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Ammon and King Lamoni's Chariot- A Midrashic Perspective


volgadon

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I have just come across something exciting, a parallel to a Book of Mormon account, a parallel which seems to have gone unnoticed thus far.

I do not, however, want this thread to deteriorate into an argument over historiocity of horses and chariots, those who do want to discuss that are free to start their own thread.

In Alma 18, king Lamoni's servants report to him the miracles performed by Ammon in saving the flocks and separating limbs from bandits.

The king is profoundly impressed.

As an aside, the structuring of verse 2 seems, with faithfulness placed first, to emphasize the principle of 'faith precedes the miracle', and Ammon's actions probably illustrated to Lamoni the proper relationship which should be between himself (a vassal or servant) and God (the king), but this is a matter for an entirely different post.

Lamoni and his servants discuss the origin of Ammon's power, reaching the conclusion that he is the Great Spirit come among them. The phrase 'he is a friend to the king' seems significant, as does 'he cannot be slain by the enemies of the king', but again, this should probably be developed in a separate post. I should probably resist the temptation to post these additional insights which keep popping up and stick to the subject at hand, or else I'll never finish this post!

Skipping Mormon's footnote (v. 5-7) we come to verse 8, where king Lamoni finally inquires. "Where is this man that has such great power?"

Ammon has been conspicuosly absent the whole time.

"9 And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land.

10 Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them.

11 Now I surely know that this is the Great Spirit, and I would desire him that he come in unto me, but I durst not.

12 And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king and his servants, he went in unto the king, and he saw that the countenance of the king was changed; therefore he was about to return out of his presence. "

Lamoni is flabbergasted by Ammon's loyalty and humility. Such behaviour smacks to him of something not quite human. All evidence seems to point towards Ammon being divine and so the king is troubled. I wouldn't presume to say over what exactly.

On my mission it was pointed out how Ammon's conduct and service to the king played a crucial role in Ammon's missionary endeavours, how it opened the door to much success. Elder Scott, in a Thanksgiving devotional at the MTC, discussed Ammon's humility at great length.

Mormon was an excellent editor and storyteller. Even the small details are important in understanding the exposition. In most cases, there seems to be a reason why certain details were used and not others. This indeed is a guiding principal in biblical studies, as David Bokovoy frequently points out.

Chariots are mentioned quite rarely in the BoM, and as far as I can tell, only in Alma and 3 Nephi. One of those occurences is in passing, the other is a passage from Micah quoted by the Saviour. In Alma the two incidents are closely related to each other, and both are connected with missionary work.

It might see somewhat an odd device.

This brings me to Genesis 46:29.

"And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while."

And now we reach the midrashic parallels promised in the title.

In reading Saul Lieberman's Midreshei Teiman, a work which deals with the old midrashic and aggadic material from Yemen, material which in many cases has been poorly preserved elsewhere, I came across two interesting midrashes. One is from Yemen, the other is a similar one discovered in the Cairo Genizah. I will post them in that order. Sadly, i don't think Lieberman's book is available in English.

Together they bring out some elements of the Ammon account.

And Joseph made ready his chariot. This was not because he lacked slave or servant, who could make it ready for him, but to inform you that Joseph had much joy and did not take greatness unto himself in that hour for joy carries away the heart, etc., and he did not appear to him [Jacob] that selfsame day, but sent five other horses by his first son. Jacob said is this him. [Joseph] sent five other horses by his second son. Said Jacob is this him, and only after that did he appear, so his [Jacob's] soul would not fly away and he should die.
It is written And Joseph made ready his chariot and also for joy carries away the heart and hate spoils the line for you find in Pharaoh as it is written and he made ready his chariot (Ex 14:6), for hatred spoils the line.

The king does not go out to meet a man, but Joseph does honour him, for he went up to meet his father, as it is written and presented himself unto him, Joseph appeared on the third day, he did not appear that selfsame day but sent on the first day five horses. Jacob said this is Joseph and on the second day [Joseph] sent ten horses and Jacob said this is Joseph, but after that he appeared unto him, so his soul should not fly away and he would die, and thus the Holy One, blessed be He, will do in the future to come, first sending the messenger, as it is written (Isa. 52:7) How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings and afterwards that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Despite the major role Joseph plays in the Book of Mormon, I'm not necessarily arguing that this exact tradition was known to Mormon, but I do find it interesting that making ready a chariot was an indication of humility and also was seen as an allusion to the Lord sending a messenger to proclaim glad tidings, IE the gospel.

