Evidence #156 | February 22, 2021

Abinadi and Pentecost

Post contributed by

 

Scripture Central

Abstract

Abinadi’s teachings evoke numerous themes and details related to the Pentecost, suggesting that his teachings and prophecies may have been given in that ancient festival context.

Pentecost

The Israelite harvest festival of Shavuot (Weeks) also known as Pentecost took place fifty days after Passover. This was a sacred pilgrimage festival mandated by the Law of Moses during which the people gathered to offer the first fruits of their crops and rejoiced (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9–11; 26:5–11). Abraham Bloch, in his study of the background of Israelite holy days, characterized this festival as an “appendage of Passover” as Israel looked back in gratitude for their deliverance and rejoiced in their current prosperity.

It completes the celebration of the Exodus by rejoicing in the great bounty which the land, blessed by the Almighty, had given. On Passover one dwelt on the oppression and slavery of the past. In the seven weeks which followed, one was busy harvesting barley and wheat. On Shavuot the Jewish farmer could pause to give voice to his joy in the current prosperity.1

Moshe Weinfeld has shown that Psalms 50 and Psalm 81, which date to pre-exilic times, were likely written to be sung during Shavuot.2 It was a festival in which “the giving of the Law was celebrated.”3 John W. Welch, drawing upon Weifeld’s study, argues that Abinadi’s prophetic message fits well in a setting where king Noah’s people were commemorating such a festival and that the prophet made use of this background to catch the people’s attention and deliver his message of warning.4 For a chart summarizing Welch’s research, see the Appendix

Harvest

At a time when Noah and his people would have been celebrating the early harvest, Abinadi prophesied that their crops would be cursed, reversing the anticipated blessing because of their iniquity. The Lord would send hail, destructive wind, and insects to mar and destroy their grain (Mosiah 12:6). King Noah, the representative leader of the wicked community, is even compared to a discarded stalk of the field which would be trodden under foot by beasts (Mosiah 12:11).

Image via mjbi.org.

Deliverance

During a time when the people would be looking back on Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Abinadi prophesied that that the people of King Noah “because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage” a reversal of the Exodus (Mosiah 12:2; emphasis added).

Ten Commandments

Some readers may find it strange that Abinadi launched into a recitation of the Ten Commandments during his trial before King Noah (Mosiah 12:33–37; 13:11–26). Pentecost, however, commemorated the giving of these commandments to Moses.5 According to Weinfeld,

Psalm 50 admonishes a people against making sacrifices while disregarding God’s commandments; it likewise admonishes the wicked hypocrite who indeed bears the words of the covenant on her or his lips, but does not uphold it. Similarly, Psalm 81 mentions giving of the Law and the Decalogue in order to admonish the people who do not walk in his ways.6

Thus, it would have been pointedly appropriate for Abinadi to rehearse the Ten Commandments as part of his warning message, especially during a time when the king, his priests, and the people were hypocritically celebrating a festival centered on the giving of the law. “If ye teach the law of Moses,” Abinadi asked, “why do ye not keep it?” (Mosiah 12:29). “And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts” (Mosiah 13:11).7

Shining Face

When Moses brought the tablets containing the Lord’s commandments down from the Mount, “the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (Exodus 34:30). Similarly, when King Noah interrupted Abinadi’s message and tried to have him killed, “the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the Mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord” (Mosiah 13:5). If this event occurred at the time of Pentecost, the similarity between Moses and Abinadi would have been striking and viewed as a powerful evidence that Abinadi’s warning message was from the Lord.8

Abinadi Testifying before King Noah, by Jeremy Winborg.

Furnace

When the Lord revealed the Law to Moses, the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai “in fire and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace” (Exodus 19:18). The Lord told Moses to warn the people, who were unprepared, not to approach the Mount where the Lord was present in glory, lest they perish (Exodus 19:21). Abinadi prophesied that Noah’s life would be “valued even as a garment in a hot furnace” (Mosiah 12:3), a curse which suggests Noah’s unsanctified condition and possibly evokes the events at Sinai.

Abinadi Being Martyred. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

Three Days

At Mount Sinai, the Lord told Moses He would appear on the “third day” (Exodus 19:11), and the people were warned to sanctify themselves in order to prepare themselves for His appearance (Exodus 19:14–15). Abinadi prophesied of the coming of Christ and warned Noah and his people to repent. Notably, Abinadi delivered his final testimony after three days of imprisonment (Mosiah 16:6), after which he was put to death when the king and his people rejected the Lord’s message (Mosiah 17:18).

