Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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'Nobody is above Him, because nobody reigns over Him; He is not in want for nothing was before Him.' This is talking about Father, 'He does not lack life; He is eternal He lacks nothing because He is completely perfect. He has no lack so He has to be perfected in it, but all times He is absolutely perfect. In perfection He is unlimited because there was nobody before Him that can set the bounds for Him. He cannot be judged for there is nobody.'


"Of all the Semitic languages Aramaic has the longest history and this fact alone makes it particularly interesting and rich from the lexical point of view, [especially when studying the Book of Mormon Names]. Throughout this long history Aramaic has been pre-eminently a language in contact with other languages—Akkadian, Hebrew, Phoenician, Iranian languages, Egyptian, Greek, Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish [Syriac and contemporary Palestinian and Jewish Aramaic, and twenty or so other groups or languages, all utilized Semitic or Aramaic extensively and developed notable dialects] ...the Aramaeans and other speakers of Aramaic never, or hardly ever, constituted a dominating force. The speakers of Aramaic have spent almost all their history under foreign domination of one kind or another, though the impact that Aramaic has itself had on the languages of the rulers is considerable, partly because of the particular roles, administrative and intellectual, that the Aramaeans have tended to have within the dominant culture." (Healey p. 75)

"The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system was exceptionally rigid and bound. The result was its complete disappearance early in the Common Era (CE)." (Altman p. 17) In this series of studies, attention has been drawn to Egyptian and Mesopotamian linguistic groups, and on-going studies will continue, selecting one or another of the more than twenty Semitic languages for emphasis.  One language and group of people that seems to have been neglected is the Phoenicians, and particularly the blending of Phoenician and Egyptian.  Some aspects of this important neglected area will be introduced in this present study. "The Phoenicians arrived in the Mediterranean basin before 3000 BC. The kingdom of Ugarit was one of the Phoenician [early] city-states...Ugarit was the capital city." (Altman p. 28) From religious history one could say that the Phoenicians arrived in the region after the Flood. From the Tablets of Ugarit were found Akkadian, Hittite, Hurrian...hieroglyhics...The Sumerians created the means to record speech as spoken. The Akkadians modified the symbol set for the Semitic languages. Ugaritic is a North-west Semitic tongue, an early version of Phoenician. At Ugarit they came up with a momentous refinement...they designed a formalized, determinant, consonantal alphabetic ...writing system...[that] reduced the indeterminate mass of formalized [graphic syllabic systems to] a total of twenty-six ..graphic symbols." (Altman p. 28-29)  At Sidon the Phoenicians took the Ugaritic writing system and refined it even further. "The Phoenicians created a new script design based upon existing Semitic dry-surface models, but retained the determinate Ugaritic symbol-to-phone assignments. They reduced the number of characters to a formalized twenty-two member symbol-set."  (Altman p. 29) This was called the Alphabet.  The Phoenicians also designed their script so they could encode everything that had been in the earlier cuniform models in an exceptionally compact form. The Nephites recognized this simplification, and even improved upon it.

"The Phoenicians invented a different way to record the different qualities (phones) of the vowels...they designed a script that uses variant forms of a basic graphic symbol shape...each variant of a basic shape indicated a different phone associated with that shape. Now they could encode everything that had been in their...model in an exceptionally compact form." (Altman p. 29) "Semitic languages use tiliterals. This means that the roots of words are [generally] represented by three consonants. Vowels are not part of the root word....the form of the word tells you the correct vowel phone to be pronounced, and therefore, the meaning." (Altman p. 29)  "The majority of existing Phoenician documents are written in breathings (the number of syllables that can be said in one breath) and as a result [they] do not use punctuation. Soon after the fourteenth century BC  the Phoenicians refined their system a little more and introduced the three point systems of high, medial, and low points...shown on the Yadi Stele...and Mesha stele."  (Altman p.31)

Ancient Phoenician script is found in many places, one unique find is that of the Kilamu, King of Yadi stele, rather artsy, with high, low, and Medial points, which can be compared with the Phoenician script found on the Mesha stele, with Medial and low points. (Altman  pp. 31-33) "The high point indicated a clause...a dependent semantic unit. The low point marked the equivalent of our modern semi-colon and the medial point marked closure of both a word and a complete thought." (Altman p. 31) The Phoenicians developed this about 1400 BC. "Our modern scripts and fonts are all descendants of [that] new Phoenician script design." (Altman p. 30)  "All modern Western writing systems are descendants of the Phoenician system." (Altman p. 1) When the Phoenician script is compared to the Hieratic and Hieroglyphic [interlineal] styles in the ancient book: Precepts of Ptah Hotep, one is strongly inclined to favor the Phoenicia script when looking for similarities to the Anthon Transcript. (Webb p. 25)   

But, most important for our analysis, lets take a look at their development of ‘fonts'.
They developed "Proportional scripts, (and fonts), [called] bilinear, trilinear, or quartolinear. ..designed relative to the width of the minim and the symbol ‘O'....the minim ...refers to the width of the upright stroke-whether tall or short....The ‘0' [determined by the writing or chiseling instrument] is the width of a ‘standard' space [for a symbol]. ..the minim is the measure for horizontal [space] and the height of the ‘0' is the measure for vertical movement." (Altman p. 30)  These define the ‘Font' size. There is no lower case, only upper case. You change the size of the writing by changing the scale of the minim. (Altman p. 31)  You change the amount of writing on a line by changing the scale of the writing you are making.  With this in mind, take a look at the copy of the Anthon Transcript.  The first four lines are large scale writings, or fonts. The fifth and sixth lines are ‘half the size' of the larger writing. And the seventh line is smaller still, it is only half the size of the fifth and sixth line.  There are about 23 characters in the first line in of the larger writing or ‘font'.  In the lower line there is more than 50 characters in the line. The brevity of writing in the lower line is more than 200 % less than the upper line.  But all three ‘fonts' or sizes of writing were copied by Joseph from the Book of Mormon. It is evident that he copied the lines from at least three different places in the Book of  Mormon. So all three ‘fonts' were used in that book.  In places, the Book of Mormon could have even been briefer had the lower lines ‘font' size been used all of the time. Only the Phoenicians used this style of changing ‘fonts' or sizing. The Hebrew and Egyptians did not use it as a standard practice. "A 9th Century ‘Scribes Handbook" states that ‘the lines should be spaced...according to the size of the writing." (Altman p. 30)  "That is, choose your writing instrument and then draw your writing guidelines." (Altman p. 30) Does the copy of the Anthon Transcript correctly demonstrate Phoenician fonts and writing styles that could have been used by Lehi?

