Isaiah 47: They Shall Be as Stubble; the Fire Shall Burn Them

This chapter foretells the total destruction of Babylon because of her iniquities. Destruction of ancient Babylon is a type for the destruction of the wicked at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. In characteristic Isaiah style some of the events in this chapter refer to the destruction of ancient Babylon, others refer to the destruction of modern spiritual Babylon, and some refer to both.

This dual meaning is well-known in the scriptures. John the Beloved, in describing a woman shown to him in vision that symbolizes the apostate churches of the latter days, said:

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (emphasis added).1

John also described the subsequent destruction of spiritual Babylon:

And he [the angel] cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.2

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the wicked of the earth in the latter days as Babylon:

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.3

Verses 1 through 5 describe how prideful Babylon would be utterly humiliated. Verse 1 begins: “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.” “O virgin daughter” refers to the ancient city; similar usage is applied to the ancient city of Jerusalem.4 “Virgin daughter” is applied because the city had never been conquered.5 “Sit in the dust” and “sit on the ground” mean that the ancient city would be humiliated; there would be no throne symbolically for her to sit upon, and she would be reduced to the status of a slave. “Daughter of the Chaldeans” is a synonym for “daughter of Babylon.” “Chaldeans” sometimes is applied to the educated class in ancient Babylon.6

Verse 2 further describes the humiliation of Babylon: “Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.” The grinding of meal with millstones was a task relegated to the poor or to servants, here given to the once-proud daughter of Babylon, the inhabitants of which would be taken into slavery.7 “Make bare the leg,” uncover the thigh,” and “uncover thy locks” all describe the total humiliation of Babylon—symbolized here by nakedness, as of a once-regal queen stripped bare before her subjects, taken into slavery, and perhaps subjected to sexual abuse. “Make bare the leg” means “strip off” or “expose oneself by removing the skirt.”8 Nakedness as a spiritual metaphor means without preparation or without the protection of sacred covenants. “Pass over the river” means to cross the Tigris or Euphrates into countries where the few survivors would serve as slaves.

Verse 3 continues the symbolization: “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.” “I will take vengeance” explains the symbolism. “I will not meet thee as a man” means a representative of the conquering army would not come forward, seeking to negotiate; Babylon’s conquerors would not come seeking treaty or compromise, but destruction.9

Verse 4 interjects: “As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Here Isaiah explains that the righteous—oppressed both by ancient Babylon’s ruthless rule and the wickedness of her modern counterpart—look unto the Lord for deliverance and redemption.

Verse 5 describes Babylon’s dejection: “Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” No more would Babylon serve as capital city for empires or kingdoms. “Get thee into darkness” means “descend into mourning,” or into exile.10 “Daughter of the Chaldeans” refers to the practice of sorcery and astrology, for which ancient Chaldea was known.11

Verses 1 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
C: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.
D: (2) Take the millstones, and grind meal:
E: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg,
F: uncover the thigh,
G: pass over the rivers.
F: (3) Thy nakedness shall be uncovered,
E: yea, thy shame shall be seen:
D: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. (4) As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.
C: (5) Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
A: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.

The message of this chiasm is that Babylon would be totally humiliated militarily. “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon” is complemented by “for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” “Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” matches “sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness;” “uncover thy locks, make bare the leg” is complemented by “thy shame shall be seen;” and “uncover the thigh” matches “thy nakedness shall be uncovered.”

In verse 6, the Lord describes Judah’s captivity and punishment at the hand of Babylon: “I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.”12 “I have polluted mine inheritance” means the Lord allowed the conqueror to enter the land designated as the inheritance for His people.13 “Into thine hand” means “into thy control.” The conquerors showed apostate Judah no mercy—not even toward the elderly, who would normally be deserving of respect and veneration. Although the Lord allowed ancient Babylon to overrun Judah and take her people captive, He would hold Babylon accountable for her cruelty and injustice.

