Isaiah 44: For I Will Pour Water upon Him That Is Thirsty, and Floods upon the Dry Ground

The main themes of this chapter are apostasy, restoration and gathering. Particular emphasis is placed upon the practice of idolatry, against which the Lord presents a tightly-reasoned argument: How can we cut down a tree and burn part of it to cook food and warm ourselves, and then out of another part of the same tree make a god which we think can save us? For us in the latter days, pervasive materialism is equated with idolatry.1

The chapter begins with an assertion that the house of Israel was chosen by the Lord because of her righteousness. However, apostasy would overtake her, resulting in a multiplicity of beliefs. The Lord would denounce this apostasy and would set things in order again, restoring the spiritual gifts including prophecy.

The chapter ends with a prophecy that Jerusalem would be rebuilt following its destruction by the Babylonians. The rebuilding would occur under the direction of Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia who would overthrow Babylon and would allow the Jews to return to Palestine. Not only did Isaiah know of Cyrus’ actions that would result in the restoration of the Jews, but he was also given his name. This should come as no surprise to those who understand and believe in Isaiah’s gift of prophecy, nor is it necessary that these words be written by someone other than Isaiah during the time of Cyrus’ reign.2

Verse 1 presents two parallel statements spoken by the Lord: “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen.” The principle of the Lord choosing His servants is evident here; the same principle is illustrated in this passage from John: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit….”3 This New Testament passage, which refers to Jesus’ selection of His apostles and other disciples, does not imply the erroneous concept of predestination. As evident in the long history of the house of Israel, being chosen of the Lord can be forfeited through disobedience.

In verse 2, the Lord proclaims His role as Creator: “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.” The Hebrew word Jesurun means “upright one,”4 designating Israel’s ideal condition and revealing the reason for the Lord’s choosing of Jacob. The last part of verse 2, which consists of two parallel statements, is also parallel to verse 1. Note the repetition of the phrases “O Jacob, my servant” and “whom I have chosen” in the two verses. “Jesurun” is equivalent to “Jacob” in verse 1 because of this parallelism.

Verse 3 consists of two sets of parallel phrases: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” The meaning here is metaphoric—with water meaning the Lord’s spirit, providing inspiration and revelation.5 “Floods upon the dry ground” indicates the Lord’s generosity in providing a deluge of inspiration, not just a trickle. The second phrase in this verse, parallel to the first, gives the interpretation of the metaphor. The elements of this metaphor are familiar, since they occur elsewhere in the scriptures. Compare the words of Christ to John the Apostle: “…I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”6 In the Sermon on the Mount the mortal Lord said: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (emphasis added).7

Verse 4 returns to the metaphor: “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “And they shall spring up like grass….”8 Jacob’s descendants will receive spiritual nourishment from the Lord and will thrive.

However, as verse 5 describes, apostasy would set in: “One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” “Subscribe with his hand” means to make a written covenant. This apostasy was foretold by Nephi as well:

For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord—
And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.9

This statement describes the situation that young Joseph Smith faced, which eventually resulted in his inquiring of the Lord and in the restoration of the gospel.10

In verse 6, the Lord declares His role as King, Redeemer and God of Israel: “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…and his redeemer the LORD of hosts is his name.”11 “His redeemer” means the Redeemer of Israel. “The first and the last” is a title of the Lord used in several places in the scriptures.12 The New Testament phrase meaning “the first and the last” is “Alpha and Omega.”13 The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, uses language similar to verse 6: “Verily, thus saith the Lord your God, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ.”14

Verse 7 foretells the latter-day restoration, which the Lord Himself would bring about: “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.”  The Lord denounces the confusion of religion described in verse 5 and promises to set it in order. Restoration of spiritual gifts, including prophecy, is foretold for the latter days—”the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.” Here the Lord issues a challenge to the apostate churches: Let them (the churches) show the people the marvelous things that are to come forth in the restoration, if they can.

Verse 8 continues: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”15 Here the Lord affirms that He has “foretold these things “from the time of the ancient people,” and Israel is His witness. Israel is commanded “fear ye not” when apostasy arises, because the Lord would set His earthly kingdom in order again. The Lord, using a negative rhetorical question, confirms that He is the only true God, whose statements can be relied upon. Isaiah addresses the people collectively using plural pronouns, but reminds them by using a singular pronoun, “thee,” that the Lord’s words are given to each of us individually. This verse is similar to the Lord’s words from the previous chapter.16

Verses 9 through 20 deal with idolatry and its folly. For us in the latter days, pervasive materialism is equated with idolatry.17 Verse 9 begins: “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.” The Hebrew meaning for “delectable” things is objects in which they “take delight” or “pleasure;”18 the connection with modern-day materialism is clear.

Verse 10 poses a question: “Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?”

Verse 11 answers the question: “Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.”19 “All his fellows” means “those who worship idols;” their idolatry will turn to their shame.

Verse 12 begins a description of the process of making an idol: “The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.” The man who builds an idol has no special powers or superhuman ability. Just like everyone else, he gets hungry and thirsty. Without nourishment or water, he is unable to continue the work.

Verse 13 continues the description: “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.” The only standard the artisan has to go by in designing a god is human beauty.

In verse 14 the Lord begins a tightly-reasoned argument against idolatry: “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.” The pronoun “he” refers to “a man” in the following verse.

Verse 15 describes uses for which the wood of the tree is applied: “Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “And he takes part for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea he kindleth it, and baketh bread; or, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it….”20

Verse 16 emphasizes the use for wood as fuel: “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…I am warm in front of the fire.”21

Verses 15 and 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (15) Then shall it be for a man to burn:
B: for he will take thereof, and warm himself;
C: yea, he kindleth it,
D: and baketh bread;
E:   yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it;
E:   he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
D: (16) He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied:
C: yea, he warmeth himself,
B: and saith, Aha, I am warm,
A: I have seen the fire.

The chiasm demonstrates the illogical comparison of more mundane uses of wood with that of making a graven image, all from the same tree. “For he will take thereof, and warm himself” is equivalent to “aha, I am warm;” “he kindleth it” complements “he warmeth himself;” “baketh bread” compares to “with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied;” and “he maketh a god, and worshippeth it” reflects “he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.”

Verse 17 describes how man makes an idol from the residue (remainder) of the wood: “And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.”22

In verse 18, the Lord describes the profound folly of idolatry: “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.”

Verse 19 sets forth the tightly-reasoned argument: “And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?” None of the idolaters considers this logic in his heart.

In verse 20 the Lord declares: “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”23 “He feedeth on ashes” means there is no spiritual nourishment in the vain practice of idolatry; compare the “bread of life” and “living waters” preached by the mortal Lord.24 Similarly, in the vain practice of latter-day materialism there is no spiritual growth or refinement. Like the idols of old, our modern-day material possessions cannot deliver our souls. We are only deceiving ourselves; we are living a lie. The “right hand” is used in covenant-making; here the covenant—based on a lie—is of no value.

In verse 21 the Lord reminds Israel of her being chosen: “Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.” 25 “Remember these” means these points of logic just rehearsed—that idolatry cannot save man, nor can the modern-day equivalent, materialism.

In verse 22 the Lord reminds Israel of the Atonement, whereby her sins are remitted: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” “Return” is translated from the Hebrew, meaning “repent;”26 it is through the Lord’s sacrifice that forgiveness is possible through repentance. Just as thick clouds blot out the distant scene, the Lord blots out our sins from His memory as we repent.27

In verse 23 Isaiah declares: “Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” The metaphoric meanings of “mountains,”28 “forest,” and “every tree”29 are well known—nations, and the citizens and leaders thereof. “The LORD hath done it” means the Lord has provided the means for salvation. The entire world will sing with joy upon the Lord’s redemption of Israel.

In verse 24 The Lord describes His creative accomplishments to emphasize that His statements are to be believed regarding the Atonement: “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself—” The Creator of heaven and earth, and He who formed us in the womb,30 has provided the Atonement whereby salvation comes through faith and repentance. The initial phrase of this verse, “thus saith the LORD,” is the subject of a sentence that comprises the remainder of the chapter. Throughout the sentence are eight occurrences of “that,” each of which is followed by a verb describing an action taken by the Lord.

Verse 25 proclaims the Lord’s triumph over error: “That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish—” The verbs here that describe the Lord’s actions are “frustrateth,” “turneth,” and two repetitions of “maketh.”

Verses 26 through 28 begin a prophecy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple under Cyrus, king of Persia. Verse 26 proclaims the Lord’s support of His servants the prophets: “ That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof—” The action verbs are “confirmeth” and “performeth.” Jerusalem would be rebuilt upon the return of the exiles from Babylon. Latter-day fulfillment of the prophecy is also evident as descendants of Judah flock to their mother land.

Verse 27 declares: “That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers—” This statement recalls the Lord parting the Red Sea to facilitate the escape of the children of Israel at the time of Moses, and also to Cyrus’ diversion of the Euphrates River to permit his invading armies to enter Babylon on the dry riverbed under the city wall.31 “That saith” is a verb form which refers to the subject of the sentence, “thus saith the LORD,” in verse 24.

Verse 28 adds to the prophecy of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple; the prophecy continues into Chapter 45: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” “That saith” is the eighth occurrence of “that” followed by an action verb in the long sentence comprising verses 24 through 28. The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, which occurred from 537 to 520 B.C.,32 was recorded in scripture by Ezra.33 This temple was called the Temple of Zerubbabel, after the chief builder of the temple.34

Verses 26 through 28 contain a chiasm:

(26) That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers;
A: that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built,
B: and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
C: (27) That saith to the deep,
D: Be dry,
D: and I will dry up
C: thy rivers:
B: (28) That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure:
A: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, foretold in this chiasm by Isaiah, would be a miracle of the same magnitude as the parting of the Red Sea, allowing the escaped of Israel to pass through.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
2. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 382; see Introduction 5: Authorship of the Book of Isaiah (this commentary).
3. John 15:16.
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. 3484, p. 449.
5. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
6. Revelation 21:6.
7. Matthew 5:6.
8. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 177.
9. 2 Nephi 28:3-4.
10. See Joseph Smith—History 1:5-11.
11. Parry, 2001, p. 177.
12. See Isaiah 41:4; 48:12 (1 Nephi 20:12); Revelation 1:11, 17; 22:13; Alma 11:39; Doctrine and Covenants 110:4.
13. See Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 66:13.
15. Verses 6 through 8 contain a chiasm: I am the first, and I am the last/beside me/God/who, as I, shall call/declare it/ancient people/are coming/shall come/ from that time/declared it/ye are even my witnesses/God/beside me/I know not any.
16. See Isaiah 43:10-12.
17. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2530, p. 326.
19. Verses 9 through 11 contain a chiasm: They that make a graven image/vanity/witnesses/see not, nor know/may be ashamed/formed a god/molten a graven image/shall be ashamed/they are of men/let them stand up/they shall fear/they.
20. Parry, 2001, p. 179.
21. Parry, 2001, p. 179.
22. Verse 17 contains a chiasm: Maketh a god/graven image/falleth down/worshippeth/prayeth unto it/my god.
23. Verses 18 through 20 contain a chiasm: They have not known/they cannot see/their hearts/I have burned part of it in the fire/coals thereof/roasted flesh/eaten it/residue thereof/shall I fall down to the stock of a tree/deceived heart/cannot deliver his soul/is there not a lie.
24. See John 6:35, 48 and John 4:10-11.
25. Verse 21 contains a chiasm: Remember/Jacob and Israel/thou art my servant/I have formed thee/thou art my servant/Israel/not be forgotten. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 262.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7725, p. 996-997.
27. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 385.
28. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
29. See Isaiah 14:8 and pertinent commentary.
30. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 42:5; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
31. Pat Alexander (Organizing Editor), The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible: Lion Publishing Co., 1987 ed., p. 296. See also West, Franklin L., Discovering the Old Testament: Deseret Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1959, p. 442.
32. Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
33. See Ezra, chapters 1 through 6.
34. See Ezra 5:2.

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Isaiah 43: I Will Even Make a Way in the Wilderness, and Rivers in the Desert

Chapter 43 foretells Israel’s eventual repentance and restoration in the latter days. In the first part of the chapter the Lord proclaims that He is God and that Israel, recipient of many blessings at His hand over their long existence as a people, are witnesses of His divinity. Next are presented prophecies of the gathering of repentant Israel and of great destructions among the wicked; these destructions are for the protection of the Lord’s people. The chapter concludes with the Lord stating that unrepentant Israel has forsaken His law, bringing great curses.

Chapter 43 contains chiasms that provide useful interpretive information and which provide logical divisions in the text.

Verses 1 through 7 foretell the gathering of Israel; Isaiah presents the prophecy poetically as three chiasms. In verse 1 the Lord states that despite the sins of Israel He has provided the means for redemption: “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” “The LORD” means “Jehovah,” who is Jesus Christ. He is both Creator and Redeemer.

The role of Jesus Christ as Creator was set forth by the Apostle John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.1

“The Word” as used here by John means that Jehovah—the Lord Jesus Christ—is the Mouthpiece for God the Father.2  At the burning bush, the Lord revealed His name to Moses and told him what His name means:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I am that I am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.3

The name “Jehovah” comes from the Hebrew YHWH, which is related to the verb “to be” or “I am.” The meaning is “the One who is.”4

The mortal Jesus Christ, addressing the Jews in the temple, asserted that He was the same Jehovah:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.5

The Jews took Jesus’ statement as untrue, interpreting it as solemn blasphemy under the Law of Moses. For that reason the Jews sought to stone Him to death. Doubtless they remembered this statement at the time of His arraignment and crucifixion.

Verse 1 contains a chiasm:

A: (1) But now thus saith the LORD that created thee,
B: O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not:
C: for I have redeemed thee,
C: I have called thee
B: by thy name;
A: thou art mine.

In this chiasm the Lord attests that He is the Creator of Israel; Israel is therefore His own. He has redeemed and called Israel so that she might fulfill the Abrahamic covenant, becoming a blessing to all the world.6

In verses 2 through 4, the Lord reminds Israel of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s armies, promising similar intervention in the future. Verse 2 commences: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” “When thou passest through the waters” recalls the parting of the Red Sea.7 “Rivers” also means “invading armies,8 and “fire” refers to the destruction by fire that will occur at the Lord’s Second Coming.9 The Lord promises defense and preservation for the righteous at His coming, just as He liberated the children of Israel from captivity in Egypt and preserved them.

Typical of the destructions by fire foretold at the Lord’s Second Coming, each of us may undergo fiery trials along the pathway of our own life. The Lord promises that these trials are for the purpose of refining us and not destroying us—removing the dross of sin and imperfections and refining the gold in each of us.

Verse 3 continues: “For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.” Egypt’s armies, drowned in the Red Sea, are a ransom for Israel; the Lord has destroyed other nations to protect His righteous followers and will do so again in the future.

Verse 4 provides further explanation: “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, states: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,”10 expressing similar concepts.

The Lord’s purpose in destroying the wicked is to protect the righteous, for which the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is a type. This concept is elaborated by the prophet Zenos, quoted by Jacob in the Book of Mormon:11

Wherefore, dig about them, [olive trees] and prune them, and dung them once more, for the last time, for the end draweth nigh. And if it be so that these last grafts shall grow, and bring forth the natural fruit, then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow.
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard (emphasis added).12

In this olive-tree allegory, the “branches which bring forth bitter fruit” are the wicked, which would be destroyed to make room for the righteous of Israel as they are gathered.

In verse 5 the Lord comforts the righteous of Israel: “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.” The Lord will protect and accompany those who are being gathered in the latter days.

Words from verses 2 through 5 are found in the text of a favorite hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”13

Verses 2 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
B: and through the rivers,
C: they shall not overflow thee:
D: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned;
E: neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
F: (3) For I am the LORD thy God,
F: the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour:
E: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
D: (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable,
C: and I have loved thee:
B: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
A: (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.

“Rivers” compares with “people,” reflecting the symbolic meaning of “rivers” as invading armies. “They shall not overflow thee” complements “I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee,” again reflecting the symbolism of rivers. “Thou shalt not be burned” corresponds to “since thou wast precious in my sight,” indicating that repentant Israel will be numbered among the righteous and not burned at the Lord’s Second Coming. “Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” reflects “I gave Egypt for thy ransom,” recalling the destruction of the Egyptian armies in the crossing of the Red Sea14 and reiterating the protection that Israel will receive, leading up to the Second Coming.

Verse 6 continues the Lord’s description of the latter-day gathering of Israel: “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” The cardinal points of the compass, used in verses 5 and 6, represent the lands to which the ten tribes were carried into captivity.15 “From the ends of the earth” means from the farthest, remotest points on the earth.16

Verses 5 and 6 are paraphrased by the resurrected Lord in the Book of Mormon. Speaking of the time “when the words of Isaiah would be fulfilled,” He said:

And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them.17

Verse 7 states: “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” The Lord expands upon this subject to the Nephites during His post-mortal ministry:

Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.18

A passage of scripture possibly referred to here by Jesus is in 2nd Chronicles:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.19

In several other passages either definitely or probably in the possession of the Nephites,20 reference is made to the people being called by the Lord’s name.21 The sacrament prayers include a statement “that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy son.”22 Today, this means being recognized as a member of the Church that bears His name.

Verses 5 through 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) Fear not: for I am with thee:
B: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
C: (6) I will say to the north, Give up;
C: and to the south, Keep not back:
B: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
A: (7) Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

“I am with thee” complements “even every one that is called by my name.” “I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west” matches “bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” Statements comprising the chiasm all relate to the gathering of Israel in the latter days.

Verses 8 through 13 comprise a lawsuit in which the nations of the earth are to testify of the Lord’s goodness toward Israel. In verse 8, the Lord commands: “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.” This means spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness; the Lord issues a challenge for those able to understand spiritual things to see and hear. Compare Moses’ words to Israel preceding their entry into the Promised Land:

Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.23

Moses recognized the lack of spiritual sensitivity and willingness to receive guidance from the Lord among the children of Israel. During His mortal ministry, Jesus frequently stated “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” meaning “if you are able, understand the spiritual meaning of my words.”24

In verse 9 the Lord continues: “Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.” The meaning of this rhetorical question is “among all the nations of the world, is there any who have received prophecy and knowledge of spiritual things like unto you?”

In verse 10, the Lord commands Israel to acknowledge that He is their God: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” He says, “ye [Israel] are my witnesses that I am God” because of all the spiritual blessings they have received. Compare verse 12 below, which is chiastically equivalent.

