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Lehite PN 1. Servant of LABAN (1 Nephi 4:35 (x2), 37; 16:7; 2 Nephi 1:30; 5:6; Alma 54:23)
2. Chief captain of NEPHITE armies, ca. 81 B.C. (Alma 16:5 (x2), 7)
3. NEPHITE apostate and leader of ZORAMITES (Alma 30:59; 31:1)


ZORAM has five plausible etymologies, though only the first etymology given below is attested in an ancient Semitic source (see below). The first three of the five are only slightly different from each other: "The Rock is the (divine) kinsman," "Rock of the people," and "Their Rock." These three plausible etymologies will be discussed in that order, with the first discussion supplying most of the basic information. The fourth and fifth suggested meanings were made by Matthew L. Bowen, "The one who is exalted," and approximately, "[The diety] has flooded forth."

In the first of the five etymologies, the only etymology with an attested ancient Semitic instance, the first part of the PN Zoram is the HEBREW word צור ṣûr, meaning "rock, cliff face,"[1] but is used metaphorically for the God of Israel, as in 2 Samuel 22:47, "The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock [ṣûr]; and exalted be the God of the rock [ṣûr] of my salvation" (PYH). [2] The vocable ṣûr also appears in several biblical personal names, such as Zur צור ṣûr "Rock" (Numbers 25:15), Zuriel, ṣûrî-ʾēl "El (God) is my rock" (Numbers 3:35). [3]

The second part of the PN ZORAM could come from the common Semitic vocable ʿām, meaning "father's brother," "(divine) kinsman," and "people."[4] The vocable ʿām is qutie common in ancient Semitic name giving.[5] As an element in Hebrew names, there is no question that it is a theophoric element, [6] appearing in names such as Jekameam, yĕqam-ʿām (1 Chronicles 23:19). [7] In addition to appearing as the final element in PNs, it also can be found at the beginning of names, e.g., Amminadab, ʿammî-nādāb (Numbers 1:7), "my father's brother is generous" (PYH).[8] (Note that this biblical PN also appears in the Book of Mormon as AMINADAB - RFS).

The question of meaning hinges partly on how to view ʿām as a theophoric element. Varying Semitic orthographies make distinguishing between ḫamm (sun god), *ḥam (husband's father) and עם ʿam ("people") difficult if not impossible. The translation "father's brother/paternal uncle" does not convey the same connotation in English as it does in Hebrew. To approximate the Semitic connotation, some translators render עם ʿām with "divine kinsman." To avoid the issue of meaning, some translations simply transliterate the vocable. For example, in the PN mentioned above, Jekameam, HALOT renders yĕqam-ʿām with "may ʿAm deliver,"[9] where ʿAm is understood as a deity, a divine kinsman (PYH).

Combining ṣûr with עם ʿām would give the meaning "The Rock is the (divine) kinsman." To modern ears, this meaning may seem like a strange PN. However, though ṣûr and ʿām are not used together in any known biblical PN, they are used together in the Amorite Bronze Age PN ṣûrî-ʿammu, which is translated as "My rock is the Father's brother" [10] (PYH).

A second possibility for ZORAM is hypothetical *ṣûr-ʿām, "Rock of the people," where עם ʿām would not mean "paternal uncle," but rather "people," though in PNs the meaning "people" seems to be quite rare (PYH). Biblical PNs such as Jeroboam and Rehoboam may lend legitimacy to the use of "people." Jeroboam can be interpreted as "may the people increase."[11] Rehoboam can mean "The people have become extensive."[12] Additionally, the PN Jekameam could mean "may the people arise" (RFS).

The third possibility for ZORAM is that it could be patterned after Psalm 78:35, "God was their rock," where "their rock" in Hebrew is צורם ṣûrām. In this etymology, ZORAM would be a hypocoristicon with the theophoric element "God" (ʾĕlōhîm in Psalm 78:35) omitted. That "Rock" is a name or title for the God of Israel is not in doubt, especially from passages such as Deutreronomy 32:30 where צורם ṣûrām, "their Rock" parallels YHWH "the LORD" (LXX Greek theos "God")[13] (RFS).

The fourth possibility has been suggested by Matthew Bowen, namely, that ZORAM is formed from two parts, zu and ram. The first would be common West Semitic deictic particle and would mean "the one of" or "that one of,"[14]and the second could be the stative verb rām, meaning "is exalted." The two vocables together would yield the meaning "The one who is exalted," referring of course to the God of Israel.[15]

The fifth possibility, also suggested by Matthew Bowen, would make ZORAM a pôʿal verb form akin to the Hebrew word zerem, which designates a kind of rain[16] or overflowing of water.[17] The verb occurs only once in the Old Testament,[18] namely, in Psalm 77:17 (18 in Hebrew), where the KJV translates, "poured out."[19] Thus Bowen translates the name, "'He [i.e., the deity] has [is] poured forth' or 'He has flooded forth.'"[20]

It has also been suggested that ZORAM could be a form of the Hebrew segholate noun zerem, defined above as a kind of rain or overflowing water."[21] Though the consonants match up well, the vowels do not; zerem is a segholate noun from the Hebrew qatl paradigm [22] which would not produce the vowels of ZORAM.

