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Nihm — Evidence for Nephi’s Nahom?


Hard pressed for support for their religious views, Mormon apologists have gone digging for details that can be seen as evidence for the “truth” of the Book of Mormon. Within the last two centuries since the Book of Mormon was published, nothing has been found in the western hemisphere that can be taken as hard evidence that the events described in the Book of Mormon had ever happened, much less any that the civilizations that it describes ever existed; the negative genetic evidence to the contrary being no help. Their investigation, however, has not been limited to the western hemisphere; they also have been focusing on the eastern as well for evidence of Lehi’s migration from Judea and through the Arab peninsula (600 to 591 BC), as well as other details.

In modern Yemen, a relatively new archeological discovery. In the site from Bar’an Temple from ancient Marib, there were a few altars discovered with inscriptions around their rims. Following is the translation, line by line:

  1. Bi’athar son of Sawdum, son of Naw’um, the Nihmite,
  2. has dedi[cated] (to) Ilmaqah (the person) Fari’at. By
  3. ‘Athtar, and by Ilmaqah, and by Dhat-Himyam, and by
  4. Yada’-il, and by Ma’adi-karib.

The original transliteration of the tribal name “Nihmite” in the first line attracted the interest of Mormon apologists. The original inscription literally comes out as “NHM,” and is pronounced as “Nihm.” They could not help but see an apparent connection between Nihm and a landmark mentioned in the book of First Nephi called Nahom; the latter would logically share the same transliteration, considering that Hebrew and Egyptian hieroglyphs have no vowels.

After Lehi’s band traveled southeast from Judea, Nahom was the location where Ishmael died and was buried. After that, they changed course and went eastward (1 Nephi 16: 34,  17:1).  Warren P. Aston, a Mormon defender, in his description of the region goes through the criteria for the Nahom, he then mentions a graveyard that is 25 miles to the north of the Bar’an Temple. He then poses the question if this was the actual location of the Nahom where Ishmael was buried. One can’t help but wonder if he isn’t getting overly excited by letting his presuppositions get the better of him.

That all being said, there are some problems with assuming that Nihm, discovered in Yemen is the Nahom of the Book of Mormon. Reading the Mormon literature, it would appear that the location would fit the criteria, but there is one important detail that the Mormon apologists have failed to take into account; 1 Nephi 16: 14 says that Lehi’s band continued in “the same direction, keeping to the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea…” Now comes in the problem: As Warren indicates, the tribal area of Nihm is on the ancient Incense trail. Logically, since the Book of Mormon says they didn’t turn until after the burial of Ishmael, Nahom cannot be more than a just a few miles from the Red Sea. However the Incense trail was at least 100 miles inland meaning could hardly be said to be “in the borders near the Red Sea.” Making matters worse, I found that the tribal area is 70 miles east of  San’a, Yemen which is in turn about 94 miles from the Red Sea making the total distance about 164 miles, confirming that the distance is too great. The same would apply to the cemetery 25 miles to the north since it is doubtful that the distance would change by much.

In the standards of the time, such a distance would hardly be considered “near” the borders of the Red Sea. If Nihm is indeed the Nahom of the Book of Mormon, then this would indicate that Nephi, the writer, had gotten is details wrong. This is unlikely since the work would have been an eye-witness account if indeed he wrote the book and made the journey with his father. A possible explanation is that this is indeed not Nahom since it should be much closer to the Red Sea, so it is yet to be discovered. And the final option here is that Nahom did not exist and that “Nihm” is nothing more than a semantical coincidence. Overall, the evidence ranges from between the inconclusive to the negative; the negative being that the geography is over a hundred miles away from where the Book of Mormon says it should be. Even if this were not the case, the connection between Nihm and Nahom would be dubious at best; arguments linking the two seem more designed for those that are ready to be convinced.

References:

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9 responses

  1. Did you read Michael Ash’a article in MormonTimes this week? It’s called Book of Mormon; Evidence vs. Proof. He goes into an argument that a spiritual witness is needed alongside evidentary findings. Sigh…
    His argument for the evidences is lacking in that he wants to lay claim to something he calls parallel evidences which he states is a sign we can believe the Book of Mormon is true. He stated while there is no direct evidences we can use parallel evidences in reports. My heart is sad for him.

    http://www.mormontimes.com/article/20446/Evidence-versus-proof

    April 20, 2011 at 3:54 am

    • krissmith777

      No I didn’t. Thanks though. Funny you should mention him because I am currently working on a post on the “Limited Geography” of the Book of Mormon, and it is partially a reply to certain arguments that he makes in favor or it. For example, see here and here.

