Isaiah 22, 24-26, 28-30
Last week, we discussed the first 6 chapters of Isaiah, how the Lord condemned both Judah and Israel for their sins, but would ransom them. We also discussed Isaiah’s theophany, his vision of God on his throne and how it symbolized the premortal calling of Christ to be the Savior of mankind. This lesson will discuss many of the roles the Messiah played (or in Isaiah’s view, would play).
Tell Me When the Party is Over
The chapter begins with the Lord again chastising Jerusalem for its sins, crimes and debauchery. Yet, though the Lord has warned them many times through prophets, they will ignore him.
“ 12 And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
13 And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
14 And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts.”
God expected them to humble themselves, and repent. Instead, the would choose to party and indulge. So wicked would they become that their view would be “eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.” They did not fear God, nor what would become of them after death, if they could just sin now. And the Lord sadly realized that the only way to end the sinning would be to slay the whole lot of them. Just as with Sodom and Gomorrah, where the people thought themselves brave enough to force their sexual sins and other excesses upon visitors, Jerusalem would now fare no better.
This also applies in our day. God loves his children, and so he sends them warnings to repent and follow him. Yet, we seem to quickly forget him and return to lavish indulgences. Think back to the mood of the American nation on September 12, 2001 - a day after terrorists toppled the World Trade Center towers and damaged the Pentagon. People were offering up prayers for the dead, and repentance for the living. People of all religions gathered together, embracing one another in unity with God and each other. Yet, less than a decade later, we see how many have forgotten the sack cloth days of 2001, and returned to great debauchery. People speculated on money, housing, and took huge risks that clearly were stupid on the face of it all. Yet no one thought about a huge crash in the economy. All were convinced they could “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Even now in the middle of the Great Recession, we find big bankers and other groups sidling up to the government trough, seeking to be bailed out for their excesses without showing any remorse or intent on making the real changes necessary to heal America.
Most of the lesson focuses on the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah. Symbolism is one of Isaiah’s strong points, and so many things represent events in his day, but also are a shadow of things to come.
So, in chapter 22, we see him prophesy of a man that lived in his day, but would represent the coming Messiah:
“20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.
24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
25 In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the Lord hath spoken it. “
The name Eliakim means: “Whom God shall raise up.” Here we see someone called of God to perform a great work. That the “key of the house of David” would rest upon him is a clear sign that we are really speaking of the Messiah to come. The government of not only Israel, but all the world, would be upon the Son of God. What he chooses to seal up would be sealed, and those things loosed by him would be loosed. He is the Judge and Mediator of Israel. Isaiah details the First Coming of Christ to the world.
Foreshadowing his death, we see that Isaiah predicts the crucifixion. Anciently, many people who were crucified by the Romans were nailed through the wrists or the carpal bones in the heel of the hand. It is noted by many medical professionals today that the struggling of those crucified in the palms of the hands would have torn through the palms. It is likely that Isaiah foresees the nails being hammered into the location of the hand/arm where they would not tear out.
It is also possible Christ was crucified with nails in both hands and wrists. Richard Lloyd Anderson notes concerning a recent find of the ossuary (bone box) of a crucified man named Jehohanon:
“This recent find has two other major dimensions, the first bearing on the question of where the nails were placed in the hands. The New Testament speaks of marks in Jesus' hands. Although hand is an inexact term in earlier Greek literature, it generally is as precise as the English hand in the New Testament period. Particularly in the New Testament itself, hand never refers to the lower arm or wrist in specific uses. Could there be additional nails? Dr. Haas observed that Jehohanan's right radius (the upper arm bone as the arms outstretch) had both a surface cut and a distinct wearing, which he reasoned was the initial slice of the nail and the later wearing action from the victim's writhing on the cross. This "scratch" on the bone was positioned between the two lower arm bones at a structurally more solid location to fix a nail. This evidence, coupled with a strict reading of the New Testament, indicates that both hand and wrist could have been pierced.”
The Earth is Utterly Emptied
The wicked have become so evil in his day that Isaiah foresaw the destruction of most of the nations and city/states in the Middle East. The world he knows is about to be destroyed, first by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. Yet, he foretells the eventual destruction of the earth, and the Second Coming of Christ in glory.
