09 March 2014

Alma 11: How much is a Senine of gold worth?

The Law of Mosiah established a basic legal system to deal with disputes (mostly financial disputes from the sound of it). A plaintiff could bring a case to the Judges, and then the accused person would be brought to the courtroom for a trial. Pretty basic stuff.
Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or be cast out from among the people as a thief and a robber. 11.2
More importantly, though, was how the Judges were compensated. They were paid one "Senine"of gold per day that they spent in court trying cases.
Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged. 11.1 
And the judge received for his wages according to his time -- a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given. 11.3
You might be asking yourself: "Is that a fair amount? How much is a senine, really?" Good question. Luckily Joseph Smith has an answer for us.

A Senine of gold = a Senum of silver = A measure of barley (or any other grain)
A seon of gold = 2 senines of gold
A shum of gold = 2 seons of gold
A limnah of gold = the value of them all*

*Most people interpret this as a limnah being worth 1 senine + 1 seon + one shum, or 7 senines.

(Also, it's worth noting that a person could become rich very quickly speculating on the Nephite commodities market, since all crop prices were pegged to their coinage.)

And for silver they had names, too!

An amnor of silver = 2 senums
An ezrom of silver = 2 ammors
An Onti of silver = the value of them all.

And for smaller amounts they had awesome, made-up sounding names, too:

A shiblon of silver = 1/2 senum
A shiblum of silver = 1/2 shiblom
A leah of silver = 1/2 shiblum

Also, just in case we needed a unit for gold that was equal to 1.5 senines, they invented the antion of gold, which was worth 3 shibloms of silver (1.5 senums, which are equal to 1.5 senines of gold). I wish we had a 1.5 dollar bill!

Okay, good. So how much were the Judges paid, and was it a fair amount?

For an honest day's work, a Judge could be paid:

A.) 1 senine of gold
B.) 1 senum of silver
C.) 1 measure of barley
D.) 1 measure of any other grain
E.) 1/2 amnor of silver
F.) 1/4 ezrom of silver
G.) 1/7 onti of silver
H.) 2 shiblons of silver
I.) 4 shiblums of silver
J.) 8 leahs of silver
K.) 2/3 antion of gold
L.) 1/2 seon of gold
M.) 1/4 shum of gold
N.) 1/7 leah of gold

So they had plenty of options. But we still don't really have a good idea of how much these coins were worth, unless we figure out how much a "measure of barley" is. Some people have claimed that a "measure" is as much as 6 bushels. If so, then a Judge was being paid quite well for his day of work.

I suppose they could also have paid the judges with change, like 1/8 ezrom of silver and a half measure of barley, but that would have been rude with all of the other options. (None of these coins have ever been found, by the way.)

But on with the story.

You see, the judges were greedy people, and they convinced the people to file frivolous lawsuits, because they wanted more work.
Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them; therefore they did stir up the people against Alma and Amulek. 11.20
Remember Zeezrom from the last chapter? He was the clever lawyer that was out to get Alma and Amulek. Zeezrom asked Amulek if he could ask him a few questions. Amulek agreed, and Zeezrom tried to bribe him to deny the existence of God. He offered him six onties of silver!
And this Zeezrom began to question Amulek, saying: Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you? Now Zeezrom was a man who was expert in the devices of the devil, that he might destroy that which was good; therefore, he said unto Amulek: Will ye answer the questions which I shall put unto you? 11.21 
And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being. 11.22
Amulek didn't take him up on his kind offer. Zeezrom continued to question Amulek about God, and he continued to answer him. Then he explained how everyone is going to resurrected to be judged by God.
Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations? 11.23
And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? 11.26 
And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. 11.27 
Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things? 11.30 
And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me. 11.31
And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word. 11.34
Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? 11.38
And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last; 11.39
After this little speech, everyone was astonished, and Zeezrom trembled. And that's the end of the chapter, or at least all that he bothered to write down.
Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written. 11.46


Stephen said...

Hahahaha! There's a fellow who could *really* have used the Metric System.
Steve Weeks

Stephen said...

How the heck are you going to tithe using units like those??
Steve Weeks

Philip Wells said...

Being the honest person I am, I would always just tithe a "measure" of grain for every 10 Senines I earned. At the end of they month the church would just get a big pile of grain.

Maybe I'd even throw in a little extra for good measure.

Nathan said...

Does this have anything to do with why Glenn Beck is so obsessed with gold coins?

Don McAllister said...

So in today's world how much would 6 onties of silver be worth?
If a top judge earned $365,000 per year = $1000 per day = 1 senum of silver.
1 onti = 7 senum of silver = $7,000
6 onti = 42 senum = $42,000

Your thoughts?