“I Kneeled Down Before My Maker”: Allusions to Esau in the Book of Enos

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[Page 29]Abstract: The Book of Enos constitutes a brief literary masterpiece. A close reading of Enos’s autobiography reveals textual dependency not only on 1 Nephi 1:1-2 and Genesis 32–33, but also on earlier parts of the Jacob Esau cycle in Genesis 25, 27. Enos’s autobiographical allusions to hunting and hungering serve as narrative inversions of Esau’s biography. The narrative of Genesis 27 exploits the name “Esau” in terms of the Hebrew verb ʿśh/ʿśy (“make,” “do”). Enos (“man”) himself incorporates paronomastic allusions to the name “Esau” in terms of ʿśh/ʿśy in surprising and subtle ways in order to illustrate his own transformation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. These wordplays reflect the convergence (in the Genesis narratives) of the figure of Esau before whom Jacob bows and whom he embraces in reconciliation with the figure of the divine “man” with whom Jacob wrestles. Finally, Enos anticipates his own resurrection, divine transformation, and final at-one-ment with the Lord in terms of a clothing metaphor reminiscent of Jacob’s “putting on” Esau’s identity in Genesis 27.

As noted in a previous study,1 Enos begins his relatively brief autobiography with a self-introduction modeled on that of his uncle Nephi, including the latter’s use of onomastic wordplay:

The name Nephi is best explained as a derivation from the Egyptian lexeme nfr,2 whose basic meaning is “good, fine, goodly” (of quality);3 “beautiful, fair” (of appearance);4 and (as a noun) “beauty,” “good,” “kindness,” “goodness.”5 The name Enos (Hebrew ʾĕnôš) is a Hebrew poetic term for “man” (a single male individual, or used collectively for human beings in general).6


[Page 30]

1 Nephi 1:1

Enos 1:1

I, Nephi [Egyptian nfr = “good,” “goodly”], having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. I, Enos [Hebrew ʾĕnôš = “man”] knowing my father that he was a just man for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord — and blessed be the name of my God for it

Thus, we see Nephi’s self-introduction with his name closely juxtaposed with terms that match the etymology of his name — “good(ly)” and “goodness” — imitated by Enos, whose self-introduction closely juxtaposes his name with a term that precisely matches its etymology — “man.” The autobiographical wordplays in 1 Nephi 1:1 and Enos 1:1 occur within highly similar structures. Together, both constitute as lucid examples of textual dependency and onomastic wordplay as one could wish to find in the Book of Mormon.

Enos’s use of onomastic wordplay, however, does not end with this imitation of Nephi’s autobiographical wordplay. John Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper long ago noted the similarity between Enos’s autobiography and Genesis 32, including allusions to Peniel.7 In a subsequent study I went even further,8 demonstrating that Enos used a word rendered “wrestle” (wayyēʾābēq/hēʾābĕqô) from Genesis 32:23 24 as a deliberate play on the name Jacob (yaʿăqōb) — the name of his patriarchal ancestor and his own father — and the word “struggle”/“strugglings” as a wordplay on Jacob’s cognomen “Israel”:


[Page 31]

Genesis 32:24-25 (MT 25-26); 28 (MT 29)

Enos 1:2; 10-11; 14

And Jacob [yaʿăqōb] was left alone; and there wrestled [wayyēʾābēq] a man [ʾîš] with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s [yaʿăqōb] thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled [bĕhēʾābĕqô] with him. (Genesis 32:24-25 (MT 25-26)

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob [yaʿăqōb] but Israel [yiśrāʾēl]: for as a prince hast thou power [struggled, śārîtā] with God [ʾĕlōhîm] and with men [ʾănāšîm], and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28 [MT 29])

And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had [i.e., the wrestle which I wrestled] before God, before I received a remission of my sins. (Enos 1:2)

And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came to my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. And after I, Enos [ʾĕnôš = “man”], had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites. (Enos 1:10-11)

For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith. (Enos 1:14)

The fact that ʾĕnôš is a poetic synonym of ʾîš (“man”)9 and shares the same plural form, ʾănāšîm,10 further helps us appreciate Enos’s sophisticated use of Genesis 32 and its wordplay. On one level, Enos’s “wrestle” enabled him to identify with his ancestor Jacob/Israel and with his own father Jacob. On still another level, the salient occurrence of ʾîš and ʾănāšîm in the pericope allowed ʾĕnôš to identify with Esau and the divine “man” (ʾîš) — the “men” (ʾănāšîm, “Enoses”) — with whom Jacob/ Israel “wrestled” and “struggled” and whom he eventually “embraced.”11

In the study that follows, I wish to elucidate additional examples and levels of onomastic wordplay and literary allusion that show that Enos is not only appropriating the biographical Jacob and Esau material from Genesis 32–33 but from Genesis 25 and 27 as well. Enos, who is well-aware of the literary meanings associated with his father Jacob’s name, also evidences an awareness of literary meanings that revolve around Esau’s name. Enos’s use of allusion and paronomasia emerges as sophisticated and skillful.

Enos as “Esau”: What Type of “Man”?

As noted above, the name Enos, Hebrew ʾĕnôš, denotes “man.”12 Enos’s description of his father as a “just man” not only harks back to the autobiographical literary structure of 1 Nephi 1:1 and the “man” with [Page 32]whom Jacob wrestled in Genesis 32, but it further recalls early biblical biographical descriptions of Esau and Jacob. Note the biblical narrator’s emphasis on Jacob and Esau as diametrically opposite types of ʾîš (“man”):


Enos 1:1

Genesis 25:27; 27:11

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos [ʾĕnôš = poetic Hebrew “man”], knowing my father [Jacob] that he was a just man [ʾîš, ʾĕnôš addîq; note: ʾĕnôš, ʾîš, andʾādām are synonyms] — for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord — and blessed be the name of my God for it — And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter [ʾîš yōdēaʿ ayid, literally, a man knowing hunting], a man of the field [ʾîš śādeh]; and Jacob was a plain man [ʾîš tām; or, a “man of integrity”], dwelling in tents. (Genesis 25:27)

And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man [ʾîš śāʿir], and I am a smooth man [ʾîš ālāq] (Genesis 27:11).

Enos’s own name comes out of a nexus of anthropic names and name-associations in the Genesis’s primeval history (Adam [“man,” “humankind”], Cain of whom Eve says “I have gotten a man [ʾîš] from the Lord,” Enos [“man”]).13 Enos’s use of the phrase “just man” recalls the Genesis narrative’s description of Noah (“Noah was a just man perfect [ʾîš addîq tāmîm] in his generations,” Genesis 6:9). Enos’s name and explanation further recall the description of Jacob in Genesis 25:27 as an ʾîš tām, an expression which certainly means more than “plain man” (KJV). Stanley Walters renders this expression “moral person.”14 Jacob was a “man of integrity.” Biblical texts associate the related term tāmîm with “perfect” or “unblemished” animals acceptable for sacrifice.15 The Lord so describes Job in Job 1:8; 2:3 (“Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man [ʾîš tām], one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”).

