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.

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 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.

Isaiah 34: Their Slain…Shall Be Cast Out, and Their Stink Shall Come Up Out of Their Carcases

Chapter 34 describes apocalyptic destruction preceding the Second Coming of the Lord that will befall the nations of the earth who oppose the Lord and His people. The armies of the world will be destroyed, the stink of the carcasses of the dead will rise up, and the mountains will be melted with their blood. Nations that opposed Zion and her establishment will be left without inhabitant, and none but wild animals will remain to inherit the land. An important key to understanding this chapter is to compare similar passages in Doctrine and Covenants. An essential purpose for this volume of modern scripture is to describe events that will occur in the latter days: “Wherefore, fear and tremble, O ye people, for what I the Lord have decreed in them [revelations contained in Doctrine and Covenants] shall be fulfilled.”1

In verse 1, Isaiah calls upon all to hear his words: “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.”2 Isaiah’s warning, of utmost importance, is for all the world to hear; the nations of the earth are summoned to listen. Compare the Lord’s introductory summons in Doctrine and Covenants:

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.
For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.3

Verse 2 commences Isaiah’s message to the people of the world: “For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “and hath delivered them to the slaughter.”4 Isaiah’s use of the past tense may reflect his having seen these events in vision.

The Lord provides additional understanding in Doctrine and Covenants: “I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth. I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man.”5

The Lord gives further insight:

And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.6

Verse 3 describes the horror of the slaughter: “Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.” This description provides an image of an immense shedding of blood upon the earth—so much that the blood functions as an agent for erosion. Isaiah’s use of “mountains” here implies that this destruction would involve many nations.7 The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “…the mountains shall be melted with their blood; the valleys will be split.”8

This horror compares with the final scenes of the Jaredite nation, described by Moroni in his translation of Ether’s record:

And so great and lasting had been the war, and so long had been the scene of bloodshed and carnage, that the whole face of the land was covered with the bodies of the dead.
 And so swift and speedy was the war that there was none left to bury the dead, but they did march forth from the shedding of blood to the shedding of blood, leaving the bodies of both men, women, and children strewed upon the face of the land, to become a prey to the worms of the flesh.
And the scent thereof went forth upon the face of the land, even upon all the face of the land; wherefore the people became troubled by day and by night, because of the scent thereof.9

Scenes like this await the inhabitants of the earth in the latter days.

Verse 4 describes the extent of the slaughter: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.” 10 The Hebrew word translated as “falling fig” means “unripe fruit.”11 These similes describe the falling of individuals in a vast army.

“All the host of heaven” means “all the armies upon the earth” on the basis of context and chiastic equivalence. The same meaning for “heaven” is apparent in modern revelation: “Yea, verily I say unto you again, the time has come when the voice of the Lord is unto you: Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (emphasis added).12 Compare Isaiah’s words in describing the advance of the Assyrians: “They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land” (emphasis added).13

Heaven being rolled together as a scroll is not easy for us to imagine in our temporal context; nevertheless, there are several scriptural references to it in addition to this instance in verse 4. John the Revelator, foreseeing an event in the latter days, stated: “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”14 The Lord, in revelation to Joseph Smith, refers to “the curtain of heaven” being “unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up.”15 In contrast, Mormon and Moroni both refer to the earth being rolled together as a scroll during the latter-day devastation.16

Verses 2 through 4 contain a chiasm:

A: (2) For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations,
B: and his fury upon all their armies:
C: he hath utterly destroyed them,
C: he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
B: (3) Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
A: (4) And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved….

“For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations” complements “all the host of heaven shall be dissolved.” Comparison of these two phrases further clarifies the meaning of “heaven” in verse 4. “His fury upon all their armies” complements “their slain also shall be cast out;” and “he hath utterly destroyed them” is equivalent to “he hath delivered them to the slaughter.” The Lord will destroy the armies of the earth.

Verse 5 continues, now with the Lord speaking in the first person: “For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.” “Judgment,” as used here, means “retribution.”17 The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “For my sword appears in heaven.”18 Compare the Lord’s statement in Doctrine and Covenants, which speaks in the third person: “And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth” (emphasis added).19

The curious phrase “for my sword shall be bathed in heaven” deserves further scrutiny. The Hebrew word translated as “bathed” means, figuratively, “saturated” or “satiated;”20 some translations render “drunken.” The meaning is that the sword of the Lord is about to be used abundantly for the shedding of blood. Anciently, dipping swords and shields in oil was a preparation for battle; the oil lubricated the blades, improving their effectiveness as cutting tools.21 The phrase indicates that the sword of the Lord would be prepared to fall with great fury upon the inhabitants of the earth.

“Idumea” signifies “Edom” in the original Hebrew.22 “The people of my curse” refers in particular to Edom, based on parallel phrases in this verse. However, it also means people throughout the world who would turn against the Lord and His people, having no regard for His commandments. The cursing of Edom, who was Esau, a son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob, was the result of his personal unrighteousness.23 The Lord sets forth the broader meaning for Idumea in Doctrine and Covenants: “And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world.”24

Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
B: and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down,
C: as the leaf falleth off from the vine,
C: and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
B: (5) For my sword shall be bathed in heaven:
A: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.

The Lord’s judgment will fall upon the world and its hosts, or armies. “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved” complements “behold, it [the Lord’s sword] shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.” “The host of heaven,” therefore, means the armies of the world.

Verse 6 presents a parallel description, shedding additional light: “The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.”25 “Great slaughter” is chiastically equivalent to “judgment” in verse 5, providing a more precise meaning. “Filled” with blood is translated from the same Hebrew word rendered in verse 5 as “bathed.”26 Bozrah was the capital city of Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea. Its name means “fortress” or “sheepfold.”27 The name is shared by a city in Moab and by a modern city, Basra, in Iraq. The slaughter and the sacrifice are in lieu of the sacrifices and obedience not forthcoming from the inhabitants of the earth. Lambs, goats and rams were elements of sacrifices under the Law of Moses. Here these animals are metaphoric; the people themselves would take the place of the sacrifices unoffered and for the Lord’s infinite sacrifice unaccepted by the people.

In describing the Lord’s coming following these events, Isaiah in Chapter 63 asks: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?” The Lord answers: “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”28

Verse 7 continues the metaphor of animals to be sacrificed: “And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”29 Slaughter of the people is likened to animal sacrifices left unoffered by them in their wickedness. “Unicorn” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “wild ox;”30 the Joseph Smith Translation renders reem, a transliteration of the Hebrew word for wild ox.31  The wild ox is probably Bos primigenius, now extinct, but once common in Syria. The Bible Dictionary states “The [King James Version] rendering is unfortunate, as the animal intended is two-horned.”32

Verse 8 summarizes: “For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.” One aspect of the “controversy of Zion,” doubtless, is the animosity between Jews and Arabs, the modern descendants of Esau. Other aspects of the controversy may relate to the founding of Zion and her stakes by the posterity of Joseph. “Zion” as used here means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering s well as both ancient and modern Jerusalem, including the temple mount.33

Verses 5 through 8 contain a chiasm:34

A: (5) For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse,
B: to judgment.
C: (6) The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness,
D: and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams:
E:   for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah,
E:   and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.
D: (7) And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls;
C: and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.
B: (8) For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance,
A: and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.

“For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse” is complemented by “the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion;” the meaning is that the reason for the Lord’s sword being bathed in heaven and its coming down upon the people of Idumea, or the people cursed by the Lord, is in recompense for their controversy regarding Zion, or the people blessed by the Lord. “Judgment” is equivalent to “the day of the Lord’s vengeance,” providing a definition. Equivalence of “the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah” and “a great slaughter in the land of Idumea” establishes that the people being slaughtered have themselves become the sacrifices—taking the place of their sacrifices left  unoffered to the Lord.

Verses 9 and 10 describe the aftereffects of warfare. Verse 9 begins: “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” “Pitch” means tar, asphalt, or petroleum;35 “brimstone” is sulfur, which burns to form an acrid, corrosive smoke that destroys lung tissue when inhaled.36 Fire is an important element in the destruction.37

Verse 10 continues the description: “It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.”38 Events similar to those described occurred in 1991 at the close of the Arabian Gulf War in Kuwait, and were witnessed worldwide on broadcast news television. The retreating Iraqi army, intent on inflicting severe economic damage on its smaller neighbor, exploded and ignited hundreds of wellheads in the oilfields. Smoke and flames arose; burning oil flowed across the desert and down stream beds. Extinguishing these hundreds of well fires required painstaking, dangerous work by skilled crews and required many months. Plumes of smoke could be seen vividly on satellite photographs taken from many miles into space. Millions of anti-personnel mines, scattered across the desert by both the Iraqi army and its opponents, prevent free access even years later. Removal of these lethal explosives may take generations. We may expect further fulfillment of this prophecy as more conflicts arise in the oil-rich Middle East.

Verse 11 describes the desolation of these war-torn lands: “But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.” The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness could describe cordons and markers denoting areas not cleared of land mines, making travel there hazardous. The Hebrew word translated as “stones” means “plummet,”39 a tool used in surveying.

The names of four animals, three of them birds, have been rendered in the King James Version with some variation from the Hebrew Masoretic text. “Cormorant” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “pelican” or possibly an extinct bird species;40 “bittern” is from a Hebrew word meaning “porcupine;”41 “owl” means “great owl” or the Egyptian “eagle-owl;”42 and “raven” is translated from the Hebrew with the same meaning.43

Verse 12 describes the devastation of political kingdoms: “They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing.” “Shall be nothing” means to become “nought” or “non-existing.”44

Verse 13 continues: “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.” Thorns, nettles and brambles arising in vacant palaces and fortresses suggests usage elsewhere of “thorns and briers” representing false doctrines.45 However, thorns, nettles and brambles may have a more literal meaning here, describing the aftereffects of the annihilation. “Dragons” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “serpents,” “dragons” or “sea-monsters;”46 and “owls” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “ostriches;” ostriches dwelling among ruins are symbolic of mourning.47 This word is different from the Hebrew word in verse 11 translated as “owls.”

Verses 12 and 13 contain a chiasm:

A: (12) They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing.
B: (13) And thorns shall come up in her palaces,
C: nettles
C: and brambles
B: in the fortresses thereof:
A: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.

The chiastic structure supports the more literal interpretation of thorns, nettles, and brambles rather than figurative meanings, with “nettles” and “brambles” as the central focus. The meaning here is literal devastation—rather than apostasy and the rise of false doctrines.

Verse 14 further describes wild animals having free rein in the desolate country: “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.” “Satyr” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “hairy,” or “a demon with the form of a he-goat.”48

Verse 15 states: “There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.” “Great owl” comes from the same Hebrew word used in verse 11, meaning “great owl” or the Egyptian “eagle-owl.”49

In verse 16 the Lord declares that all is according to scriptural prophecy and commands that the scriptures be read: “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate. For my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read the names written therein….”50  The meaning is that none of the righteous—those whose names are written in the book of the Lord—will be without their spouse throughout eternity.51 This reality should provide great comfort to those bereft of their spouse in this life, or who never were able to marry during this life—that in the eternity none of the righteous will be without a spouse. This verse teaches that the Lord has commanded prophecies of destruction to be written and fulfilled, but He also promises eternal increase to the righteous.

In verse 17, Isaiah declares: “And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders: “And I have cast the lot for them, and I have divided it unto them by line….”52 The Lord will divide the land among the righteous and will give it unto them for a perpetual inheritance. “By line” refers to a surveyor’s measuring chain or cord. As rendered by the King James Version, this division of inheritances would be among the wild animals living in the depopulated areas of the world.

