Last year I put out a hypothesis that the Jaredites came from Gobekli Tepe around 12 to 10 thousand years ago. Gobekli Tepe is an amazing site located in modern-day Turkey and built in the 10th millennium BC. Gobekli Tepe consists of at least 20 circular enclosures made out of stone, each with a handful of giant stone pillars inside. Archaeologists are calling this place the world’s first temple.
I think the Jaredites came from this place. I started with 37 points to support this hypothesis, which you can read here. Today I want to introduce my 39th point of evidence. It has to do with the name of one of Jared’s sons. This name might have connections to Gobekli Tepe. Also, it appears that ALL of the sons of Jared have names that, when put together, tell the story of the Jaredite journey.
39. Jared’s son Gilgah might be named after Gobekli Tepe
In Ether 6:14, we learn that Jared, the great father of the Jaredites, has a son named Gilgah. An interesting name for sure. Sounds ancient and kind of Mesopotamian-ish, right? As I often am about names, I was curious about what this name meant. I wanted to know its etymology, so I went searching.
The Book of Mormon Onomasticon makes it clear that all etymologies for Jaredite names are speculative, since we don’t know what language they spoke. However, it does suggest that the name Gilgah may be related to the name Gilgal, which shows up as a place name for both the Jaredites and Nephites (3 Nephi 9:6; Mormon 6:14; Ether 13:27, 29, 30). Gilgah, as you might have noticed, sounds a lot like Gilgal, so this makes sense.
If you look up Gilgal in the Onomasticon, you see that the name has a Hebrew etymology–and an interesting one at that in light of where I think the great tower was. Gilgal in Hebrew means, according to the Onomasticon:
“stone circle; wheel,” from the HEBREW verbal root gālal “roll (stone) to, roll (stone) away”
The Wikipedia article Gilgal, gives my favorite form of Gilgal’s etymology, saying:
And so, if we assume that Gilgah is a form of the name Gilgal, then Gilgah could mean “circle of stones”. And do you recall what was at Gobekli Tepe? A bunch of circles of stone.
Now, I know this is just conjecture. We don’t have any hard proof that Gilgah is actually connected to Gilgal, or that Gilgah means “circle of stones”. But let’s go with this and see where it takes us. Here are some things that I think support this etymology for Gilgah:
First, the other three sons of Jared have names that align to events in the Jaredite journey from great tower to promised land. It looks like Jared might have chosen all his sons’ names to tell a story. Now, this is cool, so bear with me on this section, please.
The Onomasticon suggests that Jacom, in Hebrew, could mean “let [the Lord or God] arise, rise up.” The Lord plays a pivotal role in the beginning of the Jaredite story as Jared implores his brother to petition the Lord for help; and the idea of God rising up is intriguing in light of other facts about Gobekli Tepe, but I’ll cover that in a future post. Jerry Grover points out that the 2016 version of the Book of Mormon Onomasticon states that the com part of Jacom could be “applied to a hill, a height”, and that the Arabic word kom could signify a “hill, rubble heap, tell.” Interestingly, Gobekli Tepe is a hill or “a tell (artificial mound) situated on a flat limestone plateau”, and it became a rubble heap when buried around 10,000 years ago.
As we’ve discussed, Gilgah could mean “circle of stones” or “to roll away stones”. This could be referring to the stone circles at Gobekli Tepe. It could also be referring to the movement of the mount Zerin by the brother of Jared while on their journey.
Mahah is the hardest one. The Onomasticon offers no suggestions for Mahah, although it does say it’s “doubtful” that the name’s connected to the Hebrew names Maachah and Maacah, which mean “to press o[r] squeeze” or “crushed”. This doubtful etymology piqued my interest since archaeologists are now saying that Gobekli Tepe might’ve been covered and damaged by one or more landslides, which would have crushed people and things there.
