MULEK

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Mulekite PN 1. Son of ZEDEKIAH, king of JUDAH, ca. 590 BC (Mosiah 25:2; Helaman 6:10; 8:21)
2. Name of all of the land northward, originally settled by colony which included No. 1 (Helaman 6:10)
3. City east of ZARAHEMLA by the seashore and near the cities of GID and BOUNTIFUL, ca. 67 BC (Alma 51:26; 52:2, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 28, 34; 53:2, 6; Helaman 5:15)

Etymology

This entry will treat the two most likely spellings of this name, MULEK and MULOCH, independently, even though the spellings may not represent different individuals, but simply spelling variants of the same name. The texts actually contain four slightly different spellings: The city name, found only in the books of ALMA and HELAMAN, is consistently spelled Mulek. The descriptor of the Land Northward, a hapax that occurs only in Helaman 6:10, is written Mulek in the printer’s manuscript through the 2013 edition. The only deviation from the current standard spelling, Mulek, occurs with the three occurrences of the PN. The first time it occurs in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 25:2, it is spelled Muloch in the printer’s manuscript. In the 1830-1852 printings, and in all RLDS editions, Mulok appears. The spelling was changed in the 1879 LDS edition to Mulek and has remained Mulek through the 2013 LDS edition. When the PN occurs again, in Helaman 6:10 (the second occurrence), the printer’s manuscript originally had Muleh but the h is overwritten with a k (probably immediately), producing the correction Mulek, followed by the 1830 through the 2013 editions. In Helaman 8:21, the third and final appearance of the PN, it is spelled consistently Mulek in the printer’s manuscript through the 2013 edition.

As Royal Skousen has noted, “It is, of course, theoretically possible that the Book of Mormon is referring to two different individuals: MULOCH, an ancestor of ZARAHEMLA, in the book of MOSIAH; and MULEK, a son of king ZEDEKIAH, in the book of HELAMAN.”[1] Therefore, in the interest of completeness this onomasticon entry will treat the two most promising spellings, MULEK and MULOCH, as different names belonging to two different persons, even though it is more likely that they are textual variants of one and the same PN.

The common Semitic root mlk, which in West Semitic means “to reign (malāk), king (melek),” and in East Semitic, “to counsel (malāku), counselor (malku),” provides the most likely etymology for MULEK.[2] MULEK was the son of ZEDEKIAH (Helaman 6:10, 8:21), the king in JERUSALEM when LEHI left.[3]

It is very tempting to read MULEK as a shortened form, perhaps a hypocoristicon, of a longer name. For example, from the same time period, the days of ZEDEKIAH, the name Malchiah in Jeremiah 38:6, reads in Hebrew malkiyahû and means “Yahweh is (my) king.” It has been proposed by some scholars that Malchiah may have been the son of ZEDEKIAH,[4] which, if it is correct, has been obscured by the King James translation. That is, the Hebrew, malkiyahû ben hammelek, can be translated most readily, as the Septuagint does, as “Malchiah the son of the king,” rather than the King James rendering, “Malchiah the son of Hammlech.” Because of the suggested identity of Malchiah as a son of ZEDEKIAH, LDS scholars have also suggested a connection between Book of Mormon MULEK and biblical Malchiah.[5]

The form MULEK, if it is a hypocoristicon of a name similar to Malchiah, would be from the noun pattern for a diminutive or caritative, puʿail (fuʿayl in Arabic), meaning “little king.”[6]The diphthong –ai- can shorten to /e/.[7] Given that MULEK was the son of King ZEDEKIAH (see Helaman 8:21), then a PN based on a diminutive of the Semitic root mlk would seem appropriate.[8]

Another possible etymology for MULEK involves the fairly common West Semitic word mlk, “a type of sacrifice.” As is indicated by Latin terms derived from Punic (e.g., molchomor, probably from mlʾk ʾmr, “sacrifice of a lamb”[9]), it would appear to have the requisite vowels. MULEK would then be a hypocoristicon with a meaning similar to “(the divine) sacrifice.” The meaning “sacrifice” seems to derive from the meaning “vow”[10] or Arabic mulk “power.”[11] Alternatively, the meaning sacrifice may derive from the West Semitic DN Molk.[12] If MULEK is to be derived from mulk or molk, then the preferred etymology would be a hypocoristic form involving the verb to vow.

