Abraham in Egypt

and the

Papyrus Solar Ferry


LDS scholar Ed Goble has shown that the name Abraham can be approximated from Egyptian symbols found in Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Papers, and in the Book of Abraham facsimiles.

Ed starts with academically recognized Egyptian symbols and terminology, which he then relates to words found in Hebrew and Hindu scripture. One train of reasoning leads to the word “Avrekh” 1, an Egyptian loanword interpreted to mean “bend the knee”, prostrate thyself! This word appears in the Hebrew Bible in Bereshit (Gen.) 41:43. Another train of thought, stemming from the lotus symbol, has led Ed to “Brahma” - the Hindu god of cosmic reality and creation. Put these words side by side and what do you get? “Avrekh”, “Brahma”. Together, one word seems to supply what the other lacks in simulating the name “Avraham” (Hebrew transliteration of the patriarch’s name).

Biblically speaking, no one doubts Avraham is to be counted among “your mighty men” (“Abirekha”, YirmehYahu (Jer.) 46:15) prone to fall “upon his face” (Genesis 17:17, KJV), but one wonders if somebody long ago couldn’t have perceived in a symbol of Egypt, something that resonated a little more perfectly with Hebrew scripture, something which came closer to imitating the name “Avraham”. This article presents what that something could have been.

Who Were the Ah-meh-strah-ans, and what did they see in the lotus and papyrus plants?

lotus and papyrus

The lotus and papyrus plant bouquet is a known symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt. 2 See for example the “Abraham in Egypt” explanation appearing in Abraham Facsimile No. 1, Fig. 10, and Facsimile No. 3, Fig. 3. Notice also the little Mormon addition to Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 2. It’s a libation stand with just a hint of a bouquet. The sacred and useful plants grew near the western and eastern banks of the Nile River.

                                                Facsimile 1. Fig. 10                by Facsimile 2. Fig. 2                   Facsimile 3. Fig. 3

Bouquet symbol interpreted as “Abraham in Egypt” appearing in Figures 10 and 3 of Book of Abraham Facsimiles 1 and 3 respectively. The facsimiles come from an Egyptian funerary Book of Breathings in Joseph Smith’s possession. The little libation stand and truncated bouquet (otherwise similar to the one in Facsimile 1) was added to Facsimile 2, Figure 2 to fill in a missing portion of the illustration. Round Facsimile 2 is a Book of the Dead hypocephalus illustration.

Imagine yourself high above the Nile looking down. Have you ever considered that the river and its delta look like an enormous plant? The river resembles a very long stem. The delta spreads out like a lotus flower or papyrus clump.

the Nile

In case you missed the Sunday school lesson on the topic, the Ah-meh-strah-ans (a name revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith 3) were “the Egyptians” who placed esoteric meanings on the symbols of mummy funerary texts like the ones that Joseph Smith came to hold. The fact is, the Joseph Smith funerary papyri do not date to the time period of Abraham, but much, much later. 4

We could call the Ah-meh-strah-ans, “the esoteric order of ha-Mistrim”. “Ha-Mistrim” is Hebrew for “the Egyptians”. This “Egyptian” group in particular, claimed to be the keepers of astronomical knowledge passed on from the prophet Avram (Abram). You'll want to read Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Ch. II.3, Ch. VII.2, Ch. VIII.2 to catch up on the tradition that Abram acquainted the Egyptians with “the science of astronomy”.

Joseph Smith’s Ah-meh-strah-ans had an arcane language with an adapted system of symbols. Their esoteric “Egyptian” was not your standard Egyptian.

Though the Ah-meh-strah-ans might have actually lived in, or near the 2nd century BCE, they claimed to connect to the Mitsrim (Egyptians) of Avram’s day. It appears they were familiar with Hebrew and Greek, and even claimed to possess some terminology spoken by Adam. Some of the Ah-meh-strah-an society likely congregated at Alexandria and frequented the great libraries there. If there was a fire that truly destroyed the scroll of the Sepher Avram (the Book of Abram), it was at Alexandria - not Chicago.

There is no academic difficulty connecting the lotus and papyrus plant symbol to “Egypt”. Joseph Smith got that right! But how did the Ah-meh-strah-ans also come to discern “Abraham” in the symbol?

Perhaps their train of epiphanies went something like this: They understood that in some funerary art, the right side of the bouquet symbol represented the eastern bank of the Nile, the left, the western shore. The eastern and western shores of the mighty river related to the daily passage of the papyrus solar barge, which appears to move from sunrise to sunset in the Egyptian sky.

In both facsimiles No. 1 and No. 3 of the Book of Abraham, the bouquet bends to the left – which could figuratively indicate the direction of the solar boat’s passage (east to west). So the symbol of the bending bouquet could have suggested not only the river, with its eastern and western shores, but also the passage of the papyrus boat carrying the sun. To the Ah-meh-strah-ans, the symbol could have stood for Egypt as “the ford of the sun”. This fits perfectly with something else the lotus is known to have signified – the sun!

In Hebrew scripture there is a word that can be translated either “ford” 5 or “ferry boat”. The word is “avarah”. See 2 Shemu’El 19:19, 2 Samuel 19:18, KJV. See also “ferry-boat” translated from the Greek, Septuagint, II Kings 19.18. The word is related to the name “Ever”, “Heber” (Luke 3:35) and “Ivri”, “Hebrew” – suggesting, “from beyond a river”, or “one who crosses or passes through a body of water to the other side”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 14:13)


The shores of the Y’or at night

In Hebrew scripture, the Nile is called “Y’or” (an Egyptian loan word), as in “ha-Y’or”, translated “the river” (KJV) or “the River” (Koren). See for instance Bereshit (Gen.) 41:1. But “Y’or” to the Hebrew listener sounds sort of like “or” which means “light”, as in “or ha-hamah”, “light of the sun”. (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 30:26) Here the poetic Hebrew word for “sun”, “hamah” appears. This description of the sun connotes “hom” or heat. (Iyov (Job) 24:19) The name “Ham” can be seen as a masculine version of “hamah” (sun, warmth, source of heat). According to Leptogenesis (the Book of Jubilees) the descendents of Ham, were to occupy hot, tropical or arid lands in the south. To quote the priestly writer:

“This is the land which came forth for Japheth and his sons as the portion of his inheritance which he should possess for himself and his sons, for their generations for ever; five great islands, and a great land in the north. But it is cold, and the land of Ham is hot, and the land of Shem is neither hot nor cold, but it is of blended cold and heat.” Leptogenesis (Jubilees) 8:29-30

Here the priestly author (who understood the requisite seasonal ordinances of Torah – the Law) correctly fixed the inheritance of Shem in a temperate land, in contrast to the hot inheritance of Ham 6.

Egyptian blue water lily

Egyptian blue lotus (water lily)

As previously mentioned, the lotus (technically a water lily) not only represented Egypt, but was an important Egyptian symbol for the reviving sun. No kidding! The lotus closes at night and opens in the day. Naturally it was seen to represent the sun in his passing and rising – his awakening or resurrection! The Ah-meh-strah-ans would have understood that in representing Egypt, the papyrus plant and lotus stood for more than the Nile ford or flood plain 7. Together the botanical tokens symbolized the papyrus sun boat ferrying across the Egyptian sky.

