Evidence #294 | January 4, 2022

Wordplay on Heshlon

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Scripture Central


When viewed as a Semitic-derived toponym, the name Heshlon in the Book of Mormon would mean “place of crushing.” The way this name is featured as the central point of a chiasm and surrounded by the word “beat” (in a military context) is evidence of intentional wordplay.

Heshlon in the Book of Ether

In the context of the final Jaredite battles, it is reported that Coriantumr and Shared fought on “the plains of Heshlon” (Ether 13:28). Interestingly, this is the only place where this name appears in the Book of Mormon.1 Although given in the Jaredite record, Heshlon appears to be of Semitic origin, just like the name Gilgal which shows up several times in the surrounding verses (vv. 27–30).2

These Semitic names can perhaps be explained by the fact that the Jaredite record was translated and abridged by Nephite authors such as King Mosiah and Moroni.3 Heshlon may thus be a name “which the Nephites either newly applied to their geographic environs or adapted as an alteration or updating of existing Jaredite toponymy.”4

Semitic Meaning

As for its origin and meaning, the first component of Heshlon (heshl) corresponds with the roots *ḥāšal (Hebrew), ḥāšēl (Aramaic), and ḫašālu (Akkadian) which are all associated with verbs like “to crush,” “to break,” “to batter,” “to hammer/forge,” “to shatter,” “to destroy,” etc.5 Several of these usages are found in military contexts, just like Heshlon is in the book of Ether. The -on suffix at the end of Heshlon, can appropriately denote “place of X.”6 Thus, when put together, Heshl-on would mean something like “place of crushing” or “place of (a) crushing.”7

Dawn on the Land of Desolations, by James Fullmer.


Wordplay on Heshlon

Of the 20 times the word “beat” is used in the military context in the Book of Mormon, 5 instances show up surrounding the name Heshlon in Ether 13:28:8

  • and he also gave battle unto Coriantumr; and he did beat him (v. 23)
  • And the sons of Coriantumr, in the fourth year, did beat Shared (v. 24)
  • And it came to pass that Coriantumr beat him, and did pursue him until he came to the plains of Heshlon” (v. 28)
  • Shared gave him battle again upon the plains; and behold, he did beat Coriantumr (v. 29)
  • And Coriantumr gave Shared battle again in the valley of Gilgal, in which he beat Shared” (v. 30)

This unusual concentration of this word seems to be no coincidence. The name Heshlon aptly captures what transpired at this time and place in Jaredite history. These plains were a “place of crushing” for the armies that fought there and, symbolically, for the Jaredite nation as a whole.

The Death of Lib, by James Fullmer. 

A Chiastic Proposal

Adding to the plausibility of intentional wordplay is the way that the name Heshlon shows up in chiastic structure. Matthew Bowen and Pedro Olavarria have arranged the chiasm as follows (Ether 13:23–31):9



Now there began to be a war upon all the face of the land,




every man





with his band






fighting for that which he desired.





And there were robbers,




and in fine, all manner of wickedness



upon all the face of the land.





And it came to pass that Coriantumr was exceedingly angry with Shared,






and he went against him with his armies to battle;





and they did meet in great anger,






and they did meet in the valley of Gilgal; and the battle





became exceedingly sore.






And it came to pass that Shared fought against him for the space of three days.







And it came to pass that Coriantumr beat him,








and did pursue him until he came to the plains









of Heshlon.








And it came to pass that Shared gave him battle again upon the plains;







and behold, he did beat Coriantumr,




and drove him back again to the valley of Gilgal.





And Coriantumr gave Shared battle again in the valley of Gilgal,






in which he beat Shared and slew him.






And Shared wounded Coriantumr in his thigh,





that he did not go to battle again for the space of two years,



in which time all the people




upon the face of the land





were shedding blood,



and there was none to restrain them.


Not only is Heshlon the most central point of the chiasm, but it is closely flanked by instances of the word “beat”—words clearly related to the name’s most likely meaning. Also of interest is the way that the beginning and ending sections of the chiasm (A/A’) give a broader perspective about the conflict, suggesting that what happened at Heshlon was symbolic of the crushing of the entire people. They were beginning to be destroyed en masse, just as Ether had prophesied (Ether 12:3; 13:21).


Much like the name Jershon (Hebrew: “place of inheritance”) is linked to the concept of “inheritance” in the Book of Mormon,10 Heshlon (Semitic: “place of crushing”) is linked to a place where armies repeatedly “beat” or crushed each other. The way Heshlon is positioned in the center of a chiasm and surrounded by an unusual concentration of the word “beat” amplifies the likelihood of wordplay. Like other examples of proposed wordplay, the usage of this name provides evidence of the Book of Mormon’s literary complexity and Semitic origins.

Matthew L. Bowen and Pedro Olavarria, “Place of Crushing: The Literary Function of Heshlon in Ether 13:25–31,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 14 (2015): 227–239.

Ether 13:23–31

Ether 13:23–31

Wordplay on Heshlon
Book of Mormon

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