Isaiah 47: They Shall Be as Stubble; the Fire Shall Burn Them

This chapter foretells the total destruction of Babylon because of her iniquities. Destruction of ancient Babylon is a type for the destruction of the wicked at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. In characteristic Isaiah style some of the events in this chapter refer to the destruction of ancient Babylon, others refer to the destruction of modern spiritual Babylon, and some refer to both.

This dual meaning is well-known in the scriptures. John the Beloved, in describing a woman shown to him in vision that symbolizes the apostate churches of the latter days, said:

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (emphasis added).1

John also described the subsequent destruction of spiritual Babylon:

And he [the angel] cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.2

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the wicked of the earth in the latter days as Babylon:

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.3

Verses 1 through 5 describe how prideful Babylon would be utterly humiliated. Verse 1 begins: “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.” “O virgin daughter” refers to the ancient city; similar usage is applied to the ancient city of Jerusalem.4 “Virgin daughter” is applied because the city had never been conquered.5 “Sit in the dust” and “sit on the ground” mean that the ancient city would be humiliated; there would be no throne symbolically for her to sit upon, and she would be reduced to the status of a slave. “Daughter of the Chaldeans” is a synonym for “daughter of Babylon.” “Chaldeans” sometimes is applied to the educated class in ancient Babylon.6

Verse 2 further describes the humiliation of Babylon: “Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.” The grinding of meal with millstones was a task relegated to the poor or to servants, here given to the once-proud daughter of Babylon, the inhabitants of which would be taken into slavery.7 “Make bare the leg,” uncover the thigh,” and “uncover thy locks” all describe the total humiliation of Babylon—symbolized here by nakedness, as of a once-regal queen stripped bare before her subjects, taken into slavery, and perhaps subjected to sexual abuse. “Make bare the leg” means “strip off” or “expose oneself by removing the skirt.”8 Nakedness as a spiritual metaphor means without preparation or without the protection of sacred covenants. “Pass over the river” means to cross the Tigris or Euphrates into countries where the few survivors would serve as slaves.

Verse 3 continues the symbolization: “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.” “I will take vengeance” explains the symbolism. “I will not meet thee as a man” means a representative of the conquering army would not come forward, seeking to negotiate; Babylon’s conquerors would not come seeking treaty or compromise, but destruction.9

Verse 4 interjects: “As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Here Isaiah explains that the righteous—oppressed both by ancient Babylon’s ruthless rule and the wickedness of her modern counterpart—look unto the Lord for deliverance and redemption.

Verse 5 describes Babylon’s dejection: “Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” No more would Babylon serve as capital city for empires or kingdoms. “Get thee into darkness” means “descend into mourning,” or into exile.10 “Daughter of the Chaldeans” refers to the practice of sorcery and astrology, for which ancient Chaldea was known.11

Verses 1 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
C: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.
D: (2) Take the millstones, and grind meal:
E: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg,
F: uncover the thigh,
G: pass over the rivers.
F: (3) Thy nakedness shall be uncovered,
E: yea, thy shame shall be seen:
D: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. (4) As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.
C: (5) Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
A: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.

The message of this chiasm is that Babylon would be totally humiliated militarily. “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon” is complemented by “for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” “Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” matches “sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness;” “uncover thy locks, make bare the leg” is complemented by “thy shame shall be seen;” and “uncover the thigh” matches “thy nakedness shall be uncovered.”

In verse 6, the Lord describes Judah’s captivity and punishment at the hand of Babylon: “I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.”12 “I have polluted mine inheritance” means the Lord allowed the conqueror to enter the land designated as the inheritance for His people.13 “Into thine hand” means “into thy control.” The conquerors showed apostate Judah no mercy—not even toward the elderly, who would normally be deserving of respect and veneration. Although the Lord allowed ancient Babylon to overrun Judah and take her people captive, He would hold Babylon accountable for her cruelty and injustice.

In verse 7, Babylon trifles with the warnings given: “And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.” “The latter end” refers to the destruction of Babylon—both the ancient city and her modern counterpart. “I shall be a lady forever” reveals Babylon’s perceived self-sufficiency and haughtiness and connotes great pleasure in her assuming the role of mistress.14

In verses 8 and 9, the Lord warns Babylon. Verse 8 begins: “Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.” Babylon dismisses the unavoidable consequences of wickedness.15 “Dwelling carelessly” means “carefree living.” “I am, and none else beside me” characterizes modern Babylon’s total rejection of God and denial of His very existence;16 “I am” is the Hebrew meaning for “Jehovah;”17 Babylon herself assumes the role of god.

Verse 9 continues: “But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.”18 “Loss of children” and “widowhood” symbolize destruction of Babylon’s inhabitants, leaving the city bereft. Destruction would come upon the ancient city—and upon its modern counterpart—suddenly.

Verse 10 elaborates the Lord’s indictment of Babylon: “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.” Secular knowledge deceives modern Babylon; existentialism abounds; she denies even the existence of God. Her secret combinations, however, are not hidden from the Lord.

Verse 11 continues: “Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.” “Evil” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “misery” or “distress.”19 Because of her wickedness, disaster would come upon Babylon from a source not foreseen. “Mischief” is translated from a Hebrew word that means “ruin” or “calamity.”20

Doctrine and Covenants places these foretold events in the modern context, relating to latter-day spiritual Babylon and her destruction:

Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they [the righteous] shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land [America], to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.21

Verse 12 describes more abominations of Babylon, both ancient and modern: “Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.” The Lord challenges the wicked to put their enchantments and sorceries to the test; these will prove ineffective in protecting them at the moment of calamity.

Verses 9 through 12 contain a chiasm:

(9) But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood:
A: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries,
B: and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.
C: (10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:
D: thou hast said, None seeth me.
E: Thy wisdom
E: and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
D: and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.
C: (11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
A: and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.

In this chiasm,  reasons for Babylon’s destruction are set forth. Babylon has reveled in sorcery and secret combinations; her wisdom and knowledge have perverted her. “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness” is complemented by “therefore shall evil come upon thee;” “thou hast said, None seeth me” matches “I am, and none else beside me.” Babylon denies God’s existence; therefore, she reasons, her secret combinations and wickedness are unseen.

Verse 13 repeats the challenge: “Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.” These abominable practices would be of no help in saving Babylon from destruction or even giving advance warning.

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:

(11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off:
A: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
C: and with the multitude of thy sorceries,
D: wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth;
E: if so be thou shalt be able to profit,
E: if so be thou mayest prevail.
D: (13) Thou art wearied
C: in the multitude of thy counsels.
B: Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up,
A: and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.

Babylon’s practice of astrology and enchantment would be of no help in her time of desperation. “Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly” matches “these things that shall come upon thee;” “Stand now with thine enchantments” complements “let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up.”

Verse 14 describes the destruction of modern Babylon: “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” The fire of destruction will consume all available fuel, leaving the few survivors deprived of warmth and light. Fire will completely destroy the wicked.22

Verse 14 contains a chiasm:

A: (14) Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them;
B: they shall not deliver themselves
C: from the power of the flame:
B: there shall not be a coal to warm at,
A: nor fire to sit before it.

The wicked of Babylon will be consumed with fire, whereas those who survive the burning will be left desolate and cold. “The fire shall burn them” contrasts with “nor fire to sit before it.” “They shall not deliver themselves” contrasts with “there shall not be a coal to warm at.”

Verse 15 foretells that the merchants of the world who trafficked with Babylon, participating in her wickedness, will abandon her at her destruction: “Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.”23

 


Notes:

1. Revelation 17:4-6.
2. Revelation 18:2-4.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 1:16.
4. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary; also Isaiah 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11.
5. Isaiah 47:1, footnote 1c.
6. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 409.
7. Isaiah 47:2, footnote 2a.
8. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 2834, p. 362.
9. Isaiah 47:3, footnote 3a.
10. Brown, et al.,1996, Strong’s No. 2822, p. 365.
11. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 395.
12. Verse 6 contains a chiasm: I was wroth/polluted mine inheritance/thine hand/shew them no mercy/laid thy yoke.
13. Isaiah 47:6, footnote 6a.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1404, p. 150; see also Isaiah 47:7, footnote 7a.
15. Isaiah 47:8, footnote 8b.
16. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 410.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
18. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Widow/loss of children/these two things/moment…day/loss of children/ widowhood….
19. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7451, p. 948.
20. Isaiah 47:11, footnote 11a.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 29:8.
22. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 64:1-2, 11; 66:15-16 and pertinent commentary.
23. Verse 15 contains a chiasm: Thus shall they be unto thee/thou hast laboured/thy merchants/they shall wander/ none shall save thee.

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Isaiah 46: And Even to Your Old Age I Am He; and Even to Hoar Hairs Will I Carry You

In this chapter the fall of Babylon is predicted. The chapter begins with a depiction of idols representing Babylon’s chief gods being carried into captivity, symbolizing Babylon’s overthrow. Babylon is a type for modern-day worldliness and materialism; this chapter thus foretells the fall of modern materialistic society and describes its corruption. The Lord, in contrast to the conquered Babylonian gods, has carried and sustained His righteous followers through the ages.

Anciently idolatry consisted of worship of false gods, frequently depicted by a statue or similar image and commonly made of costly materials. Practices associated with idolatry ranged from ceremonial illicit sex1 to human sacrifice, including children put to death by fire.2 Modern idolatry consists of pervasive materialism, to the exclusion of spiritual or humanitarian matters.3

Verse 1 describes a caravan: “Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.” Bel is a Babylonian god, the same identity as Baal,4 and Nebo is a Babylonian god of wisdom.5 Babylonian names often began with the names of these gods—for example, Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar.6 Images or idols representing these gods were laden upon carriages (wagons) and beasts of burden. Because of their weight they are a heavy load for the beasts. The beasts and wagons are metaphors for the people who worship these gods—such worship is a grievous burden.

Verse 2 continues: “They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…and they could not deliver the burden….”7 Just as these false gods are powerless to do anything to keep themselves from being carried away, they are unable to keep those who worship them from being conquered. Worship of these false gods is a heavy burden and an enslavement, borne in ignorance of the truth. Jesus contrasted the gospel He preached to the heavy burden of false religion during His mortal ministry: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”8

Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Bel boweth down,
B: Nebo stoopeth,
C: their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle:
D: your carriages were heavy loaden;
C: they are a burden to the weary beast.
B: (2) They stoop,
A: they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.

This chiasm declares that although idolatry is a heavy burden, false gods are powerless to help those who worship them. “Bel boweth down” compares with “they bow down together;” “Nebo stoopeth” matches “they stoop;” “their idols were upon the beasts” matches “they are a burden to the weary beast.”

In verse 3 the Lord calls out to apostate Israel: “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb.” The Lord, who in great contrast to the conquered Babylonian gods, has carried and sustained His righteous followers through the ages, pleads with the remnant of the house of Israel to hearken.

In verse 4 the Lord continues His plea to Israel: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” Unlike false gods which are inert and must be borne by the people, the Lord will bear up His people in their tribulations, even down to their old age. “Hoar hairs” means gray hair, signifying advanced age.

Verse 4 contains a chiasm:

A: (4) And even to your old age I am he;
B: and even to hoar hairs will I carry you:
C: I have made,
C: and I will bear;
B: even I will carry,
A: and will deliver you.

“Even to your old age I am he” is complemented by “[I] will deliver you;” and “even to hoar hairs will I carry you” matches “even I will carry [you].” The Lord will sustain the righteous throughout their lives, in contrast to the powerless idols characterized in the chiasm of verses 1 and 2.

In verse 5 the Lord poses a rhetorical question: “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?” The Lord is unlike these false gods.

Verse 6 summarizes the process of creating an idol: “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…then they fall down, yea, they worship.”9 A craftsman is hired; no expense is spared. An idol, made by human hands, becomes an object of worship.

Verse 7 describes the folly of idol worship: “They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.” Idols can neither move by themselves, nor answer prayers, nor save man from life’s tribulations.

In verse 8, the Lord chastises those who worship idols: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.” Not only is idolatry serious sin; it is a lie borne of gross ignorance.

In verse 9, the Lord challenges the idolaters: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” God’s dealings with man since the earliest times bear record that He alone is God. We can trust, worship, and even adore Him without reservation. As the only perfect person to ever live on the earth, there is none like Him.10 Isaiah’s use of parallel phrases provides strong emphasis.

Verses 5 through 9 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) To whom will ye liken me,
B: and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
C: (6) They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god:
D: they fall down, yea, they worship. (7) They bear him upon the shoulder,
E: they carry him,
F: and set him in his place,
F: and he standeth;
E: from his place shall he not remove:
D: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
C: (8) Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
B: (9) Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else;
A: I am God, and there is none like me.

Idols are immobile and have no power to answer prayer. The question “to whom will ye liken me…?” is answered: “I am God, and there is none like me.” The second part of the question, “[To whom will ye] make me equal, and compare me…?” is answered “I am God. and there is none else;” “they fall down, yea, they worship, they bear him upon the shoulder” contrasts with “yet he can not answer, nor save him out of his trouble,” describing the ineffectiveness of idols to save men despite their worship.

Verse 10 continues the Lord’s accounting of His dealings with man: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”11 Prophets from ancient times foretell things yet in the future; these things testify that the Lord is God. The Lord through prophets declares the end from the beginning. “The end” is defined in this verse as “things that are not yet done;” and “beginning” is defined as “from ancient times.”

Regarding the phrase “declaring the end from the beginning,” LeGrand Richards stated:

We have a more sure word of prophecy that makes the Bible to me like a blueprint where the Lord has outlined everything from the war in heaven up till the final winding‑up scenes when we will have a new heaven and a new earth. I think that is what Isaiah meant when he said that the Lord has declared the end from the beginning.12

Verse 11 continues the Lord’s assertion that He is God: “Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” The “ravenous bird,” meaning “bird of prey,” symbolizes Cyrus whom the Lord would raise up to free captive Israel.13 “Executeth my counsel” means that Cyrus would do the Lord’s will.

In verse 12 the Lord again calls upon idolatrous Israel to listen: “Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness.” The Hebrew word translated as “stouthearted” means “mighty, valiant or obstinate.”14

In verse 13 the Lord attests His willingness and power to save: “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” The Lord is near at hand, anxious to provide salvation for repentant Israel. The meaning of “Zion” as used here is the place of latter-day spiritual gathering; other meanings may also be discerned.15

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:

A: (11) Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel
B: from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
C: (12) Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
C: (13) I bring near my righteousness;
B: it shall not be far off,
A: and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

“My counsel” matches “my salvation;” “From a far country” contrasts with “it shall not be far off;” and “far from righteousness” contrasts with “I bring near my righteousness.”


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 1:29 and pertinent commentary.
2. See Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 2 Kings 16:2-3; 17:16-18; 2 Chronicles 33:6—7.
3. See Isaiah 2:7-8; 32:5-8 and pertinent commentary.
4. Bible dictionary—Bel.
5. Bible Dictionary—Nebo.
6. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 391.
7. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 187.
8. Matthew 11:30.
9. Parry, 2001, p. 187.
10. Neal A. Maxwell, “O, Divine Redeemer,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 8.
11. Verse 10 contains a chiasm: Declaring/end/beginning/ancient times/things that are not yet done/saying.
12. LeGrand Richards, “Prophecy,” Ensign, May 1974, p. 115.
13. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 5861, p. 743.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 47, p. 7.
15. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 4:5; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.

Isaiah 45: Thus Saith the Lord to His Anointed, to Cyrus

The first part of Chapter 45 presents the Lord’s instructions to Cyrus, who would free the captives of Israel and finance the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The chapter continues the prophecy begun in the final 3 verses of Chapter 44. The Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. Babylon was subsequently conquered by Cyrus, a Persian, who diverted the waters of the Euphrates away from the city and marched with his armies in the dry river bed under the walls of the city.1 The writings of Isaiah—written over 130 years before the time of Cyrus and yet containing his name, both here and in the previous chapter2—must have played a significant role in the freeing of captive Judah and in convincing Cyrus to do these things. The chapter concludes with the Lord’s attestation that He alone is God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Through Him, the means for salvation will be provided for all mankind. In the end every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will swear, or confess,3 that He is God.

In verses 1 through 7 the Lord speaks to Cyrus, explaining that although Cyrus had not known Him, the Lord provided great blessings for him. Verse 1 proclaims: “Thus saith the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him.” 4 The Lord declares that He has supported Cyrus in his previous conquests. Verse 1 continues: “and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “to open before him doors….”5 “His anointed” comes from the Hebrew, meaning “messianic prince.”6 Thus, Cyrus as a military conqueror is a type for Christ in His role as destroyer of the wicked before His Second Coming. Also, Cyrus’ liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity is a type for Christ’s freeing mankind from the bondage of sin and death. “Two leaved gates” means “double doors,”7 as in the protective gates of a city under siege. The phrase “loose the loins of kings” means that the Lord would disarm, or figuratively remove the weapons from the belts of kings, to make it easy for Cyrus to conquer them. This statement means the opposite of “gird up your loins,”8 or prepare yourselves for battle. The method used by the Lord to intervene in favor of Cyrus is revealed in this phrase.