King Tut's solar bark ring

Solar bark

So it wouldn’t have been too hard for the multilingual Ah-meh-strah-ans to perceive “avarat ha-hamah” or “the ferry boat of the sun” in the papyrus - lotus bouquet symbol of Egypt. With the sun put in masculine form, the Hebrew expression becomes simply “avarat Ham”. Egypt is thus Hebraically described as the “ford of Ham” or “flood plain of Ham”, or “ford of [the] Sun (masculine)”.

The Hebrew letter “tav” at the end of “avarat” denotes “of”. “Tav”, the last sign of the Hebrew aleph-bet also happens to be the first letter in the Hebrew word “tamim”, meaning “perfect”.

 As a rule, the letter “tav” trades places with “hey” in the combination “avarah” + “Ham”. When you mean to say “avarah” of “Ham”, the expression becomes “avarat Ham”. Is this not an acceptable variation on a theme of “Avraham”? The Ah-meh-strah-ans needed only to considerer that Avraham was commanded to be “tamim”, “perfect” in order to justify the letter “tav”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 17:1) The expression “avarat Ham” is similar to the Hebrew words “abir”, “mighty” and “tam”, “perfect” put together - fitting descriptions of Avraham and his God!

In summary, the Ah-meh-strah-ans of Ptolemaic times could have perceived the name “Avraham” hinted in the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt. The esoteric society could have associated the papyrus and lotus bouquet symbol with the Hebrew words “avarat Ham”, “ford of Ham”, whose eastern and western shores were passed each day by “avarat ha-hamah” or “avarat hom”, the “ferry boat of the sun”, the great “barge of heat”.

Thus we have the name “Abraham” esoterically “in Egypt” (the symbol):

“Avraham” = אברהם = “father of a multitude” (Bereshit (Gen.) 17:5) sounds similar to “avarat Ham” = עברת-חם = “ford of Ham” - which, as it happens, fits the scriptural fact that the land was “under water” when it was first discovered by the daughter of Ham. (Abraham 1:24)

The Ah-meh-strah-ans were human too!

On Ah-meh-strah-an cosmology:

Of course the Ah-meh-strah-ans, named in Joseph Smith’s Egyptian papers, were to some extent the product of their time and environment. If they thought the sun literally traversed the sky in a papyrus reed boat, returning by way of the underworld each night, this should be appreciated in historical and religious context. (Qohelet (Eccl.) 1:5) It’s ok to doubt such cosmology, but we should also consider that the Ah-meh-strah-ans (unlike others who thought of themselves as Mitsrim, or Egyptians) may have treated such ideas as simply figurative.

Ahmehstrahan Cross of Adon

The Ah-meh-strah-an symbol of the earth “under the government of another…” The four quarters in relation to the characters of the sacred Tetragrammaton. “Yah.t”, an Egyptian word for “earth”, is somewhat similar to the sacred name of the Hebrew God. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus ... Twenty Years Later”, pg. 8) Is this one reason the Ah-meh-strah-ans chose to associated the divine name with the earth? See TETRAGRAMMATON AND EARTH.

Apparently the Ah-meh-strah-ans had inherited from “the most aged of all the fathers” the advanced concept of a “power of attraction” or “affinity” between heavenly bodies. They may have even understood that the earth revolves. (Joseph Smith’s Ah-meh-strah-an Alphabet, Second part, 5th Degree, pg. 24; Second part, 4th Degree, pg. 27; Second part, 3rd Degree, pg. 30; Second part, 2nd Degree, pg. 31; Second part, 1st Degree, pp. 33-34)

Egyptian papyrus boat

There is a point of view which says, the sun is always “up” in the sky. Tis we, on earth, who ferry each night beneath the upper world. But who in ancient times, besides the Ah-meh-strah-ans, could have believed such a thing? (Helaman 12:14-15)

The Ah-meh-strah-ans  learned of distant creations far greater and older than the sun and earth. They knew that the Eternal had aided Avram's sight and understanding. They read these strange words written by the Hebrew prophet who peered into Urim v'Tumim:

“And I saw the stars that they were very great…” (Abraham 3:2)

Did Avram see the fiery mount of our galactic home, the heart of which our eyes cannot see? Did he see orbits within orbits, and the vast nebular curtains shielding our comparatively tiny world (like a particle of sand) from cosmic bodies to radiant to look upon? did he see what the Latter-day Seer described, but which few have read, and fewer still have understood:

Chariot Temple of the Elohim

Our galaxy – the Milky Way

God has said let this be the centre for light, and let there be bounds that it may not pass. He hath set a cloud round about in the heavens, and the light of the grand governing of fifteen fixed stars centre there; and from there it is drawn, by the heavenly bodies according to their portions; according to the decrees that God hath set, as the bounds of the ocean, that it should not pass over as a flood, so God has set the bounds of light  lest it pass over and consume the planets.” (Joseph Smith’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Ah-meh-strah-an Language, 2nd Part, 5th Degree, “Flos isis”, pg. 25)

On Ah-meh-strah-an anthropology:

The Ah-meh-strah-ans could have been influenced by the Alexandrian translation of Hebrew scripture - the venerable, but imperfect Septuagint.  As a result of this renowned work, it would not be surprising if the esoteric order had assimilated less than accurate terminology; such as that  resulting from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Kasdim”. The Kasdim were the descendents of Kesed (Chesed, KJV). The translation of this Semitic people’s name has resulting in an overplus of terms passed on to KJV readers as “Chaldeans”, “Caldees” and “Chaldea”. We shouldn’t put too much historical or geographic stock into these later terms. We should consider that there were earlier, less redacted 4 versions of the Sepher Avram.

I for one would very much appreciate a copy of the Sepher Avram closer to the Bronze Age original, a work better adapted to a Hebrew speaking audience - not the general readership of the Times and Seasons newspaper. I personally wouldn’t mind if the anachronistic funerary facsimiles were relegated to an appendix treating later redactions of the sacred book. This would include the Book of the Dead hypocephalus (“funny round thing”) with its embedded phallic symbols. I would keep in the appendix Joseph Smith’s Ah-meh-strah-an astronomical explanations which link to ancient traditions about the things Avram taught in Mitsraymah (Egypt). See Abraham 3:15.

hypocephalus = under head

Hypocephalus of Tasheritkhons (circa 305 to 330 BCE), British Museum, London. This hypocephalus is similar to the Book of the Dead hypocephalus reworked as Book of Abraham Facsimile No. 2. Hypocephali in general represent all that the sun seems to encircle, with an eye on the world of the living and the world below - that is, on everything “under the sun”. The Ah-meh-strah-ans reinterpreted the hypocephalus giving it greater cosmic scope. Even so, the Book of Abraham facsimile remains an anachronistic crudity that fails to do justice to the vision that Avram saw by Urim v’Tumim, and by the hand of the Eternal upon his eyes. (Abraham 3:1-2, 12)

On Ah-meh-strah-an geography:

It’s possible the Ah-meh-strah-ans accepted the dominant Jewish tradition of the time; that Abram’s Ur was in southern Mesopotamia – an arid flatland with reeds near the river, not unlike Egypt. If so, it doesn’t mean this is historically true. There were many ancient Middle Eastern sites with names similar to “Ur”. The city of Urkesh 8 near Haran 9 had long been lost and forgotten by the 2nd century BCE. The name “Ur-kasdim” is likely a biblical redaction – an anachronism that later mutated into “Ur of the Chaldees”. In time, literary attempts would be made to try and reconcile the “Ur-kasdim” problem 10.

