Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Names of Lehi’s Family and Their Origin

The names of Lehi's family are true Hebrew, Arabic and Egyptian names and were well in use in 600 B.C. After Lehi left Jerusalem, other Jewish families fled the city and went to Egypt for their safety. Many of them had names later found in the Book of Mormon.

The name Lehi was discovered on a piece of broken pottery that was found in 1940 at the site of King Solomon's copper refineries near the northern end of the Red Sea. The vowels are not present and the name appears, when transliterated, as LHY, vocalized by Professor Nelson Glueck as “Lahia.” It dates from the fifth or fourth century B.C.

Laman is an Arabic name, and is rendered Leimun, and has been found in ancient Palestine. Lemuel is also an Arabic name, which appears twice in the Old Testament (Proverbs 31:1,4). It is found in the desert area to the south of Jerusalem in the direction of Egypt. It appears in an Edomite text from an area where the Jewish religion prevailed in ancient times.

Both Nephi and Sam are true Egyptian personal names. Nephi is a Syro-Palestinian Semitic form of an attested Egyptian man's name and the NPY (Egyptian Nfr) spelling is found in the Phoenician as KNPY. And both Jacob and Joseph are true Hebrew names.

On the other hand, Ishmael is an ancient Arabic name also found among kindred Hebrews. Ishmael was the proverbial ancestor of the Arabs, and is one of the few Old Testament names that is also at home in ancient Arabia. Ishmael's traditional home was Tih, in the desert between Palestine and Egypt. His people were hunters of the borders between the desert and the town. He was regarded as a legitimate offspring of Abraham by an Egyptian mother. Erastus Snow claimed that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family.

Jews, during Lehi's time and now, were not averse to giving their children non-Israelite names. It was common for Jews to name their children for a reason, their names referring to attitudes, events, or circumstances. It can even be seen where Lehi might have named his six sons to reflect his own personal history:

(1) Laman and Lemuel were both Arabic names, and were born in Lehi's early years, when he was involved in the development of his business which seems to have been connected with Arab camel caravans of the desert.

(2) Sam and Nephi were both Egyptian names. These two children were born during the time of Lehi's prosperity, when his business was thriving and life was probably more centered on worldly matters. Lehi may well have chosen Egyptian names, which denoted success and wealth in his era, to reflect his increased prosperity. It is also likely that he was involved with Egyptians during this time since he knew and understood the written Egyptian language, or at least a form of it he later called Reformed Egyptian.

(3) Jacob and Joseph were both Hebrew names. These two children were born during the 8 years in the wilderness after Lehi had a) seen a vision of the coming destruction of the Jews, b) had prophesied throughout Jerusalem, c) been directed to flee by the Lord, d) received the brass plates and read them and learned he was descended from Joseph through Manasseh, and e) was on the Lord's errand toward the promised land when these two sons were born (2 Nephi 2:1; 3:1). They may well have been named to reflect his new calling as a prophet and lineage bearer of the Hebrew into the New World's land of promise.

Mulek. The name Mulek (MLK) is a true Hebrew name and means “royal” or “king.” Zedekiah had a son named Mulek who escaped the massacre of the king's family and household when Jerusalem finally fell. The story of his escape and eventual salvation in a new land is documented in the Book of Omni within the Book of Mormon.

This, too, might suggest why so many different types of names appear in the Book of Mormon which Nibley and Sorenson try to apply to specific peoples, like Jaredites and Mulekites, being involved because of a name rather than recognize that it was the custom of Hebrews to use names of other peoples for their own children.

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