- How Long Did It Take to Translate the Book of Mormon?
- The Original Book of Mormon Transcript
- Colophons in the Book of Mormon
- Two Figurines From the Belleza and Sanchez Collection
- Textual Consistency
- Lehi's Council Vision and the Mysteries of God
- The Book of Mormon and the Heavenly Book Motif
- Old World Languages in the New World
- Columbus: By Faith or Reason?
- The Plain and Precious Parts
- Nephi's Bows and Arrows
- Lodestone and the Liahona
- Lehi's Trail and Nahom Revisited
- Winds and Currents: A Look at Nephi's Ocean Crossing
- Did Lehi Land in Chile?
- Statutes, Judgments, Ordinances, and Commandments
- Kingship and Temple in 2 Nephi 5-10
- Jacob's Ten Commandments
- What Did Charles Anthon Really Say?
- Textual Criticism of the Book of Mormon
- Parallelism, Merismus, and Difrasismo
- View of the Hebrews: "An Unparallel"
- No, Sir, That's Not History!
- Seven Tribes: An Aspect of Lehi's Legacy
- Antenantiosis in the Book of Mormon
- Once More: The Horse
- Lost Arts
- What Was a "Mosiah"?
- Ancient Europeans in America?
- "Latest Discoveries"
- The Ideology of Kingship in Mosiah 1-6
- "This Day"
- Benjamin's Speech: A Classic Ancient Farewell Address
- The Coronation of Kings
- "O Man, Remember, and Perish Not" (Mosiah 4:30)
- Barley in Ancient America
- Decorative Iron in Early Israel
- Abinadi and Pentecost
- Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av
- New Information about Mulek, Son of the King
- Four Quarters
- Three Accounts of Alma's Conversion
- Joseph Smith: "Author and Proprietor"
- The Law of Mosiah
- Possible "Silk" and "Linen" in the Book of Mormon
- Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon
- Antithetical Parallelism in the Book of Mormon
- The Land of Jerusalem: The Place of Jesus' Birth
- The Nephite Calendar in Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman
- The Destruction of Ammonihah and the Law of Apostate Cities
- Ammon and Cutting Off the Arms of Enemies
- Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language
- "A Day and a Half's Journey for a Nephite"
- Exemption from Military Duty
- Synagogues in the Book of Mormon
- The Sons of the Passover
- Conference on Warfare in the Book of Mormon
- "Holy War" in the Book of Mormon and the Ancient Near East
- Symbolic Action as Prophetic Curse
- New Year's Celebrations
- Concrete Evidence for the Book of Mormon
- Mesoamericans in Pre-Spanish South America
- Mesoamericans in Pre-Columbian North America
- Wordprints and the Book of Mormon
- "Secret Combinations"
- Chiasmus in Helaman 6:7-13
- Chiasmus in Mesoamerican Texts
- Nephi's Garden and Chief Market
- Was Helaman 7-8 An Allegorical Funeral Sermon?
- The Case of an Unobserved Murder
- Mormon's Agenda
- Thieves and Robbers
- The Execution of Zemnarihah
- The Sermon at the Temple
- The Gospel as Taught by Nephite Prophets
- Getting Things Strai[gh]t
- Prophecy Among the Maya
- The Survivor and the Will to Bear Witness
- Mormon and Moroni as Authors and Abridgers
- Number 24
- The "Golden" Plates
- Hebrew and Uto-Aztecan: Possible Linguistic Connections
- Words and Phrases
- Our Nephite Sacrament Prayers
- Climactic Forms in the Book of Mormon
Ammon and Cutting Off the Arms of Enemies
Chapter 51 Ammon and Cutting Off the Arms of Enemies
Alma 17:39 “Bearing the arms which had been smitten off . . . of those who sought to slay him; and they were carried in unto the king for a testimony of the things which they had done.”
The practice of cutting off the arms or other body parts of enemies, specifically as a testimony of the conquest of victims, is attested in the ancient Near East.1 On the extreme left of band 4 on the decorated Gates of Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.), Assyrian troops are shown cutting off the heads, feet, and hands of vanquished enemies. “In other reliefs, the artists of the Assyrian kings depict the military scribes recording the number of enemy dead in accordance with the number of severed heads, hands and feet which Assyrian soldiers hold up before them.”2 This practice seems related to that of the astounded servants of King Lamoni, who took the arms that had been cut off by Ammon into the king as “a testimony” of what Ammon had done.
There may be several reasons behind this widespread phenomenon in the ancient world, ranging throughout the Near East and Egypt:
First, there was a need to obtain an accurate count of the dead. Military officers tended to exaggerate their conquests for self-aggrandizement and political gain; thus, a precise statistic was necessary to avoid misrepresentation. Similarly, Ammon (or his companions) was scrupulous to present precise evidence, so that no one could be accused of overstating his feat.
Second, there was a need for mercenary soldiers to be paid, and they were often rewarded based on the number of victims they had killed. Ammon, of course, had no interest in receiving compensation for his loyal service to King Lamoni, but the fact that the evidence was presented to the king, which could have entitled him to payment, heightens all the more the fact that Ammon sought no recognition or reward.
Other reasons for the practice may have included the need to identify the dead; thus, body parts were usually selected that were somehow unique to the victims. Taking an arm may also have had symbolic significance in punishing thieves who had misappropriated property by hand. Such became a common punishment for thieves in the Moslem world, although Jewish jurisprudence came to avoid any bodily mutilation.
Finally, an often-heard threat in the Near East today is that of vowing to cut down any arms raised against a person. Similarly, “as many of their arms as were lifted against” Ammon were smitten off (Alma 17:28).
Based on research by John M. Lundquist and John W. Welch, from the F.A.R.M.S. newsletters, October 1983 and Fall 1986.