Jacob continues with the imagery of the allegory but uses those images to discuss his people’s decisions to follow or reject Yahweh. In no way is he explaining the allegory. He assumes that the allegory is self-explanatory. Rather, he is intentionally altering the allegory’s intent into a springboard for a plea to repent.
Jacob expresses wonder that the people can hear Yahweh’s true way but choose to ignore it. In doing so, they are the main tree whose branches are producing evil fruit. They have what they need to turn to Yahweh and live, yet choose to do evil in Yahweh’s eyes. The people may wonder how a rejected Messiah will become the cornerstone, but Jacob reminds them that it is they who are rejecting their Yahweh’s grace through their actions and unrepentance.
Culture: When we attempt to visualize early Nephite communities, it is tempting to depict them as a tight community of believers. Jacob’s two recorded sermons do not support such a picture. Certainly some of the seeds of Jacob’s current religious problem were sown in the days of Nephi, but they bloom during Jacob’s ministry.
It is possible to reconstruct the social pressures on these early Nephites showing that their rise to some renown and wealth has placed them in the path of other cultures and competing cities. Economic competition has opened the door for practices that are contrary to Yahweh’s will but which are probably modeled on behaviors acceptable for these influential, neighboring communities. Where Nephi’s original rulership certainly combined the religious and the secular, it appears that Nephite society is making some tacit separations, redefining itself away from the Israelite cultural roots and toward its nonbelieving neighbors. Jacob sees this process as the branches of the natural tree becoming wild. Zenos’s allegory becomes personal as he sees elements of the Israelite religious/cultural core slipping into apostasy before his eyes.