“The Borders of the Red Sea and the Meaning of the Names Sariah Laman Lemuel and Sam”

Bryan Richards

"The Borders of the Red Sea. Many have been near the head of the Gulf of Akabah, the eastern arm of the Red Sea, which is separated from the western arm by the Sinai Peninsula, where the children of Israel wandered for forty years. Anciently Akabah (or Aqaba) was connected with Suez and Cairo by means of a Roman road. During the Mohammedan reign it has always been an important stopping place for pilgrims on their way to Mekka, the holy city of Islam.

"Sariah. The wife of Lehi. The name is derived from the Babylonian, 'Sarratu,' which, in the city of Ur, where Abraham lived, was the title of a goddess, the consort of the moon god. In the language of Abraham, 'Sarratu' became 'Sarai.' (Gen. 11:28) Later when the Lord made a covenant with the Patriarch and changed his name from 'Abram' to 'Abraham,' his wife's name was changed from 'Sarai' to 'Sarah.' (Gen. 17:15) The name means 'Princess.' In the Book of Mormon the form of the name is somewhat different. I venture the suggestion that 'Sariah' is an abbreviation of 'Sarah-Jah,' and that means 'Princess of the Lord' (Jehovah)….

"…Lemuel. The second son of Lehi, probably named after Lemuel mentioned in Prov. 31:1, 4, who is supposed to be Solomon, the king. The name means either 'Godward' or 'God is bright.'

"Sam. The third son of Lehi. The name is Egyptian. 'It was the distinctive name of one of the highest orders of the priesthood. The great Rameses, himself, belonged to the order of Sam.' (George Reynolds)" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 25-26)

Laman. The first son of Lehi. His name does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Obviously, it is very similar to the Biblical name of Laban but its meaning is unclear. Hugh Nibley writes:

"The only example of the name of Laman to be found anywhere to the writer's knowledge is its attribution to an ancient Mukam, or sacred place, in Palestine. Most of these Mukams are of unknown, and many of them of prehistoric, date. In Israel only the tribe of Manasseh built them. It is a striking coincidence that Conder saw in the name Leimun, as he renders it (the vowels must be supplied by guesswork), a possible corruption of the name Lemuel, thus bringing these two names, so closely associated in the Book of Mormon, into the most intimate relationship, and that in the one instance in which the name of Laman appears." (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, p. 45)

Nibley goes on to explain that Laman and Lemuel were Arabic names and that Nephi and Sam were Egytian names (see p. 46).