“Zerahemnah Appointed the Amalekites and Zoramites Chief Captains over the Lamanites”

Alan C. Miner

Brant Gardner notes that we first meet the Amalekites in Alma 21:1-4. We find them in Lamanite country, but distinguished among the Lamanites by a different name. The uniqueness of their name does not owe to a city, because their city (along with the Amulonites) was called Jerusalem. This tells us that they were a distinct body of people that had some uniting factor that wasn't the city to which the belonged. We also learn that they were of the order of Nehor, which appears to be a religion that specifically derived from Nephite lands. There is much more in this battle than simply a desire for territory or tribute. There is a class of ideas, a class of perceived rights, and the unique hatred that seems to come when one actively turns against an old way. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at [http://www]. frontpage2k. nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/ Alma43.htm, p. 1]

Note* The Nephite lands which supported this order of Nehor seem to be located geographically and apparently culturally close to the former Jaredite lands. The people seemed to be of Mulekite heritage. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Brant Gardner notes that in Alma 43:5 we have the name of the military commander of the Lamanite forces, "Zerahemna." Up to this point in the Book of Mormon we have rarely seen the names of the commanders of the opposing forces, but we now see them with much greater frequency. The leader of an army in Mesoamerica was frequently either the king or a man who was close to the king. Rulers become the de facto representative of not only their polity, but the ideology of their polity. By presenting us with named people, Mormon can bring into higher focus the issues that are being addressed above and beyond the particular objective of each campaign. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," at [http://www.frontpage2k.nmia.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/Alma/] Alma43.htm, p. 8]

Note* As in previous instances, this proper name--Zerahemna--could be a subtle clue to what is going on culturally. The name "Zerahemnah" is very similar to Zerahemla, the Mulekite leader who was found by Mosiah1 around 200 B.C. As has been discussed previously, these Mulekites descended from the tribe of Judah and had probably existed in a Jaredite culture for almost 400 years. Part of what brought that culture down was the desire for kingship and secret societies. These cultural ideas were a continuing sore spot between the people of Zerahemla and the people of Mosiah, Benjamin, and Alma.

The name "Zoramites" implies a descendancy from Zoram, a name associated not only with military prowess, but with a Jewish servant of Laban. The reader should not be surprised then when this military account involves a leader named Zerahemna, who uses as his leaders the Amalekites (people of the order of Nehor--note the Jaredite name connection and secret society implication) and that the Nephites are internally plagued with a divisive struggle between kingmen and freemen. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

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