BMGD #9: 2 Nephi 11-25

February 20, 2012 | 10 comments
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Oh boy, but this is a long one.

I’m trying not to rant about how upset I am that this one lesson covers so many chapters of Isaiah, because there is no way that your average teacher or student can sift through this much material in one week.  (If you want to see a sad reflection on the state of affairs, just take a look at the student study guide for this lesson, which instead of its usual study resources has a quote from President Packer pretty much telling you to just skim the chapters.)  It feels like we’ve collectively just given up on even trying to understand Isaiah.  People, the text might seem impenetrable as it stands, but it just isn’t that hard with the right tools.

So my notes for ch25 are pretty pathetic, because I was fresh out of time and energy. One thing I am feeling particularly guilty about is that I didn’t use the GCSCI for 2 Nephi 25. (I’ve used it for all of the other chapters that I’ve covered in my lesson posts this year.) There was also some useful material on the Feast wiki that I did no more than scan. If you want to focus your lesson on ch 25 (and, yes, I know you are trying to avoid Isaiah), then please consult those.  I also normally read Brant Gardner to prepare these notes, but I didn’t have time for that for ch25, either.  I suspect his notes would be excellent.

Also, there is some funky formatting below (I couldn’t make the double-spacing in the verses go away about half-way through my notes), but I figure if the KJV can just stop having paragraph markers after Acts 20, there’s good precedent for me.

If you are feeling pressed for time, may I make three suggestions for passages to focus on when teaching this lesson:

(1) 2 Nephi 16:  This is Isaiah’s call, and it is way more interesting than a letter from Salt Lake.

(2) 2 Nephi 17:  This chapter includes the famous Immanuel prophecy (“a virgin shall conceive . . .), but we never read it in context.  The context is fascinating!

(2) 2 Nephi 21:  The “stem of Jesse” chapter.  Good stuff.

Preliminaries:  The Issue of Authorship

–The problem: virtually all scholars believe that Isaiah was actually written by 2-3 authors, 1-2 of which lived after Lehi left the Old World.

–The evidence and some thoughts on it:

(1) 40-66 appears to be written much later in history than 1-39. Specifically, ch 44-45 reference King Cyrus of Persia, who lived well after Isaiah. But:

(a) If you assume that Isaiah was prophetic, this isn’t a problem. Remember that Jesus in the BoM specifically mentions Isaiah’s prophetic insights.

(b) Minor textual interpolations may be responsible. In fact, some people think christological passages were mistakenly edited to apply to Cyrus!

(2) There is a changing theological emphasis (hope instead of rebuke). But:

(a) This is a subjective assessment—there is hope early on and some rebuke later on.

(b) It may just reflect Isaiah speaking to people in a different situation.

(3) There is a different writing style. But:

(a) If he is speaking to different audiences in different times, this makes sense.

(4) There is a different grammar and vocabulary. But:

(a) Same as above; may also reflect times when Isaiah was given the words to write versus when he was left to choose his own.

–There is evidence for the unity of Isaiah, including that all chapters use the same almost-unique name for God, ‘the Holy One of Israel,’ which comes from Isaiah’s vision in ch6.

–It is possible that parts of Isaiah were heavily edited and this is why it seems that they may have been written by someone else.

–My goal here was to lay out all of the major arguments and responses.  (I think inoculation is important.)  I don’t necessarily agree with these arguments and counterarguments; for example, I think (1)(a) is pretty weak but (1)(b) might have something to it.

CHAPTER 11

1 And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me.

What effect does a verse like this one have on the reader?

2 And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.

Is it significant that Jacob shared some of Isaiah’s message but Nephi shared other parts?

Ponder the word “delight” for a moment. What kind of approach to these chapters would lead to delight?

In the last lesson, I spent a little time on the concept of “likening.” Webster’s 1828 defines it as “comparing.” I think the usual LDS interpretation is something like “these verses were originally written for someone else, but I will apply them to me.” But what would “for I will compare his words unto my people” mean?

Does “send[ing] them forth unto all my children” refer to including them on the plates, or something else?

Is it Isaiah’s first-person experience of the Savior that makes his testimony so important?

There is no doubt that Isaiah is the prophet par excellence in the BoM. Why is this so? Why select such an opaque and hard-to-understand prophet? Why wasn’t Isaiah inspired to write more simply in the first place?

Please see my “On Not Skimming Isaiah” post (link above) if you need ideas for studying Isaiah.

This verse is fairly easy to construe as poetry if you wanted to:

A And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah,

A for my soul delighteth in his words.

B For I will liken his words unto my people,

B and I will send them forth unto all my children,

C for he verily saw my Redeemer,

C even as I have seen him.

Does it make sense to read this verse as poetry? If so, why might Nephi have spoken poetically here?

Given that Nephi tells us that he focuses on Isaiah because Isaiah saw the Savior, it may make sense to focus this lesson (what–you thought you were going to cover over a dozen chapters in 35 minutes?) on ch16.

3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.

Are you surprised that we don’t have an account of Jacob’s Christophany in the BoM?

Who is the “their” in “their words”?

Do you agree with Nephi that (presumably) Jacob and Isaiah’s words will “prove” the truthfulness of Nephi’s words? (It seems to me that we bracket the idea of “proof” from what the scriptures or even the Spirit will do.) Webster 1828’s first definition of “prove” is “To try; to ascertain some unknown quality or truth by an experiment, or by a test or standard,” which may make more sense than its third defintion (“To evince truth by argument”). Perhaps the fifth definition is also relevant: “To experience; to try by suffering or encountering; to gain certain knowledge by the operation of something on ourselves, or by some act of our own.”

I thought it was by two or three witnesses–why does Nephi say three here?

4 Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.

What does this verse teach you about how you should study and interpret the law of Moses? (Self-aggrandizement alert: sample of a christological reading of the Law of Moses here.)

Webster 1828: typifying: “Representing by model or emblem.” In what ways is the Law of Moses a model or emblem of Christ?

This might be an interpretive key to understanding the Isaiah chapters–that things are presented in them that are “types” of Christ.

Do you read “all things” in this verse as hyperbole or more literally? Can you make a case that every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses typifies Christ? Or is it true more generally?

5 And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.

Do you delight in covenants? What would be required for you to delight in covenants?

6 And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.

7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.

How do you reconcile “there is a God, and he is Christ” with modern LDS understanding of the Godhead? Do you think Nephi thought that Christ was God? (Do you think that Christ is God?) How would you understand this verse if you read the references to God as references to Christ?

What does “fulness” mean? Webster 1828:

1. The state of being filled, so as to leave no part vacant.

2. The state of abounding or being in great plenty; abundance.

3. Completeness; the state of a thing in which nothing is wanted; perfection.

We usually refer to modern times as the fulness of time; what does that word mean here?

8 And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men.

NB the repeated references to the idea in the BoM that Isaiah’s words should cause rejoicing. If that isn’t the effect that that have on you, what might you do?

Does the “likening unto all men” surprise you given the emphasis on the House of Israel?

How might you reconcile this verse with 2 Nephi 25:1-3, where Nephi seems to think that his people won’t be able to understand Isaiah?

CHAPTER 12

1 The word that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

Note that Nephi does not begin with Isaiah 1; can you discern any reason for this?

Brant Gardner has some really interesting general comments about Isaiah in 2 Nephi here.

I was particularly attracted to this line: “Nephi used whole units rather than proof texts.” (He provides good evidence for this.) I am feeling that much of our christological reading of Isaiah is a little too proof-texty for my tastes. If we followed Nephi’s example, we wouldn’t do that.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:1.

What do you make of the idea of “see[ing]” “words” in this verse? Does it suggest that Isaiah saw a written text?

Thomas Constable: “This second major segment of the introduction to the book (chs. 1—5) contrasts what God intended Israel to be (2:1-5) with what she was (2:6—4:1) and what God will make of her in the future (4:2-6). Thus the progress of thought is from the ideal to the real and back to the ideal.”

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days,
when 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.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:2.

Netbible notes of “in the last days”: “This phrase may refer generally to the future, or more technically to the final period of history.”

“Be established” can also be translated as “will endure.”

NetBible:

In the future
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will endure
as the most important of mountains,
and will be the most prominent of hills.
All the nations will stream to it,

This is quite to awesome picture of Israel, in contrast to how it was when the Nephites left it and how they understood that it would become via the Babylonians. If we “liken” it to ourselves, it suggests that there is a future glorious day for the Lord’s creations, including humans, including me, including people I don’t like, despite the weakness of their present state.

Thomas Constable: “The term “mountain” is sometimes a symbol of a kingdom, nation, authority, or rule elsewhere in the prophetic writings (e.g., Dan. 2:35, 44-45; Amos 4:1; Rev. 17:9-11). The ancients also regarded mountains as the homes of the gods. If Isaiah was using “mountain” as a figure of speech, he meant that Israel and her God would be the most highly exalted in the earth eventually. This will be the case during Messiah’s earthly reign.”

Thomas Constable (quoting Grogen): ““The analogy of streams is particularly apt, because the major traditional oppressors of Israel were associated with great rivers—the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (cf. 8:6-8).”

(The KJV has “flow” where he refers to “streams” here.)

I like the idea that these oppressing nations, normally associated with their great rivers, will instead become streams themselves, headed for the desert and then Jrsm.

The idea of all of the nations flowing may also be an expansion of the OT law that required (male) Jews to make three yearly pilgrimages to Jrsm. In that case, we see a good example of what Nephi was talking about above with the idea that the Law of Moses was a type to help us better understand future events. If the fulfillment of the idea of three yearly trips to Jrsm by male Israelites is that all nations will go to Jrsm all the time, then that is a lovely picture of the expansion of people’s ability to be in the presence of God and worship.

Usually, they associate nations streaming into Jrsm with conquest and threat; here, the nations are streaming in because Jrsm is literally the beautiful city on the hill. It is a provocative inversion.

What do you think the Nephites made of this verse?

3 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.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:3.

The “house of the God of Jacob” means “the temple.” Why do you think Isaiah referred to the temple this way?

These nations see going to the temple as a way to learn of God’s ways and how to follow God. What do you make of that description of the purpose of the temple?

NetBible translates the 6th line as “For Zion will be the center for moral instruction.” What can we do today to fulfill that prophecy?

A lot of the time we focus on the resistance or disinterest that people have in God’s law. What do you make of these verses that focus on the almost magnetic attraction that people will have to God’s law? How might this view inform our approach to missionary work and teaching the gospel?

I think we sometimes get so caught up in the “Oo, he saw the Salt Lake Temple!” approach to this verse that we miss what (else) is happening. What does the image of God’s law going out from the temple suggest to you? In what others ways, besides the SL temple, might this verse find fulfillment?

What do you make of the inversion of people streaming into Jrsm but the law streaming out of Jrsm?

It sounds in this verse as if the people want to be a part of Jrsm because they are seeking righteousness and they want commandments and laws. Does this image surprise you? What, if anything, can we do to cultivate those feelings in other people?

What does this verse (along with v2) suggest about the best way(s) to do missionary work?

4 And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks—
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:4.

Joel 3:10 (“Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.”). This, folks, is why you need a living prophet.

NetBible translates the first two lines of this verse as:

He will judge disputes between nations;

he will settle cases for many peoples.

To me, that makes the linkage of ideas much more clear: the reason that people do not need the instruments of war is because they will not need to go to war, and they will not need to go to war anymore because, as the first two verses suggest, the Lord will settle disputes before they reach the point of warfare. This concept relates, I think, to a little tangent we went on when I taught lesson #7: in the context of discussing the fact that a main theme of the Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4) was Nephi’s struggles with his anger, but that the psalm is bracketed by references to the anger of his brothers, I talked a little bit about how the full spectrum of human emotions was found in the psalms and that an appropriate thing to do with one’s anger is to turn it over to God, as Nephi does in the Psalm. (I even suggested in class that I might start making my kids write psalms instead of beating up their brothers.) Anyway, I think that concept links to this verse: the need for war disappears when we turn over the issue of settling our disputes to the Lord.

Imagine feeling so secure that not only did you no longer bother to lock your door, but that you melted down the metal from the lock to make a, um, metal spatula or something. I’m not suggesting that anyone do that now; I am suggesting that Isaiah is writing of a future time when such a thing will be possible.

Do you read this verse to suggest that we should wait around until the Lord accomplishes this peaceful state for us (in other words: human efforts at this kind of pacifism are futile without the Lord getting things going) or that we should be bringing about this kind of peace and, if the latter, in what ways might we go about doing that?

I’m interesting in the juxtaposition of “rebuking” and creating a peaceful environment. It seems that rebuking might lead to resentment, which would disturb the peace. What does this verse suggest about that conundrum?

NB that this verse presents this peaceful state as the outgrowth of people desiring to live the law of the Lord. If we are living that law, we would not engage in warfare.

Interestingly, the last four verses are not only virtually identical to Isaiah but to Micah 4:1-4. One wonders if Micah was quoting Isaiah, or if Micah and Isaiah were both quoting an otherwise-unknown text, or what.

5 O house of Jacob,
come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord;
yea, come, for ye have all gone astray,
every one to his wicked ways.

KJV Isaiah 2:5 lacks the final two lines. Do you think the presence of these lines in the BoM suggests that they were part of an earlier text of Isaiah, or might they be commentary by Nephi? Most scholars do see this verse as introducing a section related to the wickedness of the people, so these lines definitely fit into Isaiah’s context.

Netbible notes on walking in the light of the Lord: “In this context, which speaks of the Lord’s instruction and commands, the “light of the Lord” refers to his moral standards by which he seeks to guide his people. One could paraphrase, “let’s obey the Lord’s commands.””

I see this verse as an invitation for the House of Jacob to lead the way in being the people described in the above verses–people who seek the law of God and, therefore, are peaceful. This message might have been particularly compelling to the Nephites, who had to move away from the Lamanites recently. This passage from Isaiah gives them a context in which they don’t look like wimps, but rather like people who listened to the Lord (remember, they didn’t leave on their own initiative, but because the Lord told Nephi to go) and were able to avoid warfare.

6 Therefore, O Lord,
thou hast forsaken thy people,
the house of Jacob,
because they be replenished from the east,
and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines,
and they please themselves in the children of strangers.

Isaiah 2:6 lacks “O Lord.” I suspect this is Nephite commentary included to clarify speaker and audience. (Interestingly enough, the NetBible also adds the words “O Lord” to the text for the purpose of clarification, although they are not in the text.)

Netbible translates “because they be replenished from the east” as “For diviners from the east are everywhere,” suggesting a parallel to the next line, with the effect that the people of Israel were surrounded by divination/soothsayers/false worship.

Isaiah 2:6 reads, “and are soothsayers like the Philistines.” This changes the Nephite record from being soothsayers to listening to soothsayers. Any ideas as to why this change might have been made?

Netbible translates the final line as “Plenty of foreigners are around,” but they concede that the Hebrew is uncertain. The thrust is clear, however, that the problem is that they are intermixing with foreign people in inappropriate ways.

The KJV and BoM suggest that the Lord has abandoned his people because of their participation in these false traditions; modern translations suggest that the people took up these traditions because they felt abandoned by God. Either way, there is a strong contrast with v2, the ideal state, where Gentiles pour into Jrsm and want to follow God’s law, with this verse, where the children of the covenant adopt the religions of their neighbors. What factors might have made them more likely to follow outside influences as opposed to God’s law? How might we do the same thing today? What makes a soothsayer more appealing than a prophet?

7 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.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:7.

“Their land” is Israel here.

NetBible notes: “Judah’s royal bureaucracy had accumulated great wealth and military might, in violation of Deut 17:16-17.”

Interesting that wealth and arms are bracketed by references to false religious traditions (v6 and v8).

Again, a telling and condemning contrast with the other nations in v3-4 who sought out God’s law and path with what Israel (who should know better!) is doing here, as they seek out what other people treasure.

8 Their land is also full of idols;
they worship the work of their own hands,
that which their own fingers have made.

This verse is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:8.

I’m curious about the relationship between v7 and v8–is there a link between wealth, arms, and false religion? It seems to me that a focus on wealth and arms could make it more likely that someone is primed to “worship the work of their own hands.” Moving back to v6, it is likely that too much intermixing with foreigners led them to wealth (through trade) but also military build-up (needed because of entangling alliances). So there seems to be a progression here, with all of the material in these verses related.

Thoughts as to how we might do something similar today? What’s the line between taking pride in your work and worshiping the work of your hands? I’m curious as to how we might reconcile a verse like this with our own thoughts about expressing out creativity and developing our talents.

