Book of Mormon Nuggets

Supplementing Jeff Lindsay's Book of Mormon Evidences page.

Nugget #5:
The Lachish Letters

In 1935, some of the most important documents ever found relevant to Old Testament history were discovered. They are also star witnesses for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. These ancient Hebrew writings from the time of Jeremiah and Lehi reveal point after point about that time that is consistent with Nephi's writings. Hugh W. Nibley discusses many of these points in his article, "Two Shots in the Dark" in Book of Mormon Authorship (Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1982), pp. 103-141. Many significant features of the Lachish letters of importance in Nibley's report were brought to light by the scholar Harry Torczyner in Lachish I (Tell ed Duweir): The Lachish Letters (Oxford University Press, 1938). Issues of interest include the practice of preserving ancient records, the tensions and intrigues associated with a transition in government in the days of Zedekiah, the possible hint at writing on plates, the adoption of Egyptian ways of writing documents in the days of Zedekiah, the presence of other prophets besides Jeremiah preaching unpopular messages, reference to "cursing the seed" of somebody (found as well in the Book of Mormon in Alma 3:9 and 2 Nephi 5:23, but not the Bible), and so forth. Nibley is impressed that these documents would overlap with a critical time and place in Book of Mormon history and provide confirmation of several important points found in the Book of Mormon. This seeming "coincidence" is all the more remarkable when one realizes that the Lachish letters are "the only first-hand writing surviving from the entire scope of Old Testament history" (Nibley, p. 119).

Though much could be said about many issues, one aspect of the Lachish Letters that I find especially interesting are the names mentioned in these documents. Here is an excerpt from Nibley (pp. 108-109):

The proper names in the Lachish Letters and the Book of Mormon belong to one particular period in Jewish history - the same period. Seven of the nine proper names in Letter 1 end in -yahu, which later became -iah, and during the Babylonian period lost the "h" entirely. Ina ll the letters there are no Baal names and no El names - the lack of which was once thought to be a serious defect in the Book of Mormon. Torczyner finds "the spelling of the names compounded with -iah" to be most important.
Nibley then mentions the abundance of a similar ending in personal names of Jews at Elephantine in Egypt, who, like the Nephites, also built a temple after the model of Solomon's temple. The -yahu ending
abounds at Elephantine, but in a more abbreviated form (-iah) than at Lachish (-yahu) a hundred years earlier. The same variety of endings is found in the Book of Mormon, e.g., the Lachish name Mattanyahu appears at Elephantine as Mtn, and in the Book of Mormon both as Mathonihah and Mathoni. The Book of Mormon has both long and short forms in the names Amalickiah, Amaleki, and Amlici, cf. Elephantine MLKih (Torczyner, p. 24).
The Lachish Letters also show that Jaush = Josh was an authentic Hebrew man's name from Lehi's time. It is not found in the Bible but is in the Lachish Letters (p. 120) and in the Book of Mormon, both as the name of a Nephite commander (Mormon 6:14) and as the name of a city (3 Nephi 9:10).

The abundance of -iah names as well as direct hits with Mathonihah/Mathoni and Josh score impressive points for Book of Mormon authenticity.

Tangential note: Recently I saw an anti-Mormon Web page attacking Nibley for his use of the Lachish letters. Among the surprising mistakes made in the attack is the antiquated claim that there is virtually no evidence of ancient writing on metal plates. Granted, that concept was utterly laughable in 1830, and thus was the topic of much anti-Mormon derision. Sadly, anti-Mormon "scholarship" has remained in that rut while real scholars are providing dozens and dozens of examples that verify the plausibility of almost every particular of what Joseph Smith reported to have found: an ancient sacred text engraved in a special script on metal plates hidden in a stone box with other sacred relics and buried in the earth to be preserved until a future time. Kevin Barney deals with one such anti-Mormon article in his excellent review of an excellent book by John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000). See Kevin's well-written review, "A Seemingly Strange Story Illuminated," available as a free article at the FARMS Website.

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Created: July 24, 2001
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