In verse 2, the Lord proclaims that He will yet support Cyrus: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “I will go before thee, and level the mountains….”19 Military conquests of “mountains,” meaning “nations,”10 would be made easy for Cyrus; the Lord would prepare the way for him.

Verse 3 promises: “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” “The treasures of darkness” means treasures in secret places, specifically meaning Babylon.11 The Lord proclaims that He is the God of Israel—a people held captive by Cyrus and his predecessors, the Babylonians whom Cyrus had conquered—and calls Cyrus by name through the prophet Isaiah.

The Lord, in modern revelation to Joseph Smith, proclaims that He controls the destinies of armies: “For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?”12

In the Book of Mormon, the resurrected Lord proclaims that He, Jesus Christ, is the God of Israel and of the whole world:

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world (emphasis added).13

The Nephites to whom Christ appeared were given an unsurpassed opportunity to know that He is the God of Israel, as He proclaimed to Cyrus through the prophet Isaiah.

Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Thus saith the LORD to his anointed,
B: to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him;
C: and I will loose the loins of kings,
D: to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
E: (2) I will go before thee,
E: and make the crooked places straight:
D: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
C: (3) And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD,
B: which call thee by thy name,
A: am the God of Israel.

The message of this chiasm is that Cyrus would be privileged to conquer many nations and acquire their wealth. “Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden” complements “which call thee by thy name;” “I will loose the loins of kings” is complemented by “I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places,” providing an explanation of meaning; and “I will go before thee” compares with “make the crooked places straight.”

In verse 4, the Lord proclaims the reason for His calling Cyrus by his name: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” Cyrus was appointed to perform a matter of great importance for the Lord’s servants, the descendants of Israel.

Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm:

(3) And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places,
A: that thou mayest know that I, the LORD,
B: which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
C: (4) For Jacob my servant’s sake,
C: and Israel mine elect,
B: I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee,
A: though thou hast not known me.

This chiasm explains why the Lord revealed to Isaiah the name of Cyrus many years before his time. “That thou mayest know” contrasts with “though thou hast not known me;” and “which call thee by thy name” corresponds to “I have even called thee by thy name.” The Lord revealed Cyrus’ name to Isaiah so that Cyrus would know that the Lord had appointed him to liberate the captives of Israel. Because of overlapping of this chiasm with that of verses 1 through 3, the phrases “which call thee by thy name” and “I have even called thee by thy name” are equivalent to “Cyrus” in verse 1.

In verses 5 and 6 the Lord proclaims that He is God and there are no other gods. Verse 5 commences: “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.”14 “I girded thee” means that the Lord had prepared Cyrus for battle.15 This the Lord did although Cyrus had not known Him or the Plan of Salvation.

In verse 6, the Lord explains that He, the Lord, would be glorified throughout all the earth because of Cyrus’ actions: “That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.”16 The God of Israel is the only true God.

In verse 7, the Lord proclaims that He is the Creator: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” In “create darkness” the Lord refers to His having separated the light from the darkness: “And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”17

In “create evil,” the Lord refers to His providing a choice between good and evil. Moroni explains: “For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night (emphasis added).”18

In verse 8, the Lord foretells the restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.” The Lord declares to Cyrus that as part of His role as Creator, He establishes and re-establishes truth and righteousness on the earth.

“Drop down, ye heavens, from above” means that heavenly messengers would come to restore divine knowledge and power to the earth. Compare John the Revelator’s prophecy of the restoration:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.19

“Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together” refers to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Compare Isaiah’s words foretelling this event:

And thou [Ariel, or the Nephites] shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust (emphasis added).20

The record of the Nephites, hidden anciently in the earth by Moroni, came forth from the earth as the speech of those long since dead.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
B: (8) Drop down, ye heavens, from above,
C: and let the skies pour down righteousness:
D: let the earth open,
D: and let them bring forth salvation,
C: and let righteousness
B: spring up together;
A: I the LORD have created it.

In this chiasm the Lord proclaims that He is the Creator and source of all righteousness. “I the LORD do all these things” is equivalent to “I the LORD have created it;” “let the earth open” matches “let them bring forth salvation.” The Book of Mormon, as if speaking from the dust of the earth, would bring forth the knowledge of salvation.

Verse 9 decrees woes upon those who rebel against God: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…thy work hath no human hands?”21 Do we, as God’s creations, deny His existence and claim there is no Creator? Even the potsherds—broken fragments of clay pots—provide rich clues regarding the civilizations, or human hands, that created them. Just as well might they argue among themselves as we might argue about whether there is a divine Creator.

Verse 10 provides a stark comparison: “Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?” Our questioning whether God created us is like our posing such inane questions to our earthly parents.

Verse 11 describes the Lord’s omniscience, again addressing Cyrus: “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” The Lord knows all about His creations; here He challenges Cyrus—whom He created—to ask Him anything that will convince him that the Lord is the Creator of all, including the human family.

Verse 12 explains further: “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”22 The Lord is Creator of heaven and earth. The Lord reiterates in modern revelation: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.”23 The earth and its contents are the Lord’s because He is their Creator. We have a duty of stewardship over the Lord’s creations, rather than ownership. Earlier, in Chapter 42, Isaiah proclaimed: “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.”24

Verse 13 declares Cyrus’ mission, with the Lord now shifting to the third person singular: “I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.” Cyrus is commanded by the Lord to release the captive Israelites and rebuild their city, not expecting financial gain. Prisoners or slaves were a financial asset and were normally exchanged or released for value or other advantage; here Cyrus is instructed by the Lord not to seek financial reward.

In Verse 14 the Lord continues His instructions to Cyrus, now shifting back to the second person singular: “Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.” Egypt, Ethiopia, and an Arab tribe called the Sabeans25 would provide labor and materials to Cyrus. All would acknowledge that the Lord was with Cyrus. Their being “in chains” means that the Lord would substitute the involuntary status of the Jews for that of the named nations and tribes, thus offsetting the financial consideration. The phrase “there is none else, there is no God” means “there is no other God.”

Verses 12 through 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (13) I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways:
B: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives,
C: not for price nor reward,
D: saith the LORD of hosts.
D: (14) Thus saith the LORD,
C: The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee;
B: in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying,
A: Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.

In this chiasm the Lord promises Cyrus “the labor of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia” if he will allow Judah to go free. “I have made the earth, and created man upon it” complements “surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.” “Captives” matches “in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee,” designating that others would take the place of the Jews whom Cyrus would free; and “not for price nor reward” corresponds to “the labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia,” designating how the Lord would repay Cyrus for his having freed the Jews.

In verse 15, the prophet Isaiah exults: “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” The Lord’s benevolence in providing for Jerusalem to be rebuilt under the circumstances described in the previous verses is reason for Isaiah’s praise. Here Isaiah also refers to the Lord as the “God of Israel” and “the Saviour,” foretelling the Lord’s central role in the Atonement. The Lord conceals Himself from the world in general, manifesting Himself only to those who approach Him in faith and righteousness.

Verse 16 condemns those that worship false gods: “They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.”

In verse 17, the prophet foretells salvation for repentant Israel: “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” The Lord describes Israel’s salvation in modern revelation: “And from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand.”26

The phrase “world without end” is also used by Paul in the New Testament,27 and its variation “worlds without end” occurs once in Doctrine and Covenants.28 In all three instances the meaning is the same. The phrase refers to God the Father’s work, unceasing throughout eternity, of creating and populating numberless worlds, as He described unto Moses:

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten….
But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.29

Verse 18 proclaims: “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” The Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, is the only God. His creation of the earth is for a specific purpose—to be inhabited by His children.

Nephi paraphrased verse 18: “Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.”30

Verses 15 through 18 contain a chiasm:

A: (15) Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
B: (16) They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
C: (17) But Israel shall be saved
D: in the LORD
C: with an everlasting salvation:
B: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
A: (18) For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens….

In this chiasm Isaiah identifies Jehovah as the same who would come and save His people. “Thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” matches “for thus saith the LORD [Jehovah, in the Hebrew] that created the heavens.” The phrase “I am the LORD; and there is none else” in verse 18 is also chiastically equivalent.31

In verse 19, the Lord proclaims: “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”32 The Lord does not work in secret; rather, He manifests Himself to His prophets through the ages.33 Nor do the descendants of Jacob seek Him in vain; the Lord deals only in truth and righteousness. In the preface to Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord stated: “And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know….”34

Verses 20 through 25 proclaim that Israel would be gathered and saved through the Atonement of Christ. Verse 20 declares: “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…draw near together and come, ye that are escaped of the nations….”35 “Assemble yourselves and come” is the Lord’s call to all Israel in the latter days. “Escaped of the nations” means those who have left behind the evil practices and beliefs of the world, spiritually seeking to gather to Zion. Idolaters have no knowledge.

Verse 21 continues: “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”36 The Lord has declared these things from ancient times; He is just and will provide the means for salvation. There is no other God beside Him.

In verse 22 the Lord proclaims that salvation comes only through Him: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” “All the ends of the earth” means people from every remote part of the earth.37

In verse 23, the Lord attests: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Paul quotes this verse in the New Testament: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”38

The word “genuflect” comes from the Latin, as represented in this verse. Genu means “knee,” and flectere means “to bend.”39 The Lord’s statement “I have sworn by myself” is the most solemn and binding of oaths that is possible under any circumstances.40

Alma the younger, following his miraculous conversion, expounded upon this passage from Isaiah. Far from being a promise of universal salvation unto all who confess the Lord’s name, it more fully condemns the sinner:

Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye (emphasis added).41

Acknowledgment by the wicked that the Lord is God does not imply repentance, forgiveness or discipleship.

Verses 24 and 25 summarize. Verse 24 states: “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.” In the Lord, each of us can find righteousness and strength; but all those who are incensed, or angry, with the Lord will be left ashamed. Nephi expounded upon these principles:

And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them….42

Verse 25 concludes: “In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” “Justified” means having been judged and found worthy of the Lord’s blessings and exaltation.

Verses 22 through 25 contain a chiasm:43

A: (22) Look unto me,
B: and be ye saved,
C: all the ends of the earth:
D: for I am God, and there is none else.
E: (23) I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return,
F: That unto me every knee shall bow,
F: every tongue shall swear.
E: (24) Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
D: (25) In the LORD
C: shall all the seed of Israel
B: be justified,
A: and shall glory.

The message of this chiasm is that in the Savior, all the ends of the earth can be saved and all will acknowledge that He is God. “Be ye saved” is the same as “be justified;” “all the ends of the earth” amplifies “all the seed of Israel;” “I have sworn by myself” is matched by “surely;” “the word is gone out of my mouth” is equivalent to “shall one say;” “in righteousness” is matched by “in the LORD have I righteousness and strength;” and “shall not return” is contrasted by “to him shall men come.” “Every knee shall bow” matches “every tongue shall swear.”

 


Notes:

1. Pat Alexander (Organizing Editor), The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible: Lion Publishing Co., 1987 ed., p. 296. See also Franklin L. West, Discovering the Old Testament: Deseret Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1959, p. 442.
2. See Isaiah 44:28.
3. See Romans 14:11; Philippians 3:10; Mosiah 27:31; Doctrine and Covenants 88:104.
4. Verse 1 contains a chiasm: Before him/I will loose/to open/before him. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
5. Parry, 2001, p. 182.
6. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 4899, p. 603.
7. Isaiah 45:1, footnote 1e.
8. See Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 30, “Come, come, ye saints,” verse 1.
9. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 182.
10. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and pertinent commentary; see also 2 Nephi 12:14.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2822, p. 365; see also Isaiah 45:3, footnote 3a.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 117:6.
13. 3 Nephi 11:14.
14. Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm: Though thou hast not known me/the LORD/there is none else/there is no/God/ though thou hast not known me.
15. See verse 1 and pertinent commentary.
16. Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm: I am the LORD, and there is none else/there is no God beside me/from the rising of the sun/from the west/there is none beside me/I am the LORD, and there is none else.
17. Genesis 1:4.
18. Moroni 7:15.
19. Revelation 14:6-7.
20. Isaiah 29:4.
21. Parry, 2001, p. 183.
22. Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm: The LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker/ask me/concerning my sons/concerning the work of my hands/command ye me/I have made the earth, and created man upon it.
23. Doctrine and Covenants 104:14.
24. Isaiah 42:5; see Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 42:5; 44:24; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
25. Bible Dictionary—Sabeans.
26. Doctrine and Covenants 38:33.
27. See Ephesians 3:21.
28. See Doctrine and Covenants 76:112.
29. Moses 1:33, 35.
30. 1 Nephi 17:36.
31. Verse 18 contains a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 15 through 18: The LORD that created the heavens/formed the earth/he hath established it/he created it not in vain/he formed it to be inhabited/I am the LORD.
32. Verse 19 contains a chiasm: I have not spoken in secret/I said not/seek ye me/I the LORD/speak/I declare things.
33. See Amos 3:7.
34. Doctrine and Covenants 1:34-35.
35. Parry, 2001, p. 185.
36. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: Assemble yourselves/draw near/ye that are escaped/set up the wood of their graven image/pray unto a god that cannot save/tell ye/bring them near/take counsel together.
37. See Isaiah 42:10; 43:6; 52:10.
38. Romans 14:11.
39. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 308.
40. See Isaiah 49:18 and pertinent commentary.
41. Mosiah 27:31.
42. 1 Nephi 17:3.
43. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 262.

Isaiah 44: For I Will Pour Water upon Him That Is Thirsty, and Floods upon the Dry Ground

The main themes of this chapter are apostasy, restoration and gathering. Particular emphasis is placed upon the practice of idolatry, against which the Lord presents a tightly-reasoned argument: How can we cut down a tree and burn part of it to cook food and warm ourselves, and then out of another part of the same tree make a god which we think can save us? For us in the latter days, pervasive materialism is equated with idolatry.1

The chapter begins with an assertion that the house of Israel was chosen by the Lord because of her righteousness. However, apostasy would overtake her, resulting in a multiplicity of beliefs. The Lord would denounce this apostasy and would set things in order again, restoring the spiritual gifts including prophecy.

The chapter ends with a prophecy that Jerusalem would be rebuilt following its destruction by the Babylonians. The rebuilding would occur under the direction of Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia who would overthrow Babylon and would allow the Jews to return to Palestine. Not only did Isaiah know of Cyrus’ actions that would result in the restoration of the Jews, but he was also given his name. This should come as no surprise to those who understand and believe in Isaiah’s gift of prophecy, nor is it necessary that these words be written by someone other than Isaiah during the time of Cyrus’ reign.2

Verse 1 presents two parallel statements spoken by the Lord: “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen.” The principle of the Lord choosing His servants is evident here; the same principle is illustrated in this passage from John: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit….”3 This New Testament passage, which refers to Jesus’ selection of His apostles and other disciples, does not imply the erroneous concept of predestination. As evident in the long history of the house of Israel, being chosen of the Lord can be forfeited through disobedience.

In verse 2, the Lord proclaims His role as Creator: “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.” The Hebrew word Jesurun means “upright one,”4 designating Israel’s ideal condition and revealing the reason for the Lord’s choosing of Jacob. The last part of verse 2, which consists of two parallel statements, is also parallel to verse 1. Note the repetition of the phrases “O Jacob, my servant” and “whom I have chosen” in the two verses. “Jesurun” is equivalent to “Jacob” in verse 1 because of this parallelism.

Verse 3 consists of two sets of parallel phrases: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” The meaning here is metaphoric—with water meaning the Lord’s spirit, providing inspiration and revelation.5 “Floods upon the dry ground” indicates the Lord’s generosity in providing a deluge of inspiration, not just a trickle. The second phrase in this verse, parallel to the first, gives the interpretation of the metaphor. The elements of this metaphor are familiar, since they occur elsewhere in the scriptures. Compare the words of Christ to John the Apostle: “…I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”6 In the Sermon on the Mount the mortal Lord said: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (emphasis added).7

Verse 4 returns to the metaphor: “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “And they shall spring up like grass….”8 Jacob’s descendants will receive spiritual nourishment from the Lord and will thrive.

