Nibley – An Approach to the BoM, chapter 7, Dealings With Egypt
In this chapter, Hugh Nibley shows that travel between Egypt and Palestine was more common than we often think. While Lehi’s contact with Egypt seems mostly cultural, he notes that there is a business side of things, as well. Nibley deals with trade and travel via land and sea between Egypt and the Levant.
He first discusses the cultural reliance that Israel had with Egypt. “Students have often speculated of recent years on the strange and suicidal devotion of the Jews to the cause of Egypt in the time of Zedekiah.”
Israel was heavily involved in Egypt’s culture. Not only were the people in Palestine influenced by the Egyptian calendar, but also influenced their records. Elephantine, a Jewish colony on the Nile river, was later the location for a Jewish temple.
Official seals from the reign of Hezekiah, and other kings of the era, are designed with scarabs and other Egyptian symbols. It is very clear that Israel and other nations in Palestine had a cultural love affair with Egypt.
Interestingly, Egypt has three methods to influence other nations:,
“The first degree was rule by direct force, the second by “fear of reconquest which a few garrisons and agents and the prestige of the conqueror could keep alive in the minds of indirect administrators and native subjects,” and the third degree “meant little more than a sphere of exclusive influence, from which tribute was expected, but, not being secured by garrisons or representatives, . . . tended to be intermittent.””
This was very different than some other nations of the period, such as the Assyrians, which tended to destroy their enemies and redistribute the peoples to other lands, so as to destroy them as a nation, and make them Assyrian subjects. Such is what happened to the lost tribes of Israel.
So popular was Egyptian culture that the language was known in many cities, and Syrian princes sent their children to Egypt to be educated. We can imagine Hezekiah and others doing the same thing.
“Lehi’s main business was with Egypt, carried on both by land and sea.”
While Nibley clearly shows that there is trade going on between Egypt and Israel, I’m not sure if he gives enough evidence to clearly substantiate this statement above. Yes, Egypt’s culture greatly influenced Israel and there was trade. It may be that Lehi had business with Egypt, but was it really his “main business”?
That Sidon is a predominant location in the Book of Mormon definitely shows a cultural tie. It shows a tie between Lehi and the Phoenicians of the city. Never do we see the word, Tyre, as the people were corrupt in their trading. We see Israel trading for raw metals, which they turned into fine products to trade with the rest of the world But there is an intermediary in Tyre and Sidon. I’m unsure as to how much Egyptian influence traveled via sea to and from Lehi in business.
That we can see that Lehi had favored nations with which to deal, shows us we definitely see a very complex person being developed in Lehi.