The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon

S. Kent Brown, “The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 75–98.

The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon

The Israelite deliverance from Egypt serves as a type for several Book of Mormon accounts of deliverance. Book of Mormon authors and teachers such as Nephi, Alma, and Limhi allude to the Exodus and draw parallels with their own experiences. One perceives similarities not only with groups, such as Lehi’s family leaving Jerusalem, but also with personal experiences, such as Alma’s deliverance from the bondage of sin. The Atonement—an event surpassing the Exodus in the realm of God’s miraculous worksalso ties to the Exodus, and the Savior’s three-day visit to the Americas brims with allusions as well. Connections between Moses and Jesus Christ as deliverers also appear. Noting these bridges, readers can take comfort from both the Exodus narrative and similar experiences that God fulfills his promises.

The memory of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt runs so deep and clear in the Book of Mormon that it has naturally drawn the attention of modern students. The chief focus of recent studies has fallen on the departure of Lehi’s family from Jerusalem as a replication, almost a mirror image—even in small details—of the flight of the Hebrews. [1] Such interest emerges naturally because Nephite teachers themselves drew comparisons between Lehi’s colony and their Israelite forebears. For instance, in an important speech, king Limhi referred to the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and, immediately thereafter, drew a parallel to Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem (Mosiah 7:19–20). Additionally, in remarks addressed to his son Helaman, Alma consciously linked the Exodus from Egypt with Lehi’s journey (Alma 36:28–29). But this does not exhaust the matter. More than once a prophet or teacher, who wanted to prove to others that divine assistance could be relied on, appealed to God’s acts on behalf of the enslaved Hebrews. This was the very technique Nephi used, for example, in his attempt to convince his recalcitrant brothers that God was leading their father Lehi (1 Ne. 17:23–35). Furthermore, it was teachers in the Book of Mormon who first saw that the Exodus—the most wondrous of all God’s acts on behalf of any people—was to be transcended by the grandeur of the Atonement. [2] In what follows I propose to sketch out some of the vivid colors of the variegated vista of the Exodus pattern that is portrayed in the Book of Mormon.

Lehi’s Family Reenacts the Exodus

Although this topic may be the most inviting of all and, as noted above, has formed a chief focus among recent studies, it is also the one about which, I sense, more caution must be exercised. However, the payoff may well be more rewarding for the patient investigator. In my view, an examination of this issue requires care precisely because there is no unambiguous statement that the members of Lehi’s immediate family understood their departure from Jerusalem as a reenactment of Israel’s flight to freedom. Consequently, an investigator must sift the evidence piece by piece. Significantly, while the evidence must be seen as cumulative, the results are strikingly positive.

In one passage which points to a conscious reenactment of the Exodus (1 Ne. 4:l–3), [3] the comparisons are rather narrowly drawn. But this passage does not stand alone. Chapter 4 of 1 Nephi opens with Nephi’s encouraging words to his brothers, who were understandably discouraged after a second unsuccessful attempt to obtain the plates of brass from Laban, having offered property as payment. Responding that the Lord could overcome the strength of Laban and any fifty of his associates, Nephi mentioned Moses and the miraculous crossing of the sea, which led to deliverance for the Israelites and to death for “the armies of Pharaoh” (4:2). Nephi then tried to shore up his brothers’ resolve by pointing out that they had also been instructed by an angel, and adding that “the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians” (4:3). By saying this, Nephi made clear his belief that the Lord would assist the efforts of his brothers and himself just as he had aided their Israelite forebears. But that was as far as he pursued the analogy. [4]

A second example points more directly to a connection, at least as Nephi grasped it. As he began his classic speech on the Exodus in response to his brothers’ complaints about their father’s “foolish imaginations” (17:20), Nephi recounted that “Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work” (17:26). Then, after reviewing the Lord’s gracious actions on behalf of the Hebrew slaves and the eventual apostasy of their descendants who were then living in Jerusalem, he declared: “Wherefore, the Lord commanded my father that he should depart into the wilderness” (17:44), clearly tying a thread between Moses and Lehi. One could cite other possible links. [5]

In this connection, commentators from Hugh Nibley [6] to George S. Tate and Terrance L. Szink have drawn together an impressive array of evidence that points to Lehi’s exodus as a replication of that of the Israelites. Those Nephite teachers who made the association very explicit were five hundred years downstream. [7] Of course, allusions plainly abound in the writings of Nephi and Jacob. [8] As a result, one can properly make a case for connections between the Hebrew Exodus and that of the family of Lehi. [9]

Nephite Bondage and the Exodus

The chapters which draw my attention here rehearse various fortunes of the Nephite colony which left Zarahemla under the leadership of a man named Zeniff (Mosiah 7–24). The avowed purpose of the colonists was to return to the land of Nephi, where Nephite civilization had grown up, in order “to go up to possess the land” (9:3). [10] Within these chapters, we read of the subsequent escape and return to Zarahemla of two different groups of these colonists. The one consisted of the people who followed Alma. In fact, they fled twice: first from the armies of king Noah  [11] and later from Lamanite captors. [12] The second group was led by king Limhi, son of king Noah, who, with the aid of a squadron of sixteen warriors from Zarahemla, also eluded their Lamanite overlords. [13] In each case, it was not only the fact of the escape from bondage that was paramount but particularly the decisive role that the Lord’s influence played in the outcome. In fact, it becomes clear from the text that it was the Lord who orchestrated events and maneuvered people in the period leading up to deliverance from bondage. [14] And this is precisely the way events in the book of Exodus are to be read. [15]

One concrete example will suffice. The Hebrew slaves in Egypt quickly learned that Pharaoh and his officers could not be trusted to maintain longstanding agreements, because as soon as the latter felt challenged, they changed the rules for the slaves. [16] That the Nephite colonists likewise saw themselves as victims of capricious overlords—as the Israelites did under the harsh rule of Pharaoh—can be seen in Limhi’s impassioned speech at the temple in the city of Lehi-Nephi when he rehearsed what God had done for his two peoples in the past, referring first to the events of the Exodus from Egypt and then to the events of Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. [17] “Lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in . . . that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness. . . . And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now” (7:19–20a). Turning next to the situation of his own people, Limhi declared that the Lamanite king had entered into an agreement with his own grandfather, Zeniff, “for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage” (7:22). Whether anyone else in his society agreed, Limhi saw similarities between the difficulties faced by the people of his colony in their bondage, along with their accompanying desire for freedom, and those which both the earlier Israelites and the family of Lehi had faced. Of course Limhi knew the reason for the suffering of his people, and he laid it squarely at the feet of his father and the earlier generation’s rejection of the word of the Lord brought by the prophet Abinadi. [18] Even so, king Limhi was determined to escape, his hope springing from the successes of his forebears (7:33).

