Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions

Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions

John A. Tvedtness, John Gee, and Matthew Roper

[For correct symbols and diacritical marks, please see the pdf version of this article. Ed.]

Personal names found in the
Book of Mormon
but unknown from the Bible have long intrigued LDS scholars. Some have proposed
Hebrew etymologies for many of the nonbiblical
names used in Nephite and Lamanite society. While
this kind of activity suggests an Israelite origin
for these peoples and hence provides
strong evidence for the historicity of the
Book of Mormon, we now have an
even stronger source of evidence.
In recent years, a large number
of ancient writings have been
found in and around Israel. While
many of these include names
found in the Bible and other ancient
texts, others were previously unattested
in written sources. Some of
these previously unattested names
are unknown in the Bible but are
found in the Book of Mormon. The
discovery of these Hebrew names in
ancient inscriptions provides remarkable
evidence for the authenticity of
the Book of Mormon and provides
clear refutation of those critics who
would place its origin in nineteenth-century

Two of these names have been discussed in
previous issues of the Journal. Jeffrey Chadwick
demonstrated that Sariah, known in the Book of
Mormon as the name of Lehi’s wife, appears on
one of the papyri written by members of a Jewish
community in Elephantine, Egypt, in the fifth century
BC and discovered at the turn of the twentieth
century, and on several seals and clay bullae
(for the meaning of this and other technical terms,
see the glossary on page 44) found in Israel that
date from the time of Lehi.1 Paul Hoskisson, following
up on previous notes from Hugh Nibley,2
showed that the name Alma appears on a Jewish
document of the early second century AD, also
found in Israel.3 Terrence Szink provided evidence
that the name Alma is even older, being attested on
clay tablets found at the northwestern Syrian site
of Ebla and dating to the second half of the third
millennium BC4 A number of other biblical names
have been found at Ebla, which is in the region
that some scholars consider to be the homeland of
the Hebrews.

The Hebrew Language

Some peculiarities of the Hebrew language will
help the reader appreciate the value of the various
names that we will discuss in this article. The
ancient Israelites spoke the same language as their
neighbors, the Canaanites, though there may have
been some dialectal variation. The Canaanite languages
(which include Canaanite/Hebrew,
Phoenician and its descendant Punic, Moabite,
Ammonite, and Edomite) are part of a larger family
known as Semitic.

The Canaanite languages, along with a number
of other Semitic languages, were written with consonants
only, right-to-left rather than the left-to-right
orientation of English writing. The reader had to
mentally add the vowels according to the context of
the words—which is still the case in modern
Hebrew. The vowels found in medieval Hebrew Bible
scrolls and in modern printed Hebrew Bibles were
supplied by later scribes. Thus, the Hebrew form of
Alma was written ʾlmʾ. From Hebrew phonetic rules,
the most likely pronunciation was Alma, which is
how its discoverer, Yigael Yadin, rendered it in

Hebrew names tend to have meanings
in that language, making it possible
for us to assign etymologies to
most of the names discussed in
this article and to other names
in the Bible and the Book of


The Hebrew form of the
the great battle at Cumorah also bore
this name (see Mormon 6:14). In the Old
name Sariah is Sryh. The first
element of the name is sar (with
vowel), generally rendered “prince” in
the KJV.6 The second element is a
theophoric element, Yah or Yahû, an abbreviated
form of the divine name that appears as either
Jehovah or LORD (all caps) in the KJV. Thus the
correct vocalization would be saryah, meaning
either “prince of Jehovah” or “Jehovah is Prince.”

The theophoric element is usually transliterated
-iah in the Bible, as in the names Jeremiah and
Isaiah, though sometimes it is rendered -jah, as in
Elijah and Abijah. (In earlier forms of English, the
letters j and y were pronounced alike, and even
names like Ishmael and Isaiah begin with the y
sound in Hebrew.)

Previous to its discovery as a woman’s name at
Elephantine, Sariah was known from the Bible as a
male name, transliterated Seraiah in English, though
spelled the same in Hebrew, which, as previously
mentioned, was originally written without vowels.7
Indeed, the name seems to have been common in
the time of Jeremiah, a contemporary of Lehi and
his wife Sariah (see Jeremiah 36:26; 40:8; 51:59, 61;
52:24), and is attested on seals and bullae of that
time period.8

It may seem strange to modern readers that a
male name could be given to a woman, but the phenomenon
is common in many languages, including
English (e.g., Jan, Kim, Bobbie), and is known from
the Bible (e.g., Abijah is a man’s name in 1 Kings
14:1 but a woman’s name in 2 Chronicles 29:1).
Even the name Solomon (Hebrew Šlmh) is attested
on a bulla in the Moussaieff collection as the name
of a woman, the “daughter of Shebniah.”9

