Although this chapter has only six verses it has a wealth of information applicable to our day. It gives an account of the condition of Zion, the people of the Lord, during the beginning portion of the Millennium when Christ will reign on earth. The inhabitants of the earth—those righteous enough to have survived the wars, judgments and devastation spoken of in the previous chapter—will be redeemed and cleansed so that all who remain will merit being called holy. Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with only one minor change in wording. Compare 2 Nephi 14.
As described in verse 1, the male proportion of those that will survive the devastations that precede the Second Coming will be so small that in order for women to enjoy the blessings of marriage, polygamy will be practiced: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” Those surviving the depopulation, primarily women, will be in destitute circumstances.
In some ways the situation foretold by Isaiah is similar to conditions that existed in the early days of the Church, but in other ways conditions are very different. In nineteenth‑century Utah, most plural wives maintained an autonomous economic basis with little or no support from the husband. Isaiah’s description of women after the foretold devastations being willing to provide for themselves in polygamous marriages indicates that economic conditions will not favor large families at that time. The reproach alluded to by the women reflects their unfulfilled desire to be married and to raise children. This prophecy, it appears, will be fulfilled at some time still in the future. Of interest here is that the name Joseph, which Rachel the barren wife of Jacob (Israel) gave to her firstborn son, means “God has taken away my reproach” in Hebrew.1
Wilford Woodruff described a vision in which he was shown the future fulfillment of verse 1:
It seemed as though I was above the earth, looking down to it as I passed along on my way east and I saw the roads full of people principally women with just what they could carry in bundles on their backs…It was remarkable to me that there were so few men among them…. Wherever I went I saw…scenes of horror and desolation rapine and death…death and destruction everywhere. I cannot paint in words the horror that seemed to encompass me around. It was beyond description or thought of man to conceive…. I was given to understand, that the same horrors were being enacted all over the country….Then a voice said “Now shall come to pass that which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet that seven women shall take hold of one man,” etc.2
In verse 2, conditions on the earth during the Millennium are described: “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.” The Book of Mormon omits “shall be,” rendering “the fruit of the earth excellent and comely….”3 The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “…them that are escaped of Israel and Judah.”4
At the beginning of the millennium, as set forth in the Tenth Article of Faith, “…the earth shall be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”5 In its renewed state, the earth will produce abundantly for those who survive the destructions. The Lord’s blessings and honor, both temporal and spiritual, will be showered down upon those who persevered in keeping the Lord’s commandments during the times of great wickedness—those who were worthy of the Lord’s protection during the destructions.
Further information on how the righteous are to escape, pertinent to us in our day, is given by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants:
Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.
Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion.
And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.
Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon.
But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.6
Elsewhere in Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord reiterates: “And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”7 The Lord unequivocally gives us the way to escape the destructions of the latter days.
Verse 3 describes the state of righteousness of those who will survive: “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—” The Book of Mormon renders “And it shall come to pass, they that are left in Zion, and remain in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—”8 From both of these versions it is apparent that there will be gatherings both in Zion and Jerusalem, distinct from each other. The main prerequisite for survival at that time will be personal righteousness.
Verse 4 describes the cleansing process, continuing the sentence in verse 3: “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” The spiritual filth of the daughters of Zion was described in Chapter 3. Blood to be purged from Jerusalem means murders and other gross sin, purged “by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”9 Gileadi10 translates this as “in the spirit of justice, by a burning wind.” Gileadi’s translation is valid because, in the Hebrew, “spirit” and “wind” are the same word.11 Could the burning wind be part of the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel?12 “The spirit of judgment” as used in this verse means “retribution.”13
“Zion” is used in verses 3 and 4 to mean a place of latter-day spiritual gathering and as a synonym for modern Jerusalem.14
Verses 5 and 6 describe events to take place in the Millennium. Verse 5 states: “And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.” The Book of Mormon renders “for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defence.” The meaning of “mount Zion” as used here is a place of latter-day spiritual gathering.15
The cloud of smoke by day and the flaming fire by night, foreseen by Isaiah, is a sign of the presence of the Lord. The sign is reminiscent of similar manifestations of the Lord’s presence before the fleeing Israelites as they departed Egypt.16 At the foretold time, manifestations of the Lord’s presence will be upon every dwelling place, indicating the holiness of each individual as well as the entire “mount,” or nation. “Assemblies” means convocations or sacred gatherings;17 “defence” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “canopy,”18 as for protection.
A manifestation consisting of a cloud of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night was witnessed by hundreds—both believers and nonbelievers—at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in Ohio in April, 1836.19 Of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord declared:
Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice….20
Ludlow provides additional insight:
In ancient times, a single pillar of smoke and fire rested only over the Holy of Holies, which was approachable by the high priest alone.21 Now, under the tabernacle or wedding canopy, the [symbolic] remarriage of [Jehovah] and his people, promised and prophesied in Isaiah and throughout the Old Testament, will be consummated at last.22
Because of the new covenant brought about by the Lord Jesus Christ, the pillar of smoke and fire designating the presence of the Lord would be manifest upon every humble home and upon every meeting place, since all would be worthy and authorized to enjoy His presence.
Verse 6 continues: “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” The Lord’s protective presence will be upon the righteous during the time of destruction. Storms and rain symbolize the destructive forces that are to separate the righteous from among the wicked.23
Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm:
A: (5) And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies,
B: a cloud and smoke by day,
C: and the shining of a flaming fire by night:
C: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
B: (6) And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat,
A: and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
Zion, glorified by the presence of the Lord, will become a place of refuge for the righteous. Note that “cloud” is equivalent to “shadow,” indicating that the purpose for the cloud of smoke by day and for the tabernacle are the same.
For us in the latter days, this chapter’s message is clear: If we expect to survive the destructions preceding the Lord’s Second Coming, personal righteousness is imperative.
1. Genesis 30:22‑24; see also pertinent footnotes.
2. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Wilford Woodruff, June 15, 1878, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
3. 2 Nephi 14:2.
4. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 49.
5. See also Isaiah 11:1-9.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 133:11-15.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 38:42.
8. 2 Nephi 14:3.
9. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
10. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Company, P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130, 1988, p. 103.
11. 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. 7307, p. 924.
12. See Matt.24:15 and Dan. 9:27.
13. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 28:6; 34:5.
14. See Isaiah 3:16; 1:27; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
15. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.
16. Exodus 13:21-22.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4744, p. 896.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2646, p. 342.
19. F.W. and S.W. Richards, Journal of Discourses: (26 Vols., Liverpool, England: 1854-1886), v. 2, pp. 214-216.
20. Doctrine and Covenants 110:6-8.
21. See Exodus 33:8-10.
22. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 110.
23. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 49.