The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 10:2 Giddonah (Gidanah)?:
In 1999, the Zarahemla Research Foundation (RLDS) finished an exhaustive review of all known manuscripts and editions of the Book of Mormon in order to restore the text "to its purity." The result was the Restored Covenant Edition of the Book of Mormon. One of their "restorations" involves the proper name "Giddonah" (Alma 10:2), which they have changed to read "Gidanah." [Zarahemla Research Foundation, "Selected Concordance" in The Book of Mormon: Restored Covenant Edition, p. 900]
Note* This must be considered tentative subject to the verification of Royal Skousen, director of the Book of Mormon manuscript project, who will not comment at this time relative to such changes. [Personal communication, 11/22/1999]
Alma 10:2 Aminadi:
According to John Tvedtnes, despite the paucity of genealogical details in the Book of Mormon, clearly the people were very concerned about their tribal affiliation. For example, Book of Mormon personal names containing such Semitic patronymic elements as Abi- ("father") and Ami- ("paternal kinsman/clan") fit the biblical pattern and are evidence for a strong patrilineal kinship system. Note the names "Abinadi" (Mosiah 11:20), "Abinadom" (Omni 1:10), "Aminadab" (Helaman 5:39), and "Aminadi" (Alma 10:2). [John A. Tvedtnes, "Book of Mormon Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 297]
Alma 10:2 Aminadi Who Interpreted the Writing Which Was upon the Wall of the Temple:
Amulek had an ancestor named Aminadi, a descendant of Nephi, "who interpreted writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God" (Alma 10:2). Who was this man and when did this happen? According to Verneil Simmons, the only mention of this dramatic story is the above reference.
In the Bible account of a similar story told in the book of Daniel (Daniel 5), the finger of the Lord writing on the wall of the palace spelled doom and destruction to the king of Babylon and his kingdom. Did the Lord warn the Nephites at the temple in the City of Nephi by a similar method, that destruction was imminent? When Mormon wrote the words of Amulek he apparently felt no further need to explain them. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places And Prophecies, p. 161]
Note* The reader should note that there is a connection between the sudden destruction of the kingdom of Babylon as forseen in Daniel 5, and the prophecies of Alma and Amulek concerning the sudden destruction of the city of Ammonihah. (Alma 10:20-27; 16:1-11). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 10:2 Writing on the Wall of the Temple:
According to Daniel Ludlow, in Amulek's introduction, he mentions he is "the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi . . . who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God" (Alma 10:2). This is the only time Aminadi is mentioned, and our present Book of Mormon gives no further details concerning the writing upon the wall of the temple written by the finger of God. Evidently an account of this incident was recorded on the large plates of Nephi, but Mormon did not include it in his abridgment. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 198]
Alma 10:3 Lehi . . . Who Was a Descendant of Mannasseh:
According to Daniel Ludlow, in further identifying himself, Amulek mentioned that his forefather Aminadi "was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi . . . who was a descendant of Manasseh who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt . . ." (Alma 10:3). Earlier in the Book of Mormon it mentioned that Lehi was a descendant of Joseph (1 Nephi 5:14). However, Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and this is the first time the Book of Mormon indicates that Lehi was a descendant of Joseph's eldest son, Manasseh. Some students of the Book of Mormon have wondered how descendants of Joseph were still living in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. when most members of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were taken into captivity by the Assyrians about 721 B.C. A scripture in 2 Chronicles may provide a clue to this problem. This account mentions that in about 941 B.C. Asa, the king of the land, gathered together at Jerusalem all of Judah and Benjamin "and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh" (2 Chronicles 15:9). These "strangers . . . out of Ephraim and Manasseh" who were gathered to Jerusalem in approximately 941 B.C. may have included the forefathers of Lehi and Ishmael. Concerning the fact that Ishmael was also a descendant of Joseph, Elder Erastus Snow has said:
Whoever has read the Book of Mormon carefully will have learned that the remnants of the house of Joseph dwelt upon the American continent; and that Lehi learned by searching the records of his fathers that were written upon the plates of brass, that he was of the lineage of Manasseh. The prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi, was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgement is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis, which says: "And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the land." Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla and found by Mosiah--thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah, and for aught we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek. And such have grown upon the American continent. (Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, pp. 184-185)
[Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 198-199]
Alma 10:5 I Mistake:
In Alma 10:5, Amulek says:
Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
According to Brant Gardner, this verse is a challenge to understand. Amulek makes a statement, then directly contradicts it, noting "I mistake." What is going on? There are two possible explanations:
(1) The first is that he made a slip of the tongue. While this is possible, it is not likely because this is a recorded discourse. Such a slip would not have been worth recording in the first place, let alone on metal plates.
(2) The second explanation is that Amulek intended to make this contrast. Amulek is speaking before a group of people who know him, a fact he is counting on and which led to the particular introduction he used with them. He also explained to them in the next verse that he was not a particularly faithful follower of the Nephite religion. So what he is doing here is setting up a contrast that will catch the attention of the crowd. His first statements are ones that they expect from their knowledge of him, that is, that he "never [has] known much of the ways of the Lord." When he immediately halts this message with "I mistake," the audience is caught unexpectedly. Once he has their attention, he now declares that even though he denied what he saw, the evidence for the ways of the Lord were all around him in the preservation of his people.
