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Why is there a wordplay on the name “Zarahemla” in the Book of Mormon?

The two Hebrew terms “zera” and “hemla” combined to mean “seed of compassion” or “seed of pity” (“seed” could refer equally to plants or offspring). It is interesting to see how the name Zarahemla is used in close proximity to this meaning, as laid out by Evidence Central:

Mormon described Ammon as “a strong and mighty man, and a descendant [zera] of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 7:3). When Ammon introduced himself to King Limhi, he said, “I am Ammon, and am a descendant [zera] of Zarahemla, and have come up out of the land of Zarahemla” (Mosiah 7:13). This would have confirmed to Limhi that the people of Zarahemla were yet alive because Ammon—a descendant of Zarahemla—was yet alive and standing before him.

Mormon wrote, “Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant [zera] of Mulek, and those who came with him out of the wilderness” (Mosiah 25:2). The Nephite dissenter Coriantumr was also “a descendant [zera] of Zarahemla” (Helaman 1:15). When Nephi prophesied against the wicked in the city of Zarahemla, he cited an example of the Lord’s power to deliver from destruction, “Yea, do ye not behold that the seed [zera] of Zedekiah are with is?” (Helaman 8:21).

Evidence Central – Book of Mormon Evidence: Wordplay on Zarahemla

The Book of Mormon also includes wordplays on the “compassion” or “pity” element of “Zarahemla”. Would we expect Joseph Smith to put this much effort into the Book of Mormon?


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