Mosiah 25

 

Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah


 

 

Mosiah 25:2 So Many of the Children of Nephi, or So Many of Those Who Were Descendants of Nephi:

 

     Mormon seems to make an effort in Mosiah 25:2 to distinguish actual "children of Nephi" or "descendants of Nephi" from those people who were politically considered as children of Nephi or who were generally referred to as "Nephites." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mosiah 25:2 A Descendant of Mulek:

 

     According to research primarily by Robert Smith and Benjamin Urrutia, biblical scholars have recently had interesting things to say about a person named Malchiah. Jeremiah 38:6 speaks of a "dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech . . . in the court of the prison." But the Hebrew name here, MalkiYahu ben-hamMelek, should be translated "MalkiYahu, son of the king," the Hebrew work melek meaning "king."

     Was this MalkiYahu a son of King Zedekiah? Several factors indicate that he was. For one thing, the title "son of the king" was used throughout the ancient Near East to refer to actual sons of kings who served as high officers of imperial administration. The same is certainly true of the Bible, in which kings' sons ran prisons (see 1 Kings 22:26-27; Jeremiah 36:26; 38:6) or performed other official functions (see 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 28:7). Moreover, in view of the fact that the name MalkiYahu has been found on two ostraca from Arad (in southern Judah), the late head of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Yohanan Aharoni, said that "Malkiyahu is a common name and was even borne by a contemporary son of King Zedekiah."

     But was this MalkiYahu the same person as "Mulek" referred to in Mosiah 25:2? Study of these names tells us he may very well be. [Robert F. Smith, Benjamin Urrutia, and John W. Welch, "New Information About Mulek, Son of the King," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 143-144]

     According to Warren and Palmer, about 600 B.C. there was considerable shortening of names. For example, Jeremiah's scribe BerekYahu went by the short form of Baruch (Biblical Archaeologist, 42:114-118). Similarly Malkiyahu could have been shortened to Mulek. Indeed, mulk appears in Ugaritic and Phoenician, meaning "royal" or "princely sacrifice." In Arabic, the word is Molek, and means "reign, sovereignty, dominion." Amorites used Muluk and the Eblaites used Malik. The famous Near Eastern scholar William F. Albright has commented that "U and O are hardly distinguished in most Semitic languages." It is also relevant that in the Mayan language there was a hieroglyph for the word "Muluk." [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, unpublished]

     It is interesting that Mulek appears as Muloch in the Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon and as Mulok (p. 207) in printed editions from 1830 to 1852, then became Mulek. [Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, Vol. 2: Mosiah-Alma, F.A.R.M.S., p. 483]

     One might, incidentally, be led to compare this with Mayan Muluc, the red-Bacab of the East, whom David H. Kelley correlates with "blood" and "devourer of children." ("Calendar Animals and Deities," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 16 (1960): 317-37). [Robert F. Smith, Benjamin Urrutia, and John W. Welch, "New Information About Mulek, Son of the King," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 144]

     It was recently reported that the main Emblem Glyph for Yaxchilan (a Mayan archaeological site on the Usumacinta river) is the sign known as MULUC. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 1, pp. 41-45] [See the commentary on Omni 1:16]

 

Mosiah 25:2 A Descendant of Mulek:

 

     Who was this "Mulek" referred to in Mosiah 25:2? According to an article by John Sorenson, Mormons have always maintained interest in Bible scriptures which prophesy of the Book of Mormon; yet one Old Testament passage has been strangely neglected, although Orson Pratt noted its meaning long ago. This neglected passage is a prophecy by Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet who lived at the same time as Lehi; however in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and transported ten thousand captives (including Ezekiel) to Babylon. Thus, the future of the house of Judah (and of the new reigning King Zedekiah) was part of Ezekiel's prophetic message. In the 17th chapter of Ezekiel, verse 22 we read:

     "Thus saith the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent.

     Now, as Ezekiel looked ahead prophetically, he figuratively described a stately cedar tree, representing the royal house of Judah, and what was to befall it. A child of Zedekiah, the king, was to be "cropped" from the family tree and "planted" in another land. The evidence that this "tender twig" was Mulek of the Book of Mormon is made more convincing by a revealing play on words involving his name. If we read the name as muleq (with a final letter goph), the meaning would become "to break off, nip off." To the Semitic mind with its love of word play this situation would be perfect. The faithful followers of Prince Mulek would have been reminded at every mention of his name that he was both their king and also the plucked-off twig of Ezekiel's prophecy. Mulek could in this way remain a symbol of prophecy fulfilled in the grim fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., as well as a symbol of prophetic promise in the transplanting of Judah's ruling house to another land. [John L. Sorenson, "Bible Prophecies of the Mulekites," reprinted by F.A.R.M.S. from A Book of Mormon Treasury, 1976.]

