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Was Mulek Mentioned In The Bible?


smac97

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This is kind of a long post, but I hope you'll bear with me.

Today's Gospel Doctrine lesson discussed the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Jeremiah's tenure as a prophet was quite long, and extended into the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. Jeremiah, then, was a contemporary of Lehi, who, according to 1 Nephi 1:4, saw many prophets come to Jerusalem "in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah" and preach repentance.

Jeremiah 38 includes a story about Jeremiah being thrown into " into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech." This is an interesting reference, because "Hammelech" in Hebrew means "king." The use of "Hammelech" as a personal name appears to be a translation error, one that has been corrected in several versions of the Bible:

New International Version: "So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king's son..."

The American Standard Bible:"Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the (A)cistern of Malchijah the king's son..."

The Message: "So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malkijah the king's son..."

See also The Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, Contemporary English Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, Young's Literal Translation, New Life Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New International Version - UK, and Today's New International Version, all of which describe Malchiah as the "king's son."

(New Living Translation used "Malkijah, a member of the royal family." New International Reader's Version uses "Malkijah...a member of the royal court." The 21st Century King James Version and the Darby Translation retain the "son of Hammelech" language.)

My interest in Malchiah has been sparked by an article that appeared in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (Vol. 12, Issue 2, 2003): Has the Seal of Mulek Been Found? (a PDF version is available here). The article, written by Jeffrey R. Chadwick, was summarized by Kevin Barney in the May 2004 FAIR Journal:

I hope people have read the Jeffrey R. Chadwick article, "Has the Seal of Mulek Been Found?" in the latest JBMS, 12/2 (2003). It is excellent, and important for our work, I think.

As you may recall, in 1984, Robert F. Smith (who is not LDS but is sympathetic and has done work for FARMS in the past) made a fascinating, and I think highly cogent, argument that the person identified as "Malchiah the son of Hammelech" in Jeremiah 38:6 was Mulek of Book of Mormon fame.

In the book of Jeremiah in the King James Version (KJV), the word "Hammelech" that appears was transliterated as a name, that is, it was left as a Hebrew word rather than translated. But it probably should have been translated as "the king," as it has been done in a number of more recent Bible translations. The element "ha-", together with the doubling of the next letter, is the Hebrew definite article "the." "Melek" is the Hebrew word for "king." And in the context of Jeremiah 38, "the king" is clearly Zedekiah.

Further, the name Malchiah is a KJV transliteration for Malkiyahu, which would mean "Yahweh is my king." This is a typical theophoric name of the 7th century B.C. ("Theophoric" or "god-bearing" means that the name of God is a part of the name.) Since the vast majority of names of this period bore the -yahu element, it was not unusual for there to be shortened, or hypocristic, forms of these names as well.

Smith points to a similar theophoric/hypocristic pair of names in Jeremiah. Jeremiah's scribe was Baruch, whose full name was Berekyahu, or "Berechiah" as it occurs ten times within the KJV (e.g., 2 Chron 28:12). Thus, "Mulek" would be a reasonable hypocristic form for Malkiyahu, since when you remove the theophoric element, the second syllable would lengthen and changes would take place in the vowels as well (as can be seen in the Baruch example).

This idea has been around for a long time and is a point well taken, I think. What the Chadwick article adds is that a seal belonging to this Malkiyahu has been discovered. The article shows pictures, along with a transcription. The seal says "lemalkiyahu ben ha-melek," which means "Belonging to Malkiyahu, son of the king."

...

Chadwick does a good job with this. What is so significant is that here we may have a material, physical artifact that may have once belonged to a person named in the Book of Mormon. This stamp seal thus is on a level of importance comparable to the NHM altars.

People are always asking for archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. This is an important find for us to be able to include in that mix.

Here's a picture of the seal:

seal_of_mulek.thumbnail.jpg

Jeff Lindsay is excited about this article. He mentions it here.

Ben Spackman talks a bit about the Jeremiah 38:6/Mulek connection here.

