Isaiah 22: Let Us Eat and Drink; For To Morrow We Shall Die

In Chapter 22 Isaiah prophesies concerning the final few years leading up to the time when Jerusalem would be destroyed. Her people would be attacked, scourged and carried away captive into Babylon. Chapter 22 also prophesies concerning the Messiah, who will hold the key of the house of David, inherit glory, and be fastened as a nail in a sure place. In this chapter Isaiah refers to Jerusalem alternately as “the valley of vision,” “the daughter of my people,” and “the city of David.”

Verse 1 begins: “The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” “The burden of the valley of vision” means “a message of doom to Jerusalem.” “Valley of vision” refers to Jerusalem as the home of prophets. The housetops provided a clear view to the people of what transpired while offering a measure of safety from invading armies. The housetops were also a customary place for mourning.1

In verse 2, “Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle.”2 “Full of stirs” means full of noise. The slain men of the city are dead as to things of righteousness, rather than being slain with the sword. “Joyous city,” together with “tumultuous city,” connotes scenes of revelry and celebration.

In verse 3, Isaiah foresees: “All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far.” The rulers and others with skills useful to the invading Babylonian conquerors would be preserved but bound and taken captive. “Archers” refers to the invading army, or components of it.

In verse 4 Isaiah mourns upon having seen in vision the invasion and ravaging of the city of Jerusalem: “Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.” He sorrows, despite the wickedness that repulses him. Isaiah’s reference here to Jerusalem as “the daughter of my people” reflects the beauty of the beloved city.

Verse 5 begins: “For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains.” Isaiah acknowledged, despite his sorrow expressed in verse 4, that Jerusalem’s destruction is “by the Lord GOD of hosts.” “Breaking down the walls, and…crying to the mountains” elaborate the destruction and anguish.

Verse 6 describes the alliance of Jerusalem’s old adversaries with Babylon in bringing down Jerusalem: “And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.” Elam is Persia and Kir is the capital city of Moab.

In verse 7, Isaiah describes the fearful invasion and siege of the destroying host: “And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.”3 Horsemen, or mounted warriors, would position themselves at the gate of Jerusalem to control entry and exit.

Verse 8 describes the total humiliation of Judah: “And he discovered the covering of Judah” is similar in meaning to “discover their secret parts,”4 a Hebrew idiom meaning “put them to shame.” “And thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest.” The meaning is that Zedekiah would seek after military strength rather than trusting in the Lord.

The house of the forest was a secondary palace built by Solomon on the Temple Mount, used for storing armor and weapons.5 It was called the house of the forest because it was constructed of materials imported from the forests of Lebanon.

Verse 9 refers to “breaking down the walls” of the city mentioned in verse 5: “Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool.” The defenders would try to preserve a supply of water for the city; depriving a city’s inhabitants of water is an effective maneuver during a siege. The lower pool was built during the reign of Hezekiah.6

Verse 10 describes additional measures taken by the city’s defenders: “And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.” To counter the invaders’ efforts to break down the wall from the outside, houses in Jerusalem were torn down in desperation to provide materials to strengthen the wall from the inside.

In verse 11, Isaiah predicts further efforts to preserve a water supply during the siege: “Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.7 Jerusalem’s defenders have not turned to the Lord.

Verses 12 and 13 cite the Lord’s call to repentance and Jerusalem’s subsequent rejection of that call, persisting in revelry as usual. Verse 12 begins: “And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth.” Sackcloth, mourning, and cutting or shaving of hair are outward signs of repentance.

Verse 13 describes Jerusalem’s ongoing revelry: “And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.” Their partying was in defiance of the Lord’s command to repent, delivered by the prophet.

The last phrase of verse 13 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament: “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.”8

Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, paraphrases and expands, describing the mindset of the wicked:

Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.9

The wicked rationalize against repentance.

In verse 14, Isaiah testifies against the unrepentant inhabitants of Jerusalem: “And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.”10

In verses 15 through 19 the Lord issues a personal warning to Shebna through Isaiah. Shebna was a scribe and treasurer from the household of King Hezekiah who witnessed the blasphemous speech of Rab-Shakeh, servant to Assyrian king Sennacherib, and succeeding events that culminated in the Lord slaying 185,000 of the Assyrian host.11 Verse 15 commences: “Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say—” Shebna was in charge of the king’s palace and its business affairs.

Verse 16, continuing the sentence of the previous verse, commences the Lord’s chastisement of Shebna: “What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?”12 The Lord warns him that his position in the king’s house would ultimately result in his death—that his efforts at establishing his position as the head of the king’s house were like hewing himself a sepulchre out of the rock.

Verses 17 through 19 continue the Lord’s warning to Shebna. Verse 17 states: “Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee.” “Cover thee” may have reference to the practice of blindfolding prisoners during transport; many of those carried captive were blindfolded.13

Verse 18 continues: “He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.” “Glory,” as used here, means political strength.14 Shebna would be carried into Assyria, where he would spend the rest of his life.

Verse 19 concludes: “And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.”15 Shebna would be removed from his elevated position in the house of the king by the Lord.

Verses 20 and 21 describe a time when Eliakim, a servant of Hezekiah who also witnessed the blasphemous speech of Rab-Shakeh the servant of Assyrian king Sennacherib, would be established in Shebna’s position. Verse 20 begins: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah.”

Verse 21 states: “And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle,” meaning the honor that once belonged to Shebna. “And I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.”16 Shebna’s position over the house of the king would be given to Eliakim.

In verses 22 through 25, the point of interest suddenly shifts forward over 100 years to another with the same name—Eliakim the son of Josiah, who would become king. The Hebrew meaning of the name Eliakim is “God raises” or “God sets up.”17 Also in verses 22 through 25, this symbolic name becomes a type for the Savior.

Verse 22 states: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” meaning both Eliakim the son of Josiah, and Jesus Christ, the Messiah: “so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” This pair of phrases refers to the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, not possessed by Eliakim the king but held by Jesus Christ.18 For Eliakim, these phrases describe absolute temporal authority.

John the Revelator, in the New Testament, quotes verse 22: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.”19 Here John refers both to the Davidic heirship and the holy priesthood possessed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 23 states, referring both to Eliakim and the Lord Jesus Christ: “And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.” Regarding Christ this has reference to the crucifixion; but regarding Eliakim the king—a predecessor of Christ as heir to the throne of David—it refers to his becoming firmly established in power. To the Lord’s followers at the time of His Second Coming when He will assume leadership as heir to David’s throne, their knowledge of the significance of this phrase will serve as a test of their discipleship.20

Verses 22 and 23 contain a chiasm:

A: (22) And the key of the house of David
B: will I lay upon his shoulder;
C: so he shall open,
D: and none shall shut;
D: and he shall shut,
C: and none shall open.
B: (23) And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place;
A: and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

Both Eliakim and Christ would be heirs to the throne of David; both would possess great power.

Verse 24 again refers to both Eliakim the king and the coming Messiah: “And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons,” or, all that pertains to the throne of David, even down to the small household vessels. “And they shall hang upon him” is a strange phrase to be used in describing the attributes of kingship to be possessed by both; but with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ it refers to His being hung upon the cross.

Verse 24 contains a chiasm:

A: (24) And they shall hang upon him
B: all the glory of his father’s house,
C: the offspring
C: and the issue,
B: all vessels of small quantity,
A: from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

Vessels of the king’s house are symbolic of the glory, or authority, of both the king and the coming Messiah.

Verse 25 concludes: “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.” Regarding Christ, this refers to His being taken down from the cross following His death, but regarding Eliakim it refers to his being removed from his position as king of Judah, being placed in fetters and being carried away captive into Babylon.21 Regarding Christ, “the burden that was placed” upon him refers to the inestimable burden of sin that He took upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane which, upon His death, would be removed from all those who would repent. Isaiah, regarding Christ’s Atonement, says in Chapter 53: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”22

Verse 25 contains a chiasm:

A: (25) In that day, saith the LORD of hosts,
B: shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed,
C: and be cut down,
C: and fall;
B: and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off:
A: for the LORD hath spoken it.

“Saith the LORD of hosts” matches “for the LORD hath spoken it;” Isaiah bears a strong testimony that these words come from God and not from man.

 


Notes:

1. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 196.
2. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: What aileth thee now/full of stirs/tumultuous city/joyous city/thy slain men are not slain with the sword/nor dead in battle.
3. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: Valleys/full/of chariots/horsemen/in array/gate.
4. Isaiah 3:17.
5. 1 Kings 7:2.
6. 2 Kings 20:20.
7. See Isaiah 7:3.
8. 1 Corinthians 15:32.
9. 2 Nephi 28:7-8.
10. Verses 1 through 14 contain a large-scale chiasm: What aileth thee now/a joyous city/I will weep bitterly/for it is a day of trouble/in the valley of vision/Elam bare the quiver/Kir uncovered the shield/thy choicest valleys/he discovered the covering of Judah/call to weeping/joy and gladness/ this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die.
11. See 2 Kings 18:18-37 and 2 kings 19.
12. Verse 16 contains a chiasm: What hast thou here/whom hast thou here/hewed thee out a sepulchre here/that heweth him out/a sepulchre on high/graveth an habitation for himself.
13. See Ezekiel 12:3-6, 11-13.
14. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 66:12.
15. Verses 18 and 19 contain a chiasm: Violently turn and toss thee/there shalt thou die/chariots of thy glory/shall be the shame of thy lord’s house/I will drive thee from thy station/shall he pull thee down.
16. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: And it shall come to pass/I will call my servant Eliakim/clothe him/ strengthen him/I will commit thy government into his hand/he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
17. 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. 471, p. 45.
18. See 1 Kings 17:1; Malachi 4:5; Helaman 10:7; Doctrine and Covenants 1:8; Doctrine and Covenants 132:46 .
19. Revelation 3:7.
20. See Isaiah 49:16 and pertinent commentary. See also Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 32.
21. See 2 Chronicles 36:4-9.
22. Isaiah 53:5.

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Isaiah 21: Go, Set a Watchman, Let Him Declare What He Seeth

Chapter 21 describes the fall of Babylon, signifying both the ancient empire and the modern sinful world. The effects of this cataclysm upon other nations are also described. Destruction of modern Babylon will follow the destruction of the modern superpower equivalent of Egypt at the hands of the modern equivalent of Assyria. Egypt’s destruction and humiliation are described in the previous chapters.1

Verse 1 begins: “The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.” “The burden of the desert of the sea” means “prophecy regarding the desert adjacent to the sea.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “from the terrible land” for the concluding phrase.2 This statement by Isaiah designates the point of entry of an invading army that came from “the terrible land”—passing through the desert like a vast whirlwind, doubtless raising huge clouds of dust.

Verse 2 begins: “A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.” “Treacherous dealer” means “one who acts in bad faith” or “deceitfully.”3 The final phrase of verse 2 names the ancient invaders—Elam (Persia) and the Medes.4 As a type, this phrase also refers to their modern counterparts. The effects personally on Isaiah of seeing this grievous vision are described later in verses 3 and 4.

Verse 2 contains a chiasm:

A: (2) A grievous vision is declared unto me;
B: the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously,
C: and the spoiler spoileth.
C: Go up, O Elam:
B: besiege, O Media;
A: all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.

“The treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously” matches “besiege, O Media,” identifying the treacherous dealer; and “the spoiler spoileth” matches “Go up, O Elam,” identifying the spoiler.

Verses 3 and 4 describe Isaiah’s angst upon seeing the vision. Verse 3 declares: “Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it.” These similes describe the great pain Isaiah felt upon being shown this vision. His statements attest that he saw quite vividly as well as heard, indicating his role as both seer and prophet.

Verse 4 continues: “My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.” Isaiah was astonished at the cataclysmic scene he saw in vision, even though an enemy was the nation destroyed.5 “My heart panted” probably means “my heart pounded;” “The night of my pleasure” means “night of pleasant sleep.”6

Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm:

A: (3) Therefore are my loins filled with pain:
B: pangs have taken hold upon me,
C: as the pangs of a woman that travaileth:
D: I was bowed down at the hearing of it;
D: I was dismayed at the seeing of it.
C: (4) My heart panted,
B: fearfulness affrighted me:
A: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.