Verses 15 through 17 contain a chiasm:

A: (15) There shall the great owl make her nest,
B: and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow:
C: there shall the vultures also be gathered,
D: every one with her mate.
E:   (16) Seek ye out of the book of the LORD,
E:   and read the names written therein;
D: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate:
C: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.
B: (17) And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever,
A: from generation to generation shall they dwell therein.

Prophecy recorded in scripture foretells the devastation of the lands of Edom, left desolate by wars and great slaughter. The central focus, “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read the names written therein,” testifies that the righteous—jointly with their spouses—will inherit the land forever, like the birds cited as inheriting the land after its depopulation.

 


Notes:

1. Doctrine and Covenants 1:7.
2. Verse 1 contains a chiasm: Come near/hear/hearken/people/earth/hear/all/come forth.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 1:1-2.
4. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 141.
5. Doctrine and Covenants 63:32-33.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 87:6.
7. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
8. Parry, 2001, p. 142.
9. Ether 14:21 -23.
10. Verse 4 contains a chiasm: Host/heaven/heavens/host. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
11. Isaiah 34:4, footnote 4c.
12. Doctrine and Covenants 133:7.
13. Isaiah 13:5.
14. Revelation 6:14.
15. Doctrine and Covenants 88:95.
16. Mormon 5:23; 9:2.
17. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 4:4; 28:6.
18. Parry, 2001, p. 142.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 1:13.
20. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 7301, p. 924.
21. See Isaiah 21:5.
22. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 123, p. 10.
23. See Genesis 25:30-34; 27:34-38; Hebrews 12:16-17.
24. Doctrine and Covenants 1:36.
25. Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm: Idumea/judgment/sword of the LORD/blood/fat/fatness/blood/sacrifice in Bozrah/great slaughter/Idumea.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7301, p. 924.
27. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1224, p. 131.
28. Isaiah 63:1; see also Doctrine and Covenants 133:46-47.
29. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm: Fat with fatness/blood/lambs and goats…rams/sacrifice/slaughter/unicorns… bullocks/blood/fat with fatness.
30. Brown et al., 1996; Strong’s No. 7214, p. 910.
31. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 205.
32. Bible Dictionary—Unicorn.
33. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14, 20; 37:32; 40:9; 41:27; 51:3.
34. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
35. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2203, p. 278.
36. Webster, p. 179.
37. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
38. Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm: Day…year/pitch/dust…brimstone/land…burning pitch/it shall not be quenched…smoke thereof/generation to generation.
39. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 68, p. 6.
40. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6893, p. 866.
41. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7090, p. 891.
42. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3244, p. 676.
43. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6158, p. 788.
44. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 657, p. 67.
45. See Isaiah 55:13; 5:6; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4; 32:13 and pertinent commentary.
46. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8577, p. 1072.
47. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3284, p. 419.
48. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8163, p. 972.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3244, p. 676.
50. JST, 1970, p. 205.
51. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 313.
52. JST, 1970, p. 206.

Isaiah 33: Not One of the Stakes [Of Zion] Shall Ever Be Removed

This chapter deals with apostasy, violence and treachery that will precede the Second Coming. The righteous in Zion will pray for the Lord’s protection during these times. When the Lord comes in His glory the wicked will be destroyed with devouring fire; despite tribulation, Zion and her stakes will never be removed. The Lord will reign as Lawgiver, Judge, and King.

A key to understanding this chapter is to carefully watch to whom and about whom Isaiah is speaking. These elements shift throughout the chapter, possibly leaving the reader confused. Use of varying subject and verb forms, sometimes rendered more clearly in modern languages other than English, provide a clue for following these shifts.

Verse 1 consists of a woe oracle against those who “spoil,” or rob by violence and treachery: “Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end of dealing treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.”1 The woe oracle describes predators who rob the innocent or defenseless. Sennacherib king of Assyria, who would invade and plunder Jerusalem in 701 B.C., is thought by most scholars to be this spoiler.2 For the latter days, this verse describes a state of violent anarchy and terror in which marauders roam about, seeking victims whom they might harm, pillage, and rob. Doctrine and Covenants describes the same or similar conditions: “And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.”3

In verse 2, the righteous pray fervently for protection: “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” The Joseph Smith Translation renders “their salvation also in the time of trouble.”4 “Be thou their arm” is Isaiah’s plea to the Lord, meaning “defend them against those who would do them harm.”

Verses 3 and 4 describe the Lord’s coming. Verse 3 begins: “At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.” The archaic phrase “at the lifting up of thyself” means “upon thy rising up,” like the rising of the sun in the morning—to be seen by the whole world, to do battle. Note use of the second person familiar form “thyself;” Isaiah directs his statement to the Lord.

In verse 4 Isaiah’s usage changes voice, directing his statement toward the nations to be scattered at the Lord’s coming: “And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.” Isaiah’s similes of insects voraciously feeding create visual images of marauding pillagers as these nations are destroyed. His use of the second person plural familiar verb form “your” is not readily recognized in the English because it is the same as other commonly-used verb forms.

Verse 5 describes the blessed state of the inhabitants of Zion during this time of great destruction. Isaiah’s statement here is directed toward the reader: “The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.”5 “Judgment” means “fairness.”6 The Hebrew word translated as “righteousness” means “ethically right.”7

“Zion” in this verse means both a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as Jerusalem, especially the latter-day Jerusalem under righteous circumstances.8 “Zion” is used in two other places in this chapter with the same range of meanings. The definition of “Zion” as given in Doctrine and Covenants is the pure in heart, meaning that Zion is wherever the righteous dwell—not necessarily a specific place.9

In Doctrine and Covenants, the phrase that follows the definition given of Zion may refer to events described here in Chapter 33 by Isaiah: “Therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.”10

The Lord reveals His design in appointing places of gathering:

And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints
Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion (emphasis added).11

In verse 6, Isaiah changes to the second person singular familiar pronoun to speak unto Zion: “And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.”12 The Lord’s greatest treasure is the righteousness of His people. The latter-day righteous of Israel will be saved from tribulation, invasion and pillaging through their wisdom, knowledge and fear of the Lord.

In verse 7 Isaiah continues speaking to Zion, now describing the angst of those not permitted to enter: “Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.” An alternative meaning in the original Hebrew, translated in the King James Version as “valiant ones,” is Ariel, meaning “the hearth of God” or “the Lion of God,”13 used previously in Chapter 29.14 Ariel refers to the covenant people—in particular those currently, or at some point in the past, possessing the covenants and blessings of the temple. Ariel not being permitted to enjoy the temporal protection of Zion means a group—other than Zion and her stakes—which is not now living up to the covenants that would entitle them to the security and blessings of Zion. This represents apostate Israel; possibly it could mean others.

In verse 8 Isaiah continues to direct his comments toward Zion. He describes the destruction preceding the Second Coming, then gives the reason that Ariel was excluded from the temporal safety of Zion: “The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth. He [Ariel] hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.” Violence, anarchy and possibly natural disasters have destroyed the highways to the extent that no traveler can continue.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without:
B: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.
C: (8) The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth:
C: he hath broken the covenant,
B: he hath despised the cities,
A: he regardeth no man.

The ascending side of the chiasm describes the remorse and disappointment of Ariel, the ancient covenant people, upon their being found unworthy of the Lord’s protection in the latter days. In the descending side, reasons for their being denied protection are set forth. Ariel is not permitted to enter the city of Zion and is not afforded its protection.

Verse 9 describes the effect of the broken covenants: “The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness: and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.” This shaking of Bashan and Carmel may mean earthquakes; or, it could mean fruit falling from the vine before it is ripe.15 “Lebanon” refers to “proud leaders and noblemen,” as described earlier by Isaiah in Chapter 2.16

Verses 10 through 12 describe the coming of the Lord. Verse 10 begins: “Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.” To become “exalted” and to be lifted up means that the Lord Jehovah would become great, acknowledged by the world.

In verse 11, the Lord speaks to the wicked: “Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.” “Chaff” and “stubble” emphasize that the temporal fruits of the daily labors of the wicked are of no permanence and would be burned like a grain field after the harvest. The main efforts of their lives were of little consequence; left undone were the important spiritual matters to which they ought to have paid the greater attention.

Verse 12 describes burning by fire: “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.”17 “Burnings of lime” brings to mind a horrible scene of bodies of the people being consumed by fire, leaving the ashes of their bones like an accumulation of lime.18 Chiastically, the people having conceived chaff is the cause of their being burned in the fire.

As stated in verse 13, the Lord’s greatness, might and majesty will be acknowledged worldwide: “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.” The Lord will speak to peoples both near and far.

Verse 14 speaks of the unworthy among the covenant people in Zion: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites.” Although they have had every opportunity, they have failed to prepare themselves for the day when the Lord would appear. Living with concealed sin, they ask fearfully: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”19

Two types of fire are described here: “Devouring fire” is that which will destroy the wicked, whereas “everlasting burnings” means the eternal glory that is characteristic of the presence of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith described this glory:

I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.20

Personal righteousness is a requirement to survive the destructive burning at the Lord’s coming and is essential in order to endure the glory, or eternal burnings, of the Lord’s presence.21 When worthiness is lacking, the wicked and hypocrites will look with great fear upon the Lord’s resplendent glory. “Zion” as used here means both a place of latter-day spiritual gathering as well as the righteous latter-day Jerusalem. Other meanings may also be discerned.22

Bruce R. McConkie elaborated:

…Who in the Church shall gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom? Who will go where God and Christ and holy beings are? —Who will overcome the world, work the works of righteousness, and enduring in faith and devotion to the end hear the blessed benediction, “Come, and inherit the kingdom of my Father.”23

Verse 15 answers the rhetorical questions posed by the unworthy hypocrites of verse 14: “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.”24 “Hearing of blood” means “hearing of violence.”25 These qualities of the righteous will enable them to abide the day of the Lord’s coming and to inherit eternal life in the celestial kingdom.

What sins did the hypocrites of verse 14 commit? The answers of verse 15 provide the answer: They walked unrighteously; they failed to speak uprightly—meaning they were not truthful; they gained from oppressing others. They committed extortion; they accepted bribes; they “heard,” or countenanced, violence or the shedding of blood; and they saw evil things. In our day, closing our eyes to evil includes avoiding media whose purpose is to promulgate evil, such as pornography or offensive programming on television and in movies.

The psalmist rehearsed these principles: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”26

In verse 16, blessings to be obtained by him “that walketh righteously” by avoiding the pitfalls described in verse 15 are expounded: “He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” “Munitions” means fortifications; fortifications of rocks will provide greater temporal security. The Lord will defend His righteous followers; He will provide them with bread and a sure supply of water—temporal as well as spiritual sustenance27—during these times of destruction and turmoil.

Further blessings for the righteous, now addressed by Isaiah in the second person singular, are described in verses 17 through 20. Verse 17 states: “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty.” This sentence reflects the meaning of the well-known phrase from the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”28 “Beauty” means the Lord’s resplendent glory alluded to in verse 14. Continuing, Isaiah describes what else the eyes of the righteous will see: “they shall behold the land that is very far off,” meaning the kingdom of God in heaven.

Verse 17 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew, here phrased to match the Hebrew construction:29

A: (17) The king in his beauty
B: Thine eyes shall see:
B: they shall behold
A: the land that is very far off.

“The king in his beauty” is complemented by “the land that is very far off,” indicating that the land spoken of is the dwelling-place of the King, or Messiah. The focus of the chiasm is “thine eyes shall see: they shall behold.”