However, as verse 5 describes, apostasy would set in: “One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” “Subscribe with his hand” means to make a written covenant. This apostasy was foretold by Nephi as well:

For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—
And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.9

This statement describes the situation that young Joseph Smith faced, which eventually resulted in his inquiring of the Lord and in the restoration of the gospel.10

In verse 6, the Lord declares His role as King, Redeemer and God of Israel: “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…and his redeemer the LORD of hosts is his name.”11 “His redeemer” means the Redeemer of Israel. “The first and the last” is a title of the Lord used in several places in the scriptures.12 The New Testament phrase meaning “the first and the last” is “Alpha and Omega.”13 The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, uses language similar to verse 6: “Verily, thus saith the Lord your God, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ.”14

Verse 7 foretells the latter-day restoration, which the Lord Himself would bring about: “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.”  The Lord denounces the confusion of religion described in verse 5 and promises to set it in order. Restoration of spiritual gifts, including prophecy, is foretold for the latter days—”the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.” Here the Lord issues a challenge to the apostate churches: Let them (the churches) show the people the marvelous things that are to come forth in the restoration, if they can.

Verse 8 continues: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”15 Here the Lord affirms that He has “foretold these things “from the time of the ancient people,” and Israel is His witness. Israel is commanded “fear ye not” when apostasy arises, because the Lord would set His earthly kingdom in order again. The Lord, using a negative rhetorical question, confirms that He is the only true God, whose statements can be relied upon. Isaiah addresses the people collectively using plural pronouns, but reminds them by using a singular pronoun, “thee,” that the Lord’s words are given to each of us individually. This verse is similar to the Lord’s words from the previous chapter.16

Verses 9 through 20 deal with idolatry and its folly. For us in the latter days, pervasive materialism is equated with idolatry.17 Verse 9 begins: “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.” The Hebrew meaning for “delectable” things is objects in which they “take delight” or “pleasure;”18 the connection with modern-day materialism is clear.

Verse 10 poses a question: “Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?”

Verse 11 answers the question: “Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.”19 “All his fellows” means “those who worship idols;” their idolatry will turn to their shame.

Verse 12 begins a description of the process of making an idol: “The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.” The man who builds an idol has no special powers or superhuman ability. Just like everyone else, he gets hungry and thirsty. Without nourishment or water, he is unable to continue the work.

Verse 13 continues the description: “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.” The only standard the artisan has to go by in designing a god is human beauty.

In verse 14 the Lord begins a tightly-reasoned argument against idolatry: “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.” The pronoun “he” refers to “a man” in the following verse.

Verse 15 describes uses for which the wood of the tree is applied: “Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “And he takes part for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea he kindleth it, and baketh bread; or, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it….”20

Verse 16 emphasizes the use for wood as fuel: “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…I am warm in front of the fire.”21

Verses 15 and 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (15) Then shall it be for a man to burn:
B: for he will take thereof, and warm himself;
C: yea, he kindleth it,
D: and baketh bread;
E:   yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it;
E:   he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
D: (16) He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied:
C: yea, he warmeth himself,
B: and saith, Aha, I am warm,
A: I have seen the fire.

The chiasm demonstrates the illogical comparison of more mundane uses of wood with that of making a graven image, all from the same tree. “For he will take thereof, and warm himself” is equivalent to “aha, I am warm;” “he kindleth it” complements “he warmeth himself;” “baketh bread” compares to “with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied;” and “he maketh a god, and worshippeth it” reflects “he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.”

Verse 17 describes how man makes an idol from the residue (remainder) of the wood: “And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.”22

In verse 18, the Lord describes the profound folly of idolatry: “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.”

Verse 19 sets forth the tightly-reasoned argument: “And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” None of the idolaters considers this logic in his heart.

In verse 20 the Lord declares: “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”23 “He feedeth on ashes” means there is no spiritual nourishment in the vain practice of idolatry; compare the “bread of life” and “living waters” preached by the mortal Lord.24 Similarly, in the vain practice of latter-day materialism there is no spiritual growth or refinement. Like the idols of old, our modern-day material possessions cannot deliver our souls. We are only deceiving ourselves; we are living a lie. The “right hand” is used in covenant-making; here the covenant—based on a lie—is of no value.

In verse 21 the Lord reminds Israel of her being chosen: “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.” 25 “Remember these” means these points of logic just rehearsed—that idolatry cannot save man, nor can the modern-day equivalent, materialism.

In verse 22 the Lord reminds Israel of the Atonement, whereby her sins are remitted: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” “Return” is translated from the Hebrew, meaning “repent;”26 it is through the Lord’s sacrifice that forgiveness is possible through repentance. Just as thick clouds blot out the distant scene, the Lord blots out our sins from His memory as we repent.27

In verse 23 Isaiah declares: “Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” The metaphoric meanings of “mountains,”28 “forest,” and “every tree”29 are well known—nations, and the citizens and leaders thereof. “The LORD hath done it” means the Lord has provided the means for salvation. The entire world will sing with joy upon the Lord’s redemption of Israel.

In verse 24 The Lord describes His creative accomplishments to emphasize that His statements are to be believed regarding the Atonement: “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself—” The Creator of heaven and earth, and He who formed us in the womb,30 has provided the Atonement whereby salvation comes through faith and repentance. The initial phrase of this verse, “thus saith the LORD,” is the subject of a sentence that comprises the remainder of the chapter. Throughout the sentence are eight occurrences of “that,” each of which is followed by a verb describing an action taken by the Lord.

Verse 25 proclaims the Lord’s triumph over error: “That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish—” The verbs here that describe the Lord’s actions are “frustrateth,” “turneth,” and two repetitions of “maketh.”

Verses 26 through 28 begin a prophecy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple under Cyrus, king of Persia. Verse 26 proclaims the Lord’s support of His servants the prophets: “ That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof—” The action verbs are “confirmeth” and “performeth.” Jerusalem would be rebuilt upon the return of the exiles from Babylon. Latter-day fulfillment of the prophecy is also evident as descendants of Judah flock to their mother land.

Verse 27 declares: “That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers—” This statement recalls the Lord parting the Red Sea to facilitate the escape of the children of Israel at the time of Moses, and also to Cyrus’ diversion of the Euphrates River to permit his invading armies to enter Babylon on the dry riverbed under the city wall.31 “That saith” is a verb form which refers to the subject of the sentence, “thus saith the LORD,” in verse 24.

Verse 28 adds to the prophecy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple; the prophecy continues into Chapter 45: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” “That saith” is the eighth occurrence of “that” followed by an action verb in the long sentence comprising verses 24 through 28. The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, which occurred from 537 to 520 B.C.,32 was recorded in scripture by Ezra.33 This temple was called the Temple of Zerubbabel, after the chief builder of the temple.34

Verses 26 through 28 contain a chiasm:

(26) That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers;
A: that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built,
B: and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
C: (27) That saith to the deep,
D: Be dry,
D: and I will dry up
C: thy rivers:
B: (28) That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure:
A: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, foretold in this chiasm by Isaiah, would be a miracle of the same magnitude as the parting of the Red Sea, allowing the escaped of Israel to pass through.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
2. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 382; see Introduction 5: Authorship of the Book of Isaiah (this commentary).
3. John 15:16.
4. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 3484, p. 449.
5. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
6. Revelation 21:6.
7. Matthew 5:6.
8. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 177.
9. 2 Nephi 28:3-4.
10. See Joseph Smith—History 1:5-11.
11. Parry, 2001, p. 177.
12. See Isaiah 41:4; 48:12 (1 Nephi 20:12); Revelation 1:11, 17; 22:13; Alma 11:39; Doctrine and Covenants 110:4.
13. See Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 66:13.
15. Verses 6 through 8 contain a chiasm: I am the first, and I am the last/beside me/God/who, as I, shall call/declare it/ancient people/are coming/shall come/ from that time/declared it/ye are even my witnesses/God/beside me/I know not any.
16. See Isaiah 43:10-12.
17. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2530, p. 326.
19. Verses 9 through 11 contain a chiasm: They that make a graven image/vanity/witnesses/see not, nor know/may be ashamed/formed a god/molten a graven image/shall be ashamed/they are of men/let them stand up/they shall fear/they.
20. Parry, 2001, p. 179.
21. Parry, 2001, p. 179.
22. Verse 17 contains a chiasm: Maketh a god/graven image/falleth down/worshippeth/prayeth unto it/my god.
23. Verses 18 through 20 contain a chiasm: They have not known/they cannot see/their hearts/I have burned part of it in the fire/coals thereof/roasted flesh/eaten it/residue thereof/shall I fall down to the stock of a tree/deceived heart/cannot deliver his soul/is there not a lie.
24. See John 6:35, 48 and John 4:10-11.
25. Verse 21 contains a chiasm: Remember/Jacob and Israel/thou art my servant/I have formed thee/thou art my servant/Israel/not be forgotten. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 262.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7725, p. 996-997.
27. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 385.
28. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
29. See Isaiah 14:8 and pertinent commentary.
30. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 42:5; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
31. Pat Alexander (Organizing Editor), The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible: Lion Publishing Co., 1987 ed., p. 296. See also West, Franklin L., Discovering the Old Testament: Deseret Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1959, p. 442.
32. Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
33. See Ezra, chapters 1 through 6.
34. See Ezra 5:2.

Isaiah 43: I Will Even Make a Way in the Wilderness, and Rivers in the Desert

Chapter 43 foretells Israel’s eventual repentance and restoration in the latter days. In the first part of the chapter the Lord proclaims that He is God and that Israel, recipient of many blessings at His hand over their long existence as a people, are witnesses of His divinity. Next are presented prophecies of the gathering of repentant Israel and of great destructions among the wicked; these destructions are for the protection of the Lord’s people. The chapter concludes with the Lord stating that unrepentant Israel has forsaken His law, bringing great curses.

Chapter 43 contains chiasms that provide useful interpretive information and which provide logical divisions in the text.

Verses 1 through 7 foretell the gathering of Israel; Isaiah presents the prophecy poetically as three chiasms. In verse 1 the Lord states that despite the sins of Israel He has provided the means for redemption: “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” “The LORD” means “Jehovah,” who is Jesus Christ. He is both Creator and Redeemer.

The role of Jesus Christ as Creator was set forth by the Apostle John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.1

“The Word” as used here by John means that Jehovah—the Lord Jesus Christ—is the Mouthpiece for God the Father.2  At the burning bush, the Lord revealed His name to Moses and told him what His name means:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I am that I am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.3

The name “Jehovah” comes from the Hebrew YHWH, which is related to the verb “to be” or “I am.” The meaning is “the One who is.”4

The mortal Jesus Christ, addressing the Jews in the temple, asserted that He was the same Jehovah:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.5

The Jews took Jesus’ statement as untrue, interpreting it as solemn blasphemy under the Law of Moses. For that reason the Jews sought to stone Him to death. Doubtless they remembered this statement at the time of His arraignment and crucifixion.

Verse 1 contains a chiasm:

A: (1) But now thus saith the LORD that created thee,
B: O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not:
C: for I have redeemed thee,
C: I have called thee
B: by thy name;
A: thou art mine.

In this chiasm the Lord attests that He is the Creator of Israel; Israel is therefore His own. He has redeemed and called Israel so that she might fulfill the Abrahamic covenant, becoming a blessing to all the world.6

In verses 2 through 4, the Lord reminds Israel of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s armies, promising similar intervention in the future. Verse 2 commences: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” “When thou passest through the waters” recalls the parting of the Red Sea.7 “Rivers” also means “invading armies,8 and “fire” refers to the destruction by fire that will occur at the Lord’s Second Coming.9 The Lord promises defense and preservation for the righteous at His coming, just as He liberated the children of Israel from captivity in Egypt and preserved them.

Typical of the destructions by fire foretold at the Lord’s Second Coming, each of us may undergo fiery trials along the pathway of our own life. The Lord promises that these trials are for the purpose of refining us and not destroying us—removing the dross of sin and imperfections and refining the gold in each of us.

Verse 3 continues: “For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.” Egypt’s armies, drowned in the Red Sea, are a ransom for Israel; the Lord has destroyed other nations to protect His righteous followers and will do so again in the future.

Verse 4 provides further explanation: “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, states: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,”10 expressing similar concepts.

The Lord’s purpose in destroying the wicked is to protect the righteous, for which the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is a type. This concept is elaborated by the prophet Zenos, quoted by Jacob in the Book of Mormon:11

Wherefore, dig about them, [olive trees] and prune them, and dung them once more, for the last time, for the end draweth nigh. And if it be so that these last grafts shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow.
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard (emphasis added).12

In this olive-tree allegory, the “branches which bring forth bitter fruit” are the wicked, which would be destroyed to make room for the righteous of Israel as they are gathered.

In verse 5 the Lord comforts the righteous of Israel: “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.” The Lord will protect and accompany those who are being gathered in the latter days.

Words from verses 2 through 5 are found in the text of a favorite hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”13

Verses 2 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
B: and through the rivers,
C: they shall not overflow thee:
D: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;
E: neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
F: (3) For I am the LORD thy God,
F: the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour:
E: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
D: (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable,
C: and I have loved thee:
B: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
A: (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.

“Rivers” compares with “people,” reflecting the symbolic meaning of “rivers” as invading armies. “They shall not overflow thee” complements “I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee,” again reflecting the symbolism of rivers. “Thou shalt not be burned” corresponds to “since thou wast precious in my sight,” indicating that repentant Israel will be numbered among the righteous and not burned at the Lord’s Second Coming. “Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” reflects “I gave Egypt for thy ransom,” recalling the destruction of the Egyptian armies in the crossing of the Red Sea14 and reiterating the protection that Israel will receive, leading up to the Second Coming.

Verse 6 continues the Lord’s description of the latter-day gathering of Israel: “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” The cardinal points of the compass, used in verses 5 and 6, represent the lands to which the ten tribes were carried into captivity.15 “From the ends of the earth” means from the farthest, remotest points on the earth.16

Verses 5 and 6 are paraphrased by the resurrected Lord in the Book of Mormon. Speaking of the time “when the words of Isaiah would be fulfilled,” He said:

And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them.17

Verse 7 states: “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” The Lord expands upon this subject to the Nephites during His post-mortal ministry:

Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.18

A passage of scripture possibly referred to here by Jesus is in 2nd Chronicles:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.19

In several other passages either definitely or probably in the possession of the Nephites,20 reference is made to the people being called by the Lord’s name.21 The sacrament prayers include a statement “that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy son.”22 Today, this means being recognized as a member of the Church that bears His name.

Verses 5 through 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) Fear not: for I am with thee:
B: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
C: (6) I will say to the north, Give up;
C: and to the south, Keep not back:
B: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
A: (7) Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

“I am with thee” complements “even every one that is called by my name.” “I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west” matches “bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” Statements comprising the chiasm all relate to the gathering of Israel in the latter days.

Verses 8 through 13 comprise a lawsuit in which the nations of the earth are to testify of the Lord’s goodness toward Israel. In verse 8, the Lord commands: “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.” This means spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness; the Lord issues a challenge for those able to understand spiritual things to see and hear. Compare Moses’ words to Israel preceding their entry into the Promised Land:

Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.23

Moses recognized the lack of spiritual sensitivity and willingness to receive guidance from the Lord among the children of Israel. During His mortal ministry, Jesus frequently stated “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” meaning “if you are able, understand the spiritual meaning of my words.”24

In verse 9 the Lord continues: “Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.” The meaning of this rhetorical question is “among all the nations of the world, is there any who have received prophecy and knowledge of spiritual things like unto you?”

In verse 10, the Lord commands Israel to acknowledge that He is their God: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” He says, “ye [Israel] are my witnesses that I am God” because of all the spiritual blessings they have received. Compare verse 12 below, which is chiastically equivalent.

Verse 11 continues the Lord’s assertion: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” Compare the words of Nephi:

And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents,25 if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them,26 and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth;27 yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved (emphasis added).28

The same Being who was known to the ancients as Jehovah would come to earth, to be known as Jesus Christ, and would atone for the sins of mankind by giving up His own life.

Verse 12 summarizes: “I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.” The Lord has “declared…saved, and…shewed” that He is God, except when idolatry was prevalent among the people.

Verses 10 through 12 contain a chiasm:

A: (10) Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD,
B: and my servant whom I have chosen:
C: that ye may know and believe me, and understand
D: that I am he:
E:   before me there was no God formed,
E:   neither shall there be after me.
D: (11) I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
C: (12) I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed,
B: when there was no strange god among you:
A: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

This chiasm describes the Lord’s status as God, what His actions have been to affirm this fact in the minds of His people, and that He holds the people responsible for this knowledge as witnesses. “My servant whom I have chosen” complements “when there was no strange god among you,” stipulating the condition under which Israel is considered the Lord’s servant.