Verse 11 continues the Lord’s assertion: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” Compare the words of Nephi:

And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents,25 if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them,26 and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth;27 yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved (emphasis added).28

The same Being who was known to the ancients as Jehovah would come to earth, to be known as Jesus Christ, and would atone for the sins of mankind by giving up His own life.

Verse 12 summarizes: “I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.” The Lord has “declared…saved, and…shewed” that He is God, except when idolatry was prevalent among the people.

Verses 10 through 12 contain a chiasm:

A: (10) Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD,
B: and my servant whom I have chosen:
C: that ye may know and believe me, and understand
D: that I am he:
E:   before me there was no God formed,
E:   neither shall there be after me.
D: (11) I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
C: (12) I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed,
B: when there was no strange god among you:
A: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

This chiasm describes the Lord’s status as God, what His actions have been to affirm this fact in the minds of His people, and that He holds the people responsible for this knowledge as witnesses. “My servant whom I have chosen” complements “when there was no strange god among you,” stipulating the condition under which Israel is considered the Lord’s servant.

Verse 13 states: “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” Before the first day of the creation, the Lord existed. These statements bring to mind again Jesus’ statement in the temple: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”29 The final statement in this verse, “I will work, and who shall let it?” means “If I do it, who can hinder it?”30

Verses 14 through 21 testify of blessings to be bestowed upon Israel in the future. Verse 14 foretells the miraculous end of the Babylonian captivity: “Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.” “Redeemer” means “one who buys back, redeems, or ransoms;” or “one who pays the price.”31 This word defines the mission of Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins. He it is who would destroy Babylonian and Chaldean alike, to protect and bless the righteous.

Verse 15 summarizes: “I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.” Structurally this verse consists of five parallel statements, repeated for emphasis. The last two statements are chiastically equivalent to “redeemer” in verse 14, attesting that He who spoke is the same who would be known as Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

Verse 16 declares: “Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.” The Lord reminds the people who it is that speaks—the same God who parted the Red Sea to provide for the miraculous escape of the children of Israel from the pursuing armies of the Egyptians.32

Verses 14 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (14) Thus saith the LORD,
B: your redeemer,
C: the Holy One of Israel;
D: For your sake I have sent
E: to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles,
E: and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.
D: (15) I am the LORD,
C: your Holy One,
B: the creator of Israel, your King.
A: (16) Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters.

“Thus saith the LORD” is reflected in “thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters,” attesting that the Lord who speaks is the same who rescued Israel by parting the Red Sea. The Lord would destroy Babylon and the Chaldeans to rescue and protect Israel. As their Redeemer, the Creator would ransom them by giving up His own life.

Verse 17 continues the Lord’s review of the events surrounding the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea: “Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.” Note the use of the future tense, indicating that these events are a type to be repeated in the future, before the Second Coming. “Quenched as tow” describes the drowning of the Egyptian armies in the sea.

Verse 18 foretells the coming of Christ and how He would fulfill the Law of Moses: “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” The resurrected Lord declared to the Nephites: “Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”33

Verse 18 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:34

A: (18) Remember ye not
B: the former things,
B: neither the things of old
A: consider.

This chiasm centers on the “former things” and the “things of old,” meaning the Mosaic Law. Latter-day Israel is admonished: “Remember ye not,” neither “consider” “the things of old” that pertained to the law that was fulfilled with Messiah’s great and last sacrifice.

In verse 19, the Lord changes focus to blessings He would bestow upon Israel in the latter days: “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “Behold, I will do a new thing; and therefore it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and paths in the desert.”35 The “way in the wilderness” means the strait and narrow way through the spiritual wilderness of our time, of which the pathway through the Red Sea is a type; thus, the old is a type for the “new thing” that the Lord would do. “Rivers in the desert” is a metaphor meaning that the Lord will cause the message of the gospel to come forth by revelation from on high in the latter days.36 The alternate phrase “paths in the desert” means that the strait and narrow way will be established in the world, or the spiritual desert. This statement—rendered either way—also foretells the establishment of Zion in the valleys of the mountains and the presence of living prophets among the Lord’s people. This event is the same as was foretold by Isaiah previously, in Chapter 41.37

“I will do a new thing” also reflects the Lord establishing the new and everlasting covenant. The Lord, speaking through the Prophet Joseph Smith, explains:

For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.
And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God (emphasis added).38

Verse 20 continues description of the foretold event: “The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” The Hebrew words from which “dragons” and “owls” are translated mean “serpents”39 and “ostriches.”40 These animals metaphorically represent peoples not of the covenant who should receive the blessings of the gospel in the latter days.41 “Waters” and “rivers” in dry places mean inspiration and revelation from heaven in what had been a spiritual wasteland.42 Zion established in the wilderness represents a temporal latter-day fulfillment.43

Verse 21 continues the Lord’s description of the latter-day Zion: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”44 The latter-day work of the Lord would be manifest in the establishment of Zion in the wilderness, upon whom He would shower down revelation and blessings. In turn, those in the latter-day Zion are required to render praise to the Lord for blessings received.

Verses 19 through 21 contain a chiasm:

A: (19) Behold, I will do a new thing;
B: now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?
C: I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
D: (20) The beast of the field shall honour me,
D: the dragons and the owls:
C: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert,
B: to give drink to my people, my chosen.
A: (21) This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

“I will do a new thing” matches “this people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.” These paired phrases describe the new and everlasting covenant to be established among the gathered of Israel in the latter days. “Spring forth” matches “give drink to my people, my chosen,” attesting that the people described would be nurtured by ongoing revelation; “a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” matches “waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert,” meaning that the way in the wilderness, or the strait and narrow path, would be established by revelation to this people of the new covenant who would live in the desert, or spiritual and temporal wilderness. “Beast of the field” and “dragons and the owls” indicate that even those not of the covenant would benefit from the establishment of the covenant people in the wilderness.

Verses 22 through 28 foresee that in the latter-day time of restoration, some of the house of Israel would persist in apostasy. Isaiah casts the Lord’s accusation of apostate Israel as a lawsuit, presented poetically as two chiasms. Verse 22 begins: “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” They have not prayed to the Lord and have not served Him.

Verse 23 continues the accusation: “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.” The Hebrew word from which “small cattle” is translated means “lambs” or “young goats.”45 The apostates of the house of Israel have not kept the law nor observed the ordinances.

Verse 24 summarizes: “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.”46 “Sweet cane with money” refers to the purchase of spices for the anointing oil used in sacred temple ceremonies. Israel has failed to offer acceptable sacrifices unto the Lord because of iniquity. Instead of righteously wanting to serve the Lord, Israel wants the Lord to serve her in her wickedness.

In verse 25, the Lord offers forgiveness through repentance: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Forgiveness is made available to apostate Israel through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Joseph Smith stated: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”47 The Lord told His latter-day followers, confirming Isaiah’s meaning: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”48

In verse 26 the Lord pleads for wayward Israel to repent: “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.” “Declare thou” means “confess thy sins.”

In verse 27, the Lord recognizes the fall of Adam and its sinful impact upon mankind, and the effect of corrupt political and ecclesiastical leaders: “Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.” “Transgressed” means offending or revolting against God.49

Verse 28 describes serious consequences for the sins of the people of Israel: “Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.”50 The Lord would cease to recognize the ordinances of the “sanctuary,” meaning the temple. The Lord having “profaned the princes of the sanctuary” means He has dishonored the ministers and priests thereof, no longer recognizing their priestly authority because of the extreme apostasy of Israel. As foretold here by Isaiah, the Lord ceased to recognize the ordinances of the temple at the time of the crucifixion, symbolized by the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.51

 


Notes:

1. John 1:1-5.
2. See Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 3 Nephi 11:7; JS-History 1:17.
3. Exodus 3:13-14.
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. 3068, p. 217-218.
5. John 8:56-59.
6. See Genesis 22:16-18.
7. See Exodus 14:21-31.
8. Isaiah 8:7; 17:12-13; 28:2, 17.
9. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
10. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10.
11. See Jacob 5.
12. Jacob 5:64-65.
13. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 85, “How Firm a Foundation,” verses 2-5.
14. See Exodus 14:26-28.
15. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 17:2; 42:24; 49:12; 54:7.
16. See Isaiah 41:5, 9; 42:10; 45:22.
17. 3 Nephi 20:13; see verses 11-13 .
18. 3 Nephi 27:5-6.
19. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
20. See 1 Nephi 5:13.
21. See Isaiah 45:4; 65:1; Jeremiah 7:10-11, 14, 30; 25:29,34; 34:15.
22. Moroni 4:3.
23. Deuteronomy 29:4.
24. See Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35.
25. Numbers 21:6.
26. Numbers 21:8-9.
27. See Exodus 17:6.
28. 2 Nephi 25:20.
29. John 8:58.
30. Isaiah 43:13, footnote 13a.
31. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Co., 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017, 1971, p. 623.
32. See Exodus 14:21-31.
33. 3 Nephi 12:46-47.
34. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
35. Parry, 2001, p. 175.
36. See Isaiah 12:3; 30:25; 35:6-7; 55:1, 10-11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
37. See Isaiah 41:17-20 and pertinent commentary.
38. Doctrine and Covenants 132:5-6. See also Doctrine and Covenants 131:2; 132:19, 26-27, 41-42.
39. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8577, p. 1072.
40. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3284, p. 419.
41. See Isaiah 56:9 and pertinent commentary.
42. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
43. See Isaiah 35:1-2 and pertinent commentary.
44. Verses 1 through 21 form a large-scale chiasm: The LORD that created thee/waters… rivers/fire, thou shalt not be burned/the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour/Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba/I give men for thee…I will bring…created…formed/ye are my witnesses/I… am the LORD/beside me there is no saviour/ye are my witnesses/I will work/Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans/I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King/they are quenched as tow/waters…rivers/this people have I formed for myself.
45. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7716, p. 961.
46. Verses 22 through 24 contain a chiasm: Weary of me, O Israel/sacrifices/offering/incense/sweet cane/fat/ sacrifices/thou hast wearied me.
47. Article of Faith 1:3.
48. Doctrine and Covenants 58:42.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6586, p. 833.
50. Verses 25 through 28 contain a chiasm: I…am he that blotteth out/transgressions/mine own sake/not remember/ put me in remembrance/thou mayest be justified/transgressed against me/I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary.
51. See Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.

Isaiah 42: He Shall Not Fail Nor Be Discouraged, Till He Have Set Judgment in the Earth

Most of Chapter 42 is a prophecy concerning the coming of Messiah—both His mortal ministry and His Second Coming. Verses 1 through 3 were quoted directly by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, as recorded by Matthew. As part of His ministry He would open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf and bring out the prisoners from the prison. The mortal Lord performed many healing miracles in which He restored sight and hearing—but these are symbolic of the greater spiritual miracle of the Lord’s mission, as attested in this chapter.

Freeing the prisoners is a fundamental part of the Atonement brought about by the Lord’s infinite sacrifice. Had He not provided the blessings of the resurrection to the entire human family vicariously by laying down His own life we would have been imprisoned forever, excluded from the presence of God and deprived of God’s greatest blessing of eternal progression.1 During the latter-day restoration, the Lord would direct the return of priesthood keys to the earth by ancient prophets. Priesthood keys are needed so that saving ordinances could be performed by proxy for the dead who did not receive such ordinances during their mortal lives. Thus the way to salvation would be opened for all; and prisoners, whether living or dead,2 would be brought out of prison.

Parts of Chapter 42 are synonymously parallel with parts of Chapter 41; comparison enables greater understanding.3 This chapter contains chiasms that are workable if wording from the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is used.

This chapter begins with a statement from God the Father regarding the mission of His son, Jesus Christ. From the account we do not know whether the Father spoke directly to Isaiah; it is possible that the Lord Jehovah spoke using the words of His Father through the principle of divine investiture for the first 7 verses. Beginning in verse 8 the Lord Jehovah speaks, describing His own mission. Verses 1 through 3, quoted by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry and recorded by Matthew, differ in significant detail when compared to their rendition in the Old Testament.4

In verses 1 through 9 God the Father proclaims Messiah to be His servant, foreshadowing Christ’s total obedience to His Father’s commandments. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 8 through 10 of Chapter 41, in which Israel as a nation is proclaimed as the Lord’s servant. Verses 1 through 4 are also recognized as the first of four servant-songs in Isaiah’s writings.5

In a servant-song, characteristics of the Lord’s servant are presented as a psalm. As set forth by Isaiah in the four servant-songs Christ is the best exemplar of a servant, faithfully serving His Father and obeying Him in all things.6 Various prophets including Isaiah7 also fulfill criteria for a servant of the Lord.8 Others who exemplify Christ-like qualities as servants include the entire house of Israel;9 Joseph Smith, the great prophet of the restoration;10 the Latter-day Saints,11 and possibly others.

Verse 1 declares: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” The Hebrew word translated as “Gentiles” means “nations.”12 The broader definition of “Gentiles” applies here—nations of the earth. Matthew renders, with differences shown in italics: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.”13

The voice is that of God the Father proclaiming His son, Jesus Christ. “My servant” means that the Lord served the Eternal Father faithfully and obediently. “My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased” reflects the words which the Father spoke to introduce His son on several occasions. Mark records:

…Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
14

Three other instances are recorded in the scriptures in which the Father proclaimed and introduced His son using these or similar words. These events include the transfiguration on the high mountain,15 the appearance of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites on the American continent,16 and the first vision of Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820.17 God the Father is well pleased with His Son, who is beloved of Him; He is chosen and sustained of God and sent forth by Him to the nations of the earth. Other servants exhibiting Christ-like qualities fit these same criteria.

“Judgment,” as used in verse 1, means “social justice.”18 Other meanings for “judgment” found in the writings of Isaiah include fairness,19 retribution,20 sound reasoning,21 and an equitable system of laws.22

Verse 2 continues: “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.”

Matthew records: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.”23 This means that Jesus Christ as servant would not be a seditionist or revolutionary, not inciting rebellion or violence. Other servants who fit Isaiah’s description would also shun strife and violence—an important key in identifying who speaks for God throughout the ages, and particularly in the latter days.

Verse 3 further declares: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” Matthew renders: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”24 The meaning is that the Lord would not harm even the weak or vulnerable, reaffirming that He would not incite violence until after the time of His crucifixion and resurrection. This prophecy is another of several cited by writers in the New Testament as being fulfilled by events in the life of Jesus Christ.25 “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”26

Jesus quoted these three verses from Isaiah under circumstances that occurred early in His ministry. After performing miraculous healings and being followed by a multitude of people, He charged His followers and those whom He had healed not to talk openly about what they had witnessed. Matthew records:

Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
And charged them that they should not make him known:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet….27

Then Matthew quoted the first three verses of Isaiah 42.

Verse 4 continues the words of God the Father: “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.”28 The Father testifies that despite the most unfair treatment ever meted out, the most intense suffering ever suffered, and death by the most painful and ignominious method known, Jesus Christ would not fail in His saving mission nor be discouraged. “The isles shall wait for his law” may in part refer to the Nephites on the American continent, whom Christ visited following His crucifixion and resurrection. Nephi, quoting his brother Jacob, recorded that they were “upon an isle of the sea.”29 Other Christ-like servants would exhibit similar courage and perseverance in accomplishing duties assigned them by the Lord; many would lay down their lives to seal their testimonies.

In verse 5, the words of God the Father continue: “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.” He who speaks is the Creator of heaven and earth—He who gives life to the people on the earth, and the Father of the spirits of men.30

In verse 6, the Father speaks to His Son: “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” He who would send Messiah would hold His hand, protect Him, and give Him as a covenant for Israel and as a light to the Gentiles, or nations of the earth. Servants of the Lord who also fit Isaiah’s description would be called of God,31 protected and given inspiration as they testify to the nations of the earth.

The Lord clarifies in speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me.”32

During Christ’s earthly ministry and shortly thereafter, the gospel was first given to the Jews33 and then to the Gentiles.34 Chiastically, the first part of the dispensation of the fulness of times is called “the fulness of the Gentiles,”35 after which the gospel will be given again to the Jews.36

The words of God the Father in verses 5 and 6 form a chiasm:

A: (5) Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out;
B: he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it;
C: he that giveth breath unto the people upon it,
C: and spirit to them
B: that walk therein:
A: (6) I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

The message of this chiasm is that God, the Creator of all, who gives breath and spirit to those who dwell on the earth, will sustain His only begotten Son during His earthly ministry.

Verse 7 states more of the mission of Messiah: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” “To open the blind eyes” has a temporal and a spiritual meaning. Not only did the Lord miraculously restore sight to the blind;37 He delivered the truth to them that sat imprisoned in spiritual darkness. The major part of the Lord’s earthly ministry was spent teaching the truths of the gospel to the people He encountered, bringing them out of spiritual darkness—ignorance concerning the Plan of Salvation—into the light of truth. The Apostle Peter summarizes: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (emphasis added).38 Other servants would be called by the Lord and given power to bring light to those who are spiritually blind, and to provide the saving ordinances to those in spirit prison.

In introducing the doctrine of baptism for the dead to the membership of the church, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “…Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free” (emphasis added).39

The Lord adds another dimension to the release of prisoners from bondage—the resurrection, which will occur among the righteous at the time of His Second Coming: “For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.”40

In verse 8, the Lord Jehovah—the Son of the Eternal Father—speaks: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”41 The Lord identifies Himself as who is speaking. Chiastically, “The LORD” is antithetic to “graven images.” This statement parallels the Lord’s introduction to the Ten Commandments:

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image….42

He who spoke to Isaiah is He who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Verses 6 through 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (6) I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
B:  (7) To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison,
B: and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
A:  (8) I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

“Prisoners from the prison” matches “prison house”—those who sit in darkness because of ignorance of the Plan of Salvation, imprisoned because of their lack of knowledge, will be set free by the Lord through the Atonement. Note that “the Lord” is the beginning point of this chiasm and also the end, symbolizing the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end as stated in many places in the scriptures.43 This pattern of chiastic structures beginning and ending with “the LORD” recurs frequently throughout the book of Isaiah.

In verse 9 the Lord continues describing His ministry: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Paul amplifies: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”44 The Law of Moses was fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, who here foretells this change. The Lord, preaching to the Nephites on the American continent following His resurrection, clarifies: “Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law [of Moses], in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away, and all things have become new.”45

Verses 10 through 13 are synonymously parallel to verses 11 through 16 of Chapter 41, which proclaim that Israel will be sustained by the Lord and will dominate her enemies.

