Isaiah 12: Though Thou Wast Angry with Me, Thine Anger Is Turned Away

Chapter 12 is best understood as an appendix to Chapter 11, in which conditions leading to and during the Millennium are further described. Latter-day conditions as set forth in Chapter 11 include the work of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration; gathering of Israel; establishment of peace among all nations; and geographic changes—probably metaphors representing major political or societal change—including a mighty wind over the Euphrates River allowing men to cross over dryshod, and destruction of the Egyptian sea. Chapter 12 consists of two songs, or psalms, of salvation that will be sung at the beginning of the Millennium by the righteous in praise of the Lord, who will dwell among them. Chiasms in Chapter 12 enable delineation of the two psalms. Each verse of the first psalm—consisting of verses 1 through 3—is a separate chiasm,  whereas the second psalm—verses 4 through 6—consists of a single chiasm.

Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with only minor variation; compare 2 Nephi 22. Differences in the Book of Mormon are shown in italics where quoted.

In verse 1 the penitent man of Israel is instructed by Isaiah: “And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.” The repentant person—note the singular imperative familiar form, “thou shalt,” used in this verse—acknowledges the anger of the Lord in the day of his wickedness as well as his personal blame in the apostasy of his people, but acknowledges the Lord’s comforting spirit following his repentance. This is true for all who repent, regardless of time or circumstance.

Verse 1 contains a chiasm:

A: (1) And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee:
B: though thou wast angry with me,
B: thine anger is turned away,
A: and thou comfortedst me.

Elements on the descending side are opposites of those on the ascending side; whereas the Lord was angry with the sinner, his anger is turned away from the penitent. “I will praise thee” complements “thou comfortedst me.” The central statement is “thou wast angry with me,” contrasted with “thine anger is turned away.”

In verse 2, the penitent continues his praise of the Lord: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” Trust in the Lord is not a sign of weakness but of strength. The penitent acknowledges that it is through the Lord that salvation and restored spiritual strength are made possible, through the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. This verse is one of only four places in the King James Bible where the name “Jehovah” is used.1 Wording is nearly the same in the Book of Mormon, which renders “he also has become my salvation.”2

A favorite hymn, “The Lord Is My Light,” expresses words and thoughts developed from
verse 2:

The Lord is my light, then why should I fear?
By day and by night, his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin,
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring.3

Use of “LORD JEHOVAH” in verse 2—the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in His premortal state during Old Testament time—reflects a distinctive form used in this verse in the original Hebrew. “LORD” is translated from the Hebrew Yahh4 which is a contraction for “Jehovah.” “Jehovah” is translated from the Hebrew Yahovah, which means “the existing one.”5 The name “Jehovah” is used here to distinguish the premortal Lord Jesus Christ, through whom salvation comes, from “Elohim,” or God the Father. The Hebrew word Elohiym is translated “God” throughout the Old Testament; Elohiym is plural-intensive, having a singular meaning.6 A form of Elohim—Eloi—was used when Jesus, in anguish upon the cross, addressed His Father.7

Verse 2 contains a chiasm:

A: (2) Behold, God is my salvation;
B: I will trust, and not be afraid:
C: for the LORD
C: JEHOVAH
B: is my strength and my song;
A: he also has become my salvation.

“God is my salvation” is equivalent to “he also has become my salvation.” “I will trust, and not be afraid” complements “my strength and my song,” illustrating that trust in the Lord is not a sign of weakness but strength, bringing great joy. “The LORD” matches “JEHOVAH;” Jehovah of the Old Testament is He who would come, bringing the blessings of salvation.

In verse 3, the Lord responds; His use of the plural familiar form directs His words to the people collectively: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” During His mortal ministry Jesus alluded to the symbolism established here by Isaiah. Speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus referred to “living water,” meaning salvation through the Atonement; also it means revelation from on high.8 Because of her ignorance of the scriptures she did not understand the symbolism.9 A related meaning for the water symbolically drawn is the ordinance of baptism.

Verse 3 contains a chiasm:

A: (3) Therefore with joy
B: shall ye draw water
B: out of the wells
A: of salvation.

In this chiasm “therefore with joy” is equated with “salvation;” it is with great joy that the truly repentant enter the waters of baptism and partake of the blessings of salvation. “Shall ye draw water” complements “out of the wells,” which form the central focus.

In verses 4, 5 and 6, Isaiah presents another psalm. Verse 4 begins: “And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.” Leah, upon giving birth to her fourth son, exclaimed: “Now will I praise the LORD.”10 Thus she named her son “Judah,” which means “praised.”11

Verse 5 continues: “Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.” Knowledge of the Lord having done “excellent things” was spread throughout the earth following the plagues sent upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.12

In verse 6 Isaiah redirects the final words of this psalm to each person individually, as indicated by his use again of the singular: “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” This phrase attests that Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, will dwell “in the midst of” His people on the earth during the Millennium. “Zion” in this verse means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem, the place of latter-day physical gathering of the righteous descendants of Israel.13

That the Lord would reign personally among the righteous is affirmed in modern revelation:

For he shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God.…And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.14

Verses 4 through 6 form a chiasm:

A: (4) And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD,
B: call upon his name,
C: declare his doings among the people,
D: make mention that his name is exalted.
D: (5) Sing unto the LORD;
C: for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.
B: (6) Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion:
A: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

“The LORD” [Hebrew Yahovah]15 is equivalent to “Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah establishes that Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Holy One of Israel—He who would come, bringing the blessings of salvation. “Call upon his name” is compared to “cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion;” “declare his doings among the people” complements “he hath done excellent things;” and “his name is exalted” reflects “the LORD.” The people are admonished to call upon the Lord and praise Him, for He has done excellent things.

 


Notes:

1. The other three places where the name “Jehovah” is used in the King James translation are Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; and Isaiah 26:4.
2. 2 Nephi 22:2.
3. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 89, “The Lord Is My Light,” verse 1.
4. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 3050, p. 219.
5. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217.
6. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 430, p. 43.
7. See Mark 15:34.
8. See Isaiah 27:3; 30:25; 35:6-7; 55:1, 11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
9. See John 4:10-11.
10. Genesis 29:35.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3063, p. 397.
12. See Exodus 9:14, 16; Joshua 4:23-24.
13. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 51:3.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 133:3, 25.
15. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217.

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Isaiah 11: The Earth Shall Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lord

Interpretation of Chapter 11 has been the subject of modern revelation. When Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith on 21 September 1823, Joseph reported that Moroni “quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled.”1 This statement provides us with a clear indication that the events described in this chapter pertain to the latter days; in particular, the time leading up to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and including the Lord’s Millennial reign on the earth. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 113, associates ask the Prophet Joseph certain questions pertaining to verses in Chapter 11.2 The Lord, speaking through the Prophet Joseph, provides answers.

Chapter 11 may be divided into four sections. Verses 1 through 9 describe Christ’s Second Coming and millennial reign, verses 10 through 12 describe the gathering of Israel from the many lands of their dispersion, verses 13 and 14 describe Israel’s victories over her hostile neighbors, and verses 15 and 16 describe geographic changes—used by Isaiah as metaphors for important spiritual and political events—that are to occur leading up to or during the Millennium.

The Stem of Jesse, mentioned in verses 1 through 5, is Christ—who will judge in righteousness not only during the Millennium but also in the final judgment. Another who would play a pivotal role in the latter-day restoration before the Millennium is described metaphorically as a “root” of Jesse, and Christ is referred to again as a “Branch.” During the Millennium, war and envy will be done away and sacred knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Preparatory to the Millennium, the Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel from the many lands of her dispersion. Nephi quotes Chapter 11 in its entirety; compare 2 Nephi 21. Slight differences in the Book of Mormon text are rendered in italics where quoted. Nephi also explains elements of this chapter in 2 Nephi Chapter 30.

Verses 1 through 9 describe Christ’s mortal ministry and millennial reign. The Stem of Jesse mentioned in verse 1 is Christ: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” The same metaphor is used here as was introduced earlier by Isaiah:3 When a tree is cut down, the trunk—or stump4—remains to put forth new growth. Following the destruction and captivity of Israel a new righteous order would arise from the original parentage, keeping intact the blessings promised to the ancient patriarchs. It is from this righteous order, which included the descendants of Jesse and the heirship of the throne of David, that Christ would come forth. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also Joseph His legal guardian, were of the lineage of Jesse.5 This prophecy of Isaiah is cited in the New Testament as relating to the ministry of Jesus Christ.6

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord affirms that Christ is the stem of Jesse: “Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?” “Verily thus saith the Lord: It is Christ.”7

A “rod”—or, “new shoot”8 arising from the stem of Jesse, is also mentioned in verse 1: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.…” The Lord clarifies the meaning in Doctrine and Covenants: “What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?” “Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power.”9 The “rod” is generally understood among Latter-day Saints to be Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration.10

A “Branch”11 that would arise from the roots of Jesse is also mentioned in verse 1: “And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” The title “Branch” may apply simultaneously to Christ—the Stem mentioned by Isaiah—and a modern political leader from the lineage of King David of old, whose righteousness would permit him to be guided by the Lord. Jeremiah, in the Old Testament, foretold:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness.12

“Lord,” in lower-case letters in the King James Version, probably means a temporal leader. This contrasts with “LORD,” meaning Jehovah or deity, in the beginning verse of this passage from Jeremiah.13 The name of this latter-day Jewish ruler would be David, as foretold by Ezekiel and Hosea.14 Joseph Smith declared prophetically: “The throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him [David of old] and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.”15 Bruce R. McConkie asserted that the Branch, as well as the Stem, is Christ.16

Verse 1 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:17

A: (1) And there shall come forth
B: a rod out of the stem of Jesse,
B: and a Branch out of his roots
A: shall grow.

Since Christ is the “stem of Jesse,” a Branch growing out of “his roots”—meaning the roots of Jesse, or the lineage of the Davidic kings—could mean Christ if the elements of the chiasm are strictly parallel, or it could mean another person from the same lineage if the elements of the chiasm are complementary. It is possible that Isaiah intended both meanings.

Verses 2 and 3 describe the righteousness of Jesus Christ in executing judgment, and as a type, Christ-like attributes of the latter-day temporal leader to be named David as well as Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration. Verse 2 foretells: “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” The object, “him,” simultaneously means the “rod,” the “stem” and the “Branch”—Joseph Smith, Christ, and the modern David.

Verse 3 continues: “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.”

Verse 4 describes the judgment and destruction that will occur at the Second Coming, now with reference to Christ alone: “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” The Hebrew word translated as “reprove with equity” means “decide with fairness.”18

This verse is paraphrased by Paul in his second epistle to the Thessalonians: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”19 Paul clarifies that the breath of the Lord’s mouth alone would consume the wicked; “spirit” and “breath” are translated from the same Hebrew word.20

The Lord, in rebuking Martin Harris for the loss of the 116 translated pages from the first part of the Book of Mormon, uses similar words: “Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.”21

The Lord also emphasized that the wicked would destroy the wicked in wars that would take place during the final days before His Second Coming:

I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;
And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.22

It is by the decree of the Lord that wars would go forth in which the wicked would slay one another.

Nephi provides prophetic interpretation:

And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.23

The words of verse 4 describe the destruction of the wicked preceding the Lord’s Second Coming. During the Millennium, war and envy will be done away and the knowledge of God will cover the whole earth.

Verse 4 contains a chiasm:24

(4) But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:
A: and he shall smite the earth
B: with the rod of his mouth,
B: and with the breath of his lips
A: shall he slay the wicked.

“He shall smite the earth” complements “shall he slay the wicked,” indicating that the Lord’s purpose in smiting the earth is to destroy wickedness among its human population, rather than inflicting punishment upon the earth itself. “The rod of his mouth” is synonymous with “the breath of his lips.”

Verse 5 describes the source of power possessed by Christ, and as a type, by the modern David and the prophet of the restoration: “And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” The Hebrew word from which “girdle” is translated means “belt” or “waist-cloth,”25 and “loins” and “reins” both mean “waist.”26

The Lord uses similar words in instructing the Latter-day Saints:

Wherefore, seeing that I, the Lord, have decreed all these things upon the face of the earth, I will that my saints should be assembled upon the land of Zion;
And that every man should take righteousness in his hands and faithfulness upon his loins, and lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked.27

Righteousness and faithfulness are Christ-like qualities that we should all emulate; by so doing we will escape the desolation that will come upon the wicked.

Verses 3 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (3) And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD:
B: and he shall not judge after
C: the sight of his eyes,
D: neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
E:   (4) But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,
E:   and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:
D: and he shall smite the earth
C: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips
B: shall he slay the wicked.
A: (5) And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

“Fear of the LORD” matches “righteousness” and “faithfulness,” which introduce the theme of the chiasm. “Judge” is compared with “slay the wicked,” providing greater understanding of Isaiah’s use of “judge.” “The sight of his eyes” matches “the rod of his mouth” and “the breath of his lips;” “reprove” in verse 3 is equivalent to “smite;” and “with righteousness shall he judge” reflects “reprove with equity,” which comprise the central focus. The Lord, in slaying the wicked, acts with equity and righteousness. Accordingly, destruction of the wicked results in equity and justice for the poor and meek of the earth.

In verses 6 through 9 Isaiah metaphorically describes the cessation of hostilities between warring nations that had long been enemies. The metaphors of animals—some natural predators and others their prey—living amicably with one another during the Millennium are often taken literally but are better understood in their metaphorical sense. Some of the nations thus represented are identifiable; the bear could be Russia and the lion could be Great Britain. The chiastic structure of these verses and its equivalent in verse 13 confirm that Isaiah is speaking metaphorically.

Verses 6 through 8 present the metaphors. Verse 6 declares: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”28 Opposites are contrasted in a literary foil to emphasize their differences.

Verse 7 presents more foils: “And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (6) The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
B: and the leopard shall lie down with
C: the kid;
D: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
E:   and a little child shall lead them.
D: (7) And the cow and the bear shall feed;
C: their young ones
B: shall lie down together:
A: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

“Wolf” and “lamb” match “lion” and “ox;” “shall lie down” matches “shall lie down together;” “the kid” is similar in meaning to “their young ones;” “the calf” matches “the cow;” and “a little child shall lead them” is the single central statement. The meaning is that the little child would lead the entire assemblage of animals presented in the chiasm.

This chiasm forms the beginning element in a larger chiasm that includes verses 6 through 13. The chiasm of verses 6 and 7, which contains the names of animals that represent warring nations and their victims, complements the chiasm of verse 13, which describes cessation of hostility between the nations of Judah and Ephraim, as well as with other traditionally hostile neighbors. This chiastic equivalence explains the metaphor.

Verse 8 continues, presenting more foils and adding depth to the metaphor: “And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.” An asp is a poisonous snake of the viper family whereas a cockatrice is a legendary creature, part serpent and part fowl, that could kill with a glance.29 Note the parallelism; “the hole of the asp” is equivalent to “the cockatrice’s den,” and “the sucking child” is equivalent to “the weaned child.” These comparisons further reinforce the premise that Isaiah is speaking metaphorically—that which is known to be harmful or dangerous is contrasted with innocence and vulnerability.

Verse 8 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:30

A: (8) And shall play
B: the sucking child on the hole of the asp,
B: and the weaned child on the cockatrice’ den
A: shall put his hand.

This chiasm places wording that appears as two parallel statements in the King James Version as reverse parallel statements, adding poetic balance.

In verse 9 the Lord describes millennial conditions: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” It is the knowledge of the Lord that will bring war and envy to an end.31 “Mountain” rhetorically means “nation,” or political domain.32 Thus, in the Lord’s domain—which will include the whole earth, as shown in the next phrase—none shall “hurt nor destroy.”

Dallin H. Oaks stated:

In our day we are experiencing an explosion of knowledge about the world and its people. But the people of the world are not experiencing a comparable expansion of knowledge about God and his plan for his children. On that subject, what the world needs is not more scholarship and technology but more righteousness and revelation.
I long for the day prophesied by Isaiah when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”33

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi also quotes verses 4 through 9 in 2 Nephi Chapter 30 with little variation.34 Nephi adds this interesting summation following the quote:

Wherefore, the things of all nations shall be made known; yea, all things shall be made known unto the children of men.
There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.
Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time….35

Knowledge of the truth, revealed to the children of men, will effectively take away Satan’s power.

Instructing the Latter-day Saints, the Lord declares: “And in that day [the Lord’s millennial reign] the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.”36 Here it is clear that both the literal and metaphorical elements of Isaiah’s prophecy are to be fulfilled.

Verses 10 through 12 describe the gathering of Israel. Preparatory to the Millennium the Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel from the many lands of their dispersion. Verse 10 refers to a “root of Jesse,” which is a prophet raised up to the Gentiles in the latter days: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” The phrase “in that day” means the latter days, the time when this prophecy is to be fulfilled.37

Verse 10 is quoted by the Apostle Paul, with reference to the Gentiles’ acceptance of Christ: “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”38 The Gentiles in the latter days would accept Christ through the “root of Jesse” proclaimed by Isaiah—the great prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord provides further explanation: “What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?” “Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.”39 These characteristics describe principal attributes of Joseph Smith’s lineage and prophetic mission.40,41

Joseph Smith, together with his associates in the restoration, were rightful heirs to the priesthood by lineage. The Lord, in modern revelation, declared:

Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers—
For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God—
Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.42

Joseph Smith, through the ministration of angels, was given the keys of various essential priesthood offices and functions as part of the restoration. These angelic ministrations include ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist43 and ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood, including the Apostleship, under the hands of Peter, James, and John.44 To Joseph Smith in a glorious vision, Moses restored the keys of the gathering of Israel,45 Elijah restored the sealing power that would unite parents and children across the generations,46 and Elias restored the keys of the gospel of Abraham through which all the generations to follow would be blessed.47

Joseph Smith, as the prophet of the restoration, established an ensign to the people of the world—including both Gentiles and the tribes of Israel—to which they would gather in the latter days. In modern revelation, the Lord declared:

For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her;
And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven (emphasis added).48

The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, in his final blessing to his youngest son, Joseph, described a latter-day prophet who would be named Joseph.49 Similarly, Jacob—or Israel—in pronouncing a final blessing upon his son Joseph, foretold a latter-day prophet also to be named Joseph.50

Verse 11 describes the nations from which the remnant of Israel are to be gathered: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.” Nephi also quotes the first part of this verse in 2 Nephi 25:17 and 2 Nephi 29:1.51

These names of countries from Isaiah’s time represent places to which the scattered of Israel were originally dispersed. Their equivalents in the modern world may not be related strictly to the locations mentioned. For example, it is apparent that “the islands of the sea” refers to the Greek Archipelago because of chiastic structure of this and associated verses, described below. However, this phrase also refers to the Americas, the heritage of the children of Lehi.52

The word “ensign” as used in verse 10 means a military flag, such as was used to denote battlefield conditions and send messages to the combatants.53 In this case the message is to assemble, as set forth in verse 12: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”54 The word “corners” in the final phrase is rendered the same in the Book of Mormon version. The Hebrew word translated as “corners” means “extremities” or “borders.”55

Regarding verses 11 and 12, LeGrand Richards taught:

The angel Moroni repeated that passage to the Prophet Joseph when Joseph was only eighteen years old, when Moroni visited him three times during the night and again the next morning, indicating that that work was to be established. Just think of the assignment to the Prophet Joseph at that time. He has set up an ensign to the nations. No other church in the world is accomplishing what this Church is doing for its members, and developing its members, and that is an ensign unto the world. People come to us to learn how we are accomplishing these things.56

The gathering of Israel, described in these verses, would be the greatest miracle to be brought about by the Lord in the latter days, as testified by Jeremiah:

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.57

This great miracle is in part the latter-day missionary work, a means by which Israel is to be gathered.58

As described in verses 13 and 14, before the Second Coming of the Lord, Israel—united as a single nation rather than persisting as two separate kingdoms—will dominate her once-hostile neighbors. Verse 13 proclaims: “The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” The Book of Mormon renders “the envy of Ephraim also shall depart.”59

Verses 6 through 13 form an elegant chiasm:

A: (6) The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (7) And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. (8) And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
B: (9) They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth
C: shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
D: (10) And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,
E:   which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. (11) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left,
F:   from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush,
F:   and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
E:   (12) And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel,
D: and gather together the dispersed of Judah
C: from the four corners of
B: the earth.
A: (13) The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

The introductory statement of this elegant chiasm consists of the entirety of verses 6 and 7, which is itself a complete chiasm and was described earlier. Its complementary reflection is the whole of verse 13, which is also a separate, complete chiasm. The central statements are two sets of geographic locations, given in verse 11. When the localities are depicted on a map,60 Isaiah’s intended pattern emerges: Each set forms a somewhat straight line, and the two lines cross to form an “X”—the Greek letter chi, as in “chiasm.”