Over against Jacob as ʾîš tām (“moral man,” “man of integrity”) stands the narrator’s description of Esau (ʿēśāw) as an ʾîš yōdēaʿ ayid (“a man knowing hunting” — i.e., “a man knowledgeable about hunting”) and an ʾîš śādeh (“man of the field,” Genesis 25:27). These contrastive descriptions describe two distinct modes of life. Esau is much more the “outdoorsy” type, while Jacob is what we might call a “homebody.”

Jacob’s reported description of Esau as an ʾîš śāʿir (“hairy man”) versus himself as an ʾîš ālāq (“smooth man”) serves a similar function. The phonological similarity between ʿēśāw and śāʿir (“hair”) is one that [Page 33]the narrator exploits in paronomastic fashion in several places within the text.16 This wordplay constitutes a humorous narrative etiology, rather than a scientific etymology drawn from proper philological sources. This segment of the narrative employs a pun on Esau’s physical features to explain, in part, why Esau’s descendants inhabited the hill country of Seir.17

Moreover, Enos’s description of himself — a “man” — as “knowing” (Enos 1:1), recalls Nephi’s “great knowledge” (1 Nephi 1:1), but subtly mirrors the Genesis narrator’s description of Esau as “a man knowing” (ʾîš yōdēaʿ, Genesis 25:27), a connection not obvious in English translation. Enos’s name itself — Hebrew ʾĕnôš — recalls the patriarchal period and his namesake, the patriarch Enos.18 Enos (“man”) was the grandson of Adam (“man,” “humanity”). The narrator repeatedly connects the name Adam (ʾādām) with the “ground” (ʾădāmâ) (e.g., Genesis 2:5, 7; 3:17; 7:23). He further correlates “Adam”/“man” with the gendered terms “Woman” (ʾiššâ) and “man” (ʾîš): “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man [hāʾādām], made [built] he a woman [ʾiššâ], and brought her unto the man [hāʾādām]. And Adam [hāʾādām] said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman [ʾiššâ], because she was taken out of Man [ʾîš]” (Genesis 2:22-23).

Similarly, the Genesis narratives connect Esau with a triliteral ʾdm root that is either cognate or homonymous with the root whence ʾādām originates. Two passages in Genesis 25, both etiological in character, implicitly connect Esau’s cognomen, Edom (ʾĕdôm), with the earthy color of red clay — i.e., “origin[ally] the area distinguished by red soil”19:

And the first came out red [ʾādmônî], all over like an hairy [śēʿār] garment; and they called his name Esau [ʿēśāw]. (Genesis 25:25)

And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau [ʿēśāw] came from the field [śādeh], and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage [hāʾādôm hāʾādôm hazzeh, literally, “this red, red stuff”]; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom [ʾĕdôm]. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)

[Page 34]The narrative here puts the focus on Esau’s connection to the physical, the human, and the earthly. Enos (“man”), the son of Jacob, seems fully aware that his name connects him with the “earthy” origins of Adam (“man,” “humankind,”), the physical father of the human family, and with the “earthy” Edom — Esau — who prized physical things over spiritual things and temporal well-being over eternal well-being. Enos came to the recognition that his Esau/Edom-like self (his “natural man”) would need to undergo a mighty transformation in which he came to prize the same things that his father valued (e.g., “eternal life and the joy of the saints,” Enos 1:3).

Esau and Enos: Hunters

Enos further draws himself into comparison with Esau with one simple statement: “I went to hunt beasts in the forests” (Enos 1:3). The verb wd (“hunt,” “hunt for, hound”)20 and its cognate noun ayid (“game,” “game bag, venison”)21 occurs eleven times as a Leitwort (lead-word)22 in connection with Esau in Genesis 25 (twice) and 27 (nine times). Esau was an ʾîš yōdēaʿ ayid while Enos was also a knowing “man” who “went to hunt [*lĕûd] beasts in the forest.”23 Enos was a “hunter” just like Esau and what was Esau’s “field” (śādeh) was Enos’s “forest.”

Enos’s allusion to his “hunt[ing] beasts in the forest” further recalls the Genesis narrator’s statement that follows directly after Isaac’s blessing Jacob, “Esau came in from his hunting” so that his father Isaac’s “soul” might “bless” him (Genesis 27:30-31). Enos wants his audience to understand that he was like Esau before his spiritual transformation occurred. He was like Esau, but he allowed the words of his father (Jacob) to “sink deep within [his] heart” (Enos 1:3). This caused his “soul” to “hunger” (“and my soul hungered,” Enos 1:4). Enos’s was not a physical or bodily hunger that needed to be fed or a craving that needed to be slaked like Esau’s (see Genesis 25:29-34), but a spiritual hunger. Enos’s soul hunger made him like his ancestor Jacob (for whom his father was named) who had faith in the God of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, rather than the physically hungry Esau. Enos acquired “faith in Christ” (Enos 1:8), the god of his father Jacob, his uncle Nephi, and grandfather Lehi (cf. 1 Nephi 6:4; 2 Nephi 1:15; 33:6). For this reason, Enos would receive the kind of birthright and blessing that Esau had despised (at least at first).24

Made” or “Maker”: A Literary Meaning for “Esau”

[Page 35]Enos also appears to use verbal echoes of the name Esau. A precise etymology for the name “Esau” is uncertain at best and impossible at worst.25 Jeremiah 49:10 may hint at a derivation from ġśy/ʿśh (“protect, cover”).26 Midrashic derivation of the name Esau from the Hebrew Semitic/Hebrew verb ʿśh/ʿśy was so natural as to be almost inevitable. As Shaul Bar notes: “Targum Jonathan, Rashi, Rashbam (acronym for Rabbi Samuel ben Meir 1080-1174), Bekhor Shor (Joseph ben Isaac; twelfth century), all derive the name from the Hebrew word ʿś-y (to make).”27 Targum Pseudo-Jonathan states: “and they called his name Esau [i.e., “made”], because he was born altogether complete [kwlyh gmyr], with the hair of the head, and the beard, and teeth, and grinders.”28 Rashi’s etiology for Esau (ʿśw) as “made” or “done” (nʿśh) is similar.29

However, there are additional biblical texts that treat the name Esau in this way. There is the evidence of Genesis 27 itself, which we will examine momentarily. Amos 4:12 also subtly puns on the names Jacob and Esau:

Therefore thus will I do [ʾeʿĕśeh] unto thee, O Israel:
and because [ʿēqeb] I will do [ʾeʿĕśeh] this unto thee,
prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. (Amos 4:12)

Noting a pun on “Jacob” in this verse, Moshe Garsiel writes: “The name of ‘Israel’ appears here twice, while ‘Jacob’ (yʿqb –יעקב) does not — but it is to ‘Jacob’ that the MND [midrashic name derivation] of ʿqb [ʿēqeb] refers; within the text it constitutes a new homiletic variation upon yʿqb, which it treats as a causative conjunction. The clumsiness of the phrasing in Hebrew is evidence of the prophet’s desire to include the MND.”30 Here, however, Garsiel observes an additional pun on Esau in terms of the verb ʿśh/ʿśy (“make,” “do”): “The double use of the verb ‘do’ (ʿśh) may also be deliberate, for in the Genesis narrative this verb supplies an MND for Jacob’s twin brother Esau (ʿśw – עשו).”i31