Verses 10 through 12 comprise a song of salvation. It describes the praise to be offered to the resurrected Lord by the scattered of Israel—scattered from the end of the earth to the isles, the cities and villages of the wilderness, the rock, and the top of the mountains. Verse 10 begins: “Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.” “From the end of the earth” means “the greatest distance away.”46 As verse 10 alludes, part of the scattered of Israel inhabited the isles of the sea—those who went “down to the sea,” upon which they traveled by boat to a new land.47 Their account is presented in the Book of Mormon—the coming forth of which is described earlier by Isaiah, in Chapter 29.48

Verse 11 continues the praise: “Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.” “The top of the mountains,” which is cited by Isaiah in Chapter 2 as a gathering place for the righteous in the latter days,49 is the meaning of the name “Utah” in the Ute language.50 These locations are places where the scattered of Israel reside, at least some of which were visited by the resurrected Lord after His visitation to the Nephites.51 Kedar was a son of Ishmael.52

Verse 12 completes the song of salvation: “Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.” 53 Again, “islands” refers to distant lands upon which the scattered of Israel dwell.54

The song of salvation of verses 10 through 12 is structured as a chiasm:

A: (10) Sing
B: unto the LORD a new song,
C: and his praise from the end of the earth,
D: ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein;
E: the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
F: (11) Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice,
F: the villages that Kedar doth inhabit:
E: let the inhabitants of the rock sing,
D: let them shout from the top of the mountains.
C: (12) Let them give glory
B: unto the LORD,
A: and declare his praise in the islands.

The message of this chiasm is that the scattered children of Israel will, in the various places in which they have been dispersed, give praise to the Lord. “Sing” matches “declare his praise;” “ye that go down to the sea” complements “let them shout from the top of the mountains.” Lehi and his family went down to the sea, which they crossed to obtain the Promised Land of America where the place called “the top of the mountains” is located.

Verses 13 through 15 describe the Lord’s demeanor at His Second Coming, contrasting sharply with the description of His mortal ministry presented by God the Father in verses 1 through 4. At the time of His Second Coming no longer will He be still or hold His peace, but will go forth as a man of war to subdue His enemies. Verse 13 begins: “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.” “Jealousy” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “zeal” or “ardor.”55 Isaiah foretells this event in Chapter 31:

For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.56

Verses 14 through 17 are synonymously parallel with verses 17 through 20 of Chapter 41, which declare that the Lord will provide inspiration and revelation to the humble, will devastate Israel’s enemies, and will shame those who worship idols.

Verse 14 continues the themes begun in verse 13: “I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” No longer will the Lord be silent but will shout out loudly and destroy His enemies.

Verse 15 concludes: “I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.”57,58 “Mountains and hills” means nations large and small,59 and “rivers” means advancing armies.60 The wicked will be destroyed at His Second Coming, leaving entire nations of the wicked depopulated and their armies destroyed.

Verse 16 continues the Lord’s foretelling of His Second Coming, now describing His treatment of the meek: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”61 The “blind” means those in spiritual darkness because of wickedness and apostasy. The Lord will restore unto them the true knowledge of the path to salvation—the strait and narrow way, the true knowledge of which had been lost or corrupted.62 The spiritual darkness that had prevailed throughout the Dark Ages—beginning with the apostasy that ended the apostolic era—would be dispersed through the light of truth, restored by revelation from heaven.63 The crooked path, which resulted from corruption of the knowledge of the strait and narrow way, would again be made straight.64

Verse 16 contains a chiasm:

A:  (16) And I will bring
B: the blind by a way that they knew not;
C: I will lead them
D: in paths that they have not known:
E:   I will make darkness
E:   light before them,
D: and crooked things straight.
C: These things will I do
B: unto them,
A: and not forsake them.

The message of this chiasm is that the Lord will lead the spiritually blind by providing the light of inspiration to them, dispelling the spiritual darkness. “In paths that they have not known” is complemented by “crooked things straight.” This connection confirms that the strait and narrow path, which had become crooked through disobedience and apostasy, would be made straight again through divine revelation from the Lord.65

Verse 17 denounces idolaters: “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.” Idolatry is not only the worship of pagan gods; it is the worship of material goods, as described in Chapter 2 by Isaiah.66 Materialism would become the prevailing creed in the latter days before the Lord’s Second Coming; those whose belief centers in materialistic idolatry would be greatly ashamed.

Verse 18 proclaims the latter-day restoration: “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” Those spiritually deaf and blind, having been deceived by false doctrines and corrupted by apostasy, would be given the opportunity to hear and see.

Verse 19 explains how these blind should see and these deaf be made to hear: “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’s servant?” These words have been rendered as confusion due to “plain and precious things” having been taken away.67 Joseph Smith, who read through the Bible using the Urim and Thummim—the same divinely-prepared instrument that he used to translate the Book of Mormon from the reformed Egyptian—discerned the intended meaning, recorded in the Joseph Smith Translation:68

For I will send my servant unto you who are blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;
And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness, if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant.
69

As established in verse 1 above, “servant” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduced first by God the Father, the Lord spoke to the young prophet, Joseph Smith, which began the great work of restoration in the latter days.70

Verse 20 describes the spiritual blindness and deafness of Israel: “Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.” JST renders, with differences shown in italics: “Thou art a people, seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not.”71 Israel is left blind and deaf to spiritual things because of her apostasy. As a type, this declaration also describes the Christian-era apostasy that characterized the period leading up to the latter-day restoration. Isaiah was forewarned of these periods of apostasy, writing his book of prophecy in code so that it would be plain to the reader endowed with the spirit of prophecy but incomprehensible to those not worthy of this great spiritual gift. The Lord instructed Isaiah: “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”72

Verse 18 and JST 19, 20 and 21 form a chiasm:

A: (18) Hear, ye deaf;
B: and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
C: (JST 19) For I will send my servant
D: unto you who are blind;
E: yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind,
E: and unstop the ears of the deaf;
D: (JST 20) And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness,
C: if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant.
B: (JST 21) Thou art a people, seeing many things, but thou observest not;
A: opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not.

This chiasm centers on “yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind,” reflected by “and unstop the ears of the deaf,” as revealed in the Joseph Smith Translation of this passage. “Hear, ye deaf” contrasts with “opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not;” “look, ye blind, that ye may see” contrasts with “seeing many things, but thou observest not;” and “my servant” matches “the Lord’s servant,” identifying that God the Father is speaking. Deafness and blindness as used here refer to spiritual rather than physical deficiencies. This chiasm is workable if words provided by the Joseph Smith Translation, shown in italics, are used.

Verse 21 states: “The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” JST renders the verse as a condemnation of apostasy, with differences shown in italics: “The LORD is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.”73 The Law of Moses had been dishonored because of Israel’s apostasy. Nevertheless, the Lord would make it honorable again during His earthly ministry by fulfilling it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, Heaven and earth must pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled.
74

Verse 22 describes the results of Israel’s apostasy: “But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.” JST amplifies, with differences shown in italics: “Thou art a people robbed and spoiled; thine enemies, all of them, have snared thee in holes, and they have hid thee in prison houses: they have taken thee for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”75

Verse 23 describes the conditions under which restoration would come about: “Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?” JST renders: “Who among them will give ear unto thee, or hearken and hear thee for the time to come?”76 Giving heed to the words of the Lord, and to prophecies regarding the future, would prepare the people for the blessings of restoration.

Verse 24 delineates the cause of Israel’s woes: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.” Isaiah poses a rhetorical question then answers it with another, establishing that the Lord yielded up Israel to her enemies because of iniquity. Finally, he states that it was failure to receive the ordinances of salvation and to obey the law of the Lord that caused the kingdom of Israel to be carried away captive.77

Verse 25 further explains: “Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.” JST renders: “Therefore he hath poured upon them the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and they have set them on fire round about, yet they know not; and it burned them, yet they laid it not to heart.”78 This prophecy alludes to the burnings that would take place at the Second Coming.79 Israel has been the recipient of the Lord’s anger, manifest as the ravages of battle and devastating fire. Despite these chastisements Jacob fails to understand, or take to heart, the underlying reasons for the Lord’s punishment.

JST verse 22, JST verse 23, and verses 23 through 25 form a chiasm:

A: (JST 22) The LORD is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake;
B: he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
C: (JST 23) Thou art a people robbed
D: and spoiled; thine enemies, all of them, have snared thee in holes, and they have hid thee in prison houses: they have taken thee for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.
E: (23) Who among you will give ear to this?
E: who will hearken and hear for the time to come?
D: (24) Who gave Jacob for a spoil,
C: and Israel to the robbers?
B: did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.
A: (25) Therefore he hath poured upon them the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set them on fire round about, yet they know not; and it burned them, yet they laid it not to heart.

The elements of this chiasm are also apparent in the King James Version, but their meanings are less clear. “Who among you will give ear to this?” and its reflection “who will hearken and hear for the time to come?” describe the conditions under which the gathering of Israel will begin to take place. The ascending side of the chiasm describes the effect of failure of the house of Israel to “give ear” and “hearken and hear,” whereas the cause for their tribulations is delineated in the descending side.

 


Notes:

1. See Mosiah 16:6-8.
2. See Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16.
3. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 349-356.
4. See Matthew 12:18-20.
5. Ludlow, 1982, p. 358-360. The four servant-songs are in Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13 through 53:12.
6. See John 6:38.
7. See Isaiah 49:5; Amos 3:7; Revelation 10:7.
8. Ludlow, 1982, p. 358-360.
9. See Isaiah 41:8-10 and pertinent commentary.
10. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:17, 29; 19:13; 28:2; 35:17-18.
11. See Doctrine and Covenants 1:6; 42:63; 44:1; 68:5-6; 133:30, 32.
12. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1471, p. 156.
13. Matthew 12:18.
14. Mark 1:9-11. See also Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:21-22.
15. Matthew 17:1-5.
16. 3 Nephi 11:7.
17. Joseph Smith—History 1:17.
18. See Isaiah 5:7; 28:6; 59:8, 15.
19. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 33:5; 41:1; 49:4; 53:8.
20. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 4:4; 34:5.
21. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
22. See Isaiah 51:4; 54:17.
23. Matthew 12:19.
24. Matthew 12:20.
25. See Matthew 12:17; see also Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
26. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 59:8.
27. Matthew 12:14-17.
28. Verse 4 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Set/earth/judgment/his law/isles/wait. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
29. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 24:15; 42:10-12; 49:1; 51:5; 60:6, 9 and pertinent commentary.
30. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
31. See Article of Faith 5; Hebrews 5:4.
32. Doctrine and Covenants 45:9.
33. See Matthew 10:6; 15:24.
34. See Acts 10:9-48.
35. See Romans 11:25.
36. See 1 Nephi 13:42. See also Matthew 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Jacob 5:63; Ether 13:12; Doctrine and Covenants 29:30.
37. See Matthew 11:4-6; Psalms 146:8.
38. 1 Peter 2:9.
39. Doctrine and Covenants 128:22. See also Isaiah 24:22; 49:9; 61:1; Hebrews 11:40; 1 Peter 3:18-20; Doctrine and Covenants 76:73-74; 138:11-34.
40. Doctrine and Covenants 45:17.
41. Verse 8 contains a chiasm: I am the LORD/my glory/will I not give/neither/my praise/to graven images.
42. Exodus 20:2-4.
43. See Revelation 21:6; 22:13; Isaiah 46:10; Hebrews 7:3; Alma 11:39; 13:7-8; 3 Nephi 9:18; Doctrine and Covenants 19:1; 29:33; 35:1, 38:1; 45:7; 49:12; 54:1; 61:1; 78:16; 84:17, 120; 95:7; Moses 1:3; 2:1; 6:7, 67; Abraham 2:8.
44. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
45. 3 Nephi 12:46.
46. See Isaiah 40:28; 41:5, 9; 43:6.
47. See 1 Nephi chapters 17 and 18. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 24:15; 42:4; 49:1; 51:5; 60:6, 9 and pertinent commentary.
48. See Isaiah 29:11-14.
49. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
50. See Isaiah 2:2 and pertinent commentary. See also McConkie, Joseph Fielding, Gospel Symbolism: Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT, pp. 129-130, and “The Mountain of the Lord” (videotape), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1993.
51. See 3 Nephi 15:15-24 and 3 Nephi 16:1-3.
52. See Genesis 25:13.
53. Verse 12 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Give glory/unto the LORD/his praise/declare. Parry, 2001, p. 262.
54. See Isaiah 11:11; 24:15; 42:4, 10-12; 49:1; 51:5; 60:9 and pertinent commentary. See also 1 Nephi 19:10, 12, 16; 22:4;  2 Nephi 10:21; 29:7, 11; Doctrine and Covenants 1:1.
55. Brown, et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7068, p. 888.
56. Isaiah 31:4.
57. Verses 13 through 15 contain a chiasm: The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man/stir up jealousy/cry, yea, roar/ I have long time/holden my peace/I have been still/now will I/cry/destroy and devour/I will make waste.
58. Verse 15 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Make waste/mountains and hills/herbs/dry up. Parry, 2001, p. 262.
59. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
60. See Isaiah 8:7; 18:1, 7; 43:12 and pertinent commentary.
61. Verses 15 and 16 contain a chiasm: I will/mountains and hills/dry up/rivers/islands/dry up/pools/I will.
62. See Isaiah 26:7-8; 28:7; 40:3; 43:16, 19 and pertinent commentary.
63. See Isaiah 9:2; 2 Nephi 3:5; Doctrine and Covenants 95:6.
64. See Isaiah 40:4 and pertinent commentary.
65. See Isaiah 40:4 and pertinent commentary.
66. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
67. See 1 Nephi 13:28.
68. Gordon B. Hinckley, Our Heritage: a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996, p. 24. See JST Isaiah 42:19-23.
69. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
70. See Joseph Smith—History 1:17-20.
71. JST, 1970, p. 207.
72. Isaiah 6:9-10.
73. JST, 1970, p. 207.
74. Matthew 5:17-18.
75. JST, 1970, p. 208.
76. JST, 1970, p. 208.
77. See 2 Kings 17:6-8; Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 17:2; 43:6; 49:12; 54:7.
78. JST, 1970, p. 208.
79. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.

Isaiah 41: Fear Thou Not; for I Am with Thee

Major prophecies and doctrines in Chapter 41, in the order given, include: The Lord would liberate His people from captivity through the intervention of Persia, which would overpower Babylon; the Lord would raise up a righteous man, Cyrus, to accomplish Israel’s liberation; the Lord denounces idolatry; idols are nothing; Israel, being sustained by the Lord, will thresh the nations; and Israel’s enemies will flee before her. In the latter-day restoration, revelation will enable the humble and prayerful to see, know, consider, and understand the Lord’s doctrines of salvation. Worship of idols is further denounced as vain and foolish.

Helpful in understanding this chapter is that chapters 41 and 42 contain a large-scale example of synonymous parallelism. Like chiasmus, an awareness of synonymous parallelism enables greater understanding without which the meaning of some passages may be obscure. Verses 1 through 20 of Chapter 41 are synonymously parallel with verse 21 of Chapter 41 through verse 17 of Chapter 42.1

In verse 1, the Lord introduces a lawsuit, in which the merits of idolatry are to be tried as in a court, and calls the participants to order. He states: “Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.” The meaning of “keep silence” is “come silently unto me”2 or “listen attentively.” The Lord is identified as the speaker later on, in verse 4. “Judgment,” as used here, means “fairness” or “justice.”3

Verse 1 is synonymously parallel with verses 21 through 24, which are discussed below. The combined set of verses describes a lawsuit in which idolaters are challenged to prove that their idols have any power whatsoever. Verse 21 continues the thought begun in verse 1: “Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” Verses 22 and 23 describe the inability of idols to foresee the future, describe the past, or do good or do evil; verse 24, directed toward the idols, concludes: “Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.”

In verse 2, the Lord poses a rhetorical question: “Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.” The righteous man is Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon.4 “Unto his sword as the dust” and “unto his bow as fallen leaves” describes the ease with which Cyrus’ sword would pass through and conquer nations.

The beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah is chronicled:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia…the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus…that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.5

Verse 3 continues the Lord’s description of Cyrus: “He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.” Cyrus pursued and conquered nations in areas previously unknown to him; “passed safely” means that he was protected by the Lord.

Verses 2 and 3 are synonymously parallel with verses 25 and 26, foretelling the rise of Cyrus who would conquer vast areas, then liberate the Jews from slavery in Babylon. Verse 25 begins, “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come….”

In verse 4, the Lord asks and answers another rhetorical question: “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?” He answers: “I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.”6 The Lord is responsible for liberating the Jews from Babylon. “The First and the Last” is a title of the Lord used in several places in the scriptures.7

Verse 4 is synonymous with verses 27 and 28, which declare that the Lord is powerful and idols are impotent.

Verse 5 states: “The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.” The nations, ranging from the islands to the ends of the earth, would have great fear because of the advancing Persians; they congregated and prepared to defend themselves against the invaders. “The ends of the earth” here means the whole of the earth.8

Verses 1 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Keep silence before me,
B: O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.
C: (2) Who raised up the righteous man from the east,
D: called him
E: to his foot,
F: gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?
G: he gave them as the dust to his sword,
G: and as driven stubble to his bow.
F: (3) He pursued them, and passed safely;
E: even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
D: (4) Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?
C: I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
B: (5) The isles saw it,
A: and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.

“Keep silence before me” is equivalent to “feared.” “O islands…let us come near together to judgment” compares with “the first, and with the last; I am he,” designating that it is the Lord’s judgment being spoken of. “Who raised up the righteous man from the east” corresponds with “I the LORD,” prophesying the rise of Cyrus who would return the Jews from Babylon. “Dust to his sword” matches “driven stubble to his bow,” which describe the ease with which Cyrus advanced over the existing nations of the world.

Verse 6, which is synonymously parallel with verse 27, describes acts of service: “They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” This sentence describes the activities of the nations as they prepared to face the formidable armies under Cyrus’ command; however, because of the parallelism with verse 27, it also describes the Jews’ preparations to return to Jerusalem. Verse 27 foretells that the Lord would send a messenger to Jerusalem with good tidings. The acts of service did not lead to the building of an idol, as described in verse 7.

In verse 7, which is synonymously parallel with verses 28 and 29, the subject changes abruptly to idolatry: “So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.”9 Verse 29 states that “…they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.”