“1 Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
2 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.
3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.”
The Book of Revelation expands upon the things Isaiah foresees. John the Revelator foresaw the destruction of 1/3 the oceans, 1/3 of the forests, plagues, disease and war. In the battle of Armageddon, he saw an army of 200 million attack Israel, only to be destroyed by God’s hand. For any people on earth that become so desolate that they no longer fear God nor death, but insist on “eating and drinking” because death will eventually find them, the Lord will allow them to self destruct.
“21 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.
22 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.
23 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.”
When the Lord returns to Zion and Jerusalem, the righteous will be blessed. However, the wicked will be destroyed. Alma foresaw them wishing the rocks would fall upon them on that day, to hide them from the Lord’s glory (Alma 12). The spiritual prison they shall be shut in will be the Spirit Prison where all the wicked await the final resurrection and judgment. They will be visited in that prison to see if they will repent and receive even a portion of Christ’s atonement and salvation (D&C 76, 128). In that day, the great lights in the skies will pale against the glory of Christ.
Among the righteous, there will be great hope, as we see in Isaiah chapter 25:8
“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.”
And in chapter 26, Isaiah again foresees the victory of Christ’s resurrection:
“19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. “
Isaiah foresees the Millennial day, when all the righteous have peace, joy and hope. However, he begins his prophesy with a strange concept:
“1 In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. “
I have written more extensively on this on my blog (see below in bibliography). Leviathan was a sea serpent or dragon that the Lord had to overcome in creating the world out of chaos, and that he would finally defeat in the end of the world. This is Satan, the dragon that John the Revelator saw cause war in heaven and would be bound for a thousand years during the Millennium. Chaos would be bound with Lucifer so that peace, love and order would reign supreme.
Restoration and the Book of Mormon
Before discussing this I would note that in the Book of Mormon, Nephi quotes extensively from Isaiah. Some call it plagiarism. However, plagiarism happens when someone copies another’s work without giving proper attribution. It is a modern concept. Still, Nephi clearly gives attribution to Isaiah as he quotes him. Why quote so extensively? First, because Nephi understood the law of witnesses, where one had to have 2-3 witnesses to establish the word. For Nephi, witnessing of Christ to his people meant he needed more than his own testimony, so he used the words of his brother Jacob, and that of Isaiah, both of whom were eye witnesses of the Messiah.
Secondly, a common ancient practice is that of the Midrash or pesher. In these Hebrew practices, a writing (often from the books of the Old Testament) would be extensively quoted, and then explained in a way that applied the prophesy to the writer’s day. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, we get many examples of this, such as the Habakkuk Commentary or Pesher. Nephi was only doing what was common for Israelite prophets and scribes to do.
Nephi’s version of Isaiah 29 (2 Nephi 27, http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/27) is very different, probably because he intermixed his commentary in the midst of Isaiah’s writing, or perhaps he gave us only the commentary on it.
Isaiah begins by telling us about the destruction of Ariel, a name for Jerusalem, meaning “Lion of God.” David was the Lion of God in his day, and now we see the final ruin of his great nation in Isaiah’s prophesy. Yet, Isaiah is possibly speaking also of another, similar group, as he mentions that the destructions and events to occur are even “asAriel.”
Dictionary.com gives these two (of several) definitions for the word “as”:
1. Adverb. To the same degree, amount, or extent; similarly; equally: I don't think it's as hot and humid today as it was yesterday.
So, we can say that the destruction of some place will be “similar” or “to the same extent or degree” as with Ariel. Nephi tells us his pesher or commentary on Isaiah 29, explaining that for him it is all about his people in the last days. There will be an apostasy, where revelation ceases and light from heaven dims:
“3 And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.
4 For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink.
5 For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity” (2 Nephi 27).
Nephi foresaw in Isaiah’s words what modern LDS call the Great Apostasy. After the death of the Lord and his apostles, Christians and others rejected continuing revelation and authority of God, and replaced the fullness of the gospel with a man-made version that had some truths apparent in the Bible, but lacking much that could only come through living prophets.
The two witnesses, Isaiah and Nephi, also see in the last days a “marvelous work and a wonder” come forth in the restoration”
“6 And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered” (2 Nephi 27).