Professor Hugh Nibley tried to draw our attention to the more scripturally consistent, northern Mesopotamian setting for Terah (Abram’s father) and his family. An “Ur in Haran” (Haran) seems to fit the Bible and the Ebla records best. (Abraham in Egypt, “Ebla Changes Things”, pp. 84-85, “Pharaoh and Canaan – Visiting Celebrities”, pg. 238)

See also Hoskisson, Paul Y., “Where Was the Ur of Abraham? ”, Ensign, July 1991, pp. 62-63.

It is worth considering the Book of Abraham place names “Potiphar’s Hill” and “Haran” (Hebrew for “mountaineer”, the same as Abram’s brother’s name). (Abraham 1:10; 2:4) Haran is spelled differently in Hebrew than the Akkadian place name Haran. Unfortunately, you will find both names spelled the same in the KJV and therefore in the English Book of Abraham. These places fit the highlands of northern Mesopotamia near Haran. (Abraham 2:5)

Charan and Haran

Pre-exilic Hebrew spellings of Haran and Haran

Spelled with a Hebrew “hey”, “Haran”, so named by Avram’s family, was a hilly pastoral land near the city Haran (spelled with a “het”). According to the Book of Abraham, Abram “departed out of Haran” when he was “sixty and two years old”. (Abraham 2:14) After winning souls (making converts) in the big city, Abram “was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran [Haran]”. (JST Genesis 12:3, verse 4, KJV, Abraham 2:15, see also 1835 edition Doctrine and Covenants, Lectures on Faith, pg. 31)

Could the account in Sepher ha-Yasher (the Book of Jasher) which tells how Avram left Haran twice, stem from an earlier tradition that Avram left Haran before he left Haran? It stands to reason that in time, rural Haran near Haran would get identified with the renowned city. (Jasher XIII.5, 26)

Hebrews might have perceived a play on words between that name “Haran”, and “harar” meaning to burn, or to glow. The parched, or glowing city is a fitting second meaning in light of the neighboring city of “Ur”, flame, light.

Unto what should we liken the “Ur in southern Mesopotamia” tradition? It is comparable to Mormons (starting with RLDS, now called “Community of Christ”) repositioning the Book of Mormon “land Camorah” (later spelled “Cumorah”) in Southern Mexico. Original sources clearly place Cumorah (and the authentic literary setting of the Book of Mormon in general) in Joseph Smith’s boyhood lake country of temperate North America. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, Mormon, Ch. III, pg. 529)

Avram's Journey from Urkesh

Solid lines represent Abram’s more direct journey to the land of Kena’an (Canaan) from Ur-Kasdim (Urkesh) near Haran (in the highlands of northern Mesopotamia). Broken lines represent the-out-of-the-way traditional trek from southern Mesopotamia, to Haran before going on to Canaan, bypassing the Mari route to Canaan. See LDS Bible Map 9.

Josephus quotes the historian Nicolaus of Damascus as saying, “Abram reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Ch. VII.2)


Notes and References

[1] The Egyptian loanword “avrekh” (Bereshit (Gen.) 41:43) sounds similar to the Hebrew word “barakh” meaning “kneel” or “bless”. (2 Divre Hayamim (2 Chr.) 6:13)

Ed Goble’s “Avrekh” connection helps us understand the unusual interpretation of a standard hieratic symbol listed in Joseph Smith’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (pp. 2, 9) The Egyptian symbol is there interpreted in “Ah-meh-strah-an” to mean “Ah brah – oam – a father of many nations …” The “Ah-meh-strah-ans” are “the Egyptians” peculiar to Joseph Smith’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language.

The name “Avraham” is openly interpreted to be a compact form of “av-hamon goyim” = “father of a multitude of nations”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 17:5) But “avir-hamon” = “mighty one of a multitude” fits just as well, if not better! This interpretation seems to infer divinity. (E.g. Bereshit (Gen.) 49:24) To avoid offending religious sensibilities by suggesting that Avraham was made a god under “El elyon” (the “most high God”, Bereshit (Gen.) 14:19; consider also the relativity of godhood in Shemot (Ex.) 7:1, Bereshit (Gen.) 17:7; 27:28-29), the meaning “father of many nations” is preferred.

The New Brown – Driver – Briggs – Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, 87, אַבְרָם, pg. 4.

[2] Nibley, Hugh, Abraham in Egypt, pp. 386, 444-450.

[3] Smith Jr., Joseph, Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, 5th Degree, pg. 6.


1842 Intro to Book of Abraham

Joseph Smith’s original introduction to the Book of Abraham published in the March 1, 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons newspaper reads:

“A TRANSLATION Of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catecombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt, called the BOOK OF ABRAHAM, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” (emphasis added)

Note the use of “Records” plural in the T&S introduction. The published Book of Abraham featured facsimiles from more than one Egyptian scroll. The translated depictions alone qualify as the “ancient Records … from the Catecombs [catacombs] of Egypt” that the introduction refers to. It is the peculiar translation of these graphic “Records” which purports being the “writings of Abraham [Abram]”.

The Prophet would later write, “Were I an Egyptian, I would exclaim … Enish-go-on-dosh, Flo-ees-Flos-is-is; [O the earth! the power of attraction, and the moon passing between her and the sun.]” (T&S, November 1, 1843, pg. 373) But these “Egyptian” terms do not represent academically recognized Egyptian. There were more than one ancient people who today can be referred to as “Egyptians”. Who were Joseph Smith’s “Egyptians”? The Prophet revealed them to be “the Ah meh strah ans” 3.

Joseph Smith’s esoteric Ah-meh-strah-ans associated unusual meanings with symbols appearing in Egyptian funerary scrolls, the sort of records Joseph Smith came to hold in Kirtland, Ohio. The Ah-meh-strah-ans related some of their interpretations to Avraham. Their redacted and augmented version of the Sepher Avram (book of Abram) purported to be the writings of the Hebrew prophet, written by his own hand, while he was in Mitsraymah (Egypt). But the Ah-meh-strah-ans (~200 BCE) supplemented the Sepher Avram with things which did not date back to the Hebrew prophet (2000 to 1700 BCE).

Nowhere in the Joseph Smith Papers (J.S. Journal etc.) does the Prophet explicitly state that he actually had the ancient scroll of Abram in his possession. The Book of Abraham (the very use of the name “Abraham”, instead of Abram, implies a later work) came to the studied Prophet by inspiration.

The work of “translating” mentioned in the Prophet’s journal could simply refer to the Ah-meh-strah-an Alphabet and Grammar translation project. (See Joseph Smith Journal, 1 October 1835 - Thursday, 17 November 1835 - Tuesday, 19 - 20 November 1835 - Thursday - Friday)

The “record of Abraham” that Joseph Smith showed (along with the scrolls) to his Hebrew instructor J. Seixas, was likely the 1835 manuscript of the Book of Abraham. (Joseph Smith Journal, 30 January 1836 - Saturday) This manuscript featured hieratic Egyptian characters in the left margins (transcribed from a Book of Breathings). These characters came from the same Book of Breathings that facsimiles No. 1 and No. 3 were taken from. The sparse selections of hieratic characters were arguably copied shortly after the manuscript had been written down. (Joseph Smith Journal, 26 November 1835 - Thursday)

The “records [plural] of Abraham” that Joseph Smith showed visitors, likely refer to the Ah-meh-strah-an Alphabet and Grammar in addition to the 1835 Book of Abraham manuscript. (Joseph Smith Journal, 3 February 1836 - Wednesday)

No mention is made by Joseph Smith of a papyrus scroll of Abraham among the “ancient records” that he showed numerous visitors. Joseph Smith Journal, 19 October 1835 - Monday, 24 October 1835 - Saturday.