In verse 7, Babylon trifles with the warnings given: “And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.” “The latter end” refers to the destruction of Babylon—both the ancient city and her modern counterpart. “I shall be a lady forever” reveals Babylon’s perceived self-sufficiency and haughtiness and connotes great pleasure in her assuming the role of mistress.14

In verses 8 and 9, the Lord warns Babylon. Verse 8 begins: “Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.” Babylon dismisses the unavoidable consequences of wickedness.15 “Dwelling carelessly” means “carefree living.” “I am, and none else beside me” characterizes modern Babylon’s total rejection of God and denial of His very existence;16 “I am” is the Hebrew meaning for “Jehovah;”17 Babylon herself assumes the role of god.

Verse 9 continues: “But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.”18 “Loss of children” and “widowhood” symbolize destruction of Babylon’s inhabitants, leaving the city bereft. Destruction would come upon the ancient city—and upon its modern counterpart—suddenly.

Verse 10 elaborates the Lord’s indictment of Babylon: “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.” Secular knowledge deceives modern Babylon; existentialism abounds; she denies even the existence of God. Her secret combinations, however, are not hidden from the Lord.

Verse 11 continues: “Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.” “Evil” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “misery” or “distress.”19 Because of her wickedness, disaster would come upon Babylon from a source not foreseen. “Mischief” is translated from a Hebrew word that means “ruin” or “calamity.”20

Doctrine and Covenants places these foretold events in the modern context, relating to latter-day spiritual Babylon and her destruction:

Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they [the righteous] shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land [America], to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.21

Verse 12 describes more abominations of Babylon, both ancient and modern: “Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.” The Lord challenges the wicked to put their enchantments and sorceries to the test; these will prove ineffective in protecting them at the moment of calamity.

Verses 9 through 12 contain a chiasm:

(9) But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood:
A: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries,
B: and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.
C: (10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:
D: thou hast said, None seeth me.
E: Thy wisdom
E: and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
D: and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.
C: (11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
A: and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.

In this chiasm,  reasons for Babylon’s destruction are set forth. Babylon has reveled in sorcery and secret combinations; her wisdom and knowledge have perverted her. “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness” is complemented by “therefore shall evil come upon thee;” “thou hast said, None seeth me” matches “I am, and none else beside me.” Babylon denies God’s existence; therefore, she reasons, her secret combinations and wickedness are unseen.

Verse 13 repeats the challenge: “Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.” These abominable practices would be of no help in saving Babylon from destruction or even giving advance warning.

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:

(11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off:
A: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
C: and with the multitude of thy sorceries,
D: wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth;
E: if so be thou shalt be able to profit,
E: if so be thou mayest prevail.
D: (13) Thou art wearied
C: in the multitude of thy counsels.
B: Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up,
A: and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.

Babylon’s practice of astrology and enchantment would be of no help in her time of desperation. “Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly” matches “these things that shall come upon thee;” “Stand now with thine enchantments” complements “let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up.”

Verse 14 describes the destruction of modern Babylon: “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” The fire of destruction will consume all available fuel, leaving the few survivors deprived of warmth and light. Fire will completely destroy the wicked.22

Verse 14 contains a chiasm:

A: (14) Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them;
B: they shall not deliver themselves
C: from the power of the flame:
B: there shall not be a coal to warm at,
A: nor fire to sit before it.

The wicked of Babylon will be consumed with fire, whereas those who survive the burning will be left desolate and cold. “The fire shall burn them” contrasts with “nor fire to sit before it.” “They shall not deliver themselves” contrasts with “there shall not be a coal to warm at.”

