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Jacob 1


A Covenant Plan of Salvation

      (2 Nephi--Enos)








Jacob 1:1-4 He [Nephi] gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these [small] plates (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]



Jacob 1:4 I Should Engraven the Heads of Them upon These Plates:


     What is the meaning of the word "heads" mentioned in Jacob 1:4? According to Mary Treat, the authors of the Theological Wordbook give this explanation for the root from which "heads" is derived:

           "The root is widely used in the Old Testament with other terms in the sense of the superlative, since Hebrew does not have any simple form to express the third degree. There are many examples of this usage (Exodus 30:23) where the meaning is 'best,' 'foremost,' 'the uniquely finest,' which alone was fit for the service of God."


     Understanding this Hebraism helps clarify Jacob's words. Jacob was reiterating the commandment given to Nephi about the contents of the small plates, i.e., that he should only engrave on them "the very best," or "foremost" or "the uniquely finest" of the preaching, revelation or prophecies during his lifetime. Nephi's own account of receiving this commandment is found in 1 Nephi 19:3 and confirms the meaning of the Hebraism "heads":

     "And after that I made these [small] plates by way of commandment,

     I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies,

     The more plain and precious parts of them,

     Should be written upon these plates." (Jacob 1:4)


     Nephi's words, "the more plain and precious parts," equates to Jacob's use of "heads," i.e., the best, foremost, uniquely finest. [Mary Lee Treat, "The Purpose Principle in Action: "Why Heads?," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 42]


Jacob 1:9 He (Nephi) Anointed a Man to Be a King and a Ruler over His People. Now, according to the Reigns of the Kings:


     If Nephi had been the only king of the Nephites, then who are the "kings" that Jacob refers to when he says, "he [Nephi] anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people. . . . according to the reigns of the kings" (Jacob 1:9)? And who was the man that Nephi anointed to be king? According to Stephen Ricks, the Book of Mormon presents a pattern for choosing kings that matches customs in ancient Israel. It was considered necessary that God choose the man to be king. Thus, Solomon, not his older brother Adonijah, succeeded his father David as king, since, as Adonijah himself said, "it [the kingship] was [Solomon's] from the Lord" (1 Kings 2:15). The Nephite King Benjamin believed that God had called Mosiah, his son: "On the morrow I shall proclaim . . . that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us" (Mosiah 1:10).

     In Israel, the eldest son of the king usually became the next ruler, although the king was not obligated to choose him if he believed God desired otherwise. Jehoshaphat gave the kingdom to Jehoram "because he was the firstborn" (2 Chronicles 21:3). However, as noted above, Solomon succeeded David even though Solomon was not the eldest son. [See the commentary on Mosiah 1:2] [Stephen D. Ricks, "King, Coronation, and Covenant in Mosiah 1-6," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 210]

     Note* Thus, we might suppose not only that the Nephite kingship fell to one of the sons of Nephi, but that this son was chosen by the Lord, "according to the reigns of the kings" (of Israel).. [See the commentary on Mosiah 9:1]


Jacob 1:9-11, And Whoso Should Reign, Were Called by the People Second Nephi, Third Nephi, . . . Let Them Be of Whatever Name They Would:


     The kings after Nephi were named Nephi II, Nephi III, etc. (Jacob 1:9-11). If we assume that the average age of the king was 38-40 when his heir was born, that the heir began to reign at the age of 30, and that the kings turned over their kingdom between the ages of 68 and 70, then:

Year      (Years Since Lehi Left Jerusalem)

031      Nephi is made king of the land of Nephi at age 46.

056      Nephi anoints another king (Nephi II) (Jacob 1:9-11)

     (Nephi is 71 and Nephi II is 30).

094      Nephi II (68) anoints Nephi III (30).

132      Nephi III (68) anoints Nephi IV (30).

170      Nephi IV (68) anoints Nephi V (30).

208      Nephi V (68) anoints Nephi VI (30).

246      Nephi VI (68) anoints Nephi VII (30).

283      Nephi VII (68) anoints Nephi VIII (30).

322      Nephi VIII (68) anoints Nephi IX (30).

361      Nephi IX (69) anoints Nephi X (30).

367      Mosiah1 is born.

401      Nephi X (70) anoints Nephi XI (30).

401      Mosiah1 becomes of age (30) to become king.


Thus: Mosiah1 would seem to correspond to Nephi XI.

