Friday, August 5, 2011

Tents and Hebrewisms

Never shying away from speculation, I have some observations that I would like to attempt here to tie together.

I have observed that there is a practice found among some older Hebrew writings where a person, but more specifically a prophet, equates a physical journey to his spiritual journey, and more specifically his ascension teaching and initiation. I am not sure that some of the stories as we receive them may not have even been adapted and adjusted to better demonstrate the points of the stories. This practice could be called a "Hebrewism."

In a prior post (click here) I described how Abraham considered going down to Egypt as going into a "deep [spiritual] pit." I described how he made that trip by holding to his "knot of faith" or a line going into the pit with knots that represented his covenants. He was not afraid to go into the pit because he was confident he could escape by pulling himself up grasping the knots. For Abraham this trip was a spiritual journey.

Jacob in his physical journeys stopped by a place called Beth-el and as he slept he dreamed a dream where he saw a ladder ascending up to God (see Gen. 28:12). Among LDS and Jewish thinkers it is understood that the rungs on the ladder represent the covenants, ordinances, or levels of ascension, that can also be applied to each of our lives (or the lack of such covenants). This is a temple/ascension motif (Gen 28:16-19) where Jacob called the place the "house of God" and poured oil upon a stone that created an altar. All true altars have a mystical connection to one of the three altars of the temple. 

Moses meet God on the Mountain. Mountains anciently represented and physically presented ascension. Going back to Abraham we read in the Zohar:

"He [Abram] moved on from there (ha-harah),  to the mountain. There he discovered (har he), Mountain of He. and all those rungs planted there." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

Abraham climbed the physical mountain and built an altar, and the Lord added a "he" to Abrams name. The "he" represents the "Shekhinah" or divine presence resulting from covenants - it is a a sign of covenant. See THIS and THIS. Continuing on:

"He [Abraham] spread (ololoh), his tent, spelled with a (he) -spreading a spread, accepting the Kingdom of Heaven with all its linked rungs."(The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

We see a couple concepts intertwined. When Abraham had the sign of the covenant (he) added to his name, he spread his tent. But the "tent" was spelled with a "he" instead of the normal "vav," indicating a tent of covenant or "the tent of Shekhinah."

From the above we see an association with covenants, temples, altars, and tents. A tent can be thought of as a "Tallit Gadol" reminiscent of the temple, with "tzitzit" tied at all four corners. The Zohar continues with Abraham:

"...Abram journeyed, continually journeying towards the Negev ... Continually journeying, rung upon rung until ascending to the South, where he was fittingly bound, ascending to his rung..." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 & 19 - Lekh Lekha)

It is a Hebrewism to connect like this the journey, the tent, the altar, the covenants, the ascension, and the temple. 

My point has to do with 1 Nephi chapter 2. In a prior post I pointed out a few of my observations about 1 Nephi 2:6-9. See my post HERE. The points I tried to make there was that there was a Hebrewism pattern in the text. In 1 Nephi 2:6-9 here is what I see:

- Lehi and his family are on a journey. It is a real journey, but also a journey of ascension.

- They camp by the river. This is an association with other ascension - living water imageries.

- Lehi builds an altar - associating this with covenants, ordinances, and the temple, and the tree of life.

- Also of interest, but not of our present concern is the valley, the sea, and the fountain of all righteousness. 

My point, in 1 Nephi 2:15 which reads:

"And my father dwelt in a tent" 

Which critics have cited as being out of place in the text, and useless. I submit that it is very much in place with the preceding Hebrewisms.

I would bet a dollar that the Reformed Egyptian that conveyed the word "tent" contained a modifier that gave a meaning somewhere close to  "a tent of covenant" or "a tent of Shekhinah."  At the very least, the way in which "tent" was used would convey the idea to any readers of Lehi's day, but is not right on the surface in our translation.

That's the way I see it. What think ye? 


camrow said...

I agree with you totally. I found that the more I have been exposed to some of Barker's writings and have explored the ideas of what the First Temple was like, the more convinced I am that the Book of Mormon is loaded with Temple references that I never caught before. It makes perfect sense to me that Lehi would have a Tabernacle-like tent with him on his journey, especially when Nephi built a permanent temple so quickly after separating from his brothers.