9 And the mean man boweth not down,
and the great man humbleth himself not,
therefore, forgive him not.

Isaiah 2:9 reads “And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.” (Note the lack of “nots” in the first two lines!) This strikes me as a JST-esque change in order to make the verse make more sense doctrinally. In Isaiah, the context is that the men are bowing down to false idols and therefore should not be forgiven, but the brass plates or Nephi seem to have read this as genuine repentance. Interestingly, Skousen thinks that “and the mean man boweth down and the great man humbleth himself” is the original reading. This original reading makes sense if you think of them bowing down before idols.

mean = poor, low. Therefore mean + great is a figure suggesting everyone.

Thomas Constable: ““Do not forgive them” is an idiom meaning “for sure you will not forgive them.””

10 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.

Isaiah 2:10 reads, “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.” Which means that the BoM adds “O ye wicked ones” and “shall smite thee.”

NetBible has, for the second and third lines:

Go up into the rocky cliffs,

hide in the ground.

Which suggests hiding any or everywhere.

This verse pictures the wicked trying to hide from God.

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,
and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

And no one is surprised that “and it shall come to pass” is a BoM addition not found in Isaiah 2:11.

“humbled” is the same verb as “boweth down” in v9, suggesting a relationship between the two events. The bowed down to idols, but now they shall bow before the Lord.

The thrust of this verse is that their efforts to hide in v10 will come to naught.

12 For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations,
yea, upon every one;
yea, upon the proud and lofty,
and upon every one who is lifted up,
and he shall be brought low.

Isaiah 2:12 reads: “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:” So the BoM has “soon cometh” instead of “shall be.” The BoM adds “upon all nations” and “upon every one.” What do you make of these changes?

“Lord of hosts” means “the Lord who commands armies.” The use of that title here serves to emphasize his ability to command large forces, and therefore reinforces his ability to bring to pass what is described in the rest of the verse.

This verse is a good example of what is called an eschatological reversaL; those who are proud will be brought low. In many ways, we can count on the Lord to create the inverse of the state we choose to occupy in mortality.

The poetic structure works really hard here to suggest the universality of the Lord’s judgment–no one escapes.

13 Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon,
for they are high and lifted up;
and upon all the oaks of Bashan;

Isaiah 2:13 reads: “And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan.” So the BoM adds “and the day of the Lord shall come” to the beginning of the verse. This seems to clarify the verse and be sure that we don’t lose the train of thought from the previous verse.

NetBible notes: “The cedars of Lebanon and oaks of Bashan were well-known for their size and prominence. They make apt symbols here for powerful men who think of themselves as prominent and secure.”

This verse asks us to think about who and what are prominent in our day, and whether that prominence will endure the judgments of the Lord.

14 And upon all the high mountains,
and upon all the hills,
and upon all the nations which are lifted up,
and upon every people;

Isaiah 2:14 reads, “And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,” So the BoM adds the ideas of nations and people. This strikes me as a JST-esque commentary that makes a symbol’s meaning more clear.

NetBible notes: “The high mountains and hills symbolize the apparent security of proud men, as do the high tower and fortified wall of v. 15.”

Note the theme developing of height and prominence as being the objects of cutting down in the Lord’s day.

15 And upon every high tower,
and upon every fenced wall;

Isaiah 2:15 is virtually identical.

High towers and fortified (=fenced) walls would have been seen as providing security from attack. But here they are the object of the Lord’s destructive power. This verse might be paraphrased, “The very things that you think will protect you from attack will be attacked by the Lord.” And the unspoken subtext is: And what will protect you from that?

16 And upon all the ships of the sea,
and upon all the ships of Tarshish,
and upon all pleasant pictures.

Isaiah 2:16 omits “and upon all the ships of the sea.”

Interesting article on the textual variants in this verse.

“Pictures” appears only here in the Bible, so we have no real idea what it means. Given the context, some translations use “pleasant ships.”

Netbible notes: “The ships mentioned in this verse were the best of their class, and therefore an apt metaphor for the proud men being denounced in this speech.”

17 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 2:17 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “As in v. 11, the repetition of the verbs . . . v. 9 draws attention to the appropriate nature of the judgment. Those proud men who “bow low” before idols will be forced to “bow low” before God when he judges their sin.”

Thus concludes an extremely strong denunciation of pride, haughtiness, etc. What would this have meant to the Nephites? (Perhaps that they are not to assume that they are better than the Lamanites, or each other?) What does it mean to us? In what ways might we act like tall trees, fortified fences, best-in-class ships, etc.? What can we do today to exalt the Lord (and not ourselves)?

18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.

There is a nice inverse parallelism here: they created the idols with their own hands; the Lord will destroy them with his own hands.

19 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.

This is virtually identical to Isaiah 2:19.

This is an interesting reprisal of v10.

Some understand the “they” as the idols, and some as the idolaters.

20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold,
which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

Isaiah 2:20 is virtually identical.

NetBible notes: “The precise point of vv. 20-21 is not entirely clear. Are they taking the idols into their hiding places with them, because they are so attached to their man-made images? Or are they discarding the idols along the way as they retreat into the darkest places they can find? In either case it is obvious that the gods are incapable of helping them.”

21 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.

This is the third reprise of these themes. Why do you think this material is repeated, as if it were a refrain?

22 Cease ye from man,
whose breath is in his nostrils;
for wherein is he to be accounted of?

Netbible:

Stop trusting in human beings,

whose life’s breath is in their nostrils.

For why should they be given special consideration?

Is the second line a reference to the fact that Adam wouldn’t even have been breathing if it weren’t for the acts of the Lord?

How does this verse relate to the material about idols that comes before it?

Do you think this material about idols might have been especially relevant to the Nephites, who had just made off with the sword of Laban, the plates, and the Liahona?

There are numerous references in 2 Nephi to Nephi being a source of safety to his people. How do those verses mesh with the message of this section?

CHAPTER 13

1 For behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts,
doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah,
the stay and the staff,
the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water—

Isaiah 3:1 is virtually identical. It does not have a comma after Judah, however.

I find this to be a very interesting verse because there is doubling within each line (Lord, Lord of Hosts; Jerusalem, Judah; stay, staff; bread, water) as well as across lines, which is more typical.

“Stay and staff” can both be translated as “support.” So the picture of this verse is that the Lord is removing from Jrsm everything that she needs to exist. In other words, a famine will come and it will be the Lord’s doing.

2 The mighty man, and the man of war,
the judge, and the prophet,
and the prudent, and the ancient;

Isaiah 3:2 is virtually identical.

“Ancient” can be translated as “elder” here.

This verse continues the thought from the previous verse: in addition to the Lord removing their food and water, the Lord will remove their leaders in all areas of life (strong men, warriors, judges, etc.) The picture of helplessness and desolation continues.

3 The captain of fifty,
and the honorable man,
and the counselor, and the cunning artificer,
and the eloquent orator.

Isaiah 3:3 is virtually identical.

The picture of the removal of all skilled people continues. This verse would find fulfillment (on at least one level) with the Babylonian captivity, where everyone except for the lowly folk were hauled off to Babylon.

4 And I will give children unto them to be their princes,
and babes shall rule over them.

Isaiah 3:4 is virtually identical.

There is a subtle change in speaker: now the Lord, not the prophet, is speaking to them.

“Babes” may perhaps be more accurately understood as “bad young people.” Either way, this is most definitely not a good thing: the experienced people were carted off in the previous verses, and so only the young and foolish remain to fulfill important positions.

5 And the people shall be oppressed,
every one by another,
and every one by his neighbor;
the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient,
and the base against the honorable.

Isaiah 3:5 is virtually identical.

This strife and oppression appears to be the result of having incompetent leaders, as v4 describes.

Note that the practice of children dishonoring the elderly is coded as the outgrowth of societal dysfunction. This seems to be a tricky practice in our society, where rapid advances in technology mean that older adults frequently are not as wise as youth. We would need to be particularly careful here.

6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, and shall say:
Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler,
and let not this ruin come under thy hand—

NB that Isaiah 3:6 does not have the word “not” in the final phrase. It is hard to figure out what the final phrase would mean in the BoM version–perhaps that the speaker thinks that the brother’s leadership might prevent ruin from coming to the family.

Netbible:

‘You own a coat –

you be our leader!

This heap of ruins will be under your control.’

Traditionally, the oldest brother was given a double portion (meaning: if you have X kids, divide the estate by X+1 and give the oldest brother two shares) in order to provide for other family members as needed. One brother generally should not need to provide for another, because all brothers would have their own shares. Here, the “double portion” is a coat and the other brother has less than that, and the father seems to be deceased or MIA, so the state of the family is truly dire.

7 In that day shall he swear, saying:
I will not be a healer;
for in my house there is neither bread nor clothing;
make me not a ruler of the people.

Isaiah 3:7 is virtually identical.

The “he” seems to be the coat-owning brother from the previous verse.

So even the person with the most resources refuses to take responsibility for leadership.

8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen,
because their tongues and their doings have been against the Lord,
to provoke the eyes of his glory.

Isaiah 3:8 has “are against the Lord;” BoM has it in a past tense (“have been against”).

The idiom in the final line suggests that they are rebelling against royalty.

9 The show of their countenance doth witness against them,
and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom,
and they cannot hide it.
Wo unto their souls,
for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!

Isaiah 3:9 has “and they declare their sin as Sodom.”

First line from the Netbible: “The look on their faces testifies to their guilt.”

The last line implies that they are the cause of their own difficulties.

10 Say unto the righteous that it is well with them;
for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Isaiah 3:10 is virtually identical.

This verse presents the inverse of the final line of v9: here, the righteous are also responsible for the reward that they will receive.

I really like this verse as a shout-out to the good people in the midst of the description of the wicked. This might be a good one to memorize.

I think this verse also points out that we have an obligation to share the good news with people, not just doom and gloom scenarios about the wicked.

11 Wo unto the wicked,
for they shall perish;
for the reward of their hands shall be upon them!

Isaiah 3:11 reads for the second and third line, “it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.” That is a pretty significant change.

12 And my people,
children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err
and destroy the way of thy paths.

Isaiah 3:12 is virtually identical.

So this verse is not in the running for Feminist Scripture of the Year, but it is worth remembering that the picture in this verse is one where all of the experienced and skilled leaders have been carted off to Babylon, and only the people who are left are available to lead Jrsm, and this poor quality of leadership causes them enormous problems. Women were generally not trained for leadership at this moment in history, so the presence of women leaders implied that no one more qualified was available. It is not necessarily an eternal commentary on the fitness or ability of a trained woman to lead. The examples of Deborah and Huldah imply that, even in an Old Testament context, a competent woman could be a valued, respected leader.

It is also possible that the text should not read “women” but “creditors.” (This would require emending the Hebrew, but it agrees with the LXX rendering.)

13 The Lord standeth up to plead,
and standeth to judge the people.

Isaiah 3:13 is virtually identical.

The Lord is assuming the position of a judge here. The next verses will tell us what his judgement is.

14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people and the princes thereof;
for ye have eaten up the vineyard
and the spoil of the poor in your houses.

Isaiah 3:14 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

The Lord comes to pronounce judgment

on the leaders of his people and their officials.

He says, “It is you who have ruined the vineyard!

You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor.

The vineyard is commonly a symbol for Israel.

The point of the final line is that the possessions of the poor are in the leaders’ homes, therefore the leaders have stolen from the poor.

15 What mean ye?
Ye beat my people to pieces,
and grind the faces of the poor,
saith the Lord God of Hosts.

Isaiah 3:15 is virtually identical.

My husband and I use the phrase “grind the faces of the poor” almost constantly when talking about politics. You’d be surprised how often that concept is relevant . . .

This is such an emotional verse–the Lord is clearly amazed and shocked that the leaders have treated the poor in such a manner. The first line is akin to, “What the heck is going on here?!?”

16 Moreover, the Lord saith:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty,
and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes,
walking and mincing as they go,
and making a tinkling with their feet—

Isaiah 3:16 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

The Lord says,

“The women of Zion are proud.

They walk with their heads high

and flirt with their eyes.

They skip along

and the jewelry on their ankles jingles.

Thomas Constable: “Pride led these women to walk with their noses in the air, assuming superiority over others, and to draw men to themselves. They glanced coyly to see whether others noticed their elegance. They took small steps to give the appearance of humility and drew attention even to their feet. Everything they did was designed to attract attention.”

17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion,
and the Lord will discover their secret parts.

Isaiah 3:17 is virtually identical.

It is possible that “secret parts” here refers instead to the forehead; the suggestion is that the Lord will make them bald and scabby!

18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments,
and cauls, and round tires like the moon;

Isaiah 3:18 adds “about their feet” after tinkling ornaments.

“round tires like the moon” — crescent-shaped jewelry.

19 The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers;

Isaiah 3:19 is the same.

=earrings, bracelets, veils

20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the
tablets, and the ear-rings;

Isaiah 3:20 is the same.

21 The rings, and nose jewels;

Isaiah 3:21 is the same.

22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins;

Isaiah 3:22 is the same.

Netbible: “festive dresses, robes, shawls, purses,”

23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils.

Isaiah 3:23 is the same.

This laundry-list of fancy ornamentation makes a startling contrast with “grinding the faces of the poor” above.

It would probably be an interesting exercise to read this whole passage to your class in a modern translation; it makes it feel so much more relevant when Isaiah is describing items of clothing and ornamentation that we all commonly use.

I’m torn between being offended by the focus on women’s appearance and pleased by the oddly pro-feminist message that women are agents unto themselves with the capability of choosing to sin.

This laundry list of female ornamentation appears to be one of the rare prose passages in Isaiah. Do you have any sense of why Isaiah might have chosen to present this material as prose instead of as poetry? (NB that v24 begins poetry again.) Why would he have wanted to go down this laundry list in the first place?

24 And it shall come to pass,
instead of sweet smell there shall be stink;
and instead of a girdle, a rent;
and instead of well set hair, baldness;
and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth;
burning instead of beauty.

Isaiah 3:24 is virtually identical.

The “sweet smell” is describing spices used as perfume.

The thrust of this verse is “every single thing that they did to make themselves more appealing, I will reverse.”

The “burning” may refer to the brand that would have been made on a prisoner’s face.

Do you read this entire section as having to do with the ornamentation choices of individual women, or of the ornamentation choices of a decadent society (such as: grinding the face of the poor and stealing their stuff) that would result not in the physical ugliness of one woman, but the destruction and desecration of Jrsm? Or both?

25 Thy men shall fall by the sword
and thy mighty in the war.

Isaiah 3:25 is virtually identical.

“Thy” from the Netbible notes: “The pronoun is feminine singular, suggesting personified Zion, as representative of its women, is the addressee.”

26 And her gates shall lament and mourn;
and she shall be desolate,
and shall sit upon the ground.

Isaiah 3:26 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “Jerusalem is personified as a destitute woman who sits mourning the empty city.”

Thomas Constable (quoting Young): ““There is extant a coin from [the time of the Roman emperor] Vespasian which pictures the conquered Jerusalem as a dejected woman sitting under a palm tree, a soldier standing before her, and which bears the inscription Judaea capta, or devicta. Jerusalem alone.””

CHAPTER 14

1 And in that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying:
We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel;
only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.

Isaiah 4:1 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “The seven to one ratio emphasizes the great disparity that will exist in the population due to the death of so many men in battle.”

Notice the shift from past verses: instead of relying on fancy dress and jewelry to attract a man, the women here are reduced to begging to be attached to a man to avoid reproach, with no expectation that he will even provide for them. This verse pictures a truly dark day. (Which is why I am always amazed when people see it as a “prophecy” of polygamy.  Rather, it suggests that the only reason women would agree to such a thing is utter destitution.)

2 In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious;

the fruit of the earth excellent and comely to them that are escaped of Israel.

Isaiah 4:2 is virtually identical.

“escaped” might mean “remain in.”

This verse suggests that those who remain in Israel will have good crops.

Some readers understand “Branch” to refer to Christ. Others find that implausible.

3 And it shall come to pass,
they that are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem
shall be called holy,
every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem—

Isaiah 4:3 is virtually identical, except it is singular (“he”) instead of plural (“they”).

Remember that those left in Jrsm are the poor and lowly people–the people of the land, not the leaders in any field. This vision of their prosperity and holiness would have certainly been a challenge to those who would grind the face of the poor because they had dehumanized them and who assumed that they could not survive without their betters (although Isaiah does recount the suffering they will endure for lack of competent leaders).

4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion,
and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof
by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.

Isaiah 4:4 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes on filth: “The word refers elsewhere to vomit (Isa 28:8) and fecal material (Isa 36:12). Many English versions render this somewhat euphemistically as “filth” (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV). Ironically in God’s sight the beautiful jewelry described earlier is nothing but vomit and feces, for it symbolizes the moral decay of the city’s residents (cf. NLT “moral filth”).”

This verse pictures God as a janitor or home health aid or something similar, cleaning up poop and blood.

5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion,
and upon her assemblies,
a cloud and smoke by day
and the shining of a flaming fire by night;
for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defence.

Isaiah 4:5 omits “of Zion” from the final line.