This chiasm vividly describes Isaiah’s angst upon receiving this revelation.

Verse 5 describes preparations for battle, first attending to adequate nourishment and vigilance: “Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.”7  Applying grease or oil to a shield improved its ability to deflect the blows of an enemy’s weapons.

In verse 6, Isaiah proclaims the source of this admonition to prepare for war: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me.” Isaiah then proclaims: “Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” A watchman on the tower is symbolic of latter-day prophets declaring the signs of the times, leading up to and including the great destruction of modern-day Babylon. Isaiah uses the symbolism of a watchman also in chapters 52, 56 and 62.8

In verse 7 the watchman sees a parade of chariots, each drawn by different animals: “And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed.” These chariots paired with draft animals symbolize the Medes and the Persians as well as their modern counterparts. The latter-day watchman is diligent; he pays great attention.

Verse 8 begins “And he cried, A lion.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “and the seer cried, my Lord,”9 with no reference to a lion. The meaning of the passage is probably “and he cried like a lion,” or shouted loudly. The words shouted are: “My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights.” The watchman offers personal witness of his unfailing diligence, keeping watch both day and night.

Verses 6 through 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (6) For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
B: Go, set a watchman,
C: let him declare what he seeth.
D: (7) And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen,
D: a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels;
C: and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
B: (8) And he cried, A lion:
A: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights—

“Go, set a watchman” matches “he cried [shouted like] a lion,” identifying who cried. “Let him declare what he seeth” compares with “he hearkened diligently with much heed,” showing that the watchman is extraordinarily faithful in keeping his charge and reporting what he sees. The watchman’s report presents foreseen events symbolically; chariots drawn by different draft animals represent various invading armies as seen by the diligent watchman.

The watchman’s speech continues in verse 9: “And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen.” The watchman continues: “And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.” The chariot of men and the men on horseback symbolize the fall of Babylon, as explained in the final sentence. The idols of Babylon’s gods have fallen in pieces on the ground; Babylon’s idols are not able to save her. For modern Babylon, neither her wealth nor materialism will be able to save her.10 The faithful watchman upon the tower has borne witness of all, right up to the great destruction.

In modern revelation, the Lord elaborates:

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.11

Verses 6 through 9 provide insight into the function of a latter-day prophet, as contrasted with an ancient one. Rather than declaring events to occur in the distant future, the modern prophet interprets what he sees in current society and events in terms of ancient prophecy and gospel principles. What is to occur in our time has already been prophesied; now is the time of fulfillment of ancient prophecy. A modern prophet’s task is to warn and to prepare; our task is to give heed to the words of our living prophets.

Verse 9 contains a chiasm:

A: (9) And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said,
B: Babylon
C: is fallen,
C: is fallen;
B: and all the graven images of her gods
A: he hath broken unto the ground.

“Babylon” matches “all the graven images of her gods,” indicating that “Babylon” connotes idolatry; “is fallen” is repeated twice, for emphasis. An army, symbolized by the chariot of men and the horsemen, overthrows Babylon and destroys her idols. The pronoun he represents both the army—symbolized by the chariot and the horsemen—and the Lord, who would use the army as a proxy to accomplish His purposes.

Verse 10 begins: “O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.” The introductory phrase probably means “Oh my people, threshed and winnowed….” Isaiah addresses the Israelite survivors of the downfall of Babylon;12 he bears testimony that what he has described is what he has heard from the Lord.

Verse 11 states: “The burden of Dumah,” or, prophecy concerning Dumah: “He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” The voice cries out, requesting to know of the faithful watchman how much longer the darkness, or oppression, would last. Dumah is located in central Arabia, east of Midian;13 it was named for the sixth of Ishmael’s 12 sons.14 Seir is a mountainous ridge south of the Dead Sea.15

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone cited this verse: “In Isaiah, the prophet asks, ‘Watchman, what of the night?’ This generation of youth will be the torchbearers in the future, possibly in the darkest period of the world.”16 Isaiah’s meaning of spiritual darkness, or oppression, is clear.

The watchman’s answer comes in verse 12: “The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.”17 The end of the oppression—anciently, the Babylonian captivity—would come soon, but after it there would be another night of apostasy, another oppressor; inquire again later.18

Verse 13 changes the focus but not the subject: “The burden upon Arabia,” or, prophecy concerning Arabia. “In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies [or caravans] of Dedanim.” Dedam—possibly the same place—is located in Arabia, inland from the Red Sea.19

In verse 14, the plight of those fleeing the devastation of Babylon is described: “The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.” “Prevented” probably means kept from perishing; the merciful people in Tema would provide water and bread for those fleeing the ravages of war. Tema is located in Arabia northeastward from Dedam.20

As described in verse 15, many would flee the horrors of war: “For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.”21

Verses 16 and 17 describe the imminent fall of a tribe in northern Arabia.22 Verse 16 declares: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail.” The glory of Kedar, as used here, means military strength.23 Kedar was a son of Ishmael and an ancestor of Muhammad, according to some Arab genealogists.24 A hireling is a mercenary, or hired soldier, typically hired for a set period of time—in this case, a year.

Verse 17 concludes: “And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.”25

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah chapters 19 and 20.
2. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 200.
3. 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. 898, p. 93.
4. See Map 2, LDS edition of the Bible for locations of these ancient nations.
5. See Isaiah 21:3, footnote 3a.
6. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2837, p. 366.
7. Verse 5 contains a chiasm: Prepare/watch/eat/drink/arise/anoint.
8. See Isaiah 52:8; 56:10; 62:6 and pertinent commentary.
9. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 96.
10. See Isaiah 2:7-9 and pertinent commentary.
11. Doctrine and Covenants 1:16.
12. Isaiah 21:10, footnote 10a.
13. See Bible Map 9.
14. See Genesis 25:13-14.
15. Bible Dictionary—Seir.
16. Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Called As If He Heard a Voice from Heaven,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 36.
17. Verse 12 contains a chiasm: Morning cometh, and also the night/ye/enquire/enquire/ye/return, come.
18. Isaiah 21:12, footnote 12a.
19. See Bible Map 9.
20. See Bible Map 9.
21. Verses 14 and 15 contain a chiasm: Him that fled/they fled/swords/drawn sword/bent bow/grievousness of war.
22. See Bible Map 9.
23. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 22:18; 66:12.
24. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 230.
25. Verses 16 and 17 contain a chiasm: Thus hath the Lord said unto me/glory of Kedar/archers/mighty men/ children of Kedar/the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.

Isaiah 20: Naked and Barefoot…to the Shame of Egypt

In Chapter 20 Isaiah describes how Assyria will overrun Egypt and make her ashamed. This has reference both to ancient Egypt and her modern superpower counterpart, America.1

Verse 1 establishes the time at which this prophecy was received by Isaiah: “In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it—” This event occurred about 711 B.C.2 Ashdod was a city in northern Philistia where a resistance movement against Assyria was fomented.3 “Tartan” means “field marshal,”4 whose name we are not given. The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “commander-in-chief.”5

Verse 2 continues the sentence: “At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.” The Lord here is commanding Isaiah to live a parable—to be a “type” for events to come.

Today, walking naked and barefoot in public is beyond the limits of what society will permit, but nudity was apparently viewed differently in Isaiah’s world. On one occasion King Saul was so inclined:

[A]nd the Spirit of God was upon him [Saul] also, and he went on, and prophesied….
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?6

The Old Testament prophet Micah, in foreseeing the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, was deeply grieved. Said he: “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked….”7

Nudity was apparently a common practice among the prophets of that day. Ancient Greece was noted for its public nudity; participants in the ancient Olympics were naked. Our word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek, meaning “a place to train naked.”8 Isaiah’s nudity was apparently not much more than a conversation-starter, to give him an opportunity to tell about Egypt’s foreseen embarrassment at the hands of Assyria.

The foreshadowed event is described in verses 3 and 4. Verse 3 begins: “And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia—”

Verse 4 continues the same sentence: “So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.” Fulfillment of this prophecy anciently occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah, when the Assyrians overthrew the rebellion that began in Ashdod. Isaiah’s message to Judah was not to participate with Ashdod and Egypt in the rebellion against Assyria.9 In modern times, America will be undone militarily by the modern superpower represented as Assyria. Events for which this ancient event are a type may mark the end of America’s military dominance, following the unfolding of events described by Isaiah in Chapter 19.10

Verse 5 continues: “And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.” The glory of Egypt, as used here, means military strength.11 In other words, the people of Judah would be dismayed by Assyria’s power, dispelling any hope of help from the modern equivalent of Egypt and Ethiopia.12

Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners,
B: and the Ethiopians captives,
C: young and old,
D: naked and barefoot,
D: even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
C: (5) And they shall be afraid and ashamed
B: of Ethiopia their expectation,
A: and of Egypt their glory.

“Naked and barefoot” correlates with “even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.” The chiasm leaves little doubt about the literal intent of “naked and barefoot.”

Verse 6 describes the discouragement faced by Judah: “And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?” With Egypt defeated and humiliated, Judah would wonder where to look for help when Assyria threatens.

Isaiah’s message is that only through the help of the Lord could Judah escape humiliation and slavery. Similarly, modern America can escape humiliation and defeat only by establishing an alliance with the Lord.

 


Notes:

1. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988, p. 72-76.
2. See Isaiah 20:1, footnote 1a.
3. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p.222-223.
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. 8661, p. 1077.
5. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 94.
6. 1 Samuel 19:23-24.
7. Micah 1:8.
8. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 327.
9. Ludlow, p. 223-224.
10. Isaiah 19; see also pertinent commentary.
11. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12.
12. See Isaiah 20:5, footnote 5a.

Isaiah 19: The Princes of Zoan Are Become Fools, The Princes of Noph Are Deceived

This chapter is a burden, or prophecy, concerning Egypt. True to Isaiah’s pattern of multiple layers of meaning, in this chapter he intertwines prophecies regarding both ancient and modern Egypt and its modern superpower equivalent, America. An understanding of the history of ancient Egypt serves as a guide, enabling us to recognize in this prophecy what elements pertain to ancient or modern Egypt, what pertains to modern America, and what probably pertains to both. It is abundantly clear that Isaiah is speaking of the future, because the events described in this chapter as befalling the now-vanished empires of Egypt and Assyria are not represented in their histories. Our challenge is to recognize modern players on Isaiah’s stage.

Why the association of Egypt with America? In Chapter 18 Isaiah described “a far-distant land,” “that sendeth forth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers” to scattered Israel.1 The tribe of Joseph, divided into two under his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, exhibited Egyptian culture—including the spoken and written language—long after the twelve tribes settled in the Promised Land. Their scriptures were written in Egyptian, on brass plates. The Nephites, descendants of Joseph who had migrated to the American continent and received it as their land of inheritance, wrote their scriptures in reformed Egyptian,2 patterning them after the brass plates.

The modern inhabitants of America are to a great extent descendants of Joseph, led out of Europe and elsewhere during the time of colonization by the hand of the Lord, and later also as the gospel was preached in those areas.3 Lehi prophesied: “[T]here shall none come into this land [America] save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.”4 The missionaries who go forth to scattered Israel in the latter days are primarily of the tribe of Joseph. They carry with them the Book of Mormon, a scriptural account of a remnant of the tribe of Joseph, translated from reformed Egyptian. This cultural link to ancient Egypt is represented symbolically by the “vessels of bulrushes upon the waters” which carry “swift messengers” to scattered Israel.5

Ancient Egypt6 first gained prominence about 3100 B.C. when the kingdom of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt. King Menes united the country and formed a national government, one of the earliest in the world. He founded Memphis as his capital near the present site of Cairo. He also founded the first dynasty, or series of rulers from the same family. In succession, more than 30 other dynasties ruled ancient Egypt. Its history is divided by Egyptologists into three periods characterized by strong rulers, military conquests, and other notable developments. These are the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.C.), the Middle Kingdom (1991-1786 B.C.), and the New Kingdom (1570-1070 B.C.). Intervals between these groupings, typically enduring several hundred years, were characterized by weak dynasties during which Egypt’s prominence declined.

