According to Mosiah 25:2, "there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness." According to Hugh Nibley, these people called themselves the Mulekites, the Mulekiah, which means "the king people" . . . The word malek is "king"; but the word mulek [mulaik] means "dear little king." It's a caritative and it's a diminutive. The Mulekites were the people who had the little king with them; they were rather proud of that. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 6] [See the commentary on Omni 1:15]
“A Descendant of Mulek”
Who was this "Mulek" referred to in Mosiah 25:2? According to an article by John Sorenson, Mormons have always maintained interest in Bible scriptures which prophesy of the Book of Mormon; yet one Old Testament passage has been strangely neglected, although Orson Pratt noted its meaning long ago. This neglected passage is a prophecy by Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet who lived at the same time as Lehi; however in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and transported ten thousand captives (including Ezekiel) to Babylon. Thus, the future of the house of Judah (and of the new reigning King Zedekiah) was part of Ezekiel's prophetic message. In the 17th chapter of Ezekiel, verse 22 we read:
"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 an high mountain and eminent.
Now, as Ezekiel looked ahead prophetically, he figuratively described a stately cedar tree, representing the royal house of Judah, and what was to befall it. A child of Zedekiah, the king, was to be "cropped" from the family tree and "planted" in another land. The evidence that this "tender twig" was Mulek of the Book of Mormon is made more convincing by a revealing play on words involving his name. If we read the name as muleq (with a final letter goph), the meaning would become "to break off, nip off." To the Semitic mind with its love of word play this situation would be perfect. The faithful followers of Prince Mulek would have been reminded at every mention of his name that he was both their king and also the plucked-off twig of Ezekiel's prophecy. Mulek could in this way remain a symbol of prophecy fulfilled in the grim fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., as well as a symbol of prophetic promise in the transplanting of Judah's ruling house to another land. [John L. Sorenson, "Bible Prophecies of the Mulekites," reprinted by F.A.R.M.S. from A Book of Mormon Treasury, 1976.]
According to Verneil Simmons, more than a hundred years earlier (than Ezekiel), the prophet Isaiah had brought a prophecy concerning some who should escape of the house of Judah:
"And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this." (Isaiah 37:31,32 -- italics added)
The Revised Standard Bible says it thus: ". . . and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors." Some of the house of Judah were to escape; furthermore, they were to come from Mount Zion, the home of Judah's kings. David had built his palace on Mount Zion and it was the symbol of national rule. (The Temple was built on Mount Moriah.) This remnant should take root and bear fruit, and the Lord was to be responsible for the matter. [Verneil W. Simmons, Peoples, Places and Prophecies, p. 90]
“A Descendant of Mulek”
According to research primarily by Robert Smith and Benjamin Urrutia, biblical scholars have recently had interesting things to say about a person named Malchiah. Jeremiah 38:6 speaks of a "dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech . . . in the court of the prison." But the Hebrew name here, MalkiYahu ben-hamMelek, should be translated "MalkiYahu, son of the king," the Hebrew work melek meaning "king."
Was this MalkiYahu a son of King Zedekiah? Several factors indicate that he was. For one thing, the title "son of the king" was used throughout the ancient Near East to refer to actual sons of kings who served as high officers of imperial administration. The same is certainly true of the Bible, in which kings' sons ran prisons (see 1 Kings 22:26-27; Jeremiah 36:26; 38:6) or performed other official functions (see 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 28:7). Moreover, in view of the fact that the name MalkiYahu has been found on two ostraca from Arad (in southern Judah), the late head of the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Yohanan Aharoni, said that "Malkiyahu is a common name and was even borne by a contemporary son of King Zedekiah."
But was this MalkiYahu the same person as "Mulek" referred to in Mosiah 25:2? Study of these names tells us he may very well be. [Robert F. Smith, Benjamin Urrutia, and John W. Welch, "New Information About Mulek, Son of the King," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 143-144]
According to Warren and Palmer, about 600 B.C. there was considerable shortening of names. For example, Jeremiah's scribe BerekYahu went by the short form of Baruch (Biblical Archaeologist, 42:114-118). Similarly Malkiyahu could have been shortened to Mulek. Indeed, mulk appears in Ugaritic and Phoenician, meaning "royal" or "princely sacrifice." In Arabic, the word is Molek, and means "reign, sovereignty, dominion." Amorites used Muluk and the Eblaites used Malik. The famous Near Eastern scholar William F. Albright has commented that "U and O are hardly distinguished in most Semitic languages." It is also relevant that in the Mayan language there was a hieroglyph for the word "Muluk." [Bruce W. Warren and David A. Palmer, The Jaredite Saga, unpublished]
It is interesting that Mulek appears as Muloch in the Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon and as Mulok (p. 207) in printed editions from 1830 to 1852, then became Mulek. [Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, Vol. 2: Mosiah-Alma, F.A.R.M.S., p. 483]
One might, incidentally, be led to compare this with Mayan Muluc, the red-Bacab of the East, whom David H. Kelley correlates with "blood" and "devourer of children." ("Calendar Animals and Deities," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 16 (1960): 317-37). [Robert F. Smith, Benjamin Urrutia, and John W. Welch, "New Information About Mulek, Son of the King," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 144]
It was recently reported that the main Emblem Glyph for Yaxchilan (a Mayan archaeological site on the Usumacinta river) is the sign known as MULUC. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 1, pp. 41-45] [See the commentary on Omni 1:16]