1 And it came to pass when Coriantumr had recovered of his wounds, he began to remember the words which Ether had spoken unto him.
2 He saw that there had been slain by the sword already nearly two millions of his people, and he began to sorrow in his heart; yea, there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.
Finally, at the end of so much loss of life, Coriantumr finally remembers the words of Ether. At this point we have the information that there were nearly two million dead. This is a count that includes men, women and children. Certainly there was a tremendous loss of life, but the number itself must be considered a collective number rather than a count. There was simply no way to count the dead, particularly given the moving nature of the battles. While we may easily understand that the devastation was tremendous, and the loss of life greater than any had ever seen before, it was nevertheless impossible to count, and therefore the idea that there had been two million slain must be a collective number, and probably an exaggeration to indicate an extremely large number. It could not have been a count, or even an estimated count.
3 He began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and refused to be comforted.
4 And it came to pass that he wrote an epistle unto Shiz, desiring him that he would spare the people, and he would give up the kingdom for the sake of the lives of the people.
Having remembered Ether’s prophecy, Coriantumr now sees that the end of the current situation is doomed to a total destruction of his people. He therefore attempts to call of the wars. He suggests to Shiz that he, Coriantumr, will give up the kingdom to Shiz for the sake of the lives of the people. At this point, Coriantumr is still under the impression that this war is politically motivated. While there may be some politics involved, that is not the only issue, and it is the blood feud declared by Shiz that will be the more important reason for the battle.
There is no indication of how Ether would have known of this letter. Either
Ether hears of it from gossip, or it is a literary invention.
5 And it came to pass that when Shiz had received his epistle he wrote an epistle unto Coriantumr, that if he would give himself up, that he might slay him with his own sword, that he would spare the lives of the people.
This is the indication that the true motive for the battle is the blood feud. The Jardite world is full of examples of the captive king, and no doubt Coriantumr supposed that captivity would be his fate. However, the is a new incentive in this war that transcended politics for Shiz. He has declared a blood feud, and nothing will satisfy his demands except the death of Coriantumr.
6 And it came to pass that the people repented not of their iniquity; and the people of Coriantumr were stirred up to anger against the people of Shiz; and the people of Shiz were stirred up to anger against the people of Coriantumr; wherefore, the people of Shiz did give battle unto the people of Coriantumr.
The letter has no effect on the end of the war.
Redaction: The phrase “the people repented not of their iniquity” is probably Moroni’s interpretation of events that is added to push the moral of the story. Of course this could also have been Ether’s assessment, but the overt moralizing of the end of the Jaredites appears to be Moroni’s addition to the story.
7 And when Coriantumr saw that he was about to fall he fled again before the people of Shiz.
8 And it came to pass that he came to the waters of Ripliancum, which, by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all; wherefore, when they came to these waters they pitched their tents; and Shiz also pitched his tents near unto them; and therefore on the morrow they did come to battle.
Geographic: The definition given to Ripliancum, that is was “large, or to exceed all,” suggests that this may have been the Pacific ocean, again reinforcing the other references to the sea as being the Gulf Coast. However, the next move will take them to the hill Ramah, and that should be closer to the Gulf Coast. Since we are not told the times of these movements, it is still possible.
9 And it came to pass that they fought an exceedingly sore battle, in which Coriantumr was wounded again, and he fainted with the loss of blood.
10 And it came to pass that the armies of Coriantumr did press upon the armies of Shiz that they beat them, that they caused them to flee before them; and they did flee southward, and did pitch their tents in a place which was called Ogath.
11 And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred.
Geographic: Since the army of Shiz is fleeing, and the army of Coriantumr stops at Ramah, we may understand that when the army of Siz flees southward, it takes them from north of Ramah to south of the hill. The pursuing army would not easily have been able to move past a fleeing army, and therefore they are following.
Moroni very clearly connects the hill Ramah of the Jaredites to “that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord.” That hill was known to the Nephites as Cumorah.
12 And it came to pass that they did gather together all the people upon all the face of the land, who had not been slain, save it was Ether.
Redaction: Moroni continues to write the story in a way that shows the parallels between the destructions of the two peoples. They are now located at the same final place of battle, and there is a lonely witness to record the events. Ether is the witness, and Ether does not fight in the battle, although Moroni did. Nevertheless, Moroni would see parallels between Ether as the remaining recording witness and himself, who is also alone and witness to the destruction of his own people.