     According to Verneil Simmons, more than a hundred years earlier (than Ezekiel), the prophet Isaiah had brought a prophecy concerning some who should escape of the house of Judah:

           "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this." (Isaiah 37:31,32 -- italics added)

 

     The Revised Standard Bible says it thus: ". . . and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors." Some of the house of Judah were to escape; furthermore, they were to come from Mount Zion, the home of Judah's kings. David had built his palace on Mount Zion and it was the symbol of national rule. (The Temple was built on Mount Moriah.) This remnant should take root and bear fruit, and the Lord was to be responsible for the matter. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 90]

 

Mosiah 25:2 Mulek:

 

     According to Mosiah 25:2, "there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness." According to Hugh Nibley, these people called themselves the Mulekites, the Mulekiah, which means "the king people" . . . The word malek is "king"; but the word mulek [mulaik] means "dear little king." It's a caritative and it's a diminutive. The Mulekites were the people who had the little king with them; they were rather proud of that. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 6] [See the commentary on Omni 1:15]

 

Mosiah 25:2 Zarahemla, Who Was a Descendant of Mulek, and Those Who Came with Him:

 

     According to John Sorenson, two readings make equal sense in the reading of the phrase "Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him" (Mosiah 25:2). If the comma after "Mulek" was inserted correctly (initially by the printing crew, who did most of the punctuation for the first English edition), then the meaning would be that the "Mulekites" consisted of people whose ancestors included both Mulek and others, "those who came with him." But an alternative reading would be possible if the comma after "Mulek" should be omitted; in that case, Zarahemla himself would be represented as descended from both Mulek and others of Mulek's party. Sorenson takes the former meaning and supposes that other groups than Zarahemla's coexisted with them (though apparently not at the capital, the city of Zarahemla). According to Sorenson, this may be part of the reason the man Zarahemla is nowhere called king--because he had political authority only over one of those groups springing from the Mulek party and that one very localized. Consequently a lesser title--something like "chief"--would have fitted him better. [John Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?" in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Fall 1992, F.A.R.M.S., p. 15]

 

Mosiah 25:4 They Gathered Together in Two Bodies:

 

     According to Michael Hobby, it would be naive to believe that a city of Mulekites were all taught Hebrew by the command of Mosiah1, and that thereafter, they all lived happily ever after speaking Hebrew. As any student of language knows, one does not abandon his native tongue. And, as the mastery of a second tongue represents a great deal of very hard work, immigrants are slow to tackle the problem. Even if enough of a second language is mastered to enable basic communication in the market place, the language at home continues to be the mother tongue. Segregation virtually assures that language alienation will persist until later generations have been taught the new language throughout lower education, and become bilingual.

     When Mosiah2 desired the record of Zeniff to be read, the Mulekites and the Nephites were gathered into segregated language groups to have the record read aloud in both languages. In addition to language segregation, we have to wonder if this segregation also applied to the areas where they lived. When Mosiah1 and his people happened upon the people of Zarahemla, did the Nephites have to establish residences in a different section of the populated area than that already filled with Mulekite residences? [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, pp. 26-27]

 

Mosiah 25:6 He Also Read the Account of Alma and His Brethren . . . from the Time They Left the Land of Zarahemla until the Time They Returned Again:

 

     In Mosiah 25:6, Mormon says, "And [Mosiah2] also read the account of Alma and his brethren, and all their afflictions, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again." Does this mean that Alma1 was part of Zeniff's original party? Did Alma's account represent a firsthand report? In other words, should the phrase "from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again" be taken literally so that "Alma and his brethren" would have been some of the original members of Zeniff's party? The question is one of chronology and has to do with the amount of time Zeniff's group stayed in the land of Nephi. According to Donald A. Cazier, the question could be asked, "Since Alma and his followers were presumably born in the land of Nephi and had never been to Zarahemla, how is this matter reconciled? A first possibility is that the phrase ‘Alma and his brethren’ includes the group's ancestors as well as all who were ever part of the colonization effort. It is likely that Alma would have included in his history some mention of Zeniff's exodus from Zarahemla, even if he had not been part of it, since Alma was such a meticulous record keeper. (See Mosiah 17:4) So in that collective sense, the passage poses no problem. . . . A second possibility is that Alma and other members of his group did originally come from the land of Zarahemla." [Donald A. Cazier, "I Have a Question," The Ensign, August, 1992, p. 61]

       In order to arrive at a more definitive conclusion, it is wise to assess just when it was that Zeniff departed from the land of Zarahemla and when Alma1 returned:

     A. We can trace backward from the death of Alma1 to his birthdate, and then trace forward to his call as a priest of Noah (A1). From there we can approximate how long it was before Alma1 fled to the waters of Mormon and how long it was before the death of Noah (A2).

