Tuesday, September 9, 2014


And the large and spacious building which thy father saw is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men (1 Nephi 12:18).

We know that the great and spacious building was a symbol of pride, but what are "imaginations"? Aida Besancon Spencer (Journal of Biblical Literature 100 [1981]: 247-48), provides insight into the meaning of the word shereeroth which may shed additional light on Nephi’s description of the great and spacious building in this passage. The word shereeroth is a kind of idolatrous self-reliance usually rendered “imaginations” in our King James Bibles and in other translations as “stubbornness.” It appears ten times in the writings of Nephi’s contemporary Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12; 23:17), and twice elsewhere (Deut 29:19; Psalms 81:12). In these passages it is tied closely to the events of the Exodus where Israel rebelled against God. It is used to describe those Israelites who broke their covenant with God and became idolatrous, saying, “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart” (Deuteronomy 29:19). “Thus we find in this passage the interesting intertwining of attraction to foreign idols and a false sense of security since the person who acts in this manner will not be pardoned but will be singled out for calamity, in other words, captivity” (247).

Spencer states,

[Shereeroth] as a transitive verb has the basic significance to twist, to twist together, to wind together, to knot together, in the manner of a cord. It is a verb idea to denote a muscle, sinew, cord, lace, chain. From the referent developed the metaphorical sense, to be firm, hard, tough, properly, to be knotted together, thus the meaning `hardness,’ `firmness,’ `strength’ . . . . [It denotes] a strength or firmness which is, in essence, twisted or stubbornness. It appears as self-reliance to those relying on it, but stubbornness or twisted strength to God” (247).

Like the positive Hebrew term for faithfulness (emunah) the word shereeroth signifies firmness, but it is wholly negative, for “one is understood as `truth’ while the other is understood as `perversity.’ One emanates from God , while the other emanates from the individual (248). Those in the Bible who typify this characteristic are seen as not only as independent from but also in a state of rebellion against God and ripe for captivity and destruction.

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