Netbible notes: “The imagery of the cloud by day and fire by night recalls the days of Moses, when a cloud and fire were tangible reminders that the Lord was guiding and protecting his people (Exod 13:21-22; 14:19, 24).”

Netbible notes: “This may allude to Exod 40:34-35, where a cloud overshadows the meeting tent as it is filled with God’s glory.”

Thomas Constable: “Failure in leadership marked Israel in Isaiah’s day (3:2-7), but God Himself would lead the nation in the future. In the past, God had done this by sheltering the wilderness wanderers with a cloudy pillar, but in the future a similar covering would protect the dwellers at Mount Zion. The daughters of Jerusalem tried desperately to secure husbands (v. 1), but God Himself would finally provide a marriage canopy (chamber) for His beloved in the future.”

6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat,
and for a place of refuge, and a covert from storm and from rain.

Isaiah 4:6 is virtually identical.

Netbible: “By day it will be a shelter to provide shade from the heat,

as well as safety and protection from the heavy downpour.”

CHAPTER 15

1 And then will I sing to my well-beloved
a song of my beloved, touching his vineyard.
My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill.

Isaiah 5:1 begins “and now will I sing.”

NB the shift of speaker and audience again, but this time it is more uncertain: is this the best man speaking at a wedding, or Israel singing to the Lord, or a woman describing her lover (which would probably be a symbol for . . . Israel singing to the Lord?). Netbible notes: “The metaphor has sexual connotations, for it pictures her capacity to satisfy his appetite and to produce children.”

If this is Israel singing to the Lord: the vineyard is usually a symbol for Israel. Which means that Israel is singing about . . . herself. See v7 which, in a very un-Isaiah like manner, makes clear that the vineyard is the House of Israel.

Thomas Constable on the whole chapter: “It starts out deceptively as a casual song, transforms into a courtroom drama, and ends with pure condemnation. Isaiah lured his listeners into hearing him with a sweet song and then proceeded to burn them with fiery preaching. . . The prophet’s original audience did not realize what this song was about at first. It started out sounding like a happy wedding song, but it turned out to be a funeral dirge announcing Israel’s death. “

Thomas Constable on the parable of the vineyard here: “One cannot help but wonder if this passage lay behind Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches in John 15:1-6.”

2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof,
and planted it with the choicest vine,
and built a tower in the midst of it,
and also made a wine-press therein;
and he looked that it should bring forth grapes,
and it brought forth wild grapes.

Isaiah 5:2 is virtually identical.

wild grapes = sour grapes. In other words, not a useful crop, and certainly not what one would expect from such a carefully tended vineyard.

It is very difficult not to think about the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 here. Both passages have, as a main theme, the idea that God had done everything possible to ensure the success of the crop, and yet the desired result was not achieved. Is the message here that human agency trumps the ability of God to guarantee a good harvest? At the same time, it seems almost troubling to think of God making a plan, following through, and not ending up with the desired result. What might this teach us about omnipotence? (One can see the pagan neighbors laughing at the idea of a God who can’t even make his plans come to pass! One can see, more seriously, Israelites and/or Nephites very concerned about God’s ability to make come to pass the events that are prophesied to them.)

3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and men of Judah,
judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

Isaiah 5:3 is virtually identical.

NB that we have shifted from a wedding or love song to a courtroom scene. This isn’t pleasant. It started out that way, but it isn’t now.

The only possible answer for the audience (=Jrsm and Judah) to give is that the master of the vineyard did every possible thing one could do to ensure the success of the endeavor. The only place where any fault could be found is with the vineyard, not the owner. I see this as a picture of the atonement: the only reason that we will not dwell in the presence of God is if we choose it; every possible thing needful for us to dwell in his presence has been done for us.

Now, all analogies break down at some point–that’s pretty much the essence of an analogy. At the same time, analogies need to make basic sense in order to work. And I’m feeling stuck on the idea that the vineyard is to blame. C’mon, they are grapes! How could they be to blame?

4 What could have been done more to my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes
it brought forth wild grapes.

Isaiah 5:4 is virtually identical, except that the second sentence is a question.

Obviously, we are in the world of analogy, not reality, here, but what do you make of Isaiah putting words of doubt and lack of knowledge into the Lord’s mouth?

5 And now go to;
I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard—
I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up;
and I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down;

Isaiah 5:5 is virtually identical.

The first line means something like “now I will let you know.”

“It shall be eaten up” means it will become a place for animals to graze instead of a vineyard. As a result of the wall being removed, animals will enter the area and trod down the land, packing the soil so nothing can grow and eating anything that does begin to grow.

If the care that the master of the vineyard took above symbolized all of the care that the Lord shows to Israel, then what does all of this destruction symbolize? It seems to work well on the level of the Babylonian captivity, but could it also work if we read this as a parable for the atonement?

What do you make of the Lord (symbolically) destroying his work?

One thought I’ve developed from thinking about Genesis 1 and the Psalms is this: I think those writers conceived of a chaotic world, with only the intervention of God preventing that chaos from assaulting the faithful. (In Genesis 1, the waters, a symbol for chaos, pre-exist God’s creative acts; God’s act is not to create the waters but to limit them. Repeatedly in the psalms, it is God’s care that protects people; God need not ‘attack’ people but only remove that care for them to feel the full brunt of the craziness that is always, already around them.) I think this verse supports that idea: God doesn’t eat or trod upon the vineyard, but simply removes the protections (that God created) and the eating and trodding happens naturally–it always, already would have happened, save God’s care.)

6 And I will lay it waste;
it shall not be pruned nor digged;
but there shall come up briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

Isaiah 5:6 is virtually identical.

The picture of the destruction of the vineyard due to the Lord’s lack of care continues.

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah his pleasant plant;
and he looked for judgment, and behold, oppression;
for righteousness, but behold, a cry.

Isaiah 5:7 is virtually identical.

Netbible for the last two lines:

He waited for justice, but look what he got – disobedience!

He waited for fairness, but look what he got – cries for help!

Netbible notes for the third line: “Heb “but, look, disobedience.” The precise meaning of(mishpakh), which occurs only here in the OT, is uncertain. Some have suggested a meaning “bloodshed.” The term is obviously chosen for its wordplay value; it sounds very much like (mishpat, “justice”). The sound play draws attention to the point being made; the people have not met the Lord’s expectations.”

Netbible notes for the fourth line: “Heb “but, look, a cry for help.” The verb (“he waited”) does double duty in the parallelism. (tsa’qah) refers to the cries for help made by the oppressed. It sounds very much like (tsÿdaqah, “fairness”). The sound play draws attention to the point being made; the people have not met the Lord’s expectations.”

Thomas Constable: “The good fruit God looked for was justice (the righting of wrongs; Heb. mishpat) and righteousness (right relationships; Heb. tsedaqah), but the bad fruit the vines produced was oppression (the inflicting of wrongs; Heb. mispakh) and violence (wrong relationships; Heb. tse’aqah; cf. 60:21; 61:3). Isaiah used paronomasia (a pun) to make his contrasts more forceful and memorable. Instead of mishpat God got mispah, and instead of sedaqa He received se’aqa.”

Thomas Constable: “As the vineyard disappointed the Lord, so this song disappointed its original hearers. It proved to be confrontation, not entertainment.”

One wonders how the audience would have reacted to the identification of the actors in the parable at this point. Is this a Nathan-and-David situation, where they are stunned to find out that the parable has been told “against” them? Is it merely summary, because it would have been obvious to them by this point who was who? It seems that this overt identification of the symbols is very atypical for Isaiah; I wonder why it was used here.

Jacob made a huge point repeatedly in his sermon in 2 Nephi 6-10 that the Nephites were of the House of Israel. This is a parable told “against” the House of Israel. How do you think the Nephites were meant to interpret this parable?

8 Wo unto them that join house to house,
till there can be no place, that they may be placed
alone in the midst of the earth!

Isaiah 5:8 includes “that lay field to field” after “house to house.”

Netbible for this verse:

Those who accumulate houses are as good as dead,

those who also accumulate landed property

until there is no land left,

and you are the only landowners remaining within the land.

(That sounds totally out of the occupy movement, if you ask me.)

V8-25 have 6 “wo”s that specify, to continue the analogy, ways in which the grapes were sour. This is the first wo: the people have accumulated property until there was no room for anyone else. (So much for trickling down!)

9 In mine ears, said the Lord of Hosts,
of a truth many houses shall be desolate,
and great and fair cities without inhabitant.

Isaiah 5:9 omits the word “cities” but is otherwise identical. In Isaiah, it is great and fair houses that will be empty; in the BoM, it is great cities.

“In my ears” means the Lord told this message to the speaker.

In other words, the punishment for their greed in v8 is that everything they own will be taken away from them in the future.

10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath,
and the seed of a homer shall yield an ephah.

Isaiah 5:10 is virtually identical.

The exact measurements here are unknown, but the point is that a large vineyard will only grow a enough grapes for a few gallons, and buckets of seeds will only get you a teeny bit of grain. If they thought in v8 that their hoarding would yield them riches or, at least, security, what they are finding is that it will give them the very opposite.

The picture of v8-10 is of greed for financial gain (especially the kind that involves grinding the face of the poor) resulting in the greedy becoming poor themselves.

One wonders what the Nephites, newly settled in the wilderness, would have made of this warning. Surely they were not in a position of gobbling up their poor neighbors’ lands (or were they–were there native people there that they could take advantage of?), but perhaps this warning was meant for them to get their society started off on the right foot.

11 Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning,
that they may follow strong drink,
that continue until night,
and wine inflame them!

Isaiah 5:11 is virtually identical.

This verse describes people who get up early and stay up late to drink.

Netbible notes: “This verse does not condemn drinking per se, but refers to the carousing lifestyle of the rich bureaucrats, made possible by wealth taken from the poor. Their carousing is not the fundamental problem, but a disgusting symptom of the real disease – their social injustice.”

12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine are in their feasts;
but they regard not the work of the Lord,
neither consider the operation of his hands.

Isaiah 5:12 is virtually identical.

Netbible for the last two lines:

So they do not recognize what the Lord is doing,

they do not perceive what he is bringing about.

So the presence of musical instruments and wine at their parts is making it impossible for them to understand what the Lord is doing. How can entertainment distract us from the truth? (I’m thinking if a few stringed instruments could do it, then Hollywood could do it in spades!)

V11-12 are the second woe, which is about pleasure-seeking (but is, of course, also tied to having the wealth to do so).

13 Therefore, my people are gone into captivity,
because they have no knowledge;
and their honorable men are famished,
and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Isaiah 5:13 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

Therefore my people will be deported

because of their lack of understanding.

Their leaders will have nothing to eat,

their masses will have nothing to drink.

Thomas Constable: “The result of driving other people off their land and living only for pleasure would be, ironically, that the Israelites would be driven off their land and enjoy little pleasure. “

NB the contrast between the drinking and eating above (in the context of riotous living) with the lack of food and drink here, when the judgments of the Lord have been rendered.

14 Therefore, hell hath enlarged herself,
and opened her mouth without measure;
and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp,
and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

Isaiah 5:14 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

So Death will open up its throat,

and open wide its mouth;

Zion’s dignitaries and masses will descend into it,

including those who revel and celebrate within her.

Thomas Constable: “Instead of pleasure-seekers opening their throats to drink wine, Sheol (the place of the dead) would open her throat to drink down the pleasure-seekers.”

15 And the mean man shall be brought down,
and the mighty man shall be humbled,
and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled.

Isaiah 5:15 is virtually identical.

Note that what the wealthy did to the poor will now be done to them.

16 But the Lord of Hosts shall be exalted in judgment,
and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.

Isaiah 5:16 is virtually identical.

In other words, when God renders these judgments, then people will finally recognize who God is.

As the wealthy and greedy are brought low, God is exalted. God is not like them; they are not like him.

17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner,
and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

Isaiah 5:17 is virtually identical.

Second line is hard to translate, but probably imagines foreigners enjoying the fruit of the places that had belonged to the wealthy. All of the wealth they accumulated is now being enjoyed by animals and foreigners while they are in hell.

18 Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity,
and sin as it were with a cart rope;

Isaiah 5:18 is virtually identical.

The sinners in this woe are pictures lugging their sins around, as if in a cart behind them that they have to pull with heavy ropes. Those ropes are “cords of vanity.” They should have been fleeing from their sins, but instead, they are dragging their sins along with them! This is a good opportunity for discussion about ways in which we might do the same thing.

19 That say: Let him make speed, hasten his work,
that we may see it;
and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come,
that we may know it.

Isaiah 5:19 is virtually identical.

This verse can be read as the people saying, in effect, “well, let God hurry up with these judgments then!” as if they did not believe that anything would really happen. I think it could also be read to say that some people sin through their desire to see other people judged for their sins, meaning that this verse is the equivalent of Jonah wanting a good seat from which to see the destruction of those wicked, wicked people when they finally get what they had coming to them. In either case, I’m not feeling entirely sure how v18 relates to v19: how would the sin-haulers be the same people who say “bring it on!”?

20 Wo 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!

Isaiah 5:20 is virtually identical.

This fourth “wo” is fairly straightforward and is directed toward those who invert moral standards.

21 Wo unto the wise in their own eyes
and prudent in their own sight!

Isaiah 5:21 adds “to them that are” before “wise” (although it is in italics).

This fifth woe is arrogance: they think they know better than God.

Netbible notes: “Verses 18-21 contain three “woe-sayings” that are purely accusatory and have no formal announcement of judgment attached (as in the “woe-sayings” recorded in vv. 8-17). While this lack of symmetry is odd, it has a clear rhetorical purpose. Having established a pattern in vv. 8-17, the prophet deviates from it in vv. 18-21 to grab his audience’s attention. By placing the “woes” in rapid succession and heaping up the accusatory elements, he highlights the people’s guilt and introduces an element of tension and anticipation. One is reasonably certain that judgment will come, and when it does, it will be devastating. This anticipated devastation is described in frightening detail after the sixth and final woe (see vv. 22-30).”

22 Wo unto the mighty to drink wine,
and men of strength to mingle strong drink;

Isaiah 5:22 reads “them that are mighty.”

Netbible:

Those who are champions at drinking wine are as good as dead,

who display great courage when mixing strong drinks.

Netbible notes: “The language used here is quite sarcastic and paves the way for the shocking description of the enemy army in vv. 25-30. The rich leaders of Judah are nothing but “party animals” who are totally incapable of withstanding real warriors.”

Thomas Constable: “They glorified the “macho man” who did things that appeared great but were nothing more than sophisticated childishness. The more a person could drink, the greater the people honored him.”

23 Who justify the wicked for reward,
and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

Isaiah 5:23 begins with “which” instead of “who” but is otherwise the same.

Netbible:

They pronounce the guilty innocent for a payoff,

they ignore the just cause of the innocent.

Netbible notes: “The accusatory elements of vv. 8, 11-12, 18-23 are arranged in a chiastic manner: (A) social injustice (8), (B) carousing (11-12a), (C) spiritual insensitivity (12b) // (C’) spiritual insensitivity (18-21), (B’) carousing (22), (A’) social injustice (23).”

24 Therefore, as the fire devoureth the stubble,
and the flame consumeth the chaff,
their root shall be rottenness,
and their blossoms shall go up as dust;
because they have cast away the law of the Lord of Hosts,
and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 5:24 is virtually identical.

This is something of a response to v19; here, the judgments of the Lord are seen as coming with the swiftness and totality of a fire or a disease that destroys a plant from root to blossom. The final two lines give the reason: this isn’t a natural disaster, it is because of how they treated the law of the Lord.

25 Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people,
and he hath stretched forth his hand against them,
and hath smitten them;
and the hills did tremble,
and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger is not turned away,
but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 5:25 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

So the Lord is furious with his people;

he lifts his hand and strikes them.

The mountains shake,

and corpses lie like manure in the middle of the streets.

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,

and his hand is ready to strike again.

26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far,
and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth;
and behold, they shall come with speed swiftly;
none shall be weary nor stumble among them.

Isaiah 5:26 lacks the final line (“none shall be weary nor stumble among them”), but that is the first line of Isaiah 5:27. (Is this the only time that material is moved from one verse to another? What to make of that?)

An ensign is a signaling flag used in battle.

The hissing is the Lord whistling for these nations to come attack Jrsm. (So the first and second lines are parallel–the Lord summons them with a battle flag and a whistle.)

The last two lines are a very frightening portrayal of this army that the Lord has summoned to attack the House of Israel.

27 None shall slumber nor sleep;
neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed,
nor the latchet of their shoes be broken;

Isaiah 5:27 begins with “none shall be weary not stumble among them,” but in the BoM, that is the final line of v26.

This verse is a picture of an army that doesn’t require sleep, or even pause to loosen their belts or unstrap their sandals to rest. This army would be truly terrifying–they are portrayed as having super-human endurance.

