Zenos and the Texts of the Old Testament


Zenos, Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Scriptures, Scriptural Text


When Jacob rehearsed to his people the extensive allegory of the olive tree, he quoted to them "the words of the prophet Zenos, which he spake unto the house of Israel" (Jacob 5:1). The words of Zenos were known to the Nephites from the plates of brass, which originated in Israel sometime prior to Lehi's departure from Jerusalem around 600 B.C. The ancient Israelite origin of Zenos's allegory logically invites a comparison between the writings of Zenos and those of other early Israelite prophets. In light of the fact that plants, especially the olive and the vine, were often used in the Bible to symbolize God's relationships with Israel, a large field of Old Testament literature exists that can be extensively and profitably compared with Jacob 5.1 This paper sets out the main texts in the Old Testament relevant to the allegory of the olive tree and shows how the olive tree was used anciently to symbolize both blessing and cursing, both prosperity and judgment. By approaching these Old Testament olive texts in their approximate chronological order, it is also argued that the best way to account for all of these texts is to conclude that Zenos was a relatively early prophet who stood near the head of this persistent and powerful Israelite literary theme. First, consider the following series of texts.

Original Publication Citation

With John W. Welch. “Zenos and the Texts of the Old Testament.” Pages 322-46 in The Allegory of the Olive Tree. Edited by Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch, Salt Lake and Provo: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1994.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Book of Mormon Central




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor