Raw Meat in the Wilderness – 1 Nephi 17:2

Eating Raw Meat 

Basterma. Source: http://www.jabibi.us/

Nephi mentions in 1 Nephi 17:2 that his party ate raw meat while in the wilderness. To the modern reader, living on “raw meat” designates a tremendous hardship, something that would be disgusting to a modern reader of the text. If we look at Nephi’s purpose in explaining what he is doing, perhaps the modern reader can learn that Nephi is working to communicate to us that he is learning to live a new kind of life while he is away from his homeland. The Arabs today still eat a spicy, raw, partially dried meat called “bastern” – literally “raw meat” 1 Lehi’s company probably ate something like this while on their journey.


  1. Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, SA Publishers, 1989, p. 266. See also: Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail, part 2. Ensign, August, 1977. Lynn and Hope write: Nephi’s mention of eating “raw meat” (1 Ne. 17:2) intrigued—and repelled—us, so we were surprised to find ourselves eating it in Cairo when our friend Angie Chukri served us this local delicacy. It was not dripping with blood as we had imagined it, but spicy with garlic and other flavorings. It had been allowed to dry in the sun until it was dark brown on the outside. But it was pinkish-red on the inside and soft to chew, not tough like jerky. Garlic was the dominant flavor, of course, but it left a sweet taste that changed our impression of the hardship of eating raw meat. Later, we saw raw meat for sale in Egyptian, Jordanian, and Saudi Arabian markets; it was formed in large loaves like bologna and spiced much like the pieces served us by Angie. Of special interest to us was the name the Arabs gave it—basterma, meaning “raw meat”—suggesting that Nephi’s terminology was not merely descriptive but the proper name. Was this process, or something similar, the method the Lord showed Nephi to make their food “sweet” so that they would not need a fire in the perilous passage overland from the Red Sea coast to Bountiful?

See also: Pastirma, accessed 10.31.18.

Why Lebanese Love Their Raw Kibbeh, by Maureen Abood, accessed 10.31.18.

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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