     B. In order to get Zeniff's departure date (ZDD), we can start with when Noah was killed (A2), then we can subtract the estimated length of reigns for both Zeniff (B1) and Noah (B2).

     C. We can establish the total time that Zeniff's colony was gone (TT) by calculating the difference between Zeniff's estimated departure date and Alma's estimated arrival date (A1AD), which can be coordinated with Ammon's departure date (ADD) and Ammon and Limhi's arrival date back in the land of Zarahemla (ALAD).

 

Part A1: From the death of Alma1 backward to his birth and forward to being Noah's priest:

Year      (Years Since Lehi Left Jerusalem)

510      Alma1 dies at age 82 (Mosiah 29:45) (Assuming the date cited in Mosiah 29:46 pertains to the same      year) Thus:

428      Alma1 is born      Then:

458      Alma1 is appointed a priest of Noah. [A1] (We will assume that Alma was appointed a priest of Noah

           at the age of 30 -- see the commentary on Mosiah 17:2)

 

Part A2: The death of Noah:

 

     Assuming that Alma1 was a priest and 30 years old when Abinadi first "went forth" among the people of Noah (Mosiah 11:20). Thus, Alma would have been 32 years old when Abinadi came the second time "after the space of two years" (Mosiah 12:1). We will assume that it took about one to two years (see the commentary on Mosiah 18:3) for: (1) Alma to write the words of Abinadi (Mosiah 17:4); (2) Alma to gather a "goodly number" to preach to at the Waters of Mormon (Mosiah 18:7); (3) Noah's men to be sent to destroy him (Mosiah 18:33 -- see also the commentary on Mosiah 18:32); and (4) the Lamanites to invade (Mosiah 19:6), and Noah to flee and be burned to death (Mosiah 19:11,20). Thus:

 

462      Alma1 was probably 34 in the year 462 when Noah was killed. [A2]

 

Part B1: The length of Zeniff's reign:

 

     Zeniff reigned for a twelve-year period: "after we had dwelt in the land for the space of twelve years . . . king Laman began to grow uneasy" (Mosiah 9:11). In the thirteenth year there was war (Mosiah 9:14). Zeniff then notes that "we did inherit the land of our fathers for many years, yea, for the space of twenty and two years" (Mosiah 10:3). Zeniff also notes that "we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years" (Mosiah 10:5). Afterward there was a war with the Lamanites in which Zeniff's people drove them out of Lehi-Nephi (Mosiah 10:6-21). Thus:

 

     Zeniff reigned for 12 + 1? + 22 + 1? = 34-36 years = 35 years. [B1]

 

Part B2: The length of Noah's reign:

 

     The kingdom was conferred on Noah (Mosiah 11:1), and he reigned for enough years to: (1) "commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness" (Mosiah 11:2); (2) lay taxes (Mosiah 11:3); (3) change "the affairs of the kingdom" (Mosiah 11:4); (4) build "many elegant and spacious buildings" (Mosiah 11:8); (5) build "a spacious palace" (Mosiah 11: 9); (6) build a "tower near the temple" and "a great tower . . . on the hill north of the land of Shilom" (Mosiah 11:12,13); (7) have Abinadi prophesy, flee, and reappear in 2 years for imprisonment and trial (Mosiah 11:20; 12:1).