      Having read Mormon apologetics, it becomes clear that reasoning with the hard-line apologists is probably impossible to do. For example, many of Jeff Lindsay’s arguments are structured in such a way that it is literally impossible to refute them at all, no matter what the evidence.

      Attempts to convince those who do not want to be convinced no matter what is pointless. Our refutations are for the benefit of the open minded and potential converts who have not made up their mind.

      April 20, 2011 at 5:09 am

  2. Another great read. I’m curious-do you plan on any posts of archeological findings that coincide with Biblical references? I know there have been a few that have been discussed on TV in recent times that indicate accuracy of Biblical accounts. I applaud them, but at the same time, if you have faith that Bible is a true historical account, then reallly are these quests necessary? I think not, but there are Christians who would say “yes they are to prove other religions wrong”. I know, a little off-topic, but I am finally able to take a few moments to read your insights on the Book of Mormon, and they are a great help!

    August 14, 2011 at 2:46 am

    • krissmith777

      I might do some posts in the future about some accuracy or inaccuracy on archaeology and the Bible. I will confess I am a Christian, though I do not think that every story in the Bible is intended to be historical, so when I have time I may go into certain topics of the sort.

      August 29, 2011 at 2:40 am

  3. MrNirom

    Before the death of Ishmael.. and a couple verses after verse 14.. it says.

    33 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey,
    traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning.
    And after we had traveled for the space of many days,
    we did pitch our tents again,
    that we might tarry for the space of a time.

    You will notice that it did not say anything this time about being close to the Red Sea. So the change of “nearly the same course” could have been enough from where they were.. to end up in Nahom.. some 99 miles from the Red Sea.

    July 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    • krissmith777

      So the change of “nearly the same course” could have been enough from where they were.. to end up in Nahom.. some 99 miles from the Red Sea

      First of all, the site that is described that I debunk is much further than 99 miles away from the Red Sea; the REAL distance is over 160 miles so…no. That does not work. It clearly says that they remained in the most fertile region….and 99 miles away is NOT in the most fertile region.

      Second of all, the site for Nihm is on the eastern side of the mountains. For you to be right, we would need for the BoM to indicate that they actually crossed the mountains away from the Red Sea at that point, but it says no such thing. We know that did not happen because the BoM says they turned LATER.

      It sounds like you’re saying that they followed pretty much the same course, except not really. Yeah…sorry, no. Following essentially the same course does not lead to a swing of over 100 miles to the east into crossing mountains.

      So, I’m sorry, but you cannot harmonize this detail of the Book of Mormon with reality. And considering how you responded, I doubt you comprehended everything I say in my post.

      .

      July 16, 2013 at 6:54 am

      • Nearly the same is not.. the same. It is different. Besides.. what is the most fertile region 2600 years ago? 99 miles or 160 miles is not that much of a difference. You must look at the distance the traveled in that time period. perhaps you would like to be more specific as to what is meant by “in the borders” and then explain what the actual distance is of “near the red sea”. The problem you have is that you don’t know how far away or how near they were to the red sea. You are guessing at what that distance is and are expecting us to believe that your measurements are correct. You need this claim to be wrong more than we need it to be right. For we believe by faith first that it is true and don’t need the proof. Only those seeking signs need the proof beyond doubt.

        This much I do know. The Red Sea runs at a heading of about 148 degrees… and its length is about 1100 miles. If you traveled at a heading of 148 degrees and marked your end point 1100 miles later…. then went back to your starting point and went just 8 degrees difference to a heading of 140 degrees and traveled the same 1100 miles.. the difference between the two end points would be about 146 miles. If you traveled 8 degrees difference in a south southeast direction.. you would not be able to tell the difference. Besides… you can’t be specific enough to tell what the distance is of “near the borders”. Also. they were following the direction of the pointing needles of the Liahona which pointed the direction they were to go… and not by the sun or the stars or any other natural process. Yes.. Joseph Smith was just so smart in coming up with that magic ball to lead them around wasn’t he? 🙂

        July 16, 2013 at 8:35 am

      • krissmith777

        I trashed your last comment because you completely ignored the points I made in my last reply to you. I don’t tolerate that sort of thing.

