Jacob’s recounting of Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree conveys God’s tender care for his children. Jacob appears to conclude his writings at Jacob 6:13, but then includes the story of Sherem, which serves as a stern warning to disciples.
“The Allegory of the Olive Tree,” Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch
Here is a full book by Latter-day Saint scholars with 21 chapters on Jacob 5. Each chapter is available to read free online. Each author approaches the topic from a different angle—from history to theology; from botany to philology. They address the significance of olive tree symbolism in the ancient Near East, who Zenos was, the meaning of the allegory, what it teaches about the relationship between God and his people, how it might relate to other ancient texts, the accuracy of the horticultural and botanical details in the text, and much more.
“Explicating the Mystery of the Rejected Foundation Stone: The Allegory of the Olive Tree,” Paul Y. Hoskisson, BYU Studies, Vol. 30, no. 3
The allegory provides metaphors for real historical periods in the history of God’s people. Hoskisson’s divisions align with the chart presented on the Come, Follow Me page. Hoskisson concludes that the real purpose of the allegory is to show that whether branches are natural or grafted in, the people must accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Recent Notes about Olives in Antiquity,” Wilford M. Hess, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 4
Anciently, olives were valued for their oil, which was used for oiling, for kindling the menorah, for offerings, and for atonement. Wild olives reproduce entirely from seeds and exhibit genetic variation. Domesticated olives are cultivated as clones. Success of trees depends on irrigation, cultivation, treatment of seedlings, and grafting. Old World information was apparently lost among Lehi’s descendants in the New World; after the fifth chapter of Jacob, the olive is not mentioned again in the Book of Mormon.
Chart 81: “The Allegory of the Olive Tree,” Charting the Book of Mormon
A drawing showing (1) the decaying of the top, (2) the grafting in of the wild tree, (3) the planting of young branches in other parts of the vineyard, (4) the returning of the branches to the main tree, (5) the bitter fruit burned by fire, and (6) the good fruit being gathered and stored.
Chart 83: “Personal Applications of Olive Symbolism,” John W. Welch and Greg Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon
A list of 19 significant elements in Jacob 5 and possible interpretations of those elements.
“Botanical Comparisons in the Allegory of the Olive Tree,” Wilford M. Hess, The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy
The allegory in Jacob 5 is not completely botanically correct. This chapter discusses the botanical principles in Jacob 5, identifies those which are violated, and then clarifies the allegory according to those principles.
“Autumn, Olives, and the Atonement,” Andrew C. Skinner, The Religious Educator 1
Olives are revered in ancient and modern Israel and “are part of the landscape of belief.” Skinner lists the steps of olive oil production (harvesting, separating, crushing, gathering, pressing, and refining) and discusses the symbolism of the process.
“‘Ye Shall Have Joy with Me’: The Olive Tree, the Lord, and His Servants” Daniel L. Belnap, The Religious Educator 7:1
The servant in the allegory can be interpreted as Christ or his covenant people. Belnap looks at the role of the servant and how the servant grows under the Lord’s instruction.
“Zenos,” Daniel J. Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Zenos evidently lived between 1600 and 600 BC. He may have been a progenitor of Lehi. He spent time in the wilderness and also preached in the midst of the congregations of God. Some of his enemies became reconciled to him, but others were visited with destruction.
“Sherem the Anti-Christ,” by Robert L. Millet, from The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy
Sherem denied the need for Christ, used flattery, and accused leaders of teaching false doctrine. He sought for a sign and was critical of scripture. He met with a woeful end and is a warning for our times.