     If we assume it only took Noah from 10 to 20 years to do all these things, and that Noah was at least 30 years of age when he was made king (see the example of Mosiah2 -- Mosiah 6:4), then Noah would have been 50 years of age at his death. Under these circumstances, if Limhi was born when Noah was 20, then Limhi would have been 30 when the people made him their king upon Noah's death (see Mosiah 19:26). Thus:

 

     Noah reigned for 20 years. [B2]

 

Zeniff's Departure Date (ZDD):

 

     From the estimated year that Noah was killed (year 462) we can subtract the estimated time for the reign of Noah (20 years), and also subtract the estimated time for the reign of Zeniff (35 years). These calculations bring us to the year 407, or the estimated year in which Zeniff returned to the land of Nephi. Year      (Years Since Lehi Left Jerusalem)

407      Zeniff leaves Zarahemla for the land of Nephi. (ZDD)

 

     What was the total time that Zeniff's colony was gone? The total time can be obtained by calculating the difference between the departure date of Zeniff and the arrival of Alma1 in Zarahemla. This can be coordinated with the departure of Ammon:

 

     Ammon's Departure Date (ADD): According to the commentary on Mosiah 17:4, Ammon's departure date from the land of Zarahemla was about the year 480 (see commentary).

     Ammon and Limhi's Arrival Date (ALAD): According to the commentary on Mosiah 17:4, the arrival of Ammon and Limhi in the land of Zarahemla was about the year 480 (see commentary).

     Alma1's Arrival Date (A1AD): According to the commentary on Mosiah 17:4, the arrival of Alma1 in the land of Zarahemla was about the year 481 (see commentary).

     Thus, the total time (TT) Zeniff's colony was gone was about 74 years (481 minus 407 = 74)

Zeniff's reign = 35 years

Noah's reign = 20 years

Limhi's reign = 18 years

Alma's time in bondage = 1 year

 

       According to this estimated chronology and in response to the original question, Alma1 would not have been part of Zeniff’s original group because he was born in the year 428 and Zeniff left in the year 407.

 

     According to the estimated chronology noted in the commentary on Omni 1:12, Mosiah1 fled from the land of Nephi to go to the land of Zarahemla near the year 398. Zeniff returned to Lehi-Nephi in the year 407 after a stay of some nine years in the land of Zarahemla. Amaleki was born about the year 406 and would have been only a few years old when Zeniff left, and Amaleki's brother who went with Zeniff (Omni 1:30) would have been an older brother, maybe about 18 or 20 years old at the time he left. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A]

 

Mosiah 25:12 They [the Children of Amulon] Took upon Themselves the Name of Nephi:

 

     Mosiah 25:12 says the following: "And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi."

     Who were these children of Amulon? And why did they take upon themselves the name of Nephi? This passage of scripture is quite confusing and has been misinterpreted by many but is very culturally significant.

     Because this passage alludes to the "daughters of the Lamanites," some have assumed that the "children of Amulon" mentioned in this verse were the offspring of those marriages (see Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:290 quoted on page 82 of the Book of Mormon Student Manual for Religion 121 and 122). However, there is not one verse in the Book of Mosiah or the Book of Alma which alludes to the conversion of any of those offspring. In Mosiah 23:35 it says that "Amulon and his brethren did join the Lamanites." Mosiah 23:39 says that "the king of the Lamanites granted unto Amulon that he should be a king and a ruler over his people, who were in the land of Helam (where Alma was). And Mosiah 24:8 says that "Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children." Thus, it is improbable that the children of Amulon referred to here (the offspring of Lamanite mothers) would have become part of Alma's group in its flight to Zarahemla.

     On the other hand, Mosiah 20:3 talks about the original flight of the priests of Noah, over whom Amulon was leader. It says, "and now the priests of king Noah, being ashamed to return to the city of Nephi, yea, and also fearing that the people would slay them, therefore they durst not return to their wives and their children."

     Thus, we have to conclude that the "children of Amulon" who "took upon themselves the name of Nephi" were the ones originally left behind by the priests of Noah with the people at the city of Nephi, and were part of those who made their way with Ammon and Limhi to the land of Zarahemla.

     But if this is so, then why did they feel it necessary to take upon themselves the name of Nephi? Weren't Amulon and his brethren descended from Zeniff's group? And weren't the members of Zeniff's group originally considered Nephites before they left the land of Zarahemla to return to Lehi-Nephi? If the members of Zeniff's group were Nephites before they left, why wouldn't they be Nephites when they returned?

     There are a number of possibilities here. First, there is no certainty that Zeniff's group was made up entirely of Nephites. Mosiah 9:3 just says that Zeniff "collected as many as were desirous to go up to possess the land." Second, the land of Lehi-Nephi into which Zeniff's group settled might have been culturally diverse. When Mosiah1 originally fled, it says that he only took "as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord" (Omni 1:12). What happened to those "Nephites" who remained? Perhaps they were still there when Zeniff returned. Third, when the scriptures say that the children of Amulon "took upon themselves the name of Nephi," are we talking about a cultural name, a political name, or a spiritual name? Mosiah 25:12 might be saying that "the children of Amulon" submitted to the proper spiritual and legal authority that existed in the land of Zarahemla.