Other Book of Mormon Names

In addition to Alma and Sariah, a number of
other Nephite names are attested in ancient Hebrew
inscriptions. These include Aha, Ammonihah,
Chemish, Hagoth, Himni, Isabel, Jarom,
Josh, Luram, Mathoni, Mathonihah,
Muloki, and Sam, none of which
appear in English Bibles. The
name Gilgal is known from
the Bible as a place name and
refers to something that rolls,
such as a wheel (see Joshua
5:9). In addition to the
Nephite city Gilgal (see
3 Nephi 9:6), one of the Nephite
military leaders who perished in
World, it also appears as the name of a man (Glgl)
on Arad Ostracon 49, from the second half of the
eighth century BC10

Sources of the Attested Names

Most of the Book of Mormon names that are
now attested are known from Hebrew inscriptions on
bullae. These inscriptions typically give the owner’s
name and often his or her paternity. In the early
1960s, Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni discovered
the first collection of Hebrew bullae in a pottery
jar at Lachish, some twenty miles southwest of
Jerusalem. Because one of them bore the name of a
royal official, he suggested that they had been part of
an administrative archive.

In the mid-1970s, a group of nearly 70 bullae
and two seals of the Persian period came to light.
Their provenance is unknown because they fell into
the hands of private collectors.

A number of bullae from a hoard illegally excavated
near Tell Beit Mirsim began appearing in the
Jerusalem antiquities market in 1975. Of these,
nearly 200 were acquired by a single Israeli collector,
Yoav Sasson, while another 49 were purchased by
Dr. Reuben Hecht of Haifa and donated to the Israel
Museum in Jerusalem. The clay bullae were accidentally
preserved by being fired when the site was
burned during the Babylonian invasion of 588–587
BC The Sasson and Hebrew University collections,
comprising 255 bullae impressed by
211 different seals, were published in
1986 by Nahman Avigad.11 Bullae
from the same site ended up in the
collections of Solomon Moussaieff
of London and Ch. Kaufman of

In 1982, another 50 Hebrew
bullae were discovered in the
ancient City of David, south of the
current Old City of Jerusalem.
Other bullae were uncovered during
archaeological excavations at Tell el-
Judeideh, Beth-Zur, Lachish, Beer-
Sheba, and Tel el-Hesi. By 1997, Robert
Deutsch was able to report that some 510
bullae had been published.12

Arrowheads are another source for the names.
To date, about forty ancient bronze arrowheads of
the tenth and eleventh centuries BC, inscribed with
the names of their owners, have been discovered in
northern Israel and Lebanon. A few of them bear
names also found in the Book of Mormon. Some of
the arrowheads are held by private collectors, others
by museums.

Patristic Names

A feature of the Book of Mormon that is
unknown from the Old Testament is the naming of
a son after his father. Thus, we have Alma son of
Alma, Helaman son of Helaman, Nephi son of
Nephi son of Helaman, and Pahoran son of
Pahoran. Until recently, patristic names of this sort
were unknown from epigraphic sources. But an
ostracon from the late seventh or early sixth century
BC in the Moussaeiff collection lists one ʾlkn bn ʾlkn,
“Elikon [or Elkanah] son of Elikon.”13

Implications for the Book of Mormon

Critics of the Book of Mormon have long suggested
that Joseph Smith (or sometimes another
nineteenth-century personality, such as Solomon
Spaulding or Sidney Rigdon) wrote the Book of
Mormon and invented all of the nonbiblical names
found therein. One critic claimed that Book of
Mormon names “were the product of a schizophrenic
mind that was excessively religious. They are in no
sense divinely inspired.”14

Another critic wrote that “There is not a single
discovery or scrap of evidence in support of any of
the following names of heads, under which the book
has been divided. . . . This altogether remarkable
production of an over-imaginative mind bears evidences
of the eagerness with which the would-be prophet sought to study his profit, and how he mistook
his calling in life, rather than anything in the
way of support towards its claims.”15

A pair of critics wrote, “It would be easy to
make up hundreds of ‘new names’ by simply changing
a few letters on names that are already known or
by making different combinations with parts of
names. . . . If he used a list of Bible names and a
little imagination, it would have been very easy to
have produced the ‘new names’ found in the Book
of Mormon.”16

Critics of the Book of Mormon have been reluctant
to grant the historical complexity of Book of
Mormon names, even when faced with evidence
supporting their authenticity. One man, after writing
a series of inflammatory letters designed to elicit
negative comments about LDS scriptures from
prominent Near Eastern scholars, received a
response from William F. Albright of Johns Hopkins
University, who expressed doubts that Joseph Smith
could have learned Egyptian from any early nineteenth
century sources. Explaining that he was a
Protestant and hence not a believer in the Book of
Mormon, he observed, “It is all the more surprising
that there are two Egyptian names, Paanch[i] and
Pahor[an] which appear in the Book of Mormon in
close connection with a reference to the original language
being ‘Reformed Egyptian.'” Puzzled at the
existence of such names in an obscure book published
by Joseph Smith in 1830, Albright vaguely
suggested that the young Mormon leader was some
kind of “religious genius.”17

