Sunday, February 3, 2013

Have the Remains of Mulek Been Found?

The following question was asked recently by a reader of this website, and this is the first chance I’ve had to answer it.
Question: “I recently visited the Republic of Panama and met a team of archaeologists who discovered the remains of Mulek. The information regarding the excavation and the artifacts can be found on the website regarding the ark of the covenant being discovered. Please let me know what your opinions are on this, I would really like to know for certain if this is an accurate investigation and if the findings do prove the history of the Book of Mormon” John D.
Response: All one can give is an opinion on this matter. First of all, the name Amulek shows up in the Book of Mormon as the Nephite who helped Alma in the city of Ammonihah; the name Mulek applies both to a man—Zarahemla who was a descendant of Mulek (Mosiah 25:2), and to a city along the eastern seashore that became a center of Lamanite-Nephite attacks, around 64 B.C. (Alma 51-53), and where missionary work by the sons of Helaman took place (Helaman 5:15). It is also reference to a land—the Land North was called Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah (Helaman 6:10, 8:21). So obviously, one of Zedekiah’s sons was spared the terrible fate his other sons encountered at the hands of Nehuchadnezzar.
Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., when King Zedekiah was only 32 years old, and Mulek, las the youngest, must have been one or two years of age
There is some thought that at the fall of Jerusalem, Mulek was little more than a baby or a very young child, and that his protectors spirited him away at a different time than when his father and family tried to escape towards the plains of Jericho and were captured by the Babylonians. Keep in mind that Zedekiah was 21 when made king in 597 B.C., and was captured in 588 B.C., at the age of 30. In those 9 years, and perhaps a couple of years before that, he would have had his “children” and “sons” mentioned in 2 Kings 25, thus the oldest would likely be no older than about 10 years old, and as young as 8.
So now we are left to wonder how these royal protectors managed to escape the destruction of Jerusalem at a time when the Babylonians were desirous of capturing all the royal household to make an example of their deaths for Zedekiah’s rebellion.
Most scholars suggest they sailed into the Mediterranean with Phoenician sailors, but the idea of Phoenician merchants agreeing to sail out into the Atlantic to a land beyond anywhere they had ever gone before is not very likely—ships cost money, and though the royal protectors might have had some, it is not likely they escaped from Jerusalem with enough to warrant merchants sailing to a land no one knew anything about—nor would they, as heathens, been impressed by what God told Mulek’s protectors.
The Babylonian Empire stretched throughout the Middle East from 700 B.C. to 300 B.C. They controlled the entire eastern Mediterranean coast from southern Turkey to the Sinai, and inland from the Sea to the desert and across the Fertile Crescent
In addition, the coastal areas from around the Sinai to as far north as southern Turkey was under Babylonian control, as was the entire northern approaches to Jerusalem, and to the east as far as the King’s Highway. Obviously, Mulek could only have headed south, maybe toward Egypt with whom Zedekiah had entered into an alliance, though Nehuchadnezzar had soundly defeated Pharoah Necho at Carchemish a few years earlier, and would likely have wanted to cut off that route to make sure none of the Jewish royal linage, or the Jews themselves, tried to escape to Egypt.
The only open path for escape would have been to the southeast, or toward the Red Sea near what is now the west Jordan border. It is far more likely that Mulek was spirited away by the hand of the Lord and, as such, he would have traveled in the only direction that would have been open to Jews at the time of the Babylonian siege and conquest—and that would be toward the Sea of Aqaba and along the Frankincense Trail into Saudi Arab along the eastern coast of the Red Sea. The exact same path Lehi took to escape the Jews who sought his life about eight years earlier.
It might be asked at this point why did the Lord want to save the young Mulek and those who traveled with him to the Land of Promise in the Western Hemisphere? Of course, we are not told, but perhaps it was to preserve a royal lineage of Judah, and bring Judah, Ephraim and Menassah into the Land of Promise.
Now, for where Mulek would have landed. Taking the same course as Lehi, the same winds and currents would have taken him to the same basic area as Lehi, that is along the coast of South America, somewhere between the first possible landing site, where Lehi landed (30º south latitude) to no farther north than say present day Lima, where the Humboldt Current (Peruvian Current) makes its furthest northward bend out into the Atlantic Ocean and along the South Pacific gyre, heading back toward the western Pacific.
This, of course, is only conjecture, since the scriptural record tells us nothing of Mulek’s travels and voyage. However, with the Babylonians in control over most of the eastern Mediterranean, the circumstances seem to warrant no other direction or method of travel, which determines the landing place in the Western Hemisphere as has been discussed thoroughly in regard to Lehi’s travels. Certainly, at Bountiful, the Mulek group would have found the same bounty of fruit, honey, and other food as did Lehi. And based on Lehi being at Bountiful for about two years while the ship was being built, no doubt crops would still be growing and harvestable because of the self-watering weather.
It is figured that the Ark, which was carried many times on the shoulders of four men (Ex. 25:14; Num. 7:9; Jos. 3:13; 4:16; 6:12; I Kgs. 2:26: I Chr. 15:15), weighed approximately 185 pounds. The dimensions of the Ark were 42.5 inches long x 25.5 inches wide x 25.5 inches high (Ex. 25:10), not counting the kapporet (cover)
Now, as for the Ark of the Covenant. Nothing is known about this most valuable relic of the Jewish faith after the Babylonians plundered the temple and destroyed it in 586 B.C. While there is no mention of the Ark’s whereabouts after the temple was destroyed in the books of Kings and Chronicles, the Greek 3rd Book of Esdras (Greek version of the Book of Ezra) states the Babylonians "...took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, and the ark of God, and the king's treasures, and carried them away into Babylon" (1 Esdras 1:54), while in Rabbinic Literature, the final disposition of the Ark is disputed. Some Rabbis hold that it must have been carried off to Babylon, while others hold that it must have been hidden lest it be carried off into Babylon and never brought back.
The looting and destruction of the temple by the Babylonians occurred in 586 B.C., and the location of the Ark of the Covenant after that event is unknown
Obviously, this leaves open the door for speculation and adventure. Suggesting Mulek took it with him to the Land of Promise is as good a story as any other. However, while Mulek was of the Judah royal family, the Ark is not a Western Hemisphere icon, but that of Israel. It seems unlikely that the Lord would have brought it to the Americas, when Judah is to inherit the area of Jerusalem, while the inheritance of Ehpraim and Menassah will be in the Western Hemisphere. Lastly, it must be asked how in the world would Mulek’s protectors have gotten the Ark out of the Holy of Holies in the temple and out of Jerusalem? The High Priest of the Temple would never had allowed that to happen, keeping faith that the Lord would protect Jerusalem against her enemies.
Of course, it could be argued that the High Priest was one of the retinue that came with Mulek, though it is most unlikely he would have vacated his most important post, at least until after the temple fell and was destroyed. By then, any escape from the city by such a group, especially carrying a temple relic of such size, would have been observed by the Babylonians, and undoubtedly never allowed to happen. Most likely, it was taken off to Babylonia, as it had been in an earlier time taken off by the Philistines.
Which brings us to the area of Panama. According to the drilling of the deep sea science ship Glomar Challenger, coring samples taken from both sides of the Isthmus of Panama have shown beyond a shadow of doubt, that the entire Panamanian Isthmus was under water and not connected to South America. My contention is that the isthmus rose out of the sea at the time of the destruction described in 3 Nephi, and was part of the cordillera that rose up, which we call the Andes, “whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23) as spoken of by Samuel the Lamanite.
On the other hand, many Nephites and Lamanites traveled northward in Hagoth’s ships around 53 B.C., and would have settled in Mesoamerica. It would not be surprising to find all sorts of Nephite references throughout Central America dating in the first few centuries A.D.
In short I cannot conceive of Mulek ever being in Panama, however, names, legends, and myths would circulate there over the time frame involved because of those going north in Hagoth’s ships. Consequently, there should be no mystery that the name of Mulek, Melek, etc., would show up in some form, it being both a name, a title, and a reference to royalty. However, this is not proof of the Book of Mormon except to the faithful.