Verse 15 foretells that the merchants of the world who trafficked with Babylon, participating in her wickedness, will abandon her at her destruction: “Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.”23

 


Notes:

1. Revelation 17:4-6.
2. Revelation 18:2-4.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 1:16.
4. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary; also Isaiah 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11.
5. Isaiah 47:1, footnote 1c.
6. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 409.
7. Isaiah 47:2, footnote 2a.
8. 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. 2834, p. 362.
9. Isaiah 47:3, footnote 3a.
10. Brown, et al.,1996, Strong’s No. 2822, p. 365.
11. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 395.
12. Verse 6 contains a chiasm: I was wroth/polluted mine inheritance/thine hand/shew them no mercy/laid thy yoke.
13. Isaiah 47:6, footnote 6a.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1404, p. 150; see also Isaiah 47:7, footnote 7a.
15. Isaiah 47:8, footnote 8b.
16. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 410.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
18. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Widow/loss of children/these two things/moment…day/loss of children/ widowhood….
19. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7451, p. 948.
20. Isaiah 47:11, footnote 11a.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 29:8.
22. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 64:1-2, 11; 66:15-16 and pertinent commentary.
23. Verse 15 contains a chiasm: Thus shall they be unto thee/thou hast laboured/thy merchants/they shall wander/ none shall save thee.

Advertisements

Isaiah 46: And Even to Your Old Age I Am He; and Even to Hoar Hairs Will I Carry You

In this chapter the fall of Babylon is predicted. The chapter begins with a depiction of idols representing Babylon’s chief gods being carried into captivity, symbolizing Babylon’s overthrow. Babylon is a type for modern-day worldliness and materialism; this chapter thus foretells the fall of modern materialistic society and describes its corruption. The Lord, in contrast to the conquered Babylonian gods, has carried and sustained His righteous followers through the ages.

Anciently idolatry consisted of worship of false gods, frequently depicted by a statue or similar image and commonly made of costly materials. Practices associated with idolatry ranged from ceremonial illicit sex1 to human sacrifice, including children put to death by fire.2 Modern idolatry consists of pervasive materialism, to the exclusion of spiritual or humanitarian matters.3

Verse 1 describes a caravan: “Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.” Bel is a Babylonian god, the same identity as Baal,4 and Nebo is a Babylonian god of wisdom.5 Babylonian names often began with the names of these gods—for example, Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar.6 Images or idols representing these gods were laden upon carriages (wagons) and beasts of burden. Because of their weight they are a heavy load for the beasts. The beasts and wagons are metaphors for the people who worship these gods—such worship is a grievous burden.

Verse 2 continues: “They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…and they could not deliver the burden….”7 Just as these false gods are powerless to do anything to keep themselves from being carried away, they are unable to keep those who worship them from being conquered. Worship of these false gods is a heavy burden and an enslavement, borne in ignorance of the truth. Jesus contrasted the gospel He preached to the heavy burden of false religion during His mortal ministry: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”8

Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Bel boweth down,
B: Nebo stoopeth,
C: their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle:
D: your carriages were heavy loaden;
C: they are a burden to the weary beast.
B: (2) They stoop,
A: they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.

This chiasm declares that although idolatry is a heavy burden, false gods are powerless to help those who worship them. “Bel boweth down” compares with “they bow down together;” “Nebo stoopeth” matches “they stoop;” “their idols were upon the beasts” matches “they are a burden to the weary beast.”

In verse 3 the Lord calls out to apostate Israel: “Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb.” The Lord, who in great contrast to the conquered Babylonian gods, has carried and sustained His righteous followers through the ages, pleads with the remnant of the house of Israel to hearken.

In verse 4 the Lord continues His plea to Israel: “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” Unlike false gods which are inert and must be borne by the people, the Lord will bear up His people in their tribulations, even down to their old age. “Hoar hairs” means gray hair, signifying advanced age.

Verse 4 contains a chiasm:

A: (4) And even to your old age I am he;
B: and even to hoar hairs will I carry you:
C: I have made,
C: and I will bear;
B: even I will carry,
A: and will deliver you.

“Even to your old age I am he” is complemented by “[I] will deliver you;” and “even to hoar hairs will I carry you” matches “even I will carry [you].” The Lord will sustain the righteous throughout their lives, in contrast to the powerless idols characterized in the chiasm of verses 1 and 2.

In verse 5 the Lord poses a rhetorical question: “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?” The Lord is unlike these false gods.