A less likely possibility is to derive MULEK from the common Semitic root hlk, “to go, walk,” which has been suggested by some as the root of the divine name Molech. If so, MULEK would mean “traveler, sojourner” (JH). But there is no HEBREW form that would produce MULEK from the root hlk. Nevertheless, “sojourner” may be attractive for metonymic reasons (befitting an individual who had traveled a great distance from his homeland), and could therefore add to the growing evidence of metonymy being a factor in the determination of Book of Mormon names (JAT).

The (possibly independent) name MULOCH could also derive from the common Semitic root mlk, as described above, though the form is not readily transparent. MULOCH looks very much like a participle from a hollow verb in an oblique conjugation. However, no Hebrew root matches the form MULOCH. There is a South-west Semitic root, lwḥ, that appears to mean “shine,” and would work with MULOCH. [13]


Cf. Book of Mormon MULOKI, MELEK, AMALEKI, AMALICKIAH, AMLICI, AMULEK, MELCHIZEDEK.

See also Mulek / Muloch Variants

Variants

MULOCH, Mulok, Muleh

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐣𐐆𐐅𐐢𐐊𐐗 (mɪuːlʌk), 𐐣𐐆𐐅𐐢𐐇𐐗 (mɪuːlɛk), 𐐣𐐆𐐄𐐢𐐇𐐗 (mɪoʊlɛk)

Notes


  1. Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon 3:1464.
  2. This suggested has been made long ago; see Ariel Crowley, “The Escape of Mulek,” Improvement Era, May 1955, p. 324; and Sjodahl, Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, p. 11.
  3. MULEK came with a party of people to the New World, disembarking in the Land Northward (Helaman 6:10). At least some of the descendants of that group migrated southward to found ZARAHEMLA (Mosiah 25:2), where Mosiah1 and his people found them.
  4. Yohanan Aharoni, "Three Hebrew Ostraca from Arad." BASOR No. 197 (Feb 1970), pg. 22. Others have disputed the connection. See Lundbom, Jeremiah 37-552, Anchor Bible 21 C (Doubleday, 2004), 64 (regarding Jeremiah 38:6).
  5. See Robert F. Smith, "New Information About Mulek, Son of the King," Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992), 142-144; and John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, "Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 51.
  6. For examples in Arabic see Karin C. Ryding, A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (Cambridge, England: Cambridge, 2005), p. 90. See also Gesenius, note to §86g, “Diminutives in Semitic languages are, however, most commonly formed by inserting a y after the second radical.” Already in 1894, Morris Jastrow, “Hebrew Proper Names Compounded with יה and יהו,” Journal of Biblical Literature 13 (1894):117, mentions the use of the diminutive “Arabic fuʿail” form as the explanation of the biblical PN Obadiah, as opposed to the biblical PN Abdiel (1 Chronicles 5:15).
  7. See the diminutive Arabic PN Husein.
  8. Hugh Nibley first made the suggestion that MULEK derived from the Arabic diminutive mulik, “little king” (Hugh Nibley, "Two Shots in the Dark," in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1982), 119.), which would make sense if MULEK had been little when he escaped the Babylonian siege of JERUSALEM, or if he had been derisively called MULEK by those who did not recognize him as king. See footnote 5 above for LDS suggestions to link Malchiah in Jeremiah 38:6 with MULEK. The context in Jeremiah seems to indicate that Malchiah was at least of age, and not a small babe or child. Therefore, if MULEK is Malchiah, then the name may be a caritative or a term of derision.
  9. Dictionary of the Northwest Semitic Inscriptions 642.
  10. Ibid. 634.
  11. Ibid. 640.
  12. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament molek. See Albright Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, 205–210; and Sjodahl Improvement Era 24:140–141. (RFS, JH).
  13. See E. W. Lane, Arabic—English Dictionary, 2679, for ﻻﺡ,ﻟﻭﺡ

Bibliography


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