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TitleAlma 11
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsAlma (Book)

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Alma 11

Episode 905: Alma 11:1–4

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 Now these are the names of the different pieces of their gold, and of their silver, according to their value. 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 measure, according to the minds and the circumstances of the people, in every generation, until the reign of the judges, they having been established by king Mosiah.

Comments

Mormon’s insertion begins with an explanation of the wages of the judges. Mormon notes, in verse 4, that this system was not inherited from Jerusalem, but was more specific to the Nephites. Nevertheless, scholars have found that it is similar to the system of weights and measures that was used in Egypt.

Mormon introduced this insertion by noting that “the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ” (Alma 10:32). These three verses describe the nature of their employ. The most important part of the nature of their employ is that they were to receive wages according to time, not according to the crime, nor the ability of the defendant to pay. The intent is to separate their wages from the temptation to make money from their position as judges or by the nature of their judgments.

There is nothing in this insertion that is making a judgement on the people of Ammonihah. This is simply an explanation of how the various weights and measures work together.

Episode 906: Alma 11:5–19

5 Now the reckoning is thus—a senine of gold, a seon of gold, a shum of gold, and a limnah of gold.

6 A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver.

7 A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain.

8 Now the amount of a seon of gold was twice the value of a senine.

9 And a shum of gold was twice the value of a seon.

10 And a limnah of gold was the value of them all.

11 And an amnor of silver was as great as two senums.

12 And an ezrom of silver was as great as four senums.

13 And an onti was as great as them all.

14 Now this is the value of the lesser numbers of their reckoning—

15 A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley.

16 And a shiblum is a half of a shiblon.

17 And a leah is the half of a shiblum.

18 Now this is their number, according to their reckoning.

19 Now an antion of gold is equal to three shiblons.

Comments

Although it is interesting to work out the interrelationships among these values, Mormon does not include them so that his readers can make change in a Nephite market. He does provide more information that we might need, but there are some of the names of the measures that are important. First, we find that there is an “ezrom” of silver. That is likely to have been the root for Ze-ezrom. It has been suggested that the name might simply be a designation of “silver guy.”

We also learn that one term for a measurement of gold is an “antion.” We will see that root in another lawyer, “gold guy” Antionah in Ammonihah. We will also see it as the root of Antionum, the city of the Zoramites. The probability that the name of the Zoramite city is to be seen as a metonym comes from the disparity between the name of the city and the people, since Mormon has already told us that a city and its people were named for their founder (Alma 8:7). Thus, the city and the people should be the same. When we understand that the Zoramites are also lovers of sumptuous goods, we understand why Mormon used that particular name for them.

In all of these cases, we would not understand the underlying implications of the names, if we didn’t have this list. That becomes the most probable reason that Mormon entered it, although it does help to understand that an “onti” is the largest measure and, therefore, underscores the nature of the bribe that will be offered.

As a final cultural note, the fact that the name for the measure is different based upon what is being measured confirms that we are dealing with a system of weights and measures, rather than a system based on any agreed upon value. Modern monetary systems are based on an accepted common unit of value, therefore, there are names for divisions, but not based on what is being valued. The need for the names tells us that all of these units were valued and could be used in exchange.

Episode 907: Alma 11:20

20 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.

Comments

The phrase, “it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ” is the repetitive resumption from Alma 10:32 which said: “the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.” This repetition of the departure phrase confirms that the inserted material is finished, and Mormon is back to his planned text.

The rest of the verse resets the conditions of antagonism that had been laid out prior to the introduction of Zeezrom, who is the pivotal figure in the questioning session that begins in the next verse.

Episode 908: Alma 11:21–23

21 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?

22 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.

23 Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations?

Comments

The dialogue between Zeezrom and Amulek appears to begin quite politely. However, Zeezrom quickly moves to a financial gambit, offering him six onties of silver. We learn in verse 13 above that an onti was the largest measure of silver. This was a bribe of not one, but six of the largest measures. The measurements list doesn’t allow us to understand precisely the amount of the bribe, but we do know that a day’s wage for a judge was a senum of silver (see verse 3). The next two values double the previous one. The last two don’t have a value, but assuming that they also doubled the previous designation, the bribe would have been equal to sixteen days of pay for a judge, presumably one of the higher compensated positions.

Amulek does not accept it, and berates Zeezrom for offering it? But why was that the original offer? Alma and Amulek were preaching repentance, and Zeezrom offered the bribe as a fast way to end the conflict. Had Amulek accepted, Zeezrom could say that they were not sincere and, therefore, need not be heeded. With the refusal, he had to move to the questions.

Episode 909: Alma 11:24–25

24 Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him.

25 And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me—Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee—when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward.

Comments

Amulek continues to berate Zeezrom for the bribe. He asks a rhetorical question about whether Zeezrom believes in God. Amulek isn’t looking for a response, because he answers the question for Zeezrom. Zeezrom knows that there is a God, but he has made riches his real God.

Amulek points out that Zeezrom expected that Amulek would respond to the offer of more riches, because (at least by implication) Zeezrom would have. We remember that Amulek had introduced himself as one who had acquired many riches (see Alma 10:4). Amulek’s conversion was recent, and Zeezrom perhaps felt he was not so fully converted as to refuse what had been a previous desire for riches.