Incensed by this response, the critic wrote to
another scholar in England. Without mentioning
Albright by name, he complained of “another
scholar who is renowned in ancient Semitic studies”
who “though a Protestant, he writes of the Book of
Mormon like it had authentic Egyptian-Hebrew
support. He even offered me what he said were two
good Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon—
Paanchi and Pahoran. . . . Certainly he would know
Joseph Smith didn’t understand Egyptian, but why
would he leave an impression that Joseph Smith was
on the right track?”18

The names described in this article deal a serious
blow to critics of the Book of Mormon. Found
in both the Book of Mormon and ancient inscriptions,
these names are Hebrew in origin, as one
would expect for people who emigrated from
ancient Jerusalem. Except where noted, these names
are not known from the Bible. Of particular interest
is the fact that most of these names are attested in
inscriptions dating to the time of Lehi. Indeed, some
are relatively common for that time period.We can
only speculate about how they made their way to the
New World—whether on the brass plates of Laban
or on the large plates of Nephi (which we no longer
have) or in the names of the sons of Ishmael or their
children or Lehi’s grandchildren.

With ongoing excavation in Israel and elsewhere
in the Near East, it is likely that more Book of
Mormon names will show up in ancient Hebrew inscriptions.

Abish is the name of
a Lamanite woman, a servant to king Lamoni’s queen (see Alma 19:16).
Abish corresponds to the Hebrew name ʾbšʾ, found on a seal from pre-exilic
times (prior to 587 BC) in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.19 The addition of the
Hebrew letter aleph (symbolized by ʾ in transliteration) to the end of the
name is known from other Hebrew hypocoristic names, suggesting that the name on
the seal may be hypocoristic. (See Hypocoristic Forms on page 50.) However, no
etymology has been proposed. The form ʾbšʾ is also attested as a Semitic
name on a wall relief in the tomb of Khnum-hotep III at Beni Hasan, Egypt, dating
to the nineteenth century BC The relief depicts a group of Asiatics, probably
Semites, entering Egypt with their donkeys. Scholars have often compared the scene
to the emigration of Abraham and later his grandson Jacob into Egypt. W. F. Albright
suggested reading the name as Abi-shar, but in view of the more recent evidence,
this must now be abandoned.20

Aha was one of the sons of the Nephite military
leader Zoram (Alma 16:5). Hugh Nibley proposed that the name was of Egyptian origin, ʿhh,
meaning “warrior”. But
the name is now attested in several early inscriptions as Hebrew ʾhʾ,
thought by scholars to have been vocalized ʾAhaʾ and to be
a hypocoristic name based on ʾah, “brother”.
The longer form, rendered Ahijah in the King James Bible, is ʾahîyah(û),
which means “brother of Yah (Jehovah)” or “Yah
is my brother”,21 which is also attested in a dozen ancient Hebrew

The name ʾiiʾ is inscribed in Canaanite letters
of the eleventh and ninth centuries BC, respectively,
on two bronze arrowheads in the possession of a collector who prefers to remain
anonymous, and on a Moabite seal.23 More importantly, the name also appears on
several Hebrew ostraca, including Samaria Ostracon 51,24 Ostracon 1543/1 from
Khirbet el-Meshash,25 and Arad ostraca 49, 67, 74.26 It is also known from four
jar stamps, two from Tel el-Judeideh,27 and two from Khirbet Rabud,28 along with
a Hebrew bulla of unknown provenance.29 Of particular significance for our study
is a Hebrew bulla found in Jerusalem that dates from the time of Lehi.30

The addition
of the Hebrew letter aleph to the end of the name Aha is also known from other
Hebrew hypocoristic names.

Ammonihah was the name of a Nephite who founded the
city of the same name (see Alma 8:6–7). The name is attested on two Hebrew
seals, one known to date to the seventh century BC, in the forms ʿmnyhw and

Nibley saw the ending -ihah, found in this and several other Book
of Mormon names, as the theophoric element rendered -iah in the KJV and found
in many Hebrew names from the time of Lehi.32 The use of -ihah for the divine
name Yhwh (KJV “Jehovah”) suggests that the Nephites may
have used this longer form. It is possible, however, that the first h merely reflects
Joseph Smith’s transliteration.

Chemish was a descendant of Jacob
and one of the guardians and authors of the small plates of Nephi (see Omni 1:8–10).
His name is apparently related to that of the Ammonite god Chemosh, spelled Kmš
in prevocalic Hebrew and Ammonite (related languages). A number of names containing
the element Kmš are known, in which it is clear that the divine name was meant.33
Also known is a seal currently in the Israel Museum that has Kmš as the name of
a man or woman.34

Hagoth was a Nephite shipbuilder who constructed ships that
took colonizers into the land northward (see Alma 63:5). Contrary
to LDS folklore, there is no indication in the text that Hagoth himself sailed
on any of them (see Alma 63:6–9).