Isaiah’s intended pattern is evident when these eight geographic locations are taken in order. Assyria, or Ashur, was north of Babylonia in the valley of the Tigris River; its capitol was Nineveh. Egypt is centered on the Nile River and its delta, located southwest from Assyria. Pathros is Upper Egypt, located along the Nile River southward, and Cush is Ethiopia, where a dark-skinned people dwelt still farther southward from Egypt. These four localities define a line that starts out trending southwest but changes to more directly south. The second line begins with Elam, which is the southeast part of Persia, or Iran, southward from Assyria. Shinar is Babylonia, in the lower part of the Tigris-Euphrates river plain and northwestward from Elam. Hamath is still an important city in Syria, located still farther northwest along the line. It was named as the northern limit of the Promised Land of Palestine.61 The “islands of the sea” refers to the Greek archipelago, which forms the northwest end of the second line.

Verse 13 contains a chiasm:62

A: (13) The envy also of Ephraim also shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off:
B: Ephraim shall not envy
C: Judah,
C: and Judah
B: shall not vex
A: Ephraim.

This chiasm reflects the introductory statement of the chiasm of verses 6 through 13. Their complementary relationship confirms that the animals in verses 6 and 7 are metaphors representing warring aggressor nations and their perennial victims. The first instance of “Ephraim” is equivalent to the second instance at the end of the verse; “shall not envy” is equivalent to “shall not vex;” and “Judah” matches “Judah.”

Verse 14 describes united Israel’s victories: “But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.” These neighbor adversaries of Isaiah’s time would have different modern names.

Verse 15 describes changes that are to occur preceding the Millennium: “And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.” These changes—described by Isaiah in geographic terms—are probably metaphors representing political and societal changes that would facilitate the gathering of scattered Israel. The parting of the Red Sea at the time of Moses, to allow the fleeing Israelites to escape the pursuing Egyptian armies, is a type for the spiritual strait and narrow way. “The tongue of the Egyptian sea” probably means the Gulf of Suez—the northwestern tongue of the Red Sea, located between Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula—which was parted at the time of Moses.63 Mighty winds are to be manifest also, as they were at the original parting of the Red Sea.64 The “river” most likely means the Tigris and Euphrates together;65 great winds are to smite their seven tributaries66 allowing men metaphorically to cross with dry shoes.

Do the mighty winds represent sweeping political changes in lands coursed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries, establishing political and religious freedom and allowing men and women of those lands to obtain a true knowledge of the Plan of Salvation? If so, Isaiah’s metaphoric meaning is that these developments are as important in the latter days as was the parting of the waters of the Red Sea in times of old.

The destruction of the tongue of the Egyptian sea will coincide with the gathering, as alluded in verse 16: “And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.”67

Similar reference to a highway is made elsewhere, in Chapter 35, by Isaiah indicating that his meaning is spiritual rather than temporal:

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.68

The “highway” is the strait and narrow way.69 The means by which the remnants of Israel are to be gathered in the latter days is that the gospel will be preached unto them; they will unite with Zion and her people and will follow the strait and narrow way. Their identity as heirs of the Abrahamic covenant will be revealed to them, and they will make covenants with the Lord as in former days.

 


Notes:

1. Joseph Smith—History 1:40.
2. Verses 1-5, 10.
3. Isaiah 6:13.
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. 1503, p. 160.
5. See Matthew 1:1-16.
6. See also Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 25:9; 53:5.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 113:1-2.
8. Brown et al., 1996, 1996, Strong’s No. 2415, p. 310.
9. Doctrine and Covenants 113:3-4.
10. Donald W. Parry, “Isaiah Chapter Review: 2 Nephi 21//Isaiah 11,” Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Dennis L. Largey, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 2003, p. 379-380.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2415, pág. 310.
12. Jeremiah 23:5-6.
13. Jeremiah 23:5.
14. See Ezekiel 37:21-28 and Hosea 3:4-5.
15. History of the Church, v. 6, p. 253.
16. Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City UT, 1978,  p. 192.
17. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3198, p. 406-407.
19. 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
20. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 19:15.
22. Doctrine and Covenants 63:33-34.
23. 2 Nephi 30:9-10.
24. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
25. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 232, p. 25.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2504, p. 323.
27. Doctrine and Covenants 63:36-37.
28. Verse 6 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Shall dwell/ wolf…with…lamb/leopard with…kid/shall lie down. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
29. “Cockatrice,” 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, p. 284. Compare also “Cockatrice” in Bible Dictionary. See also Isaiah 14:29; 59:5 and pertinent commentary.
30. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
31. See Isaiah 12:3; 30:25; 35:6-7; 55:1, 11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
32. “Mountain” is rhetorically connected to “nation.” See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
33. Dallin H. Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 27.
34. 2 Nephi 30:9, 11-15.
35. 2 Nephi 30:16-18.
36. Doctrine and Covenants 101:26.
37. Compare Isaiah 27:2.
38. Romans 15:12.
39. Doctrine and Covenants 113:5-6.
40. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 172-174.
41. Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.
42. Doctrine and Covenants 86:8-10.
43. Joseph Smith—History 1:72; Doctrine and Covenants 13:1.
44. Joseph Smith—History 1:72. Doctrine and Covenants 27:12.
45. Doctrine and Covenants 110:11.
46. Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16.
47. Doctrine and Covenants 110:12.
48. Doctrine and Covenants 64:41-42.
49. See 2 Nephi 3:6-22.
50. See Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 114-116; also JST Genesis 50:24-38.
51. Victor L. Ludlow, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon,” Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Dennis L. Largey, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 2003, p. 344.
52. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 18:1-2 and pertinent commentary.
53. See also Doctrine and Covenants 113:6, Doctrine and Covenants 64:41-42 and Isaiah 5:26.
54. See Isaiah 5:26 and pertinent commentary.
55. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3671, p. 489.
56. LeGrand Richards, “Prophets and Prophecy,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 50.
57. Jeremiah 16:14-15.
58. See Isaiah 18.
59. 2 Nephi 21:13.
60. See Bible Map 2.
61. See Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5.
62. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
63. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3956, p. 546; see Map 3, LDS Bible.
64. See Exodus 14:21-22.
65. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson interpret “the river” as the Euphrates. In Parry et al., Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 124-125.
66. Possibly Great Zab, Little Zab, Diyala, and Adhaim (Tigris tributaries); Karasu, Murat, and Khabar (Euphrates tributaries).
67. See Exodus 14:21-31 and Isaiah 51:10.
68. Isaiah 35:8. See Isaiah 19:23; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
69. See Matthew 7:14 and 3 Nephi 14:14; compare 1 Nephi 8:20, 2 Nephi 9:41, 31:18, 33:9; Jacob 6:11, Helaman 3:29, 3 Nephi 27:33, and Doctrine and Covenants 132:22.

Isaiah 10: For Yet a Very Little While, and the Indignation Shall Cease

Chapter 10 foretells the destruction of Israel at the hand of Assyria. Assyria would act as an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the punishment and destruction of unrepentant Israel, but then Assyria would also be destroyed. The destruction of Assyria is a type for—or, is typical of—the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming. Because of rampant wickedness preceding the destruction at that time, few people would be left after the destruction of the wicked. The Lord comforts those in Zion, reassuring them that the indignation would last for only a short while; then the Lord would defeat the invaders.

An important key to understanding this chapter is to carefully note who is speaking and at what point the speaker shifts. In the first part—a woe oracle (verses 1 through 4)—the Lord is speaking, declaring woe unto unrighteous rulers and specifying the destruction that awaits them. The woe oracle is followed by an explanatory phrase spoken by Isaiah— “For all this, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still” in the last part of verse 4. The Lord then resumes speaking, declaring destruction upon “an hypocritical nation,” meaning ancient Israel and her modern equivalent, at the hand of the Assyrians and their modern counterpart (verses 5 through 7). Then the Lord vocalizes the Assyrian king’s prideful thoughts (verses 8 through 11) and decrees swift destruction upon him, his army, and his modern equivalent (verse 12). This is followed by more of the Assyrian king’s prideful thoughts, boasting of his conquests (verses 13 and 14). Isaiah then speaks, chastising Assyria for not acknowledging that the devastation they had brought upon Israel was the work of the Lord, who used the Assyrians as an instrument (verse 15). Isaiah, continuing as voice, declares swift destruction upon Assyria (verses 16 through 19). This declaration is followed by a prophecy, spoken by Isaiah, of the return of the remnant of Israel who would be scattered among all nations (verses 20 through 23).

In the final verses of this chapter (verses 24 through 34) Isaiah changes the subject abruptly, prophesying of an invasion by ancient Assyria against Jerusalem that is repulsed by the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army at the hand of the Lord. This prophecy was fulfilled during the reign of Hezekiah,1 but serves as a type for our day.

Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety; compare 2 Nephi 20. Differences present in the Book of Mormon text are shown in italics where quoted. This chapter has several chiasms that greatly add to our understanding of Isaiah’s meaning.

Verses 1 through 4 comprise a woe oracle in which the Lord declares evil consequences upon unrighteous rulers. The woe oracle is the final one of four that comprise an important prophetic message, or “priestly sermon,” directed to the northern kingdom of Israel and to Judah. Verse 1 begins: “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.” The written grievousness means unfair edicts or laws that deprive subjects or citizens of rights, resources or property.

Verse 2 describes wicked rulers’ persecution of the powerless: “To turn aside the needy from judgment and take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!” “Judgment” here means justice.2 Wicked rulers would derive their unjust power from taking advantage of the poor, including widows and orphans.

In verse 3 the Lord poses accusatory questions: “And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?” “Visitation” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “punishment” or “accountability.”3 The Lord will abandon them in the day of visitation because of their wickedness, leaving them defenseless against “the desolation which shall come from far,” meaning the invading Assyrian army and its modern equivalent.

Verse 4 concludes the cursing pronounced by the Lord: “Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain.” The wicked rulers would be numbered among the prisoners and among the dead.

The closing phrase of verse 4, spoken by Isaiah, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” means that the justice of the Lord’s anger continues and His hand is stretched out against them in punishment; this is repeated three times in Chapter 9, in addition to this occurrence in verse 4, all with the same meaning.4 The prophet explains the meaning of the phrase earlier, in Chapter 5, where it is preceded in the same verse by a parallel phrase with somewhat different wording but identical meaning: “Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them.”5

Regarding the high-minded rulers of the latter days, the Lord stated to Joseph Smith:

[T]hat I may visit them in the day of visitation, when I shall unveil the face of my covering, to appoint the portion of the oppressor among the hypocrites, where there is gnashing of teeth, if they reject my servants and my testimony which I have revealed unto them.6

Verses 1 through 4 contain a chiasm which begins with the final phrase of the last verse of Chapter 9:

A: (9:21)…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
B: (1) Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
C: (2) To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
D: (3) And what will ye do in the day of visitation,
D: and in the desolation which shall come from far?
C: to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?
B: (4) Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain.
A: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

This chiasm pronounces woes upon unrighteous rulers. The beginning phrase, “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” is reflected at the end by a repetition of the same phrase. “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees” complements “without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain,” meaning specifically that the unrighteous rulers will be singled out to be taken prisoner and slain. “To turn aside the needy from judgment” complements “to whom will ye flee for help?” indicating that the help they denied the needy will be denied them in retribution; and “what will ye do in the day of visitation” compares with “in the desolation which shall come from far?” stating that when destruction comes these unrighteous rulers will be held to account for their wickedness toward those who depended upon them for help.7

In verse 5 the Lord resumes speaking, declaring that Assyria is an instrument in His hand to mete out justice against wicked Israel: “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.”8 The Assyrian army is figuratively the rod being wielded by the Lord against Israel and Judah to punish them for their wickedness. The Book of Mormon renders “…and the staff in their hand is their indignation;”9 this rendition includes the anger of the invaders. “Indignation” means “displeasure.”

In verse 6 the Lord, who continues speaking, declares: “I will send him [the king of Assyria] against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.”10 “An hypocritical nation” means ancient Israel and Judah, and also their modern counterparts. Destruction will come at the hand of the Assyrians and their modern superpower equivalents. The phrase “to take the spoil, and to take the prey” in verse 6 is translated from the Hebrew Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the name of Isaiah’s second son, designating that the foretold destruction would be in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy given at the time of his son’s conception.11

In verse 7 the Lord explains that the Assyrian king does not understand that he is merely an instrument of destruction in the hands of the Lord: “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.” Archaic sentence construction may render this passage hard to understand. “Howbeit he meaneth not so” means “Even though he will not think of it like that.”

In verses 8 through 11 the Lord quotes the Assyrian king’s prideful thoughts. Verse 8 queries: “Are not my princes altogether kings?” A negative question, such as this and those that follow, means that the premise is so obvious as to be a foregone conclusion—in this case, that the princes under the command of the king should, indeed, be considered equal to kings of other nations.

Verse 9 continues: “Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad?” These are countries left desolate in the wake of the Assyrian onslaught that were unable to resist. Finally the Assyrian king reasons, “is not Samaria”—a land he has just laid waste— “as Damascus?” Syria at this time was a tribute country to the Assyrian overlords.

In verses 10 and 11 the Assyrian king continues his boasting. Verse 10 states: “As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria—” The Book of Mormon renders “As my hand hath founded the kingdoms of the idols….”12 “Founded” means “to establish,” or “to lay the foundation.”13

Verse 11 continues: “Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?” Here the king derides the idolatry of Jerusalem, reasoning that her idols would be powerless in defense against his invading armies just as were the idols of other countries, including neighboring Samaria. As a custom, ancient conquerors destroyed or carried off the idols of vanquished nations to establish that their own deities were superior to those of the defeated nation. In Chapter 46, Isaiah foretells the overthrow of Babylon by depicting her idols being carried into captivity.14

In verse 12, the Lord decrees swift destruction upon the king of Assyria, his army, and his modern equivalent once they have fulfilled the Lord’s purposes: “Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.” The Book of Mormon renders “…and upon Jerusalem….”15 “Zion” is used twice in Chapter 10 in the same way, with dual meanings—a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as a synonym for Jerusalem, both ancient and modern. The whole of the Lord’s work includes the destructions foretold in this chapter, together with the latter-day restoration and gathering under righteous conditions.16

In verses 13 and 14 the Assyrian king continues his boasting: “For he saith, by the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.” The Book of Mormon renders “…I have done these things….”17 This is a troubling thought: that ancient Israel’s modern counterpart—a “hypocritical nation”—will somehow render itself so defenseless that an invading army would be able to pillage totally unopposed.

In verse 15 Isaiah resumes speaking, chastising Assyria for not acknowledging that the devastation they would bring upon Israel was the work of the Lord, with the Lord using them as an instrument: “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.” The Hebrew word from which “wood” is translated means “firewood;”18 the Hebrew meaning for “shaketh” is “wields” or “moves.”19 All the metaphors in this verse, phrased as rhetorical questions, ask the same question: Can man—specifically, the Assyrian king—prosper against God?

In verses 16 through 19 Isaiah, continuing as voice, declares swift destruction upon Assyria. Verse 16 begins: “Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.”20 “Therefore shall the Lord…send among his fat ones leanness” means that the Lord would send weakness among the Assyrian king’s most vigorous warriors.

Verse 17 reveals the cause of the conflagration: “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame.” These equivalent phrases teach us that “the light of Israel” is the same as “his Holy One,” meaning the Messiah or Jesus Christ.

Continuing in verse 17, Isaiah states: “And it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.” “His” as used here refers to the modern counterpart of the Assyrian king, and “thorns” and “briers” mean the lies and false doctrines he has caused to be planted in the hearts of the people.21 Earlier, in Chapter 9, Isaiah described the destruction at the Lord’s Second Coming. Instead of the usual battle scenes “with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood,” this destruction would be “with burning and fuel of fire.”22

Verse 18 continues the description of the destruction of the Assyrian king and his hosts, both ancient and modern: “And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.”23 “His forest” means the Assyrian nobility or leaders, and “his fruitful field” means their economic apparatus.24 “Glory” as used here means military strength.25 “Both soul and body” means that Assyria will vanish completely, both politically and culturally. A standard-bearer in ancient warfare served the vital role of communication between the commander and his forces. With the standard-bearer no longer providing communication, total chaos would ensue.

Verses 16 through 18 contain a chiasm:

A: (16) Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness;
B: and under his glory
C: he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.
D: (17) And the light of Israel shall be for a fire,
D: and his Holy One for a flame:
C: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
B: (18) And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body:
A: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.

The “leanness,” or physical weakness, to be sent among the Assyrian army and its modern counterpart compares with “when a standardbearer fainteth,” which would result militarily in total confusion. “His glory,” meaning the glory of the Lord at His coming, is contrasted with “glory of his forest,” meaning the worldly glory and military strength of the prideful leaders of ancient Assyria and their modern equivalent. “Burning like the burning of a fire” reflects “shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.” “The light of Israel shall be for a fire” is equivalent to “his Holy One for a flame,” which comprise the central focus of the chiasm.

Does the burning refer to a nuclear holocaust, or does it mean the wicked being consumed by the glory of the Lord’s presence? The combination of elements in this chiasm indicates that the Lord’s glory will be the consuming fire—those unworthy of His presence and unable to endure it will be consumed. Note that in addition to the physical destructions, the truths to be made manifest at the Lord’s Second Coming will destroy all the lies and false doctrines of the modern equivalent of the Assyrian king, along with his armies, in a single day.

In verse 19, “trees” and “forest” refer to the Assyrian leaders or nobility: “And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.” All but a few would be slain, decimating their ranks.

In verses 20 through 23, Isaiah prophesies of the return in the latter days of the remnant of Israel who had been scattered among all nations. Verse 20 states: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” The Hebrew word from which “stay” is translated means “lean upon” or “trust.”26 Rather than placing their confidence in evil despots, those of the remnant would place their confidence in the Lord.

Verse 21 declares: “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.”27 The Book of Mormon renders: “The remnant shall return, yea, even the remnant of Jacob….”28  The phrase “The remnant shall return” is the English meaning of the name of Isaiah’s oldest son, Shear-jashub, indicating that this foretold latter-day event would be in fulfillment of the prophecy given at the time of Isaiah’s son’s birth.29

Verse 22 continues: “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.” Israel being like “the sand of the sea” means that they are numerous but scattered. “Consumption” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “complete destruction” or “annihilation;”30 and “overflow with righteousness” means that the destruction would fulfill the just and righteous designs of the Lord.

Verse 23 states: “For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.” The Book of Mormon renders “…even determined in all the land.”31 The meaning is that the wicked would be annihilated, completely removing them from the land.32

In verses 24 through 34, the final verses of this chapter, Isaiah changes the subject abruptly, prophesying of an invasion by Assyria against Jerusalem that is repulsed by the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army by the angel of the Lord. This prophecy was fulfilled during the reign of Hezekiah.33 Not only does the prophecy foretell the defeat of ancient Assyria; it is a type for destruction of Assyria’s modern equivalent.

In verse 24 Isaiah declares authoritatively: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts,” followed by the Lord’s words in verses 24 and 25: “O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.” “After the manner of Egypt” means the cruelty of the Egyptians in earlier times, when the Israelites served them as slaves.34 “Zion” as used here means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as being a synonym for ancient Jerusalem, particularly under her righteous king. These meanings reflect the different times that this prophecy is to be fulfilled.35, 36

Verse 25 continues: “For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.” The onslaught of Assyria—both in the days of Hezekiah and in the equivalent latter-day confrontation—would last only a short time. This statement will be a great comfort to those who understand the significance of the latter-day events.37

In verses 26 and 27, Isaiah describes what will happen at that time. Verse 26 states: “And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.” The slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb refers to a time when Gideon led a force of 300 Israelites, identified by their means of drinking water from a stream—lapping the water like a dog, “putting their hand to their mouth.” This small force frightened the Midianites with trumpets and lights; the result was infighting, slaughter, and defeat among the Midianites.38 “After the manner of Egypt” in this instance refers to the time when the Egyptian armies were destroyed by the returning waters as they attempted to pursue Israel across the parted Red Sea.39

In verse 27, Isaiah asserts that the Assyrian oppression would be undone: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” “The anointing” refers to the Lord’s covenant with Abraham40 and also the promise to David that his righteous descendants upon the throne of Judah would be sustained by the Lord.41

Although this passage foretells a specific miraculous event that occurred during the reign of Hezekiah, it is a type that foretells the Lord’s intervention in behalf of His people in the latter days. Truly, this will also be a great miracle.

