Harrowing up of Souls
Posted by robf on August 1, 2011
The Book of Mormon uses the term harrow or harrowing 10 times. Harrowing is the agricultural practice of dragging a series of spikes or disks over a field to either smooth or tear up the surface. The practice is mentioned three times in the Old Testament, but only the Book of Mormon mentions the harrowing up of souls or minds. Where does this phrase come from?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, use of the term harrowing to refer to lacerating or wounding the feelings; to vex, pain, or distress greatly (rarely with up) apparently dates in English to the early 1600s, and is first attributed to Shakespeare (1603) Hamlet i. v. 16,
“I would a tale unfold, whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soule.”
So rather than seeing mention of harrowing in the Book of Mormon as referring to Nephite agricultural practices, perhaps it is best to see these verses in the Book of Mormon as an English rendering of some unknown Nephite term that refers to lacerating or tearing up of the mind or emotions.
BTW, I discovered this Shakespearean reference while researching this term as part of the Alma 14 project on the Feast Upon the Word wiki, so here’s another plug for joining the efforts there to jointly explore the scriptures in more depth and share whatever insights your study may bring up.
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