Chapter 26 is a prophetic psalm of salvation in which Isaiah admonishes: “Trust in the LORD forever: for in the LORD…is everlasting strength.” The Lord humbles the proud, even to the ground. Although other lords (worldly kings and rulers) have had dominion, only the Lord Jehovah will die, then be resurrected. Because of His death and resurrection, all men will rise in the resurrection.
Verse 1 describes Jerusalem in the day of restoration: “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” “In that day” sets the time framework as the latter days. “Strong city” as used in this verse means the truth and strength of the gospel. “Salvation” means immortality for all, through Christ’s resurrection.
Verse 2 proclaims that all righteous peoples would share the blessings of the gospel: “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.” The open gates represent a people living in peace, without fear of invasion, protected by the Lord.1 Those nations living righteously would have free access to the truth and strength of the gospel.
Verse 2 contains a chiasm:
A: (2) Open ye the gates,
B: that the righteous nation
B: which keepeth the truth
A: may enter in.
“The righteous nation” matches “which keepeth the truth.” The reflection provides a definition: A righteous nation is one that safeguards the truth, forsaking lies and false doctrines.
In verse 3, the prophet testifies that individuals who accept the truth and live the law of the Lord will have perfect peace: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “Let your minds be filled with the goal of being like the Lord, and you will crowd out depressing thoughts as you anxiously seek to know him and do his will…. And what will follow if we do? ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.’”2
Verse 4 exhorts: “Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.”3 This verse is one of only four places in the King James Bible where the name “Jehovah” is used.4 Our trust in the Lord—manifest by our strict obedience—provides unending protection and strength.
Compare Nephi’s words: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.”5
Verse 5 describes the Lord’s power to humble the proud and lofty: “For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust.” “Them that dwell on high” and “lofty city” refer to worldly pride and haughtiness. The Lord will bring down the pride of the haughty, “even to the dust.”
Verse 6 describes destruction of the city of the proud and lofty: “The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.”6 The meaning is that those who were oppressed by the proud and lofty, described in verse 5, will tread down the proud city. Compare Isaiah’s wording in Chapter 25 that describes similar events: “And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.”7 Also, compare Isaiah’s statement in Chapter 54, speaking to gathered Israel in the latter days: “For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”8,9
Verse 7 proclaims that we are justified by personal righteousness, the outgrowth of obedience: “The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”10 The Lord weighs, or judges, the lives of the just; it is through His infinite sacrifice that they are redeemed. “The way [or path] of the just” means the Plan of Salvation.11
Verses 8 and 9 proclaim the long wait of the righteous for the Lord and His judgments. Verse 8 begins: “Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “…the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to thy law.”12 The desire of our souls should ever be toward His “name and to the remembrance of” Him. Compare the words from the sacramental prayer: “…that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them….” (Emphasis added).13
Verse 9 continues: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”14 Compare the Lord’s words addressed to the prophet Joseph Smith: “He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken.”15 Also, compare Isaiah’s words in Chapter 33: “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.”16
Janette C. Hales, of the Young Women General Presidency, expounded on verse 9:
When we establish a pattern of righteousness in our lives, we commit to our Heavenly Father to do all in our power to help others reproduce this pattern in their lives. This can happen over and over until, as it says in Isaiah, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”17
Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm:
A: (8) Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD,
B: have we waited for thee;
C: the desire of our
E: is to thy name,
E: and to the remembrance of thee.
D: (9) With my soul
C: have I desired thee in the night;
B: yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:
A: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
The Lord’s judgments are just; the righteous desire the way of the Lord. The chiastic structure contributes to the eloquence of Isaiah’s psalm of salvation.
Verse 10 testifies that the wicked, although given ample opportunity, will reject the Lord: “Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.” Wickedness—even in the land where righteousness is the norm—is always a matter of personal choice. Because of their wickedness, the wicked will not be permitted to see the Lord at His coming.
Verses 9 and 10 contain a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:18
(9) With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early:
A: for when thy judgments are in the earth, righteousness
B: will be learned
C: by the inhabitants of the world.
C: (10) Let favour be shewed to the wicked,
B: yet will he not learn
A: righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.
Even though the Lord’s judgments would be in the earth, the wicked will not learn righteousness but will continue to deal unjustly. The descending side is antithetic to the ascending side, contrasting the wicked with the righteous.
