Ether 8


 



MDC Contents

 

 

 Ether 8:1

1  And it came to pass that he begat Omer, and Omer reigned in his stead.  And Omer begat Jared; and Jared begat sons and daughters.

 

Chronology: The peace that is established by Shule is disrupted by a grandson. Omer’s reign would be about 980-950 B.C.

 

Ether 8:2

2  And Jared rebelled against his father, and came and dwelt in the land of Heth.  And it came to pass that he did flatter many people, because of his cunning words, until he had gained the half of the kingdom.

 

Jared is a son of Omer, and a grandson of Shule. He is therefore part of a ruling line, and possibly the first in line. What he does is establish another city-kingdom in the land of Heth. Our political geography now has three “lands.” Close to the ancestral homeland is Moron, with Nehor and Heth being two other lands that have at least had separatist intents, if not always remaining separate from Moron.

 

Jared is able to establish a city in the land of Heth, and is apparently uncontested in doing so. In the battle for a beholding population, there are many who turn to this newer city. The text tells us that it was flattering and cunning words that brought recruits to the new city. It is unknown what such flattery or cunning could have been, but certainly there was some promise of something better in the new city. The end result is that Jared has a new power base in the land of Heth.

 

Ether 8:3

3  And when he had gained the half of the kingdom he gave battle unto his father, and he did carry away his father into captivity, and did make him serve in captivity;

 

The pattern continues. When Jared has the ability to do so, he takes his father captive. Thus Jared takes command of both the land of Heth and of Moron, and probably of Nehor. We should notice in passing that there is no threat on Omer’s life. The text simply says that he was made to “serve in captivity.” This again shows how the excuse of the imminent death of Shule stands out from the rest of the captivity stories.

 

Ether 8:4

4  And now, in the days of the reign of Omer he was in captivity the half of his days.  And it came to pass that he begat sons and daughters, among whom were Esrom and Coriantumr;

Ether 8:5

5  And they were exceedingly angry because of the doings of Jared their brother, insomuch that they did raise an army and gave battle unto Jared.  And it came to pass that they did give battle unto him by night.

 

Jared is in control of the kingdom, and has the best access to mount an army. However, the rebellious Esrom and Coriantumr have a loyal following, it is simply more likely to have been smaller than the army that Jared could command. The attack at night is probably our key to understanding how their insurrection succeeded. Night attacks would be rare and somewhat dangerous. This suggests that we have a body of men who are trying to even the odds by using night against the stronger army. Since they are able to reach the person of Jared, they have attacked Jared’s palace at night, overcoming whatever watch was left on guard. The capture of the king would be equivalent to the capture of the entire kingdom, as witnessed by the captivity of the kings among the Jaredites.

 

Ether 8:6

6  And it came to pass that when they had slain the army of Jared they were about to slay him also; and he plead with them that they would not slay him, and he would give up the kingdom unto his father.  And it came to pass that they did grant unto him his life.

 

We have the earlier example of the execution of Noah in Ether 7:18 to show that the capture of the king was not always the option. In that case, Noah was killed as part of the rescue of Shule, a rescue that saved Shule, but also left Noah’s kingdom and powerbase intact.

 

In the current case, there is the opportunity to slay Jared, but Esrom and Coriantumr elect not to. It would appear that they are able to mount a successful coup and control the government. It is therefore probable that maintaining him alive had some political value. As it turns out, it also had its risks.

 

Ether 8:7

7  And now Jared became exceedingly sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom and upon the glory of the world.

 

Redaction: While there is nothing to say that this verse is Moroni’s moralistic interpolation in the story, it is both consonant with Moroni’s editorial methods and unlikely to have been a part of the original tale. What we have that appears to come from the sources relates the basic events. It would appear to be Moroni who molds those events into a moral. Of course Moroni, as did Mormon before him, has an agenda when he writes, and that agenda clearly has a moral purpose. Moroni wants us to understand how history ought to lead us to God rather than away from God. As Moroni presents the story of the Jaredites, he gives us the details of political intrigue as Mormon did for the Nephite/Lamanite wars just prior to the appearance of Christ among the Nephties. Moroni is giving these details for the same basic didactive reason as his father, but Moroni is much more obvious in drawing his conclusions. Moroni does not leave it to chance that we figure out what these events mean for us. He tells us. He has told us of the ways in which Jaredite prosperity and wickedness obey the essential promise of the land, and now he tells us that Jared’s intents are wicked, and therefore wicked means will be used to obtain them.

