Jacob 5 Sweet Story of Redemption
Zenos’s allegory of the tame and wild olive trees is a sweet story of the Lord’s love and mercy as He labors to redeem His children. As you study, keep in mind and heart that Jacob 5 is a story of redemption, wherein the Lord lovingly and diligently works to rescue, care for, nourish, and save all.
As noted previously, Jacob provided a preface to this story: After revealing that the Jews would reject Christ and His words because of their spiritual blindness, Jacob declared that through this allegory (no doubt taken from the plates of brass) he would teach how the Jews and others can still turn to the Lord and “build upon” the “only sure foundation,” who is Jesus Christ (see Jacob 4:14-18). Although we may not understand everything in this allegory, it can be helpful to look for things that promote faith in the Lord, thus helping us turn to Him.
The Lord’s Work with the House of Israel
The scattering and gathering of Israel is a main theme of this chapter, as the Lord transplants or “grafts” various branches of the tame and wild olive trees. In tree husbandry, graft means “to insert a shoot or twig into a slit of a living tree.” We see the Lord moving groups of Israelites to different locations (such as happened with the Book of Mormon’s Nephites and others), in order to promote growth and righteousness. Of course, in Zenos’s view of the Lord’s worldwide efforts, there results a mixing of the Israelites and the gentiles:
- In verses 8, 19-25, 38-40 the Lord is grafting branches from the tame tree of Israel (also referred to as the “natural” or “mother” tree) into wild (gentile) trees.
- In verses 9, 17-18, 34, 37 He is grafting branches from wild trees into the tame tree.
- In verses 52-56, 60, 67-68 the Lord grafts the previously transplanted natural branches back into the original mother tree.
Some Possible Meanings
|Term||First mention||Probable (or possible) meaning|
|Tame olive tree||verse 3||The house of Israel|
|A man||verse 3||The Lord Jesus Christ|
|Vineyard||verse 3||The earth|
|Decaying tree||verse 3||The Old Testament Israelites|
|Nourish, prune, dig||verses 3-4||The Lord’s work to bring all unto Him|
|Young and tender branches||verse 6||The few righteous Israelites of the Old Testament|
|Master/Lord of the vineyard||verses 7-8||Christ|
|Servant(s)||verse 7||Prophets and other faithful disciples|
|Wild olive tree||verse 7||The gentiles|
|Withering main branches||verse 7||Unrighteous Israelites of the Old Testament|
|Graft||verse 8||The scattering and gathering of Israel|
|Fruit||verse 8||Good works; righteousness|
|Nethermost parts||verse 14||The Americas and other places throughout the earth|
|Strength of the root||verse 18||The Israelites, as God’s chosen people|
|Good spot of ground||verse 25||The Americas|
|None of the fruit is good||verse 32||World-wide apostasy|
|Loftiness of the vineyard||verse 48||Pride|
|The end||verse 29||The last days; the Second Coming|
|Additional servants||verse 61||Latter-day disciples|
|That all may be nourished||verse 63||A world-wide effort|
|The bad is cast away||verse 74||The destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming|
|Like unto one body||verse 74||Living the law of consecration during the Millennium|
|A long time||verse 76||The Millennium|
|Evil fruit shall come again||verse 77||The unloosing of Satan at the end of the Millennium|
|The vineyard is burned||verse 77||The earth becomes the celestial kingdom|
He Nourishes Us (Like It or Not!)
Also prominent are the efforts of the Lord and His servants to constantly dig, prune, dung, and nourish the trees, in order to produce good fruit. In our lives, we can look for ways the Lord has worked and continues to work throughout the earth to carry out His purposes among His children, just as we can also seek to recognize and accept His efforts in our individual lives. Consider the following:
- In agriculture, to dig means “to harrow,” which is to break up lumps of soil, thus lifting thatch and weeds, allowing the soil to breathe and better receive water. We can be more accepting and understanding as the Lord digs about our personal soil and roots; it may be painful, but ultimately it is to help us grow.