28 Whose arrows shall be sharp,
and all their bows bent,
and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint,
and their wheels like a whirlwind,
their roaring like a lion.

Isaiah 5:28 has “are” instead of “shall be” sharp. Also, “their roaring shall be like a lion” is the first line of v29, not the final line of v28.

This verse pictures prepared armaments.

29 They shall roar like young lions;
yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey,
and shall carry away safe, and none shall deliver.

Isaiah 5:29 adds “it” after “carry.”

This verse pictures the enemy army as ferocious animals.

30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea;
and if they look unto the land, behold, darkness and sorrow,
and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.

Isaiah 5:30 has “one” look instead of “they” look.

This ferocious enemy army will roar like the sea. Observers will see a dark, desolate land.

CHAPTER 16

1 In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

Isaiah 6:1 is virtually identical.

Note: this is not written in poetry!

This section will tell of Isaiah’s call to be a prophet, so Isaiah is the “I” in this scene. Scholars have been a little puzzled as to why his prophetic call is chapter 6 and not chapter 1. It is possible he wasn’t called before ch1-5 were received (does that make you read them differently?), or it was possible he rearranged the material (why might he have done that)? Note that this BoM chunk of Isaiah began with Isaiah 2, not Isaiah 1.

This was a time of political uncertainty–three rulers right before the death.

Why mention this at the beginning of the vision?
–ties the vision to historical reality
–to point out who the real King is!

Point out: train means the hem of his garment.

We’re about to get into a very vivid and unusual vision, but before we do that, this fantastical vision is firmly grounded in history by a reference to the time that it happened (the year Uzziah died, about 740 BCE).

What does sitting on a throne symbolize? What does having the hem of your robe fill the space symbolize? What does being in a temple symbolize?

2 Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

Isaiah 6:2 has “seraphim,” which makes me a little batty since “im” is already a plural ending in Hebrew, meaning that Isaiah 6:2 says the equivalent of “angelses.” It is interesting that the BoM would make this correction–I don’t believe that Joseph Smith had studied any Hebrew at this point.

Sometimes “feet” is a euphemism for genitals.

What does having seraphim above the throne symbolize? What does having six wings symbolize? What does covering the face and the feet/genitals symbolize?

Point out: Hebrew word means ‘bright, shiny ones.’ Difference of opinions among church members: are these some created animal (same Heb. word is used in Numbers 21 for serpent that bites Israelites, Moses puts on pole) with literal wings or are they pre-existent people with symbolic wings? Don’t try to answer. Just think: What do wings symbolize? What does the covering/flying with wings symbolize?

Read Revelation 4:1-2, 6-9 and D&C 77:2-4, looking for links to Isaiah.

3 And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.

Isaiah 6:3 is virtually identical.

Word of the day: trisagion means a triple declaration of holiness.

4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:4 is virtually identical.

Netbible: The sound of their voices shook the door frames, and the temple was filled with smoke.

The idea here is that the praise of God coming from the seraphim (v3) is so powerful that it shook the door frames of the temple. The smoke is probably the incense or smoke from burnt offerings.

Thoughts on the symbolism here?

Ask: What does the moving of the posts symbolize?

NB progression from noticing the Lord first, to the other living things, to the building. The great temple is a side note! perspective!

Where is the smoke coming from and what does it symbolize? What is the smoke and what does it symbolize?

Read Exodus 19:18. Similarities? Point?

5 Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Isaiah 6:5 is virtually identical.

This is Isaiah’s response to the spectacle that he sees. He is immediately aware of his own unworthiness to be in this setting. The reference to lips may be because he feels unworthy to offer the same praise that the seraphim are offering.

I am wondering if this is related to the “woes” of the previous chapter, or should be considered completely separate. Regardless, I think it says a lot about Isaiah that the very first thing he says in his book in his own voice is a statement about his personal unworthiness.

Thomas Constable: “Isaiah sensed his danger because he saw the real King of Israel who was Yahweh of armies. It is in seeing God for who He is that we can see ourselves for who we are and can, therefore, accurately evaluate our condition”

6 Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;

Isaiah 6:6 has “seraphims” again.

NB that we are told that the coal came from the altar, which means that it is associated with the sacrificial system. We might begin reading in an allusion to the atonement here.

I’m curious about the departure from the normal routine of worship that this seraph engages in–I think it is saying something about activities that the seraph would cease worship in order to purify someone who recognized that he was in need of it. That, it seems, is more important that worship to your average seraph.

7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Isaiah 6:7 is virtually identical.

purged can be translated as “forgiven”

Why is this process of touching a coal to Isaiah’s lips a good representation of the process of cleansing from sin? Of the atonement?

Point out: Heb could also be trans. ‘I am silenced’; then the coal means that he can speak. Point: the atonement makes his mission possible.

Why the focus on lips?

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me.

Isaiah 6:8 is virtually identical.

Who do you think is the “us” in this sentence?

Joe Spencer suggests that Isaiah is now able to hear the words of the Lord (NB that this is the first speech in this theophany from the Lord) because of what happened in v7. I suspect Joe is right about this.

This verse is Isaiah’s volunteering for his mission.

I imagine that the Lord doesn’t really look around and ask who will volunteer (or does he?) but rather that the Lord had Isaiah already in mind. Why do you think the commission is presented this way? Is it “normal” for people to volunteer for their life’s mission? Is it normal for the Lord to seek volunteers?

Note the course of events: Isaiah becomes more aware than ever of what God is like, Isaiah feel unclean, Isaiah is cleansed, Isaiah is given a new task. This strikes me as a common pattern for our own lives.

Does the Lord know who will be sent? Then why ask the question?

Most prophets shrink from duty. What does volunteering teach about Isaiah?

Read Abraham 3:27. What do you learn from the similarities between them?

9 And he said: Go and tell this people—
Hear ye indeed, but they understood not;
and see ye indeed, but they perceived not.

Isaiah 6:9 omits “they” from the second and third line. I am pretty sure that the Isaiah text has the same thrust, but is a little more ambiguous, at least in English.

Note that this section seems to return to poetry with the words that the Lord gives Isaiah to tell. Can you discern why Isaiah would have chosen to write his vision in prose?

What effect do you think it would have had on Isaiah to be given a mission to give people a message and then told immediately that they would not understand that message? (I think I would find it rather difficult to get motivated for that mission!)

10 Make the heart of this people fat,
and make their ears heavy,
and shut their eyes—
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and be converted and be healed.

Isaiah 6:10 has “and convert, and be healed” in the last line.

There is a nice chiasmus in this verse.

Instead of trying to weasel out of v9-10, it might be useful to just take them at face value and assume that Isaiah’s task was to make the people non-responsive to the divine message. (Surely Isaiah’s complicated prophesying style would have had that effect!) Why might the Lord do that? As he explains below, because the complete destruction of the people would create a situation where a righteous remnant might be able to exist.

Netbible notes: “Do we take this commission at face value? Does the Lord really want to prevent his people from understanding, repenting, and being healed? Verse 9, which ostensibly records the content of Isaiah’s message, is clearly ironic. As far as we know, Isaiah did not literally proclaim these exact words. The Hebrew imperatival forms are employed rhetorically and anticipate the response Isaiah will receive. When all is said and done, Isaiah might as well preface and conclude every message with these ironic words, which, though imperatival in form, might be paraphrased as follows: “You continually hear, but don’t understand; you continually see, but don’t perceive.” Isaiah might as well command them to be spiritually insensitive, because, as the preceding and following chapters make clear, the people are bent on that anyway. (This ironic command is comparable to saying to a particularly recalcitrant individual, “Go ahead, be stubborn!”) Verse 10b is also clearly sarcastic. On the surface it seems to indicate Isaiah’s hardening ministry will prevent genuine repentance. But, as the surrounding chapters clearly reveal, the people were hardly ready or willing to repent. Therefore, Isaiah’s preaching was not needed to prevent repentance! Verse 10b reflects the people’s attitude and might be paraphrased accordingly: “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their mind, repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they?” Of course, this sarcastic statement may also reveal that the Lord himself is now bent on judgment, not reconciliation. Just as Pharaoh’s rejection of Yahweh’s ultimatum ignited judgment and foreclosed, at least temporarily, any opportunity for repentance, so the Lord may have come to the point where he has decreed to bring judgment before opening the door for repentance once more. The sarcastic statement in verse 10b would be an emphatic way of making this clear. (Perhaps we could expand our paraphrase: “Otherwise they might…repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they? Besides, it’s too late for that!”) Within this sarcastic framework, verse 10a must also be seen as ironic. As in verse 9 the imperatival forms should be taken as rhetorical and as anticipating the people’s response. One might paraphrase: “Your preaching will desensitize the minds of these people, make their hearing dull, and blind their eyes.” From the outset the Lord might as well command Isaiah to harden the people, because his preaching will end up having that effect. Despite the use of irony, we should still view this as a genuine, albeit indirect, act of divine hardening. After all, God did not have to send Isaiah. By sending him, he drives the sinful people further from him, for Isaiah’s preaching, which focuses on the Lord’s covenantal demands and impending judgment upon covenantal rebellion, forces the people to confront their sin and then continues to desensitize them as they respond negatively to the message. As in the case of Pharaoh, Yahweh’s hardening is not arbitrarily imposed on a righteous or even morally neutral object. Rather his hardening is an element of his righteous judgment on recalcitrant sinners. Ironically, Israel’s rejection of prophetic preaching in turn expedites disciplinary punishment, and brings the battered people to a point where they might be ready for reconciliation. The prophesied judgment (cf. 6:11-13) was fulfilled by 701 b.c. when the Assyrians devastated the land (a situation presupposed by Isa 1:2-20; see especially vv. 4-9). At that time the divine hardening had run its course and Isaiah is able to issue an ultimatum (1:19-20), one which Hezekiah apparently took to heart, resulting in the sparing of Jerusalem (see Isa 36-39 and cf. Jer 26:18-19 with Mic 3:12).This interpretation, which holds in balance both Israel’s moral responsibility and the Lord’s sovereign work among his people, is consistent with other pertinent texts both within and outside the Book of Isaiah. Isa 3:9 declares that the people of Judah “have brought disaster upon themselves,” but Isa 29:9-10 indicates that the Lord was involved to some degree in desensitizing the people. Zech 7:11-12 looks back to the pre-exilic era (cf. v. 7) and observes that the earlier generations stubbornly hardened their hearts, but Ps 81:11-12, recalling this same period, states that the Lord “gave them over to their stubborn hearts.”

Is it possible to read the entire vision tongue-in-cheek, as if Isaiah were saying (sarcastically) “and then God told me to make it so you wouldn’t listen or repent”! Is it possible to read the entire chapter as a farce? That would explain why it is chapter 6 and not chapter 1–because it didn’t really happen, but is just a bit of theater to hammer home Isaiah’s message to the people. It would fit the pattern set out in the last chapter, where what started out like a love song about the vineyard ended up with a court case and woes! Is Isaiah doing his darndest to heighten the contradictions here? Note that reading this vision as a farce would put the audience in the rhetorical position of having to prove Isaiah wrong by repenting and following the Lord!

Compare Exodus 3:19.

Read Matthew 13:10-16, looking for how the Lord’s words to Isaiah are fulfilled.

Read John 12:37-41, looking for explicit fulfillment.

Read D&C 1:2, looking for fulfillment.

Ask: How is this relevant to your life?

11 Then said I: Lord, how long?
And he said: Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,
and the houses without man,
and the land be utterly desolate;

Isaiah 6:11 is virtually identical.

Perhaps we see in this question from Isaiah sadness or a lack of motivation to complete his mission, knowing the effects that it would have on the people. Or perhaps the question comes from a place of sympathy, with Isaiah wondering how long the people would have to suffer in a state of disbelief. The answer is: they will be hardened until everything they value has been destroyed.

I think this verse suggests that Isaiah was just as surprised by the last two verses as we are and he assumed that his mission of “hardening” was just a short-term thing, or even a sort of object lesson. But the Lord’s answer makes clear that this isn’t a short-term thing at all, but it will last until everyone is destroyed.

12 And the Lord have removed men far away,
for there shall be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

Isaiah 6:12 reads “and there be a great.”

Interesting that the Lord doesn’t announce a year or something when Isaiah asks “how long”?

13 But yet there shall be a tenth, and they shall return, and shall be eaten, as a teil-tree, and as an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves; so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

Isaiah 6:13 reads “but yet in it there shall be a tenth.” I think “in it” might refer to the part of Jrsm that wasn’t destroyed, but then those people would not be returning. Is the tenth then the portion of Jrsm residents who chose to return from Babylon (or Assyria)?

And this verse seems to be prose again (maybe).

Netbible:

Even if only a tenth of the people remain in the land, it will again be destroyed, like one of the large sacred trees or an Asherah pole, when a sacred pillar on a high place is thrown down. That sacred pillar symbolizes the special chosen family.

(You’ll probably want to take a gander at the Netbible notes for this verse–it’s complicated!)

CHAPTER 17

1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.

Isaiah 7:1 is virtually identical.

Note that this section is in prose. (Bet you never would have guessed that this verse wasn’t poetry!)

This is sort of a summary statement, with the rest of the chapter explaining why Syria and Israel were unable to defeat Jrsm.

There may be a contrast between how Isaiah faced his turning points in the previous chapter and how Ahaz faces his own in this chapter.

Ahaz reigned 735-715BCE.

Thomas Constable: “Rezin and Pekah attacked Jerusalem to force Ahaz to ally with them against Assyria, which was growing stronger farther to the northeast and threatening to annihilate them all (2 Kings 15:37).”

Ludlow (from Gardner): “”At the time the Immanuel prophecy was given (about 734 B.C.) the country of Judah was under threat of attack by Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel. These kings had formed an alliance during the final part of the reign of Jotham, the predecessor of Ahaz, and had made war against Jerusalem but had not been able to prevail against it. (See 2 Kgs. 15:37; 16:5.) When Ahaz came to the throne in 735 B.C., the Syro-Ephraimite coalition made a renewed effort to take Jerusalem. The alliance had as its primary goal the unification of all the countries in the area into a solid anti-Assyrian block. When Ahaz refused to join, Rezin and Pekah decided to subjugate Judah and replace Ahaz with a leader more sympathetic to their anti-Assyrian policies.” (Ludlow, p. 139.)”

2 And it was told the house of David, saying: Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.

Isaiah 7:2 is virtually identical.

Here’s the gist of this verse: when David’s family found out that Syria allied with Ephraim, they were as shaken up as trees in a hurricane.

. . . and not just that Syria was allied with them, but that the Syrians had camped their army in the territory of Ephraim, making them a huge threat.

House of David = Southern Kingdom, currently led by Ahaz.

Ephraim = Northern Kingdom

In other words, when the Southern Kingdom found out that the Northern Kingdom had made alliance with Syria, they totally panicked. The fact that they were so geographically close and had made this alliance made the Southern Kingdom totally vulnerable and threatened.

The tree reference might mean that this alliance left them “shaking like a leaf in a storm” because they were so panicked.

3 Then said the Lord unto Isaiah: Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;

Isaiah 7:3 is virtually identical.

The name of Isaiah’s son means “a remnant will return.”

Thomas Constable: “Shearjashub’s presence may have been designed to encourage Ahaz to believe that his enemy would not destroy Judah completely even though they had already defeated him previously (cf. v. 4). Still the mention of only a remnant returning was sobering. This was the very spot on which Sennacherib’s field commander later stood to hurl insults at Hezekiah (36:2), the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction of an Assyrian attack.”

This location of the meeting place was a very important part of the water supply for Jrsm. A fuller’s field is a place where people would have gone to wash clothes.

NB that Isaiah does not have the same role as the prophet does today. Isaiah is not the leader of the church; Isaiah is an outsider who sometimes prophesies against the leadership (political and religious, with religious being focused around the temple). Not only does the king not seek Isaiah out, but Isaiah has to have the Lord tell him a time when Isaiah can just happen upon the king and talk with him.

I don’t think it is accidental that the king is checking out the water supply–he is concerned about an Assyrian attack and wants to be sure everything is in order.

4 And say unto him: Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be faint-hearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.

Isaiah 7:4 is virtually identical.

“The two tails of these smoking firebrands” is a diminishment along the lines of “two stubs of smoking logs” (Netbible); in other words, the day of their fiery power is all but over. The counsel at the beginning of the verse is, therefore, not to be worried or panicked by their presence. The two would be the kings of Israel (-Northern Kingdom) and Syria.

You can, I think, see how the Nephites would have been meant to “liken” this counsel to them if they felt that the Lamanites were breathing down their necks.

