Jacob 1:1 fifty and five years had passed away
This places the age of Jacob between 47-55 years of age at the time of this writing.
Jacob 1:1 a commandment concerning the small plates
It is important to understand that the next four books, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Onmi, are all written upon the small plates that Nephi made thirty years after leaving Jerusalem (2 Ne 5:30-32). Jacob did not make his own plates-he recorded his prophecies on the plates that Nephi had made, These plates are called the plates of Jacob, and they were made by the hand of Nephi (Jacob 3:14). These plates were filled up by the last of these men, Omni, who said, these plates are full. And I make and end of my speaking (Omni 1:30).
The fact that Nephi entrusted the plates with Jacob shows the high regard that Nephi had for the prophecies and integrity of his younger brother. These plates were designed only for spiritual things, considered to be most precious (v. 2).
Jacob 1:7 come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God
The disciple who truly follows the master is blessed with "the abundant life." When Jacob talks about partaking of the goodness of God, he is not talking just about the reward of eternal life but the blessings of discipleship while in mortality. He is talking about "the abundant life." I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10-11).
Albert E. Bowen
"More often than not now-a-days 'the abundant life' is made the synonym for a full stomach, or a modernized home, or coveted apparel, or a new model automobile. And these mere things are held up to view as if they constituted the goal of ultimate desire, which, is symptomatic of present day measures of value.
"But it is abundantly clear that that is not at all what was in the mind of Jesus when He used the expression. It follows immediately upon His declaration that it was by Him that man shall be saved. Salvation meant to Him something far different than the mere physical comfort or even preservation of the mortal body, or the gratification of the physical senses, or the invention of new excitements to relieve us of our artificially created boredoms." (Conference Report, Apr. 1940, p. 67)
David O. McKay
"We believe, however, that this abundant life is obtained not only from spiritual exaltation, but by the application to daily life of the principles that Jesus taught.
"These principles are few and simple and may, if desired, be applied by every normal person." (Conference Report, Oct. 1937, p. 103)
Hugh B. Brown
"A part of that duty is to live the abundant life of which Jesus spoke, a life which may be enjoyed by anyone regardless of his financial condition, geographical location, or social position.
"Robert Louis Stevenson has given us a very good definition of rich and radiant living as follows: 'He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task, who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauties, nor failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life is an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.'" (The Abundant Life, p. 7)
"I know of no better summary of the elements of the abundant life than the one given by the great German teacher and philosopher, Goethe. He said, 'There are nine requisites for contented living; Faith enough to make work a pleasure; wealth enough to support your needs; strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them; grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them; patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished; charity enough to see some good in your neighbor; love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others; faith enough to make real the things of God; and hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.'" (The Abundant Life, p.183)
Jacob 1:7 the provocation in the days of temptation
Jacob is referring to the ways in which the children of Israel provoked the Lord to anger by their insolence while in the wilderness of Sinai. The most obvious example is the making of the golden calf (Ex 32:1-4,19-20). These rebellious events continued until the final "provocation." The Lord sent spies to investigate the land of Canaan. The spies returned without faith that the Israelites could conquer the peoples of the land, even though the Lord had promised them, The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace (Ex 14:14). This lack of faith and trust in the Lord was the last straw for the Lord. He thereby covenanted that none of the children of Israel should possess the land, that all of them (except Joshua and Caleb) should wander in the wilderness for forty years (See Numbers 32:11-13).
Here Jacob is making an analogy between our journey towards the kingdom of God and the children of Israel's journey towards the land of Canaan. If we are as rebellious as they were, we will be denied access-we will not be allowed to enter into his rest.
Jacob 1:8 suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world
"To suffer the cross of Christ is to be willing to bear the burdens of Christian discipleship, particularly of crucifying the 'old man of sin' and putting on Christ. 'if any man will come after me,' Jesus taught his meridian Twelve, 'let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.' (JST, Matthew 16:25-26; cf. Matthew 10:38; 2 Nephi 9:18; 3 Nephi 12:30.)" (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 5)
Jacob 1:9 Nephi anointed a man to be a king
Nephi was not a fan of a monarchial form of government. He made this clear when he was made the king by his people in 2 Ne 5:18, I, Nephi was desirous that they should have no king; nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power. Later on in the Book of Mormon, we learn of the great destructions which came upon the Jaredites because of the wickedness of their kings. Alma refused to be the king saying, it is not expedient that we should have a king...Nevertheless, if it were possible that ye could always have just men to be your kings it would be well for you to have a king (Mosiah 23:7-8). Nephi must have had reason to trust the man he anointed to be king. Otherwise, Surely this thing leadeth into captivity (Ether 6:23).
Interestingly, Nephi does not anoint one of his sons as king. This may have been because he had no sons at all. The fact that he entrusted Jacob, his brother, with the records supports this hypothesis. There is no record in the Book of Mormon that Nephi had any sons. He makes reference to his "family" and "children" in other scriptures (1 Ne 17:1, 2 Ne 4:15; 5:6; 25:26) so that we know that he did have children. The context of events described above suggests that the children he had were all daughters and not sons.