Verses 24 through 27 contain a chiasm:

(24) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts,
A: O my people that dwellest in Zion,
B: be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee,
C: after the manner of Egypt.
D: (25) For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.
D: (26) And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb:
C: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.
B: (27) And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck,
A: and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.

“O my people that dwellest in Zion” compares with “anointing,” indicating that it would be the righteousness of His covenant people—although probably outnumbered by those among the people who would be wicked—that would prompt the Lord’s miraculous intervention against the Assyrian army. It also refers to the anointing of the Davidic king—in this case Hezekiah, who would humble himself before the Lord. “Shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee” contrasts with “his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck,” indicating that although the Assyrian king would smite them, his oppression would be miraculously removed from them. “After the manner of Egypt” in verse 24 means the oppression endured by the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, whereas the same phrase in verse 26 refers to destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea as they pursued the escaping Israelites led by Moses. “Mine anger” compares with “the LORD of hosts,” designating who is speaking and whose anger is to accomplish the destruction.

In verses 28 through 32, the terrifying advance of the Assyrian king and his army is described by Isaiah, mentioning various towns and villages, finally arriving at the base of the hill where Jerusalem is located:

He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages:
They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled.
Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth.
Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee.
As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.

Some of the localities cited can be found on maps in the Bible; see especially Map 4, “The Empire of David and Solomon” in the LDS Bible.42 The succession of place names indicates that the king of Assyria would advance from the north toward Jerusalem.

Isaiah uses “the daughter of Zion” with dual meanings in verse 32. Its main use here is as a synonym for Jerusalem, but when these events are considered as types for latter-day happenings, other meanings may also be discerned. In particular, it refers to the place of latter-day spiritual gathering, which should at some time come under attack and be defended miraculously by the Lord. 43 The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…the mount of the house of Zion” in verse 32.44

Verses 33 and 34 describe the defeat of the Assyrian army at that time:

Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.
And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.

“Bough,” “thickets” and “forest” refer to the Assyrian leaders or nobility, particularly “the high ones of stature,” to be hewn down by the Lord’s mighty iron axe. The elements of the metaphor are familiar to us.45

This prophecy was fulfilled when 185,000 men of the Assyrian army were slain during the night by the angel of the Lord:

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.46

 


Notes:

1. See 2 Kings 18 and 19; also Isaiah 36 and 37.
2. See Isaiah 1:17; 5:7; 42:4; 59:8; 59:15.
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. 6486, p. 824.
4. Isaiah 9:12, 17, and 21.
5. Isaiah 5:25.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 124:8.
7. Verse 4 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: They shall bow down/under the prisoners/under the slain/they shall fall. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 258.
8. Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm: His anger/his hand/rod/staff/their hand/mine indignation.
9. 2 Nephi 20:5.
10. Verses 4 through 6 contain a chiasm: Bow down/his anger/Assyrian/rod/mine anger/tread them down.
11. See Isaiah 8:3; see discussion by Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 105.
12. 2 Nephi 20:10.
13. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 487.
14. See Isaiah 46:1.
15. 2 Nephi 20:12.
16. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:24; 12:6; 51:3.
17. 2 Nephi 20:13.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6086, p. 781.
19. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5130, p. 245.
20. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
21. See Isaiah 55:13; 5:6; 9:18; 27:4; 32:13 and pertinent commentary.
22. See Isaiah 9:5.
23. Verses 17 and 18 contain a chiasm: His thorns and his briers/glory of his forest/of his fruitful field/both soul and body.
24. See Isaiah 2:13; 9:18; 10:33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
25. See Isaiah 8:7; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12 and pertinent commentary.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8172, p. 1043.
27. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: Remnant of Israel/stay upon him that smote them/stay upon the LORD/ remnant shall return.
28. 2 Nephi 20:21
29. See Isaiah 7:3; also, see discussion by Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 109.
30. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3617, p. 478.
31. 2 Nephi 20:23.
32. Verses 22 and 23 contain a chiasm: Consumption/overflow/righteousness/the Lord GOD of hosts/shall make/ consumption.
33. See 2 Kings 18 and 19; also Isaiah 36 and 37.
34. See Isaiah 10:24, footnote 24b.
35. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:12; 12:6; 51:3.
36. Verse 24 contains a chiasm: Assyrian/smite thee/rod/lift up his staff/against thee/Egypt.
37. See Isaiah 26:20; 30:29 and pertinent commentary.
38. See Judges 7.
39. Exodus 14:24-28.
40. See Genesis 22:9-12, 15-18.
41. See Genesis 49:10; 1 Kings 2:33; 1 Samuel 15:27-28.
42. See Bible Map 4.
43. See 2 Kings 19:21, 31; Psalms 9:14; 51:18; Isaiah 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11. Also, see Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
44. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 71.
45. See Isaiah 2:13; 9:18; 10:18-19; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
46. 2 Kings 19:35-37.

Isaiah 9: The People That Walked in Darkness Have Seen a Great Light

The first part of this chapter is a prophecy foretelling the coming of Messiah, referring both to the Lord’s mortal ministry and to His Second Coming. Following is a warning specifically to Ephraim, but applicable also to Judah and their descendants in the latter days, to avoid pride and corruption in government or face destruction. This chapter is quoted in its entirety by Nephi, with minor variations shown in italics where quoted. Compare 2 Nephi 19.

Verse 1 states: “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.” The Book of Mormon renders “…by the way of the Red Sea….”1 The lands of Zebulun and Naphtali are westward and northwestward, respectively, from the Sea of Galilee.2 The dimness in the first part of verse 1 refers to the last verse of Chapter 8; the beginning word, “nevertheless,” establishes this connection and indicates that the darkness spoken of is the spiritual darkness brought on by wickedness, as set forth in the ending verses of Chapter 8. Darkness, or fear and discouragement, was experienced by the people when the Assyrian attackers first came upon the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.

Rabbinical commentators “relate this to the attacks by Assyria under Tiglath-pileser and Sargon II.”3 However, because of Isaiah’s use of events of his time as types for events yet to come, the historical record alone should not be relied upon as a key to understanding his writings.

Verses 2 through 5 describe the glory to be seen at the Lord’s coming. Verse 2 states: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”4 This passage describes  a great light that will influence all “that dwell in the land of the shadow of death”—meaning everyone living on the earth in their mortal probationary state—at the time of the Lord’s coming. During His mortal ministry that light was spiritual; He broke the bands of death and provided salvation for all. This light of hope and joy shines on each one of us who benefits from His expiation. At His Second Coming, the light will be a physical phenomenon as well.

Verses 1 and 2 are quoted by Matthew in the New Testament. This prophecy of Isaiah is one of several cited by writers of the New Testament as being fulfilled by events in the life of Jesus Christ:5

And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.6

This passage illustrates Isaiah’s extensive use of types and double meanings and the thorough understanding that Matthew had of them.  Verse 2 is the textual basis for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1, No. 11—Air for Bass, “The People That Walked in Darkness.”

Verse 3 declares: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” The Book of Mormon omits “not,” to render “and increased the joy.”7 The Joseph Smith Translation states “…and they joy before thee.…”8 There will be great joy at the Lord’s coming—joy like that experienced when there is a good harvest, or when conquering soldiers divide the spoil. “Multiplied the nation” refers to the Abrahamic covenant in which Abraham was promised innumerable posterity.9 Numbers of those gathered and returning by means of the restoration and spread of the gospel, culminating at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming, will be great.

By contrasting the fear and dread provoked by the threat of Assyrian invasion faced by both Israel and Judah with the light, joy, and gratefulness evoked by the coming of the promised Messiah, Isaiah provides reassurance that the conditions imposed by the invaders would be only temporary. At some time in the future, Messiah would come to Abraham’s descendants who would still exist as a people.

Verses 1 through 3 form a chiasm:

(1) Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
A: and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea,
B: beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
C: (2) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:
C: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
B: (3) Thou hast multiplied the nation,
A: and (not) increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Isaiah’s use of a literary foil in this chiasm contrasts the darkness and fear inflicted by the Assyrian invaders, described in the ascending side, with the joy the people will experience when the Lord comes in His glory, described in the descending side. In a literary foil, opposites are contrasted to accentuate their differences. The joy to be experienced by the people who walk “in darkness” and dwell in “the shadow of death” will be because they have “seen a great light…upon them hath the light shined.”

Verses 4 and 5 describe the destruction that will occur among the oppressors of the Lord’s covenant people at His Second Coming. Verse 4 begins: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.” The Book of Mormon omits “as in the day of Midian.”10 At the Lord’s Second Coming His people will be freed from oppression.

Verse 5 continues: “For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.”11 Instead of the typical battle scenes characterized by “confused noise,” and death administered by conventional weapons resulting in “garments rolled in blood,” this destruction will be “with burning and fuel of fire.” Does this mean nuclear holocaust, or the wicked being consumed by the glory of the Lord’s presence? In Chapter 10 Isaiah declares: “under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.”12 This seems to indicate that the Lord’s glory will be the consuming fire—those unworthy of His presence, and unable to endure it, will be consumed. “Thorns and briers” also refers to false doctrines, which will be done away at His coming.13

Other passages that tend toward the interpretation that the Lord’s glory will be the consuming fire are: “They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance,” in Psalms;14 “The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein,” in Nahum;15 “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch,” in Malachi.16 This passage from Malachi was quoted by the Angel Moroni to the youthful prophet Joseph Smith with some variation: “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; For they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (emphasis added).17 The glory of the Lord and that of the hosts of angels accompanying Him will apparently burn the wicked.

There may be occurrences of nuclear conflagration at this time, as well. Nuclear warfare is possibly the abomination of desolation prophesied by Daniel.18

Latter-day revelation sheds additional light:

Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.
For after today cometh the burning—this is speaking after the manner of the Lord—for verily I say, tomorrow all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, for I am the Lord of Hosts; and I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.19

Verse 6 presents a prophecy of Christ: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These words are memorialized in Handel’s Messiah, Part 1, No. 12—Chorus, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born.” Who can fail to be moved by a choral performance of these stirring words?

The Hebrew word translated as “Wonderful” is a masculine noun,20 indicating that it is a separate title of the Lord rather than a modifier of the subsequent word, “Counsellor.” The comma placed after “Wonderful” by the translators properly sets it apart to preserve the original intended meaning.

Part of the prophecy set forth in verse 6 has been fulfilled with Jesus’ birth, but the remainder awaits fulfillment until His Second Coming. During His mortal ministry He presided over no political government, and He was acclaimed as “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” only by His closest followers. Writers in the New Testament proclaimed that this prophecy of Isaiah relates to the mortal and post-mortal ministry of Jesus Christ.21

How can it be said that Jesus Christ is the everlasting Father? Abinadi, a Book of Mormon prophet, explains:

Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?22

The Lord Jesus Christ becomes the Father, spiritually, of those benefiting from His redeeming sacrifice and of all who take His name upon them—the Father of their salvation.

Verses 4 through 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder,
B: the rod
C: of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
D: (5) For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;
D: but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
C: (6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
B: and the government
A: shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah again uses a literary foil to emphasize the profound difference between the Lord’s government and the oppression of Assyria, or destruction by fire preceding the Lord’s Second Coming. The shoulder of the people bearing the burden of oppression contrasts with the ample shoulder of the Redeemer who would bear the responsibility of righteous government. The rod of oppression contrasts with the Lord’s benevolent government; “oppressor” is the antithesis of “for unto us child is born, unto us a son is given.” Rather than coming in the form of an oppressive conqueror, the Redeemer would be born as an innocent child. “Confused noise, and garments rolled in blood” contrasts with “burning and fuel of fire” to indicate that the destruction before the Redeemer’s Second Coming would be by fire rather than by prevalent methods of warfare.

Isaiah’s prophecy continues in verse 7, declaring the Lord’s accession to the throne of David:23 “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Christ is the literal heir to the throne of David.

Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm:

(6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
A: The mighty God,
B: The everlasting
C: Father,
D: The Prince
E: of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government
E: and peace there shall be no end,
D: upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it,
C: and to his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice
B: from henceforth even for ever.
A: The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

In this chiasm “the mighty God” is equivalent to “the LORD of hosts,” establishing equivalence of these two titles for the Lord Jehovah. “Everlasting” is synonymous with “from henceforth even for ever,” and “Father” is equivalent to “his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it,” showing that the Lord’s kingdom would be characterized by benevolent paternal love. “Prince” equates with “the throne of David,” establishing that “the Prince of Peace” refers specifically to Christ’s heirship to the throne of David. “Peace,” the central focus of this chiasm,  would characterize the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

Verses 8 through 21 comprise a prophetic message, or priestly sermon, to Ephraim, or the northern kingdom of Israel.24 It consists of three woe oracles that describe wickedness including pride and corruption in government for which Ephraim faces destruction. A fourth woe oracle, directed against both Ephraim and Judah, comprises the first part of Chapter 10. However, the message in its entirety applies to us in the latter days. These events that would befall ancient Ephraim and Judah are types for similar occurrences in our day.

Chiasms in this prophetic message provide bridges between the four woe oracles, unifying them as a coherent warning. The final phrase of each woe oracle—“for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still”—forms a central statement in the first chiasm,  a supporting statement in the second, the reflection of the introductory statement in the third, and the introductory statement and its reflection in the fourth chiasm. Phrases that are chiastically equivalent provide a method for discerning Isaiah’s intended meanings.

Verse 8 means that the Lord sent a prophetic message to Israel: “The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.” The Book of Mormon reads “The Lord sent his word into Jacob….”25 The message follows in the succeeding verses.

Verse 9 declares: “And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart—” The Book of Mormon renders “inhabitants of Samaria.”26 The phrase “all the people shall know” indicates that the entire kingdom of Israel should know about this prophetic message and learn from it. Also, it is a type for the Second Coming when “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”27 All those of “Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria” will know, even though haughtiness—pride and stoutness of heart—is rampant.

In verse 10, the pride of the people of Ephraim and Samaria is manifest in their statement that although destruction may befall them, on their own they would rebuild even better than before: “The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”

In verse 11, “Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together” indicates that the enemies of the king of Syria would combine to wage war against him.

Verse 12 states: “The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” This phrase describes a long history of wars against the northern kingdom of Israel, ultimately to result in her destruction.  Israel and Syria, confederates against the southern kingdom of Judah, would both be destroyed by their adversaries.

The closing phrase of verse 12, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” means that the justice of the Lord’s anger continues and His hand is stretched out against them in punishment. Apparently the time for repentance will have passed when these conditions arise. This phrase first occurs in Chapter 5, where it is preceded by a parallel phrase with somewhat different wording but with identical meaning: “Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them.”28 The phrase is repeated three times in Chapter 929 and occurs once more in Chapter 10,30 all with the same meaning. A second interpreted meaning is that “in spite of all, the Lord is available if they will turn to him.”31 The first meaning is true outright whereas the second remains as a possibility, in character with the Lord’s mercy.

This second meaning is expounded by Nephi:

Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts (emphasis added).32

The closing phrase of verse 12, “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” is chiastically equivalent to “for the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts” in verse 13. Here it is clear that the Lord would stretch out His hand to smite the wicked of Israel.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord explains that His arm will be stretched out in defense of His people against the wicked in the latter days: “I am he who led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; and my arm is stretched out in the last days, to save my people Israel.”33

The message of verse 13 is that tribulations and punishment at the hand of the Lord seldom bring repentance: “For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.”

Verses 14 and 15 describe the destruction that would befall Israel; this is also a type for the destruction of the wicked in the latter days. Verse 14 declares: “Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.” “Head and tail, branch and rush” means the different levels of society.34 “Rush” means stem or trunk of aquatic plants, commonly used for weaving baskets and mats.35 The destruction would be directed first against Israel’s corrupt leaders and clergy, but would extend to the very least of the kingdom as well—all who engage in lies36 and other corruption. The destruction would occur rapidly, in one day.

Verses 12 through 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind;
B: and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.
C: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
C: (13) For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
B: (14) Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel
A: head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

“The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind” complements “head and tail, branch and rush.” The invading armies—or their latter-day analogs—would bring about the destruction described. “Israel” in verse 12 is the same as “Israel” in verse 14, identifying the kingdom of Israel and its latter-day equivalent as objects of the destruction. “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still” is equivalent to “for the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.” Here it is clear that the Lord’s purpose in stretching out His hand is to smite them, but this does not result in their seeking the Lord.

In verse 15, the prophet explains the symbolism: “The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.” The Book of Mormon omits “and honourable,”37 revealing that there would be none considered honorable among those to be destroyed at that time.

In verse 16 Isaiah continues the explanation: “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” “The leaders of this people” are the head, meaning political leaders, and tail, meaning spiritual leaders, whereas “they that are led of them” are the branch and rush.

Verse 17 continues: “Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” The Book of Mormon renders “for every one of them is a hypocrite….”38 The entire nation—from the young men to the orphans and widows—are hypocrites, evildoers, and liars.

In verse 18, the wicked are rendered as fuel for the fire: “For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.” The Book of Mormon reads “…thickets of the forests….”39 The briers and thorns to be devoured are false doctrines that sprang up in place of the truth,40 resulting from a lengthy period of apostasy. “Kindle in the thickets of the forests” means that associations of the noble and powerful would be destroyed.41 All will vanish away like dissipating smoke.42

Verse 19 continues the metaphor and provides explanation: “Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.”43 The wicked will be seared by the fire of destruction, the people themselves serving as fuel for the fire. The Hebrew word translated as “spare” means “to have pity or compassion.”44

Verse 20 states: “And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm.” Greed and corruption would run rampant. Each person would cheat or steal from his neighbor to the right but would be left wanting more, whereupon each would steal from his neighbor to the left and still would not be satisfied. These awful conditions would result in a total breakdown of society; people’s corrupt actions would be as destructive upon society as eating the flesh of one’s own arm would be upon the body.

Verse 21 continues: “Manasseh [will be at war with] Ephraim; and Ephraim [will be at war with] Manasseh: and they together shall be [at war] against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” This verse and the verses preceding describe the horrors of war inflicted upon Ephraim, Manasseh and Judah. The closing phrase, “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” means that the justice of the Lord’s anger continues and His hand is stretched out against them in punishment.45

Verses 19 through 21 form a chiasm:

A: (19) Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire:
B: no man shall spare his brother.
C: (20) And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry;
C: and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied:
B: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: (21) Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah.
A: For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

“Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened” complements “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still;” and “no man shall spare his brother” complements “they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm,” providing an interpretation of the symbolism. “He shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry” complements “he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied,” to form the central focus of the chiasm.

