Barack Ale

Today I learned that an awful lot of people have convinced themselves that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ. Someone wrote in with a question about this based on an e-mail he had received. To see how widespread this bizarre idea has become, just do a google search on the terms barack lightning anti-christ.

Here’s how it works: Luke 10:18 reads as follows (KJV):

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning [GR astrapE] fall from heaven.

People have noticed that the Hebrew word for lightning can be represented as barak, and thus see the name Barack [IE Obama] as being the Hebrew word for “lightning,” and thus implicate Barack in this passage as standing for the Anti-Christ. I had never heard this before today, but it is a widely held belief.

It is also, of course, completely wrong. Let’s put aside the fact that lightning is being used as a simile here (does all lightning represent Satan?). The name Barack does not mean lightning.

The Hebrew word for lightning, baraq, derives from the Semitic root *BRQ (to flash, gleam). The given name Barack is not Hebrew, but ultimately derives from Arabic, which is also a Semitic language. But the name derives from a different Semitic root, *BRK (to kneel, bless), and means something like “blessing, blessed.” It is related to the Arabic name Mubarak (as in Hosni Mubarak), where the initial m- is a participial formation. The Hebrew equivalent would be the common name Baruch “blessed.” So no, the name Barack doesn’t mean “lightning,” and no, Barack Obama is not the Anti-Christ.

But in explaining this to my querist, I also pointed out that there is a connection between the name Barack and Joseph Smith. Those of you over a certain age will remember that the D&C used to have code names for various church leaders. Joseph was Baurak Ale. This name is Joseph’s representation (using the Sephardic transliteration system JS learned from Joshua Seixas in the Kirtland Hebrew school) of the biblical name Barachel, the father of Elihu in Job 32:2. The name means something like “El doth bless,” “God blesses,” or “Whom God blesses.” And the Baurak in Baurak Ale does derive from the same Semitic root as the name Barack.

So perhaps rather than seeing Barack as the Anti-Christ, we should instead view him as the One Mighty and Strong.

[For an absolutely hilarious attempt to interpret the name Baurak Ale, go to this article and do a search on the name and then read for about three paragraphs.]


  1. So Barack Obama is the reincarnated Joseph Smith. COOL!!

  2. which, ironically, to evangelicals would make him the Anti-Christ.

    Talk about an eternal round!

  3. Daniel Peterson says:

    Oh yeah? Well try to explain yourself out of the fact that “Obama” sounds like “abomination”!

    a committed political conservative who is often embarrassed by certain people on his general side of the ideological fence

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Observent readers will note that the article I link to at the very end of the OP was authored by our commenter no. 3, one Daniel Peterson.

  5. So, is the idea that Baurak Ale was an attempt at Barachiel, the archangel, baseless?

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Barachiel uses the same basic elements; this name means “blessings of God.” I suppose it’s possible JS was trying for that and just muffed it a bit. Joseph’s transliteration is pretty precise (for instance, the -au- in Baurak represents the Hebrew vowel qamets in the Seixas system), and his transliteration is exactly correct for the biblical name Barachel [albeit he separates the elements into two separate words], but it would be a little bit off if he intended Barachiel (not in any way representing the letter yod).

  7. What, then, of the name Barak which appears in Judges? When Obama first became prominent, something about his name rang a faint bell in my memory, and then I remembered Judges 4 and Deborah and Barak and their song of praise for victory in Judges 5.

    Is that name BRQ or BRK?

    The LDS Bible Dictionary shows the meaning of Barak as lightning. Is the name in Judges 4 and 5 the same as the word for lightning?

    (Please do not assume that I put any credence in the Obama=Anti-Christ nonsense. I don’t know any Hebrew, and I’m curious about the roots of the names.)

  8. Totally scooped.

  9. Good grief, we even linked to the same article (DCP’s)

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    Kevin, I don’t understand any of your fancy-shmancy post, but it doesn’t matter, cuz I will not be disabused of my convictions about Obama. My mother taught me to be skeptical of intellectuals in the church. Besides:


    6 syllables, followed by 6 syllables, followed by 6 syllables. That spells 666!!!

    I rest my case.


  11. That is just weird. Makes one wonder at what lengths we go. Although considering some of the stuff about Bush out there this is pretty much going to happen. As it has for every President.

