Evidence #268 | November 8, 2021

Wordplay on Zoram

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Scripture Central


When interpreted from a Semitic background, the name Zoram can plausibly denote one who is “high” or “exalted.” In what appears to be intentional wordplay, Book of Mormon authors repeatedly connect this name with these concepts.

It doesn’t take long for readers of the Book of Mormon to come across the name Zoram (see 1 Nephi 4:35). Zoram was Laban’s servant, but he chose to become a free man by joining Lehi’s family and journeying with them to their promised land. Not much is revealed about Zoram except that he was a “true friend” to Nephi.1 Despite having been an outsider to Lehi’s group, he became one of the seven founding tribal heads of Lehi’s people.2

Zoram at Laban's house. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

Although Zoram was apparently a righteous man, some of his descendants caused problems for the Nephites.3 After analyzing the name Zoram and its possible meanings in light of ancient Semitic languages, Matthew L. Bowen suggested that it “could … plausibly denote ‘the one who is high/exalted’ or ‘He of the Exalted One’.”4 It was likely meant to be a praiseworthy name, but Nephite authors instead associated it with pride and vanity. Evidence for this connection can be found in a number of Book of Mormon passages but is perhaps most apparent in the story of Alma’s mission to the Zoramites.

When Alma and his missionaries arrived in the land of Antionum, they found that the Zoramites had perverted the righteous traditions of the Nephites. This included the offering of vain prayers on an elevated platform called the Rameumptom (Alma 31:21). From this platform, which was “high above the head” (v. 13), the richly dressed Zoramites boasted about their supposedly holy and elected status. Notably, the term ram at the beginning of “Rameumptom” is probably the same basic element in Zoram that means “high” or “exalted” in Hebrew.5 The dual presence of ram in this context makes the possibility of intentional wordplay especially likely.

A man praying on the rameumptum. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

An additional line of evidence can be seen in the fact that Alma, on two separate occasions, contrasted the Zoramites’ prideful behavior with righteous themes of being “lifted up.” In the first instance, Alma compared the hearts of the Zoramites, which were “lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride,” with his own righteous prayer, in which he “lifted up his voice to heaven” (Alma 31:25–26). In the second instance, Alma counseled his son Shiblon to not be “lifted up unto pride” or “pray as the Zoramites do” (Alma 38:11, 13). He contrasted this with the promise that Shiblon would be “lifted up at the last day” if he remembered to put his “trust in God” (v. 5).6

Further evidence for intentional wordplay comes from the way that the names Cezoram and Seezoram (each a variant of Zoram) are associated with being proud and lifted up. It was in the context of the assassination of a chief judge named Cezoram that the people “began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another” (Helaman 6:15–17). Likewise, it was during the reign of Seezoram that the Nephites were “lifted … up beyond that which is good” (Helaman 7:26). Thus, during the tenure of these leaders—each with Zoram-associated names—the Nephites generally began to be lifted up in wickedness much like the prideful Zoramites.7


These and other textual details suggest that the authors of the Book of Mormon recognized the Semitic connotations behind the name Zoram. People and societies bearing a form of this name are repeatedly described as being “lifted up.” The emphasis on the Zoramites’ apostate worship from an elevated structure called a “rameumptom” is especially fitting. Altogether, the treatment of this name in the Book of Mormon provides yet another evidence of the text’s Hebrew origins and literary sophistication.

Matthew L. Bowen, “‘See That Ye Are Not Lifted Up’: The Name Zoram and Its Paronomastic Pejoration,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 19 (2016): 109–143.

Parrish Brady and Shon Hopkin, “The Zoramites and Costly Apparel: Symbolism and Irony,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 40–53.

Sherrie Mills Johnson, “The Zoramite Separation: A Sociological Perspective,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14, no. 1 (2005): 74–85, 129–30.

BibleExodus 15:1–4Exodus 15:21Deuteronomy 8:14–19Deuteronomy 17:17–20Isaiah 2:9–19Isaiah 3:18–23Book of Mormon1 Nephi 8:262 Nephi 12:9–19Jacob 1:13–16Jacob 2:12–13Alma 4:6–10Alma 5:2Alma 5:63Alma 6:3Alma 7:5Alma 31:1Alma 31:12–28Alma 38:3–5Alma 38:12–14Helaman 4:12Helaman 5:1–2Helaman 6:15–19Helaman 6:28Helaman 9:23–27Helaman 12:53 Nephi 1:294 Nephi 1:244 Nephi 1:35–44Mormon 8:7


Exodus 15:1–4

Exodus 15:21

Deuteronomy 8:14–19

Deuteronomy 17:17–20

Isaiah 2:9–19

Isaiah 3:18–23

Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 8:26

2 Nephi 12:9–19

Jacob 1:13–16

Jacob 2:12–13

Alma 4:6–10

Alma 5:2

Alma 5:63

Alma 6:3

Alma 7:5

Alma 31:1

Alma 31:12–28

Alma 38:3–5

Alma 38:12–14

Helaman 4:12

Helaman 5:1–2

Helaman 6:15–19

Helaman 6:28

Helaman 9:23–27

Helaman 12:5

3 Nephi 1:29

4 Nephi 1:24

4 Nephi 1:35–44

Mormon 8:7

Wordplay on Zoram
Book of Mormon

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