Evidence #117 | November 27, 2020

Attestation of Aha

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Scripture Central

Abstract

The Book of Mormon name Aha is not found in the Bible but is an authentic ancient Near Eastern name, found in both Egyptian and Hebrew. As a Hebrew name, it is abundantly found in inscriptions from the land of Israel before the time of Lehi.
Label of a vessel with the name of King Hor Aha (Menes). Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1, ca. 3030–3000 B. C. Image and caption via the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. 

Aha was a military leader during the Nephite wars with the Lamanites in the reign of the Judges. Together, with his father Zoram and his brother Lehi, he led an army that successfully rescued captives from a raid on the lands of Ammonhiah and Noah (see Alma 16:5).

In a pioneering study in 1952, Hugh Nibley showed that certain Book of Mormon names are attested in Egyptian. He observed that Aha was the name of the first Egyptian Pharaoh of the First Dynasty, and in Egyptian means “warrior.”1 More recently, the name has been shown to be an authentic and attested Hebrew name. Aha in Hebrew means “brother” and is a hypocoristic (shortened) form of the name Ahijah (“Yahweh is my brother,” 1 Kings 14:2).2

Eilat Mazar and Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie state, “The name Aha does not appear in the Bible, but is commonly found in epigraphic finds.”3 Examples of the name have been discovered primarily in the land of Israel. They have been found on ostraca, seal impressions on jars, seals, bullae, and arrowheads which predate the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC.

Three examples were discovered on bullae from excavations at Jerusalem, including two that read “Hananyahu son of Aha” and “Azaryahu son of Aha.”4 The name was found on ostraca at Tel Masos in the Negeb,5 Khirbet el Meshash,6 and at Samaria, the former capital of the northern kingdom, which reads, “Aha the Judean.”7 And three examples were inscribed on ostraca 49, 67, and 74 at Arad, including one that reads, “Shu’al (and) Pedayahu sons of Aha.”8

Inscribed Hebrew Seals. From Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo by David Harris.

The name appears on seal impressions on jar handles, including, one from Tel Judeida,9 two from Khirbet Rabud,10 six identical ones from Lachish which read, “Shalum (son of) Aha,”11 and another that reads, “Aha (son of) Tanhum.”12 Additional examples come from a Moabite seal,13 and two bronze Phoenician arrowheads with the name Aha written in Canaanite letters, engraved with a steel tool. One dating to the eleventh century BC reads, “Aha, son of Any.” The other, dating to the ninth century, reads, “Arrow of Aha, son of Astart.”14

Bronze arrowhead with Greek inscription reading "of Philip," from the 4th century BC. Image via Harvard Art Museums. 

Conclusion

The name Aha is not found in the Bible, and yet is clearly well-attested in ancient Near Eastern inscriptions that predate Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem. The appearance of this name in the Nephite text suggests that it was likely familiar to the people of Lehi or Mulek, or perhaps that it was found on the plates of brass which contained important genealogies and a record of the Jews (1 Nephi 5:10–16). The discovery of abundant examples of this name in the archaeological record—in the right place, at the right time, and long after the publication of the Book of Mormon—helps reinforce the Book of Mormon’s credibility as an ancient document.

John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, “Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 1 (2000): 40–51.

Book of Mormon Onomasticon, s.v. AHA, online at onoma.lib.byu.edu.

Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 5 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988).

Alma 16:5

Alma 16:5

  • 1 Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 5 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 25. On Aha see also Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), 70–71, 74, 480.
  • 2 Eilat Mazar and Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie, “Hebrew Seal Impressions (Bullae) from the Ophel, Area A2009,” in The Ophel Excavations to the South of the Temple Mount 2009–2013. Final reports Volume II, ed. Eilat Mazar (Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2018), 269.
  • 3 Mazar and Ben Aire, “Hebrew Seal Impressions,” 269.
  • 4 Yair Shoham, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from Yigal Shiloh’s Excavations in the City of David,” in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, ed. Hillel Geva (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1994), 55–61; Yigal Shiloh, “A Group of Hebrew Bullae from the City of David,” Israel Exploration Journal 36, nos. 1–2 (1986): 29; Mazar, “Hebrew Seal Impressions,” 269.
  • 5 Shmuel Ahituv, Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period (Jerusalem: Carta, 2008), 164.
  • 6 V. Fritz and A. Kempinski, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen auf der Hirbet el Msas (Masos) 1972–1975 (Weisbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983), 134–135, plate 79.
  • 7 George Andrew Reisner, Clarence Stanley Fisher, David Gordon Lyon, Harvard Excavations at Samaria, 1908–1910 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1924), 244.
  • 8 Yohanan Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions (Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, 1981), 80, 93, 97.
  • 9 I. Ben-Dor, “Two Hebrew Seals,” The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 13 (1948): 66–67, plate XXVII:3.
  • 10 Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997), 200.
  • 11 Avigad and Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, 705a-f; Robert Deutsch, Messages from the Past: Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Isaiah Through the Destruction of the First Temple (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 1999), 142.
  • 12 David Ussishkin, “Excavations and Restoration Work at Tel Lachish 1985–1994: Third Preliminary Report,” Tel Aviv 23 (1996), 59.
  • 13 Avigad and Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals, 375.
  • 14 Robert Deutsch and Michael Heltzer, New Epigraphic Evidence from the Biblical Period (Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Archaeological Center Publication, 1995), 21–22; P Kyle McCarter, Jr., “Over the Transom: Three More Arrowheads,” Biblical Archaeology Review 25, no.3 (May–June 1999): 42.
Linguistics
Attested Names
Aha
Book of Mormon

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