This reference to seeing the ways of the Lord around him sets up a very important basis for his discourse. He will tell his audience that just as he could have seen all of the evidence around him, but had not, so too they will be able to see when they repent and then their eyes will be opened to the ways of the Lord. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/ Alma/Alma10.htm, pp. 2-3]
Alma 10:7 A Very Near Kindred:
Amulek introduces the circumstances of his vision by saying that he was journeying to see "a very near kindred" (Alma 10:7). In a society based on kinship relations, it is possible that there is a specific meaning to this term. In other words, a "very near kindred" would be contrasted to a "distant" kindred. We find a possible model for these terms in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language. Carrasco has studied the Nahuatl kinship terms, and indicates that the system made distinctions between lineal and collateral kin. The term uecapan ("distant") is used to mark the collateral kin.37 Thus it is possible that the language of Amulek had a similar marker that would mark the "distant" relatives as well as a marker for a "very near kindred."
It is also interesting that Amulek is "journeying" to visit a very near kindred. This brings up another point of kinship relations. Perhaps one of the reasons for the political ties between cities in the Book of Mormon was that there were lineage connections. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma10.htm, p. 4]
Alma 10:11 Mine House:
In Alma 10:11, Amulek refers to Alma's blessing: "he hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed."
According to Brant Gardner, this blessing gives the reader an interesting picture of how Amulek perceives his kinship lines. While the information is not detailed we can still make some inferences:
(1) We have a structural division in the sentence (a semi-colon) that seems to separate a list of specific kin from the generic "all my kindred."
(2) The sentence seems to progress from a specific individual ("me") to the largest and most inclusive category of kindred ("all my kindred").
Thus it is quite possible that the term "mine house" is direct for the first set of terms ("me," "my women," "my children," "my father," "my kinsfolk"), and indirect for the second extended set ("all my kindred").
It is important to pull apart the sentence because there are terms and relationships that are important for kin relationships. The first is "my house." Kin based societies frequently live in compounds where related family members live. There are excellent materials that allow anthropologists to have a picture of some Aztec households close to the time of the Conquest. For the Aztecs, the "family" was termed "techan tlaca" or "the people of one's house." One account from 1580 indicates that houses typically contained six or seven married couples besides unmarried youth.38 Living areas containing multiple buildings are a common feature of the archaeological sites of the Maya, dating to the time period of the Book of Mormon. A simple example is the site of Salinas La Blanca.39 Thus when Amulek speaks of Alma blessing his "house" and then lists specific peoples, we are justified in assuming that these are people that are living in the same "house," which would mean the entire dwelling area, not a single structure. Clearly Amulek is the head of the household, listing himself first, then "my women," "my children," my father," and "my kinsfolk."
In the second part of Alma's blessing on Amulek, it is quite possible that the defining phrase, "all my kindred" is not as ill defined as we consider it in a modern society. Among the Aztecs, there were certain penalties that could be applied to all of ones relatives.40 For a penalty to be assessed upon all of ones relatives, there had to be a definition of what "all" meant, and it was either to the fifth or the fourth generation, depending upon the source.41 Although the Aztecs are a different language and time, it is probable that the same necessities of defining a maximum kin group would also have dictated Amulek's concepts of what "all my kindred" might mean. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/ LDStopics/Alma/ Alma10.htm, pp. 5-6]
Alma 10:11 He Hath Blessed Me, and My Women:
According to John Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic . . . The Hebrew word used for wife really means woman. In three Book of Mormon passages, the word women appears to mean wives: (1 Nephi 17:1; 17:20; Alma 10:11). In Alma 10:11 we read, "For behold, he hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed." [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 91]
Note* If this is true, then had Amulek been married more than once? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes
Alma 10:12 The People Began to Be Astonished:
It is interesting that in response to the sermons of Amulek and Alma on Christ and the atonement, the people of Ammonihah:
1. "began to be astonished" (Alma 10:12)
2. "began again to be astonished" (Alma 11:46)
3. "began to be more astonished" (Alma 12:19)
Saying something three times in Hebrew symbolically represents the superlative, which means that the people of Ammonihah were the most astonished they could be at the message of Christ delivered by Amulek and Alma. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 10:15 These Lawyers Were Learned in All the Arts and Cunning of the People:
Mormon writes that the lawyers at Ammonihah were educated men. They were "learned in all the arts and cunning of the people" (Alma 10:15). According to Brant Gardner, this definition appears to be quite parallel to the New Testament "lawyers" who were the scribes, or the ones with the ability to read and write, and therefore ones who had unique access to the law. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Ammonihah lawyers were also some type of scribe.