The Phoenicians were traders. In fact their name for themselves ‘Cana'ani' (of Canaan) means ‘merchant' or ‘trader'.  Their trading activities brought them into contact with various Western societies through commercial contact, introducing their writing system. (Altman p. 37)  As a trader and ‘merchant' Lehi would have identified with and would have no doubt absorbed their writing and language skills.


A linguistic confirmation of the Book of Mormon, in addition to the many consonant constructs and Onomastic studies that have been prepared for this series, can be obtained from another source. Around 1910, Thomas W. Brookbank wrote a series of articles concerning Hebrew idioms in the Book of Mormon in the Improvement Era. (Brookbank) In one of those articles he examined the Hebrew Alphabet and English equivalents. The following table is from that article. (Brookbank p. 336-339)

                                                            CHART 1

            1.   Aleph                                            12.   Lamedh                            L

            2.   Beth                       Bh, B               13.   Mem                                M

            3.   Gimel                     Gh, G               14.   Nun                                  N

            4.   Deleth                    Dh, D               15.   Samekh                            S

            5.   He                          H                     16.   Ayin                                

            6.   Vav                        V                      17.   Pe                                    Ph, P

            7.   Zayin                      Z                     18.   Tsadhe                             Ts

            8.   Hheth                     Hh                   19.   Koph                                 K

            9.   Teth                       T                      20.   Resh                                 R

           10.  Yodh                      Y                      21.   Shin                                 S, Sh

           11.  Kaph                      Kh, K                22.   Tav                                  Th, T

Notice how close the Hebrew is to English. Few people know the history of the alphabet. (Altman p. l)  Its history constantly changes as more discoveries are made. The reader will notice immediately that there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew Alphabet, and some letters found in English are not present at all.  A close examination of the Hebrew Alphabet reveals there is no equivalent for four English consonants: Q, X, W, and F. What could this mean in regard to the Book of Mormon names?  Any proper name in the Book of Mormon containing these letters would NOT BE a literal transliteration from Hebrew. Can you imagine trying to invent 337 names without once using the letters q, x, w, and f?  Try it! Joseph could have made serious mistakes if he has used these letters. But he didn't use them; in fact he was translating a language that did not use them. Yet, could it also mean that many of the names in the Book of Mormon were Hebraized? Or was there some other language involved?  Could that other language be Phoenician?

A copy of the "Six lines of writing on the Moabite Stone, exhibiting the Phoenician Style, widely used by Semitic peoples, perhaps also by the Hebrews." (Webb p. 15) is provided with this study.  The Moabite Stone found in 1868 is an inscribed stele of black basalt found at Dibon in Jordan, south of Ammon. "It is the largest single literary document yet found outside the Bible. In the course of a dispute Arabs broke it into many pieces. The Louvre at Paris put the pieces back together. The account reflects Moabite culture in the 8th century BC, parallel to the account of 11 Sam l-3."  (Miller p. 452) "While written in ancient Moabite, six lines on the stone were in Phoenician Style." (Webb p. 15)  Lehi would have been familiar with this Moabite style modified only slightly down to his time, in the 6th century BC.   

Compare the Phoenician writing with the Anthon Transcript, "traditionally thought to be ...the translated Book of Mormon characters [prepared by Joseph] taken by Martin Harris to New York City  [in Feb. 1828] to Show Professor Charles Anthon and Dr. Samuel Mitchell." (Largey p. 63)  This would have been in fulfillment of Isa 29:11-14.  One will be amazed at the comparison. (Largey p. 63)  Why should there be a greater parallel of the Anthon Transcript to Phoenician-Egyptian than to Egyptian in general?  Or even to Chaldaic, Assyriac and Arabic forms of writing? If Joseph dreamed it all up, how could there be a parallel of any kind? Largey provides other details of that visit to New York. (Largey pp. 63-66)  Which, of these various languages could Lehi have had extensive contact with?  The LDS have long understood Lehi had contact with Egypt and Egyptian languages, but what about Phoenician?  Lehi knew Egyptian very well.


