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On the Names of the Four Canopic Jars in Facsimile 1
by Kerry A. Shirts
A Note of Explanation:
Critics have said the names of these figures are not Egyptian and therefore not authentic.
This article takes a closer look.
We grant the critics a point in noting the four names of the four canopics
under the lion couch are not necessarily Egyptian names. But they are names
that are found in the ancient world, namely Egyptian combined with ancient
Syro-Canaanitish elements, and that is the point. This is not just
gibberish. Abraham is pointing our the ancient Egyptian customs to a
non-Egyptian audience of his in the Book of Abraham.
The hawk headed canopic, called Elkenah can and does correspond, however,
with the Egyptian "qen" or "qeni" the sound of a hard "k". "In Palestine and
Syria it is common to find such names combining Egyptian and West Semitic
elements. (Nibley, "Facsimile No. 1 by the Figures," in "Improvement Era,",
August 1969). The Egyptian element "qen" means mighty or powerful and is
used in various names of the kings according to the Berlin Dictionary.
Robert Smith's commentary (a Cuneiform and Assyrian scholar) on the Book of
Abraham (unpublished) mentions that this word correlates very well with the
Biblical Hebrew word El-qanah, a name for 6 or more persons (often Levites,
cf. 1 Sam. 1:1-2, 1 Chron. 6:22, Exo. 6:23, 9:16) At Gen. 14:19 we read "El
Elyon qoneh shamayim we'aretz," "El, the Exalted one, Creator of Heaven and
Earth." It is a common hypocoristic form in the late Hittite story of
Asherah and El-Qone-ersi - El-Creator-of-the-Earth (which is written
El-ku-ni-ir-sa and pronounced Elkoners according to Albright YGC, pp. 46,
107, n. 32 and R. Clifford, CBQ, 33;222) The East was identified with the
falcon headed canopic counterpart of Elkenah, Dw3-mwt-ef (Cf. Pyr texts 17,
27-8, 2078-79, Ezekiel 1:10, 10:14, Rev. 4:7).
The ah ending of the name is typical of Canaanite proper names written in
their Egyptian form. The well known name Horan is written in Egyptian as
Hwrwnana, a personal name, and as a place name it is Hrwn-ah. (Nibley - Aug.
1969, p. 141).
Bar Hebraeus noted that in the days of Terah, Abraham's father, the
Egyptians learned Chaldaeism.
According to Father De Vaux, the land of Canaan is designated in the Amarna
Letters as the land of Kinahni or Kinahhi. This is close the Elkenah, close
enough philologically to know there really was such a place and name. A
region of the earth as Joseph Smith designated it. A letter of Ranses II
calls Canaan "Kinahhi", though the Egyptians preferred Kn'n. The point is
that all over the Egyptian-Syro-Palestinian area Kinah was a common
designation for Canaan, and the name El-kenah could certainly mean "God of
Kenah" or Canaan. And this particular Canopic stood for the designation of
the east, East of Heliopolis, since, to the Egyptians this was regarded as
the exact center of the world. Everything to the east of this was Kenite
country. These are the people who covenanted with Abraham no less. This is
also the vast area that Abraham was promised as a promised land in the Dead
Sea Scrolls Genesis Apocryphon. The Rabbis identified Kenite country with
the deserts stretching all the way from the southern tip of Arabia to Asia
Minor. In the prophecies of the last days, the Kenites are identified with
the Ishmaelites and Nelson Glueck equated them with the Rachabites, the
ancient sectaries of the Arabian deserts. Jethro was called the Kenite, and
his Midianite countrymen called themselves the Kenim. Some have seen in
these latter the beni Kain, or Sons of Cain, traveling smiths and metal
casters, with their wandering habits and their blackened faces.
H. Seebass notes that the Kenites provide the link between the Patriarchal
period and the desert period of Israel in their original home being the
Negev. Whatever else they are, the Kenites, are form the Egyptian point of
view, the people to the EAST, its name El-kenah might well refer to the god
of an eastern region or people. (Nibley, p. 142) It is more than of passing
interest that in one system of classification the EAST is the hawk-headed
disc Re-Harahkte Lord of Heaven. And J. De Witt has noted in the "Chron. D'
Egypte," at the purification of the king, the East is the Hawk. (Nibley,
Next we have Libnah, which name has actually turned up in Egyptian records,
and been translated into Canaanite as "Libnah." Robert Smith notes that
the name Libnah is derived from the Semitic and Indo-European root meaning
"light," or "shining", and even "white." The Hebrew root lbn gives us Hebrew
terms such as lebonah and olibanum which is Frankincense (Lev. 2:1 which was
"white" of color according to Pliny HN, 12:14, Greek libanos, libanwtos,
Arabic, lub'anun). This was also applied to a town name El Lubban. Labanah
is the moon. Lebanon, of course strikes us immediately, because it is
connected with the snow covered Antilibanus and Mount Hermon, and with the
Valley of Lebanon, which appears in the Greek form Libanos and includes the
entire Mountain Range.