- To prune is to trim by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, in order to increase fruitfulness. Surely it can hurt when we are “cut back,” yet again we must realize that it is helping us to grow.
- To dung means to spread animal waste, which serves as a fertilizer and allows the soil to hold more water and nutrients. This can be stinky! But we know it’s for our own good.
- To nourish is to provide all that is necessary for health and growth. The Lord does this in our lives. He does not violate our agency, but in His wisdom and timing He creates circumstances that will give us the best possible opportunities to come unto Him.
The Lord Cares
The Lord’s plan and purpose is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39), and His motivation is His perfect love for us. When our choices do not measure up, He becomes “grieved” and sometimes He “weeps” (see verse 41; see also Moses 7:28-33). In Jacob 5 there are eight instances—in reaction to the failure of His trees to produce good fruit—when the Lord says, “it grieveth me” (verses 7, 11, 13, 32, 46, 47, 51, 66). But He also feels “joy” when there is good fruit (see verses 60, 71, 75). Let us not grieve our God, but rather give Him cause to rejoice.
We Labor with Him with All Our Might
Toward the end of the allegory, the Lord calls for more servants (representing latter-day laborers), because “the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard” (verse 62; see also Jacob 6:2-3). The number of servants are relatively “few” (verse 70; see also 1 Nephi 14:12), but we are called upon to labor with our might—alongside the Lord, who is working with us in His vineyard, in preparation for the Second Coming. Our work is described thus: “that we may labor diligently with our might” (verse 61); “let us go to and labor with our might” (verse 62); “Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might” (verse 71); “if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy” (verse 71); “the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things” (verse 72); “And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard” (verse 74); and “blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, … ye shall have joy with me” (verse 75). This is our blessed privilege and our grand reward.
Jacob 6:1-12 “O Be Wise”
In this chapter Jacob takes the opportunity to call his “brethren” to repentance (verses 1, 5, 11). Using language from the allegory he has just quoted, Jacob says, “After ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire?” (verse 7). He warns them against rejecting Christ (verse 8), and bears testimony of the Lord’s power of redemption and resurrection (verse 9), which can lead us to eternal life (verse 11). He then offers this classic closing: “O be wise; what can I say more?” (verse 12). This brief verse is a great daily affirmation for each of us.
Jacob 7:1-23 Sherem, the Anti-Christ
The Book of Mormon’s only occurrences of the term Anti-Christ are in Alma 30, but there are at least four men who can easily be identified as Anti-Christs: Sherem (Jacob 7), Nehor (Alma 1), Korihor (Alma 30), and Zoram (Alma 31). In Sherem’s case, he basically teaches that there is no Christ and no set doctrine. This leads to the conclusion that there is no single system for salvation, with all alternative paths being equally valid. Such false claims can naturally lead to the belief that “we must stop worrying about how we live, because it doesn’t matter—we should just do whatever we feel.”
Note the teachings and characteristics of Sherem’s approach:
- Claiming there will be no Christ; seeking to overthrow the doctrine of Christ (verse 2; see also verse 9).
- Going after people’s hearts; seeking to confront the prophet Jacob (verse 3; see also verses 5-6).
- He was “learned”; using great flattery and power of speech (verses 2, 4).
- Accusing Jacob of leading people away, of perverting the right way of God, and of blasphemy (verse 7)
Besides his false doctrines, Sherem contradicts himself by saying in verse 7: “No man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come,” yet in verse 9 he declares that he does know of things to come: “I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.” This is the typical inconsistency of those who fight against truth.
Jacob’s approach is simple, and is an example for us today:
- Jacob lived in a way to have the Spirit of God with him (verse 5).
- Jacob used the scriptures to back up his response (verses 10-11).
- Jacob bore his personal testimony (verse 12).
Like Korihor, Sherem demands a sign from the prophet, and like Nehor and Korihor, he ends up losing his life and goes into eternity to account for his actions (verses 13-20).