At this point I should identify similarities between the Israelite Exodus and that of the two Nephite colonies: (a) In all instances the captives escaped into the wilderness with flocks and herds—no small matter, [19] for, according to David Daube, taking one’s possessions was one of the rights of a slave when freed. [20] (b) According to Psalm 105:37, there was not a feeble person among the departing Hebrew slaves, a clear indication of God’s care and protective guidance. [21] The same is plainly implied about the flight of everyone in the two Nephite groups, (c) The Lord softened the hearts of those who stood in the way of the departure of the captives. In the case of the Lamanite overseers and guards, their hearts were softened towards their captives, and they treated them in a kinder way. [22] But perhaps the most important ingredient to note is that (d) in each instance, the events prior to departure were all orchestrated by the Lord on his terms, a clear feature of the Exodus narrative. For instance, even with the arrival of the sixteen soldiers from Zarahemla in the midst of Limhi’s people, Limhi was quick to recognize that the way out was not with the aid of swords or armor. As a matter of fact, he instructed his people to “lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt” (7:19).

One other possible similarity is found in the observation that it is possible to see Alma, the leader of the second group, as a type of Moses. While I do not wish to press this point too far, the parallels are intriguing. First of all, each was a member of a royal court who was forced to flee because of an injustice. Second, each led his people from the clutches of enslaving overlords. Third, each led his group through the wilderness to the land from which their ancestors had set out. Moreover, each gave the law to his people and placed them under covenant to obey the Lord. [23] In addition, because of his unusual spiritual gifts, Alma was commissioned by king Mosiah, whom he had never met prior to his arrival in Zarahemla, to lead and direct the affairs of the church there, even superceding in position and authority those priests who surrounded Mosiah and were obviously in positions to effect and make policy. [24] Moses too was placed by the Lord at the head of his people, who had been served by other priests.

To underscore further the connections with Moses, one of the most important passages consists of the Lord’s assurances to a troubled Alma who was seeking to know what to do with members of the church who had gone astray and forsaken their covenants. Even though by this time Alma and his people had been delivered from physical bondage years before, and thus it was no longer a present concern, in his reply to Alma’s prayers the Lord made certain kinds of promises for those who were willing to bear his name and remain faithful to their covenants. These promises were guaranteed in a particular way: by the Lord invoking his name “the Lord” as the ultimate assurance that he could be trusted (26:26) [25] Beginning in verse 17 of Mosiah 26 and continuing to the end of the Lord’s revelation in verse 32, one reads through a consistent pattern of pronouns, “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine,” which stand out in this part of the account. Important to my point is the above observation that a similar phenomenon occurred in the sixth chapter of Exodus, beginning with verse 1 and ending with verse 8. Here, too, a prophet—Moses—had come before the Lord with troubled heart. To be sure, the occasion of his appeal to God was different, for in this instance he was simply seeking to learn why Pharaoh had been successful not only in rejecting and rebuffing him but also in making life more difficult for the Hebrew slaves. From Moses’ query (Ex. 5:22–23), it is evident that he had initially thought he would have an easier time overcoming Pharaoh’s intransigence. Even so, in the Lord’s answer to Moses there is a striking series of pronouns in the first person, a divine response richly clothed with references to “I” and “my.” Perhaps most importantly, as a signal both to Moses and to Alma, the Lord identified himself by saying, “I am the Lord,” the ultimate assurance to the hearer that God is to be trusted and relied upon. [26] It is his name, a name connoting trustworthiness and strength, which brings to the beleaguered believer the clearer view that in an ultimate sense God is in charge and that he will shape events to his own purposes. Anything less does an injustice to the passages in question.

One can summarize, then, by observing that a number of strands run through these chapters of Mosiah which not only chronicle the stories of a Nephite colony in the land of Nephi but also lead the reader to sense that the colonists’ stories of escape and deliverance from bondage are to be understood as something of a reenactment—and thus a reassurance—of an earlier age, of an earlier people, of an earlier series of acts by a kind God toward a downtrodden people. Doubtless Mormon, the editor of these reports, saw an important purpose in narrating them. He himself may have taken comfort in their content. Standing where he could see his own people charging toward the abyss of extinction (Morm. 5:1–5; 6:17–22), he must have seen in these accounts a story of hope for those who stand in need of divine deliverance.

Exodus as Proof of God’s Power

Reference above to Nephi’s remarks of encouragement to his despairing brothers (1 Ne. 4:1–3) leads me to note another way in which the Exodus account was read by Nephite teachers and prophets. Plainly, they cited it as a proof of God’s ability to fulfill his promises. Since I have already drawn attention to Nephi’s citation of the miraculous crossing of the sea, let me bring forward other passages which exhibit a similar interest. For a second example I turn again to 1 Nephi 17, the chapter which chronicles the arrival of Lehi’s family at the seashore of southeast Arabia, the Lord’s command to Nephi to build a ship, and the brothers’ belligerent reaction to this news. In Nephi’s rather long response (17:23–51), his first and chief proof of “the power of God” (17:29) and the power of “his word” (17:31) consisted of the Exodus experience which Nephi recounted in some detail (17:23–31, 40b–42).

A third passage also comes to us from Nephi’s hand (2 Ne. 25:20). Once again, elements of the Exodus experience—mentioned here between two oaths—stand as surety of God’s unerring assurance, in this case that “there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I [Nephi] have spoken, whereby man can be saved.” In this verse, only two incidents that occurred in the desert were specifically recalled as proofs: the healing of those bitten by the poisonous serpents that had invaded Israel’s camp [27] and the miraculous flow of water from the rock struck by Moses. [28] Obviously, in Nephi’s mind these events constituted sufficient proof for his point.

