|Lehite noun||1.||NEPHITE gold measure, = 2 gold SENINEs (Alma 11:5, 8); = 1/2 gold SHUM (Alma 11:9). The Pms has SEAN in all these cases, although the last was corrected by O. Cowdery to read SEON. There is no Oms extant here. Royal Skousen recommends use of SEON, as in all printed editions.|
Reynolds & Sjodahl correctly suggested that SEON be derived from HEBREW sěʾâ, even though it never appears in the KJV Bible in that transliterated form. With a nunated suffix, סאן sʾn (as indeed found among 5th century B.C. Jewish Aramaic documents at Elephantine in ancient EGYPT), the HEBREW volumetric/ capacity measure sěʾâ is the best source for SEON/SEAN. It is translated in the KJV as measure" (Genesis 18:6, 1 Samuel 25:18, 1 Kings 18:32, 2 Kings 7:1, 16, 18), which was about 6.95 liters of grain = 1/3 ephah, which is the same basic size as the ancient EGYPTIAN 30 r3-measure at 1/3 of a so-called "house" ipt = about 7.2 liters of grain. The "Canaanite shift," which took place during the mid-second millennium B.C., was the shift of ā to ō in Canaanite (which included proto-HEBREW), and may account for the dialectical variant of SEON/SEAN, which may have been devised by the NEPHITES to be the weight in gold for some similar measure of capacity, and therefore spelled the same as the EGYPTIAN Aramaic version and vocalized in NEPHITE HEBREW *sěʾān.
Asher Kaufman has pointed out the close connection between later Jewish linear and volumetric measure by observing that
the conversion from linear measure to volume is known from the minimum volume of water rquired in a ritual bath, namely 40 seʾah, which is related to the linear dimensions of 3 cubits, by 1 cubit, by 1 cubit (for example, Talmud Bavli ʿEruvin 4b). accordingly, one seʾah is equivalent to 6.68 litres.
According to Frank Cross, the ephah/bath in the Hellenistic period = 21.83 liter; one liter of Jordanian barely weighs 720 gm, thus 15,717.6 gm per ephah, and 7,858.8 gm per prs = 1/2 ardab / ephah = 1 1/2 sěʾâ; the Notre Dame ephah of 21.25 liters gives a paras of 7,650 gm; the one at Araq el-Emir weighs 7,700 gm; the inscribed prs weight from Araq el-Emir is dated from the mid-1st century A.D. to 200 A.D., Late Herodian or early post-Herodian.
HEBREW sěʾâ is cognate with Akkadian sūtum "seʾah; measuring vessel," which (like Sumerian ŠE.UM) are ultimately derived from Sumerian ŠE - as for Book of Mormon SHEUM (apparently a type of grain in Mosiah 9:9. Since this is likely a capacity measure adapted by the NEPHITES to become a measure of weight, it might be interesting to ask whether the SEON/SEAN in Alma 11 is the amount of gold required to purchase around 7 liters of grain of some kind.
The "Bible Dictionary" published with modern LDS Scripture states:
Metals were at first primarily measured by weight, whereas other things were measured by bulk or by size. Thus, silver and gold were calculated by weight until coinage became popular (probably 5th century B.C., after the Babylonian exile),...
See also Seon / sean Variants
Deseret Alphabet: 𐐝𐐀𐐊𐐤 (siːʌn)
- Royal J. Skousen, The Critical Text of the Book of Mormon, vol. 4: Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, part 3. (Provo: FARMS 2004-2009), 1806.
- George S. Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, ed. P.C. Reynolds. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955-1961), 282.
- Bezalel Porten and Ada Yardeni. Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, III: Literature, Accounts, Lists. Hebrew University Depart of History of the Jewish People. (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1993), 295 (figure 8, Measures & Weights), occurring for example in C3.13:37. = Cowley, A. E. Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C., vol. 63 (Oxford: Clarenden OPress, 1923), 3. (on the back of a Behistun fragment).
- Asher S. Kaufman. "Determining the Length of the Medium Cubit." Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 116 (Jul-Dec 1984):131.
- Frank M.. Cross, "An Inscribed Weight," The Excavations at Araq el-Emir, AASOR 47. ed. Nancy Lapp, (ASOR 1983): 120-132. (ASOR, 1983):28-29, cited in A. Wolters, Eblaitica, IV:233.
- Hayim ben Yosef Tawil. An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic. (Jersey City: KTAV, 2009), 255, citing CAD "S" 420a; AHw 1064a.
- FARMS Staff. Book of Mormon Critical Text, 2nd ed., vol. 2. (Provo: FARMS, 1986-1987) 413, 587.
- Yoshiuki Muchiki. Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords in North-West Semitic. (Atlanta: SBL, 1999), 254.
- "Appendix" to The Holy Bible (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Intellectual Reserve, 1979), 788.
Cowley, A. E. Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923/reprint Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publ., 2005.
The Holy Bible. "Appendix: Bible Dictionary," 599-793. SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Intellectual Reserve, 1979.
Kaufman, Asher S. "Determining the Length of the Medium Cubit," Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 116 (Jul-Dec 1984):120-132.
Porten, Bezalel, and Ada Yardeni. Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, III: Literature, Accounts, Lists, Hebrew University Dept of the History of the Jewish People. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1993.
Tawil, Hayim ben Yosef. An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological-Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic. Jersey City: KTAV, 2009.