The final phrase, “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” is also the introductory phrase of a chiasm formed by the fourth woe oracle consisting of the first four verses of Chapter 10.46

 


Notes:

1. 2 Nephi 19:1.
2. See Bible Map 3.
3. See Isaiah 9:1, footnote 1b.
4. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: Dimness/lightly afflicted/Zebulun/Naphtali/did more grievously afflict/darkness.
5. See Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
6. Matthew 4:13-16.
7. 2 Nephi 19:3.
8. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970,
p. 197.
9. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 94.
10. 2 Nephi 19:4.
11. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:18-19 and pertinent commentary.
12. Isaiah 10:16-17.
13. See Isaiah 5:6 and pertinent commentary.
14. Psalms 80:16.
15. Nahum 1:5.
16. Malachi 4:1.
17. Joseph Smith—History 1:37.
18. See Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11; see also Matt. 24:15.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 64:23-24.
20. 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. 6382, p. 810.
21. See also Isaiah 7:14; 11:1; 25:9; 53:5.
22. Mosiah 15:11-12.
23. See Genesis 49: 9-10.
24. See Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Company, P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130, 1988, p. 19.
25. 2 Nephi 19:8.
26. 2 Nephi 19:9.
27. Isaiah 40:5.
28. Isaiah 5:25.
29. Isaiah 9:12, 17, and 21.
30. Isaiah 10:4.
31. Isaiah 9:12, footnote 12d.
32. 2 Nephi 28:32.
33. Doctrine and Covenants 136:22.
34. See Isaiah 19:15, footnote 15a.
35. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 1032.
36. See Isaiah 16:6; 28:15, 17; 59:3-4 and pertinent commentary.
37. 2 Nephi 19:15.
38. 2 Nephi 19:17.
39. 2 Nephi 19:18.
40. See Isaiah 55:13; 5:6; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13 and pertinent commentary.
41. See Isaiah 2:13; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
42. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:5 and pertinent commentary.
43. Verses 17 through 19 form a chiasm: Every one…every mouth/his anger/burneth as the fire/briers/thorns/shall kindle/wrath of the LORD of hosts/no man.
44. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2550, p. 328.
45. See comments for verse 12, where this phrase also occurs.
46. An alternate chiasm is also found in verses 19 through 21: Wrath of the LORD of hosts/no man shall spare his brother/Manasseh/Ephraim/Ephraim/Manasseh/they together shall be against Judah/His anger is not turned away.

Isaiah 8: Forasmuch as this People Refuseth the Waters of Shiloah

Chapter 8 begins with a prophecy of upcoming destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, comprising verses 1 through 10. This prophecy continues Isaiah’s messenger speech to Ahaz, begun in Chapter 7. The prophecy is followed by a priestly sermon, comprising verses 11 through 18, in which Isaiah declares that Christ will be as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to Israel and Jerusalem because of their wickedness. The final part, comprising verses 19 through 22, is a condemnation of Israel’s wickedness, reliance upon mediums and diviners for spiritual guidance, and the consequences thereof. Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with few changes; differences in wording are shown in italics where quoted. Compare 2 Nephi 18.

Isaiah and his children are given to Israel for signs and for wonders from the Lord, as stated in verse 18.1 An example is given in verse 1, in which the Lord instructs Isaiah: “Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” The Hebrew word translated as “a man’s pen” means “an engraving tool of a man.”2

In verse 2, Isaiah declares: “And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” Two or three witnesses are required under the Law of Moses to establish any matter.3

Verse 3 states: “And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD unto me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” “The prophetess” as used in this verse by Isaiah refers to his wife, likely reflecting her well-exercised spiritual sensitivity. The lengthy name given to their son means, in Hebrew, “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey,”4 foretelling Judah’s destruction and captivity.5

Circumstances surrounding the conception and birth of the oldest of Isaiah’s sons were designated by the Lord and carried out expressly by Isaiah; the name of this son was to be a sign of a then-future event.

In verse 4 the meaning of the “sign and wonder”6 is given: “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, my father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.” The Book of Mormon renders this passage with subtle changes: “For behold, the child shall not have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, before the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”7 This testifies as to the short time before these events would transpire—Syria and Israel would be defeated and their riches presented to the king of Assyria.8,9

In verses 5 and 6, Isaiah declares: “The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,

“Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son—” Here the Lord states reasons for the impending destruction.

“Shiloah,” transliterated from the Hebrew Shiloach, means “sent.”10 It is also the name given a spring southeast of Jerusalem, which provided drinking water for the ancient city.11 This word is used only in this verse in Isaiah and in the equivalent place in the Book of Mormon.12 “The waters of Shiloah” metaphorically means the gospel of Jesus Christ; before His mortal ministry it meant the Law of Moses. In this metaphor the source of drinking water for the city of Jerusalem is compared to the divine source of living water—the Savior, who provides eternal salvation.13

“Shiloah” in verse 6 is chiastically equivalent to “the LORD” in verse 7, revealing Isaiah’s intended meaning. “The waters of Shiloah that go softly” means that the gospel is easier to practice than enduring the alternative—chaos, wickedness, strife, and destruction at the hands of the Assyrian army. Compare the words of the mortal Redeemer: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”14 By contrast, “Rezin and Remaliah’s son” designate the wicked leaders of Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, together with their characteristic worldliness.

“Shiloh,” translated from the Hebrew Shiyloh,15 means “he to whom it belongs.”16 This single word describes the Lord’s role as Creator and ultimate owner of the earth and its resources, to whom we owe a duty of stewardship. Near the end of his lengthy life the patriarch Jacob blessed each of his twelve sons; upon Judah’s descendants he conferred the right of kingship: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”17 David and his descendants, including Jesus Christ, were descendants of Judah and were participants in this blessing. Isaiah’s purpose in using “Shiloah,” which is pronounced nearly the same as “Shiloh” and is set chiastically equivalent to “the LORD,” is to establish the metaphoric comparison of the life-giving waters of the spring to the living waters of the Gospel.

“Shilo” is used by the prophet Joseph Smith in his inspired translation of a portion of Genesis:

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die, and go unto my fathers; and I go down to my grave with joy. The God of father Jacob be with you, to deliver you out of affliction in the days of your bondage; for the Lord hath visited me, and I have obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of my loins, the Lord God will raise up a righteous branch out of my loins; and unto thee, whom my father Jacob hath named Israel, a prophet; (not the Messiah who is called Shilo;) and this prophet shall deliver my people out of Egypt in the days of thy bondage.18

Clearly, “Shiloh” means Jesus Christ, the Messiah who should come—the Creator, and therefore Owner, of the earth and its resources. As used here by Isaiah, it refers to the Giver of the law as well: He whose finger wrote upon the tablets of stone on Mount Sinai. This essential truth should be evident to all readers of the scriptures. Jehovah—rendered “the LORD” in the King James Old Testament—and Jesus Christ are one and the same.

The name Shiloh was given to a location in the inheritance of the descendants of Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.19 When the Twelve Tribes led by Joshua entered the land of Canaan, the Tabernacle—including the Ark of the Covenant—was first set up at Shiloh.20 When Israel, consisting of the ten northern tribes, separated from Judah, comprising the two southern tribes, Shiloh became a religious center equivalent to Jerusalem including the building and establishment of a temple. The Ark of the Covenant was kept there for many years.21 After the conquest and removal into captivity of the ten tribes, Shiloh was a part of what became known as Samaria.

In verses 7 and 8 Isaiah describes the invading Assyrian armies metaphorically, as though they were a flood inundating the land. Verse 7 begins: “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.” “Glory,” as used in this instance, means military strength.22 In this statement Isaiah gives the interpretation of the metaphor, which is applied in several other places in his writings. “The waters of the river” means the Euphrates, which is a type for the king of Assyria.23 Use of “the Lord” rather than “Jehovah,” emphasizes His role as military commander using the king of Assyria as proxy. The Great Isaiah Scroll uses both terms: “Jehovah, Lord.”24

Verses 4 through 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) For behold, the child shall not have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, before the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.
B: (5) The LORD spake also unto me again, saying, (6) Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters
C: of Shiloah that go softly,
D: and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son;
C: (7) Now therefore, behold, Jehovah, Lord bringeth up upon them
B: the waters of the river, strong and many,
A: even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.

“King of Assyria” in verses 4 and 7 comprises the introductory element and its reflection. “Waters of Shiloah” is antithetic to “waters of the river,” contrasting the peace and security from gospel obedience to destruction by the invading army of Assyria—characterized metaphorically as a raging flood. “Shiloah” is equivalent to “Jehovah, Lord,” clearly identifying the military Commander. Rejoicing in Rezin and Remaliah’s son rather than in the Lord is given as the reason for this predicted destruction.

Verse 8 continues: “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.” “Thy land, O Immanuel” refers to the land promised by the Lord—the Savior who should come—to His people.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) Now therefore, behold, Jehovah, Lord bringeth up upon them
B: the waters of the river, strong and many,
C: even the king of Assyria, and all his glory:
D: and he shall come up over all his channels,
D: and go over all his banks:
C: (8) And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck;
B: and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land,
A: O Immanuel.

Jehovah, Lord” is chiastically equivalent to “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us,” again establishing the identity of Jehovah—the military commander acting through Assyria as proxy—as the Messiah who should come. Both the metaphors “waters of the river” and “wings” describe the advance of the Assyrian army and its spread across the land. “Assyria” contrasts with “Judah,” denoting their adversarial relationship. “Come up over all his channels” is equivalent to “go over all his banks” which, as the central focus of the chiasm,  describe metaphorically the advance of the Assyrian army.

Verses 9 and 10 comprise threats and warnings, foreseen prophetically by Isaiah, that would be given by the king of Assyria. Verse 9 begins: “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.” The meaning is that it would do no good for Jerusalem to form associations or alliances with other countries, nor would it do any good for her defenders even to gird themselves with weapons and armor, for they would all be broken to pieces. Three repetitions of this last phrase emphasize the seriousness of the threat.

The king of Assyria continues in verse 10: “Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.” Because of the wickedness of the Israelites, God would bring this great army down upon them to destroy them and carry them into captivity. Their taking counsel together would amount to nothing. The phrase uttered by the king of Assyria, “God is with us,” would in fact be true; the Assyrian king would act as an instrument in God’s hands.

Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) …O Immanuel.
B: (9) Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries:
C: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
C: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
B: (10) Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand:
A: for God is with us.

“Immanuel” is chiastically equivalent to “God is with us,” providing its Hebrew definition.25 “Associate yourselves, O ye people” is equivalent to “Take counsel together,” providing the intended meaning. Two repetitions of “gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces” emphasize the seriousness of the Assyrian king’s threat.

Note that the chiasm of verses 7 and 8 overlaps the chiasm of verses 8 through 10, with the introductory statements for both chiasms being equivalent. “Jehovah, Lord,” “Immanuel,” and “God is with us” are all equivalent, denoting that the God of the Old Testament is the same who would be born of a virgin.26 He is a different and separate being from God the Father, called Elohim in Hebrew, whose words Isaiah records later, in the first part of Chapter 42.27

Verses 11 through 18 comprise a priestly sermon. Verse 11 commences: “For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying—” “A strong hand” means a strong handshake, or with power.28 This statement describes a close, personal relationship between the Lord and His prophet. “The way of this people” usually means knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, but among the people addressed by Isaiah it had become greatly corrupted.29

Verse 12 continues the sentence of verse 11: “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” The meaning intended by Isaiah is “don’t agree with those who want to form a defense alliance, and don’t fear their fear, and don’t be afraid.”

In verse 13, Isaiah declares that the people must change their ways: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,” the prophet admonishes.

Verses 12 and 13 are paraphrased by the Apostle Peter:

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (emphasis added).30
The people of Judah, however, did not heed Isaiah’s counsel. We are informed in 2 Kings that Ahaz, king of Judah:
[S]ent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.
And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria.
And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.”31

In verse 14 Isaiah’s sermon continues: “He shall be for a sanctuary: but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” To the righteous, the Lord’s commandments serve as a sanctuary from life’s problems. The Lord’s teachings open up the way to receive spiritual guidance, comfort, and assurance in this life and eternal life in the world to come.32 For those who refuse His commandments, He will serve as a stumbling block and a snare.

Verse 14 is quoted by Peter and Paul in the New Testament. Paul says: “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”33

Verse 15 describes the result of the obstinacy of the wicked: “And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” Stumbling and falling are spiritual consequences for not heeding the truth or giving heed to false doctrines, whereas being broken, snared, and taken into captivity are temporal consequences, here foretold by Isaiah.

Verse 16 reads “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Although interpretation of this passage appears to present some challenges, it is rendered the same in the Book of Mormon34 and in the Great Isaiah Scroll,35 indicating that this is the correct meaning in the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word translated as “law” means “teachings” or “doctrine.”36

Verse 16 contains two parallel phrases, “Bind up the testimony” and “seal the law.” Because they are parallel phrases “bind” and “seal” are synonymous and “testimony” and “law” are also synonymous. Note that they are matched in reverse order in verse 20, as the descending side of a chiasm.

Their synonymy is borne out in two passages in Doctrine and Covenants where they are interchanged. In one place they are rendered “bind up the law and seal up the testimony,”37 whereas in the other they are rendered “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony.”38 In neither of these renditions is the meaning changed.

The “law,” of course, refers to the Law of Moses or, after the advent of Christ, the law of the gospel, with special reference to its written form—the scriptures. In the New Testament “the law and the prophets” is used to denote the Jewish canon of scripture.39 Thus the law or the gospel, as recorded in the scriptures, is what is to be bound up or sealed in the minds and hearts of the disciples.

To “bind up the testimony” and “seal the law among my disciples” is the principal task of prophets and ecclesiastical leaders throughout the ages, assigned to them by the Lord; and parents should accept a similar charge regarding their responsibilities toward their children. In verse 16 this task is given by the Lord to Isaiah.

The meaning of this passage is apparent in the supplication of Joseph Smith in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple: “Therefore, O Lord, deliver thy people from the calamity of the wicked; enable thy servants to seal up the law, and bind up the testimony, that they may be prepared against the day of burning” (emphasis added).40

The same intent is rendered by the Apostle Paul: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.”41

A literal meaning for verse 16 may be that Isaiah took the scroll upon which he had written these prophecies, rolled it up and tied it with a strip of leather or a cord, and then sealed it with a clay seal as a symbol that the prophecies were complete. Isaiah then gave the prophecies to his disciples for future reference. When his prophecies were fulfilled in the future, this would be a testimony that he was a true prophet.42

Verse 17 is Isaiah’s attestation that he accepts the charge given to him by the Lord in verse 16: “And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.” The Lord hides His face from the house of Jacob because of iniquity.

Furthermore, in verse 18, the prophet offers himself and his children for the purposes of the Lord: “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” One example is the names Isaiah gave his sons: Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey”43 and Shear-jashub, which means “the remnant shall return.”44 Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves.”45 “The LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” denotes that it would be Jehovah who would come to dwell on the earth in the latter days. “Mount Zion” as used here means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem— especially the temple at Jerusalem.46

In verses 19 and 20 the Lord warns against sorcery. Verse 19 states: “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” The Book of Mormon renders: “for the living to hear from the dead?”47 These rhetorical questions reveal the folly of sorcery. A negative question, such as “should not a people seek unto their God?” means that the premise is so obvious as to be a foregone conclusion—in this case, that the people should, indeed, seek unto their God.

Verse 20 asserts: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Here, “the law and the testimony” refers to the written scriptures and the covenants contained therein, to which the people must return.

In verses 21 and 22 Isaiah describes what will befall those who have no light in them. Verse 21 begins: “And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.” The archaic word “bestead” means “situated;”48 thus, “hardly bestead” means poorly situated, or homeless. “Fret themselves” means “become angry.”49

Verses 14 through 21 contain a chiasm:

A: (14) And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and (for) a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
B: (16) Bind up the testimony,
C: seal the law among my disciples.
D: (17) And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
E:   (18) Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
E:   (19) And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and (that) mutter:
D: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to hear from the dead?
C: (20) To the law
B: and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (21) And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry:
A: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.

“Stone of stumbling” is equated with “curse their king and their God,” describing how the wicked are made to stumble. “Testimony” and “law” match “law” and “testimony” in reverse order; and “I will wait upon the LORD” is equivalent to “seek unto their God.” “I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders” is antithetic to “seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep.” The folly of seeking after peeping wizards is contrasted with receiving guidance and inspiration from the Lord.

Verse 22 concludes: “And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” This description of the state of the wicked is similar to wording used elsewhere by Isaiah to describe the lands from which the elect are to be gathered in the latter days: “And if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.”50 Trouble, anguish, and spiritual darkness—the predominant condition of the wicked—characterize the lands from which Israel is to be gathered in the latter days.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 8:18.
2. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 2747, p. 384.
3. Deuteronomy 19:15.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4122, p. 555.
5. Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD/said unto me/I took/Uriah/Zechariah/I went/then said/the LORD.
6. See Isaiah 8:18.
7. 2 Nephi 18:4.
8. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 17:2; 42:24; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
9. Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm: I…prophetess/son/name/Maher-shalal-hash-baz/child/father…mother.
10. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7975, p. 1019.
11. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 148.
12. 2 Nephi 18:5.
13. Compare John 4:10-14.
14. Matthew 11:30.
15. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7886, p. 1010.
16. Bible Dictionary—Shiloh.
17. Genesis 49:10.
18. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p.114-116.
19. See Bible Map 10.
20. See Joshua 18:1.
21. See 1 Samuel 4:4.
22. See Isaiah 10:18; 16:14; 17:3-4; 20:5; 21:16-17; 22:18; 66:12.
23. Isaiah 17:12-13; 28:2, 17; 43:2.
24. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, pages 60 and 270.
25. See Matthew 1:23.
26. See Isaiah 7:14.
27. See Isaiah 42:1-7 and pertinent commentary.
28. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 86.
29. See Isaiah 3:12; 26:7-8; 28:7; 40:3 and pertinent commentary.
30. 1 Peter 3:14-15.
31. 2 Kings 16:7-9.
32. See Doctrine and Covenants 59:23.
33. Romans 9:33; see also 1 Peter 2:8.
34. 2 Nephi 18:16.
35. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 62.
36. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8451, p. 435.
37. Doctrine and Covenants 88:84.
38. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.
39. See Matthew 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Romans 3:21.
40. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.
41. Hebrews 8:10. See also Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 31:33, and Proverbs 3:3.
42. David Rolph Seely, “Isaiah Chapter Review: 2 Nephi 18/Isaiah 8,” Book of Mormon Reference Companion: Dennis L. Largey, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 2003, p. 373.
43. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4122, p. 555; see also Isaiah 10:6.
44. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7610, p. 984.
45. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3470, p. 447.
46. See Isaiah 1:27; 3:16; 4:3-4; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
47. 2 Nephi 18:19.
48. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 145.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7107, p. 893.
50. Isaiah 5:30.

Isaiah 7: Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive, and Bear a Son

The first part of Chapter 7 is a messenger speech in which the prophet functions as the Lord’s emissary to king Ahaz regarding a war that Ephraim and Syria would wage against Judah, foretelling the outcome of the war. Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ is presented to Ahaz as a sign of the truthfulness of Isaiah’s words. A prophecy predicting the destruction of Ephraim and Syria at the hands of the Assyrians comprises the latter part of Isaiah’s message to Ahaz. The final verses of the chapter describe the desolate condition of Ephraim and Syria—and later, most of Judah—after their depopulation at the hands of the Assyrian king. Nephi quotes this chapter in full with few modifications. Compare 2 Nephi 17; the few differences in the Book of Mormon version are shown in italics.

This war, waged by Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel against Judah, was in response to Ahaz having refused to form an alliance with these two parties for their mutual defense against Assyria. They planned to conquer Ahaz and place a king over Judah who would cooperate with them in unified defense against Assyria. Because Ahaz had refused the Lord’s instructions delivered to him by Isaiah, the armies of Rezin and Pekah were permitted to invade Judah, killing or taking captive many thousands of Ahaz’ subjects. Those taken captive were later returned.1 Ahaz then formed an alliance against Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel with Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, for his defense against his two conspiring neighbors. Accordingly, Tiglath-pileser invaded and conquered Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel, killing Rezin.2

Verse 1 states that a war commenced between Judah and her adversaries: “And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.” This war began during the reign of Ahaz, who was king of Judah beginning in 742 B.C. Ahaz’ genealogy is also given: Ahaz was the son of Jotham, who was king of Judah from 758 B.C.; and Jotham was the son of Uzziah, who was king of Judah from 811 B.C.3 The war occurred sometime during the early part of Isaiah’s ministry, from 740 to 726 B.C.4 But Judah’s adversaries “could not prevail against it.”

In verse 2, “And it was told the house of David” refers to King Ahaz and his aristocracy, since the kings of Judah were descendants of David. The message that “Syria is confederate with Ephraim” caused great distress, not only for the king but also his people: “And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.”

Verses 3 through 9 comprise Isaiah’s messenger speech in which the prophet delivers the message to king Ahaz. Verse 3 begins: “Then said the LORD unto Isaiah,” but it is not clear at what point in the text it becomes Isaiah speaking to Ahaz. First, the Lord commands Isaiah to “Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub, thy son.” The Lord tells him where the meeting will take place: “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.” The Hebrew meaning of the name of Isaiah’s son, Shear-jashub, is “the remnant shall return.”5 At that time, Shear-jashub must have been a babe in arms or a toddler; he would serve as an object lesson in Isaiah’s conversation with Ahaz.

