Evidence #226 | April 8, 2024

Wordplay on Aminadab

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Mormon appears to use wordplay on the name Aminadab in relation to the themes of “willingness” and “kinsmen.”

Aminadab in the Bible

Matthew Bowen has observed that the name Aminadab, as found in the Bible, has a “straightforward etymology” which derives from two separate name elements.1 The first part of the name (ʿammî) refers to a “kinsman.” The second part of the name (nādāb) means to be “willing.” As articulated by Bowen,

Aminadab, Amminadab, or Amminadib, taken as a theophoric [i.e., divine] name—as names in the Ancient Near East commonly were—denotes “My kinsman is willing”—i.e., Yahweh as “my (divine) kinsman” [ʿammî] “is willing [nādāb].” However, Aminadab can also be taken as a non-theophoric name, meaning, “my (non-divine) kinsman is willing,” “my people are willing”/“noble,” or “my kin are willing”/“noble” (ʿammî “my people” + nādāb “willing”). …

Aminadab is one of a handful of nādāb names born by Israelites in the scriptures, including Abinadab (“my father is willing/generous”), Nadab (“willing,” “generous,” “noble”), and its longer form Nedabiah (“Yahweh is willing,” “Yahweh is generous,” “Yahweh is noble”).2

Aminadab in the Book of Mormon

Nephi and Lehi - sons of Helaman, by James Fullmer. 

At a time of crisis, the prophets Nephi and Lehi (the sons of Helaman) preached to the Lamanites and were cast into prison (Helaman 5:21). When their captors came to kill them, they were miraculously protected and delivered by divine intervention, resulting in the conversion of their captors (Helaman 5:22–52).

In the telling of this event, a man named Aminadab is introduced as follows: “Now there was one among them … who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them” (Helaman 5:35). Bowen noted that the phrase “now there was one among them” recalls the introduction of other individuals (Alma the Elder, Zeezrom, Abish) whose names are associated with wordplay in the Book of Mormon.3 True to form, a plausible wordplay arises in association with the name Aminadab as well.

Wordplay Involving a Willing Kinsman and a Willing People

Although he was in league with the Lamanites, Aminadab is described as a “Nephite by birth” (Helaman 5:35), suggesting he is a type of Nephite kinsman—a status emphasized by his estrangement from his people. This unique background is crucial to the narrative, allowing Aminadab to play a pivotal role in the conversion of his Lamanite associates (Helaman 5:35–41). As the narrative portrays his actions, Aminadab willingly (without any type of coercion or even prompting) facilitates this conversion event on behalf of the Lamanites. In short, he participates as a willing kinsman to Nephi and Lehi.

In the next chapter (which was part of the same textual unit in the Book of Mormon’s original manuscripts),4 Mormon makes the following statement about the Lamanite conversion: “And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words” (Helaman 6:36). This same quality of willingness is again attributed to converted Lamanites in 3 Nephi 6:14: “in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; … for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.”

In addition, the narrative also shows how God, the “divine kinsman,” was willing to reach out to a people (the Lamanites) who were viewed negatively by the Nephites. Altogether, the themes of a crucial and willing mortal kinsman, of a willing divine kinsman, and of a people who willingly repented and turned to God show up in a narrative where a character named Aminadab (“my kinsman is willing” or “my people are willing”) plays a central role. It should be pointed out that Aminadab is the only other character, aside from Nephi and Lehi, who is given a name in this story (see Helaman 5:20–52), making it an enticing candidate for wordplay.

Lehi and Nephi encircled by heavenly flames. Image by Jerry Thompson.

A Shared Context of Sacrificial Offerings and Temple Imagery

After the destruction recorded in 3 Nephi, the voice of Jesus makes a direct reference to this Lamanite conversion narrative: “And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20). Immediately prior to making this reference, Jesus elaborated upon the theme of sacrificial offerings: “And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”5

In other words, Jesus directly connects the Lamanite conversion story (in which Aminadab plays a crucial role) with a sacrificial context. This association is noteworthy because in the Bible the elements in Aminadab’s name are repeatedly connected to willingly given sacrificial offerings. Bowen explains,

The onomastic elements of “Aminadab” or “Amminadab” occur together (“Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves [bĕhitnaddēb ʿam]” — Judges 5:2). … In 1 Chronicles 29 the verb *ndb occurs seven times alone, repeatedly in juxtaposition with the noun ʿam: “Then the people [haʿam] rejoiced, for that they offered willingly [ʿalhitnadĕbam], because with perfect heart they offered willingly [hitnadĕbû] to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy” (1 Chronicles 29:9); “But who am I, and what is my people [ʿammî], that we should be able to offer so willingly [lĕhitnadēb] after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (1 Chronicles 29:14); “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered [hitnadabtî] all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people [ʿammĕkā] which are present here, to offer willingly [lĕhitnadeb] unto thee” (1 Chronicles 29:17).6

As summarized by Bowen, “These [and other] biblical passages suggest a close connection—perhaps an ideal connection—between the identity of Yahweh’s ‘people’ and their ‘willingness,’ all this in the context of temple.”7 Not only is the Book of Mormon’s conversion story featuring Aminadab directly associated (by Jesus) with sacrificial offerings, but it—like its biblical counterparts—is rich in temple symbolism.8


In various ways, the layers of meaning associated with the Hebrew name Aminadab (ʿammî: “people,” “kinsmen,” “divine kinsman”; nādāb: “willing,” “noble”), as found in the Bible, are present in the Book of Mormon. Aminadab himself was a noble and willing kinsman to Nephi and Lehi. Through his efforts, the Lamanites willingly became the Lord’s people. And the Lord—the divine kinsmanwillingly accepted the Lamanites as His people, despite their former sins. Furthermore, just as the elements in the name Aminadab are directly associated with sacrificial offerings in the Bible, Jesus directly associated the Lamanite conversion story in the Book of Mormon with sacrificial offerings. Although the name Aminadab is found in the Bible, it seems improbable that Joseph Smith, who was unfamiliar with Hebrew etymologies in 1829,9 would have been able to draw out the name’s meaning and thematically weave it into the text.

Matthew L. Bowen, “‘My People are Willing’: The Mention of Aminadab in the Narrative Context of Helaman 5–6,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 19 (2016): 83–107. Reprinted in Matthew L. Bowen, Name As Key Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture (Orem, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2018), 183–207.

Book of Mormon Onomasticon, s.v. Aminadab; last updated October 17, 2016.

Bible Exodus 6:23Numbers 1:7Numbers 2:3Numbers 7:12Ruth 4:19–20Book of MormonHelaman 5:39Helaman 5:41Helaman 5:23–52Helaman 6:1–6Helaman 6:34–38Helaman 6:363 Nephi 6:14


Exodus 6:23

Numbers 1:7

Numbers 2:3

Numbers 7:12

Ruth 4:19–20

Book of Mormon

Helaman 5:39

Helaman 5:41

Helaman 5:23–52

Helaman 6:1–6

Helaman 6:34–38

Helaman 6:36

3 Nephi 6:14

Wordplay on Aminadab
Book of Mormon

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