A fourth instance derives from words spoken by Nephi son of Helaman while he was upon the tower in his garden. His audience consisted largely of passersby (Hel. 7:11–12) and included “men who were judges, who also belonged to the secret band of Gadianton” (8:1). As is well known, after Nephi had warned his hearers that because of their sins they could expect destruction (7:22–28)—a fact which he knew by revelation (7:29)—he was rebutted by those who were offended at his words. The gist of their response appears as follows: “Behold, he [Nephi] doth condemn all this people, even unto destruction; yea, and also that these our great cities shall be taken from us, that we shall have no place in them. And now we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us” (8:5b–6). It is Nephi’s response to these notions which unfolds a series of proofs, all drawn from scripture, to the effect that God has power to fulfill his word. And as one might expect, his chief example consists of the Exodus account, specifically the miracle at the sea: [29] “Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?” (8:11). Thus far, Nephi had drawn attention to this single incident to demonstrate God’s marvelous power over nature and people. But for his immediate purposes he carried it one step further: “And now behold, if God gave unto this man such power, then why should ye dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power whereby I may know concerning the judgments that shall come upon you except ye repent?”(8:12). With this, Nephi made clear that the acceptance of God’s power manifested at the Red Sea also leads to acceptance of his ability to reveal or make known “the judgments that shall come.” In other words, it is the same divine power that brings about both the miraculous and the revelations of what is yet future. In a subsequent remark, Nephi could not pass up the opportunity to point out that another event associated with the Exodus, the raising of the “brazen serpent in the wilderness,” also possessed a prophetic dimension which pointed forward to the coming Son of God (8:14–15). Most important for our discussion, once again, is the notion of the centrality of the Exodus as a proof.

The fifth and final passage that I shall review in this light appears in the instructions of Alma the Younger to his son Helaman (Alma 36). [30] This passage has been examined by others, though with a different set of questions. [31] Let me describe what I see in this chapter that has to do with the Exodus. Both verse 1 and verse 30, the first and last, restate the promise that “inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.” The last verse alone adds these words: “And ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence” (36:30). These summarizing teachings of Alma concerning promises and penalties find a detailed counterpart in the book of Deuteronomy, which recounts Moses’ last instructions to his people at the end of their wandering, just before they crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. Significantly, the Israelites were about to take possession of a promised land, and Moses’ words were not only full of promises to those who would obey the Lord but also bristling with penalties that would descend on those who might disobey. [32] Thus even the words which open and close Alma 36 are linked to the larger Exodus experience. Moreover, the second and third verses, along with three verses at the chapter’s end (36:27–29), all speak of the Exodus as proof of God’s marvelous power to deliver and support those in bondage and afflictions. The key terms are words such as “bondage,” “captivity,” and “afflictions” on the one hand, and “trust,” “power,” and “deliverance” on the other. At the heart of this chapter, of course, lies the remarkable story of Alma’s dramatic conversion to the Lord, in which he was “born of God.” And this story, as Alma recounted it, is inflected with reminiscences of the Exodus. For instance, he testified that trusting in the Lord leads to divine support and deliverance (36:3, 27). [33] Further, Alma’s early life was characterized by rebellion, certainly a dimension of Israel’s experience. In addition, the matter at issue in the Lord’s intervention with Alma was not one of worthiness on his part. The same must be said of the Israelites. Lastly, the entire chapter consists of Alma’s recitation of his own story; it resembles in a general sense the memorized recitations learned by Israelites of God’s wondrous acts performed on their behalf during the Exodus. [34]

Exodus and the Atonement

A review of Alma 36 leads naturally to the observation that the Exodus was linked typologically to the effects of Jesus’ atonement. And Alma’s autobiographical recitation of his experience here, joined with the biographical account narrated in Mosiah 27, forms a transparent example. [35] As I have noted above, Alma’s rehearsal of his remarkable experience of being born of God (Alma 36) is bracketed by both the mention of the Deuteronomic promise of prosperity (Alma 36:1, 30) and the appeal to his son Helaman to remember “the captivity of our fathers” (36:2, 28). [36] Between this pair of brackets, Alma recalled his experience in such a way that not only demonstrated how the Atonement was effective in his own case before Jesus worked it out but also linked his deliverance from the bonds of sin to Israel’s deliverance from the bondage of slavery. [37]

One intriguing question concerns the one who first tied Exodus language to the Atonement. In my view, the earliest person to make this association was Jacob son of Lehi. Although any discussion is limited to the texts selected and edited for the Book of Mormon record, and although it is possible that someone else in Jacob’s family—such as his father or older brother Nephi—saw the connection initially, the texts at hand point to Jacob. The threads between the two concepts are illumined in Jacob’s long speech quoted in 2 Nephi 6–10.

In this address, Jacob quotes Isa. 50:1–52:2, a passage which speaks of Israel’s new exodus or gathering when “the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover” the house of Israel (2 Ne. 6:14). These particular verses of Isaiah brim with allusions to the Exodus even as they speak of the gathering. It is after quoting this extensive segment from Isaiah that Jacob turns to “things to come” (9:4). Interestingly, he first reviews the implications of the fall (9:6–9) before he turns to address the broader picture that includes the “power of resurrection” (9:6), and the “infinite Atonement” (9:7): “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (9:10, emphasis added).

Two features draw my attention. First, the notion of “our escape,” while not mirroring specific vocabulary associated with the Exodus, certainly evinces the image of the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt. Second, Jacob’s use of the expression “I call” plainly points to the idea that this association of the second exodus—spoken of in the prior two chapters—with the Atonement was an interpretation that he had arrived at independently of others. And it is at this moment that Jacob chose to illustrate how closely these ideas are knit together: “And because of the way of deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave. And this [other] death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel” (9:11–12, emphasis added). The first word that catches one’s eye in this passage is “deliverance,” a term whose verbal root is fully at home—as I observed above—in the Exodus narrative. Further, an apparently related verbal form of “deliverance” appears four times as “deliver up” in the next few lines. [38] Moreover, the adjective “captive” obviously echoes Israel’s bondage. Even though this term does not appear in the Exodus narrative per se, it occurs in Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the new exodus of the last days (Isa. 51:14) which Jacob had just quoted to his hearers (2 Ne. 8:14). In addition, the notion of being “restored,” while again not reflecting specific vocabulary associated with the Exodus, is certainly the central notion lying behind the concept of a new exodus or gathering back to former lands. Indeed, Jacob plainly understood the issue in this way because he observed that those “carried away captive” from Jerusalem “should return again” (6:8–9), and that “the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover them” (6:14).

