Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Meaning of Kolob: Insight from Michael Rhodes

(Update: The link to the Rhodes article has been fixed.)

A recent commenter asked about the Semitic meaning of the term "Kolob" in the Book of Abraham. Insight on the that issue comes from an article I strongly recommend by Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus: Twenty Years Later." Brother Rhodes provides an excellent discussion of Facsimile #2 and the amazingly reasonable commentary of Joseph Smith, which in my opinion could not have been fabricated based on scholarly knowledge available in the 1830s, no matter how large Joseph Smith's vast frontier library was.

"Kolob" is said to be a great governing star near to where God is (Abraham 3:3,16) and in the commentary for Figure 1 in Facsimile 2, Joseph Smith said it refers to "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." This interpretation of Figure 1 in the facsimile makes sense. Here is part of what Brother Rhodes has to say on this:

The god is sitting at the center of the hypocephalus, which, as was mentioned above, represents the world.

This seated figure represents god as the creator, either Amon-Re or Khnum. When thus depicted with four heads, this god united within himself the attributes of the gods Re (the sun), Shu (light), Geb (the earth), and Osiris (god of the next world and the resurrection), and represented the primeval creative force.

Joseph Smith says that this is "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." This agrees well with the Egyptian symbolism of god endowed with the primeval creative force seated at the center of the universe. The name Kolob is right at home in this context. The word most likely derives from the common Semitic root QLB, which has the basic meaning of "heart, center, middle" (Arabic [see image below] - qalb "heart, center"; Hebrew [see image below] "middle, midst", [see image below] "to draw near"; Egyptian m-qab "in the midst of"). In fact, qalb forms part of the Arabic names of several of the brightest stars in the sky, including Antares, Regulus, and Canopus.
Here is an image from the PDF file of Rhodes' article showing the Hebrew terms (click to enlarge).

Rhodes has much more to say about the links between Joseph's commentary and the meaning of the facsimile. He provides some of the compelling evidence that the Book of Abraham is more than just a crazy fraud.


Kevin Barney said...

Hi, Jeff,

I agree that the Rhodes article is terrific, and I too highly recommend it. But I disagree with Michael on this particular point. I see Kolob as deriving from the Semitic root *KLB (and not just because those happen to be my initials!), "dog." I see this as an allusion to Sirius, both anciently and today known as the "dog" star, or more technically in astronomical terminology, Alpha Canis Majoris (which means the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, or the "Bigger Dog").

I like this view because:

1. The Semitic root works for Kolob.

2. Sirius is indeed the brightest star in the night sky *from the perspective of earth*.

3. Sirius is *extremely* important in Egyptian astronomy, since it was at its heliacal rising that the Nile began to rise.

There is a difference in perspective here, which can be seen in the dueling essays published on the astronomy of the BoA in Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant. John Gee, William Hamblin and Dan Peterson took the view that the BoA reflects what we would expect from a book from antiquity; that is, an ancient geocentric astronomy. In contrast, Michael Rhodes and Ward Moody took the view that the BoA reflects a modern and scientifically accurate heliocentric astronomy.

I personally prefer the former perspective, and on that perspective Sirius as Kolob makes excellent sense.

Ape Lad said...

Thank you for this great follow up, I appreciate it!

Clark Goble said...

I tend to agree with Kevin and think there's a lot of speculation regarding Siris in the ancient world which fits the allegory in Abr 3.

Stacey Pokorney, the "Party Crasher" said...

I'm confused. What is Kolob? Is it mentioned in the Bible or just in the Book of Mormon?

Anonymous said...

Any article on Kolob should always be accompanied by this photo... it brings it all into perspective.

(Oh, and I read your previous blog about hymns and I gotta say, "If You Could Hie To Kolob" is one of my favs. I had to laugh though at the comment about the missionaries calling it a "deal-breaker."

To contemplate the eternities....well, it hurts more than sudoku. Thanks for the article.

Mike Parker said...

I have to agree with Kevin. After all it was Diane Keaton who pointed out that "'God' spelled backwards is 'dog'."

It makes you think....

Anonymous said...

That first link appears broken. If you remove that trailing period after the "pdf" it will work. The correct link to the paper is here.

ltbugaf said...

Stacey Pokorney, you asked whether Kolob is mentioned (by name) only in the Book of Mormon or in the Bible as well. Neither. It's mentioned in the Pearl of Great Price at Abraham 3:3-4, 9, 16; and at Abraham 5:13. Hope that's helpful.

Ed Goble said...

I disagree with the identification of Sirius as Kolob. The reason for my disagreement is the English parts of the "Egyptian Alphabet" portions of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. While those at BYU seem to not take the Kirtland Egyptian Papers seriously as translations of characters from the Sensen (which is another can of worms altogether), they have not given anyone any convincing argument that the english portion of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers should not be taken seriously. Anyway, here is the quote:

"Flos isis The highest degree of light, because its component parts are light. The governing principle of light Because God has said Let this be the centre for light, and let there be bounds that it may not pass. He hath set a cloud round about in the heavens, and the light of the grand governing of 15 fixed stars centre there - and from there its is drawn by the heavenly bodies according to their portions; according to the decrees that God hath set, as the bounds of the ocean, that it should not pass over as a flood, so God has set the bounds of light lest it pass over and consume the planets."

