Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Wilderness of Hermonts

We have been asked a few times over the last year regarding what is known about Hermounts, or the Wilderness of Hermounts. And the answer is not much. First of all, in the Book of Mormon, while “wilderness” is mentioned several times, only in two instances does any wilderness have a proper name: the Wilderness of Hermounts, mentioned just once, and the Wilderness of Akish, mentioned three times, which was a location of a great Jaredite battle where many thousands died by the sword (Ether 14:3-4).
(Yellow Circle) Mashpi Cloud Forest in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador (looking north toward Quito), the probable location of the Wilderness of Akish, running between Guayaquil and Quito—even today much of this area is unoccupied with any permanent habitation or development. The Map shows the (Orange Arrow) the probable path taken towrd the Anaqito plains, just north of the plains of Heshlon a fertile valley toward the northeast beyond Quito in the area of Ogath through the Guaillabamba Gorge, where Shared likely formed his rebel army and where Coriantumr met him in battle (Ether 13:28)

We learn ten things from the single event mentioned at the Wilderness of Hermounts:
1. A wilderness, meaning where people did not live nor was it used for farming or other developmental purposes—it was unoccupied by humans;
2. The wilderness was north and west of the city of Zarahemla and beyond the borders of the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 2:36);
3. The wilderness was a large area, a part of which was occupied by wild beasts (Alma 2:37);
4. The wilderness contained wild, ravenous, man-eating beasts (Alma 2:38);
5. Vultures were native to this wilderness (Alma 2:38);
6. Unlike the Jaredites who left their dead unburied during battles, the Nephites, like the Hebrews before them, considered an uburied corpse a horrible indignity (Jeremiah 22:19);
7. There is also an indignity for Nephites to be devoured by wild beasts (Helaman 7:19);
8. This was a running battle that covered many miles of ground, from the eastern borders of the Land of Zarahemla where the River Sidon (Alma 2:35) courses through the land along the border of the Land of Gideon, all the way to the west of the Land of Zarahemla and the northern border of the land (Alma 2:37). Fearful of the city of Zarahemla in their flight westward, the Amlicites and Lamanites veered north and west to avoid the city (2:36);
9. At the point of the battle along the River Sidon, access from one bank to the other was evidently across a bridge of some type, for the Nephites had to throw the dead piling up on the bridge into the river in order to make room to cross over the river (Alma 2:34);
10. So long was this fearful retreat, that many of the Amlicite-Lamanite army that was wounded in the battles at the river suffered greatly and died by the time they reached the Wilderness north and west of the city of Zarahemla (2:38).
11. The Land of Zarahemla in the northwest shared a border, evidently with an unnamed land in between Zarahemla and Bountiful (Helaman 4:5; 3 Nephi 3:23), and also evidently the Wilderness of Hermounts was in this unnamed land. Mormon is not clear when he states: “towards the wilderness which was west and north, away beyond the borders of the land” (Alma 2:36)—all we can gather is that 1) Hermounts is not in the Land of Zarahemla, but beyond its borders; 2) Hermounts is “away beyond” the Land of Zarahemla; and 3) it is in a land to the north of the Land of Zarahemla, which could be: 1) The unnamed land, 2) An actual land called Hermounts, though no such land is mentioned.
    In addition, The Greek god Pan, which is the god of wild places and things, is the same as the Egyptian named Month or Mendes, and may be connected to the Book of Mormon word, or name, Hermounts, since they both can be traced to the root of wild places and things Hermounts of course being the wilderness home of wild and ravenous beasts (Alma 2:37). In Egypt this name is referred to as Hermonthis, and the land of Month, known as the war god Montu (mntw, which can also be translated as Menthu)), who was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man with two plumes and a sun disk. He was also said to have the head of a bull when enraged the Buchis Bull, called the Bakha (Holy Bull) at Hermonthis—now the modern city of Armant). Egypt's greatest general-kings called themselves Mighty Bulls, the sons of Monthu. In the famous narrative of the Battle of Kadesh, Ramesses II was said to have seen the enemy and "raged at them like Monthu, Lord of Thebes.” Mentuhotep, a name given to several pharaohs in the Middle Kingdom, means "Menthu is satisfied.”
The Temple of Montu at Medamud was probably begun during the Old Kingdom era (3rd millennium B.C.) Temples to Montu include one located adjacent to the Middle Kingdom (Period of Reunification, 2000-1700 B.C.) fortress of Uronarti below the Second Cataract of the Nile, dating to the nineteenth century B.C.
    This modern city of Armant is the ancient Greek settlement of Hermonthis, but the history of the city much predates that. Located a little over 12 miles south of Thebes, it thrived during the Middle Kingdom and was enlarged during the 18th Dynasty with the construction of huge temples (now gone). Cleopatra VII made it the capital of the surrounding nome, and we know that the city continued to do well into the beginnings of the Christian era.
    Today, nothing is left of Cleopatra's Temple, as it was used for materials to build a 19th century sugar refinery. The Temple dedicated to the god Montu still exists. Here, Montu is represented by the Buchis bull, which were buried in sacred vaults of the Bucheum near the Temple of Montu.
    In ancient times, Armant was part of the Palladium of Thebes, which was sacred land placed under the protection of Montu. This is an area consisting of Hermonthis, North Karnak, Medamud and Tod. According to Hugh Nibley, as a city along the Nile, was infested with large wild animals such as lions and crocodiles
    In the Land of Promise the Wilderness of Hermount is located to the north and west of the borders of Zarahemla. Whether or not this is located in the unnamed land between Zarahemla and Bountiful (Helaman 4:5; 3 Nephi 3:23), or in the Land of Bountiful, is not known, but it was in that rather wild area of which some of it was full of wild beasts. As Mormon wrote: “and it was that part of the wilderness which was infested by wild and ravenous beasts” (Alma 2:37). Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Hermounts was a large wilderness, not all of which had wild beasts in it, and it was into that part of the wilderness that the Lamanites and Amlicites fled where the wounded died of their battle inflictions and their bodies were eaten by the wild animals.
    From all of this we find that Hermounts is neither a Latin, Greek or Hebrew word, nor is it even a Semitic word, but evidently from the Egyptian, who was an extremely popular figure in Lehi’s day, to judge by the great frequency with which his name occurs in composition of proper names in various forms: Montu, Mendes, Menti, etc; it is the Book of Mormon Manti, next to Ammon, which, according to Hugh Nibley, the commonest name element in the Nephite onomasticon, or lexicon of names.”
 Wild and ravenous beasts in the desert include (left) hyenas and (right) cougars (or lions) as well as wild dogs
    As stated, Hermounts was a place that was overrun with wild beasts, Mormon even believed it necessary to add “ravenous beasts,” although that may only have been because of leading into the fact that the animals ate the bodies of the Lamanites.
    It is not likely that a single type of wild beast, such as a cougar, jaguar or lion, is involved here, but several varieties of carnivores, as is the case in most wild food chains, where several types of animals on the chain took their feast in the order of their ferocity, with the bigger first and the smaller last. The point is, this must have been a gruesome event that took some time to complete. When it says the bones were found and gathered, it is not likely this occurred at the same time, but much later after the animals had completely devoured their prey and left the area.


