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Where would Joseph Smith have learned the meaning of the name “Ishmael”?

Ishmael is a Semitic and Hebrew name meaning “May El [God] Hearken” or “El [God] has heard.” Interestingly in 2 Nephi 1:28-29 we read:

And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing.

But if ye will not hearken unto him I take away my first blessing, yea, even my blessing, and it shall rest upon him. (emphasis added)

Why the repetition of the word “hearken” when speaking to the sons of Ishmael? Matthew L. Bowen comments:

Lehi’s admonition and blessing, as it appears in Nephi’s text, closely juxtaposes the name Ishmael with a threefold repetition of the verb šāmaʿ. If we include “obey” from 2 Nephi 1:27, the repetition is fourfold. The polyptotonic repetition of šāmaʿ around the name Ishmael would have had the immediate rhetorical effect of garnering the attention of Ishmael’s sons (and probably any of his daughters who were present on the occasion). The imminence and urgency of their decision to “hearken” is accentuated by the repetition of the root šāmaʿ in its verbal and onomastic forms.

Matthew L. Bowen – “If Ye Will Hearken”: Lehi’s Rhetorical Wordplay on Ishmael in 2 Nephi 1:28–29 and Its Implications

Is the repetition of the word “hearken” here just a coincidence?


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