Verse 13 states: “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” Before the first day of the creation, the Lord existed. These statements bring to mind again Jesus’ statement in the temple: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”29 The final statement in this verse, “I will work, and who shall let it?” means “If I do it, who can hinder it?”30

Verses 14 through 21 testify of blessings to be bestowed upon Israel in the future. Verse 14 foretells the miraculous end of the Babylonian captivity: “Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.” “Redeemer” means “one who buys back, redeems, or ransoms;” or “one who pays the price.”31 This word defines the mission of Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins. He it is who would destroy Babylonian and Chaldean alike, to protect and bless the righteous.

Verse 15 summarizes: “I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.” Structurally this verse consists of five parallel statements, repeated for emphasis. The last two statements are chiastically equivalent to “redeemer” in verse 14, attesting that He who spoke is the same who would be known as Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

Verse 16 declares: “Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.” The Lord reminds the people who it is that speaks—the same God who parted the Red Sea to provide for the miraculous escape of the children of Israel from the pursuing armies of the Egyptians.32

Verses 14 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (14) Thus saith the LORD,
B: your redeemer,
C: the Holy One of Israel;
D: For your sake I have sent
E: to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles,
E: and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.
D: (15) I am the LORD,
C: your Holy One,
B: the creator of Israel, your King.
A: (16) Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.

“Thus saith the LORD” is reflected in “thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters,” attesting that the Lord who speaks is the same who rescued Israel by parting the Red Sea. The Lord would destroy Babylon and the Chaldeans to rescue and protect Israel. As their Redeemer, the Creator would ransom them by giving up His own life.

Verse 17 continues the Lord’s review of the events surrounding the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea: “Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.” Note the use of the future tense, indicating that these events are a type to be repeated in the future, before the Second Coming. “Quenched as tow” describes the drowning of the Egyptian armies in the sea.

Verse 18 foretells the coming of Christ and how He would fulfill the Law of Moses: “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” The resurrected Lord declared to the Nephites: “Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”33

Verse 18 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:34

A: (18) Remember ye not
B: the former things,
B: neither the things of old
A: consider.

This chiasm centers on the “former things” and the “things of old,” meaning the Mosaic Law. Latter-day Israel is admonished: “Remember ye not,” neither “consider” “the things of old” that pertained to the law that was fulfilled with Messiah’s great and last sacrifice.

In verse 19, the Lord changes focus to blessings He would bestow upon Israel in the latter days: “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “Behold, I will do a new thing; and therefore it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and paths in the desert.”35 The “way in the wilderness” means the strait and narrow way through the spiritual wilderness of our time, of which the pathway through the Red Sea is a type; thus, the old is a type for the “new thing” that the Lord would do. “Rivers in the desert” is a metaphor meaning that the Lord will cause the message of the gospel to come forth by revelation from on high in the latter days.36 The alternate phrase “paths in the desert” means that the strait and narrow way will be established in the world, or the spiritual desert. This statement—rendered either way—also foretells the establishment of Zion in the valleys of the mountains and the presence of living prophets among the Lord’s people. This event is the same as was foretold by Isaiah previously, in Chapter 41.37

“I will do a new thing” also reflects the Lord establishing the new and everlasting covenant. The Lord, speaking through the Prophet Joseph Smith, explains:

For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.
And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God (emphasis added).38

Verse 20 continues description of the foretold event: “The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” The Hebrew words from which “dragons” and “owls” are translated mean “serpents”39 and “ostriches.”40 These animals metaphorically represent peoples not of the covenant who should receive the blessings of the gospel in the latter days.41 “Waters” and “rivers” in dry places mean inspiration and revelation from heaven in what had been a spiritual wasteland.42 Zion established in the wilderness represents a temporal latter-day fulfillment.43

Verse 21 continues the Lord’s description of the latter-day Zion: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”44 The latter-day work of the Lord would be manifest in the establishment of Zion in the wilderness, upon whom He would shower down revelation and blessings. In turn, those in the latter-day Zion are required to render praise to the Lord for blessings received.

Verses 19 through 21 contain a chiasm:

A: (19) Behold, I will do a new thing;
B: now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?
C: I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
D: (20) The beast of the field shall honour me,
D: the dragons and the owls:
C: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert,
B: to give drink to my people, my chosen.
A: (21) This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

“I will do a new thing” matches “this people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” These paired phrases describe the new and everlasting covenant to be established among the gathered of Israel in the latter days. “Spring forth” matches “give drink to my people, my chosen,” attesting that the people described would be nurtured by ongoing revelation; “a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” matches “waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert,” meaning that the way in the wilderness, or the strait and narrow path, would be established by revelation to this people of the new covenant who would live in the desert, or spiritual and temporal wilderness. “Beast of the field” and “dragons and the owls” indicate that even those not of the covenant would benefit from the establishment of the covenant people in the wilderness.

Verses 22 through 28 foresee that in the latter-day time of restoration, some of the house of Israel would persist in apostasy. Isaiah casts the Lord’s accusation of apostate Israel as a lawsuit, presented poetically as two chiasms. Verse 22 begins: “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” They have not prayed to the Lord and have not served Him.

Verse 23 continues the accusation: “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.” The Hebrew word from which “small cattle” is translated means “lambs” or “young goats.”45 The apostates of the house of Israel have not kept the law nor observed the ordinances.

Verse 24 summarizes: “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.”46 “Sweet cane with money” refers to the purchase of spices for the anointing oil used in sacred temple ceremonies. Israel has failed to offer acceptable sacrifices unto the Lord because of iniquity. Instead of righteously wanting to serve the Lord, Israel wants the Lord to serve her in her wickedness.

In verse 25, the Lord offers forgiveness through repentance: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Forgiveness is made available to apostate Israel through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Joseph Smith stated: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”47 The Lord told His latter-day followers, confirming Isaiah’s meaning: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”48

In verse 26 the Lord pleads for wayward Israel to repent: “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.” “Declare thou” means “confess thy sins.”

In verse 27, the Lord recognizes the fall of Adam and its sinful impact upon mankind, and the effect of corrupt political and ecclesiastical leaders: “Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.” “Transgressed” means offending or revolting against God.49

Verse 28 describes serious consequences for the sins of the people of Israel: “Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.”50 The Lord would cease to recognize the ordinances of the “sanctuary,” meaning the temple. The Lord having “profaned the princes of the sanctuary” means He has dishonored the ministers and priests thereof, no longer recognizing their priestly authority because of the extreme apostasy of Israel. As foretold here by Isaiah, the Lord ceased to recognize the ordinances of the temple at the time of the crucifixion, symbolized by the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.51

 


Notes:

1. John 1:1-5.
2. See Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 3 Nephi 11:7; JS-History 1:17.
3. Exodus 3:13-14.
4. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
5. John 8:56-59.
6. See Genesis 22:16-18.
7. See Exodus 14:21-31.
8. Isaiah 8:7; 17:12-13; 28:2, 17.
9. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
10. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10.
11. See Jacob 5.
12. Jacob 5:64-65.
13. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 85, “How Firm a Foundation,” verses 2-5.
14. See Exodus 14:26-28.
15. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 17:2; 42:24; 49:12; 54:7.
16. See Isaiah 41:5, 9; 42:10; 45:22.
17. 3 Nephi 20:13; see verses 11-13 .
18. 3 Nephi 27:5-6.
19. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
20. See 1 Nephi 5:13.
21. See Isaiah 45:4; 65:1; Jeremiah 7:10-11, 14, 30; 25:29,34; 34:15.
22. Moroni 4:3.
23. Deuteronomy 29:4.
24. See Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35.
25. Numbers 21:6.
26. Numbers 21:8-9.
27. See Exodus 17:6.
28. 2 Nephi 25:20.
29. John 8:58.
30. Isaiah 43:13, footnote 13a.
31. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Co., 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017, 1971, p. 623.
32. See Exodus 14:21-31.
33. 3 Nephi 12:46-47.
34. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
35. Parry, 2001, p. 175.
36. See Isaiah 12:3; 30:25; 35:6-7; 55:1, 10-11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
37. See Isaiah 41:17-20 and pertinent commentary.
38. Doctrine and Covenants 132:5-6. See also Doctrine and Covenants 131:2; 132:19, 26-27, 41-42.
39. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8577, p. 1072.
40. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3284, p. 419.
41. See Isaiah 56:9 and pertinent commentary.
42. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
43. See Isaiah 35:1-2 and pertinent commentary.
44. Verses 1 through 21 form a large-scale chiasm: The LORD that created thee/waters… rivers/fire, thou shalt not be burned/the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour/Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba/I give men for thee…I will bring…created…formed/ye are my witnesses/I… am the LORD/beside me there is no saviour/ye are my witnesses/I will work/Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans/I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King/they are quenched as tow/waters…rivers/this people have I formed for myself.
45. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7716, p. 961.
46. Verses 22 through 24 contain a chiasm: Weary of me, O Israel/sacrifices/offering/incense/sweet cane/fat/ sacrifices/thou hast wearied me.
47. Article of Faith 1:3.
48. Doctrine and Covenants 58:42.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6586, p. 833.
50. Verses 25 through 28 contain a chiasm: I…am he that blotteth out/transgressions/mine own sake/not remember/ put me in remembrance/thou mayest be justified/transgressed against me/I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary.
51. See Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.

Isaiah 42: He Shall Not Fail Nor Be Discouraged, Till He Have Set Judgment in the Earth

Most of Chapter 42 is a prophecy concerning the coming of Messiah—both His mortal ministry and His Second Coming. Verses 1 through 3 were quoted directly by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, as recorded by Matthew. As part of His ministry He would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf and bring out the prisoners from the prison. The mortal Lord performed many healing miracles in which He restored sight and hearing—but these are symbolic of the greater spiritual miracle of the Lord’s mission, as attested in this chapter.

Freeing the prisoners is a fundamental part of the Atonement brought about by the Lord’s infinite sacrifice. Had He not provided the blessings of the resurrection to the entire human family vicariously by laying down His own life we would have been imprisoned forever, excluded from the presence of God and deprived of God’s greatest blessing of eternal progression.1 During the latter-day restoration, the Lord would direct the return of priesthood keys to the earth by ancient prophets. Priesthood keys are needed so that saving ordinances could be performed by proxy for the dead who did not receive such ordinances during their mortal lives. Thus the way to salvation would be opened for all; and prisoners, whether living or dead,2 would be brought out of prison.

Parts of Chapter 42 are synonymously parallel with parts of Chapter 41; comparison enables greater understanding.3 This chapter contains chiasms that are workable if wording from the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is used.

This chapter begins with a statement from God the Father regarding the mission of His son, Jesus Christ. From the account we do not know whether the Father spoke directly to Isaiah; it is possible that the Lord Jehovah spoke using the words of His Father through the principle of divine investiture for the first 7 verses. Beginning in verse 8 the Lord Jehovah speaks, describing His own mission. Verses 1 through 3, quoted by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry and recorded by Matthew, differ in significant detail when compared to their rendition in the Old Testament.4

In verses 1 through 9 God the Father proclaims Messiah to be His servant, foreshadowing Christ’s total obedience to His Father’s commandments. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 8 through 10 of Chapter 41, in which Israel as a nation is proclaimed as the Lord’s servant. Verses 1 through 4 are also recognized as the first of four servant-songs in Isaiah’s writings.5

In a servant-song, characteristics of the Lord’s servant are presented as a psalm. As set forth by Isaiah in the four servant-songs Christ is the best exemplar of a servant, faithfully serving His Father and obeying Him in all things.6 Various prophets including Isaiah7 also fulfill criteria for a servant of the Lord.8 Others who exemplify Christ-like qualities as servants include the entire house of Israel;9 Joseph Smith, the great prophet of the restoration;10 the Latter-day Saints,11 and possibly others.

Verse 1 declares: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” The Hebrew word translated as “Gentiles” means “nations.”12 The broader definition of “Gentiles” applies here—nations of the earth. Matthew renders, with differences shown in italics: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.”13

The voice is that of God the Father proclaiming His son, Jesus Christ. “My servant” means that the Lord served the Eternal Father faithfully and obediently. “My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased” reflects the words which the Father spoke to introduce His son on several occasions. Mark records:

…Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
14

Three other instances are recorded in the scriptures in which the Father proclaimed and introduced His son using these or similar words. These events include the transfiguration on the high mountain,15 the appearance of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites on the American continent,16 and the first vision of Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820.17 God the Father is well pleased with His Son, who is beloved of Him; He is chosen and sustained of God and sent forth by Him to the nations of the earth. Other servants exhibiting Christ-like qualities fit these same criteria.

“Judgment,” as used in verse 1, means “social justice.”18 Other meanings for “judgment” found in the writings of Isaiah include fairness,19 retribution,20 sound reasoning,21 and an equitable system of laws.22

Verse 2 continues: “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.”

Matthew records: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.”23 This means that Jesus Christ as servant would not be a seditionist or revolutionary, not inciting rebellion or violence. Other servants who fit Isaiah’s description would also shun strife and violence—an important key in identifying who speaks for God throughout the ages, and particularly in the latter days.

Verse 3 further declares: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” Matthew renders: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”24 The meaning is that the Lord would not harm even the weak or vulnerable, reaffirming that He would not incite violence until after the time of His crucifixion and resurrection. This prophecy is another of several cited by writers in the New Testament as being fulfilled by events in the life of Jesus Christ.25 “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”26

Jesus quoted these three verses from Isaiah under circumstances that occurred early in His ministry. After performing miraculous healings and being followed by a multitude of people, He charged His followers and those whom He had healed not to talk openly about what they had witnessed. Matthew records:

Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
And charged them that they should not make him known:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet….27

Then Matthew quoted the first three verses of Isaiah 42.

Verse 4 continues the words of God the Father: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”28 The Father testifies that despite the most unfair treatment ever meted out, the most intense suffering ever suffered, and death by the most painful and ignominious method known, Jesus Christ would not fail in His saving mission nor be discouraged. “The isles shall wait for his law” may in part refer to the Nephites on the American continent, whom Christ visited following His crucifixion and resurrection. Nephi, quoting his brother Jacob, recorded that they were “upon an isle of the sea.”29 Other Christ-like servants would exhibit similar courage and perseverance in accomplishing duties assigned them by the Lord; many would lay down their lives to seal their testimonies.

In verse 5, the words of God the Father continue: “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.” He who speaks is the Creator of heaven and earth—He who gives life to the people on the earth, and the Father of the spirits of men.30

In verse 6, the Father speaks to His Son: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” He who would send Messiah would hold His hand, protect Him, and give Him as a covenant for Israel and as a light to the Gentiles, or nations of the earth. Servants of the Lord who also fit Isaiah’s description would be called of God,31 protected and given inspiration as they testify to the nations of the earth.

The Lord clarifies in speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me.”32

During Christ’s earthly ministry and shortly thereafter, the gospel was first given to the Jews33 and then to the Gentiles.34 Chiastically, the first part of the dispensation of the fulness of times is called “the fulness of the Gentiles,”35 after which the gospel will be given again to the Jews.36

The words of God the Father in verses 5 and 6 form a chiasm:

A: (5) Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out;
B: he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it;
C: he that giveth breath unto the people upon it,
C: and spirit to them
B: that walk therein:
A: (6) I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

The message of this chiasm is that God, the Creator of all, who gives breath and spirit to those who dwell on the earth, will sustain His only begotten Son during His earthly ministry.

Verse 7 states more of the mission of Messiah: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” “To open the blind eyes” has a temporal and a spiritual meaning. Not only did the Lord miraculously restore sight to the blind;37 He delivered the truth to them that sat imprisoned in spiritual darkness. The major part of the Lord’s earthly ministry was spent teaching the truths of the gospel to the people He encountered, bringing them out of spiritual darkness—ignorance concerning the Plan of Salvation—into the light of truth. The Apostle Peter summarizes: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (emphasis added).38 Other servants would be called by the Lord and given power to bring light to those who are spiritually blind, and to provide the saving ordinances to those in spirit prison.

In introducing the doctrine of baptism for the dead to the membership of the church, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “…Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free” (emphasis added).39

The Lord adds another dimension to the release of prisoners from bondage—the resurrection, which will occur among the righteous at the time of His Second Coming: “For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.”40

In verse 8, the Lord Jehovah—the Son of the Eternal Father—speaks: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”41 The Lord identifies Himself as who is speaking. Chiastically, “The LORD” is antithetic to “graven images.” This statement parallels the Lord’s introduction to the Ten Commandments:

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image….42

He who spoke to Isaiah is He who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Verses 6 through 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (6) I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
B:  (7) To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison,
B: and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
A:  (8) I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

“Prisoners from the prison” matches “prison house”—those who sit in darkness because of ignorance of the Plan of Salvation, imprisoned because of their lack of knowledge, will be set free by the Lord through the Atonement. Note that “the Lord” is the beginning point of this chiasm and also the end, symbolizing the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end as stated in many places in the scriptures.43 This pattern of chiastic structures beginning and ending with “the LORD” recurs frequently throughout the book of Isaiah.