Garsiel’s point here is an important one. The narrator subtly uses ʿśh/ʿśy as a Leitwort in the Genesis 27 account of Jacob’s obtaining the blessing of the firstborn. ʿśh/ʿśy is a key term — arguably the key term — in the narrator’s description of how Rebekah helps Jacob transform himself, as it were, into Esau in order to obtain the blessing that Isaac intended for the latter:

And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau [ʿēśāw] his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know [Page 36]not the day of my death: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; And make [waʿăśēh] me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau [ʿēśāw] his son. And Esau [ʿēśāw] went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau [ʿēśāw] thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and make [waʿăśēh] me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord [lipnê yhwh] before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make [wĕʾeʿĕseh] them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth. (Genesis 27:1-9)

Here the narrator moves to create a paronomastic verbal link between the name Esau (ʿēśāw) with the verb ʿśh/ʿśy (“make,” “do”) some nine times throughout the pericope (Genesis 27). Isaac commands Esau to “make” him the “savoury meat” that his “soul” (i.e., his physical appetite) craves. This language establishes Esau as “maker.” Rebekah understands she and Jacob will have to imitate Esau’s “making” in order to obtain his father’s blessing.

We should note in addition that the phrase “before the Lord” (Hebrew lipnê yhwh) literally “to the face of Yahweh” anticipates the events of Genesis 32 and Jacob’s wrestle with a divine “man” at “Peniel”/“Penuel” (i.e., “face of”) which he so names because “I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30-31). Enos’s language refers both to the expression “before the Lord” (“to the face of the Lord”) in Genesis 27:7 and Peniel/Penuel (nîʾēl/pĕnûʾēl, “face of God”), the site of Jacob’s wrestle in Genesis 32 in his use of the phrases “the wrestle which I had before God” (Enos 1:2); “kneeled before my maker” (Enos 1:4); “stand before him” and “see his face with pleasure” (Enos 1:27). They also allude to Genesis 33:10 (see below).

The interplay of ʿēśāw and the verb ʿśh/ʿśy continues as Jacob follows Rebekah’s directions and Rebekah acts shrewdly on behalf of her son Jacob:

And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made [wataʿ] savoury meat, such as his father loved. And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau [ʿēśāw], which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: And she put the skins of [Page 37]the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared [ʿāśātâ], into the hand of her son Jacob. And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau [ʿēśāw] thy firstborn; I have done [ʿāśîtî] according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. (Genesis 27:14-19)

Rebekah helps Jacob become Esau, by helping him “put on” Esau in the form of goat skins with their rough “hair” — a play on Seir. Moreover, she “prepared” or “made” the bread and savoury meat that Isaac craved. The text increasingly revolves around the juxtaposition of verb ʿśh/ʿśy (“make,” “do,” etc.) as first Rebekah and then Jacob become its subjects. In the dialogue, Jacob feigns that he is Esau, because he has become Esau in every sense that matters for his obtaining of the blessing that Isaac intends to give Esau. The latter, too, will “make,” “do,” or “perform” what his father Isaac requests, but he is, alas, too late:

And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau [ʿēśāw] his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made [wayyaʿ] savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau [ʿēśāw]. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. And when Esau [ʿēśāw] heard the words of his father, he cried [wayyiṣʿaq] with a great and exceeding bitter cry [ĕʿāqâ], and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. (Genesis 27:30-34)

The narrator’s expression “And he also had made” (Hebrew wayyaʿ) plays on the name ʿēśāw yet again. Ironically, Esau “makes” savoury meat for his father that will not procure the blessing Isaac intended to give and that Esau intended to receive. Rebekah, in effect, “makes” Jacob into Esau and Jacob becomes Esau, while Esau “makes” in vain.

Moreover, In Esau’s “cry[ing] [wayyiṣʿaq] with a great and exceeding bitter cry [ĕʿāqâ]” we detect an additional wordplay on the name Isaac (yiṣḥāq). [Page 38]Esau’s “cry” evokes the opposite emotion suggested in the meaning of Isaac’s name “may he laugh” or “may he rejoice.”

And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing [birkātekā]. And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob [yaʿăqōb]? for he hath supplanted me [wayyaʿqĕbēnî] these two times: he took away my birthright [bĕkōrātî]; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing [birkātî]. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing [bĕrākâ] for me? And Isaac answered and said unto Esau [ʿēśāw], Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do [ʾeʿĕśeh] now unto thee, my son? And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. (Genesis 27:35-38)

The wordplay on the name Jacob in terms of the denominative verb ʿqb “supplant” (“he hath supplanted me”) is one of the more well-known examples of paronomasia in the Hebrew Bible and one that looks forward to later wordplay in terms of “wrestle” and “embrace.” Less well-known and overlooked is Isaac’s subtler but equally poignant wordplay on Esau here in terms of ʿśh/ʿśy. From an audience standpoint, Esau’s character is no more pathetic (or sympathetic) than when Isaac asks Esau his poignant final question: “What shall I do [ʾeʿĕśeh] now for thee, my son?” This is wordplay on Esau (ʿēśāw) in terms of ʾeʿĕśeh (“shall I do…?”).

The final wordplay on Esau in terms of ʿśh/ʿśy occurs Genesis 27:45, at the very end of the pericope. Rebekah, aware of Esau’s intent to kill his brother Jacob, urges her son to flee to their kin in Padan-Aram “until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done [ʿāśîtā] to him.” This concluding use of ʿśh/ʿśy as a play on ʿēśāw again makes Jacob the subject of the verb and refers directly to Jacob’s overall “supplanting,” “usurping” or “robbing” of Esau (wayyaʿqĕbēnî “he hath supplanted me,” Genesis 27:36). In this way, the narrator brings together the running wordplay on Esau’s name (nine times) and the wordplay on Jacob in terms of ʿqb, in Genesis 25:26; 27:36.

I Kneeled Down Before My Maker”: Enos, Esau and Peniel

As has already been noted, Enos enriches the onomastic wordplay and allusions to the Jacob-Esau cycle in Enos 1:1-2 with additional allusions and onomastic wordplay in Enos 1:3-4. Here it should be noted that Enos [Page 39]1:3 has suffered some textual loss since its translation and dictation into the original manuscript as the following comparison shows:


Enos 1:3 (1981, 2013)

Enos 1:3 (Skousen)

Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forest, and [I remembered]32 the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints; and the words of my father33 sunk deep into my heart.

Enos’s remembering his father’s words and “the words of [his] father s[i]nking deep into [his] heart” brings about further biographical connections between his own life and the story of Jacob and Esau:

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker [Hebrew ʿōśāy],34 and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (Enos 1:4)

First, Enos’s statement “my soul hungered” recalls Esau’s being famished and faint with physical hunger in Genesis 25:29-34, hunger which led him to sell and despise his birthright (bĕkōrâ). It also recalls Isaac’s physical craving for Esau’s venison, whereby Isaac intended that his “soul” might “bless” his son Esau. However, Enos subverts this image and language in a powerful way: Enos’s “soul” — Hebrew nepeš — does not just hunger physically (contrast Esau), but hungers with deep spiritual hunger.

This spiritual hunger brings Enos to “kneel down before [his] maker.” The denominative verb35 “kneel” (brk, which is probably related or derived from the verb bārak, “bless”)36 recalls both the blessing and the birthright from the Jacob-Esau story (more on this below). Moreover, the expression “before” (Hebrew lipnê, literally “to the face”) immediately recalls Enos’s previous statement about his “wrestle which he had [wrestled] before God,” thus recalling the onomastic wordplay on Jacob in terms of *ʾbq and Peniel/Penuel (nîʾēl, “the face of God”). But there is even more to Enos’s literary allusion.

The expression “my maker” mostly likely represents the Hebrew participle ʿōśēh (“making,” “doing” or “maker,” “doer”). For example, the Psalms frequently describe the Lord as “maker” (ʿōśēh) of “heaven and earth.”37 Job 35:10 attests the form ʿōśāy, “my maker” (“Where is God my maker …?” cf. Job 32:22; “my maker [ʿōśēnî; i.e., the one making me] [Page 40]would soon take me away”). The collocation “my Maker” occurs first in the Book of Mormon in the writings of Jacob (“shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker,” Jacob 2:6). Jacob’s phraseology very likely influenced Enos’s language. An additional text worth noting, especially in the context of the language of Enos 1:1-4 are the words attributed to Eliphaz the Temanite in Job 4:17:

Shall mortal man [ʾĕnôš] be more just [yidāq] than God [ʾĕlôah]? Shall a man [geber, strong man] be more pure than his maker [ʿōśēhû]? (Job 4:17)

The participle ʿōśēh constitutes a divine epithet for Yahweh in Isaiah 51:13 (“and [thou] forgettest the Lord thy maker [ʿōśekā]”); 54:5 (“For thy Maker [ʿōśayik] is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name”), among other biblical passages.38

A much more important text for our purposes here, however, is Psalm 95:6. Psalm 95 has been widely recognized as an enthronement Psalm and a text that was likely sung as a hymn or performed in the Jerusalem temple. When Enos states “I kneeled down before my maker,” he appears to quote Psalm 95: “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel [nibrĕkâ] before the Lord our maker [ʿōśēnû]” (Psalm 95:6). Enos thus alludes to an important temple text that is elsewhere alluded to throughout the Book of Mormon.39

The literary genius of Enos’s incorporation of Psalm 95:6, however, is his making the phrase “before the Lord our Maker” a reference to Isaac’s promise in Genesis 27:7 and Jacob’s experience at Peniel. Moreover, it makes the divine title “Maker” (ʿōśēh) or “my Maker” (ʿōśāy) into a paronomastic pun on “Esau” (ʿēśāw), one that corresponds with the Genesis narrator’s identification of the man (ʾîš) “Esau” with the divine man (ʾîš/ʾĕlōhîm) with whom Jacob wrestles (see Genesis 32–33). We especially recall that Jacob says to Esau: “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Genesis 33:10). This point is perhaps strengthened by the fact that Esau’s cognomen Edom (ʾĕdôm) also constituted a divine name,40 attested in the name Obed-edom (ʿōbēd ʾĕdōm or ʿōbēd ʾĕdôm).41 David invested a man named Obed-edom with the keeping of the Ark of the Covenant before its eventual “rest” in the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s temple (see 2 Samuel 6) and another Obed-edom was the “head of the family of [temple] doorkeepers and singers.”42

We should further note Enos’s possible allusion to and adaptation of the Genesis narrator’s description of Esau’s “cry[ing] [wayyiṣʿaq] with a great and exceeding bitter cry [ĕʿāqâ],” which plays on, or alludes [Page 41]to, the name Isaac (yiṣḥāq). Esau’s “cry” evokes the opposite emotion suggested in the meaning of Isaac’s name “may he laugh” or “may he rejoice” (Genesis 18:12-15; 21:6-9; 26:8).43 Enos makes a twofold reference to “crying” for his own soul: “I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him” (Enos 1:4).44

In all of this, Enos (“man”) is attempting to describe how the Lord who “made” him, “makes” him from an Esau-like “man” into a Jacob-like divine “man” through his atonement. That process begins with the “remission of [his] sins” (Enos 1:2).

Lord, How Is It Done?”

In response to his own lengthy “cry” to the Lord, Enos informs us that “there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee,45 and thou shalt be blessed” (Enos 1:5). The Lord’s promise to Enos, “and thou shalt be blessed [(gam) bārûk tihyeh],” echoes Isaac’s reported statement regarding Jacob, “[I] have blessed him [wāʾăbārkēhû] and he shall be blessed [gam bārûk yihyeh]” (Genesis 27:33). It also recalls the blessing that Jacob procured through his “wrestle”: “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26); “And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:29).

It further recalls the numerous purpose clauses and other statements throughout the earlier pericope (Genesis 27) pertaining to Isaac’s desire to “bless” his son Esau: “that my soul may bless thee before I die” (Genesis 27:4); “that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death” (Genesis 27:7); (Rebekah to Jacob) “that he may bless thee before his death” (Genesis 27:12); “I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing” (Genesis 27:12); “that thy soul may bless me” (Genesis 27:19); “so he blessed him” (Genesis 27:23); “that my soul may bless thee” (Genesis 27:25); “he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him,” “the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed” (Genesis 27:27); “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (Genesis 27:34); “Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing” (Genesis 27:35); “he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing … Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?” (Genesis 27:36); “Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father” (Genesis 27:38); and finally, “Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing [habbĕrākâ] wherewith his father blessed him” (Genesis 27:41).46 The repetition of *brk (e.g., bārak [“bless”] and bĕrākâ [“blessing”]) and the homonym bĕkōrâ throughout the cycle47 may constitute a paronomastic pun on Rebekah (ribqâ). [Page 42]We can thus see Enos employing a pun of his own in his use of the term “blessed” (Enos 1:1, 5, 27, especially v. 5) juxtaposed with the verb “kneeled” (brk, Enos 1:4). Enos becomes the spiritual heir of his father, Jacob — Lehi’s “firstborn in the wilderness” (2 Nephi 2:1-2, 11), just as his ancestor, Jacob, had become the spiritual heir of his father, Isaac.

Following the Lord’s promise that Enos would be “blessed,” onomastic wordplay on Esau — and perhaps Jacob — resurfaces in Enos’s question to the Lord and the Lord’s subsequent response. Here we can compare Enos’s and the Lord’s statements to the onomastic wordplay on Esau and Jacob in Amos 4:12 mentioned earlier, as cited by Garsiel.