One Book of Mormon critic argued that
Joseph Smith derived the name Hagoth from the name of the biblical prophet Haggai.35
Indeed, the names may be related, but a closer parallel is the biblical Haggith
(see 2 Samuel 3:4; 1 Kings 1:5, etc.), which may have been vocalized Hagoth anciently.
All three names derive from a root referring to a pilgrimage to attend religious

The name Hagoth is attested in the form Hgt on an Ammonite seal inscribed
sometime in the eighth through the sixth centuries BC36 (The Ammonites, neighbors
of the Israelites and descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot, wrote
and spoke the same language as the Israelites.)

Himni was one of the four sons
of Mosiah2 who went on the mission to the Lamanites (see Mosiah 27:34; Alma 22:35;
23:1; 25:17; 27:19; 31:6). Of this name, an early critic wrote, “It
appeared to the present writer, by this time, almost certain that the name Harmony,
that of the town where Joseph Smith spent so many happy, loving hours courting
Emma, would be discernible, so he again consulted the list and found HiMNI. I
need not point out the radical resemblance. Is that resemblance accidental, and
not due at all to the haunting cadences of that doubly blessed name ‘Harmony?'”37

Contrary to this speculation, the name Himni is clearly Hebrew and is represented
by the unvocalized form, Hmn on two Israelite seals. The first, from the eighth
century BC, was found at Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley.38 The other is from
the first half of the seventh century BC39

Because the seal inscriptions do
not have vowels, we cannot know precisely how the name is to be read. The Bible
knows of a non-Israelite Haman from the time of Esther, and Heman was a noted
poet and musician in the time of David and Solomon. The vowel at the end of Himni
suggests that it is a gentillic form, meaning “Hemanite”.
(See the glossary on page 44.)

Isabel was a harlot in the land of Siron, on the
border between the Lamanites and the Zoramites (see Alma 39:3). LDS scholars have
generally assumed that the name is identical
to that of the Old Testament
Jezebel, the Hebrew form of which was ʾÎzebel, and
this is probably correct. But the spelling Yzbl is now
attested on a seal in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem
that is thought to be Phoenician in origin.40

Jarom was the son of Enos and grandson of
Nephi’s brother Jacob (see Jarom 1:1, 14). The fifth
book in the Book of Mormon bears his name. One
might wish to compare Jarom with the biblical
name Jehoram, which is found twenty-one times in
the Bible, while its hypocoristic form Joram occurs
twenty-four times. But several Hebrew inscriptions
bear the name Yrm, which scholars consider to be
the hypocoristic form of Yrmyh(w), Jeremiah, whose
name means “Yah (Jehovah) exalts.”41 Yrm is found
in four Hebrew inscriptions, including a seal of the
seventh century BC, found in Egypt,42 and three
items from the time of Lehi: a jug inscription from
Tel esh-Shariʿah, and an ostracon and bulla in the
Moussaieff collection.

Josh was the name of a city destroyed at the
time of Christ’s crucifixion (see 3 Nephi 9:10) and
of a Nephite military leader who died in the great
battle at Cumorah (see Mormon 6:14). Critics have
suggested that this is merely the American diminutive
for the name Joshua.

But a number of Hebrew inscriptions bear the
name Yʾš, probably vocalized Yôʾš, which Israeli
scholars have acknowledged to be hypocoristic for the
biblical name Yʾšyhw, Josiah, in whose reign Jeremiah
began his prophetic mission (see Jeremiah 1:2;
27:1).43 The name appears in three of the Lachish letters
(2, 3, and 6) from the time of Lehi.44 It is also the
name of four persons named in the fifth-century BC
Jewish Aramaic papyri from Elephantine, Egypt.45
Four of the bullae found near Tel Beit Mirsim and
dating from ca. 600 BC bear the name Yʾš.46 Three of
them were made from the same seal.

Luram is the name of a Nephite military leader
who served with Mormon (see Moroni 9:2). The
name is reflected in the second element of the name
‘dn-Lrm, “Lord of LRM,” known from a seal of ca. 720
BC found during excavations at Hama (Hamath) in
Syria. The name is also known from graffiti on three
bricks from the same level at Hama.47

Mathoni and Mathonihah were the names of
two of the twelve disciples chosen by Christ during
his visit to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 19:4). Critic
Walter Prince suggested an unusual derivation for
the name, writing, “Just lisp the sibilant and you
have the entire word ‘Mason’ and almost the entire
word “Masonic” in both of these appellations.”48
Prince would have done better to look to the Bible.

The fact that Mathoni is hypocoristic for
Mathonihah reinforces the idea that the element
-ihah is the Nephite form of the divine name (see
Ammonihah, above). This being the case, Mathonihah
would correspond to KJV Mattaniah (Hebrew
Mtnyhw), the birth-name of Zedekiah (see 2 Kings
24:17), who was king of Judah when Lehi left
Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 1:4). Several other biblical
personalities bore this name. We can then compare
Mathoni to biblical Mattan, the name of two different
men, one of whom was a contemporary of Lehi
and Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:1). (Note that the
Hebrew letter tav is sometimes transliterated t in the
Bible, as in these names, and sometimes th, as in

