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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder LeGrand Richards stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 3 through 5 contain a chiasm:36

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

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

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

Verses 5 and 6 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

Verses 7 and 8 contain a three‑fold parallelism:

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

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

This materialism would be forsaken by the repentant at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming. Isaiah proclaims later, in Chapter 17: “And he [those who would survive the great latter-day destructions] shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.”40

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

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

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

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

Verses 9 through 11 contain a chiasm:

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

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

The theme from the preceding verse is repeated for emphasis in verse 12: “For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.” The Book of Mormon renders “For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty….”45 Later, in Chapter 13, Isaiah explains the Lord’s reasons for the destruction: “And I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”46

Verses 11 and 12 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 8 through 20 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

Verses 19 through 21 contain a chiasm:

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

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

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

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

 


Notes:

1. 2 Nephi 12:2, footnote 2a.
2. Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible: Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, 1970,
523 p.
3. Chapters 2 through 39 depict Israel in her homeland in a state of wickedness; chapters 40 through 54 describe Israel in exile in the world at large, interacting with people and events; and chapters 55 through 66 describe her glorious return to her homeland following repentance and cleansing.
4. See 1 Nephi 13:28.
5. 1 Nephi 3:3, 12, 24; 1 Nephi 4:16, 24, 38; 1 Nephi 5:10-22; 1 Nephi 13:23; 1 Nephi 19:21-24; 1 Nephi 22:1, 30; 2 Nephi 4:2, 15; 2 Nephi 5:12.
6. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 1697, p. 182.
7. 2 Nephi 12:2.
8. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 5102, p. 625.
9. See Isaiah 30:29; 56:7; 65:11; 66:20 and pertinent commentary.
10. See Isaiah 35:1 and pertinent commentary.
11. Ether 2:3.
12. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism: Bookcraft, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT, 1985, pp. 129-130. See also “The Mountain of the Lord” (videotape), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1993.
13. Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A new translation with interpretive keys from the Book of Mormon: Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1988, 250 pp. See p. 43. See Isaiah 2:2 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
14. 2 Nephi 12:14.
15. Isaiah 13:4.
16. See Isaiah 2:14 and 2 Nephi 12:14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
17. Doctrine and Covenants 124:104.
18. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 8451, p. 435.
19. See Isaiah 1:27 and pertinent commentary. See also Psalms 102:13, 16; 129:5; 132:13; Isaiah 1:8; 4:5; 14:32; 24:23; 28:16; 31:9; 35:10; 46:13; 51:16; 52:7, 8; 59:20.
20. Micah 4:1-2.
21. LeGrand Richards, “Prophets and Prophecy,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 50.
22. Micah 4:2.
23. For example, see range of meanings for “Zion” in commentary for Isaiah 3:16.
24. Doctrine and Covenants 133:21.
25. Joel 3:16.
26. Isaiah 56:7.
27. See Matthew 26:56; see also Isaiah 6:10, pertinent commentary and endnote.
28. Gordon B. Hinckley, “This great millennial year [Dedication of the Conference Center]”: The Ensign, November 2000, p. 67.
29. See http://www.templemountfaithful.org/vision.htm.
30. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp. 69-71.
31. Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, Hymn no. 5, “High on the Mountain Top,” verses 1 and 3.
32. See Isaiah 32:15.
33. Micah 4:3.
34. 2 Nephi 12:5.
35. Hymns, no. 304.
36. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 2001, p. 257.
37. 2 Nephi 12:6.
38. See Gileadi, p. 22.
39. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 30.
40. Isaiah 17:8; see pertinent commentary.
41. 2 Nephi 12:9.
42. 2 Nephi 12:10.
43. 2 Nephi 12:11.
44. See John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon”: BYU Studies 10, no. 1, 1969, p.6.
45. 2 Nephi 12:12.
46. Isaiah 13:11.
47. See Isaiah 9:18; 10:18-19, 33-34; 14:8; 29:17; 32:15; 37:24; 55:12.
48. 2 Nephi 12:13.
49. See Bible Map 1.
50. Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language: Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1971, basalt, p. 72.
51. 2 Nephi 12:14.
52. See Isaiah 2:2 and 2 Nephi 12:2, 14; Isaiah 11:9; 13:2, 4; 30:25 and pertinent commentary.
53. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1219, p. 130.
54. 2 Nephi 12:16.
55. Isaiah 2:16, Footnote 16a.
56. Parry, 2001, p. 45.
57. See Isaiah 2:7-8 and pertinent commentary.
58. 2 Nephi 12:19.
59. On the Internet, see http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map on recent earthquake occurrences.
60. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7993, p. 1020.
61. 2 Nephi 12:20.
62. 2 Nephi 12:21.
63. See 2 Nephi 4:34.
64. The Book of Mormon—Introduction (1981 edition) states: “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: >I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.’“ See also Joseph Smith—History 1:59-68.
65. John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon”: BYU Studies 10, no. 1, 1969, p. 6; see also Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History 1:3, 22-23, 27, 48, 55.