I read in the parsha that Joseph's brothers sold him for 20 silver pieces. I also have a nudnik brother and I could use some silver. How much do you think I could get for him?


I think you could be on to something here. I have no clue of modern prices, but I do have some knowledge of ancient prices, so let me see if I can help you.

There's been a lot of inflation since Joseph. In the laws of Hammurabi, one-third of a mina (the equivalent of 20 silver pieces) is stated as the typical price for a male slave. Similarly in the records we have discovered of real-life transactions in nearby Mari, 20 silver pieces exactly is given. In other Old Babylonian documents, prices range from 15-30 shekels, averaging at 22 shekels. Before this period, like under the Third Dynasty of Ur, the common price was 10 shekels. But afterwards the price went higher and higher.

By the time of Moses, we find slave-trade documents in Nuzi and Ugarit with an average price of 30 shekels. You might note that 30 shekels is the replacement price for a slave stated in Exodus 21:32.

In the times of the Kings of Israel, the going price in Assyrian documents was 50 shekels. That explains Menachem, King of Israel, placing that price on the head of each of his officers (Kings II, 15:20). Everything in Tanach is historically accurate to the button.

With the rise of the Persian Empire, however, bringing growing affluence and inflation, prices soared to 90 and even 120 shekels. So by now, 2500 years later, a decent-aged brother must be worth an awful lot of silver.

On the other hand, you may want to consider the consequences. For one thing, is your brother the forgiving type? I mean, if he would rise from slavery to become prime-minister of a super-power, would he duly forgive you for your actions and provide you with land and food?

You may also wish to consider the reaction of your parents. After all, if you could sell your brother, what's stopping them from selling you?

As an alternative, there's a lot of snow around these days. Instead of slavery, how about making a business deal with your nudnik brother and making a few bucks on shoveling driveways? Maybe not silver, but the risks are certainly far more negligible.