In verses 8, 9 and 10 the Lord proclaims that Israel, because of the Abrahamic covenant, is chosen to be the Lord’s servant. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 1 through 9 of Chapter 42 in which God the Father proclaims his Son, Jesus Christ, as His servant. Both the Lord Jesus Christ and the righteous descendants of Abraham would function as servants of God the Father in bringing the blessings of salvation to the entire human family.10

Verse 8 contrasts idolatrous nations with Israel: “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen,11 the seed of Abraham my friend.”12 Israel would be freed from Babylon because of promises given to Abraham and Jacob.

Verse 9 continues with the Lord’s description of why Israel would be freed from captivity: “Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”13 Israel would be gathered from the ends of the earth and chosen because of the promises given to her fathers and her willingness to serve the Lord. This statement foretells not only the liberation of the Jews from Babylon but also the gathering of Israel in the latter days. Again, “the ends of the earth” means the whole of the earth.14

Verse 10 provides assurance from the Lord that He would be with the house of Israel during the foretold gatherings: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” The “right hand” is one lifted up in making covenants;15 in this case the covenants are made by the Lord with Abraham.

The words of this verse form the basis of a favorite hymn, “How Firm a Foundation:”

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give the aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.16

Joseph B. Wirthlin, applying the message of verse 10 to our own time, taught:

We live in perilous times. The influence of Satan often appears to be unchecked and overwhelming. Remember the promise that God has given to those who build and maintain brightly burning bonfires of testimony to counter the wolves that threaten us. This is His promise: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will …uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”17

In verses 11 through 16, Isaiah proclaims that Israel would be sustained by the Lord and would dominate her enemies. These verses are synonymously parallel with verses 10 through 13 of Chapter 42, which foretell that upon her gathering, Israel would sing praises to the Lord in the various lands to which she is gathered.

Verse 11 describes the dispersal and defeat of Israel’s foes: “Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.”

Verse 12 continues the description: “Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.” Israel’s foes would be defeated and would cease to exist. This prophecy became true of Babylon, which had taken Judah into captivity, and it will also be true of Israel’s oppressors at the time of Israel’s gathering in the latter days.

In verse 13, the Lord provides more assurance: “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” When we unite with the Savior and with His perfect and redeeming love, we can appreciate the reality of this promise from the Lord.18

Verse 14 continues: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” “Thou worm Jacob” means “thou meek and humble Jacob.”19 “Redeemer” and “Holy One of Israel” are titles of Jesus Christ.

Verses 13 and 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (13) For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand,
B: saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
C: (14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob,
C: and ye men of Israel;
B: I will help thee, saith the LORD,
A: and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel

In this chiasm Isaiah testifies that the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel who should come, is Jehovah—rendered “LORD” in the King James Version. This chiasm overlaps with a larger one including verses 8 through 16, providing correlation between shared elements.

Verse 15 describes Israel as an instrument in the hands of God to thresh the nations of the world: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.” “Mountains” and “hills” mean “nations” and “lesser nations.”20 Israel would harvest the fields of the earth—white and ready for the harvest—in the latter days, gathering in the righteous.21

Verse 16 continues the description: “Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” The nations harvested are viewed metaphorically as leaves or chaff being “fanned,” with the wheat gathered and the chaff blown away. Note that natural disasters will play a significant role in destroying the wicked.

Verses 8 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. (9) Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
B: (10) Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
C: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;
D: yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee
E:   with the right hand of my righteousness.
F:   (11) Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing;
G:  and they that strive with thee shall perish.
H: (12) Thou shalt seek them,
H: and shalt not find them,
G: even them that contended with thee:
F:   they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
E:   (13) For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee,
D: Fear not; I will help thee.
C: (14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer,
B: the Holy One of Israel.
A: (15) Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. (16) Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The introductory statement consists of verses 8 and 9 in their entirety, which attests that Israel is the Lord’s servant; these verses are equivalent to all of verses 15 and 16, which form the reflection. Verses 15 and 16 do not form a chiasm themselves but are a series of parallel statements describing Israel’s role as servant. Israel will “thresh the mountains [nations], and beat them small, and shalt make the hills [lesser nations] as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them….” “I am with thee” is synonymous with “the Holy One of Israel.” “The right hand of my righteousness,” meaning the Lord’s covenant hand, contrasts with “thy right hand,” meaning the hand of Jacob, receiving the Lord’s help.

Verses 17 through 20, which represent a change in subject matter, are synonymously parallel with verses 14 through 17 of Chapter 42. During the latter-day restoration, the Lord will provide abundant revelation to the spiritually poor who pray and humble themselves before Him. The Lord will devastate Israel’s oppressors; those who trust in idols will be ashamed.

In verse 17, the Lord begins: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” Compare these words of Jesus, chronicled by John:

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.22

The words “living water” have the same spiritual meaning as the water sought by the poor and needy described in verse 17. In both cases, the Lord is referring metaphorically to the life-giving message of the gospel and its saving ordinances.

In verse 18, the Lord continues: “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” The Lord will make the message of the gospel come forth by revelation from on high, here represented by the metaphorical water.23 This verse foretells the restoration of the gospel in the latter days, the establishment of Zion in the wilderness—in the valleys of the mountains—and the Lord pouring forth revelation upon His people. “Valleys,” “wilderness” and “dry land” also mean, metaphorically, peoples of the earth who live without the Lord’s guidance or inspiration.

Verse 19 continues the metaphor, describing the result of the water flowing in the desert: “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.” These seven types of trees represent peoples brought to know and partake of the blessings of salvation. The Hebrew meaning for “pine” is “ash” or “elm,” a hardwood tree.24

Isaiah’s metaphor has literal significance as well. Compare Isaiah’s declaration earlier, in Chapter 35:

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing….25

This prophecy foretells the establishment of Zion in the wilderness of western North America, with water brought down from the mountains to make the land productive.26

Verse 20 provides the spiritual key to the metaphor: “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” In this verse it is clear that the trees represent peoples—brought to see, know, and consider the blessings of the Lord, the Creator of all.27

Verses 17 through 20 contain a chiasm:

(17) When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst,
A: I the LORD will hear them,
B: I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
C: (18) I will open rivers in high places,
D: and fountains in the midst of the valleys:
E: I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
F: and the dry land springs of water.
G: (19) I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree;
G: I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
F: (20) That they may see,
E: and know,
D: and consider,
C: and understand together,
B: that the hand of the LORD hath done this,
A: and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

“Rivers in high places” is compared to “understand together;” “fountains in the midst of the valleys” is compared to “consider;” “pool of water” is equivalent to “know;” and “springs of water” is matched with “see.” These comparisons clearly indicate the spiritual meaning of the metaphor. “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree” complements “I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together.” The intent of this chiasm is to show that the gifts of the Spirit would be abundant during the latter-day restoration so that those who humbly pray will see, know, consider, and understand. The central statement is a parable describing varieties of trees coming forth in the desert because of the provided water, symbolizing blessings received because of the outpouring of revelation.

In verses 21 through 29 the subject matter shifts again to further denunciation of idolatry, consisting of an indictment or lawsuit. Verses 21 through 24 are synonymously parallel with verse 1, which commences the lawsuit by calling the parties to order.

Verse 21 challenges: “Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” In these two parallel statements, the Lord demands that those who worship idols produce credible evidence that idols have power.

Verse 22 further elaborates the challenge: “Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.” Let the idols prophesy, if they are able.

Verse 23 demands: “Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.”28 Idols have no power to foretell the future—nor to do anything, be it good or evil.

In verse 24 the Lord attests that idols are nothing: “Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.” Speaking to the idols, the Lord declares that they are nothing. Furthermore, he who chooses to worship idols is abominable before the Lord.

In verse 25 the Lord declares the prophecy: “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.” This verse foretells the advance of Cyrus the Elamite king from the north, destroying the nations before him. “From the rising of the sun” refers to Cyrus’ birth in Elam, in the east. “Shall he call upon my name” describes his fulfilling the design of the Lord even though he would be a ruthless despot and an idolater.29

Verse 25 is synonymously parallel with verses 2 and 3, which also foretell the rise of Cyrus who would allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem from their slavery in Babylon.

Verse 26 is synonymously parallel with verses 4 and 5. Verse 26 poses rhetorical questions regarding the Lord’s power, in contrast to dumb idols: “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.” No idols have prophesied, nor told us things from the beginning as the Lord does. No one hears words of the Lord spoken by idols; no idols have foretold the conquest of Cyrus nor of his righteousness in providing for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.

Verse 27, which is synonymous with verse 6, presents the Lord’s alternative: “The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.” The Lord has taught these things to Zion (the righteous) from the first, and will send messengers to Jerusalem to bring them the glad tidings of the gospel. In this verse “Zion” means both a place of latter-day spiritual gathering and the latter-day righteous Jerusalem, the place of physical gathering for repentant Israel.30 Verse 6 clarifies that the good tidings spoken of are the return of the Jews from Babylon, and as a type, the gathering of Israel in the latter days.

Verse 28 states: “For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “even among men….”31 Among idols and the men who worship them, stupefaction prevails.

Verse 29 summarizes: “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.”32 Idols are vanity and foolishness.

 


Notes:

1. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 349-356.
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. 2790, p. 361.
3. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 33:5; 49:4; 53:8.
4. See Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1.
5. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; see also Ezra 1:1-11.
6. Verse 4 contains a chiasm: Who hath wrought and done it/beginning/I/the LORD/the first/I am he.
7. See Isaiah 44:6; 48:12 (1 Nephi 20:12); Revelation 1:11, 17; 22:13; Alma 11:39; Doctrine and Covenants 110:4.
8. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 40:28; 41:9.
9. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: Carpenter/goldsmith/hammer/anvil/sodering/he fastened it with nails.
10. See Doctrine and Covenants 109:57-58.
11. See Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:18.
12. See 2 Chronicles 20:7; also James 2:23.
13. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Thou, Israel/servant/Jacob whom I have chosen/seed/Abraham/friend/ thou/ whom I have taken/servant/thee.
14. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 40:28; 41:5.
15. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Isaiah 62:8.
16. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 85, “How Firm a Foundation,” verse 3.
17. Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 34.
18. W. Craig Zwick, “The Lord Thy God Will Hold Thy Hand,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, p. 34.
19. Brown, et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8438, p. 1068; see also Isaiah 41:14, footnote 14a.
20. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
21. See John 4:35; also Doctrine and Covenants 4:4; 6:3; 11:3; 12:3; 14:3; 33:3,7.
22. John 4:10-14.
23. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:10-11; 58:11.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8410, p. 187.
25. Isaiah 35:1-2.
26. LeGrand Richards, “The Second Coming of Christ,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 74.
27. See Isaiah 40:28; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
28. Verses 22 and 23 contain a chiasm: Shew us what shall happen/shew the former things/what they be/consider them/know/latter end of them/declare us things for to come/shew the things that are to come hereafter.
29. See Isaiah 10:15 (2 Nephi 20:15).
30. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 40:9; 51:3.
31. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
32. Verses 23 through 29 contain a chiasm: Shew the things that are to come hereafter/gods/ye are of nothing, and your work of nought/I have raised up one from the north/there is none that sheweth/Zion/behold/behold/ Jerusalem/there was no man/they are all vanity/their works are nothing/molten images/wind and confusion.

Isaiah 40: And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, And the Rough Places Plain

Chapter 40 is divided into several parts. The first, including verses 1 through 5, is made familiar to us by the words of Handel’s Messiah. In this first part Isaiah presents several important prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, the knowledge of which would comfort the people. The second part, comprising verses 6 through 9, is a foreshadowing of what John the Baptist would do in preparing the way for the Lord. This second part compares the fragile mortal state of mankind with the permanence of the word of God, which should stand forever. The third part, comprising verses 10 and 11, develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd. Verses describing the Good Shepherd are also memorialized in Handel’s Messiah. The fourth part, comprising verses 12 through 26, describes the omnipotence and omniscience of God, contrasting His power with the impotence of dumb idols and the utter foolishness of men in worshiping them. The fifth and final part, comprising verses 27 through 31, attests that those who follow the Lord will be strengthened.

This chapter marks the beginning of a major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising chapters 40 through 54, in which the ancient nation of Israel is described as being in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events.1

Verse 1 states: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” This archaic reflexive verb form may not ring familiar to the modern English speaker. It means, simply, “be ye comforted.” The original Hebrew meaning is “to be consoled;” it also means “to repent.”2

Verse 1 serves as introduction to the next four verses, which present separate prophecies about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why should we be comforted? Because of the knowledge of these important things that will herald the advent of the Savior. Why should we repent? Because the coming of the Lord is nigh.

Verse 2 states: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”3 The Hebrew meaning translated as “warfare” is “hard service.”4 Because of the infinite sacrifice of the Lord, sins may be forgiven through repentance—both individually and as a people. Under the Law of Moses, restitution involved double repayment: “For all manner of trespass…. whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.”5 At the time of restoration of Judah in the latter days preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming, Judah will have paid in full for her sins under the law. This phrase also serves as a warning that because of the degree of knowledge given to all of Israel, should she forsake this higher knowledge the penalties would be severe.

Another possible meaning for the message of comfort and consolation presented in verses 1 and 2 is that had Jerusalem accepted John the Baptist and his preparatory mission, her iniquity would have been pardoned.

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord elaborates: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”6 Compare the words of Jesus in the New Testament: “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”7

Verse 3 foretells the preparatory mission of John the Baptist: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”8 The pathway, a metaphor meaning knowledge of the Plan of Salvation,9 was to be prepared in advance of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who would come.

John the Baptist would go before the Messiah to prepare the way. Fulfillment of this prophecy is acknowledged in the New Testament:

For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias [Isaiah], saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.10

Nephi recited the teachings of his father, Lehi, regarding John the Baptist:

And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—
Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.11

To His latter-day followers, the Lord applies the same mandate to “make his paths straight” as part of the Restoration, preparatory to the Lord’s Second Coming: “Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”12

The Lord further explains to the latter-day saints:

Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful…whose voice is unto men—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight….
Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.13

“Make straight in the desert a highway” foretells the preparatory function of John the Baptist and as a type foretells the establishment of Zion in the wilderness before the Lord’s Second Coming. Previously, in Chapter 35, Isaiah foretold:

And an highway shall be there [in the wilderness], 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.14

The significance of the highway is spiritual, meaning the “narrow way” having a “strait gate.” Compare Jesus’ words, recorded by Matthew: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”15

The way opened by the Lord for the children of Israel to pass over the Red Sea is a type for the spiritual highway—the strait and narrow way.16 The Lord’s way will be so plain that travelers thereon, even though they may be fools, will have no trouble following it as long as they are obedient.17

Just as John the Baptist was driven into the wilderness to escape persecution, the Latter-day Saints were forced to flee their beloved city—Nauvoo, Illinois—due to persecution. The prophet Joseph Smith had been martyred. His successor, Brigham Young, following guidance given him by the Lord18 and earlier by Joseph Smith, led the Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin, an uninhabited place in the American west where they established a society in which they could practice the newly-restored Christian religion and increase in strength, less hindered by detractors.

Verses 1 through 3 are set to music in Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 2—Recitative for Tenor, “Comfort Ye My People.”

Regarding John the Baptist, the Lord revealed the following to Joseph Smith:

For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power (emphasis added).19

Verse 4 describes metaphorically the restoration of the gospel, including the united social order practiced among the believers, to be brought about before the coming of the Messiah: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” The Hebrew meaning for “rough places” is “mountain chains.”20 This verse describes not only the mission of John the Baptist in ushering in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ; as a type it also describes the role of Joseph Smith, the prophet of the latter-day restoration. The passage may also refer to topographic changes that will take place before the Second Coming of the Lord as a result of cataclysmic earthquakes,21 but it is clearly not the meaning that applies to the mission of John the Baptist or the latter‑day restoration of the gospel.

James, the brother of Jesus,22 interprets the meaning: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”23 It is clear because of the phrase “as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” that James is referring to this passage in this chapter of Isaiah. In verse 6, Isaiah states: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.”24 According to this prophecy it would be John the Baptist’s responsibility to introduce the united social order among his adherents, although his having done so is not spelled out in the New Testament.

James, in the verse just quoted, expands upon the concept that God is not a respecter of persons and will answer the prayer of him who asks in faith.25 Notably, it was while he was reading a preceding verse in the first chapter of James that Joseph Smith was prompted to approach the Lord in prayer, which ultimately resulted in the restoration of the gospel.26

In Doctrine and Covenants the Lord describes how the saints in the latter days are to set up the law of consecration to provide for their temporal needs, using words similar to those of James: “But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low (emphasis added).”27

Further, “crooked” false doctrines or “crooked” pathways that purportedly lead to eternal life would be made straight, and “rough places,” meaning confusing doctrines that are hard to understand, would be made plain to the understanding.

The words of verse 4 form the text for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 3—Air for Tenor, “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”

Verse 5 concludes the set of Messianic concepts that are to provide comfort to the Lord’s people: “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

The Lord gives more information regarding the foretold event:

Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together (emphasis added).28

The meaning is that those who call upon the name of the Lord and worship Him in purity will be directed to gather in holy places for their protection, to undergo preparation for the coming of the Lord which is to follow. Then the Lord will be revealed, by removal of a veil that covers His heavenly temple and tabernacle. Surely, it will be of great comfort to the Lord’s righteous people for their Lord, Jesus Christ, to be revealed to the whole earth.

Verses 3 through 5 are quoted by Luke in the New Testament, also identifying John the Baptist as “one crying in the wilderness.”29

The words of verse 5 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 4—Chorus, “And the Glory of the Lord.”  Verse 5 is cited in an important doctrinal statement on Christ by the living Apostles:

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.30

Verses 6 through 8 foretell the message of John the Baptist, first introduced in verse 3. Verse 6 begins: “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?” The message is: “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” This verse is paraphrased by James, as cited above.31

Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (3) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
B: Prepare ye the way of the LORD,
C: make straight in the desert
D: a highway for our God.
E:   (4) Every valley shall be exalted,
E:   and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
D: and the crooked
C: shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
B: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
A: (6) The voice said, Cry….

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” is equivalent to “the voice said, cry….” In both cases, the voice is that of John the Baptist. “Prepare ye the way of The LORD” complements “and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,” meaning that the preparation foretold is for the glorious Second Coming of the Lord. “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” is complemented by “and the crooked shall be made straight, “ indicating that the strait and narrow way to exaltation, made crooked through apostasy, is what should be made straight. “Every valley shall be exalted” contrasts with “every mountain and hill shall be made low.” These phrases mean that those of high position or temporal estate would be humbled and the poor would be uplifted under the Lord’s united social order to be introduced by John the Baptist.