Orson Scott Card speculates that Mulek never existed, and that the people of Zarahemla fabricated a lineage claim to curry favor with Mosiah. Card's skepticism is grounded in what he describes as "[e]xtraordinary and completely unconvincing efforts [to find evidence of a son of King Zedekiah who was] overlooked by the Babylonian captors of Jerusalem." He also states that mythifying Mulek resolves a lot of problems for which believers of the Book of Mormon would otherwise have to account:

And if my speculation is right, and Mulek was no more a son of Zedekiah than I am, we are spared the confusion of trying to reconcile this account with the utter lack of convincing evidence that Zedekiah had a boy named Mulek who escaped the Babylonians without generating a vast amount of Jewish tradition looking for the return of the lost son of the last king of Judah. We don't have to account for a migration to America led by the Lord but without the same kind of preparation and commandments given to Lehi and Nephi. We don't have to account for the fact that we think of America as being the inheritance of Manasseh and Ephraim, while in fact two thirds of the Nephites would have been descended from Judah -- which to my mind, at least, would make hash of the literality of the application of the parable of the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah to the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

This link between Mulek and "Malchiah the son of Hammelech" is not without controversy. A fellow named Ted Chandler has a website on which he criticizes this link:

Another claim is that the name of Mulek, son of Zedekiah, has been traced to the Bible. Robert Smith reports that "Jeremiah 38:6 speaks of a 'dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech . . . in the court of the prison.' But the Hebrew name here, MalkiYahu ben-hamMelek, should be translated 'MalkiYahu, son of the king,' the Hebrew word melek meaning 'king.'" (Welch 1992, 143). Smith then speculates that the short form of MalkiYahu might be Mulek. But then, if MalkiYahu was old enough to hold the important position of running a prison, how did he escape the notice of Nebuchadnezzar's men, who captured and slew Zedekiah's sons? And why is he not mentioned at Jeremiah 41:10 as one of those remaining behind, who were carried off by Ishmael, along with Jeremiah, Baruch and "the king's daughters"? As I have suggested in my parallels, it is much more likely that the name Mulek was derived from Meleck Yarfrick or Menilek, the son of Solomon.

Far more erudite, however, is a critique by David R. Seeley in a review of Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (John W. Welch, ed.). Seeley suggests caution about the Jeremiah 38:6/Mulek connection (footnotes omitted):

The article about biblical evidence for the existence of Mulek (pp. 142-44) is significant, and the evidence is very suggestive to a Latter-day Saint reader, but the argument is seriously compromised by overstatement. It begins, "Biblical scholarship now bears out this Book of Mormon claim: king Zedekiah had a son named Mulek" (p. 142). But biblical scholarship, as noted throughout the article, has only suggested hat Zedekiah had a son Malkiyahu (KJV Malchiah), and if so, it is possible that this name could be related to Mulek. These are only possibilities. The article cites 2 Kings 25:7 as biblical proof of Mulek's survival, which says, "the sons of Zedekiah were killed," but never says, "all the sons of Zedekiah were killed." This is a valid observation. Next, the article cites Jeremiah 38:6, which mentions "Malkiah (= Heb. Malkiyahu) the son of Hammelech." While the KJV renders Hammelech as a proper name, the article points out it is more likely it means simply "the king," and thus the phrase may be translated "Malkiah the son of the king." Some scholars (as discussed by Avigad) believe "son of the king" refers to a low office in the royal court, while others believe it refers to literal sons of the king. So it is possible Zedekiah had a son named Malkiyahu, though the article cites only scholars who argue the latter position.

Seeley also takes exception to the derivation of "Mulek" from "Malkiyahu."

The problem is there is no known parallel in Hebrew, or any other Semitic language, that can explain the derivation of Mulek from Malki. The article lists a series of possibilities including the Hebrew qutl , Ugaritic and Phoenician mulk, Punic molk, Hebrew molek, Amorite Muluk, and Akkadian and Eblaite Malik...Whenever one sees a list of possibilities as disparate as these, it is clear there is no one convincing parallel. There are serious problems with each of the proposals made.