Cf. EGYPTIAN divine name zrm (LGG, 6:431); see also the variant name of zrm, rks, that appears in the Book of the Dead, utterance 39 S 5.

See Book of Mormon ZORAMITE(S).


See also Zoram / Zorum Variants

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐞𐐄𐐡𐐊𐐣 (zoʊrʌm)


  1. HALOT
  2. See also passages such as Deuteronomy 32:15, "the Rock of his salvation."
  3. That “Shadday” is an epithet of the God of Israel is clear from Genesis 49:25. The KJV mistranslates it in this verse as “Almighty.” The JPS Tanakh, published by Oxford as The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), translation transliterates the Hebrew, “El Shaddai.” HALOT derives šaddai from the Akkadian word for “mountain,” i.e., “mountain dwelling.”
  4. HALOT's tripartite etymology A. "father's brother," B. "clan, kin," and C. "people," makes it difficult enough in Hebrew. The possibility that ḫm, ḥm and ʿmn ("people") can be confused with the various Semitic orthographies only complicates the efforts to provide a clear etymology. In the Mari PNs, ḫamm, meaning "paternal uncle," and ʿam, an Amorite divine name, possibly from *ḥam and possibly meaning "father-in'-law," are not confused. See H. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965), 166 and 196-7.
  5. The most widely known example of the vocable ʿām in an ancient Semitic name is the famous Old Babylonian ruler Hammurapi, where ḫammu is the East Semitic reflex of West Semitic ʿām.
  6. Note that the element ʿām in Amminadab is replaced by "my brother" in ʾǎḥî-nādāb (1 Kings 4:14) by "my father in ʾabî-nādāb, and by "Jehovah" in yĕhô-nādāb (2 Samuel 13:5), demonstrating that ʿām functions as a theophoric element emphasizing kinship with God.
  7. Other bibilcal names with the element ʿām include Amram (Exodus 6:18) and Ammizabad (1 Chronicles 27:6).
  8. HALOT
  9. HALOT
  10. Michael P. Streck, Das amurrittische Onomasticon der altbabylonischen Zeit (Münster, Germany: Ugarit-Verlag, 2000), 345.
  11. IPN, 207, "es mehre sich das Volk." But Stamm in the same passage seems to prefer the meaning "may Baal appeaer as great." HALOT also translates differently, "the uncle (-god) has done justice."
  12. HALOT. See also IPN, 193, "Das Volk ist weit geworden, hat sich ausgebreitet." but HALOT also gives the meaning, "the uncle-god (Jehovah) has made wide."
  13. See also Deuteronomy 32:15, Psalm 89:26 "God,... the Rock" | Jacob 7:25; cf. PGP Moses 7:53 "Rock of Heaven" (caps in current LDS edition).
  14. This deictic particle is represented variously in the West Semitic languages: Hebrew: , Ugaritic: d, Phoenician: z, and Arabic: .
  15. Matthew Bowen, "See That Ye Are Not Lifted Up," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 19 (2016): 113-4.
  16. See HALOT, זרם II.
  17. See Habakkuk 3:10, where zerem is translated "the overflowing" in the King James translation.
  18. Psalm 90:5 contains a verb form from zrm, but according to HALOT, זרם I., it means “make an end of life” in that verse. Contrary to the King James Bible translation, some English translations do not mention “water” or “flood”: Thus the 1537 Matthew Bible reads, “As sone as thou scatrest them;” The New English Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971) has, “thou has cut them off;” The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) translates with uncertainty, “You engulf men in sleep;” The Contemporary English Version (New York: ABS, 1995) reads, “You bring our lives to an end.” The King James reading probably stems at least in part from the 1560 Geneva translation which reads, “Thou hast overflowed them,” with the marginal note: “Thou takest them away suddenly as with a flood.”
  19. The New English Bible translate the phrase, "the clouds poured water," while The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) translates, "Clouds steamed water."
  20. Matthew Bowen, "See That Ye are Not Lifed Up," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 19 (2016): 112.
  21. Hugh W. Nibley, "Teachings of the Book of Mormon," semester 2, lecture 55, page 3, "welcome, refreshing, powerful rain." HALOT translates, "heavy rain."
  22. That zerem is from a qatl form is based on the pausal form in Isaiah 32:2, zārem
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