Verse 7 continues the message to be delivered by John the Baptist: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”32 The last phrase of this verse explains the metaphor. “Spirit” and “wind” are different meanings of the same Hebrew word.33 Isaiah’s meaning may be that winds—representing mortal conditions in general—caused or allowed by the Lord bring about the temporality of the human condition.

Verses 5 through 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
B: and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
C: (6) The voice said, Cry.
C: And he said, What shall I cry?
B: All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
A: (7) The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed” is compared to “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” During our temporary mortal state, each must obtain the influence of the Spirit in order to abide the glory of the Lord’s Second Coming. “All flesh shall see it together” is matched with “all flesh is grass,” warning us that we would be consumed at His coming like dry grass unless we have the Spirit with us.

Verse 8 contrasts the temporality of man in his mortal state with the permanence of God: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” All is temporary pertaining to mortal man, whereas God and His words are eternal and will stand forever. Note the parallel statements of verses 7 and 8: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” is first matched with “because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” in verse 7, and then contrasted with “but the word of our God shall stand for ever” in verse 8. The meaning is that whereas man’s state is mortal and temporary, the word of God is eternal. Again, note that “spirit” and “wind” are translated from the same Hebrew word.34

The Apostle Peter quoted verses 6 through 8, expanding upon their meaning:

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
35

Verse 9 declares: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”36 “That bringest good tidings” means “he that brings good news,” or “herald;”37 the bearer of good news concerning Zion is directed to get up into a high mountain. The word “gospel” comes from the Old English, meaning “the good message.”38 Similarly, in the second phrase of this verse, he who would bring the good tidings of the gospel to Jerusalem is instructed to lift his voice with strength and without fear.

Ecclesiastical leaders whose responsibility it is to spread the good news of the gospel must, without fear, show the people the way to behold their God. This mandate applies in particular to the prophets of the latter days, whose mission it is to prepare the people of both Zion and Jerusalem to meet the returning Messiah. “Zion” as used in this verse means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as being a synonym for Jerusalem, in particular the latter-day Jerusalem in which righteousness would prevail.39 “High mountain” also refers to the temple, a place of preparation for those who would preach the gospel.40

The words of verse 9 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 9—Air for Alto, and Chorus, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.”

Verse 10 declares: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” This passage foretells the Lord’s Second Coming; His first coming was as an inauspicious babe in Bethlehem, which contrasts markedly with this description. His military power, as well as the acclaim due Him because of His mighty accomplishments, will be apparent to all.

The Lord, in Doctrine and Covenants, elaborates: “And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”41

Verse 11 develops the metaphor of Messiah as the Good Shepherd: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” In their weakened state, ewes which have recently given birth need extra care.

During His mortal ministry, Jesus declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.42

Here, in the context of His being the Good Shepherd, Jesus foretells His infinite sacrifice in that He would lay down His life.

King Benjamin exhorted his people:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.43

The words of verse 11 comprise the text of Handel’s Messiah, Part 1 No. 20—Air For Alto, “He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd.” The metaphor of the Lord as the Good Shepherd is also presented in Psalm 23. See also the words to the hymns “The Lord is My Shepherd”44 and “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”45

Delbert L. Stapley taught:

The testimony that Jesus is the Good Shepherd was a figure of speech familiar to those accustomed to the pastoral conditions of Palestine. Jesus knew His hearers were acquainted with the prophecy that a shepherd had been promised the children of Israel…. Isaiah prophesied that when God would come down, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm.” There was no mistaking what Jesus meant. He was their Lord—the promised Messiah!
By likening false teachers and pastors to thieves and hirelings whose concern was for money rather than the flock, Jesus repudiated all pretenders. A stronger indictment could not be imagined!46

Beginning in verse 12, the Lord is described as the Creator: “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?”47,48 The Great Isaiah Scroll reads: “Who hath measured the waters of the sea in the hollow of his hand….?”49 The power of the Creator is awesome and incomprehensible to man. Note that “who hath” is matched with a series of five parallel statements in this verse, as well as others in the following verses. Isaiah’s purpose in using parallel structures is for emphasis. “Measured,” “meted out…with the span,” “comprehended…in a measure,” “weighed…in scales, and [weighed]…in a balance” all describe activities associated with building—the earthly analog of the Godly work of creation. The “span” is the distance between the tip of the thumb and the little finger when the hand is fully extended.

Verse 13 continues Isaiah’s rhetorical questions: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” The Lord’s infinite knowledge, demonstrated in His creative works, is incomprehensible to man. Who hath taught the Lord? Certainly not even the best and the wisest among men. Note that the structure of this verse is the same as the previous verse, consisting of a lead phrase “who hath,” followed by two parallel statements that are a continuation of those of verse 12.

The Apostle Paul paraphrased and expanded upon verse 13:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
50

Modern revelation invokes similar words: “Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out.”51

Verse 14 continues: “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” 52 Here Isaiah establishes that no mortal man taught the Lord these things; rather, He was taught by His Heavenly Father. Note, again, the parallel structure: “With whom” is the lead phrase, followed by five equivalent parallel phrases. “Path of judgment” and “way of understanding” symbolize the Plan of Salvation.53 “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”54

Verse 15 describes the magnitude of the Lord’s accomplishments: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” The Lord’s omnipotence is again attested, emphasized by the parallel structure.

Verse 16 describes man’s puniness in honoring the Lord for His power and accomplishments: “And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.” Because of His greatness, not even all of the animals in Lebanon, nor all the firewood in the great forests therein, are adequate for a burnt offering large enough to bestow Him due honor.

Verse 17 summarizes: “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” In light of the Lord’s omnipotence and accomplishments the nations that populate the earth—together with all their human achievements—are insignificant. If the Lord has power to create the earth and form man upon it, surely He has power to make good on all His promises.

Verse 18 introduces Isaiah’s challenge to idolaters: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” These rhetorical questions affirm that there is no entity comparable to God.

Verses 19 and 20 describe the idolater’s futile efforts in making something worthy of worship. Verse 19 begins: “The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.”

Verse 20 states: “He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.” Even the poor who cannot afford silver and gold try to provide durable wood for making a graven image.

Verse 21 begins Isaiah’s exasperated denunciation: “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?” These four negative rhetorical questions are structurally parallel, all having the same meaning. Their use demonstrates Isaiah’s contention that it is abundantly clear that the Lord—not vain idols—is our Creator and controls men’s destinies. Idolatry is gross ignorance.

Verse 22 recalls the omnipotence of the Lord, summarizing Isaiah’s statements in verses 12 through 15: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” The Lord, sitting upon the earth’s orbit, can view all the inhabitants of the earth at once.

Verse 23 confirms the power of the Lord over the earth’s political leaders: “That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” The powerful, when compared to the Lord’s omnipotence, are as nothing.

Verse 24 elaborates: “Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.” Without the Lord’s nurturing care, political rulers are like plants not cared for nor nourished.

In verse 25, the Lord poses another rhetorical question: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.”

In verse 26, He provides the answer: “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.” 55 The psalmist asserts: “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”56 All the stars in the sky bear witness of the creative power of the Lord. He numbers the stars in the heavens and knows them by name. Each, without fail, obeys the laws given it by the Lord.57

Verse 27 delivers Isaiah’s challenge to Israel: “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” 58 Isaiah challenges Jacob’s statement that the Lord is not aware of his difficult path and that God disregards his best efforts. “My way” [Jacob’s] means life’s challenges and tribulations; “the way” means the Plan of Salvation.59 “Judgment” as used here means “sound reasoning.”60

Verse 28 provides Isaiah’s answer: “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” “The ends of the earth” here means the whole of the earth.61 It is abundantly clear—declares Isaiah—that the Lord, the Creator of all,62 is continually aware, His vigilance is unending, and there is no limit to His knowledge and understanding.

Verses 21 through 28 contain a chiasm:

A: (21) Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
B: (22) It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
C: (23) That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
C: (24) Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. (25) To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
B: (26) Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (27) Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
A: (28) Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

In this chiasm Isaiah declares that the Lord is the Great Creator; dumb idols and earthly rulers bear no comparison. “Have ye not known?” matches “hast thou not known?” First, Isaiah chastises idolaters as a group; then he berates them individually for their gross ignorance. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” is equivalent to “behold who hath created these things,” attesting that the Lord is the Creator. “Princes,” together with “they shall not be planted” attest that worldly leaders are temporary whereas the Lord’s reign and power endure forever.

In verses 29 through 31, Isaiah describes the willingness of the Lord to give strength to those who obey Him. Verse 29 begins: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”63 The Lord strengthens the faithful.

Jeffery R. Holland testified:

I have personally known in my own life the realization of the promise “that the everlasting God…the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is [he] weary.” I am a witness that “he giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”64

Verse 30 describes the plight of the wicked: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

Verse 31 describes the goodness of the Lord to the obedient: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” “Wait upon the LORD” comes from the Hebrew meaning “hope for,” or “anticipate” the Lord.65 Just as eagles grow new feathers to renew their power of flight, the Lord will strengthen and renew the righteous who serve Him.

Regarding this passage, Robert D. Hales has said:

…When pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. “Wait upon the Lord…look for him.”66 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Healing comes in the Lord’s time and the Lord’s way; be patient.67

Adherence to the Lord’s law of health—referred to in Doctrine and Covenants as “the Word of Wisdom”68—is one demonstration of obedience by the faithful, who are promised these same blessings:

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.69

The parallel phrases “run and not be weary” and “walk and not faint” are synonymous. “Run” being paired with “not be weary” and “walk” being matched with “not faint” bear no special significance even though they appear in the Word of Wisdom matched as presented in this verse.

Compare a similar structure earlier, in Chapter 8, which reads: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”70 In two other instances, these elements occur in reverse order. In one place in Doctrine and Covenants they are rendered “bind up the law and seal up the testimony,”71 whereas in another place they are rendered “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony.”72 Because these parallel phrases are essentially synonymous, in neither instance is the meaning changed.

Verses 29 through 31 contain a chiasm:

A: (29) He giveth power to the faint;
B: and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
C: (30) Even the youths
D: shall faint
D: and be weary,
C: and the young men shall utterly fall:
B: (31) But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
A: they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

The Lord strengthens the obedient and humble. “He giveth power to the faint” is equivalent to “they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Adherence to the Lord’s law of health is one way to be strengthened by the Lord.

 


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. 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. 5162, p. 636.
3. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: Comfort ye/my people/your God/comfortably.
4. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6635, p. 838-839.
5. Exodus 22:9.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 82:3.
7. Luke 12:48.
8. Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD’s hand/sins/voice of him/crieth/wilderness/the LORD.
9. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
10. Matthew 3:3-6. See also Mark 1:3-4; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23.
11. 1 Nephi 10:7-10.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 33:10.
13. Doctrine and Covenants 65:1, 3.
14. Isaiah 35:8.
15. Matthew 7:14.
16. See Exodus 14:21‑31.
17. See Isaiah 35:8; see also Isaiah 3:12; 8:11; 26:7-8; 28:7 and pertinent commentary.
18. Doctrine and Covenants 136.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 84:28.
20. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7406, p. 940.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 49:23.
22. See Bible Dictionary—James, Epistle of.
23. James 1:9‑10.
24. Isaiah 40:6.
25. See James 1:5‑6.
26. See Joseph Smith—History 1:11 and verses following.
27. Doctrine and Covenants 104:16.
28. Doctrine and Covenants 101:22‑23.
29. Luke 3:4-6.
30. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, p. 2‑3.
31. James 1:10.
32. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 5 through 7: All flesh is grass/goodliness thereof/grass withereth/flower fadeth/spirit of the LORD/the people is grass.
33. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
34. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7307, p. 924.
35. 1 Peter 1:24-25.
36. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Our God/O Zion/lift up thy voice/lift it up/cities of Judah/your God.
37. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1319, p. 142.
38. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 318.
39. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 41:27; 51:3.
40. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 343.
41. Doctrine and Covenants 1:14.
42. John 10:11‑15.
43. Alma 5:38.
44. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no.108, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
45. Hymns, no.109, “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare.”
46. Delbert L. Stapley, “What Constitutes the True Church,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 21.
47. Verses 10 and 11 contain a chiasm: Lord GOD/strong hand/his arm/reward/work/his arm/gently lead.
48. Verse 12 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Measured/hand/waters/ heaven/span/comprehended …measure. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
49. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 159.
50. Romans 11:33-34; see also 1 Corinthians 2:15.
51. Doctrine and Covenants 76:2.
52. Verse 14 contains a chiasm: Instructed him/taught him/taught him/shewed to him…understanding. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
53. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 35:8; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
54. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:27; 42:3; 59:8.
55. Verse 26 contains two chiasms ; the first is recognized in the original Hebrew: Lift up on high/eyes/behold/who. Them all/greatness of his might/he is strong in power/not one. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
56. Psalm 147:4.
57. Doctrine and Covenants 88:25.
58. Verse 27 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Is hid/my way/from the LORD/from my God/my judgment/is passed over. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
59. See Isaiah 26:7-8; 28:7; 42:16 and pertinent commentary.
60. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14; 42:3; 59:8.
61. See Isaiah 5:26; 26:15; 41:5, 9.
62. See Isaiah 41:20; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
63. Verse 29 contains a chiasm: He giveth power/faint/them/no might/strength.
64. Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, p. 82.
65. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6960, p. 875.
66. Isaiah 8:17; 2 Nephi 18:17.
67. Robert D. Hales, “Healing Soul and Body,” Ensign, Nov.1998, p. 17.
68. See Doctrine and Covenants 89:1.
69. Doctrine and Covenants 89:18‑21.
70. Isaiah 8:16.
71. Doctrine and Covenants 88:84.
72. Doctrine and Covenants 109:46.

Isaiah 39: All that Is in Thine House…Shall Be Carried to Babylon

Chapter 39 is the last of four chapters in Isaiah’s writings called the “historical chapters” that describe a series of events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. These events are of great importance to us; they serve as prophetic types for events that will occur in the latter days.1 This chapter also marks the end of the first major division in the Book of Isaiah, comprising chapters 2 through 39, in which Israel is described in her homeland in a state of wickedness.2

Events prophesied in Chapter 39 were fulfilled within 150 years after they were foretold by Isaiah. However, their ancient fulfillment does not end our latter-day interest in them. Fulfillment of prophecy more than once—first in ancient times and again in our own day—is the essence of these historical chapters.

The events of Chapter 39 were also recorded by the scribes of the king.3 A careful comparison reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse without significantly altering the meaning.

Major events recorded in Chapter 39 are the visit of dignitaries from Babylon, Hezekiah showing his wealth to them, Isaiah’s visit to Hezekiah, and Isaiah’s prophecy of the Babylonian captivity. The events of Chapter 39 occurred shortly after those of the preceding chapter, as stated in the first verse.

Verse 1 begins the narrative: “At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.” Emissaries were sent to represent the son of the king of Babylon, rather than his coming himself.

Verse 2 continues: “And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.”4 The record of the scribes renders “And Hezekiah hearkened unto them….”5 Rashly, Hezekiah shows the visiting emissaries all his wealth. This act resulted in Jerusalem being considered a valuable prize for the conquering armies of Babylon, even generations later. It is notable that Hezekiah possessed great wealth even after having provided a vast ransom to the king of Assyria.6

In verse 3, Isaiah begins his questioning: “Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.”

In verse 4, Isaiah continues: “Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.” Isaiah’s question reveals his advance knowledge of what had taken place.

Verses 5 through 7 contain Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Babylonian captivity. Verse 5 begins: “Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts—”7

Verse 6 states: “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.” Isaiah speaking in the context of the visit of Babylonian emissaries describes dire consequences for Hezekiah having shown them his wealth. In today’s global political situation, an analog would be the unwise sharing of military and technological secrets with actual or potential adversaries. Isaiah’s presenting this for latter-day readers may indicate that such imprudent divulging of national secrets would play a pivotal role in the final scenes of the world before the Second Coming of the Lord.

Verses 3 through 6 contain a chiasm:

(3) Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said,
A: They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.
B: (4) Then said he, What have they seen in thine house?
C: And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house
D: have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures
D: that I have not shewed them. (5) Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:
C: (6) Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house,
B: and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day,
A: shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

“What have they seen in thine house?” complements “that which thy fathers have laid up in store….” The ascending side of the chiasm presents Isaiah’s questions and Hezekiah’s answers, and the descending side contains Isaiah’s prophetic response. The matching of elements in this chiasm suggests a cause-and-effect relationship in Hezekiah’s showing the Babylonian dignitaries his wealth and Babylon’s eventual conquest of Jerusalem.

Verse 7 concludes Isaiah’s prophetic statement: “And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”8 “Eunuch” comes from the Greek, meaning literally “guardian of the bed.”9 One meaning is an emasculated male, who logically could be trusted to guard the harem, or “bed,” of a king. A broader meaning, most likely intended here, is an official in the government of a king who has no real authority but must follow explicit instructions or policy.

In verse 8, the king sees some good in Isaiah’s dire prediction: “Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.” The record of the scribes says: “…And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?”10 Hezekiah takes comfort in knowing that these events will not happen until after he has departed.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 36, 37 and 38 and pertinent commentary.
2. 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.
3. See 2 Kings 20:12-19.
4. Verse 2 contains two overlapping chiasms : Hezekiah…shewed them/house/precious things/silver/gold/precious ointment/armour…treasures…house/Hezekiah shewed them. Shewed them/house/precious things/silver …gold/spices…precious ointment/treasures/house/shewed them.
5. 2 Kings 20:13.
6. 2 Kings 18:14-16; also Isaiah 36 and pertinent commentary.
7. Verses 2 through 5 contain a chiasm: Hezekiah/shewed them/house/Hezekiah/Isaiah the prophet/far country/ Babylon/he/Hezekiah/house/treasures/shewed them/Hezekiah.
8. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm: Babylon/sons/issue/thee/thou/beget/eunuchs/Babylon.
9. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 261.
10. 2 Kings 20:19.

