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Why is the Near Eastern custom of chopping down the tree after a hanging in the Book of Mormon?

3 Nephi 4:28 reads:

And their leader, Zemnarihah, was taken and hanged upon a tree, yea, even upon the top thereof until he was dead. And when they had hanged him until he was dead they did fell the tree to the earth,

Why would Joseph Smith say that the tree used for hanging was then cut down? Michael R. Ash explains:

We now know that such actions have an ancient Near Eastern precedence: “Israelite practice required that the tree upon which the culprit was hung be buried with the body. Hence the tree had to be chopped down. Since the rabbis understood that this burial should take place immediately, the Talmud recommends hanging the culprit on a pre-cut tree or post so that, in the words of Maimonides, ‘no felling is needed’”.

Michael R. Ash – Faith and Reason 36: Chopping Down The Execution Tree

How would Joseph have known about this Israelite practice?


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