So, does the term ‘Reformed Egyptian' refer to the Egyptian language, or to the method of writing adopted by its writers, or something more complicated? (Webb p. 13) "I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language [he didn't say writing] of the Egyptians." (l Nephi 1:2). But a distinction seems to be required in understanding the difference between the writings on the Brass Plates, and the writings that were made in keeping the Gold Plates of the Nephites records. Notice that King Benjamin refers to the help the Brass Plates had provided in keeping the history and the doctrines, and states that the Brass Plates were written in Egyptian and that "Lehi, having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings [on the Brass Plates] and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time." (Mosiah 1:4) Why the Brass Plates, a record of the Northern Tribes, were written in Egyptian, is never explained. The proximity of the Northern Tribes to and the use of the Phoenician Ports of Sidon and Tyre may have something to do with this.  But the record keeping on the Gold Plates utilized a modification of Egyptian, which they called ‘reformed Egyptian'.   It seems they started keeping records in the ‘Reformed Egyptian' from day one, having brought with them a knowledge of a ‘Reformed Egyptian of some type." Mormon, speaking about the record keeping, stated "we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech." (Mormon 9:32-33). Is this statement a subtle reference to a knowledge of the ‘characters' with which the Brass Plates were written? It does seem from Mosiah l:4 that the Brass Plates were written in Egyptian, which Lehi could read and teach them to his children, but the record keeping of the Nephites started out as a ‘reformed or altered Egyptian' for brevity's sake. It was different than what was used to record on the Brass Plates. So it seems that the Language on the Brass Plates and the ‘reformed Egyptian ‘altered by us' were two different ways that their histories were recorded.    

So we have a major people commencing their records, writing in one language for brevity but speaking in another. There is a historical precedent for this kind of activity. "The Akkadian attested in the records found at Ugarit of the Late Bronze Age (LB 111/3, 1500  BC) has to be regarded as a written rather than a spoken language.  The scribes themselves spoke Ugaritic." (van Soldt p. 205) These Akkadian scribes however, wrote in Akkadian, a Semitic Language. A perfect example of a people writing in one language and speaking another. This confirms the practice found in the Book of Mormon. The Nephites spoke Hebrew, but they were writing it in a reformed Egyptian style. In fact "The plates [referring to the Gold Plates and not to the Brass Plates] may have been recorded in a type of shorthand Egyptian." (McConkie p. 257) But then Mormon added: "And if our plates [the plates they kept their records on] had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold ye would have had no imperfection in our record." (Mormon 9:34)  They apparently used the ‘Reformed Egyptian' for brevity. So the writing was accomplished by using ‘characters' of the style of Egyptian they were using and had learned. Students of the Book of Mormon, Webb, Largey, Crowley, Nibley, Tvedtness and others, have given some attention to the study of ‘reformed Egyptian' and book of Mormon names, why not another study now?  But it would seem from Mosiah 1:4 that the Brass Plates were written in Egyptian, Lehi could read it, tell his children about it, and initiate recording himself which was maintained on Gold Plates of a ‘reformed Egyptian' style.  It also appears that others of his family and descendants later were capable of reading the Brass Plates for the history and doctrines they contained.  Most of the contents of the Brass Plates, while referred to from time to time, were not re-included, or transferred to the Gold Plates. The Brass Plates and the Gold Plates together constitute a continuous record and history. Why weren't the Brass Plates written in Aramaic or Hebrew?

Because Nephi and Moroni, more than a thousand years apart mentioned Hebrew and Egyptian that permits a starting point for comparison. (Largey p. 117)  Let's emphasize the fact that the gold plates had been written in ‘characters' called ‘reformed Egyptian'. Perhaps there is more to these ‘characters' than has been supposed.   Moroni explained that this ‘reformed Egyptian had been "altered by us, according to our manner of speech." (Morm. 9:32-33)   The writing is therefore a form of Egyptian that has been altered by them, for brevity, but expressing their vocalization of their Hebrew speech. Complicating all of this is the fact as Nibley pointed out, the Book of Mormon "supplies us with a goodly number of untranslated [mostly name and place] words that still await the attention of the philologist." ( Nibley p. 97) In an analysis of Men of the East by Nibley one can conclude that many of the Egyptian related names came from the Brass Plates. When incorporated into Nephite names were they slightly ‘altered' so the comparison with Egyptian names is not exact, but close enough to see the resemblance? Many Egyptian names may have also have been obtained by the personal contact Lehi and other members of his family had with Egyptians in their professional activity as merchants and traders. (Nibley 1988 pp. 25-42)  In the past, perhaps there has been too much emphasis of the Egyptian influence on Lehi. Perhaps there was another influence.


We generally understand that the Lord revealed the translation of the Book of Mormon word for word to Joseph after the manner of Joseph's own language which Joseph expressed in his own words. (Largey p. 119) That further complicates things.  That explains why we see in much of the Book of Mormon features associated with the language of the King James Bible, and related to the age, time, or culture, of Joseph at the time he did the translating and to the influence of his environment which included a lot of members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) whose speech was highly influenced by older forms of English. (Largey p. 119)  Yet, even considering all of this, it still preserved the powerful and beautifully poetic character of the original. But the names were carefully preserved. The specificity of names provided to him during translating becomes a powerful proof of an ancient text, modified perhaps through the use of the boy Joseph to do the translating, but never losing the uniqueness of the names, and giving us enough clues to track down some realities as to the nature of the ‘reformed Egyptian', and by tracking down the names from other sources to obtain absolute confirmation that the Book of Mormon record is a real document.

"Because of their resistance to some kinds of linguistic change, proper names [PNN]
retain archaic features...archaic can be defined as follows:  a) marked by the characteristics of an earlier period; [such as Jaredite names] old-fashioned, primitive, antiquated. b) especially of language: belonging to an earlier period, [Phoenician, Hittite, Akkadian, or Elblaitic] no longer in common use, though still retained either by some individuals, or generally, for special purposes, poetical, liturgical, etc. (Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary)."  (Layton p. 4)  In the Book of Mormon, this will hold true for place names, or geographical names (GNN), only if the names in the Book of Mormon are authentic genuine names. So whatever ‘reformed Egyptian' did for the text of the ancient Book of Mormon records, the names were preserved accurately so their archaic and linguistic aspects were retained. This means that at all times when the abridgers, Mormon, Moroni, and others, and then Joseph Smith, they had to have had in the back of their minds extreme restraint so as not to conform names to their historical period of time when they dealt with the record. Joseph had to exercise the most restraint to never modify or monkey with the names--just present them as they came up. The vast number of names preserved in the Book of Mormon, should, if they are truly genuine and correct, preserve such characteristics that will permit them to be identified as to time and provenance. Since this is the case, the names deserve thorough study.

