A Brief Overview of the Hebrew and Nephite Monetary System

The next part is going to be difficult. The Nephite monetary system is set forth. This is where I wish I had the Book of Mormon Institute manual with me. I think it has these all laid out. Before I jump into that , I want to talk about the note that is put in about their money. I’ll just copy it in from 11:4

“And the names are given by the Nephites, for they did not reckon after the manner of the Jews who were at Jerusalem; neither did they measure after the manner of the jews; but they altered their reckoning and their measures, according to the minds and circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by King Mosiah.”

This is a cool quote. The measurements and money changed every generation. How confusing would that be? Every king probably altered it. Until King Mosiah comes and standardizes it all. This just adds to my belief that what Mosiah did was huge!

Hebrew Monetary System

Look at cross reference 4. It takes you to the Bible Dictionary under, “Money.” I think this section will add significance as we contrast it with what the Nephites are using in their society. I’ll copy in what it says.

“The Hebrews appear to have ben ignorant of coinage until the Persian period. Before that time, gold and silver were used as a medium of exchange. But payments were made by weight. Hence the temptation arose to use false weights and fake balances. Before the exile, sums of money were usually reckoned in shekels or talents. By a shekel, we must always understand a shekel of silver, unless it is expressly stated to be of gold. In the Maccabean period, the weight of a shekel was 218 grains (15.126 grams) in earlier times it may have been lighter…Simon Maccabaeus coined silver shekels and half-shekels, as well as bronze money. The shekel had on one side the figure of a cup, with the inscription, “shekel of Israel,” and on the other, a branch with three buds, and the words, “Jerusalem the Holy.”

That is the first part. The second part comes from the Old Testament Manual, part 1. I’ll copy in what it says about coinage there.

“Before the invention of coinage, precious metals were used as part of the barter system. Many became popular during the 7th century B.C. But never completely replaced the old system. From earlier times, gold, silver, and copper had been popular exchange items. Gradually, a system of standardization developed. The metals were weighted out and quality checked. Some of the names of metal weights became the name of coins, which, at first were roughly circular and impressed with a seal. Their weight seldom exceeded that of silver or gold shekels.

Silver Coins

  • Gerah–>20 gerah= 1 shekel
  • Shekel–>3,000 shekels= 1 talent

Gold Coins

  • Gerah–>20gerahs= 1 Shekel
  • Shekel–>3,000 shekels = 1 talent

A talent of Gold was just over one-half the size of a talent of silver, but a talent of gold had the same weight as a talent of silver. “

Now to try and bring it all together into a coherent thought. Before 600BC-400BC (if my judgment is correct from the Old Testament timeline in the student manual)  coins developed. Lehi lived around this time. he was probably using coins. Both gold and silver coins were sued as shown above. The reason I threw in stuff about Simon Maccabaeus and the coins he made is because the time period I’m reading about in the Book of Mormon is during that time and it is cool to see what’s going in different parts of the world at the same time.

Nephite Coinage

Now that we know a little about the Hebrew coinage, let’s move on to the Nephite system. The Nephites did not use the Hebrew system. Like I wrote earlier and like the scripture says, the system changed a lot, up until King Mosiah standardized it. Let’s take a look.

Gold Coins

  • Senine
  • Seon = 2x value of Senine
  • Shum = 2x value of Seon
  • Limnah = Senine+Seon+Shum

Silver Coins

  • Senum = Senine gold = measure of barley or any kind of grain
  • Amnor = 2x value of Senum
  • Ezrom = 2x value of Amnor
  • Onti = Senum+Amnor+Ezrom

Lesser reckonings (silver and gold)

  • Shiblon = 1/2 Senum or half measure of barley
  • Shiblum = Shiblon
  • Leah = 1/2 Shiblum
  • Antion (gold) = 3 Shiblons (of silver) = 1.5 Senums

It is interesting to me that the gold and silver coins have the same value. I don’t know if they were doing it off weight or value. Also, I forgot to say, I don’t know if they were suing coins or not. I’d like to think so since it was being used in the part of the world where they came from. I like how their system is pretty uniform and easy to understand.

The Lawyers Sought to Get Gain

Verse 20 is interesting. The lawyers’ sole purpose was to get gain, and they received wages according to their employ, they stirred up the people to riotings, wickedness and all manner of disturbances. The lawyers remind me of Sherlock Holmes’ archnemesis, Professor Moriarty.

In the movie Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, Professor Moriarty is planning on starting a World War. Where he owns the guns and the bandaids. If you control both sides of the equation, you can manipulate it however you want to make money any way. that’s what the lawyers were doing. They were the plague and the cure. They would stir people up and then offer themselves as the solution. People became so caught up in this vicious cycle of extortion that no one thought to stop and ask why the lawyers were always the common denominator. I think the lawyers must have had a pretty good grip on the people of Ammonihah. It is no easy to get people to riot, cause disturbances or do all manner of wickedness. My thought is they must have been at it a long time. You think of the skill set of a lawyer. Convincing, passionate public speaker, quick minded. That probably appealed to a lot of people.

The Tipping Point Approaches

Thinking back to what the angel told Alma about how there were people calculating the destruction of their freedom. The situation in Ammonihah must have been getting pretty dire. Perhaps the tipping point was approaching in which the lawyers were planning on stirring up the people to do something that would collapse society. Then Alma and Amulek showed up. They’ve begun to put a wrinkle in their plan. I wonder how many missionaries have been the stopping force of many bad things coming to pass, whether they knew it or not? You never know how much good you do as a missionary.


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