Hugh Nibley was the first to suggest that the
Book of Mormon name Mathonihah corresponded
to biblical Mattaniah, while its biform Mathoni (see
3 Nephi 19:4) corresponded to biblical Mattan. He
further noted that both names are found in the
Elephantine Papyri and that the longer form occurs
in the Lachish letters, written just a few years after
Lehi left Jerusalem.49

The Hebrew name Mtnyhw appears on a seventh-century BC wine decanter,50 on six seals,51 and
on seven bullae, most of them from the time of
Lehi.52 The hypocoristic Mtn, which could be vocalized
either Mattan (as in the Bible) or Mathoni (as
in the Book of Mormon), is found on Ostracon
1682/2 from Khirbet el-Meshash (second half of the
seventh century BC),53 seven seals (most from the
seventh century BC),54 and eleven bullae (most
from the time of Lehi).55

Muloki was one of the men who accompanied
the sons of Mosiah on their mission to the
Lamanites (see Alma 20:2; 21:11). His name suggests
that he may have been a Mulekite. Also from the
same root are names such as Mulek56 and Melek,57
which is the Hebrew word meaning “king”. Mulek is
hypocoristic for Hebrew Mlkyh(w) (KJV Melchiah
and Malchiah), which is attested both in the Bible
(see 1 Chronicles 6:40; Ezra 10:25, 3; Nehemiah
3:14, 31; 8:4; 11:12; Jeremiah 21:1; 38:1, 6) and in
numerous ancient inscriptions, most of them from
the time of Lehi. Indeed, it has been suggested that
one of the men bearing this name is the Mulek of
the Book of Mormon. He is called “Malchiah the
son of Hammelech,” which means “Malchiah, son of
the king” (see Jeremiah 38:6).58

Muloki corresponds to the name Mlky on a
bulla found in the City of David (Jerusalem) and
dating from the time of Lehi.59

Sam, brother of Nephi, came to the New World
with his father Lehi and family (see 1 Nephi 2:5;
2 Nephi 5:6; Alma 3:6). Critics have suggested that
Joseph Smith simply used the common English
diminutive of Samuel. What these critics failed to
realize is that the name Samuel, which appears in
the English Bible, is from the Hebrew name
(Šəmûʾel) comprised of two elements, Shem
(“name”) + El (“God”).

The name Sam is attested on a bronze ringmounted
seal dated to the seventh century BC60
While others have read this name as Shem, in paleo-Hebrew there is no distinction in writing between s
and š (the latter written sh in English). (It is the
same letter used at the beginning of the name
Sariah.) Various dialects of Hebrew pronounced this
letter in different ways anciently. From the story in
Judges 12:6, we find that some of the tribe of Joseph
pronounced it s instead of š, reminding us that Lehi
was a descendant of Joseph (see 1 Nephi 5:14).


Biform—Parallel forms of the same name, such as English Rick and Richard.
Bulla (plural Bullae)—The impression of an engraved seal made on clay or wax. Hebrew bullae were formed when scrolls were rolled up and sealed with a lump of clay onto which the seal (often carved in stone) was pressed. Most bullae had the name of the scroll’s owner or sender. When a bulla was removed from the document, the underside often retained the impression of the strips of papyrus to which it had adhered.
Etymology—The origin or meaning of a word or name.
Hypocoristic—An adjective denoting an abbreviated name. A parallel in English would be diminutives, such as Joe for Joseph or Will for William. Hebrew hypocoristic names generally dropped the theophoric element, usually from the end.
Ostracon (plural Ostraca)—A shard or fragment of pottery on which writing has been affixed, either by engraving or by ink and pen.
Seal—A carved stamp, usually of stone, that was used to impress an image or writing onto wet clay. Most seals had the name of the owner, often with his patronymic (“son of N”). The seals of government officials often included the individual’s title, the most common being “servant of K,” where K is the name of the king. Occasionally, a seal included some sort of design. These often included Egyptian motifs.
Theophoric—An adjective denoting a divine name. Many Hebrew names were composed of a verb or adjective plus the divine name, which could be either ‘El (generally rendered “God” in the Bible) or various shortened forms of the name rendered “Jehovah” or “Lord” in the Bible, such as Yĕhô- or Yô- at the beginning of names or -Yāh or -Yāhû at the end. Sometimes the theophoric element was dropped from the name, perhaps out of respect for deity.
Transliteration (verbal form Trans­literate)—A method of depicting a foreign alphabet by means of the Latin alphabet used in English. Because some sounds do not exist in English, it is sometimes necessary to add diacritical marks above or below the character.