It is worth noting that the whole of Jacob’s address is adorned with allusions to and echoes of the Exodus. At the outset, he stated that he would speak “concerning things which are, and which are to come” (6:4), as well as “concerning all the house of Israel” (6:5). It was to achieve the latter that he quoted a long segment from Isaiah. [39]

As I noted earlier, for believers among the Nephite and Lamanite peoples, the one event which transcended all others—including the Exodus—was the Atonement. And the surety of the Atonement, of course, was the risen Jesus’ visit to the temple in the land of Bountiful. In this connection, one feature that has intrigued me and others in this report consists of the rich set of allusions to the Exodus. [40] Although one cannot explore all possibilities, I wish to focus attention on a few in order to illustrate the abundant series of ties that extends between the Exodus account and the report of Jesus’ three-day visit.

One early, notable element consists of the prelude to Jesus’ arrival in the Americas; namely, the tremendous destruction which must have harmed all life, whether human, plant, or animal. Even though Mormon does not include an evaluation of the devastation to food supplies for both humans and animals, the account can legitimately be read as pointing to such disruption. [41] On the side of the Exodus, the plagues resulted in the interruption of normal living in Egypt and, in some cases, destruction among all forms of life. One has only to recall the plague of hail which was especially ruinous, decimating “all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field” (Ex. 9:25). Moreover, the locusts which followed “did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left,” completing the devastation of crops that would sustain both human and animal life (10:15, emphasis added).

A second feature consists of Jesus’ quotations from the Old Testament, particularly the work of Isaiah. [42] In 3 Nephi 16, which rehearses the Father’s plans for both Gentiles and Israel, the ancient covenant people, the conclusion of Jesus’ sayings—as well as those attributed to the Father (3 Ne. 16:7–15)—consists of a quotation of Isa. 52:8–10. Notably, this cited passage stands in a context in Isaiah which refers to the Exodus on the one hand (Isa. 52:2–4,11–12) and on the other to the coming Servant of the Lord, the Messiah-king (52:13–53:12). General themes include the redemption of Zion “without money” (52:3) and the departure of God’s people from the unclean to the clean (52:11). Besides mentioning Egypt as the place of Israel’s sojourning (52:4), the Lord affirmed that he “will go before you [redeemed of Israel]; and the God of Israel will be your rereward” (52:12), a clear reference to the divine protection that the Israelite camp received during the Exodus. Moreover, in the new redemption there is to be a reversal of two features of the former Exodus: “For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight” (52:12).

The third comparison that I have selected for discussion consists of Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread and wine on the second day of his visit. While the analogy between Jesus’ act and Jehovah’s provision of water and manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness has already received some attention, [43] I propose to follow out additional dimensions of the account as it is narrated in 3 Nephi 20. One must note first that the gifts of water and manna in the desert brought life to the fleeing Hebrews. Although in the case of Jesus’ gifts the bread and wine in a sense commemorate his death, they more importantly celebrate his life, with the accompanying promise that the partakers will “be filled” (20:8) and thus be nourished. My second point has to do with being filled. For the people at Bountiful, Jesus’ actions constituted no mean miracle. The whole multitude ate and drank, an observation whose plain meaning indicates that the crowd’s hunger and thirst had been satisfied, a condition also resulting from the first day’s partaking of bread and wine. [44] It was in an effort to provide for Israel’s physical needs that the Lord made the water and manna available, with obvious accompanying spiritual blessings. In this limited sense, the report in 3 Nephi echoes the earlier account. A third linkage comes in Jesus’ miracle of producing the bread and wine (20:3–7) in recollection of the manna and water in the wilderness, an act more emphatically underscored when it is noted that on the first day of his visit he had asked for bread and wine to be brought (18:1–3). Indeed, the reader is left with the impression that bread would also have been available on day two—unless it were the Sabbath—and therefore Jesus went out of his way to make his point when miraculously providing the elements of the sacrament.

The final distinctive similarity I wish to feature arises from the legal customs [45] associated with recovering a person enslaved abroad. [46] In such cases, one or more envoys were sent by the protector at home to entreat with the captor and were supplied with credentials which they were to present as representatives of the one seeking recovery. Indeed, Moses returned to Egypt as one empowered to recover those enslaved. “That God, himself outside Egypt at the burning bush, should send Moses accords with the normal procedure in these affairs.” [47] Further, it is significant that Jesus came to the gathering in the land of Bountiful as a Moses, an observation which Jesus emphatically underscored. [48]

In the Exodus account, Moses and Aaron were sent as envoys (Ex. 3:10; 4:14–15) and, in unusual fashion, presented to Pharaoh their “credentials” which demonstrated that they represented the Lord (7:8–12). [49] In a related vein, it was necessary on occasion to convince the prisoner himself of the representative’s authority. In Moses’ case, he had anticipated the need to win over the Hebrew slaves and consequently had been equipped by the Lord with tokens which the Israelites would recognize as coming from their God, namely, knowledge of his name and power to perform three signs. [50] When we turn to 3 Nephi, the need and the effort to recover those who were captives of sin becomes clear. [51] The principal differences, of course, were that (a) the risen Jesus, the one who sought the recovery, came in person rather than sending a messenger, and (b) there was no captor to whom he needed to present his credentials. [52] In this connection, important features of Jesus’ visit grew out of the scene in which he presented his “credentials” and the tokens of his mission to those whom he sought to rescue. Note the following overtones in the wonderful moments just after his arrival: “Behold, I AM Jesus Christ whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I AM the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11, capitalization added). The similarities with Moses’ situation cannot be missed. In the first instance, Jesus identified himself as the one whom the gathered crowd had been expecting. Moses, too, had to identify himself as the envoy of Israel’s God (Ex. 4:29–31). Further, Jesus announced himself specifically by using the divine name I AM, [53] the same name which Moses carried from his interview on the holy mount (3:14). Additionally, as Moses had carried at least one token of his commission which had the form of a physical malady, namely, his arm which could be made leprous (4:6–8), so Jesus bore the tokens of his crucifixion in his person. Moreover, to demonstrate the validity of his wounds, Jesus asked the entire crowd of twenty-five hundred people (3 Ne. 17:25) to come forward so that “ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet” (11:14). My last point in this context is that as the children of Israel had “believed” Moses and had then “bowed their heads and worshipped” (Ex. 4:31), so the people in Bountiful, after “going forth one by one . . . did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Ne. 11:15). They too “did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (11:17). And like the scene in which worship was extended to Jesus who was present, the Israelite slaves worshiped the Lord who “had visited the children of Israel” (Ex. 4:31). Both the acceptance of the tokens and the response seem significant in each context.