The Old Kingdom was characterized by building of pyramids. During the Middle Kingdom Egypt’s influence expanded to include Nubia, Palestine, and Syria; and during the New Kingdom ancient Egypt became the world’s strongest power. Following the end of the twentieth dynasty in 1070 B.C., Egypt began to decline rapidly as a strong nation and was ruled by foreign entities including Nubian, Assyrian, and Persian rulers. Alexander the Great added Egypt to his empire in 332 B.C. and founded the city of Alexandria, noted for its museum and vast library of papyrus rolls, and the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 B.C. Muslims from Arabia seized Alexandria and completed their conquest of Egypt in A.D. 642.

Although not much is known that can historically connect events in Egypt to those recorded in the Bible until the reign of the Israelite kings, during the time of the Patriarchs Egypt was a powerful kingdom (the New Kingdom). Abraham’s sojourn there7 doubtless coincided with Egypt’s notable development in astronomy. Abraham, who had the Urim and Thummim,8 was shown “the stars, that they were very great….”9 The Lord gave specific reason for so instructing Abraham: “Abraham, I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.”10 Major religious reforms—possibly inspired by Abraham—were introduced by Akhenaton who became king of Egypt in 1367 B.C. However, his reforms angered many Egyptians and his successors restored the old polytheistic state religion. Egypt was weak during the time of Israel’s prominence under Saul, David, and Solomon and continued its decline throughout the ensuing kingdoms of Judah and Israel. During the time of Isaiah, Egypt’s prominence as a world power was long past and its decline under foreign rulers was well underway.

In Chapter 19, Isaiah foretells Egypt being smitten by the Lord and destroyed. The destruction may have coincided with invasions by Alexander the Great, Rome, or the invading Arabians as far as ancient Egypt is concerned, but the bulk of this prophecy applies to Egypt’s modern superpower counterpart, America.11 Following her destruction the Lord will heal Egypt, and three modern nations—called Egypt, Assyria, and Israel by Isaiah—will be blessed together.

In verse 1, Isaiah declares: “The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.” “The burden of Egypt” means a prophecy concerning Egypt. Ancient Egypt’s polytheistic idolatry is well-known, and modern America’s pervasive idolatry—materialism—was described in Chapter 2 by Isaiah.12

What “swift cloud” could come into modern America, sent by the Lord to destroy her idolatry? One possibility is nuclear warfare; other possibilities are explosives designed to disperse deadly radioactive materials, an electromagnetic shock wave that would disable electronics and electrical transmission, conventional explosives with large-scale, devastating effects or clouds of toxic chemicals moving swiftly to exterminate multitudes of people. Parry et al. describe the swift cloud as a means of conveyance by the Lord.13 Regardless of its precise nature, the Lord would permit the devastation ushered in by this swift cloud.

Verse 2 describes devastating internal conflicts; this did not characterize the destruction of ancient Egypt which was invaded by successive foreign entities: “And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.” Fulfillment of this prophecy may have had its beginnings in the American Civil War, but is doubtless yet to be completely fulfilled. Of interest here is that the conflicts coincide with breakdown of societal elements including the family, neighborhoods and cities, and nations and kingdoms.14 What current circumstances do we see about us that will deteriorate into the anarchy described by Isaiah? The Lord, however, will not allow America to self-destruct as long as He has use for its present government as a world-stabilizing influence, to permit continuing spread of the gospel.

In verse 3, Isaiah continues his description of the foretold anarchy: “And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof; and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.” “The spirit of Egypt shall fail” likely means that the great underlying principles established by the founding fathers will be forsaken and rejected. Religious belief will decline into spiritualism and sorcery: “Them that have familiar spirits” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “necromancers,” or those who purport to communicate with the dead.15

Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm:

(1) The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt:
A: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.
B: (2) And I will set
C: the Egyptians against the Egyptians:
D: and they shall fight every one against his brother,
D: and every one against his neighbour;
C: city against city,
B: and kingdom against kingdom.
A: (3) And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.

If this chiasm is read in reflective order beginning with the first element on the ascending side, then its reflection on the descending side, then the next element on the ascending side, and so forth to the central focus, an informative pattern emerges: “The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. And I will set kingdom against kingdom, the Egyptians against the Egyptians, city against city; and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour.”

When the chiasm is read in this way, a logical succession of events emerges: First, a cataclysmic event, or “act of God;” then a failure of the government’s underlying principles; followed by reliance upon idolatry, superstition and wizardry in place of the practice of true religion. Conflicts then break out—first between kingdoms, then against fellow countrymen; cities would rise in conflict with other cities, then families and neighborhoods would be split apart. The result would be anarchy and chaos.

In verse 4, anarchy will be replaced by domination and servitude: “And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.” Fulfillment of this prophecy may have occurred with foreign powers invading and conquering ancient Egypt including Nubian, Assyrian, and Persian rulers, Alexander the Great, the Romans, and the Muslims, but the modern “cruel lord” and “fierce king” ruling over fallen America has yet to be made manifest. An alternative Hebrew meaning for “cruel lord” is “hard masters.”16 Because of conflicts dividing kingdoms, the nation, cities, families and neighborhoods, the modern analog of ancient Egypt is left weakened and vulnerable militarily and would be easily overcome by a “cruel lord.”

Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm:

A: (3) And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.
B: (4) And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand
C: of a cruel lord;
C: and a fierce king
B: shall rule over them,
A: saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.

“Idols, and…charmers, and…them that have familiar spirits, and…wizards” contrasts with “the Lord, the LORD of hosts.” Instead of relying on the Lord, the modern counterpart of Egypt would rely on wizardry, spiritualism and idolatry. “Will I give over into the hand” complements “rule over them,” indicating that the Lord would permit this transition of power to occur. Without the Lord’s protection a fierce and cruel king will rule over modern America.

Verses 5 through 10 describe economic calamities to accompany these political developments. Verse 5 begins: “And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.”

Ancient Egypt’s prominence was based upon its economic strength, derived from abundant harvests grown from fertile soils along the Nile River.17 These soils were renewed each year, during the annual flooding of the Nile that corresponded to seasonal rains in the African interior to the south. Failure of the waters from the sea and from the river would totally incapacitate Egypt economically, but such an occurrence is not in the historical record for ancient Egypt— except for events like the seven years of famine during the time of Joseph: “And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.”18 The famine was precipitated by the “east wind,” a strong, dry, hot wind from the deserts of the Middle East that did not allow crops to develop. It affected the entire region, not just the Nile Valley.19

Ludlow, in his commentary on Chapter 19, asserts that Isaiah’s prophecy of economic calamity has been fulfilled in modern Egypt by construction of the Aswan High Dam.20 However, dire reports of social, economic and ecological disaster resulting from construction of the dam are largely politically-motivated propaganda, as shown by subsequent responsible scientific investigations. The Aswan High Dam is, in fact, one of the best dams in the world because of the very substantial overall benefits it brought to Egypt and its people.21

In the 1950s the Americans agreed to provide funding for the proposed Aswan High Dam, which would take the place of an earlier structure that had proven to be inadequate in controlling catastrophic flooding. For a variety of reasons, the Americans became displeased with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and withdrew their offer for funding. The Soviet Union quickly stepped forward, offering to provide funding and technical expertise. These events resulted in considerable rivalry between the Cold War-era superpowers of America and the Soviet Union. American agencies and journalists created a barrage of negative propaganda after the dam was finished, describing it as an economic, social and ecological disaster of staggering proportions.22

Construction of the Aswan High Dam—completed in 1964—has resulted in stabilization of the flow of the Nile River, minimizing the annual floods. Although annual renewal of the soil by deposition of new silt has ceased—making use of synthetic fertilizers necessary— permanent settlement on the river floodplain has enabled implementation of modern mechanized farming methods. Although fish catches were reduced for a few years due to changed ecological conditions both in the Nile River and in nearby portions of the Mediterranean Sea, former levels of fish production have returned and an entirely new fishery has been developed in Lake Nasser, the reservoir formed by impoundment at the Aswan High Dam.23 It is clear that the economic disaster foretold by Isaiah does not apply to the effects of the Aswan High Dam; moreover, Isaiah’s reference here to Egypt is a code-word for modern America.24

Verse 6 continues: “And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither.” “Brooks of defence” probably means moats, which are wide, water-filled trenches surrounding ramparts,25 adding to the effectiveness of defensive fortifications.  Drying up of “brooks of defence” suggests that military defenses would be compromised.

Verse 7 declares: “The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.”

Verse 8 pronounces: “The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.” Fishing was a major industry and source of food in ancient Egypt;26 “angle” means “fish hooks.”27

Verse 9 states: “Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded.” The ancient Egyptians were noted for their skill in textiles; they made fishing nets from flax.28

Verse 10 concludes: “And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish.”29 Many homes had shallow pools used for raising fish for a source of food,30 here rendered as “sluices and ponds.” Parry’s translation of the Great Isaiah Scroll renders verse 10 as: “And her weavers will be crushed, and all wage earners will despair.”31

In these verses Isaiah foretells total economic shutdown for modern America, describing it in terms of the prominent industries of ancient Egypt.

Verses 11 through 14 describe the causes for this societal collapse. Verse 11 begins: “Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?” Zoan was a major city in the northeast part of the Nile Delta.32 Reliance upon the reputation of one’s celebrated ancestors rather than on his own diligence and industry sets the stage for collapse.

Verse 12 continues: “Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt.” Disappearance of wise men indicates a pervasive foolishness, or forsaking of true values and principles. “Let them tell thee…what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt” poses an impossible challenge for those of compromised ethics. Confusion takes the place of religious belief and ignorance conceals the purposes of God. Reliance upon the divinely-inspired founding principles would be forsaken.

Verse 13 declares: “The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived.” Noph, or Memphis, was the ancient Egyptian capital.33 “They have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.”34 “Stay of the tribes” means cornerstones or heads of families; 35 they would be deceived, or told lies, by the princes or rulers.

Verse 14 declares: “The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.” The foolishness of modern America’s political leaders would cause a stupendous moral crisis—one that would affect every aspect of public and private life.

Verse 15 summarizes the effects of the moral and economic collapse: “Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which the head or tail, branch or rush, may do.” The end result of the pervasive economic collapse alluded to in verses 6 through 10 is that there would be no employment. “Head or tail, branch or rush” means the different levels of society;36 this same symbolism is used in Chapter 9 by Isaiah.37

The Lord’s impending judgments upon this modern counterpart of Egypt would cause great fear, described in verse 16: “In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.” The threat of the Lord’s punishment would cause great fear.

Verses 14 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (14) The LORD hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof:
B: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof,
C: as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
D: (15) Neither shall there be any work for Egypt,
E: which the head or tail,
E: branch or rush, may do.
D: (16) In that day shall Egypt be like unto women:
C: and it shall be afraid
B: and fear
A: because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.

The ascending side of the chiasm expresses dominant foolishness, error and drunkenness, whereas the descending side expresses fear that would result from these negative attributes. The economic collapse of this modern superpower would be brought about by pervasive foolishness, or forsaking of guiding principles.

Modern America in her weakened condition following economic collapse would greatly fear the Jews, as described in verse 17: “And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it.” Those who know of the judgments of God will fear because of the power that will be given to Judah.

Verses 18 through 21 affirm that there would be some in this modern counterpart of Egypt, despite its wickedness, who would believe in the Lord. Verse 18 commences: “In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt [just a few] speak the language of Canaan,” which means understand the things of the Spirit. The “language of Canaan,” of course, is Hebrew, but this is symbolic of the deeper spiritual meaning. The verse continues: “And swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.” “Swear to the LORD of hosts” means to make sacred covenants.

“City of destruction” is translated from the Hebrew iyr-heh’res.38 Utilizing a pun-like change in the Hebrew rendering of this word to iyr-cherec, meaning “city of the sun,”39 or Heliopolis in Greek, Isaiah foretells the city’s fate: the place where the sun was worshipped would be destroyed. Heliopolis, an ancient city of Lower Egypt, is present today only as ruins. This subtle play on words is lost in the translation.40 Some Bible translations render “city of the sun,” such as the Basic English Bible and the Latin Vulgate, whereas others render “city of destruction,” including the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible.41 Will there be a modern analogy for the ancient city, now destroyed?

Verse 19 continues the description of those who would believe, despite the pervasive iniquity: “In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.” The pillar, or obelisk in Egyptian tradition, designates a holy place.