So how did Mormons come to suppose that the Prophet Joseph had an ancient scroll of the Book of Abraham in his possession?

It’s certainly true that brethren other than Joseph Smith (e.g. Oliver Cowdery) publically stated that the scrolls of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt accompanied the mummies that came to Kirtland. Joseph Smith allowed the saints, to come to this conclusion on their own. Had the saints asked Joseph more questions about the origin of the Book of Abraham, they may have gotten a more detailed explanation. Here, we might consider that Avram (later named Avraham) allowed Par’oh and Avimelekh to conclude that Sarai (Sarah) was his sister. She was of course, but not in the way the others presumed. (Genesis 12:18-20, 20:12, KJV) Similarly, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s introduction to the Book of Abraham is true, but in a way that is different from how the cursory reader might first interpret.

History of the Church statements HC 2:236 and 2:347-351 cited by both Mormons and Anti-Mormons, are not original statements by Joseph Smith. these are well-meaning extrapolations by other men. Please note that since the 2013 edition, the words “See History of the Church, vol. 2, pp. 235, 236, 348-351” no longer appear in the Book of Abraham’s introduction.

HC 2:347-351 is particularly disconcerting. It has led more than one prominent LDS scholar to suppose (at a glance) that the account represents a statement by Joseph Smith. Only the first couple of paragraphs come from the Prophet’s journal (31 December 1835 - Thursday); after which the account launches into the topic of “Egyptian mummies and ancient records”, giving readers the impression that they are still reading the Prophet’s words.

A recent edition of Hugh Nibley’s Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri – An Egyptian Endowment notes the attribution error. (See John Gee’s Introduction to the Second Edition, xxi) The words that HC quotes are in fact, those of Oliver Cowdery, published in the December 1835 edition of the Messenger and Advocate, under the heading “Egyptian Mummies and Ancient Records”.

Elder Cowdery describes in some detail “characters” from a scroll which he implies were the writings of Joseph in Egypt – “This record is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part red ink ... many characters or letters”, writes Brother Cowdery, “exactly like the present, (though probably not quite so square,) form of the Hebrew without points.” The “characters” and “figures” which Elder Cowdery describes, we now know belong to a Book of the Dead, written in hieratic Egyptian.

Book of the Dead

A portion of a Book of the Dead from the Joseph Smith papyri. Oliver Cowdery interpreted the image as representing “Enoch's Pillar, as mentioned by Josephus”. The account in Josephus attributes the antediluvian “pillar of brick” and “the pillar of stone” to the descendents of Shet (Seth) in general. (Antiquities of the Jews, Ch. II.3) Elder Cowdery also imagined that he saw many Hebrew letters in the Egyptian writing, though “not quite so square” as the present form of Hebrew. Elder Cowdery was mistaken! While it is true that Elder Cowdery was given the opportunity to “assist to translate”, this doesn’t mean that his opinions should receive the same weight as Joseph Smith’s. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 9:2-6)

When Oliver Cowdery saw the following written on the papyrus scroll

J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_1 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_2 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_3 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_4 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_5 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_6 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_7 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_8 J.S. Book of the Dead Hieratic_9

did Elder Cowdery think he was seeing the following Hebrew letters?

J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_1 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_2 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_3 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_4 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_5 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_6 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_7 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_8 J. Seixas Hebrew Grammar_9

Letters appearing in Manual Hebrew Grammar (published 1833) by Joshua (James) Seixas.

After analyzing every relevant statement from the best sources, e.g. the Joseph Smith Papers, I find nothing contradicting Ed Goble’s assessment that there was no papyrus scroll of the Book of Abraham in Kirtland. The text of the Book of Abraham came to the Prophet Joseph Smith by means that did not require the physical presence of the original, or even an ancient copy of the Sepher Avram. Consider how the Prophet succeeded in producing a translation of an ancient record made by Yohanan (John) the beloved disciple. See the heading to LDS Doctrine and Covenants section 7. What Joseph Smith had in Kirtland were mummy funerary scrolls (i.e. the Book of Breathings and the Book of the Dead) - no Hebrew surprises! Joseph Smith may not have needed Urim v'Tumim at this point. He had become a seer stone!

We can accept on faith that the original Sepher Avram was written by the hand of Avram while he was in Mitsraymah (Egypt), but the work Joseph Smith published in the Times and Seasons is an inspired augmentation of an ancient work “purporting to be ... the BOOK OF ABRAHAM”. The Book of Abraham is, like biblical scripture, a redaction performed centuries later. The Prophet Joseph himself edited and added to the work prior to its 1842 publication. (See 1835 Book of Abraham manuscripts)

The Prophet referred to the published Book of Abraham as a work of “present revelation”: 

“… if we believe in present revelation, as published in the Times and Seasons last spring, Abraham, the prophet of the Lord, was laid upon the iron bedstead [Hebrew: “eres barzel” = “couch of iron”] for slaughter … -ED [Joseph Smith, Editor]” (Times and Seasons, “Persecution of the Prophets”, September 1, 1842, Vol. 3, pg. 902)

The Anubis, lion couch, canopic jars vignette that was reworked as facsimile No. 1 in the published Book of Abraham, serves as a substitution for “the representation” and “the figures” that Abram (Avram) refers to in his record. Abram, in fact, refers to only one “representation” and set of “hieroglyphics”; and these were presented at the beginning of his record. These “hieroglyphics”, we are told, were called by the Semitic Kasdim “Rahleenos”. The term “Rahleenos” sounds similar to the Hebrew, “Raah-li-nes” =ראה לי נס  = “show me a sign”, or “Raah-l’nes” =ראה לנס  = “looking for a sign”. There is no mention of other facsimiles. (Abraham 1:14)

Facsimile No. 1 is not Abram’s original Bronze Age illustration. Neither is the facsimile identical to any vignette the Ah-meh-strah-ans might have used in their version of the Sepher Avraham. The Book of Breathings facsimile simply suited the Prophet’s need in simulating, or reconstructing an English translation of an ancient version of the Book of Abraham. There were other Egyptian works of art like it. See the restored Book of Breathings facsimile below.

The original Sepher Avram was fundamentally a Hebraic work. The main text of the Book of Abraham still is, in key respects. The majority of the “Egyptian” stuff is peripheral. What the Prophet finally published approaches an Ah-meh-strah-an version, in that it features similar funerary vignettes and commentary from a later time period. Joseph’s mummy scrolls were filled with the same kind of symbols and images that the Ah-meh-strah-ans uniquely interpreted and enlarged upon in their day.

Like the Septuagint (the Greek translation of Hebrew scripture) the Ah-meh-strah-an Book of Abraham may have been compiled with a Goy (Gentile) audience in mind. A copy of the work may have even been made available at Alexandria, as Ed Goble suggests. This may help explain why Joseph Smith styled his Book of Abraham after an Ah-meh-strah-an version featuring anachronistic funerary vignettes (reinterpreted) from more than one scroll.