All of this flies in the face of the "hostile critics who would insist that the Book of Mormon was written, in ‘toto', by unlearned men." (Webb p. 14)  And it might be added, can one present any other language or system of writing, other than the one of ‘reformed Egyptian' to serve the double ends of brevity and capacity for diminution, without disguising its identify? 

But, written "in the Phoenician style...characters were formed with one or more of the branching elements, known as ‘horns' (translated in the New Testament, [as] ‘tittles')." (Webb p. 15), revealing the Phoenician connection.  The Phoenician-Egyptian style seems to serve very well for a varied, modified, revised, re-formed, or reformed, method of written expression.  It seems to bewilder people, greatly, trying to make out what the Nephites meant by ‘reformed Egyptian', perhaps the answer is in the Phoenician connection.  Both Webb and Nibley recognized there was a Phoenician connection.


The Egyptian Language began a serious transformation about 700 BC. By the time of Lehi and soon after, "three different kinds of Egyptian script were in simultaneous use for different purposes'" (Gardiner 2,  p. 20)  What happened thereafter as the chronology of events approached the Christian era, modifications occurred by the impress of Greek and Persian influence. Prior to the Dark Ages descending on Europe and Egypt and elsewhere, "the learned presbyter Clement of Alexandria (c. 105-215 AD) .....[mentioned in his works] a correct appreciation of the nature of the [Egyptian] hieroglyphs." Gardiner 2 p. 12)  It was Clement who used "the term hieroglyphic....[which] means ‘sacred carvings' and was almost exclusively employed for inscriptions graven [or painted] on temple walls." (Gardiner p. 20)  But it was not hieroglyphs that the Nephites utilized.

"Hieroglyphic...[was] the original variety of writing...sometimes it reads from top to bottom, sometimes from right to left, but sometimes also from left to right, ...when the writing is from right to left the signs face towards the right." (Gardiner p. 20) Most Semitic languages are now written from right to left. A second Egyptian style of writing was Hieratic.  "Hieratic, Clement tells us, was...the style...employed by priestly scribes...for religious books." (Gardiner p.21)  But by comparison with the Anthon Transcript, it is evident that the ‘Characters' do not appear to be Hieroglyphic or Hieratic  There was a third Egyptian writing, the popular, enchorial, style. "Egyptian writing, called ‘enchorial' (native) [it was found] on the Rosetta Stone... [for] ‘epistolographic' (letter writing),... modern scholars have retained Herodotus' name [for this style] demotic, (popular). This was evolved out of hieratic only about the time of the Ethiopian Dynasty, from c. 700 BC,  [just before the Saitic restoration and renaissance of ancient teachings and doctrines mentioned in another study], ...it was the ordinary writing of daily life," (Gardiner p. 21) and it continued into Romans times. 

One can make "A comparison of the Demotic inscription found on the Rosetta stone, showing the simplicity to which the characters were reduced."  (Webb p. 7) This comparison shows, however, that the Demotic does not entirely elucidate the ‘characters' on the Anthon Transcript, or the passage in Mormon. Demotic writing therefore may not be where one should be going to shed light on the reformed Egyptian. The reference in Mosiah 1:4 to the Brass Plates being written in Egyptian may imply some modification of Egyptian and not the use of Demotic in keeping the record of the Northern Ten Tribes. Webb goes on to provide a comparison with Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Hebrew. (Webb p. 32)  His Table of comparisons is reproduced for this study.  It will be noted in that Table, the most comparable ‘characters' to those on the Anthon Transcript, are those of the Phoenician alphabet. A detailed history with examples of the Phoenician characters from the 11th to the 3rd Century BC is provided by Moscati pp. 94-95, with a detailed discussion of the origins of languages in Egypt and the Middle East. (Moscati pp. 86-103)  His Table is also included in this study. Could it be that ‘reformed Egyptian may be understood to signify ‘altered' "Phoenicianized Egyptian" or Semitized Egyptian'? (Segert)  And that the alteration suited the purposes of Lehi and his descendants?  If so how and where did Lehi learn Phoenicianized Egyptian?  


There are 37 references, mostly in Alma, to the River Sidon; a great deal of Nephite history in the period before Christ appeared happened along that River. Where did that name come from?  Sidon,  according to Biblical Tradition, means ‘Fishery' and was the name given by the first born son of Canaan, the son of Ham, to his son. (Mandel p. 508) Sidon is the oldest of the six great Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean Coast  (Gen 10:15, 19; I Chron. l:13) which included Tyre. (Moscati p. 26) see also (Luke 6:17) When Abraham passed through Damascus on his way to Shechem, directly east on the coast was the ancient Phoenician Port of Sidon, already 1000 year old. The Phoenicians were descendants of Japheth, and became known as the Coastal People soon after the Flood. They were also known as the ‘Peoples of the Sea'. (Young p. 27)