        But you do say:

        They went to Nahom.. and buried Ishmael. It does not say what direction they traveled to get to Nahom.

        Yes it does. It’s implied because it says they turned later, implying they made no such change before, or other turns would have been mentioned. If it went through the trouble to mention one turn, there’s no reason to assume it would not have done the same elsewhere.

        Now reply to the main points made in my last response to you, or you’re not getting anymore approved comments. They will be automatically erased.

        I made linguistic arguments on why you are wrong and defined what you said I could not, now time to tackle them. If you want approved comments here, you will actually deal with what I point out. No dodges are allowed.

        July 23, 2013 at 5:14 am

    • krissmith777

      Nearly the same is not.. the same. It is different. Besides.. what is the most fertile region 2600 years ago? 99 miles or 160 miles is not that much of a difference.

      Again, defeated by the fact that the most fertile region would have been on the WESTERN side of the mountains. If you know anything about geology as well as weather patterns, the mountains would block most moisture from traveling from the Red Sea and landing east of the mountains. So the most fertile region would have been on the western side, not the east.

      Sorry, pal, but you seem to miss the issue. It doesn’t matter if it is 99 or 160 miles. It says very clearly that they remained close to the Red Sea. 99 or 160 miles was not close in the standards of their day. Either way, the distance would have been across the mountains, and hence they would not have seen the Red Sea at all.

      I realize that “nealy the same is not the same,” bit it does not have to be. The scenario you are arguing for would not even result in it being “nearly the same” in the least. The only thing they would have in common is that they were relatively south of Judea. Big deal.

      Perhaps you would like to be more specific as to what is meant by “in the borders” and then explain what the actual distance is of “near the red sea”. The problem you have is that you don’t know how far away or how near they were to the red sea.

      How about we let Jewish, Semitic usage of the term “border” be the definition: If you say you are on the boarder of Mexico, you mean you are near the Mexican boarder. When Genesis 12:11 says Abraham was near the boarder of Egypt, it means that he was near Egypt. He was not 100 miles away or more.

      Now, assuming that the Book of Mormon is a Semitic work just like Genesis, we would expect the word usage to be similar…..right? Okay. (It would have to be the same usage: Nephi was a Judean, so he would have had the same views). —- the word that is used in Genesis 12:11 for the “border” is “qarab,” which means “To come near,” but it also means “enter into” and also “present.”

      Link: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7126&t=NLT

      IN OTHER WORDS, “the border” means that it is very near, if not at the actual location itself. It does not mean several miles away from the border. You have to really abuse the text to come up with your interpretation.

      You are guessing at what that distance is and are expecting us to believe that your measurements are correct.

      Um, no I’m not. I counted it, and I used Google maps to come slowly measure the distance. So, no, it’s not a guess. So…unless you want to argue that Google maps is all guess work…

      This much I do know. The Red Sea runs at a heading of about 148 degrees… and its length is about 1100 miles. If you traveled at a heading of 148 degrees and marked your end point 1100 miles later…. then went back to your starting point and went just 8 degrees difference to a heading of 140 degrees and traveled the same 1100 miles..If you traveled 8 degrees difference in a south southeast direction.. you would not be able to tell the difference. Besides… you can’t be specific enough to tell what the distance is of “near the borders”

      Actually, I can be specific. “Near the border” means just that, as I have said. If you are 100 miles away from the Red Sea, you are NOT near the border. You would have a much better chance of saying it is “near” the border in today’s world…because of our modern transportation. But 100 miles back then took at least a few days to travel, and therefore would not be “near the border.”

      I say this because back then, a day’s journey was between 25 to 30 miles a day. And that was assuming that people had horses (linked source: http://classic.net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=Day's%20Journey ) — So 100 miles would be within a four days journey……and therefore that would NOT be on the border of the Red Sea. It does not make sense to say that someone is on the border of a place if they are days away from it.

      Now, if you want to argue that a four day trip is near the border of the Red Sea, be my guest, but it’s not true.

      July 20, 2013 at 6:29 am

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