     Whatever the answer, the importance of this passage lies in the multicultural possibilities that lie hidden in the Book of Mormon narrative. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mosiah 25:13 All the People of Zarahemla Were Numbered with the Nephites:

 

     Mormon makes an interesting cultural note in Mosiah 25:13 that "all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites." The reader should note that just previously in the narrative Ammon, the leader of the expedition to find the descendants of Zeniff's colony in Lehi-Nephi, was distinctly described as a "descendant of Zarahemla" (Mosiah 7:3). Thus, the numbering of the people of Zarahemla with the Nephites was apparently more political than cultural. This is brought out in the end of verse 13, which says that this numbering was "because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

Mosiah 25:13 The Kingdom Had Been Conferred upon None but Those Who Were Descendants of Nephi:

 

     Why was it necessary for Mormon to note that "the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi" (Mosiah 25:13)? The full verse says, "and now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi." According to Michael Hobby, there is no recorded Mulekite insurrection in defiance of this imposed Nephite "right-to-rule" during the reigns of Mosiah1, his son Benjamin, or Mosiah2, although there are numerous references to contention among the people, some of which may have been due to this seeming abrogation, and the segregation in which they lived. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 33] [For further discussion on Nephite rule see the commentary on Mosiah 29:39] [See the commentary on Mosiah 9:1]

 

Mosiah 25:19,23 There Were Seven Churches [Established by Alma1] in the Land of Zarahemla:

 

     According to Mosiah 25:19, "king Mosiah granted to Alma that he might establish churches throughout all the [greater?] land of Zarahemla." Why were churches being "established" (apparently for the first time)? When Mosiah1 had originally come to the land of Zarahemla he was "warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi" (Omni 1:12)? Furthermore, in Omni 1:13 Amaleki says that Mosiah1 "did according as the Lord had commanded him. . . . and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm." Benjamin had been visited by "an angel of God" and personally chose his son Mosiah to be his successor and one "whom the Lord our God hath given us" (Mosiah 1:10). Why then did Alma1 not only feel the need to establish churches, but seven churches?

     Concerning the need to establish a church, Daniel Peterson notes that early Nephite priesthood was mediated and given structure through family and clan organization, rather than through an as yet unfounded church. Keeping this in mind, and being aware of this Nephite priest-king order of priesthood and government, it is striking that the small plates of Nephi do not record a single reference to any church actually existing in the New World, despite the fact that the small plates cover nearly the first five centuries of Nephite history. (It is not until Mosiah 18:17 that we find the "church of God" being set up by Alma1) [Daniel C. Peterson, "Priesthood in Mosiah," in The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only through Christ, pp. 188, 200]

     Under Nephite kingship rule, the king was both the governmental leader and the ecclesiastical leader. Worship was temple oriented, and family oriented. Because of this "chosen people" manner of existence, by the reigns of both King Benjamin and King Noah, three things happened: (1) The Mulekites in the land of Zarahemla started to get disenchanted with the fact that the kingly decisions and the order of his worship were only being allowed to the Nephites (see Mosiah 25:13; see also the commentaries on Mosiah 25:13, 28:10, 29:39; Alma 2:1, 2:11). (2) The Nephites began to misunderstand the need for baptism as a covenant entrance into the kingdom of God. They, like the Jews, apparently felt that certain blessings were merited by birthright. This necessitated a sermon by both King Benjamin (Mosiah 2-5) and Abinadi (Mosiah 12-16). (3) King Noah changed the affairs of the kingdom; that is, he used the governmental side of his powers to abuse the ecclesiastical side of his responsibilities as king of his people. This proved disastrous. Thus, King Mosiah not only saw the need to separate these two offices held by the king, but change the order of the church in such a way as to emphasize baptism as the covenant manner in which people become the "children of Christ," or members of his church.

     As far as the need to establish seven churches, perhaps the integration of Alma's group and Limhi's group with that of King Mosiah2 necessitated a division of the people both culturally and geographically. Perhaps there was also a need to reach out to the Mulekites. [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:26; 2 Nephi 6:2; Mosiah 6:3; and Mosiah 18:17]

 

Geographical Theory Map: Mosiah 25:19-24 Alma Has Seven Churches--People Scatter Abroad (Year ???)