    Sheesh don’t these people read the old Plain Truth magazine? It obviously said the Anti-Christ was the head of the EU. Tony Blair anyone ;)

  12. Reed Russell says:

    One of the “Watchers” in The Book of the Giants was named Baraq’el.

  13. Max Seawright says:


    The 2 / 2 / 3 syllable sequence does bring to mind the .223 Remington cartridge.


  14. C’mon Kev et al. Nostradamus surely has tons of material on precisely this topic. Don’t speak about this stuff until you’re at least familiar with his prophecies of the “Arab” prince who rains down fire on the “new city”, which is obviously New York City.

  15. Kevin:

    In December of last year, while the primary season was just about to start, I did a relatively simple Google search on “antiChrist” with each of the candidates’ names (as well Pres. Bush, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton). I did so, fully expecting Mitt Romney to lead the pack. To my surprise, he was dead last, though John McCain and Barack Obama were barely ahead of him.

    The winner: Mike Huckabee (6x as many hits as Romney). I kid you not. And Fred Thompson was #2. Bill Clinton was #3.

    So, yeah, I’m not surprised that folks out there are trying to associate Obama with the Anti-Christ, but people try to associate anyone in a major position of power — or with the potential of being in power — as being the Anti-Christ. Seems to be a common Evangelical pasttime. ..bruce..

  16. That’s all nice and fun and academic. But I truly worry about what it might make some religious fundamentalist to ACT. Remember Yitzhak Rabin? It was a religious fundamentalist Jew who ended his life, justified by his religious beliefs. When one claims backing based on his or her religious beliefs, there are not many things that person would not be willing to do or justify. Hell, torture is justified by these same people. Dropping nuclear bombs on other people is justified by these same people. What are they NOT willing to do if they feel religiously threatened?

  17. bfwebster — that doesn’t sound like a very effective search for purposes of the conclusions you were looking for. The results might have been that way because Hukabee and his team were the ones making most use of the term anti-Christ.

  18. to make john f.’s point,

    Google results on the following:

    Mitt Romney Christian – 1,140,000 results
    Mike Huckabee Christian – 1,100,000 results
    John McCain Christian – 9,890,000 results
    Barack Obama Christian – 12,900,000 results.

    Looks like Obama is the most Christian and Huckabee the least Christian of the lot. :)

  19. How can any reasonable human being believe that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ? Everyone already knows that role has been filled by Ryan Seacrest.

  20. I did a search for Bush antichrist and I got 666,000 hits (this is on my personalized google, I might add).

    I think that is pretty definitive…

  21. Researcher says:

    Bravo, Kevin!

    (I’m still waiting to see any of these emails and am thinking that I must simply associate with the wrong crowd. [Or the right crowd, as the case may be, but if anyone forwards anything, I’ll point them here.])

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 7 Mark B., the Barak of Judges 5 is spelled with a qoph at the end, i.e. Baraq, and means lightning. Barack is not related etymologically to that Barak. There is always variation in how people transliterate Hebrew letters into the English alphabet, and whereas it is more common today to represent that letter with an English q, it has often been represented in English with a k.

  23. Long before Mr. Obama was elected president, back when we were still waiting to vote in the Primaries, I recieved plenty of emails from my Christian friends with warning emails and scriptures that backed up their claims that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ.
    I heard similar things related to other democratic nominees from Christian conservatives, so honestly it didn’t keep me for voting for him. I tend to fall more on the side of making choices out of love and not fear.

  24. Kevin,

    No emails like this drat. I wonder if the frenzy against Obama will match that against Bush or Clinton

    I liked your Mother in Heaven article. Nice work!

  25. I loathe those emails. It is ludicrous that people believe them. Why oh, why oh, why?

  26. People believe them because not everyone has BCC to set them straight :-)

  27. stapley, i suspect barachiel is an overreach on contextual grounds, as much as I wish it weren’t. blessed of God seems most likely, cribbed from the hebrew school.

  28. Several people whom I love deeply believe, in all sincerity, that Obama is indeed the prophesied Antichrist. These are otherwise socially well-adjusted, successful, funny, smart people. The degree to which our political discourse can bring out the absolute worst and stupidest in us never ceases to astonish me.