Nibley further notes that Smith identified the jackal headed as Libnah, the
correct designation for the WEST. And the Egyptians connected it with the
white land, which is the meaning of the name! (Nibley, "Fac. No. 1 By the
Figures," "IE", Sept. 1969).And Anubis, is the God of the West, the White
land of the Westerners, and is associated with the moon! The Egyptologist
Hermann Kees noted that the epithet, "Lord of the White Land" (nb ta djesr)
is derived from the idea of "Lord of the shining, sanctified (prachtigen,
geheiligten) Land. That is a euphism for the necropolis itself, which
everyone knows is in the WEST. That would make him Lord of the Westerners!
This is Kees conclusion. (Nibley, Sept. 1969, p. 144). The Egyptologist
Brusch noted that the four canonical colors of Egypt always has WHITE as the
color of the WEST. Also the Libyans to the WEST of Egypt were noted for
their white skin and blue eyes. The facts of this Canopic Jar are:
1. Libnah does mean White Land
2. The idolatrous god of Libnah does have the mask of Anubis
3. The jackal-headed canopic figure does stand for the West
4. Anubis is the Lord of the West
5. Anubis is also Lord of the White land
6. White is the ritual color of the west.
Libnah, then, appears to be a very appropriate name to use if you want to
divide up the world into four regions or races according to the Egyptian
The third canopic is most interesting! The apes headed Mahmackrah. What a
weird name! However, that is not to discredit it, but to cause us to look
closely at it. Critics all too often simply toss something off they don't
understand. The crrect thing to do is look and read. The Egyptians always
placed this ape or bulls head (sometimes they are interchangeable with
canopic jars) in the north. When we are confronted with odd looking names
in Joseph Smith's writings, it is to the SOUND of them that we call your
attention to, not necessarily how they are spelled. For instance, Baurak El
and Shaumahyeem are perfectly good Hebrew if you read them OUT LOUD, though
they look simply outlandish. The names of the canopics are addressed to the
EAR not to the eye. Mamackrah suggests all sorts of things to the ear,
especially with syllables such as Mah, mack, and rah. These are full of
meaning in any language.
What we hear is Mah-mackr-ah. The mackr element is very important in
Canaanite names such as Mhr-Anat which means "champion, or upholder of the
goddess Anat." Ramses II called himself Mahr-B'l meaning upholder of Ba'al,
the Canaanite god. Mahr-Rah would be the champion or upholder of Rah, the
Egyptian equivilant of Ba'al.
We need to note that the h in the root must have a heavy sound in order not
to be swallowed up by the r which follows. The shift between the k and the h
can be seen in our own name Mi-cha-el which the Jews wrote Mi-ka-el.
Incidentally, the form of the name rather neatly parallels our Ma-mackr-rah.
Mi-cha-el, like Mi-ca-iah (1 Kings 22). (Nibley, Sept. 1969).
The Canaanite name Maq'arah means a burning incidentally. Interesting that
in the Abraham legends one of them indicates that Abraham's sacrifice was to
be burned in the fire. The Jewish Encyclopedia notes this. The idolatrous
god of Beth-shan is called "Mkl'a", the great god. The first element in his
name, Mkl is Canaanite, while the ending 'a is Egyptian. Another
interesting name form is the Egyptian Mai-m-hqa meaning the lion is ruler.
Our canopic name would then be Mai-m-akr-ah which would mean The lion Akr is
great! Akr being the earth god as lion, and Abraham is on the LION couch to
be sure. The point is, this name is not just meaningless gibberish whatever.
The last is Koash or Korash, variant spellings of the same name, and
correlating to the South. This could very easily be the land of Cush. This
is the region SOUTH of Egypt, according to the Standard Jewish Encyclopedia.
The name (Nubia or Ethiopia) in Hebrew and other ancient languages which
expanded south of Elephantine and Syene (aswan). It has also been identified
as southern Arabia and even India as far as that goes.The names of the four
brothers, Mizraim, Punt, Canaan, and Cush certainly remind us of the
division of the world into four regions. The Queen of Punt certainly lived
in the South. The natives of Saba, way down there at the south end of Arabia
worshipped a goddess Iagouth, who came from, of course, Heliopolis!
She was simply a local form of the Goddess Hathor, the regent of Heliopolis,
worshipped at Punt and Saba. Her people were known as the Koraish! They were
also called the Beni Qananee, or sons of Canaan. Back home at Heliopolis,
the lady went by the name of Wadjit which was Semiticized into Ozza, under
which title she turns up as one of the principle idols of the Qoreish in
Mekkah. This Qoreish is the diminutive of the name Koraish.
All in all, the names correlate to the exact correct regional directions of
which are depicted on the HEADS of the four canopics in the Facsimile No.1.
This is amazing to no living end as far as I am concerned.
Kerry A. Shirts