Verse 6 summarizes the process of creating an idol: “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…then they fall down, yea, they worship.”9 A craftsman is hired; no expense is spared. An idol, made by human hands, becomes an object of worship.

Verse 7 describes the folly of idol worship: “They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.” Idols can neither move by themselves, nor answer prayers, nor save man from life’s tribulations.

In verse 8, the Lord chastises those who worship idols: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.” Not only is idolatry serious sin; it is a lie borne of gross ignorance.

In verse 9, the Lord challenges the idolaters: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” God’s dealings with man since the earliest times bear record that He alone is God. We can trust, worship, and even adore Him without reservation. As the only perfect person to ever live on the earth, there is none like Him.10 Isaiah’s use of parallel phrases provides strong emphasis.

Verses 5 through 9 contain a chiasm:

A: (5) To whom will ye liken me,
B: and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
C: (6) They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god:
D: they fall down, yea, they worship. (7) They bear him upon the shoulder,
E: they carry him,
F: and set him in his place,
F: and he standeth;
E: from his place shall he not remove:
D: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
C: (8) Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
B: (9) Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else;
A: I am God, and there is none like me.

Idols are immobile and have no power to answer prayer. The question “to whom will ye liken me…?” is answered: “I am God, and there is none like me.” The second part of the question, “[To whom will ye] make me equal, and compare me…?” is answered “I am God. and there is none else;” “they fall down, yea, they worship, they bear him upon the shoulder” contrasts with “yet he can not answer, nor save him out of his trouble,” describing the ineffectiveness of idols to save men despite their worship.

Verse 10 continues the Lord’s accounting of His dealings with man: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”11 Prophets from ancient times foretell things yet in the future; these things testify that the Lord is God. The Lord through prophets declares the end from the beginning. “The end” is defined in this verse as “things that are not yet done;” and “beginning” is defined as “from ancient times.”

Regarding the phrase “declaring the end from the beginning,” LeGrand Richards stated:

We have a more sure word of prophecy that makes the Bible to me like a blueprint where the Lord has outlined everything from the war in heaven up till the final winding‑up scenes when we will have a new heaven and a new earth. I think that is what Isaiah meant when he said that the Lord has declared the end from the beginning.12

Verse 11 continues the Lord’s assertion that He is God: “Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” The “ravenous bird,” meaning “bird of prey,” symbolizes Cyrus whom the Lord would raise up to free captive Israel.13 “Executeth my counsel” means that Cyrus would do the Lord’s will.

In verse 12 the Lord again calls upon idolatrous Israel to listen: “Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness.” The Hebrew word translated as “stouthearted” means “mighty, valiant or obstinate.”14

In verse 13 the Lord attests His willingness and power to save: “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” The Lord is near at hand, anxious to provide salvation for repentant Israel. The meaning of “Zion” as used here is the place of latter-day spiritual gathering; other meanings may also be discerned.15

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:

A: (11) Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel
B: from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
C: (12) Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
C: (13) I bring near my righteousness;
B: it shall not be far off,
A: and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

“My counsel” matches “my salvation;” “From a far country” contrasts with “it shall not be far off;” and “far from righteousness” contrasts with “I bring near my righteousness.”


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 1:29 and pertinent commentary.
2. See Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 2 Kings 16:2-3; 17:16-18; 2 Chronicles 33:6—7.
3. See Isaiah 2:7-8; 32:5-8 and pertinent commentary.
4. Bible dictionary—Bel.
5. Bible Dictionary—Nebo.
6. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 391.
7. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 187.
8. Matthew 11:30.
9. Parry, 2001, p. 187.
10. Neal A. Maxwell, “O, Divine Redeemer,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 8.
11. Verse 10 contains a chiasm: Declaring/end/beginning/ancient times/things that are not yet done/saying.
12. LeGrand Richards, “Prophecy,” Ensign, May 1974, p. 115.
13. 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. 5861, p. 743.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 47, p. 7.
15. 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; 35:10; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.