In verse 11, the Lord’s zeal for His righteous people will be seen by the wicked, who will be ashamed: “LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.” Ultimately, the wicked will be ashamed and will be consumed by fire.19
Verse 12 declares: “LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” Righteous works are motivated by one’s desires unto the Lord.
Verses 13 and 14 are a testimony that the Lord Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same who should die and be resurrected. Verse 13 begins: “O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”20 In the King James Version, “LORD,” in all caps, is translated from the Hebrew Yahovah, designating who should die and be resurrected.
Verse 14 continues the testimony that the Lord should die and be resurrected: “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.” Secular authorities have had dominion over the people but their deaths do not bring about resurrection; they do not rise again until after Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore they will not be remembered. In contrast the Lord, though dead, would live again; though deceased, he would rise again. Therefore He only would be remembered.
Verse 15 declares: “Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.” This means that the Lord, when He comes, will govern politically over all the earth, expanding the borders of the land.21 The Lord will bring unity to the peoples of the earth by spreading the word of the gospel to all nations.22
In verses 16 through 18 Isaiah recalls the misery suffered by Israel during her lengthy exile. Verse 16 begins: “LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.”23 When troubled, Israel turns to the Lord in prayer. Similarly, we tend to forget the Lord until trouble prompts us to seek His help. The Lord chastens His people by allowing trouble to afflict them when they do evil; nevertheless, He hears their prayer and visits them with His spirit.
Verse 17 illustrates Israel’s degree of suffering with a simile: “Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD.”
Verse 18 summarizes, now shifting to a metaphor: “We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.” Because of her pain, Israel has been ineffective militarily; she has not brought deliverance nor conquered.
In verses 19 through 21, Isaiah gives the Lord’s response to Israel’s prayer. Verse 19 proclaims the universal resurrection. Like the Savior himself, as verse 14 alludes, all men will rise: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”24 All the dead will come forth in the resurrection, together with the Lord’s dead body which would arise in resurrection. Compare Paul’s words in the New Testament: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”25
Verse 20 describes the Lord’s vengeance upon the wicked while providing protection for the righteous: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” Note here that the Lord addresses His people in the singular form. The Lord warns His people—each one individually—to take cover at the time of the destruction. His instructions mirror those given to Moses’ people in Egypt at the time of the Passover. Note the King James usage, “overpast,” is a form of the word “Passover.” These ancient events are a type for destruction of the wicked at the Lord’s Second Coming.26 As was done anciently, the Lord will give a Passover warning through His living prophet.
Verse 21 describes the Lord’s punishment upon the wicked: “For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” “Blood,” as used in this verse, is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “guilt of bloodshed” or “blood-guiltiness.”27 Blood‑guiltiness will no more be hidden; crime and violence of all sorts committed upon the earth will no more be concealed but will be brought to justice by the Lord.
1. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 250.
2. Ezra Taft Benson, “Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 65.
3. Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm: Thou/stayed on thee/trusteth in thee/trust ye in the LORD/for ever/the LORD JEHOVAH.
4. See Isaiah 12:2; Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18.
5. 2 Nephi 4:34.
6. Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm: He bringeth down them that dwell on high/he layeth it low/even to the ground/ even to the dust/tread it down/feet of the poor.
7. Isaiah 25:12.
8. Isaiah 54:3.
9. See 3 Nephi 22:3.
10. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: Way of the just/thou/most upright/path of the just.
11. See Isaiah 3:12; 8:11; 28:7; 40:3 and pertinent commentary.
12. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 111.
13. Moroni 4:3; also Doctrine and Covenants 20:77.
14. Verse 9 contains a chiasm: Have I desired thee in the night/my/spirit/within/me/will I seek thee early.
15. Doctrine and Covenants 88:83.
16. Isaiah 33:2.
17. Janette C. Hales, “A Pattern of Righteousness,” Ensign, May 1991, p. 83.
18. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 260.
19. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
20. Verse 13 contains a chiasm: O LORD/lords beside thee/dominion/over us/by thee only/thy name.
21. Isaiah 26:15, footnote 15b.
22. See Isaiah 5:26; 40:28; 41:5, 9.
23. Verse 16 contains a chiasm: In trouble/visited thee/poured out a prayer/thy chastening.
24. Verse 19 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: They shall live/dead men/my dead body/they shall arise. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 260.
25. 1 Corinthians 15:21- 22.
26. Compare Exodus 12:21-23; see also Isaiah 10:25; 30:29 and pertinent commentary.
27. 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. 1818, p. 196.