The character of Sidon was determined by a tremendous commerce developed over centuries on the sea and, along with Tyre, it was an active sea power by the latter half of the 2nd Millennium BC." (Miller p. 681) Anciently, Sidon was a major walled city and port, important in early Phoenicia, it had an excellent harbor on the north, with an outer and inner port, (Douglas p. 1449) and another, less well protected port to the south. (Miller p. 681) The twin harbors were on a small headland which extended into the Mediterranean, some 24 miles south of Beirut. There was a Greater Sidon, (Jos ll:8) and a Lesser Sidon, (Douglas p. 1449)  It was a very large Port City, extremely busy, with incoming and outgoing ships that kept going for centuries. Here Christ healed the Syrio-Phoenician woman's daughter (Mk 7:24) Many Sidonians listened to his teachings. (Lk 6:17) Did Christ also speak their language?  Down the coast was another Phoenician Port City, Tyre, which according to Herodotus (2:44) was founded c. 2700 BC [again right after the flood]. It was only 24 miles south of Sidon. "The first century CE historian Pomponius Mela (1:12) wrote: ‘The Phoenicians were a wise people who excelled both in war and in peace, in seafaring, and in administration of a Kingdom'" (Mazar p. 213) Isaiah described the greatness of "traders of Sidon! You were filled with men who crossed the sea." (Isa 23)  In Ezekiels lament over the destruction of Tyre, he quotes a Phoenician source: "you who were peopled from the seas, O renowned city! Mighty on the sea...O you who dwell at the gateway of the sea, Who trade with the peoples on many coastlands." (Mazar p. 213) Both Cities experienced about the same history because of their proximity, but Lehi must have preferred Sidon for his merchant activities because Tyre is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and Sidon by far, had more to offer than  Tyre.  Some scholars seem to want to contend with Nibley as to whether or not Lehi was a merchant and a Caravaneer. (Tvedtness)  But this present study supports Nibley in his various publications.

We are particularly interested in the fortunes of Sidon between 681 to 587 BC.  During this time, Lehi would have developed and had success in his trade and commerce activities and acquired his great wealth. Esarhaddon (681-668 BC) against whom Sidon revolted, "stripped Sidon of its power and placed over its sovereign an Assyrian Governor." (Douglas p. 43) But Sidon recovered and continued to prosper. Not long after, Tyre also revolted, the result was severe restrictions, a forced treaty restricted the movement of ships from Tyre; boundaries and limitations were specified, ports and routes defined. (Douglas p. 43) So during the peak of Lehi's fortunes, it was Sidon that provided access to distant trade. The restrictions imposed on Tyre would have been unacceptable to Lehi. Those at Tyre were incensed, and established a base at Carthage in North Africa. (Mascati p. 43) The poet Virgil made famous this colonization in his poetic elaboration of the tragic love of Dido for Aeneas. But Lehi worked out of Jerusalem, not Carthage. Sidon became the port of preference.

"The Phoenician-Sidonians [were] outstanding seamen,... craftsmen,... enterprising merchants, ...settlers whose achievement also extended to the sphere of the mind in the form of rich literary and artistic creation and the invention of the alphabet." (Mazar p. 213)


Some Fifty miles up the coast from Sidon, was the ancient trade center of Ugarit, (Douglas p. 1605) a forerunner and essential link to long-distance trade. The Phoenician production of gold and silver and precious things of every kind, traces back to connections with Ugarit. (Moscati p. 35)  Urgarit's specialization was the purple dye industry...textiles...finished garments, some 35 types of cloth, more than a thousand [other] items, and extensive food stuffs, timber and wooden artifacts. (Young, p. 38) For the merchant man, trader, and a man wealthy in gold and silver, Lehi no doubt utilized the port facilities and the Phoenician opportunities and facilities at Sidon and Ugarit much of his life before he departed to a new and far distant country.  Memories of that connection show up in the prominence of the River Sidon in Alma, and perhaps especially in the modification of languages to develop ‘Reformed Egyptian'.  

"The pre-eminent Phoenician centre during the Persian occupation seems to have been Sidon." (Moscati p. 44) When Nebuchadnezzar besieged the temple at Jerusalem and captured Zedekiah, he also captured Sidon as foretold by Jeremiah (25:22), but by then Lehi had reached the Promised Land. Sidon led the rebellion of Phoenicia and Cyprus against Artaxerxes 111. The city was betrayed, 40,000 perished, the survivors burning the city and the fleet. Later, Alexander took the port without opposition.  But Sidon prospered again under Ptolemy, the Seleucids and then the Romans who granted it local autonomy. (Douglas p 1450)  Paul passed through Sidon on his way to Rome (Acts 12:20), today it is known as Saida.  


In the days of Lehi Sidon was also known by the Phoenician-Egyptian name Giddonah. (Nibley 1988 p. 89) This name is found in the Book of Mormon, along with three other associated names with the same suffix: Gid, Giddianhi, and Gideon, and perhaps several others with the prefix Gid which has the meaning of ‘warrior, warlike'. (Mandel pp. 173-175)  Gideon means ‘warrior' in Hebrew and is found in the Bible in Jud (6:11). A Hebrew name with similar consonants is Gideoni which also means ‘War like'. (Mandel p. 175) Gid, the prefix is also found in Gidaia, probably ‘God's warrior', the ‘aia' acting as a hypocoristicon suffix for God. (Radner p. 422)  And in the names Gilgiddanu and Gilgidani,  (Radner p. 422) you have the counterparts in the Book of Mormon of Gidgiddonah, and Gidgiddoni, both with Theophoric suffixes from the Neo-Assyrian Empire. These are highly unusual names, the ancient names identified by Radner vary only by the suffix endings of anu, ani, in the ancient texts, and are onah and oni in the Book of Mormon. These are all suffixes or hypocoristicons for God, they all mean the same thing. Incredible: Sidon and its Phoenician-Egyptian variants are abundant in the Book of Mormon. Clearly recalling some remembered important successful connection.  In the ancient texts of Ebla the prefix Gid, meaning ‘good' is found in many names. ( Pagan p. 311)  It therefore had a long and ancient history. Perhaps it was even a prefix name in the Jaredite Plates.  Whatever, it was ancient and reflected Phoenician history. And it was correctly preserved in the Book of Mormon! 