That Enos uses or has reference to the Hebrew verb ʿśh/ʿśy — naʿăśâ or ʿāśeh — with the word that has been rendered “done” makes excellent grammatical sense for reasons that will become even clearer later on. It also makes very good sense in the immediate context of his description of God as “my maker” (Enos 1:4) — Enos’s “maker” was also the one who “wrought out,” “accomplished,” “performed,” “made,” or “did” Enos’s remission or forgiveness of sins through the Atonement. However, the most compelling reason to suspect Enos’s use of ʿśh/ʿśy here is the profusion of this term as a pun on Esau throughout Genesis 27. Rebekah helps Jacob “make” himself — that is, transform himself — into Esau (ʿēśāw). Enos recognizes that the Lord has “made” and is “making” him into something else through the Atonement — he is making him divine.


Enos 1:7-8 (Skousen)

Amos 4:12 and Genesis 26:4-5

Enos’s blessing:

(“thou shalt be blessed,” Enos 1:5; “my guilt was swept away,” Enos 1:6)

And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because [cf. ʿēqeb]48 of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast not seen or heard — and many years passeth away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Enos 1:7-8; following Skousen)49

Israel’s punishment:

Therefore thus will I do [ʾeʿĕśeh] unto thee, O Israel: and because [ʿēqeb] I will do [ʾeʿĕśeh] this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

Isaac’s blessing:

And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because [ʿēqeb] that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:4-5)

It Shall Be Done Unto Them According to Their Faith”

[Page 43]The verb “do/done” occurs again in a salient way in Enos 1:18. Regarding the Lord’s promise to him regarding the restoration of his Lamanite brethren to the covenants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Enos records “And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done [Hebrew yēʿāśeh] unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine” (Enos 1:18). Again, the text plausibly reflects the verb ʿśh/ʿśy50 and constitutes another allusion to the name Esau.

The Lord’s statement here directly recalls Enos’s earlier question, “Lord, how is it done [yēʿāśeh]?” and the Lord’s response “Because of thy faith in Christ.” Enos’s “soul” could “rest” because he knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made [Hebrew kārat, “cut”]. In other words, Enos knew that the Lord performs what he promises. Enos’s “maker” (ʿōśāy, Enos 1:4) would “do” it.

The passive verbal form yēʿāśeh (“be done”) in the collocation “be done unto” is used as a wordplay on “Esau” at least once in the biblical text, outside of Genesis 25 and 27. We note here that the brief book of Obadiah, whose message focuses a great deal on the nation of Edom, contains abundant wordplay on Edom and Esau (the name Edom is used twice and Esau seven times). In decrying Esau-Edom’s national treachery against Judah, Obadiah plays on the name “Edom” (ʾĕdôm) three times in terms of the expression “their calamity”: “Thou [Edom/ʾĕdôm] shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity [ʾêdô]; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity [ʾêdô], nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity [ʾêdô]” (Obadiah 1:13; cf. ʾābdām = “their destruction” in 1:12). In consequence of Esau-Edom’s perfidy, Obadiah prophesies that their deeds will return to them, employing an emphatic pun on the name Esau: “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done [ʿāśîtā] it shall be done unto thee [yēʿāśeh lāk]: thy reward shall return upon thine own head” (Obadiah 1:15). The “thou,” of course, is Esau-Edom. Obadiah directly juxtaposes the 2nd person active perfect verb form of ʿśy/ʿśh with the third-person masculine passive — ʿāśîtā yēʿāśeh lāk — as an emphatic wordplay on ʿēśāw. Esau-Edom’s punishment will be commensurate and retributive.

All of this helps us better appreciate Enos’s allusion to the name Esau when he asks “Lord, how is it done?” (Enos 1:7) and the allusion to Esau in the Lord’s subsequent promise, “it shall be done unto them according to their faith” (Enos 1:18). The Obadiah example is particularly helpful here in that it illustrates the long-term hatred that resurfaced between [Page 44]Judah (descendants of Jacob-Israel) and Edom (descendants of Esau) — estranged brothers whose relationship needed “at-one-ment” like the enmity between the Nephites and Lamanites (cf. Genesis 32:20; 33:10-11).

Our Labors Were Vain”: The Lamanites as “Esau”

Although, Enos’s literary use of the Jacob-Esau cycle suggests not only his hope for, but assurance of, an eventual reconciliation between the Nephites and Lamanites, nevertheless he emphasizes the aggravated separation that persisted between the Nephites and their estranged brethren. The traditional Lamanite charge that Nephi (and his descendants/people) had “robbed them” of their property and right to the government (Mosiah 10:16-17; Alma 54:17) which was their birthright, which itself echoes Jacob’s “supplanting,” “usurping,” or “robbing” Esau (Genesis 27:36)51 underlies Enos’s report, if not explicitly stated therein:

And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us. (Enos 1:20)

Enos’s remark that “our labors were vain” restates his previous statement “our strugglings were vain.” The onomastic allusion moves from “Israel” (“Let El struggle” or “he struggles with God”)52 to “Esau” in terms of “labors” (possibly maʿăśeh/maʿăśîm).53

Moreover, Enos’s subsequent statements that “their hatred was fixed” and “they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20) echoes his father Jacob’s words in Jacob 7:24-25. Both passages recall the Genesis narrator’s description of Esau in Genesis 27:41: “And Esau hated [wayyiśōm] Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob” (cf. 2 Nephi 5:1-7, 14).

Enos, like his father Jacob54 and unlike Jacob his ancestor, would remain unreconciled to his estranged brethren (the Lamanites) during his lifetime. However, his “soul did rest” with the divine assurance that [Page 45]the long hoped- and prayed-for reconciliation would happen in the Lord’s “own due time” (Enos 1:16-17).

Wrought Upon by the Power of God”: Enos’s Sanctification Through Christ’s Atonement

Another subtle allusion to the name Esau in terms of the Christ’s Atonement and its transformative effects can be detected as Enos concludes his record:

And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world. (Enos 1:26)

Spoken or written in Hebrew, the collocation “wrought upon” (i.e., “worked upon”) probably reflects the verb ʿśh/ʿśy at some level — a verb which, as has been previously noted, serves as a Leitwort in the story of Jacob’s assumption of Esau’s identity in order to receive the firstborn blessing that his father intended to give Esau.

The collocation “wrought upon” occurs in one Old Testament passage in the KJV, which describes those who “wrought upon” — i.e., “worked on” — the Jerusalem temple. The underlying verb in this passage is ʿśh/ʿśy: “And they gave the money, being told, into the hands of them that did [ʿôśê] the work, that had the oversight of the house of the Lord: and they laid it out to the carpenters and builders, that wrought upon [haʿōśîm] the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 12:11).55

If the supposition that “wrought upon” represents ʿśh/ʿśy in translation is correct, Enos uses the same verb to describe his sanctification over the course of his life, to his initial experience of being justified — having his sins and his “guilt … swept way.” “How [was] it done?” (Enos 1:7). It was “done” initially and “wrought” over the course of a lifetime through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ — Enos’s “Maker” (Enos 1:4-8; 26). Enos’s use of ʿśh/ʿśy, “wrought upon,” in Enos 1:26 as another play on Esau has the added literary function reminding his audience of his previous conversion and helping them understand by what power he became one of the “blessed” mentioned in Enos 1:27.

