Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Shurr Thing: Jaredite King Amgid (Am-gid), a large and mighty man (Book of Mormon: Ether 10: 31)

Book of Ether Chapter 10 yields Jaredite names a-plenty, including the pair Amnigaddah and Amgid:

31 And he begat Heth, and Heth lived in captivity all his days. And Heth begat Aaron, and Aaron dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Amnigaddah, and Amnigaddah also dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Coriantum, and Coriantum dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Com.

32 And it came to pass that Com drew away the half of the kingdom. And he reigned over the half of the kingdom forty and two years; and he went to battle against the king, Amgid, and they fought for the space of many years, during which time Com gained power over Amgid, and obtained power over the remainder of the kingdom.

Amgid serves up a perfect name for a Jaredite king. The Jaredites were forever led, you will recall, by large and mighty men. Ancient Nimrod, the prototype, was a "mighty hunter" (2:1); the Brother of Jared, "a large and mighty man" (7:8); "there arose another mighty man" (11:17)--then another; all being "large and mighty men as to the strength of men" (15:26); even "two millions of mighty men" (15:2). 

Amgid was tough, but Com, who "gained power over Amgid," was even tougher. Com something suggests Proto-Semitic *qm, stand; standing. (Hebrew qwm is a different root, says Professor Stefan Weninger.) The one who stands up fits a king who will one fine day--after a vasty "space of many years"--reunite his fathers' kingdom. And Com, after all, in the fight with Amgid, was the last man standing. 

Amgid, then? The (Proto-)Semitic root *gid signifies tendon or sinew--and Amgid accordingly evinces a Semitic presence in Archaic America. Am-gid is a perfectly good Semitic name, and startlingly apt for a Jaredite king: People of Sinew, that is, tough, muscular people, "large and mighty men." Amnigaddah (am-ngd), in like manner, suggests a people that really stands out.


Notes--and the Valley of Shurr

Stefan Weninger, The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook, 215 (6.1.5): "Tendon, sinew: PS *gid-". Akkadian attests gidu, North West Semitic: Ugaritic, gd; Hebrew, gid; Syriac, gyada. The Arabic, zid, neck, "is related with a meaning shift." 

The suggested reading in The Book of Mormon Onomasticon Project is incorrect: "people of fortune" (gad), has the wrong vowel, matches a later cultural setting, and also likely comes from the root gdd.

8.3.5 "PWS *'amm- is also attested with more general meanings such as 'relatives, clan, people." Is Amgid, then, a Proto West Semitic name? CAD G yields the archaic (Ur III) Personal Name, Gidanu, "probably West Semitic," although the editors avoid a link with Akkadian gidu, sinew. No matter. Whatever Gidanu may signify, the early name yet evokes Jaredite Amgid.

Am-nigaddah, n-g-d, a people who stands out, a distinguished people.

The Valley of Shurr (Ether 14:28): Shurr recalls two roots, to be narrow; belly, navel. Shurr, where Coriantumr's vast army tents may be pictured as a narrow place--the tents spread along a long, narrow valley, rather than clumped in one body out in the open. The army takes a breather in the valley, then quickly gathers to a more secure place, a large nearby hill, called Comnor (read Comron), which signifies Place of Rampart, Rampart Hill. Comron matches Nephite Cumorah (also Rampart). Now safe and snug on Rampart Hill, Coriantumr sounds a trumpet as invitation to battle.


 28 And they pitched their tents in the valley of Corihor; and Coriantumr pitched his tents in [throughout the length of?] the valley of Shurr. Now the valley of Shurr was near the hill Comnor [Comron: so Royal Skousen]; wherefore, Coriantumr [just as quickly as he could] did gather his armies together upon the hill Comnor [Comron], and did sound a trumpet unto the armies of Shiz to invite them forth to battle.
 29 And it came to pass that they came forth, but were driven again; and they came the second time, and they were driven again the second time. And it came to pass that they came again the third time, and the battle became exceedingly sore.

Proto-Semitic *shurr- is attested in Hebrew as Shor. The Valley of Shurr, like the Palestinian hill, Tabor (navel), may also be pictured as a centerplace of the Jaredite world, a navel of the universe--a place of panegyris, tenting, or gathering. Shurr also suggests king. I still like my first guess: the Valley Shurr signifies a Long and Narrow Valley, tucked to one side a long, slanting Rampart Hill. At any rate, Shurr, with its strange double r, reflects linguistic and cultural realities the Prophet Joseph Smith knew nothing about (Weninger, 217, 6.1.4).

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