Verse 20 describes the meaning of the altar and the pillar: “And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.” Those who believe in the Lord would cry unto the Lord for deliverance; the Lord would send them a liberator, a great military leader, who would deliver them.

Verse 21 describes the depth of belief of those who would survive in modern Egypt: “And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.”42 The survivors will make covenants with the Lord, and keep those covenants. After the economic collapse of this modern superpower and its being overrun by a fierce king, a new order would arise that would be based upon knowledge of the true gospel and worship of the Lord.

Survivors of the collapse of the once-great nation represented by ancient Egypt will follow the Lord, obey His commandments, and make covenants with the Lord.

Though Egypt will be smitten of the Lord, the Lord will look favorably upon her after the destruction, as described in verse 22: “And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.”43

The modern superpower represented by ancient Egypt would be healed by the Lord following its collapse.

Verse 23 describes the establishment of friendly relations between former enemies: “In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.” The highway symbolizes the pathway of righteousness as well;44 this suggests that the modern nations represented by these ancient superpowers will practice the true gospel.

In verse 24, Israel joins in: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land—” “The third with” means that Israel will form a friendly alliance with the other two nations named.

Finally, in verse 25 the modern nations that Isaiah equates with Egypt and Assyria will be blessed, along with Israel: “Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.”

 


Notes:

1. Isaiah 18:2.
2. See Mormon 9:32.
3. See 3 Nephi 15:12-13; also Ether 13:6-8.
4. 2 Nephi 1:6.
5. See Isaiah 18:2.
6. Leonard H. Lesko, Ancient Egypt: The World Book Encyclopedia,1986 edition, volume 6, pp. 91-100. Dr. Lesko is Brown University Wilbour Professor of Egyptology.
7. See Abraham 2:21-25.
8. See Abraham 3:1.
9. See Abraham 3:1-14.
10. Abraham 3:15.
11. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988, p. 72-76.
12. See Isaiah 2:8-18 and pertinent commentary.
13. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 178.
14. Parry et al., p. 179.
15. 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. 178, p. 15.
16. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7186, p. 904.
17. Lesko.
18. Genesis 41:27.
19. See Genesis 41:56-57.
20. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 213-216.
21. Asit K. Biswas, Aswan Dam Revisited: The Benefits of a Much-Maligned Dam: Deutsche Stiftung Für Internationale Entwicklung, D+C Development and Cooperation, No. 6, November/December 2002, p. 25-27.
22. Biswas.
23. Sayed El-Sayed and Gert L. Van Dijken, The Southeastern Mediterranean Ecosystem Revisited: Thirty Years After the Construction of the Aswan High Dam: The Quarterdeck, Texas A&M University, Department of Oceanography, College Station, Texas 77843-3146, vol. 3, no. 1, 1995, p.1-4.
24. Gileadi.
25. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988: “moat,” p. 761.
26. Lesko.
27. Webster, “angle,” p. 85.
28. Lesko.
29. Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm: Fishers/all they that cast angle into the brooks/shall languish/they that work in fine flax/they that weave networks/shall be confounded/all that make sluices/ponds for fish.
30. Lesko.
31. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 93.
32. See Bible Map 2.
33. Lesko.
34. Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm: Princes of Zoan are fools/wise counsellors of Pharaoh/son of the wise/ son of ancient kings/where are thy wise men/princes of Zoan are become fools.
35. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6438, p. 819.
36. See Isaiah 19:15, footnote 15a.
37. See Isaiah 9:14.
38. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2041, p. 249; also Strong’s No.5892, p. 746.
39. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2775, p. 357; also Strong’s No.5892, p. 746.
40. J. R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary: Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1909, p. 429.
41. A wide array of Bible translations is available from “The Unbound Bible” website at http://unbound.biola.edu.
42. Verse 21 contains a chiasm: The LORD/shall be known/Egypt/Egyptians/shall know/the LORD.
43. Verse 22 contains a chiasm: Shall smite Egypt…heal it/return/the LORD/he/intreated of them/shall heal them.
44. See Isaiah 11:16; 35:8; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.

Isaiah 18: Even in Vessels of Bulrushes Upon the Waters

This chapter is laden with symbolism, which at first may make it hard to understand. However, given the rhetorical connections and interpretations of symbols from earlier chapters, the message readily comes through: The Lord will raise the gospel ensign, send messengers from a far distant land to His scattered people, and gather them to mount Zion.

Verses 1 and 2 are not a woe oracle, even though they may appear as one. The word “woe” is here translated from the Hebrew word howy, which is a form of greeting.1 It would be equivalent to the English “hail,” meaning “hello,” and may reflect the Native American greeting, “how.” Young’s Literal Bible renders “ho,” a transliterated form of the greeting.2

In verse 1, Isaiah describes a faraway land: “Woe [or, hail] to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” “Ethiopia” is translated from the Hebrew word Cush, a land which lay southward from Egypt. The land of Cush was named for a son of Ham and grandson of Noah whose name means “black.”3, 4 It is apparent here that Isaiah meant simply a far-distant land. “Shadowing with wings” may refer to a land protected by the Lord, figuratively nurtured under His wings. Another possibility is that it means wings of birds or of airplanes, or may describe the shape on the map of the North and South American continents.5 The distant land is beyond “rivers,” or bodies of water.

Why did Isaiah write “Cush,” rather than being more explicit in his description? Consider Lehi’s statement regarding the land of promise he had obtained from the Lord: “And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.”6

In verse 2, the identity of this far-distant land becomes apparent: “That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!” “Rivers,” as used here, is a metaphor for invading armies—in particular, those of Assyria and Babylon.

Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Woe [hail] to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: (2) That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying,
B: Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled,
C: to a people
C: terrible from their beginning hitherto;
B: a nation meted out and trodden down,
A: whose land the rivers have spoiled!

“Rivers of Ethiopia” contrasts with “whose land the rivers have spoiled!” In the first phrase “rivers” means bodies of water, whereas in the second phrase “rivers” means invading armies. “A nation scattered and peeled” is equivalent to “a nation meted out and trodden down.” This denotes the status of Israel as conquered, scattered and downtrodden. “People” complements “terrible from their beginning,” to form the central focus of the chiasm.

Three elements in verse 2 merit further explanation: First, the far-distant land sends ambassadors; next, these ambassadors travel in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters; and third, they carry a message to a scattered nation, a nation meted (or measured to be divided up) and trodden down.

What land but America sends ambassadors to the scattered remnants of Israel? At first they traveled by sea; but now they travel mainly by air—recall the “wings” mentioned in verse 1—over the waters of the sea. It is the same place from which an ensign would be raised to the nations, referred to earlier by Isaiah in Chapter 57 and in verse 3 below.

What is the meaning of “vessels of bulrushes”? There are only a few places in the world where boats are made with bulrushes, or papyrus reeds: One is Egypt; another is Lake Titicaca, on the border between Peru and Bolivia. The design of reed boats in both locations is strikingly similar, suggesting—to the consternation of anthropologists who cannot explain it—a common origin.

This reference to papyrus boats by Isaiah is not literal; modern “ambassadors” (missionaries) do not ply the Atlantic in papyrus boats. Rather, it is a cultural clue: The tribe of Joseph, divided into two under his sons Ephraim and Manasseh,8 exhibited Egyptian culture—including the spoken and written language—long after the twelve tribes settled in the Promised Land. Their scriptures were written in Egyptian, on brass plates, which later served as a model for Nephite writings. Mormon attests: “For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children….”9

When Joseph’s brothers in search of wheat in Egypt came before him after he had been elevated to a high position in Pharaoh’s government, he pretended not to understand their Hebrew and spoke to them through an interpreter.10 His descendants for many generations continued to use Egyptian as their primary language, although they spoke Hebrew with an accent. Ephraimites were readily distinguished from others by their inability to pronounce the Hebrew word shibboleth.11 The Nephites, who were descendants of Joseph, continued to use a form of Egyptian, even after a thousand years, for their scriptural writings.12 The missionaries who go forth to scattered Israel in the latter days are primarily of the tribe of Joseph. They carry with them the Book of Mormon—a scriptural account of a remnant of the tribe of Joseph, translated from reformed Egyptian engravings.

In the last phrase of verse 2, “whose land the rivers have spoiled,” “rivers” symbolizes invading armies, as used by Isaiah earlier in Chapter 8.13 In the phrase “a nation scattered and peeled,” “peeled” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “scoured” or “polished,” or of light complexion when describing human skin.14

Verse 3 delivers a warning: “All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.” “He” refers to the Lord, referenced in verse 4; “mountains” means “nations.”15

Verse 3 contains a chiasm:

A: (3) All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye,
B: when he lifteth up an ensign
C: on the mountains;
B: and when he bloweth a trumpet,
A: hear ye.

The Lord calls upon the inhabitants of the nations of the world to see and hear when He raises the ensign and blows the trumpet, which means preaching of the gospel and gathering of scattered Israel in the latter days. The central focus of the chiasm is “on the mountains,” meaning nations of the earth.

Regarding Chapter 18, Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

This chapter is clearly a reference to the sending forth of the missionaries to the nations of the earth to gather again this people who are scattered and peeled. The ensign has been lifted upon the mountains, and the work of gathering has been going on for over one hundred years. No one understands this chapter but the Latter-day Saints, and we can see how it is being fulfilled.16

Verses 4 and 5 describe the fate of those who fail to heed the warning, delivered by the ambassadors and symbolized by the ensign and the trumpet. Verse 4 declares: “For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” “Consider in my dwelling place” means that the Lord will watch from heaven while events transpire. Like the clear sun causes heat to build up after the rain, and like a humid mist in the heat of the late summer, the Lord’s anger will build up against those who fail to heed the message.

Continuing in verse 5, the destruction is described symbolically: “For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower”—before the gathering, or harvest, of scattered Israel is complete—”he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches” of those who fail to heed the warning. Nephi foretells this same event, using similar words.17 This pruning is analogous to the pruning of grape vines after the fruit is set, to remove unproductive branches and allow space for the fruit to grow.18

Verse 6 states: “They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.” 19 The bodies of those slain—too numerous to be buried—will be left like pruned branches to molder upon the ground.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord described the fate of the wicked in similar but more graphic terms:

Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them;
And their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets;
And it shall come to pass that the beasts of the forest and the fowls of the air shall devour them up.20

Verse 7 describes the foreseen culminating event: “In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.” “Mount Zion” as used here means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, and is also a synonym for latter-day Jerusalem.21 The same scattered people referred to in verse 2 will be gathered together to Zion, the fruit of the labors of the messengers who went forth to gather them. There they will be presented as a gift unto the Lord.

 


Notes:

1. 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. 1945, p. 222.
2. A wide array of Bible translations is available from “The Unbound Bible” website at http://unbound.biola.edu.
3. Bible Dictionary—Cush.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3568, p. 468.
5. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 172.
6. 2 Nephi 1:8.
7. See Isaiah 5:26.
8. See Genesis 48:5-6.
9. See Mosiah 1:4.
10. See Genesis 42:23.
11. See Judges 12:5-6.
12. See Mormon 9:32.
13. See Isaiah 8:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4178, p. 599.
15. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
16. Joseph Fielding Smith, Signs of the Times: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1974, p. 54-55.
17. See 1 Nephi 22:20-21.
18. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 208-209.
19. Verse 6 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Summer/fowls/beasts/winter. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 259.
20. Doctrine and Covenants 29:18-20.
21. See Isaiah 3:16; 24:23; 28:16; 29:8; 30:19; 31:4, 9; 51:3.

Isaiah 17: Behold, Damascus Is Taken Away from Being a City

Chapter 17 is a “burden,” or prophecy of doom, regarding Damascus. Damascus and the northern kingdom of Israel would be conquered and scattered by Assyria, and both would lose their identities as nations. Israel would be scattered because she had forgotten God; yet because of the promises made to Israel the nations that spoil her would be destroyed.

Verse 1 commences with Isaiah’s statement of purpose: “The burden of Damascus,” meaning message or prophecy of doom regarding Damascus. It continues: “Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” This statement foretells the destruction of the whole nation of Syria, not just the capital city, Damascus.