Putting on” Immortality and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

[Page 46]Near the end of his autobiography, Enos also subtly reworks the “clothing” motif from Genesis 27 in which Jacob, at Rebekah’s instigation and with her help, “puts on” Esau’s clothing and identity — in effect, “putting on” Esau (Genesis 27:15-16). Enos anticipates “putting on” a resurrected body and a divine identity: “And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality” (Enos 1:27).56 On one level, Enos’s language appears to have direct reference to his father’s doctrinal statements on the atonement and the resurrection in 2 Nephi 9:7: “Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement — save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.” Jacob’s statement, in turn, represents his exegesis of the clothing-resurrection imagery Isaiah 52:1-2: “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments [cf. the resurrected body], O Jerusalem, … Shake thyself from the dust [cf. spirit world and the grave]; arise, and sit down [i.e., on a throne], O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion”; or as Lehi commanded, “Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men [ʾănāšîm] … Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness” (2 Nephi 1:21, 23). Like his father, Jacob, Enos (“man”) knew that “the bodies and the spirits of men [ʾănāšîm] will be restored one to the other” and that “[his] spirit and … body [would be] restored to itself again” since “all men [ʾănāšîm] become incorruptible, and immortal” (2 Nephi 9:13). He anticipated coming forth in the first resurrection “clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:14). Moreover, Enos (“man”), like his father Jacob, anticipated that at the time “when all men [ʾănāšîm] shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before [lipnê] the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel,” it would be a pleasant, rather than a dreadful experience (2 Nephi 9:15; Jacob 6:13; Enos 1:27).

Thus on still another level Enos’s words point to becoming something infinitely above the meaning of his own name, “man,” and beyond what the patriarchal figures Jacob and Esau, to whom he so often alludes, represent: imperfect mortal men. Although one cannot say for certain what word or expression might underlie the word “mortal” in Enos 1:27, Eliphaz in Job 4:17 asks, “Shall mortal man [ʾĕnôš] be more just than [Page 47]God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” It is probably significant that the KJV translators opted to render ʾĕnôš not simply “man” in Job 4:17, but “mortal man.”57 Scholars have long noted the homonymic, if not etymological, relationship between the poetic noun/name ʾĕnôš and the verb ʾānaš,58 to “be mortally sick, weak.”

Commenting on the use of ʾĕnôš in Psalm 103:15-16, John Goldingay writes: “The word ʾĕnôš can designate a human being in a neutral way (e.g., [Psalm] 55:13 [14]), but ʾānaš means ‘be weak/sick.’ Although there may be no etymological connection between the words, contexts sometimes imply that ʾĕnôš suggests mortal humanity, humanity in its frailty (e.g., [Psalm] 8:4 [5]; 90:3), and this [Psalm 103:15] is an example.”59 It is no accident that the phrase “not-man” (lōʾʾîš) constitutes a collocation for divinity in Numbers 23:9 and Hosea 11:9. Thus, King Benjamin’s use of “mortal man” might constitute a usage of ʾĕnôš similar to the foregoing: “I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man [i.e., an ʾĕnôš]. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind” (Mosiah 2:10-11).

It is also noteworthy that King Benjamin tells his people that they must “putteth off the natural man [cf. ʾĕnôš] and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). Benjamin may have had at least partial reference to Enos’s language (Enos 1:27). Enos became one of the “saints” of which his father spoke by “putting off” the natural man, knowing that he would one day also put off his mortal “man” and “put on” immortality.

As indicated above, the verbal construction “put on,” used by Enos, refers to putting on clothing, and corresponds to the Hebrew verb lābaš/lābēš (“put on [a garment],” “clothe,” “clothe oneself [with]”).60 The Greek verb used to express this idea is enduō (or endyō).61 Paul uses the expression “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27; see also Romans 13:14)62 as a means of describing putting on the Atonement. This clothing metaphor evokes Genesis 3:21, which describes how the Lord clothed Adam and Eve before their expulsion from Eden: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make [wayyaʿ] coats [kotnôt, tunics] of skins, and clothed them [wayyalbišēm]” (Genesis 3:21). As L. Michael Morales has observed,63 this is the same language used in Leviticus 8:13 to describe the clothing of priests: “And Moses brought Aaron’s sons, and put [wayyalbišēm] coats [kuttōnōt, tunics] upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the Lord commanded Moses.” Thus, the coats or tunics of animal skins suggest the performance of [Page 48]sacrifices within the garden sanctuary/temple.64 Since, as the first couple learned later, the animal sacrifices were in “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten” (Moses 5:4-8),65 the Lord had symbolically clothed them in his Atonement.

The account of Adam and Eve’s being clothed in animal skins (Genesis 3:21) finds a later echo in the Jacob-Esau narrative. Rebekah helped her son Jacob “put on” Esau in order to receive his father’s blessing and become what the “firstborn” had the potential to become: “And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon [wattalbēš] Jacob her younger son: And she put [hilbîšâ] the skins [ʿōrōt] of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck (Genesis 27:15-16).

Adam and Eve’s “garments” or “tunics” of skin and Jacob’s use of Esau’s clothes and “skins” of goat kid are reminiscent of priestly temple vestments that are themselves emblematic of what we are “becoming” but are not yet. Just as the Lord clothed Adam and Eve in (“put on”) Christ and his atonement, Rebekah “put on” Jacob the status of “firstborn.” So, too, we “put on” sacred clothing in the sacred precincts of the temple in anticipation of the time when, like Enos, our “mortal” will “put on” immortality — the celestial resurrection body, in the likeness of Christ’s body, if we have been true and faithful. We will “put on” divinity.

I Shall See His Face with Pleasure”: Final Atonement

Enos’s final words anticipate his final “at-one-ment” with the Lord. Notably, however, they contain clear echoes of Genesis 33:10, which describe Jacob’s emotions upon his final reconciliation with his brother, Esau:


Genesis 33:10

Enos 1:27

And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. … and [I] shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.

Jacob had obtained Esau’s privilege of being “bless[ed] … before the Lord” (“Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord [waʾăbārekĕkâ lipnê yhwh] before my death,” Genesis 27:7) — literally, blessed to the Lord’s face. Jacob’s wresting the blessing away from Esau (“supplanting” him) and Isaac’s blessing Jacob “before the Lord” anticipated his “wrestling” the divine [Page 49]“man” at Peniel/ Penuel (“face of God”) in which he “s[aw] God face to face [rāʾîtî ʾĕlōhîm pānîm ʾel pānîm]” had “[his] life [soul, napšî]… preserved” (Genesis 32:30) and was “blessed” by the divine “man” there. Moreover, Jacob was subsequently reconciled to his brother Esau in a manner that recalls the events at Peniel/Penuel: “I have seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God [kirʾōt pĕnê ʾĕlōhîm]…” (Genesis 33:10).66 To which Jacob adds “thou was pleased with me [wattirēnî].”