Verses 18 and 19 describe the protection from invaders to be enjoyed by the righteous. Verse 18 states: “Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?” The scribe, weigher, and list-maker are they who work at managing the spoils of war; the righteous need not be concerned about them or their function.

The Apostle Paul paraphrases verse 18 in the New Testament: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”30

Verse 19 continues: “Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.” The righteous will not see fierce invading armies who speak an incomprehensible language. “Stammering tongue” refers to the effect on the ear of uncomprehended syllables spoken in rapid cadence. To one not familiar with a foreign language, its sounds may resemble stammering or stuttering. This verse helps clarify the meaning of an earlier passage, in Chapter 28: “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he [the Lord] speak to this people.”31 In that verse Isaiah describes missionaries or messengers, sent by the Lord, struggling to learn another language.  Here, in verse 19, the stammerers are an invading army—sent to destroy those who failed to heed the message of the first stammerers.

In verse 20 Isaiah continues his speech to the righteous, admonishing them: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.”32 “Zion” and “Jerusalem” here are synonymous, referring to the Lord’s righteous people.33 The analogy of latter-day Zion and her stakes to the tabernacle of ancient Israel, sustained by cords and stakes, is elaborated in Chapter 54 by Isaiah:

Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.34

Isaiah’s statement in verse 20 is quoted by the resurrected Lord to the Nephites35 and is referenced in various places in Doctrine and Covenants.36 The Lord’s promise that “not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken” is a great comfort and solace to the Latter-day Saints. Isaiah’s prophecy describing destruction of the wicked—leaving the Gentile cities without inhabitant—serves as a warning to all who will heed.

A stake is an ecclesiastical organization of several wards, or local congregations, which is presided over by a stake president. He directs the work of the Church in the wards and provides guidance, direction and leadership to the bishops, who preside over the wards. The stake president, in turn, receives direction from general and area authorities who report to the president of the church. Inherent in the organization of a stake is the availability of every aspect of the Church’s programs, including the ordinances of the priesthood, that is needed for the members of the stake to obtain eternal exaltation. “Solemnities,” used in the first line of verse 20, comes from the Latin root sollemnis which means “that which takes place every year,”37 meaning religious feasts and ceremonies.

Verses 17 through 20 contain a chiasm:

A: (17) Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
B: (18) Thine heart shall meditate terror.
C: Where is the scribe?
D: where is the receiver?
E:   where is he that counted the towers?
E:   (19) Thou shalt not see
D: a fierce people,
C: a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive;
B: of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.
A: (20) Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation….

“Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty” matches “look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities,” designating that Zion is to be the dwelling-place of the Lord who will reign upon the earth. The ascending side of this chiasm poses rhetorical questions that foresee the protection from invaders afforded the righteous in Zion and Jerusalem; statements in the descending side describe the invaders who would ravage the wicked during the destructions preceding the Second Coming, but from which Zion and Jerusalem would be spared. Righteous Zion and Jerusalem will not be overrun by invading armies that speak in a strange tongue.

Verse 21 continues Isaiah’s description of latter-day Zion, which will become the dwelling-place of the Lord during His glorious reign upon the earth: “But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.” Zion will be a place of refuge, protected by the Lord from invaders. This description of Zion as a land of great rivers and streams characterizes the location designated by the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, as the New Jerusalem in America—Jackson County, Missouri.38

Verse 22 describes the reason for the great peace and protection enjoyed by Zion: “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.” Salvation, as applied here, means temporal protection from earthly enemies, as well as eternal exaltation in the presence of God. The Atonement, which provides the way for us to be cleansed of our sins and opens the way for us to obtain eternal exaltation, is provided by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 21 and 22 contain a chiasm:

A: (21) But there the glorious LORD will be unto us
B: a place of broad rivers
C: and streams;
C: wherein shall go no galley with oars,
B: neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
A: (22) For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.

“Broad rivers” compares with “gallant ship” and “streams” compares with “galley with oars.” Note that the larger objects, “broad rivers” and “gallant ship” and the smaller elements, “stream” and “galley with oars,” are chiastically matched.

Verse 23 returns to the theme presented in verse 21, in which no ships would come near Zion. First Isaiah addresses the ship in the second person singular, describing its inability to navigate: “Thy tacklings are loosed.” Then Isaiah shifts attention to the men operating the ship: “They could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail.” Left unable to navigate, the ship is vulnerable to attack, even by the weak: “Then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.” The goods on the ship are divided among the conquerors, which include even the physically disabled. This ship is a type for any who seek to invade or overthrow Zion. In Chapter 54 the Lord promises His righteous followers: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”39

Verse 24 describes the spiritual strength of the inhabitants of Zion: “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” The Lord, through the Atonement, provides the way for each to be cleansed of sin, or spiritual infirmity. To qualify for the blessings of dwelling in Zion, each person must repent of his or her sins and be forgiven, according to the laws of the Lord.

 


Notes:

1. Verse 1 contains a chiasm: That spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled/dealest treacherously/cease to spoil/make an end to deal treacherously/shall deal treacherously.
2. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 294.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 45:68.
4. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970, p. 205.
5. Verses 2 through 5 contain a chiasm: Be gracious unto us/people fled…lifting up of thyself/the LORD/he dwelleth on high/filled Zion with judgment/righteousness.
6. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 41:1; 49:4; 53:8.
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. 6666, p. 842.
8. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:14, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 40:9; 41:27; 51:3.
9. Doctrine and Covenants 97:21.
10. Doctrine and Covenants 97:21.
11. Doctrine and Covenants 101:20-21.
12. Verse 6 contains a chiasm: Wisdom/knowledge/stability of thy times/strength of salvation/fear of the LORD/treasure.
13. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 691, p. 72.
14. See Isaiah 29:1-2, 7 and pertinent commentary.
15. See Malachi 3:11.
16. See Isaiah 2:13 and pertinent commentary; see also Isaiah 10:34 and 14:8.
17. Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm: Chaff/stubble/breath/fire/burnings/burned in the fire.
18. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
19. Verse 14 contains a chiasm: Sinners in Zion/afraid/fearfulness/hypocrites.
20. Doctrine and Covenants 137:2-3.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 130:7.
22. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 20; 34:8; 37:32; 40:9; 41:27; 51:3.
23. Bruce R. McConkie, “Think on These Things,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 45.
24. Verse 15 contains a chiasm: Walketh righteously/speaketh uprightly/despiseth the gain of oppressions/shaketh his hands from holding of bribes/stoppeth his ears from hearing/shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.
25. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1818, p. 196.
26. Psalm 24:3-4.
27. See Isaiah 12:3; 35:6-7; 55:11; 58:11 and pertinent commentary.
28. Matthew 5:8.
29. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 261.
30. 1 Corinthians 1:20.
31. Isaiah 28:11.
32. Verse 20 contains a chiasm: Taken down/stakes/cords/broken.
33. See Isaiah 3:16; 33:5, 14; 34:8; 37:32; 40:9; 41:27; 51:3.
34. Isaiah 54:2-3.
35. 3 Nephi 22:2-3.
36. Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-26; 82:14; 101:21; 107:36-37; 115:6, 18; 133:9.
37. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 696.
38. Doctrine and Covenants 57:1-2.
39. Isaiah 54:17.

Isaiah 32: The Vile Person Shall Be No More Called Liberal

This chapter is about political rulers. It begins with a description of the archetypical righteous King, the Messiah whose reign will bring unprecedented blessings, peace, and security. Isaiah’s use of this description at the beginning before describing the corruption of political rulers is a literary foil—a comparison of extremes to make descriptions of each more vivid.1 This comparison accentuates in the mind of the reader both the severity of the prevailing wickedness and the Lord’s infinite righteousness. This wickedness and corruption describe both ancient Israel and the latter days, with the earlier condition providing a type for the latter. The chapter ends with a chiastic description—mirroring the first four verses of the chapter—of the righteousness of the Lord and the favorable conditions that will prevail under His reign.

Verse 1 describes the reign of the Lord at His Second Coming: “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” 2 As used here, “judgment” means “fairness.”3 The Lord is the archetype of the righteous king; political rulers under His command will rule justly.

Verse 2 presents a series of similes to describe the security and peace that will be enjoyed by the righteous under the Lord’s reign: “And a man [specifically, the King of verse 1] shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Following the latter-day destructions the Lord will be looked upon by the surviving righteous as a great relief from tribulation. “Water” symbolizes inspiration and revelation from heaven.4 Each of these similes strikes a sharp contrast between the relief and comfort provided by the Lord in His benevolent reign and the chaos, misery and suffering experienced under the oppression of the preceding wicked rulers. Their wicked rule is characterized in this verse as “wind,” “tempest,” “dry place,” and “weary land.”

Verse 3 describes metaphorically the spiritual gifts that will abound among the righteous under the Lord’s reign: “And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.”5 “Them that see” means “seers,” and also those with the ability to perceive and understand spiritual things whereas “them that hear” means those with the ability to listen to the voice of the Spirit. “Hearken” means those who hear will respond to the promptings of the Spirit. This statement compares to Isaiah’s description in Chapter 29 of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, using the same physical metaphors for spiritual qualities: “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.”6

Verse 4 continues with similar metaphors: “The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” “Rash” means “those who act impetuously”7 whereas “stammerers” means “those who speak inarticulately.”8 This meaning contrasts with “for with stammering lips and another tongue,” used in Chapter 28, which describes the Lord’s representatives speaking in foreign languages.9

Verse 5 describes the ending of twisted values characteristic of the latter days: “The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.” “Churl” means “a rude, ill-bred person.”10 These parallel phrases emphasize true definitions of words that have been purposely twisted in meaning in our day. The Hebrew word translated as “liberal” means “noble” or “generous.”11 The dictionary definition of “liberal” is “honorable, noble, gracious, generous.”12 Isaiah foresees a time when leaders who have noble titles but who in reality are vile, churlish, avaricious, deceitful or foolish or are cheaters will no longer be called liberal or bountiful. Isaiah described this deliberate inversion of meaning in Chapter 5: “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”13

In verse 6, Isaiah provides a simple key for recognizing evil leaders—by their actions rather than their lofty titles: “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.”14,15 Note that “vile” and “villainy” have the same Latin root, villa, which refers to farms and workers of the soil,16 but in the King James Version and in usage today both are used only in the pejorative sense. The Hebrew word translated as “villainy” means “senseless folly” or “obscenity.”17

Verse 7 continues Isaiah’s exposition begun in verse 6 on how to distinguish a wicked ruler: “The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.”18 This phrase—using archaic words—means that corrupt rulers with avaricious or evil intentions devise schemes to deceive, using carefully-measured or lying words.

How striking is Isaiah’s description of evil rulers of our time! They use the pretense of caring for the needy to amass political power, but they destroy the poor with lying words. The Lord gave this same key for distinguishing evildoers in the Sermon on the Mount: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”19

Verse 8 provides the contrasting truth: “But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.”20 Liberality is a personal quality greatly valued by the Lord. The true leader, recognizing what is expected of a worthy leader, measures up to expectations.

Verses 9 through 11 chastise the women of Israel, and as a type, the women of the latter days. Verse 9 begins: “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.” “Careless” means “carefree” in modern usage; the Hebrew word from which it is translated means “confident” or “secure.”21

Verse 10 continues: “Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.” Despite their ease and comfort, long years of deprivation await them.