Summary and Conclusion

Even though this study has not pushed into all of the corners and byways of the Book of Mormon text, I believe that I have explored enough to show that the theme of God’s mighty acts in the Exodus, performed on behalf of an enslaved people, colors and tones many accounts in the Nephite record. The Hebrew Exodus was clearly seen as the paradigm which helped in understanding God’s deliverance of Nephite peoples whenever they found themselves in bondage. Moreover, certain expressions and words appear throughout the narrative of the journey undertaken by the family of Lehi and Sariah which point to the conclusion that members of their family saw connections between their experiences and those of their ancient forebears. Further, the events of the Exodus were regularly appealed to by prophets and teachers as the proof par excellence that God is capable of seeing his own purposes to their divinely appointed ends. Lastly, the Exodus was surpassed only by the Atonement of Jesus as the most momentous event in the history of salvation. However, the descriptions of the Atonement and its significance—including the risen Jesus’ visit to the temple in the land of Bountiful, which was the grand proof of the Atonement—were woven into tapestries of awe-inspiring hues by using threads and strands which also formed the warp and weft of the Exodus account.

While there is much to be done before the topic can be considered thoroughly examined, in my view the dominant colors of the landscape have now been largely revealed, and the faint and heavy lines have come into sharper focus. In addition, the results thus far invite the inquirer to further pursuit. In summary, the Book of Mormon can be seen as the repository of an extraordinarily rich tradition with deep, ancient roots. Taken as a whole, the work proves to be one of stunning complexity and nuanced subtlety—no small conclusion.

This article, now revised, was published as “The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” Byu Studies 30, no. 3 (summer 1990): 111–26.


[1] Notable are George S. Tate, “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” in Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience, ed. Neal E. Lambert (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1981), 246–62; a summary of work by George S. Tate, John W. Welch, and Avraham Gileadi in “Research and Perspectives: Nephi and the Exodus,” Ensign, April 1987, 64–65; Noel B. Reynolds, “The Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates,” BYU Studies 27, no. 4 (fall 1987): 15–37, particularly the Moses-Nephi typology on 22, 24, 29, 33; Terrance L. Szink, “To a Land of Promise (1 Nephi 16–18),” in Studies in Scripture, Vol 7:1 Nephi to Alma 29, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 60–72; and three essays in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1991): Terrance L. Szink, “Nephi and the Exodus,” 35–51; Alan Goff, “Mourning, Consolation, and Repentance at Nahom,” 92–99; and David R. Seely, “The Image of the Hand of God in the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament,” 140–50.

[2] Tate, “Typology,” 254–59, has drawn attention to a few aspects of this theme as it appears in the Book of Mormon.

[3] Reynolds, “Political Dimension” (22, 24), has suggested that at this point “Nephi practically likens himself to Moses.” Compare also Tate’s observations: “Though the correspondences between the exodus of the Israelites and this exodus are compelling, Nephi’s conscious sense of reenacting the pattern is even more striking [1 Ne. 4:2]. But at this point he cannot have known how apt the allusion [to the Red Sea incident] really is. As his awareness grows, he alludes with increasing frequency to the Exodus” (“Typology,” 250). In my view, this is difficult to maintain, since Nephi’s principal interest here is to cite Moses’ experience as proof that the Lord can and will aid him and his demoralized brothers. However, in other passages to which Reynolds has drawn attention, the possible comparisons—consciously noted by Nephi—between himself and Moses are stronger (“Political Dimension,” 29, 33).

[4] The issue turns additionally on the understanding of the word “also” in 1 Ne. 5:15, hardly a feature upon which to erect a thesis. If Nephi meant that the Israelite slaves had been led by God, as his family had, then it would be possible to conclude that the first generation or two plainly saw the family’s departure to a promised land as a replication of the earlier Exodus. But the passage can readily be understood in other ways. Compare also 1 Ne. 17:13–14, 37.

[5] One intriguing connection, that of the Lord providing light at night to both the Israelites (1 Ne. 17:30) and Lehi’s family (17:13), not only ties the Exodus to the flight of the family but also provides an important detail in the family’s travel, since the heat of the day in Arabia forced travelers to journey into the night. It is probably this necessity that elevated the moon god as the most important among the civilizations which the family would encounter farther south in Arabia. See Adel Allouche, “Arabian Religions,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 1:364; and Gus W. Van Beek, “Marib,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, ed. Eric M. Meyers (New York: Oxford, 1997), 3:417.

[6] Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1988), 135–44.

[7] Mosiah 7:19–20, words of king Limhi; Alma 36:28–29, words of Alma the Younger.

[8] Tate’s chart and its column 3 mention twelve Exodus features which are touched on or replicated in 1 Nephi; of these, fully nine are linked more or less closely with chapter 17 alone (“Typology,” 258–59).

[9] It is possible to see an extended series of similarities, and even echoes, between the experiences of the Israelites and Lehi’s family: (a) the call to the responsible leader through a revelation accompanied by fire (Ex. 2:–4; 1 Ne. 1:6); (b) despoiling the Egyptians and taking Laban’s possessions (Ex. 12:35–36; 1 Ne. 4:38; 2 Ne. 5:12, 14); (c) deliverance on the other side of a water barrier (Ex. 14:22–30; 1 Ne. 17:8; 18:8–9, in which the driving wind surely is divinely directed); (d) an extended period of wandering (Ex. 16:35 and Num. 14:33; 1 Ne. 17:4); (e) complaints along the way (Ex. 15:24; 16:2–3; 17:2–3, etc.; 1 Ne. 2:11–12; 5:2–3; 16:20, 25, 35–38; 17:17–22); (f) outright rebellion (Num. 16:1–35; 25:1–9; 1 Ne. 7:6–16; 18:9–21); and (g) a new law which was to govern the Lord’s people (Ex. 20:2–17; 1 Ne. 2:20–24). Szink’s observation, for example, on the use of the verb “to murmur,” is compelling (“To a Land of Promise,” 64; “Nephi and the Exodus,” 39–40). Of course, other similarities and allusions could be listed.

[10] The first region settled by Lehi’s family was called both the land of Nephi (2 Ne. 5:8; Omni 1:27) and the land of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 7:1; 9:6). Approximately four hundred years later, the Nephite inhabitants were forced to abandon this region because of military pressures (Omni 1:12–13).