The people “sought for things that they could not understand.” The Prophet Joseph Smith was keen to, if not urged by his American community’s 19th century Egyptian interest (fixation). (Hauglid, Brian M. “THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM AND THE EGYPTIAN PROJECT: “A KNOWLEDGE OF HIDDEN LANGUAGES”, See in particular the section “Nineteenth-Century Egyptomania and the Joseph Smith Papyri”, pp. 477-481)

So the Mormon Book of Abraham couches a Hebraic pearl in a quasi-Egyptian clamshell. It is a work embellished with anachronistic funerary art and nonstandard interpretations of Egyptian symbols. The round Book of the Dead hypocephalus (Facsimile No. 2) inserted between the folds of text is not the original pearl of the Book of Abraham. It is hoped that those who are attracted to the Egyptian facsimiles will eventually take an interest in studying the sacred Hebraic record.


Hor Book of Breathings first vignette

The above vignette comes from a known Egyptian funerary text. The restored facsimile along with its inspired interpretation were not part of the original Book of Abram (Sepher Avram). The facsimile and funerary text date more recent than the time of the biblical prophet. The facsimile serves as a substitution for the illustration that accompanied the original Sepher Avram (2000 to 1700 BCE).


Fig. 1. The messenger of the Eternal (represented by the living Ba or personality of the deceased).

Fig. 2. Avram (represented by the fully clothed mummification subject named Hor, resurrected as Osiris) fastened upon an altar (lion couch). Consider the Hebrew wordplay between “harEl” (mount of God, altar-hearth), “ariel” (altar), and “ariEl” (lion of God). See for instance YehezqEl (Ezek.) 43:15-16, Divre Hayamim (1 Chr.) 11:22.

Fig. 3. The idolatrous priest of Elqanah (represented by Anubis, aiding in the resurrection of Osiris) attempting to offer up Avram as a sacrifice. In the original vignette (restored) Anubis, the super intelligent, divine family pet, stands between the lion couch and the animated legs of Osiris Hor. Anubis is about to help Osiris stand on his feet. In Joseph Smith’s adaptation, the idolatrous priest stands behind the altar. The Prophet Joseph Smith has here taken a Book of Breathing vignette featuring immortals and transformed it, Ah-meh-strah-an style, into a scene of mortal drama.

Fig. 4. The altar (lion couch) for sacrifice by the idolatrous priests, standing before the gods of Elqanah, Livnah, Mayim-m’korah, Koresh (four sons of Horus canopic jars), and Par’oh (crocodile, typically Sobek, but in this case likely Horus, who, in the form of a crocodile, helped gather the scattered body parts of Osiris).

It’s very unlikely that Avram’s original “representation” depicting “the fashion” of the false gods (Abraham 1:12-14) involved sons of Horus canopic jars. These types of canopic jars are from a later time period.

The five names associated with the false gods are the names of persons or places; the first four of which are Semitic. These five ancient names should not be construed as the actual names of idol gods. Joseph Smith’s “Egyptians”, the Ah-meh-strah-ans, in their devotion to the God of Avraham, avoided making direct mention of the names of other gods. (Shemot (Ex.) 23:13)

It is difficult, if not impossible, in academic expositions on the subject of Egyptian deities, to avoid using translations of the names such dieties. Hebrew scripture permits indirect references to the names of foreign gods in, for instance, derogatory wordplay. The multilingual Ah-meh-strah-ans, are not to be abhorred (Devarim (Deut.) 23:7) for celebrating the God of Avraham in a kind of religious syncretism which involved wordplay, and the viewing of members of the Egyptian pantheon as personifications of concepts like truth, justice, resurrection, the throne etc.  

Fig. 5. The idolatrous god of Elqanah. “Elkenah” (transliterated “Elqanah”) is a name comparable to “Eliezer”, Avram’s Damascene steward. (Bereshit (Gen.) 15:2) Both names reference God (El). “Elqanah” can mean “God hath created” or “God hath taken possession”. The name  sounds similar to “El qana” which describes God as “jealous”, “zealous” or of “ardent love”, “possessive”. (Shemot (Ex.) 20:5) The expression “god of Elkenah”, “el Elqanah” would be redundant (i.e. god of the god ...) if “Elkenah” were an idol god’s name. “Elqanah” is a biblical title or name. See for instance “El elyon qoneh …” in Bereshit (Gen.) 14:19, and the name in Shemot (Ex.) 6:24. Elqanah” is the name of a site, or an apostate Semite (possibly a relative of Avram) who worshipped more than one god. See Abraham 2:13. The scripture in Abraham 1:20, is consistent with “Elkenah” being a major sponsor of idolatry, distinct from “the gods of the land”.

Fig. 6. The idolatrous god of Livnah. Similar to the name in Bemidbar (Num.) 33:20. Livnah” in this case, is the name of a site, or an apostate Semite (possible relative of Avram). Abraham 1:5-7, 15

Fig. 7. The idolatrous god of Mayim-m’korah. See for instance YehezqEl (Ezek.) 29:14, Vayiqra (Lev.) 25:25. “Mayim-m’korah” in this case, is the name of a site, or an apostate Semite (possible relative of Avram). Abraham 1:5-7, 15.

Fig. 8. The idolatrous god of Koresh. Similar to the name in Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 44:28. Koresh” in this case, is the name of a site, or an apostate Semite (possible relative of Avram). Abraham 1:5-7, 15

Fig. 9. The idolatrous god of Par’oh symbolized by the tanin (crocodile), YehezqEl (Ezek.) 29:3. The “god like unto that of Pharaoh” is in this case not identical to Par’oh (Pharaoh). (Abraham 1:13)

Fig. 10. Avram in Mitsraymah (a lotus and papyrus plant bouquet, the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt).

Fig. 11. Designed to represent the papyrus pillars of heaven, as understood by the Ah-meh-strah-ans א [esoteric order of ha-Mitsrim].

Fig. 12. Raqiya ב, signifying expanse, or the firmament over our heads; but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Ah-meh-strah-ans meant it to signify Shama, to be high, or the heavens, answering to the Hebrew word, Shamayim. The Hebrew word Shamayim suggests the waters (mayim) overhead, divided by the raqiya. Bereshit (Gen.) 1:7

א Joseph Smith, Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian (Ah-meh-strah-an) Language, 5th Degree, pg. 6.  

ב Formerly spelled “Raukeeyang”. Joseph Smith exhibits the Western Sephardic pronunciation of his Hebrew Instructor Joshua (James) Seixas. See J. Seixas, Manual Hebrew Grammar, pg.12. The case in which “raqiya” (firmament or expanse) is pronounced “rau-kee-ang” (Seixas) dates to Italian and Western Portuguese Jewish communities of the late 16th century CE. See Aron di Leone Leoni, “The Pronunciation of Hebrew in the Western Sephardic Settlements (16th – 20th Centuries). Second Part: The Pronunciation of the Consonant ‘Ayin”, SEFARAD, Vol. 68.1, 2008, pp. 163-208.