Episode 910: Alma 11:26–33

26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?

27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

29 And he answered, No.

30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

31 And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me.

32 And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?

33 And he said unto him, Yea.

Comments

The beginning exchange starts with the theme that Amulek had brought up. Zeezrom asks if Amulek believes that there is “a true and living God.” Amulek does. The next question is important because it leads to the heart of Nephite theology. Zeezrom asks if there is more than one God. The answer is no. That will become significant because in verse 32 Zeezrom asks if the one who shall come is the Son of God. That is important because it is part of Nephite teaching that God himself will come down. Thus, Zeezrom is setting up a possible contradiction between the concept of one God, which any believer in the brass plates religion would profess, and the Nephite emphasis on the one who is to come.

Episode 911: Alma 11:34–35

34 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.

35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.

Comments

The next logical trap Zeezrom sets is to ask if this coming atoning Messiah will save the people in their sins. This is important because all teaching about the coming Messiah is about his atoning mission. The Messiah will come to save humanity. The difference is whether humankind is saved in their sins or from their sins. Amulek catches the difference and says; “no.” He is not saying that the Messiah will not redeem. It is the nature of redemption that will be the issue.

Zeezrom pounces on the negative response, and declares that Amulek is in contradiction to the Nephite teaching, and that he is proclaiming some divine authority to do so, because he had said that he knew these things through communication with an angel (see verse 31 above).

Episode 912: Alma 11:36–37

36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.

37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

Comments

Amulek clarifies the problem. He is not saying that the Messiah will not save. He will. The difference is that the Messiah can save only upon principles of repentance. The unrepentant cannot be saved. The argument Amulek offers is that “no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Amulek uses the phrase apparently believing that it is accepted and understood.

We do see a similar phrase in 1 Nephi 10:21 which says that “no unclean thing can dwell with God.” This phrasing does not appear in the Bible, but it is related to the concepts of clean and unclean under the law of Moses. The Nephite phrasing might be derived from Isaiah 52:10–11: “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Although Isaiah doesn’t mention entering God’s presence directly, the vessels of the Lord are in the temple, and, therefore, symbolically in the presence of God.

Episode 913: Alma 11:38–39

38 Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?

39 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;

Comments

Zeezrom springs the trap he had laid with the question about there being one God. He asks if the Son of God is the very Eternal Father. The two different titles certainly make it seem that there are two Gods. However, when Amulek responds, he simply affirms that they are the same, and then moves to the more important issue, which is that the very Eternal Father will come to earth to redeem his people.

Amulek’s simple answer makes it more difficult for modern readers who are used to a distinction between the Father and the Son, each as a member of the Godhead. That was not the Nephite understanding, however. It really was the Father, or Jehovah, who came to earth. For Amulek, Son of God and Eternal Father were just two names for the same being, but each name was appropriate for the location of that being. While in heaven, Jehovah is the Eternal Father. Coming to Earth, he is called Son of God.

This is not a metaphysical oneness, but rather the Nephite belief that it was that very God who came to earth. It is Jehovah with different titles in different realms. An explanation for this is given in the comments on 3 Nephi 1:14.

Episode 914: Alma 11:40–41

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

41 Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

Comments

As Amulek explains the mission of the Messiah, he returns to explaining why the Messiah cannot save people in their sins. Redemption will come to those who believe on his name and keep his commandments. Those who repent and believe are saved.

Those who do not, will not be saved. For them, it will be just as though “there had been no redemption made.” As Amulek finishes describing the conditional nature of redemption from sin, he mentions that there is a difference between redemption from sin and redemption from death. The Atonement will serve both functions, but redemption from death will come to all. Nevertheless, all who will be freed from the bands of death will still need to stand before God, their final judge.

Episode 915: Alma 11:42–44

42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Comments

Having introduced the topic of redemption from death, Amulek explains what that means. Verse 42 speaks of temporal death, because the universal redemption of humankind applies only to temporal death. The nature of redemption will be that the spirit and body will rise again, “reunited again in its perfect form.”

Nevertheless, while all will receive that restoration of body and spirit, it will come with a “bright recollection of all our guilt.” That is Amulek’s quick reminder that just because temporal death is defeated through the restoration of body to spirit, it is not the only type of restoration needed. The restored body and spirit will still need to stand before God to be judged of the things we have chosen to do, including our repentance and change, to more closely follow the covenants and laws of God.

Episode 916: Alma 11:45–46

45 Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.

46 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.

Comments

As Amulek finishes his discussion of the resurrection, Zeezrom began to tremble. This indicated that he was spiritually affected by Amulek’s discourse. It was certainly not simply the words, but the spirit that accompanied those words, that caused Zeezrom’s reaction.

Mormon certainly wrote the very last sentence, and probably the last two, or all, of verse 46. The next chapter begins with Alma speaking after noticing Zeerom’s astonishment. That would appear to be an event in close proximity to the ending of Amulek’s discourse. Thus, when Mormon indicates that he could have written more, we are to understand that Amulek continued to speak, but this was all that Mormon decided to include.

This ends the chapter in the 1830 edition. The difference between copied material from Amulek and the next chapter’s copied material from Alma likely influenced Mormon’s decision to create this chapter division.

Scripture Reference

Alma 11:1-46