Bees in the Book of Mormon and the Americas
The Book of Mormon claims that bees were kept by a group of people in the Near East at the time of the tower of Babel. The following points are addressed in this article:
Bees in the Americas
The Book of Mormon does not contain a claim that bees were found in the Americas.
Bees in the Near East at the early estimated time of the tower of Babel
Bees are known to have been used for their honey since about 3000 BC in Egypt, but have been present in the Ponto-Caspian steppe for much longer.
Bees in Mesopotamia
The only location that bees are claimed in the Book of Mormon is north of Babel in the ancient Near East.
The claim of bees in the Book of Mormon
The group that claims to have bees is commonly called the Jaredites. According to the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites left the tower of Babel at the time that the Lord confused the language of the people. The tale of this group is told completely within the book of Ether within the Book of Mormon. Here are the related verses:
Ether 1:33 places them at the tower of Babel.
"Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered."
Ether 2:1 - The group travels north from the tower
"And it came to pass that Jared and his brother, and their families, and also the friends of Jared and his brother and their families, went down into the valley which was northward, (and the name of the valley was Nimrod, being called after the mighty hunter) with their flocks which they had gathered together, male and female, of every kind."
Ether 2:3 claims that the group had bees with them at this time
"And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind."
Ether 2:5 - From there, the group travels into the wilderness
"And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel."
Ether 2:6-7 contains a small summary of their journey that is about to take place.
Ether 2:13 - The group reaches the sea where they stay for at least four years
"And now I [Moroni, who is abridging the original record] proceed with my record; for behold, it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years."
Ether 6:11 - The group travels across the water for almost a year
"And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water."
Ether 6:12 - The group finally arrives in the Americas
"And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them."
Dating the Tower of Babel
Most scholars believe that the tower of Babel was located near modern day Iraq. This area is geographically referred to as the Near East and is part of South-West Asia. Determining when this group from the book of Ether left Asia can be estimated on the archeological record based on what is known about the tower of Babel. According to the Bible the tower was built using baked bricks, which the archaeological record indicates came into limited use in Mesopotamia after 3500 BC. Ziggurats began showing up in the area of Babylon using baked brick during the reign of Ur-Nammu, who lived around 2100 BC. The Ziggurat of Ur, which was built with baked bricks, is dated to this time. While scholars have also identified later sites that could also match the description of the tower, using the mid to early third millennium (2500-2000 BC) allows us to cover all of those possibilities.
Bees found in the Near East
The use of bees for honey has been known to exist in Egypt since the Early Dynastic Period which was between 3100 BC and 2700 BC. The first Egyptian glyphs of beekeeping appear shortly after this time.
The first man made apiary has also been found in the Near East, in Israel. This dates to about 1000 BC.
Bees themselves have been in the area for much longer. Taxonomy research places the bee in the Near East and Ponto-Caspian areas during the Pliocene period, which is between five and two million years ago:
"The western honey bee presumably arose in the Near East or Pontocaspian regions at some point during the early Pliocene. This species subsequently dispersed throughout Africa and Madagascar (entering via the Arabian Peninsula), into Europe, and into Northwestern Asia as far as the Russian Steppes. Localized adaptation gave rise to the numerous subspecies which are recognized today."
Most subgenera of bees are thought to have originated in either Asia or Africa. According to some scholars, Apis mellifera (the honey bee) may have originated in Africa and migrated from there.
The other bee
The only other time that the word bee appears in the Book of Mormon is when Nephi is quoting part of the record that was carried from Jerusalem, which included at least some of the works of Isaiah. This is found in 2 Nephi 17:18, which reads:
"And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria."
|2 -||Ziggurats, British Museum's Mesopotamia Web Site Staff Room, accessed 08/14/2013|
|References according to the 1st edition Book of Mormon||Show|