 Facsimile No. 3

The above facsimile was derived from the last vignette in the same Egyptian funerary text from which Facsimile No. 1 was derived  – a Book of Breathings available to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The facsimile along with its interpretation were not part of the original Book of Abram (Sepher Avram). Like the previous vignette (Facsimile No. 1), this vignette dates more recent than the time of the biblical prophet. There is no mention of this facsimile (or one like it) in the text of the Book of Abraham. The facsimile may serve as a substitution for a vignette that accompanied an Ah-meh-strah-an version of the Sepher Avraham; a version that once represented, and named a king, a prince, a principal waiter, and a slave.


Fig. 1. Avram (exalted father, the resurrected deity Osiris) sitting upon the throne of Par’oh (throne of Osiris), by the politeness of the king (the deity, Revelation 3:21), with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.

Scripture describes Avraham not only as a prophet but as a meshiah (anointed, i.e. king and priest, 1 Divre Hayamim (1 Chron.) 16:16-22, Tehilim (Ps.) 105:9-15) Avraham, like Osiris, hears the petitions of the dead. (Luke 16:22-31)

Fig. 2. King Par’oh (strangely, but appropriately depicted as the goddess Isis wearing a head piece like that of the divine mother Hathor), whose name is given in the characters above his (her) head. The name given in the label is that of Isis. The label near her head reads “Isis the great, mother of the god.” An appropriate title of the god referred to  is “son of Isis”.

Label to the right of Isis

M. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings. Note the throne hieroglyph in the name Isis.


Isis in fact is closely associated with kingship. Isis is represented by the symbol of the throne. Par’oh bears the title “son of Isis”. The name Isis strongly correlates with the name Osiris. The names of Isis and Osiris both share the symbol of the throne in their representations. The name of the immortal son of Isis and Osiris is Horus (Hor). In life, Par’oh was often identified with the name Horus, and in death with Osiris. In a sense then, the title of Par’oh (son of Isis) is implied in the characters above the arm of the throne goddess. The deceased owner of the scroll happens to be “Osiris Hor”. (Fig. 5.)

Ryan Larsen observes that the headdress of Hathor can be thought of as a combination of “characters”. The horns and disk are in fact combined Egyptian “characters” appearing directly above the head of Isis. Hathor means House of Horus. Hathor symbolically houses Horus and thus the living Par’oh (Great House). Hathor-Isis represents Horus as also the living Par’oh.  The name of Par’oh, son of Isis, indicated in the emblem above her (his) head, is the name of Horus (Hor).

Whether you think of the horned emblem as embracing a solar or lunar disk (“moon disk”, Michael Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings, pg. 23) the symbol nevertheless connects with Horus the sky god. But there is more going on with the symbols above the head and raised arm of Fig. 2. See The Name of the King.

The use of the term “Par’oh” in Bereshit (Genesis) describing a king of Mitsrayim (Egypt), is considered anachronistic. The appearance of “Pharaoh” is nevertheless, appropriate in Joseph Smith’s Ah-meh-strah-an styled explanations of funerary facsimiles, because these facsimiles accompany a version of the Sepher Avram that parallels terminology found in the King James Translation of the Masoretic Text - the source of the KJV OT. The Masoretic Text is a redacted work. No original texts of the Bible are known to exist today.

Fig. 3. Signifies Avram in Mitsraymah (Egypt) as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1. The lotus and papyrus bouquet symbolizes upper and lower Mitsraymah. The bouquet is also emblematical of the solar bark - answering to the Hebrew “avarat Ham”. Consider 2 Shemu’El 19:19, 2 Samuel 19:18 (KJV), Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 30:26.

Fig. 4. The goddess Maat interpreted as a Prince of Par’oh, King of Mitsrayim, as written above the hand. What is overtly written to the left of her head is “Maat, Lady of the western hill-country [afterlife]”. Note the hill-county hieroglyph in the column of characters to the left of Maat’s head:

Label to the left of Maat

M. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings, Note the hill-country hieroglyph beneath the name Maat. 


The Hebrew word for “mountain”, “hill”, or “hill country” is “har”, which, in an Ah-meh-strah-an way of interpreting, sounds like “ Hor”, the name of the lofty god-prince.

The name Hor or Horus in Egyptian relates to “haru” meaning “falcon”. Another meaning is “one who is above, over”. The Hebrew word “har” meaning “high elevation”, seems similar in meaning.

Above the right and left hands of Maat are labels which mention Horus (Hor) by name, and the name of Osiris his father. Thus, written above the hand(s) of Maat are the divine titles bestowed on living and dead rulers of Mitsrayim - Osiris, Horus (Hor). In life Egyptian rulers identified with the son Horus, and in death with the father Osiris.

Label above the right hand of Maat                 Label above the left hand of Maat

M. Rhodes, Hor Book of Breathings: Note the divine throne and princely falcon symbols above the raised right hand of Maat (right of Osiris), and also above the lowered left hand of Maat (in front of Hor the deceased). The names of the father (Osiris) and son (Horus) Egyptian deities appear on both sides of the goddess of truth.


Crowning the head of Maat is the feather of “emet” (Heb. “truth”). The feather of truth is displayed before the luminary disk, “ha-or” (Heb. “the light”), which in the Ah-meh-strah-an mind may again connote the god-prince Hor.

Maat is the goddess of truth, faithfulness, morality and justice. “Maat” is similar to the feminine Hebrew word “emet” which means ”truth”, “faithfulness”, “firmness”. “Emet” is akin to the Hebrew “emunah” which is “faithfulness”, “firmness”, “steadfastness”, “fidelity”. The Davidic prince is prophetically girt with “righteousness” or “justice”, and with feminine “emunah”. (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 11:1-5) To the Ah-meh-strah-ans (the esoteric order of ha-Mitsrim), the divine prince is clothed with Maat.

The name Maat also happens to sound like the Hebrew verb “mut” which means “die”. The truth that looms before us all is “amut”, “I will die”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 26:9)

Related, the Hebrew word “met” means “dead”, “a dead man”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 20:3; 23:2-3) A connection to Maat seems appropriate because Maat is always present in the judgment of the dead.

The following scripture connects “die” or “mut” with “prince” or ”sar”:

“I have said, You are gods (elohim); and all of you are children of (benei) the most High (Elyon). But you shall die (t’mutun) like mankind (adam), and fall like one of the princes (ha-sarim).” (Tehilim (Ps.) 82:6-7)

Add the fact that “mat” in Hebrew means “male”, or adult mortal “man” (Devarim (Deut.) 3:6), and it should be clear that the Ah-meh-strah-ans wouldn’t have had a problem interpreting the goddess of truth as a prince.

But what really seems audacious is the Prophet’s claim that “Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt” is literally “written above the hand” of the obvious female figure - standing in as a prince.

In the facsimile published by the LDS Church, the hieratic writing in the labels is unintelligible to most readers. Scholars, however, have discerned their content. Michael Rhodes has performed a service in transposing the hieratic script into hieroglyphic form. According to Rhodes the column immediately above the right hand of Maat reads:

just above the hand = “Words spoken by |Osiris,| the Foremost of the Westerners” (The Hor Book of Breathings, pp. 24-25, read top to bottom, right to left)

How, you ask, can any reasonable person divine a reference to a prince in the column above? Be not faithless, we must learn to see things like Ah-meh-strah-ans:

Let’s begin with the vertical pole-like stick sign, sign, nes. This Egyptian symbol is similar in appearance to the stroke sign used to signify the number one, or singularity.