 "The Egyptian form of the name Sidon reads approximately Djidonah (the ‘d' very strong), suggesting the Book of Mormon proper name Giddonah. The Hebrew form is very common in the Book of Mormon...From the Amarna sources it is Siduna, and of course in Hebrew it is Sidon." (Nibley 1988, p. 28, Mandel p. 508)  It is evident that Lehi had close ties with Sidon [as noted], one of the most popular names in the Book of Mormon where it appears both in its Semitic and its Egyptian form of Giddonah." (Nibley 1988 p. 12) It is astonishing that Joseph kept all of these names straight and correctly translated these archaic names from an ancient text!


The "Phoenician galleys filled the Nile mouths, and Semitic merchants...thronged the Delta." (Kramer p. 157) No doubt one of these merchants was Lehi.  "The bulk of sea trade passing through Sidon, which from first to last dominated the commercial scene." (Nibley 1988, p. 8) The merchants of Sidon, during Lehi's time, probed every corner of the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic, around the horn of Africa, and established shipping centers that had trade contacts in all directions, to distant precious stone sources in Afghanistan, to the gold fields of west Africa, the tin and silver mines of Ireland and Cornwall, (Moscati p. 81) to East Africa and the spices of India  at the Port of Melukkha, near the Indus River, (Sasson  p. 1457) and may even have had traffic and use of the newly discovered great and vibrant port of Mersa Bawasis,  established by Queen Hatshepsut 1,500 BC on the Red Sea Coast, (Bower p. 294), and through their Port on the Canary Islands, perhaps even to the Americas. Certainly the Phoenicians transported Mulek to the America, perhaps through the Port of Sidon. No others were sailing the seas so extensively at that time. (Moscati pp 74-81)  Did some Phoenician seaman stay with the Mulek Colony?

A "ship discovered at Uluburun to the west of Cape Gelidonya [southwest coast of Turkey, notice also how close it comes to Gidonah] has yielded an impressive inventory consisting of silver, tin, copper, and cobalt-blue glass ingots, ivory, ebony logs, aromatics and edibles (oils, nuts, spices, fruits) for the crew. The crew's stores [found separately] included pistachio nuts, olives, pomegranates, figs, grapes, barley, wheat, coriander, black cumin, pine nuts, almonds, and various other unidentifiable pulses and seeds." (Sasson p. 1462)  This, in addition to telling about the nature and variety of trade goods, sheds lights on the diet of the crews. This ship sank 800 years before Lehi began his merchant activities, so things by his time had become even more sophisticated and elaborate. The ivory and ebony would have come from the Harappan Civilization on the Indus River in India, the tin from Cornwall, the pine nuts from close by Greece, and the cumin, spices and other exotics from far distant shores, most other items were from Mediterranean localities.  The trade was diverse and immense, and Lehi was in the thick of it. Did he take his young sons with him on occasion?

The great Greek scientists and philosopher, Thales, (Russell pp 10-11, Will Durant, Vol 2) was himself, for his first 55 years, a Phoenician sea-master having traveled around the horn of Africa to India, the Persian Gulf, and to parts everywhere, at nearly the same time Lehi was involved in such activities.  Lehi, by sea and by caravans, engaged in trade, exporting from Palestine wine, oil, grain and honey, these items far outclassing all other commodities in importance. (Nibley 1988, p. 8)  No doubt Lehi got his share of the perfume oils warehoused in Ugarit, and the cast and refined silver and gold from the furnaces of that great commercial city and port. He possessed exceeding great wealth in the form of gold, silver and all manner of riches. (l Ne 3:16) "Lehi was somewhat an expert in vine, olive, and honey culture." (Nibley 1988 p. 12) The Phoenicians even had trade lanes and depots in the Jordan Valley, near Jericho, for the acquisition of grains that were then taken to the coast for shipment. Lehi could not have been unaware of this trade, perhaps he even participated in it.  The Lord knew that Lehi was capable by experience of making the long journey by desert and by sea to the Promised Land. When he departed for the new land of Promise wasn't he perfectly capable and equipped for such a Journey?  


Pharaohs visited Sidon a thousand years before Lehi may have used the City for his own commerce and connections to Egypt and everywhere. (Miller p. 681)  Lehi must have profited much by the extensive contacts available at Sidon for trade and commerce of all kinds.  There are many references to Sidon in Homer, (Moscati p. 24) and in the Bible to Sidon, and  Sidonians, (see Judge 10:12, 13, 6, Josh. 19:28, II Sam 24:6-7).  When Joab's Census, about 980 BC, ordered by David, compassed the land of the Tribes and their inheritance, the Sidonians and Sidon on the Coast, south to Tyre, were just east of the lands Israel claimed. (Aharoni p. 81)  Tiglath-pilser l, (1114-1076 BC) was first to receive tribute from Sidon.  Shalmaneser 111, (858-824 BC) exacted tribute from Sidon and Tyre and Jehu of Israel. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel (27:8, 28:21) forecast the destruction of Sidon by the same Nebuchadnezzar 11 ( 605-562) that razed the temple and captured Zedekiah. After 587, the King of Sidon is listed as one of Nebuchadnezzar's court ‘Officials'. (Miller p. 681)  Sidon had an on-going important role in history. Under Persian rule, Sidon became the center of the Fifth Satrapy, and supplied the Persian army with ships.  It is most likely that from Sidon a Phoenician ship transported Mulek and his group to the Americas after the destruction of the temple in 587 BC. (Hel 6:10)  Did some of the seamen stay with the Mulek Colony? A persuasive case can be made to link Lehi with Sidon, and Lehi to the Phoenician-Egyptian style of writing for commerce and learning. Could an ‘altered' Phoenician-Egyptian have been the vehicle or ‘characters', for the writing of the learning of the Jews (Hebrew) used by the Book of Mormon prophets to compose the records on gold plates?  And after ‘altering' it, did they called it ‘reformed Egyptian'?  


