Friday, September 12, 2014

In Search of the Sidon River – Part IX

There are few geographic locations in the Land of Promise mentioned as often as the Sidon River, and few that elicit such adament opinions. Joseph L. Allen, in his article “The Grijalva River and the River Sidon”, on his website Book of Mormon Tours, makes an all inclusive but erroneous statement to begin his article:
    Allen: “The River Sidon—the most prominent river in the Book of Mormon is the river Sidon. The city of Zarahemla was built along its banks.”
Grijalva River in southern Mexico
    Response: First, the Sidon is the only river mentioned in the entire scriptural record except those unnamed in a single area called the Land of Many Waters. Second, the river itself is never mentioned in the entire scriptural record in relationship to the city of Zarahemla, except to say that it was to the east (Alma 6-7). Third, the river is not said to pass through the Land of Zarahemla, but “by the land of Zarahemla” (Alma 2:15), and Alma departed from thence and took his journey over into the land of Melek, on the west of the river Sidon, on the west by the borders of the wilderness (Alma 8:3), and “the war began to be among them in the borders of Zarahemla by the waters of Sidon (Mormon 1:10). Fourth, it appears from those scriptures, that the river Sidon was used as a border of the Land of Zarahemla, i.e., the wilderness on the north and west, and Gideon to the east.
    Fifth, this border to the east of the river was the “land of Gideon.” Now the land of Gideon must be between the lands along the east seashore and the river Sidon, for when Moroni was in the northeast, fighting around the city of Mulek, which was east of the city of Bountiful around 64 B.C. (Alma 52:34), he later opens up a correspondence with Pahoran, the Chief Judge in the city of Zarahemla (Alma 59:3), which results in Moroni eventually learning of the overthrow of the Nephite government (Alma 61:4), and Pahoran fleeing to the land of Gideon (Alma 61:5). Hearing this, Moroni takes a few men and marches toward the land of Gideon (Alma 62:4), raising his standard of liberty in whatsoever place he did enter, and gaining whatsoever force he could in all his march until he reached the land of Gideon (Alma 62:6).
    Now we might conclude that the river Sidon was the border between the Land of Zarahemla and the Land of Gideon (within the greater Land of Zarahemla, meaning the entire Land Southward (Mormon 1:6; Alma 22:32). However, we do not know the distance between the river Sidon and the City of Zarahemla, though it would have been some distance, depending on how far the Land of Zarahemla stretched eastward to where the Land of Gideon began.
    While this is speculation, it is definite that the river Sidon did not run by the banks of the city of Zarahemla as Allen claims.
    Allen: The name Sidon was undoubtedly a name given by people of Zarahemla, also referred to as the Mulekites, to the major river that ran through the land of Zarahemla in the new world.”
    Response: Again, the river Sidon did not run through the land of Zarahemla, at least this cannot be verified by any scripture, and at least three suggest it was along the borders of the land.
    Allen: “The port of Lebanon, which is south of Beirut, is also called Sidon.  Sidon is a Hebrew or Semitic word which means “fishery” or “fish waters.”
The ancient port of Lebanon (Sidon)
    Response: Actually, according to Dr. Joseph Lowin,  Executive Director of the National Center for the Hebrew Language, the Hebrew word for “fish” is dag (dalet-yod-gimel means “to fish”), as in Jacob’s blessing on Joseph’s sons: ve-yidgu-la-rov, meaning “like fish may they grow to a multitude.” The Philistine god, Dagon, was half-man, half-fish, and the Hebrew word for grain is dagan. Jonah landed not in a whale, but in dag gadol, meaning a “big fish.” When Israel in the wilderness complained about Moses menu of manna, they remembered the fish they had in Egypt by saying, zakharnu et ha-daggah, which may be why they call fried filet of flounder on Thursday evenings, dag moshe rabbeinu, meaning the “fish of Moses our teacher.” Herring is dag malu’ah, which can also be used as “bow tie,” because it resembles a fish; and dagei rekak means “small fish” or even the “common people.” Nun, the father of Joshua, means “fish” in Aramic, and the zodiac sign for the month of Adar is mazal dagim, meaning “Pisces,” symbol of the fish.
    As for Sidon, the root verb comes from sud, which means to “hunt.” The masculine sayid means “hunting” or “game” as in Genesis 25:28; the masculine sayyad, meaning “hunter” as in Jeremiah 16:16; and the feminine mesad, meaning “fastness,” as in Judges 6:2 (hunting-place). The feminine mesoda, as in Isaiah 29:7 and Ezekiel 19:9, and mesuda, as in Ezekiel 13:21, both mean “net,” though in 1 Samuel 22:4, Job 39:28, and Psalm 18:2, means “stronghold or fastness” (fortress).