In verse 9 the Lord continues describing His ministry: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Paul amplifies: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”44 The Law of Moses was fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, who here foretells this change. The Lord, preaching to the Nephites on the American continent following His resurrection, clarifies: “Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law [of Moses], in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”45

Verses 10 through 13 are synonymously parallel to verses 11 through 16 of Chapter 41, which proclaim that Israel will be sustained by the Lord and will dominate her enemies.

Verses 10 through 12 comprise a song of salvation. It describes the praise to be offered to the resurrected Lord by the scattered of Israel—scattered from the end of the earth to the isles, the cities and villages of the wilderness, the rock, and the top of the mountains. Verse 10 begins: “Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.” “From the end of the earth” means “the greatest distance away.”46 As verse 10 alludes, part of the scattered of Israel inhabited the isles of the sea—those who went “down to the sea,” upon which they traveled by boat to a new land.47 Their account is presented in the Book of Mormon—the coming forth of which is described earlier by Isaiah, in Chapter 29.48

Verse 11 continues the praise: “Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.” “The top of the mountains,” which is cited by Isaiah in Chapter 2 as a gathering place for the righteous in the latter days,49 is the meaning of the name “Utah” in the Ute language.50 These locations are places where the scattered of Israel reside, at least some of which were visited by the resurrected Lord after His visitation to the Nephites.51 Kedar was a son of Ishmael.52

Verse 12 completes the song of salvation: “Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.” 53 Again, “islands” refers to distant lands upon which the scattered of Israel dwell.54

The song of salvation of verses 10 through 12 is structured as a chiasm:

A: (10) Sing
B: unto the LORD a new song,
C: and his praise from the end of the earth,
D: ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein;
E: the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
F: (11) Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice,
F: the villages that Kedar doth inhabit:
E: let the inhabitants of the rock sing,
D: let them shout from the top of the mountains.
C: (12) Let them give glory
B: unto the LORD,
A: and declare his praise in the islands.

The message of this chiasm is that the scattered children of Israel will, in the various places in which they have been dispersed, give praise to the Lord. “Sing” matches “declare his praise;” “ye that go down to the sea” complements “let them shout from the top of the mountains.” Lehi and his family went down to the sea, which they crossed to obtain the Promised Land of America where the place called “the top of the mountains” is located.

Verses 13 through 15 describe the Lord’s demeanor at His Second Coming, contrasting sharply with the description of His mortal ministry presented by God the Father in verses 1 through 4. At the time of His Second Coming no longer will He be still or hold His peace, but will go forth as a man of war to subdue His enemies. Verse 13 begins: “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.” “Jealousy” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “zeal” or “ardor.”55 Isaiah foretells this event in Chapter 31:

For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.56

Verses 14 through 17 are synonymously parallel with verses 17 through 20 of Chapter 41, which declare that the Lord will provide inspiration and revelation to the humble, will devastate Israel’s enemies, and will shame those who worship idols.

Verse 14 continues the themes begun in verse 13: “I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” No longer will the Lord be silent but will shout out loudly and destroy His enemies.

Verse 15 concludes: “I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.”57,58 “Mountains and hills” means nations large and small,59 and “rivers” means advancing armies.60 The wicked will be destroyed at His Second Coming, leaving entire nations of the wicked depopulated and their armies destroyed.

Verse 16 continues the Lord’s foretelling of His Second Coming, now describing His treatment of the meek: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”61 The “blind” means those in spiritual darkness because of wickedness and apostasy. The Lord will restore unto them the true knowledge of the path to salvation—the strait and narrow way, the true knowledge of which had been lost or corrupted.62 The spiritual darkness that had prevailed throughout the Dark Ages—beginning with the apostasy that ended the apostolic era—would be dispersed through the light of truth, restored by revelation from heaven.63 The crooked path, which resulted from corruption of the knowledge of the strait and narrow way, would again be made straight.64

Verse 16 contains a chiasm:

A:  (16) And I will bring
B: the blind by a way that they knew not;
C: I will lead them
D: in paths that they have not known:
E:   I will make darkness
E:   light before them,
D: and crooked things straight.
C: These things will I do
B: unto them,
A: and not forsake them.

The message of this chiasm is that the Lord will lead the spiritually blind by providing the light of inspiration to them, dispelling the spiritual darkness. “In paths that they have not known” is complemented by “crooked things straight.” This connection confirms that the strait and narrow path, which had become crooked through disobedience and apostasy, would be made straight again through divine revelation from the Lord.65

Verse 17 denounces idolaters: “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.” Idolatry is not only the worship of pagan gods; it is the worship of material goods, as described in Chapter 2 by Isaiah.66 Materialism would become the prevailing creed in the latter days before the Lord’s Second Coming; those whose belief centers in materialistic idolatry would be greatly ashamed.

Verse 18 proclaims the latter-day restoration: “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” Those spiritually deaf and blind, having been deceived by false doctrines and corrupted by apostasy, would be given the opportunity to hear and see.

Verse 19 explains how these blind should see and these deaf be made to hear: “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant?” These words have been rendered as confusion due to “plain and precious things” having been taken away.67 Joseph Smith, who read through the Bible using the Urim and Thummim—the same divinely-prepared instrument that he used to translate the Book of Mormon from the reformed Egyptian—discerned the intended meaning, recorded in the Joseph Smith Translation:68

For I will send my servant unto you who are blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness, if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant.
69

As established in verse 1 above, “servant” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduced first by God the Father, the Lord spoke to the young prophet, Joseph Smith, which began the great work of restoration in the latter days.70

Verse 20 describes the spiritual blindness and deafness of Israel: “Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.” JST renders, with differences shown in italics: “Thou art a people, seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not.”71 Israel is left blind and deaf to spiritual things because of her apostasy. As a type, this declaration also describes the Christian-era apostasy that characterized the period leading up to the latter-day restoration. Isaiah was forewarned of these periods of apostasy, writing his book of prophecy in code so that it would be plain to the reader endowed with the spirit of prophecy but incomprehensible to those not worthy of this great spiritual gift. The Lord instructed Isaiah: “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”72

Verse 18 and JST 19, 20 and 21 form a chiasm:

A: (18) Hear, ye deaf;
B: and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
C: (JST 19) For I will send my servant
D: unto you who are blind;
E: yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind,
E: and unstop the ears of the deaf;
D: (JST 20) And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness,
C: if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant.
B: (JST 21) Thou art a people, seeing many things, but thou observest not;
A: opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not.

This chiasm centers on “yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind,” reflected by “and unstop the ears of the deaf,” as revealed in the Joseph Smith Translation of this passage. “Hear, ye deaf” contrasts with “opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not;” “look, ye blind, that ye may see” contrasts with “seeing many things, but thou observest not;” and “my servant” matches “the Lord’s servant,” identifying that God the Father is speaking. Deafness and blindness as used here refer to spiritual rather than physical deficiencies. This chiasm is workable if words provided by the Joseph Smith Translation, shown in italics, are used.

Verse 21 states: “The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” JST renders the verse as a condemnation of apostasy, with differences shown in italics: “The LORD is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.”73 The Law of Moses had been dishonored because of Israel’s apostasy. Nevertheless, the Lord would make it honorable again during His earthly ministry by fulfilling it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, Heaven and earth must pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled.
74

Verse 22 describes the results of Israel’s apostasy: “But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.” JST amplifies, with differences shown in italics: “Thou art a people robbed and spoiled; thine enemies, all of them, have snared thee in holes, and they have hid thee in prison houses: they have taken thee for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”75

Verse 23 describes the conditions under which restoration would come about: “Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?” JST renders: “Who among them will give ear unto thee, or hearken and hear thee for the time to come?”76 Giving heed to the words of the Lord, and to prophecies regarding the future, would prepare the people for the blessings of restoration.

Verse 24 delineates the cause of Israel’s woes: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.” Isaiah poses a rhetorical question then answers it with another, establishing that the Lord yielded up Israel to her enemies because of iniquity. Finally, he states that it was failure to receive the ordinances of salvation and to obey the law of the Lord that caused the kingdom of Israel to be carried away captive.77

Verse 25 further explains: “Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.” JST renders: “Therefore he hath poured upon them the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and they have set them on fire round about, yet they know not; and it burned them, yet they laid it not to heart.”78 This prophecy alludes to the burnings that would take place at the Second Coming.79 Israel has been the recipient of the Lord’s anger, manifest as the ravages of battle and devastating fire. Despite these chastisements Jacob fails to understand, or take to heart, the underlying reasons for the Lord’s punishment.

JST verse 22, JST verse 23, and verses 23 through 25 form a chiasm:

A: (JST 22) The LORD is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake;
B: he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
C: (JST 23) Thou art a people robbed
D: and spoiled; thine enemies, all of them, have snared thee in holes, and they have hid thee in prison houses: they have taken thee for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
E: (23) Who among you will give ear to this?
E: who will hearken and hear for the time to come?
D: (24) Who gave Jacob for a spoil,
C: and Israel to the robbers?
B: did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.
A: (25) Therefore he hath poured upon them the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set them on fire round about, yet they know not; and it burned them, yet they laid it not to heart.

The elements of this chiasm are also apparent in the King James Version, but their meanings are less clear. “Who among you will give ear to this?” and its reflection “who will hearken and hear for the time to come?” describe the conditions under which the gathering of Israel will begin to take place. The ascending side of the chiasm describes the effect of failure of the house of Israel to “give ear” and “hearken and hear,” whereas the cause for their tribulations is delineated in the descending side.

 


Notes:

1. See Mosiah 16:6-8.
2. See Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16.
3. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 349-356.
4. See Matthew 12:18-20.
5. Ludlow, 1982, p. 358-360. The four servant-songs are in Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13 through 53:12.
6. See John 6:38.
7. See Isaiah 49:5; Amos 3:7; Revelation 10:7.
8. Ludlow, 1982, p. 358-360.
9. See Isaiah 41:8-10 and pertinent commentary.
10. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:17, 29; 19:13; 28:2; 35:17-18.
11. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:6; 42:63; 44:1; 68:5-6; 133:30, 32.
12. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1471, p. 156.
13. Matthew 12:18.
14. Mark 1:9-11. See also Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:21-22.
15. Matthew 17:1-5.
16. 3 Nephi 11:7.
17. Joseph Smith—History 1:17.
18. See Isaiah 5:7; 28:6; 59:8, 15.
19. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 33:5; 41:1; 49:4; 53:8.
20. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 4:4; 34:5.
21. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
22. See Isaiah 51:4; 54:17.
23. Matthew 12:19.
24. Matthew 12:20.
25. See Matthew 12:17; see also Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
26. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 59:8.
27. Matthew 12:14-17.
28. Verse 4 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Set/earth/judgment/his law/isles/wait. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
29. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 24:15; 42:10-12; 49:1; 51:5; 60:6, 9 and pertinent commentary.
30. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
31. See Article of Faith 5; Hebrews 5:4.
32. Doctrine and Covenants 45:9.
33. See Matthew 10:6; 15:24.
34. See Acts 10:9-48.
35. See Romans 11:25.
36. See 1 Nephi 13:42. See also Matthew 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Jacob 5:63; Ether 13:12; Doctrine and Covenants 29:30.
37. See Matthew 11:4-6; Psalms 146:8.
38. 1 Peter 2:9.
39. Doctrine and Covenants 128:22. See also Isaiah 24:22; 49:9; 61:1; Hebrews 11:40; 1 Peter 3:18-20; Doctrine and Covenants 76:73-74; 138:11-34.
40. Doctrine and Covenants 45:17.
41. Verse 8 contains a chiasm: I am the LORD/my glory/will I not give/neither/my praise/to graven images.
42. Exodus 20:2-4.
43. See Revelation 21:6; 22:13; Isaiah 46:10; Hebrews 7:3; Alma 11:39; 13:7-8; 3 Nephi 9:18; Doctrine and Covenants 19:1; 29:33; 35:1, 38:1; 45:7; 49:12; 54:1; 61:1; 78:16; 84:17, 120; 95:7; Moses 1:3; 2:1; 6:7, 67; Abraham 2:8.
44. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
45. 3 Nephi 12:46.
46. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:5, 9; 43:6.
47. See 1 Nephi chapters 17 and 18. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 24:15; 42:4; 49:1; 51:5; 60:6, 9 and pertinent commentary.
48. See Isaiah 29:11-14.
49. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
50. See Isaiah 2:2 and pertinent commentary. See also McConkie, Joseph Fielding, Gospel Symbolism: Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT, pp. 129-130, and “The Mountain of the Lord” (videotape), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1993.
51. See 3 Nephi 15:15-24 and 3 Nephi 16:1-3.
52. See Genesis 25:13.
53. Verse 12 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Give glory/unto the LORD/his praise/declare. Parry, 2001, p. 262.
54. See Isaiah 11:11; 24:15; 42:4, 10-12; 49:1; 51:5; 60:9 and pertinent commentary. See also 1 Nephi 19:10, 12, 16; 22:4;  2 Nephi 10:21; 29:7, 11; Doctrine and Covenants 1:1.
55. Brown, et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7068, p. 888.
56. Isaiah 31:4.
57. Verses 13 through 15 contain a chiasm: The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man/stir up jealousy/cry, yea, roar/ I have long time/holden my peace/I have been still/now will I/cry/destroy and devour/I will make waste.
58. Verse 15 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Make waste/mountains and hills/herbs/dry up. Parry, 2001, p. 262.
59. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
60. See Isaiah 8:7; 18:1, 7; 43:12 and pertinent commentary.
61. Verses 15 and 16 contain a chiasm: I will/mountains and hills/dry up/rivers/islands/dry up/pools/I will.
62. See Isaiah 26:7-8; 28:7; 40:3; 43:16, 19 and pertinent commentary.
63. See Isaiah 9:2; 2 Nephi 3:5; Doctrine and Covenants 95:6.
64. See Isaiah 40:4 and pertinent commentary.
65. See Isaiah 40:4 and pertinent commentary.
66. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
67. See 1 Nephi 13:28.
68. Gordon B. Hinckley, Our Heritage: a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996, p. 24. See JST Isaiah 42:19-23.
69. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
70. See Joseph Smith—History 1:17-20.
71. JST, 1970, p. 207.
72. Isaiah 6:9-10.
73. JST, 1970, p. 207.
74. Matthew 5:17-18.
75. JST, 1970, p. 208.
76. JST, 1970, p. 208.
77. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 17:2; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
78. JST, 1970, p. 208.
79. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.

Isaiah 41: Fear Thou Not; for I Am with Thee

Major prophecies and doctrines in Chapter 41, in the order given, include: The Lord would liberate His people from captivity through the intervention of Persia, which would overpower Babylon; the Lord would raise up a righteous man, Cyrus, to accomplish Israel’s liberation; the Lord denounces idolatry; idols are nothing; Israel, being sustained by the Lord, will thresh the nations; and Israel’s enemies will flee before her. In the latter-day restoration, revelation will enable the humble and prayerful to see, know, consider, and understand the Lord’s doctrines of salvation. Worship of idols is further denounced as vain and foolish.

Helpful in understanding this chapter is that chapters 41 and 42 contain a large-scale example of synonymous parallelism. Like chiasmus, an awareness of synonymous parallelism enables greater understanding without which the meaning of some passages may be obscure. Verses 1 through 20 of Chapter 41 are synonymously parallel with verse 21 of Chapter 41 through verse 17 of Chapter 42.1

In verse 1, the Lord introduces a lawsuit, in which the merits of idolatry are to be tried as in a court, and calls the participants to order. He states: “Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.” The meaning of “keep silence” is “come silently unto me”2 or “listen attentively.” The Lord is identified as the speaker later on, in verse 4. “Judgment,” as used here, means “fairness” or “justice.”3

Verse 1 is synonymously parallel with verses 21 through 24, which are discussed below. The combined set of verses describes a lawsuit in which idolaters are challenged to prove that their idols have any power whatsoever. Verse 21 continues the thought begun in verse 1: “Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” Verses 22 and 23 describe the inability of idols to foresee the future, describe the past, or do good or do evil; verse 24, directed toward the idols, concludes: “Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.”

In verse 2, the Lord poses a rhetorical question: “Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.” The righteous man is Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon.4 “Unto his sword as the dust” and “unto his bow as fallen leaves” describes the ease with which Cyrus’ sword would pass through and conquer nations.