Who ever copied the Egyptian Abrahamic records, now the LDS Book of Abraham. during the Saitic (650 BC) restoration period (Erickson, Elephantine) seem to have employed the Demotic approach translating the original material from more ancient Egyptian writings, which since the records were highly religious and sacred in character, may have been written in Hieratic. Lehi would have no doubt have known Hieratic, and would have also have been familiar with Demotic because of his apparent close connections to Egypt. But more so, he would have had more contact with the Phoenicians with their modified Egyptian due to his frequent contact and presence in Sidon. He would have easily assimilated this Phoenician learning and later it was altered by the Nephites. After the Christian era began, Coptic became the language of Egypt, and a dialect, known as Sahadic was employed in writing the Nag Hammadi documents. "The Coptic...appears to consist of a random mixture of forms of the Sahidic (S) and Subachmimic (A2) dialects, with a preponderance of Sahidic." (Layton p. 6-14)  But comparing the ‘characters' of the Anthon Transcript with these various forms of Egyptian, seems to indicate that none of these Egyptian forms were preferred, or come as close to matching the ‘characters' as does the Phoenician script.


Bookbank then continues, "Proceeding, then on this basis, to examine all the proper names (and untranslated terms) that occur in the Book of Mormon, there is not found a single one of them that  has a q, x, or w, in it. That is to say, so far as the names in question can be traced to a purely Nephite origin, they do conform in their orthography to the limitations of the Hebrew Alphabet, and this remarkable consistency is especially forced upon our attention by the spelling of the Nephite name ‘Amnihu' as here given instead of ‘Amnihew' or ‘Amnihugh' according to some of the English methods of representing the ‘long' sound of ‘u'." (Brookbank p. 340) Just think of how many aspects in regard to the names Joseph could have blown it!     

"Of all the names of persons mentioned in the Old Testament, none are surnames. Biblical characters, whether notable or not, were known by one name only. And those names, as translated into the English language, neither use the letters q, x, or w, nor beginning with F." (Parry p. 159 and note 5 p. 186 )  Because of the intense interest in Egyptian connections and many parallels to Egyptian names, it is noted that in the English-Vocabulary provided by Gardiner (Gardiner p. 628-629) for listings under ‘W' there is only one name, that of Wepwawet. No other name beginning with ‘W' is listed. There are also no listing of names beginning with ‘Q' (Gardiner p. 622), nor are there any names listed under ‘Q'[Gardiner had two lists], in fact there is nothing listed under ‘Q' in Gardiner (Gardiner p. 629). There are no names listed under ‘Q' in the Book of Mormon name list.

Among the most ancient lists of names, those from Ebla, there are no listings under "f', (Pagan p. 308) but there are plentiful listings under ‘q', ‘x' and ‘w', (Pagan pp. 358, 377, 375). These linguistic usages did not figure into the later development of Phoenician, Egyptian or Hebrew. But Hebrew did adopt and use names beginning with ‘Z' just as ancient Ebla did. (Pagan p. 382) How could Joseph translating as he did in some 80 days or so kept this all straight and avoid grievous pitfalls?

So, notice, there is something unique about Book of Mormon names, there are 17 names listed starting with ‘Z' (BKM p. 535) three of which are Biblical names, Zedekiah (God is my Righteousness,  a Jewish King at the time of the destruction Jerusalem after Lehi had left, in 587 BC, l Kings 22:11), Zebulun (Habitation, Genesis 30:20, the 10th son of Jacob, his mother was Leah) and Zechariah (God has remembered,  An 8th Century BC Prophet, 2 Kings 14:29). (Mandel pp. 536-543) Zion is also included in the Book of Mormon, but not as a personal name; but as an attitude (pure in heart) and a place. That leaves thirteen names starting with ‘Z' that need to be accounted for that finds no comparison in Egyptian or Phoenician names, but they are in other Semitic languages,  especially Eblaitic and  Sumerian names as will be discussed elsewhere. In the Tenakh, Jewish Scriptures, there are more than 90 names that begin with ‘Z'. It is clear that the Nephites retained this unique characteristic of Hebrew in the use of Z'.  Joseph could have messed up real bad here.

Remember that the Nephites were writing  ‘reformed Egyptian' the language they were speaking.was an altered Hebrew. And since Egyptian did not use the ‘Z' they were using some reformed aspect of Egyptian, because they included a lot of names beginning with ‘Z', which have no Egyptian or Phoenician counterpart. This is also true of the letters ‘X' and ‘Q'.  Hebrew greatly influenced the Reformed Egyptian.

An examination in Gardiner for Egyptian name listings under "F" shows there are no names that begin with that letter. (Gardiner pp. 312-313)  In the Tanakh, there are no names that begin with ‘F'. (Mandel) A check of the Book of Mormon names, none of them begin with ‘F'. All of this sheds light on the language in which the Book of Mormon was written. It was certainly written in modified Hebrew and Egyptian. But equally certain, not entirely patterned after Egyptian, but following certain aspects of both Egyptian and Hebrew and ancient forms of Semitic Aramaic.

