It’s time, at long last, to get this discussion started. We’re tackling only the first two-and-a-half verses of text this week, but that will be enough to keep us more than busy, I think. Here is the text we’re dealing with this week, with my own punctuation (note that there are no textual variants to be bothered about in these verses):
 And now, Jacob, I speak unto you. Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness, and, behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow because of the rudeness of thy brethren.  Nevertheless Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God, and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.  Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother Nephi, and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God.
The first two of our four guiding questions seem to be focused heavily on these first verses. If we’re to get a sense of the immediate setting of 2 Nephi 2, or of its reliance on other scriptural texts, it’d be best to look for answers in assessing these first verses of the chapter. Further, if we’re serious about the question of audience, as well as about how the details of Jacob’s life bear on the interpretation of 2 Nephi 2, we’ve got to keep an eye on these first verses. Also interesting to me are some details from these first verses that might help us begin to answer our third question. As I hope to show, there’s a significant question of textual structure in these first verses that should give us serious theological food for thought. Only the fourth question will have to wait for further attention.
What follows, then, comes in three parts. In the first, I’ll say a few things about how these first verses help to situate 2 Nephi 2 within scripture rather generally. In the second, I’ll see if I can’t illuminate something about audience, as well as about the interpretive relevance of Jacob’s past. In the third, finally, I’ll identify an important structure in these first verses and say a bit about what it suggests theologically. Continue reading