Verse 11 concludes: “Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.”22 Isaiah foretells long years of trouble and deprivation that await them—admonishing them to tremble and be troubled, strip themselves of pride, and dress themselves in the sackcloth of humility and repentance.23

Verse 12 describes their mourning for the pleasant surroundings they once enjoyed: “They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.” The Hebrew word translated as “lament for the teats” means “beat the breast” in mourning.24

Verses 8 through 12 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.
B: (9) Rise up, ye women that are at ease;
C: hear my voice,
D: ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.
E: (10) Many days and years shall ye be troubled,
F: ye careless women:
G: for the vintage shall fail,
G: the gathering shall not come.
F: (11) Tremble, ye women that are at ease;
E: be troubled,
D: ye careless ones:
C: strip you, and make you bare,
B: and gird sackcloth upon your loins.
A: (12) They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.

“Liberal things” is complemented by “the teats…pleasant fields…fruitful vine,” which provide a key to the prophet’s meaning. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease” is contrasted with “gird sackcloth upon your loins,” admonishing the privileged to repent of their arrogance. “Hear my voice” is equivalent to “strip you, and make you bare,” providing a spiritual explanation for the comparison. Those who heed Isaiah’s warning voice will strip themselves of pride, putting on in its place the sackcloth of sore repentance. Because of overlapping chiasms, all the phrases similar to “ye women that are at ease” are equivalent.

Verse 13 describes both the physical abandonment of the land following the fall of Jerusalem and the pervasive neglect of spiritual matters: “Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city.” In addition to their literal springing up in a neglected land, thorns and briers represent false doctrines that spring up when the Lord’s vineyard is neglected because of iniquity.25

Verse 14 continues the description of a land abandoned by its inhabitants: “Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks.” Feral animals would roam the abandoned palaces and fortifications of Jerusalem.

Verse 15 describes the conditions that will bring an end to this period of devastation, abandonment and neglect of spiritual things: “Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.” The spiritual rebirth described in this verse is the latter-day restoration, foretold earlier by Isaiah.26 The inclusive parallel statements “the wilderness be a fruitful field” and “the fruitful field be counted for a forest” indicate that the spiritual restoration would be universal—a precursor to the righteous reign of the Lord. “Forest” means the nobility or leaders of the people, and “fruitful field” means their economic apparatus.27 These phrases are almost the same wording used by Isaiah in Chapter 29 to describe the restoration, except here substituting “wilderness” for “Lebanon:” “…and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest.”28

Verses 16 through 20 return chiastically to the righteous rule of the Lord, described in verses 1 through 4. Verse 16 begins: “Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.” The Lord will rule righteously during His millennial reign. “Judgment” means “fairness” or “justice.”29 Other meanings for “judgment” that apply to the Lord’s reign are social justice,30 sound reasoning,31 and an equitable system of laws.32

Verses 17 and 18 describe the peace that will attend the Lord’s righteous reign. Verse 17 begins: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” Here Isaiah describes the assurance of knowing you are living in accordance with God’s will.33

Verse 18 continues: “And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” Not only will these conditions prevail during the Lord’s reign; it is possible—at least to a measure, in times of worldwide wickedness and upheaval—to experience peace in our private lives and homes by strict adherence to the Lord’s commandments.

Verse 19 describes the destruction that will precede the Lord’s righteous reign: “When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.” Here the destruction of the wicked is characterized as a hailstorm, one of the elements of the destruction foretold. A city “in a low place” is one that is especially vulnerable to devastating floods, which are symbolic of invading armies. “Forest” represents the noble, whereas “the city” here represents common humanity.

Hail as an element of the destructions that will occur before the Lord’s Second Coming is well established in the scriptures. Earlier, In Chapter 28, Isaiah stated: “Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand” (emphasis added).34 Similarly: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place” (emphasis added).35

“Line” and “plummet” are metaphors representing personal righteousness, and “hail” and “waters” represent the sweeping Assyrian army that would devastate Israel. “Hail” and “waters” are also types for literal occurrences of destructive hail and floods in the latter days. John the Revelator foretold a hailstorm with cataclysmic effect: “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great” (emphasis added).36

Verse 20 describes the blessed state of the righteous survivors in the modern equivalent of Egypt: “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.” The economic downfall of modern America is foretold earlier by Isaiah in terms of the industries of ancient Egypt, whose agriculture was based upon crops raised along the Nile River.37 Therefore, “ye that sow beside all waters” has direct reference to modern America by way of ancient Egypt as a type. Not only will there be planting and harvesting of crops; livestock will be raised during the Lord’s reign upon the earth.

 


Notes:

1. See Isaiah 53:5; 60:2; 63:7 and pertinent commentary.
2. Verse 1 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Shall reign/a king/princes/shall rule. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 260.
3. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 33:5; 41:1; 49:4; 53:8.
4. See Isaiah 12:3; 27:3; 35:6-7; 55:11; 58:11.
5. Verse 3 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: Not be dim/eyes of them that see/ears of them that hear/hearken. Parry, 2001, p. 260.
6. Isaiah 29:18.
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. 4116, p. 554-555.
8. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5926, p. 748.
9. See Isaiah 28:11.
10. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: 1988, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, MA, p. 240.
11. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5081, p. 622.
12. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 420.
13. Isaiah 5:20.
14. Verses 4 through 6 contain a chiasm: Heart also of the rash/speak plainly/vile person/liberal/bountiful/vile person/speak villany/his heart.
15. Verse 6 contains three chiasms recognized in the original Hebrew: Speak villany/work iniquity/practise hypocrisy/utter error. Will speak/villany/iniquity/heart will work. Empty/soul of the hungry/drink of the thirsty/to fail. Parry, 2001, p. 261.
16. Klein, 1971, p. 811.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5039, p. 615.
18. Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm: Hungry/drink of the thirsty to fail/instruments/churl/he/wicked devices/destroy the poor with lying words/needy.
19. Matthew 7:16.
20. Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm: Deviseth wicked devices/lying words/speaketh right/liberal deviseth liberal things.
21. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 982, p. 105.
22. Verses 9 through 11 contain a chiasm: Ye women that are at ease/ye careless daughters/days/years/ye careless women/ye women that are at ease.
23. Compare Alma 5:28-29.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7699, p. 994; see also Isaiah 32:12, footnote 12a.
25. See Isaiah 55:13; 5:6; 9:18; 10:17; 27:4 and pertinent commentary.
26. Isaiah 2:2-4; 18:1-7; 29:11-14.
27. See Isaiah 2:13; 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 37:24; 55:12.
28. Isaiah 29:17.
29. See Isaiah 1:21; 30:18; 32:1; 33:5; 41:1; 49:4; 53:8.
30. See Isaiah 1:17; 5:7; 9:7; 42:1; 59:8, 14.
31. See Isaiah 1:17; 28:7; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
32. See Isaiah 5:7; 51:4; 54:17.
33. Eldred G. Smith, “Peace,” Ensign, July 1972, p. 117.
34. Isaiah 28:2.
35. Isaiah 28:17.
36. Revelation 16:21; see also Revelation 8:7; 11:19; Doctrine and Covenants 109:30.
37. See Isaiah 19:5-10.

Isaiah 28: Woe to the Drunkards of Ephraim!

Chapter 28 deals with corruption and subsequent destruction that will precede the Second Coming. With each successive chapter on this subject we are given yet another perspective of these events, with more details and insight. Here the prophet deals with ecclesiastical corruption; an intended spiritual feast is depicted as solemn mockery, with tables filled with vomit and filthiness. Pervasive wealth, pride and self-indulgence among ecclesiastical leaders are depicted as drunkenness; hence, “Woe to the drunkards of Ephraim!”

The revelation presented in Chapter 28 was given to Isaiah at a time when Assyria controlled Ephraim—meaning the northern kingdom of Israel consisting of the ten tribes—except for the capital city Samaria and the surrounding area.1 Ephraim anciently was the leading tribe of the northern kingdom, which would be taken into captivity by Assyria in 722 B.C. shortly after these pronouncements by Isaiah.2 Recurrent fulfillment of this prophecy involves latter-day actors on Isaiah’s stage. Modern Ephraim includes the nations of Europe and North America, the inhabitants of which—although generally considered as Gentiles—are a mixture of the tribe of Ephraim. The historical context provides a type for latter-day events and conditions.

This chapter begins by focusing on the corruption of Ephraim—both Ephraim of old before the captivity by Assyria, and Ephraim’s latter-day descendants. In typical Isaiah style, some elements of this chapter relate to Ephraim of old, some deal with her latter-day descendants, and some deal with both. This chapter serves as a warning to modern descendants of Ephraim of an inherent weakness—an area in which they may be subject to temptation.

Revelation, we are informed, comes line upon line and precept upon precept, but the drunken priest and prophet of decadent Ephraim are not able to understand the workings of the Spirit. Upon His coming, Christ—the sure foundation—will sweep all such away with an overflowing scourge so intense that people will be overcome by merely hearing about it.

Verses 1 through 4 are a woe oracle structured as a chiasm. Verse 1 begins: “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!” The crown, or leaders, are the priests and prophets of Ephraim, both ancient and modern, who are drunk with wealth and pride. “Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower” describes the moral collapse of modern Ephraim—reliance upon past achievements and victories rather than upon present integrity or future noble aspirations. “Fat valley” means a valley rich in produce.

Verse 2 declares: “Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.” The Lord will bring the mighty and strong king of Assyria or his modern counterpart. “The hand” means the king of Assyria, acting as proxy for the Lord in destroying Ephraim. Note the symbolism, now familiar to us: “A flood of mighty waters overflowing” is a metaphor for an invading army.

Isaiah describes a similar devastating event in Chapter 8: “Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.”3 This symbolism arises because Assyria, the source of the invading army, was located in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.4 The name “Mesopotamia” comes from the Greek meso- meaning “between,” and potamos, meaning “rivers.”5

Verse 3 foretells: “The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim”—meaning the priests and the prophets who are drunk with self-indulgence—”shall be trodden under feet.” “Under feet” means the feet of the invading army.

Verse 4 summarizes: “And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.” The Hebrew meaning of “hasty fruit” is “early fig.”6 The invading army, as revealed in this simile, will plunder all that lies in its path.

Verses 1 through 4 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower,
B: which are on the head of the fat valleys
C: of them that are overcome with wine!
D: (2) Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one,
E:   which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm,
E:   as a flood of mighty waters overflowing,
D: shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
C: (3) The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
B: (4) And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley,
A: shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.

“Overcome with wine” is equivalent to “drunkards of Ephraim,” identifying who is overcome; “the Lord hath a mighty and strong one” complements “hand,” identifying the hand as that of the invader; and “tempest of hail and a destroying storm” compares with “flood of mighty waters overflowing,” using two metaphors to describe the devastation to be wrought by the invader in retribution for the drunken or immoral state of Ephraim.

In verse 5 the context changes, now referring specifically to latter-day Ephraim in a time after the scattering of Israel—during the time of preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord: “In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.” Isaiah uses “In that day” to designate the latter days; as attested earlier by Isaiah in Chapter 2, “the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”7 “Residue” means those remaining after the devastation.

Verse 6 continues: “And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” The Lord’s glory, described in verse 5, will be for a spirit of righteous judgment, or inspiration, upon the leaders of the righteous remnant of modern Ephraim, and will be for strength upon a small army of righteous Ephraimites who will turn back the invading army of verses 3 and 4 even at the gate of the city of Zion. “Spirit of judgment,” as used here, means “a spirit of fairness” or of meting out justice.8 Other meanings for “judgment” found in the writings of Isaiah include social justice,9 retribution,10 sound reasoning,11 and an equitable system of laws.12

Verses 4 through 6 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
B: (5) In that day shall the LORD of hosts be
C: for a crown of glory,
C: and for a diadem of beauty,
B: unto the residue of his people,
A: (6) And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

“The glorious beauty” corresponds to “a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” The Lord will provide strength to those who righteously judge or defend His people, who face marauders intent on consuming the glorious but fading beauty of modern Ephraim. “The LORD of hosts” corresponds to “his people,” identifying whose people they are; and “crown of glory” is the same as “diadem of beauty.” Ephraim’s past crowning glory—the righteousness of “him that sitteth in judgment”—will be manifest in the future and will provide strength “to them that turn the battle to the gate.”

