SHAZER

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Lehite GN 1. Campsite in the wilderness of Arabia, 4 days travel SSE from the River LAMAN in the Valley of LEMUEL, along the RED SEA coastal plain (1 Nephi 16:13, 14), i.e., the Tihamah, probably not far below the Straits of Tiran, in the shadow of the Jabal al-Hijaz range.

Etymology

The most likely suggestion for SHAZER is from Sidney Sperry,[1] who took it from the HEBREW root šazar, meaning “to twist, to intertwine,” but which only appears in the hophal participle in the HEBREW Bible.[2] The root appears in post-biblical HEBREW šazar, yišzor, šezira, etc.; cf. šezir “twisted thread, cord” in Targum Jonathan Exodus 28:28, 39:31, Numbers 15:38, and in Talmud & Midrash (Jastrow 1545). The understanding of SHAZER in HEBREW as "twisted" could be a reference to the acacia trees at this oasis where LEHI's group camped and rested. According to James K. Hoffmeier in his book, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition: "Most acacia are short and tend to be twisted."[3] Significantly, acacia trees tend to grow in wadis where there is moisture. It is cognate with Arabic šazara “look askew at, suspiciously; twisted wrong way” as for a cord (from left).[4] The vowels of SHAZER would be the vowels of the qal participle form, and could mean something like, “twister.”

Hugh Nibley suggested a common Palestinian place-name “shajer” (which he said was pronounced “shazher” in EGYPTIAN Arabic) as in ṯoǵret ʾaš-šaǰȗr “Pass of the Trees,” from a collective noun meaning “trees”: šajr, šajara, šajir, ašjar, šajra, etc., “trees, forest, woody, wooded,” etc. (actually šagar, šagara in colloquial EGYPTIAN Arabic), but which has a homophone that means “quarrel, break out (unrest), fight.”[5]

Also intriguing is the name of a famous water-hole in South Arabia called Šisur by B. Thomas, and Šisar by H. St. John Philby (Nibley, Lehi in the Desert [1952] = CWHN V:78-79).[6] Apparently at one time it was the old Omani town or caravanserai Šisr.[7] This location in Oman is of course unrelated to the site mentioned in the Book of Mormon; nevertheless, the name itself, used for a watering hole and a place to camp, is significant.[8]

Cf. also ancient EGYPTIAN sdr “spend the night, lie down to rest,” sdryt “sleeping-place” (R. Faulkner, Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, 259), which would provide an appropriate name for a campsite.

Another ancient EGYPTIAN term is syllabic šЗ-gЗ-r indicating some sort of “body of water” (J. Hoch, Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and 3rd Intermediate Period [1994], #415, dynasties 20-21), but the interchange /z/>/g/ and /z/</g/ is otherwise unattested.

Note also HEBREW šyḥwr (< EGYPTIAN š(y)-ḥr “the pond of Horus)[9] = LXX seiōr (an EGYPTIAN name). The /š/ and /r/ match up well, but /ḥ/ > /z/ṣ/ is problematic.

Finally, there is ssr, a Carthaginian Punic use of ancient EGYPTIAN sЗ-sr “son-of-the-ram” (Y. Muchiki, Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords in North-West Semitic, 28). But the dissimulation of /s/>/š/ and /s/>/z/ makes this suggestion highly questionable.

An unlikely etymology would be HEBREW khazîr (Psalms 104:14), “green herbs” (Sjodahl, Autheniticity of the Book of Mormon, p. 11; Reynolds, Story of the Book of Mormon, p. 299; Reynolds, Dictionary of the Book of Mormon, p. 248).

Variants

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐟𐐁𐐞𐐇𐐡 (ʃeɪzɛr)

Notes


  1. Sidney B. Sperry, in Book of Mormon Testifies, posits an active root. This is the reading that appears in the note to verse13 in the 1981edition of the Book of Mormon. Sidney B. Sperry. Book of Mormon Testifies. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1952), 59.
  2. For the hophal participle see Exodus 26:1, 31, 36, and in chapters 27, 28, 36, 38, and 39. See especially Exodus 39:24.
  3. James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). We wish to thank Ryan Parr of Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada, for providing these observations.
  4. For full coverage of the many forms and meanings of this Arabic root, see Edward W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon, 8 vols. (London: Williams & Norgate, 1863-1893/reprint N.Y.: F. Ungar Publ., 1955-1956), IV:1546-1547.
  5. Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 5 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 78-9. See also John A. Tvedtnes, ed., Book of Mormon Onomastica: The Phonology and Etymology of Book of Mormon Names (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1985), N156. Likewise, many forms and meanings in Edward W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon. vol. IV. (London: Williams &Nargate, 1863-1893; reprint New York: F. Ungar Publ., 1955-1956), 1506-1508; cf. Ibid., 1561 šʿr “trees,” and IV:1566 #8 šġr “watering-place (off the beaten track).”
  6. Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix: Across the “Empty Quarter” of Arabia. (New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 1932), 136, “Shisur tomorrow. No wonder it looms so large in the Arab mind, for it is the first water-hole we meet for five days….Shisur’s loneliness makes it an inevitable place of call for raiders, and it is a proper practice to fill in a water-hole when leaving to delay possible pursuers.” Harry St. John Bridger Philby, The Empty Quarter: Being a Description of the Great South Desert of Arabia known as Rub’al Khali. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1933), 231, “For me such a plan had but little attraction beyond the possibility that we might light upon the Rashid and Hamad ibn Sultan near the Shisar well and with their help arrange to cut back westward into the Hadhramaut border.”
  7. Šisur meaning "Cleft, Sinkhole," according to Juris Zarins and Nicholas Clapp, "Incense Road." NOVA, PBS-TV [Boston: WGBH, 1996]; Clapp, "The Incense Road from Ubar to Petra: An Overview," UCLA Extension course lecture, Nov 16, 1996, under program title: "Ubar to Petra: The Ancient Incense Route"; cf. Zarins in E. Meyers, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East [1997], 5:252-254.
  8. John A. Tvedtnes, ed., pointed this out in Book of Mormon Onomastica (Provo: FARMS, 1985), N156.
  9. The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: שיחור
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