In verses 4, 5, and 6 the Lord gives Isaiah prophetic words to speak to the king. Verse 4 begins: “And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.” The Lord admonishes Ahaz not to fear, despite the seriousness of the threat.

Verse 5 continues: “Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying—” The rulers of these two neighbor countries had formed an alliance against Ahaz.

Verse 6 continues the sentence from the previous verse: “Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal.” The Book of Mormon renders “yea, the son of Tabeal.”6 “Make a breach therein for us” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “cleave” or “break open” for us.7 Rezin and Pekah wished to conquer Judah, set their own king over it, and divide it and its wealth between themselves.

In verse 7, Isaiah proclaims: “Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” The comforting words are that their evil plan would not succeed.

In verse 8, Isaiah prophesies further: “For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.” The end of Israel, the northern kingdom—also known as Ephraim—took place in 721 B.C, when the kingdom was destroyed and the inhabitants, the ten tribes of Israel, were killed or carried away captive by Assyria. The demise of Ephraim actually occurred within about one-third of the time designated by Isaiah in this prophecy.8

Verse 9 proclaims: “And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son [Pekah]. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” Isaiah’s meaning is that as surely as the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and as surely as Remaliah’s son Pekah is the king of Samaria, the wicked king Ahaz would not believe his words of prophecy.

Following Isaiah’s delivery of this message, verses 10 and 11. declare: “Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.” The Lord states His willingness to give Ahaz a sign to overcome his incredulity regarding the message delivered by Isaiah.

Verses 7 through 10 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) Thus saith the Lord GOD,
B: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
C: (8) For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin;
D: and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken,
D: that it be not a people.
C: (9) And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son.
B: If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
A: (10) Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying—

In this chiasm “the head of Syria is Damascus” compares with “the head of Ephraim is Samaria,” naming the two conspirators. “It shall not stand” matches “ye shall not be established.” Because of Ahaz’ incredulity his own kingdom would not be established—the same result as the treacherous plan designed against him. The central statement of the chiasm attests that “Ephraim [would] be broken, that it be not a people.” In order for either Ahaz’ kingdom or the plan against him to succeed, the Lord’s intervention would be required.

Verse 12 reports: “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.” This is not the voice of humility, but the voice of flippant disinterest from a wicked king. Isaiah is enraged.

Verse 13 continues: “And he [Isaiah] said, hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” Ahaz’ incredulity is offensive to the Lord and to Isaiah.

Then Isaiah delivers an astounding prophecy concerning the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, beginning in verse 14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Even though the King James translation renders “Lord” instead of the usual rendition in all caps, the Great Isaiah Scroll renders “Jehovah” for “Lord.”9 The Hebrew meaning of Immanuel  is “God with us,”10 which describes in one word the Lord’s divine heritage and position in the antemortal world. Despite the prophecy that Ahaz’ kingdom would not remain established because of his incredulity, the Messiah would be born as a babe among Ahaz’ people at a future time. The Messiah, in fulfillment of prophecy doubtless known to Ahaz, would be born a descendant and heir of the Davidic kings.11

Why did the Lord offer this information concerning the Messiah as a sign to a wicked king? Although Ahaz’ reign would not long endure because he was wicked, the nation over which he ruled would continue to exist at least until the foretold time when the earthly ministry of the Messiah would unfold. This knowledge was given as divine assurance that despite the menace of war that he faced at that time, Ahaz’ people and his royal lineage would persist for hundreds of years yet into the future. Furthermore, the birth of the Savior is one of the most powerful manifestations of God’s love for all mankind, even including this wicked king.

Verse 14 is quoted in the New Testament by Matthew, describing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.12 Matthew includes the interpretation of “Immanuel” as “God with us.” Of Isaiah’s prophecies cited in the New Testament as relating to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, this passage is one of the more important.13

The words of verse 14 are memorialized in Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 8, Recitative for Alto: “Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive.”

Concerning this passage, Gordon B. Hinckley exhorted:

Believe in him who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who was the source of inspiration of all the ancient prophets—as they spoke as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. They spoke for him when they rebuked kings, when they chastised the nations, and when as seers they looked forward to the coming of a promised Messiah, declaring by the power of revelation, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.14

Nephi, who was well-versed in the writings of Isaiah, was shown the events foretold in this verse in response to his request to know the meaning of the tree of life, shown in vision both to him and his father Lehi:

And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins…
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God….15

Nephi, strongly feeling the influence of the Spirit as he saw the wondrous events that would occur in Nazareth and Bethlehem at the meridian of time, concluded correctly that the tree of life represented the love of God toward His children—the wicked as well as the righteous. We learn from the Book of Mormon that the mortal birth of the Messiah is a superlative manifestation of God’s love.

Verse 15 continues Isaiah’s prophecy: “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” Because eating butter and honey—or, curds and honey, the only foods available to the poor at times16—result in the Savior’s knowing “to refuse the evil and choose the good,” it is apparent that these refer to spiritual rather than merely physical nourishment. He would be born and raised at a time of great spiritual deprivation among a people who would not seek after spiritual enlightenment.

Concerning the early nurturing of the mortal Messiah, the Lord in modern revelation quotes a portion of the record of John the Baptist:” And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace…but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.”17

The Son of God received spiritual nourishment upon spiritual nourishment until He ultimately received a fulness. From what source came such nourishment? John the Baptist testifies as to the reality of natural, progressive development in the growth of Jesus from childhood to maturity. His sources for spiritual nourishment clearly were not limited to earthly parents or teachers; He received enlightenment from on high. Consider the scene when, at the age of twelve, Jesus was found in the temple:

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.18

Jesus’ gentle rebuke asserts that God was His literal Father, not Joseph. Clearly, He had not received His very remarkable understanding from His earthly parents, who “understood not the saying which he spake unto them.”19 His understanding came by revelation from His Heavenly Father, just as Isaiah foretold.

In verse 16 Isaiah continues his messenger prophecy to Ahaz, attesting that the foretold military events would take place in the immediate future: “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” Here the child in question is Isaiah’s own son, Shear-Jashub,20 in contrast to the child Immanuel, foretold in verses 14 and 15. Isaiah likely switched the subject from the holy child to be born of a virgin to his own son to keep Ahaz in his wickedness from comprehending fully the nature of the sign to be given.21 Isaiah had been instructed by the Lord to take his young son with him as he delivered his messenger prophecy;22 Shear-Jashub’s goodness and innocence compare with the sinless state of the Savior, Immanuel. The abhorred lands designated by Isaiah were Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel, whose kings, Rezin and Pekah, had conspired against Ahaz.23

In verses 17 through 20 Isaiah prophesies concerning the destruction that would soon result in the fall of Israel and Syria, and as a type, the destruction in the latter days. In verse 17 he describes the horror of the day of the king of Assyria: “The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.” Ephraim departed from Judah under Solomon’s servant Jeroboam in 975 B.C.24 The Book of Mormon account omits the word “even” from the final phrase of this verse.25

Verses 14 through 17 comprise a chiasm:

A: (14) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
B: and shall call his name Immanuel.
C: (15) Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
C: (16) For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good,
B: the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
A: (17) The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; (even) the king of Assyria.

The ascending side of the chiasm describes the birth and early life of the Messiah whereas the descending side reflects the innocence of Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub, the defeat of the Ephraim-Syria alliance and their destruction at the hand of the king of Assyria. “The Lord himself shall give you a sign” is reflected by “The LORD shall bring upon thee….” These related statements also demonstrate an additional part of the sign given to Ahaz—foreknowledge of the destruction of Ephraim and Syria and great tribulation to be brought upon Judah at the hand of the Assyrians. “Immanuel” compares with “the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings,” denoting that the Lord Immanuel, the rightful heir to the throne of David, is He who would bring about the destruction of both Israel and Syria. The first instance of “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” refers to Immanuel, whereas the second instance of the same phrase refers to Isaiah’s son. Note that the phrase “butter and honey shall he eat” applies only to Immanuel.

Biblical scholars have struggled with some aspects of Isaiah’s Immanuel prophecy. They contend that the prophecy recorded in verses 14 and 15 refers to a child to be born of Isaiah’s wife, possibly a second wife other than the mother of Shear-jashub, which would serve as a type for the birth of Messiah. This child, whose growth and development would be observed by both Isaiah and Ahaz, would signal the fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy regarding the downfall of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel.26

Several difficulties arise with this explanation. Most important, there was to be only one virgin birth—that of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the “only begotten Son” of the Father.27 No one else other than the Son of God would be deserving of the descriptive name Immanuel because of the manner of His conception28 and His elevated position in the premortal life.29 No birth of anyone else could adequately serve as a type.

The Lord commanded Isaiah to bring his young son, Shear-jashub, to the interview with Ahaz, indicating that the timing of Shear-jasub’s growth and development would signal the downfall of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel. It is easy to visualize Isaiah nodding toward his son as he said “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”30

Isaiah’s wife, the mother of Maher-shalal-hash-baz31 and most probably also the mother of Shear-jashub, is the only wife of Isaiah known through the scriptural record. If her second son, Shear-jashub, is the one whose birth typifies that of Messiah as some contend, the argument cannot be made that it would be a virgin birth or even a first birth. Neither of Isaiah’s sons is known to have been given the name of Immanuel, even as a second name.

Recognition of the chiastic structure of verses 14 through 17, diagrammed above, provides an explanation that requires no unverifiable suppositions. The Child to be born of a virgin and named Immanuel is described in the ascending side of the chiasm, whereas a different child whose growth and development would signal the destruction of Israel and Syria in the time frame of Ahaz and Isaiah is described in the descending side. Gradual development of personal responsibility—their knowing to refuse the evil and choose the good—is the common element linking the two different characterizations.

In verse 18, the subject changes to include both Assyria and Egypt: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” “In that day” indicates that Isaiah is foretelling latter-day events. The fly and the bee represent hordes of soldiers from two opposing superpowers typified by Egypt and Assyria, the two superpowers of Isaiah’s time. Egypt represents a latter-day western superpower whereas Assyria represents a latter-day Middle Eastern or eastern superpower.32 The ability of these soldiers to fly should not escape us, given the practices of modern warfare. Egypt was not directly involved in the conquest of Syria and Israel in 721 B.C., further indicating that this prophecy is a type to be fulfilled in the latter days.

In verse 19, the marauding hordes are further described: “And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.” The invading hordes would effectively take over the land.

Verse 20 describes the total humiliation to be suffered at the hands of the king of Assyria: “In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.” The Book of Mormon omits “namely.” “Them beyond the river” refers to the armies of Assyria from beyond the Euphrates, but it is also a type for a latter-day archtyrant. Shaving the head, the feet, and the beard are symbolic of utter defeat and humiliation—total destruction of the armies, with their combatants slain or taken as prisoners—to be suffered at the hands of the king of Assyria. Note that in the foretold conquests the invaders would be fulfilling the Lord’s will, as though they had been figuratively hired by him as mercenaries—the “razor that is hired.”33

The final verses of Chapter 7 describe the desolation of the land after the inhabitants of Israel and Judah are slain or carried away into captivity. In verses 21 and 22 the relative abundance of food because of the decimation of the population is described:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.

Those remaining would survive because of self-sufficiency. Butter and honey—or, curds and honey, at times the only foods available to the self-sufficient poor34—indicate the distress of the surviving people.

Note that butter and honey in verse 15 refer to spiritual nourishment to be had by the youthful Jesus. In verse 22 this same phrase has reference to both temporal and spiritual nourishment—temporal because of the distress of the decimated population, and spiritual because the leaders who led the people astray would be destroyed, putting an end to their evil priestcrafts. Those remaining would be free to follow righteousness.35

Cultivation of the land would virtually cease as described in verses 23 through 25 because of the great reduction in population. Verse 23 foretells: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.” The Book of Mormon renders “which shall be for briers and thorns.”36 Instead of valuable vines worth a thousand silver coins, only briers and thorns would grow.

Verse 24 describes the land, because it would revert to wilderness, as being suitable only for hunting: “With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns” due to the lack of people to do the cultivating.

Verse 25 describes fields formerly cultivated: “And upon all hills that shall be digged with a mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle;” or, these places formerly cultivated would be used as pasture for oxen, sheep or goats.37

The land would be desolate except for a few caretakers under Assyrian governance. Spiritually the Lord would not be with them, despite reference to butter and honey (spiritual nourishment) in verse 15; sacred things would be defiled, as by “oxen and the treading of lesser cattle.” False doctrines would arise as “briers and thorns,” to choke out the true doctrines originally given to them by the Lord.38,39

 


Notes:

1. See 2 Chronicles 28:5-15.
2. See 2 Kings 15:29; 16:7-9.
3. See Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
4. See Bible Dictionary—Chronology; also Bible Dictionary—Isaiah.
5. 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. 7610, p. 984.
6. 2 Nephi 17:6.
7. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1234, p. 131-132.
8. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 8:4; 17:2; 42:24; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
9. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 58.
10. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 410, p. 41.
11. See Genesis 49:10; Matthew 1:1-16.
12. Matthew 1:22-23.
13. See Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
14. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Be Not Faithless,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 58.
15. 1 Nephi 11:13-15, 18-22.
16. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2529, p. 326, 328; see also Isaiah 7:15, footnote 15a.
17. Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-14.
18. Luke 2:46-50.
19. Luke 2:50.
20. See Isaiah 7:3.
21. See Isaiah 6:9-10 and pertinent commentary; see also Doctrine and Covenants 82:3 and Luke 12:48.
22. See Isaiah 7:3.
23. See Isaiah 7:1.
24. Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
25. 2 Nephi 17:17.
26. See discussion by Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, pp. 143-145.
27. See John 1:14; 3:16, 18; Alma 9:26; Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24.
28. See Luke 1:31-35.
29. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 42:5-6; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
30. Isaiah 7:16.
31. See Isaiah 8:1-4.
32. See Gileadi, pp. 72-73.
33. Terry B. Ball, “Isaiah Chapter Review: 2 Nephi 17/Isaiah 7,” Book of Mormon Reference Companion: Dennis L. Largey, ed., Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 2003, p.371.
34. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2529, p. 326, 328.
35. Verse 22 contains a chiasm: Eat/butter/butter/eat. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 258.
36. 2 Nephi 17:23.
37. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7716, p. 961.
38. See Isaiah 55:13; 5:6; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13 and pertinent commentary.
39. Verses 21 through 25 contain a chiasm: a young cow, and two sheep/a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings/ briers and thorns/arrows/bows/briers and thorns/digged with the mattock/oxen…lesser cattle.

Isaiah 5: He Will Lift Up an Ensign to the Nations from Far

Chapter 5 consists of three main parts. In the first, Isaiah describes the apostasy of Judah and Jerusalem in an allegorical song. In the second part the Lord, in a series of woe oracles, pronounces curses upon the people for breaking His covenant. The third part predicts the latter-day gathering and restoration of Israel. The three-part structure of this chapter reflects that of Chapter 1, the entire Book of Isaiah, and the foretold three-stage history of the house of Israel.1

Isaiah’s allegorical song comprises the first seven verses. Composed by Isaiah and possibly sung to the men of Judah, it describes the apostasy of the house of Israel that occurred despite all the Lord has done for them, and describes their being scattered and smitten. Beginning in verse 8 are five woe oracles, each beginning with the word “woe” and setting forth curses—including their destruction and scattering as a nation—that are pronounced upon the people by the Lord as a consequence of their wickedness and apostasy. In the third part the Lord raises an ensign, or standard, to call His scattered people from the most distant parts of the earth. The people come “with speed, swiftly,” to Zion.

Nephi quotes Chapter 5 in its entirety with minor variations in wording; compare 2 Nephi 15.

In verse 1, Isaiah commences the allegory by declaring: “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill.” The Book of Mormon renders “And then will I sing to my well-beloved.…2 Isaiah’s use of “wellbeloved,” meaning the Lord, indicates that he considered the Lord to be a faithful, personal friend. The vineyard allegorically represents Judah and Jerusalem.

In verse 2, Isaiah continues: “And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.”

In verse 3 the point of view changes from Isaiah to the Lord: “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.”

In verse 4 the Lord asks rhetorical questions: “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” and “wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” This challenge and the accompanying rhetorical questions are reminiscent of the prophet Nathan challenging King David regarding his sin of adultery and murder; Nathan begins the accusation with a parable.3 The men of Judah, here challenged by Isaiah, are guilty as was King David.

In verses 5 and 6 the Lord continues the allegory, describing the consequences for this apostasy. Verse 5 begins: “And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down.” The Book of Mormon renders “…and I will break down the wall thereof.”4 The allegorical consequences have spiritual equivalents—the Lord would cease to defend His people. “And it shall be eaten up” means that the great blessings once offered to Judah and Jerusalem are allowed to be obtained and enjoyed by others; the phrases “break down the wall thereof” and “it shall be trodden down” refer again to the Lord’s protection being withdrawn from them as a nation.

Verse 6 continues: “And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” “Laying it waste” refers to the destructions to be brought upon the house of Israel. “It shall not be pruned, nor digged” means that the Lord would not provide ongoing guidance, nurturing or revelation. “But there shall come up briers and thorns” foresees that invaders not of the covenant would occupy the land, and that false doctrines would spring up to supplant the truths given by the Lord;5 and “I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it” refers to spiritual as well as physical droughts and famines.6

Verses 2 through 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (2) And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein:
B: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
C: (3) And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
C: (4) What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?
B: Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? (5) And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard:
A: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: (6) And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

The introductory statement contrasts with its reflection. First, the Lord energetically prepares the vineyard, protecting it with a fence and planting the ground with the choicest vines. Despite the Lord’s diligent efforts the vineyard brings forth wild grapes. In the antithetic reflection the Lord takes away the hedge, breaks down the wall to allow the land to be overrun and trodden down, withholds His nurturing care and commands the clouds to withhold their rain. As a result, the land is encumbered with briers and thorns.

In verse 7 Isaiah explains the Lord’s allegory: “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.”7 Isaiah then summarizes the accusation: “And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” The Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, renders “behold, a cry of distress.”8 “Judgment,” as used here, means “social justice.”9 Other meanings for “judgment” found in the writings of Isaiah include fairness,10 retribution,11 sound reasoning,12 and an equitable system of laws.13

A variant of this allegory—one involving twelve olive trees instead of grapevines—was presented by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith. In this case, the servants disputed among themselves about the need for a watchtower, “since this is a time of peace.” But the enemy came, broke down the hedge, and devastated the vineyard. The Lord chastised His servants:

Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?14

Verses 8 through 24 present five woe oracles, describing curses and consequences imposed by the Lord for the transgressions of the house of Israel.

The meaning of verse 8 is easily misinterpreted in the King James Version: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” The Book of Mormon omits “that lay field to field” and renders “till there can be.”15 Micah clarifies the meaning: “WOE to them that devise iniquity…And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.”16 The Lord is displeased with selfishness and covetousness; wealthy landowners, taking over the small farms of the poor, commit great iniquity.17

Verse 9 explains that the acquisition of property would be futile: “In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.” The Book of Mormon renders “many houses shall be desolate, and great and fair cities without inhabitant.”18 This typifies several cycles of destruction, beginning with the Babylonian captivity and including the destruction of the wicked at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming, as described by Isaiah in a later chapter: “For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited” (emphasis added).19

Because of the Lord’s cursings as spelled out by Isaiah, owning an abundance of fields would be unprofitable as described in verse 10: “Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.” The meaning here is clear, but the units of measurement are unfamiliar. A bath is a liquid measure, approximately 8.5 U.S. gallons or 31.3 liters; a homer is about 6.5 U.S. bushels or 230 liters dry measure; and an ephah is one-tenth of a homer.20 Thus the yield of wine is profoundly less than the amount expected, and the amount of grain harvested is a tenth of the amount planted as seed.

The next woe oracle, comprising verses 11 and 12, concerns drunkenness and revelry: Verse 11 begins: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” The Book of Mormon renders “and wine inflame them!”21 The Joseph Smith Translation renders “and that continue until night, and wine inflame them!”22 Drunkenness and its accompanying rowdy lifestyle are offensive in the sight of the Lord.

