GAZELEM

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Lehite PN or common noun A servant of God, or stone directors/interpreters. (Alma 37:21, 23-24).

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(S).[3] Therefore it would not be amiss to derive May thus be derived 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, 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 ‘āz, “might,” and ‘elem, “young man” (JH), if ‘āz comes from ģzz and ‘elem comes from ‘lm.

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-‘ālêm, or gazê-‘alem (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 [10]‖2 Nephi 19:10) + ‘alem (V???), “(he who is) on high”? Or *ga-ṣelem, “exalted image, magnificent likeness,” from gā’ā, “exalted, glorious, proud, magnificent” (Exodus 15:1, 21) + ṣelem, “image, likeness.”

See URIM, THUMMIM, URIAH, SHELEM, ALMA, ETHER.

See also Gazelem Variant

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. PYH, “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. Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary IV, 162.

Bibliography

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