Verses 7 and 8 provide more insight into the decadent state of the religious leaders of ancient and modern Ephraim before the foretold conquest by the invading army. Verse 7 attests to the lack of inspiration of these religious leaders: “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” “Erred through wine” means that priestcrafts, pride and seeking after the riches and honor of the world have left religious leaders destitute as to spiritual things, which are obtained only through revelation from God. They have lost sight of the strait and narrow way.13 “The priest and the prophet” means those whose duty is to provide moral guidance, who profess priestly authority and prophetic insight. “Judgment,” as used here, means “sound reasoning.”14 Because those who assume ecclesiastical authority are given to worldly appetites and their gratification, their vision and judgment err; they are not inspired of the Lord.

Verse 7 contains a chiasm:

A: (7) But they also have erred through wine,
B: and through strong drink are out of the way;
C: the priest
C: and the prophet
B: have erred through strong drink,
A: they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

“They also have erred through wine” matches “they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment,” the metaphoric wine being explained in the last two phrases. Because of indulgence in strong drink—metaphorically, gratification of worldly appetites and passions—the priest and the prophet have erred and are out of the strait and narrow way.15

Verse 8 describes an intended spiritual feast, rendered as a drunken debauchery by the uninspired priests and prophets: “For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.” In place of pure doctrine, the corrupt priests and prophets present a vomitous banquet of false doctrines, wickedness, and hypocrisy. No place is left clean, or no doctrines are left unadulterated. This corrupt feast is solemn mockery before the Lord; that which was sacred has been profaned. Compare the feast which the Lord will offer in Mount Zion: “Y Jehová de los ejércitos hará en este monte a todos los pueblos convite de engordados, convite de purificados, de gruesos tuétanos, de purificados líquidos”.16 The feast will consist of the very best of blessings and spiritual gifts that the Lord can offer.

In verse 9, Isaiah ponders: “Whom shall he teach knowledge?” The Lord teaches knowledge through revelation. “And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?” Isaiah answers: “Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.”17 Those who are innocent and pure, like young children, are those who will receive guidance and inspiration from the Lord.

Regarding the innocence and purity of His apostles, Jesus said: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”18 In like manner God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith when the nascent prophet of the restoration was just fourteen years old, in response to his prayer seeking to know which church was right.19 The Lord, in modern revelation, described the innocence but lack of spiritual sophistication of early converts in similar terms: “For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.”20

Verse 10 describes the manner in which the Lord reveals truth through revelation: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” The Lord gives His people what they can understand, a little at a time, so that they can assimilate it into their lives. Then He gives them more, based upon the new level of understanding and obedience gained from what He has previously given. The Lord explains in Doctrine and Covenants:

And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith (emphasis added).21

Again, this meaning is clear elsewhere in modern revelation:

[A]nd the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope! (Emphasis added).22

The Lord summarizes: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”23

Verse 11 describes the great lack of eloquence and oratory that characterizes the Lord’s humble servants: “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” Missionaries go forth, struggling and stammering to learn new languages as they seek out the modern descendants of Ephraim and others of the lost tribes. “This people” means modern Israel in her scattered state, sought for and gathered by modern-day “ambassadors” and “swift messengers.”24

In modern revelation the Lord foresees the preaching of the gospel in every man’s native language:

For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.25

Verse 11 is paraphrased by Paul in the New Testament: “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.”26

The Lord affirms it for the latter days: “That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.”27

Those who fail to heed the warnings of the Lord, delivered by stammerers struggling with foreign languages, will be swept away by the modern counterpart of the invading Assyrians. Ancient Assyria spoke a language incomprehensible to the ancient Israelites; so will be the language of the modern invading army described in verses 2 and 3 above, who will sweep away and pillage the drunkards of Ephraim.

Verse 12 describes the message from the Lord, delivered by the stammering messengers to the scattered of Israel: “To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.” “The rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest” means the doctrines of salvation. “This is the refreshing” refers to the latter-day restoration—the time of refreshing spoken of by Peter: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (emphasis added).28

“Yet they would not hear” means that many who would be given the message of refreshing, or restoration, would fail to heed the warning. To those who refuse to listen, the Lord will speak in yet another tongue—that of the modern equivalent of the Assyrian army. Parry et al. identify “rest” and “refreshing” as observance of the law of the Sabbath.29

Verse 13 summarizes, reflecting verse 10: “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” In spite of the Lord’s instructions to them through ancient and modern prophets and the modern army of missionaries struggling to deliver the Lord’s message in foreign languages, most would reject the message.

Nephi, providing added understanding, paraphrases verses 10 and 13:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.30

Verses 10 through 13 contain a chiasm:

A: (10) For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
B: (11) For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
C: (12) To whom he said,
D: This is the rest
E:   wherewith ye may cause the weary
E:   to rest;
D: and this is the refreshing:
C: yet they would not hear.
B: (13) But the word of the LORD was unto them
A: precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

The Lord provides revelation and guidance to His people in small portions. “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” matches “but the word of the LORD was unto them.” Despite the word of the Lord delivered by messengers struggling to speak in another tongue, many of the covenant lineage would not accept the message of the restoration.

In verses 14 through 22 Isaiah turns to Jerusalem, addressing her scornful rulers. Verse 14 declares: “Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.” Isaiah attests that the warning given to ancient Ephraim applies equally to Judah. The scornful, drunken leaders of Jerusalem are challenged to give heed to what the Lord is telling Ephraim. For our time, reference to “Jerusalem” means, in the broadest sense, modern-day ecclesiastical centers.

Verse 15 explains the false security surrounding these scornful leaders: “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” They incorrectly assume that their covenant with Satan—or the invading army—based on their falsehoods and lies that pass for beliefs, will save them from the impending destructive scourge.

This scourge is also described in modern revelation:

For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.31

From the time of Cain, Satan has sought to make agreements with men. But when the unavoidable consequences of their actions under these agreements become apparent, Satan’s promises notwithstanding, Satan essentially laughs in their faces. The trust of decadent Ephraim and Judah in the arm of flesh and in their agreements with Satan brings only remorse, which is pleasing unto Satan.

In modern revelation the Lord describes the scourge of a desolating sickness:

And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.32

The Lord provides further explanation to His modern disciples:

For behold, and lo, vengeance cometh speedily upon the ungodly as the whirlwind; and who shall escape it?
The Lord’s scourge shall pass over by night and by day, and the report thereof shall vex all people; yea, it shall not be stayed until the Lord come;
For the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations and all their wicked works.33

Verse 16 describes the only sure source of safety: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” The final phrase means “he who believes should not flee in panic.” This prophecy is quoted in the New Testament, relating to the mortal ministry and Second Coming of Jesus Christ34 who metaphorically is the foundation stone.

Jacob, the brother of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, explains:

[T]hat by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.
But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.35

Jacob explains that the Jews would reject their Savior during His earthly ministry. In verse 16 “Zion” means a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as being a synonym for ancient Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s ministry.36

The symbolism of verse 16 is familiar to us. Paul writes:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord (emphasis added).37

“Stone” refers simultaneously to Jesus Christ and the principle of revelation, whereas the “sure foundation” is simultaneously the Lord and the saving doctrines He teaches.

Verses 14 through 16 contain a chiasm:

A: (14) Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
B: (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death,
C: and with hell are we at agreement;
D: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through,
D: it shall not come unto us:
C: for we have made lies our refuge,
B: and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
A: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Reading this chiasm in reflective order—beginning with the introductory statement and its reflection and proceeding in this manner to the central statement and its reflection—provides insight: “Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.” The word of the Lord to the scornful rulers is: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” But the rulers of Jerusalem respond: “We have made a covenant with death; under falsehood have we hid ourselves; with hell are we at agreement; we have made lies our refuge; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us.” Wicked rulers fail to heed the word of the Lord through which salvation comes. Instead they rely on lies, false doctrines and agreements with Satan to protect them from the overflowing scourge.

Verse 17 establishes the basis for survival, in contrast to the lies of Ephraim’s drunken and scornful leaders: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” “Judgment” in this verse means “fairness” or “justice.”38 Proper judgment requires being guided by the Holy Ghost. “The line” refers to the level line used in building—essential in getting foundations and walls straight—and “plummet” refers to another tool of masonry and carpentry, the plumb bob, used for maintaining precise vertical lines. “Plummet” and “plumb bob” have a common Latin root, plumbum, meaning “lead,” the heavy substance from which these tools are made.39 These metaphors refer to personal righteousness. Those whose refuge is lies and whose hiding place is falsehood will be overrun by the invading army, characterized here as a sweeping hailstorm that will sweep away the lies, and a flood of waters that will overflow every hiding place.40

Verse 18 presents the outcome of the covenant with Satan made by scornful leaders, both in Jerusalem and Ephraim: “And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” True to form, Satan’s covenant with these wicked rulers will come to naught and the invading scourge will sweep through, treading them down.

Verses 15 through 18 contain a chiasm that verifies Isaiah’s intended meaning:

A: (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us:
B: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
C: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay
D: in Zion
E: for a foundation a stone,
F: a tried
G: stone,
H: a precious
G: corner stone,
F: a sure
E: foundation:
D: he that believeth shall not make haste.
C: (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet:
B: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
A: (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.

“We have made a covenant with death” is complemented by “your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand,” describing the Lord’s displeasure regarding an alliance with evil. “For we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves” contrasts with “the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place,” describing the futility of reliance upon wickedness. “Zion” equates with “he that believeth,” providing a definition. Compare the definition given by the Lord in modern revelation: “For this is Zion— the pure in heart.”41

Verse 19 describes the horror of this overflowing scourge: “From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.” People will be overcome just by hearing about the destruction wrought by the invading army.42

Verse 20 symbolically describes the discomfort the survivors will experience: “For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” The people will be left uncomfortable and destitute, whereas before they enjoyed great wealth and comfort.

Verse 21 attests that the Lord will bring destruction upon the invading army: “For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.” These instances of the Lord destroying invading armies reflect Old Testament events in which Israel was defended against the Philistines—whom the Lord delivered into the hands of David and his forces43—and against the Amorites, by great stones being cast from heaven.44 The Lord will defend the latter-day righteous against the overflowing scourge, just as He defended His ancient followers.

The final phrase of verse 21, “that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act,” compares with the Lord’s words given to Joseph Smith, which provide explanation:

What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God (emphasis added).45

In verse 22, Isaiah admonishes his latter-day audience: “Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands [or, bondage] be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.” The prophet challenges the people to listen to the Lord’s appointed prophets—not mocking them—and to receive revelation in order to escape the bondage, consumption and destruction foretold.

Verses 18 through 22 contain a chiasm:

A: (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (19) From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night:
B: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
C: (20) For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. (21) For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon,
D: that he may do his work, his strange work;
D: and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
C: (22) Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong:
B: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts
A: a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.

“The overflowing scourge” corresponds to “a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth,” providing further insight. “A vexation only to understand the report” complements “I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts,” providing Isaiah’s source for information. Those who survive the scourge will be left in destitute circumstances, although the Lord will protect them.