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This could have been avoided with a more cautious statement of the evidence. Indeed, as the Book of Mormon reveals, Zedekiah had a son named Mulek, who survived the destruction of Jerusalem and his father's death (Omni 1:15-16; Mosiah 25:2; Helaman 6:10; 8:21), and there is a possible reference to him in the Old Testament in the existence of one "Malkiyahu son of the king" (Jeremiah 38:6). It is quite remarkable that this biblical name of a possible son of Zedekiah shares the same root consonants with Book of Mormon Mulek. And it is certainly possible Mulek comes from or is related to the biblical name Malkiyahu. But this relationship cannot be explained by any known rules or parallels from comparative Semitics. In support of this relationship there are many attested phonological shifts in Semitic languages that cannot be easily explained, but the shift from Malkiyahu to Mulek is only hypothetical at this point since it is not attested in Semitic languages. Until further documentation, it remains as a tantalizing possibility which cannot be proved. It is possible that future study or discovery can add further light to the possible connection between Mulek and Malkiyahu. In the long run overstatement and inaccuracy tend to compromise rather than enhance the aims of apologetics.

Apart from Seeley, has there been any criticism of this link (both the linguistic link and the seal) by anyone (particularly by critics of the church)?

I am curious why this hasn't received more attention. The NHM/Nahom link has been extensively debated, but this one has not.

Thanks,

-Smac

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I am curious why this hasn't received more attention. The NHM/Nahom link has been extensively debated, but this one has not.

I think perhaps the reason it doesn't get more attention is because the connection between "Malkiyahu" and "Mulek" is rather tenuous. It's certainly an interesting parallel, but nowhere near a slam-dunk. Whereas, in my opinion, "NHM", at exactly the right place, is indeed a slam-dunk.

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I see Mulek as much more than tenuous, inasmuch as it is at the right time and the right place (i.e., Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah), just as the Book of Mormon would pinpoint it. Making it even more precise is that it appears to have the right person, or class of persons, being a son of Zedekiah.

I am not sure why Orson Scott Card thinks it would be so difficult to sneak a son of the king out of Jerusalem. I imagine that Zedekiah had many wives, and many more sons, possibly in the tens, if not hundreds. Given that the Jews knew the Babylonians were coming (they laid seige to Jerusalem for two-years), and given that there were many, many Jews that were not deported but were allowed to remain in Judah (see the end of Jeremiah); and given that most of these Jews who were allowed to remain were the poor; how is it too difficult to imagine just one son of Zedekiah being smuggled out during the seige; or disguised as a poor Jew after the seige?

The Bible account that "all the sons" of Zedekiah were slain before his eyes before he was blinded appears to be hearsay, and not a first hand account of anybody who would even be able to identify "all the sons" of Zedekiah.

My opinion is that Malchiyahu the son of benhammelech is a terrific bull's-eye for the Book of Mormon!

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Nice pull of sources, though this one

Ben Spackman talks a bit about the Jeremiah 38:6/Mulek connection here.
looks like the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article by Curtis Wright, not something original to the web.

I disagree with the idea that *any* connection between Mulek and Malkiyahu is "tenuous." The problem with deriving Mulek from Malkiyahu is one of vowels. If you drop the theophoric ending from Malkiyah, you would indeed get the right consonants for Mulek. The vowels are important but not determinative. Skousen, in his text critical work, says it should be spelled Muloch (which is the same final consonant as Mulek.)

But then, if MalkiYahu was old enough to hold the important position of running a prison, how did he escape the notice of Nebuchadnezzar's men, who captured and slew Zedekiah's sons?

There's no suggestion that Malkiyahu is running the prison in the text. It's called the "pit/cistern of Malkiyahu" which was in the courtyard of the guard.

As for him escaping the notice, it may not have been difficult. 2ki 25:4 and Jeremiah 39:4-5 say that Zedekiah the king escaped as far as Jericho (!) before the Babylonian army could catch him. It's not out of the question, then, that one of his sons could do so.

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The Monk,

Nice pull of sources, though this one
Ben Spackman talks a bit about the Jeremiah 38:6/Mulek connection here.
looks like the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article by Curtis Wright, not something original to the web.

Ah. Good catch.

I disagree with the idea that *any* connection between Mulek and Malkiyahu is "tenuous." The problem with deriving Mulek from Malkiyahu is one of vowels. If you drop the theophoric ending from Malkiyah, you would indeed get the right consonants for Mulek. The vowels are important but not determinative. Skousen, in his text critical work, says it should be spelled Muloch (which is the same final consonant as Mulek.)