     Although this is hypothetical, it serves to remind the reader of just how much time the Nephites lived in the land of Nephi. [See the commentary on Omni 1:12]


Jacob 1:11 Whoso Should Reign in His Stead Were Called . . . Nephi:


     We find in Jacob 1:11 that the people of Nephi "were desirous to retain in remembrance his name. And whoso should reign in his stead were called by the people, second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth . . ." Dallin Oaks notes that in the ancient world, a name represented the essence of the person named. Thus, a prominent Bible dictionary declares:

           In biblical thought a name is not a mere label of identification; it is an expression of the essential nature of its bearer. A man's name reveals his character.183


     The dictionary explains, "Nothing exists unless it has a name. . . . It's essence is concentrated in its name" (Interpreter's Dictionary, 3:501). For this reason, in biblical thought a change of name signifies a change of nature or essence (see ibid, 2:408; 3:506). The dictionary observes:

           It could also be said soberly of anyone that his name is his very self. Thus, when a radical change in a person's character took place so that he became a new man, he was given a new name. [Ibid., 2:408]


     Thus, a king receives a new name on his ascending the throne. [Dallin H. Oaks, His Holy Name, pp. 46-47]


Jacob 1:9-11; 3:13 According to the Reigns of the Kings:


     According to Robert Matthews, Nephi instructed Jacob that he should write upon the small plates only those things that were "most precious" such as "preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying," and that he should touch but lightly on the history of the people (Jacob 1:2-4). That type of commandment required that Jacob wait for a while before writing upon the plates, since it calls for time to make comparisons and gain perspective. We can discern that Jacob waited for some length of time after he was given the records before he began writing, for in his first chapter he . . . tells us that the successors to Nephi had taken the title of second, and then third Nephi, and so forth (see Jacob 1:9-11; see also Jacob 3:13). Jacob would not have been able to make such a glance into the past had he written immediately. [Robert Matthews, "Jacob: Prophet, Theologian, Historian," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, pp. 37-38]


Jacob 1:13 (1) Nephites, (2) Jacobites ---> (7) Ishmaelites (Tribes):


     According to Hunter and Ferguson, the Totonicapan record (of Guatemalan Indians) refers to the division into Seven Tribes: "The Xahila family, one of the royal lines of the Quiches of the highlands of Guatemala, left an account in the Maya tongue entitled Annals of Xahila. It is stated therein: "We were brought forth, coming we were begotten by our mothers and our father, as they say . . . They say that the seven tribes arrived first at Tullan." It is observed that the Xahila record likewise indicates a departure from an Old World Tulan (Bountiful) and the settlement of seven tribes in a principal homeland, Tullan (Bountiful), in the New World. [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 87]


Jacob 1:13 They were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites [7 lineages] (Illustration): Monument 21 from Bilbao, Guatemala: The highlighted portions illustrate seven tribes or lineages. The word for flint (a glyph designated "a" on the stela) in Hebrew is Zoram. [Bruce Warren in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest (Fall 1991, p. 8) edited by Joseph L. Allen]      


Jacob 1:13 Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites:


     When bestowing his patriarchal blessing upon Sam, Lehi simply said, "thy seed shall be numbered with his [Nephi's] seed" (2 Nephi 4:11), suggesting that Sam had daughters, but no sons.

     According to Jerry Ainsworth, the Popul Vuh, an ancient history of the highland Maya, states that the original father of the Maya had four sons. One of them, not having male children, never became a tribe.184      Another ancient document, The Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, confirms the account in the Popul Vuh. It also adds that a total of eight men--possibly Nephi, Sam, Jacob, Joseph, Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael--became seven tribes. These divided into two groups, one consisting of four tribes, the other of three.185 This agrees with the Book of Mormon account. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p. 88]


Jacob 1:13 Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites (Four Tribes That Followed Nephi):


     According to a Mexican tradition, "Here is the beginning of the accounts of the arrival of the Mexicans from the place named Aztlan ("tlan" means "Bountiful"). It was through the midst of the water that they made their way to this locality, being four tribes.

     According to the history of the Quiche Maya people written in the book Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, there were four great leaders who brought their people from the other side of the sea, from Pa-Tulan ("Tulan" means "Bountiful"). [Clate Mask, "And They Called the Place Tulan," p. 4]


Jacob 1:13 They Were Called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites (4 Fathers):


     Joy Osborn notes that in the Popol Vuh, the Quiche Mayas say: "There were many priests and sacrificers; there were not only four, but those four were the Forefathers of us, the people of the Quiche." According to Ximenez, the god of the Mayan people of Yucatan was worshipped under the name of "Ek-Balam or Equebalam, black jaguar." He also identified the names of the four ancestors or Forefathers of the Quiche with the jaguar. He stated that Balam-Quitze meant "jaguar of sweet laughter, or much laughter, or fatal laughter, like poison." Balam-Acab meant "jaguar of the night." Mahucutah meant, "not brushed," and lqui-Balam was "jaguar of moon or of chile, black jaguar."

