Heth is the 8th Jaredite King Twice, and That’s Significant

It appears that the number 8 was important to the Jaredites for some reason. This post is part of a small series where I talk about this interesting detail.

I recently noticed something in the Book of Ether, and I wonder if anyone else has noticed this and if it’s significant. I especially want those with a background or knowledge in linguistics to chime in.

The first king on the Jaredite king list is Orihah, the son of Jared (Ether 6:27). The 8th king on the list is Heth (9:25). The word heth, it turns out, is the name of the 8th letter in the alphabets of several Semitic languages, including, as one source states, Proto-Canaanite, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic. In Hebrew, it’s often transliterated as “chet”. You might have noticed that “H” is the 8th letter in the English alphabet too, which is based on Phoenician, and has its origins in heth. So the 8th Jaredite king has the same name as the 8th letter in a bunch of Semitic languages. Cool.

At first I thought this was just a coincidence, but then I noticed that the second Heth on the Jaredite king list is also in an 8th spot. Let me explain.

It appears that the king list goes through several dynasties. A dynasty is when one family rules for a long time. They have a start and they have an end. A dynasty ends when a new ruling family takes over. Dynasties throughout history tend to usually end in “natural disasters such as floods, famines, peasant revolts and invasions… and bloodshed.” In the Jaredite king list, you will see dynasties, or cycles, all of which seem to end in natural disaster or bloodshed. There are times when either there is no king or those in power are not descended from Jared (or at least not part of the favored royal bloodline), but the Jaredite dynasties I’m talking about here always start with someone who’s (supposedly) a rightful heir of Orihah. The story stays with his line. 

And so let’s take a stroll through the Jaredite king list and identify each of these dynasties and how they end and start, and how Heth turns out to be associated with the number 8.

Heth 1 and most of his descendants die in a great dearth and famine, after which there’s a probable gap in the king list (10:1). The first Jaredite dynasty ends in famine at the death of Heth 1, the 8th king in line.

Shez, who’s identified as a descendant of Heth 1, later becomes king and begins to “build up again a broken people” (10:1). It appears that a new dynasty begins with Shez. Shez is succeeded by Riplakish, but then there’s a war. Riplakish is killed and his descendants are “driven out of the land” (10:4-8). Peasant revolt or invasion, perhaps? Whatever the cause, it appears that the second Jaredite dynasty only made it to 2 kings.

“[A]fter many years”, a new dynasty begins when Morianton, a descendant of Riplakish battles the powers at be and establishes himself king of the land (10:9). Thus Morianton becomes the new number 1 after a big gap in the list. To my surprise, the number 8 in this new cycle is also named Heth–we’ll call him Heth 2 (10:31). Thus Heth is the name for the guy who’s 8th in line for king again. (It should be noted that although Heth 2’s father was a ruling king, Heth 2 was apparently born in captivity and likely was intended to become king, but never made it to that station officially.)

We’re not explicitly told of a gap immediately following Heth 2, but we are told that the next guy on the list, Aaron, is a descendant of Heth 2 (1:16). In my mind, this implies a gap. And so the third Jaredite dynasty ended with a Heth (although he wasn’t really king at the time, but was the heir to the throne).

Aaron becomes the new number 1 of a new (captive or non-ruling) dynasty and the next 6 heirs mentioned live out their lives in captivity (not ruling, but apparently poised to do so?). Ahah is number 7 in this cycle, and so, if they follow the pattern, we should expect a Heth to come next. But that’s not what we get. Instead, we get Ethem. At first you might think this destroys the pattern, and the two Heths in the 8th spots are just a coincidence; but I suspect there’s a reason why he’s not a Heth. It’s because we are told Ethem is actually a descendant of Ahah (11:11). Therefore, another gap disrupts the Heth pattern. Looks like though Ahah did manage to obtain the kingdom, he was wicked and lost it (11:10). The fourth Jaredite dynasty ended with bloodshed, and never made it to 8 kings/heirs.

Ethem, Ahah’s descendant, also obtains the kingdom, making himself number 1 of a new dynasty; but again his cycle is cut short, only making it to number 3, Coriantor (11:18). And then there appears to be another gap as we’re told that Ether, the author of the book of Ether, is a descendant of Coriantor (1:6). And so the fifth Jaredite dynasty ends with Coriantor, short of 8 kings.

If Ether had become king, he probably would have been the number 1 of the 6th rightful Jaredite dynasty. But he opted for prophethood instead.

Okay, if all that was a little confusing to follow, here’s a visual for you:

  1. Orihah (1st dynasty)
  2. Kib
  3. Shule
  4. Omer
  5. Emer
  6. Coriantum
  7. Com
  8. Heth

>>DESCENDANT GAP>>

  1. Shez (2nd dynasty)
  2. Riplakish

>>DESCENDANT GAP>>

  1. Morianton (3rd dynasty)
  2. Kim
  3. Levi 
  4. Corom
  5. Kish
  6. Lib 
  7. Hearthom
  8. Heth

>>DESCENDANT GAP>>

  1. Aaron (4th dynasty)
  2. Amnigaddah
  3. Coriantum 
  4. Com
  5. Shiblon 
  6. Seth
  7. Ahah

>>DESCENDANT GAP>>

  1. Ethem (5th dynasty)
  2. Moron
  3. Coriantor 

>>DESCENDANT GAP>>

  1. Ether (6th dynasty?)

This strengthens my assertion that there were gaps–perhaps even big gaps–in the king list. It also strengthens my argument that whenever it intimates an ancestor-to-descendant relationship rather than a father-to-son one, it actually means it, despite the fact that the two forms of the king list given in Ether contradict each other (read more about that here). The Heth pattern only happens two times because it gets interrupted the other times. 

But the main point is that we see that every time a Jaredite dynasty made it to 8 kings or heirs, that heir was named Heth, which is also the 8th letter in the Semitic alphabets. Coincidence? Maybe, but super interesting.

Why do you think the 8th king in a cycle is always named Heth? 

Here are some possibilities:

  1. It’s a coincidence
  2. Joseph Smith knew the Semitic alphabet and did it that way on purpose
  3. Mosiah or whoever translated the Jaredite records did it that way on purpose
  4. There was something special about being the 8th king to the Jaredites

Of course it could be a coincidence, like #1 says. I don’t know enough about Joseph Smith’s pre-1830 knowledge to rule out #2, but I bet he didn’t know about the letter heth. And there’s no way we can know about #3. 

Maybe though, there’s something to #4 here. We’ve already discussed on this blog how the Jaredite civilization was destroyed in 8 days, and how their focus on number 8 might have made it into the Nephites’ base-8 money system. Maybe the 8th king was ceremoniously named Heth for some reason. Maybe there’s a reason the dynasties never made it past 8 kings. Maybe the number 8 really was special to the Jaredites. 

I’m interested to know your thoughts on this one. I do think it was special for the Jaredites, so stay tuned for more on the number 8.


Sources and Notes

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