Verse 2 describes cities in Ephraim, or the northern kingdom of Israel, that would be destroyed at the same time as Damascus: “The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” The cities of Aroer were located in the kingdom of Israel, on the “brink of the river Arnon”1 which formed the border with Moab east of the Dead Sea.2 Following their destruction, the cities of Aroer would be useful only as places of refuge for flocks of sheep. Destruction of the kingdom of Ephraim resulted in captivity of the ten tribes which comprised that kingdom.3

Verse 3 continues the description of the fall of Ephraim and Syria: “The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts.” The governments of Ephraim and Damascus would be destroyed, soon to be conquered by Assyria. The remnant of Syria “…shall be as the glory of the children of Israel….” means that Syria and Israel would be left in comparable greatly weakened circumstances. Damascus would no longer be a strong place for Ephraim to flee for protection.

Verse 4 further describes the devastation that would befall the kingdom of Israel: “And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.” “Glory” as used here and in verse 3 means military strength, which would be obliterated in both countries by the destruction.4 “Fatness of his flesh” is another description of military strength.

Verse 5 compares the work of destruction by the Assyrians to a reaper harvesting a field of grain: “And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm. And it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.” The valley of Rephaim, noted for its abundant harvests, was located southwest of Jerusalem;5 it was named for a pre-Israelite nation that inhabited the area who were distinguished by their large stature.6

In verse 6, scarce survivors in Ephraim and Damascus are compared first to “gleaning grapes” left in a vineyard, and then to the few olives left in a tree following the harvest: “Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it [the land], as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.”7, 8

Comparison of Israel to an olive tree suggests that Isaiah may have been familiar with the writings of the prophet Zenos. The writings of Zenos were included on the plates of brass, along with those of Isaiah, that were possessed by the Nephites. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, quotes the allegory of the olive tree from the writings of Zenos.9 The Apostle Paul may have also been familiar with Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree,10 although these writings are lost from Biblical texts today.

Following the destruction, in their bereavement the survivors would begin to repent as described in verses 7 and 8. Verse 7 begins: “At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.” Repentance and blessings often follow catastrophe.

In verse 8, the survivor will forsake his idolatry: “And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made; either the groves, or the images.” “Groves” is a biblical euphemism referring to a form of idolatry characterized by ceremonial illicit sex;11 “images” means idols and their worship. The Hebrew word Asherah means “sacred tree or pole,” translated as “groves” in this verse in the King James Version. Asherah was the name of the Canaanite goddess of fortune or luck; she was the wife or consort of Baal.12

Verse 9 recalls the metaphor of the harvested olive tree from verse 6: “In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there shall be desolation.” These few survivors would be left by the Assyrians because of the promises of the Lord to the children of Israel. Because the survivors are few in number, as olives on a bough neglected by the harvesters, men turn to the Lord for strength. Because of the destruction, survivors would repent and forsake their idolatry.13

Verses 10 and 11 remind fallen Israel of her apostasy. Verse 10 explains: “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips.” Forgetting the Lord would lead to apostasy, idolatry and the foretold destruction and captivity of Israel. “Pleasant plants” and “strange slips” refer to the idolatrous practice of “the groves.” Gardens were planted and maintained to provide a pleasant setting for their idolatry, with varieties of exotic plants brought from Babylon.

Verse 11 continues: “In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: “but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.” The only harvest to be obtained from the idolatry represented by the culture of “pleasant plants” and “strange slips” is sorrow.

Verses 12 through 14 are a woe oracle, attesting that the nations that spoil Israel would be destroyed. Verse 12 begins: “Woe to the multitude of many people which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!” The rushing of many waters is a metaphor meaning the Assyrian empire, which itself consisted of many nations.14

Verse 13 continues: “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.” Despite their immense power, the nations comprising the Assyrian empire would be destroyed by the hand of the Lord—reduced to insignificance, as the “chaff of the mountains.” Note that “mountains” means “nations.”15

Verse 14 summarizes: “And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.” Although Israel was to be scattered because she forgot God, the nations that spoil her would be destroyed.

Verses 12 through 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) Woe to the multitude of many people,
B: which make a noise like the noise of the seas;
C: and to the rushing of nations,
D: that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
E: (13) The nations shall rush
F: like the rushing of many waters:
G: but God shall rebuke them,
G: and they shall flee far off,
F: and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind,
E: and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
D: (14) And behold at eveningtide trouble;
C: and before the morning he is not.
B: This is the portion of them that spoil us,
A: and the lot of them that rob us.

“Woe to the multitude of many people” complements “the lot of them that rob us,” providing identification as to who are the “many people.” The ascending side of this chiasm (elements in verse 12 and the first part of verse 13) describe the marauding Assyrians, using five repetitions of “rushing” or a form of the word, whereas the descending side of the chiasm (the latter part of verse 13 and all of verse 14) describe the flight and destruction of the Assyrian army after God’s rebuke. Some of the phrases in the descending side complement, or complete the thoughts of, their counterparts in the ascending side.

 


Notes:

1. See Deuteronomy 2:36.
2. See Bible Map 9.
3. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 42:24; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
4. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 16:14; 20:5; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12.
5. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 168.
6. See Bible Dictionary—Rephaim.
7. See Deuteronomy 24:20; compare Isaiah 24:13.
8. Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm: Saith the LORD of hosts/glory of Jacob shall be made thin/fatness of his flesh shall wax lean/and it shall be as when the harvestman/gathereth the corn/reapeth the ears/and it shall be as he that gathereth ears/yet gleaning grapes shall be left/two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough/saith the LORD God of Israel.
9. See Jacob 5.
10. See Romans 11:17-24.
11. See Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:3; Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 14:15, 23; 2 Kings 17:10-11; 18:4; 23:14; 2 Chronicles 14:3; 17:6; 19:3; 24:18; 31:1; 33:3, 19; 34:3-4, 7; Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 17:2; Micah 5:14.
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. 842, p. 81.
13. Verses 7 through 9 contain a chiasm: At that day shall a man look to his Maker/ he shall not look to the altars/ work of his hands/ that which his fingers have made/either the groves/in that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough.
14. Isaiah 8:7; 28:2, 17; 43:2.
15. See Isaiah 2:2; 13:4 and pertinent commentary.

Isaiah 16: Therefore Shall Moab Howl for Moab

In Chapter 16 Isaiah continues his prophecy concerning Moab, begun in Chapter 15. Because of wickedness Moab is condemned and her people will sorrow. Although steeped in wickedness Moab acknowledges that Messiah will sit on David’s throne, seeking judgment and hastening righteousness.

In verses 1 through 5 Isaiah foretells Moab’s appeal to Jerusalem for refuge from the Assyrian plunderers. Verses 6 through 8 foretell Jerusalem’s rejection of the appeal; in verses 9 through 11 Isaiah mourns the fate of Moab. In verses 12 through 14 Isaiah explains that despite Moab’s earnest prayers the Lord will not hear because of her wickedness; within three years Moab would be overthrown and her great multitude destroyed, leaving a small and feeble remnant.

In the first five verses Isaiah foretells that Moab would appeal to Jerusalem for refuge from the marauding Assyrian armies. In verse 1, Moab would send a sacrificial lamb as a gift to Jerusalem: “Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion.” Sela was the southernmost city in Moab,1 and “the mount of the daughter of Zion” refers to Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem.2

Verse 2 alludes to the distress suffered by Moab, resulting in her appeal to Judah: “For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon.”3 Like a frightened bird fleeing from her nest, the daughters of Moab would seek refuge beyond the fords of Arnon. Arnon is a brook in Moab that drains into the Dead Sea from the highlands on the east, which denotes the northern limit of the inhabited part of Moab.4 Those at the brook of Arnon would be fleeing an invader advancing from the south.

Verses 3 and 4 foretell the words of the Moabite appeal before the king of Judah. Verse 3 begins: “Take counsel, execute judgment, make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday,” meaning hide us in your ample shadow; “hide the outcasts; bewray [betray] not him that wandereth.” “Judgment” means “judge us fairly.”5

Verse 4 continues: “Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, [pleads] Moab; be thou [Judah] a covert to them from the face of the spoiler,” until such time as “the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth,” and “the oppressors are consumed out of the land.”6 Moab’s emissaries realize that the invaders would stay only a short time, since their interest would be plunder and murder.

In verse 5 the Moabite emissaries acknowledge that Messiah will sit upon the throne of David: “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he [the Messiah] shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.” “Judgment,” in this instance, means “fairness” or “justice.”7 Although the Moabites were not of the Hebrew religion, they acknowledge its fundamental beliefs. Their reasoning would be that since Messiah would rule in Jerusalem at some future time, Jerusalem would be a secure place for the foreseeable future and able to offer protection.

In verses 6 through 8, Isaiah foretells Jerusalem’s rejection of the Moabite appeal. The response begins in verse 6: “We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.” The ending phrase means “but his lies shall not be affirmed.” The Jews foresee the lies and pride of Moab as her downfall. In our day, lies play an important role in the corruption and downfall of nations.8

Verse 7 delivers Judah’s stinging rejection: “Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one shall howl: for the foundations of Kir-hareseth shall ye mourn; surely they are stricken.” They will be left unto themselves in their suffering. Kir-hareseth was a prominent Moabite city, probably its capital.9

In verse 8, Isaiah continues the prophecy: “For the fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sibmah: the lords of the heathen have broken down the principal plants thereof, they are come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness.” Place names familiar to Isaiah continue the personal tone of the prophecy. “Broken down” means the invaders would trample the vineyards, destroying Moab’s main crop. “Her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea” refers to the renown of ancient Moab’s wine industry and the extent of her exports.10

In verses 9 through 11 Isaiah mourns the fate of Moab; despite his ominous prophecy he bears only sorrow. Verse 9 begins: “Therefore I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Sibmah: I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh: for the shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen.”11 Productive agriculture would cease after the devastating attack. Ancient Moab’s wine industry would be devastated by the marauding Assyrians.

Verse 10 continues: “And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.”12 Sorrow will reign; the joy of the harvest will not be heard. Few will remain to harvest the vineyards and press the wine.

In verse 11, Isaiah describes his anguish: “Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kir-haresh.” Reference to “bowels” as a seat of emotion within the body is common in the scriptures.13

In verses 12 and 13 Isaiah explains that despite Moab’s earnest prayers the Lord will not hear because of the people’s wickedness. Verse 12 states: “And it shall come to pass, when it is seen that Moab is weary on the high place, that he shall come to his sanctuary to pray; but he shall not prevail.”14  The “high place” means a place of idolatrous worship; Moab’s turning to the Lord for help would not be heard.

Verse 13 continues: “This is the word that the LORD hath spoken concerning Moab since that time.” Isaiah summarizes, attesting that the information came to him from the Lord. “Since that time” may refer to an earlier prophecy concerning the destruction of Moab, by Isaiah or some earlier prophet.15

In verse 14 the words of the Lord are given: “Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble.” Moab as a nation would be destroyed along with the great multitude of its people, leaving only a small, weak remnant. “Glory,” as used here, means military strength.16 A hireling is a hired soldier, or mercenary. Typically mercenaries are hired for a set period of time.

 


Notes:

1. See Bible Map 1.
2. See 2 Kings 19:21, 31; Psalms 9:14; 51:18; Isaiah 10:32; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11.
3. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: From Sela to the wilderness/daughter of Zion/wandering bird/cast out of the nest/daughters of Moab/at the fords of Arnon.
4. See Bible Map 10.
5. See Isaiah 1:17; 5:7; 42:4; 59:15.
6. Verse 4 contains a chiasm: Let mine outcasts dwell with thee/face of the spoiler/extortioner is at an end/spoiler ceaseth/oppressors/out of the land.
7. For references to other meanings of “justice,” see verse 3.
8. See Isaiah 9:15; 28:15, 17; 59:3-4 and pertinent commentary.
9. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 192-194.
10. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 164.
11. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: The fields of Heshbon languish/vine of Sibmah/Jazer/branches are stretched out/gone over the sea/Jazer/vine of Sibmah/shouting for thy summer fruits and for thy harvest is fallen.
12. Verse 10 contains a chiasm: Gladness is taken away/vineyards/there shall be no singing/neither shall there be shouting/no wine in their presses/vintage shouting to cease.
13. For example, see Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Isaiah 63:15; Jeremiah 4:19; 1 John 3:17; Mosiah 15:9; Alma 7:12; 3 Nephi 17:6-7.
14. Verses 7 through 12 contain a chiasm:  Moab/Kir-haresh/Heshbon/Sibmah/Jazer/Jazer/ Sibmah/Heshbon/Kir-haresh/Moab. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 259.
15. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 196-197.
16. See Isaiah 8:7; 10:18; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12.