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Just when I think I'm beginning to understand these things, you come on here and show me how shallow my understanding is.

Of course, nobody could miss the parallels to Jacob at the Brook, sending his messengers of peace, first bearing gifts and later putting Jacob's entire future and the future of his tribe into Esau's hands before then putting himself in Esau's hands.

The message of all of those emissaries and later of Jacob himself? Utter prostration in humility and desire for reconciliation with the brother Jacob, arguably, wronged. The message is atonement.

Humility and the good news of atonement.

Terrific stuff, t'varitch!

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Just when I think I'm beginning to understand these things, you come on here and show me how shallow my understanding is.

Of course, nobody could miss the parallels to Jacob at the Brook, sending his messengers of peace, first bearing gifts and later putting Jacob's entire future and the future of his tribe into Esau's hands before then putting himself in Esau's hands.

The message of all of those emissaries and later of Jacob himself? Utter prostration in humility and desire for reconciliation with the brother Jacob, arguably, wronged. The message is atonement.

Humility and the good news of atonement.

Terrific stuff, t'varitch!

I like that perspective, like it a lot.

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Just when I think I'm beginning to understand these things, you come on here and show me how shallow my understanding is.

Of course, nobody could miss the parallels to Jacob at the Brook, sending his messengers of peace, first bearing gifts and later putting Jacob's entire future and the future of his tribe into Esau's hands before then putting himself in Esau's hands.

The message of all of those emissaries and later of Jacob himself? Utter prostration in humility and desire for reconciliation with the brother Jacob, arguably, wronged. The message is atonement.

Humility and the good news of atonement.

Terrific stuff, t'varitch!

A related perspective:

Nephi, arguably, wronged Laman . . . via the same kind of usurpation that Esau suffered. Whether there was an actual wrong is not important, and the fact that the "wrong" is illusory actually strengthens the moral power of both Jacob's and Ammon's acts here.

Ammon, as the representative of the Nephite people, hung back, sending his messengers of reconciliation between the two tribes to Lamoni, the representative of the Lamanite people, with gifts prior to, himself, making an appearance. 'course, the gifts were kinda grisly, but, hey, they're Lamanites after all.

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I like that perspective, like it a lot.

It probably goes without saying, and I'm probably just insulting you by mentioning it . . . but the fact that Ammon, as Nephite, claims descent from Joseph, makes it all the more likely that Mormon, who also claims Nephite and, therefore, Josephite heritage, would draw the parallel between Ammon's actions and Joseph's and put the clue in his treatment for us to find.*

Now that I've thought about it, Joseph should, as Jacob's true son, the eldest of his true wife, emulate the best moment in his father's life at the critical time when father and son are reunited. I believe Joseph was sending Jacob the message, "I, as your true son, remind you of the confrontation with both yourself and your beloved brother at the Brook, by sending these gifts and this message of reunity and reconciliation, by which I establish myself as the one who really "gets it.""

*Of course, this, if true, obviates any need for equus fossils in Mesoamerica.

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We also have water playing a significant role in each of the 3 related tales:

The brook Jabbok behind which Jacob stayed and wrestled;

The Bubastic [eastern] branch of the Nile that [probably] marked the boundary between Goshen and Egypt [Jacob has Judah bring Joseph to Goshen where the reunion takes place]; and

The waters of Sebus, where the "enemies of the king" seek to scatter the king's cattle, and Ammon disarms them.

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Frankly, I'm not %100 percent certain. I suspect it means ruins the status quo or the balance of things.

Well, they make a point of contrasting Joseph and his chariot and the joy that accompanied that action with the hatred accompanying Pharaoh and his preparation of his chariot.

Both went out to meet Israel . . . one with hatred, which spoils the line of scripture, the other with love and joy.

USU "Or not" 78

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...a work which deals with the old midrashic and aggadic material from Yemen, material which in many cases has been poorly preserved elsewhere...

The material no doubt however was well preserved at the Palmyra New York library during the third decade of the 19th century. :P

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The material no doubt however was well preserved at the Palmyra New York library during the third decade of the 19th century. :P

And is now being held along with the rest of the contents of the library in the 1st presidency vault.

I'm sure someone will claim shortly that there was something similar in Dartmouth College.

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