Clearly, this shows that *all* of the governing planets that are called "great ones" in Abraham chapter 3 are in one central location, and they are obscured from our view by a veil of dust or nebula. This includes Kolob. And therefore, Sirius does not qualify. The best explanation, in my view, is shown in the recent book "the Kolob Theorem" postulating that Kolob and God's throne are found in the central regions of the milky way galaxy (or perhaps the hub of some other galaxy). But either way, a Galactic hub is being described.

Ed Goble

Justin said...

I think that Keven is on to something. If you look Dogon (an African tribe) mythology, they have a lot of insight on Sirius. I think there knowledge has been greatly confused over the Years, but they believe god (Nommos) came from a planet in that system. They also believe, the Nommo was crucified and resurrected and in the future will again visit the Earth.

For more on the Dogon see

Mark Butler said...

The problem about identifying which star is associated with which level of celestial government is that there are many levels and many branches at each, and the headquarters of each level and each branch may be understood to be a type of Kolob in the same way that every temple is a type of the kingdom of heaven.

And we should not forget that the heavens are currently veiled from us. The veil may be compared to a dust cloud, or alternatively a gravometric phenomena (arguably the same thing) that prevents us from seeing the true structure of heaven, certainly from seeing that black holes are the brightest objects in the night sky for example.

Of course if we could see with our spiritual eyes we would probably see much more than we see now, in terms of relative brightness and so on. We know that the face of heaven will be unveiled (cf. D&C 88:95, 109:74) in due time.

Spiritual phenomena (a la Alain Aspect) propagate *much* faster than the speed of light. Einstein was wrong - right on locality, wrong on natural light as the measure of all things. That is why QM and GR do not reconcile. Of course QM non-locality is comparably problematic, at least on a galactic scale.

Gravity is of course a spiritual artifact, a fact which can easily be determined from Facsimile 2. Everything quantum mechanical is also spiritual in nature. Strictly speaking we might say that even classical forces are spiritual as well, in the same way we may say that classical mechanics reduces to quantum mechanics. All things are spiritual unto the Lord.

In any case, the Mayans dated the end of this world to December 21, 2012 which is when the Winter Solstice sun becomes aligned with the galactic center. And the star that we know of (the one we can see) at the galatic center is Saggitarius A*, a very bright and very compact radio source associated with a supermassive black hole we cannot see (with our natural eyes).

Recognizing that the throne of God is not on Kolob, but rather that Kolob is nigh unto the throne of God, I suggest that Saggitarius A* is a more likely (or higher level) seat of celestial government than Sirius.

Ed Goble said...

The problem with Saggitarius A* as Kolob is because the english portion of the Kirtland Egyptian papers also says "Kolob in its motion, which is swifter than the rest of the twelve fixed stars; going before, being first in motion ..." And in the Book of Abraham, we read that its angular or rotational motion on its axis takes 1000 years. Therefore, the only other type of motion that it could be referring to is an orbital motion around some other object. Therefore, Kolob, if in our galaxy, can only be a large star rotating around the galactic center at a high velocity. If that is the case, then the best candidate is what is known as the "Pistol Star", the largest and brightest star in the Galactic Central region. Saggitarius A* is a radio source associated with the supermassive compact object in the center, a black hole whose rotational velocity on its axis is way too swift to validate it as a candidate for Kolob. Only the Pistol Star would fit these criteria.

Anonymous said...

I agree that KOLOB may well come from QBL ( the Qabala )and / or KLB the dog - god ( thus maybe Anubis as well as Canis Major and Sirius )

Here is a star that seems to incorporate all the criteria as well as being in that Dark Rift area of 2012 Dec 21st. There are several stars that can qualify as Klb the dog- in Ophiuchus and as Cepheus the King of Ethiopia which when one thinks about it might well account for the Kings chamber in the Great Pyramid. If one looks at that section of the relieving chamber and the shafts pointing to four stars ( Orion belt stars, Sirius, Kochab and Thuban ) then the Kings chamber is the area of Pegasaus( the square of Initiation and non returners and the roof as the constellation of Cepheus which was known as 'the Dog ' or the Shepherd. At the ling I have used above you can look up all these constellations and their etymologies and myths etc.
a href="http://www.constellationsofwords.com/stars/Antares.html"
KLB would give a gematric value of 52 - same as BN the son or maybe BENONI
The comet Boattini is now visible in the southern skies around Canis Major.

Anonymous said...

sorry I seem to have missed the whole of that url in the post above


Anonymous said...

hmm also forgot to add.. the pistol star is of course in an area of the sky called 'the arches'
A bright open cluster of stars located within 100 light-years of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, that formed about 4 million years ago and is now slowly dispersing. It is one of the most massive open clusters yet discovered, weighing about 10,000 solar masses, and is home to what is believed to one of the brightest stars yet catalogued: the Pistol Star. Because of obscuring dust between us and the galactic center, the Quintuplet is only visible at infrared wavelengths. It is more dispersed than the nearby Arches Cluster.