Isaiah 45: Thus Saith the Lord to His Anointed, to Cyrus

The first part of Chapter 45 presents the Lord’s instructions to Cyrus, who would free the captives of Israel and finance the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The chapter continues the prophecy begun in the final 3 verses of Chapter 44. The Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. Babylon was subsequently conquered by Cyrus, a Persian, who diverted the waters of the Euphrates away from the city and marched with his armies in the dry river bed under the walls of the city.1 The writings of Isaiah—written over 130 years before the time of Cyrus and yet containing his name, both here and in the previous chapter2—must have played a significant role in the freeing of captive Judah and in convincing Cyrus to do these things. The chapter concludes with the Lord’s attestation that He alone is God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Through Him, the means for salvation will be provided for all mankind. In the end every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will swear, or confess,3 that He is God.

In verses 1 through 7 the Lord speaks to Cyrus, explaining that although Cyrus had not known Him, the Lord provided great blessings for him. Verse 1 proclaims: “Thus saith the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him.” 4 The Lord declares that He has supported Cyrus in his previous conquests. Verse 1 continues: “and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “to open before him doors….”5 “His anointed” comes from the Hebrew, meaning “messianic prince.”6 Thus, Cyrus as a military conqueror is a type for Christ in His role as destroyer of the wicked before His Second Coming. Also, Cyrus’ liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity is a type for Christ’s freeing mankind from the bondage of sin and death. “Two leaved gates” means “double doors,”7 as in the protective gates of a city under siege. The phrase “loose the loins of kings” means that the Lord would disarm, or figuratively remove the weapons from the belts of kings, to make it easy for Cyrus to conquer them. This statement means the opposite of “gird up your loins,”8 or prepare yourselves for battle. The method used by the Lord to intervene in favor of Cyrus is revealed in this phrase.

In verse 2, the Lord proclaims that He will yet support Cyrus: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “I will go before thee, and level the mountains….”19 Military conquests of “mountains,” meaning “nations,”10 would be made easy for Cyrus; the Lord would prepare the way for him.

Verse 3 promises: “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” “The treasures of darkness” means treasures in secret places, specifically meaning Babylon.11 The Lord proclaims that He is the God of Israel—a people held captive by Cyrus and his predecessors, the Babylonians whom Cyrus had conquered—and calls Cyrus by name through the prophet Isaiah.

The Lord, in modern revelation to Joseph Smith, proclaims that He controls the destinies of armies: “For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?”12

In the Book of Mormon, the resurrected Lord proclaims that He, Jesus Christ, is the God of Israel and of the whole world:

Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world (emphasis added).13

The Nephites to whom Christ appeared were given an unsurpassed opportunity to know that He is the God of Israel, as He proclaimed to Cyrus through the prophet Isaiah.

Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Thus saith the LORD to his anointed,
B: to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him;
C: and I will loose the loins of kings,
D: to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
E: (2) I will go before thee,
E: and make the crooked places straight:
D: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
C: (3) And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD,
B: which call thee by thy name,
A: am the God of Israel.

The message of this chiasm is that Cyrus would be privileged to conquer many nations and acquire their wealth. “Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden” complements “which call thee by thy name;” “I will loose the loins of kings” is complemented by “I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places,” providing an explanation of meaning; and “I will go before thee” compares with “make the crooked places straight.”

In verse 4, the Lord proclaims the reason for His calling Cyrus by his name: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” Cyrus was appointed to perform a matter of great importance for the Lord’s servants, the descendants of Israel.

Verses 3 and 4 contain a chiasm:

(3) And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places,
A: that thou mayest know that I, the LORD,
B: which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
C: (4) For Jacob my servant’s sake,
C: and Israel mine elect,
B: I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee,
A: though thou hast not known me.