 

Ether 8:8

8  Now the daughter of Jared being exceedingly expert, and seeing the sorrows of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father.

Ether 8:9

9  Now the daughter of Jared was exceedingly fair.  And it came to pass that she did talk with her father, and said unto him: Whereby hath my father so much sorrow?  Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep?  Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?

Ether 8:10

10  And now, therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say: I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king.

 

In verse 9 the daughter of Jared makes reference to a text that was brought with them across the oceans. This text will be the source for the plan that is initiated, and it is also the beginning source for the secret combinations that become the liet motif among the Jaredites, and then in Mormon’s record of the destruction of the Nephties.

 

Ether 8:11

11  And now Omer was a friend to Akish; wherefore, when Jared had sent for  Akish, the daughter of Jared danced before him that she pleased him, insomuch that he desired her to wife.  And it came to pass that he said unto Jared: Give her unto me to wife.

Ether 8:12

12  And Jared said unto him: I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king.

 

This story bears an obvious resemblance to the dance of Salome which resulted in the beheading of John the Baptist:

 

Matthew 14:3-11

3 ¶ For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.

4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

6 But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.

9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

 

Nibley notes:

 

“There is one tale of intrigue in the book of Ether that presents very ancient and widespread (though but recently discovered) parallels. That is the story of Jared's daughter. This was a later Jared who rebelled against his father, "did flatter many people, because of his cunning words, until he had gained half of the kingdom. . . . [And] did carry away his father into captivity" after defeating him in battle, "and did make him serve in captivity" (Ether 8:2-3). In captivity the king raised other sons who finally turned the tables on their faithless brother and beat his forces in a night skirmish. They spared his life on his promise to give up the kingdom, but they failed to count on Jared's daughter, an ambitious girl who had read, or at least asked her father if he had read "in the records which our fathers brought across the great deep," a very instructive account of those devices by which the men of old got "kingdoms and great glory.”

 

Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?

 

And now, therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; and behold, I am fair, and I will dance before him, and I will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say, I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king (Ether 8:9-10).

 

The Throne of Darius, depicting among other things Darius himself sitting upon the throne. An inscription on the throne reads: "Behold the representation of those who bear my throne, and you shall know how great is the number of the lands which Darius the King seized." Compare this with the "exceedingly beautiful throne" of Riplakish (Ether 10:6) and the opressive means by which he got it.

 

Historically, the whole point of this story is that it is highly unoriginal. It is supposed to be. The damsel asks her father if he has read "the record" and refers him to a particular account therein describing how "they of old . . . did obtain kingdoms." In accordance with this she then outlines a course of action which makes it clear just what the "account" was about. It dealt with a pattern of action (for "kingdoms" is in the plural) in which a princess dances before a romantic stranger, wins his heart, and induces him to behead the ruling king, marry her, and mount the throne. The sinister daughter of Jared works the plan for all it is worth. Having got her grandfather beheaded and her father on the throne, she proceeds to marry the murderer Akish, who presently having "sworn by the oath of the ancients [the old system again] . . . obtained the head of his father-in-law, as he sat on his throne" (Ether 9:5). And who put him up to this new crime? "It was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish" (Ether 8:17). At first she influenced Akish through her father Jared, but after Akish became her husband he would of course act directly under her influence to dispatch the next rival. According to the ancient pattern (for Ether insists that it all goes back to "the ancients") Akish as soon as his successor became apparent would be marked as the next victim, and surely enough we find him so suspicious of his son that he locks him up in prison and starves him to death; but there were other sons, and so "there began to be a war between the sons of Akish and Akish," ending in the complete ruin of the kingdom (Ether 9:12). Many years later the old evil was revived by Heth, who "began to embrace the secret plans again of old," dethroned his father, "slew him with his own sword; and he did reign in his stead" (Ether 9:26-27).