If we follow a similar vein as we did with Gilgah and Gilgal, perhaps Mahah could be related to the Hebrew Mahal, which means to mix. As you remember from the story of the Tower of Babel, the people’s language was confounded. We’re told this—in addition to being scattered around the earth—happened to the people at the great tower of Jared and his brother as well (Ether 1:33). The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines confound as to mingle, blend, throw into disorder, or mix. Perhaps the confounding of languages was a mixing of different ethnic and linguistic groups together as they were scattered into new lands among existing peoples. Mahah might also be related to the Hebrew name Mahath, which means “a snatcher upper.” As they began their journey, we’re told the Jaredites caught fish and laid snares to catch birds. Also, the snatching could be a description of how the language of the great tower people was confounded–through being scattered and snatched up by other tribes.
David Richins, on his blog The Lunch is Free, suggests that the word part mah has to do with the moon, hidden things, secret things, wild things, or honey. It looks like he gets these associations from Egyptian, Hebrew, and Sanskrit. For much of the Jaredite journey, the Lord is hidden behind a cloud. The skull cult at Gobekli Tepe was a possible secret combination that led to its destruction and the scattering of the people. Maybe the name has to do with this? The Jaredites venture out into the wilderness for years to get to the promised land. And of course, they take with them deseret, or honey bees (Ether 2:3). Any of these definitions work. Also, the name Mahah sounds a lot like the first part of Mahonri, the name which Joseph Smith revealed to belong to the brother of Jared. Perhaps Jared was naming his son after his own brother? Perhaps all of these meanings are baked into Mahah’s name? That would be cool if they were.
The Onomasticon suggests that Orihah has the Semitic meaning: “(my) light is Jehovah”. The Lord touched the sixteen stones and made them light up for the Jaredites’ oversea voyage. In the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, Jesus says to the brother of Jared, “In me shall all mankind have light, and that eternally” (Ether 3:14). And as the Lord was instructing Moroni to seal up the vision of the brother of Jared, He said, “I am the light” (Ether 4:12). He was the light for the Jaredites as He led them to the promised land. As far as Gobekli Tepe goes, the Lord being a light has some cool symbolism and significance, but again, I’ll cover that in a future post.
We can now put the meanings of all of these names together in the same order they’re given in Ether 6, and it makes a story that sounds a lot like the story in Ether.
[Jacom:] LET THE LORD RISE UP (1:34) at the sacred HILL with the [Gilgah:] CIRCLE OF STONES (1:33). The people at the tower are [Mahah:] CUT DOWN, CRUSHED, and MIXED with others. With MAHONRI at the head, we leave the SECRET works, take with us HONEY bees (2:3), SNATCH birds and fish in snares (2:2), and go into the WILDERNESS (2:5) where the Lord is HIDDEN in a cloud (2:5). [Orihah:] THE LORD IS OUR LIGHT as we travel to the promised land (3:14).
In the scriptures, names almost always mean something important. All of Jared’s sons have names that evoke aspects of their journey. Is it possible that Gilgah’s name reflects details about the great tower? Now, I know that any tower probably at least starts with a circle of stones; but Gobekli Tepe is literally many stone circles set up for the purpose of worship. In fact, as some readers have pointed out to me, Gobekli Tepe isn’t so much a ‘tower’ as it is a hill with stone circles. Gobekli Tepe is a bunch of gilgals and Jared’s son is named Gilgah. Coincidence?
Second, Gilgal is a name used for a place by the Jaredites and the Nephites. Near the end of the Jaredite narrative, we learn of a place in their (New World) lands called the “valley of Gilgal”. One of the last battles of the Jaredites is fought in this valley of Gilgal. It’s where Coriantumr, the famous last Jaredite, slays his enemy, Shared (Ether 13:30). We don’t know why it’s named this, but perhaps it’s in honor of the “great tower” from which their ancestors came? It’s fitting that an epic story that started at a circle of stones would also play out part of its last scenes at a place named “circle of stones”.
