Jacob Chapter 6
Chapter 6 is Jacob's brief commentary on the previous chapter. Jacob emphasizes certain points of Zenos's prophetic allegory.
1 And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy-that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive-tree, must surely come to pass.
verse 1 "this is my prophecy" Undoubtedly Jacob had studied, pondered, and prayed about Zenos's allegory. This verse provides evidence that the Holy Ghost had borne witness to Jacob of its truth. Zenos's prophecy had become Jacob's prophecy.
2 And the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh.
verse 2 "he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people" This phrase refers to the second gathering of Israel. The first took place when Moses led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Or, perhaps the first gathering occurred following the Babylonian captivity. The second gathering is now in progress as Israel gathers to the gospel and to the stakes of Zion. Thus, the verse refers to the latter days-to this final dispensation.
3 And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard; and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place! And the world shall be burned with fire.
verse 3 "how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard" These are they who have participated in the divine activity of at-one-ment (see the commentary for Jacob 4:12).
We have learned that there will be two cleansings of the earth. The first will occur prior to the Lord's second coming and will lead to the terrestrialization of the earth as it is prepared for the millennial thousand years. This event is referred to as the end of the world. The second occurs at the end of the thousand years and prepares the earth to become the celestial kingdom. This event is referred to as the end of the earth. In this verse it seems likely that the former reference pertains. At this cleansing it is likely the world of spirits, specifically the spirit prison, will receive a huge influx.
4 And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
verse 4 "the house of Israel, both roots and branches" One might interpret "roots" and "branches" in various ways such as the blood of Israel for "roots" and the various divisions or tribes of Israel for "branches." However one might choose to define these two terms, it seems clear that the phrase "both roots and branches" refers to the whole of the house of Israel.
"he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long" His offer to accept to himself the repentant sinner is constant and unchanging.
"a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people" This seems an apt description of historical Israel. "Stiffnecked," of course, means stubborn or bullheaded. To "gainsay" is to contradict, deny, or oppose.
"as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
5 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
verse 5 "cleave unto God" Here is another way of expressing the concept of at-one-ment (see the commentary for Jacob 4:12).
"arm of mercy" This phrase is unique to the Book of Mormon and is not found in the Old Testament. It is found two additional times in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 29:20 and 3 Nephi 9:14). It, of course, implies the idea that the Lord is offering forgiveness to all those who repent. In fact, he is mercifully offering to each of us more than we actually merit.
"in the light of the day" This phrase simply means while the opportunity is presenting itself. The converse was expressed by Amulek: "there cometh a night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed" (Alma 34:33).
6 Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?
verse 6 We might rephrase this verse: If you have any inclination to accept his gospel, then do so now. Why take the chance of being separated from him eternally?
Again, see the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
7 For behold, 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 "after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long" This phrase refers to the many spiritual resources that have ever been available to those of the house of Israel including scripture, prophets, and the promptings of the Spirit.
"hewn down and cast into the fire" Subjected to an adverse judgment of God.
8 Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?
verse 8 "all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ" Here, again, is a reference to the important fact that all of the prophets since father Adam have preached and prophesied explicitly of Christ's birth and ministry ("the good word of Christ")-a fact long since lost to the world because of vital alterations and deletions from the scriptural record (see Jacob 4:4; see also Luke 24:25-27).
"deny . . . the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost" If you study 1 Nephi 10:17 carefully, you may logically conclude that Jacob here in this verse is referring to denying the gift of revelation. Jacob is actually borrowing his brother's terminology-see 2 Nephi 28:26.
"quench the Holy Spirit" Scripturally, the word "quench" means to snuff out or douse the light or fire of (see also 2 Samuel 21:17; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 21:12; Ephesians 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Thus to quench the Holy Spirit is to ignore his promptings and to contend against his teachings.
"the great plan of redemption" This is the plan of salvation which is God's plan to redeem us from our two major predicaments here in mortality-physical and spiritual death. See the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:6.
9 Know ye not that if ye will do these things, that the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God?
verse 9 "if ye will do these things" If you reject Jesus Christ.
"the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ" This phrase refers to Christ's power and authority, earned in Gethsemane and on the cross, to judge mankind. This judgment may be one of blessing and exaltation or one of condemnation.
10 And according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever, which lake of fire and brimstone is endless torment.
verse 10 "lake of fire and brimstone" This expression, of course, does not describe the literal fate of anyone. Rather, it is a figurative or symbolic expression that is discussed more fully in the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:16. In scripture this expression is used to refer to the torment of those in the spirit prison and also those who become sons of perdition. Joseph Smith explained the meaning of this symbolism as he spoke of the spirit prison: "A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. . . . The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone" (TPJS, 357). "The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits . . . is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves" (Ibid., 310-11).
11 O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.
verse 11 By this time it is not likely necessary to mention that "strait" does not mean straight. Rather it means narrow, demanding, rigorous, difficult to negotiate (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 8:20). For a discussion of why the word strait is appropriate here (rather than straight), see the supplemental article Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
12 O be wise; what can I say more?
13 Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.
verse 13 "until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God" Here and in Moroni 10:34, the prophets Jacob and Moroni refer to meeting us when we appear before "the pleasing bar" of God to be judged. Dr. Royal Skousen has reported that Christian Gellinek (who studied law at the University of Gottingen in Germany) believes that the textually difficult reading "the pleasing bar of God" can be readily resolved if we replace the word pleasing with pleading-in other words, Jacob and Moroni will meet us before "the pleading bar of God" (FARMS Update, no. 172, volume 24, 2004). Phonetically, the words pleading and pleasing are nearly identical. Dr. Royal Skousen suggests that what seems to have happened is that Oliver Cowdery, being completely unfamiliar with the legal term pleading bar, twice substituted the more familiar word pleasing for pleading, even though pleasing does not make much sense. The term pleading bar appears to have been used in the English courts of earlier times. Literature from the early 1600s from England does contain this term. This term is now archaic in England. The legal language now used in England refers to the defendant as "in the dock" (no longer "standing at the pleading bar").
The farewell in this verse could only be written by Jacob, of all the Book of Mormon authors. Jacob's tone here is very different from that of his brother's powerful farewell. Where Jacob ends quietly and on a minor key of distress, Nephi concluded with timpani rolls and cymbal clashes: "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus." Nephi was all confidence. Nephi's words challenge us to be righteous, as he had his older brothers: "You and I shall stand face to face before his bar." His final statement restated his lifelong commitment to absolute obedience; it could serve as an epitaph: "For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey" (2 Nephi 33:6-7; 2 Nephi 33:11; 2 Nephi 33:15). Jacob's farewell is moving, but in a very different way. He felt assured of personal salvation, and he looked forward to meeting the reader at the "pleasing" judgment bar of God (Jacob 6:13). But his farewell seems much less optimistic about the salvation of others.
It seems that Jacob intended that his farewell in this verse would be the end of his writings. His comments on Sherem the antichrist in the next chapter were apparently something of an afterthought written "some years" later.