Isaiah 38: So the Sun Returned Ten Degrees, by Which Degrees it Was Gone Down

Chapter 38 is the third of four chapters in the book of Isaiah called the “historical chapters” which describe certain events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. These events are prophetic types for occurrences in the latter days; they are therefore of great importance to us.1

Events prophesied in Chapter 38 were fulfilled shortly after they were foretold by Isaiah. The Assyrian aggressors, however, are typical of an equivalent latter-day superpower that will threaten the Lord’s righteous people. Just as He defended Hezekiah and his people anciently, the Lord will defend His people in the latter days.2 The sign given to Hezekiah to witness that he would be healed of his illness was also given to the entire city of Jerusalem as a promise from the Lord that they would be delivered from the Assyrians. Similarly, the sign given then may be given again to the Lord’s righteous people to assure them that they will be delivered from a modern Assyrian equivalent. Dual fulfillment of prophecy, once in ancient times and again in our own day, is the message of this chapter.

The events of Chapter 38 are also recorded by the scribes of the king, in 2 Kings 20:1-8. A careful comparison of equivalent passages reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse without significantly altering the meaning. However, the narrative by the king’s scribes provides notably more detail regarding the events of this chapter. The lack of detail in Isaiah’s account may indicate that the historical part is not as important for us as the prophetic type presented.

Major events recorded in Chapter 38 are that Hezekiah becomes seriously ill, Isaiah declares the word of the Lord to Hezekiah that he would die, Hezekiah pleads with the Lord to spare his life, Isaiah returns and informs Hezekiah that the Lord would permit him to live another fifteen years, a sign is given to Jerusalem that the Lord would defend her against Assyria and to Hezekiah that he would recover, and Hezekiah praises and thanks the Lord. Rather than continuing the account of the previous chapter, the events of Chapter 38 occurred before or at the same time as those of Chapter 37.3

Verse 1 begins: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.” “In those days” indicates that these events occurred before or during the time of those of the previous chapter, rather than sequentially after them.

Verse 2 continues: “Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD—” The sentence is continued in the next verse.

In verse 3 Hezekiah’s prayer is summarized, continuing the sentence of verse 2: “And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.” Hezekiah reasons in his prayer that he has walked in obedience before the Lord. His request that his life be spared is implied rather than spoken, in Isaiah’s brief account. All instances of “Hezekiah” in verses 1 through 3 are chiastically equivalent, as are all instances of “the Lord” or O Lord.”4

Hezekiah’s righteousness is manifest by his acts:

He [Hezekiah] removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it….[H]e clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.5

Verse 4 continues: “Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying—” with the sentence continued into the next verse. The account of the king’s scribes provides more detail: “And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying—”6

Verse 5 presents the words of the Lord, continuing the sentence of verse 4: “Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.”7 “The God of David thy father” emphasizes that the Lord’s covenants with king David also pertained to Hezekiah.

The account of the scribes provides more detail, with the Lord addressing Isaiah:

Turn again, and tell Hezekiah, the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.8

In verse 6, the Lord declares: “And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.” This statement by the Lord shows that Hezekiah’s illness and the events surrounding it occurred before the destruction of the Assyrian army, described in the previous chapter.9 This conclusion is also supported by the first verse of this chapter, which begins with “In those days….”10 The account of the king’s scribes adds: “…and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”11 The Lord’s reason for defending Jerusalem is to honor His covenant with David and his successors that He would defend them in righteousness. “For mine own sake” reflects Hezekiah’s plea in his prayer: “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his [the king of Assyria’s] hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.”12

“Thus saith the LORD” in verse 5 is followed by the parallel phrase “the God of David thy father.” This, in turn, is followed by five other parallel phrases. The first two begin with “I have heard” and “I have seen,” both in verse 5, referring to Hezekiah’s prayer and tears. The next three begin with “I will,” and denote the things the Lord will do in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer. These are “I will add unto thy days fifteen years” in verse 5, and “I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria” and “I will defend this city,” both in verse 6.

At this point in the narrative of the king’s scribes, information is provided that is not contained in Isaiah’s account until the end of the chapter, where it appears almost as an afterthought (see verses 21 and 22):

And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?13

Verse 7 (now returning to Isaiah’s account) declares: “And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken.”14 What the Lord would do, described in the parallel phrases from the account of the scribes cited above, is heal Hezekiah and deliver Jerusalem out of the hand of the king of Assyria. The sign would therefore have a dual purpose—to the inhabitants of Jerusalem it would be an affirmation that the Lord would defend them against the Assyrians, and to Hezekiah it was, in addition, a promise that he would be healed and granted 15 more years of life.

In verse 9 of the account of the scribes, Isaiah asks Hezekiah regarding the sign: “[S]hall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?”15 The subsequent verse provides more detail: “And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees,”16 indicating that it was Hezekiah who chose which of the two options presented by Isaiah would be the sign.

In verse 8 (again, back to Isaiah’s account), the Lord declares: “Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.” In the solar day this would amount to a lengthening by about two-thirds of an hour, or 40 minutes. Note that “I will bring again the shadow of the degrees” is the sixth parallel statement beginning with “I will” or “I have,” starting in verse 5. Like the first five, this sixth one follows a chiastic structure.

Regarding signs in the latter days, the Lord, in revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith, stated:

And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.
And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.17

Great signs and wonders, we are informed, will characterize the time shortly before the Second Coming of the Lord. Imagine the consternation of the modern scientific community as they attempt to explain the sign of the sun going back ten degrees! However, those familiar with the writings of Isaiah will be comforted by it.

Verses 9 through 20 comprise a psalm written by king Hezekiah regarding his illness and miraculous recovery. Verse 9 introduces the psalm: “The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness.”

In verses 10 through 14, Hezekiah describes his illness and great distress at the prospect of his dying. Verse 10 begins: “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.” The Hebrew word rendered as “cutting off” means “cessation of.”18

Verse 11 continues: “I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.”19 The Great Isaiah Scroll omits “even the LORD.”20 This statement provides an interesting perspective on Hezekiah’s messianic beliefs. Throughout his life he had apparently looked forward to the possibility that the Lord Jehovah would come during his lifetime. With death impending, he expresses severe disappointment that this fond hope would not be fulfilled. Further, he expresses disappointment that he would lose his association with men on the earth.

In verse 12, Hezekiah further mourns the ending of his life: “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.” These similes describe the transient nature of our lives, even as a tent can be taken down and folded or as a weaver cuts across the woven fabric. “Pining sickness” comes from the Hebrew meaning “hanging down.”21

In verse 13, Hezekiah recounts a sleepless night: “I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.” He thought about the process of death, the failure of his body, the ending of his life.

Verse 14 continues: “Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove—” Hezekiah describes his sobbings, likening them to the sounds of these birds. “Mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” He looks upward spiritually toward the Lord. “Undertake for me” comes from the Hebrew meaning “be my security.”22

In verse 15, Hezekiah acknowledges the Lord healing him: “What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.” He is left speechless by the Lord’s magnanimity in sparing his life—”himself hath done it.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “…and himself hath healed me: I shall go softly all my years, that I may not walk in the bitterness of my soul.”23 Because of his gratitude for the Lord restoring him to life, he determines to walk “softly”—deliberately24—all his life so that he may not be engulfed in bitterness of soul. This bitterness, or sorrow, comes from the realization of how fleeting life is.

In verses 16 through 20 Hezekiah describes great blessings he has received from the Lord. In verse 16, Hezekiah prays: “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.” The Joseph Smith Translation adds another phrase: “…and in all these things will I praise thee.”25 The Hebrew word translated as  “recover me” means “restore me.”26 Men go through life knowing that life is transitory, and like other men so will Hezekiah go. The Lord’s restoration of his life also gives him a full realization of his mortality.

Verse 17 continues the prayer: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “Behold, I had great bitterness instead of peace, but thou hast in love to my soul, saved me from the pit of corruption….”27  Notwithstanding his sorrow upon realizing how short life is, he rejoices in his knowledge of the two-stage salvation provided by the Lord; first, that every man will be restored to life in the resurrection, and second, that the Lord provides a way for us to be forgiven of our sins.

In verse 18, Hezekiah expresses further gratitude: “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.” Praising and celebrating the Lord’s mercy belong to mortality, and hoping for the advent of the Messiah, he reasons, belongs to the living.

Verse 19 concludes Hezekiah’s prayer: “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” Hezekiah, permitted to continue living, praises the Lord. As a father and a king, he recognizes his responsibility to teach his children, and also his subjects, the principles of the gospel.

In verse 20, Hezekiah summarizes: “The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.” This psalm was apparently sung accompanied by stringed instruments in the temple.

Verses 10 through 20 contain a chiasm:28

A: (10) I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
B: (11) I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD,
C: in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
D: (12) Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
E: (13) I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones:
F: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
G: (14) Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
H: (15) What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me,
H: and himself hath healed me: I shall go softly all my years, that I may not walk in the bitterness of my soul.
G: (16) O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit:
F: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live, and in all these things will I praise thee.
E: 17) Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul saved me from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
D: (18) For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
C: (19) The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
B: (20) The LORD was ready to save me:
A: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

Hezekiah’s psalm is structured as a chiasm. At the focal point, the Lord heals him: “He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath healed me.” In the ascending side Hezekiah contemplates his illness and the inevitability of his death; he suffers greatly, considering that earthly joys and glories would soon pass from him. In the descending side he acknowledges the great peace he has received from the Lord through his being healed, both physically and spiritually. Hezekiah resolves to sing songs of praise unto the Lord for the rest of his life. “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave” contrasts with “therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.”

Verse 21 states: “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.” “Lay it on” comes from the Hebrew meaning “rub it on.”29 This, together with the statement in verse 22, are added by Isaiah speaking in the third person, almost as afterthoughts. The content of this verse is presented earlier in the account of the scribes of the king.30

Verse 22 adds: “Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?” This statement is placed at the end of the chapter to diminish its importance in the story, thus elevating the importance and the significance of the other reason for the sign of the sun turning back ten degrees—to bear witness that the Lord would defend His people against the Assyrians, as stated in verse 6. To his modern readers, Isaiah’s message in this chapter is the same: the Lord will defend His righteous followers against the latter-day counterpart of the ancient Assyrians.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 36 and 37 and pertinent commentary.
2. See Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 54:17 and Doctrine and Covenants 71:9-10; Isaiah 29:8; 52:12; 58:8; Doctrine and Covenants 45:66; 63:34; 97:25.
3. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 330.
4. Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm: Hezekiah sick unto death/the LORD/die/not live/the LORD/Hezekiah wept sore. Verses 2 and 3 contain an overlapping chiasm: Hezekiah/prayed/ the LORD/O LORD/I beseech thee/ Hezekiah.
5. 2 Kings 18:4, 6.
6. 2 Kings 20:4.
7. Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm: Word of the LORD/Isaiah/saying/say/to Hezekiah/Thus saith the LORD.
8. 2 Kings 20:5.
9. See Isaiah 37:36.
10. Isaiah 38:1.
11. 2 Kings 20:6.
12. Isaiah 37:20.
13. Kings 20:7-8.
14. Verse 7 contains a chiasm: This shall be/sign unto thee/the LORD/the LORD/will do/this thing.
15. 2 Kings 20:9.
16. 2 Kings 20:10.
17. Doctrine and Covenants 45:39-40.
18. 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. 1824, p. 198.
19. Verses 10 and 11 contain a chiasm: Cutting off of my days/gates of the grave/ the LORD/the LORD/land of the living/behold man no more.
20. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 155.
21. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1803, p. 195.
22. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6148, p. 786.
23. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 207.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1718, p. 186.
25. JST, p. 207.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2421, p. 1092.
27. JST, p. 207.
28. Compare Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 332-334.
29. Isaiah 38:21, footnote 21a.
30. 2 Kings 20:7.

Isaiah 37: Be Not Afraid of the Words That Thou Hast Heard

Chapter 37 is the second of four chapters called the “historical chapters” that describe a series of events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. These events are important for us in the latter days because they serve as prophetic types for events that will occur in our own time.1

These events were the subject of prophecy earlier in Isaiah’s writings.2 However, the ancient fulfillment of these prophecies as described in these chapters is not the full story. The Assyrian aggressors are typical of an equivalent superpower in the latter days that will threaten the Lord’s people and, just as He defended Hezekiah and his people anciently, the Lord will defend His righteous people in the latter days.3 Details pertaining to the dual fulfillment of this prophecy are provided here in Chapter 37.

The events of Isaiah Chapter 37 are also recorded in 2 Kings Chapter 19. A careful comparison reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse without significantly altering the meaning.4

Major events of Chapter 37, continuing the account of the previous chapter, are as follows: Hezekiah, upon hearing the report of Eliakim and his companions, tears his clothing in dismay. Hezekiah then sends Eliakim and others to the prophet Isaiah, seeking counsel. Isaiah prophesies the defeat of the Assyrians and the death of Sennacherib. Sennacherib sends Hezekiah a blasphemous letter, and Hezekiah prays unto the Lord for deliverance. The Lord speaks again to Isaiah, foretelling the defense of Jerusalem against Sennacherib and, later, the captivity and return of the Jews. Finally, the angel of the Lord slays 185,000 of the Assyrian army and Sennacherib is slain in his own land by his sons.

Abundant chiasms in this chapter reinforce the argument that Isaiah himself wrote this and the other “historical chapters,” since this important aspect of Isaiah’s writing style is maintained.

Verse 1 continues the narrative from the previous chapter, describing Hezekiah’s response to the report brought by Eliakim and two companions: “And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.” The report causes great distress for Hezekiah. Rending of his clothing is an outward expression of his anguish, and his putting on clothing made of sackcloth indicates that he went to the temple fasting. Sackcloth was made of coarse goat’s hair or camel’s hair and was typically used for making cloth bags.5

Verse 2 states: “And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.” Note that the recorder, Joah Asaph’s son who was present with Eliakim and Shebna during Rab-shakeh’s pronouncements in Chapter 36, was not sent to Isaiah. Instead, certain “elders of the priests” were sent.

Verse 3 begins the messengers’ declaration to Isaiah: “And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” The people were in great anguish because of the blasphemy and threat of war delivered by Rab-shakeh. Doubtless, they also recalled the desolation of the northern kingdom of Israel following their being conquered and carried away by the Assyrians. The metaphor used in this verse describes great distress. Before development of techniques of modern medicine an expectant mother in the throes of labor but lacking the strength to deliver would perish, causing indescribable anguish to her family due to her loss and the loss of her child.

Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes,
B: and covered himself with sackcloth,
C: and went into the house of the LORD.
D: (2) And he sent Eliakim,
C: who was over the household,
B: and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.
A: (3) And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.

The chiasm tells the story in poetic form: Hezekiah puts on sackcloth and goes to the house of the Lord. He sends Eliakim and Shebna, also clothed in sackcloth, to Isaiah to seek the Lord’s counsel.

In verse 4, the messengers to Isaiah state their errand: “It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rab-shakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” The Great Isaiah Scroll states “the remnant that remain in this city.”6 The Assyrian army had devastated the whole of Judah except for the capital city, Jerusalem; many people had been slain or taken captive, and some had fled into the city ahead of the marauders. The hope expressed by the messengers is that the Lord, having heard Rab-shakeh’s blasphemy before God, will punish him and save Judah from destruction. They request that Isaiah pray in behalf of the Jews.

Verse 4 contains a chiasm:

A: (4) It may be the LORD thy God
B: will hear the words
C: of Rab-shakeh,
C: whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God,
B: and will reprove the words
A: which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.

This chiasm expresses the hope that the Lord will be angered by the blasphemous words of Rab-shakeh and will defend Judah. “Rab-shakeh” complements “to reproach the living God,” a declaration that Rab-shakeh himself was a reproach.

Verse 5 summarizes: “So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.”

Verses 6 and 7 deliver Isaiah’s comforting response. Verse 6 begins: “And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”

Verses 4 through 6 contain two overlapping chiasms which, in turn, partially overlap that of verse 4:

(4) It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rab-shakeh,
A: whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God,
B: and will reprove the words
C: which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.
D: (5) So the servants of king Hezekiah
E:   came to Isaiah.
E:   (6) And Isaiah said unto them,
D: Thus shall ye say unto your master,
C: Thus saith the LORD,
B: Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard,
A: wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.

The ascending side of the chiasm presents the plea from the servants of Hezekiah to Isaiah, whereas the descending side begins the Lord’s answer given through the prophet.

The overlapping chiasm contained in these same two verses provides additional interpretive links:

(4) It may be the LORD thy God will hear the words of Rab-shakeh,
A: whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the LORD thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.
B: (5) So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
C: (6) And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master,
C: Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard,
B: wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria
A: have blasphemed me.

The first chiasm focuses on two iterations of “Isaiah,” and “king Hezekiah” equates with “your master.” In the overlapping chiasm “servants of king Hezekiah” contrasts with “servants of the king of Assyria;” and “thus shall ye say to your master” compares with “thus saith the Lord.” In both chiasms, “reproach the living God” matches “blasphemed me.” Because of the overlapping chiasms, all the occurrences of “the LORD” in verses 4 through 6 are structurally equivalent.

Verse 7 continues the words of the Lord, spoken by Isaiah: “Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” “Blast” means “spirit,” “wind” or “hard breathing through the nostrils in anger.”7

Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, contains three parts: First, the Lord’s anger, or curse, will be sent upon him; second, he will hear a rumor that will prompt him to return home; and third, he will be slain by the sword in his own land.

In verse 8, upon his return the Assyrian captain finds changed circumstances: “So Rab-shakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah: for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish.” Sennacherib heard that an adversary, Libnah, had left the city of Lachish; thus Sennacherib had pursued him to continue the conflict.

Verse 9 provides details explaining why Sennacherib was not able to go immediately to Jerusalem to commence military operations there: “And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, he is come forth to make war with thee. And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah.” The Great Isaiah Scroll states “he returned and sent messengers to Hezekiah….”8 Sennacherib’s purpose was to promote further developments at Jerusalem in order to end the confrontation with Hezekiah, thus avoiding war on two fronts. We learn later, in verse 14, that the message was in the form of one or more letters, carried by the messengers, to Hezekiah.

Verses 10 through 13 contain the text of the letters. Verse 10 commences with instructions to the messengers: “Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Sennacherib’s use of negative phrases may obscure the meaning of this passage. The first states: “Let not thy God, in whom thou trustest, deceive thee….” This means, in essence, “Don’t listen to what you think your God may be telling you.” The second phrase offers Sennacherib’s assumption of what God would tell Hezekiah: “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Although this was ultimately proven to be a true statement, Sennacherib wishes to communicate the opposite meaning—that not even Israel’s God could protect Jerusalem from the advance of the Assyrians.

