Chapter 12 is best understood as an appendix to Chapter 11, in which conditions leading to and during the Millennium are further described. Latter-day conditions as set forth in Chapter 11 include the work of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration; gathering of Israel; establishment of peace among all nations; and geographic changes—probably metaphors representing major political or societal change—including a mighty wind over the Euphrates River allowing men to cross over dryshod, and destruction of the Egyptian sea. Chapter 12 consists of two songs, or psalms, of salvation that will be sung at the beginning of the Millennium by the righteous in praise of the Lord, who will dwell among them. Chiasms in Chapter 12 enable delineation of the two psalms. Each verse of the first psalm—consisting of verses 1 through 3—is a separate chiasm, whereas the second psalm—verses 4 through 6—consists of a single chiasm.
Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with only minor variation; compare 2 Nephi 22. Differences in the Book of Mormon are shown in italics where quoted.
In verse 1 the penitent man of Israel is instructed by Isaiah: “And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” The repentant person—note the singular imperative familiar form, “thou shalt,” used in this verse—acknowledges the anger of the Lord in the day of his wickedness as well as his personal blame in the apostasy of his people, but acknowledges the Lord’s comforting spirit following his repentance. This is true for all who repent, regardless of time or circumstance.
Verse 1 contains a chiasm:
A: (1) And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee:
B: though thou wast angry with me,
B: thine anger is turned away,
A: and thou comfortedst me.
Elements on the descending side are opposites of those on the ascending side; whereas the Lord was angry with the sinner, his anger is turned away from the penitent. “I will praise thee” complements “thou comfortedst me.” The central statement is “thou wast angry with me,” contrasted with “thine anger is turned away.”
In verse 2, the penitent continues his praise of the Lord: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” Trust in the Lord is not a sign of weakness but of strength. The penitent acknowledges that it is through the Lord that salvation and restored spiritual strength are made possible, through the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. This verse is one of only four places in the King James Bible where the name “Jehovah” is used.1 Wording is nearly the same in the Book of Mormon, which renders “he also has become my salvation.”2
A favorite hymn, “The Lord Is My Light,” expresses words and thoughts developed from
The Lord is my light, then why should I fear?
By day and by night, his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin,
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.3
Use of “LORD JEHOVAH” in verse 2—the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in His premortal state during Old Testament time—reflects a distinctive form used in this verse in the original Hebrew. “LORD” is translated from the Hebrew Yahh4 which is a contraction for “Jehovah.” “Jehovah” is translated from the Hebrew Yahovah, which means “the existing one.”5 The name “Jehovah” is used here to distinguish the premortal Lord Jesus Christ, through whom salvation comes, from “Elohim,” or God the Father. The Hebrew word Elohiym is translated “God” throughout the Old Testament; Elohiym is plural-intensive, having a singular meaning.6 A form of Elohim—Eloi—was used when Jesus, in anguish upon the cross, addressed His Father.7
Verse 2 contains a chiasm:
A: (2) Behold, God is my salvation;
B: I will trust, and not be afraid:
C: for the LORD
B: is my strength and my song;
A: he also has become my salvation.
“God is my salvation” is equivalent to “he also has become my salvation.” “I will trust, and not be afraid” complements “my strength and my song,” illustrating that trust in the Lord is not a sign of weakness but strength, bringing great joy. “The LORD” matches “JEHOVAH;” Jehovah of the Old Testament is He who would come, bringing the blessings of salvation.
In verse 3, the Lord responds; His use of the plural familiar form directs His words to the people collectively: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” During His mortal ministry Jesus alluded to the symbolism established here by Isaiah. Speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus referred to “living water,” meaning salvation through the Atonement; also it means revelation from on high.8 Because of her ignorance of the scriptures she did not understand the symbolism.9 A related meaning for the water symbolically drawn is the ordinance of baptism.
Verse 3 contains a chiasm:
A: (3) Therefore with joy
B: shall ye draw water
B: out of the wells
A: of salvation.
In this chiasm “therefore with joy” is equated with “salvation;” it is with great joy that the truly repentant enter the waters of baptism and partake of the blessings of salvation. “Shall ye draw water” complements “out of the wells,” which form the central focus.
In verses 4, 5 and 6, Isaiah presents another psalm. Verse 4 begins: “And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.” Leah, upon giving birth to her fourth son, exclaimed: “Now will I praise the LORD.”10 Thus she named her son “Judah,” which means “praised.”11
Verse 5 continues: “Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.” Knowledge of the Lord having done “excellent things” was spread throughout the earth following the plagues sent upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.12
In verse 6 Isaiah redirects the final words of this psalm to each person individually, as indicated by his use again of the singular: “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” This phrase attests that Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, will dwell “in the midst of” His people on the earth during the Millennium. “Zion” in this verse means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem, the place of latter-day physical gathering of the righteous descendants of Israel.13
That the Lord would reign personally among the righteous is affirmed in modern revelation:
For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God.…And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.14
Verses 4 through 6 form a chiasm:
A: (4) And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD,
B: call upon his name,
C: declare his doings among the people,
D: make mention that his name is exalted.
D: (5) Sing unto the LORD;
C: for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
B: (6) Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion:
A: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
“The LORD” [Hebrew Yahovah]15 is equivalent to “Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah establishes that Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Holy One of Israel—He who would come, bringing the blessings of salvation. “Call upon his name” is compared to “cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion;” “declare his doings among the people” complements “he hath done excellent things;” and “his name is exalted” reflects “the LORD.” The people are admonished to call upon the Lord and praise Him, for He has done excellent things.
1. The other three places where the name “Jehovah” is used in the King James translation are Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; and Isaiah 26:4.
2. 2 Nephi 22:2.
3. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 89, “The Lord Is My Light,” verse 1.
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. 3050, p. 219.
5. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217.
6. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 430, p. 43.
7. See Mark 15:34.
8. See Isaiah 27:3; 30:25; 35:6-7; 55:1, 11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
9. See John 4:10-11.
10. Genesis 29:35.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3063, p. 397.
12. See Exodus 9:14, 16; Joshua 4:23-24.
13. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 51:3.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 133:3, 25.
15. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217.