“Zarahemla Gave a Genealogy Written but Not in These Plates”

Alan C. Miner

Amaleki records that "after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates" (Omni 1:18). We have to wonder how detailed this record was. Was the genealogy of Zarahemla written on the large plates or was it a record in itself? If it was on the large plates, it might have been part of the lost 116 pages of manuscript. Whatever the case, this record of Zarahemla is not known to us. However, the fact that Mormon lists Zarahemla as a "descendant of Mulek" in Mosiah 25:2 confirms its existence. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

“They Are Written but Not in These Plates”

The simple phrase that "Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates" might have more cultural background to it than one might suppose. Amaleki, the record keeper of the small plates of Nephi notes that when Mosiah1 fled the land of Nephi, he eventually came to a new land where he found a people led by a man named Zarahemla (Omni 1:12-14). Amaleki records that "after [the people of Zarahemla] were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates" (Omni 1:18). Thus without citing Zarahemla's genealogy, Amaleki adds only that "the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon" (Omni 1:15-16). However, further on in the text (abridged from the large plates of Nephi) we find that Zarahemla was "a descendant of Mulek" (Mosiah 25:2), and that Mulek was "the son of Zedekiah" (Helaman 6:10). Thus we find evidence of Zarahemla's genealogy from a source "not on these plates" just as Amaleki says. But there is another point worth discussing here. Zarahemla had apparently remembered his genealogy perfectly, implying that his genealogy was of such importance that it had been handed down from one generation to another. Certainly it was important because it showed that Zarahemla descended from Zedekiah the king of Judah. There are, however, some biblical references that point to the possibility that Zarahemla could have also been an elite descendant of the Priests of Levi and Aaron.

When the lands of Israel were originally split up among the twelve tribes, special privilege was given to the tribe of Levi because of their priestly role. The House of Kohath (the son of Levi) was given the city of Libnah (along with 12 other cities and their suburbs--see Joshua 21:8-19). This geographical association of the city of Libnah to priesthood lineage might be implied in some verses of scripture which speak of Zedekiah's genealogy. In the historical book of 2 Kings we find that "Zedekiah [a son of king Josiah] was twenty and one years old when he began to reign . . . And his mother's name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah" (2 Kings 24:18).

Apparently Zedekiah's father-in-law was "Jeremiah of Libnah"--the title "of Libnah" indicating that his rights of inheritance were at the city of Libnah, and that most probably he was part of the priesthood elite and a direct descendant of Aaron through the loins of Levi. Thus Zarahemla would have descended not only from the royal family of the tribe of Judah through Zedekiah, but through a Levitical priesthood line through Hamutal, Zedekiah's mother. And with both descendancies would have come an inherent responsibility to pass on an oral genealogy from one generation to another.

Additionally, and apparently not realized by anyone at the time, Zarahemla's genealogy possibly represented evidence of a literal fulfillment of revelatory words given by the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel and the prophet Jeremiah. Ezekiel was a prophet of the Diaspora, that is, he was taken to Babylonia just before the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians about 586 B.C. The Lord used Ezekiel to add his testimony to the fact that Jerusalem would indeed be destroyed. Among the many words Ezekiel recorded concerning the ramifications of this destruction are the following:

Thus saith the Lord God; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon a high mountain and eminent:

In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.

And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the Lord have spoken and have done it. (Ezekiel 17:22-24; emphasis added)

The mention of "high cedar" associated with "the highest branch" is clearly symbolic. According to The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the cedars of Lebanon were large spreading coniferous trees whose wood was highly valued for its durability. This cedar wood was brought to Jerusalem, for example, for building David's house (2 Samuel 5:11, etc.), Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 5:6-10, etc.), and the new Temple built after the Babylonian Exile (Ezra 3:7). Thus the idea that someone would take from "the highest branch of the high cedar" might imply royal lineage related to the mention of the house of David, but it also might imply priesthood lineage related to the High Priests who ruled at the temple of Solomon. It is also interesting to note relative to the phrase, "In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it," that the name "Israel" might have truly been applicable to the Nephites. "Israel" was a covenant name given to Jacob, and it also applied to his covenant descendants. "Israel" was also another name for the Northern Kingdom which split away from Judah. Ephraim was the head of this kingdom. Thus Ezekiel's prophecy could have, in part, been applicable to Mulek, an heir to both royalty and priesthood who was cut from the Old World and planted in the New World, and whose descendant, Zarahemla, was found by Mosiah and "flourished" in the sacred "mountain" of the Nephites, a people descended from Ephraim and Mannaseh, the sons of Joseph and birthright heirs to lead the children of Israel.