Michael said...


This may seem to shy away from the direction of your thought with this post, but it wasn’t until I read this one that I was able to better put into words what I wanted to comment about your Three Sacrifices and Three Altars post. If you read the Book of Mormon in the Jewish fashion to “liken all scriptures unto” (1 Nephi 19:23) oneself, you find the entire Book describing the multi-dimensional and eternal dynamics of the individual. I have made more detailed comments about this in your Book of Mormon section. Anyway, I apologize for not providing the details here (the entry would be way too long), but within this method we find the Lehi character describing our pre-mortal intelligence. Its marriage to Sariah is like unto our receiving spirit-bodies, and the four sons are the four main divisions of personality aspects that develop due to this union of intelligence and spirit to create a new being with new perceptions. The continuation of generations mirrors the multitude of various experiences, responses, habits, perspectives, etc., that develop from that time forth and the dwindling away of the true identity and purpose of the people. Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem can be likened unto our departure from the pre-mortal realm, and his time in the wilderness can be likened unto our time in the womb before we crossed the great waters at birth into our promised mortal bodies. As Lehi departs Jerusalem/pre-mortality, he dwells in a tent/tabernacle of flesh. While living in this tabernacle of flesh/fetus it seems as though all of his personality aspects experience this much like a wilderness compared to the experiences they had in the Holy City. Anyway, I could go on about how the BOM describes the obtainment of the Light of Christ, the continuation of the Lehi/Adam Kadmon shattering and scattering process, and the eventual re-birth/re-death/and resurrection of the nation of Lehi. What I would like to emphasize though, is the various types of death and re-birth and how this is likened unto all men, but more fully epitomized in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each new re-birth is preceded by a death of sorts. Before being reborn as spirit body, the intelligence died; becoming a new creature never again able to be a raw intelligence. Likewise the pre-mortal spirit experienced spiritual death (being cut off from the presence of God by the veil) through its birth into the mortal body. The mortal body experiences death to be reborn as a post-mortal spirit, and the post-mortal spirit experiences death to be reborn as a resurrected body. All this just emphasizing the various dimensions of life and death.

In your post Three Sacrifices and Three Altars, I highlighted the 3 divisions of the Celestial Kingdom as well as the 3 divisions of Kingdoms of Glory. As I read this post on Tents and Hebrewisms, it occurred to me that we often don’t look at our experience in the mortal flesh the same way as we do the benefits associated with the Holy Temples of God. However the sacrifices, growth, and blessings associated with our time in mortality stand at the crux of our progression much like the Garden, Cross, and Resurrection of Christ seem to stand at the crux of His Atoning Sacrifice. However, in the larger scope, all of these events are just repeating patterns, whether we are referring to the Savior or ourselves. In every level of our existence, we have been asked to sacrifice all that we are in order to make room within and grow into oneness with God to the fullest capacity possible in that level of existence.

Michael said...

It was our acceptance of such a lifestyle that provided the possibility for our intelligence to receive a spirit body and for our spirit bodies to be prepared to follow God’s plan into mortality. It is the same way we prepare for success in post-mortality.

Anyway, it stood out to me that although the Savior’s Atoning Sacrifice does follow a linear pattern of three as documented in your post Three Sacrifices and Three Altars, on a more eternal level, it also follows a higher level of 3 (3 degrees of Celestial Kingdom) which is more dimensional than linear. Within this process I am reminded of your comments in The Sepher Yetzirah section of Mormon Mysticism, where you comment on creation. I cannot recall off hand the exact comments enough to quote them, but I believe you were investigating the multi-dimensional aspects of creation. Likewise, I believe that the inner 3 degrees within the Holy of Holies or Celestial Kingdom also represent the multi-dimensional aspects of the Atonement. Although we recognize that the crux of the Atonement took place while the Savior dwelt in mortality, I believe that He is always in a state of acting out Atonement/At-One-ment. We know that He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), and that He succeeded in the Garden-the Cross-the Grave in mortality, but even in this very moment He is carrying out the Atonement/At-One-ment as He works with us intimately through our salvation/redemption.

