GAZELEM

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Lehite PN or common noun 1. A servant of God, or stone directors/interpreters. (Alma 37:23).

Etymology

Lehite prophetic name for a future “servant” of God (Gazelam = Joseph Smith in D&C 78:9, etc.), or of stone “directors” (Alma 37:21, 24, O P mss 1830-1911 eds > “interpreters” in 1920 1981 eds.), depending on whether the word within the phrase is read as an appositive to the preceding noun or as the noun of the following appositive (Alma 37:23).

An etymology based on North-west Semitic gzl, gṣl, ǵzl or ǵṣl would be the most likely, with a dual ending -êm.[1] The dual ending would tend to reinforce reading GAZELEM as the noun of the following appositive, because the “directors”/“interpreters” consisted of two (=dual) stones set in a silver bow.[2]

Because “r” and “l” are both “liquid” consonants, they often interchange from one language to another, such as between HEBREW and EGYPTIAN.[3] Therefore it would not be amiss to derive from Semitic gzr, yielding a very attractive etymology along the lines of biblical Aramaic gāzrîn, the “deciders/determiners (of fate),” used for the Babylonian magi (Daniel 2:27; 4:4; 5:7, 11). This root is represented in biblical HEBREW by gzr “cut, divide; decree (fate)” (Isaiah 9:19; 2 Nephi 19:10, Isaiah 53:8; Job 22:28).

Such terms may be related to Cypriote Maronite Arabic xazra, “stone.” gzar, “stones.”[4] Cf. HEBREW gĕzārîm, “halves” in Genesis 15:17; Psalms 136:13, from gzr, “cut in two” (1 Kings 3:25) or “polishing, beauty” (Lamentations 4:7).

Another possible etymology could employ Ugaritic gùzr (pl. gùzrm), “young man, warrior, hero”[5] >azara/ta>azra (meaning uncertain - either “to launch an attack,” or “to be scattered, be routed, pour forth”)[6]; Arabic gùazura “to be much, be abundant”; adj. gùazeµr “much, plentiful.”[7]

Also promising is the suggestion that the name comes from ʿāz, “might,” and ʿelem, “young man” (JH), if ʿāz comes from ģzz and ʿelem comes from ʿlm.

Less likely are readings from the Arabic root for “gazelle,” ģzl, the initial syllable as the root gzh or gzz, having to do with cutting and shearing (JH). Reynolds and Sjodahl[8] suggest possibly HEBREW *gāz-ʿālêm, or gazê-ʿalem (V???), “cut-stones of the Most High,” from gzh, “cut, hew” (cf. ’ăbnê-gāzît, “hewed stones, squared stones” in 1 Kings 5:17; 6:36; 7:9, 11, 12; Exodus 20:25; Isaiah 9:9, 102 Nephi 19:10) + ‘alem (V???), “(he who is) on high”? Or *ga-ṣelem, “exalted image, magnificent likeness,” from gāʾā, “exalted, glorious, proud, magnificent” (Exodus 15:1, 21) + ṣelem, “image, likeness.”

See URIAH, SHELEM, ALMA, ETHER.

Variants

There are no variations of this name in the Book of Mormon text, but there are other spellings outside the Book of Mormon: Gazelum Orson Pratt, JD, 16:156 (16 Aug 1873); Gazelam 1835 D&C (6xx), D. J. Whittaker, “Substituted Names in the Published Revelations of Joseph Smith,” BYU Studies, 23/1 (1983):103-112.

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐘𐐈𐐞𐐀𐐢𐐇𐐣 (ɡæziːlɛm)

Notes


  1. -êm is the early contracted form of the plene -ayim dual ending in Semitic languages. This is reflected in the English pronunciation (no doubt coming from the KJV, but which matched the early form of the GN) of JERUSALEM from the late plene writing and pronunciation of HEBREW yrwšlym.
  2. Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Urim and Thummim,” in Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Macmillan, 1991/1992), citing JS-H 1:35. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Urim_and_Thummim
  3. This also happens in other language families. For example, see Spanish “playa” and Portuguese “praya,” both meaning beach; and Japanese where the difference between the two sounds is not phonemic.
  4. M. Tsrapeka, Descriptive Analysis, p.31.
  5. Gordon Textbook §19:1956; Aistleitner 2138; cf. Dietrich-Loretz WdO 3 (1964–6): 189ff; Ullendorf JSS 7 (1962):347.
  6. Dillmann 1003.
  7. Aistleitner 2138; Wehr-Cowan 672b.
  8. George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. IV, P. C. Reynolds, ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955-1961.), 162.

Bibliography


  • Daniel H. Ludlow A Companion to your Study of the Book of Mormon. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1969.
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