Gardiner does not list any names in his Grammatical and Orthographic listings in his Egyptian Grammar  that begin with q, x, or F, but he does list under W, the name of the Wedjat-eye, discussed in Weights and Measures in this series (Gardiner p. 646), which is really a symbol for ordinances, ceremonies, and a mnemonic reminder for weights and measures, (Erickson, Weights and Measure, in this series 2005).  In the Tenakh, there are no listings of any names under ‘X' or ‘W'. ( Mandel p. 531)  This certainly does emphasize the fact "none other people knoweth our language." But, during the time of Lehi, other Semitic dialects were using some of these letters later rejected by the Hebrews and Egyptians in the development of their languages. In texts from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Q' is used sparingly, but no use of ‘X' or ‘W'. (Weisberg p. 63)  In the Neo-Assyrian areas of Mesopotamia of about the same time, ‘Q' names are abundant; the list filling 23 pages. (Baker pp. 1004-1027) The very early kingdoms, such as the Pre-Sargonic, the Sargonic, (2300 BC) and the Ur 111 Period, also utilized ‘q' in names. (Di Vito p. 218) But the Book of Mormon writers seemed to have confined themselves to the Egyptian-Phoenician-Hebrew dialects of Aramaic for the most part, though the Jaredite and Brass Plates records do include names from elsewhere as will be noted in these studies. "The Abridging and editing of the Book of Mormon was in a language known to no other people on the earth but the Nephites." (Nibley 1988, p.16)  While we can track the names beginning in ‘Z'  in other languages, and make comparisons,  there are no names in the Book of Mormon using  ‘Q', so there are no comparisons to be made. The Book of Mormon correctly reflects the linguistic and geographic limitations as set forth in that book. From the above analysis we get a much clearer picture of what it was all about, and just how right Joseph was.                          

The Book of Mormon "in view of the claims made by Joseph Smith...can plead no immunity from the same exacting tests that revealed the true nature of documents of known antiquity. If the book [and names] can pass those tests, there is no point to arguing about its age and authorship. Virtually all that is known of the world in which Lehi is purported to have lived has been discovered within the last hundred [and thirty] years." Nibely 1988, p. 4) It is quite exciting to make use of discoveries so far available, and to realize there is much, much more to be found and translated that will continue to demonstrate Joseph got it all right the first time.



Aharoni, Yohanan, Michael Avi-yonah, Anson F. Rainey, Ze'ev Safrai, The Carta Bible Atlas,  Carta Jerusalem, 2002

Altman, Rochelle, Absent Voices: The Story of Writing Systems in the West, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Id. 2004

Baker, Heather D., Ed. The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Vol. 3, Part 1: P-S, Vammalan Kirjapaino Oy, University of Helsinki, Finland 2002

Bower, B., Ancient Mariners: Caves Harbor View of Early Egyptian Sailors, Science News Vol. 167, May 7, 2005

Bookbank, Thomas W.,  Hebrew Idioms and Analogies in the Book of Mormon,  Improvement Era, Vols., 13, 17, 18, LDS Church, Salt Lake City, Utah 1910.

Douglas, J.D., Ed., The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Part 3, Inter-varsity Press, Tyndale, Sydney and Auckland

Erickson, Einar C.,   Weights and Measures, Web Site Entry 67, 2005

-------------Discoveries at Elephantine, Web Series ID 61, 2005

Gardiner, Sir Alan, Egyptian Grammar, Oxford University Press, London 1957

-------------2, 1961, The Egyptians, The Folio Society, London, 1961

Healey, John F., Lexical Loans in Early Syriac: A Comparison with Nabataean Aramaic,   in The Lexicography of the ancient Near Eastern Languages,  Essedue Edizioni, Verona, Italy, 1995

Pagan, Joseph Martin, A morphological and Lexical Study of Personal Names in the Ebla Texts, Archivi Reali Di Ebla Studi-111, Missione Archaeological Italiana In Siria, Roma 1998

Parry, Donald W., et al., Eds. Echoes and Evidences of The Book of Mormon,  FARMS, BYU, Provo, Utah 2002

Layton, Bentley, Ed. Vo. l  Nag Hammadi Codex 11,2-7,  E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1989

Layton, Scott C., Archaic Features of Canaanite Personal Names in the Hebrew Bible, Harvard Semitic Monographs 47, Scholars Press, Atlanta, Georgia 1990

Mandel, David, Who's Who in Tanakh, Aerial Books, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2004

Mazar, Benjamin, The Early Biblical Period, Historical Studies, Israel Exploration society, Jerusalem, 1986

McConkie, Joseph Fielding, et al., Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1V,  Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah 1992

Nibley, Hugh, Vol. 6, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, FARMS, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988

-----------1988 Vol. 5, Lehi in the Deseret, The World of The Jaredites, There were   Jaredites , FARMS, Deseret Book Co. Salt Lake City, Utah 1988

------------1989, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, FARMS,  Vol. 8, Deseret Book Co.,  Salt Lake City, Utah, 1989

Radner, Karen, Ed. The Prosopography of The New-Assyrian Empire, Vol. 1/11,  BG, Vammaln Kirjapain Oy, University of Helsinki, Finland 1999

Russell, Bertrand, Wisdom of the West, Crescent Books, New York, 1989

Sasson, Jack M., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East Vol.III, IV, Hendrickson, Peabody, Mass., 1995

Segert, S., A Grammer of Phoenician and Punic, Munchen 1976

van Soldt, Wilfred H., The Akkadian of Ugarit; Lexicographical Aspects. In the Lexicography of the Ancient Near Eastern Languages, Essedue Edixioni, Verona, Italy, 1995 

Tvedtnes, John A., Was Lehi a Caravaneer? FARMS, BYU, Provo, Uah, 1984

Di Vito, Robert A., Studies in Third Millennium Sumerian and Akkadian Personal Names, Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Roma 1993

Webb, R.C., Joseph Smith as a Translator, Deseret Book News Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1936

Weisberg,  David B., Texts From the Time of Nebuchadnezzar,  Yale University,  New Haven, 1980

Young,  Gordon D., Ugarit, In Retrospect, 50 years of Ugarit and Ugaritic, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Indian 1981

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