13 And it came to pass that Ether did behold all the doings of the people; and he beheld that the people who were for Coriantumr were gathered together to the army of Coriantumr; and the people who were for Shiz were gathered together to the army of Shiz.
Ether is able to see the final battles. We do not know how close he was, but we might suspect that he is on another hill that is distant enough that it does not figure in the battle, but does provide a vantage point from which he can watch the large movements of the armies in the final battle.
14 Wherefore, they were for the space of four years gathering together the people, that they might get all who were upon the face of the land, and that they might receive all the strength which it was possible that they could receive.
Redaction: The time of preparation is four years. While the time for preparation of the Nephites is not given explicitly, it may be calculated. It was four years. (See the commentary following Mormon 6:5). This correspondence in the amount of time given for the preparation of a final battle at the hill Ramah/Cumorah must be more than a coincidence, and once again may be laid at the feet of Moroni’s structuring of the events of the Jaredite destruction to parallel those of the Nephites.
15 And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children—both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war—they did march forth one against another to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not.
16 And it came to pass that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that they did rend the air exceedingly.
The armies clash without a decisive victor. At the end of the day, they retire. This is quite typical of battles in the ancient world. Fighting at night was unusual, and at the end of the day and unresolved battle would frequently simply disengage. (Ross Hassig. Aztec Warfare. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1988, pp. 104-5).
The howlings and lamentations of verse 16 are a very authentic addition to the text. Not only would such sounds accompany the loss of life, but they would be a dramatic part of Ether’s experience from his distant location. He might not see much or the specifics of the battle, but he would certainly hear the clashes, and in the still of the night the sounds of mourning would be particularly audible and poignant. We may expect that this particular detail is original to Ether’s record.
17 And it came to pass that on the morrow they did go again to battle, and great and terrible was that day; nevertheless, they conquered not, and when the night came again they did rend the air with their cries, and their howlings, and their mournings, for the loss of the slain of their people.
In Aztec warfare, most cities were conquered fairly quickly. However, better defended locations did take longer. Hassig particularly notes that the length of time dedicated to the attack depended on the intensity with which the goal was desired (Ross Hassig. Aztec Warfare. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 1988, p. 105). In this case, Shiz has already demonstrated that the goal is highly desired. This will be a war to the end.
18 And it came to pass that Coriantumr wrote again an epistle unto Shiz, desiring that he would not come again to battle, but that he would take the kingdom, and spare the lives of the people.
19 But behold, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed; wherefore they went again to battle.
Redaction: Once again there is the offer of surrender, and the refusal of the offer. Given the circumstances of the battle, the complete destruction of the main forces involved, and the intensity of the fighting, it would seem that there is no way for Ether to have known of this letter. As with the earlier letter, this letter is best seen as a literary device to heighten the unconscionable waste of the war. As with the earlier letter, Moroni is the most likely author of this part of the story.
20 And it came to pass that they fought all that day, and when the night came they slept upon their swords.
21 And on the morrow they fought even until the night came.
22 And when the night came they were drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine; and they slept again upon their swords.
The war continues over several days, and sense appears to leave the combatants. Moroni describes it as being “drunken with anger.” The anger and bloodlust of the battle has overtaken their better judgment, and will allow them to pursue this war to its terrible end.
23 And on the morrow they fought again; and when the night came they had all fallen by the sword save it were fifty and two of the people of Coriantumr, and sixty and nine of the people of Shiz.
Here we have numbers that do appear to be counts. It is quite possible that Ether was able to approach somewhat near each camp. After the multiple days of fighting, each encampment would be resting for the next day’s fight. Ether could therefore be at least close enough to count, and then retreat to safety. We may assume that the count was taken at night, again for safety reasons.
24 And it came to pass that they slept upon their swords that night, and on the morrow they fought again, and they contended in their might with their swords and with their shields, all that day.
25 And when the night came there were thirty and two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and seven of the people of Coriantumr.
Once again we have the intimation of Ether coming close to the arena of battle, and counting the remaining combatants.
