From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith
by Michael R. Ash
When Nephi and his brothers asked Laban for the brass plates in trade for their silver and gold, Laban tried to kill them and he took away their possessions. After a narrow escape, Laman and Lemuel complained about the impossibility of their task because of Laban and his “fifty”:
“And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:31)
To modern readers this sounds like a small army indeed, but to those of the ancient Near East, the size of Laban’s garrison fits neatly into Old World customs. According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, a permanent garrison in a big city of Lehi’s day consisted of thirty to eighty men. In a recently discovered letter of Nebuchadnezzar (a contemporary of Lehi,) the king speaks of a garrison of “fifty”. In Babylonia, a platoon in the army consisted of fifty men. This permanent unit was always called a “fifty” just as Nephi spoke of “Laban with his fifty”.
Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.
Julianne Dehlin Hatton is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.
Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.