1:1 As Nibley stated, this is a typical opening for an ancient autobiography. It spells out the situation.
‘Having seen many afflictions in the course of my days”- this is most likely being written decades after Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. At least “finalized” at that time.
Why “highly favored”? This seems to be answered in the following chapters. It is because of Nephi’s faith and actions. We can look directly at 1 Nephi 3:7 to see why.
“Yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God . . ” This undoubtedly came from Lehi as well as Nephi’s own experience through his faith. But Nephi here is supporting his original line in this verse, “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents .” Nephi was likely well taught by his father. Surely Laman and Lemuel were as well, but perhaps they spent time away from home (at college?), learning different values. In fact, Lehi may have taught them some of these different doctrines. After all, we do not know when Lehi became a follower of the truth, or the the same gospel as was taught by his contemporary, Jeremiah. Did Lehi follow the traditional, true ways earlier in his life, or was he taught the “reformed” ways when young which came from the deuteronomists and were followed by those who wanted to kill him? We don’t know. Some evidence leans toward the latter. 1 Nephi 2:16 seems to show that Nephi needed confirmation on Lehi’s teachings.
1:2 Notice that Nephi does NOT say “reformed Egyptian”. This is important. Many scholars and others have tried to identify “Reformed Egyptian” with the Egyptian Demotic or Heiratic Scripts or with a different form of Egyptian that Lehi must have known. But “Reformed Egyptian” is not mentioned by anyone in the Book of Mormon until Mormon mentions it 1,000 years later in Mormon 9:32. The “Reformed” description is most likely the result of an evolution of language from the time Nephi writes his account until Mormon is wrapping things up. Go back and try to read the English Language 1,000 years ago. You would find yourself speaking Old English in its last decades ready too soon transition from Old English to an increasingly Latin-based Middle English. Good Luck! It has “reformed” a lot. More than likely, based on archeological findings during the time of Lehi in Jerusaelem, it was Demotic. Demotic is a change from the Heiroglyphics we are so familiar with to a more fluid writing system, but not quite as fluid or cursive as Heiratic, which was in existence at the time. But most of the archeological findings of Lehi’s time in Palestine are in Demotic including both Aramaic and Hebrew languages written in Demotic characters. When the children of Israel left Egypt, Egypt never left them. It has always been a part of the culture of the Israelites and Egypt often ruled Palestine or administered business there.
1:4 The first year of the reign of Zedekiah, according to historians, was 597 BCE. Don’t fall in the trap of thinking that the date estimates in your scriptures are scripture. They are not. They are a guide.
1:5 “. . as he went forth . . “, was he going out to preach as described in 1:4?
1:6 “. . pillar of fire . .” This is similar to many other apocalyptic (revelatory) experiences with the Lord’s prophets. Joseph Smith saw, “. . I saw a pillar of light . .” (JSH 1:16) Also, Moses saw a “burning bush” (Moses 1:17, Exodus 3:2), and the Children of Israel were lead out of Egypt by “a pillar of fire”. Many other non-biblical accounts speak of visions to the prophets where “fire” or “pillars of light” are described. What we have here is a standard apocalyptic vision to Lehi, right where it should be.
1:7 This reminds me of Joseph Smith’s experience in the field when he was exhausted after his visits with Moroni, and had to return to his home.
1:8 Part of a standard apocalyptic vision.
1:11 As Nibley states, there is often a book in these visions. It is the word of God usually including prophecy. See Revelation 5:1
1:15 Lehi at first trembles from what he sees, but then is given comfort and rejoices just as Moses in his vision on Sinai (Moses 1).
1:16 “for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams”. This tells us that Lehi had several visions and dreams of note. Maybe found in the lost 116 pages of manuscript.
1:18 “and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.” This could be point “A” in a long chiasmus found throughout 1 Nephi. This point would correspond to chapters 19-22 of 1 Nephi which talks about the fate of the Jews.
1:19 “and he testifies that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” Why does Lehi need to mention this? It seems that the a large portion of the Jews had lost faith, moved to another religion such as Baalism, or moved to a “hijacked” Judaism which wanted to eliminate the idea of a Messiah and of redemption through Him. This latter option could be where Laman and Lemuel drifted to. The Messiah and His redemption were the central messages of his vision. But a possible “purge” on Lehi’s religion removed the Messiah and message of His atonement from the central message of the gospel. Had the “Jews” corrupted the message of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)? Leaving the Messiah out. Is this the group that Jeremiah was also opposing?
1:20 I could not help but think about Joseph Smith as he was translating this very verse. He was going through something very similar. The gospel does not fit well in this world.
1:21 “will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith . .” This verse tells us that we are “chosen” because of our faith (trust).