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A Lucrative Pun on Zeezrom (Alma 10-11)

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 23:
Jesus Christ Will Come to Redeem His People (Alma 8-12)

 

 

Transcript

In Alma 10-11, Alma and Amulek get themselves in a dangerous crowd, filled with, among other threatening persons, lawyers. One of these characters, Zeezrom, was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma (Alma 10:31), and also appears to have been the subject of a delightful pun on his name. To understand this pun it is important to realize that the “ze-” prefix in Zeezrom can mean something like “he of” or “he of the” [https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/a-nickname-and-a-slam-dunk-notes-on-the-book-of-mormon-names-zeezrom-and-jershon/].

It is also worth noting the other Nephite names that follow a similar pattern such as Zeniff (likely meaning something like “he of Nephi”) or later Zenephi, with the same thing going on. With this construction in mind, Zeezrom means “he of the ezrom,” but what is an ezrom? Chapter 11 tells us. It is part of their silver measurement system. Beginning with verse 6, we learn that the system includes, “A senum of silver, an amnor of silver, an ezrom of silver, and an onti of silver. 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.” Skipping down a bit, “And an amnor of silver was as great as two senums. And an ezrom of silver was as great as four senums. And an onti was as great as them all.”

So Zeezrom’s name means essentially “he of the ezrom”, which is a measure of silver. This becomes interesting, when a little later in verse 21-22, we have Zeezrom offer Amulek silver,

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.

So rendering this a little differently, Mr. Silver just offered Amulek a bunch of silver to deny the existence of a supreme being, or, Mr Cash just offered Amulek Cash or, playing on the association of Benjamin Franklin with the American $100 bill, this Benjamin is offering Amulek a whole stack of Benjamins to deny the existence of a supreme being. Puns and humor are often hard to fully appreciate in translation, but this one is worth noting both as an example of an artful passage in the scriptures, and as an illustration of how the Book of Mormon writers went about wordplay of which many fine examples have been discussed in the work of Matthew L Bowen included in the program notes [see, for example, https://interpreterfoundation.org/author/matthewb/ or https://www.amazon.com/Key-Word-Collected-Onomastic-Wordplay-Scripture/dp/1890718459].

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