Lehi's desert journey: Adopting the Name Nahom

Lehi's desert journey: Adopting the Name Nahom

The issue of where Nahom was located is basically settled. From the first camp the family journeyed to "the place which was called Nahom," whence they turned "nearly eastward" ({{s|1|Nephi|16|34; 17|1). Nephi's statement about Nahom reveals that the name was already attached to this spot. Members of the party must have learned it from natives of the area. Incidentally, Nephi's statement forms the first firm evidence that they had met others while traveling.62

On the basis of three inscriptions dated to the time of Lehi and Sariah, the location of Nahom almost certainly lay in the area near Wadi Jawf, a large valley in northwest Yemen.63 The inscriptions appear on small votive altars given to the Bar'an Temple near Marib by a certain Bicathar of the tribe of Nihm.64 This tribe is known from Islamic sources that date to the ninth century AD, fifteen hundred years after Lehi and Sariah.65 In this later period the tribe dwelt south of the Wadi Jawf, near Jebel (or Mount) Nihm, where it currently resides.66 The inscriptions, which date to the seventh and sixth centuries BC, certify that the Nihm/Nehem/Nahom area lay in the same general region, almost fourteen hundred miles south-southeast of Jerusalem.67 In the world of archaeology, written materials are valued above all other evidence, and these inscriptions secure the general location of Nahom.68

The important ingredient in the name Nahom is NHM, consonants shared by the name Nihm. Although the sound of the middle letter, h, may be different in the two names,69 it is reasonable that when the party of Lehi heard the Arabian name Nihm (however it was then pronounced), the term Nahom came to their minds, a term that is familiar from the Old Testament.70 As others have noted, Nahom derives from the Hebrew verb meaning "to comfort" or "to console."71 Even though the meaning was quite different in Old South Arabian—it referred to masonry dressed by chipping72—the meaning in Hebrew may connect with the consolation that members of the party sought at Nahom after they buried Ishmael, father of one of the two families in the party. Except for the name Shazer (see {{s|1|Nephi|16|13), each place-name that Nephi records in his narrative—Valley of Lemuel, River of Laman, Bountiful, Irreantum—bears a meaning for members of the party. On this basis, it is reasonable to presume that the name Nahom was also significant to them, perhaps reminding them of God's comfort.[1]


  1. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.