Jacob 1:10 Nephi...labored in all his days for their welfare
Nephi was a great king and protector, much like king Benjamin, For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness... Wherefore, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land (W of M 1:17-18).
Jacob explains that Nephi wielded the sword of Laban in their defence. Nevertheless, we are not going to hear any details about their wars on the small plates of Nephi. All we learn from Nephi is that he made many swords after the manner of the sword of Laban and that by 559 BC, they had already had wars and contentions with [their] brethren (2 Ne 5:14, 34).
Jacob 1:12 And it came to pass that Nephi died
George Q. Cannon
"In this simple language does Jacob record the event. He leaves Nephi's works to speak for him. And their consideration cannot fail to be of profit to all who will give them attention. The example of such a life is of immense benefit to mankind; it strengthens, elevates and inspires with noble purpose all who become acquainted with it. No Latter-day Saint can read the life of Nephi, as he has given it to us in his record, without being incited to exercise greater faith, to live nearer to God and to cherish loftier aims.
"It can be said about the writings of Nephi (and this is also true of the entire Book of Mormon and in fact of all saving truth) that they bring the conviction of their divinity to the heart of every one who reads them in the spirit in which they were written. Read in that spirit, they fill the soul with a sweet and heavenly joy which only the spirit of God can produce." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 454)
Jacob 1:13-14 The people are called by the names of "Lamanites" and "Nephites"
This simplification by Jacob is consistently adhered to in the Book of Mormon. What should be remembered is that this is just that-a simplification. The Book of Mormon was written for us, in plainness, to our understanding. The details of peoples, customs, cities, wars, etc. could not be fairly dealt with in such a small record. As Mormon admitted, I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people (W of M 1:5). Therefore, it makes it easier for us to understand the story if the "good guys" are called "Nephites" and the "bad guys" are called "Lamanites."
Daniel H. Ludlow explains these terms as follows:
"In general, the terms 'Nephites' and 'Lamanites' are used with the same meaning for the first 500 years of Nephite history. The term Nephites refers to all those who followed after Nephi and to their descendants. The term Lamanites refers to those who followed after Laman and to their descendants. However, it is mentioned later in the Book of Mormon that there were no 'ites' of any kind during the 200-year Golden Age immediately after the appearance of the resurrected Jesus Christ. (See 4 Nephi 1:17)
"After this 200-year period of righteousness, the terms 'Lamanites' and 'Nephites' are used again, but with somewhat different meanings than those used earlier in the Book of Mormon...
"...In A.D. 231 'there arose a people who were called the Nephites, and they were true believers in Christ ... therefore the true believers in Christ, and the true worshipers of Christ ... were called Nephites. ... And it came to pass that they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites.' (4 Ne 1:36-38)
"The terms Nephites and Lamanites for the remainder of the Book of Mormon are determined by this division, which had taken place by A.D. 231. In other words, the Lamanites of the last two hundred years of Book of Mormon history are descendants of those who revolted against the true church of Christ between about A.D. 194 and 231." (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.156, 296)
Jacob 1:15 wicked practices...desiring many wives and concubines
See commentary for Jacob 2:22-35.
Jacob 1:16 they began to search much gold and silver, and...be lifted up...in pride
See commentary for Jacob 2:12-21.
Jacob 1:18 Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Nephites did not officiate under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood. They were not descendants of Aaron, and there were no Levites among them. There is no evidence in the Book of Mormon that they held the Aaronic Priesthood...but the Book of Mormon tells us definitely, in many places, that the priesthood which they held and under which they officiated was the Priesthood after the holy order, the order of the Son of God. This higher priesthood can officiate in every ordinance of the gospel, and Jacob and Joseph, for instance, were consecrated priests and teachers after this order." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 86)
Jacob 1:19 answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them
The watchman on the tower has a responsibility to warn the people of impending danger. Ezekiel taught that the watchman was culpable if he did not fulfill his responsibility, if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand...if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way...his blood will I require at thine hand (Ezek 33:6-8). Jacob echoed these words, we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments (Jacob 1:19).
Jacob is always concerned that he cry repentance to the people so that he is not held accountable for their sins. This theme was first presented in the teachings of Jacob as recorded in 2 Ne 9:44, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you...I shook you iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood. In the next several verses, he explains that he would not be calling them to repentance if they were pure, Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the truth if ye were freed from sin (2 Ne 9:47)? He did not enjoy this duty, but he couldn't shrink from it without being responsible, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts (Jacob 2:6). Bishops, stake presidents, and higher authorities must follow the example of Jacob in their respective stewardships, answering the sins of the people upon [their] own heads if [they do] not teach them the word of God with all diligence.
Hugh B. Brown
"President John Taylor said on one occasion, speaking to the brethren of the priesthood: 'If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty.'
"This is a challenging statement. If I by reason of sins of commission or omission lose what I might have had in the hereafter, I myself must suffer and, doubtless, my loved ones with me. But if I fail in my assignment as a bishop, a stake president, a mission president, or one of the General Authorities of the Church-if any of us fail to teach, lead, direct, and help to save those under our direction and within our jurisdiction, then the Lord will hold us responsible if they are lost as the result of our failure." (CR, Oct. 1962, p. 84 as taken from the BOM Institute Manual, p. 14)