Verse 10 contains a chiasm:

A: (10) Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah,
B: saying, Let not thy God,
C: in whom thou
D: trustest,
D: deceive
C: thee,
B: saying, Jerusalem shall not be given
A: into the hand of the king of Assyria.

This chiasm illustrates that Sennacherib’s intent was to intimidate; Hezekiah’s was to trust in the Lord.

Verses 11 through 13 continue the letter:

Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?
Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed, as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Telassar?
Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arphad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?

The Great Isaiah Scroll adds and Samaria to Sennacherib’s list.9 The Assyrian king asks a series of rhetorical questions in which he asserts his intent and capacity to destroy Jerusalem, just as he and his predecessors had overcome king after king and destroyed kingdom upon kingdom.

Verse 14 describes Hezekiah’s reaction: “And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.” The Great Isaiah Scroll pluralizes, stating “received the letters” and “read them.”10

Verse 15 declares: “And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying—”

In verse 16, Hezekiah’s prayer begins, continuing the sentence of verse 15: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.” The phrase “that dwellest between the cherubims” refers to the altar in the holy of holies in the temple. The Lord, speaking to Moses, explained the meaning:

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.11

The sacred altar was the place designated for prophets—and a righteous king in this case—to receive revelation from the Lord. Hezekiah acknowledges that the Lord is the one true and living God, creator of heaven and earth.

Hezekiah’s prayer continues in verse 17: “Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.” The original Hebrew meaning is “…to blaspheme the living God.”12

In verses 18 and 19 Hezekiah acknowledges the truth of part of Sennacherib’s words: “Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.”

In verse 20, Hezekiah concludes his prayer with a plea for deliverance: “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.” The Great Isaiah Scroll adds “even thou only art God.”13 By the Lord delivering the Jews from the Assyrian army, the whole world would see that Israel’s God is the only true God.

Verses 16 through 20, comprising Hezekiah’s prayer, contain a chiasm:

A: (16) O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims,
B: thou art the God, even thou alone,
C: of all the kingdoms of the earth:
D: thou hast made heaven and earth.
E: 17) Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear;
E: open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to blaspheme the living God.
D: (18) Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste
C: all the nations, and their countries,
B: (19) And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the works of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them.
A: (20) Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.

“Thou art the God …” contrasts with “they were no gods,” exhibiting the fallacy of Sennacherib’s logic. The Lord is the creator of all, in contrast to the powerless idols of other nations, made by human hands. “Made heaven and earth” contrasts with “laid waste,” setting the powers of creation in opposition to the powers of destruction and chaos.

The Lord’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer is given in verses 21 through 35. Verse 21 commences: “Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria—” The Great Isaiah Scroll adds “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, to whom thou hast prayed….”14 Isaiah sent a message to the king, rather than appearing in person.

In verse 22 Isaiah proclaims the word of the Lord, first speaking against Sennacherib: “This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” The phrase “the virgin, the daughter of Zion” is chiastically equivalent to “the daughter of Jerusalem;” as used here, it means the city of Jerusalem.15 Equivalency of “daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” reflects the dual nature of the prophecy and its fulfillment in two different periods of history. Compare Isaiah’s earlier prophecy regarding these events: “As yet shall he [the king of Assyria] remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.”16

Also, compare the range of meaning in the chiastic couplet “for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”17 The Lord defended Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah and will defend Zion in the latter days, both in a similar manner and both in fulfillment of this prophecy.

In verse 23, the Lord poses and then answers rhetorical questions: “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? Even against the Holy One of Israel.” The king of Assyria’s blasphemy is against the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel.

Verses 21 through 23 contain a chiasm:

(21) Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying,
A: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,
B: Whereas thou hast prayed
C: to me
D: against Sennacherib king of Assyria:
E: (22) This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him;
F: The virgin, the daughter of Zion,
G: hath despised
H: thee,
H: and laughed thee
G: to scorn;
F: the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.
E: (23) Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed?
D: and against
C: whom
B: hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high?
A: even against the Holy One of Israel.

This chiasm delivers the words of the Lord to Hezekiah, given through the prophet Isaiah. “The LORD God of Israel” is equivalent to “the Holy One of Israel.” “Daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” are equivalent; their equivalency strengthens the thesis that this prophecy is to be fulfilled at two different times. The Lord defended Jerusalem at the time of Hezekiah and will defend Zion in the latter days, both in a similar manner and both in fulfillment of this prophecy.

Verse 24 continues the Lord’s accusation: “By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel.” The metaphor of trees as noblemen is used throughout Isaiah’s writings.18

These words, spoken to the ancient king of Assyria, serve as a prophetic type for events in the latter days. A modern equivalent superpower will threaten the latter-day Zion after having devastated the surrounding regions.

The metaphor of trees was set forth earlier by Isaiah, first providing the interpretation:

For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan….19

The phrase “the height of the mountains” in verse 24 provides a link to latter-day events. A variation of this phrase was used earlier by Isaiah:

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 (emphasis added).20

Isaiah spoke of the modern state of Utah, the name of which means “the top of the mountains” in the Ute language,21 where a temple would be built.

Verses 23 and 24 contain a chiasm:

A: (23) Whom
B: hast thou reproached and blasphemed?
C: and against whom
D: hast thou exalted thy voice,
D: and lifted up thine eyes on high?
C: even against the Holy One of Israel.
B: (24) By thy servants hast thou reproached
A: the Lord, and hast said….

“Whom” matches “the Lord;” “against whom” matches “the Holy one of Israel,” and “exalted thy voice” matches “lifted up thine eyes on high.” The Lord takes affront at the blasphemous words of Sennacherib.

In verse 25 Isaiah describes boasting by the king of Assyria: “I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places.”22 The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “and drunk foreign water,”23 meaning water in foreign nations. The ancient Assyrians were able to traverse vast desert regions by digging wells wherever they went rather than relying upon existing streams and springs, thus increasing the range of their conquests.

In verse 26, the Lord rebukes Sennacherib for his boasting: “Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.” The Lord, by using negative rhetorical questions, shows that the Assyrian king already knows of the Lord’s power to act and to create and that He has raised him up to destroy cities.

In verse 27 the Lord belittles the conquests of the king of Assyria: “Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…blasted before an east wind.”24  The Lord explains that these were weak kingdoms of little consequence, who were easily frightened and dismayed. “Blasted” refers to any of a number of crop-destroying diseases that result in drying up of plants before they achieve maturity, in addition to the Great Isaiah Scroll’s meaning of desiccation before a hot, drying wind.

Verse 28 reveals the Lord’s knowledge of the Assyrian king’s malevolence: “But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.” In place of “abode,” the Great Isaiah Scroll reads “I know thy rising up….”25

In verse 29, the Lord foretells the king’s departure in defeat: “Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.” “My hook in thy nose” and “my bridle in thy lips” refer to devices for controlling animals by inflicting pain or directing their view, here used metaphorically.

Verses 26 through 29 contain a chiasm:

A: (26) Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it;
B: and of ancient times, that I have formed it?
C: now have I brought it to pass,
D: that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps.
E: (27) Therefore their inhabitants were of small power,
F: they were dismayed
F: and confounded:
E: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
D: (28) But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
C: (29) Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears,
B: therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips,
A: and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.

In the ascending side of this chiasm the Lord attests that He is the creator of all things and raised up the Assyrian king to destroy. In the descending side the Lord minimizes the conquests of the king of Assyria when compared with His own works as Creator, then states that He will turn Sennacherib back by the way he came.

Verses 30 through 32 give a sign to the king of Assyria and to the people of Jerusalem. Verse 30 states: “And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof.” The singular form, “thee,” directs that statement to the king of Assyria whereas the plural form, “ye,” directs the following statement to the people of Jerusalem.  The meaning is that for two years the land of Judah would remain fallow because of the conflict with Assyria and the danger of being outside the city’s protective walls, but in the third year the Jews would be able to work their lands, plant crops, and harvest them. Another dimension of this sign is as a type for the captivity of Judah in Babylon for three generations, after which a remnant would return.

This second meaning becomes clear in verses 31 and 32. Verse 31 commences: “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.” The prophecy is stated metaphorically, as a plant growing in soil.

Verse 32 continues: “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “and they that escape out of Jerusalem shall come up upon mount Zion….”26 Recall an earlier sign, this one given to king Ahaz, that also described events to occur at a later time: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”27

Both of these signs proclaim that Jerusalem would survive her current difficulties, permitting the fulfillment of prophecy in the distant future. “Mount Zion” as used here means both the temple mount at Jerusalem28 and the place of latter-day spiritual gathering,29 thus indicating dual fulfillment of the prophecy, both anciently and in the latter days.

In verse 33 the Lord summarizes: “Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.” Sennacherib would not be permitted to shoot even so much as an arrow against Jerusalem.

Verse 34 foretells Sennacherib’s departure: “By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.”

In verse 35, The Lord attests: “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”30 “My servant David” means the current heir to the throne of David, the righteous king Hezekiah.31

Verse 36 describes the Lord’s intervention: “Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “and when they who were left arose early in the morning….”32 No doubt the news of this singular event spread far, in fulfillment of Hezekiah’s plea before the Lord: “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.”33

This destruction of the Assyrian army foreshadows events in the latter days. By miraculous intervention, the Lord will stop a well-disciplined army at the periphery of the domain of His righteous people after that army will have devastated much of the surrounding regions. Earlier, in Chapter 14, Isaiah asserts:

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.34

The Lord’s statement “upon my mountains” means the area surrounding Jerusalem in times of old, as well as being a prophetic type for the modern Zion in the mountains.35 In addition, it may be a type for Jerusalem in the latter days and events that will transpire there.

As Isaiah described in Chapter 28, the Lord will provide strength and courage for a small army of righteous Ephraimites who will turn back an invading army at the very gate of the city of Zion: “[A]nd for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.”36

Verses 37 and 38 describe fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the death of the king of Assyria:

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 Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead.

Thus, Sennacherib was slain in the house of his god by his own sons, and Hezekiah and Jerusalem were defended by their God against strangers from a foreign land. The true God, worshiped by Hezekiah and his people, saved them by miraculously destroying the Assyrian army whereas Sennacherib, who blasphemously taunted that Jehovah would not be able to save Hezekiah and his people, was himself slain in the presence of his false god which was powerless to save him.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 36 and pertinent commentary.
2. Isaiah 10:24-34.
3. See Isaiah 10 and pertinent commentary.
4. See Isaiah 36 and pertinent commentary.
5. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: 1988, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, MA.
6. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 149.
7. 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.
8. Parry, 2001, p. 150.
9. Parry, 2001, p. 150.
10. Parry, 2001, p. 150.
11. Exodus 25:22.
12. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2778, p. 357.
13. Parry, 2001, p. 151.
14. Parry, 2001, p. 151.
15. See 2 Kings 19:21, 31; Psalms 9:14; 51:18; Isaiah 10:32; 16:1; 52:2; 62:11.
16. Isaiah 10:32.
17. Isaiah 2:3; see pertinent commentary. See also Isaiah 10:12; 24:23; 31:9; 52:1, 2.
18. See Isaiah 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 55:12.
19. See Isaiah 2:12-13; 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 55:12.
20. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
21. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism: Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT, pp. 129-130. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
22. Verses 24 and 25 contain a chiasm: By the multitude of my chariots/height of the mountains/tall cedars thereof/ height of his border/with the sole of my feet.
23. Parry, 2001, p. 152.
24. Parry, 2001, p. 152.
25. Parry, 2001, p. 152.
26. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 206.
27. Isaiah 7:14.
28. See Psalms 9:11; 14:7; 74:2; 78:68-69; Isaiah 1:8; 4:3-4; 10:12, 32; 16:1; 18:7; 30:19; 31:4; 34:8; Doctrine and Covenants 133:18, 56.
29. See Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 34:8; 40:9; 41:27; 51:3.
30. Verses 32 through 35 contain a chiasm: The LORD of hosts shall do this/thus saith the LORD/shall not come into this city/by the way/by the same/ shall not come into this city/saith the LORD/ I will defend this city.
31. See Genesis 49:10; 1 Kings 2:33; 1 Samuel 15:27-28.
32. JST, 1970, p. 206.
33. Isaiah 37:20.
34. Isaiah 14:24-25.
35. See Isaiah 2:2; 37:24; and pertinent commentary.
36. Isaiah 28:6.

Isaiah 36: Neither Let Hezekiah Make You Trust in the Lord

Chapter 36 is the first of four chapters that give an account of certain events that occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah. Accordingly, Chapters 36 through 39 are called the “historical chapters.”

Although events in these chapters occurred during the lifetime of Isaiah, they are important to us in the latter days because they serve as prophetic types for events that will occur in our time. When the foretold events begin to unfold, this account will provide us with comfort and assurance that the Lord’s protection will be with His modern followers, just as it was with ancient Jerusalem and her righteous king, Hezekiah. When these events begin to unfold, may we remember the words of the prophet Zephaniah:

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.1

Clearly, Isaiah’s purpose in writing these chapters was not to produce a historical record or even to summarize important historical events. The most important political event of Isaiah’s lifetime, the carrying away of the ten tribes into captivity, is not even mentioned here.2 Isaiah’s purpose is two-fold: First, to remind future readers that the Lord has acted miraculously in the past in defense of His righteous people; and second, to give readers in the latter days a type, or pattern, for events in their own lifetime that would otherwise cause great fear or despair.

Earlier, in Chapter 10, Isaiah prophesied concerning these events that came to pass during his lifetime which would serve as types for latter-day events: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, 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” (emphasis added).3 “Zion” means ancient Jerusalem as well as the latter-day Zion in America, and “the Assyrian” means simultaneously the ancient superpower and a modern equivalent.

The events of these chapters are also recorded by the scribes of Hezekiah, king of Judah.4 A careful comparison reveals that differences in wording between the two accounts occur in nearly every verse. For example, verse 1 of Isaiah Chapter 36 reads: “Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.” Verse 13 of 2 Kings Chapter 18 reads: “Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them” (emphasis added). Note that the subtle differences in wording do not significantly alter the meaning.

Major events of Isaiah Chapter 36 are as follows: Sennacherib, king of Assyria, wages war against Judah, taking all the defenced cities except for Jerusalem. The Assyrian army assembles at Jerusalem and the Assyrian king’s emissaries confer with representatives of Hezekiah, king of Judah. The Assyrians insult the Jews and blaspheme the Lord, proclaiming that the Lord had no power to protect Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s representatives rend their clothes and report these developments to Hezekiah.

Verse 1 states: “Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them.” Judah, we are told in this verse, came under attack by the Assyrians who conquered all the walled cities of Judah except for Jerusalem itself. This development followed the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel and the carrying away of the ten tribes into captivity.5 The remainder of Chapter 36 and all of Chapter 37 describe events that took place when the Assyrian army subsequently encircled Jerusalem.

An account not included in Isaiah’s narrative occurs at this point in 2 Kings 18:14-16. The fact that Isaiah does not present this portion suggests that it is not part of the prophetic type and that Hezekiah’s actions as reported in these three verses do not serve as guidance for the Lord’s latter-day followers.

2 Kings 18:14 begins: “And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.” Here Hezekiah attempts to appease the invaders, stating that he will do for them whatever they request if they withdraw. Obligingly, the King of Assyria demands an enormous ransom: Three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. The value by today’s standards of these weights of silver and gold is not known precisely, but it was clearly in the millions of dollars.

2 Kings 18:15 states: “And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house.” Not only did Hezekiah give the Assyrians the wealth that he owned personally; he also gave them the wealth that resided in the temple.

2 Kings 18:16 declares: “At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.” Here, the removal of gold from doors and pillars of the temple is described. Despite the ransom paid by Hezekiah, the Assyrians do not withdraw, thus not fulfilling their side of the agreement. Isaiah’s implication is that appeasement or payment of a ransom should not be part of the model for latter-day events.

Verse 2—returning to Isaiah’s account—states: “And the king of Assyria sent Rab-shakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field.” “Conduit of the upper pool” is chiastically equivalent to “highway of the fuller’s field.” These two linear geographic features serve as coordinates to precisely describe the meeting place. “Rab-shakeh,” rather than being a name, is a title meaning “chief of the officers” in Hebrew. 6

Verse 3 continues:Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah Asaph’s son, the recorder.” Three representatives of the household of Hezekiah came forth to meet Rab-Shakeh and the others. These three were the manager of the king’s palace, a scribe, and a recorder. The law required two or three witnesses to document important events,7 fulfilled by Hezekiah in sending these three representatives.

In verse 4, the Assyrian emissaries state their cause: “And Rab-shakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?”8 Hezekiah had refused to pay additional ransom; the Assyrians surmise that he has made an alliance with another power to protect against the invaders, giving him confidence that he can withstand the Assyrians.

In verse 5, the Assyrian emissary repeats his question for emphasis: “I say, sayest thou, (but they are but vain words) I have counsel and strength for war: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?” The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) clarifies: “I say, thy words are but vain when thou sayest, I have counsel and strength for war. Now, on whom dost thou trust that thou rebellest against me?”9 Again, the emissary of the king of Assyria surmises that Hezekiah has made an alliance with another political power for protection against the invaders.

Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm:

(4) And Rab-shakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah,
A: Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria,
B: What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?
C: (5) I say, thy words are but vain
C: when thou sayest, I have counsel and strength for war:
B: now on whom dost thou trust,
A: that thou rebellest against me?

“The great king, king of Assyria” compares with “that thou rebellest against me?” Isaiah designates who spoke these words—the king of Assyria, through his representatives. Omission by the scribes in their account of “I say” at the beginning of verse 5 interferes with symmetry of the chiasm.10 This suggests that Isaiah likely wrote the original account; his narrative was then altered and expanded as the official record by the scribes, who apparently did not recognize the subtleties of Isaiah’s writing.

In verse 6, the spokesman for the king of the Assyrians answers his own question: “Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.” The humanistic Assyrians reason incorrectly that Hezekiah had appealed for protection unto Egypt, an ancient but fading superpower which did not have the capability of protecting Jerusalem. The metaphor used by the Assyrians—a broken reed that would penetrate the hand of him who would lean upon it—illustrates perceived Egyptian weakness, her inability to provide the needed protection and disastrous consequences for him who would place such trust. The kingdom of Israel, consisting of the ten tribes, had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians despite Hoshea’s appeal to Egypt for help.11

Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm:

(5)  I say, thy words are but vain when thou sayest, I have counsel and strength for war: now
A: on whom
B: dost thou trust,
C: that thou rebellest against me?
B: (6) Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed,
A: on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.