It is easy from our perspective to look at this situation and criticize Ahaz for not wanting to listen to the Lord. But if you were a leader of a small European country in 1938 and some random dude claiming to be a prophet told you to quit worrying about Hitler because he was nothing more than a cigarette butt, you probably won’t believe him, either. (And, just as Hitler did take over many of those nations, the Assyrians did in fact take over many areas throughout this region.) The point isn’t that they weren’t a danger; the point is that they weren’t the main danger. And responding to this political threat while ignoring the deeper threat of not following God’s laws is a much bigger deal. I am reminded of Elder Oaks’ “Good, Better, Best” talk. Only some things are worthy of our attention and fear.

5 Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying:

Isaiah 7:5 is virtually identical.

Netbible: “Syria has plotted with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah to bring about your demise.”

6 Let us go up against Judah and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, yea, the son of Tabeal.

Isaiah 7:6 is virtually identical.

This is the plot that Ephraim and Syria are up to. NB that the Lord is fully aware of it, and reporting it to Ahaz through Isaiah! The pattern here is that the Lord will warn us of encroaching evil through the prophets. What’s funny about this is that the Lord is saying, in effect, “Ahaz, you aren’t paranoid–they really are out to get you–but you still don’t have to worry about it! I’ve got you covered if you will trust me!” (Or: mentioning the conspiracy against him is the very last thing that you’d think the Lord would have Isaiah tell Ahaz as part of a plan to get Ahaz to quit worrying! What does it tell you about the Lord that he would mention this? It reminds me of Deborah trying to get Barack to lead the army while mentioning that the victory would go to a woman and not to him! Not the best thing to say, probably!)

(I’m thinking that if you were to focus your lesson on this chapter, you would want to draw a map on the board that showed rough locations of nations as well as their leaders, particularly since, even within this chapter, Isaiah is not consistent as to how he names people and places and that gets confusing. The “Isaiah map” from this website is not perfect, but might be a useful starting place.)

Netbible notes: “The precise identity of this would-be puppet king is unknown. He may have been a Syrian official or the ruler of one of the small neighboring states.”

7 Thus saith the Lord God:
It shall not stand,
neither shall it come to pass.

Isaiah 7:7 is virtually identical.

NB that we are back to poetry here!

NB the Lord’s simple statement: they can plot all they want; it isn’t going to work. I am in control here.

8 For the head of Syria is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus, Rezin;
and within three score and five years shall Ephraim be broken
that it be not a people.

Isaiah 7:8 is virtually identical.

The last two lines prophesy that Ephraim will not exist as a nation in 65 years.  Discussion point:  How many of the things that you worry about won’t be an issue in 65 years, no matter what happens?

Netbible notes: “This statement is problematic for several reasons. It seems to intrude stylistically, interrupting the symmetry of the immediately preceding and following lines. Furthermore, such a long range prophecy lacks punch in the midst of the immediate crisis. After all, even if Israel were destroyed sometime within the next 65 years, a lot could still happen during that time, including the conquest of Judah and the demise of the Davidic family. Finally the significance of the time frame is uncertain. Israel became an Assyrian province within the next 15 years and ceased to exist as a nation. For these reasons many regard the statement as a later insertion, but why a later editor would include the reference to “65 years” remains a mystery. Some try to relate the prophecy to the events alluded to in Ezra 4:2, 10, which refers to how the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal settled foreigners in former Israelite territory, perhaps around 670 b.c. However, even if the statement is referring to these events, it lacks rhetorical punch in its immediate context and has the earmarks of a later commentary that has been merged with the text in the process of transmission.”

9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son.
If ye will not believe
surely ye shall not be established.

Isaiah 7:9 is virtually identical.

NB that the 3rd and 4th lines are something like “if you don’t believe, you won’t endure.” There is also a play on words in the Hebrew between “believe” and “endure” to emphasize the point. This might be a good point at which to have a discussion about how your faith has helped you endure the tough situations that you have been placed in.

Thomas Constable: “By pointing out that the head of Syria was Damascus and the head of Damascus was Rezin, God was contrasting the limited sovereignty of Rezin with His own. This is also the point of His reference to the son of Remaliah being over Samaria, which was Ephraim’s capital. An additional point may be that these nations would remain as they were without the addition of Judah. They would not conquer Judah.”

I really like this–God’s saying, “Who’s their leader? Who’s your leader? Now who do you think is going to win?!?” The Lord (through Isaiah) is fortifying Ahaz to be strong and unafraid by reminding him that these scary foreign powers are led by mere humans, whereas his is led by the Creator!

I like the idea that Ahaz’s success in his position depends not on his own abilities, but on his willingness to trust God with something that seems virtually impossible.

Brant Gardner: “Isaiah does not tell us why there is a correlation between Ahaz believing this prophecy and his own survival as king. “

If you agree with that reading, why do you think Isaiah (or the Lord) left that info out? If you agree with it, then what do you think the reason might have actually been?

10 Moreover, the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying:

Isaiah 7:10 is virtually identical.

NB that this starts another prose section.

11 Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depths, or in the heights above.

Isaiah 7:11 is virtually identical except that “depth” and “height” are singular in Isaiah.

Oddly, the Lord is inviting Ahaz to ask for a “sign.” The final phrase suggests that it could be pretty much anything: “the sky is the limit!”

Why do you think that the Lord invited sign-seeking here? Does this verse nuance your understanding of the role of signs? Can you think of other instances where people are invited (or, at least, not smitten!) for asking for signs?

I’m thinking the offer of a sign emphasizes that what the Lord just told Ahaz through Isaiah is virtually impossible to believe on face value. The idea that you would just sort of agree to quit worrying about the enemies who are breathing down your neck seems hard to do.

12 But Ahaz said: I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.

Isaiah 7:12 is virtually identical.

Do you read this as genuine piety? Do you think the Lord was testing Ahaz by offering the sign (meaning: Ahaz was supposed to demonstrate his righteousness by saying “no” to the Lord’s offer)? Or Is Ahaz being false here, meaning that he is refusing the sign to cover his lack of faith in the Lord (and so he can continue his own military plans)? Or, something else? Under what situations would you refuse a sign from the Lord?

13 And he said: Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

Isaiah 7:13 is virtually identical.

NB that the “he” who is speaking is Isaiah. NB that with the “ye” (which is plural), he is in effect addressing the entire house of David and not just Ahaz here.

The reference to the House of David may be designed to remind Ahaz that it his association with the covenant that will ultimately save his bacon (or, um, the kosher equivalent) from foreign enemies.

Netbible suggests the true snarkiness of Isaiah here: “Do you consider it too insignificant to try the patience of men? Is that why you are also trying the patience of my God?”

This translation suggests that Ahaz’s refusal to seek a sign was not genuine but rather a cover for pride and so Isaiah responds with a snark.

So this is what happens:

Lord says (through Isaiah) something hard to believe

Lord says, I’ll give you a sign–any sign you want!

Ahaz says “no.”

Isaiah says, “now you are trying the Lord’s patience.”

It seems an odd jump to me to go from “I’ll give you a sign” to “quite pestering me” in just a few verses. Do you have any sense as to why this would have tried the Lord’s patience?

14 Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 omits “shall” from before “bear” and is otherwise the same.

I think if you wanted to discuss this verse in its historical context, you would need to carefully prepare your class for that by discussing the idea of a typological reading and explaining that you can’t really understand the typology if you don’t begin with the historical/literal meaning first. So, we need to try to bracket what Matthew told us this verse means in order to understand what it means in context and then we can look at it in other ways.

My disposition is to be somewhat less than enthused about messianic readings of Isaiah, especially the ones that seem forced, and this one does (sorry, Matthew). At the least, I think it is safe to say that the messianic reading of this verse is not Nephi’s main interest or concern (if he was aware of it at all), given that he doesn’t mention it in 2 Nephi 25, when he has a golden opportunity to do so. Nephi’s main focus is on the scattering/gathering/remnant/house of Israel theme. In that context, the message of this passage is that all of the historical forces that contributed to those events were under the control and foreknowledge of the Lord.

To the extent that we want to read this verse typologically and messianically, some questions:

(1) In what ways was Jesus’ birth a sign? A sign of what? To whom?

(2) Looking at the historical backstory (Ahaz, foreign threat, need to trust God, offer of sign, refusal of sign, etc.), how do those elements from the beginning of this chapter up to this point play into the christological reading here?

(3) Immanuel means “God with us.”Given that Jesus’ name was Jesus and not Immanuel, how do you know which elements of a passage like this to take literally and which are more figurative?

(4) In what ways do the failures of Ahaz as an earthly king, as seen in this passage, serve as a foil for Jesus as a Heavenly King? (And to the extent that that is a useful viewpoint, what do you make of the fact that in this passage this sign is offered to a bad earthly king?)

Note that the birth of Jesus cannot be the *only* meaning of this verse. As Brant Gardner explains, “To be what Isaiah announced it to be, the sign would have to be something that Ahaz would be able to see fulfilled, and therefore be able to consent to the power of the Lord as seen through the sign given.” Citation

Netbible notes: “It is very likely that Isaiah pointed to a woman who was present at the scene of the prophet’s interview with Ahaz. Isaiah’s address to the “house of David” and his use of second plural forms suggests other people were present, and his use of the second feminine singular verb form (“you will name”) later in the verse is best explained if addressed to a woman who is present.”

Not really sure how I would respond if a prophet were speaking to a king and pointed to me and said, “she’s about to conceive!” Um, TMI, thanks.

Netbible notes: “Because this verse from Isaiah is quoted in Matt 1:23 in connection with Jesus’ birth, the Isaiah passage has been regarded since the earliest Christian times as a prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. Much debate has taken place over the best way to translate this Hebrew term, although ultimately one’s view of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ is unaffected. Though the Hebrew word used here (’almah) can sometimes refer to a woman who is a virgin (Gen 24:43), it does not carry this meaning inherently. The word is simply the feminine form of the corresponding masculine noun (’elem, “young man”; cf. 1 Sam 17:56; 20:22). The Aramaic and Ugaritic cognate terms are both used of women who are not virgins. The word seems to pertain to age, not sexual experience, and would normally be translated “young woman.” The LXX translator(s) who later translated the Book of Isaiah into Greek sometime between the second and first century b.c., however, rendered the Hebrew term by the more specific Greek word (parqenos), which does mean “virgin” in a technical sense. This is the Greek term that also appears in the citation of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23. Therefore, regardless of the meaning of the term in the OT context, in the NT Matthew’s usage of the Greek term clearly indicates that from his perspective a virgin birth has taken place.”

Netbible translates the final line as, “You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.”

Netbible notes: “The verb is normally taken as an archaic third feminine singular form here, and translated, “she will call.” However the form (qara’t) is more naturally understood as second feminine singular, in which case the words would be addressed to the young woman mentioned just before this.”

“Immanuel” means “God is with us.”

NB that the “you” getting the sign here is plural.

So . . . why do you think the Lord “forced” this sign on Ahaz when Ahaz said he didn’t want it?

Be sure to look at 18:3-4 for “a” fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah’s time.

18:18 suggests that Isaiah’s own children were given to him as the fulfillment of signs, which reinfoces the idea that the child in this verse is his own.

Thomas Constable (who, I might note, I consider to be a very conservative reader): “Hebrew has a word for virgin, bethula, so why did not Isaiah use this word if he meant the mother of the child was a virgin? Probably Isaiah used ‘alma rather than bethula because he did not want to claim the virginity of the mother necessarily, but this word does not rule virginity out either. God evidently led Isaiah to use ‘alma so the predicted mother could be simply a young unmarried woman or a virgin. “

Thinking about the christological use of this verse: What do you make of the fact that Joseph, not Mary, named Jesus? And that he named him “Jesus” and not “Immanuel”? (Frankly, I think Matthew’s application of this verse to Jesus as a stretch and a half, and we’d be better off just admitting that and moving on. That position does not mean that we need to reject the virgin birth, BTW.)

Some scholars read this verse as applying to a specific woman standing near Isaiah; others think of it more generically (not referring to any particular woman), but I have a hard time seeing how the “Immanuel” would fit into that . . .

Grant Hardy, in looking at Nephi’s commentary on this Isaiah section, suggests that “it is almost as if he does not recognize them [=this verse] as referring to Jesus.”

In historical context, why call him “Immanuel”? Because, as the next two verses explain, the fact that Ahaz’s enemies would be wiped out before the child was old enough to act like an adult would be evidence that God was with them. Even on the historical level, this is a very beautiful and comforting message.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.

Isaiah 7:15 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “The following context indicates that sour milk and honey will epitomize the devastation that God’s judgment will bring upon the land. Cultivated crops will be gone and the people will be forced to live off the milk produced by their goats and the honey they find in the thickets. As the child is forced to eat a steady diet of this sour milk and honey, he will be reminded of the consequences of sin and motivated to make correct moral decisions in order to avoid further outbreaks of divine discipline.”

This would probably have been understood as “the diet of the poor and conquered.”

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Isaiah 7:16 is virtually identical.

The last verse set up the idea that the child would eat this “poor” diet after/because of reaching what we might call the age of accountability. This verse suggests that *before* that time, the kings of Syria and Ephraim would be deposed. This is why this functions as a sign. Isaiah has said, in effect, “See that woman over there who is (about to be) pregnant? Before her kid is old enough to eat grown-up food–and when he does, it will be the diet of a conquered people–the two kings you fear will be off the map. That will be the sign that you could have, should have, trusted in the Lord.”

Thomas Constable: “Assyria invaded Syria and Israel in 733-32 B.C., only a year or two after this prophecy. Damascus fell in 732, and Samaria fell in 722 B.C.”

So, even though Ahaz refused the offer of a sign, he was given a sign anyway. Why do you think this played out this way? Also, what do you make of the particular sign? There seems something a little counter-intuitive about the sign: it comes to pass when the two kings are no more. But the point of the sign was that Ahaz would know that the Lord was on his side and he didn’t need to bother with an alliance with foreign kings. Which means, simply, that by the time the sign comes, it will be too late for him to trust in the Lord (=the purpose of the sign). So: What to make of all of this? Is the sign another bit of snark from Isaiah? Does the sign itself mock Ahaz? (Another way to read this is that the sign means that Israel has been taken over by Assyria, but Judah will still have time to trust in the Lord. [And they will; the Assyrians won’t get them; the Babylonians will later.])

If you want to read typologically, then what do these verses, with the death of kings, have to do with Jesus?

17 The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah, the king of Assyria.

Isaiah 7:17 adds “even” before “the king.”

In other words, “this will be a time like no other,” with the context suggesting that that isn’t a good thing–they will get the King of Assyria!

Thomas Constable: “Even though Syria and Israel would disappear as threats to Judah, Ahaz had done the wrong thing in failing to trust God because Assyria would pose an even worse threat.”

And thus begins a description of the awful things that Assyria will do to them . . .

18 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Isaiah 7:18 reads “the rivers” of Egypt, otherwise the same.

Netbible notes: “The metaphors are well chosen, for the Assyrians (symbolized by the bees) were much more powerful and dangerous than the Egyptians (symbolized by the flies). Nevertheless both would put pressure on Judah, for Egypt wanted Judah as a buffer state against Assyrian aggression, while Assyrian wanted it as a base for operations against Egypt. Following the reference to sour milk and honey, the metaphor is especially apt, for flies are attracted to dairy products and bees can be found in the vicinity of honey.”

NB that the Lord is calling the flies and bees to come; this isn’t a random historical event.

19 And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.

Isaiah 7:19 is virtually identical.

rest = make their home

The flies and bees (=enemy armies) would settle into every nook and cranny.

20 In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet; and it shall also consume the beard.

Isaiah 7:20 has “hired, namely by them beyond the river.”

Netbible:

At that time the sovereign master will use a razor hired from the banks of the Euphrates River, the king of Assyria, to shave the head and the pubic hair; it will also shave off the beard.

Thomas Constable: “Judah’s Sovereign would particularly use Assyria, as a barber uses a razor, to remove all the “hair” from Judah, to completely humiliate her.”

21 And it shall come to pass in that day, a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;

Isaiah 7:21 is virtually identical.

This is a picture of poverty–no decent herd, just a paltry few animals.

If you are continuing the typological reading from v7, what does this picture of poverty after the child represent?

22 And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk they shall give he shall eat butter; for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.

Isaiah 7:22 is virtually identical.

Two ways to take this: one is that they would hardly have enough to eat because the herd was so small and so they would lack variety; another is that, even despite the small herd, they would have an abundance because there were so few people left alive.

23 And it shall come to pass in that day, every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, which shall be for briers and thorns.

Isaiah 7:23 last line reads, “it shall even be for briers and thorns.”

Netbible: “At that time every place where there had been a thousand vines worth a thousand shekels will be overrun with thorns and briers.”

In other words, expensive farmland would become a waste place.

24 With arrows and with bows shall men come thither, because all the land shall become briers and thorns.

Isaiah 7:24 is virtually identical.

In other words, because the farmland had reverted to wilderness, people would hunt in it.

25 And all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns; but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and the treading of lesser cattle.

Isaiah 7:25 has “on all the hills;” otherwise it is the same.