 

This is indeed a strange and terrible tradition of throne succession, yet there is no better attested tradition in the early world than the ritual of the dancing princess (represented by the salme priestess of the Babylonians, hence the name Salome) who wins the heart of a stranger and induces him to marry her, behead the old king, and mount the throne. I once collected a huge dossier on this awful woman and even read a paper on her at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association. fn You find out all about the sordid triangle of the old king, the challenger, and the dancing beauty from Frazer, Jane Harrison, Altheim, B. Schweitzer, Farnell, and any number of folklorists. fn The thing to note especially is that there actually seems to have been a succession rite of great antiquity that followed this pattern. It is the story behind the rites at Olympia and the Ara Sacra and the wanton and shocking dances of the ritual hierodules throughout the ancient world. fn Though it is not without actual historical parallels, as when in A.D. 998 the sister of the khalif obtained as a gift the head of the ruler of Syria, fn the episode of the dancing princess is at all times essentially a ritual, and the name of Salome is perhaps no accident, for her story is anything but unique. Certainly the book of Ether is on the soundest possible ground in attributing the behavior of the daughter of Jared to the inspiration of ritual texts—secret directories on the art of deposing an aging king. The Jaredite version, incidentally, is quite different from the Salome story of the Bible, but is identical with many earlier accounts that have come down to us in the oldest records of civilization. (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, Salt Lake City and Provo: Bookcraft, 1952, p. 207-210.)

 

Cultural: There is so little information available both in this verse and in Olmec history that cultural correlations must be taken with caution. However, it is possible that the taking of the head is more than a simple part of the replication of the ancient story. Decapitation was a mode of sacrifice in Mesoamerica. Cerros is a Late Preclassic site, which places it at the end of the Olmec influence rather than the beginning, but it is important for the evidence of the arrival of kingship at that site. This is a location where the village existed prior to the establishment of kingship, but it is probable that the ideas adopted were not original to them, but came in from the outside as these people were traders and seafarers (Linda Schele and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1990, p. 98) After the population of Cerros adopted the trappings of kingship they build monumental art displaying those symbols:

 

“On the middle pyramid, the builders mounted carved jaguar heads with great flowing scrolls pouring out of their mouths, and small snarling human heads emerging from the stonework above them. These bloody images were meant to depicft the severed head of the Sun Jaguar – the ancestral brother who died in sacrifice as was reborn as the means of defeating the Lords of Xibalba.

 

The image of the severed head is a central symbol of royal power on stelae and panels of the Classic period. Kings during this period sacrificed highborn victims taken in war by decapitating them. The jaguar adorned with waterlily scrolls presided over such warfare and provided it with its central metaphor: battle as the royal hunt.” (Linda Schele and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1990, p. 124).

 

The presence of the jaguar at least suggests that these modes of kingship have connections to the earlier Olmec forms, where the jaguar was an omnipresent symbol. The evidence for human sacrifice among the Olmec is not as obvious as for the later Maya, but the evidence does suggest that the absence is due to our records, not the absence of the practice. In an early work on the Olmec, Ignacio Bernal notes that there are signs that point to human sacrifice (Ignacio Bernal. The Olmec World. Tr. Doris Heyden and Fernando Horcasitas. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1969, pp. 104-5)

 

Ether 8:13

13  And it came to pass that Akish gathered in unto the house of Jared all his kinsfolk, and said unto them: Will ye swear unto me that ye will be faithful unto me in the thing which I shall desire of you?

 

When the plot is to be confirmed, Akish is brought into Jared’s compound with representatives of “all his kinsfolk.” Of course it would not be correct that all of his kin were there, but certainly enough official representation (probably all male representation) that the clan could be committed to this action. It is am important addition to the story that a kin group be bound into the covenant of action. The political intrigues among the Jaredites were family affairs, with different claimants to the throne gaining precedence at one time or another. If there was to be a move made against the king, then support was require, and it would naturally come from the kin group of the man who stood most to gain.

 

Ether 8:14

14  And it came to pass that they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth, and by their heads, that whoso should vary from the assistance which Akish desired should lose his head; and whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life.