Symbols Used in Transliteration
‘—the sound produced when the vocal cords open up, as in English words beginning with a vowel (e.g., orange); no equivalent in written English
ˆ—the Egyptian glottal stop, equivalent to ‘ for Hebrew
h—nonexistent in English; very much like the ch in German ich or Scottish loch
‘—nonexistent in English; pronounced in the back of the throat
ś—an s sound
ŝ—like English sh in ship
ß—an emphatic s sound; in modern Hebrew, it is pronounced like English ts, as in its

Hypocoristic Forms
There is abundant evidence from the inscriptional material that hypocoristic forms sometimes have a suffixed aleph, represented in transliteration by ‘. Thus we have the biforms Ŝbn’ (biblical Shebna) alongside Ŝbnyhw (Shebniah), both attested in Hebrew inscriptions. Similarly, the biblical name Ezra (Hebrew ‘zr), whose name is borne by one of the books of the Bible, has a final aleph and is hypocoristic for biblical Azariah (‘zryh), the name of two biblical kings. The longer form is also known from contemporary inscriptions, as is the form ‘zr. Neriah (Hebrew Nryh), known from the Bible as the name of the father of Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch, is attested in inscriptions in both its long form and in the hypocoristic form Nera (Hebrew Nr’). Alongside the biblical name Obadiah (‘bdyh), whose hypocoristic form Obed (‘bd) is also known in the Bible, the inscriptions have several occurrences of the hypocoristic form ‘bd’, with a suffixed aleph. Also known from the inscriptions are the biblical name Asaiah (‘Śyh) and its hypocoristic form ‘ś’. Finally, we have the name Hzd’, hypocoristic for an unattested Hzdyh. These facts suggest that Alma, which is written with a final aleph on a document found in Nahal Hever in 1961, may also be hypocoristic.61


1. Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Sariah in the Elephantine Papyri,” JBMS 2/2 (1993): 196–200. The name is known from three seals: Nahman Avigad, “New Names on Hebrew Seals,” Eretz-Israel 12 (1975): 69, pl. 14:11; Nahman Avigad, “The Seal of Seraiah (Son of) Neriah,” Eretz-Israel 14 (1978), 86f; Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997), 91; and two bullae: Nahman Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1986), 46–47, 103–4. A variant spelling, Sryh, is attested on a seal from the eighth or seventh century B.C., probably found in Syria, M. de Vogüé, “Intailles î légendes sémitiques,” Revue Archéologique 17 (1868): 447f. Note that all the names attested in this article can also be found in G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions: Corpus and Concordance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
2. Hugh W. Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1989), 281–82. The original notice of the discovery was in Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba (New York: Random House, 1971), 176.
3. Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Alma as a Hebrew Name,” JBMS 7/1 (1998): 72–73. See also the discussion in David K. Geilman, “5/6Hev 44 Bar Kokhba,” in Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea, ed. M. Gerald Bradford (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997), 39.
4. Terence L. Szink, “Further Evidence of a Semitic Alma,” JBMS 8/1 (1999): 70.
5. In recent years, the name Alma has drawn fire from critics, who claim that it is from the Hebrew word meaning “young woman.” However, this word has a different Hebrew spelling (‘almāh) than the man’s name as it appears on the Bar Kochba document.
6. For a discussion of this term as a political title in ancient Israel, see Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 95–97, 106, 113, 128; Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 7–9, 98–99; and, more recently, John A. Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar (Salt Lake City: Cornerstone, 1999), 59–75.
7. See 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Kings 25:18, 23; 1 Chronicles 4:13–14, 35; 6:14; Ezra 2:2; 7:1; Nehemiah 10:2; 11:11; 12:1, 12.
8. For examples, see Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997), 122, 134, 163, 189, 237.
9. Robert Deutsch, Messages from the Past: Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah through the Destruction of the First Temple (in Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 1997), 67–68.
10. Yohanan Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981), 80.
11. Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah.
12. Deutsch, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah, 172.
13. See Robert Deutsch and Michael Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence from the Biblical Period (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publication, 1995), 89–90.
14. Dwight C. Ritchie, The Mind of Joseph Smith: A Study of the Words of the Founder of Mormonism Revealing 24 Symptoms of Mental Derangement (n.p.: Dwight C. Ritchie, 1954), 41.
15. M. A. Sbresny, Mormonism: As It Is To-Day. Some Striking Revelations (London: Stockwell, 1911), 24–25.
16. Jerald Tanner and Sandra M. Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, 5th ed. (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987), 95.
17. William F. Albright to Grant S. Heward, Baltimore, Maryland, 25 July 1966.
18. Grant S. Heward to I. E. S. Edwards, Midvale, Utah, 14 March 1967. We thank Boyd Peterson, who discovered the correspondence and provided photocopies, for bringing this exchange to our attention.
19. Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 66–67.
20. See James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969), 2–3, 249.
21. See 1 Kings 11:29–30; 12:15; 14:2, 4–6, 18; 15:27, 29, 33; 21:22; 2 Kings 9:9; 1 Chronicles 2:25; 11:36; 26:20; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 10:15; Nehemiah 10:26.
22. See Yohanan Aharoni, “Excavations at Ramat-Rahel,” Biblical Archaeologist 24 (1961): 107; Nahman Avigad, “A Group of Hebrew Seals,” Eretz-Israel 9 (1969): 5, pl. 2:12 (in Hebrew, with English summary); Nahman Avigad, “New Names on Hebrew Seals,” Eretz-Israel 12 (1975): 70, pl. 14:16 (in Hebrew); Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah, 34, 103; S. A. Cook, “Inscribed Hebrew Objects from Ophel,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 56 (1924): 183–86, pl. VI; Deutsch, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah, 74–75; David Diringer in Lachish III: The Iron Age, ed. O. Tufnell (London: Oxford, 1953), 332f.; B. Maisler, “Two Hebrew Ostraca from Tel Qasile,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 10 (1951): 265f.;
J. T. Milik, “Notes d’Épigraphie et de Topographie Palestiniennes. I: L’Ostracon de l’Ophel et la Topographie de Jérusalem,” Revue Biblique 66 (1959), 550–53; Yigael Shiloh, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from the City of David,” Israel Exploration Journal 36 (1986): 28f.; Y. Shoham, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from Yigal Shiloh’s Excavation in the City of David,” in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, ed. H. Geva (Jerusalem, 1994); H. Torczyner et al., Lachish I: The Lachish Letters (London: Oxford, 1938), 51; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 69. The feminine form, ʾht, is known from a seal in the Hecht Museum in Haifa, Nahman Avigad, “An Early Aramaic Seal,” Israel Exploration Journal 8 (1958): 228–30; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 283.
23. Deutsch and Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence, 21–23; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 375.
24. G. A. Reisner, Harvard Excavations at Samaria, 1908–1910 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1924), 237, 242.
25. V. Fritz and A. Kempinski, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen auf der Óirbet el-Mśaś (Masôs) 1972–1975 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983), 134–35, pl. 79.
26. Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 80, 93, 97.
27. I. Ben-Dor, “Two Hebrew Seals,” The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 13 (1948): 66–67, pl. XXVII:3.
28. M. Kochavi, “Khirbet Rabûd = Debir,” Tel Aviv 1 (1974): 18; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 200.
29. Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 179.
30. Yigael Shiloh, “A Hoard of Hebrew Bullae from the City of David” (in Hebrew), Eretz-Israel 18 (1985): 80; Shiloh, “Bullae from the City of David,” 28f.; Shoham, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from Yigal Shiloh’s Excavation.”
31. Nahman Avigad in Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 40 (1988): 14; Nahman Avigad, “Two Seals of Women and Other Hebrew Seals” (in Hebrew), Eretz-Israel 20 (1989a): 90.
32. Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 283, 288–89; Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1993), 1:88; 2:263.
33. Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 373–74, 380–82.
34. Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 380.
35. Wesley P. Walters, “The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon,” (master’s thesis, Covenant Theological Seminary, 1981), 18.