Digged with a mattock = cultivated.

In other words, the thorns and briers (=symbols of uncultivation) will be so bad in the places that had been cultivated that people will be afraid to go there, so cattle and sheep will graze there.

I think the repetition of “briers and thorns” in this section is absolutely haunting.

This is a terrible picture of destruction–all of this lack of cultivation is due to the fact that so many people have died that they are no longer farming vast tracts of land. And all of this came about because the Lord turned the Assyrians lose on his people because they did not trust him. The message should be clear: It isn’t Assyria that you have to worry about! It’s God!

CHAPTER 18

1 Moreover, the word of the Lord said unto me: Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen, concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

Isaiah 8:1 omits “the word.”

The Hebrew words mean something like ““One hastens to the plunder, one hurries to the loot.”

roll = scroll

a man’s pen = debated, but probably “the ordinary stylus a normal person would use.”

2 And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.

Isaiah 8:2 is virtually identical.

In this verse as translated, the “I” is Isaiah, but it is also possible to read it as the Lord’s announcement of his plan.

These two men will be witnesses that Isaiah wrote and presented what he was supposed to.

3 And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me: Call his name, Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

Isaiah 8:3 is virtually identical.

While there are prophetesses (=women who prophesy) in the OT, in this case it looks like the word means something like “the wife of the prophet.”

It is possible that the “Immanuel” from ch7 is this child, as the next verse suggests.

4 For behold, the child shall not have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, before the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

Isaiah 8:4 has “For before the child shall have” at the beginning of the verse but then omits the “before” later in the verse.

Thomas Constable: “Before the boy grew old enough to speak distinctly, Assyria (Tiglath-pileser III) would carry off the wealth of Damascus and Samaria (in 732 B.C.; cf. 7:15-16; 2 Kings 15:29). This brought to a close a 200-year period in which the Aramean Kingdom played a leading role.[115] Thus Syria and Israel would not only fail in their attempt to bring Judah under their power (cf. 7:6), but the king of Assyria would bring them under his power. This second promise is almost identical to the earlier one in 7:4-9.”

5 The Lord spake also unto me again, saying:

Isaiah 8:5 is virtually identical.

6 Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son;

Isaiah 8:6 is virtually identical.

This verse gives the reason behind the judgment that is announced in v7.

Thomas Constable: “They had rejected God’s faithful provisions for them, symbolized by the gently flowing Shiloah stream that carried water from the Gihon spring just outside Jerusalem into the city. This water source was unimpressive, but it provided for the people of Jerusalem faithfully.”

7 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.

Isaiah 8:7 is virtually identical.

In other words, they rejected the gentle waters of Jrsm because the river of Assyria (=the Euphrates) seemed so much more impressive, but now they will be devastated by a flood from these rivers.

I think there is a good principle here–we often reject the still, small voice because it is so seemingly unimpressive, but when we seek out something more dramatic, well, we might end up with a whole lot of drama!

8 And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

Isaiah 8:8 is virtually identical.

NB that in the middle of the verse, the image changes from a flood to a bird of prey large enough to cover the entire land.

It is hard to take this verse as anything but a huge key to the identity of Immanuel in the previous chapter.

The reference to Immanuel may be read ironically, since at this point God is with them in judgment.

The reference to the neck may refer to the idea that the Assyrian invasion would just barely allow Judah to “keep her head above water” and not engulf her completely.

9 Associate yourselves, O ye people,
and ye shall be broken in pieces;
and give ear all ye of far countries;
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces;
gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.

Isaiah 8:9 is virtually identical.

gird yourselves = get ready for battle

This is not exactly an inspiring battle cry!

This can be read as applying to Judah, since they will be nearly defeated, or to their enemies, since they will not completely defeat Judah.

NB that we are back to poetry here.

10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught;
speak the word, and it shall not stand;
for God is with us.

Isaiah 8:10 is virtually identical.

Netbible for the first two lines:

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted!

Issue your orders, but they will not be executed!

11 For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying:

Isaiah 8:11 is virtually identical.

12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say,
A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

Isaiah 8:12 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

Do not say, ‘Conspiracy,’ every time these people say the word.

Don’t be afraid of what scares them; don’t be terrified.

. . . because they were scared of the wrong things!

13 Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself,
and let him be your fear,
and let him be your dread.

Isaiah 8:13 is virtually identical.

sanctify = set apart for a special purpose. In this verse, it means that you put the Lord (appropriately, here, the Lord who is “of Hosts,” that is, who leads armies!) in a special category of those you fear–not your political enemies.

Fear/afraid in v12 uses the same two verbs as fear/dread in this verses, emphasizing the point that it is the Lord and the Lord only that we should fear.

14 And he shall be for a sanctuary;
but for a stone of stumbling,
and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel,
for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 8:14 is virtually identical.

It may be that the word here translated as “sanctuary” should be “snare,” which would better fit the mood of the passage and the parallelism of this verse–see the 3rd and 4th lines.

The “he” is the Lord.

Two houses of Israel = Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom

Discussion: in what ways might the Lord be a stumbling block or a snare for people today?

15 And many among them shall stumble and fall,
and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

Isaiah 8:15 is virtually identical.

16 Bind up the testimony,
seal the law among my disciples.

Isaiah 8:16 is virtually identical.

Binding and sealing these revelations means that Isaiah can produce them after what they prophesy has come to pass and then he can say, “I told you so!”

17 And I will wait upon the Lord,
that hideth his face from the house of Jacob,
and I will look for him.

Isaiah 8:17 is virtually identical.

hiding the face = rejecting

NB Isaiah’s attitude of patient waiting, as opposed to the fear of enemies and unwise foreign alliances everyone else wanted.

18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion.

Isaiah 8:18 is virtually identical.

This verse also seems to support the thesis that the “child-sign” from 7:14 refers to a child of Isaiah’s.

This verse seems to be prose.

Hebrews 2:13 quotes this verse.

19 And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead?

Isaiah 8:19 has “for the living to the dead” as the final line.

This entire verse consists of the hypothetical words of those who advocate false worship by encouraging people to seek wizards and intermediaries.

I think the phrasing here can be a key to understanding a useful principle–note that these hypothetical speakers don’t actually make a case for consulting with wizards, they just gently drop the hint in the form of questions to imply that it would be a good idea. This is subtle and crafty.

Note the contrast with the true sign (v18) and the false signs in this verse.

20 To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isaiah 8:20 omits the “and” after testimony.

This appears to be Isaiah’s response to the attitude in v19. He is saying that they should focus on the law, and if these spiritualists don’t speak according to the law, it is because they are in the dark spiritually. NB that Isaiah is asking them to use the scriptures as a guide by which to discern whether what these mediums say is true.

21 And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.

Isaiah 8:21 is virtually identical.

The “they” might be the soothsayers or the people who listen to them. The first “it” is most likely the land.

“they shall fret themselves” = their hunger makes them angry

22 And they shall look unto the earth and behold trouble, and darkness, dimness of anguish, and shall be driven to darkness.

Isaiah 8:22 is virtually identical.

NB the parallel with the previous verse: they look up and down but only find bad things. This is a picture of unmitigated frustration.

CHAPTER 19

1 Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation,
when at first he lightly afflicted
the land of Zebulun,
and the land of Naphtali,
and afterwards did more grievously afflict
by the way of the Red Sea
beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations.

Isaiah 9:1 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious.

In earlier times he humiliated

the land of Zebulun,

and the land of Naphtali;

but now he brings honor

to the way of the sea,

the region beyond the Jordan,

and Galilee of the nations.

This verse may suggest that the gloom brought about by the soothsayers above will be dispelled.

NB we are back to poetry here.

2 The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.

Isaiah 9:2 is virtually identical.

Despite apparent verb tenses, this might be talking about the future.

There may be a contrast with the predictions of the soothsayers, that will only bring misery, in the last chapter, and the fulfillment of the true prophecies of Isaiah, that will bring a great light.

Discussion point: In what ways does the fulfillment of prophecy bring light into your life? How have you felt that light in your life?

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation,
and increased the joy—
they joy before thee
according to the joy in harvest,
and as men rejoice
when they divide the spoil.

Isaiah 9:3 reads “and not increased the joy.” Modern scholars generally assume that that “not” is a corruption of the text because it seems clearly contrary the the message of the verse.

There are two pictures of joy here: of farmers rejoicing in the harvest and of soldiers rejoicing that the battle is over and they can share the spoils of war. V4-6 will explain *why* the joy has increased.

Think about the link to v2: they will be walking in the light. In this verse, the result of that is that

they will multiply and increase in joy

4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden,
and the staff of his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor.

Isaiah 9:4 ends with “as in the day of Midian.”

The picture here is of the nation as an abused animal, but the Lord is removing the instruments of abuse.

5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise,
and garments rolled in blood;
but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

Isaiah 9:5 is virtually identical.

Modern translations take this verse in a very different direction, saying something like, “every soldier’s boot and every bit of clothing (which would be bloody) will be burned.” The picture is of the end of a military campaign, where the outfits of soldiers would no longer be needed.

6 For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder;

and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor,

The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 is virtually identical.

“Wonderful” probably modifies “counselor.”

“Father” pictures him as a protector of his people (probably not a reference to God the Father).

The reason for the end of the war described in the verses above is the coming of the person described in this verse–a powerful king who is able to end the war and create a peaceful environment.

Interesting that this great leader is here described as a “child” and a “son,” not as a mighty warrior or strong leader per se. This is an interesting inversion of the above verses where

the rule of children was evidence of Jrsm’s sorry state.

7 Of the increase of government

and peace there is no end,

upon the throne of David,

and upon his kingdom to order it,

and to establish it with judgment

and with justice from henceforth,

even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:7 has “his” government and “there shall be” no end.

First line means that his territory/dominion will increase.

Second line: there will be peace/prosperity without end.

Good judgment and justice, fairness for all people are what his kingdom is established on.

zeal = devotion to people. I like this: it suggests that all of this happens because the Lord is so very concerned about his people.

I’m fascinated by the disconnect between this passage and Jesus’ mortal ministry (if you want to read this passage as applying to Jesus); no wonder people did not recognize him as the messiah!

This article contains a close reading of v3-7. I wish he has argued instead of assumed a messianic interpretation, however.

8 The Lord sent his word unto Jacob

and it hath lighted upon Israel.

Isaiah 9:8 has “a” word instead of “his” word.

With this verse, we begin a new topic–not the glorious future day, but the fate of Jrsm’s enemies. This is a judgment against the Northern Kingdom (=Jacob in v8) for failing to obey

9 And all the people shall know,

even Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,

that say in the pride and stoutness of heart:

Isaiah 9:9 has “inhabitant.”

The gist: everyone living in Ephraim and Samaria will know about this word from the Lord (introduced in the previous verse), but because of pride, they will say . . .

10 The bricks are fallen down,

but we will build with hewn stones;

the sycamores are cut down,

but we will change them into cedars.

Isaiah 9:10 is virtually identical.

This verse acknowledges that they have lost all of their wealth, but they expect to soon be able to replace everything with even better stuff.

Discussion: Who has this attitude? In what ways? I think many people would regard this as a good attitude–to say, ‘yes, the storm destroyed our house, but we’re going to rebuild bigger and better’ or something. How can we tell when that is the wrong attitude to have?

11 Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him,

and join his enemies together;

Isaiah 9:11 is virtually identical.

Rezin ruled over the Syrians. The point of this verse is that the Lord had Rezin attack Israel.

This makes more sense if you think of it as “adversaries sent from Rezin.”

The enemies in the next verse are the enemies of Israel.

NB the therefore–the Lord is sending these enemies against Israel because of Israel’s prideful attitude as presented in the previous verse.

12 The Syrians before

and the Philistines behind;

and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:12 is virtually identical.

In other words, the Syrians will get them from the east and the Philistines will get them from the west. They will be surrounded and pinced. And even all of this destruction is not enough to quench the Lord’s anger toward them for their disobedience (a picture of the requirements of justice).

13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them,

neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.

Isaiah 9:13 is virtually identical.

In other words, despite their suffering, the display of the Lord’s power, and the fact that this prophecy will come true, it won’t be enough for the people to return to the Lord.

14 Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail,

branch and rush in one day.

Isaiah 9:14 is virtually identical.

branch and rush = top and bottom of reed

NB the “therefore”: this is happening because of what Israel did in the previous verse.

The double reference in this verse to the head being cut off may suggest that Israel would lose its leadership because of its attitude in v13; the next verse may be applicable here.

15 The ancient, he is the head;

and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

Isaiah 9:15 reads “the ancient and honorable.”

It is pretty rare for Isaiah to ever explain anything; why do you think he does so here?

What does it suggest to say that the ancients (=leaders) are the head and false prophets are the tail of Israel?

16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err;

and they that are led of them are destroyed.

Isaiah 9:16 is virtually identical

17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men,

neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows;

for every one of them is a hypocrite and an evildoer,

and every mouth speaketh folly.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:17 omits “of them” after “every one.”

NB the train of thought from the previous verse: the poor quality of leadership end up causing problems all the way down through society.

The second line here is particularly shocking, since all throughout the OT the Lord has had a special concern for widows and orphans.

“Folly” isn’t as we think of it but is immorality.

NB the usual refrain: even this display of extreme judgment (widows and orphans!) wasn’t enough to quench his anger, but his arm is still ready to smite them again.

The combination of young men and widows/orphans in this verse is an A to Z: the Lord won’t help those fighting away from home, or those at home. He won’t help the strongest or the weakest.

Discussion point: It seems difficult to image why the Lord’s judgment would extend to widows and orphans–it seems cruel and certainly contrary to the picture of widows and orphans as the paradigmatic defenseless people with a special claim to mercy in the Bible. What justifies the Lord’s treatment of widows and orphans in this section? What does that treatment teach us about widows and orphans?

18 For wickedness burneth as the fire;

it shall devour the briers and thorns,

and shall kindle in the thickets of the forests,

and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

Isaiah 9:18 has “forest” singular.

This verse explains why the events of v17 were necessary: evil was out-of-control just like a fire and was destroying everything in its path, therefore it had to be stopped.

Why is a fire a good metaphor for out of control evil?

19 Through the wrath of the Lord of Hosts is the land darkened,

and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire;

no man shall spare his brother.

Isaiah 9:19 is virtually identical.

In this verse the uncontrolled fire of wickedness is added to by the Lord’s judgment–now the people themselves are fuel for the fire at the Lord’s hand and the Lord darkens the land.

The final line is a way of saying that people were without compassion. Perhaps it was this lack of compassion that made it possible for the wickedness and/or directly contributed to people being fuel for the fire.

20 And he shall snatch on the right hand and be hungry;

and he shall eat on the left hand and they shall not be satisfied;

they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm—

Isaiah 9:20 is virtually identical.

The first two lines picture someone snapping up food from all directions, but it doesn’t take away their hunger pains.

They were so extremely hungry that they tried eating their own flesh!

It is possible that the word translated as “flesh of his own arm” should be translated as “offspring,” either way, the image is of someone resorting to the unthinkable in order to satisfy their hunger

21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh;

they together shall be against Judah.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 9:21 is virtually identical.

NB the refrain again: even with a judgment of consuming fire and people becoming desperate enough to eat their own arms/offspring, and war between E and M and J, it isn’t enough to quench the anger of the Lord–his hand is still stretched out to smite them.

The first line probably means that Ephraim was fighting against Manasseh and vice versa.

The second line says that E and M fought against Judah.

NB that this verse pictures the tribes of Israel consuming each other, much as the individual in v20 consumed himself. The parallel is made that the tribes of Israel warring against each other makes about as much sense as a man eating his own arm.

CHAPTER 20

1 Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees,

and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;

Isaiah 10:1 is virtually identical.

This is a wo pronounced on those who, enjoying some sort of leadership capacity, make unfair law.

2 To turn away the needy from judgment,

and to take away the right from the poor of my people,

that widows may be their prey,

and that they may rob the fatherless!

Isaiah 10:2 has “to turn aside” instead of “to turn away” in the first line, otherwise it is the same. Skousen thinks “to turn aside” was the original reading.

This verse might seem a little out of place, given that the Lord announced in the previous chapter that he wasn’t going to be protecting widows and orphans any more. But in this case, it is the result not of the fair judgment of the Lord but of the unfair laws made or enforced by leaders as described in v1. In fact, we might read this oracle as a way of explaining that the punishment meted out in the previous chapter at the hands of the Lord was the Lord’s and only the Lord’s call to make, and that it isn’t the job of a king or a judge or lower-level ruler to decide that the weakest members of society need to be chastised with punitive laws just because the Lord was also chastising them. (It is also possible that these two oracles are completely unrelated!)

This verse clearly pictures the strict obligation of leaders to make and enforce laws that are just for the weakest and poorest members of society.

3 And what will ye do in the day of visitation,

and in the desolation which shall come from far?

to whom will ye flee for help?

and where will ye leave your glory?