The etymology of pistol is very interesting when related to the ' revolving symbol...
1387, from L. revolvere "turn, roll back," from re- "back, again" + volvere "to roll" (see vulva). Meaning "travel around a central point" first recorded 1667. Revolver as a type of pistol is from 1835, so called by U.S. inventor Samuel Colt (1814-62).
arches : Mount Zion Utah
Barachiel - Barauk Ale
out of the mouth of God ( opening of the mouth ceremony )

arch (adj.)
1547, "chief, principal," from prefix arch- (from Gk. arkhos "chief;" see archon); used in 12c. archangel, etc., but extended to so many derogatory uses (arch-rogue, arch-knave, etc.) that it acquired a meaning of "roguish, mischievous," since softened to "saucy" (1662). Also found in archwife (c.1386) "A wife of a superior order."
arch (n.)
1297, from O.Fr. arche "arch of a bridge," from L. arcus (see arc). Replaced native bow. Transferred 1590 to anything having this form (eyebrows, etc.). The verb meaning "to curve" is from 1625. Archway is from 1802.
but see


Anonymous said...

As a further ' hint' maybe it has something to do with CALEB who was one of two who were allowed to enter into the promised land ..


Ed Goble said...

After a lot of thought since my last post on this subject, I retract the idea that the pistol star is a good candidate for Kolob. I still believe that Kolob goes around the large compact object in the center of the Galaxy, but at the moment I don't have a candidate star.

Alon from the Galilee said...

Kolob as Sirius is preposterous. Why? Sirius was never known as the dog star in biblical Israel or ancient Egypt.

Yiddish, I feel, is the key to the meaning of kolob.

Kokobim said...


I have created a new discussion group specifically for the theory that Kolob and the Throne of God are in the Galactic Center as well as other related theories about the Book of Abraham and the KEP. Anyone interested can join.

Ed Goble

Squirrel said...

I feel that there is yet another potential origin for the origin of the word Kolob. I see the perspective that Sirius is Kolob, yet is it not possible that the word derives from a two word combination in Hebrew bases, namely Kol=Voice and Ob=Servant? If it is indeed nigh unto the place where God dwells, I pose the theoretical possibility that Kolob could be the "Word" spoken of in John Chapter 1, i.e. Jesus Christ. I'm not an expert on any of this, just some food for thought.

Kokobim said...

Sorry I changed the group that I mentioned in the earlier post to this:


And my book Nail of Heaven that deals with this subject is now on Amazon.com:



Dale Smith said...

if you or anyone would look up during daylight hours you will see KOLOB. It's our closest star and behind the sun on a very large planet sits the throne of the most GOD. As we revolve around the sun so does the planet Kolob. If man knew the exact location of Gods planet, man would know for sure that he is what he is and there would be no need for faith. So you can what you will about my comment

Anonymous said...

How did Smith know about about Kolob if he

never met Jesus or read the plates? Kolob was

spelled wrong or it is Aramaic? the (correct

spelling Kochab)

NASA has found that Orion's nebula is a

interstellar nursery. The Pyramids in south

America, Africa and China are aligned with

Orion's belt Also if you pin out the country

locations they also aligned in the pattern of


Easter island has burial mounds also aliened

with three stars in Orion's belt.

Joseph Smith believed Kolob (correct spelling

Kochab) God dwells within. Also the notches

leading out of the Gaza pyramid aliment when

built pointed out towards Orion and Kochab.?>

Three thousand years ago, this star marked

Earth's Northern Celestial Pole, but shifts in

the planet's position have seen the Pole move

away from Kochab and towards Polaris.

Beta Ursae Minoris is named Kochab, an Arabic

name of unclear origins. It is a K4 orange

giant, with a magnitude of 2.07, 131 light

years away. Kochab is one of two stars that

form the front of the Little Dipper, and are

known as the "Guardians of the Pole.

The wind-shak'd surge, with high and monstrous

Seems to cast water on the burning Bear,
and quench the guards of th' ever fixed pole.
Shakespeare - Othello - Act 2, Scene 1

In 2014 a giant planet six times the size of

Jupiter was confirmed in orbit around . The

planet is large enough to have small

planet/moons of its own, and it's a pretty safe

bet that it does. It's always a special thrill

to be able to look up at a big, bright star

that you know has at least one large, confirmed

planet, and who knows how many smaller planets

and moons, and wonder if there might be some

sort of life up there, growing, evolving, maybe

even looking back at us.

As per article, Extraterrestrial may refer to

any object or being beyond (extra-) the planet

Earth (terrestrial). It is derived from the

Latin words extra ("outside", "outwards") and

terrestris ("earthly", "of or relating to the


A Hopi Orion Correlation? - Jason Colavito