Taxed With a Tax?

Taxes, the bane of the common people and the key to wealth and power for the ruling class, are mentioned in the Book of Mormon with puzzling language that most editors would strike out instantly. Mosiah 7:15 gives the lament of a people in bondage who were “taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne.” The word “taxed” occurs in the KJV Bible four times, but not the redundant “taxed with a tax” concept. A search on Google Books finds no books prior to 1830 with that phrase. But it does look like a plausible Hebraism, reflecting a valid Hebrew expression. From “Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon” by Donald W. Parry in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, we read the following:

Cognate Accusative

The cognate accusative is a direct object noun that shares the same root as the preceding verb, as in Joseph “dreamed a dream” (Genesis 37:5) instead of the more customary English rendering “Joseph had a dream.” The Hebrew Bible contains numerous ex-amples of the cognate accusative (e.g., Genesis 1:11; 9:14; Numbers 11:4; Psalm 14:5; 144:6; Isaiah 35:2; Joel 3:1), although literal representations of this form is generally not used in translation.

The Book of Mormon contains many instances of the cognate accusative, including “I will curse them even with a sore curse” (1 Nephi 2:23; see 2 Nephi 1:22; Jacob 3:3), “Behold I have dreamed a dream” (1 Nephi 3:2; 8:2), “yoketh them with a yoke” (1 Nephi 13:5), “I will work a great and a marvelous work” (1 Nephi 14:7), “build buildings” (2 Nephi 5:15; Mosiah 23:5), “this was the desire which I desired of him” (Enos 1:13), “succor those that stand in need of your succor” (Mosiah 4:16), “taxed with a tax” (Mosiah 7:15), “work all manner of fine work” (Mosiah 11:10; Ether 10:23), “judge righteous judgments” (Mosiah 29:29, 43), “sing the song” (Alma 5:26), and “fear exceedingly, with fear” (Alma 18:5).

Some of these expressions are related to ones found in the Bible. Some related phrases in the Bible such as “shouted with a loud (or great) shout” were used in other texts that in theory could have influenced Joseph Smith. So sure, it’s possible for one to get some of this kind of language from the Bible. But taxed with a tax and some of the other Book of Mormon phrases showing cognate accusative patterns just seem so strange to me. I’m glad to know that they make sense as Hebraic expressions, and am grateful that some of this awkward English was preserved in our text.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

1 thought on “Taxed With a Tax?

  1. It DOES sound like a Hebraism. To me, it conjures images of the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, and it's song Matchmaker, Matchmaker.

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