A Hebrew word for “sign” or “pole” is “nes” (נֵס) See Bemidbar (Num.) 21:8, Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 5:26 - the serpent ensign (banner) on a pole, lifted up to the nations. Thus:

(sign) = nes (נֵס) = Heb. letter nun (נ)

The principal at work here is the same as that of the ancient Sinai aleph-bet. An Egyptian hieroglyph is converted into a phonogram representing the first sound in the word depicted by the icon. The phonogram representation doesn’t have to be identical to that of the Sinai aleph-bet:

Evolution of the alphabet

So an Ah-meh-strah-an minded interpreter might see in the column symbols the sign of the serpent that Mosheh (Moses) was commanded to lift up upon a pole. The serpent then, isn’t just any venomous snake, but a “saraph” (שָׂרָף ) so named because of its “fiery” appearance and/or the “burning” effect of its venom. (Bemidbar (Num.) 21:6-9, Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 14:29) Thus:

fiery serpent, saraph(fiery serpent) =  saraph (שָׂרָף) = Heb. letter sin ()

Likewise, the N-water ripple hieroglyph (N35) (water - N, Y'or), to the Ah-meh-strah-an mind, signifies more than just water. For one thing, the Egyptian symbol carries the phonetic value “n”, which happens to be the first sound in the Greek word “Neilos” (Νειλος) from which we get the word “Nile”. But the Gentile/Semitic word “Nile” corresponds to the Egyptian loanword “Y’or” (יְאוֹר), as in Shemot (Ex.) 2:3, so:

water - N, Y'or (waters of the Nile) = Neilos (Νελος) = Y’or (יְאוֹר) = Heb. letter yod (י)

Now it’s important to note that the hieratic script character equivalent to “n”, takes a simplified linear form:

n - hieratic script and hieroglyph

The reverse, or mirror image of the symbol n - hieratic also appears in Egyptian texts. A mirror image match for this hieratic character appears repeatedly in Joseph Smith’s Grammar & Alphabet of the Ah-meh-strah-an Language. See of example the bottom of page 9 of the strange manuscript. You may also wish to see page 13, 17, and 21 of various Ah-meh-strah-an degrees.

Finally, the “papyrus reed” hieroglyph (papyrus reed, eveh) can be translated “eveh” (אֵבֶה); all three letters of which happen to occur in order, in the name “Avraham” (אַבְרָהָם). What is more, the word “eveh” appears in Hebrew scripture describing the light weight material (papyrus) out of which swift ships are built. (Iyov (Job) 9:26, see also Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 18:2; and B-D-B-G Hebrew Lexicon, 16, אֵבֶה, pg. 3). Thus:

papyrus reed, eveh(papyrus reed) = eveh (אֵבֶה) = Heb. letter aleph (א)

The first three phonograms (letters, read from right to left, top to bottom) are sufficient to phonetically simulate the Hebrew word “n’si”, which means “exalted one”, “chief”, “prince”, as in the honored description “n’si Elohim” bestowed on Avraham! The exalted title literally means “prince of God(s)”, but is translated “mighty prince” (KJV). See Bereshit (Gen.) 23:6. The presence of the aleph makes for exact Hebrew spelling - נְשִׂיא , as well as symbolic reference to the Exalted Father.

Thus the column above the raised hand of Maat may, in Ah-meh-strah-an fashion, read:

above the hand of TRUTH = “Prince [of]|Osiris,|Foremost of the Western hill country (Heb. Har)”

So a Hebrew word for “prince”, “n’si”, begins with the letter nun. It just so happens that the Ah-meh-strah-ans reinterpreted the hieratic Egyptian water symbol, “n”,n - hieratic, near the top of the column above Maat’s hand, to signify “Ho-e-oop A prince of the royal blood ...”:

"...a prince of royal blood..."

See for instance the symbol on the left, on page 4 of the 5th Degree of Joseph Smith’s Grammar & Alphabet of the Ah-meh-strah-an Language. Of course this does not represent standard Egyptian interpretation! This is the esoteric language of the Ah-meh-strah-an’s. The Hebrew “n’si” underpinning the esoteric interpretation, helps explain why the Ah-meh-strah-ans would choose the hieratic Egyptian “n” symbol to represent “A prince of the royal blood”. It happens that the Hebrew word for fiery serpent, “saraph” contains another Hebrew word for “prince”, the word “sar” (שַׂר). Thus we have both fire and water emblems representing an anointed prince. For additional Ah-meh-strah-an insights into these symbols see Princess of On.

As if this were not enough to assert the presence of the Prince, the ancient root of the word “n’si” can be seen in the column. Here it helps to recognize that the “fiery serpent” is also a “nahash” in Hebrew (Bemidbar (Num.) 21:6), “reed” is also “suph” (spelled with a samekh, as in “Yam Suph”, “Reed Sea”, Red Sea, Shemot (Ex.) 15:4), and “aph” spelled with an aleph, means “nose, face, anger”. (Bereshit (Gen.) 24:47, Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 48:9) We may then see the word:

nasa = nasa = lift up = exalt. The Hebrew word "nasa" is ordinarily spelled with a sin (), but the samekh exception is noted in the lexicon. Samakh in fact, connotes “raise”, “support”, “be high”, “ascend”. The verb is used in connection with supporting or laying hands on a sacrificial victim. (e.g. Vayiqra (Lev.) 1:4; B-D-B-G Hebrew Lexicon, 5564, סָמַך, pg. 701) Note also the Hebrew word “nes” astride the pole-like sign.

Even if one is blind to Hebraic connections, reference to the exalted god-prince Hor can be seen in the columns following the preamble that Maat points to. The complete translation according to Rhodes reads: “(1) Words spoken by Osiris, the Foremost of the Westerners: (2) May you, Osiris Hor, abide at (3) the side of the throne of his greatness.” (The Hor Book of Breathing, pp. 24-25, emphasis added) Thus the words of Osiris, refer to the exalted son Horus, and the deceased who bears his name. The point is; Word of Osiris = Prince Hor.

The preamble could be interpreted to read “Prince of the Eye of the divine thrown, Foremost of the Western land (afterlife).” The symbolic and spiritual minded might go further and interpret “Word (Prince) of God, First of the Spirit World”.

The approach the Prophet Joseph Smith takes is to transform the Horus afterlife vignettes, from scenes exclusively featuring immortals, to earth bound scenes of mortal drama. “Word of God, First of the Spirit World”, or “Prince of Osiris (Pharaoh in death), Foremost of the Western land” is then sublimely represented (for those with eyes to see) in the earthly “Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt” .

Fig. 5. Represents the soul conducted before the throne of Osiris. The soul in this case, is Osiris Hor the owner of the funerary scroll, whose body is washed and anointed. Hor is justified before the throne of Osiris. The figure is reinterpreted to represent Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand. In other words, as represented by Osiris Hor. The characters above his hand translate “Osiris Hor, the justified forever.”

That being said, there really are “characters” near the raised hand of Osiris Hor which, put together, simulate the name “Shulem”. See the characters in front of the deceased.

Think of the feather symbol as representing the Egyptian goddess of truth who holds the hand of the Hebrew waiter. Think of the waiter as being represented by the little bread bun hieroglyph. The Egyptian feather symbol has the phonetic value “Shu”. The Hebrew word for bread is “lehem” (לֶחֶם). We get the following rebus puzzle:

Feather, Shu + bread, lehem = Shu + lehem; sounds like Shulem”.

