From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Wright, H. Curtis
Mulek, a Book of Mormon character, son of Zedekiah, escaped the sack of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) and went with others to a place in the Western Hemisphere that they called the land of Mulek (Hel. 6:10). Later a region was named for Zarahemla, a descendant of Mulek (Mosiah 25:2). These people were eventually discovered by Nephite refugees from lamanite predations in the south. Mulek is important because he established one of the Book of Mormon Peoples and because Bible students have assumed that Nebuchadnezzar executed all of Zedekiah's sons, an observation unsupported by ancient evidence and refuted by the Book of Mormon account of Mulek's survival.
According to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and "Mulekites" formed a coalition, making Mosiah 2 king over both groups. The Nephites discovered in Mulek's descendants an additional witness concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. The Mulekites were elated to have access to Nephite records, since their own language and traditions had been distorted in the absence of historical documents. The Mulekites lived thenceforth among the Nephites, enjoying separate-but-equal status and ultimately outnumbering the descendants of Nephi (Mosiah 25:1-4, 13).
Ancient Near Eastern sources affirm that during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, Mulek's father, Zedekiah, who was deserted by all who escaped, was captured with members of his family and a few courtiers. Nebuchadnezzar slew Zedekiah's sons and courtiers, put his eyes out, and deported him to Babylon (Josephus, Antiquities, 10.8.2). But his daughters, and presumably his wives, stayed at Mizpah until Gedeliah, a former minister with Babylonizing tendencies in Zedekiah's cabinet, was murdered by Ishmael, who then tried to deport the Mizpah colony. When pursued, Ishmael abandoned his captives and fled with eight men to Ammon. The people of Mizpah, including Zedekiah's women, headed for Egypt, fearful of Chaldean reprisals (2 Kgs. 25; Jer. 41-43).
Mulek might have been away when the city fell; perhaps he eluded his captors at Jericho; the women could have hidden him (as Jehoshiba hid her nephew Joash of the royal line earlier [see 2 Kgs. 11:2-4]); he may even have been unborn, although he probably avoided captivity some other way. But nothing in the Bible or other known sources precludes the possibility of his escape from Jerusalem.
Concerning Mulek's existence, the Bible offers important evidence. Mulek is a nickname derived from melek (Hebrew, king), a diminutive term of endearment meaning "little king." Its longer form occurs in the Bible as Malkiyahu (in English, Malchiah), meaning "Jehovah is king." Malchiah is identified as "the son of Hammelech" in Jeremiah 38:6. But Hammelech is a translator's error, since ben-hammelek means "son of the king" and is not a proper name-a fact confirmed by the Septuagint (LXX Jer. 45:6). A fictive paternity thus obscures the lineage of Malchiah as the actual son of Zedekiah. It is also known that names ending in -yahu (in English, -iah ) were common during the late First Temple period, that Zedekiah indeed had a son named Malkiyahu (Aharoni, p. 22), and that the familial forms of yahu -names were shorter than their "full" forms. The study of a seal owned by Jeremiah's scribe shows that his full name was Berekyahu (in English, Berechiah), although the biblical text uses only the shorter Baruch (Avigad). This is consistent with viewing the hypocoristic Mulek as the diminutive of Malkiyahu, since a is often assimilated to o or u in the vocalic structure of most Semitic languages. It is therefore possible that the Mulek of the Book of Mormon is "Malchiah, son of the king" mentioned in Jeremiah 38:6.
Aharoni, Yohanan. "Three Hebrew Ostraca from Arad." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 197 (Feb. 1970):16-42.
Avigad, Nahman. "Jerahmeel & Baruch." Biblical Archeologist 42:2 (Spring 1979):114-18.
"New Information About Mulek, Son of the King." F.A.R.M.S. Update. Provo, Utah, 1984.
Rainey, Anson. "The Prince and the Pauper." Ugarit-Forschungen 7 (1975):427-32.
H. CURTIS WRIGHT