The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah is chronicled:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia…the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus…that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.5

Verse 3 continues the Lord’s description of Cyrus: “He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.” Cyrus pursued and conquered nations in areas previously unknown to him; “passed safely” means that he was protected by the Lord.

Verses 2 and 3 are synonymously parallel with verses 25 and 26, foretelling the rise of Cyrus who would conquer vast areas, then liberate the Jews from slavery in Babylon. Verse 25 begins, “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come….”

In verse 4, the Lord asks and answers another rhetorical question: “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?” He answers: “I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.”6 The Lord is responsible for liberating the Jews from Babylon. “The First and the Last” is a title of the Lord used in several places in the scriptures.7

Verse 4 is synonymous with verses 27 and 28, which declare that the Lord is powerful and idols are impotent.

Verse 5 states: “The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.” The nations, ranging from the islands to the ends of the earth, would have great fear because of the advancing Persians; they congregated and prepared to defend themselves against the invaders. “The ends of the earth” here means the whole of the earth.8

Verses 1 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Keep silence before me,
B: O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.
C: (2) Who raised up the righteous man from the east,
D: called him
E: to his foot,
F: gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?
G: he gave them as the dust to his sword,
G: and as driven stubble to his bow.
F: (3) He pursued them, and passed safely;
E: even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
D: (4) Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?
C: I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
B: (5) The isles saw it,
A: and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.

“Keep silence before me” is equivalent to “feared.” “O islands…let us come near together to judgment” compares with “the first, and with the last; I am he,” designating that it is the Lord’s judgment being spoken of. “Who raised up the righteous man from the east” corresponds with “I the LORD,” prophesying the rise of Cyrus who would return the Jews from Babylon. “Dust to his sword” matches “driven stubble to his bow,” which describe the ease with which Cyrus advanced over the existing nations of the world.

Verse 6, which is synonymously parallel with verse 27, describes acts of service: “They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” This sentence describes the activities of the nations as they prepared to face the formidable armies under Cyrus’ command; however, because of the parallelism with verse 27, it also describes the Jews’ preparations to return to Jerusalem. Verse 27 foretells that the Lord would send a messenger to Jerusalem with good tidings. The acts of service did not lead to the building of an idol, as described in verse 7.

In verse 7, which is synonymously parallel with verses 28 and 29, the subject changes abruptly to idolatry: “So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.”9 Verse 29 states that “…they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.”

In verses 8, 9 and 10 the Lord proclaims that Israel, because of the Abrahamic covenant, is chosen to be the Lord’s servant. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 1 through 9 of Chapter 42 in which God the Father proclaims his Son, Jesus Christ, as His servant. Both the Lord Jesus Christ and the righteous descendants of Abraham would function as servants of God the Father in bringing the blessings of salvation to the entire human family.10

Verse 8 contrasts idolatrous nations with Israel: “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen,11 the seed of Abraham my friend.”12 Israel would be freed from Babylon because of promises given to Abraham and Jacob.

Verse 9 continues with the Lord’s description of why Israel would be freed from captivity: “Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”13 Israel would be gathered from the ends of the earth and chosen because of the promises given to her fathers and her willingness to serve the Lord. This statement foretells not only the liberation of the Jews from Babylon but also the gathering of Israel in the latter days. Again, “the ends of the earth” means the whole of the earth.14

Verse 10 provides assurance from the Lord that He would be with the house of Israel during the foretold gatherings: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” The “right hand” is one lifted up in making covenants;15 in this case the covenants are made by the Lord with Abraham.

The words of this verse form the basis of a favorite hymn, “How Firm a Foundation:”

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give the aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.16

Joseph B. Wirthlin, applying the message of verse 10 to our own time, taught:

We live in perilous times. The influence of Satan often appears to be unchecked and overwhelming. Remember the promise that God has given to those who build and maintain brightly burning bonfires of testimony to counter the wolves that threaten us. This is His promise: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will …uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”17

In verses 11 through 16, Isaiah proclaims that Israel would be sustained by the Lord and would dominate her enemies. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 10 through 13 of Chapter 42, which foretell that upon her gathering, Israel would sing praises to the Lord in the various lands to which she is gathered.

Verse 11 describes the dispersal and defeat of Israel’s foes: “Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.”

Verse 12 continues the description: “Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.” Israel’s foes would be defeated and would cease to exist. This prophecy became true of Babylon, which had taken Judah into captivity, and it will also be true of Israel’s oppressors at the time of Israel’s gathering in the latter days.

In verse 13, the Lord provides more assurance: “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” When we unite with the Savior and with His perfect and redeeming love, we can appreciate the reality of this promise from the Lord.18

Verse 14 continues: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” “Thou worm Jacob” means “thou meek and humble Jacob.”19 “Redeemer” and “Holy One of Israel” are titles of Jesus Christ.

Verses 13 and 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (13) For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand,
B: saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
C: (14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob,
C: and ye men of Israel;
B: I will help thee, saith the LORD,
A: and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel

In this chiasm Isaiah testifies that the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel who should come, is Jehovah—rendered “LORD” in the King James Version. This chiasm overlaps with a larger one including verses 8 through 16, providing correlation between shared elements.

Verse 15 describes Israel as an instrument in the hands of God to thresh the nations of the world: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” “Mountains” and “hills” mean “nations” and “lesser nations.”20 Israel would harvest the fields of the earth—white and ready for the harvest—in the latter days, gathering in the righteous.21

Verse 16 continues the description: “Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” The nations harvested are viewed metaphorically as leaves or chaff being “fanned,” with the wheat gathered and the chaff blown away. Note that natural disasters will play a significant role in destroying the wicked.

Verses 8 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. (9) Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
B: (10) Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
C: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;
D: yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee
E:   with the right hand of my righteousness.
F:   (11) Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing;
G:  and they that strive with thee shall perish.
H: (12) Thou shalt seek them,
H: and shalt not find them,
G: even them that contended with thee:
F:   they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
E:   (13) For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee,
D: Fear not; I will help thee.
C: (14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer,
B: the Holy One of Israel.
A: (15) Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. (16) Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The introductory statement consists of verses 8 and 9 in their entirety, which attests that Israel is the Lord’s servant; these verses are equivalent to all of verses 15 and 16, which form the reflection. Verses 15 and 16 do not form a chiasm themselves but are a series of parallel statements describing Israel’s role as servant. Israel will “thresh the mountains [nations], and beat them small, and shalt make the hills [lesser nations] as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them….” “I am with thee” is synonymous with “the Holy One of Israel.” “The right hand of my righteousness,” meaning the Lord’s covenant hand, contrasts with “thy right hand,” meaning the hand of Jacob, receiving the Lord’s help.

Verses 17 through 20, which represent a change in subject matter, are synonymously parallel with verses 14 through 17 of Chapter 42. During the latter-day restoration, the Lord will provide abundant revelation to the spiritually poor who pray and humble themselves before Him. The Lord will devastate Israel’s oppressors; those who trust in idols will be ashamed.

In verse 17, the Lord begins: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Compare these words of Jesus, chronicled by John:

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.22

The words “living water” have the same spiritual meaning as the water sought by the poor and needy described in verse 17. In both cases, the Lord is referring metaphorically to the life-giving message of the gospel and its saving ordinances.

In verse 18, the Lord continues: “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” The Lord will make the message of the gospel come forth by revelation from on high, here represented by the metaphorical water.23 This verse foretells the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, the establishment of Zion in the wilderness—in the valleys of the mountains—and the Lord pouring forth revelation upon His people. “Valleys,” “wilderness” and “dry land” also mean, metaphorically, peoples of the earth who live without the Lord’s guidance or inspiration.

Verse 19 continues the metaphor, describing the result of the water flowing in the desert: “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.” These seven types of trees represent peoples brought to know and partake of the blessings of salvation. The Hebrew meaning for “pine” is “ash” or “elm,” a hardwood tree.24

Isaiah’s metaphor has literal significance as well. Compare Isaiah’s declaration earlier, in Chapter 35:

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing….25

This prophecy foretells the establishment of Zion in the wilderness of western North America, with water brought down from the mountains to make the land productive.26

Verse 20 provides the spiritual key to the metaphor: “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” In this verse it is clear that the trees represent peoples—brought to see, know, and consider the blessings of the Lord, the Creator of all.27

Verses 17 through 20 contain a chiasm:

(17) When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst,
A: I the LORD will hear them,
B: I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
C: (18) I will open rivers in high places,
D: and fountains in the midst of the valleys:
E: I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
F: and the dry land springs of water.
G: (19) I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree;
G: I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
F: (20) That they may see,
E: and know,
D: and consider,
C: and understand together,
B: that the hand of the LORD hath done this,
A: and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

“Rivers in high places” is compared to “understand together;” “fountains in the midst of the valleys” is compared to “consider;” “pool of water” is equivalent to “know;” and “springs of water” is matched with “see.” These comparisons clearly indicate the spiritual meaning of the metaphor. “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree” complements “I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.” The intent of this chiasm is to show that the gifts of the Spirit would be abundant during the latter-day restoration so that those who humbly pray will see, know, consider, and understand. The central statement is a parable describing varieties of trees coming forth in the desert because of the provided water, symbolizing blessings received because of the outpouring of revelation.

In verses 21 through 29 the subject matter shifts again to further denunciation of idolatry, consisting of an indictment or lawsuit. Verses 21 through 24 are synonymously parallel with verse 1, which commences the lawsuit by calling the parties to order.

Verse 21 challenges: “Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” In these two parallel statements, the Lord demands that those who worship idols produce credible evidence that idols have power.

Verse 22 further elaborates the challenge: “Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.” Let the idols prophesy, if they are able.

Verse 23 demands: “Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.”28 Idols have no power to foretell the future—nor to do anything, be it good or evil.

In verse 24 the Lord attests that idols are nothing: “Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.” Speaking to the idols, the Lord declares that they are nothing. Furthermore, he who chooses to worship idols is abominable before the Lord.

In verse 25 the Lord declares the prophecy: “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.” This verse foretells the advance of Cyrus the Elamite king from the north, destroying the nations before him. “From the rising of the sun” refers to Cyrus’ birth in Elam, in the east. “Shall he call upon my name” describes his fulfilling the design of the Lord even though he would be a ruthless despot and an idolater.29

Verse 25 is synonymously parallel with verses 2 and 3, which also foretell the rise of Cyrus who would allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their slavery in Babylon.

Verse 26 is synonymously parallel with verses 4 and 5. Verse 26 poses rhetorical questions regarding the Lord’s power, in contrast to dumb idols: “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.” No idols have prophesied, nor told us things from the beginning as the Lord does. No one hears words of the Lord spoken by idols; no idols have foretold the conquest of Cyrus nor of his righteousness in providing for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.

Verse 27, which is synonymous with verse 6, presents the Lord’s alternative: “The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.” The Lord has taught these things to Zion (the righteous) from the first, and will send messengers to Jerusalem to bring them the glad tidings of the gospel. In this verse “Zion” means both a place of latter-day spiritual gathering and the latter-day righteous Jerusalem, the place of physical gathering for repentant Israel.30 Verse 6 clarifies that the good tidings spoken of are the return of the Jews from Babylon, and as a type, the gathering of Israel in the latter days.

Verse 28 states: “For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “even among men….”31 Among idols and the men who worship them, stupefaction prevails.

Verse 29 summarizes: “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.”32 Idols are vanity and foolishness.

 


Notes:

1. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 349-356.
2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 2790, p. 361.
3. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 33:5; 49:4; 53:8.
4. See Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1.
5. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; see also Ezra 1:1-11.
6. Verse 4 contains a chiasm: Who hath wrought and done it/beginning/I/the LORD/the first/I am he.
7. See Isaiah 44:6; 48:12 (1 Nephi 20:12); Revelation 1:11, 17; 22:13; Alma 11:39; Doctrine and Covenants 110:4.
8. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 40:28; 41:9.
9. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: Carpenter/goldsmith/hammer/anvil/sodering/he fastened it with nails.
10. See Doctrine and Covenants 109:57-58.
11. See Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:18.
12. See 2 Chronicles 20:7; also James 2:23.
13. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Thou, Israel/servant/Jacob whom I have chosen/seed/Abraham/friend/ thou/ whom I have taken/servant/thee.
14. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 40:28; 41:5.
15. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Isaiah 62:8.
16. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 85, “How Firm a Foundation,” verse 3.
17. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 34.
18. W. Craig Zwick, “The Lord Thy God Will Hold Thy Hand,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, p. 34.
19. Brown, et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8438, p. 1068; see also Isaiah 41:14, footnote 14a.
20. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
21. See John 4:35; also Doctrine and Covenants 4:4; 6:3; 11:3; 12:3; 14:3; 33:3,7.
22. John 4:10-14.
23. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8410, p. 187.
25. Isaiah 35:1-2.
26. LeGrand Richards, “The Second Coming of Christ,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 74.
27. See Isaiah 40:28; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
28. Verses 22 and 23 contain a chiasm: Shew us what shall happen/shew the former things/what they be/consider them/know/latter end of them/declare us things for to come/shew the things that are to come hereafter.
29. See Isaiah 10:15 (2 Nephi 20:15).
30. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 40:9; 51:3.
31. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
32. Verses 23 through 29 contain a chiasm: Shew the things that are to come hereafter/gods/ye are of nothing, and your work of nought/I have raised up one from the north/there is none that sheweth/Zion/behold/behold/ Jerusalem/there was no man/they are all vanity/their works are nothing/molten images/wind and confusion.

Isaiah 40: And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, And the Rough Places Plain

Chapter 40 is divided into several parts. The first, including verses 1 through 5, is made familiar to us by the words of Handel’s Messiah. In this first part Isaiah presents several important prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, the knowledge of which would comfort the people. The second part, comprising verses 6 through 9, is a foreshadowing of what John the Baptist would do in preparing the way for the Lord. This second part compares the fragile mortal state of mankind with the permanence of the word of God, which should stand forever. The third part, comprising verses 10 and 11, develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd. Verses describing the Good Shepherd are also memorialized in Handel’s Messiah. The fourth part, comprising verses 12 through 26, describes the omnipotence and omniscience of God, contrasting His power with the impotence of dumb idols and the utter foolishness of men in worshiping them. The fifth and final part, comprising verses 27 through 31, attests that those who follow the Lord will be strengthened.

This chapter marks the beginning of a major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising chapters 40 through 54, in which the ancient nation of Israel is described as being in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events.1

Verse 1 states: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” This archaic reflexive verb form may not ring familiar to the modern English speaker. It means, simply, “be ye comforted.” The original Hebrew meaning is “to be consoled;” it also means “to repent.”2

Verse 1 serves as introduction to the next four verses, which present separate prophecies about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should we be comforted? Because of the knowledge of these important things that will herald the advent of the Savior. Why should we repent? Because the coming of the Lord is nigh.

Verse 2 states: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”3 The Hebrew meaning translated as “warfare” is “hard service.”4 Because of the infinite sacrifice of the Lord, sins may be forgiven through repentance—both individually and as a people. Under the Law of Moses, restitution involved double repayment: “For all manner of trespass…. whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.”5 At the time of restoration of Judah in the latter days preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming, Judah will have paid in full for her sins under the law. This phrase also serves as a warning that because of the degree of knowledge given to all of Israel, should she forsake this higher knowledge the penalties would be severe.

Another possible meaning for the message of comfort and consolation presented in verses 1 and 2 is that had Jerusalem accepted John the Baptist and his preparatory mission, her iniquity would have been pardoned.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord elaborates: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”6 Compare the words of Jesus in the New Testament: “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”7

Verse 3 foretells the preparatory mission of John the Baptist: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”8 The pathway, a metaphor meaning knowledge of the Plan of Salvation,9 was to be prepared in advance of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who would come.

John the Baptist would go before the Messiah to prepare the way. Fulfillment of this prophecy is acknowledged in the New Testament:

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias [Isaiah], saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.10

Nephi recited the teachings of his father, Lehi, regarding John the Baptist:

And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.11

To His latter-day followers, the Lord applies the same mandate to “make his paths straight” as part of the Restoration, preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming: “Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”12

The Lord further explains to the latter-day saints:

Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful…whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight….
Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.13

“Make straight in the desert a highway” foretells the preparatory function of John the Baptist and as a type foretells the establishment of Zion in the wilderness before the Lord’s Second Coming. Previously, in Chapter 35, Isaiah foretold:

And an highway shall be there [in the wilderness], and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.14

The significance of the highway is spiritual, meaning the “narrow way” having a “strait gate.” Compare Jesus’ words, recorded by Matthew: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”15

The way opened by the Lord for the children of Israel to pass over the Red Sea is a type for the spiritual highway—the strait and narrow way.16 The Lord’s way will be so plain that travelers thereon, even though they may be fools, will have no trouble following it as long as they are obedient.17

Just as John the Baptist was driven into the wilderness to escape persecution, the Latter-day Saints were forced to flee their beloved city—Nauvoo, Illinois—due to persecution. The prophet Joseph Smith had been martyred. His successor, Brigham Young, following guidance given him by the Lord18 and earlier by Joseph Smith, led the Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin, an uninhabited place in the American west where they established a society in which they could practice the newly-restored Christian religion and increase in strength, less hindered by detractors.