The prophet Jeremiah was a contemporary of Ezekiel at the time of the Diaspora, but his mission was not only to warn the Jews of their impending destruction, but to personally witness that destruction and dispersion from Jerusalem itself. Interestingly, Jeremiah was told in his initial call that part of his prophetic mission would also be to "plant" (Jeremiah 1:10). Like Ezekiel, this "planting" might have had at least a partial fulfillment in Mulek and ultimately Zarahemla. Some, however, some have gone so far as to propose that Mulek was of Jeremiah's literal "seed"--thus giving more emphasis to the idea of "planting." That is, they have proposed that Mulek was the actual grandson of Jeremiah. Though the reasoning to this connection is highly speculative, I would like to at least leave the reader with a few of the more pertinent proposed connections in the hope that someday more substantive information might come to light.

The prophet Jeremiah was "the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah. (Jeremiah 1:1-3). As mentioned before, anciently when the lands of Israel were split up among the twelve tribes, special privilege was given to the tribe of Levi because of their priestly role. The House of Kohath (the son of Levi) was given the cities of Libnah and Anathoth (along with 11 other cities and their suburbs--see Joshua 21:8-19). It is important to note that the scriptures here do not say that Jeremiah the prophet was born in Anathoth or that he lived there all his life. They simply state that either he or his father Hilkiah was "of the priests that were in Anathoth." As stated, the Levitical line had also been given the city of Libnah and other cities for their inheritance. Thus one might postulate that Jeremiah the prophet might have had some links to Libnah as well as Anathoth (and the other cities as well).

What we can say with certainty is that Jeremiah was "the son of Hilkiah the priest." Unfortunately there seems to be some confusion in the Bible about any more details concerning Hilkiah, even though the name Hilkiah crops up in a number of other places during this time period. For example there are references to:

(1) Hilkiah the son of Shallum of the priestly line of the tribe of Levi: The priesthood descended from Levi to Shallum and his son Hilkiah, who lived at a time just before king Zedekiah, which would have probably been during the reign of Josiah (see 1 Chronicles 6:1-13; see also the charts below). Because of this descent, this Hilkiah would be considered the chief heir to the Levitical and Aaronic Priesthood.

(2) Hilkiah the High Priest who discovered the book of the law in the temple and worked with king Josiah to bring about religious reform: When God called Jeremiah as a prophet, king Josiah (638-608 B.C.) had been on the throne of Judah for 12 years and had already introduced religious reforms (2 Chronicles 34:4-17). But it was not until 621 B.C., the 18th year of his reign, that he initiated a systematic reformation in Judah's religion and morals (2 Kings 23). The impulse to reform was generated by the momentous discovery in the Temple of "the book of the law" by "Hilkiah the high priest" (2 Kings 22:8-9). Thus, this Hilkiah would have been a High Priest and been a little older than Jeremiah.

As I mentioned before, the reasoning here is highly speculative, but for a moment let's assume that Hilkiah the father of Jeremiah, Hilkiah the son of Shallum of the priestly line of the tribe of Levi, and Hilkiah the High Priest who discovered the book of the law in the temple and worked with king Josiah to bring about religious reform were the same person. This means that he would have had lands of inheritance at Anathoth (and/or one of the other cities of the Levites), and that he would have associated closely with king Josiah. Now king Josiah happened to marry a woman named Hamutal, who was the daughter of one "Jeremiah of Libnah" (2 Kings 23:31 and 24:18). If "Jeremiah of Libnah" (Libnah being a priestly city) and Jeremiah the prophet ("son of Hilkiah of the priests that were in Anathoth") turn out to be the same person, then the son of Zedekiah (Mulek) would have been Jeremiah's grandson (or Jeremiah's seed). This is an exciting idea, but we need to examine things a bit closer.

From a chronological point of view, Zedekiah was age 21 in 597 B.C. when he was placed on the throne by Nebuchadrezzar (2 Kings 24:18). This would mean that he was born in about the year 618 B.C. If we made a reasonable guess that his mother Hamutal was near 22 at the time, having married king Josiah around the age of 18 in 622 B.C., then this would place her birth in the year 640 B.C. We will make a reasonable guess that her father Jeremiah of Libnah was 24 at her birth, resulting in a birthdate for him in the year 664 B.C. Jeremiah the prophet, "the son of Hilkiah of the priests that were in Anathoth" received his call in the 13th year of king Josiah (626 B.C.) Had he been born in 664 B.C. he would have been 38 at the time, and his father Hilkiah would have been possibly 62. This chronology would coincide very nicely.

