that the Babylonian Captivity began in 587 BCE is
inconsistent with four separate witnesses in the Bible, specifically 2 Kings 24-25,
Jeremiah 24, 39-41, 52, 2 Chronicles 36, and Ezekiel 33. Also the concept that
those carried away captive at the destruction of Jerusalem would return to the land
is not consistent with Jeremiah and Ezekiel both telling us that only those that
had been deported prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (the "good figs") would
return to reclaim the land. Jeremiah 24 tells us that those in Jerusalem at its
destruction were the "bad figs" those that would have not have a part in claiming
the land. Ezekiel 33 tells us that even those survivors left in Judah as vine
dressers and farmers would not have any claim on the land when those in captivity
It appears that the greatest number of people deported from Jerusalem occurred in
597 BCE while only those that had not been killed by the sword and those that had
surrendered to Babylonians had a remote possibility for deportation after the
destruction of Jerusalem . Some of the remaining people were sent into an exile of
"death". 2 Kings 25:18-21 tells about 60 common people still remaining in
Jerusalem, a courtier, a commander, five men of the king's personal service and a
scribe who were all arrested and killed before the king of Babylon.
Only those deported in 606 BCE and 597 BCE, called the "good figs" by Jeremiah,
were promised to be brought back to the land after 70 years in exile.
Again in the above verses, Nephi shows us that he doesn't know much more than his father Lehi concerning the Babylonian Captivity that had already occurred at the time when he is portrayed as beginning to write what appears to be an internally inconsistent record.
The Book of Mormon has become a religious object and it is now treated as such without regard to its contents as is evidenced by its inconsistency with four separate witnesses from the Bible (2 Kings 24, Jeremiah 24, 2 Chronicles 36, and Ezekiel 33). It has become a graven image to the LDS. It is a book that speaks to the concerns of the 19th century but is silent about our own time and the centuries to come...