In verses 23 through 29, Isaiah presents the Parable of the Farmer to illustrate the Lord’s unchanging method in bringing His word to nations and peoples of the earth. The process described metaphorically in the parable includes three phases—plowing, sowing and harvest. Plowing represents the means by which a nation or people is humbled to prepare them to receive the gospel—a nation may be subjected to tyranny, servitude, war, natural disaster, or economic distress. In its humbled state the nation is more receptive to the good news of the gospel, sown among them by righteous saints living the principles of their religion. First, the sowing, or seeding, comes as a good example; subsequently as more formal teaching. The seeding is followed by conversion, spiritual growth, and the harvest of souls who have lived their lives in righteousness and are prepared to meet their God. Depending on the nature and character of the people—represented by the various crops mentioned—the Lord has formulated specific methods, both for planting and harvesting.

Verse 23 implores: “Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.” Isaiah pleads with his listeners and modern readers alike to give heed and listen.

Verse 24 begins the parable: “Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?” Isaiah establishes the premise by using rhetorical questions. Preparing the field is an essential prerequisite, but time allowed for this step is limited.

Verse 25 continues: “When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?” “Fitches” means “vetch,” a pealike nitrogen-fixing legume sown for enrichment of the soil, and “cummin” is an herb used for flavoring. Various crops are planted in specified places; some seeds are “cast abroad” indiscriminately whereas others are more carefully placed. Most valuable is the “principal wheat,” which is “cast in” with greater care.

Verse 26 goes on: “For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” The meaning is that God instructs His people and their leaders through revelation. As one period of time comes to a close, another arises which has different challenges, different purposes, different instructions from the Lord. Are God’s instructions to Adam sufficient for Noah? Are God’s words given to Abraham all that Moses needed? So it is with us: Rather than memorizing endless sets of questions and answers (catechisms) or set prayers, we are to be guided by continuing revelation. Our task is to train ourselves to listen and hear “line upon line, and precept upon precept.” Thus, as the Lord brings about destructions, seed times, and harvests in the latter days, His specific instructions come to those who recognize His voice and His method of delivering instructions—through living prophets and through personal inspiration.

Verses 27 through 29 illustrate the care taken by the Lord in harvesting and threshing. Verse 27 begins: “For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.”

Verse 28 continues: “Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.” There is an appropriate method for threshing each type of grain or seed; duration of the threshing process is carefully limited lest the precious grain be damaged. Accordingly, trials and tribulations are meted out carefully according to need, circumstances and the character of the individual or group.

Malachi describes the process of refinement using the purifying of silver as a descriptive metaphor:

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.46

Only those who have been through the refiner’s fire and have been purified and refined by their experience will be able to endure the Lord’s presence when He appears at His Second Coming.

Verse 29 concludes: “This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” Those who follow the Lord’s continuing instructions will not be harmed, though the harvest and threshing be orderly but severe.

Devastating wars that we have witnessed in our time have resulted in the gospel being preached among the affected nations. Following a war, during the reorganization and rebuilding effort, the citizens of the devastated land have the opportunity to observe the good examples of members of the Church. Slowly at first, the people are taught the gospel; as time passes, more and more accept the opportunity to be taught and join the Church. The end result is that a nation that was at one time hostile or unreceptive is taught the gospel, temples dot the land, and her citizens are granted the same opportunities and blessings as Church members in lands where the Church has been established for generations.

Verses 23 through 29 contain a chiasm:

A: (23) Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
B: (24) Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
C: (25) When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
D: (26) For his God doth instruct him to discretion,
D: and doth teach him.
C: (27) For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
B: (28) Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
A: (29) This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

“Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech” compares with “this also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts,” which describes the divine source of Isaiah’s information. The ascending side of this chiasm describes methods of soil preparation and seeding, whereas the descending side describes methods of harvest and threshing. Nations are carefully prepared to receive the gospel; sowing and harvesting are carried out according to the Lord’s detailed plan. Prophets, receiving guidance and instruction from the Lord, are given information appropriate for their time, here compared metaphorically to knowledge and implementation of agricultural practices.

 


Notes:

1. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 258-259.
2. Isaiah 28:1, footnote 1b.
3. Isaiah 8:7; 17:12-13; 28:17; 43:2.
4. See Map 2, LDS Bible.
5. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: 1971, Elsevier Publishing Company, 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017, “Mesopotamia,” p. 459-460.
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. 1063, p. 114.
7. Isaiah 2:10-12.
8. See Isaiah 1:17; 5:7; 42:4; 59:15.
9. See Isaiah 5:7; 42:1; 59:8, 15.
10. See Isaiah 1:17; 3:14; 4:4; 34:5.
11. See Isaiah 1:17; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
12. See Isaiah 51:4; 54:17.
13. See Matthew 7:13-14; see also Isaiah 3:12; 8:11; 26:7-8; 40:3 and pertinent commentary.
14. See Isaiah 1:17; 40:14, 27; 42:3; 59:8.
15. An overlapping chiasm is also present in verse 7: Priest/prophet/erred/strong drink/swallowed up/out of the way/strong drink/err/vision/judgment.
16. Isaiah 25:6; see pertinent commentary.
17. Verse 9 contains a chiasm: Teach knowledge/understand doctrine/weaned from the milk/drawn from the breasts.
18. Matthew 11:25.
19. See Joseph Smith—History 1:15-17.
20. Doctrine and Covenants 19:22.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 98:11-12.
22. Doctrine and Covenants 128:21; see also Doctrine and Covenants 98:12.
23. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.
24. Isaiah 18:2.
25. Doctrine and Covenants 90:11.
26. 1 Corinthians 14:21; see also 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.
27. Doctrine and Covenants 1:23.
28. Acts 3:19.
29. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 251.
30. 2 Nephi 28:30.
31. Doctrine and Covenants 5:19.
32. Doctrine and Covenants 45:31-32.
33. Doctrine and Covenants 97:22-24.
34. See Isaiah 6:10; 7:14; 11:1; 25:9; 53:5.
35. Jacob 4:15-16.
36. See Isaiah 3:16; 18:7; 24:23; 29:8; 30:19; 31:4, 9; 51:3.
37. Ephesians 2:19-21.
38. For references to other meanings of “judgment,” see verse 6.
39. Klein, “plumb,” p. 570.
40. Isaiah 8:7; 17:12-13; 28:2, 43:2.
41. Doctrine and Covenants 97:21.
42. Doctrine and Covenants 5:19.
43. See 2 Samuel 5:19-20; also 1 Chronicles 14:10-11.
44. See Joshua 10:8-14.
45. Doctrine and Covenants 101:93-95; see also Doctrine and Covenants 95:4.
46. Malachi 3:2-3.

Isaiah 25: He Will Swallow up Death in Victory

Chapter 25 contains further description of the destruction of the world at the Lord’s Second Coming and of the commencement of His glorious reign. The Lord will prepare in Mount Zion a feast of blessings for the righteous and will swallow up death in victory. The righteous will acknowledge the Lord as their God, proclaiming “we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Verses 1 through 5 are a prophetic song of salvation in which Isaiah acknowledges the Lord in destruction of the wicked, strength to the poor, and protection of the righteous. In it the prophet addresses the Lord, as in a prayer.

Verse 1 exults: “O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” The Hebrew word translated as “wonderful” means “extraordinary; hard to understand.”1

In the New Testament, the Lord is credited with doing wonderful things:

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased (emphasis added).2

Verse 2 continues: “For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.” “It shall never be built” means “It shall never be rebuilt.”3 The Lord will bring down the wicked and their cities. This prophecy foretells the destruction of spiritual Babylon in the latter days, meaning the worldliness, pride, sin and idolatry that are rampant in the world today.4

Verse 3 states: “Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.” The Lord’s people, strengthened by Him, give Him praise and glory. “Terrible nations”—those provoking fear and terror—would acknowledge the capability of the Lord to bless them or destroy them.

In verse 4, Isaiah acknowledges the Lord’s care and protection of the weak: “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.” “Refuge” is chiastically equivalent to “wall,” providing Isaiah’s meaning.

Similar words are given in Doctrine and Covenants:

And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.5

Being poor is not sufficient by itself to obtain the Lord’s pity. In modern revelation, the Lord condemns the poor who are wicked:

Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!
But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.
For behold, the Lord shall come, and his recompense shall be with him, and he shall reward every man, and the poor shall rejoice.6

Verse 4 contains a chiasm:

A: (4) For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge
B: from the storm,
C: a shadow from the heat,
C: when the blast of the terrible ones
B: is as a storm
A: against the wall.

“Refuge” is equivalent to “wall,” indicating Isaiah’s intended meaning. Key words in this chiasm give hints as to the nature of the destructive power foretold.

Verse 5 summarizes the Lord’s destruction of the wicked: “Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.” Compare Isaiah’s meaning earlier, in Chapter 18: “For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”7 In both cases, the meaning is that the heat of the Lord’s mounting anger increases against those who fail to heed His warnings. “The branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low” means the terrible ones will be pruned as a branch from a tree and allowed to fall to the ground to wilt in the heat.8 This metaphor describes weakness that will befall the hosts of the wicked.

Verses 4 and 5 contain two overlapping chiasms:

(4) For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress,
A: a refuge from the storm,
B: a shadow
C: from the heat,
D: when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.
D: (5) Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers,
C: as the heat in a dry place;
B: even the heat with the shadow
A: of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.
(4) For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat,
A: when the blast of the terrible ones
B: is as a storm against the wall.
C: (5) Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place;
C: even the heat
B: with the shadow of a cloud:
A: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.

Comparison of the three chiasms in verses 4 and 5 provides additional insight. “Heat” and “blast,” the central focus in the chiasm of verse 4, are expanded in the first chiasm of verses 4 and 5 to “heat,” “blast,” “noise,” and “heat,” which have comparable meaning. The second chiasm of verses 4 and 5 emphasizes two occurrences of “heat” as its central focus, underscoring its importance in the destruction to come. “Refuge” and “wall” are the introductory statements of the chiasm of verse 4, whereas “cloud” is substituted as the introductory statement on the descending side in the first chiasm of verses 4 and 5. Rather than being a component of the heat, the cloud serves as a refuge from the storm.

Beginning in verse 6 and throughout the rest of this chapter, Isaiah refers to the Lord in the third person, in contrast to addressing Him in the second person in the first five verses. In verses 6 through 8, Isaiah describes developments in Zion associated with the Lord’s Second Coming. These include a “feast of fat things,” meaning an outpouring of spiritual and temporal blessings upon the righteous that will have no equal, and the removal of the veil from the minds of the people of all nations. Isaiah then explains that Christ’s victory over death and sorrow will be recognized and appreciated by all the people of the earth, in contrast to the very small numbers that understood and appreciated His Atonement at the time of His earthly ministry.

Verse 6 describes the feast to be offered in Mount Zion: “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” “Lees” comes from a Middle English word meaning “sediment.”9 “Wines on the lees” means that the juice pressed from the fruit has been allowed to rest undisturbed in vessels for sufficient time to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom, clarifying the wine. The “feast” will consist of the very best the Lord has to offer of spiritual gifts and blessings, extended to all people. “In this mountain” means “in this nation,” or the land of Zion. A rhetorical connection in which “mountain” is equivalent to “nation” exists throughout the Book of Isaiah, as described earlier.10

These events are described in Doctrine and Covenants, paraphrasing Isaiah:

And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail.
Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.11

Verse 7 provides insight into the nature of the spiritual gifts to be offered to all people from Mount Zion: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.” This means that the knowledge of heaven and spiritual things will be opened up to all people, as though a veil had been removed from their minds. Revelation will be available to all, beginning in Mount Zion. Again, note “mountain” meaning “nation.”12

Verses 6 and 7 contain a chiasm:

A: (6) And in this mountain
B: shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things,
C: a feast of wines on the lees,
C: of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
B: (7) And he will destroy
A: in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.

