Sociological: For such short verse, this one packs a tremendous amount of information that is interesting for the reconstruction of the social settings of the early Nephites. In the first place, we have several years passing since the discourse Jacob delivered with such finality. Although it is certain that Jacob has never given us a full accounting of the years of his ministry, it is still somewhat interesting that there is such a complete dearth of information on these intervening years. As noted at the end of the last chapter, I suggest that we have seen the removal of Jacob from official life, and we have in these intervening years no record because (in part) Jacob serves in no official capacity. As we proceed through this encounter with Sherem, further inferences will become available, all pointing to Jacob's unofficial capacity in the later years of his life.
The next interesting piece of information is that Sherem comes "among the people of Nephi." This is a tacit acknowledgement that Sherem is not counted as one of the people of Nephi. With the close association of one town and its corresponding land to the appellation "Nephi," Sherem is certainly not of the town, and of a political alliance different from that of Nephi (Jacob calls all Nephites who are friendly to Nephi - and the reign of the kings of Nephi, see Jacob 1:14).
Our introduction to Sherem, then, depends upon his being a non-Nephite (at least in the political sense) and a complete stranger to the people of Nephi. As an outsider, we must look closely to discover what we may about who he is, where he came from, and why he is in the land of Nephi at all.