Adieu: The Right Word After All
by Angela M. Crowell
Jacob closes the five chapters of his book with the word "adieu." A question has arisen in the minds of some readers of the Book of Mormon as to why this common French word (adopted by English speakers) was used.
The 1828 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language defines "adieu" as "A farewell, or commendation to the care of God; as an everlasting adieu" (emphasis in original). An understanding of the Hebrew word for "bless" helps to explain the reason "adieu" could be correctly used here.
The Hebrew verb barak means "kneel," or "bless." "Blessing is a most important concept in the 0[ld] T[estament].... Like cursing, it involves a transfer by acts and words" (Bromiley 1985:275). One unique belief of the ancient Near East peoples was that tremendous power resided in the spoken word (Jones 1964:46). This concept is foreign to our Western minds.
Generally "to bless" in the Old Testament means "'to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc."' (Oswalt 1980:132). In Brown, Driver and Briggs' edition of A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament it is stated under additional meanings of barak that it is used for a "greeting in departing, saying adieu to, taking leave of . . (1951:139).