The chiasm describes metaphorically the great feast of spiritual gifts to be offered in Mount Zion.

Verse 8 provides still more detail, describing the effects of the Atonement achieved by the Lord: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” The Lord swallowing up death in victory means that the Atonement defeats the finality of death forever. Every person who has ever lived or will ever live on the earth,  whether righteous or wicked, whether or not he or she even knew about the Savior, will rise again in resurrection. To “wipe away tears from off all faces” indicates that the influence of the Atonement extends beyond the Lord’s victory in overcoming death and paying the price for sin.  Any kind of human suffering can be addressed by the Atonement if we will only apply it in our lives. The Lord taking away the rebuke of His people means that He has provided the way for them to be cleansed of their guilt. The final phrase, “for the LORD hath spoken it,” is Isaiah’s personal testimony of the divine source for this knowledge.

Verses 7 and 8 contain a chiasm:

A: (7) And he
B: will destroy in this mountain
C: the face of the covering cast over all people,
C: and the vail that is spread over all nations.
B: (8) He will swallow up death in victory;
A: and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

The Lord God will destroy the veil covering the earth and will swallow up death in victory.

Verse 8 also contains two overlapping chiasms. In the first:

A: (8) He will swallow up death
B: in victory;
C: and the Lord GOD
B: will wipe away
A: tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

In the second chiasm of verse 8:

A: (8) He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD
B: will wipe away
C: tears from off all faces;
C: and the rebuke of his people
B: shall he take away from off all the earth:
A: for the LORD hath spoken it.

In the first overlapping chiasm “the Lord GOD” forms the central focus. This identifies Jehovah (“GOD” in all caps in the King James Version) as the Lord who would swallow up death in victory and would wipe away all tears from all faces—He whose suffering in Gethsemane and sacrifice on Golgotha provide these incomparable blessings to the human family. In the second overlapping chiasm,  the first statement on the ascending side is “the Lord GOD,” the same as the central statement in the first overlapping chiasm. It is matched with “the LORD hath spoken it,” asserting that it was Jehovah who had revealed it to Isaiah—He who would make the infinite sacrifice for all mankind. The Lord’s sacrifice effectively takes away the sorrow, shame and guilt of the penitent.

The Lord gaining the victory over death through His sacrifice, together with His wiping away of tears, is a recurrent theme in the scriptures. Isaiah, here in Chapter 25, was the first to use these words. Paul, Abinadi, Aaron, Mormon, and John the Beloved, all of whom were familiar with Isaiah’s writings, expounded upon these words.

Paul said: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”13 The “saying that is written” is verse 8, written by Isaiah.

Abinadi, a Nephite prophet, stood captive before the wicked king Noah. First he quoted all of Isaiah Chapter 53 and then explained it in detail. Abinadi said:

Yea, even so he [Christ] shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men.14

Aaron, the brother of Ammon, expounded these words of Isaiah before the king of the Lamanites:

And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance…and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory….15

Mormon invited the Lamanites of the latter days to believe in Christ, accept His gospel, and be saved:

Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up. And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.16

John, the Beloved Apostle, stated: “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”17 This again refers to the power of the Atonement over all human suffering of every kind, in addition to removing the pain of guilt for our sins. John reiterated: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”18

This is a profoundly important aspect of the Atonement. Great comfort is available to us for every form of human suffering, through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 9 summarizes: “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”19 LORD, in all caps in the King James Version, represents the Hebrew word Yahovah, or Jehovah. This verse emphasizes once again for us that it is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, the creator of heaven and earth, who should come, who should die upon the cross and be raised again the third day to provide the victory over death, and who should wipe away all tears. The identity of the Lord Jesus Christ was well understood by His prophets and apostles of old.

Verses 10 through 12 describe the Lord’s conquest of Moab. Verse 10 states: “For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.” “Mountain” here refers to the nation of Moab, in contrast to earlier occurrences in verses 6 and 7 which refer to the latter-day Zion. “Moab” as used here is a type for the destruction of modern equivalents of this ancient adversary of Israel.20

The content of verses 5 through 10 forms a chiasm:

A: (5) Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.
B: (6) And in this mountain
C: shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
D: (7) And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
D: (8) He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
C: (9) And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
B: (10) For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest,
A: and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.

“Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers” complements “Moab shall be trodden down under him,” suggesting that the destruction of Moab’s latter-day counterpart could be the beginning point for destruction of the wicked before the Second Coming. “And in this mountain” contrasts with “for in this mountain;” the first “mountain” is Zion, where great spiritual blessings will be poured out that will ultimately go to the whole earth, whereas the second “mountain” is Moab or her modern equivalent. “Shall the Lord make a feast of fat things unto all people” is complemented by “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us,” describing the Lord’s blessings of salvation upon His righteous followers. “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people” complements “he will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces,” which form the central focus. The chiasm describes how the Lord will destroy the veil of wickedness and spiritual blindness beginning “in this mountain,” or in Mount Zion; how His Atonement and sacrifice take away the guilt of His people and swallow up death in victory; and how the wicked will be destroyed beginning with the destruction of the modern-day equivalent of Moab.

Verse 11 describes Isaiah’s vision of the Lord as He destroys wicked nations: “And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.” The Lord will destroy their pride, as well as their riches and possessions.

Verses 10 and 11 contain two overlapping chiasms. In the first:

A: (10) For in this mountain
B: shall the hand of
C: the LORD rest,
D: and Moab
E: shall be trodden down under him,
E: even as straw is trodden down
D: for the dunghill.
C: (11) And he shall spread forth
B: his hands
A: in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.

In the overlapping chiasm of verses 10 and 11:

A: (10) For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest,
B: and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.
C: (11) And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them,
C: as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim:
B: and he shall bring down their pride
A: together with the spoils of their hands.

In the first chiasm,  “in this mountain” is compared with “in the midst of them.” “The hand” is equivalent to “his hands,” in both cases referring to the Lord’s hands, and “Moab” is equated with “dunghill.”

In the overlapping chiasm “Moab shall be trodden down” is compared with “bring down their pride.” By comparing these overlapping chiasms we learn that Moab’s pride is the reason for its being compared to a dunghill.

Verse 12 describes the Lord’s destruction of the armaments of the wicked: “And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.”

Nephi applied the words of this passage to the fall and destruction of his own people: “[A]nd after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written.…” (emphasis added).21

Nephi used similar words to describe latter-day events: “[A]ll that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it” (emphasis added).22

The abominable church of which Nephi spoke is “the combination of all the evil influences and political powers, including but not limited to apostate churches, that stand in opposition to the Lord, His true church, and His covenant people in the latter days.” 23

 


Notes:

1. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 6382, p. 810.
2. Matthew 21:14-15.
3. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1129, p. 124-125.
4. See Isaiah 14:4-11 and pertinent commentary.
5. Doctrine and Covenants 115:6.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 56:17-19.
7. Isaiah 18:4.
8. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 2159, p. 274.
9. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 416.
10. See Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
11. Doctrine and Covenants 58:7-9.
12. See verse 6 and pertinent commentary.
13. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.
14. Mosiah 15:7-8.
15. Alma 22:14.
16. Mormon 7:5-6.
17. Revelation 7:17.
18. Revelation 21:4.
19. Verse 9 contains a chiasm: This is our God/we/have waited/him/he/will save/us/this is the LORD.
20. See Isaiah 59:16-19; 63:1-3 and pertinent commentary. See also Doctrine and Covenants 133:46-51.
21. 2 Nephi 26:15.
22. 1 Nephi 22:14.
23. Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed., p. 137-138.

Isaiah 24: They Have Transgressed the Laws, Changed the Ordinance, Broken the Everlasting Covenant

Chapter 24 describes the destruction of the wicked in the latter days prior to the Lord’s Second Coming. This chapter serves as introduction to a series of four chapters—24 through 27—that deal with the destruction of the wicked, the Lord’s Second Coming, and the commencement of His glorious reign. First, Isaiah declares that men have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant; because of prevalent wickedness the earth is defiled under its inhabitants. The righteous remnant, however, will rejoice. At the Second Coming the wicked will be burned, the earth will reel to and fro like a drunkard, and the moon and the sun will withhold their light. Following these events, the Lord will reign gloriously in Zion and Jerusalem.

Verse 1 commences description of the devastation: “Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.” The meaning is that the earth would be laid waste and emptied of its inhabitants,1 and the face of the earth would be disrupted. This description suggests natural disasters of extreme magnitude.

Other judgments are foretold in Doctrine and Covenants:

And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.2

The Lord gives His righteous followers a means for escape—stand in holy places.

Elsewhere in Doctrine and Covenants the Lord further describes the scourge:

For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.3

The Lord indicates in Doctrine and Covenants that He uses types in forewarning His people concerning the future: “Behold, I tell you these things, even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem; and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified.”4 The same words are used by the Lord in different ages—one time referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and another time referring to the destruction of the wicked prior to His Second Coming.

Verse 2 describes the extent of the destruction among the people: “And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.” The occupations mentioned are honorable; Isaiah’s purpose is to include all levels of society in his comparison.

Verse 3 elaborates further: “The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.”5 “Spoiled” means “robbed” or “plundered.”6

Verse 4 states: “The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.” The earth, acting as a living being, mourns when wickedness prevails.7  “Languish” means to become “feeble” or “weak.”8 This may be equivalent to the desolating sickness, or scourge, cited above.

Verse 5 describes the defilement of the earth: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” In addition to breaking of covenants, this verse describes corruption of religious and possibly civil laws. The Lord reflects this verse in Doctrine and Covenants: “For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant.”9

President Spencer W. Kimball declared, citing verse 5:

Certainly, some blame [for the spreading tide of sin and evil] can be attached to the voices from lecture platforms, editorial rooms, or broadcasting stands, and even from the pulpit.
Such voices may have to answer for their perpetuating falsehood and their failure to give true leadership in combating evil. “[A]s with the people, so with the priest….”10 The term priest is here used to denote all religious leaders of any faith. Isaiah said: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” From among the discordant voices we are shocked at those of many priests who encourage the defilement of men and wink at the eroding trends and who deny the omniscience of God. Certainly these men should be holding firm, yet some yield to popular clamor.11

Verses 4 and 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (4) The earth
B: mourneth and fadeth away,
C: the world
D: languisheth
D: and fadeth away,
C: the haughty people of the earth
B: do languish.
A: (5) The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof….

“The world” is complemented by “the haughty people of the earth,” providing a definition for “world” that distinguishes it from “earth.” The earth behaves as a living thing, mourning when wickedness prevails.

Verse 6 describes the consequences: “Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” These are two parallel, synonymous statements. The phrases following the two occurrences of “therefore” complement each other: The curse that will devour the earth will consist of burning of the earth’s inhabitants,12 and the desolation of those remaining means the same as there being few men left after the destruction.13

The Lord, in introducing the book of Doctrine and Covenants to latter-day readers, said: “Wherefore I, the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth….”14

Verse 7 states: “The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.” The meaning is that the new wine—product of the current season—would result in calamity;15 the vine would become “feeble” or “weak,” possibly through disease;16 and merriment would cease under the weight of the devouring curse.

Verse 8 further elaborates: “The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.” “Tabrets” means “timbrels” or “tambourines.”17

Verse 9 describes a significant social change: “They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.” The Great Isaiah Scroll renders “…and strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.”18 Those who drink would do so for oblivion—temporary relief from anguish—rather than celebration.

