The history of the world, from beginning to end, has already been written. The Lord has revealed it to Moses, Nephi, the Brother of Jared, John the Revelator and others. The allegory in Jacob 5 is a lengthy answer to the question posed in Jacob 4:17 which is, if the Jews reject the Messiah, how will he ever become their sure foundation? The answer, in one sentence, is, the gospel will be rejected by the Jews, and will be given to the gentiles, who will eventually bring it back to the Jews.
Perhaps the greatest lessons from the allegory might be that the Lord loves his children and works tirelessly to bless them. Notice how often he weeps over the vineyard! (See verses, 11, 13, 32, 41, 46, 49, 51, 66). In the allegory, trees represent people; the Lord loves them, and works to bless and save them, even when they continue to produce wild fruit.
Jacob 5 is the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon. With all the planting, grafting, digging and pruning, it’s easy to become confused about what’s going on. First, let’s get the big picture: think of the allegory as four visits of the master to the vineyard. Each visit is the beginning of a major dispensation. Each absence of the Lord of the vineyard usually results in wild fruit, or a time of apostasy.
Four Visits of the Master in Jacob 5
|Visit One||4-14||1800 B.C. – 400 B.C.||Jacob (Israel) to Malachi|
|Long Time||15||400 B.C. – 30 A.D.||Malachi to Jesus|
|Visit Two||16-28||30 A.D. – 34 A.D.||Ministry of Christ|
|Long Time||29||100 A.D.-1820 A.D.||Apostasy to Restoration|
|Visit Three||30-60||1820 A.D to Our Day|
|Visit Four||61-75||Our Day to Second Coming|
|Long Time||76||1000 years: Millennium|
|77||End of the world|
With a little help from the footnotes, it’s possible to identify what happens in the vineyard with modern events (special thanks to BYU Religious Education Professor Todd B. Parker for this information):
- Tame Olive Tree = House of Israel
- Vineyard = world
- Master = Jesus Christ
- Began to Decay = Probably when Israel left Egypt around 1500 B.C.
6 – Top began to perish = Older generation: the younger generation goes into the promised land with Joshua, approximately 1450 B.C.
8 – Take away many tender branches and graft them withersoever = scattering of Israel
9 – Cast into the fire = destruction of Israel and scattering by Assyria 721 B.C.; Jerusalem destroyed by Babylon 589 B.C.
10 – Servant = prophets
13 – Nethermost part of the vineyard = all over, including the Americas
14 – Hid natural branches = Lehites, Mulekites, Ten Tribes
15 – Long Time (400 B.C. – 30 A.D.), From Malachi to the days of Christ
17 – Good fruit = those with good works
- Good spot = Americas
- Tame fruit = Nephites
- Wild fruit = Unbelievers (Lamanites)
29 – Long Time = (100 A.D. – 1820 A.D.), the great apostasy
30 – All sorts of fruit = there were “all sorts” of beliefs at the time of the first vision.
32 – “None of which is good” Joseph is told that all of the churches were His (note footnote 32b to JS-H 1:19)
- Last Branch = Nephites
- Good spot = Americas
44 – That which cumbered = Jaredite nation which was eventually swept off
- Good fruit = Nephites
- Wild fruit = Lamanites
- They have overcome the good = Lamanites overcome and destroy the Nephites
- Loftiness of vineyard = See D&C 33:4
- Stretched forth mine hand = notice footnote to Isaiah 9:12
52 – Notice the footnote – gathering and restoration of Israel
69 – Bad cast away = End of the world, or the destruction of the wicked
73 – Branches thrive = beginning of the millennium, missionary work will thrive
74 – One body, fruits were “equal” = Zion; see Moses 7:18, notice footnote to D&C 38:27
76 – Long Time = One thousand years of the millennium
77 – Evil fruit will come again = See footnote to D&C 88:110-111
4 – “He remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches” This was a hopeful message for this little remnant of the house of Israel, who were uprooted from Jerusalem. They found hope in the scriptures, and prophecies on the brass plates which showed them that they would never be forgotten by the Lord.
6 – “why will we die?” Why would anyone refuse the Lord’s offer for mercy, healing and the abundant life?
Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”
10 – “which …is endless torment” President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Eternal punishment, or endless punishment, does not mean that those who partake of it must endure it forever (Doctrines of Salvation 2:228).
Notice footnote 10c which directs you to, D&C 19:11; Here we learn that endless torment does not mean the torment will have no end, but it is called “endless” torment because “endless” is one of God’s names.
12 – “O be wise; what can I say more?” Obeying the gospel is the wisest course available! (If you’ll permit a Star Wars reference, I have often joked with my classes that “O Be Wise Kenobi” is Obi Wan Kenobi’s brother 🙂
13 – “I shall meet you” Jacob’s brother Nephi said that he would meet us at the judgment bar in 2 Nephi 33:7, 11, and here Jacob says he will be there too (as will Moroni, see Moroni 10:27).
1 – “whose name was Sherem” Where did this guy come from? Was he on the ship with Lehi, Sariah, and everyone else? No. This is an evidence that there were other people living in the new world when Lehi arrived.
4 – “gifted in flattery and speech” Like Korihor, Sherem had the gift of talk and flattery.
5 – “I could not be shaken” So many in the modern world are eager to shake our faith, we would do well to develop and unshakeable faith as Jacob and others teach us to do. (See Enos 1:11, 2 Nephi 31:19, Jacob 4:6).
7 – “the law of Moses which is the right way” Sherem believes in God, but not in Christ. He does not see that the law of Moses is intended to point men and women to Christ who would come. My favorite description of the Law of Moses is from Robert L. Millet and Joseph F. McConkie who referred to the law of Moses as “one grand prophecy:”
The law of Moses was as one grand prophecy of Christ inasmuch as it testified of the salvation to be obtained in and through his atoning blood. Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy. – Millet & McConkie, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 3:250
7 – “he cannot tell of things to come” Sherem is like Korihor, denying the idea of prophecy, but he contradicts himself in verse 9.