Verse 12 continues: “And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.” The Hebrew meanings rendered as “viol” and “tabret” are “lute” and “timbrel,” or “tambourine.”23 Musical instruments, once used for worship of the Lord, are now mainly for entertainment. Because their interest and efforts are directed toward worldly pursuits, the people do not recognize the work of the Lord.

In verses 13 and 14, consequences are spelled out. In verse 13 the Lord declares: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.” This statement foreshadows the Babylonian captivity but is also a type for other destructions yet to come. The people are taken into captivity because they lack spiritual knowledge. Spiritual hunger and thirst, as well as physical deprivation, are implied.24

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:25

(11) Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning,
A: that they may follow strong drink;
B: and that continue until night, and wine inflame them!
C: (12) And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts:
D: but they regard not the work of the LORD,
D: neither consider the operation of his hands.
C: and their honourable men are famished,
B: (13) Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their multitude dried up
A: with thirst.

In this chiasm,  seeking of pleasure by the children of Judah is contrasted with their suffering after their defeat and being carried away captive. Before, they sought after strong drink; in captivity and defeat they are plagued with thirst. Before their captivity, they were inflamed with wine; afterward the multitude is dried up [with thirst]. These woes would come upon them because they have no regard for the Lord nor His work.

Verse 14 describes physical and spiritual consequences: “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.” “Pomp” is translated from the Hebrew for “noise” or “uproar.”26 The Hebrew word for “hell” is sheol, or world of departed spirits.27 Many will perish in the destructions foretold.

Verse 15 states: “And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled.” The common man as well as the powerful will be humiliated, and the haughty will be made to lower their eyes.

In contrast, verse 16 describes the glory of the Lord: “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.” The common man, the mighty man, and even the haughty will at some point recognize the power and glory of the Lord, His right to rule and judge, and His righteousness. As the Lord said: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”28, 29 “Judgment,” as used here, means “fairness” or “justice.”30

Verse 17 describes conditions after the destruction: “Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.” The Great Isaiah Scroll mentions goats, as well as the fat ones (fatlings), grazing among the ruins.31  The land—and the blessings of the gospel—will be possessed by “strangers,” meaning those not originally of the covenant but brought into it by conversion. This prophecy was fulfilled after the crucifixion of Christ when the Apostle Peter received revelation that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles.32

Four more woe oracles, all closely related, are presented in verses 18 through 23. The consequences, beginning with the word “therefore,” are set forth in verses 24 and 25.

In verses 18 and 19, the Lord curses those who are laden with sin. Verse 18 begins: “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope—” This describes people who are so laden with sin that, figuratively, they need a cart to bear the burden, although they present the appearance of righteousness by avoiding the outward appearance of sin.

Verse 19 continues the sentence of the previous verse: “That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!” Because of sin they will not believe in the Messiah nor His coming until they see Him.33

Verses 12 through 19 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
B: (13) Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge:
C: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
D: (14) Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
E: (15) And the mean man shall be brought down,
F: and the mighty man shall be humbled,
F: and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
E: (16) But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
D: (17) Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones
C: shall strangers eat.
B: (18) Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
A: (19) That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

“Regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands” in verse 12 is antithetic to “hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!” in verse 19, revealing the hypocrisy of the latter statement. The central focus of this chiasm is that the mighty and the lofty will be humbled. “The mean man shall be brought down” contrasts with “the LORD of hosts shall be exalted.” Hell opening her mouth to receive the multitudes of the slain contrasts abruptly with the pastoral scene of lambs feeding that would prevail after the slaughter. “Gone into captivity” in verse 13 is compared with “draw iniquity with cords of vanity” in verse 18, illustrating the effect and its cause. This comparison illustrates that iniquity is a form of bondage.

The meaning of verse 20 is clear: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” 34 In our own time, we see numerous examples of calling evil good and good evil. Not only are evil governmental practices touted as good by corrupt politicians lacking in judgment, but we have seen “bad” come to mean “good” in the vernacular. By putting a particular “spin” on what transpires no matter how bad it is, making it look good for political advantage has become a cultivated art form. The gap between what is popular and what is righteous is widening.35 Those who seek to do right must break with society’s norms much sooner than in the past.

The meaning of verse 21 is also clear: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” the Book of Mormon renders “Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!”36 Without guidance from the Lord and acknowledgment of His all-encompassing wisdom and knowledge, worldly wisdom and knowledge are of little worth.

Verse 22 is easily understood in light of the Word of Wisdom:37 “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.” The Book of Mormon renders “Wo unto the mighty to drink wine….”38 Consumption of wine and “mingled” (mixed) drinks39 is today considered a sign of masculinity and strength.

Verse 23, continuing the sentence from the previous verse, describes a common practice at all levels of our society: “Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” The Book of Mormon renders “Who justify the wicked for reward.”40 The Hebrew word translated as “reward” means “bribe,” usually to pervert justice.41 The practices of justifying the wicked for bribes and taking away the rights of the righteous are all too common in our society.

Verses 24 and 25 explain the consequences associated with the foregoing woes, each beginning with “therefore.” Verse 24 begins: “Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” The Book of Mormon omits “so” and “as” to render “their root shall be rottenness.”42 Destruction of the wicked—here characterized by the metaphor of a dry and rotten plant—will be by fire.43

The meaning of this passage is the same as set forth by Malachi: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”44 “Roots” refers to ancestors whereas “branches” or “blossoms” refers to descendants. Both scriptures mean that the consequences for wickedness include being burned at the Lord’s Second Coming and not having their sealing ordinances in place, leaving them without ancestors or descendants in the eternal sense.

Verse 25 describes cataclysmic destruction: “Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders hands in the final phrase.45

Because of their iniquity the Lord is angry with His people. In addition to the burning described in verse 24 there will be earthquakes that will shake the hills, and the dead bodies of the people will be torn and strewn about in the streets. Isaiah uses the past tense as though recounting events seen in a vision. The closing phrase of verse 25, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still,” means that the justice of the Lord’s anger continues and His hand is stretched out against them in punishment. This phrase has the same meaning as the preceding phrase: “Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them.” Apparently the time for repentance will have passed when these conditions arise. The phrase “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still” is repeated four times elsewhere by Isaiah, all with the same meaning.46

The third part of this chapter comprises verses 26 through 30, which describe the gathering of Israel in the latter days. Part of this prophecy has been fulfilled; doubtless the prophecy will continue to be fulfilled to a greater extent in the future. The reason it follows a prophecy of destruction earlier in the chapter is to emphasize that despite the destruction the Lord will look favorably upon Israel and she will be gathered and crowned with glory.

In verse 26 the word “ensign” means a military flag, such as were used to denote battlefield conditions and send messages to the combatants. In this case the message is to assemble: “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” The Book of Mormon appends the first phrase of verse 27 here: “none shall be weary nor stumble among them.”47 “From the end of the earth” means from far away.48 “Hiss” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “whistle,” a common signal used to summon.49

Nephi paraphrases verse 26: “And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi…that I would remember your seed…my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel” (emphasis added).50

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord describes Zion in the latter days as that ensign to the people: “Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her; And she shall be an ensign unto the people, and there shall come unto her out of every nation under heaven.”51

Brigham Young was shown the Salt Lake Valley in vision so that he would recognize the place when he and the outcasts from Nauvoo arrived. In particular, he was shown a prominent hill now north of the city that became known as Ensign Peak. From that place, said President Young, the gospel would be preached to the world. A flagpole was erected there and a flag flown.52 From this place the Lord “will hiss unto them from the end of the earth.”

The Lord explained to Nephi the significance of this passage and how his words, now contained in the Book of Mormon, would play an important role:

And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;
And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible….
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.53

The restored gospel, and in particular the Book of Mormon, will be this “hiss” or “whistle” to summon the Lord’s people to gather from the ends of the earth. The LDS missionaries—carrying the Book of Mormon and having a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sent forth in large numbers from Salt Lake City and other centers—are a fulfillment of this prophecy.

The final phrase of verse 26 says “and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly,” describing how those responding to the summons would gather to Zion. Verses 27 through 30 describe more about swift methods of travel, which Isaiah saw but lacked vocabulary in ancient Hebrew to describe. Several modern General Authorities, including LeGrand Richards,54 have said that these verses describe modern travel by train and airplane.

In verse 27 Isaiah describes the people conveyed: “None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken.” The Book of Mormon inserts the first phrase of verse 27 at the end of verse 26: “none shall be weary nor stumble among them.”55 To Isaiah it was notable that large numbers of people could be transported quickly in a way that did not tire them out—weariness was a common result of travel in ancient times, as attested in many places in the scriptures.56

Verse 28, “Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind” describes their state of preparation metaphorically, as though they were a military force well prepared to attack. The Book of Mormon renders “whose arrows shall be sharp” and appends the first part of verse 29 here: “their roaring shall be like a lion.”57 “Like a whirlwind” describes the great speed—compared to standards of Isaiah’s day—with which we drive around in our cars, but it could also describe the spinning of wheels on trains. “Their roaring shall be like a lion” describes the great noise accompanying modern methods of transportation.

Verse 29 continues: “Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.” Isaiah continues his description of modern travel, seen in vision, and the great noise made. As noted above, the first part of this verse, “Their roaring shall be like a lion,” is appended to the previous verse in the Book of Mormon.58

Verse 30 states: “And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.” The Book of Mormon renders “if they look unto the land.”59

Isaiah was very much impressed with the great noise made by airplanes. In verses 29 and 30 he repeats the word “roar” or a form of the word five times: “Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it. And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea” (emphasis added). Here Isaiah is describing the sound of modern transportation—in particular, the roar of jet-powered aircraft.

Regarding modern means of travel seen by Isaiah, Elder LeGrand Richards said:

Since there were neither trains nor airplanes in that day, Isaiah could hardly have mentioned them by name. However, he seems to have described them in unmistakable words. How better could “their horses’ hooves be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind” than in the modern train. How better could “their roaring…be like a lion” than in the roar of the airplane? Trains and airplanes do not stop for night. Therefore, was not Isaiah justified in saying: “none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken”? With this manner of transportation “…they shall come with speed swiftly.”60

The final phrase in verse 30, “and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof,” may be Isaiah’s description of the dramatic view from the window of an airplane as it takes off into the evening sky. Darkness and sorrow indicate a profound spiritual component: the people gathering to Zion aboard airplanes are leaving lands of tribulation, torment and spiritual darkness. This is a classic Isaiah double meaning.

 


Notes:

1. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
2. 2 Nephi 15:1.
3. See 2 Samuel 12:1-7.
4. 2 Nephi 15:5.
5. See Isaiah 55:13; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13 and pertinent commentary.
6. See Isaiah 3:2-3 and pertinent commentary.
7. The first part of verse 7 contains a chiasm: Vineyard/ house of Israel/men of Judah/pleasant plant. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 258.
8. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 51.
9. See Isaiah 28:6; 42:1; 59:8, 15.
10. See Isaiah 1:21, 27; 5:16; 16:3, 5; 28:6, 17; 30:18.
11. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 4:4; 34:5.
12. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
13. See Isaiah 51:4; 54:17.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 101:53; see verses 44-62.
15. 2 Nephi 15:8.
16. Micah 2:1-2.
17. See Isaiah 5:8, footnote 8c.
18. 2 Nephi 15:9.
19. Isaiah 54:3; see also 3 Nephi 22:3.
20. Bible Dictionary—Weights and Measures.
21. 2 Nephi 15:11.
22. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 195.
23. 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. 5035, p. 614 (viol); Strong’s No. 8596, p. 1074 (tabret).
24. See references for verse 6.
25. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 258.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7588, p. 981.
27. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7585, p. 982.
28. Isaiah 45:23.
29. See also Romans 14:11, Mosiah 27:31; Doctrine and Covenants 76:110; 88:104.
30. See Isaiah 1:21, 27; 16:3, 5; 28:6, 17; 30:18.
31. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 53.
32. See Acts 10:9-33; compare Isaiah 65:1-7.
33. Isaiah 5:18-19, footnotes 18c and 19d.
34. Verse 20 contains 3 simple chiasms :  Evil/good/good/evil; Darkness/light/light/darkness; Bitter/sweet/sweet/bitter. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 258.
35. James E. Faust, “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, p. 19.
36. 2 Nephi 15:21.
37. See Doctrine and Covenants 89: 5-7.
38. 2 Nephi 15:22.
39. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4537, p. 587.
40. 2 Nephi 15:23.
41. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7810, p. 1005.
42. 2 Nephi 15:24.
43. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
44. Malachi 4:1.
45. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 54.
46. Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4.
47. 2 Nephi 15:26.
48. See Isaiah 26:15; 40:28; 41:5, 9.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8319, pages 1056 and 1117.
50. 2 Nephi 29:2.
51. Doctrine and Covenants 64:41-42.
52. See Gordon B. Hinckley, Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1995, p. 81. See also Journal of Discourses: F.W. and S.W. Richards (26 Vols., Liverpool, England: 1854-1886), v. 13: pp. 85-86.
53. 2 Nephi 29:2-3, 7-8.
54. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1958, p. 236.
55. 2 Nephi 15:26-27.
56. See 1 Kings 19:7; John 4:6; 1 Nephi 16:35-36; 17:1-2; Mosiah 7:16.
57. 2 Nephi 15:28-29.
58. 2 Nephi 15:29.
59. 2 Nephi 15:30.
60. Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 236.

Isaiah 4: He That Is Left in Zion Shall Be Called Holy

Although this chapter has only six verses it has a wealth of information applicable to our day. It gives an account of the condition of Zion, the people of the Lord, during the beginning portion of the Millennium when Christ will reign on earth. The inhabitants of the earth—those righteous enough to have survived the wars, judgments and devastation spoken of in the previous chapter—will be redeemed and cleansed so that all who remain will merit being called holy. Nephi quotes this chapter in its entirety with only one minor change in wording. Compare 2 Nephi 14.

As described in verse 1, the male proportion of those that will survive the devastations that precede the Second Coming will be so small that in order for women to enjoy the blessings of marriage, polygamy will be practiced: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” Those surviving the depopulation, primarily women, will be in destitute circumstances.

In some ways the situation foretold by Isaiah is similar to conditions that existed in the early days of the Church, but in other ways conditions are very different. In nineteenth‑century Utah, most plural wives maintained an autonomous economic basis with little or no support from the husband. Isaiah’s description of women after the foretold devastations being willing to provide for themselves in polygamous marriages indicates that economic conditions will not favor large families at that time. The reproach alluded to by the women reflects their unfulfilled desire to be married and to raise children. This prophecy, it appears, will be fulfilled at some time still in the future. Of interest here is that the name Joseph, which Rachel the barren wife of Jacob (Israel) gave to her firstborn son, means “God has taken away my reproach” in Hebrew.1

Wilford Woodruff described a vision in which he was shown the future fulfillment of verse 1:

It seemed as though I was above the earth, looking down to it as I passed along on my way east and I saw the roads full of people principally women with just what they could carry in bundles on their backs…It was remarkable to me that there were so few men among them…. Wherever I went I saw…scenes of horror and desolation rapine and death…death and destruction everywhere. I cannot paint in words the horror that seemed to encompass me around. It was beyond description or thought of man to conceive…. I was given to understand, that the same horrors were being enacted all over the country….Then a voice said “Now shall come to pass that which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet that seven women shall take hold of one man,” etc.2

In verse 2, conditions on the earth during the Millennium are described: “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.” The Book of Mormon omits “shall be,” rendering “the fruit of the earth excellent and comely….”3 The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “…them that are escaped of Israel and Judah.”4

At the beginning of the millennium, as set forth in the Tenth Article of Faith, “…the earth shall be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”5 In its renewed state, the earth will produce abundantly for those who survive the destructions. The Lord’s blessings and honor, both temporal and spiritual, will be showered down upon those who persevered in keeping the Lord’s commandments during the times of great wickedness—those who were worthy of the Lord’s protection during the destructions.

Further information on how the righteous are to escape, pertinent to us in our day, is given by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants:

Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.
Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion.
And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.
Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon.
But verily, thus saith the Lord, let not your flight be in haste, but let all things be prepared before you; and he that goeth, let him not look back lest sudden destruction shall come upon him.6

Elsewhere in Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord reiterates: “And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”7 The Lord unequivocally gives us the way to escape the destructions of the latter days.

Verse 3 describes the state of righteousness of those who will survive: “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—” The Book of Mormon renders “And it shall come to pass, they that are left in Zion, and remain in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—”8 From both of these versions it is apparent that there will be gatherings both in Zion and Jerusalem, distinct from each other. The main prerequisite for survival at that time will be personal righteousness.

Verse 4 describes the cleansing process, continuing the sentence in verse 3: “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” The spiritual filth of the daughters of Zion was described in Chapter 3. Blood to be purged from Jerusalem means murders and other gross sin, purged “by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”9 Gileadi10 translates this as “in the spirit of justice, by a burning wind.” Gileadi’s translation is valid because, in the Hebrew, “spirit” and “wind” are the same word.11 Could the burning wind be part of the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel?12 “The spirit of judgment” as used in this verse means “retribution.”13

“Zion” is used in verses 3 and 4 to mean a place of latter-day spiritual gathering and as a synonym for modern Jerusalem.14

Verses 5 and 6 describe events to take place in the Millennium. Verse 5 states: “And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.” The Book of Mormon renders “for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defence.” The meaning of “mount Zion” as used here is a place of latter-day spiritual gathering.15

The cloud of smoke by day and the flaming fire by night, foreseen by Isaiah, is a sign of the presence of the Lord. The sign is reminiscent of similar manifestations of the Lord’s presence before the fleeing Israelites as they departed Egypt.16 At the foretold time, manifestations of the Lord’s presence will be upon every dwelling place, indicating the holiness of each individual as well as the entire “mount,” or nation. “Assemblies” means convocations or sacred gatherings;17 “defence” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “canopy,”18 as for protection.

A manifestation consisting of a cloud of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night was witnessed by hundreds—both believers and nonbelievers—at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in Ohio in April, 1836.19 Of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord declared:

Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice….20

Ludlow provides additional insight:

In ancient times, a single pillar of smoke and fire rested only over the Holy of Holies, which was approachable by the high priest alone.21 Now, under the tabernacle or wedding canopy, the [symbolic] remarriage of [Jehovah] and his people, promised and prophesied in Isaiah and throughout the Old Testament, will be consummated at last.22

Because of the new covenant brought about by the Lord Jesus Christ, the pillar of smoke and fire designating the presence of the Lord would be manifest upon every humble home and upon every meeting place, since all would be worthy and authorized to enjoy His presence.

Verse 6 continues: “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” The Lord’s protective presence will be upon the righteous during the time of destruction. Storms and rain symbolize the destructive forces that are to separate the righteous from among the wicked.23

Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies,
B: a cloud and smoke by day,
C: and the shining of a flaming fire by night:
C: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
B: (6) And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat,
A: and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.

Zion, glorified by the presence of the Lord, will become a place of refuge for the righteous. Note that “cloud” is equivalent to “shadow,” indicating that the purpose for the cloud of smoke by day and for the tabernacle are the same.

For us in the latter days, this chapter’s message is clear: If we expect to survive the destructions preceding the Lord’s Second Coming, personal righteousness is imperative.

 


Notes:

1. Genesis 30:22‑24; see also pertinent footnotes.
2. Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Wilford Woodruff, June 15, 1878, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
3. 2 Nephi 14:2.
4. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 49.
5. See also Isaiah 11:1-9.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 133:11-15.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 38:42.
8. 2 Nephi 14:3.
9. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
10. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Company, P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130, 1988, p. 103.
11. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
12. See Matt.24:15 and Dan. 9:27.
13. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 28:6; 34:5.
14. See Isaiah 3:16; 1:27; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
15. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.
16. Exodus 13:21-22.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4744, p. 896.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2646, p. 342.
19. F.W. and S.W. Richards, Journal of Discourses: (26 Vols., Liverpool, England: 1854-1886), v. 2, pp. 214-216.
20. Doctrine and Covenants 110:6-8.
21. See Exodus 33:8-10.
22. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 110.
23. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 49.

Isaiah 2: The Lord’s House Shall Be Established In the Top of the Mountains

In Chapter 2, Isaiah sees events preparatory to the Lord’s Millennial Reign. He sees the latter‑day temple, the gathering of Israel, and millennial judgment and peace. The proud and the wicked will be brought low at the Second Coming. Great destructions prior to that time will bring an end to pervasive idolatrous materialism and will strike fear into the hearts of the wicked.

