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Jacob 4


A Covenant Plan of Salvation

      (2 Nephi--Enos)


Jacob 4:1 We Know That the Things Which We Write upon Plates Must Remain:


     According to John Tvedtnes, in the Book of Mormon we find that records were frequently kept on metallic plates. This was done not only with Mormon's abridgment,192 but also with the small and large plates of Nephi,193 the brass plates obtained from Laban,194 the records kept by the people of Limhi (see Mosiah 8:5), and Ether's twenty-four gold plates comprising the Jaredite history.195

     One of the authors of the Book of Mormon, Jacob (son of Lehi), explained why the Nephites kept their secret records on metallic plates: "I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates," he declared, but "we know that the things which we write upon plates must remain" (Jacob 4:1).

     According to John Tvedtnes, a prominent late-nineteenth-century critic of the Book of Mormon wrote, "No such records were ever engraved upon golden plates, or any other plates, in the early ages."196 Tvedtnes writes that had this critic known Hebrew, he would have found an answer to the contrary in his own Bible. Isaiah 8:1 speaks of writing on a polished metal plate with an engraving tool, however the terms are mistranslated "roll" and "pen" in the King James Bible. Tvedtnes also writes that the critic seems to have been unaware of the fact that the Apocrypha, which was included in about half the King James Bibles in the early nineteenth century, notes that a treaty between the Jews and the Romans in the second century B.C. was inscribed on bronze plates (see 1 Maccabees 8:22).

     In recent years, scholars have come to realize that the concept of preparing records that would last through many centuries, making them available to later generations, is ancient. Records written on clay (a common practice in what today constitutes the nations of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey) were sometimes baked to make them last longer and were occasionally kept in containers. Documents written on papyrus and parchment, which are considerably more perishable than clay, were often preserved in pottery jars or in tombs. Another method the ancients used to preserve documents was calling on divine guardians to keep the records safe.

     Writing on metallic plates was yet another way to ensure the durability of records. Many of the metallic records discovered to date have been found in foundation deposits, often in stone boxes, as was the Book of Mormon. These include records left behind by Sumerian, Hittite, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian kings, as well as foundation deposits from other parts of the Near East and from Asia.

     Of all the metals, gold is the one least likely to decay over time. It does not oxidize like iron, silver, copper, or its alloys (bronze and brass); and it does not wear down like lead. Because it is a softer metal, it is easier to engrave, yet unlike lead, which is softer still, it does not readily lose its shape. Consequently, the most durable records would have been written on gold or gold alloy plates and hidden away in stone boxes, which are less likely to degrade than pottery. [John Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness unto Light, pp. 148-151] [See 2 Nephi 18:1]


Jacob 4:2 Whatsoever Things We Write upon Anything Save It Be upon Plates Must Perish:


     According to Robert Matthews, Jacob makes an observation about the difficulty of engraving on metal compared to writing on other material (Jacob 4:1-3). . . . We see from this explanation that the Nephites did write upon other materials, probably leather or paper. I would conclude therefore that what Jacob finally engraved on metal plates would rarely, if ever, be his first draft of a document. [Robert Matthews, "Jacob: Prophet, Theologian, Historian," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, p. 39]


Jacob 4:4 That They May Know That We Knew of Christ . . . and Not Only WE . . . But Also All the Holy Prophets Which Were before Us:


     In Jacob 4:4-5, Jacob records the following:

           For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us. Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name.


     However, while the Book of Mormon supports the idea that Christ was known by all the holy prophets, Neal A. Maxwell notes that the specific name of Jesus Christ does not appear in what has come forward as the Old Testament. Intriguingly, however, Maxwell writes that in the New Testament we find that Paul, speaking of Moses' time, said this:

           By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;

           Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

           Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)


     Apparently, Moses' devotion to Jesus in ancient times was not unique. [Neal A. Maxwell, Plain and Precious Things, p. 23] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 13:40; Helaman 8:13-20]


Jacob 4:4-5 We Knew of Christ . . . and for This Intent We Keep the Law of Moses, It Pointing Our Souls to Him:


     [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 25:4]


Jacob 4:5 [Abraham] Offering up His Son Isaac, Which Is a Similitude of God and His Only Begotten Son:


     In the Book of Mormon we are informed that when the Lord commanded Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, this act was designed to serve as "a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son" (Jacob 4:5). Matthew Brown lists some of the topological parallels found in a talk by Gerald Lund.197 that can be seen between Isaac and the Savior. These include:

     1. Both Isaac and the Savior were the only begotten sons of their fathers (see Genesis 22:2; Hebrews 11:17-19; 1 John 4:9).