“On whom” matches “on Egypt,” providing a response to the question.  Verse 6 contains a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 5 and 6:

A: (6) Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed,
B: on Egypt; whereon if a man lean,
C: it will go into his hand,
C: and pierce it:
B: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt
A: to all that trust in him.

Overlapping elements shared by this and the chiasm of verses 5 and 6 emphasize that the Assyrians thought Hezekiah had established an alliance with Egypt. “Egypt,” the second element on the ascending side of the chiasm of verse 6, is the same as the final element on the descending side of the chiasm of verses 5 and 6. Thus “on whom dost thou trust” is equated with “Egypt” in both chiasms.

In verse 7, Rab-shakeh continues his speech: “But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?” The Assyrians knew of Hezekiah’s destruction of idolatrous altars and high places throughout the land of Judah.12 Rab-shakeh incorrectly assumes that they were altars unto the Lord Jehovah, thus requiring all to worship exclusively at the temple in Jerusalem. This, the Assyrians reason, could be perceived by the Jews as an affront to the Lord and that they could easily be convinced that the Lord would refuse to protect Judah and Jerusalem.

In verse 8, the Assyrian spokesman demands: “Now therefore, give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.” By “give pledges,” Rab-shakeh means “join the Assyrian army.” He also offers to provide up to two thousand horses to the consignees, an added incentive. This, he implies, would be a far better outcome than the ensuing slaughter and captivity if they declined such an offer.

In verse 9, Rab-shakeh continues with a question: “How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?” This means “how could you turn down such an offer from me, and put your trust in Egypt?” Rab-shakeh’s self-diminutive “one captain of the least of my master’s servants” is at once an attempt at modesty and an added threat: If the Jews were not intimidated by Rab-shakeh and his hosts, other units of the Assyrian army were greater and more formidable than his.

Verses 7 through 9 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) But if thou say to me, We trust in the LORD our God:
B: is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar?
C: (8) Now therefore give pledges,
D: I pray thee, to my master
D: the king of Assyria,
C: and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.
B: (9) How then wilt thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants,
A: and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?

“We trust in the LORD our God” contrasts with “put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen.” To the Assyrian captain, however, both options were equally rash. “Now therefore give pledges” compares with “I will give thee two thousand horses;” the second phrase stating what the Assyrian spokesman would do in response to the pledges.

In verse 10, the Assyrian spokesman claims that the Lord [Jehovah] sent him to destroy this land: “And am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.”13

In verse 11, the Jewish representatives respond: “Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rab-shakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.” Eliakim and his companions request that the Assyrian spokesman speak in the official language of the Persian Empire, Aramaic,14 rather than in Hebrew which the citizens of Jerusalem who were within hearing could understand. Eliakim’s use of “thy servants” was an expression of courtesy to a visiting dignitary.

In verse 12, the Assyrian captain angrily denies the request and delivers a crude insult: “But Rab-shakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?” Rab-shakeh emphasizes that the Assyrian king sent him to speak to the entire citizenry of Jerusalem, not just Hezekiah and his representatives. Rab-shakeh here predicts that the people would be forced to eat and drink their own waste by the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, which would deprive them of food and water.15

In verse 13, the Assyrian captain addresses the entire populace within his hearing: “Then Rab-shakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.”

In verses 14 and 15, Rab-shakeh delivers the Assyrian king’s message. Verse 14 commences: “Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders: “Thus saith the king of Assyria….”16

Verse 15 continues: “Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.”17 According to this boastful challenge, neither Hezekiah nor the Lord Jehovah are strong enough to stop the Assyrians.

Verses 16 and 17 set forth the Assyrian plan of dispersing the population of their conquered lands:

Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern;
Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
The account of the king’s scribes adds: “a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die.”18

In verse 18, the Assyrian captain reiterates his boastful challenge: “Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?”19

Verses 19 and 20 deliver the blasphemous challenge of the Assyrians, comparing the Lord Jehovah to vain idols in conquered lands. Verse 19 commences: “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?”20 The account of the scribes includes the gods of three other conquered kingdoms, “the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah.”21

Verse 20 continues: “Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD [Jehovah] should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?” The Assyrians blaspheme the Lord by denying that He has power to deliver Jerusalem from their hands.

Verses 19 and 20 contain a chiasm:

A: (19) Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?
B: (20) Who are they among all the gods
C: of these lands,
C: that have delivered their land out of my hand,
B: that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem
A: out of my hand?

In this chiasm “gods” is equated by the Assyrian captain with “the LORD,” illustrating his blasphemous contention that the Lord Jehovah was equivalent to gods of the lands already defeated by Assyria and could not defend Jerusalem.

Verse 21 describes the Jewish response: “But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.”

In verse 22 the Jewish emissaries report to Hezekiah: “Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rab-shakeh.” Tearing of clothing was a sign of deep distress.

 


Notes:

1. Zephaniah 3:16-17.
2. 2 Kings 17:6; see also Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
3. Isaiah 10:24; see verses 24-34 and pertinent commentary.
4. 2 Kings 18:13-37; 19; and 20:1-19.
5. See 2 Kings 18:9-12.
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. 7262, p. 913.
7. See Deuteronomy 17:6.
8. Verses 2 through 4 contain a chiasm: Rab-shakeh/king Hezekiah/conduit of the upper pool/highway of the fuller’s field/Eliakim…Shebna…Joah/Rab-shakeh.
9.  Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 206.
10. See 2 Kings 18:19-20.
11. See 2 Kings 17:4.
12. See 2 Kings 18:3-4.
13. Verse 10 contains a chiasm: Come up/the LORD/against this land/to destroy it/the LORD/go up.
14. Isaiah 36:11, footnote 11a.
15. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 321.
16. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 148.
17. Verses 13 through 15 contain a chiasm: King of Assyria/let not Hezekiah/deceive you/deliver you/let Hezekiah/ king of Assyria.
18. 2 Kings 18:32.
19. Verses 15 through 18 contain a chiasm: The LORD will surely deliver us/hearken not/Hezekiah/vine…fig tree… waters…cistern/ corn…wine…bread…vineyards/ Hezekiah/persuade you/the LORD will deliver us.
20. Verses 18 and 19 contain a chiasm: Delivered his land…hand of the king of Assyria/gods of Hamath and Arphad/gods of Sepharvaim/delivered Samaria…my hand. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
21. 2 Kings 18:34.

Isaiah 35: The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Blossom as the Rose

This chapter describes the building up of Zion in the wilderness in the latter days, before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The events of this chapter are being fulfilled both spiritually and physically. The prophecy describes the physical setting for the establishment of the mountain of the Lord’s house in the top of the mountains, as foretold earlier by Isaiah in Chapter 2.1 This same prophecy also describes the introduction of the saving ordinances of the gospel—the “living water” spoken of by Christ during His mortal ministry2—into the spiritual wasteland that is the world. Physically, the desert began to blossom as the rose with the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Great Basin of western North America and their building up of Zion. The ransomed of the Lord—the gathered of Israel from the nations of the earth—have been coming to the area since the arrival of the first pioneers in 1847. The spiritual wasteland of the world continues to receive living water as missionaries carry the message of the gospel and its life-imparting blessings and ordinances to all the world. Converts from many nations are gathered to Zion or her stakes which are established in many places of the world, but which are directed and guided from the central location by living prophets. Another aspect of fulfillment of this prophecy is the return of the Jews to the land of their inheritance beginning in the early 20th century, and the development of agriculture and commerce there. Still in the future is the Second Coming of the Lord and His glory being made manifest at the Zion in the wilderness.

Verse 1 describes the blossoming of the desert: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah foresees both the physical transformation of the wilderness into a pleasant place and the spiritual introduction of life-imparting blessings among nations that knew neither of Jesus Christ nor His saving Atonement. “Shall be glad for them” refers to the refugees from oppression, gathered from the scattered tribes of Israel, who would come to transform the desert or who would appreciate the “living water” given them by Christ. The Hebrew word from which “rose” is translated is chabatstseleth, which means “meadow‑saffron,” “crocus” or “narcissus.”3

In a revelation received in March, 1831, long before there were publicly-announced plans for the eventual migration of the Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin, the Lord foretold the building up of Zion in the wilderness and the flourishing of the Lamanites:

But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.4

In this revelation the Lord paraphrases Isaiah’s prophecy, providing added understanding. It is clear that the physical assembly of the saints in the wilderness and upon the hills and mountains—together with their receiving the spiritual blessings of the gospel—was appointed by the Lord well before the time that persecution would force the Saints to move westward. “Jacob” refers to descendants of Jacob, or Israel; “hills” and “mountains” mean nations of the earth, both small and large.5

The early members of the Church were primarily of the tribe of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob. The Lamanites are descendants of Lehi, also of the tribe of Joseph, whose story is recorded in the Book of Mormon. The modern descendants of Lehi are the native Americans and Pacific Islanders, together with the mixture of European and native American ancestry that characterizes much of Latin America in Mexico, Central America, and South America.6 Latin America is currently one of the most fruitful places in the world for spreading the gospel—characterized by rapid growth of the Church, establishment of numerous wards and stakes, and edification of many temples. Such growth is a spiritual fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah.

Another perspective on the fulfillment of this prophecy is the return of the Jews to the lands of their inheritance beginning in the early 20th century, and development of extensive agricultural and commercial operations there. It is meaningful for us to consider this prophecy in its worldwide perspective and its fulfillment among all the peoples with whom the Lord has made covenants.

LeGrand Richards described the latter-day fulfillment of this prophecy and the purpose for its fulfillment:

We are a blessed people. The Lord has blessed us. After our pioneers were driven a thousand miles from civilization and transportation, they landed here in this wilderness. Isaiah saw that the Lord would cause the wilderness to blossom as the rose. He saw the rivers flow in the desert and flow down from the high places to make this land productive.7 And why? So that the Saints, when they were gathered here, could fulfill his promises. For if this gospel that Jesus referred to was to be preached in all the world, it had to be done by his children.8

Verse 2 continues the description of Zion in the desert: “It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.”9 Music and singing have long been a part of Latter-day Saint worship, and the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir is a major part of the fulfillment of this prophecy. “The glory of Lebanon” and “the excellency of Carmel” are presented as typical of the growth, flourishing, and beauty of Zion in the desert. “They shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God” foresees the glorious Second Coming of the Lord. “They” refers to the descendants of Joseph whose labor brought forth the long-prophesied Zion in the wilderness. The phrase “the glory of Lebanon” is used by Isaiah later, in Chapter 60, to describe the wealth of the world to be brought to build up Zion and Israel.10

Verse 3 gives a mandate to Zion to care for the infirm and spiritually weak: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.” This verse is paraphrased in Doctrine and Covenants in the context of providing for the disadvantaged: “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”11

The Apostle Paul paraphrases: “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”12 Establishment of Zion requires much labor, including helping and providing healing blessings for the infirm, spiritually weak and disadvantaged.

Verse 4 begins with a mandate to strengthen and comfort the fearful: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not.” The assuring words to be spoken are: “Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” Two important characteristics of a Zion people are their care for one another and their faith that the Lord will defend and protect them. Not only does this apply to the leaders; it applies to every person in Zion. Service projects, weekly inspirational sacrament meetings, monthly home teaching and visiting teaching visits, and uplifting stake and general conferences are part of the mandated effort to strengthen.

President Gordon B. Hinckley admonished:

Let love be the Polar Star of our lives in reaching out to those who need our strength. There are many among us who lie alone in pain. Medicine helps, but kind words can bring to pass miracles. Many there are who walk in frightening circumstances, fearful and unable to cope. There are good bishops and Relief Society officers who are available to help, but these cannot do it all. Each of us can and must be anxiously engaged.13

Verses 5 and 6 describe the beneficial results of these efforts. Verse 5 commences: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.”14 In His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus Christ performed many miracles in which the ill or disabled were healed under His touch. John describes one such instance: “[H]e anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam…. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”15

During His ministry to the Nephites the resurrected Lord performed similar miracles:

And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—
Behold, it came to pass on the morrow that the multitude gathered themselves together….16

These healings are a type for similar events that will occur at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only does this prophecy foresee temporal blessings upon Zion; the spiritual blessings are even greater. Isaiah’s similar words earlier, in Chapter 29, refer to great spiritual blessings associated with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.”17 The meaning is that the spiritually deaf and blind will be made to comprehend spiritual matters because of the content of the book. Great blessings, both physical and spiritual, are given because Zion looks forward to the Second Coming of the Lord with great faith.

Verse 6 continues: “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”18 Metaphorically, the spiritually lame will receive capacity and those spiritually dumb will be given power to sing. The spiritual wilderness and desert—the world at large, living without Christ or the blessings of salvation provided by the Atonement—will become verdant as the living waters of the gospel spread throughout the world. The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “and streams will run in the desert.”19

The relationship of the first part of verse 6 to the last part is unclear unless the spiritual meaning is considered. The extraordinary spiritual blessings described result from the continual flow of knowledge from living prophets in the Zion of the wilderness, as though it were a stream of flowing water. Compare an earlier statement by Isaiah, in Chapter 30, that uses this same metaphor: “And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.”20

The Lord, during His earthly ministry, quoted these verses to the followers of John the Baptist to answer John’s inquiry concerning whether Jesus was the Messiah: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”21 Doubtless, the Lord knew that John would recognize the fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy of Isaiah.

Verses 5 and 6 comprise the text for Handel’s Messiah, Part 1, No. 19: Recitative For Alto, “Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Opened.”

Verse 7 continues the metaphor: “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” Lands formerly parched and dry would be irrigated under the caring hands of the refugees who would come to build Zion, causing vegetation to spring forth abundantly. The spiritual meaning is that the darkness of apostasy would be dispelled by true doctrines. Doctrines of dragons and jackals would be replaced by the revealed truth, which would flow as living water in abundance from Zion.22

This passage is paraphrased and expanded in Doctrine and Covenants:

And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
And they [the gathered of Israel] shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.23

Here it is clear that the waters to come forth in the desert represent not only the physical irrigation and blossoming, but the coming forth of an uninterrupted stream of spiritual blessings. “Ephraim my servants” means those of the tribe of Joseph who would build up Zion in the wilderness.

Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm:

(6) Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing:
A: for in the wilderness shall waters break out,
B: and streams
C: in the desert.
C: (7) And the parched ground
B: shall become a pool,
A: and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

“In the wilderness shall waters break out” equals “the thirsty land [shall become] springs of water,” meaning an abundance of revelation and inspiration. Chiastically “wilderness,” “thirsty land,” “desert” and “parched ground” are all equivalent.

Verse 8 foretells: “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.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders:

And a highway shall be there; for a way shall be cast up, and it shall be called the way of holiness. The unclean shall not pass over upon it; but it shall be cast up for those who are clean, and the wayfaring men, though they are accounted fools, shall not err therein.24

Isaiah makes similar reference to a highway earlier, in Chapter 11: “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.”25

The meaning of the highway in both cases is spiritual, meaning the strait and narrow way.26 The way opened up by the Lord for the children of Israel to pass over the Red Sea is a physical type for this highway.27 The means by which the remnant peoples 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, 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. The “way” will be so plain that travelers thereon, even though they may be thought of as fools, will have no trouble following it as long as they are obedient.

Verse 9 describes spiritual protection that the wayfarers upon this highway will receive: “No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there.” These predators represent temptations and evil designs of men and Satan to divert or destroy those following the strait and narrow path. We avoid temptations by following this spiritual highway, as spelled out in great clarity by living prophets.

Verse 10 summarizes: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” The “ransomed” are those who accept the restored gospel and its covenants,28 whose sins, after repentance, are remitted by the infinite sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Zion” means both a place of latter-day spiritual gathering and the latter-day Jerusalem under righteous circumstances.29 As Zion is built up in the wilderness, Israel will be gathered from the lands of their dispersal. Those returning will be filled with joy and gladness; the sorrow they experienced in exile—spiritually, their ignorance of the revealed truth—will be done away.

In Doctrine and Covenants the Lord foretells that the gathered of Israel will come with joy and singing: “They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.”30

Verses 9 and 10 contain a chiasm:

A: (9) No lion shall be there,
B: nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon,
C: it shall not be found there;
D: but the redeemed shall walk there:
D: (10) And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
C: and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads:
B: they shall obtain joy and gladness,
A: and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

“No lion shall be there” compares with “sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” and “nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon” compares with “they shall obtain joy and gladness.” Peace and happiness of those following the strait and narrow way would not be marred by temptations and evil designs of men or Satan, here represented metaphorically as predatory animals. The establishment of Zion and the bestowal of rich blessings by the Lord would overcome sighing and sorrow; joy and gladness would result.

 


Notes:

1. Isaiah 2:2-3.
2. John 4:10-11; see also Jeremiah 17:13; Zechariah 14:8.
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. 2261, p. 287.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 49:24-25.
5. See Isaiah 2:2 and pertinent commentary.
6. See 1 Nephi 5:14.
7. See Isaiah 41:18.
8. LeGrand Richards, “The Second Coming of Christ,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 74.
9. Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm: Wilderness and the solitary place/glad for them/rejoice/blossom/blossom/ rejoice/joy and singing/glory…shall be given unto it.
10. See Isaiah 60:13 and pertinent commentary.
11. Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.
12. Hebrews 12:12-13.
13. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Let Love Be the Lodestar of Your Life,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 65.
14. Verses 3 through 5 contain a chiasm: Weak hands/feeble knees/ be strong, fear not/God will come with vengeance/God with a recompence/he will come and save you/eyes of the blind shall be opened/ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
15. John 9:6-7.
16. 3 Nephi 26:15-16.
17. Isaiah 29:18.
18. Verse 6 contains a chiasm: Wilderness/waters/break out/streams/desert.
19. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 145.
20. Isaiah 30:25; see also See Isaiah 12:3; 55:1, 11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary..
21. Matthew 11:5; see also Luke 7:22.
22. See Isaiah 12:3; 27:3; 55:11; 58:11.
23. Doctrine and Covenants 133:29-31.
24. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 206.
25. Isaiah 11:16.
26. See Isaiah 11:16; 19:23; 40:14; 49:11 and pertinent commentary.
27. See Exodus 14:21-31.
28. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 319.
29. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 4:5; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.
30. Doctrine and Covenants 101:18; see also Doctrine and Covenants 45:71; 66:11; 109:39;133:33.