Verse 10 describes cessation of normal social activity: “The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.” “Broken down” means broken of its wickedness or vanity.19 Earthquakes, other natural disasters and war may play a role.

Verse 11 summarizes themes from verses 7, 8 and 9: “There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.”

Verses 8 through 11 contain a chiasm:

A: (8) The mirth of tabrets ceaseth,
B: the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.
C: (9) They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.
D: (10) The city of confusion is broken down:
D: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.
C: (11) There is a crying for wine in the streets;
B: all joy is darkened,
A: the mirth of the land is gone.

“They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it” matches “there is a crying for wine in the streets.” The use of wine as a consolation replaces its celebratory use; people would wander the streets crying for wine to dull their sorrows. The streets of the city, once bustling, would become silent; manifestations of joy would cease, supplanted by sorrow and crying.

Verse 12 consists of two parallel phrases: “In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.” Not only will the population be diminished; the infrastructure would be destroyed.

Verse 13 compares the scarce survivors first to the few olives left in a tree after harvest, and then to gleaning grapes: “When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.” Isaiah uses this same allegory earlier, in Chapter 17, describing those who would remain after the destruction of ancient Ephraim and Damascus: “Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it [the vineyard], as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof….”20 Few survivors would remain.

In verses 14 through 16 Isaiah changes the focus to the few scattered survivors. Verse 14 states: “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.” “From the sea” means scattered survivors carried to other lands beyond the sea.

Verse 15 continues: “Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.” “Fires” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “region of light,”21 or the place where the righteous dwell. “The isles of the sea” may refer to righteous Nephites on the American continent, whom Christ visited following His crucifixion and resurrection. Nephi quotes his brother Jacob, stating that they were “upon an isle of the sea.”22

Verse 16 contrasts the singing of the survivors with Isaiah’s profound grief over the wickedness of those destroyed: “From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.” Repetitions, in Hebrew usage, are for emphasis. “Treacherous dealer” means “one who acts in bad faith” or “deceitfully”23—whose actions would bring on the foretold destruction.  “My leanness” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “I waste away!”24 “From the uttermost part of the earth” again refers to scattered branches of Israel carried to remote parts of the earth, in which righteousness would prevail at least for a time.

Verses 17 through 20 describe cataclysmic earthquakes and their destructive effects. Verse 17 describes the terror of the wicked as they face death: “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.” “Pit” means “calamity” or “pitfall;25 “snare” means “trap” or “enticement,”26 or temptation.

Verses 16 and 17 contain a chiasm:

A: (16) From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.
B: But I said, my leanness, my leanness,
C: woe unto me!
D: the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously;
D: yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.
C: (17) Fear,
B: and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee,
A: O inhabitant of the earth.

Isaiah’s grief in the ascending side of the chiasm is complemented by the terror of the inhabitants of the earth in the descending side. “My leanness, my leanness” correlates with “the pit, and the snare, are upon thee;” “woe unto me!” matches “fear.”

Verse 18 describes the futility of escape: “And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.” “Noise of the fear” possibly refers to the tumultuous noises accompanying great earthquakes.27 “The windows from on high are open” may signify extreme weather. Similar words are used to describe a source of the deluge that resulted in Noah’s flood: “[T]he same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”28 “The foundations of the earth do shake” clearly refers to immense earthquakes that would shake the earth to its very foundations.

Verse 19 summarizes the devastation: “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.” “Broken down” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “crumbled” or “shattered.”29 Isaiah describes the vast destruction resulting from an earthquake.

Recall the description of earthquake destruction in the Book of Mormon:

But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth; And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough. And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.30

The destruction portrayed in the Book of Mormon is a type for the destruction preceding the Second Coming, which Isaiah is describing here.

Verse 20 further describes extreme earthquakes: “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” “Reel to and fro” means to move erratically back and forth, outside of its normal motion. “Removed” like a cottage means collapsed instantaneously; visualize the collapse of a dwelling and its contents under the effect of a powerful earthquake. The earthquake will come because “the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it [the earth].” The enormity of the evil and wickedness, together with the need to cleanse the earth, will be the cause of the earthquake. Following the earthquake “it shall fall, and not rise again” means the wicked society that now envelops the earth. Doctrine and Covenants contains several passages that include some or all of the elements in this verse.31

Verses 19 and 20 contain a chiasm:

A: (19) The earth is utterly broken down,
B: the earth is clean dissolved,
C: the earth is moved exceedingly.
D: (20) The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,
D: and shall be removed like a cottage;
C: and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it;
B: and it shall fall,
A: and not rise again.

Elements in the descending side of the chiasm complete the thoughts of elements in the ascending side. “The earth is utterly broken down” is complemented by “and not rise again;” after devastating earthquakes, society’s wickedness will never rise again. “The earth is clean dissolved” is complemented by “and it shall fall;” “the earth is moved exceedingly” is complemented by “the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it;” and “the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard” is complemented by “and shall be removed like a cottage.” The central focus of the chiasm reflects great earthquakes as the cause; the supporting statements describe the effects.

Verses 21 and 22 describe the Lord’s punishment, following the destruction, for the haughty and proud and for the kings and royalty of the earth. Verse 21 begins: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.” Isaiah uses similar wording in Chapter 13: “…and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of [the earth].”32

Verse 22 continues: “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” The introductory “they” means the haughty and proud, from verse 21. The haughty, in death, will be consigned to a spiritual prison. However, “after many days they shall be visited” by emissaries who will preach them the gospel.33

Verse 23 describes signs and wonders in the sky that will accompany the Lord’s Second Coming: “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” “Mount Zion” is used here with dual meanings—a place of latter-day spiritual gathering, as well as a synonym for Jerusalem and the temple mount.34

Isaiah also described these events in Chapter 13: “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”35 During His mortal ministry the Lord described these events in similar language:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.36

These signs and wonders are described in greater detail in Doctrine and Covenants:

And so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places.
And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me;
And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger….37

We have not been told what will cause these signs and wonders other than the overpowering presence of the Lord. Nephi’s attestation regarding the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies applies well here: “[N]evertheless, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.”38 What is important for us to know right now is that the Lord will come, even as He has said and as the prophets have testified.

 


Notes:

1. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1238, p. 132.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 45:31-32.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 5:19.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 5:20.
5. Verses 1 through 3 contain a chiasm: The LORD/earth empty…and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad/inhabitants thereof/the people…priest…servant…master…maid…mistress/ buyer…seller…lender… borrower…taker of usury…giver of usury/land …emptied…spoiled/the LORD.
6. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 962, p. 102.
7. See Moses 7:48-49; Jeremiah 4:28.
8. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 535, p. 51.
9. Doctrine and Covenants 1:15.
10. Isaiah 24:2.
11. Spencer W. Kimball, “Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future,” Ensign, June 1971, p. 16.
12. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 30:27, 30, 33; 33:11-12 and pertinent commentary.
13. Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm: The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof/transgressed the laws/ changed the ordinance/broken the everlasting covenant/curse devoured the earth…they that dwell therein.
14. Doctrine and Covenants 1:17.
15. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 56, p. 5.
16. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 535, p. 51.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8608, p. 1074.
18. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 106.
19. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7665, p. 990-991.
20. Isaiah 17:6.
21. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 217, p. 22.
22. See 2 Nephi 10:20; see also Isaiah 42:4, 10; 49:1; 51:5; 60:6, 9 and pertinent commentary.
23. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 898, p. 93.
24. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7334, p. 931.
25. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6354, p. 809.
26. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6341, p. 809.
27. See 3 Nephi 10:9.
28. See Genesis 7:11.
29. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6565, p. 830.
30. 3 Nephi 8:12-14.
31. See Doctrine and Covenants 49:23; 88:87; and 45:28.
32. Isaiah 13:9.
33. See Doctrine and Covenants 138:30-34.
34. See Isaiah 3:16; 18:7; 28:16; 29:8; 30:19; 31:4, 9; 51:3.
35. Isaiah 13:10.
36. Matthew 24:29-30.
37. Doctrine and Covenants 133:49-51.
38. 2 Nephi 25:7.

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

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

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

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

Verses 1 and 2 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 8 through 10 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm:

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

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

Verse 12 contains a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord explains further:

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

Verses 13 and 14 contain a chiasm:

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

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

Modern revelation provides additional details about the fall of Lucifer:

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

Elder Joseph Anderson explained this passage:

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

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

Verses 13 through 15 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 17 through 20 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

Verses 21 and 22 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 29 through 31 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

 


Notes:

1. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1616, p. 158.
2. See Genesis 22:15-18.
3. 2 Nephi 24:2.
4. Verses 2 and 3 contain a chiasm: Servants and handmaids/whose captives they were/sorrow/fear/hard bondage/ serve.
5. 2 Nephi 24:3.
6. Brown et al., 1996, 1996, Strong’s No. 4912, p. 605.
7. 2 Nephi 24:4.
8. 2 Nephi 24:5.
9. See Isaiah 2:13; 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
10. 2 Nephi 24:8.
11. Isaiah 14:8, footnote 8c.
12. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1265, p. 141.
13. Isaiah 2:12-13. See Isaiah 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
14. Isaiah 14:11, footnote 11a; see Bible Dictionary—Hell.
15. 2 Nephi 24:10.
16. 2 Nephi 24:11.
17. 2 Nephi 24:12.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1966, p. 237.
19. Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-27.
20. See Isaiah 14:13, footnote 13e.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 76:28-29.
22. Doctrine and Covenants 29:36-39.
23. Moses 4:1-4.
24. Joseph Anderson, “A Testimony of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 101.
25. Verse 16 contains a chiasm: Earth/tremble/shake/kingdoms.
26. 2 Nephi 24:16.
27. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7200, p. 906; see also Isaiah 14:16, footnote 16b.
28. 2 Nephi 24:18.
29. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1004, p. 108.
30. 2 Nephi 24:19.
31. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5432, p. 666; see also Isaiah 14:19, footnote 19a.
32. Verses 20 and 21 contain a chiasm: Because thou hast destroyed thy land/seed of evildoers/slaughter for his children/do not rise, nor possess the land.
33. 2 Nephi 24:21.
34. See Isaiah 14:21, footnote 21a.
35. See Isaiah 13:19-22; see also Isaiah 34:11-15.
36. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7090, p. 891.
37. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary: Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988, p. 145.
38. Isaiah 10:24-34.
39. Verse 25 contains a chiasm recognized in the original Hebrew: From off them/yoke depart/burden depart/from off their shoulders. In Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 259.
40. 2 Nephi 24:25.
41. “Mountain” means “nation;” see Isaiah 2:2, 14 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
42. 2 Kings 19:35-37. See also Isaiah 10:33-34 and pertinent discussion.
43. See Isaiah 14:26, footnote 26b.
44. Verses 24 through 27 contain a chiasm: Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass/I will bring the Assyrian in my land/upon my mountains tread him under foot/his yoke depart/his burden depart/this is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth/this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations/the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?
45. 2 Nephi 24:24.
46. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, p. 218.
47. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 4853, p. 672.
48. See Bible Dictionary—Chronology.
49. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 6429, p. 814.
50. Verse 30 contains two chiasms recognized in the original Hebrew: Shall feed/poor/needy/shall lie down in safety; thy root/I will kill/he shall slay/thy remnant. In Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, 2001, p. 259.
51. A wide array of Bible translations is available from “The Unbound Bible,” online at http://unbound.biola.edu.
52. 2 Nephi 24:32.
53. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:27; 2:3; 4:5; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.