Verses 1 through 3 are set to music in Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 2—Recitative for Tenor, “Comfort Ye My People.”

Regarding John the Baptist, the Lord revealed the following to Joseph Smith:

For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power (emphasis added).19

Verse 4 describes metaphorically the restoration of the gospel, including the united social order practiced among the believers, to be brought about before the coming of the Messiah: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” The Hebrew meaning for “rough places” is “mountain chains.”20 This verse describes not only the mission of John the Baptist in ushering in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; as a type it also describes the role of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the latter-day restoration. The passage may also refer to topographic changes that will take place before the Second Coming of the Lord as a result of cataclysmic earthquakes,21 but it is clearly not the meaning that applies to the mission of John the Baptist or the latter‑day restoration of the gospel.

James, the brother of Jesus,22 interprets the meaning: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”23 It is clear because of the phrase “as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” that James is referring to this passage in this chapter of Isaiah. In verse 6, Isaiah states: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”24 According to this prophecy it would be John the Baptist’s responsibility to introduce the united social order among his adherents, although his having done so is not spelled out in the New Testament.

James, in the verse just quoted, expands upon the concept that God is not a respecter of persons and will answer the prayer of him who asks in faith.25 Notably, it was while he was reading a preceding verse in the first chapter of James that Joseph Smith was prompted to approach the Lord in prayer, which ultimately resulted in the restoration of the gospel.26

In Doctrine and Covenants the Lord describes how the saints in the latter days are to set up the law of consecration to provide for their temporal needs, using words similar to those of James: “But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low (emphasis added).”27

Further, “crooked” false doctrines or “crooked” pathways that purportedly lead to eternal life would be made straight, and “rough places,” meaning confusing doctrines that are hard to understand, would be made plain to the understanding.

The words of verse 4 form the text for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 3—Air for Tenor, “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”

Verse 5 concludes the set of Messianic concepts that are to provide comfort to the Lord’s people: “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

The Lord gives more information regarding the foretold event:

Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together (emphasis added).28

The meaning is that those who call upon the name of the Lord and worship Him in purity will be directed to gather in holy places for their protection, to undergo preparation for the coming of the Lord which is to follow. Then the Lord will be revealed, by removal of a veil that covers His heavenly temple and tabernacle. Surely, it will be of great comfort to the Lord’s righteous people for their Lord, Jesus Christ, to be revealed to the whole earth.

Verses 3 through 5 are quoted by Luke in the New Testament, also identifying John the Baptist as “one crying in the wilderness.”29

The words of verse 5 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 4—Chorus, “And the Glory of the Lord.”  Verse 5 is cited in an important doctrinal statement on Christ by the living Apostles:

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.30

Verses 6 through 8 foretell the message of John the Baptist, first introduced in verse 3. Verse 6 begins: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?” The message is: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” This verse is paraphrased by James, as cited above.31

Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (3) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
B: Prepare ye the way of the LORD,
C: make straight in the desert
D: a highway for our God.
E:   (4) Every valley shall be exalted,
E:   and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
D: and the crooked
C: shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
B: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
A: (6) The voice said, Cry….

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” is equivalent to “the voice said, cry….” In both cases, the voice is that of John the Baptist. “Prepare ye the way of The LORD” complements “and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,” meaning that the preparation foretold is for the glorious Second Coming of the Lord. “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” is complemented by “and the crooked shall be made straight, “ indicating that the strait and narrow way to exaltation, made crooked through apostasy, is what should be made straight. “Every valley shall be exalted” contrasts with “every mountain and hill shall be made low.” These phrases mean that those of high position or temporal estate would be humbled and the poor would be uplifted under the Lord’s united social order to be introduced by John the Baptist.

Verse 7 continues the message to be delivered by John the Baptist: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”32 The last phrase of this verse explains the metaphor. “Spirit” and “wind” are different meanings of the same Hebrew word.33 Isaiah’s meaning may be that winds—representing mortal conditions in general—caused or allowed by the Lord bring about the temporality of the human condition.

Verses 5 through 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
B: and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
C: (6) The voice said, Cry.
C: And he said, What shall I cry?
B: All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
A: (7) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed” is compared to “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” During our temporary mortal state, each must obtain the influence of the Spirit in order to abide the glory of the Lord’s Second Coming. “All flesh shall see it together” is matched with “all flesh is grass,” warning us that we would be consumed at His coming like dry grass unless we have the Spirit with us.

Verse 8 contrasts the temporality of man in his mortal state with the permanence of God: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” All is temporary pertaining to mortal man, whereas God and His words are eternal and will stand forever. Note the parallel statements of verses 7 and 8: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” is first matched with “because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” in verse 7, and then contrasted with “but the word of our God shall stand for ever” in verse 8. The meaning is that whereas man’s state is mortal and temporary, the word of God is eternal. Again, note that “spirit” and “wind” are translated from the same Hebrew word.34

The Apostle Peter quoted verses 6 through 8, expanding upon their meaning:

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
35

Verse 9 declares: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”36 “That bringest good tidings” means “he that brings good news,” or “herald;”37 the bearer of good news concerning Zion is directed to get up into a high mountain. The word “gospel” comes from the Old English, meaning “the good message.”38 Similarly, in the second phrase of this verse, he who would bring the good tidings of the gospel to Jerusalem is instructed to lift his voice with strength and without fear.

Ecclesiastical leaders whose responsibility it is to spread the good news of the gospel must, without fear, show the people the way to behold their God. This mandate applies in particular to the prophets of the latter days, whose mission it is to prepare the people of both Zion and Jerusalem to meet the returning Messiah. “Zion” as used in this verse means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem, in particular the latter-day Jerusalem in which righteousness would prevail.39 “High mountain” also refers to the temple, a place of preparation for those who would preach the gospel.40

The words of verse 9 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 9—Air for Alto, and Chorus, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.”

Verse 10 declares: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” This passage foretells the Lord’s Second Coming; His first coming was as an inauspicious babe in Bethlehem, which contrasts markedly with this description. His military power, as well as the acclaim due Him because of His mighty accomplishments, will be apparent to all.

The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, elaborates: “And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”41

Verse 11 develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” In their weakened state, ewes which have recently given birth need extra care.

During His mortal ministry, Jesus declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.42

Here, in the context of His being the Good Shepherd, Jesus foretells His infinite sacrifice in that He would lay down His life.

King Benjamin exhorted his people:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.43

The words of verse 11 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 20—Air For Alto, “He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd.” The metaphor of the Lord as the Good Shepherd is also presented in Psalm 23. See also the words to the hymns “The Lord is My Shepherd”44 and “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”45

Delbert L. Stapley taught:

The testimony that Jesus is the Good Shepherd was a figure of speech familiar to those accustomed to the pastoral conditions of Palestine. Jesus knew His hearers were acquainted with the prophecy that a shepherd had been promised the children of Israel…. Isaiah prophesied that when God would come down, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm.” There was no mistaking what Jesus meant. He was their Lord—the promised Messiah!
By likening false teachers and pastors to thieves and hirelings whose concern was for money rather than the flock, Jesus repudiated all pretenders. A stronger indictment could not be imagined!46

Beginning in verse 12, the Lord is described as the Creator: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?”47,48 The Great Isaiah Scroll reads: “Who hath measured the waters of the sea in the hollow of his hand….?”49 The power of the Creator is awesome and incomprehensible to man. Note that “who hath” is matched with a series of five parallel statements in this verse, as well as others in the following verses. Isaiah’s purpose in using parallel structures is for emphasis. “Measured,” “meted out…with the span,” “comprehended…in a measure,” “weighed…in scales, and [weighed]…in a balance” all describe activities associated with building—the earthly analog of the Godly work of creation. The “span” is the distance between the tip of the thumb and the little finger when the hand is fully extended.

Verse 13 continues Isaiah’s rhetorical questions: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” The Lord’s infinite knowledge, demonstrated in His creative works, is incomprehensible to man. Who hath taught the Lord? Certainly not even the best and the wisest among men. Note that the structure of this verse is the same as the previous verse, consisting of a lead phrase “who hath,” followed by two parallel statements that are a continuation of those of verse 12.

The Apostle Paul paraphrased and expanded upon verse 13:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
50

Modern revelation invokes similar words: “Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.”51

Verse 14 continues: “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” 52 Here Isaiah establishes that no mortal man taught the Lord these things; rather, He was taught by His Heavenly Father. Note, again, the parallel structure: “With whom” is the lead phrase, followed by five equivalent parallel phrases. “Path of judgment” and “way of understanding” symbolize the Plan of Salvation.53 “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”54

Verse 15 describes the magnitude of the Lord’s accomplishments: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” The Lord’s omnipotence is again attested, emphasized by the parallel structure.

Verse 16 describes man’s puniness in honoring the Lord for His power and accomplishments: “And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.” Because of His greatness, not even all of the animals in Lebanon, nor all the firewood in the great forests therein, are adequate for a burnt offering large enough to bestow Him due honor.

Verse 17 summarizes: “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” In light of the Lord’s omnipotence and accomplishments the nations that populate the earth—together with all their human achievements—are insignificant. If the Lord has power to create the earth and form man upon it, surely He has power to make good on all His promises.

Verse 18 introduces Isaiah’s challenge to idolaters: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” These rhetorical questions affirm that there is no entity comparable to God.

Verses 19 and 20 describe the idolater’s futile efforts in making something worthy of worship. Verse 19 begins: “The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.”

Verse 20 states: “He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.” Even the poor who cannot afford silver and gold try to provide durable wood for making a graven image.

Verse 21 begins Isaiah’s exasperated denunciation: “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?” These four negative rhetorical questions are structurally parallel, all having the same meaning. Their use demonstrates Isaiah’s contention that it is abundantly clear that the Lord—not vain idols—is our Creator and controls men’s destinies. Idolatry is gross ignorance.

Verse 22 recalls the omnipotence of the Lord, summarizing Isaiah’s statements in verses 12 through 15: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” The Lord, sitting upon the earth’s orbit, can view all the inhabitants of the earth at once.

Verse 23 confirms the power of the Lord over the earth’s political leaders: “That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” The powerful, when compared to the Lord’s omnipotence, are as nothing.

Verse 24 elaborates: “Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.” Without the Lord’s nurturing care, political rulers are like plants not cared for nor nourished.

In verse 25, the Lord poses another rhetorical question: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”

In verse 26, He provides the answer: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” 55 The psalmist asserts: “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”56 All the stars in the sky bear witness of the creative power of the Lord. He numbers the stars in the heavens and knows them by name. Each, without fail, obeys the laws given it by the Lord.57

Verse 27 delivers Isaiah’s challenge to Israel: “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” 58 Isaiah challenges Jacob’s statement that the Lord is not aware of his difficult path and that God disregards his best efforts. “My way” [Jacob’s] means life’s challenges and tribulations; “the way” means the Plan of Salvation.59 “Judgment” as used here means “sound reasoning.”60

Verse 28 provides Isaiah’s answer: “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” “The ends of the earth” here means the whole of the earth.61 It is abundantly clear—declares Isaiah—that the Lord, the Creator of all,62 is continually aware, His vigilance is unending, and there is no limit to His knowledge and understanding.

Verses 21 through 28 contain a chiasm:

A: (21) Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
B: (22) It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
C: (23) That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
C: (24) Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. (25) To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
B: (26) Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (27) Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
A: (28) Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

In this chiasm Isaiah declares that the Lord is the Great Creator; dumb idols and earthly rulers bear no comparison. “Have ye not known?” matches “hast thou not known?” First, Isaiah chastises idolaters as a group; then he berates them individually for their gross ignorance. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” is equivalent to “behold who hath created these things,” attesting that the Lord is the Creator. “Princes,” together with “they shall not be planted” attest that worldly leaders are temporary whereas the Lord’s reign and power endure forever.

In verses 29 through 31, Isaiah describes the willingness of the Lord to give strength to those who obey Him. Verse 29 begins: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”63 The Lord strengthens the faithful.

Jeffery R. Holland testified:

I have personally known in my own life the realization of the promise “that the everlasting God…the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is [he] weary.” I am a witness that “he giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”64

Verse 30 describes the plight of the wicked: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

Verse 31 describes the goodness of the Lord to the obedient: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” “Wait upon the LORD” comes from the Hebrew meaning “hope for,” or “anticipate” the Lord.65 Just as eagles grow new feathers to renew their power of flight, the Lord will strengthen and renew the righteous who serve Him.

Regarding this passage, Robert D. Hales has said:

…When pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. “Wait upon the Lord…look for him.”66 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Healing comes in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way; be patient.67

Adherence to the Lord’s law of health—referred to in Doctrine and Covenants as “the Word of Wisdom”68—is one demonstration of obedience by the faithful, who are promised these same blessings:

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.69

The parallel phrases “run and not be weary” and “walk and not faint” are synonymous. “Run” being paired with “not be weary” and “walk” being matched with “not faint” bear no special significance even though they appear in the Word of Wisdom matched as presented in this verse.

Compare a similar structure earlier, in Chapter 8, which reads: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”70 In two other instances, these elements occur in reverse order. In one place in Doctrine and Covenants they are rendered “bind up the law and seal up the testimony,”71 whereas in another place they are rendered “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony.”72 Because these parallel phrases are essentially synonymous, in neither instance is the meaning changed.

Verses 29 through 31 contain a chiasm:

A: (29) He giveth power to the faint;
B: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
C: (30) Even the youths
D: shall faint
D: and be weary,
C: and the young men shall utterly fall:
B: (31) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
A: they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The Lord strengthens the obedient and humble. “He giveth power to the faint” is equivalent to “they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Adherence to the Lord’s law of health is one way to be strengthened by the Lord.

 


Notes:

1. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 5162, p. 636.
3. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: Comfort ye/my people/your God/comfortably.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6635, p. 838-839.
5. Exodus 22:9.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 82:3.
7. Luke 12:48.
8. Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD’s hand/sins/voice of him/crieth/wilderness/the LORD.
9. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
10. Matthew 3:3-6. See also Mark 1:3-4; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23.
11. 1 Nephi 10:7-10.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 33:10.
13. Doctrine and Covenants 65:1, 3.
14. Isaiah 35:8.
15. Matthew 7:14.
16. See Exodus 14:21‑31.
17. See Isaiah 35:8; see also Isaiah 3:12; 8:11; 26:7-8; 28:7 and pertinent commentary.
18. Doctrine and Covenants 136.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 84:28.
20. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7406, p. 940.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 49:23.
22. See Bible Dictionary—James, Epistle of.
23. James 1:9‑10.
24. Isaiah 40:6.
25. See James 1:5‑6.
26. See Joseph Smith—History 1:11 and verses following.
27. Doctrine and Covenants 104:16.
28. Doctrine and Covenants 101:22‑23.
29. Luke 3:4-6.
30. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, p. 2‑3.
31. James 1:10.
32. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 5 through 7: All flesh is grass/goodliness thereof/grass withereth/flower fadeth/spirit of the LORD/the people is grass.
33. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
34. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
35. 1 Peter 1:24-25.
36. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Our God/O Zion/lift up thy voice/lift it up/cities of Judah/your God.
37. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1319, p. 142.
38. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 318.
39. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 41:27; 51:3.
40. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 343.
41. Doctrine and Covenants 1:14.
42. John 10:11‑15.
43. Alma 5:38.
44. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no.108, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
45. Hymns, no.109, “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”
46. Delbert L. Stapley, “What Constitutes the True Church,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 21.
47. Verses 10 and 11 contain a chiasm: Lord GOD/strong hand/his arm/reward/work/his arm/gently lead.
48. Verse 12 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Measured/hand/waters/ heaven/span/comprehended …measure. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
49. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 159.
50. Romans 11:33-34; see also 1 Corinthians 2:15.
51. Doctrine and Covenants 76:2.
52. Verse 14 contains a chiasm: Instructed him/taught him/taught him/shewed to him…understanding. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
53. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
54. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:27; 42:3; 59:8.
55. Verse 26 contains two chiasms ; the first is recognized in the original Hebrew: Lift up on high/eyes/behold/who. Them all/greatness of his might/he is strong in power/not one. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
56. Psalm 147:4.
57. Doctrine and Covenants 88:25.
58. Verse 27 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Is hid/my way/from the LORD/from my God/my judgment/is passed over. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
59. See Isaiah 26:7-8; 28:7; 42:16 and pertinent commentary.
60. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14; 42:3; 59:8.
61. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 41:5, 9.
62. See Isaiah 41:20; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
63. Verse 29 contains a chiasm: He giveth power/faint/them/no might/strength.
64. Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 82.
65. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6960, p. 875.
66. Isaiah 8:17; 2 Nephi 18:17.
67. Robert D. Hales, “Healing Soul and Body,” Ensign, Nov.1998, p. 17.
68. See Doctrine and Covenants 89:1.
69. Doctrine and Covenants 89:18‑21.
70. Isaiah 8:16.
71. Doctrine and Covenants 88:84.
72. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.

