Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zenephi and Zat Mormon Girl (Mormon 9:16)

A family member once asked about the Book of Mormon name Zenephi. I was stumped. Later it hit me. Following a common Egyptian name pattern, z3 (son) + Personal or Divine Name, Ze + Nephi yields Son of Nephi. The name might also designate a Nephite Prince. According to Jacob, the kings, in patriarchal order, all took the name of Nephi, the first king and protector, and thus were known as Second Nephi, Third Nephi, and so on. Son of Nephi could designate the heir to the throne--the Son of Nephi.

The sole Zenephi attested in the record holds the stage of history in a single, startling verse, a verse that shouts Libya, Syria, and the Congo, a verse that whispers a portent to the whole world: Bataans everywhere.

And again, my son, there are many widows and their daughters who remain in Sherrizah; and that part of the provisions which the Lamanites did not carry away, behold, the army of Zenephi has carried away, and left them to wander whithersoever they can for food; and many old women do faint by the way and die (Mormon 9:16).

So don't be surprised when it happens here; for we have been warned.

When I first encountered the Book of Mormon Onomasticon Project, I promptly turned to Zenephi:

"Possibly EGYPTIAN z3-nfy, “son of NEPHI/the chief,” from z3 (=sa) + nfy (q.v.) (RFS)."

Not long afterwards, I asked Robert (Bob) F. Smith about the derivation. He had forgotten about it and, in fact, had lit on another sound derivation. Some time later, to my amusement, the following sentence surfaced on the Web page of The Book of Mormon Onomasticon:

"Val Sederholm suggests EGYPTIAN Z3-Nfy 'Son of Nephi' (RFS)."

A wee correction is in order. Nephi, or Nep-Hi, should reflect not Nfy but the common Egyptian pattern for a Neb.j name (My Lord is X): nb-h', or the like. Derivations from roots such as nfy or nfr fail to convince: Nephi is neither good nor beautiful (nfr). 

It is really Hugh Nibley who first derived Zenephi from Z3-Nb-H'. Brother Nibley owned many copies of the Book of Mormon, and in one of these (now in the Hugh Nibley Library at Brigham Young University), he marked each Book of Mormon name, as listed in an appendix, with its appropriate letter: H for Hebrew, A for Arabic, E for Egyptian, and so on. It's a small treasure.

Racing down to Zenephi, I found:

Zenephi E

How could it be otherwise? As Hugh Nibley well knew, there is no more common pattern in Egyptian naming than the aforementioned z3 or z3.t + Name (often a theophoric name), Son or Daughter of So-and-So. The famous Sinuhe, as we tend to transcribe the Egyptian Z3-Nht, is Son of the Sycamore, meaning Hathor as the goddess in the Sycamore tree. Sinuhe might as well be spelled Zenuhe. 

Book of Mormon ze- for z3- is right on the money. While it doesn't necessarily follow that every name starting with ze- in the Book of Mormon shows the same pattern, Zenephi could hardly reflect anything else. Consider, too, the following patterned sequencing of names: "The Book of Nephi, the Son of Nephi, who was the Son of Helaman": "Nephi (E) ntj or (H) asher Zenephi ntj Zehelaman.

While there are many such sons, and sons of sons--zzz--the narrative yields but two names of women: Sariah and Abish. (Isabel labels but does not name.) Mother Sariah may be understood as either princess or prince of Jehovah; Abish, my father is a man. Both names now appear in Ancient Near Eastern sources; Abisha, in hieroglyphs, names a Semitic chieftain, clothed in a magnificent particolored robe, bartering goods in Egypt (see the Book of Mormon Onomasticon for references). The Lehites cloaked all women in the aura of royalty, their gracious names not for display. (The women of Mulek and of Jared walk in the same mystique.) Could we know of others, I would be surprised if there were not a princess or two bearing the name of Zet- or Zatnephi (Daughter of Nephi), Abinephi, or Abilehi. Zatjarom, Zatmoroni, Zatmormon. 

I know Zat Mormon girl.

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