36. C. Clermont-Ganneau, “Sceaux et cachets israélites, phéniciens et syriens,” Journal Asiatique 8 (1883): 144f.; Walter E. Aufrecht, A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions (Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1989), 34–35.
37. Walter Franklin Prince, “Psychological Tests for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon,” American Journal of Psychology 30 (1919): 382.
38. W. E. Staples, “An Inscribed Scaraboid from Megiddo,” in New Light from Armageddon: Second Provisional Report (1927–29) on the Excavations at Megiddo in Palestine, ed. P. L. O. Guy (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1931), 49–68, figs. 33–34; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 99.
39. Nahman Avigad, “Some Unpublished Ancient Seals (in Hebrew),” Bulletin of the Israel Exploration Society 25 (1961): 242, pl. 5:4.
40. Nahman Avigad, “The Seal of Jezebel,” Israel Exploration Journal 14 (1964): 274–76; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 275.
41. The name Jeremiah is attested in Lachish Letter 1, H. Torczyner et al., Lachish I: The Lachish Letters (London: Oxford, 1938), 23; Diringer, Lachish III, 331; on two Arad ostraca, Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions, 46f., 100; on a jar stamp, E. Grant and G. Ernest Wright, Ain Shems Excavations (Palestine), vol. 5 (Haveford: Haveford College, 1939), 80, pl. III:4; on six seals, including one found in Egypt and another in Iraq, Avigad, “A Group of Hebrew Seals,” 6, pl. 2:14; Avigad “Two Seals of Women,” 94; Bordreuil and Lemaire, “Nouveau sceaux,” 47f., pl. IV:6; Nahman Avigad, Festschrift Reuben R. Hecht (Jerusalem: Koren, 1979), 73f.; C. Clermont-Ganneau, “Sur quelques cachets Israélite archaïques,” Revue d’Assyriologie et d’Archéologie Orientale 4 (1901): 56f.; L. A. Wolfe and F. Sternberg, Objects with Semitic Inscriptions, 1100 B.C.–A.D. 700. Jewish, Early Christian and Byzantine Antiquities (Jerusalem: Auction Catalogue, 1989), 13; and on five bullae, Yohanan Aharoni, “Trial Excavations in the ‘Solar Shrine’ at Lachish. Preliminary Report,” Israel Exploration Journal 18 (1968), 167, pl. XI:6–7; Yohanan Aharoni, Investigations at Lachish: The Sanctuary and the Residency (Tel Aviv: University of Tel Aviv, 1975), 5:19–22, pl. 20–21; Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah, 64; Deutsch, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah, 81, 101–2. The vocalization of Yarom (Jarom) for the hypocoristic form of Yirmiyāh(û) (Jeremiah) follows the pattern found in other names acknowledged by Bible scholars to be hypocoristic: Bārûk (KJV Baruch) for Berekiyāh(û) (KJV Berech­iah), Nahum for Nehemiah (both in KJV), Shallûm (KJV Shallum) for Shelemi­yāh(û) (KJV Shelemiah), and Zakkûr (KJV Zaccur) for Zekariyāh(û) (KJV Zechariah).
42. M. Lidzbarski, “Altsemitische Inschriften auf Siegeln und Gewichten des Ashmolean Museum zu Oxford” (Giessen: Richer’sche, 1900–02), 11; A. R. Millard in Catalogue of Near Eastern Seals in the Ashmolean Museum. III. The Iron Age Stamp Seals, ed. B. Buchanan and
P. R. S. Moorey (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988). 45.
43. For this view, see Deutsch and Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence, 56.
44. Torczyner, Lachish I, 37, 51, 117; Diringer, Lachish III, 332–34.
45. See Elephantine 12:8; 13:13; 18:5; 22:89; 39:4; 40:5 in A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C.E. (Oxford: OUP, 1923). E. G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (New Haven: Yale, 1953), adds 9:25 to the list.
46. Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah, 42–43, 59; Deutsch and Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence, 56–57; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 184, 202–3.
47. Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 760.
48. Walter Franklin Prince, “Psychological Tests for the Authorship of the Book of Mormon,” 380.
49. Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, 388.
50. Robert Deutsch and Michael Heltzer, Forty New Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 1994), 23.
51. Ruth Amiran and A. Eiten, Qedem 3 (1970): 65; Avigad, “Two Seals of Women,” 92f.; P. Bordreuil, Catalogue des Sceaux Ouest-Sémitiques Inscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale du Musée du Louvre et du Musée biblique de Bible et Terre Sainte (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, 1986), 54; P. Bordreuil and A. Lemaire, “Nouveau sceaux hébreux, araméens et ammonites,” Semitica 26 (1976), 49, pl. IV:9, 11; A. Lemaire, “Nouveaux sceaux nord-ouest sémitiques,” Semitica 33 (1983): 17f., pl. 1.1; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 83, 92, 126–27, 130, 138, 142, 148, 187, 196, 216–17.
52. Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah, 38, 81–82; Deutsch, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah, 107–8; Deutsch and Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence, 52–53; K. G. O’Connell, “An Israelite Bulla from Tell el-Hesi,” Israel Exploration Journal 27 (1977): 197–99, pl. 26G.
53. Fritz and Kempinski, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen, 134, pl. 78C.
54. Avigad, Festschrift Reuben R. Hecht, 122f.; Nahman Avigad, “Titles and Symbols on Hebrew Seals” (in Hebrew), Eretz-Israel 15 (1981), 303, pl. 57. Nahman Avigad, “Another Group of West Semitic Seals from the Hecht Collection,” Michmanim 4 (1989b): 10; Bordreuil and Lemaire, “Nouveau sceaux hébreux,” 51, pl. IV:16; P. Bordreuil and A. Lemaire, “Nouveau groupe de sceaux hébreux, araméens et moabites,” Semitica 29 (1979): 72f., pl. III:2; P. Bordreuil and A. Lemaire, “Nouveaux sceaux hébreux et araméens,” Semitica 32 (1982): 22f., pl. V:2; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 59, 69, 121, 125–26, 162, 193, 205, 215–16, 223.
55. Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah, 53, 62, 79–81, 90; Deutsch, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah, 66.
56. See Mosiah 25:2; Alma 51:26; 52:2, 16–17, 19–20, 22, 26, 28, 34; 53:2, 6; Helaman 5:15; 6:10; 8:21.
57. See Alma 8:3–4, 6; 31:6; 35:13; 45:18.
58. See the discussion in Robert F. Smith, “New Information about Mulek, Son of the King,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 142–44. This identification has been challenged on the grounds that the vocalization of Mulek would not allow it to be hypocoristic for Hebrew Malkiyāh(û). See David Rolph Seely in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5 (1993): 311–15. But similar vowel changes are acknowledged by scholars for other hypocoristic names in the Bible (Baruch for Berechiah, Nahum for Nehemiah, Shallum for Shelmiah, and Zaccur for Zechariah). See John A. Tvedtnes, “What’s in a Name? A Look at the Book of Mormon Onomasti­con,” FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 39 n. 7.
59. Shiloh, “Bullae from the City of David,” 28f.; Shoham, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from Yigal Shiloh’s Excavation.”
60. Israel Museum No 68.35.199; **** ** ** ****** (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1979), 108; Ruth Hestrin and Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Inscribed Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1979), 111; Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 69.
61. For a discussion of the hypocoristic nature of names ending in aleph, with an extensive listing of examples, see Avigad and Sass, West Semitic Stamp Seals, 471.