[11] This group of people numbered 450 and escaped soldiers sent by king Noah (Mosiah 18:31–35; 23:1–3), eventually settling in a land they called Helam (23:4–5,19).

[12] Mosiah 24:10–25. The vocabulary alone echoes that of the Israelite exodus: they cried to the Lord (Mosiah 24:10–11; cf. 23:28 and Ex. 3:7, 9) because of their bondage (Mosiah 24:13, 16, 17, 21; cf. Ex. 1:14; 2:23; 6:6); and he set about to deliver them (Mosiah 24:13,16–17, 21; cf. 23:23–24, 27 and Ex. 3:8).

[13] Mosiah 22:1–13; in this case too, certain key terms are sprinkled throughout these verses, terms which recall Israel’s exodus: bondage (22:1–4), cry (21:14–15), and deliver (22:1–2; cf. 21:5,14,36).

[14] For Limhi’s situation, see Mosiah 21:5, 14–15; Alma 1:8; for that of Alma’s group, see Mosiah 23:23–24; 24:13, 16–17; Alma 5:4–5. The difference in the apparent relative strength of the Lord’s involvement in the deliverance of the two peoples may be due to the fact that Alma’s group was blessed with the presence of a prophet and Limhi’s people were not. Note king Mosiah’s views on the matter in his public letter (Mosiah 29:19–20).

[15] J. Coert Rylaarsdam, “The Book of Exodus: Introduction and Exegesis,” in The Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952), 1:853–55; S. Kent Brown, “Trust in the Lord: Exodus and Faith,” in The Old Testament and the Latter-day Saints, Sperry Symposium 1986 (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1986), 85–94.

[16] Ex. 5:6–19; see Rylaarsdam, “Exodus,” 886–87.

[17] The speech is recorded in Mosiah 7:18b–33; in Mosiah 8:1, Mormon noted that Limhi had said a good deal more on this occasion.

[18] Mosiah 7:25–28; incidentally, Limhi immediately quoted in succession three sayings of the Lord which are not part of Abinadi’s recorded preaching nor do they come from any known source (7:29–31). Furthermore, the three passages all share a concern for “my people,” a term familiar from the Exodus narrative which also denotes a covenant relationship (see Ex. 6:7; 8:20–21,23; 9:13; 10:3–4).

[19] Ex. 12:32,38; Mosiah 22:10–11 (Limhi’s people); 23:1 (Alma’s first escape); 24:18 (second flight).

[20] David Daube, The Exodus Pattern in the Bible (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 48–51; further, Deut. 15:16b makes it clear that the slave should have been happy under the master’s rule. Because the Lamanites were harsh in the view of the Mosaic code, this aspect of the relationship was ruptured as well, justifying the Nephites’ desertion.

[21] See Daube, Exodus Pattern, 55.

[22] Ex. 11:3; 12:36; Mosiah 21:15 (Limhi’s group); 23:29 (Alma’s people).

[23] The terms of the covenant are rehearsed in Mosiah 18:8–10; the sign of the covenant consisted in baptism (18:12–16); the name of the covenant people was “the church of God, or the church of Christ” (18:17); and the terms of the new law, including the priesthood offices, are outlined in Mosiah 18:18–28.

[24] See reference to such priests with whom Mosiah consulted regularly on sensitive religious matters in Mosiah 27:1.

[25] The passage reads: “And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer.” The parallel words to Moses in Ex. 6:7 are impressive: “And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (emphasis added). In addition, this seems to be the principal objective in both the exodus of the Israelites and that of Lehi’s family; compare 1 Ne. 17:14 with Ex. 7:5; 8:2; 9:2; 14:4,18 (the Egyptians too were to know that the Lord is God); 16:12; 19:1–2; 29:45–46; Lev. 25:38; 26:13; Num. 15:41; Deut. 4:35.

[26] In giving the law to Moses, following the covenant made at Sinai, the Lord consistently used the phrase “I am the Lord” as the ultimate authority for the various legal and religious requirements that his people, now recovered, were to follow in order to retain their favored status. See, for example, Lev. 18:1–6; 19:3–4.

[27] Num. 21:6–9; see also mention of this in 1 Ne. 17:41. Although I cannot draw any firm conclusions, I find it interesting that it is not Nephi but Alma the Younger who, as far as I know, made the connection between (a) Moses’ action of raising the serpent on the pole which, if looked upon, brought healing, and (b) the Messiah’s mission “to redeem his people” and “atone for their sins” (Alma 33:19–22); see also Nephi son of Helaman’s words in Hel. 8:14–15, as well as John 3:14–15, where remarks have a different focus.

[28] According to the biblical text, Moses struck a rock and water flowed out on two occasions: once at the holy mount (Ex. 17:5–6) and once at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin (Num. 20:1–11). It is obviously to one of these that Nephi refers also in 1 Ne. 17:29. Notably, the biblical sequence of the incident at the rock and of the report of the serpents is maintained only in 1 Nephi 17, whereas 2 Ne. 25:20 reverses them. It is clear, of course, that the context of 2 Ne. 25:20 is that of oath-making to prove a point, while Nephi’s recital of God’s acts in 1 Nephi 17 follows the main points of the story of the Exodus, as well as of the Conquest. In fact, this latter passage seems steeped in the (memorized) Israelite recitations which summarized God’s actions on behalf of his people when he rescued them from slavery (see Deut. 6:21–24; 26:5–9; Josh. 24:2–8).

[29] The order of the proofs is interesting, for the first and principal proof—the Exodus—is out of chronological order, underscoring its importance: (a) Moses and the Exodus, Hel. 8:11–15; (b) Abraham, 8:16–17; (c) those who preceded Abraham, 8:18; (d) those who followed Abraham, including Zenos, Zenock, and others, 8:19–20; (e) the forebear Mulek who escaped Jerusalem’s destruction, a prophesied event, 8:21; and (f) Lehi, his son Nephi, and the Nephite prophets, 8:22. Except for Jeremiah, who prophesied of Jerusalem’s fall (8:20) and was vindicated by the testimony of Mulek, son of Zedekiah (8:21), all of the persons mentioned in this passage are affirmed by Nephi to have known of the coming Messiah (so 8:23). One further note: the list of proofs, in this order, raises the question whether the Nephite believers had developed catalogues of such topics taken from scripture.