The Lord Came Down

The Lord told Moses that “the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:11). Abinadi’s teaching that “God himself should come down among the children of men” and “go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth” (Mosiah 13:34), recalls the language of the Sinai event. Welch also connects Abinadi’s teaching to Psalm 50 which reads, “Our God shall come down” (Psalm 50:3).9

Calling Upon God

In Psalm 50 the Lord invites the people to “call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15). In Psalm 81 the Lord notes how in Egypt His people called upon Him and He delivered them (Psalm 81:7). In the wilderness, the Lord invited them to hearken to His commandments, “but my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me” (Psalm 81:11). Abinadi’s message evokes a similar theme. He taught that the righteous are those who believe and hearken to God’s words (Mosiah 15:11), whereas the wicked suffer because they reject the one they should call upon.

Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent (Mosiah 16:12; emphasis added).

Salvation

Psalm 50 promises “to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23). Abinadi echoed this theme when teaching that through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ “all shall see the salvation of the Lord” (Mosiah 16:1).

Conclusion

Abinadi’s teachings take on new meaning when understood as having been given during the harvest festival of Pentecost, in which the giving of the Law of Moses was celebrated. The text portrays Abinadi as a prophet like Moses, who delivered the Lord’s teachings to the people and whose face was illuminated by divine light. Abinadi apparently used themes from that festival to provide poignant words of admonition and warning to the people of King Noah.

As Welch concluded, “No other day on the ancient Israelite Calendar fits the message, words, and experience of the prophet Abinadi more precisely or more appropriately than does the ancient Israelite festival of Pentecost.”10 The subtle ways in which Pentecost themes are interwoven and expounded upon in the account of Abinadi highlights the Book of Mormon’s ancient Israelite origins.

Book of Mormon Central, “Did Abinadi Prophesy During Pentecost?” (Mosiah 13:5), KnoWhy 90 (May 2, 2016).

John W. Welch, “The Trial of Abinadi,” in The Legal Cases of the Book of Mormon, John W. Welch (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008), 188–193.

John W. Welch, Gordon C. Thomasson, Robert F. Smith, “Abinadi and Pentecost,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed., John W. Welch (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992), 135–138.

Alan Goff, “Uncritical Theory and Thin Description: The Resistance to History,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7, no. 1 (1995): 193–194.

Mosiah 12:2Mosiah 12:3Mosiah 12:6Mosiah 12:11Mosiah 12:29Mosiah 12:33–37Mosiah 13:1Mosiah 13:5Mosiah 13:11Mosiah 13:11–26Mosiah 13:34Mosiah 15:11Mosiah 16:1Mosiah 16:6Mosiah 16:12Mosiah 17:18

Mosiah 12:2

Mosiah 12:3

Mosiah 12:6

Mosiah 12:11

Mosiah 12:29

Mosiah 12:33–37

Mosiah 13:1

Mosiah 13:5

Mosiah 13:11

Mosiah 13:11–26

Mosiah 13:34

Mosiah 15:11

Mosiah 16:1

Mosiah 16:6

Mosiah 16:12

Mosiah 17:18

  • 1 Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days (New York, NY: KTAV Publishing House, 1978), 183.
  • 2 Moshe Weinfeld, “The Decalogue: Its Significance, Uniqueness, and Place in Israelite Tradition,” in Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives, ed. Edwin B. Firmage, Bernard G. Weiss, John W. Welch (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrains, 1990), 26–32.
  • 3 Weinfeld, “The Decalogue: Its Significance, Uniqueness, and Place in Israelite Tradition,” 27.
  • 4 John W. Welch, “The Trial of Abinadi,” in John W. Welch, The Legal Cases of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008), 188–193. For a helpful chart comparing Abinadi’s teachings with many elements of Pentecost found in Psalms 50 see Welch, “The Trial of Abinadi,” 191–193.
  • 5 Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days, 185.
  • 6 Weinfeld, “The Decalogue: Its Significance, Uniqueness, and Place in Israelite Tradition,” 27.
  • 7 Abinadi’s recitation of long passages of scripture, here and elsewhere in his message, are typical of ancient oratory practices. See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Quoting Long Passages of Scripture,” September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 8 As expressed by Taylor Halverson, “For the priests of Noah who held Moses in the highest esteem, it is incredible that they were impervious to a prophet who came in the name of Lord with a face that did shine like unto Moses. If they truly followed Moses, why weren’t they willing to follow a prophet who looked like and taught like Moses?” Taylor Halverson, “Mosiah 12–16. Martyr in Disguise,” The Interpreter Foundation, May 11, 2016, online at journal.interpreterfoundation.org.
  • 9 Welch, “The Trial of Abinadi,” 190.
  • 10 Welch, “The Trial of Abinadi,” 193.
Culture
Festivals and Holidays
Abinadi and Pentecost
Book of Mormon

© 2024 Scripture Central: A Non-Profit Organization. All rights reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-5294264