Isaiah 15: My Heart Shall Cry Out For Moab

This chapter, together with Chapter 16, deals with the destruction of Moab which would be laid waste by the invading Assyrian army. The survivors of her people would howl and weep and would continue to be pursued by the plunderers. Moab, which was situated east of the Dead Sea, was invaded and plundered by the Assyrians around 730-727 B.C.1 and was destroyed around 587 B.C.,2 near the same time as the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Moabites were distant kin to the Israelites and spoke a language similar to Hebrew. However, there was constant warfare between Israel and Moab. They did not share the same religious beliefs; furthermore, Moab was frequently the source of wicked practices that spread among the Israelites.3 Moab was spared by the Israelites when they first entered the Promised Land because Ar had been promised to Lot, the nephew of Abraham;4 the nation of Moab was Lot’s posterity. Following the destruction foretold in this chapter, Moab ceased to be a nation. This destruction may be typical of destruction yet in the future—in the latter days—that will afflict the same geographic area.5

Verse 1 begins: “The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence.” A burden is a prophetic message of doom lifted up against a nation. Some of the place names mentioned in this verse and in verses 2, 4, and 5 are identified on Map 10 in the Bible.6 The places named are most likely the larger or better-known communities. Isaiah’s knowledge of specific places in Moab lends a more personal tone to this prophecy.

In verse 2, the sentence begun in verse 1 continues: “He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.” “He” in the first phrase refers to “Moab,” mentioned in the second phrase, meaning the survivors of the foretold destruction. Shaving of heads and beards would be done in mourning over the destruction.

Verses 3 and 4 describe more mourning:

In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.

“His life shall be grievous unto him” means the soul of each will lament within him.

In verse 5, the prophet mourns: “My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives shall flee unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old: For by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction.” Zoar was a city near the south end of the Dead Sea; its description as a young heifer indicates that it was young and vigorous. From Zoar, on the southern plains of the Dead Sea at an elevation of 1,212 feet below sea level, it was an arduous climb to Luhith and Horonaim in the highlands farther east. This climb was made in mourning by Moab’s survivors, witnessing the effects of the destruction as they went.

Verse 6 describes drought conditions: “For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.” In addition to the ravages of war, Moab would be afflicted with drought. Could this be typical of a spiritual drought as well?

Verse 7 characterizes the invaders: “Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows.”7 This verse describes marauders carrying away the spoils of conquest following the destruction. “The brook of the willows” is probably the border between Moab and Edom to the south.8 Following Moab being rendered weak by the marauders, others including the Arabs would take possession of the land.

Verse 8 finalizes the description of pervasive mourning: “For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beer-elim.” The cry went all around the country of Moab and its limits, indicating the extent of the destruction and mourning.

Verse 9 describes more horrors for the survivors: “For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more upon Dimon, lions upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land.” Following the devastations of war and drought, worse evils yet would be brought upon Dimon. “Lions” in the final phrase could mean continuing harassment by marauding bands of invaders, in addition to literal lions.

 


Notes:

1. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 192.
2. See Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
3. See Numbers Chapters 22-25.
4. See Deuteronomy 2:9.
5. See Isaiah 63:1-3.
6. See Bible Map 10.
7. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm: Waters of Nimrim/withered away/grass faileth/there is no green thing/shall they carry away/brook of the willows.
8. See Isaiah 15:7, footnote 7a.

Isaiah 14: How Hath the Oppressor Ceased! The Golden City Ceased!

Chapter 14, which continues the burden of doom upon Babylon which was begun in Chapter 13, contains five parts. The first, comprising verses 1 through 3, proclaims the Lord’s mercy on Israel who will be gathered and enjoy millennial rest. The second part, comprising verses 4 through 11, foretells the defeat and ignominy of the king of Babylon; and the third part, comprising verses 12 through 23, equates the king of Babylon with Lucifer who was cast out of heaven for rebellion. The fourth part, comprising verses 24 through 27, foretells and promises that the Lord will free His people from Assyrian aggression; and the fifth part, comprising verses 28 through 32, foretells the destruction of Palestine. This prophecy pertains both to ancient Babylon and the latter-day Babylon, meaning the sinful world before the Second Coming of the Lord. Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with variations in several verses. Compare 2 Nephi 24.

In verses 1 through 3 Isaiah proclaims the Lord’s mercy on Israel, who will be gathered and enjoy millennial rest. Verse 1 states: “For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.” “Strangers” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “sojourners” or foreigners.1 Proselytes not of the Abrahamic covenant who would adhere to the true religion in the latter days would also help to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.2

Verse 2 begins: “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place.” The Book of Mormon adds a phrase at this point: “Yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise.3 The King James Version continues with “and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.” This verse foretells the gathering of the remnants of Israel in the latter days; no longer will they be oppressed, but will rule over those who oppressed them.

Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm:

(1) For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel,
A: and set them in their own land:
B: and the strangers shall be joined with them,
C: and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
D: (2) And the people shall take them,
D: and bring them to their place: yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise.
C: And the house of Israel
B: shall possess them
A: in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids….

“In their own land” compares with “in the land of the LORD.” The land promised to the children of Israel is declared to be the land of the Lord. “And the strangers shall be joined with them” complements “shall possess them,” stating that their former oppressors will be servants to the children of Israel. “House of Jacob” is equivalent to “house of Israel;” “take them” matches “bring them to their place.” Israel will be restored to her own lands, having gained the victory over her oppressors. Israel’s former oppressors who would join with the house of Jacob will serve her.

Verse 3 continues “And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve—”4 The Book of Mormon renders: And it shall come to pass in that day….”5 The next verse continues the sentence, but the subject changes.

Verses 4 through 11 foretell the defeat and ignominy of the king of Babylon. Verse 4 continues the sentence begun in verse 3: “That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!” “Proverb” means “ethical maxim” or “poem.”6 The Book of Mormon adds “And it shall come to pass in that day” at the beginning of this verse,7 indicating that at least some of the prophecy would be fulfilled in the latter days. The “proverb” or poem comprises all of verses 4 through 21.

Verse 5 states, “The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.” The Book of Mormon uses “the sceptres of the rulers.”8 Parallelism in this sentence leads to the conclusion that the vanquished rulers were steeped in wickedness, with the Lord destroying their corrupt regimes.

Verse 6 continues: “He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.” “With a continual stroke” means this wicked ruler would continuously inflict pain and injury upon the people. This statement describes the wickedness both of the ancient king of Babylon and his modern counterpart.

Verse 7 describes conditions following defeat of the tyrant: “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.” No one mourns the loss of this archtyrant.

Verse 8 uses a metaphor of trees9 to describe the great relief felt by the rulers of lesser nations: “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.” The Book of Mormon renders: “and also the cedars of Lebanon…”10 “Feller” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “tree-cutter.”11“Fir trees” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “cypress,” “juniper,” “fir” or “pine.”12

This metaphor was used earlier by Isaiah, in Chapter 2:

For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan….13

Note that the first sentence provides the interpretation for the metaphor.

Verse 9 continues the speech of the rulers of lesser nations: “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.”

“Hell” is translated from the Hebrew word sheol, meaning the underworld or the world of departed spirits.14 The original meaning does not connote a state of punishment.

In verse 10, the princes of the earth continue deriding the king of Babylon: “Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?” The Book of Mormon adds: “All they shall speak and say unto thee…” at the beginning of the verse.15

Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee,
B: and the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
C: Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
D: (9) Hell from beneath is moved for thee
E: to meet thee
E: at thy coming:
D: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth;
C: it hath raised up from their thrones
B: all the kings of the nations.
A: (10) All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?

“The fir trees rejoice at thee” matches “all they [the kings] shall speak and say unto thee.” “Cedars of Lebanon” is equivalent to “kings of the nations;” note here Isaiah’s key to the symbolism of the trees, which represent kings of the nations. “Laid down” contrasts with “raised up;” “hell from beneath is moved for thee” complements “it stirreth up the dead for thee,” illustrating the correct meaning of “hell” or sheol; and “meet thee at thy coming” forms the central focus of the chiasm. Rulers of nations threatened by the king of Babylon rejoice at his demise.

The princes’ mockery of the dead king of Babylon continues in verse 11: “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.” The Book of Mormon renders “the noise of thy viols is not heard.”16

Verses 12 through 23 liken the king of Babylon to Lucifer, who was cast out of heaven for rebellion. Not only does this prophecy relate to the ancient Babylonian king; there will be a modern equivalent who has, as yet, not been made manifest. This modern equivalent will be as devoted to advancing Satan’s purposes as was the ancient king of Babylon.

Verse 12 is a prophetic lament: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” The Book of Mormon omits the second “how,” beginning a new sentence with “art.”17 The king of Babylon is here typified by Lucifer, a fallen son of the morning. “Lucifer” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “light-bearer” or “morning star;”18 thus the name “Lucifer” describes the high position in the premortal world from which he fell through rebellion to become Satan. Lucifer’s  death was spiritual whereas the king of Babylon’s death was physical.

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown the fall of Lucifer and the origin of Satan in a great vision:

And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!”19

Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm:

A: (11) Thy pomp is brought down
B: to the grave, and the noise of thy viols is not heard:
C: the worm is spread under thee,
C: and the worms cover thee.
B: (12) How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
A: how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

In this chiasm Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven is a type for the death of the king of Babylon. “Brought down” is equivalent to “cut down to the ground;” “to the grave” matches “how are thou fallen from heaven;” and “the worm is spread under thee” matches “and the worms cover thee.” Lucifer’s was a spiritual death; the king of Babylon’s was a physical death.

Verse 12 contains a chiasm:

A: (12) How art thou fallen from heaven,
B: O Lucifer,
B: son of the morning!
A: how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

“How art thou fallen from heaven” is equivalent to “how art thou cut down to the ground;” note that the first phrase refers to Lucifer but that the equivalent phrase refers to the king of Babylon. “Lucifer” is synonymous with “son of the morning,” providing a definition. Lucifer was one of the eldest of Heavenly Father’s spirit children, who enjoyed great honor and power in the premortal world before his ignominious fall. In like manner, the king of Babylon enjoyed great glory and honor before his demise.

Verses 13 and 14 continue the “proverb,” or moral maxim, by describing Lucifer’s arrogance and rebellion. Verse 13 states: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” According to Babylonian belief, the north was the dwelling-place of the gods.20 Lucifer’s blind ambition is a type for that of the king of Babylon.

Verse 14 continues: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Both Lucifer and the king of Babylon sought to exalt themselves, to be like God.

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were also shown Satan’s rebellion and enmity toward the saints of God: “[W]e beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ—Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.”21

The Lord explains further:

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.
And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.22

Verses 13 and 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (13) For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend
B: into heaven,
C: I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
C: I will sit also
B: upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
A: (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

“I will ascend” matches “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;” “into heaven” compares with “upon the mount of the congregation;” and “I will exalt my throne” reflects “I will sit.” Lucifer’s desires to “ascend into heaven” and to exalt his throne “above the stars of God” is like the king of Babylon’s desire to “sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” For both, their greatest desire was to “ascend above the heights of the clouds,” to be “like the most High.” Obtaining unequaled power was the great motivator for each.

Modern revelation provides additional details about the fall of Lucifer:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.23

Elder Joseph Anderson explained this passage:

We are given to understand that whereas in the preexistence, in that spiritual estate, the spirits had their free agency, there were different degrees of obedience, various grades of righteousness. Lucifer exercised his free agency when he rebelled against the Father, but he had to pay the penalty for that rebellion and is still doing so, as are those spirits who followed him. They were denied the privilege of taking upon themselves mortality, and this has been a great curse and disappointment to them.24

Continuing with verse 15, the king of Babylon and his modern equivalent are further scorned: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Verses 13 through 15 contain a chiasm:

(13) For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation,

A:  in the sides of the north:
B: (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
C: I will be like the most High.
C: (15) Yet thou shalt be
B: brought down to hell,
A: to the sides of the pit.