[30] Alma’s instructions to his sons (Alma 36–42), as well as Lehi’s last words to his children (2 Ne. 1:1–4:11), all fit the genre known as testament literature, which consists of accounts of various patriarchs giving their last instructions and blessings to their children. These passages all invite the student to examine them carefully in light of what is now known about this literary genre. For a study of Lehi’s last words from a legal viewpoint, see John W. Welch, “Lehi’s Last Will and Testament: A Legal Approach,” in Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 61–82.

[31] See, for example, John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1982), 34–52, especially 49–51; and Tate, “Typology,” 254–55, where a number of typological connections between Alma’s words to Helaman and the Exodus are reviewed.

[32] While the results of obeying and disobeying are spelled out in various passages of Deuteronomy, the list of promised blessings is collected in Deut. 28:1–14, and the curses or penalties for disobedience appear conveniently in 28:15–68. To these latter are to be added the curses that were to be recited by the Levites (27:14–26). In this connection, the entire issue of the Deuteronomic flavor of the Book of Mormon is yet to be tested, especially in light of the fact that the book of the law discovered in the temple in 621 B.C. (2 Kgs. 22:8–23:3), which led to a major religious reform (2 Kgs. 23:4–24), was likely Deuteronomy or an abbreviated version of it and would have been both known to Lehi and recently included with the plates of brass (implied in 1 Ne. 5:11). Categories that should be involved in any thorough investigation are promised blessings and threatened cursings that are prominently connected in the Book of Mormon with the Nephites’ possession of a promised land. See Ellis T. Rasmussen, “Deuteronomy,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 378–79.

[33] The theme of deliverance is woven tightly into the story of Israel’s exodus. In Alma 36, the verb “to deliver” appears three times, all of which fall in the verses that summarize Israel’s Exodus (36:2, 28). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew root translated “to deliver” (na?al) occurs regularly in the Exodus narrative (Ex. 3:8; 12:27; 18:8–10; Deut. 23:14; cf. Ps. 18:48; 34:7, 17, 19; 97:10).

[34] Deut. 6:21–24; 26:5–9; Josh. 24:2–14; cf. Amos 2:9–10; 3:1–2; 1 Ne. 17:23–42.

[35] Tate has already drawn attention to these reports (“Typology,” 254–55).

[36] The phrase comes from verse 2, where the forceful emphasis is on the absolute inability of Israel to deliver herself: “For they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham . . . and he surely did deliver them in their afflictions” (emphasis added). The other bracketing passage, verses 28–29, emphasizes the Lord’s continual and continuing care both for individuals, such as Alma, and for his people as a whole, whoever they are: “And I know that he will raise me up at the last day . . . for he has brought our fathers out of Egypt . . . by his power . . . yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. Yea, and he has also brought our fathers [Lehi’s family] out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day” (emphasis added).

[37] An examination of the biographical account in Mosiah 27 exhibits connections between Alma’s experience and the Exodus which are, in some ways, even more impressive than those visible in the first-hand report of Alma 36. Though one must bear in mind that Alma’s experience included only himself and his four friends, while an entire people was involved with Moses, the similarities are nevertheless rather impressive. The compelling circumstances arise out of the apparition of the angel, the description of which bears stronger resemblances to the experience of the Israelites at Sinai than to other similar experiences such as the Lord’s call of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1), Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Lehi (1 Nephi 1), or even Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1–3). For instance, the angel who confronted the five young men “descended” to meet them (Mosiah 27:11); in a similar way, “the Lord came down upon mount Sinai” (Ex. 19:20, emphasis added). Second, the angel appeared to the youths “as it were in a cloud (Mosiah 27:11, emphasis added) as the Lord had come before both Moses and the people. Third, the angel spoke as if “with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake (Mosiah 27:11, emphasis added). Likewise, the voice of the trumpet from the holy mount was “exceeding loud “ (Ex. 19:16; also 20:18) and “sounded long, and waxed louder and louder” (19:19). At the sound of God’s voice (19:19), all of the Israelites “trembled” (19:16) and “stood afar off” (20:18), requesting that God not speak to them “lest we die” (20:19). Further, at God’s presence on the mount, “there were thunders and lightnings” (19:16; also 20:18) and “the whole mount quaked greatly” (19:18). Fourth, the angel mentioned specifically the “bondage” of Alma’s forebears (Mosiah 27:16), a clear recollection of terms used to describe the plight of the Israelite slaves. Fifth, this very point raises one of the clearest links between the Exodus and the Atonement. All of the words describing Israel’s bondage derive from the root ‘bd. It is also a noun from this same root which is translated “servant” in Isaiah 53, which Abinadi had quoted at length and then immediately linked to Jesus’ ministry. What is clear here is that Jesus is the expected servant (‘ebed) who, by paying the price of redemption, frees all those who will follow him from bondage (‘ab?d?h), the very term used in the Exodus account. One could, of course, further echo Exodus themes.

[38] It also appears twice in the following verse (2 Ne. 9:13) and is used of the new exodus in Isa. 50:2 (= 2 Ne. 7:2).

[39] Of at least thirty-three allusions to the Exodus which appear both in Jacob’s words (2 Nephi 6, 9–10) and in Isa. 50:1–52:2 (= 2 Nephi 7–8), I list the following: (a) Israel is to “return again” (2 Ne. 6:9); (b) the Lord God is to “manifest himself,” a self-disclosure which echoes the self-disclosures on the holy mount (6:9); (c) the scattered of Israel are to “come to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (6:11, 15, 18); (d) they will return “to the lands of their inheritance” (6:11; 10:7–8); (e) the Lord is to “be merciful” to his people (6:11); (f) the Messiah is “to recover them” a second time (6:14); (g) “pestilence” is mentioned, recalling the plagues (6:15); (h) the phrase added to Isa. 47:25, that appears in 2 Ne. 6:17, clearly points to the Exodus: “The Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people”; (i) the Lord is able to redeem (7:2) and “the redeemed of the Lord shall return” (8:11); (j) the Lord is able to deliver (7:2; 9:11–13, 26); and (k) the Lord is able to dry up “the sea,” “rivers,” and “waters” (7:2; more explicit in 8:10; cf. “waves” in 8:15).

[40] Taking his lead from others, Tate has drawn attention in rapid fashion to the echoes of the Exodus not only in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry but also in the recitation of his visit to the people in Bountiful (“Typology,” 255–57 and columns 2 and 7 of the chart on 258–59).