If that is the case, then the Maya scribe may have held a position paralleling these lawyers in Ammonihah. The recent translation of many of the Maya glyphs has led to tremendous new understanding of Maya history, including the ability to learn more about named individuals. From such inscriptions we learn that the Maya scribe was a member of the elite rank of society. There is one case where, by reading hieroglyphs as well as pictures, a pot-painter can be identified as a child of a seated ruler of Naranjo.42 As elites with specialized skills, the Maya scribes would have had a particular niche in society, analogous to the scribes of later Jerusalem in their knowledge of law through their ability to read and write, but with perhaps an even greater social standing. If lawyers at Ammonihah had any conceptual parallels with the Maya scribes, then it was not surprising that they were the ones to defend the status quo, and speak out against Alma and Amulek. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/ ~nahualli/LDStopics/ Alma/Alma10.htm, p. 9]
Alma 10:19 Well Did Mosiah Say . . .:
In Alma 10:19 Amulek recalls some words from Mosiah, introducing them with the preface, "Well did Mosiah say." The words are a paraphrase and read:
"if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction."
The precise quote is found in Mosiah 29:27:
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.
According to Brant Gardner, by using these words of Mosiah, Amulek has strengthened his accusation against the lawyers. He correctly assumes that the lawyers represent the "voice of the people." The reader must be aware that the "voice of the people" was quite different from a "one man, one vote" type of democracy. It was most likely an opinion rendered by clan heads, and in the case of Ammonihah, the elite would have had a greater voice than the commoners. The lawyers, as representatives of the elite range of society would have been directly responsible for the way the voice of the people dictated law. In Ammonihah, it was apparently the order of Nehor that controlled the voice of the people, and the lawyers were certainly part of that order. Amulek is quite correct in laying the blame for Ammonihah's destruction at the feet of the lawyers, and by extension the other elite who supported the order of Nehor. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/ LDStopics/Alma/Alma10.htm, pp. 10-11]
Alma 10:20 By the Voice of His Angels:
Allen & David Richardson and Anthony Bentley note that just as the Hebrew language uses plural nouns where the English language would call for singular nouns, the Hebrew uses singular nouns where English would prefer the plural. The Book of Mormon demonstrates its authenticity by employing such reversals in number. For example, we see singular-for-plural nouns as: "by the voice of his angels" (Alma 10:20, "by the mouth of his holy prophets" (2 Nephi 9:2), and "with the tongue of angels" (2 Nephi 31:13; 32:2).
Andrew B. Davidson states that: "Words such as hand, head, mouth, tongue and voice are generally used in Hebrew in the singular form when the word is common to a number of persons. In English we would use the plural form."43 (Cited in Angela Crowell, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon," p. 5.) [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson, and Anthony E. Bentley, Voice from the Dust-500 Evidences Supporting the Book of Mormon, p. 266]
Alma 10: 31 There Was One among Them Whose Name Was Zeezrom:
In Alma and Amulek's preaching to the people in Ammonihah, "there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom" who was "the foremost to accuse them." He was a lawyer whose object was "to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ" (Alma 10:30-32). With respect to the name Zeezrom, Gordon Thomasson hypothesizes that in order to facilitate editorial condensation of the Nephite records, Mormon used a process of metonymic naming wherein he substituted a symbolically "loaded" name for the actual personal name of a given individual.
Metonymy or metonymic naming involves "naming by association," a metaphoric process in this case of linking a concept and a person together in such a way as to tell us more about the person by means of what we already know about the former.
It is intriguing that almost immediately after Zeezrom enters into the Nephite record, we find a seeming digression from the topic of the text in a complex discussion of Nephite weights and units of measure and equivalents. Conspicuous among the names of the units of value given is that of an ezrom (Alma 11:6, 12). It is a quantity of silver. Then immediately after the discussion of money we find the topic returning to the man who was called Zeezrom. This name appears to be a compound of the word Ze, which we can translate "This is an" as a prefix, and the word ezrom. Zeezrom proceeds to offer 10.5 ezrom of silver to Alma and Amulek if they would deny their testimonies. Because Zeezrom was a lawyer of dubious repute, one who today might be called a "bag-man" or a "fixer," that is, one who offers bribes of money, apparently Mormon gave him the name Zeezrom after-the-fact (or metonymically) in order to fit his lifestyle. Besides linking him with his actions, the name links him into a typological complex with those who would sell their signs and tokens for money. It should be noted that Judas betrayed or sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver. [Gordon C. Thomasson, "What's in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic] Naming," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Volume 3, Number 1 (Spring 1994), pp. 8, 10, 15-16]
Alma 10:32 Now the Object of These Lawyers Was to Get Gain:
Brant Gardner notes that in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon there is no chapter break between Alma 10:32 and Alma 11:1. Apparently, the exchange with Zeezrom was originally seen as an essential part of the inserted discourse, and it was intended to be read as a whole. Verse 32 should not have been the splitting point between chapters. Verse 32 is the introduction to a complete section that ends in chapter 11. When this verse is read, it should be read in conjunction with verses 1-21 of Alma 11. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/Alma10.htm, p. 14]