This chiasm explains why the Lord revealed to Isaiah the name of Cyrus many years before his time. “That thou mayest know” contrasts with “though thou hast not known me;” and “which call thee by thy name” corresponds to “I have even called thee by thy name.” The Lord revealed Cyrus’ name to Isaiah so that Cyrus would know that the Lord had appointed him to liberate the captives of Israel. Because of overlapping of this chiasm with that of verses 1 through 3, the phrases “which call thee by thy name” and “I have even called thee by thy name” are equivalent to “Cyrus” in verse 1.

In verses 5 and 6 the Lord proclaims that He is God and there are no other gods. Verse 5 commences: “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.”14 “I girded thee” means that the Lord had prepared Cyrus for battle.15 This the Lord did although Cyrus had not known Him or the Plan of Salvation.

In verse 6, the Lord explains that He, the Lord, would be glorified throughout all the earth because of Cyrus’ actions: “That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.”16 The God of Israel is the only true God.

In verse 7, the Lord proclaims that He is the Creator: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” In “create darkness” the Lord refers to His having separated the light from the darkness: “And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”17

In “create evil,” the Lord refers to His providing a choice between good and evil. Moroni explains: “For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night (emphasis added).”18

In verse 8, the Lord foretells the restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.” The Lord declares to Cyrus that as part of His role as Creator, He establishes and re-establishes truth and righteousness on the earth.

“Drop down, ye heavens, from above” means that heavenly messengers would come to restore divine knowledge and power to the earth. Compare John the Revelator’s prophecy of the restoration:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.19

“Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together” refers to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Compare Isaiah’s words foretelling this event:

And thou [Ariel, or the Nephites] shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust (emphasis added).20

The record of the Nephites, hidden anciently in the earth by Moroni, came forth from the earth as the speech of those long since dead.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
B: (8) Drop down, ye heavens, from above,
C: and let the skies pour down righteousness:
D: let the earth open,
D: and let them bring forth salvation,
C: and let righteousness
B: spring up together;
A: I the LORD have created it.

In this chiasm the Lord proclaims that He is the Creator and source of all righteousness. “I the LORD do all these things” is equivalent to “I the LORD have created it;” “let the earth open” matches “let them bring forth salvation.” The Book of Mormon, as if speaking from the dust of the earth, would bring forth the knowledge of salvation.

Verse 9 decrees woes upon those who rebel against God: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…thy work hath no human hands?”21 Do we, as God’s creations, deny His existence and claim there is no Creator? Even the potsherds—broken fragments of clay pots—provide rich clues regarding the civilizations, or human hands, that created them. Just as well might they argue among themselves as we might argue about whether there is a divine Creator.

Verse 10 provides a stark comparison: “Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?” Our questioning whether God created us is like our posing such inane questions to our earthly parents.

Verse 11 describes the Lord’s omniscience, again addressing Cyrus: “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.” The Lord knows all about His creations; here He challenges Cyrus—whom He created—to ask Him anything that will convince him that the Lord is the Creator of all, including the human family.

Verse 12 explains further: “I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”22 The Lord is Creator of heaven and earth. The Lord reiterates in modern revelation: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.”23 The earth and its contents are the Lord’s because He is their Creator. We have a duty of stewardship over the Lord’s creations, rather than ownership. Earlier, in Chapter 42, Isaiah proclaimed: “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.”24

Verse 13 declares Cyrus’ mission, with the Lord now shifting to the third person singular: “I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.” Cyrus is commanded by the Lord to release the captive Israelites and rebuild their city, not expecting financial gain. Prisoners or slaves were a financial asset and were normally exchanged or released for value or other advantage; here Cyrus is instructed by the Lord not to seek financial reward.

In Verse 14 the Lord continues His instructions to Cyrus, now shifting back to the second person singular: “Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.” Egypt, Ethiopia, and an Arab tribe called the Sabeans25 would provide labor and materials to Cyrus. All would acknowledge that the Lord was with Cyrus. Their being “in chains” means that the Lord would substitute the involuntary status of the Jews for that of the named nations and tribes, thus offsetting the financial consideration. The phrase “there is none else, there is no God” means “there is no other God.”

