Noah is introduced as being evil. The first evil noted is that he has “many wives and concubines” and causes the people to seek after whoredoms. When Nephi’s brother Jacob warned the Nephites to not have multiple wives, it may be that they observed the peoples around them having many wives, and sought to justify it by David and Solomon’s actions in the scriptures (Jacob 2).
This suggests that one of Noah’s first and foremost sins was to take the women and reduce them to sexual slavery.. Such was just the beginning of excesses, as he not only lusted for women but for fine clothing, statues and buildings in his honor, drunkenness, and riches.
Interestingly, their actions are described as “laziness”. The Lamanites were also described as being lazy, and sought to conquer Zeniff’s people in order to be lazier. In wanting to live in luxury, Noah and his people were guilty of the sin of being lazy. Taxes were raised to support their sins and laziness. Government excesses could be explained as making their land greater by all of the wonderful state buildings built, and the “freedoms” given to men as to regarding the ignoring of commandments, responsibilities, etc. As long as the taxes were paid to handle Noah’s lifestyle, people could be as spiritually and morally lazy as they wish. Abinadi will soon speak to those excesses.
If we were to look at our own government and how we run our own homes, perhaps we could see some of the same inclinations. Have our excesses been justified? Do we now spend trillions of dollars in deficit spending to support indolence? Have we become a lazy people that want government reduced, but only as long as it does not reduce our personal entitlements?
Abinadi as Moses
Imagine the prophet Moses descending from Sinai, carrying the Tablets of the Law containing the Ten Commandments. At the bottom of the mount, he sees Israel in rebellion, creating other forms of religion that could offer them salvation that rejected living prophets and repentance, and encouraged rebellious living. Previously I’ve written regarding the golden calf that was created by Aaron and the rebellious Israelites. The young bull represented the Egyptian god Apis, the god of strength and fertility. However, it also represented the God of the Promised Land, El Elyon. El Elyon means “God Almighty” and is often also called Elohim. He was the head God of the divine council, which (according to ancient writings) included Jehovah and Baal. Not only was El represented by the bull of fertility and strength, but so was Baal (and sometimes Jehovah, as well).
It is possible that the ancient Israelites believed they were replacing the onerous desert god, Jehovah, with a symbol of a god they knew from slavery and that would also be acceptable in the land they were entering. In the concept of El as head of the divine host, he would have outranked Jehovah, giving some the belief they were accepting a more powerful god in Jehovah’s place.
So, what does this have to do with Abinadi?
As Abinadi came before King Noah and his evil priests, we see several things to connect Abinadi with Moses. First off, Abinadi is directly connected to Moses. When he chastised the king and priests, the people were ready to kill him immediately. However, Abinadi warned them not to touch him, or they would instantly die, as the power of God was upon him even as it was on Moses as he returned from Sinai:
“Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord” (Mosiah 13:5).
When Moses descended, his face shone so brightly that the people had him veil his face so they could stand in his presence. Moses was at that moment a divine being, carrying down with him the Lord’s glory. He was a member of the divine council, able to stand in God’s presence and partake of the divine glory. As with Abinadi, the divine glory that shone from them was too powerful for regular people to deal with. So King Noah and his priests did not touch Abinadi, as the power shining from him was too great for them to stand.
This event began with a priest of Noah quoting Isaiah and asking Abinadi what it meant to him:
“And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?” (Mosiah 12:20-24, Isaiah 52:7-10).
Why would a priest of Noah quote Isaiah and then ask Abinadi what it meant, if they were so certain they already had the truth? For the wicked priests, salvation came through the Law of Moses (Mosiah 12:32), and for them Isaiah specifically referred to Moses. Moses’ feet were beautiful on Mount Sinai and he brought forth freedom to Israelite slaves as good tidings. The Law of Moses was literally published by God, who would reign in Israel. Now that there were Israelites in the Americas, the ends of the earth were seeing the salvation of God through the animal sacrifices and other works of Noah’s priests.