    It is not that Sidon could not be used for “fishing” like in “hunting,” but it is not the main use of the word and means “to fish” only in a distant sense, like in the “provision of food” (sayid) found in Nehemiah 13:15, Job 38:41, and Psalm 132:15; and sid, meaning to supply oneself with food as found in Joshua 9:12.
    The reason some people might want to use “sidon” for fish, is because the ancient city was a coastal city, and most “hunting” done there would have been fishing, and so NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary read Fishery. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Fishing, and enthusiastically adds Plenty Of Fish, but again, that is more to the remnant of purpose rather than to the root of the word.
    The point to this is that making the leap from Sidon to fishing as the reason for a name of another city, or a river, in another land is a giant reach and not justified by either the name root, or its general use in 600 B.C., which is unknown today.
A replica of a 600 B.C. Phoenician cargo ship that sailed out of Sidon delivery trade goods throughout the Mediterranean
    Allen: “We cannot be sure that the Mulekites departed from the port of Sidon, however, circumstantial evidence suggests that they were transported by the sea faring Phoenicians.  The port of Sidon was their major port around 600 BC.”
    Response: Based on this type of reasoning, if in fact the Mulekites named the river Sidon after a coastal town in Lebanon, then we should think in terms of the river Sidon being a coastal river—which is not factual at all. Nor was the city of Sidon known for fishing anciently, but for its trade in slaves, including Hebrew slaves from Israel, and for its trading vessels, which sailed the Mediterranean and as far north as France in search of tin. Its fishing history does go back to Roman times with the ancient Egyptian Port so named because it faced south toward Egypt, which was an active harbor in Phoenician times. Today, Sidon is named Saida, which is “fishing” in Arabic, but was named after the first-born son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15), not for its fishing connection.
    Allen: The term “fish waters” is also associated with the Grijalva River located in the upper Grijalva valley. These waters are called Xocal Ha in the Maya language, which means “fish waters,” the same as Sidon in Hebrew”
    Response: So now we see why Allen chooses such sloppy comparison with Hebrew words. He is trying to prove a connection to his Grijalva river in Mesoamerica; however, “Sidon” does not mean “fish waters” in Hebrew or any of its root verbs. The closest one can come is to the term “to fish,” and as has been shown above, that is a very secondary meaning. But he goes on:
    Allen: “Linguistic, archaeological and geographical evidence identifies the River Grijalva that runs through the Chiapas valley as the river Sidon. One town located on the upper Grijalva is called Xocaltenango, a combination of two words, one in Maya and the other in Nahuatl, which means “place of the fish.”
    Response: Linguistic—NO. Archaeological—NO. This is just imagination running wild from the beginning. That is why we spent some time earlier in this post to give the correct Hebrew meanings to words associated with the term “Sidon.”
    Allen: “Some archaeological evidence hints at the possibility that the ancient Nephites/Mulekites called all the water “fish waters,” or “waters of Sidon,” as many tributaries flow into the Grijalva.”
    Response: This is such sloppy reasoning without any logical connection between Sidon and the Mayan “fish waters,” a term not connected to any Hebrew root verb or noun, that it really does not deserve a response. Yet, it cannot be ignored, for according to the American schools of Oriental Research, “fish waters” in Hebrew would be dag-mek’ (The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth, 1983), and according to the Theosophical Review “fish waters” in Hebrew would be nun (the adding of “n” to the word Jared, which Jar-ed in Hebrew is “to flow down or descend), meaning “fish river.” Jar-Dan-Jar means “flowing river.”
    The point to all of this is to show that there is really no connection between Sidon and fishing that warrants anything more than a casual association. Despite many people today interpret the word “sidon” to mean “fish,” it was not so in ancient Hebrew any more than it is today in modern Hebrew in tracing the root connections. Thus, it can be seen, that Allen’s complete reasoning here with his river Grijalva is without merit.

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