Verses 12 through 14 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. (13) I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways:
B: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives,
C: not for price nor reward,
D: saith the LORD of hosts.
D: (14) Thus saith the LORD,
C: The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee;
B: in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying,
A: Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.

In this chiasm the Lord promises Cyrus “the labor of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia” if he will allow Judah to go free. “I have made the earth, and created man upon it” complements “surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.” “Captives” matches “in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee,” designating that others would take the place of the Jews whom Cyrus would free; and “not for price nor reward” corresponds to “the labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia,” designating how the Lord would repay Cyrus for his having freed the Jews.

In verse 15, the prophet Isaiah exults: “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” The Lord’s benevolence in providing for Jerusalem to be rebuilt under the circumstances described in the previous verses is reason for Isaiah’s praise. Here Isaiah also refers to the Lord as the “God of Israel” and “the Saviour,” foretelling the Lord’s central role in the Atonement. The Lord conceals Himself from the world in general, manifesting Himself only to those who approach Him in faith and righteousness.

Verse 16 condemns those that worship false gods: “They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.”

In verse 17, the prophet foretells salvation for repentant Israel: “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” The Lord describes Israel’s salvation in modern revelation: “And from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand.”26

The phrase “world without end” is also used by Paul in the New Testament,27 and its variation “worlds without end” occurs once in Doctrine and Covenants.28 In all three instances the meaning is the same. The phrase refers to God the Father’s work, unceasing throughout eternity, of creating and populating numberless worlds, as He described unto Moses:

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten….
But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.29

Verse 18 proclaims: “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” The Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, is the only God. His creation of the earth is for a specific purpose—to be inhabited by His children.

Nephi paraphrased verse 18: “Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.”30

Verses 15 through 18 contain a chiasm:

A: (15) Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
B: (16) They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
C: (17) But Israel shall be saved
D: in the LORD
C: with an everlasting salvation:
B: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
A: (18) For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens….

In this chiasm Isaiah identifies Jehovah as the same who would come and save His people. “Thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” matches “for thus saith the LORD [Jehovah, in the Hebrew] that created the heavens.” The phrase “I am the LORD; and there is none else” in verse 18 is also chiastically equivalent.31

In verse 19, the Lord proclaims: “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”32 The Lord does not work in secret; rather, He manifests Himself to His prophets through the ages.33 Nor do the descendants of Jacob seek Him in vain; the Lord deals only in truth and righteousness. In the preface to Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord stated: “And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know….”34

Verses 20 through 25 proclaim that Israel would be gathered and saved through the Atonement of Christ. Verse 20 declares: “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.” The Great Isaiah Scroll reads “…draw near together and come, ye that are escaped of the nations….”35 “Assemble yourselves and come” is the Lord’s call to all Israel in the latter days. “Escaped of the nations” means those who have left behind the evil practices and beliefs of the world, spiritually seeking to gather to Zion. Idolaters have no knowledge.

Verse 21 continues: “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”36 The Lord has declared these things from ancient times; He is just and will provide the means for salvation. There is no other God beside Him.

In verse 22 the Lord proclaims that salvation comes only through Him: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” “All the ends of the earth” means people from every remote part of the earth.37

In verse 23, the Lord attests: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Paul quotes this verse in the New Testament: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”38

The word “genuflect” comes from the Latin, as represented in this verse. Genu means “knee,” and flectere means “to bend.”39 The Lord’s statement “I have sworn by myself” is the most solemn and binding of oaths that is possible under any circumstances.40

Alma the younger, following his miraculous conversion, expounded upon this passage from Isaiah. Far from being a promise of universal salvation unto all who confess the Lord’s name, it more fully condemns the sinner:

Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God; then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye (emphasis added).41

Acknowledgment by the wicked that the Lord is God does not imply repentance, forgiveness or discipleship.