The Nephites have a city named Gilgal. During the great destruction at the death of Christ, Gilgal is “sunk, and … buried up in the depths of the earth” (3 Nephi 9:6). If Gobekli Tepe’s stone circles were indeed crushed by landslides or buried intentionally near the time of the brother of Jared, then it’s fitting that a city also named “circle of stones” meets a similar demise. Jerry Grover suggests that the Nephite city of Gilgal is located in the Jaredite valley of Gilgal. If so, it is unclear whether the Jaredites came up with the name Gilgal for their valley, or if it’s just a name that Moroni used since he possibly knew that the valley where Coriantumr killed Shared was where the city of Gilgal sunk. However, if Gilgal is indeed the name given to the place by the Jaredites, then I think it lends support to the Gobekli-Jaredite hypothesis.
Gilgal is also a place name used in the Old Testament. It appears that Joshua and the Israelites camped there and erected 12 stones to signify the 12 tribes of Israel (Joshua 4:19-20). The Nephites would have been aware of this story, but the Jaredites, however, would not. If the Jaredites named the valley Gilgal–the valley of the circle of stones–then it must’ve come from something else in their history, not the 12 stones of the Israelites. It could’ve come from Gobekli Tepe, that ancient place of stone circles.
Third, you may be asking: Why would some Jaredite names have Hebrew roots, even though we don’t know what language they spoke, and the Jaredites predate the origin of the Hebrew language?
The Hebrew language didn’t show up until around 1000-900 BC, and many people place the Jaredite’s origin story to 2600-2100 BC. Heck, I place it thousands of years earlier than that even. So how could Hebrew names show up among the Jaredites? I think one way we can explain that is with Mosiah and/or Moroni. If you remember, Mosiah was probably the one who translated the book of Ether. Perhaps during his translation, he was given the meaning of the names in the Book of Ether, rather than their actual transliterated names. Maybe Gilgah came about as Mosiah translated and he saw that Jared named his son something that meant “circle of stones” in Jared’s tongue. To Mosiah, who likely spoke an evolved form of the Nephite Hebrew/Egyptian, the name might have translated to Gilgah. Moroni is also a possible translator of Ether’s book, so the same could be said for him.
Another thing to consider is that the name Jared itself has a Hebrew etymology, despite Jared living before the advent of Hebrew, and despite there being an even earlier, pre-flood patriarch named Jared in our Old Testament. We have to ask ourselves how this Jaredite father got his Hebrew name thousands of years before Hebrew. Jared means to go down or to descend. This meaning has significance in the Jaredite story because Jared and his brother go down from the great tower to a better place. Perhaps Jared’s real name meant something along these lines, and Mosiah translated it as Jared to reflect its meaning or the narrative of his life.
Some suggest that Jared means ruler or commander. Perhaps Mosiah gave him this name to denote how the Jaredite kingship passed through his line.
And maybe Mosiah chose this name for the Jaredite patriarch because many of the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites were of Jaredite descent—the Lehites and Mulekites having mixed with the American natives already present when they got there.
Jared’s name obviously has something to do with what happens in the book of Ether, since they went down from the great tower, his descendants were obsessed with proving their line of descent from Jared, and the Jaredite people as a whole, once blessed and given amazing promises, eventually descended into chaos and destruction. Was Jared’s real name Jared, or did Mosiah give him this name because of the history that was written on Ether’s plates? Or did Mosiah merely translate Jared’s original name into something that meant “to descend”? I have always humorously thought it strange that Jared’s parents gave him the one-part name Jared when they gave his brother the long name Mahonri Moriancumer. I think there’s a strong possibility that Jared comes from the Nephite side, the Hebrew; and therefore I think that Gilgah could also have a Hebrew etymology to describe the great tower. But again, we can’t know for certain.
Looking at the Jaredites through a Gobekli-Tepe lens might provide another explanation for Jaredite names. It has been suggested that the people at Gobekli Tepe spoke Proto-Afroasiatic. All Semitic languages, including Hebrew, are in the Afroasiatic language family—i.e. they’re descended from Proto-Afroasiatic. This could explain why all these Semitic roots appear in Jaredite names—because they might actually be Afroasiatic roots. Someone who knows more about Proto-Afroasiatic would have to confirm this (and please do, if you’re out there).
