Evidence #148 | February 8, 2021

Mosiah

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Plausible Hebrew etymologies for the name Mosiah relate to the concepts of deliverance and salvation, which are central themes in the book of Mosiah.

“The Lord delivers” or “The Lord saves”

The name Mosiah likely derives from the Hebrew môši ʿyh, meaning “the Lord delivers, saves.”1 Stephen Ricks notes it can be read as the causative stem (hiphil) participle of the Hebrew root Yš (“to save, deliver”) coupled with the divine element yh (“Jehovah, Lord”). It is similar to the biblical name Isaiah (yea ʿyh) which means “the Lord is deliverance.”2

Mosiah and moia

A secondary possibility, suggested by John W. Welch, is that Mosiah is related to the Hebrew moia, a term which means “victor” “deliverer” or “savior.”3 The term appears over seventeen times in the Hebrew Bible.4 It was applied to an individual appointed or raised up by God to deliver his people from injustice, oppression, or danger. Those who are oppressed cry out for help and are delivered by a moia.5 The term may have originated in a legal context in reference to an advocate or “witness for the defense.”6 It later came to have a broader meaning and was applied to God himself as a deliverer of his people.7 Welch suggested that the name Mosiah could mean “The Lord is a moia.8

Image via Book of Mormon Central. 

Salvation and Deliverance in the Book of Mosiah

While we cannot definitively say which is the source of the name Mosiah, both etymologies are consistent with the themes of deliverance and salvation in the book of Mosiah. Not only does this text provide examples of the Lord’s saving work, but it preserves essential teachings about the means by which we are saved.

The book of Mosiah recounts the story of wicked King Noah and his people who were brought into bondage. The prophet Abinadi warned them to repent, prophesying that “none shall deliver them save it be the Lord the Almighty God” (Mosiah 11:23; emphasis added). The account then tells how a remnant of that people under King Limhi and the prophet Alma were miraculously delivered from bondage and oppression. After their deliverance, the people were taught “that they should remember that it was the Lord that did deliver them” (Mosiah 25:16; emphasis added).

Mosiah standing with his father, King Benjamin. 

King Benjamin taught that eternal salvation is only possible through the Atonement of Christ and that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17; emphasis added). Abinadi later clarified that while obedience to God is necessary, salvation did not come through the law of Moses, but only through the redemption of the Son of God (Mosiah 13:28–32). Deliverance from death is made possible through Christ who “gained the victory over death” (Mosiah 15:8–9).

The Crucifixion of Christ. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

Abinadi also taught that Christ suffered for sin in order to provide forgiveness and eternal life to those who hearken to the Lord’s prophets, believe in Christ, repent, and do not persist in rebellion against God (Mosiah 15:11, 26–27; 16:12–13). Through the Savior, little children are not lost, but receive eternal life (Mosiah 15:25). Those who die without a knowledge of the message of salvation can also be saved (Mosiah 15:24). He also testified that the time would come when “the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue and people” (Mosiah 15:28; emphasis added).

Conclusion

As the title of a book filled with themes of deliverance and salvation, the name Mosiah (meaning “the Lord delivers, saves”) can hardly be more fitting. The name is not found in the Bible, but is prominent in the Book of Mormon. It not only points to the Hebrew background of the Nephite record, but also strengthens the message of the Book of Mormon that Jesus is our Redeemer and that “salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18; emphasis added).

Stephen D. Ricks, “Proper Names from the Small Plates: Some Notes on the Personal Names Zoram, Jarom, Omni, and Mosiah,” in “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, ed., Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2017), 351–357.

Book of Mormon Central, “How Was Mosiah a Type of Christ? (Mosiah 26:12),” KnoWhy 104 (May 20, 2016).

Mosiah,” Book of Mormon Onomasticon, last updated May 3, 2016, online at onoma.lib.byu.edu.

John W. Welch, “What Was a Mosiah?” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992), 105–107.  

Clyde Williams, “Deliverance from Bondage,” in The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ, ed., Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center), 261–274.

Mosiah 3:17Mosiah 7:33Mosiah 11:23Mosiah 16:15Mosiah 21:25Mosiah 24:17Mosiah 25:16

Mosiah 3:17

Mosiah 7:33

Mosiah 11:23

Mosiah 16:15

Mosiah 21:25

Mosiah 24:17

Mosiah 25:16

Linguistics
Book of Mormon

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