Wednesday, August 26, 2020

"Do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us?" Mulek and the people of Zarahemla

Nebuchadrezzar has Zedekiah's children killed before his eyes (Francois Xaview Fabre)
When Nephi the son of Helaman prophesied to his people in the land of Zarahemla he appealed to various prophets already known to them in support of his testimony of Christ (Helaman 8:11-23). Warning them of imminent destruction if they did not repent, he reminded them that Jeremiah, a contemporary of Lehi, had foretold the destruction of Jerusalem.

And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? (Helaman 8:21).

According to the biblical account, when king Zedekiah of Judah attempted to escape the siege of the Babylonians shortly before its destruction he was captured and then taken before Nebuchadrezzar. "And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon" (2 Kings 25:7). It is only through the Book of Mormon that we learn that one of Zedekiah's sons escaped, while all the others sons were killed.

Our current text of the Book of Mormon, being only an abridgment from records possessed by the Nephites, provides little information about Mulek and the people of Zarahemla beyond a few verses (Omni 1:13-19; Mosiah 7:3; 25:1-4; Alma 22:30; Helaman 1:15; 6:10; 8:21). As early as 1887, one Latter-day Saint suggested that some of Mulek's people may have been polygamists who intermarried with native American women who were already present in the land of promise when they arrived. "Probably these aborigines mothers were more numerous and influential, than their Hebrew husbands" helping to account for how their Hebrew language became confounded so quickly (Anonymous, Plain Facts for Students of the Book of Mormon with a Map of the Promised Land. 1887, 4).

In his recent book, The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon's Missing Stories, Don Bradley, does an excellent job of teasing out potential clues from the text and secondary historical sources, as to the contents of the now lost Book of Lehi. While I do not necessarily agree with all of his interpretations and conclusions, the reader and future researchers will find a wealth of useful and interesting information to explore and consider.

In relation to the origin of the Mulekites or people of Zarahemla, the following 1856 report of Emer Harris, the brother of Martin Harris, may be of interest. Emer presumably gleaned this information from his brother who acted as a scribe for Joseph Smith during the translation of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon in Harmony Pennsylvania in 1828.

Now I will tell you of the history of those that were lost. When the king from Jerusalem [Zedekiah] had his eyes put out but his son Muleck with some others of the royal family hid themselves, and on coming out of their hiding place they found 4 females of the royal family who also had hid themselves from the wrath of the king, they were married together, there being 4 males and 4 females---they were found in this country in the south part. When they were found, they had become a small tribe.

(Report of Emer Harris, "General Minutes, April 6, 1856, Provo Utah Central Stake"; spelling and punctuation updated for clarity, in Don Bradley, The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon's Missing Stories. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2019, 259).

For general information on the Mulekites see this article and video from Book of Mormon Central, Why Should Readers Pay Close Attention to the Mulekites? John Sorenson's 1990 overview "The Mulekites" is also still very useful. It may be of interest to some that the name Mulek may be attested in recently recovered artifacts from before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

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