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Lehite PN 1. Apostate, late 6th or early 5th c. BC (Jacob 7:1, 7 (x2))


The observation has been made that the name SHEREM may not be Lehite. The argument goes something like this: The phrase, “there came a man among the people of NEPHI” who “had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people” (Jacob 7:1 & 4, respectively), could be hinting that SHEREM had not lived among the NEPHITES prior to his appearance in Jacob 7, but had acquired a masterful knowledge of the language. This conjecture may or may not have merit. But if it does have merit, then searching for a Semitic root may be futile. The following discussion, however, assumes that SHEREM was a NEPHITE and therefore his name is Lehite.

This PN looks like a segholate form from the root *šrm. However, the root *šrm does not exist in north-west Semitic, including biblical HEBREW (JH). It does exist in East Semitic (Babylonian and ASSYRIAN), šarāmu, and means “to cut out, to hack out,”[1] and in Arabic, sarrama, “to cut in pieces.”[2] It is possible that the root does exist in the HEBREW Bible as a hapax legomenon in the ketiv reading of Jeremiah 31:40 (KJV, but verse 39 in the Hebrew). There the meaning, reading with the ketiv, could be “the cut up/hacked up,” referring to the dead. But the qere reads šdm, a type of cultivated land or field.[3]

It is unlikely that SHEREM is composed of two elements, for example, the Š-stem of rām. The Semitic Š-stem was no longer a recognized stem in HEBREW by LEHI’s day.[4] In addition, the second vowel in SHEREM, /e/, cannot be accounted for if rām is the assumed lexeme.[5]

Much less likely are the following suggestions:

A HEBREW form *šōrem might be postulated on the evidence of Arabic surm, “anus.” Although an unlikely name for a man, his character would certainly prompt some contemporary readers to think the name was an appropriate dysphemism (JAT). Additionally, though both *šōrem and *šerem would be segholates from qutl and qatl forms respectively, it is unusual for qutl and qatl forms to interchange.[6]

Unlikely is biblical srn, “tyrant, lord” (Greek tyrannos and Neo-Hittite sarawanas/tarawanas) used of the chiefs of the Philistine cities, and attested in Ugarit. The shift from s to š and n to m are not impossible, but rather implausible (JH).

It is unlikely that by metathesis the biblical PN Shemer (HEBREW שמר šemer, “watch, vigil,” the eponymous owner of SAMARIA, 1 Kings 16:24) could become SHEREM (JH).

Also unlikely is a composite from HEBREW šĕʾar, “remnant,” and ʿam, “people,” patterned after the biblical PN šĕʾar yāšūb, “a remnant shall return,” in Isaiah 7:3 (= 1 Nephi 17:3). The vowels of *šĕʾar-ʿam would not easily shift to /e/ because of the ayin, neither would it be easy to delete one of the two vowels in šĕʾar.

Though the GN Shaaraim, “Two Gates,” in the KJV looks like it might provide the derivation for SHEREM (Reynolds, Story of the Book of Mormon, p. 296), the HEBREW, šaʿarayim, contains a consonant that SHEREM does not exhibit. On the other hand, the HEBREW dual ending -ayim is known, under certain conditions, to contract to /-em/. But it would make the name also a dual and therefore an unlikely PN.

Ḥerem, which in HEBREW can refer to that which is prohibited, or to excommunication (an apt category given the events in Jacob 7) might provide an etymology: GCT thus suggests that the name is metonymic and a dysphemism, hypothetical Hebrew *śḥerem “He-who-was-smitten; devoted-to-destruction,” employing a Semito-Egyptian ś-causative prefix on the Semitic root ḥrm “ban, taboo, consecrated for destruction,” which with the Hebrew causative prefix means “condemn to death, destroy” (Jacob 7:14 “God shall smite thee”; 15 “the power of God came upon him”). This does not require a consonant shifted to š in Lehite, and no such consonant shift within a Semitic language, including HEBREW, is known. It is true that Late EGYPTIAN , but not EGYPTIAN , is usually represented as š in Coptic (a late form of EGYPTIAN that did not begin to be used until centuries after LEHI left JERUSALEM). It would be difficult to imagine why the Lehites would transliterate a HEBREW name into Late EGYPTIAN and in the process change the to a , and then represent that with the š of Coptic (JAT, RFS, and PYH).

The suggestion that SHEREM might be derived from the Assyro Babylonian god šērum (“morning star, dawn; moon”) used in the Neo-Assyrian PN še-rù-ši-ti-ri-i, “Šēru(m) is my hiding place, shelter, refuge” (with anaptyxis), and Neo/Late Babylonian PN dše-rù-id-ri, “Šēru is (my) help” (R. Zadok, BASOR 231:74b) (RFS) is highly improbable. The form of this divine name when not in construct would be Šēru(m). While it is possible that Oliver Cowdery might have heard Šerem when Joseph dictated Šerum, by the beginning of the Iron Age in 1200 BC, nearly all mimation and case endings had been dropped in the West Semitic languages. In other words, Lehite would probably not have maintained the case ending or mimation: Had the name been preserved among the Lehites as the name of the “morning star,” it would have been simply Šēr. Thus the /-em/ on SHEREM would remain unexplained.

Gröndahl lists the Ugaritic PN šrm,[7] but it does not appear to be a personal name.

Cf. Book of Mormon SHELEM.

See also Sherem Variants


Deseret Alphabet: 𐐟𐐀𐐡𐐇𐐣 (ʃiːrɛm)


  1. Confer the standard Akkadian dictionaries.
  2. Confer the standard Arabic dictionaries, and Gordon, UT 2745. Ugaritic does have the lexeme ṯrm, cognate with the Arabic sarrama, but with the extended meaning “meal; to eat; to cut up meat,” etc., but never as a personal name. (The Ugaritic PN ʻbdṯrm probably refers to Gröndahl’s Hurrian/Anatolian god ṯrm/šrm.)
  3. See Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds. The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1995, trans. of 5-volume 3rd German edition. under שדמה.
  4. It is possible for the Lehites to have brought the name, in a frozen form, from the Old World. If this happened, the vowels of SHEREM resemble the vowels of the regular HEBREW hiphil stem, and not the normal ša of the Š-stem. Ugaritic, which does have an active Š-stem, has the form šrm from the Š-stem of rām, 2 Aqht VI:15, tšrm, “she raises” (RFS).
  5. Even the HEBREW hiphil imperative of rām, hārēm, though it contains the /e/, would leave the first vowel of SHEREM unaccounted for.
  6. When the same triconsonantal root does appear in two or more qatl/qitl/qutl forms, the meanings are usually different.
  7. Die Personennamen der Texte aus Ugarit, Studia Pohl 1 (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1967), 196 and 250. The current reading (contra Gordon, UT, text 52:2&22; and Gröndahl) of the text where the word occurs, KTU 1,23:2 and 22, is now read differently, namely, line 2: bn.šp[ ], and line 22: ṯn.šrm.[ ]. The first occurrence is a name, but not šrm. The second is šrm, but it is not a personal name. Theodore J. Lewis, in Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, ed. Simon B. Parker, Writings from the Ancient World 9 ([Atlanta]: Scholars Press, 1997), 208-9, translates line 22 with “the scarlet of princes…” Gröndahl, p. 250, does tie šrm with the Hurrian/Anatolian god šarruma, the son of the Hurrian gods Teshub and Hebat.
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