Evidence #47 | September 19, 2020

Wordplay on Jershon

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Scripture Central


The name “Jershon” is most likely derived from the Hebrew root yrš, which means “to inherit” or “to take possession.” The Book of Mormon plays off this meaning in various ways when referring to the land or city of Jershon.

In the book of Alma, when the Nephites were asked if they would receive the people of Ammon (also called the Anti-Nephi-Lehis), they responded by giving them the land of Jershon (Alma 27:22). This location also served as a place of refuge for a group of Zoramite converts, and it played a strategic role in a major military conflict between the Nephites and Lamanites.

Selection portion of the internal map of Book of Mormon geography produced by virtualscriptures.org. Yellow highlight has been added to the land of Jershon for conenience in locating that region. 

The name Jershon is most likely derived from the Hebrew root yrš (yarash), which means “to take possession of” or “to inherit.”1 The “J” in English translations of Hebrew names often represents a letter in the Hebrew alphabet called a yod2 (which actually makes a “y” sound, as in the word yes), so the first part of Jershon is identical to the root yrš in the nominal (noun) form.3 The -on ending “is a place name suffix,” according to Hebrew scholar E. Y. Kutscher,4 as seen in names such as Lebanon, Hebron, and many others.5 The name Jershon, therefore, would mean something like “place of inheritance/possession.”6

Jershon derives from the Hebrew word “yarash,” which means “to inherit.” Image by Book of Mormon Central.

In biblical and ancient Near Eastern writing, authors commonly created or drew attention to wordplays based on the names in their narratives.7 The Book of Mormon appears to do this with Jershon. When the land of Jershon was given to the people of Ammon, it is referred to as their “inheritance” multiple times, and they also were said to “take possession” of it:

Because of the oath of non-violence made by the People of Ammon, the Nephites gave them Jershon as a "land of inheritance." Image by Del Parson. 

And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon, which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful; and this land Jershon is the land which we will give unto our brethren for an inheritance. (Alma 27:22)

And now behold, this will we do unto our brethren, that they may inherit the land Jershon; and we will guard them from their enemies with our armies, on condition that they will give us a portion of their substance to assist us that we may maintain our armies. (Alma 27:24)

And it came to pass that it did cause great joy among them. And they went down into the land of Jershon, and took possession of the land of Jershon; and they were called by the Nephites the people of Ammon; therefore they were distinguished by that name ever after. (Alma 27:26)

The poor Zoramite converts who believed in the teachings of Alma and Amulek were likewise given an “inheritance” in Jershon:

Now the people of the Zoramites were angry with the people of Ammon who were in Jershon, … . And now the people of Ammon did not fear their words; therefore they did not cast them out, but they did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them; and they did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their wants. (Alma 35:8–9)

And Alma, and Ammon, and their brethren, and also the two sons of Alma returned to the land of Zarahemla, after having been instruments in the hands of God of bringing many of the Zoramites to repentance; and as many as were brought to repentance were driven out of their land; but they have lands for their inheritance in the land of Jershon, and they have taken up arms to defend themselves, and their wives, and children, and their lands. (Alma 35:14)

Later, during the major Lamanite/Nephite war, Moroni stationed an army near Jershon to prevent the Lamanites from “taking possession” of the city:

Behold, now it came to pass that they durst not come against the Nephites in the borders of Jershon; therefore they departed out of the land of Antionum into the wilderness, and took their journey round about in the wilderness, away by the head of the river Sidon, that they might come into the land of Manti and take possession of the land; for they did not suppose that the armies of Moroni would know whither they had gone. (Alma 43:22)

Now Moroni, leaving a part of his army in the land of Jershon, lest by any means a part of the Lamanites should come into that land and take possession of the city, took the remaining part of his army and marched over into the land of Manti. (Alma 43:25)

Thus, not only does the name Jershon have a highly plausible Hebrew etymology, but it also appears that the Book of Mormon utilizes that meaning in several Hebrew-style wordplays.

Book of Mormon Central, “Why was Jershon Called a Land of Inheritance? (Alma 27:22),” KnoWhy 134 (July 1, 2016).

Matthew L. Bowen, “‘They Were Moved with Compassion’ (Alma 27:4; 53:13): Toponymic Wordplay on Zarahemla and Jershon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 18 (2016): 233–253.

Jershon,” in Book of Mormon Onomasticon (Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, 2013).

Alma 27:22, 24, 26 Alma 35:8–9, 14 Alma 43:22, 25

Alma 27:22, 24, 26

Alma 35:8–9, 14

Alma 43:22, 25

Wordplay on Jershon
Book of Mormon

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