This is the earliest chapter quoted in its entirety by Nephi, in 2 Nephi 12. When compared with the King James translation there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, whereas about 200 verses have the same wording.1 Throughout this commentary words and phrases quoted from the Book of Mormon that are rendered differently are shown in italics. In the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), wording closely matches that of the Isaiah portions of the Book of Mormon.2

This chapter marks the beginning of a major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising Chapters 2 through 39. In these chapters, the ancient nation of Israel is described as being in her homeland in a state of wickedness. These conditions are types for—or, are typical of—similar wickedness in the latter days.3

Wording of chiasms in Chapter 2 as rendered in the Book of Mormon differs from that of the King James Version, adding to and clarifying meanings. In some cases chiasms intended by the prophet are unrecognizable without the added words. This indicates that those who altered the text after the time of Isaiah4 had, at best, an incomplete understanding of the subtle structures originally written into the text by the prophet. It also indicates that the Isaiah text contained on the brass plates, carried into the wilderness by Lehi and eventually to the American continent,5 was a purer version than the Hebrew Masoretic text from which the Old Testament has been translated into the modern languages of the world.

Verse 1 declares: “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” This chapter, however, deals extensively with worldwide developments in the latter days rather than just Judah and Jerusalem. His apparent meaning is, therefore, those who came from Judah and Jerusalem and were scattered throughout the earth. The Hebrew meaning of “word” that Isaiah “saw” is that Isaiah viewed his message through a vision from the Lord.6

In verse 2, the prophet foresees the Lord’s house (the latter‑day temple) established in the top of the mountains: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” The Book of Mormon renders “when the mountain of the Lord’s house….”7 “Flow” means “to stream,” meaning large numbers of people from all nations will go up to the Lord’s house.8 The “mountain of the Lord’s house” means the holy temple.9

When the Mormon pioneers first came to the Salt Lake Valley10 they called it and the surrounding regions “Deseret,” from the Book of Mormon Jaredite word meaning “honeybee.”11 The name was chosen to symbolize the industriousness of the people. However, when the citizens of Deseret first sought to join the United States as a territory, Congress sought to impose its will by denying their choice of name. The name Utah—the name given to the region by the Ute Indians—was mandated instead, applying the practice of retaining the original Indian name followed for many states in the United States. Thus, Utah became the name of the territory in 1869 and finally the name of the State in 1896. It was not known at that time that “Utah” in the Ute language means “the top of the mountains.”12 Under the circumstances, it cannot be said that assignment of the name of Utah to the state was contrived by those wishing to demonstrate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

According to Gileadi,13 the word “mountain” is rhetorically connected to “nation,” which may be substituted for deeper meaning. This is illustrated in several places, both in the King James translation of Isaiah and in the Book of Mormon. Nephi’s transcription of verse 14 in Chapter 2 states: “And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people.”14 Italics show words and phrases that are rendered differently in the Book of Mormon, as explained earlier. Note in these two parallel, synonymous phrases that an important interpretive key, applicable throughout the entire book of Isaiah, is given—”mountains” means “nations.” Similarly, in Chapter 13 in the King James Version, Isaiah states: “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.”15 In these two parallel statements, “mountains” is equivalent to “kingdoms of nations.”16

With this clarification, we understand verse 2 to mean: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the nation having the Lord’s temple will be established as the chief among the nations, and shall be exalted above the lesser nations; and all nations shall stream unto it.”

The Lord used the same rhetorical connection in commanding Sidney Rigdon: “…Behold, I, the Lord your God, will heal him [Sidney Rigdon] that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face.”17 This early associate of the Prophet Joseph Smith would be called to lift up his voice again among the nations.

In the latter days, then, a nation—America—will have a temple, or house of the Lord, in a place called Utah—“the top of the mountains,” from the Ute language; that nation will become preeminent over all other nations, and people from all nations will stream in large numbers unto it. This prophecy has been at least partially fulfilled; elements such as the flowing of all nations unto it have seen partial fulfillment but may yet be fulfilled to an even greater degree.

In verse 3, the purpose for the nations streaming to the temple in America is revealed: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” “Law” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “teaching,” or “doctrine.”18 Each year, millions visit Temple Square in Salt Lake City where they have the opportunity to learn the Lord’s ways. “Zion” as used here means a place that would be established in the latter days, for the spiritual gathering of the Lord’s people that would be brought from many lands.19 “He will teach us of his ways” means that the people will be taught by revelation from God, and “we will walk in his paths” means the people will follow the Plan of Salvation, making sacred covenants with God in His holy house.

The words of verses 2 and 3 are quoted, with minor variation, by Micah.20

Elder LeGrand Richards stated:

This temple on this temple block [in Salt Lake City] is that house of the God of Jacob that our pioneer fathers started to build when they were a thousand miles from transportation, and it took them forty years to build it. Isn’t it a glorious thing, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world? Those of us who filled missions in the early days know how literally every convert, as soon as they joined the Church, would want to sell everything they had, saving their money, as I saw in little Holland, by the nickels and the dimes, until they could find enough to come to this land because of the drawing power of that temple, so that they could learn of His ways and walk in His paths.21

The last two phrases of verse 3 are a simple chiasm:

A: Out of Zion shall go forth
B: the law,
B: and the word of the LORD
A: from Jerusalem.

“Zion” is equivalent in meaning to “Jerusalem,” and “the law” is equivalent in meaning to “the word of the LORD.” Apparently, there is no special significance in the pairing of “Zion” with “the law” nor that of “Jerusalem” with “the word of the LORD;” the meaning would not be different if the pairings were reversed. Micah varies the order of these words, rendering parallel statements rather than a chiasm: “For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”22

What does the latter-day Zion have in common with ancient Jerusalem, in the structural context of this phrase? Various interpretations come from the range of meanings of the key words “Zion” and “Jerusalem.”23 Latter-day Zion, where the temple serves as an ensign, would have living prophets just like ancient Jerusalem. These living prophets would receive the word of the Lord and send it forth to the world. On the other hand, if “Jerusalem” is taken to mean the modern gathering place for the righteous descendants of Israel, the meaning is that there would be two places from which the word of the Lord would go forth. In Doctrine and Covenants, where verse 3 is paraphrased, the meaning of two latter-day places from which the word of the Lord would go forth is apparent: “And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people.”24 It is likely that Isaiah intended both meanings.

Joel also paraphrases, with the same implied meaning: “The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”25

Later, in Chapter 56, Isaiah foretells the universal availability of temple ordinances in the latter days:

Even them [people not of the covenant from many lands] will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.26

The Lord would welcome all people—even those not born into the covenant lineage—into the temple and would accept their ordinances and offerings.

Matthew, in the New Testament, describes verse 3 as being fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. During the final week of His life He taught daily in the temple—or, the mountain of the Lord.27

President Gordon B. Hinckley declared at the dedication of the Conference Center on October 8, 2000 that this new edifice is part of the “mountain of the house of the Lord,” along with the temple and all other buildings at the Church’s headquarters, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Said he: “As I contemplate this marvelous structure, adjacent to the temple, there comes to mind the great prophetic utterance of Isaiah.” He continued, after quoting verses 2, 3, and 5:

I believe that prophecy applies to the historic and wonderful Salt Lake Temple. But I believe also that it is related to this magnificent hall. For it is from this pulpit that the law of God shall go forth, together with the word and testimony of the Lord.28

Some modern Jews believe that this prophecy of Isaiah foretells the third building of the temple at Jerusalem and, when constructed, the temple will usher in the coming of the Messiah.29

Regarding the prophecy of verse 3, President Joseph Fielding Smith gave the following explanation:

Jerusalem of old, after the Jews have been cleansed and sanctified from all their sin, shall become a holy city where the Lord shall dwell and from whence he shall send forth his word unto all people. Likewise, on this continent, the city of Zion, New Jerusalem, shall be built and from it the law of God shall also go forth. There will be no conflict, for each city shall be headquarters for the Redeemer of the world, and from each he shall send forth his proclamations as occasion may require. Jerusalem shall be the gathering place of Judah and his fellows of the house of Israel, and Zion shall be the gathering place of Ephraim and his fellows, upon whose heads shall be conferred the ‘richer blessings….’

These two cities, one in the land of Zion and one in Palestine, are to become capitals for the kingdom of God during the millennium.30

The hymn “High on the Mountain Top” declares the fulfillment of the prophecy of verses 2 and 3:

High on the mountain top A banner is unfurled.
Ye nations now look up; It waves to all the world….
His house shall there be reared, His glory to display,
And people shall be heard in distant lands to say:
We’ll now go up, and serve the Lord,
Obey His truth and learn His word.31

Verse 4 tells of great wars for the purpose of judgment and rebuke: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.” These parallel statements indicate that “judgment” means “rebuke” and “nations” has the same meaning as “many people.” Following these wars, war will be abolished: “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Weapon technologies will be used for peaceful purposes and war will become a thing of the past.32 Verse 4 is also quoted by Micah, with little variation.33

In verse 5, the prophet implores: “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.” “Light” in this verse refers to the light of inspiration, or the influence of the Holy Ghost. This is a spiritual gift that can be obtained only through righteous living. For our time, Isaiah pleads with us to live righteous lives so that we may escape the judgments of the latter days and enjoy the promised spiritual blessings. The Book of Mormon adds more to verse 5: “[Y]ea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.34

Isaiah’s plea is expressed in the children’s hymn “Teach Me to Walk in the Light.”35

Verses 3 through 5 contain a chiasm:36

(3) And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
A: to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
B: (4) And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people:
C: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
C: and their spears into pruninghooks:
B: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
A: (5) O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Central to this chiasm is that the nations of the earth, following their learning of the Lord and His ways and following His paths, will forsake war. Instruments of war will be converted to peaceful uses; figuratively, swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks.

Verse 6 declares: “Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” The Book of Mormon renders “Therefore, O Lord….”37 “Replenished from the east” means that they are filled with customs from the east, meaning Babylon in particular.  Instead of practicing the law given them by the Lord, the people adopt evil practices and customs. They rely on fortune tellers like their neighbors the Philistines, and they make treaties with the sons of foreigners, unauthorized by the Lord.

Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) O house of Jacob, come ye,
B: and let us walk in the light of the LORD;
C: yea, come, for ye have all gone astray,
C: every one to his wicked ways.
B: (6) Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people
A: the house of Jacob

Wording from the Book of Mormon “for ye have all gone astray” and “every one to his wicked ways” comprise the matching central statements of this chiasm. The Lord’s prophet, Isaiah, pleads for a return to righteousness.

Note that this chiasm is virtually unrecognizable in the King James Version, but words and phrases from the Book of Mormon expand and complete the chiasm. Corruption of the Masoretic text, as manifest in the King James Version, obscures and weakens the chiasm that was originally intended by the prophet.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a three‑fold parallelism:

Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures;
Their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots: Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.

Three different equivalent statements follow the lead phrase, “their land also is full of….” These are “silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures;” “horses, neither is there any end of their chariots;” and “idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.” What are their idols? —Silver and gold, treasures, horses and chariots; the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.38 Isaiah saw our materialistic society and the emphasis placed upon status symbols. “Neither is there any end of their chariots” suggests that Isaiah saw the continual traffic jams on modern freeways. Horses and chariots also imply military strength and equipment.39

This materialism would be forsaken by the repentant at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming. Isaiah proclaims later, in Chapter 17: “And he [those who would survive the great latter-day destructions] 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.”40

Verse 9 pleads: “And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: Therefore, forgive them not.” The Book of Mormon renders: “And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not, therefore, forgive him not.”41 “Mean” signifies “common,” as used here. Rather than indicating that the common man and the great man alike bow down before the idols of materialism, we learn from the Book of Mormon that their refusal to humble themselves before the Lord is the reason for His ire. The Book of Mormon version adds words and phrases that reveal an elaborate chiasm,  including verses 9 through 11, that is almost unrecognizable in the King James Version. See discussion and analysis of the chiasm following verse 11 commentary.

The remainder of the chapter, verses 10 through 22, describes great destructions that will accompany the Lord’s Second Coming—after the temple has been built and nations flow unto it. Great destructions will bring an end to the pervasive idolatrous materialism and will strike fear into the hearts of the wicked.

In verse 10, the prophet admonishes the wicked: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.” The Book of Mormon renders “O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.”42 The wicked will fear at His coming and will try to hide; they will be struck down by the glory of the Lord’s majesty.

Verses 11 through 14 describe the humbling of society. Verse 11 states: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” The Book of Mormon renders “And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man….”43 During and after the great destructions, humility will replace pride.

Verses 9 through 11 contain a chiasm:

A: (9) And the mean man
B: boweth not down,
C: and the great man humbleth himself not: therefore forgive them not.
A: (10) O ye wicked ones,
D: enter into the rock, and
D: hide thee in the dust,
A: for the fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.
C: (11) And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled,
B: and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
A: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

The introductory statement and its antithetic reflection occur four times in this chiasm —also inserted before and after the central statement and its reflection. Elements on the descending side of the chiasm have meanings opposite those on the ascending side. “And the mean man” in verse 9 and its repetition “O ye wicked ones” from the Book of Mormon are antithetic to “for the fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite thee” in verse 10 and its repetition “and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day” in verse 11. In order for the second and third elements to be opposites on the ascending and descending sides to fit the antithetic pattern of this chiasm, wording from the Book of Mormon is essential. The word “not” inserted in two places and placement of a second iteration of the first element, “O ye wicked ones,” all on the ascending side, complete the chiasm. “Boweth not down” and “ humbleth himself not” on the ascending side are contrasted with “humbled” and “bowed down” on the descending side; and “enter into the rock” and “hide thee in the dust” are equivalent statements describing the fear and futile evasion of the wicked at the coming of the Lord. The fact that this chiasm works well only when wording from the Book of Mormon is used is a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the veracity of the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith.44

The theme from the preceding verse is repeated for emphasis in verse 12: “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.” The Book of Mormon renders “For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty….”45 Later, in Chapter 13, Isaiah explains the Lord’s reasons for the destruction: “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.”46

Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm:

A: (11) And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
B: and the LORD alone shall be exalted
C: in that day.
C: (12) For the day of
B: the LORD of hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea,
A: upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.

In the chiasm the Lord’s exaltation at His glorious Second Coming is contrasted with the selfish pride of the wicked. The haughtiness of all nations will be brought down and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

In verse 13, trees refer to proud leaders and noblemen47 in adjacent countries: “And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan.” The Book of Mormon renders “Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon….”48 Bashan is the area northeast of the Sea of Galilee, now part of Syria. See Bible Map 1.49 Bashan is the type area and the namesake for basalt, a common volcanic (lava) rock, present there in abundance.50

In verse 14 “mountains” and “hills” refer to greater and lesser nations of the earth, all consumed by pride: “And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up.” The Book of Mormon renders “And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people,”51 providing the interpretation of the metaphor in a series of parallel statements. This rhetorical connection is used throughout the book of Isaiah.52

In verse 15, high towers and fenced walls refer to military strongholds: “And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall.” The original Hebrew meaning is “fortified” wall.53

Verse 16 continues: “And [the day of the Lord will be] upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.” The Book of Mormon renders “And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.”54 This verse provides insight into the brass plates from which Nephi copied these chapters from Isaiah. A footnote in the LDS edition of the Bible explains: “The Greek Septuagint has ‘ships of the sea.’ The Hebrew has ‘ships of Tarshish.’ The Book of Mormon has both, showing that the brass plates had lost neither phrase.”55 The Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, renders “luxury ships” for “pleasant pictures.”56

Verse 17 repeats the theme established in verses 10 through 16: “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” Isaiah contrasts the haughtiness of men being made low and the Lord’s exalted state to emphasize their differences; this literary technique is called a “foil.” The purpose for this stark contrast is to accentuate in the mind of the reader the vast difference between man’s lowly state following the destructions and the Lord’s exalted state upon His Second Coming.

Verse 18 states: “And the idols he shall utterly abolish.” True worship will replace the pervasive materialism, self-indulgence and wickedness that characterize the latter days.57

Verse 19 continues Isaiah’s description of man’s terror: “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” The Book of Mormon renders “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”58

Leading up to the day of the Lord, earthquakes will “shake terribly the earth.” In the early part of the Twentieth Century, earthquakes of Magnitude 6 or greater occurred about once per decade. From that time the rate of occurrence of severe earthquakes has increased exponentially, so that at the present time earthquakes of Magnitude 6 or greater occur almost every day somewhere in the world.59

Verse 20 declares that those who practice idolatry (materialism) will come to know the Lord’s displeasure: “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats.” The Hebrew renders “cast away.”60 The Book of Mormon substitutes “he hath” for “they.”61 Men will seek to hide the evidence of their idolatry in caves and holes in the ground—the habitats of moles and bats.

Verses 8 through 20 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. (9) And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not: therefore forgive them not.
B: (10) O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite thee. (11) And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down,
C: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
D: (12) 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:
E:   (13) And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
F:   (14) And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills,
G: and upon all the nations
H: that are lifted up,
G: and upon every people;
F:   (15) And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,
E:   (16) And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
D: (17) And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low:
C: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. (18) And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
B: (19) And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
A: (20) In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats.

Proud owners of idols will seek to hide them in caves for shame and fear when the Lord appears. The wicked, fearful of the Lord’s majesty and glory—and acutely conscious of their guilty lives—will be humbled and smitten. Nations and their leaders, represented metaphorically as mountains, hills, cedars and oaks, will be brought down and humbled on the day of the Lord of hosts. Without the words and phrases supplied by the Book of Mormon, this chiasm would be significantly weakened.

Verse 21 is similar to verse 19, repeated for poetic balance and emphasis: “To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” The Book of Mormon renders “To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”62

Verses 19 through 21 contain a chiasm:

A: (19) And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
B: (20) In that day a man shall cast his idols
C: of silver,
C: and his idols of gold,
B: which he hath made for himself to worship to the moles and to the bats;
A: (21) To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

The earth will shake violently and the wicked will be smitten at the Lord’s coming. Out of fear of the Lord—realizing their gross wickedness—idolaters will seek to hide the evidence of their iniquity.

In verse 22 we are admonished: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” We must cease from placing our confidence in man, for the arm of flesh is of no significance compared to the power of the Lord.63

Did Joseph Smith have sufficient understanding of the subtleties and hidden meanings in Isaiah’s writings to have fabricated the Book of Mormon? Comparing the chiasms in this chapter to their wording in the Book of Mormon bears a strong witness that the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through divine guidance from an ancient source, just as he testified.64 How could Joseph have come up with the precise words needed to fill in the missing pieces of these chiasms? Consider that in the 1820s not much was known about chiasmus—especially not among unschooled farmhands.65

 


Notes:

1. 2 Nephi 12:2, footnote 2a.
2. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970,
523 p.
3. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
4. See 1 Nephi 13:28.
5. 1 Nephi 3:3, 12, 24; 1 Nephi 4:16, 24, 38; 1 Nephi 5:10-22; 1 Nephi 13:23; 1 Nephi 19:21-24; 1 Nephi 22:1, 30; 2 Nephi 4:2, 15; 2 Nephi 5:12.
6. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1697, p. 182.
7. 2 Nephi 12:2.
8. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5102, p. 625.
9. See Isaiah 30:29; 56:7; 65:11; 66:20 and pertinent commentary.
10. See Isaiah 35:1 and pertinent commentary.
11. Ether 2:3.
12. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism: Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT, 1985, pp. 129-130. See also “The Mountain of the Lord” (videotape), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1993.
13. 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 pp. See p. 43. See Isaiah 2:2 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
14. 2 Nephi 12:14.
15. Isaiah 13:4.
16. See Isaiah 2:14 and 2 Nephi 12:14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
17. Doctrine and Covenants 124:104.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8451, p. 435.
19. See Isaiah 1:27 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:8; 4:5; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.
20. Micah 4:1-2.
21. LeGrand Richards, “Prophets and Prophecy,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 50.
22. Micah 4:2.
23. For example, see range of meanings for “Zion” in commentary for Isaiah 3:16.
24. Doctrine and Covenants 133:21.
25. Joel 3:16.
26. Isaiah 56:7.
27. See Matthew 26:56; see also Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
28. Gordon B. Hinckley, “This great millennial year [Dedication of the Conference Center]”: The Ensign, November 2000, p. 67.
29. See http://www.templemountfaithful.org/vision.htm.
30. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp. 69-71.
31. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 5, “High on the Mountain Top,” verses 1 and 3.
32. See Isaiah 32:15.
33. Micah 4:3.
34. 2 Nephi 12:5.
35. Hymns, no. 304.
36. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 257.
37. 2 Nephi 12:6.
38. See Gileadi, p. 22.
39. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 30.
40. Isaiah 17:8; see pertinent commentary.
41. 2 Nephi 12:9.
42. 2 Nephi 12:10.
43. 2 Nephi 12:11.
44. See John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon”: BYU Studies 10, no. 1, 1969, p.6.
45. 2 Nephi 12:12.
46. Isaiah 13:11.
47. See Isaiah 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
48. 2 Nephi 12:13.
49. See Bible Map 1.
50. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, basalt, p. 72.
51. 2 Nephi 12:14.
52. See Isaiah 2:2 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
53. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1219, p. 130.
54. 2 Nephi 12:16.
55. Isaiah 2:16, Footnote 16a.
56. Parry, 2001, p. 45.
57. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
58. 2 Nephi 12:19.
59. On the Internet, see http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map on recent earthquake occurrences.
60. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7993, p. 1020.
61. 2 Nephi 12:20.
62. 2 Nephi 12:21.
63. See 2 Nephi 4:34.
64. The Book of Mormon—Introduction (1981 edition) states: “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: >I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.’“ See also Joseph Smith—History 1:59-68.
65. John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon”: BYU Studies 10, no. 1, 1969, p. 6; see also Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History 1:3, 22-23, 27, 48, 55.