And yet another thing to consider is that Gilgah sounds an awful lot like the first part of Gilgamesh—as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest-known renditions of the great flood story. Gilgamesh was a part mortal, part divine hero in this and other stories. It’s interesting to note that no one (to my knowledge) suggests Gilgamesh as having a connection to the Jaredite Gilgah, probably because the epic story wasn’t written until around 2100 BC, which is a tad too late for the popular Jaredite arrival range of 2600-2100 BC (or PJAR, as I like to call it). However there was a king named Gilgamesh who lived around 2900-2350 BC, so maybe there could actually be some sort of connection in the PJAR view.
We don’t know for certain what Gilgah or the names of any of Jared’s other sons mean, but there is evidence that Jared’s sons tell the Jaredite origin story. If that is the case, then it’s possible that Gilgah indicates that the great tower from which they came contained special circles of stone. Gobekli Tepe, with its many important stone circles, nicely fits the bill. Of course, there are other reasons to suspect Gobekli Tepe is the great tower, so be sure to check those out.
If it turns out that Gilgah does not mean “circles of stone”, then we still have the Jaredite valley of Gilgal which could point to the great tower.
Anyway you look at it, it seems that stone circles were important to the Jaredites in some way for some reason.
What do you think Gilgah means?
Sources and Notes
- Gilgah: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/GILGAH
- Gilgal: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/GILGAL: cf. HEBREW gilgāl, “stone circle; wheel,” from the HEBREW verbal root gālal “roll (stone) to, roll (stone) away”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgal#cite_note-1
- Jacom: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/JACOM
- Gobekli Tepe is a tell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe#Tell
- Jerry Grover on Jacom being related to hills and tells: http://bmslr.org/sumerian-roots-of-jaredite-derived-names-and-terminology-in-the-book-of-mormon/
- Mahah: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/MAHAH
- Mahal = properly, to cut down or reduce, i.e. by implication, to adulterate:–mixed. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/H4107/mahal.htm
- Maacah = Crushed:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maacah; to press or squeeze. https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Maacah.html
- Landslides might’ve buried Gobekli Tepe: https://www.archaeology.org/issues/422-2105/features/9591-turkey-gobekli-tepe-hunter-gatherers#art_page3
- Mahath: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Mahath.html
- Confound: http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/confound
- Mah = Hidden, secret, or moon: https://thelunchisfree.com/2016/09/14/seeing-with-an-eye-of-faith/
- Mah = Honey, moon, wild: https://thelunchisfree.com/2017/11/16/cain_kinship_part3/
- Origins of the name Mahonri: https://archive.org/details/juvenileinstruct279geor/page/282/mode/2up ; https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Latter_Day_Saints%27_Messenger_and_Advocate/Volume_1/Number_7/Letter_to_W._W._Phelps_from_Oliver_Cowdery_(Apr._1835)
- Orihah: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/ORIHAH
- Jerry Grover on Gilgal in BOM: http://bmslr.org/books/The%20Swords%20of%20Shule.pdf; https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Primary-and-secondary-location-for-the-valley-of-Gilgal_fig36_334376185
- ~1000-900 BC for Hebrew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_language
- Meaning of the name Jared: https://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/jared/; https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/JARED; https://thelunchisfree.com/2016/09/22/the-descent-of-the-jaredites/
- Possible language spoken at Gobekli Tepe: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-to-make-any-educated-guess-regarding-the-language-spoken-by-the-builders-of-Gobleki-Tepe
- Epic of Gilgamesh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh
- Gilgamesh might mean “ancestor hero” or something like that: https://www.behindthename.com/name/gilgamesh
- Gilgal I is Neolithic site in the Levant dated to 11,400 BP, which is contemporary with Gobekli Tepe.
- The PJAR is 2600-2100 BC: https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Animals/Elephants