Mulek the Conqueror

Attribution: the following post leans heavily on the work of Jeffrey R. Chadwick.

In Helaman 8:12, we read: 

And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem?

In Jeremiah 38:6, the Hebrew phrase that is mistranslated as "Malchiah son of Hammelech" is actually Malkiyahu ben-ha-melek(מַלְכִּיָּהוּ בֶן־הַמֶּלֶךְ). In Hebrew, this means "Malkiyahu, son of the King". But was this Malkiyahu(מַלְכִּיָּהוּ) the same person as Mulek? In the case of Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah(Jeremiah 32:12), the long form of his name is Berekyahu. If Berekyahu can be shortened to Baruch then Mulek is a plausible hypocorism of Malkiyahu. 

John L. Sorenson identifies the city of Mulek with La Venta. However, La Venta was an Olmec site that was abandoned in 400 BC. Mormon tells us that the Nephites named their cities "after the name of him who first possessed them". Notice he uses the word possessed and not established, discovered or founded.  In 1828, when the Book of Mormon was translated into English, possess could mean to seize; to gain; to obtain the occupation of, to affect by some power; to seize; to gain; to obtain the occupation of. This meaning is also reflected in the Hebrew Bible. This implies that Mulek did not build the city but rather conquered it, in or around 600 BC.

Furthermore, his distant descendant, Zarahemla, was the leader of a group of people who did not live in the land northward but rather lived in the "land southward"; they had a "corrupted" language and "denied the being of their Creator", a spiritual situation similar to that of Laman's descendants. It is also important to note that only after Zarahemla and Mosiah I's groups meld into one, that distinctly Jaredite names, like Coriantumr and Morianton, appear in the Nephite onomasticon. Furthermore, The Nephite Coriantumr is a descendant of Mulek and the Nephite Morianton wanted to take over the land northward, the former Jaredite heartland. Could Morianton have been attempting something similar to what Zeniff did in retaking the Lehite land of "first inheritance"? Mulek is also said to have arrived in the north, as opposed to Lehi who arrived from the south(Helaman 6:10).

From the above evidence it seems likely that the people of Zarahemla were at least part Jaredite in ancestry. Being contemporaries, Mulek left the old world, presumably at the same time Lehi did, 600 BC. If the city of Mulek is La Venta then Mulek would have had to take it over from the Olmec who were living there. He or his descendants would also have had to leave city, possibly under duress, for the history in Omni 1;16-17 to make sense. However, is there any evidence for this in the Book of Mormon?

In my last post, I made an case for the Jaredites being Olmec in the same sense that Puerto Ricans are Americans. Just as it would be inaccurate to say Americans are Puerto Rican, it would be inaccurate to say that the Olmec were Jaredites. So let's apply the same model to see what happened to the Jaredites at around 600 BC.

The last three men in Ether's lineage history are Ether, Coriantor and Moron. Per my last post, which was not intended to be rigorous or exact, this would have Moron be born at around 595 BC. We don't know how long it took Mulek to reach the New World; Nephi didn't do it in less than eight years. Moron is described as ruling in his father's stead, meaning he didn't ascend to the throne after his death. If this is correct, and it may not be, at the time of Mulek's arrival, Moron would have been a very young, inexperienced and possibly vulnerable ruler.

In Ether 11:14-18, we learn that there was dissension in Moron's kingdom, such that it proved to be an opportune time for the rise of "a mighty man among them in iniquity", who "gave battle unto Moron, in which he did overthrow the half of the kingdom; and he did maintain the half of the kingdom for many years." Moron then overthrows this unnamed usurper only to be overthrown again by another mighty man; only this second time, Moroni makes the point of stating that this second usurper was a descendant of the brother of Jared.

Moron was a descendant of Jared, the second usurper a descendant of the brother of Jared but what about the first man to usurp Moron? We know nothing about his ancestry; we only know he was wicked. It may or may not have been Mulek but we can at least say that a Jaredite king was deposed by an unnamed man at around the same time Mulek would have conquered the land he conquered, and in the same general area. It would also explain how an Olmec site like La Venta, would in the writing of the prophet-historians be named after Mulek and why Mulek's descendants were down in the central depression of Chiapas and not in their ancestral homeland of Tabasco. It would also explain the apparently Jaredite roots of Zarahemla's people and Nephite names like Moroni, which might mean Moronite. But was Mulek a mighty man "among them in iniquity"?

Muloch > Muleh > Mulek
In the earliest extant manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, the name Mulek actually appears as Muloch and Muleh(See Royal Skousen's analysis of Mosiah 25:2). This is very similar to the Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice, Molech(מֹלֶךְ) or Moloch(מֶלֶךְ). If Muloch(Mulek) really is "Malchiah, son of Hammelech" then Muloch might represent a sort of dysphemism.

Paul Hoskisson describes dysphemisms in the Hebrew Bible. He showed how a name like Nebuchadnezzar could function as an insulting scribal redaction. In Jeremiah 21;12, the name is rendered Nebuchadrezzar(נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר); in Esther 2:6, the Babylonian king is called Nebuchadnezzar(נְבוּכַדְנֶאצַּר), possibly meaning “Nebu protect the donkey”. Hoskisson explains:

Dysphemisms take a perfectly good word and make something disreputable out of it. Dysphemisms are not common in English, except perhaps in political rhetoric. Even Latter-day Saints might indulge in a dysphemism or two when not overcome by our typical Latter-day Saint niceness. But the writers of the Old Testament were not handicapped by fits of niceness and therefore indulged themselves in dysphemisms and other forms of maculate wordplays.

If "Malchiah, son of Hammelech" was the mighty man in iniquity mentioned in Ether 11 then it is possible that Muloch or Muleh, as it appears in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon translation, was a dysphemism used by the Nephite prophet-historians to not only connote his iniquity but the resultant spiritual state of Zarahemla's people. When Mosiah I came to Zarahemla, he essentially usurped him as ruler of that city, even if peacefully. Hence the prophet-historians who write of Mosiah I's descendants glowingly might have a reason to mock the founder of the rival lineage. 

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