[41] The picture of loss and disruption is tremendous, and all forms of life must have been left in tatters: “The whole face of the land was changed” and “the face of the whole earth became deformed” (3 Ne. 8:12,17). The entire infrastructure was ruined: “The highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough . . . and the places were left desolate” (8:13, 14).

[42] I sense that the entire matter of Jesus’ quotations from Old Testament sources, when properly reviewed, will reveal that the passages cited point consistently to the period of either the new exodus or the end time. For example, all of the following passages—taken in the order in which they are quoted by the Savior—have to do with the new exodus: Isa. 52:8–10 (3 Ne. 16:18–20); Micah 5:8–9 (3 Ne. 20:16–17); Micah 4:12–13 (3 Ne. 20:18–19); Isa. 52:9–10 (3 Ne. 20:34–35); Isa. 52:1–3 (3 Ne. 20:36–38); Isa. 52:7 (3 Ne. 20:40); Isa. 52:11–15 (3 Ne. 20:41–45); Isa. 52:15 (3 Ne. 21:8); Isa. 52:14 (3 Ne. 21:10); Micah 5:8–14 (3 Ne. 21:12–18); and Isa. 52:12 (3 Ne. 21:29). Chapters 3 and 4 of Malachi, quoted by Jesus in 3 Nephi 24–25, can also be understood as anticipating the new exodus. For instance, reference to the way prepared by the expected messenger (Mai. 3:1 = 3 Ne. 24:1) can be seen as an allusion to “the way of the Lord” to be prepared in the desert (Isa. 40:3). Further, the reference to purifying “the sons of Levi” as a preparatory step before they “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Mai. 3:3) finds clear echoes in the selection and setting apart of the Levites in the desert (Num. 3:41, 45; 8:6–22).

[43] See Tate, “Typology,” 257.

[44] During the second day, we are told only that “the multitude had all eaten and drunk” and were thereafter “filled with the Spirit” (3 Ne. 20:9). But the text seems plain enough. In the case of the first day, the statement is clearer. We learn that the disciples were the first to partake of the bread and be filled, afterwards giving the bread to the multitude of twenty-five hundred people until they were filled (18:3–5). The same condition resulted from drinking the wine (18:8–9). One must recall further that by this point in the day the crowd had been without food for several hours, having (a) gone forward “one by one” and felt Jesus’ wounds (11:15), (b) listened to his “sermon on the mount” address (3 Nephi 12–14), (c) listened to Jesus’ further words (3 Nephi 15–16), (d) seen him heal the infirm among them (17:5–10), and (e) witnessed Jesus blessing their children (17:11–24). Hence, when the record says that the multitude was “filled”—whether on day one or day two—by partaking of the bread and wine, it is to be understood at least in terms of satisfying their hunger and thirst.

[45] One important dimension that still must be explored in the Book of Mormon concerns the social and legal bases for the Lord’s acts of deliverance. Such links are clearly visible in the Exodus account, as Daube has pointed out: “God was seen as intervening, not like a despot, but in the faithful exercise of a recognized privilege—which would, in turn, impose lasting obligations on those on whose behalf he intervened” (Exodus Pattern, 13). One example of a direction to pursue this sort of tie between the Lord and all the descendants of Lehi would be to investigate the notion that they were the Lord’s people whose relationship was rooted in covenant (Mosiah 24:13). Other passages which exhibit this feature and are also connected to the Exodus theme consist of 2 Ne. 8:4 (= Isa. 51:4) and Mosiah 7:29–31; see also Mosiah 11:22; 12:1, 4; 14:8; 24:13,14; 26:17, 18, 30, 32; Alma 5:57; 10:21; cf. Ex. 6:7.

[46] The whole issue of slavery abroad is reviewed by Daube, Exodus Pattern, 39–41.

[47] Daube, Exodus Pattern, 40. Even the ages of Moses and Aaron, 80 and 83 respectively, may have been an important factor, for “envoys were . . . carefully selected for their distinction and fitness for the task—A minimum age was sometimes required.”

[48] 3 Ne. 20:23, where Jesus applies to himself Moses’ prophecy recorded in Deut. 18:15, with slight variation: “Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me” (emphasis added). See also my study in this book, chapter 10, “Moses and Jesus: The Old Adorns the New.”

[49] Daube, Exodus Pattern, 40.

[50] Moses learned that God’s name was I AM (Ex. 3:14) and also bore the three signs of (a) the rod that would turn into a serpent, (b) his hand that could be made leprous, and (c) the power to turn water to blood (Ex. 4:1–9). See the relevant remarks of Daube, Exodus Pattern, 40.

[51] 3 Ne. 9:21, where the “voice heard . . . upon all the face of this land” (9:1) says: “Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.” Samuel the Lamanite’s words underscore the point: “Behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind . . . and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord” (Hel. 14:17, emphasis added). It is important to note that the verb “to bring back,” or its counterpart “to bring out,” often appears describing God’s actions in the Exodus (see Daube, Exodus Pattern, 31–35). The verb “to bring out” is especially used in the Book of Mormon to summarize the Exodus (1 Ne. 17:25,40; 2 Ne. 25:20; Mosiah 7:19), to outline Lehi’s departure (1 Ne. 17:14; 2 Ne. 1:30; Mosiah 2:4), and to describe the Atonement (3 Ne. 28:29). Compare Jesus’ impassioned words to the survivors in 3 Ne. 10:4–6.

[52] Even though no captor is mentioned, except perhaps the devil and his angels (3 Ne. 9:2), one recalls that Jesus quoted a key passage from Isaiah that bears on the issue: “For thus saith the Lord: Ye have sold yourselves for naught, and ye shall be redeemed without money” (3 Ne. 20:38 = Isa. 52:3), a passage that is surrounded by Isaiah’s prophecies of the second exodus. Plainly, there was no captor to whom Jesus could come, as the quoted passage observes. Even so, Jesus presented himself to the fallen survivors almost as if he were presenting his credentials to one with whom he must negotiate for the release of captives (see 3 Ne. 9:15–18; cf. 11:14–16). Speaking of Jesus during his earthly ministry, Daube observes: “From Jesus sent by God to save mankind, from his legitimation, or refusal to furnish legitimation, before adversaries and followers, from the insistence on the necessity of belief in him, one line of many . . . leads back across the centuries to the practices of international commerce in the matter of prisoners of war” {Exodus Pattern, 41).