Isaiah 10:3 is virtually identical.

day of visitation = judgment day

second line pictures judgment arriving from far away

4th line is asking how they will protect their wealth when they are attacked by foreigners.

As is usually the case with Isaiah, those who steal riches from the poor (in this case, ‘legally,’ through the unjust laws that they have created) will have those riches–and more–taken from them by the judgment of the Lord. There is a strong warning here that whatever we take that we don’t have a right to will be taken from us, along with even more. These people who would oppress the weak will be put into the position of the weakest themselves. I think passages like this are a way of expressing the golden rule: if we wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this law or plan or society or policy, then we shouldn’t be instituting it.

4 Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners,

and they shall fall under the slain.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

but his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:4 is virtually identical.

This verse answers the questions posed at the end of the previous verse.

No modern translation has “without me.” They either omit the phrase entirely or have something like “nothing will remain except to . . .”

And again the refrain: even the picture of these unjust rulers among prisoners or among the dead is not enough to turn away the Lord’s wrath.

This section is particularly about rulers instituting laws that are unfair to the poor, but I suspect we might be able to “liken” it to anyone who abuses power. Discussion: In what ways might we be tempted to abuse the power that we have over other people in our own lives? What is the Lord, through Isaiah, teaching us in this passage about the consequences of abuse of power?

5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger,

and the staff in their hand is their indignation.

Isaiah 10:5 has “mine” indignation instead of “their” indignation. This change is perplexing to me because the parallelism of the verse suggests that the staff should also be an instrument of the Lord’s indignation, not of the Assyrians’ indignation (what are they so ticked off about, anyway?). Perhaps the point is that, just as the Lord was using the Assyrians to punish Israel, the Assyrians used their staffs.

This verse begins a new section of the text. Now, instead of a wo pronounced against the Northern Kingdom (=Ephraim), Assyria is addressed.

NB that the Lord says that Assyria is the rod that the Lord uses to display his anger. Assyria wasn’t some randomly powerful historical force; they were a tool that the Lord was using to punish the Northern Kingdom for their sins.

This verse suggests that even though the Lord was using Assyria to punish the Northern Kingdom, Assyria itself was in for some trouble because it also was not righteous.

6 I will send him against a hypocritical nation,

and against the people of my wrath

will I give him a charge to take the spoil,

and to take the prey,

and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

Isaiah 10:6 is virtually identical.

The “I” is the Lord; the “him” is Assyria (perhaps the king of Assyria.)

The 3rd line means that the Lord ordered them to attack.

I’m sure Isaiah was enormously popular when he told people that the Lord had ordered his enemies to attack them and was leading the charge!

7 Howbeit he meaneth not so,

neither doth his heart think so;

but in his heart it is to destroy

and cut off nations not a few.

Isaiah 10:7 is virtually identical.

Netbible for the first two lines:

But he does not agree with this,

his mind does not reason this way,

The “he” is Assyria (‘s king) again. The gist of the verse is that Assyria did not realize it was under the control of the Lord; Assyria thought it was pursuing its own plan and that that plan was to control many nations.

8 For he saith: Are not my princes altogether kings?

Isaiah 10:8 is virtually identical.

Assyria is so danged boastful that it thinks that every single government official has the status of a king. This verse continues the picture of unthinking pride from v7.

9 Is not Calno as Carchemish?

Is not Hamath as Arpad?

Is not Samaria as Damascus?

Isaiah 10:9 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “The city states listed here were conquered by the Assyrians between 740-717 b.c. The point of the rhetorical questions is that no one can stand before Assyria’s might.”

Assyria is continuing to boast: all these cities rolled over to Assyrian might, therefore they expect that every city will do the same.

10 As my hand hath founded the kingdoms of the idols,

and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;

Isaiah 10:10 has “found” instead of “founded.” Skousen thinks “found” was the original reading.

This verse continues the Assyrian boast: they say that they have been able to take over lands with way more impressive idols protecting them that Jrsm and Samaria, so they expect that Jrsm and Samaria will fall even more easily. It may be that the BoM shift to “founded” intead of “found” suggests that the Assyrians created kingdoms of idols and those idols were more impressive than those found in Jrsm and Samaria, therefore the Assyrians will have no trouble taking over Jrsm and Samaria. Either way, the larger point that they expect to easily devour Jrsm and Samaria is made.

NB that even the enemy Assyrians are aware that Jrsm has idols–they just aren’t very impressive! Ouch.

11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols,

so do to Jerusalem and to her idols?

Isaiah 10:11 is virtually identical.

This is sort of a rhetorical question that continues and extends the boast of the Assyrians–they assume it will be a piece of cake to take over Jrsm.

12 Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.

Isaiah 10:12 is virtually identical.

NB that this verse is prose. I think the prose makes the judgment more abruptly powerful.

This verse is a summation of the “wo” to Assyria above: the point is that the Assyrians will be punished because of their pride and because they did not recognize that the Lord was in control.

NB the shift in speaker in the very middle of the verse: the verse starts off talking about the Lord, but then in the middle, it is the Lord speaking!

The Assyrian King is described as if he were a beautifully showy fruit tree that will be cut down.

I am interested in the dynamic that the Lord will wait to punish the Assyrian king until the Assyrian king has finished doing what the Lord needs him to do. Do you think there is a universal principle taught here? If so, what is it?

13 For he saith: By the strength of my hand

and by my wisdom I have done these things;

for I am prudent;

and I have moved the borders of the people,

and have robbed their treasures,

and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man;

Isaiah 10:13 moves the phrase about wisdom. It has “removed the bounds” instead of “removed the borders.” Skousen thinks “removed the borders” was original.

moved the borders = invade. (I suspect the Isaiah reading is roughly the same meaning.)

This verse returns to the voice of Assyria, again bragging about their exploits, with no realization of God’s role in them.

14 And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people;

and as one gathereth eggs that are left have I gathered all the earth;

and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.

Isaiah 10:14 is virtually identical.

The Assyrians picture themselves as gathering eggs from a birds’ nest–no one was able to stop or oppose them, or even raise a voice of complaint.

Discussion point: What’s the line between taking credit for own victories and hard work and acknowledging the hand of God? (It always kind of feels to me that if I give God the credit, then I am claiming that my work was inspired, which feels arrogant. On the other hand, if I don’t give God the credit, I feel guilty for not recognizing God’s role.)

15 Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith?

Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?

As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up,

or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood!

Isaiah 10:15 is virtually identical.

shake = push back and forth (i.e., use a saw)

This verse returns to the voice of Isaiah, who presents four different models that show the ridiculousness of a tool claiming superiority to the person who uses the tool. Assyria is, of course, the tool that the Lord uses to punish the Northern Kingdom, and so they are just as nutty to claim that they are superior to God.

16 Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of Hosts,

send among his fat ones, leanness;

and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.

Isaiah 10:16 is virtually identical.

NB the “therefore” that begins the verse–it is the irrational boasting of the Assyrians as described in v14-16 that causes this judgment to come about.

The Lord will punish the Assyrians with a wasting disease (or famine?) and consuming fire.

17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire,

and his Holy One for a flame,

and shall burn and shall devour his thorns and his briers in one day;

Isaiah 10:17 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes takes “Light of Israel” as a title for God, which makes a nice link to the sending of fire in v16 and a nice parallelism with the 2nd line in this verse.

“His thorns and briers” = his is the Assyrian king.

The Assyrians will be consumed by the fire of God for their arrogance.

18 And shall consume the glory of his forest,

and of his fruitful field, both soul and body;

and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth.

Isaiah 10:18 is virtually identical.

soul and body = indicates totality, in this case all of Assyria’s land

The last line is textually uncertain; it may refer to wasting away from disease. In any case, it is a picture of destruction.

Read along with v17, v18 suggests that every last bit of Assyria’s land will be destroyed by the first of the Lord

19 And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few,

that a child may write them.

Isaiah 10:19 is virtually identical.

Point: there will be so few trees left unscathed that a small child will be able to count them.

The trees may be a symbol for Assyrian leaders here.

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

Isaiah 10:20 is virtually identical.

NB that we are back to prose here.

remnant of Israel = those left in the land

such as are escaped of the house of Jacob = those left from the tribe of Jacob

After these judgments, the people left will no longer put their trust in foreign leaders (namely, the Assyrians) who beat them up, but in God.

21 The remnant shall return, yea, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.

Isaiah 10:21 is virtually identical.

22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.

Isaiah 10:22 is virtually identical.

The gist: although Israel was as numerous as the sand, only a small group will return from captivity.

Netbible for the end of the verse:

Destruction has been decreed; just punishment is about to engulf you

How do you read this verse in light of the promises made to Abraham about his descendants being as the sands of the sea?

23 For the Lord God of Hosts shall make a consumption, even determined in all the land.

Isaiah 10:23 ends with “in the midst of all the land.”

The point of this verse is that the Lord is ready and determined to bring this judgment about.

24 Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of Hosts: O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.

Isaiah 10:24 is virtually identical.

This is sort of a funny verse: “do not be afraid of these people who are about to beat you up like you were in Egypt.” But perhaps the message is that, just like they endured suffering by the Egyptians but were ultimately saved by the Lord, they will also be ultimately saved by the Lord from the Assyrians. In neither case would their fear of earthly foes have helped anything.

25 For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.

Isaiah 10:25 is virtually identical.

This is an interesting contrast to the “for all this his anger is not turned away” refrain above, inasmuch as it is a promise that the Lord’s anger will not last forever (or even very long).

26 And the Lord of Hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and as his rod was upon the sea so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.

Isaiah 10:26 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

The Lord who commands armies is about to beat them with a whip, similar to the way he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb. He will use his staff against the sea, lifting it up as he did in Egypt.

See Judges 7:25 for the Oreb story.

27 And it shall come to pass in that day

that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder,

and his yoke from off thy neck,

and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.

Isaiah 10:27 is virtually identical.

NB that we are back to poetry here.

There is general disagreement about the text of the last line, so “because of the anointing” is very uncertain.

General note on v24-27: The Lord reminds them that he saved them from the Egyptians and the Midianites and that, therefore, they can count on the Lord to save them from the Assyrians as well.

28 He is come to Aiath,

he is passed to Migron;

at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages.

Isaiah 10:28 is virtually identical.

Netbible notes: “Verses 28-32 describe an invasion of Judah from the north. There is no scholarly consensus on when this particular invasion took place, if at all.

29 They are gone over the passage;

they have taken up their lodging at Geba;

Ramath is afraid;

Gibeah of Saul is fled.

Isaiah 10:29 is virtually the same.

30 Lift up the voice, O daughter of Gallim;

cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth.

Isaiah 10:30 is virtually identical.

31 Madmenah is removed;

the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee.

Isaiah 10:31 is virtually identical.

32 As yet shall he remain at Nob that day;

he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion,

the hill of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 10:32 is virtually identical.

33 Behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts

shall lop the bough with terror;

and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down;

and the haughty shall be humbled.

Isaiah 10:33 is virtually identical.

With this verse there is a shift: no longer is a terrifying, methodical invasion of Judah pictured, but rather the Lord reacting and stopping the attackers. The Lord is pictured as a lumberjack of sorts, cutting down the Assyrians.

34 And he shall cut down the thickets of the forests with iron,

and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.

Isaiah 10:34 is virtually identical.

“With iron” probably means “with an ax.”

Lebanon here probably does not refer to the Lord destroying the land of Lebanon, but rather continues the image of trees being cut down since Lebanon was known for its forests. In other words, the power and determination of the Lord was such that the Lord could single-handedly destroy the entire forests of Lebanon.

CHAPTER 21

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:1 is virtually identical, but it capitalizes “branch.”

Is it somewhat unusual to refer to David’s father (Jesse) instead of David himself. Perhaps this was done to emphasize that the person who would come forth was not just another Davidic king who would fail, but a new David. It may also refer to Jesse because his family was humble (whereas David is thought of as more regal).

rod out of the stem = shoot out of root

branch out of roots = bud will grow out of roots

NB that we just finished a chapter where the trees (=Assyria and/or its leaders) would be cut down. Here in this verse is a description of the kind of growth that the Lord will provide instead. We might imagine the chastisements described in the previous chapters as leaving just stumps; this verse describes the new growth.

Thomas Constable: “The figure of a branch (Heb. neser, sapling), referring to Messiah, also appears in Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15 and in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.”

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

Isaiah 11:2 does not capitalize “spirit.”

Discussion: If we want to read this chapter messianically, what incidents from Jesus’ life show these gifts?

3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord;

and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,

neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.

Isaiah 11:3 is virtually identical.

What is this verse suggesting about the trustworthiness of the sense and/or outward appearances?

I love the Netbible translation for the first line of this verse: “He will take delight in obeying the Lord.”

The third line might suggest that he will not judge based on hearsay; the second on what (limited) evidence is available to his eyes. (In other words, the verse might not be a slam against the senses or appearances, but rather just an acknowledgement that those things are limited.)

4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,

and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Isaiah 11:4 is virtually identical.

judge = render judgment (so: he will be fair even to the poor)

The 2nd line is parallel to the first: he will treat the meek equitably.

rod of his mouth = sceptre, symbol of royal authority

breath of his lips = speech (he will order execution for those who deserve it)

The witness of the OT is very powerful: righteous rulers have a preferential option for the poor. We’ve had some general descriptions of this person in the beginning of the chapter, but the first concrete thing he is described as doing is being fair to the poor, in a world where the poor usually couldn’t compete with the bribes and reputations of the wealthy in getting equal justice.

5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,

and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

Isaiah 11:5 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

Justice will be like a belt around his waist,

integrity will be like a belt around his hips.

What does this image suggest to you? That his commitment to justice and integrity are obvious from the outside? That they are surrounding him? That they are part of him? That he chooses every day to put them on?

6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

and the calf and the young lion and fatling together;

and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 11:6 is virtually identical.

These animals are predator-prey pairs; they could not normally be controlled by a child. The fact that they dwell together suggests (1) that the natural order has been reversed and (2) a time of unprecedented, unimaginable peace exists.

Given the strong condemnations of those who take advantage of the poor, this verse (and the next) might symbolically suggest that those who prey on others will do so no longer because of the reign of justice that this leaders has instituted.

7 And the cow and the bear shall feed;

their young ones shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

Isaiah 11:7 is virtually identical.

This verse continues the image of peace where one would not expect it.

The “natural” eating habits of predators will change. What might this symbolize?

8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.

Isaiah 11:8 omits the “s” after the apostrophe after cockatrice. ;0

sucking child = child young enough to still be breastfeeding

By mentioning both the sucking child and the weaned child, a picture of complete safety for all children is suggested.

Again, it is likely that this is a symbol for the lack of danger to the innocent in the human world as opposed to a literal prediction.

9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,

as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9 is virtually identical.

A summary verse here–NB that the effect of knowing the Lord is that no innocent people are hurt (as the beginning of this verse and several verses before it suggest). Therefore, a metric of how well we know the Lord is how well we treat people who are vulnerable to being oppressed.

10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,

which shall stand for an ensign of the people;

to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:10 is virtually identical.

ensign = signal flag in battle

his rest = residence

11 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

Isaiah 11:11 is virtually identical.

12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations,

and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel,

and gather together the dispersed of Judah

from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 11:12 is virtually identical

13 The envy of Ephraim also shall depart,

and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off;

Ephraim shall not envy Judah,

and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

Isaiah 11:13 is virtually identical.

1st line = Ephraim will quit being envious

“adversaries” probably means something like “hostility.”

In other words, the tribes will quit fighting each other.

14 But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west;

they shall spoil them of the east together;

they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab;

and the children of Ammon shall obey them.

Isaiah 11:14 is virtually identical.

fly = they are compared with birds of prey

Because the tribes will no longer be fighting among themselves, they will be able to conquer all of their historic enemies, which will allow them to take over the entire Promised Land.

15 And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea;

and with his mighty wind he shall shake his hand over the river,

and shall smite it in the seven streams,

and make men go over dry shod.

Isaiah 11:15 is virtually identical.

The first line pictures the Lord once again dividing the Red Sea.

2nd line river is the Euphrates River. This verse pictures the Lord conquering both of Israel’s historic enemies, Egypt and Babylon, by drying up their rivers.

16 And there shall be a 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.

Isaiah 11:16 is virtually identical.

The drying up of rivers in v15 created a highway so that those who hadn’t returned from the Babylonian captivity could now return easily, just as the Israelites left Egypt.

General comment: There is no concrete indication of the identity of the person described in this chapter. It seems to me that we have two options: read the text more literally, and think of the person described as a political leader in (Isaiah’s future) or read the text less literally, and think of the person as the messiah. JS-H 1:40 (“In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled.”) suggests that the verses do not have to do with a political leader closer to Isaiah’s time (unless we choose to read the chapter as having more than one level of fulfillment . . .), but rather of the future Messiah.