     2. Both Isaac and the Savior were in their thirties when they were offered up.

     3. Both Isaac and the Savior submitted willingly to being sacrificed.

     4. Both Isaac and the Savior were offered up on the mountain where the Jerusalem temple stood.

     5. Both Isaac and the Savior carried the wood of their sacrifice upon their backs (see JST Genesis 22:7; John 19:17).

     6. Both Isaac and the Savior were bound (see Genesis 22:9; Matthew 27:2).

     7. Both Isaac and the Savior were likened unto sacrificial lambs (see Genesis 22:7-8; John 1:29).


     According to Brown, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught this very important lesson about Abraham's sacrifice: "The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life he must sacrifice all things."198 [Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, pp. 40-41]


Jacob 4:5 It was accorded unto Abraham . . . in offering up his son Isaac (Illustration): Abraham Taking Isaac to Be sacrificed. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #105]


Jacob 4:8 Despise Not the Revelations of God:


     According to research by Gail Call, an interesting biblical or Hebrew figure of speech used in the Book of Mormon is called antenantiosis. It is the practice of stating a proposition in terms of its opposite. The result is to express the positive in a very high degree, or as the biblical scholar E. W. Bullinger puts it, "We thus emphasize that which we seem to lessen."

     For instance, when Jacob counsels to "despise not the revelations of God" (Jacob 4:8), he is not merely saying that one should not despise the revelations; he is actually urging the righteous to hold the revelations of God in the highest esteem. The unexpected negative increases the force of the idea that it apparently understates. It seems to make us notice and dwell on the expression, so that we can learn more from it. [Gail Call, "Antenantiosis in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 96]


Jacob 4:13 Wherefore, It Speaketh of Things As They Really Are, and of Things As They Really Will Be; Wherefore, These Things Are Manifested unto Us Plainly:


     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 33:6]


Jacob 4:14 Blindness Came By Looking Beyond the Mark:


     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that the expression "beyond the mark" used in Jacob 4:14 is a characteristic of the languages of the ancient cultures of the Middle East, the area from which the peoples of the Book of Mormon emigrated. In the early writings contained in the Gospel of Truth it is written that Israel turns to error when the people look for that which is beyond the mark (Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 167)199

[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 273]


Jacob 4:16 This Stone Shall Become the Great, and the Last, and the Only Sure Foundation upon Which the Jews Can Build:


     In Genesis 49:24, the Messiah-Redeemer of Israel is referred to as "the stone of Israel." In Jacob 4:16, Jacob says that "according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation upon which the Jews can build." It is very intriguing that a similar symbolism was made in ancient Mesoamerica concerning their Messiah-Redeemer god. There the jade stone, native to the region, green and precious, was a symbol of their God of Life--Quetzalcoatl.

     Jade is a translucent to opaque green stone that is very tough and highly polishable. Mexican and Central American jades are pure and native. Jade has been found in connection with the highly sophisticated cultures of Mesoamerica. It is very noteworthy that in a manner similar to ancient Mesopotamians and Palestinians, the people of Mesoamerica believed that the green grass, grains, and plants were given birth each year through divine power (see Frankfort 1946, 143). Covarrubias tells us that jade was linked to rain, vegetation, life, godliness, maize, and the sky (Covarrubias 1947, 109).

     But one may ask, How can one build on a the qualities of a stone? The ancient Mayan prophet of Yucatan, Chilam Balam, gives the answer. Chilam wrote an allegory in which he compared the Messiah Redeemer to "the first precious stone of grace, the first infinite grace." The allegory alludes to the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, or "coming forth" of this god. The "precious stone" referred to in the allegory has been authoritatively interpreted to be jade (Thompson 1954, 237). In other words, the "only sure foundation" upon which men can build is the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Messiah-Redeemer Jesus Christ.

     With this concept in mind, it is noteworthy that in Mesoamerica, beads of jade were put into the mouth of the dead at burial in token of hoped-for rebirth. (Sorenson, 1998, 95). [Adapted from Bruce W. Warren, Blaine M. Yorgason, Harold Brown, New Evidences of Christ in Mesoamerica, Unpublished Manuscript]


Jacob 4:16 This stone [Christ--Jade] . . . the only sure foundation (Illustration): The deep green of jadeite stone was one of the most revered colors. It recalled still waters, the crucial maize plant, and all life-giving vegetation. No wonder beads of the material were put into the mouth of the dead at burial, in token of hoped-for rebirth (this was also done in China). These Olmec-style ear ornaments (inserted through holes in the lobes) date long before 500 B.C., but the popularity of jadeite continued right up to the Spanish Conquest. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life, p. 95]


Jacob 4:17 How Is It Possible, That These, after Having Rejected the Sure Foundation, Can Ever Build upon It, That It May Become the Head of Their Corner?:


     After substantiating with scriptures how the Jews would reject the Messiah, Jacob prefaces his telling of Zenos's allegory by posing an additional scriptural question: "And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these [Jews] after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?

     According to Brant Gardner, in a general way the allegory that follows can be described as the Lord's efforts with the children of Israel symbolized in the Lord of the Vineyard's efforts to sustain his olive-tree vineyard. However, in the context of Jacob's discourse, the allegory more specifically serves to deal with the just quoted question of the rejected Messiah. That is, How can one reconcile a rejected and crucified Messiah with the triumphal Messiah prophesied by Isaiah? And how can one who is rejected by Israel become the leader of Israel?

     Before giving his own explanation to this dilemma, Gardner notes that a more traditional interpretation of Jacob's use of Zenos had previously been given by Paul Hoskisson. He quotes Hoskisson as follows:

           I cannot complete this discussion of the allegory of the olive tree without returning to the beginning, the reason Jacob gave the allegory: How can we be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? . . . to the best of my ability [let me] clearly explain how we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. As the allegory suggests, the process is deceptively simple and easy: Remain attached long enough to our roots, the scriptural heritage revealed by the God of Israel, that the healing influence of divine direction,, of a "knowledge of the true Messiah," our Lord and Redeemer (1 Nephi 10:14), can change us from a twig bearing bitter fruit to a natural twig bearing good fruit. It does not matter whether our scriptural heritage is planted in a good spot on the earth or a bad one, we can bear fruit under the loving and wise care of the Lord of the vineyard. (Paul Hoskisson, "The Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob" in The Allegory of the Olive Tree , FARMS, p. 96)


     Concerning this traditional approach, Gardner makes the following commentary:

           For the question Hoskisson answers, I cannot improve on his words. However, he answers a different question than the one posed by Jacob. Hoskisson discusses a personal reconciliation: "How can we be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ?" Though an important question and answer, and traceable through the themes of the allegory, it does not discuss Jacob's issue. Jacob is using the allegory to show how a rejected Christ can become the "head of their corner." That is, Jacob had been discussing the Jews as a stiffnecked people who had (and would) reject the words of the prophets-and their Messiah (see Jacob 4:14)


     According to Gardner, the question of the Messiah is not answered directly, for the allegory discusses Israel, not the Messiah. Nevertheless, it is the temporal setbacks and ultimate triumph of the Lord that is the theme. Jacob's answer is to show that the Lord has plans and powers that extend across time, and that although Israel may stray, the Lord will care for Israel until the final success of the Lord's covenant. The focus of Jacob's answer is not on how the Messiah could change, but rather how the people could be changed so that they who once rejected their Messiah might be ready for his triumphal entry at the end of time. In this way, Jacob's message is ultimately comforting, for it shows the great grace of God in allowing repentance, and the great patience of God toward a mankind in need and in search of repentance. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page," /~nahualli/LDStopics/Jacob/Jacob5.htm, pp. 1, 47-49]


Jacob 4:18 Shaken:


     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 9:40]