26 And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men.
There is no way to firmly assign the phrase “they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men” to either Ether or Moroni. Either man might have written the description. However, Moroni would have been through a battle such as the one Ether describes, and he would have had first hand knowledge of the type of man it took to survive for so long. Therefore, if we must choose, it is more probable that this was written by Moroni, in admiration of the fighting prowess, if not in admiration of the cause.
27 And it came to pass that they fought for the space of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood.
28 And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives; but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr or he would perish by the sword.
Coriantumr and his men are technically victorious, but only because they still have life left to walk away while all others appear to have died. The telling of the story makes it appear that Shiz arises to give battle just as Coriantumr and his men are leaving. Yet the next verse tells us that Shiz is in pursuit. It is more likely that Shiz and some of his men recover enough to pursue. Had Coriantumr and his men any advantage over the also weak Shiz and his men, they would have taken it immediately. The pursuit suggests that the reality was some time gap, and that this description is again given to heighten to suspense of the story.
29 Wherefore, he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.
30 And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz.
31 And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.
The end comes with only a single man standing. Of course this fulfills the prophecy of Ether, but it is also most likely true only of the combatants. Not all of the people of the land were destroyed, although all of the kin-group of Coriantumr and Shiz were certainly destroyed. The Jaredite polity is now gone, but there were populations remaining in the land, perhaps of other polities that are not mentioned. Archaeologically, the area is known to have continued with a population, but certainly not one with the power and extent of the earlier civilizations on that land.
Just as Ether appears to have come close enough to the encampments of the combatants to count them, he appears to be following Coriantumr so that he may be witness to this final scene. The death of Shiz has become a point of derision for the description of Shiz’s headless body rising before falling. Interesting, there is medical information that corroborates this event:
“Though the combatants in this story were well acquainted with wholesale carnage, Shiz's unique death struggle was so astonishing that his throes were reported in grisly detail. Perhaps Ether and Coriantumr interpreted this astounding incident as a sign of Shiz's indomitable fighting spirit or refusal to die. However, Shiz's death struggle illustrates the classic reflex posture that occurs in both humans and animals when the upper brain stem (midbrain/mesencephalon) is disconnected from the brain. The extensor muscles of the arms and legs contract, and this reflex action could cause Shiz to raise up on his hands. fn Of course, Shiz would not have remained long in this position, and he would have bled to death rapidly through the severed arteries that go to the head.
The brain stem is located inside the base of the skull and is relatively small. It connects the brain proper, or cerebrum, with the spinal cord in the neck. Coriantumr was obviously too exhausted to do a clean job. His stroke evidently strayed a little too high. He must have cut off Shiz's head through the base of the skull, at the level of the midbrain, instead of lower through the cervical spine in the curvature of the neck. It is worth noting that critics have questioned this story in the Book of Mormon. But this extraneous detail provides another solid indication that the Book of Mormon is an accurate record. Significantly, this nervous system phenomenon (decerebrate rigidity) was first reported in 1898, long after the Book of Mormon was published.” (M. Gary Hadfield. “Neuropathology and the Scriptures.” BYU Studies, vol. 33 (1993), Number 2 - Spring 1993 324.)
32 And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life.
33 And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written) and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.
Moroni has Ether commanded of the Lord to finish the record and hide it. Ether is to witness to the fulfillment of the prophecy. What Moroni does not tell us, nor explain, is that Ether only sees part of the fulfillment of the prophecy. He has seen the destruction of the people, which the point in which Moroni has the greatest interest. The final fulfillment of the prophecy is not known from Ether, but rather from the people of Zarahemla, among whom Coriantumr spends his final days (Omni 1:20-22).
34 Now the last words which are written by Ether are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen.
Redaction: Here we have the only guaranteed words of Ether. Moroni very specifically introduces this statement as being written by Ether. This very introduction reinforces the fact that it would be Moroni’s retelling that would require that when a citation is made, that it should be noted. These words would have made a great impression upon Moroni. Compare them to Moroni’s words as he begins to complete his father’s record:
5 Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.
Both men are alone, and neither knows as they write how long they will be on the earth. We do not know why Moroni was the one to tell the story of the Jaredites and Ether’s record, but perhaps it was this very personal empathy of the surviving record keeper of the Nephites had for the surviving record keeper of the vanished Jaredites.
Textual: This is the end of the chapter and book of Ether.
by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002