 

The entire kin group places themselves in a relationship to Akish. For this deed he is brought into the clan, and the clan promises him protection by pledging their own lives as security against their promise.

 

Ether 8:15

15  And it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish.  And Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning.

Ether 8:16

16  And they were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.

Ether 8:17

17  And it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired.

Ether 8:18

18  And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;

 

For Moroni, this is the important part of the story. The intrigue of the story of the plot might be interesting, but the crucial aspect is the formation of the secret combination. This secret combination in a later form of the Gadiantons will be the downfall of the Nephties, just as it proved the eventual downfall of the Jaredites. Moroni underscores the importance of this passage by making it the springboard for a moral insertion which follows directly.

 

Ether 8:19

19  For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.

 

From here to the end of the chapter, we have Moroni’s discourse on the evils of secret combinations. Moroni will elect to end a chapter on this note, suggesting that he finishes a point when he is able to give us this lecture on the evils of secret combinations.

 

The first point Moroni makes about these secret combinations is that they seek to achieve their ends through murder. This is a trait that will be associated with secret combinations in Mormon’s record. Moroni informs us that this is never the way the Lord would have man resolve an issue. This command to kill for gain cannot come from the Lord, therefore it must come from “the other” source, which he does not name, but implies.

 

Ether 8:20

20  And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.

Ether 8:21

21  And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

 

When we first meet the secret combinations in Mormon’s records, it is in connection with the information on the plates of Ether. At that time, Alma tells his son Helaman that as part of his responsibilities as the keeper of the records, that he should keep this information about secret combinations safe and not publish them:

 

Alma 37:21-22

21 And now, I will speak unto you concerning those twenty-four plates, that ye keep them, that the mysteries and the works of darkness, and their secret works, or the secret works of those people who have been destroyed, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, all their murders, and robbings, and their plunderings, and all their wickedness and abominations, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, and that ye preserve these interpreters.

22 For behold, the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness, yea, work secret murders and abominations; therefore the Lord said, if they did not repent they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.

 

Moroni follows that same pattern. He tells us that they oaths are there, but he declines to elaborate, for they are covenants that should not be had among men, even though they are among the Lamanites, and have already caused the downfall of the Nephite nation.

 

Ether 8:22

22  And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

 

This is a prophecy against the Gadianton robbers that are rampant in Moroni’s day (4 Nephi 1:46). Moroni has before him the record of the Jaredites whose secret combinations eventually destroyed them, and he is using that past example as the basis for his future prophecy against the Gadiantons, who are the secret combination of his own day. In the historical correlation we are using in this commentary, the Gadiantons were seen as the influence and presence of Teotihuacan. Indeed, that city was influential for hundreds of years, but eventually fell, and was destroyed. Moroni’s prophecy did see its fulfillment around 600 AD.

 

Ether 8:23

23  Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should  be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

 

Moroni tells us that he is writing about the fact of the secret combinations as a warning to us. The evil one may tempt us into believing that we too might murder for gain, and unfortunately we have a society where some form of murder for gain is rampant. Moroni is telling us that this is no long term solution, that it will be ultimately destructive. Certainly in the modern microcosm of violent gangs, the impetus to violence leads to very short life-spans for many of the gang members themselves.

 

Ether 8:24

24  Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

 

Just as the secret combinations should have been a warning to the Nephites, they should be warnings to us to change our ways. Certainly such things are not officially tolerated, and attempts are made every day to prevent such things. What is perhaps lacking is the wholesale return to God of the people of the modern world. Such a path might preclude the development of the modern secret societies themselves.

 

Ether 8:25

25  For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

 

Here is the direct connection between the murders for gain and the overthrow of political systems. That is the classic Book of Mormon form for the secret combinations. While there are certain such combinations in the modern world, from the Mafia to gangs, there is fortunately no effective combination that has overthrown the modern American government.

 

Ether 8:26

26  Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.

 

Moroni includes the information on secret combinations as a warning. In the historical context, this is the reason he elects to include this episode in his record. Moroni wants to show the beginnings of the secret combinations so that he can warn us against them.

 

Textual: This is the end of the third chapter of Ether in the 1830 edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002