9 – “there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be” how can you say “nor ever will be” if you can’t know of things to come?
11 – “spoken concerning this Christ” Prophets testify of Christ. That’s what they do! Footnote 11b takes us to Mosiah 13:33 where Abinadi taught: “For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?”
26 – “we did mourn out our days” No “happily ever after” here. Remember that Jacob never saw Jerusalem, and witnessed considerable discord within his family since his birth in the wilderness. Notice also that Lehi specifically chose his son Jacob when he taught his important discourse on the fall of man and on “opposition in all things” (see 2 Nephi 2).
Related Inspirational Stories:
Kelly Haws: One of the members of our faculty had a significant experience with this passage during his family home evening. He had assigned each member of his family to go to his own room to read Jacob 5 and look for his own impressions and feelings. When the family members came back together his eleven-year-old son said that he noticed that the Lord repeated the phrase, “it grieveth me that I should lose this tree,” several times in the chapter. He commented that if he had lost of trees he couldn’t feel too bad if he lost just one, because he had so many others. Then he insightfully observed that he didn’t think the Lord was talking about trees. He felt that the Lord was talking about people – his sons and daughters – and that is why he had felt bad about losing even one. (Great Teaching Moments, ed. Kendall Ayres, [Bookcraft, 1990], 36).
The Gardener and the Currant Bush
by Hugh B. Brown
In the early dawn, a young gardener was pruning his trees and shrubs. He had one choice currant bush which, through growing fast, had gone too much to wood. He feared therefore that it would produce a little, if any, fruit.
Accordingly, he trimmed and pruned the bush and cut it back. In fact, when he had finished, there was little left but stumps and roots.
Tenderly he considered what was left. It looked so sad and deeply hurt. On every stump there was a tear where the pruning knife had cut away the growth of early spring. The poor bush seemed, tearfully, to speak to him, and he thought he heard it say:
“Oh, how could you be so cruel to me, you who claim to be my friend, who planted me and cared for me when I was young, and nurtured and encouraged me to grow? Could you not see that I was rapidly responding to your care? I was nearly half as large as the trees across the fence, and might soon have become like one of them. But now you’ve cut my branches back; the green, attractive leaves are gone, and I am in disgrace among my fellows.”
The young gardener looked at the weeping bush and heard its plea with sympathetic understanding. His voice was full of kindness as he said, “What I have done to you was necessary that you might fulfill your destiny. You were not intended to give shade or shelter by your branches. My purpose when I planted you was that you should bear fruit. When I want currants, a tree, regardless of its size, cannot supply the need.
“No, my little currant bush, if I had allowed you to continue to grow as you had started, all your strength would have gone to wood; your roots would not have gained a firm hold, and the purpose for which I brought you into my garden would have been defeated. Your place would have been taken by another, for you would have been barren and I would have lost you from my garden. You must not weep; all this will be for your good; and some day, when you see more clearly, when you are richly laden with fruit, you will thank me and say, ‘Surely, he was a wise and loving gardener. He knew the purpose of my being, and I thank him now for what I then thought was cruelty.’ ”
Ten years later, this young gardener was in a foreign land, and he himself was growing. He was proud of his position and ambitious for the future. His companions were popular and honored men. To be with them gave him hope and expectation and desire.
One day an unexpected vacancy entitled him to promotion. The goal to which he had aspired was now almost within his grasp, and he was proud of the rapid progress he was making.
But for some reason unknown to him, another was appointed in his stead, and he was asked to take another post relatively unimportant which under the circumstances caused his friends to feel that he had failed.
The young man staggered to his room and knelt beside his bed and wept. He knew now that he could never hope to have what he had thought was so desirable. He cried to God and said, “Oh, how could you be so cruel to me? You who claim to be my friend. You who brought me here and nurtured and encouraged me to grow. Could you not see that I was almost equal to the other men whom I have so long admired? But now I have been cut down. I am in disgrace among my fellows. Oh, how could you do this to me?”
He was humiliated and chagrined and a drop of bitterness was in his heart, when he seemed to hear an echo from the past. In familiar words, memory whispered:
“I’m the gardener here.”
He caught his breath—the currant bush! But why should that long-forgotten incident come to him in the midst of his hour of tragedy? And memory answered with words which he himself had spoken:
“If I had allowed you to continue to grow as you had started, the purpose for which I brought you into my garden would have been defeated…. You must not weep; all this will be for your good, and some day, when you see more clearly, you will thank me and say, ‘Surely, he was a wise and loving gardener. He knew the purpose of my being, and I thank him now for what I then thought was cruelty.’ ”
There was no bitterness in the young man’s heart as he humbly spoke again to God and said, “I know You now. You are the gardener, and I the currant bush. Help me, dear God, to endure the pruning, and to grow as You would have me grow; to take my allotted place in life and ever more to say, ‘Thy will be done.’ ”
So was it spoken in that other garden called Gethsemane. The Father knew the mission of the One who suffered there and knew, too, that Gethsemane would lead to Calvary. But with divine omniscience He also knew that Calvary would lead to the Throne of God.
The Gardener permitted the suffering because He knew the end from the beginning. He heard the cry to “let it pass,” a cry which is wrung from each one sometime in life. All who will add to that cry the humble words: “Thy will, not mine,” will realize the abundant life which was promised by the Master. (The Gardener and the Currant Bush by Hugh B. Brown, Improvement Era, 1943, Vol. Xlvi. July, 1943. No. 7. .)