Monday, August 5, 2013

Joseph Smith and Hannibal: Mount Hanabal in Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 14:10

The Prophet Joseph Smith left for the benefit of the Saints not one but two books of Abraham. The first appears in the added words, phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs of the New Translation of Genesis. The second came to light from a roll of papyrus, written in hieratic script and purporting, in its title, to be The Book of Abraham, Written by His Own Hand upon Papyrus. Like the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, the record on papyrus, scribal copy though it be, becomes a tangible earnest of the resurrection of the dead. Together, these two offerings yield startling details, stories, and revelations not found in the Holy Bible and set forth the covenant of the priesthood God made with the fathers.

Among the many easily missed details Brother Joseph added to the ancient story of Abraham is the place name Hanabal, a name which could refer to one or several of the Mountains of Moab--perhaps Jebel Shihan, with its high ruins and caves. A stele depicting a form of Ba'al wearing Egyptian accoutrements was found just to the west of Shihan. Another candidate is Bemot Ba'al, the High Place of Ba'al, to which "Balak took Balaam" (Numbers 22:41). The mountain towers out of nowhere in Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 14:9--a verse not found in the footnotes of the current LDS edition of the Holy Bible.

The story begins with KJV Genesis 14:10:

1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;

2 That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.

8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;

9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.

10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits [JST OT Manuscript 1 has: was filled with slime pits]; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.

To the last verse, the Prophet adds:

and they that remained fled to the mountains [with the s crossed out] which is called Hanabal. (Old Testament Manuscript 2, p. 640),


to the Mountain [note the capital letter] which was called [Hanable: crossed out] Hanabal (Old Testament Manuscript 1, p. 125).

In an earlier essay, posted on 21 June 2010, I suggested deriving the name from the root n-b-l. Ha-nabal (even Har-nabal) could signify either The Lofty, the Elevated, or Mount Lofty, Mount Eminent, and so forth. I no longer subscribe to that view.

The name of Mount Hanabal clearly combines the root h-n-n (to be gracious, graced) and the epithet Ba'al (master, husband). The author of Genesis 14, after all, had a "predilection for composite place names," and the like (Michael C. Astour, "Hazazon-Tamar", Anchor Bible Dictionary, III, 86). Though I did, in my first try, briefly compare Hanabal to the name of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, the name of another odd mountain known to the patriarchs, Lubar (in Jubilees and the Genesis Apocryphon), threw me off track. Lubar, nevertheless, has its own fascinating etymology. . .

Hanabal signifies Ba'al is gracious, or Ba'al graces, even as the Hebrew name Hananiah signifies Jehovah is gracious. The Old Testament does twice attest Ba'al-Hanan (the Akkadian Ba'al ha-nu-nu), Ba'al has shown mercy: Ba'al Hanan names a king of Edom (Genesis 36:38; see Ernst Axel Knauf, "Baal-Hanan," Anchor Bible Dictionary I 551-2). A list of personal names from Ebla yields Hanna-Il, "God (Il or El) is gracious" (#792). Also from Ebla: Har-Ba'al, Harra-Ba'al, Ba'al is a Mountain (see Cybernetica Mesopotamica: Ebla PNs).

Ba'al is a Mountain also reminds me of Mount Lubar. Might not Lubar derive from Ilu-Ba'al, a combination of the two divine names Ilu and Ba'al? If so, Lubar could then be read as Ba'al is (my) God. Lubar is leading me off track again. . . Delitzsch derives Lubar from the Alborz Mountains of Persia (The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, "Noah"). The derivation doesn't go far enough. In the Encyclopaedia Iranica entry for "Alborz," we read that the Hara berezaiti in Avestan texts (later shortened to Harborz) names a vast cosmic mountain or mountain range stretching from horizon to horizon; the connection with the Persian range dates to later times. Lubar is a kind of cosmic mountain for Noah and his sons. Can Lubar really derive from Hara berezaiti? It can.

When looking for derivations, we mustn't expect exact matches. Shouldn't we demand of Joseph Smith the spelling Hananabal in place of Hanabal? Consider Hannibal and Hamilcar of Carthage: here we find West Semitic names in Latin texts and Latin forms. Today we might justifiably spell Hannibal in a variety of ways: Hananibal, Hananibal, Hananabal, Hannabal, even Anibal (as in Spanish). Joseph Smith's Hanabal (or even the odd Hanable) sufficiently signals Hannabal or, just so well, Hananabal. Joseph Smith gives us only one n, it is truebut the consonant is long. (Semitic languages have long consonants.)

How have students understood the name Hannibal? Hannibal may signify "Ba'al has been gracious (in providing me with a son")--that's Hamilcar speaking; others read "Ba'al is gracious." John Huehnergard, "Semitic Roots," in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, suggests Hann-i-bal, "my grace is Baal." 

Why the name of a mountain? One has only to consider the home of Ba'al Hadad on Mount Zaphon, just north of Latakia. Zaphon was Ba'al Hadad's Olympus, but, for the Canaanites, other mountain tops also reflected that central home. Hadad's thunder reverberated from peak to peak. And then there's the name from Ebla: Har(ra)-Ba'al.

Balak, king of Moab, takes the prophet Balaam to Bemot Ba'al, the High Place of Ba'al: "And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Ba'al, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people" (Numbers 22:41). Standing upon that High Place of Ba'al, Balaam asks Balak to build seven altars in preparation for the cursing of Israel. The pair then travel to Peor to build yet another seven high altars (Numbers 23). The Bible attests a particular worship of Ba'al at Peor, in the name of Ba'al Peor (the Ba'al of Peor). Bemot Ba'al and Peor, though attested after the Patriarchal Age, give good Biblical evidence for such a mountain in Moab as Hanabal.

