“Often thought of being led directionally by “the [Holy] Spirit” to drunken Laban, Nephi first foreshadows the influence of “the spirit” later encountered after unsheathing the sword. The talking spirit comes of the sword itself, carried by Laban and which in voice commands Nephi to slay the man. That sword is also featured in Words of the Faithful.”
We are first introduced to this blade in The Silmarillion as well as The Children of Húrin. The sword, in those accounts, is named Gurthang.
Old Sky Hewer, Izilba, named the instrument of death. It had never received that honor before. How this Iron of Death came to be stored away in a cube of Beeswax, and whether or not the sword had indeed been broken, its shards buried with its last victim, Túrin, it is unknown. According to Words of The Faithful, the sword is intact, and Niënor claims it by right and has been a specter at this spot for three millennia, protecting the relic, and waiting, beyond hope, for Túrin’s return. (Make a note of Niënor’s willingness – even insistence! – that Izilba takes the sword).
When Izilba first draws the sword, we read, Her hands grasped the sword’s hilt, and she pulled it from the wax, with ease, and the sword sang as it came forth, laughing that its restful incarceration had come to an end, and the evil of this new day would by its steel be stung, shivered, and sliced.
In the accounts found in The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin, it is possible to read the tale as Túrin being a grief-stricken-mad-man, and that in such a state he was imagining the sword speaking to him, saying, “I will drink thy blood, gladly […] I will slay thee swiftly.” Yet, Words of The Faithful would dispell that notion and show us that the sword did speak, and have a will of its own.
How does a sword sing, laugh, speak, and possess a will?
One possible explanation can be found in Ósanwe-Kenta – Communication of Thought – which can be read here.
If a sword can communicate and have a will of its own – a spirit, as it were – then wouldn’t it be possible that Nephi was lead by such a spirit to find a drunken Laban, pull the spirited-sword from the sheath, and listen as the voice instructs Nephi to slay Laban?
Notice that in the account, Nephi listens to the spirit give him reasons to slay Laban, and afterward, “[Nephi] remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness.” I find it interesting that Nephi appears to separate the spirit from those words he received of the Lord, which he spake unto me in the wilderness.
If it is the same spirit guiding him, wouldn’t he have recalled the words in the wilderness as being the from that same spirit? Or, are communications from the spirit different from those of The Lord? If so, that is quite the quagmire to navigate.
While Nephi may have been justified in slaying Laban – as I’m sure Izilba is justified in the killings performed with the same sword – I would not say that Eru instructed Nephi to slay Laban. Instead, it was the same spirit that influenced Izilba long before Nephi drew the sword.