  1. True, Panama was once under water, but a long long time before humans arrived. The Andes curve around Colombia and go into Venezuela were they shield Caracas from the sea, Caracas lies below sea level but two mountains lock the sea out, much as the Mediterranean sea was cut off at Gibraltar once. Let me remind you South America was populated with terrible birds, the mild rhea (Nandu) is the lone mild survivor today. but at the time of the emergence of Panama many ravenous carnivorous flightless birds move into the North and reached even Florida. At the same time other animals moved south, some fed on the eggs of these birds and contributed to their extinction. Among the animals moving south from north
    America were camelids, modern day Alpacas, LLamas, Guanacos and Vicuñas descend from them. Again, long, long before humans arrived (well except for Vicuñas which were breeded from preexisting camelids by humans. Mountains rose in Panama. of course and one may look on a map and see one continuous chain of mountains, but the Andes per end at Colombia; scientists today despite the exchange that happened at the time of Panama's rise recognize the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the limit between southern and northern plants and animals. Politically, of course, Panama is part of South America and was a province of Colombia until American intervention separated it from the mother country. The important thing here is that when humans first arrived here, Panama was much the same as what it was before the Canal was built. All scientific disciplines show incontrovertible proof that Panama was above water before and after the events of 3 Nephi, including archaeological studies. The Amazon river once discharged on the Pacific Ocean, and as the Andes rose the Argentine Patagonia dried out, the mouth of Amazon shifted North and finally was dammed and created an immense sweet water lake until the river broke into the Atlantic, the Amazon still reverts to a lake of more modest size during the raining season, it has fish that feed on trees, trees that survive the flood and actually give fruit through it, monkeys that have branched genetically by living on the cops of trees, sort of air islands formed during the flood. Of course humans have only seen these late events even though they have been in South America for a long time, depending on who you consult may have been there for 50,000 years, more likely 32,000 years (including at Monte Verde but this is being kept quite so as not to offend the sensibilities of North American archaeologists, definitely 15,000 years ago. If you are familiar with the materials you'll know there was substantial exchange between South America and Mesoamerica, and continuous movement thru the Caribbean into the South Eastern United States. If you're able to read Spanish in addition to the corpus of ethnographic records in English, you can see movements not only during the period of the Book of Mormon but also and shortly at the closure of it, there are memories and archaeological evidence of peoples having what appears to be a Mesoamerican culture moving into (the archaeological Province of) Peru, interacting on the coast first and then with great success in the highlands, specially around Lake Titicaca. One can also movements towards the Pacific and into Mesoamerica, like the Huarpes of Tehuantepec. If Panama had surged from the sea during great storm and earthquake, the catastrophe will be clearly evident and none of the animal and plant movements on record whould have been possible, also life on the Oceans at both sides of Panama would not be that different, nor would the need to keep species from one side invade the other at the Canal, be so urgent.

  2. In Panama archeologists discovered the Ark of the Covenant in a ancient tomb of Cacique El Quibían Malchia.
    See the first footage of the Ark of the Covenant found in Panama