They both predict the coming forth of the “words of a book” to the world. This is not the book itself necessarily, but the words within it. This is a book that is sealed. Isaiah tells us that the book is brought to the learned man, who insists he cannot read a sealed book. Then it is brought to another, and he claims he is not learned. While Isaiah does not speak more about this second person, Nephi adds that the Lord will perform his work through such:
“15 But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.
16 And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God.
17 And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed.
18 Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.
19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.
20 Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee” (2 Nephi 27).
This event is described in the History of the Church and in Joseph Smith’s History. Joseph Smith wrote down some of the characters on the plates with their English translation, and gave them to Martin Harris. Harris took the words of the book to some scholars to have them verified. One scholar was Professor Charles Anthon, who at first agreed the characters and translation were authentic, but then insisted on translating it himself. When Harris explained to him that some of the writings were sealed and could not be brought to him, Anthon replied, “I cannot read a sealed book.” Anthon later denied saying such things during his meeting with Harris, but Harris never recanted on his version of the story, even after leaving the Church. In Martin Harris’ view, Anthon had fulfilled Isaiah and Nephi’s prophesies.
Nephi then quotes closely the words from Isaiah:
“23 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.
24 And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:
25 Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—
26 Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.
27 And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?” (2 Nephi 27, Isaiah 29:13-16).
In a time when miracles were considered past; when God was thought to have finished his work with mankind; when men were to use reason and not faith; God would bring forth his “marvelous work and a wonder.” The Book of Mormon came forth, against all odds. Joseph Smith wrote the majority of it in a 60 day period of time, while being constantly attacked on many sides, going into hiding on several occasions, and having to keep people from forcibly stealing the gold plates from him. At the time, Joseph had had 3 years of formal education. His wife, Emma, noted to her son:
“Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much so as to anyone else.“
On another occasion she explained:
“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, "Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?" When I answered, "Yes," he replied, "Oh! I was afraid I had been deceived." He had such a limited knowledge of history at the time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.”
Isaiah and Nephi punctuate events in the time when the book would come forth, including Lebanon being a greener place than it had been in their time. History has shown that the area of Palestine has become greener and more productive than ever before, with periodic times of war as an exception.
“29 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” (2 Ne 27, Isaiah 29:18).
Here we find both literal and spiritual fulfillment, which could only occur in our day. This is a day when many deaf can now hear, thanks to medical technology, such as Cochlear ears. And many blind and near-blind can see with glasses, surgery or other technologies that are now being developed.
But the Book of Mormon also brings forth a testimony of Christ that is as powerful and perhaps more clarifying than in the Bible. Many who thought that God of the Bible was dead or non-existing now have a second witness to deal with. Just as Nephi required Isaiah as another witness of Christ and the prophesies of the last days, so the Book of Mormon becomes another testament of Jesus Christ, with the Bible. In speaking of his appreciation of Isaiah’s words and testimony, Nephi tells us:
“26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Ne 25).
The focus of Nephi’s writings and of those who followed him in authoring the Book of Mormon is that Christ is our Redeemer, the Son of God, the one who atoned for all of mankind’s sins, who is our personal Savior. This is the witness that Nephi also saw in Isaiah’s writings, which is why Isaiah and the Book of Mormon are both so very important for our daily worship of the Lord. We see in their testimonies the greatest of all works, the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. And it is this which brings about the importance of the restoration in the last days of such a book, as a second witness with the Bible that Christ lives today and that miracles and God’s power are still accessible to us as we prepare for the Second Coming of Christ in power and glory.
The Ancient Practice of Crucifixion by Richard Lloyd Anderson: http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/daily/holidays/easter/crusifixion.html
Crucifixion by Dr C. Truman Davis: http://www.ghaone.org/crucifix.htm
(on Leviathan) Order out of Chaos, by Gerald Smith: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/07/gospel-scholarship-order-out-of-chaos.html
Habakkuk Pesher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habakkuk_Commentary
Definition of “as”: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/as
Emma Smith on Joseph Smith’s education: http://www.moroni10.com/witnesses/Emma_Smith.html
Emma on Jerusalem’s walls: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Translation