So what is your response to Seeley? Was he simply calling for "a more cautious statement of the evidence?" Or do you think he sees actual flaws in the interpretation of the Mulek/Malki link (rather than "overstatement and inaccuracy" in describing the evidence)?

Seeley's main complaint is that "there is no known parallel in Hebrew, or any other Semitic language, that can explain the derivation of Mulek from Malki," that the derivation of the former from the latter "cannot be explained by any known rules or parallels from comparative Semitics." Is this a surmountable problem given the BoM's linguistic pedigree? What sort of comparison would Seeley propose given that the Book of Mormon was written in Reformed Egyptian? And by the time the Mulekites enter the narrative, how much familiarity would the original author(s) (and Mormon, the abridger) have had with the original Hebrew name, "Mulek?"

Seeley calls for caution until we have "further documentation." I'm curious as to where applicable "documentation" would come from.

-Smac

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I have been stewing on this issue for a while.

The Hebrew word for king and the dreaded demon Moloch/Molech are spelled the same way, mlk. Here's Wiki on the issue:

The name Moloch is not the name he was known by among his worshippers, but a Hebrew translation. The written form Moloch (in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament), or Molech (Hebrew), is no different than the word Melech or king, transformed by interposing the vowels of bosheth or 'shameful thing'.

Two thoughts come to me, given the number of years which would have passed between a Mulek colony's founding in Mesoamerica and the "discovery" of Zarahemla:

1. Vowel shift, etc. could easily have occurred such that Malchiyahu could have been changed sufficiently in pronunciation due to pressures from adopted/neighboring Mesoamerican languages.

2. The vowels provided, "u" and "e" could have come from some word similar to bosheth, intentionally by a conquering Nephite elite to disgrace the now out-of-power Davidic aristocracy. Remember that this aristocracy continued to assert "king-rights" and were "king-men," causing mischief, from the Nephite perspective, and ultimately aligning itself with the Lamanite cause.

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1. Vowel shift, etc. could easily have occurred such that Malchiyahu could have been changed sufficiently in pronunciation due to pressures from adopted/neighboring Mesoamerican languages.

I thought of this (or something like it) also. But why didn't Welch's book address it? And why doesn't Seeley allow for it? Is Seeley asking for linguistic evidence that, given the unique origins of the Book of Mormon, will never be forthcoming?

2. The vowels provided, "u" and "e" could have come from some word similar to bosheth, intentionally by a conquering Nephite elite to disgrace the now out-of-power Davidic aristocracy. Remember that this aristocracy continued to assert "king-rights" and were "king-men," causing mischief, from the Nephite perspective, and ultimately aligning itself with the Lamanite cause.

Interesting. But is this linguistically testable?

-Smac

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Seeley's main complaint is that "there is no known parallel in Hebrew, or any other Semitic language, that can explain the derivation of Mulek from Malki," that the derivation of the former from the latter "cannot be explained by any known rules or parallels from comparative Semitics."

I think you're misunderstanding him. The original contention was that Mulek was a diminutive of malkV, ie. "little king." The problem is that there's no diminutive in Hebrew, as far as we can tell. There IS, by contrast, a diminutive in Arabic (and perhaps Aramaic), with precisely those vowels, eg. Arb. shajarat "tree" but shujerat "little tree, shrub, bush." Again, we're talking about vowels here.

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The Monk,

I think you're misunderstanding him.

That's quite possible. I have no expertise in discussing ancient Semitic langugages.

The original contention was that Mulek was a diminutive of malkV, ie. "little king."

Here's the part of Seeley's critique that I had in mind:

The article then gives numerous possibilities how to derive Mulek from Malkiyahu. Malkiyahu is a theophoric name, meaning it contains the name of God Yahu (KJV Jehovah). It probably means "Yahu is king."

So help me understand a few things, see voo play (that's French, FYI):

1. Is "Mulek" a proper name or something else (like a nickname, quasi-title, or designation - i.e., prince or "little king")?

2. Is "Malchiah" (aka Malkiyahu) as mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6 a proper name or something else (like a nickname, quasi-title, or designation - i.e., prince or "little king")?

3. Is "Mulek" a "hypocoristicon" (the shorter form of a particular name, minus the "-yaho" theophoric ending)?

More later.

-Smac

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