Isaiah 1: Hear the Word of the Lord, Ye Rulers of Sodom

Chapter 1 is a prologue, or overview, of the message presented in the entire book of Isaiah.1 Here can be seen elements of Israel’s apostate, rebellious, and corrupt state, with only a very small remnant remaining faithful. The Lord rejects Israel’s sacrifices and feasts because they are practiced unworthily. Similarly, the Lord rejects the sacrifices, observances and ordinances of his people of all ages when performed unworthily. The Lord calls upon Israel to repent and work righteousness; if they do, the Lord promises remission of sins and forgiveness. Finally, the Lord promises that Zion will be redeemed in the day of restoration, which will be accompanied by destruction of the wicked by fire.

Nephi begins his lengthy quote from Isaiah with Chapter 2.2 The reason for his not quoting Chapter 1 may have been that this chapter is a prologue; however, Nephi does not state the reasons for his selection of portions of Isaiah.

Verse 1 attests that Isaiah was shown a vision: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, king of Judah.” Note that the vision concerned what should befall Judah and Jerusalem and that it was seen over a period of many years, as represented by the reigns of the four kings cited. Isaiah is given detailed instructions, which he records in Chapter 6, on how to present the vision.3 Because of apostasy and wickedness among his people Isaiah encoded his prophecies so that only those with sufficient spiritual insight could understand. This encoding prevented the unworthy from receiving more than they could comprehend, which would subject them to the “greater condemnation.”4

Modern-day revelation further attests to the veracity of Isaiah’s mission and work. Joseph F. Smith wrote of a vision he received 3 October, 1918 in which he was shown the spirit world. He saw many of the “great and mighty ones,” including ancient prophets who were teaching the gospel to the spirits of those who had once lived upon the earth. He states: “And Isaiah, who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound, [was] also there.”5

In verse 2, Isaiah proclaims: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken.” This means that everyone on earth is to hear these words;6 a witness of them would be recorded in heaven. “Heaven and earth” is a euphemism meaning “everybody.” The words spoken by the Lord, to be heard by all, follow: “I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me.” The Lord’s words are a lawsuit, comprising verses 2 through 4, testifying of the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 76—a great vision in which Joseph Smith and an associate, Sidney Rigdon, were shown the world of spirits, resurrection, judgment and three degrees of glory to be inherited by God’s children—begins with words similar to those of Isaiah in verse 2: “Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior. Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.”7 Greater detail provided by modern revelation confirms Isaiah’s meaning.

Compare also the Lord’s latter-day call to listen to and obey His words, as recorded in the beginning verses of Doctrine and Covenants:

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.

For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.8

The voice of the Lord, given through prophets in all ages of the world, is for every member of the human family everywhere. Eventually all will be given the opportunity to hear and understand, and will be held accountable for obeying the Lord.

In the King James Bible, the Hebrew Yahovah,9 or YHWH, meaning “Jehovah,” is translated “the LORD” (in all caps) except for two instances in Isaiah where it is rendered “Jehovah,”10 to avoid the too-frequent use of the name of Deity.11 “Lord,” in which only the initial letter is capitalized, typically is translated from the Hebrew adonay,12 meaning “Lord” or “Master,” connoting the human rather than the divine.

Verse 3 contains two sets of parallel statements: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib,” and “but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” From the first set we are reminded that even domestic animals demonstrate loyalty to their masters, unlike the Lord’s chosen people. In the second set, “Israel” is equivalent to “my people,” and “doth not consider” is equivalent to “doth not know.” The original Hebrew meaning translated as “crib” is “manger,”13 providing powerful insight into the Master’s identity—He who would be “laid in a manger.”14

Verse 3 illustrates the profound difference between ignorant sin and dwindling in unbelief. Although Israel may be the Lord’s covenant people, when they do not think about, study or obey the law—or the gospel, to apply an equivalent New Testament term—even that knowledge which they have is soon lost. The Spirit withdraws, leaving them spiritually dead. Their one‑time status as children of the covenant is no protection from the consequences of their sins. John the Baptist chastised the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”15

Verse 4 describes the sinful, corrupt state of Israel, both individually and as a nation: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” Their corruption persists for multiple generations; the Lord is angry with them and withholds blessings.

Verses 5 and 6 describe spiritual disease, using physical ailments metaphorically. Verse 5 begins: “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” The people’s thoughts and emotions—denoted by the head and the heart—are turned entirely toward iniquity. Matthew in the New Testament cites this passage as being fulfilled by events in the life of Jesus Christ;16 the people among whom Christ ministered were spiritually sick, matching Isaiah’s description.

Verse 6 continues the metaphor: “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” The disease is serious, affecting the entire body. No healing treatment—metaphorically, the Atonement—has been applied.

Verse 7 describes the consequences to a nation when the individuals who comprise it are pervasively corrupt, forsaking the blessings and the protection of the Lord: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.” Because of wickedness, the Lord’s protection is withdrawn and speedy destruction ensues. Cities are burned with fire; crops and natural resources are seized and consumed by invaders.17

In verses 8 and 9, only a small remnant of the righteous remain among the people. Verse 8 begins: “And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.” The inhabitants of Jerusalem are decimated; the survivors are few, similar in number to the occupants of a hut in a vineyard used by harvesters during harvest time.

Verse 8 contains a chiasm:

A: (8) And the daughter of Zion
B: is left as a cottage in a vineyard,
B: as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,
A: as a besieged city.

In this chiasm Isaiah establishes “daughter of Zion” as a poetic synonym for Jerusalem, or the “besieged city,” which he uses repeatedly throughout his work.18 Survivors of the destruction are few, comparable in number to the occupants of a hut in a vineyard.

Verse 9 continues the lament: “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” Except for a small number of righteous who would survive, the destruction would be total—like that of Sodom and Gomorrah,19 two cities that were totally destroyed because of their wickedness.

Paul quotes verse 9: “And as Esaias [Isaiah] said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”20 “Seed” refers to a small number of survivors from which would grow a great nation again, after many generations.

In verse 10, Isaiah mockingly refers to the rulers of wicked Jerusalem as the rulers of Sodom, and its wicked inhabitants as the people of Gomorrah: “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” Sodom and Gomorrah are types for wickedness and total destruction, to be recurrently fulfilled.

Verses 11 through 20 are a classic lawsuit. In verse 11, the Lord condemns rituals practiced by the people of Jerusalem because they are practiced unworthily and their hypocrisy is abhorrent to Him: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs, or of he goats.”

Verse 12 continues the lawsuit: “When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” Unworthy entry into the Lord’s holy temple—to “tread my courts”—is serious sin.

In verse 13, the Lord demands: “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.” “Away with” is an archaic English term, translated from a Hebrew word meaning “endure.”21

Verse 14 continues: “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.”  Because of hypocrisy, the Lord rejects the assemblies and feasts of His people and will no more grant forgiveness. In like manner, the Lord rejects the offerings and observances of His people of all ages when performed unworthily.

Verses 13 and 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (13) Bring no more vain oblations;
B: incense is an abomination unto me;
C: the new moons and sabbaths,
D: the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with;
D: it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
C: (14) Your new moons and your appointed feasts
B: my soul hateth:
A: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.

The Lord rejects Israel’s oblations, appointed feasts, solemn assemblies and celebrations because the people’s gross iniquity makes these observances abominable in His sight. The Lord’s demand to “bring no more vain oblations” is complemented by “they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.”

In verse 15 the Lord declares that He will not hear their prayers: “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” The Great Isaiah Scroll—one of the Dead Sea Scrolls—adds a parallel phrase at the end of the verse: “your fingers with iniquity.”22 “Blood” refers to the effects of sin in the lives of the people, here emphasizing the most serious, the shedding of innocent blood.23

Verse 15 contains a chiasm:

A: (15) And when ye spread forth your hands,
B: I will hide mine eyes from you:
B: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:
A: your hands are full of blood.

Because of their dreadful sins, the Lord will not hear the prayers of the people nor look upon them in mercy.

In verses 16 and 17 the Lord extends the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. Verse 16 begins: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil.” As much as the sinner wishes his wickedness were secret, all our doings are seen by the Lord, with nothing concealed. These four parallel statements, all with similar meaning, are given for emphasis—visualize Isaiah underscoring four times. “Wash you, make you clean” implies the ordinance of baptism.24

Verses 15 and 16 contain a chiasm that overlaps that of verse 15:

(15) And when ye spread forth your hands,
A: I will hide mine eyes from you:
B: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
C: (16) Wash you,
C: make you clean;
B: put away the evil of your doings
A: from before mine eyes; cease to do evil.

This chiasm centers on a plea for the people to repent and become clean before the Lord. Until they do so, the Lord will not look upon them in mercy nor hear their prayers. Because of  the overlapping chiasms in these verses, both “your hands” and “your hands are full of blood” in verse 15 are equivalent to “the evil of your doings” in verse 16.

Verse 17 continues: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Note here the great extent to which the Lord defines righteousness as social justice and how much He disdains conformity with rules, ceremony, and ritual as a substitute for genuine righteousness. “Judgment” and “judge,” as used here, imply social justice.25

The care of orphans and widows is an important commandment given by the Lord in all ages. To Moses He declared: “He [the Lord] doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.”26 James attests: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”27

In verse 18 the Lord states the purpose for the Atonement in one of the Old Testament’s most striking and frequently‑quoted passages: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” The color scarlet—red or crimson—here symbolizes the most serious of sins, the taking of innocent life. The color white, represented in this verse by snow or wool, symbolizes purity. The Lord, through the Atonement, “has provided the way whereby our spiritual sicknesses can be healed.”28 Words from the hymn “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain” express words and meaning from verse 18: “Tho your sins be crimson red, Oh, repent, and he’ll forgive.”29

President Gordon B. Hinckley declared:

Repentance is one of the first principles of the gospel. Forgiveness is a mark of divinity. There is hope for you. Your lives are ahead, and they can be filled with happiness, even though the past may have been marred by sin. This is a work of saving and assisting people with their problems. This is the purpose of the gospel.30

There are two kinds of righteousness for which we are personally responsible, both delineated repeatedly by Isaiah. One is personal righteousness; the other is collective—or national— righteousness. We are familiar with the ways we attain personal righteousness: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance; baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and receiving the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands.31 Repentance and purification, however, are not a one‑time‑only event in our lives. We must go through this four‑step process continually, substituting the ordinance of the Sacrament by which we renew our baptismal covenants, and then re‑inviting the Holy Spirit back into our lives. After this, we should do everything we can to promote good around us including keeping the Lord’s commandments, properly caring for, raising, and teaching our children, and fulfilling assignments given to us through the Lord’s authority. National righteousness extends from the majority being personally righteous, together with leaders who cherish truth and righteousness.

In verse 19 the Lord promises the fruits of repentance and subsequent righteousness: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.” The Lord’s blessings, including prosperity and national security, are contingent upon individual and collective righteousness.

Elder Boyd K. Packer explained that the Lord’s gift of forgiveness requires our obedience:

The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.32

In verse 20 the Lord promises the inescapable result of continued iniquity: “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” War and destruction await the nation that rejects the Lord.

Verses 21 through 23 are a prophetic lament. Verse 21 begins: “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” Isaiah sorrows over the wickedness of Jerusalem. “Judgment” as used here means “fairness” or “justice.”33

Verse 22 continues the lament: “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.” “Dross” means slag or waste, a metallurgical term. Metaphorically, substituting dross for silver and adding water to wine symbolize cheating, dishonesty, and corruption.

Verse 23 summarizes the accusation: “Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” “Gifts” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “bribes.”34 The leaders of the people commit great sin in lying, bribery, associating with thieves and ignoring the plight of widows and orphans.

Verses 17 through 23 contain a chiasm:

A: (17) Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (18) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
B: (19) If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
C: (20) But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
D: (21) How is the faithful city becomes an harlot!
E: It was full of judgment;
E: righteousness lodged in it;
D: but now murderers. (22) Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
C: (23) Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves:
B: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards:
A: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.

The introductory statements, “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” in verse 17 and “judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them” in verse 23 are antithetics in which Isaiah contrasts the people’s actual behavior with conduct that the Lord would approve. The princes’ receiving of gifts—meaning bribes—is the opposite of their being willing and obedient. The focus of this chiasm establishes Israel’s past righteousness as the goal to be achieved, whereas the introductory and supporting statements describe the obstacles that must be overcome in achieving the goal.

In verse 24, the Lord declares: “Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.” In the beginning phrase, note that “Lord” is first rendered in lower case except for the initial capital L, then in all caps. “Lord” means “master, owner or ruler; one who has dominion” whereas “the LORD” (in all caps) is translated from the original Hebrew Yahovah or YHWH, meaning “Jehovah.”35 The Lord Jehovah, the Mighty One of Israel, will avenge Himself of His adversaries and enemies—in particular, those who commit wrongs against His people.

Verse 25 declares: “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” Metallurgy, the refining of metals, is used here as a metaphor for the cleansing of blatant and hidden sin. Tin added to gold as an alloy diminishes its worth, or value in carats, without significantly altering its appearance. The heat of the refiner’s fire—to continue the metaphor—represents trials, tribulations and destructions imposed by the Lord for the purpose of cleansing.36 “Turn my hand” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “repeatedly return.”37

In verse 26, in the latter days when Israel is restored, the Lord declares: “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Compare the words of the hymn, “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning:”

The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding,
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.38

Verse 27 proclaims: “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” Only through personal and collective righteousness will Zion be redeemed. The primary meaning of “Zion” here is a place of latter-day spiritual gathering; other meanings in other layers of understanding may also be discerned.39 “Judgment,” as used here, means “fairness” or “justice.”40

Verse 28 continues: “And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.” This statement foreshadows the great destructions by fire that await the wicked in the latter days, before the Second Coming of the Lord.41

Verses 20 through 28 contain a chiasm:

A: (20) But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
B: (21) How is the faithful city become an harlot!
C: It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
D: (22) Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
E:   (23) Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
F:   (24) Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts,
F:   the mighty one of Israel,
E:   Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:
D: (25) And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:
C: (26) And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning:
B: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. (27) Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
A: (28) And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.

The Lord—the focal point of this chiasm —will destroy, purge, and avenge as described in the supporting statements. Note that the rebellious princes are chiastically identified as adversaries and enemies of the Lord. Diluting wine with water is equivalent to alloying gold with tin; both are symbolic of hidden sin. The redemption of Zion will involve restoration of judges and counselors “as at the first,” before Israel began to adopt the ways and beliefs of their idolatrous neighbors.

Because the chiasm of verses 17 through 23 overlaps the chiasm of verses 20 through 28, “judge the fatherless,” “judge not the fatherless,” and “I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies” in verse 24 all are structurally comparable. Similarly, “but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword,” “the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together,” and “thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves” are also comparable. These chiasms together paint a picture of pervasive wickedness and its unavoidable consequences.

Verse 29 states: “For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.” This statement refers to the idolatrous practices of apostate Israel, adopted from their pagan neighbors. “Oaks” and “gardens” as used here mean “terebinth trees and gardens used in idol worship.”42 Terebinth is a species of fragrant sumac tree. The form of idolatry alluded to in this verse centered upon ceremonial illicit sex. Elsewhere in the Old Testament this idolatrous practice is euphemistically called “the groves,” meaning gardens with shade trees prepared as a pleasant setting for such acts.43 The Lord here condemns all sexual sin, whether or not it is part of idolatrous worship.

In verse 30, the depth of shame felt by those caught up in the sin of moral impurity is likened to a tree whose leaves dry up or a garden that has not been watered: “For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth and as a garden that hath no water.” Life-giving water symbolizes the redeeming power of the Atonement.

But in verse 31, the withering leaves of the powerful oaks and the waterless gardens only serve to expedite the unquenchable destructive burning: “And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.” “Tow” means coarse fiber or hemp, a ready fuel for destructive fire. The destruction foretold will transpire at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming, but it is typical of destruction of wicked nations throughout the ages.

In describing the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor—who was severely wounded by the murderous mob—alluded to this destruction by fire: “[I]f the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption.”44

Verses 28 through 31 contain a chiasm:

A: (28) And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
B: (29) For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
B: (30) For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth and as a garden that hath no water.
A: (31) And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.

Because of idolatry that the people have desired in place of devotion to the Lord, they will be destroyed by fire.


Notes:

1. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe Israel’s glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
2. 2 Nephi chapters 12 through 24.
3. Isaiah 6:9‑10.
4. See Doctrine and Covenants 82:3 and Luke 12:48.
5. Doctrine and Covenants 138:38, 42.
6. William Grant Bangerter, “The Voice of the Lord Is unto All People,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 9.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 76:1-2.
8. Doctrine and Covenants 1:1-2.
9. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
10. Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4.
11. See Doctrine and Covenants 107:4.
12. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 136, p. 10.
13. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 18, p. 7.
14. See Luke 2:7, 12, 16.
15. Matthew 3:9.
16. See Matthew 8:17.
17. See Isaiah 1:28; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19 and pertinent commentary.
18. See 2 Kings 19:21, 31; Psalms 9:14; 51:18; Isaiah 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11.
19. See Genesis 19:24-25.
20. Romans 9:29.
21. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3201, p. 407.
22. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 40.
23. See Isaiah 59:3 and pertinent commentary.
24. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 77.
25. See Isaiah 1:17, footnote 17c; See Isaiah 5:7; 42:4; 59:8; 59:15.
26. Deuteronomy 10:18.
27. James 1:27.
28. Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Forgive Them, I Pray Thee,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 29.
29. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 146, “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain,” verse 4.
30. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, p. 91.
31. See Articles of Faith 1:4.
32. Boyd K. Packer, “The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 18.
33. See Isaiah 1:21, 27; 5:16; 10:2; 16:3, 5; 28:6, 17; 30:18.
34. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7810, p. 1005.
35. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
36. See Malachi 3:2-3; Doctrine and Covenants 128:24.
37. See Isaiah 1:25, footnote 25a.
38. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 2, “The Spirit of God,” verse 2.
39. See Isaiah 3:16; 4:3-4; 8:18; 10:12, 24; 12:6; 51:3.
40. See Isaiah 1:27, footnote 27b. For references to other meanings of “judgment,” see verse 17.
41. See Isaiah 1:7, 4:4; 5:24; 9:5, 18-19; 10:16-18; 13:6-9; 24:6; 26:11; 27:11; 29:6; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12; 34:9; 42:25; 43:2; 47:14; 64:1-2, 11; 66:15-16 and pertinent commentary.
42. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 352, p. 18.
43. See 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 16:4; 17:10; 2 Chronicles 28:4; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6, 13; Ezekiel 6:13; also Isaiah 17:8; 27:9; 57:5 and pertinent commentary.
44. Doctrine and Covenants 135:6.