Paired elements of the chiasm form a series of literary foils. “Sides of the north” contrasts with “sides of the pit.” “Ascend above the heights of the clouds” is opposite to “brought down to hell;” and “I will be” contradicts “thou shalt be.” The ascending side of the chiasm describes lofty but evil ambitions that characterize both Lucifer and the king of Babylon; the descending side reveals the resulting ignominious outcome.

Verses 16 and 17 pose a rhetorical question. Verse 16 states: “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms—”25 The Book of Mormon renders “…shall consider thee, and shall say….”26 This statement refers to the fallen king of Babylon and his modern equivalent. “Narrowly look” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “squint.”27

Verse 17 completes the rhetorical question begun in verse 16: “That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” This archtyrant destroyed cities, held prisoners, and depopulated the world behind him. Fear, or terror, was the preeminent influence exerted by the dethroned despot.

Verses 18 and 19 contrast the treatment of the vanquished king of Babylon with the burials of other kings. Verse 18 begins: “All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.” The Book of Mormon substitutes “…yea, all of them….”28 “His own house” means “his family sepulchre.”29

Verse 19 continues the comparison: “But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.” The Book of Mormon renders “and the remnant of those that are slain….”30 Here it is easy to visualize the clothing of those slain in battle being discarded as worthless. However, the Book of Mormon’s rendition of “remnant” warrants further comparison. Note that “branch” is chiastically equivalent to “raiment” or “remnant,” with the Book of Mormon rendition the more logical choice. It leaves little room for the possibility that the Book of Mormon rendition resulted from a transcription error. “Abominable branch” means “a rejected branch, pruned off and discarded.”31

Verse 20 reveals the reason for this ignominy: “Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.”

Verses 17 through 20 contain a chiasm:

A: (17) That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? (18) All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
B: (19) But thou art cast out of thy grave
C: like an abominable
D:  branch,
D: and as the remnant
C: of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
B: (20) Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial,
A: because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

“Made the world as a wilderness” complements “destroyed thy land, and slain thy people;” “thou art cast out of thy grave” is clarified by “thou shalt not be joined with them in burial;” “abominable” is explained as “those that are slain, thrust through with a sword;” and “branch” is synonymous with “remnant,” which form the central focus of the chiasm. Note that the central statements are synonymous when the Book of Mormon wording, shown in italics, is used.

Verse 21 continues: “Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.”32 The Book of Mormon renders “…for the iniquities of their fathers….”33 Not only was the king of Babylon destroyed and his corpse desecrated; his children were to be slaughtered as well, so that another evil generation might not arise to resume an evil regime.34 The divinely-mandated treatment for deposed archtyrants and their heirs is extermination, to prevent the rise of another evil dynasty.

The Lord is behind this seemingly cruel atrocity, as explained in verse 22: “For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.”

Verses 21 and 22 contain a chiasm:

A: (21) Prepare slaughter for his children
B: for the iniquity of their fathers;
C: that they do not rise,
D: nor possess the land,
D: nor fill the face of the world with cities.
C: (22) For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts,
B: and cut off from Babylon
A: the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.

“His children” complements “the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew,” providing an expanded meaning. “Iniquity of their fathers” compares with “Babylon.” This symbolic meaning is well known, but here Isaiah establishes the connotation through the structure of the chiasm. “That they do not rise” contrasts with “for I will rise up against them,” which describes the Lord’s purpose for the decreed destruction. “Nor possess the land” matches “nor fill the face of the world with cities,” which form the central focus and describe the desired outcome.

Verse 23 reminds us that Babylon would never again be inhabited: “I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.”35 “Bittern” is a brownish wetlands bird with long legs for wading. “Bittern” is translated into English from a Hebrew word meaning “porcupine;”36 “besom” means “broom.”37

The fourth part of this chapter, comprising verses 24 through 27, represents an abrupt change in subject matter. It foretells and promises that the Lord will free His people from Assyrian aggression. Isaiah foretold this event earlier, in Chapter 10.38 The ancient fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 18 and 19 and in Isaiah 36 and 37.

Verses 24 and 25 describe the destruction of the Assyrians. Verse 24 begins: “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” The Lord swears that it will be as He thought and as He planned, that He will defeat the Assyrian army.

Verse 25 continues the sentence: “That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.” 39 The Book of Mormon substitutes bring for “break.”40 “On my land, and upon my mountains” means that it was to happen in Judah;41 furthermore, it would result in the end of Judah’s subordination to Assyria.

The fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when 185,000 men of the Assyrian army were slain during the night by the angel of the Lord, as they were laying siege to the city of Jerusalem:

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.42

Verse 26 states: “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.” The “purpose” is that eventually all the worldly nations will be overthrown thus.43 This event, although fulfilled anciently, is therefore a type for similar events in the latter days.

Verse 27 reasserts the Lord’s will, as in verse 24: “For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”44 The Book of Mormon omits “it,” to render “…and who shall disannul?” and inserts “when” to render “and when his hand is stretched out….”45 “Disannul” means “to annul utterly, to make void.”46

The final part of this chapter, comprising verses 28 through 32, foretells the destruction of Palestine. Verse 28 states: “In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.” A burden is a message of doom lifted up against a people.47 The year that King Ahaz died was about 730 B.C.48

For some time the Philistines had been subjugated by Judah; however, in verse 29, the Philistines are cautioned not to rejoice over Judah’s eventual downfall: “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken.” “Palestina” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “land of the Philistines” or “land of the sojourners.”49 Continuing: “for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.” The meaning is that although Judah would be subjugated and eventually destroyed, Palestine’s subsequent oppressors would be progressively worse, ultimately resulting in her destruction. Thus, Palestine would have no reason to exult over Judah’s destruction.

Verse 30 continues: “And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety.”50 Despite Judah’s foretold destruction at the hands of the king of Babylon, she would again be established; her poor and needy would be nurtured by good rulers. On the other hand, wicked Palestina will be annihilated: “and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.” “Root” means ancestors; “remnant” means descendants. The voice is that of Jehovah; invading armies would act as proxy in fulfilling the Lord’s will.

Continuing with verse 31: “Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.” The final phrase in this verse reveals that this “smoke” is a well-disciplined army. The phrase “none shall be alone in his appointed times” is rendered differently in various Biblical translations. In the Basic English Bible it is rendered “everyone keeps his place in the line,” and in the New American Standard it is rendered “there are no stragglers in his ranks.”51

Verses 29 through 31 contain a chiasm:

A: (29) Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken:
B: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
C: (30) And the firstborn of the poor shall feed,
C: and the needy shall lie down in safety:
B: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
A: (31) Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.

“Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina” matches “Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina art dissolved” which foretell the destruction of Palestine. “The serpent’s root” complements “I will kill thy root,” indicating that Palestine’s total destruction at the hand of Assyria would occur under a tyrannical ruler who would be worse than his two predecessors. “The firstborn of the poor shall feed” corresponds to “the needy shall lie down in safety,” which form the central focus of the chiasm. Despite Palestine being destroyed by an invading army, Judah would eventually be restored, with the Lord caring for her poor and needy.

Verse 32 augments the meaning of verse 30: “What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.” The Book of Mormon omits “one” and pluralizes “nation,” rendering “What shall then answer the messengers of the nations?52 In other words, “what will the emissaries of various nations report concerning the destruction of Palestina?” The answer, from the final sentence, is: “That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.” The Lord will sustain His righteous people in their need; personal righteousness is the key to survival. The meaning of “Zion” here is Jerusalem under righteous rule; also, it means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering.53

 


Notes:

1. 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. 1616, p. 158.
2. See Genesis 22:15-18.
3. 2 Nephi 24:2.
4. Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm: Servants and handmaids/whose captives they were/sorrow/fear/hard bondage/ serve.
5. 2 Nephi 24:3.
6. Brown et al., 1996, 1996, Strong’s No. 4912, p. 605.
7. 2 Nephi 24:4.
8. 2 Nephi 24:5.
9. See Isaiah 2:13; 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
10. 2 Nephi 24:8.
11. Isaiah 14:8, footnote 8c.
12. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1265, p. 141.
13. Isaiah 2:12-13. See Isaiah 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
14. Isaiah 14:11, footnote 11a; see Bible Dictionary—Hell.
15. 2 Nephi 24:10.
16. 2 Nephi 24:11.
17. 2 Nephi 24:12.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1966, p. 237.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-27.
20. See Isaiah 14:13, footnote 13e.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 76:28-29.
22. Doctrine and Covenants 29:36-39.
23. Moses 4:1-4.
24. Joseph Anderson, “A Testimony of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 101.
25. Verse 16 contains a chiasm: Earth/tremble/shake/kingdoms.
26. 2 Nephi 24:16.
27. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7200, p. 906; see also Isaiah 14:16, footnote 16b.
28. 2 Nephi 24:18.
29. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1004, p. 108.
30. 2 Nephi 24:19.
31. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5432, p. 666; see also Isaiah 14:19, footnote 19a.
32. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: Because thou hast destroyed thy land/seed of evildoers/slaughter for his children/do not rise, nor possess the land.
33. 2 Nephi 24:21.
34. See Isaiah 14:21, footnote 21a.
35. See Isaiah 13:19-22; see also Isaiah 34:11-15.
36. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7090, p. 891.
37. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 145.
38. Isaiah 10:24-34.
39. Verse 25 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: From off them/yoke depart/burden depart/from off their shoulders. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 259.
40. 2 Nephi 24:25.
41. “Mountain” means “nation;” see Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
42. 2 Kings 19:35-37. See also Isaiah 10:33-34 and pertinent discussion.
43. See Isaiah 14:26, footnote 26b.
44. Verses 24 through 27 contain a chiasm: Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass/I will bring the Assyrian in my land/upon my mountains tread him under foot/his yoke depart/his burden depart/this is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth/this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations/the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?
45. 2 Nephi 24:24.
46. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 218.
47. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4853, p. 672.
48. See Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6429, p. 814.
50. Verse 30 contains two chiasms recognized in the original Hebrew: Shall feed/poor/needy/shall lie down in safety; thy root/I will kill/he shall slay/thy remnant. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
51. A wide array of Bible translations is available from “The Unbound Bible,” online at http://unbound.biola.edu.
52. 2 Nephi 24:32.
53. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 4:5; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.

Isaiah 13: Lift Ye Up a Banner Upon the High Mountain

The central theme of Chapter 13 is the destruction of Babylon. Typical of Isaiah’s style involving multiple layers of meaning, the destruction described is a type for, or is typical of, the destruction of the wicked that will occur at the Second Coming. Why should we, in the latter days, be concerned with the destruction of Babylon that occurred millennia ago? Because Isaiah foresaw and described destructions preceding the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, which he intertwines with descriptions of the ancient destruction of Babylon. Isaiah gives numerous clues throughout the chapter that lead to the interpretation of layered meanings—specifically, passages that relate solely to the destruction of Babylon in Mesopotamia and other passages that can relate only to destructions preceding the Second Coming.

Following its destruction ancient Babylon would never again be inhabited; similarly, at the Second Coming the wickedness of the world would fall forever. Isaiah describes the destruction at the Second Coming as a day of wrath and anger.

Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with some minor changes; compare 2 Nephi 23.

This chapter can be divided into three parts. The first part, verses 1 through 5, describes the gathering of armies preceding the foretold destructions. These armies would act as an instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring about His purposes. The second part, verses 6 through 18, describes the destruction of Babylon, and as a type, that of the world at the time of the Second Coming; and the third part, verses 19 through 22, describes the fate of fallen Babylon.

In verses 1 through 5, the Lord calls armies together preceding the destruction of Babylon to fulfill His purposes. Verse 1 states: “The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.” Isaiah was a prophet and seer; he “did see” this revelation, which came as a vision. “Burden” means “a message of doom lifted up against a people.”1

Verses 2 and 3 describe the calling together of armies. Verse 2 begins: “Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.” “Upon the high mountain” means “chief nation” and “temple” both at once; thus, the implied meaning is “chief nation that possesses the temple.”2The “gates of the nobles” are localities reserved for the Lord’s chosen and sanctified from which the wicked, or the unsanctified, are excluded—this also means the holy temples. “Shake the hand” represents ceremonial signs by which those sanctified are permitted access to the temple. “Exalt the voice” means to raise the voice, or call out.

