Culture: Why does Jacob end his speech here when the text he has delivered could be read aloud slowly in thirty-five minutes, assuming a speaking rate of an average of 130 words per minute? Thompson’s analysis of Jacob’s sermon as a covenant speech as part of a community festival provides the reasonable answer. (See commentary accompanying 2 Nephi 9:1–2.) There are probably other events of the festival, and it is likely that the festival would normally be spread over multiple days.
An agrarian society could not often afford to have its populace desert their fields for long periods of time, and rural farmers must have had to travel some distance for the festival. Therefore, it makes sense to hypothesize that this public event was one that occurred either at regular intervals (probably after the harvest) or one for which there had been ample advance planning so that the people could gather, prepared to spend enough time in the city (in the case of the outlying farmers) to make the trip worth their while. Jacob probably also understood the psychological importance of giving them time to reflect on the first part of his sermon and build anticipation for the next day’s events.
There are no specific clues that tell us which festival this might be, except that the duration suggests that it would occur at a time when the farmers are free from immediate duties. This suggests a fall festival. The gathering where King Benjamin gives his speech has several aspects that suggest that it was the Feast of Tabernacles. (See commentary accompanying Mosiah 2:1.) That is a post-harvest feast, and if it was celebrated four hundred years after Jacob, it was retained from the Old World and we would expect that it would be present in Jacob’s time. Although there is only the slightest of inferences available, it is possible that Jacob’s discourse was given at the Feast of Tabernacles, just as King Benjamin’s famous discourse was given upon that occasion centuries later.
Text: This is the end of a chapter in the 1830 edition.