Hor (Shulem) is responsible for the “peace offering” that Fig. 3 represents. A Hebrew word for “peace offering” is “shelem”. (Amos 5:22) There could be word-play going on between the word “shelem” and the name “Shulem”. Could the Prophet Joseph Smith have also intend a parallel between the Book of Mormon mount of theophany, har-Shelem (Ether 3:1; 4:1) and Hor Shulem?

Anointing the head of “Shulem” (Hor) is a cone of scented “shemen” (Heb. oil, fat). The cone has an Egyptian lotus (symbol of the sun) stuck through it.  

The divine son Horus, associated as he is with the sun, could in the Ah-meh-strah-an mind relate to the Persian name Kurus (Cyrus), or Koresh. (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 45:1-6, 11) The divine son Kurus (meaning the Sun, or Sun-like) is described by Yesha'Yahu as a mashiah (anointed one, messiah). But “mashiah” sounds a little like “mashqeh” which can be translated “butler” or “waiter”, more literally a domestic servant “who brings drink”, or “causes one to drink”. In fact “Sar ha-meshihim”, “Prince of the anointed ones”, sounds a lot like “sar ha-mashqim”, “prince of the butlers” or “chief of the cup bearers” - as in the service of Par’oh mentioned in Hebrew scripture. See Bereshit (Gen.) 40:1-2; also consider Yohanan ST John 13:12-16.

The title “Prince of anointed ones” also brings to mind the messianic title “Prince of Peace”, “Sar-Shalom” (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 9:6) which again might touch upon the diminutive “Shulem”, who in his lesser way, as a principal waiter, tries to follow, serve, and imitate the Prince.

But, if the name “Shulem” were related to “shalom”, as is the feminine “Shulamit” (Shir ha-Shirim (Song) 7:1, 6:13, KJV), why not go with the masculine name Sh’lomoh (Solomon)? The answer could be that “Shulem” only sounds like “shalom”, but in fact derives from a different word.

Osiris Hor is depicted in the first vignette (Facsimile 1, Fig. 2) with his two arms “held up in the classical gesture of praising or asking” (Rhodes cites the Egyptology Lexicon of Wolfgang Helck and Eberhard Otto: 2:575-76, emphasis added). But in Facsimile 3, Joseph Smith interprets Osiris Hor as “Shulem”, a principal waiter. Could the upraised, opened armed gesture of Osiris Hor in the first vignette have something to do with the name “Shulem” assigned to the apron wearing Osiris Hor in the last vignette?

Sheol” is the world of disembodied souls, the “place of inquiry”. (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 14:9; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 310) The Hebrew verb “shaal” means “ask” or “inquire”. The name “Shaul” means “asked”, “inquired”. (1 Shemu-El (1 Sam.) 9:2) The name “Shulem” could be short for “shaul lahem”, or simply “shaulam”, “asked (inquired, demanded) of them”. (1 Shemu-El (1 Sam.) 1:27-28, Consider also “yishal lahem l'shalom” in Bereshit (Gen.) 43:27 , and “yashilum” in Shemot (Ex.) 12:36).

True and faithful, Shulem is one who seeks greater light and knowledge; and in being brought before Avram (exalted father, the god), prophet of Elohim, hopes to have his request granted - his questions answered. See Ed Goble "I cracked the Shulem cryptogram ... !"

Fig. 6. Represents Anubis, god of the dead, but reinterpreted here as Olimlah (“olim-lah” may mean “her male slave”, ol” = “yoke”, see B-D-B-G Hebrew Lexicon, עֹל,עלם pp. 760-761), a slave belonging to the prince (represented by the goddess Maat). (1 Shemu’El (1 Sam.) 2:8) The Prophet Joseph Smith may have seen in Fig. 6 a representation of Bereshit (Gen.) 9:25. See Was a Grandson of Aaron the First Black Hebrew Priest?

In front of the god-slave Anubis

M. Rhodes translates: “(1) Words spoken by Anubis who make protection (2) Lord of heaven. Foremost of (3) the Westerners.”


The basket symbol ( Lord) seen in column (2) can be translated “Lord” or “King”. The Ah-meh-strah-an interpretations of this symbol, strongly agrees with standard Egyptian.  See Joseph Smith’s Ah-meh-strah-an degrees page 4, 10, 18, 21.

"a king"

The basket symbol listed in the Ah-meh-strah-an 2nd Degree, page 18 matches perfectly standard interpretation.


"Crown of a prince"

Like the column above the raised hand of Maat, reference to “the prince” can be interpreted in the columns of characters immediately before the god-slave Anubis. Note the 1st Degree Ah-meh-strah-an interpretation of the basket symbol: “Crown of a prince”. Compare this with other Egyptian crown symbols.


Avram is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Chapters VII.2, VIII.2) The bottom line (beneath the illustration) translates, “The gods of the West [afterlife], the gods of the cavern [kingdom of the dead], the gods of the south, north, west and east say: May Osiris Hor, justified, born of Taykhebyt, prosper.” (Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings , pg. 25)

Beneath the illustration

Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings - A Translation and Commentary, pg. 24.


[5] The New Brown – Driver – Briggs – Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, 5697, עֲבָרָה, pg. 720.

[6] Levitical temples can’t be built and officiated in in just any clime. In Egypt, Torah compatible temples could only be built at locations where the right grains (for offerings) could be obtained in the right seasons of the year. (Shemot (Ex.) 34:18, Vayiqra (Lev.) 23:4-10, Devarim (Deut.) 16:5-6) Two such places were the Nile isle of Elephantine, and at Leontopolis in the Nile Delta, nearer the Mediterranean Sea. These limited locations are in the Northern Hemisphere. Lands too far south, near the equator, and lands in the Southern Hemisphere are out of the question.

Elephantine Levitical Temple

Torah compliant Temple in Egypt (Elephantine Island)

[7] The Hebrew word for “fords”, “avrot” (2 Shemu’El 15:28) is similar to the Hebrew word translated “plains”, “arvot” (2 Shemu’El (2 Sam.) 17:16).

[8] Berlyn, Patricia, “The Journey of Terah: To Ur-Kasdim or Urkesh? ”, Jewish Bible Quarterly.

[9] LDS Bible Map 9.

[10] Leptogenesis (Book of Jubilees, circa 150 BCE) 11:3 reads, “And 'Ur, the son of Kesed [alleged son of Arpakhshad, not the son of Nahor], built the city of 'Ara of the Chaldees, and called its name after his own name and the name of his father.”, Translated from Ethiopic, which was translated from Greek.

Leptogenesis genealogy

Josephus asserts that “Arphaxad named the Arphaxadites, who are now called Chaldeans.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Ch. VI.4)

Also compare Sepher ha-Yasher (Book of Jasher, midrash) XII.37, XIII.1 with XXII.16-17, 29-30. The Jewish writer clearly understood that the birth of “Kesed” ben Nahor, “the Kasdim” and “the city Kesed” in Shinar all postdated Abram departing “Ur Casdim”.

Letter of Gratitude for Ed Goble


Having come to the end of this article, are you ready for

Esoteric Egyptian in the margins of

the Book of Abraham



Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2016


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