     Did Nephi, a descendant of Joseph in the Book of Mormon, become Balam-Quitze, the great Forefather of the Quitze Mayans, and Mango Ccapac, the great Forefather, or ancestor, of the Incas of Peru? Was Nephi's brother, Jacob, the Balam-Acab, of these same forefathers? There is sufficient evidence to make the necessary connections.

     According to the Popol Vuh, these four great Forefathers, and their "truly beautiful" and "distinguished" wives, "conceived the men, of the small tribes and of the large tribes, and were the origin of us, the people of Quiche." . . . "There were many priests and sacrificers: there were not only four, but those four were the Forefathers of us, the people of the Quiche. The names of each one were different when they multiplied there in the East."

     With a little effort we can trace those called "priests and sacrificers" in the Popol Vuh, to the Nephites priesthood and those who lived the law of Moses and offered up sacrifices, as did ancient Israel, in anticipation of the sacrificial Lamb of God who was to come. In the Popol Vuh, the name Balam meant "sorcerer", and it can be traced further to meaning magician and magic - in a religious sense. The final and accurate identity is "prophet." In this way, it is possible to trace the name of Balam Quitze to that of "the prophet Nephi. [Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, p. 196] [See the commentary on 4 Nephi 1:37]


Jacob 1:14 I Shall Call Them Lamanites That Seek to Destroy the People of Nephi:


     Because Jacob distinctly comments, "I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi" (Jacob 1:14), the reader should be cautioned from this point forward in the story not to view all "Lamanites" as always coming from a single geographical area, or being controlled from a single geographical capital. A better approach might be to look for the role of Nephite dissenters in stirring up Lamanites in localized areas. [For a more detailed reasoning on this idea, see the commentary on Omni 1:24]


Jacob 1:15 Wicked Practices . . . Desiring Many Wives and Concubines:


     The text of the Book of Mormon hints at the idea that when Lehi's group arrived in the promised land, not only were there others there, but they were apparently soon included in Nephite society. According to John Sorenson,

           within a few years Nephi reports that his people "began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land" (2 Nephi 5:13). When about fifteen years had passed, he says that Jacob and Joseph had been made priests and teachers "over the land of my people" (2 Nephi 5:26, 28). After another ten years, they "had already had wars and contentions" with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:34). After the Nephites had existed as an entity for about forty years (see Jacob 1:1), their men began "desiring many wives and concubines" (Jacob 1:15). How many descendants of the original party would there have been by that time? . . .

           My reading of the text puts about eleven adults and thirteen children in Nephi's group when they split with the faction of Laman and Lemuel. However the adults included only three couples. None of the unmarried persons, including Nephi's brothers Jacob and Joseph and, probably, their sisters, would have had marriage partners available until nieces or nephews came of age. [John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 1/1, FARMS, Fall 1992, pp. 2-3]


Jacob 1:18, 2:11 Priests and Teachers over This People:


     Jacob explains that he and his brother Joseph "had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people by the hand of Nephi" (Jacob 1:18). John Sorenson uses Jacob 1:18 and Jacob 2:11, which mentions the Lord's command to Jacob, "get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people," to imply that all the Nephites might have been served by only two religious officeholders, and all met at one site. [John Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, F.A.R.M.S., p. 219]


Jacob 1:18, 2:11 Priests and Teachers over This People:


       According to Robert Matthews, there were no descendants of Levi or Aaron among the Nephites because Lehi's family was of Joseph (1 Nephi 6:2), rather than Levi. Therefore, the Nephites could not be regularly called to officiate in the ordinances of the law of Moses and the Aaronic Priesthood. However, since the Melchizedek Priesthood encompasses all the powers and authority of the Aaronic, worthy men among the Nephites, such as Jacob and Joseph, could be consecrated as priests and teachers and could function in the ordinances of the law of Moses, as well as the gospel, by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood (see D&C 68:18-20). The calling of Jacob and Joseph to be "priests and teachers" (Jacob 1:18, 2:11) was not a calling to the offices of priest and teacher as we know them today in the Aaronic Priesthood, since they performed the ordinances of the law of Moses, which they could not have done unless they had priesthood authority. [Robert Matthews, "Jacob: Prophet, Theologian, Historian," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, p. 41]