In Enos 1:27, Enos recalls all of the foregoing, with his statements “I shall stand before him” (i.e., “to his face”), “then shall I see his face with pleasure” (playing again on Hebrew pānîm, “face”), and “he will say unto me: Come unto me ye blessed.” He recalls his own earlier puns on the names Jacob and Peniel (“the wrestle [*hēʾābēq] which I had [possibly, “which I wrestled,” *neʾĕbaqtî] before God [*lipnê ʾĕlōhîm, literally, “to the face of God”]”) as well as his earlier corresponding wordplay on Esau, Peniel, and the blessing (“I kneeled down before my maker”). With these final allusions to Jacob, Esau, Peniel and “blessings,” Enos’s testimony was that he had become everything that his ancestor Jacob’s blessing represented in spiritual terms. He had become what own father, Jacob, had become and had hoped Enos himself would become: atoned to and identified with his “maker” and one of those who would be eternally “blessed” in his “presence” (to his “face”).


Enos’s writings begin with him as an Esau-like “man” wrestling a Jacob like “wrestle” before God (Enos 1:1-4). Enos initially describes himself in terms reminiscent of Esau — e.g., as one who “hunt[ed]” and “hungered.” They conclude with his “having been wrought upon by the power of God” (i.e., having been sanctified by Christ’s atonement which motivated him to testify of that atonement throughout his life; Enos 1:26). Enos further anticipates his “putting on” immortality (i.e., the divine nature) and becoming like God, this in preparation for “seeing his face with pleasure” (Genesis 1:27).

The Genesis 27 narrative, which describes Jacob obtaining the blessing intended for Esau by their father Isaac, creates a strong paronomastic link between the name Esau and the Hebrew verb ʿśh/ʿśy. Accordingly, Enos uses ʿśh/ʿśy-terminology (“Maker,” “how is it done?” “it shall be done unto them,” “wrought upon”) in describing his obtaining of a divine blessing, his Jacob-like transformation through the atonement, and the Lord’s keeping his covenant with Enos and his fathers.

[Page 50]Enos’s skillful adaptation and reworking of numerous details from the Jacob-Esau cycle to tell the story of his own divine “wrestle,” experiences with Christ’s atonement, subsequent spiritual “struggles,” and final sanctification through the Christ’s atonement makes his autobiography a short masterpiece. They further reveal Enos to have been a diligent reader of the scriptures and a faithful “man” who became a prophet of God worthy of the legacy of his father Jacob and his patriarchal ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.