Verse 3 continues: “I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.” The Book of Mormon renders “…for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.”3 Who will go? “Sanctified ones” and “saints” are synonymously translated in the Old Testament from either of two Hebrew words.4 The New Testament equivalent is “saints.” Those thus called and sanctified form a mighty latter-day army of “sanctified ones,” or saints, whose purpose is to gather the scattered of Israel—the modern missionary force. The Lord’s “mighty ones,” in contrast, are ravaging armies acting to fulfill His purpose of cleansing upon both ancient and modern Babylon.

Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm:

A: (2) Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain,
B: exalt the voice unto them,
C: shake the hand, that they may go into
C: the gates of the nobles.
B: (3) I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones,
A: for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.

“High mountain” complements “my highness;” “exalt the voice” reflects “I have commanded” and “I have also called.” “Unto them” on the ascending side is explained on the descending side: the Lord’s voice is unto “my sanctified ones” and “my mighty ones.” “Shake the hand” is complementary to “gates of the nobles;” “shake the hand” describes ceremonies that allow passage into the “gates of the nobles.”

Verse 4 declares: “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.” The Book of Mormon renders hosts.5 Because the phrases are parallel, “mountains” is equivalent to “kingdoms of nations.” This rhetorical connection may be applied throughout the entire book of Isaiah.6

The rhetorical connection of “mountains” and “nations” is also evident in Doctrine and Covenants. In calling Sidney Rigdon to repentance, the Lord said:

And if he will offer unto me an acceptable offering, and acknowledgments, and remain with my people, behold, I, the Lord your God, will heal him that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face” (emphasis added).7

Verse 5 states: “They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.” Forces of good will destroy the evil throughout the whole world. “They come from a far country” were the same words spoken by King Hezekiah to Isaiah when he asked where certain emissaries had come from, to whom Hezekiah had shown all his wealth and treasures—“even from Babylon.”8 Earthly armies, amassed as described in verses 2, 3 and 4, will join with hosts sent forth from heaven—again, meaning at least partly the valiant army of missionaries described in verse 3, whose entry into mortality was reserved until this time of greatest need—to serve as instruments or emissaries in the hands of the Lord.

This righteous army is mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants, which speaks of the “choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times” to do the work of “building of the temples and the performing of ordinances therein” and to “labor in [the Lord’s] vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” It is further explained that “they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the church of God.”9

Verses 6 through 18 describe the destruction of ancient Babylon, and as a type, that of the world preceding the Second Coming. Verse 6 proclaims: “Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty,” asserting that the destruction of Babylon and of the world are both the work of God. “The day of the Lord” means the day of judgment; or, in this case, a day of destruction. We are assured that, in the economy of God, these destructions are just and fair—to cleanse the wicked world so that righteousness can prevail.

Verse 7 declares: “Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt.”  “Faint” and “melt” are synonymous, both translated from the same Hebrew word meaning “grow fearful.”10

Verse 8 declares: “And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.” This description of flames suggests the destruction by fire preceding the Second Coming, rather than that of ancient Babylon.11 The phrase “they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth” is not included in the Book of Mormon, nor does it play a role in the chiasm comprising verses 7 and 8.12 “Afraid” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “dismayed” or “terrified.”13

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) Therefore shall all hands be faint,
B: and every man’s heart shall melt:
C: (8) And they shall be afraid:
C: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; (they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth:)
B: they shall be amazed one at another;
A: their faces shall be as flames.

“Therefore shall all hands be faint” complements “their faces shall be as flames,” describing the dismay to be experienced by the wicked when they realize that their destruction is imminent. “Every man’s heart shall melt” complements “they shall be amazed one at another;” and “they shall all be afraid” compares with “pangs and sorrows.” Fear and regret characterize those ensnared in sin.

In verse 9 Isaiah describes the purpose for both destructions: “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” Ancient destruction of the city and modern destruction of worldly wickedness are for the same purpose.

Verse 10 describes manifestations in the skies that are consequential to the latter-day destruction, rather than to that of ancient Babylon: “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”14  For ancient Babylon, these events foretell debasement of the proud and noble as destruction comes.

During His mortal ministry, the Lord paraphrased verse 10 in describing to His disciples the destructions that will precede His Second Coming: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”15

Verse 11 declares: “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” The destruction will equitably and fairly “punish the world for their evil” and will humble the haughty and arrogant.16 The Book of Mormon omits “their,” rendering “and I will punish the world for evil.” Also, the Book of Mormon renders “and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.”17

In verse 12, because of the destructions men will be few in number: “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” “Fine gold” means gold that has been refined in the fire, burning out all impurities.

Other Old Testament prophets used this same metaphor to describe latter-day destruction and purification of the righteous. Malachi foretold: “But who may abide the day of his coming?  and who shall stand when he appeareth?  for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.”18 Zechariah declared:  “And I will bring the third part [those not slain in the latter-day destructions] through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”19

These statements reflect the trials and tribulations that must be overcome by those who would survive. Ophir was a place, the precise location of which is unknown in modern times, that was noted for its gold of high quality.20 Solomon obtained 3,000 talents of gold there to overlay the interior walls of the temple.21 Ophir was probably in southern Arabia, accessible by ship through the Gulf of Aqaba from the port of Ezion-geber.22

Verse 13 continues the description of cosmic disturbances with extreme effects, both on the earth and in the skies, that are consequential to the destruction at the Second Coming: “Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.” These events are also described in the New Testament and Doctrine and Covenants.23

Verses 9 through 13 contain a chiasm:

A: (9) Behold, the day
B: of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,
C: to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
D: (10) For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light:
E: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth,
F: and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
G: (11) And I will punish the world for their evil,
G: and the wicked for their iniquity;
F: and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to to cease,
E: and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. (12) I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
D: (13) Therefore I will shake the heavens,
C: and the earth shall remove out of her place,
B: in the wrath of the LORD of hosts,
A: and in the day of his fierce anger.

“The day” is equal to “the day of his fierce anger,” and “the Lord cometh” complements “the wrath of the Lord of hosts,” describing the meaning of the day of the Lord. “To lay the land desolate” is complementary to “the earth shall remove out of her place,” stating the purpose for the foretold cataclysmic earthquakes. “The stars of heaven” matches “shake the heavens.” “The sun shall be darkened” is compared with “the haughtiness of the terrible” and “the moon shall not cause her light to shine” is compared with “the arrogancy of the proud,” indicating that these wonders in heaven symbolize the debasement of the proud and arrogant. “The world for their evil” matches “the wicked for their iniquity,” which describe the evil state that would torment the world before the time of the Second Coming, meriting the Lord’s destructive wrath.

Verse 14 states: “And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.” “No man taketh up” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “none gathers in.”24 The wicked, during the foretold time of judgment, are compared both to deer and sheep: Deer are endangered when hunters are present, whereas sheep are endangered when the shepherd is absent.25 The wicked have rejected Christ, the Good Shepherd, as a guide and protector in their lives. When faced with natural disasters and advancing armies, people flee to avoid being caught up in them. The phrase from the King James translation “and it shall be as a chased roe” does not refer to the earth—described in the previous verse as being “moved out of her place”—but refers instead to prevailing human conditions.

Verse 14 contains a chiasm:

A: (14) And it shall be as the chased roe,
B: and as a sheep that no man taketh up:
B: they shall every man turn to his own people,
A: and flee every one into his own land.

“As the chased roe” matches “flee every one into his own land,” which establishes that “as the chased roe” describes the human condition rather than behavior of the earth itself. “As a sheep that no man taketh up” complements “they shall every man turn to his own people,” again verifying that the verse describes the human condition. These conditions pertain in particular to the destructions in the last days, not just to the destruction of ancient Babylon.

Verse 15 declares: “Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.” The Book of Mormon renders “Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.”26 The invading armies will take no prisoners among the proud—meaning the wicked—who flee.

Verse 16 describes cruel atrocities to be committed by the invaders: “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled [or, plundered], and their wives ravished.”27 These events occurred when Babylon was destroyed and will occur again before the Second Coming.

Verses 17 and 18 describe atrocities committed by the invading Medes. Verse 17 states: “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.” The Book of Mormon renders “which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it.”28 The meaning here is that the Medes would be motivated by killing for sport or blind rage, rather than obtaining the spoils of battle. Similar conditions are foreseen for the latter days.

Verse 18 continues: “Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.” The Book of Mormon renders “Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces;”29 also, eyes in place of “eye.”30 The Hebrew word translated as “young men” means “children;”31 thus the meaning is “their bows [weapons] shall dash the children to pieces.”

Verses 16 through 18 contain a chiasm:

A: (16) Their children also shall be dashed to pieces
B: before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled,
C: and their wives ravished.
D: (17) Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them,
E: which shall not regard silver and gold,
E: nor shall they delight in it.
D: (18) Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces;
C: and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb;
B: their eyes shall not spare
A: children.

“Their children also shall be dashed to pieces” matches “children.” “Before their eyes” is the same as “their eye shall not spare;” note that the Book of Mormon renders eyes in verse 18, providing a more precise match. “Their wives” complements “the womb;” “Medes” is compared to “their bows,” indicating whose weapons they are; and “shall not regard silver and gold” is matched by “nor shall they delight in it.” Note that the Book of Mormon phrasing,32 shown in italics, provides an important key to understanding: The invaders would kill and destroy for sport  or blind rage, rather than to obtain the spoils of battle.

Verses 19 and 20 describe the fate of fallen Babylon. Verse 19 begins: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed for their perversion and wickedness, indicates that similar sins were rampant in ancient Babylon and would be pervasive in our own society as well. Perversion and wickedness like that manifest in Sodom and Gomorrah are a major reason for the foretold destructions.

Verse 20 continues: “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.” Regarding Babylon, this prophecy has indeed been fulfilled. The site of once-magnificent Babylon is today a vast ruin. Regarding the destruction of the wicked at the time of the Second Coming, it means that wickedness will never again dominate as it does in our day.

Animals described in verses 21 and 22 that would occupy the ruins of Babylon serve to illustrate the desolation. Verse 21 states: “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”33

Satyrs are ancient Greek woodland deities, represented as part human and part horse or goat, and noted for their lasciviousness.34 The Hebrew meaning is “he-goats,” “demons” or “demon-possessed goats.”35

Verse 22 concludes: “And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.” The Book of Mormon adds three more phrases to verse 22, speaking particularly of the latter-day destruction: “For I will destroy her speedily; yea, for I will be merciful unto my people, but the wicked shall perish.36


Notes:

1. 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. 4853, p. 672.
2. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
3. 2 Nephi 23:3.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6942, p. 872; see also Isaiah 13:3, footnote 3a.
5. 2 Nephi 23:4.
6. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988, 250 p.; See p. 43. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 124:104.
8. See 2 Kings 20:14.
9. See Doctrine and Covenants 138:53-56.
10. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4549, p. 587.
11. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
12. 2 Nephi 23:8.
13. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 926, p. 96.
14. Verse 10 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Darkened/sun/moon/not cause her light to shine. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
15. Matthew 24:29; see also Mark 13:24-25 and Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:33.
16. See also Isaiah 2:9, 11.
17. 2 Nephi 23:11.
18. Malachi 3:2.
19. Zechariah 13:9.
20. Bible Dictionary—Ophir.
21. See 1 Chronicles 29:4.
22. See 1 Kings 22:48.
23. See Matthew 24:7; Doctrine and Covenants 49:23; 88:87; 133:49.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6908, p. 867.
25. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 136-137.
26. 2 Nephi 23:15.
27. Verse 16 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Spoiled/houses/wives/ravished. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
28. 2 Nephi 23:17.
29. 2 Nephi 23:18.
30. 2 Nephi 23:18.
31. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1121, p. 119-122.
32. 2 Nephi 23:17.
33. Verse 21 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Dwell there/owls/satyrs/dance there. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
34. “Satyr,” Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language: Portland House, a division of Dilithium Press, Ltd., distributed by Outlet Book Company, Inc, a Random House Company, 225 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003, 1989, p. 1271.
35. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8163, p. 972.
36. 2 Nephi 23:22.