Verses 24 and 25 summarize. Verse 24 states: “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.” In the Lord, each of us can find righteousness and strength; but all those who are incensed, or angry, with the Lord will be left ashamed. Nephi expounded upon these principles:

And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them….42

Verse 25 concludes: “In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” “Justified” means having been judged and found worthy of the Lord’s blessings and exaltation.

Verses 22 through 25 contain a chiasm:43

A: (22) Look unto me,
B: and be ye saved,
C: all the ends of the earth:
D: for I am God, and there is none else.
E: (23) I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return,
F: That unto me every knee shall bow,
F: every tongue shall swear.
E: (24) Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
D: (25) In the LORD
C: shall all the seed of Israel
B: be justified,
A: and shall glory.

The message of this chiasm is that in the Savior, all the ends of the earth can be saved and all will acknowledge that He is God. “Be ye saved” is the same as “be justified;” “all the ends of the earth” amplifies “all the seed of Israel;” “I have sworn by myself” is matched by “surely;” “the word is gone out of my mouth” is equivalent to “shall one say;” “in righteousness” is matched by “in the LORD have I righteousness and strength;” and “shall not return” is contrasted by “to him shall men come.” “Every knee shall bow” matches “every tongue shall swear.”

 


Notes:

1. Pat Alexander (Organizing Editor), The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible: Lion Publishing Co., 1987 ed., p. 296. See also Franklin L. West, Discovering the Old Testament: Deseret Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1959, p. 442.
2. See Isaiah 44:28.
3. See Romans 14:11; Philippians 3:10; Mosiah 27:31; Doctrine and Covenants 88:104.
4. Verse 1 contains a chiasm: Before him/I will loose/to open/before him. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 262.
5. Parry, 2001, p. 182.
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. 4899, p. 603.
7. Isaiah 45:1, footnote 1e.
8. See Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 30, “Come, come, ye saints,” verse 1.
9. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 182.
10. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and pertinent commentary; see also 2 Nephi 12:14.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2822, p. 365; see also Isaiah 45:3, footnote 3a.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 117:6.
13. 3 Nephi 11:14.
14. Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm: Though thou hast not known me/the LORD/there is none else/there is no/God/ though thou hast not known me.
15. See verse 1 and pertinent commentary.
16. Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm: I am the LORD, and there is none else/there is no God beside me/from the rising of the sun/from the west/there is none beside me/I am the LORD, and there is none else.
17. Genesis 1:4.
18. Moroni 7:15.
19. Revelation 14:6-7.
20. Isaiah 29:4.
21. Parry, 2001, p. 183.
22. Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm: The LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker/ask me/concerning my sons/concerning the work of my hands/command ye me/I have made the earth, and created man upon it.
23. Doctrine and Covenants 104:14.
24. Isaiah 42:5; see Isaiah 40:28; 41:20; 42:5; 44:24; Moses 1:33; 4:2.
25. Bible Dictionary—Sabeans.
26. Doctrine and Covenants 38:33.
27. See Ephesians 3:21.
28. See Doctrine and Covenants 76:112.
29. Moses 1:33, 35.
30. 1 Nephi 17:36.
31. Verse 18 contains a chiasm that overlaps that of verses 15 through 18: The LORD that created the heavens/formed the earth/he hath established it/he created it not in vain/he formed it to be inhabited/I am the LORD.
32. Verse 19 contains a chiasm: I have not spoken in secret/I said not/seek ye me/I the LORD/speak/I declare things.
33. See Amos 3:7.
34. Doctrine and Covenants 1:34-35.
35. Parry, 2001, p. 185.
36. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: Assemble yourselves/draw near/ye that are escaped/set up the wood of their graven image/pray unto a god that cannot save/tell ye/bring them near/take counsel together.
37. See Isaiah 42:10; 43:6; 52:10.
38. Romans 14:11.
39. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 308.
40. See Isaiah 49:18 and pertinent commentary.
41. Mosiah 27:31.
42. 1 Nephi 17:3.
43. Compare Parry, 2001, p. 262.