Isaiah 39: All that Is in Thine House…Shall Be Carried to Babylon

Chapter 39 is the last of four chapters in Isaiah’s writings called the “historical chapters” that describe a series of events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. These events are of great importance to us; they serve as prophetic types for events that will occur in the latter days.1 This chapter also marks the end of the first major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising chapters 2 through 39, in which Israel is described in her homeland in a state of wickedness.2

Events prophesied in Chapter 39 were fulfilled within 150 years after they were foretold by Isaiah. However, their ancient fulfillment does not end our latter-day interest in them. Fulfillment of prophecy more than once—first in ancient times and again in our own day—is the essence of these historical chapters.

The events of Chapter 39 were also recorded by the scribes of the king.3 A careful comparison reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse without significantly altering the meaning.

Major events recorded in Chapter 39 are the visit of dignitaries from Babylon, Hezekiah showing his wealth to them, Isaiah’s visit to Hezekiah, and Isaiah’s prophecy of the Babylonian captivity. The events of Chapter 39 occurred shortly after those of the preceding chapter, as stated in the first verse.

Verse 1 begins the narrative: “At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.” Emissaries were sent to represent the son of the king of Babylon, rather than his coming himself.

Verse 2 continues: “And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.”4 The record of the scribes renders “And Hezekiah hearkened unto them….”5 Rashly, Hezekiah shows the visiting emissaries all his wealth. This act resulted in Jerusalem being considered a valuable prize for the conquering armies of Babylon, even generations later. It is notable that Hezekiah possessed great wealth even after having provided a vast ransom to the king of Assyria.6

In verse 3, Isaiah begins his questioning: “Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.”

In verse 4, Isaiah continues: “Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.” Isaiah’s question reveals his advance knowledge of what had taken place.

Verses 5 through 7 contain Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Babylonian captivity. Verse 5 begins: “Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts—”7

Verse 6 states: “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.” Isaiah speaking in the context of the visit of Babylonian emissaries describes dire consequences for Hezekiah having shown them his wealth. In today’s global political situation, an analog would be the unwise sharing of military and technological secrets with actual or potential adversaries. Isaiah’s presenting this for latter-day readers may indicate that such imprudent divulging of national secrets would play a pivotal role in the final scenes of the world before the Second Coming of the Lord.

Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm:

(3) Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said,
A: They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.
B: (4) Then said he, What have they seen in thine house?
C: And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house
D: have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures
D: that I have not shewed them. (5) Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:
C: (6) Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house,
B: and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day,
A: shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

“What have they seen in thine house?” complements “that which thy fathers have laid up in store….” The ascending side of the chiasm presents Isaiah’s questions and Hezekiah’s answers, and the descending side contains Isaiah’s prophetic response. The matching of elements in this chiasm suggests a cause-and-effect relationship in Hezekiah’s showing the Babylonian dignitaries his wealth and Babylon’s eventual conquest of Jerusalem.

Verse 7 concludes Isaiah’s prophetic statement: “And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”8 “Eunuch” comes from the Greek, meaning literally “guardian of the bed.”9 One meaning is an emasculated male, who logically could be trusted to guard the harem, or “bed,” of a king. A broader meaning, most likely intended here, is an official in the government of a king who has no real authority but must follow explicit instructions or policy.

In verse 8, the king sees some good in Isaiah’s dire prediction: “Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.” The record of the scribes says: “…And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?”10 Hezekiah takes comfort in knowing that these events will not happen until after he has departed.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 36, 37 and 38 and pertinent commentary.
2. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
3. See 2 Kings 20:12-19.
4. Verse 2 contains two overlapping chiasms : Hezekiah…shewed them/house/precious things/silver/gold/precious ointment/armour…treasures…house/Hezekiah shewed them. Shewed them/house/precious things/silver …gold/spices…precious ointment/treasures/house/shewed them.
5. 2 Kings 20:13.
6. 2 Kings 18:14-16; also Isaiah 36 and pertinent commentary.
7. Verses 2 through 5 contain a chiasm: Hezekiah/shewed them/house/Hezekiah/Isaiah the prophet/far country/ Babylon/he/Hezekiah/house/treasures/shewed them/Hezekiah.
8. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm: Babylon/sons/issue/thee/thou/beget/eunuchs/Babylon.
9. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 261.
10. 2 Kings 20:19.

Isaiah 38: So the Sun Returned Ten Degrees, by Which Degrees it Was Gone Down

Chapter 38 is the third of four chapters in the book of Isaiah called the “historical chapters” which describe certain events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. These events are prophetic types for occurrences in the latter days; they are therefore of great importance to us.1

Events prophesied in Chapter 38 were fulfilled shortly after they were foretold by Isaiah. The Assyrian aggressors, however, are typical of an equivalent latter-day superpower that will threaten the Lord’s righteous people. Just as He defended Hezekiah and his people anciently, the Lord will defend His people in the latter days.2 The sign given to Hezekiah to witness that he would be healed of his illness was also given to the entire city of Jerusalem as a promise from the Lord that they would be delivered from the Assyrians. Similarly, the sign given then may be given again to the Lord’s righteous people to assure them that they will be delivered from a modern Assyrian equivalent. Dual fulfillment of prophecy, once in ancient times and again in our own day, is the message of this chapter.

The events of Chapter 38 are also recorded by the scribes of the king, in 2 Kings 20:1-8. A careful comparison of equivalent passages reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse without significantly altering the meaning. However, the narrative by the king’s scribes provides notably more detail regarding the events of this chapter. The lack of detail in Isaiah’s account may indicate that the historical part is not as important for us as the prophetic type presented.

Major events recorded in Chapter 38 are that Hezekiah becomes seriously ill, Isaiah declares the word of the Lord to Hezekiah that he would die, Hezekiah pleads with the Lord to spare his life, Isaiah returns and informs Hezekiah that the Lord would permit him to live another fifteen years, a sign is given to Jerusalem that the Lord would defend her against Assyria and to Hezekiah that he would recover, and Hezekiah praises and thanks the Lord. Rather than continuing the account of the previous chapter, the events of Chapter 38 occurred before or at the same time as those of Chapter 37.3

Verse 1 begins: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.” “In those days” indicates that these events occurred before or during the time of those of the previous chapter, rather than sequentially after them.

Verse 2 continues: “Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD—” The sentence is continued in the next verse.

In verse 3 Hezekiah’s prayer is summarized, continuing the sentence of verse 2: “And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.” Hezekiah reasons in his prayer that he has walked in obedience before the Lord. His request that his life be spared is implied rather than spoken, in Isaiah’s brief account. All instances of “Hezekiah” in verses 1 through 3 are chiastically equivalent, as are all instances of “the Lord” or O Lord.”4

Hezekiah’s righteousness is manifest by his acts:

He [Hezekiah] removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it….[H]e clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.5

Verse 4 continues: “Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying—” with the sentence continued into the next verse. The account of the king’s scribes provides more detail: “And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying—”6

Verse 5 presents the words of the Lord, continuing the sentence of verse 4: “Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.”7 “The God of David thy father” emphasizes that the Lord’s covenants with king David also pertained to Hezekiah.

The account of the scribes provides more detail, with the Lord addressing Isaiah:

Turn again, and tell Hezekiah, the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.8

In verse 6, the Lord declares: “And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.” This statement by the Lord shows that Hezekiah’s illness and the events surrounding it occurred before the destruction of the Assyrian army, described in the previous chapter.9 This conclusion is also supported by the first verse of this chapter, which begins with “In those days….”10 The account of the king’s scribes adds: “…and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”11 The Lord’s reason for defending Jerusalem is to honor His covenant with David and his successors that He would defend them in righteousness. “For mine own sake” reflects Hezekiah’s plea in his prayer: “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his [the king of Assyria’s] hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.”12

“Thus saith the LORD” in verse 5 is followed by the parallel phrase “the God of David thy father.” This, in turn, is followed by five other parallel phrases. The first two begin with “I have heard” and “I have seen,” both in verse 5, referring to Hezekiah’s prayer and tears. The next three begin with “I will,” and denote the things the Lord will do in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer. These are “I will add unto thy days fifteen years” in verse 5, and “I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria” and “I will defend this city,” both in verse 6.

At this point in the narrative of the king’s scribes, information is provided that is not contained in Isaiah’s account until the end of the chapter, where it appears almost as an afterthought (see verses 21 and 22):

And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?13

Verse 7 (now returning to Isaiah’s account) declares: “And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken.”14 What the Lord would do, described in the parallel phrases from the account of the scribes cited above, is heal Hezekiah and deliver Jerusalem out of the hand of the king of Assyria. The sign would therefore have a dual purpose—to the inhabitants of Jerusalem it would be an affirmation that the Lord would defend them against the Assyrians, and to Hezekiah it was, in addition, a promise that he would be healed and granted 15 more years of life.

In verse 9 of the account of the scribes, Isaiah asks Hezekiah regarding the sign: “[S]hall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?”15 The subsequent verse provides more detail: “And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees,”16 indicating that it was Hezekiah who chose which of the two options presented by Isaiah would be the sign.

In verse 8 (again, back to Isaiah’s account), the Lord declares: “Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.” In the solar day this would amount to a lengthening by about two-thirds of an hour, or 40 minutes. Note that “I will bring again the shadow of the degrees” is the sixth parallel statement beginning with “I will” or “I have,” starting in verse 5. Like the first five, this sixth one follows a chiastic structure.

Regarding signs in the latter days, the Lord, in revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith, stated:

And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.
And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.17

Great signs and wonders, we are informed, will characterize the time shortly before the Second Coming of the Lord. Imagine the consternation of the modern scientific community as they attempt to explain the sign of the sun going back ten degrees! However, those familiar with the writings of Isaiah will be comforted by it.

Verses 9 through 20 comprise a psalm written by king Hezekiah regarding his illness and miraculous recovery. Verse 9 introduces the psalm: “The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness.”

In verses 10 through 14, Hezekiah describes his illness and great distress at the prospect of his dying. Verse 10 begins: “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.” The Hebrew word rendered as “cutting off” means “cessation of.”18

Verse 11 continues: “I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.”19 The Great Isaiah Scroll omits “even the LORD.”20 This statement provides an interesting perspective on Hezekiah’s messianic beliefs. Throughout his life he had apparently looked forward to the possibility that the Lord Jehovah would come during his lifetime. With death impending, he expresses severe disappointment that this fond hope would not be fulfilled. Further, he expresses disappointment that he would lose his association with men on the earth.

In verse 12, Hezekiah further mourns the ending of his life: “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.” These similes describe the transient nature of our lives, even as a tent can be taken down and folded or as a weaver cuts across the woven fabric. “Pining sickness” comes from the Hebrew meaning “hanging down.”21

In verse 13, Hezekiah recounts a sleepless night: “I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.” He thought about the process of death, the failure of his body, the ending of his life.

Verse 14 continues: “Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove—” Hezekiah describes his sobbings, likening them to the sounds of these birds. “Mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” He looks upward spiritually toward the Lord. “Undertake for me” comes from the Hebrew meaning “be my security.”22

In verse 15, Hezekiah acknowledges the Lord healing him: “What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.” He is left speechless by the Lord’s magnanimity in sparing his life—”himself hath done it.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “…and himself hath healed me: I shall go softly all my years, that I may not walk in the bitterness of my soul.”23 Because of his gratitude for the Lord restoring him to life, he determines to walk “softly”—deliberately24—all his life so that he may not be engulfed in bitterness of soul. This bitterness, or sorrow, comes from the realization of how fleeting life is.

In verses 16 through 20 Hezekiah describes great blessings he has received from the Lord. In verse 16, Hezekiah prays: “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.” The Joseph Smith Translation adds another phrase: “…and in all these things will I praise thee.”25 The Hebrew word translated as  “recover me” means “restore me.”26 Men go through life knowing that life is transitory, and like other men so will Hezekiah go. The Lord’s restoration of his life also gives him a full realization of his mortality.

Verse 17 continues the prayer: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “Behold, I had great bitterness instead of peace, but thou hast in love to my soul, saved me from the pit of corruption….”27  Notwithstanding his sorrow upon realizing how short life is, he rejoices in his knowledge of the two-stage salvation provided by the Lord; first, that every man will be restored to life in the resurrection, and second, that the Lord provides a way for us to be forgiven of our sins.

In verse 18, Hezekiah expresses further gratitude: “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.” Praising and celebrating the Lord’s mercy belong to mortality, and hoping for the advent of the Messiah, he reasons, belongs to the living.

Verse 19 concludes Hezekiah’s prayer: “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” Hezekiah, permitted to continue living, praises the Lord. As a father and a king, he recognizes his responsibility to teach his children, and also his subjects, the principles of the gospel.

In verse 20, Hezekiah summarizes: “The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.” This psalm was apparently sung accompanied by stringed instruments in the temple.

Verses 10 through 20 contain a chiasm:28

A: (10) I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
B: (11) I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD,
C: in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
D: (12) Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
E: (13) I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones:
F: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
G: (14) Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
H: (15) What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me,
H: and himself hath healed me: I shall go softly all my years, that I may not walk in the bitterness of my soul.
G: (16) O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit:
F: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live, and in all these things will I praise thee.
E: 17) Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul saved me from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
D: (18) For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
C: (19) The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
B: (20) The LORD was ready to save me:
A: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

Hezekiah’s psalm is structured as a chiasm. At the focal point, the Lord heals him: “He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath healed me.” In the ascending side Hezekiah contemplates his illness and the inevitability of his death; he suffers greatly, considering that earthly joys and glories would soon pass from him. In the descending side he acknowledges the great peace he has received from the Lord through his being healed, both physically and spiritually. Hezekiah resolves to sing songs of praise unto the Lord for the rest of his life. “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave” contrasts with “therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.”

Verse 21 states: “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.” “Lay it on” comes from the Hebrew meaning “rub it on.”29 This, together with the statement in verse 22, are added by Isaiah speaking in the third person, almost as afterthoughts. The content of this verse is presented earlier in the account of the scribes of the king.30

Verse 22 adds: “Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?” This statement is placed at the end of the chapter to diminish its importance in the story, thus elevating the importance and the significance of the other reason for the sign of the sun turning back ten degrees—to bear witness that the Lord would defend His people against the Assyrians, as stated in verse 6. To his modern readers, Isaiah’s message in this chapter is the same: the Lord will defend His righteous followers against the latter-day counterpart of the ancient Assyrians.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 36 and 37 and pertinent commentary.
2. See Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 54:17 and Doctrine and Covenants 71:9-10; Isaiah 29:8; 52:12; 58:8; Doctrine and Covenants 45:66; 63:34; 97:25.
3. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 330.
4. Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm: Hezekiah sick unto death/the LORD/die/not live/the LORD/Hezekiah wept sore. Verses 2 and 3 contain an overlapping chiasm: Hezekiah/prayed/ the LORD/O LORD/I beseech thee/ Hezekiah.
5. 2 Kings 18:4, 6.
6. 2 Kings 20:4.
7. Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm: Word of the LORD/Isaiah/saying/say/to Hezekiah/Thus saith the LORD.
8. 2 Kings 20:5.
9. See Isaiah 37:36.
10. Isaiah 38:1.
11. 2 Kings 20:6.
12. Isaiah 37:20.
13. Kings 20:7-8.
14. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: This shall be/sign unto thee/the LORD/the LORD/will do/this thing.
15. 2 Kings 20:9.
16. 2 Kings 20:10.
17. Doctrine and Covenants 45:39-40.
18. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1824, p. 198.
19. Verses 10 and 11 contain a chiasm: Cutting off of my days/gates of the grave/ the LORD/the LORD/land of the living/behold man no more.
20. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 155.
21. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1803, p. 195.
22. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6148, p. 786.
23. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1718, p. 186.
25. JST, p. 207.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2421, p. 1092.
27. JST, p. 207.
28. Compare Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 332-334.
29. Isaiah 38:21, footnote 21a.
30. 2 Kings 20:7.