This past week, we’ve been talking with George Potter outlines. George outlines Lehi’s path out of Jerusalem. Lehi likely followed the Frankincense Trail.
George: There is a campsite that dates back to the Iron Age. In that area the Iron Age is mid first millennium B.C. That’s been documented by archaeologists from the United States.
The campsite—they call it an encampment in that valley dates back to the same time as Lehi. This is amazing. I think, “Was that Lehi’s camp? Maybe. Is that the altar that they made and gave thanks to the Lord? Was it the altar on top of the hill? Was it the altar that Moses made? Who knows.” But it’s a really fascinating place. It’s a beautiful canyon and it meets all of the attributes that are described in the Book of Mormon.
The Frankincense trade was the OPEC of its time. It was the source of great wealth. Frankincense was worth more than its weight in gold during Lehi’s time. The communities made lots of money by supporting this trade. So when you think about a caravan back then, a caravan got frankincense and took it up to the Mediterranean, and sold it in Rome, Greece, Cairo, Damascus, Babylonia, at these times. These caravans were not made up of 100 camels. They were 3000-4000 camels at a time. They were huge like an army moving back and forth. This way they could protect themselves as well.
George has lived in the Middle East for 26 years. In this episode, he gives insights into Arab and Bedouin culture, and what it was probably like for Lehi to have traveled with his family.
George: When we travel, we have to avoid meeting Arabs or Bedouins, because if they meet you, the law of the desert says they have to host you for 3 days in their tents. They have to feed you. It’s called the Bond of Salt. What did they want in return? They want news. What’s happening in the world out there? Tell us about Jerusalem. Are the Egyptians still giving the Babylonians a bad time? What’s going on here? Is Ezekiel still the king?
So, it was a two-way thing. That’s the way people survive in the desert. They help each other. It’s required by their culture. It still exists today. If a Bedouin sees you he wants to feed you. He wants you to stay with him, tell him all about where you are from, all this sort of thing. Certainly, Lehi could have said, “Look. I’ll teach your kids how to read. I’ll teach them how to speak Egyptian. I’ll teach them how to speak Hebrew, whatever they were speaking at the time. He would have been a scholar. Very few people at that time knew how to read or write, maybe one out of 10,000 if you’re lucky could read or write at that period of time. So, the emir would have said, “Please be in home. While you are here, could you please teach son hot to be a merchant? Could you teach him how to read a foreign language, teach him how to read and write?”
So it would have been no problem for him to have been able to have paid his way, worked his way down.
I think you will learn a lot about the culture of Middle Eastern peoples! (Don’t forget to listen to our previous episode connecting Nephi to Mount Sinai!)
Potter has some interesting insights into why Laman and Lemuel might have rebelled, and we will discuss Nephi’s broken bow. George has some interesting insights.
George: There is a guy named Nigel Groom who is the expert on the Frankincense Trail. He is a British scholar. He has written two books on the Frankincense Trail. He has also written a book called A Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Place Names. This is the only dictionary that exists like this. You can go right there to mujahareen and see it translates to the “most fertile pieces.” It’s his own writing: “most fertile parts.” Pieces and parts are synonyms. Again, a Book of Mormon place name, right along the Frankincense Trail. There are villages that were through the most fertile part of the trail. So Nephi describes they went through the most fertile parts, then they went through the more fertile parts. Finally they travelled, he said for a space of many days, and then they had to stop and look for food. In other words, it ain’t fertile at all. They had to go hunting in the mountains.
GT: This is where Nephi broke his bow, right?
George: It’s where Nephi broke his bow. It just so happens that the area there where bow-wood grows in Arabia is a very small area, about 150 miles long. Atum is the name of the wood, and again it would have been right along the trail where Nephi would have been. So, we document all of this in our films and our books. This is amazing, and it’s up in the mountains. Up in the mountains is where all of the game is. They are not down in the desert, they are up in the mountains. So Nephi would have made his bow out of atum would, which is a type of olive. He would have then gone up to the mountains to get his game. So, it is all in context.
From there they travel and they get to a very desperate part of the trail. This is where there is open rebellion. Laman and Lemuel are contemplating killing Nephi and Lehi. They want to go back. Ishmael dies. They call the place Nahom.
We’ll also talk about the Land Bountiful, a land flowing with honey. Why is that significant?
At the end of the Frankincense Trail, Nephi built a ship. But where did he build this ship? Where is Nephi’s Harbor? George Potter makes the case for Khor Rori, an ancient harbor with known shipbuilding in the area.
Now curiously, Nephi says that he was building a ship different than the way that other men were building ships. Now how would he know how other men were building ships? He had to be in a shipyard, right? And we know that they were building ships at Khor Rori as far back as 1000 B.C at that harbor to support the trade. Even up in the cliffs you see the petroglyphs of ships that they were making, different from any other ships that were being built anywhere around the Indian Ocean. So, they were uniquely being built at Khor Rori. We have the ways that still exist when they lowered their ships into this natural harbor.
I’ll ask him about another potential harbor as well. Have you ever heard of Khor Rori? Do you believe Lehi’s family left from Oman? What do you think of George’s theories? How well does the geography match the Book of Mormon?
 Nigel Groom has written Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade, see https://amzn.to/2HLl9tt, and Sheba Revealed: A Posting to Bayhan in the Yemen, see https://amzn.to/2EYhLs6 .
 The entire name is A Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Place Names: A Transliterated Arabic-English Dictionary With an Arabic Glossary of Topographical Words and Place Names. See https://amzn.to/2HMw6us