Monday, March 3, 2014

The Egyptian Royal Name Onitah in Book of Abraham 1:11

The inspired Book of Abraham introduces a previously unknown scion of royal Egypt: Onitah.

Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians (Abraham 1:11). 

Daughters of Onitah may refer either to a single nuclear family, a father and daughters, or it may refer to an ancestral patriarch or king from whom "daughters" trace a royal lineage. At any rate, Onitah marks an archaic and legitimate line, as "one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham." Was Onitah a royal claimant? Did later Pharaohs persecute descendants of the archaic line? We cannot tell. 

Hugh Nibley stresses the widespread and archaic theme of the sacrifice of the three virgins, being "august virgins of the royal line set apart as spouses of the god," or "ritual hierodules." In like manner, though after Abraham's day, "the line of virgin priestesses. . . who enjoyed a position which at Thebes was virtually royal" may be found in the institution of the "God's Wife of Amun" (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 397-403; the quotation beginning with "the line of virgin priestesses" appears on page 400 and is attributed to J.W.B. Barns, JEA 52 (1966), 191; see also Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 176-179).

The name Onitah suggests First Dynasty king, Anedj-jb: 'nDj-jb, the One who is Sound (or Hale) of Heart. Though ordinarily listed as the sixth king of that dynasty, the Saqqara tablet, a New Kingdom king-list, surprises by making this Anedjib or Enezib first of all Egyptian kings. Ramesses II, last in line, looks back to Anedjib (Amelie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East, I 127-8). 

Two hieroglyphs make up the name Anedjib: Gardiner V26, "netting needle filled with twine" and F34, the heart sign. Students commonly transcribe the netting needle as 'D or, later, as 'd. Yet because of the known reading 'nD or 'nd, "in the case of m'ndt" (in the Pyramid Texts), that is, the mandet, or morning-bark of Re, students often transcribe 'nD or 'nd. The choice to render the royal name as Anedjib, rather than Adj- or Odjib, follows the reading in the Pyramid Texts, which is taken as, at least, an original value of the sign (see Gardiner Sign List V26; Gardiner references Sitz. Berl. Ak. 1912, 958 and Pyr. 335.336, sim. ib. 661).

Names like 'ndy.t, 'nDj, ', ', which may all belong to the same verbal root '(n)Dalso enjoy wide currency for men and women alike in the Middle Kingdom. For attestations, see H. Ranke Die aegyptischen personennamen I 70, 11 (female, 'ndy.t: Sammlung Amherst 445); 70, 12 (male, 'nDj: Middle Kingdom Pap. Bulak 18, 38, 30 and 45. 2, 18); 72, 9 (male and female, Middle Kingdom, ' or ' [Hale! Be Well! du seiest wohlbehalten]--this last written with the biliteral sign of the netting needle). Transcribing 'nDj'ndj, or even ', as either O-n-t-a or O-ni-t-a is sound. I like a Late Period name: 'D-p3-T3w, Hale or Wholesome, or Bracing, is the Breeze (I 72, 8).

The name Anedjib, and at least the last two Middle Kingdom names cited, both also written with the netting needle (Ranke I 72, 8 and 9), all derive from the verb 'D or 'd (orig. 'nD?): "to be in good condition" (Gardiner Sign List, V26; Wb I:208, 237-38: wohlbehalten sein, unversehrt; 'D wD3: wohlbehalten und heil. The first two examples from the Middle Kingdom, though written alphabetically, likely also have the same derivation.

There remain other Egyptian candidates for Onitah. Wentj (that is, Wenty), also given as Wenjtj or Wenta (Oni-ta), though attested only as a female name, comes to mind. Another Pharaoh also bears a name much recalling our Onitah: jnd = Ined. How was the name pronounced? Yant, Yanit, Ant, or Anit are all possibilities (see Darrell D. Baker, The Encyclopedia of the Egyptian Pharaohs, I: 135). Pharaoh Ined reigned in the later Middle Kingdom (Dynasty XIII), the dispensation of Abraham. Again: should Onitah reflect On, the Hebrew transcription of Egyptian jwn (Pillar, Heliopolis), we might consider the Middle Kingdom male names: jwnw.t, Ranke, Personnennamen I, 18.3; jwn mw.t.f (Pillar of his mother; Horus, the young king) I 17.13-14. But the vowels do not match up.

Whatever the derivation, Onitah reflects a Sound Name, an Integral Name. In light of names like Onitah that have a true Egyptian ring to them, the historicity of the Book of Abraham remains Hale and Hearty. The Book of Mormon rings with some sound Egyptian coinage of its own, e.g., Paanchi, Pahoran, Pacumeni, Zenephi (z3-Nephi, son of Nephi).

The wee, fourteen-page Book of Abraham, in fine balance, evinces names of both pure Egyptian and West Semitic vintage, among these: 

1) Onitah (E: 'nDj, Sound, Hale; or, E: wntj, wntt,, etc.) 

2) Olimlah (E in pattern: Great is Amun-Re, Wrj-jmn-r'; I magnify Ra, Wr-n(.j)-r', Hugh Nibley; or even, Great is Amun-Re, '3j-jmn-r'

3) Shulem (WS, from Ebla: Reconciled, Hugh Nibley) 

4) Olishem (WS, perhaps from 'ly shm, the High Place of Heaven, Hugh Nibley; compare the attested place name that Professor Christopher Woods transcribes as Ulishim

5) Jershon (WS, Place of Inheritance, Stephen Ricks, Book of Mormon Onomasticon Project). 

6) Shagreel (WS, Shagre-el, the name of a star; a known star deity, perhaps Sirius, Hugh Nibley)

Also introducing. . . 

7) the princess Katumin (E in pattern: Qdw-jmn, Qdw-mn, Amun (or Min) created (me); less likely is complicated K3(.j)-dj(.w)-jmn, my ka is the one Amun has given. The Egyptian grapheme would have been pronounced /t/.

To these, we can also add a new place name from the Abraham chapters of the New Translation of the Bible (JST Genesis 14:10):

8) Mount Hanabal (WS: Hanna-Ba'al, Ba'al is Gracious). Mount Hanabal apparently takes her place among the Mountains of Moab, the right setting for the cult of Ba'al.

Fourteen pages pack in a lot of authentic Egyptian and Canaanite names, themes, and scenarios.

Critics of the Book of Abraham's setting in Ancient Syria and Egypt have a lot of explaining to do. 


Olishem: Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 415.
Additional comments in Val Sederholm, "The Plain of Olishem and the Field of Abram"

Ulishim: Christopher Woods, "The Practice of Egyptian Religion at 'Ur of the Chaldees'?" pages 89-91, in Robert K. Ritner, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyrus: A Complete Edition (2013).

Olimlah: Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 587-88 (Wr-jmn-r' = Hermann Ranke, Die Aegyptischen Personennamen, 1:80; Wr-n(.j)-rj = Konrad Hoffmann, "Die theophoren Personennamen des aelteren Aegyptens," Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Aegyptens, 7:51-51)

Shulem: Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 451. Hugh Nibley calls Shulem a "good Syrian and Canaanite" name; Ebla PN's Database gives the reading Reconciled.

Hanabal: Val Sederholm, "Joseph Smith and Hannibal: Mount Hanabal in Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 14:10"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.