As mentioned in the previous lesson, it is likely that the Land of Nephi, being up in the mountains (you always travel "up" to Nephi) was viewed by Noah and his priests as a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. There was no wickedness among them, in their understanding, because they had reestablished the kingdom in the mountains and had peace (at that time). Abinadi would teach that there was a different understanding to Isaiah's words, by teaching of Moses and the prophets.
Standing in for Moses, Abinadi will reteach them the Ten Commandments - the most important part of the Mosaic Law, and the portion they were not living nor teaching. Interestingly, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the two most common books of the Bible found are Isaiah and Deuteronomy. Here, we have Abinadi combining the teachings of Isaiah 52 and Deuteronomy 15 (Ten Commandments). Interestingly the prophets most quoted/mentioned in the Book of Mormon are Moses and Isaiah.
For Abinadi, one could be saved by living a good life, which meant obeying the commandments of God. However, the most important things of Moses’ Law were neglected or even rejected by Noah, his priests and the people. Listing them, Abinadi was able to show that they were not keeping any of them properly. Noah and his priests worshiped power and wealth more than God. These were the idols they worshiped. They did not keep the Sabbath nor honor their parents (otherwise, Noah would have kept the teachings of his father, Zeniff). They committed whoredoms, violating the law of chastity. Heavily taxing the people so they could enrich themselves, they stole from everyone. They lusted after the things of others. Perhaps the one thing they had not yet done was murder, and that would soon become the final nail in the coffin for them as they would martyr Abinadi, thus sealing their own fate, as well.
Quoting Isaiah again, Abinadi quotes the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, who would pay a ransom for men’s iniquities (Mosiah 14, Isaiah 53). This Savior, this Messiah, would come down, being the Son and the Father. Christ’s birth is of two beings: mortal and immortal. He is the Father (or of the Father) being his seed, and Jesus is the Son being born of Mary into mortality. He not only would have the ability to die, but also take upon himself all things so as to save mankind. Jesus, through the power given him by his divine birth, becomes the Father of our Salvation (Mosiah 15:1-4).
“And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord....” (Mosiah 15:10-11)
All of the prophets have looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Those who hear and accept their teachings become the children of Christ, and share in his salvation.
“Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.
And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!
And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!” (Mosiah 15:13-17).
Abinadi expands this concept further and further. Isaiah spoke not only of Moses as one whose feet are beautiful upon the mountains, but also all the prophets who have foreseen and taught of the forthcoming salvation through Christ. Not only this, but all who accept Christ and share their testimonies throughout all time will be among those with beautiful feet upon the mountains.
Note here that in Middle Eastern tradition, the foot is the lowest part of the body. It is next to the dirt, and so is considered less than any other part of the body. When the woman anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and washed them with her hair, she was showing she was less than the dirt on his feet. Such was shocking to the Jews, but praised by Christ, who taught the importance of humility (Luke 7).
Imagine how feet must be that are seen as “beautiful." And if the feet are beautiful, imagine how magnificent the person who owns those feet. Such is a person made beautiful through Christ. This ties in well with Abinadi, whose face shone brightly with the glory of the Lord. The people could not fathom this power, and yet there was a greater power that could make dirty and lowly feet just as glorious.
“And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people” (Mosiah 15:18).
Without the Messiah, there is no good news to share with the world. He is the Prince of Peace. On the eve of his birth, the angels would proclaim “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
This is the key teaching and purpose of the Book of Mormon - to be a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Abinadi clearly teaches of his birth, mortal ministry, death and resurrection. As with all the Nephite prophets, Abinadi proclaims repentance and faith on Christ. Keeping the Law of Moses only is helpful if it brings us to Christ, where true salvation and eternal joy and hope can be found.
How beautiful upon the Mount of Olives are the feet of him that knelt to pray and experience great grief and pain for our sins. How beautiful upon the Mount of Calvary are the feet of him that were pierced for our sakes. How beautiful upon Mount Zion are the feet of him that brings eternal salvation to all those who become the seed of Christ!