  29. Brad,
    Ditto. I am surprised at who believes them. It’s a good exercise in public hysteria and it’s underlying anxieties. I personally have seen what seems to be an escalation in the emails.They started out with suspicion of a Manchurian candidate, moved on to the parallels of Obama to Hitler- his perceived abortion stance emphasized. I heard people saying he was like the anti-Christ (extrapolated from the prior emails), and then the emails came about him being the anti-Christ.
    My question is, what do these people think is actually going to happen, if he is an anti-Christ? How is the world going to change for the worse because of him?

    If I had to do it over, I’d collect all those emails for pseudo-science’s sake. Alas my disdain for them is now too well known for anyone to even mention them to me, let alone forward them.

  30. I can only scratch my head in amazement. You Americans truly have a flair for the exotic. We’d slam our politicans for being “rubbish,” (cf Brown, Gordon), an insult about as grey as a wet November day in Sheffield. The Yanks, on the other hand, hurl abuses with cosmic panache. ANTI-CHRIST!

    I stand in awe.

  31. #17: Actually, John, if you go read my original post over at AIM, you’ll see that I stated the limitations of the search at that time. (Hey, I use Google heavily in my professional life; I know the joys and frustrations of trying to make it cough up just what I’m looking for.)

    On the other hand, it’s still curious why Mike Huckabee’s name and “antiChrist” showed up in six times as many posts as Mitt Romney’s name and “antiChrist”. Even if you were to assume that some of the posts were favoring Huckabee because he would defeat Romney (who could be the anti-Christ), that could only account for at most 1/6 of the Huckabee posts.

    But as to Kevin’s original post: searching now for the exact phrase “X is the anti-Christ” (and, alternately, “X is the antichrist”), shows about 150,000 hits total for Obama. On the other hand, “Romney is the anti-Christ/antiChrist” totals up only about 250 hits. Huckabee gets 17 total. How quickly they forget! ..bruce..

  32. cosmic panache

    going in the band name file.

  33. Kevin, if it’s any consolation, al Qaeda doesn’t much like Barack Hussein Obama either:

  34. Geoff,
    yes, but will that be circulated amongst the right-wing crazy?

  35. I thought this was going to be about the newest release from the “Billy Beer” line. :-)

  36. I’m confused Kevin, are you mocking Daniel Peterson or propping up his article?

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    Dan is a friend of mine. I’m mocking an anti-Mormon’s attempt to define Baurak Ale, which Dan describes in his article. It is genuinely funny stuff.

  38. I’m with Nora. Nuthin’ better than to kick back on a Saturday night with a frosty baurak ale and watch some football.

  39. #30 – We are special, Ronan. Milquetoast, we ain’t.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    On the train coming home I was reading the Chicago Tribune, and on p. 3 there was an article on people claiming Obama is the Anti-Christ. This article didn’t mention the name thing, but cited two evidences people have pointed to:

    1. The day after the election, the Illinois Lottery’s winning pick three numbers were 666. Someone who doesn’t know math or statistics wrongly calculated that the odds against that were like billions to one. But in fact that combination has occurred four times so far this year alone.

    2. Obama is from Chicago, and Chicago includes the zip code 60606 (along with a lot of other ones). Take out the zeroes, and you’ve got 666.

    I take this last one personally, because my office in Chicago is in the 60606 zip code!

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    I just opened my Newsweek, and there was an article there about the 666 thing and Obama as the Anti-Christ, too.

  42. Ok, that’s what I thought, but I couldn’t tell. Ha. I admire Daniel’s sense of humor in a scholarly realm, it’s refreshing.

  43. Barack

    6 syllables, followed by 6 syllables, followed by 6 syllables. That spells 666!!!


    Case rested.

  44. I have a friend whose very old pickup truck has 666 as part of its randomly-assigned license plate number. And, it’s always in the garage, with something else broken. So I think that proves everything (which any of us suspect about . . . well, anything)!

  45. gregorian says:

    You’re wrong. The final Qoph is transliterated according to OHED (Oxford Hebrew English Dictionary) as cK, so BRQ is Barack in English, and BRK is Barak. You’ve been deceived by Satan. See