As so beautifully put in the Book of Mormon:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7:11 - 13)

This “succor”ing, and acting “according to the power of his deliverance” is something He is doing now and will be doing as long as anyone from this sphere of creation is dwelling within a Kingdom of Glory in the future. His Atonement in mortality didn’t turn on the auto-pilot, He is constantly doing all He can to ensure the success of all of God’s children. I imagine that the capabilities He acquired after completing the mortal portion of His Atonement provided for Him to become more intimately involved with At-One-ment than ever before.

Anyway, to liken this back unto our benefits from our “tents” of flesh: I think most often we think that once mortality is over, the auto-pilot will somehow switch on and we won’t have to be so intimately involved or sacrifice any longer. I firmly believe and it has been my experience through what some may term “mystical” progression, that this mortal life is crucial in helping us to be spread thin through sacrifice and intimate involvement to prepare us for even greater sacrifice and intimate involvement as heirs of eternal life. The Savior’s example of Atonement/At-One-ment is a pattern of eternal success and lifestyle.

Michael said...

Sorry for the long comments. Love the way your posts encourage deep thoughts and awaken hidden insights.


David Littlefield said...


Thank you!

Come by often!

- David

David Littlefield said...


Thank you!

Your comments are very insightful. I very much enjoyed reading them.

It's good to know someone understands what I am writing.

- David

Anonymous said...

We will be having funeral services for David Littlefield on Tuesday, March 5th from 4-5 p.m. It will be at this LDS chapel: 1276 Erringer Road, Simi Valley, CA. He will later be buried in Sandy, Utah. If you know anyone that would like to know this information, please do pass it along.

Anonymous said...

More than anything, David Littlefield (1957-2013), will be remembered for his generous spirit. David was born to Marilyn and Glenn Littlefield in 1957. He had an adventurous childhood with his four siblings, full of bike rides and schemes. One of the most significant turning points of his life was choosing to go on an LDS mission to Roanoke, Virginia. While there, he learned to love and serve, and he imagined the kind of life he wanted to create for himself. When he returned, he met his sweetheart Mary Martin and pulled up to her house on a motorcycle for their very first date. They fell in love and were married in the Salt Lake City LDS temple. They went on to have four kids, and he was the best Dad anyone could ask for. He was always hilarious, always gentle, always looking for the best in his kids. He taught his children to be strong, to laugh at themselves, and to always keep an eye out for others. At birthday parties for his kids, nieces, and nephews, he would sneak out into the garage, put on a gorilla suit, and surprise the family by running off with the birthday child. During Christmas would dress up as you-know-who while all the kids, and the adults that could be persuaded, told him what they wanted. He would also show up in costume for neighbors, ward members, and families that he knew needed a little Christmas cheer that year. He would take off late at night to drop off piles of presents for families and neighbors that might not otherwise have had them. He spent a significant amount of time fixing up a group home for children and often volunteered for the overnight shift at a homeless shelter. Too many times to count, he gave money to people that were struggling even if that meant he would get further behind on his own bills. He knew many of the homeless near his work by name and would take time out of his day to talk with them and give them a meal or some financial assistance. He opened up his home to families that needed a place to stay. In at least two instances, he was able to save someone’s life. In the halls during an LDS ward meeting, he administered emergency mouth-to-mouth to a baby that had stopped breathing when no one else knew what to do. And, once in the drive through of a Jack-in-the-Box, he noticed a patio diner choking, got out of his car, did the Heimlich maneuver, and got back in line to order a burger and his large Diet Coke. David loved studying the LDS religion and would spend hours marking up articles and writing his own books. He loved sharing what he learned with others through discussions and his blog. He was always up for a lively debate and always kept a good humor even when others didn’t share his views. He served diligently in every church calling he had, and was never hesitant to visit a family, give blessings, or take someone to the hospital in the middle of the night. David worked harder than anyone we know. He often spent 14-hour days toiling over a project or trying to meet a deadline. When things got tough, he would stay positive and just work harder. He never really took a vacation or had a break in his whole adult life. But he never complained because he truly believed that he was doing it for the people that he loved. For his family, for his friends, for the ability to help those that were in need. David gave so much to everyone he encountered, always with his jolly attitude, his good natured playfulness, and his love of life. For all of us, David, thank you