The Book of Abraham tells how Abraham’s kinsfolk worshipped false gods. One of these was “the god of Elkenah” (Abr. 1:6). When Abraham preached against the worship of this god, he said that his kinsfolk “hearkened not unto [his] voice, but endeavored to take away [his] life by the hand of the priest of Elkenah” (v. 7). Not only did the priest try to take Abraham’s life, but “this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, . . . because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar” (v. 11). Fortunately, the angel of the Lord delivered Abraham out of the priest’s hands before he could be sacrificed (vv. 15–20; Facsimile 1).
What do we know about the ancient god Elkenah? No deity of that name is mentioned in the King James Bible,1 but in the last century archaeologists have unearthed evidence of his worship. Elkenah is very likely the shortened form of the name of the Canaanite god ʾel-qoneh-ha-ʾareṣ, meaning “God who created the earth” (or “God, creator of the earth”).2
Among the ancient Hittites living in Asia Minor he was known as Elkunirsha.3
Originally a Canaanite deity, his worship spread to the Hittite capital of Hattusha in northern Turkey, to Karatepe near the border of modern Turkey and Syria, to Palmyra in inland Syria, to Jerusalem, and to Leptis Magna in Libya. All told, Elkunirsha was worshipped for more than 1,500 years—from the time of Abraham to the time of Christ.4
We know something about Elkunirsha (Elkenah) from a Canaanite myth that was preserved by the Hittites.5 Unfortunately, the clay tablets containing this myth are broken, so we do not have all the story. One scholar summarized the story as follows: “Ašertu, the wife of Elkunirša, attempts to seduce Ba’al [the storm god]. The Storm-god reveals everything to her husband and insults her on his inspiration. Thirsting for revenge, Ašertu regains the favor of her husband who then lets her do whatever she likes with Ba’al. The goddess Anat now comes on the scene. Having overheard the conversation between Elkunirša and Ašertu, she warns Ba’al.”6
Then the text unfortunately breaks off. What the evidence appears to indicate, however, is that, along with the other deities in the text,7 the god Elkenah mentioned in the Book of Abraham has very likely been identified in the ancient world.
Barney, Kevin. “On Elkenah as Canaanite El.” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 19, no. 1 (2010): 22–35.
Gee, John. “Four Idolatrous Gods in the Book of Abraham.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 133–52.
Pike, Dana M. “Idolatrous Gods Referenced in Abraham 1.” In Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion, edited by Dennis L. Largey, 164. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017.