If we assume that Jeremiah the prophet's father was Hilkiah the high priestly son of Shallum, then once Hilkiah was dead, Jeremiah the prophet could have become rightful heir to the title of High Priest over the entire House of Kohath (tribe of Levi and Aaron), which entitled him to make intercession for buying land for family and extended family members. In Jeremiah 32:7-12, Jeremiah the prophet was petitioned by his cousin Hanameel to buy a field at Anathoth for him, because it was Jeremiah's right to redeem such land; that is, apparently Jeremiah possessed the rights of inheritance of land at Anathoth (This does not preclude him from having land at Libnah). Under the Israelitish system of land purchase and ownership, the inheritance fell to the eldest son in the family. In order for Jeremiah the prophet to possess that right, he had to be the eldest son. Jeremiah 32:6-8 speaks of Jeremiah the prophet's cousin (Hanameel) as "the son of Shallum" and that Shallum was Jeremiah's uncle. Now according to 1 Chronicles 6:13, the father of Hilkiah was also named Shallum. Jehoahaz, the son of king Josiah and Hamutal was also called Shallum by the prophet Jeremiah (see 1 Chronicles 3:15; Jeremiah 22:11-12). So if Jeremiah's father, who was named Hilkiah, was the Hilkiah who was the son of Shallum mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13, then we would have another correlation.

Now some might say that 1 Chronicles 6:13-15 does not mention Jeremiah in the line of succession to the high priesthood. But if Jeremiah was called as a prophet, then the assignment of chief priest at the temple in Jerusalem would have been given to another (Azariah). From Azariah the title of High Priest went to Jehozadak, but 1 Chronicles 6:15 states that "Jehozadak went into captivity, when the Lord carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar." With the line of Azariah (Jehozadak) gone, Jeremiah the prophet, who stayed in Jerusalem, could have been the unquestionable birthright heir to the house of Kohath. If this was true, then what follows becomes quite interesting.

According to Verneil Simmons (Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 94-95), although there were many at Jerusalem who sought after the life of Jeremiah the prophet, King Zedekiah (his grandson?) would not allow him to be put to death, and so he was shut up in prison, which helped appease certain members of the Sarim who wanted Jeremiah killed.

After Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians, Jeremiah was not only freed but given complete freedom to move about the country at will (Jeremiah 39:11-15; 40:1-6). Later we find him living with a group of people that included the daughters of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 41:10). One might ask, Why would Jeremiah be concerned about the daughters of Zedekiah? One answer might be that some of these daughters of Zedekiah were his granddaughters. So is it possible that part of the fulfillment of Jeremiah's call to "plant" occurred when Jeremiah preserved an infant son (or "a tender young twig" cared for by the daughters of king Zedekiah) and arranged for his escape from the country? And was that infant indeed the grandson of Jeremiah and heir to the priesthood? Is it fair to say that Jeremiah not only "planted," but planted with the "seed" of his own family? And was the genealogy which Zarahemla recited a testimony to the fulfillment of this commandment--a royal branch from the kingship line of Judah and an elite branch from the High Priests of the tribe of Levi? From reasoning loaded with supposition, one might say, Yes! [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes based upon ideas and correspondence from Bruce Sutton and his book, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites and also on Verneil Simmon's book Peoples, Places and Prophecies, pp. 94-95 . Sutton's material was based on material from Seeking after Our Dead: Our Greatest Responsibility. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1928.] [See the commentary on Omni 1:20; see also the commentary by Richard Anthony on 2 Nephi 7]

Note* In view of the speculation above concerning priesthood lineage, and the fact that the city of Libnah was in the land of Benjamin, one might ask if these facts might be connected at all with the idea that the son of Mosiah1 was named Benjamin? and whether the sons of Mosiah2 (specifically Ammon and Aaron) were part of a marriage between Mosiah2 and a granddaughter of Zarahemla or whether Benjamin had previously married into Zarahemla's family? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Words of Mormon 1:3]

Omni 1:18 Zarahemla gave a genealogy ([Illustration]): Chart showing the royal genealogy of Zedekiah and the other sons of Josiah. [Adapted from Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, p. 739]

Omni 1:18 Zarahemla gave a genealogy ([Illustration]): The Priestly Genealogical Lineage of Mulek Back to Levi. [Bruce S. Sutton, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites, p. 45]

Omni 1:18 Zarahemla gave a genealogy ([Illustration]): The Line of High Priests After the Order of Kohath. [Bruce Sutton, Personal Communication]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary