Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jacob 6-7

1. 6:3 "their own place" reminds me of the line from Paradise Lost: "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

2. It seems like all this section (Jacob 4-6) is written and not spoken, and Jacob keeps addressing his "beloved brethren".  Who is talking to?  In light of 4:17, it feels to me like he's addressing "the Jews" in 6:4ff -- God is merciful to all of Israel, root and branch; God is patent (Jacob 5), so repent; will you reject the prophecies you had of Christ?

3. 6:11-13 is a quick dash of temple imagery.  Strait gate; be wise; Day of the Lord.

4. 7:1 Sherem seems to have come from somewhere else.  Is he from the Lamanite / Lemuelite group, bringing their Deuteronomist ideas to the erring Nephites?  If so, his people might have seen him as a missionary (7:3) and a martyr.

5. 7:10-11 tie us back into the previous chapter, 6:8 -- if you read the scriptures and don't see Christ in them, you're missing the point.  Maybe 4-7 is all together one unit, and that's the point.  So maybe Jacob's "beloved brethren" include presumed or actual Lamanite / Lemuelite readers.

6. 7:12 ties together the two great visions of 1 Nephi: if there is no atonement (chapters 11-14), then all men are lost (chapter 8).

7. Remember that on the Day of Atonement, as the Name is pronounced, everyone falls down.  In 7:21, at Sherem's confession, the power of God is made manifest, and it knocks everyone down.

8. 7:23 "peace" and "the love of God" are restored.  Remember that the "love of God" is an image from 1 Nephi 11, and is associated with the tree and the plain and precious things.

"Peace," "shalom" in Hebrew, is an interesting word.  Its three-letter root is SH-L-M, which gives us various words, expressing coming to an end, staying healthy, making amends, repaying or rewarding, and completing or becoming complete.  When Matthew 5:48 urges us to be "perfect", it uses the Greek word "teleioi" for "perfect", a word that embodies many of the same meanings and can specifically refer to someone who is initiated, someone who has been through the mysteries, learned the secret doctrines and is a temple insider (in LDS parlance, "endowed").  "Peaceful" would be a Hebrew-English equivalent, and "peace" would be a word that means something equivalent to "mysteries" or "temple blessings".  In this context, Isaiah 48:22 (there is no "peace" unto the wicked) is interesting, and, in fact, has already been quoted by Nephi (1 Nephi 20) in his temple-rich writings.

So, to recap: Sherem comes seeking to overthrow the "doctrine of Christ", which we've learned from Nephi includes various stages that lead one to speaking with the tongues of angels (2 Nephi 31:2, 13-14), which we know from Isaiah means being in the holy of holies (2 Nephi 16:2-4).  Sherem works hard and has some success (7:3).  After he's defeated and dies, "peace" and "the love of God" return.  Yeah, Joseph Smith stuck his face into a hat and made that up.  Ha!

9. With Sherem's mission having been foiled, Jacob immediately talks about the countermissions he sent back to the Lamanites (7:24).


  1. If the Lamanites did have a Deuteronomist bent, this must have been a swan song...once you get to Mosiah/Alma religion appears to be an abstract concept to them.

    While the dueling missionaries is a nice plot-line, Sherem was likely a Nephite who could easily win the favor of the Nephite masses. Corrupt Nephites leading fellow Nephites astray is a strong theme in the BOM.

  2. I think this was the Deuteronomist swan song, maybe an intense flowering before the end. Subsequent "dissidents" have very different flavors.

    I think 7:1 tells us that Sherem wasn't a Nephite.

  3. I have a different view on the entire situation. I do not think that Sherem was either a Nephite or a Lamanite. I think that he came from an external body of people.
    Jacob was the direct son of Lehi which means, assuming an extremely high degree of longevity, that at most three generations could've passed between the time that the entire family landed in the New World. And with only 3 generations passing, even considering high fertility rates of upwards of 10 children per woman, and a slightly more female population then male population. The entire population of Lehi's descendents after three generations is likely not to have exceeded 3000-4000.
    With 4000 individuals as a max being distributed across a variety age groups it is probably realistic to imagine that there was only 1000 individuals above the age of 35 that might be considered of an adult population with enough education to be conducting himself in the way described.
    Given the fact that Sherem is male, this reduces the number of people possible to around 400 or less individuals. It's highly unlikely that Jacob would have been unfamiliar with this person as a adult male descendent from Lehi.
    It is conceivable that as the patriarch of the family that Jacob would be familiar at least if not intimately knowledgable of every adult male descendent from his father at the time of his death whether Nephite or Lamenite.
    Which leads me conclude that in all likelihood, considering the introduction given in 7:1, Sherem came from an outside body of people that were interacting with the descendents of Lehi and had learned their language.

  4. Sorenson wrote a classic article for I think the very first Journal of Book of Mormon Studies on Nephite demographics, and touched on this point.

    Odd, though, to think that Sherem would be a Gentile of some sort, because it would have to mean that his people adopted the Law of Moses.

  5. I see that I did comment, Brent. Ha! (Mind like a steel sieve, me.) Do you read 7:1 differently?