We return to the stele found "in the vicinity of Jebel Shihan [Mount Shihan]," another candidate for our Hanabal: "The Rujm al-'Abd figure with its downward-thrusting spear, cap with streamer, and accompanying lion fits iconographic features used to identify the Canaanite god Ba'al, especially when fused with Seth as the slayer of Apophis the serpent in Egyptian art" (Bruce Edward Routledge, Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology, 180). Again: "Some scholars have speculatively identified this figure as the god Kemosh, a suggestion that cannot be completely discounted, as local deities were frequently represented as the hypostasis of Ba'al as storm god" (180; illustration of stele on page 179). The Rujm al-'Abd figure, which blends Egyptian and Canaanite iconography in violent aspect (and note the lion!), might as well be called Facsimile 4 of the Book of Abraham. 

And any reader familiar with the hill at the head of the plain of Olishem, the place of Elkenah's sacrifical altar in Abraham 1, will wish to visit the hilltop stele of Ramesses the Great, which overlooks an obscure Syrian village. The stele shows the pharaoh offering a figurine of Ma'at to a divinity sporting a bizarrely horned Osirian Atef Crown. An accompanying legend yields: Ilu (El) k-n-a Zaphon, which both Giveon and de Moor read as El qny Zaphon (El Creator of Zaphon). While the transliteration and meaning of the sequence k-n-a is disputed, it does recall "the god of Elkenah" in the Book of Abraham. Or what to make of the many bronze figurines of El, accoutred in "the manner of the Egyptians" and in the pose of a smiting god? So accoutred, the priest of Elkenah, who was also priest of Pharaoh, sought to slay Abraham upon the altar (Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions II, 263.)

Because people are constantly casting aspersions on the Prophet's Book of Abraham, Latter-day Saints might consider a standard response. One response would be to invite all to see in the Joseph Smith Translation yet another restored Book of Abraham. Criticize Abraham's works and watch how, like his seed, they multiply. More scripture from father Abraham is forthcoming. 

Nephi has another response: "But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught" (2 Nephi 33:2). Cast out the pearl of great price, then where will you be? 

Learned posturing borders on imposture:

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (Revelation 3: 17-18). 

None of us sees very well in the mortal state--and we must walk by faith--still, what evidence we do have for the divine Book of Abraham shows that it deserves a second look. 

Because the scriptures revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith give us many a mountain and hill heretofore unknown: Shelem, Hanabal, Potiphar, Cumorah, etc., we should take that second look from a lofty perspective. From a cosmic vantage point, we may see all heights and depths.

Yet before we consider Joseph Smith as linguist (or as student of early Canaanite religion), let's taste of his prophetic irony:

10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits [JST OT Manuscript 1 has: was filled with slime pits]; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain,

which is called Hanabal (Old Testament Manuscript 2, p. 640),

which is, being interpreted, Ba'al is gracious. 

Some final words

Abraham holds the keys of the Book of Abraham. To diminish the Book of Abraham is thus also to diminish Abraham, a god, who "hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne" (Doctrine and Covenants 132), and, ultimately, to challenge and to diminish the purposes of the God of Abraham, the God of the living. Neither need we redefine Abraham; his years exceed ours.

Latter-day Saints have long ago (1880 and 1890) taken upon themselves, by obligation, a covenantal promise to reverence the Book of Abraham as scripture. For the Saints, there is no more need to revisit the genuineness of the writings of Abraham than there is to revisit the reality of the exalted Abraham himself. The Book of Abraham comes to us clothed in purity as a translated record of the living father of the covenant people. Abraham is a living prophet, and the Book of Abraham, a true record of his revelations, covenants, ministry, and teachings. 

The doctrine is simple: God is God; Abraham is Abraham; covenants are covenants, and scripture is scripture. The Book of Abraham serves as a compass pointing to true north; we take our bearings by it in both time and eternity and, by this means, avoid the errors inherent in the never-settled, ever-shifting theories of men. 

As President Boyd K. Packer teaches, we are to examine and scrutinize, yes, critique, the learning of men from the perspective of gospel and scriptural truth--not the other way round. As we do so, the truth will shine fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners. Errors in our understanding of history, language, and letters will take flight as we raise high those bright banners to the glory of God. Then intelligence will be ours.


1) The text of JST Genesis 14, transcribed according to accepted standards, appears in Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, Scott Faulring, Kent Jackson, Robert Matthews (eds). The introduction to the volume, with its explanations of the various manuscripts of the JST, are invaluable. I further recommend "The Doctrinal Restoration," the transcript of a talk delivered by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Joseph Smith Translation, Monte S. Nyman and Robert S. Millet (eds).

Other useful editions of the JST include Joseph Smith's "New Translation" of the Bible (Independence, Missouri, 1970), which I studied as a young child and of which I'm fond, and The Bible Corrected by Joseph Smith, Kenneth and Lyndell Lutes (eds), which shows the changes with more clarity. Neither is a perfect edition, and both perpetuate errors. Other editions are available, given that Latter-day Saints never tire of publishing the same things over and again.

2) Geography of the Pentapolis: J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament, 222-229; Neballat: Simons, p. 390. 

Of Jebel Shihan: it "overlooks the Wadi al-Mujib (the Arnon) and the Dead Sea. It rises to 965 meters above sea level, and its summit is occupied by ruins and caves [a place of refuge]," Online Article: "The Karak District in the Madaba Map," by Fawzi Zayadine, part of the study, Jordan: the Madaba Mosaic Map, on the Franciscan Cyberspot. Ba'al's Mount Zaphon itself is not so very much higher: ca. 1500 meters.

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