  1. I am more interested in determining which river was the river Sidon, and where the head of the river Sidon was. Priddis has interesting ideas about it, but I have never fully accepted them. When I look at each instance of the word "Sidon" in the Book of Mormon the river is clearly North-South, but the direction of the flow is not given. But since the head of the river Sidon clearly is put in the wilderness between the Nephites and Lamanites it only makes sense the river ran to the North. When I look at a map of the area, the Montaro (the Priddis choice) does seem the best choice, but it runs South. However, it joints other tributaries and collectively they eventually run North.

    So my question is: Was it common for Hebrews and/or Egyptians to name a river and include all its tributaries with the same name?


  3. Personally, I have stayed clear of this determination and will continue to do so until I can feel comfortable that the great destruction of mountains crumbling into valleys and valleys rising to mountains “whose height is great” did not affect the Sidon River. All common sense to me suggests that the Sidon River did not continue in its previous state after all of this destruction and drastic change in topography, rise of the Amazon drainage basin, etc. However, none of my extensive study on this has proven of any value in determining such an event. The only clue is that after 3 Nephi, the Sidon is mentioned only once, and not as a river, but as the “Waters of Sidon,” a term used three other times in the scriptural record, but one would expect it to be Sidon River in this case. Also, the Mantaro River has its headwaters or source to the north of Zarahemla in Lake Junin, not the south as the scriptures clearly state, and from there it runs south until joining the Apurimac and eventually the Ene—it is interesting that in this “fish hook” movement, it can be worked into the scriptural record descriptions as Priddis and Kocherhans clear did, but I am still not comfortable with that—the fact that it runs south past Zarahemla bothers me considerably. It is possible that the lowering and rising of mountains changed that source, but I have no way of verifying that at this time.

    1. My thinking is that "IF" the Mantaro AND the other tributaries were considered the same "river Sidon" then the fact that the head of the Mantaro tributary was elsewhere, the main head of the rivers together was in the South and the rivers collectively flowed to the North as expected.

      Since this was a succinct abridgment being written by Mormon, he may have determined to only use the name Sidon when talking about what actually was a river system with several tributaries.

  4. I've also wondered and tried to place the River Sidon. you make and interesting point about the naming erichard. Priddis makes good points about Mantaro, but as mentioned, it flows north to south. I've wondered if the Apurimac and Mantaro perhaps used to flow south to north before the uprising of the andes and together were the river sidon. But I never could come up with anything that seemed to fit. To my disappointment, I had to agree with Del that the river sidon must have been changed with the uprising of the andes and does not exist in it's prior form today.

  5. erichard: Sorry I didn't answer that earlier. Yes, in most cases the Ancients used one name for an entire river system; on the other hand, every person traveling might have had their own name for a specific segment of it. I would think, for whatever its worth, that the Sidon River mentioned in the scriptural record had onlly one name for its length as far as the recorders were concerned. What else it might have been known by to others is only a matter of speculation. Having said that, I still stress that before the Andes came up, there may have been a single river coming from the south that was a major source that flowed to the Sea East. If that was the case, and it was called Sidon, then it would have been altered when the East seacoast was drastically changed. On the other hand, a friend pointed out to me that the single bridge left standing obver the Mantaro south of Junin Lake is as described in Mormon's account to his satisfaction. So who knows? This is why I tend to stay clear of such singular answers of places that may or may not have been changed.