  1. Matthew L. Bowen, “Wordplay on the Name Enos,” Insights 26/3 (2006): 2. On Nephi’s autobiographical use of wordplay in 1 Nephi 1:1, see idem, “Internal Textual Evidence for the Egyptian Origin of Nephi’s Name,” Insights 22/11 (2002): 2. On Nephi’s use of wordplay elsewhere, see idem, “Nephi’s Good Inclusio,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 17 (2015): 181-195.
  2. On Nephi as the Egyptian lexeme nfr and its pronunciation, see John Gee, “A Note on the Name Nephi,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992): 189-91; and idem, “Four Suggestions on the Origin of the Name Nephi,” in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 1-5.
  3. Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian (Oxford: Griffith Institute/Ashmolean Museum, 1999), 131-132.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. See Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 60. Hereafter cited as BDB. Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 70. Hereafter cited as HALOT.
  7. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, “Jacob and Enos: Wrestling before God,” Insights 21/5 (2001): 2–3.
  8. Matthew L. Bowen, “‘And There Wrestled a Man with Him’ (Genesis 32:24): Enos’s Adaptations of the Onomastic Wordplay of Genesis,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10 (2014): 151-160.
  9. BDB, 60. Hebrew ʾîš is possibly cognate with Egyptian si, s “man.”
  10. I.e., ʾănāšîm constitutes the plural form of ʾîš in the vast majority of occurrences. In a few instances (e.g., Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4), the poetic rare plural ʾîšîm occurs rather than ʾănāšîm.
  11. As Hugh W. Nibley (The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed. [CWHN 16; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2005], 434) long ago observed, “One of the most puzzling episodes in the Bible has always been the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord. When one considers that the word conventionally translated as ‘wrestled (yēʾāvēq)’ can just as well mean ‘embrace’ and that it was in this ritual embrace that Jacob received a new name and the bestowal of priestly and kingly power at sunrise (Genesis 32:24-30), the parallel to the Egyptian coronation embrace becomes at once apparent.” Notably, the Hebrew verbs *ʾbq (“wrestle”) and bq (“embrace”) may both be related to Akkadian epēqu(m), “to embrace; grow over, round.” See A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, ed. Jeremy Black, Andrew George and Nicolas Postgate; SANTAG 5 (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2000), 74. Both ʾbq (Genesis 32:24-25) and bq (Genesis 29:13; 33:4; 48:10) are key terms used to play on the name “Jacob” (yaʿăqōb) in the biblical text (see Bowen, “And There Wrestled a Man with Him,” 155-160).
  12. BDB, 60; HALOT 70.
  13. Cf. Moshe Garsiel, Biblical Names: A Literary Study of Midrashic Derivations and Puns, trans. Phyllis Hackett (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1991), 138-139. See also ibid (p. 196) where Garsiel sees Ezekiel tying the name “Edom” to ʾădāmâ (“ground,” “land”) in paronomastic fashion in Ezekiel 36:5-6.
  14. Stanley D. Walters, “Jacob Narrative,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 3: H–J, ed. David Noel Freedman et al. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 607. Special thanks go to Robert F. Smith for calling my attention to Walters’ commentary on the meaning of ʾîš tām.
  15. Cf. Akkadian tamīmu “perfect” for sacrificial animals = Hebrew tāmîm “perfect” as discussed by H. Yosef ben Tawil, An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological, Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalence with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 2009), 432-433.
  16. Genesis 25:25; 27:11, 23.
  17. See, e.g., Genesis 32:3; 33:14, 16; 36:8-9; 20-21; 30.
  18. See Genesis 4:26; 5:6-7; 9-11; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38.
  19. HALOT, 12.
  20. HALOT, 1010; BDB, 844.
  21. HALOT, 1020.
  22. Martin Buber (“Leitwort Style in Pentateuch Narrative,” in Scripture and Translation [ed. Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig; trans. Lawrence Rosenwald and Everett Fox; ISBL; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994] 114) who coined the term Leitwort (“lead-word,” or “guiding word”), defines it thus: “By Leitwort I understand a word or word root that is meaningfully repeated within a text or a sequence of texts or complex of texts; those who attend to these repetitions will find a meaning of the text revealed or clarified, or at any rate made more emphatic. As noted, what is repeated need not be a single word but can be a word root; indeed the diversity of forms strengthens the overall dynamic effect.”
  23. Following Skousen’s singular reading of “forest.” See Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part Two: 2 Nephi 11-Mosiah 16 (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2005), 1072-1073.
  24. See especially Genesis 25:29-34.
  25. See, e.g., HALOT, 893.
  26. HALOT (p. 893) cites Ezekiel 17:17; Proverbs, 12:23; 13:16 as instances where ġśy/ʿśh fits the context of the passage better than ʿśy/ʿśh, “make, do.” Jeremiah 49:10 appears to polemicize against Esau/Edom in terms of “protect, cover”: “But I have made Esau bare, I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself: his seed is spoiled, and his brethren, and his neighbours, and he is not.”
  27. Shaul Bar, A Nation is Born: The Jacob Story (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2016), 7.
  28. The English translation here follows J.W. Etheridge’s (The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch; with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee, Volume 1 [London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862], 240) translation.
  29. Rashi on Genesis 25:25: wyqrʾw šmw lw ʿśw: hkl qrʾw kn, lpy šhyh nʿśh wngmr bśʿrw kbn šnym hrbh.
  30. Garsiel, Biblical Names, 134.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Following Skousen’s (Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2:1073-1075) proposed emendation.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Cf. Job 35:10.
  35. Cf. HALOT, 159.
  36. Cognate with Egyptian brkt “blessings” Book of the Dead spell 162 S 3 (T. G. Allen, Book of the Dead, SAOC 37 [Oriental Institute, 1974]), and with Akkadian karābu” to bless, pay homage; blessing” Tawil, Akkadian Lexical Companion, 58-60.
  37. Psalm 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; see also Isaiah 44:24; 45:7.
  38. E.g., 1 Samuel 12:6; Isaiah 17:7, 22:11, 27:11; Hosea 8:14; Job 4:17; Proverbs 14:31. Numerous additional passages describe the Lord’s creative activity in terms of ʿśy/ʿśh (“make,” “do”). See, e.g., Genesis 2:4; 2 Kings 19:15/Isaiah 37:16; Isaiah 37:26; 66:22; Jeremiah 32:17.
  39. Psalm 95:7-8 is quoted in Jacob 6:6; throughout Alma 12; Alma 10:6. Psalm 95:11 is quoted or alluded to in Jacob 1:7; 4,; Alma 10, 12:36-37; 13:6, 12, 16, 29; 16:17; 60:13; 3 Nephi 27:19; and Moroni 7:3 just for starters.
  40. Cf. HALOT, 12, 776.
  41. 2 Samuel 6:10, 12; 1 Chronicles 13:13-14; 1 Chronicles 15:18, 21, 24; 16:5: 38; 26:4, 8, 15; 2 Chronicles 25:24.
  42. HALOT, 776.
  43. On the significance of the name Isaac, see Matthew L. Bowen, “‘In the Mount of the Lord It Shall Be Seen’ and ‘Provided’: Theophany and Sacrifice as the Etiological Foundation of the Temple in Israelite and Latter-day Saint Tradition,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5 (2015): 205-206.
  44. Mormon appears to have reference to Enos’s experience in Mosiah 21:14: “And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.” Both Enos 1:4 and Mosiah 21:14 may have direct reference to Exodus 2:23: “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried [wayyizʿāqû; biform of [wayyiṣʿāqû] and their cry [šawʿātām] came up unto God by reason of the bondage. See also Exodus 5:15; 14:10; Judges 3:9, 15; 4:3, 6:6-7; 10:10; 1 Samuel 7:8-9; Psalm 34:17 [MT 16]; 107:6, 13, 19, 28, etc.
  45. There is an interesting phraseological parallel in Luke 5:20: “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” The name Enos, as noted above, means “man.”
  46. Cf. Deuteronomy 33:1.
  47. Devora Steinmetz (From Father to Son: Kinship Conflict and Continuity in Genesis [Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991], 97) notes that “the words for ‘birthright’ and ‘blessing’ are nearly identical in Hebrew (bekora and beraka) and the [Jacob Esau] narrative plays extensively on the connection between them.”
  48. See HALOT, 873.
  49. Following Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 2:1075-1077. 34. Cf. Job 35:10. 50. Cf. passages such as Exodus 21:31; Deuteronomy 25:9; 1 Samuel 11:7; Jeremiah 5:13; and Obadiah 1:15. See also, e.g., Isaiah 5:4; Daniel 9:12.
  50. Cf. passages such as Exodus 21:31; Deuteronomy 25:9; 1 Samuel 11:7; Jeremiah 5:13; and Obadiah 1:15. See also, e.g., Isaiah 5:4; Daniel 9:12.
  51. See Matthew L. Bowen, Jacob’s Protector (forthcoming).
  52. Bowen, “And There Wrestled a Man with Him,” 153-154, 159-160.
  53. Cf., e.g., Genesis 5:29; Exodus 5:4, 13; 23:12, 16; 26:1, 31; 28:11, 32; Isaiah 65:22; Ezekiel 46:1; Habakkuk 3:17.
  54. See Jacob 7:24-25.
  55. Compare the use of this idiom in 3 Nephi 7:22 (“And as many as had devils cast out from them, and were healed of their sicknesses and their infirmities, did truly manifest unto the people that they had been wrought upon by the Spirit of God, and had been healed; and they did show forth signs also and did do some miracles among the people”) and Moroni 6:4 (“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ”). See also 1 Nephi 13:12-13; 17:52; 19:12; Alma 20:24 and contrast Mormon 1:19.
  56. The apostle Paul, who uses similar language to describe resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), cites the resurrection as a fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 (“he shall swallow up death in victory” or “death shall be swallowed up in victory”).
  57. I am pursuing this line of inquiry at the suggestion of Mark Campbell (personal communication, February 16, 2015).
  58. See, e.g., BDB 60.
  59. John Goldingay, Psalms: Volume 3, Psalms 90-150 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 173.
  60. HALOT, 519-520.
  61. Walter Bauer, Fredrick William Danker, William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (rev. and ed. by Fredrick William Danker; 3rd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 333-334.
  62. Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”; Romans 13:14: “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
  63. L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2016), 53.
  64. Donald W. Parry, “Garden of Eden: Prototype Sanctuary” in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994), 141-143.
  65. Moses 5:4-8: “And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence. And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.” See also Joseph F. Smith’s vision of those who had died before Jesus’s advent in mortality: “And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 138:12-17).
  66. In addition to Genesis 32:30 and 33:10, Enos’s conclusion in Enos 1:27 echoes Genesis 46:30: “And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen [rĕʾôtî] thy face [ʾet-pānêkā], because thou art yet alive.”
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About Matthew L. Bowen

Matthew L. Bowen was raised in Orem, Utah, and graduated from Brigham Young University. He holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and is currently an associate professor in religious education at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. He is also the author of Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and The Temple in Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018). With Aaron P. Schade, he is the coauthor of The Book of Moses: From the Ancient of Days to the Latter Days (Provo, UT; Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2021). He and his wife (the former Suzanne Blattberg) are the parents of three children: Zachariah, Nathan, and Adele.

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