Here’s the outline I used the last time I taught this chapter:

Draw a tree on the board.
Read verse 1 and D&C 113:1-4.

Erase the leaves.

Stem means ‘stump,’ or what is left after branches are removed.

‘Rod’ means a branch removed, polished, and used as a shepherd’s rod.

Ask: Why these symbols? What should you learn from them?

–Christ will be born after the ‘foliage’ of Jesse’s line has departed.

–Christ provides the source and nourishment to the servant.

–The servant will be shaped, polished, refined.

–The role of the servant is to lead, nudge, etc. the people.

–Digression: rod isn’t to beat sheep (or kids!)

As we read verses 2-4, think about incidents from Jesus’ life that showed these qualities.

Point out: ‘quick’ usually meant alive as opposed to lifeless.

Ask: What events from Jesus’ life manifested these qualitites?

Read verse 5 and point out that the girdle is a symbol of strength. So, Christ gets his strength from righteousness and faithfulness. A great image.

As we read verses 6-9, consider why Isaiah chose to describe the millennium this way.

‘Fatling’ means a fat cow, asp and cockatrice are serpents.

Ask: Why this description of the millennium? What does it convey?

Ask: What difference do the teachings about the millennium make to your life?

Ask: Why ‘as the waters cover the sea’?

Point out: Differing opinions on how literally to take this.

Read verse 10 and D & C 113:5-6.

‘Root of Jesse’ has been applied to:

(1) Joseph Smith

(2) prophet at time of Second Coming

(3) all/most prophets of our dispensation

Point out: ‘ensign’ means banner/flag–a rallying point for warriors.

Ask: What should the image of the ensign teach us about our relationship to the prophet?

Point out: nations mentioned in verse 11 represent ‘the world’ to Isaiah. Read verse 11.

Ask: What, then, is being prophesied in verse 11?

Ask: How is the idea of gathering relevant to your life?

Point out: Ephraim and Judah are parts of house of Israel. Read verses 12-13.

Ask: What, then, is being prophesied here?

Ask: We can all think of things that divide church members. Any ideas for getting past these divisions to help fulfill this prophecy?

Point out: Philistines represent Gentiles. Edom, Moab, and Ammon are enemies. Read verse 14.

Ask: What is being prophesied and how is this relevant to your life?

Point out: Egypt and Assyria are a special class of enemies because they held the Israelites in bondage. Read verses 15-16.

Ask: As you think about bondage to sin, what do these verses teach you?

Point out: The highway in verse 16. The atonement makes the path back to God

easy for us.

Note that the millennium was described (verses 6-9) before the process leading to it. Why?

Point out: this entire chapter was quoted to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni “saying that it was about to be fulfilled.” Scan this chapter, thinking about why Joseph needed to know that at that point in his mission.

CHAPTER 22

1 And in that day thou shalt say:

O Lord, I will praise thee;

though thou wast angry with me

thine anger is turned away,

and thou comfortedest me.

Isaiah 12:1 is virtually identical.

2 Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and not be afraid;

for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song;

he also has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12:2 has “is become” instead of “has become.”

“Song” might mean “reason to sing,” that is, for joy. It may also be another noun meaning “strength.”

3 Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12:3 is virtually identical.

Water would have been a very potent symbol of “necessity” for these desert-dwellers.

4 And in that day shall ye say:

Praise the Lord,

call upon his name,

declare his doings among the people,

make mention that his name is exalted.

Isaiah 12:4 is virtually identical.

5 Sing unto the Lord;

for he hath done excellent things;

this is known in all the earth.

Isaiah 12:5 is virtually identical.

6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion;

for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Isaiah 12:6 is virtually identical.

CHAPTER 23

1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

Isaiah 13:1 is virtually identical.

burden = message

Thomas Constable: “When the prophet lived and wrote, Babylon was a real entity within Assyria, but Isaiah used it to represent all the nations in that area that shared its traits (cf. Gen. 9:20-25; Rev. 17—18).”

2 Lift ye up a banner upon

the high mountain,

exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand,

that they may go into the gates of the nobles.

Isaiah 13:2 is virtually identical.

The speaker in this verse is the Lord.

Netbible:

On a bare hill raise a signal flag,

shout to them,

wave your hand,

so they might enter the gates of the princes!

3 I have commanded my sanctified ones,

I have also called my mighty ones,

for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.

Isaiah 13:3 is a little different after the first line: “I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.”

sanctified ones = in context, probably the soldiers that the Lord has chosen to implement his will

In the Isaiah version, “I have . . . mine anger” means that the Lord has called soldiers through whom his anger will be known. I’m not sure what point the BoM version is getting at.

4 The noise of the 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 hosts of the battle.

Isaiah 13:4 has “host” singular but is otherwise the same.

This verse describes the great noises associated with armies getting ready for battle.

5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, yea, the Lord,

and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.

Isaiah 13:5 is virtually identical.

The point of the first line is that these attacking soldiers come from the Lord.

The image of soldiers coming at the behest of the Lord and to deliver his judgment continues.

6 Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand;

it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.

Isaiah 13:6 is virtually identical.

7 Therefore shall all hands be faint,

every man’s heart shall melt;

Isaiah 13:7 is virtually identical.

The fear produced by this army causes people to be faint and lose courage.

8 And they shall be afraid;

pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them;

they shall be amazed one at another;

their faces shall be as flames.

Isaiah 13:8 has “they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth:” as the middle line of this verse.

This verse continues the picture of fear and panic.

9 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh,

cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,

to lay the land desolate;

and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

Isaiah 13:9 is virtually identical.

General question related to this section: to what extent should we be preaching fire, brimstone, panic, and destruction to motivate people to righteousness?

Netbible:

Look, the Lord’s day of judgment is coming;

it is a day of cruelty and savage, raging anger,

destroying the earth

and annihilating its sinners.

Netbible notes for the 2nd line: “Heb “[with] cruelty, and fury, and rage of anger.” Three synonyms for “anger” are piled up at the end of the line to emphasize the extraordinary degree of divine anger that will be exhibited in this judgment.”

10 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.

Isaiah 13:10 is virtually identical.

One can only imagine how terrifying this would be to the people who experience it. (That said, there is a reasonable debate to be had as to whether this should be interpreted literally or symbolically–it clearly describes events in Isaiah’s future, but in what way does it describe them?)

11 And I will punish the world for evil,

and the wicked for their iniquity;

I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease,

and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.

Isaiah 13:11 reads “punish the world for their evil.” It also has “lay low” instead of “lay down.”

12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold;

even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

Isaiah 13:12 is virtually identical.

more precious = more scarce (and, hence, more valuable)

13 Therefore, I will shake the heavens,

and the earth shall remove out of her place,

in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts,

and in the day of his fierce anger.

Isaiah 13:13 is virtually identical.

The anger of the Lord will be so great that the very heavens and earth will shake.

14 And it shall be as the chased roe,

and as a sheep that no man taketh up;

and they shall every man turn to his own people,

and flee every one into his own land.

Isaiah 13:14 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

Like a frightened gazelle

or a sheep with no shepherd,

each will turn toward home,

each will run to his homeland.

15 Every one that is proud shall be thrust through;

yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.

Isaiah 13:15 is virtually identical.

Summary: everyone is killed.

16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes;

their houses shall be spoiled

and their wives ravished.

Isaiah 13:16 is virtually identical.

Summary: anyone not yet dead gets to watch their children killed and their wives raped.

Just so you haven’t lost the train of thought from the beginning of the chapter, let me remind you that what is happening here is that the Lord has summoned soldiers and called them into battle . . . to kill people, kill their children, and rape their wives. How does this challenge our notions of God and our notions of justice and our notions of agency? Or are we just supposed to be happy that the bad guys in Babylon are finally getting what we think they deserve?

17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver

and gold, nor shall they delight in it.

Isaiah 13:17 has “and as for gold.”

The “them” in this verse is Babylon.

The gist of this verse is that they can’t even be bribed to go away.

18 Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces;

and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb;

their eyes shall not spare children.

Isaiah 13:18 is virtually identical.

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,

shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

Isaiah 13:19 is virtually identical.

This verse begins by emphasizing how beautiful and powerful Babylon is, only to then point out that it will all be destroyed.

20 It shall never be inhabited,

neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation:

neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there;

neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

Isaiah 13:20 is virtually identical.

This verse pictures permanent desolation.

21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there;

and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures;

and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.

Isaiah 13:21 is virtually identical.

their houses = implies the destroyed houses, which will now be occupied by animals, as the final line suggests

22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses,

and dragons in their pleasant palaces;

and her time is near to come,

and her day shall not be prolonged.

For I will destroy her speedily;

yea, for I will be merciful unto my people,

but the wicked shall perish.

Isaiah 13:22 omits everything beginning for “For I will destroy . . .” This change perhaps puts a dash of hope into this oracle, especially if you think any of “my people” might be among the Babylonians. Even if not, it does at least emphasize the idea that this destruction is in a larger, moral context. (If you think destruction in any context can be moral.)

dragons is probably jackals

The picture in the first two lines is of animals having taken over all the buildings.

Thomas Constable: “Has this prophecy been fulfilled? Babylon suffered defeat in 689 B.C. when Assyria (including the Medes), under Sennacherib, devastated it (cf. 23:13), but the city was rebuilt. Many interpreters believe that the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. to Cyrus fulfilled this prophecy,[157] but Cyrus left the city intact. Others believe the destruction that Darius Hystaspes began in 518 B.C. and Xerxes completed was the fulfillment.[158] Some scholars believe that what Isaiah predicted here never took place literally, at least completely, so the fulfillment lies in the future.” He also suggests that there might be a level of eschatological fulfillment.

CHAPTER 24

1 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.

Isaiah 14:24 is virtually identical.

yet means yet again

This verse pictures the House of Israel returning to the Promised Land because of the Lord’s mercy, and being joined there by foreigners.

2 And the people shall take them and bring them to their place;

yea, from far unto the ends of the earth;

and they shall return to their lands of promise.

And the house of Israel shall possess them,

and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids;

and they shall take them captives unto whom they were captives;

and they shall rule over their oppressors.

Isaiah 14:2 is quite different:

And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place:

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.

The added material seems directed to the Nephite situation (among others). Both versions picture a reversal that empowers the poor, although some scholars read the servants reference as suggesting that Israel will take foreigners as servants.

3 And it shall come to pass in that 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.

Isaiah 14:3 is virtually identical.

NB that the audience is addressed directly in this verse.

4 And it shall come to pass in that day,

that thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:

How hath the oppressor ceased,

the golden city ceased!

Isaiah 14:4 omits the first line.

The people are here directed to engage in a little bit of trash talk directed toward Babylon.

5 The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked,

the scepters of the rulers.

Isaiah 14:5 is virtually identical.

6 He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke,

he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

Isaiah 14:6 is virtually identical.

This verse continues the gloating of the people over the end of Babylon.

7 The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet;

they break forth into singing.

Isaiah 14:7 is virtually identical.

8 Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee,

and also the cedars of Lebanon, saying:

Since thou art laid down no feller is come up against us.

Isaiah 14:8 is virtually identical.

feller =lumberjack

NB that the people here are represented by personified trees who are also rejoicing that Babylon is no more.

This image may also be related to the fact that kings from all over sent teams of lumberjacks to Lebanon to get what was the best available wood for them, so even the trees would rejoice at the death of the king of Babylon because it would mean that they were safe.

9 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.

Isaiah 14:9 is virtually identical.

Gist: all the former kings are ready to meet you in hell!

10 All they shall speak and say unto thee:

Art thou also become weak as we?

Art thou become like unto us?

Isaiah 14:10 is virtually identical.

The kings in hell mock the King of Babylon: Now you are just as powerless as we are?

11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave;

the noise of thy viols is not heard;

the worm is spread under thee,

and the worms cover thee.

Isaiah 14:11 omits “is not heard” (although I think it is assumed from the first line).

Netbible for the last two lines (how could I resist?):

You lie on a bed of maggots,

with a blanket of worms over you.

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!

Isaiah 14:12 reads “how art thou cut down to the ground.”

KJV is the only version to use “Lucifer” here. Other versions use things like “shining one” or “morning star.”

In context, Isaiah is referring to the Babylonian king. If we want to apply this to Lucifer/Satan, we need to make sense of the previous verses, that show a record of leadership and destruction on Lucifer’s part *before* he is cut down and sent to hell.

13 For thou hast said in thy 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;

Isaiah 14:13 is virtually identical.

This verse describes the hubris of the Babylonian king in believing that he was greater than God.

“mount of the congragation” is imagining a counsel of gods (kind of like Olympus) that he thinks he will rule.

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will be like the Most High.

Isaiah 14:14 is virtually identical.

15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell,

to the sides of the pit.

Isaiah 14:15 is virtually identical.

NB the contrast with the heights he had aimed for in the previous two verses.

16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee,

and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?

Isaiah 14:16 is virtually identical.

The Babylonian king will have fallen so very far that people will look at him and wonder if he could possibly be who he is/was.

17 And made the world as a wilderness,

and destroyed the cities thereof,

and opened not the house of his prisoners?

Isaiah 14:17 is virtually identical.

Continuing from the previous verse, the people wonder if this could actually be the Babylonian king because he has fallen so far.

18 All the kings of the nations,

yea, all of them, lie in glory,

every one of them in his own house.

Isaiah 14:18 omits “of them” before “in his own house.”

This verse refers to the beautiful graves/tombs that kings normally enjoy.

19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch,

and the remnant of those that are slain,

thrust through with a sword,

that go down to the stones of the pit;

as a carcass trodden under feet.

Isaiah 14:18 has “raiment” instead of “remnant.” (Sounds like a transcription error to me.) Skousen thinks “raiment” was original.

In other words, this king will be cast out of his grave; his corpse will join those who have dishonorable deaths

20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial,

because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people;

the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.

Isaiah 14:20 is virtually identical.

Summary: because of your evil, you won’t enjoy the nice burial other kings get.

If you want to apply this passage to Lucifer, what might this section about “dishonorable burial” mean? What could it symbolize?

21 Prepare slaughter for his children

for the iniquities of their fathers,

that they do not rise,

nor possess the land,

nor fill the face of the world with cities.

Isaiah 14:21 is virtually identical.

This verse envisions the killing of the king’s sons so they don’t continue their father’s tactics.

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.

Isaiah 14:22 is virtually identical.

23 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.

Isaiah 14:23 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

“I will turn her into a place that is overrun with wild animals

and covered with pools of stagnant water.

I will get rid of her, just as one sweeps away dirt with a broom,”

says the Lord who commands armies.

24 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—

Isaiah 14:24 is virtually identical.

The Lord affirms that everything described above will actually happen to Babylon.

25 That I will bring 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.

Isaiah 14:25 is virtually identical, except for “break” instead of “bring.”

Skousen thinks “break” instead of “bring” was original here.

26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth;

and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all nations.

Isaiah 14:26 is virtually identical.

27 For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul?

And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Isaiah 14:27 is virtually identical.

This is a nice, general verse about the power of the Lord to follow through with plans. (Of course, in this context, it is about covering the king of Babylon with maggots.)

28 In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

Isaiah 14:28 is virtually identical.

This is probably about 715BCE.

burden = message

29 Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina,

because the rod of him that smote thee is broken;

for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice,

and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

Isaiah 14:29 is virtually identical.

Netbible:

Don’t be so happy, all you Philistines,

just because the club that beat you has been broken!

For a viper will grow out of the serpent’s root,

and its fruit will be a darting adder.

30 And the first-born of the poor shall feed,

and the needy shall lie down in safety;

and I will kill thy root with famine,

and he shall slay thy remnant.

Isaiah 14:30 is virtually identical.

The first two verses suggest that the Lord will take care of the poor. The last two suggest that Assyria, however, will die from famine.

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.

Isaiah 14:31 is virtually identical.

The meaning of the final line is uncertain, but the overall picture of this verse is mourning at destruction.

32 What shall then answer the messengers of the nations?

That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.

Isaiah 14:32 has “what shall one then answer.”

The first line asks how these enemies will respond to this destruction, given how well the Lord has taken care of the poor.

CHAPTER 25

1 Now I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.

How much weight do you give “spoken by the mouth of Isaiah” in terms of authorship and/or mode of transmission?

The Nephites are one or zero generations removed from Jerusalem, so what is it that made it hard for them to understand Isaiah?

What specifically constitutes Isaiah’s “manner of prophesying”? (For me, it is (1) use of biblical poetry, (2) sudden and unnoted changes in speaker/audience, and (3) oracles with multiple referents.)

Why do you think Nephi, Jacob, and Jesus (in 3 Nephi) were so big on a prophet who was/is so hard to understand? What might the emphasis on a prophet who is hard to understand teach us about studying and interpreting the scriptures?

2 For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.

Is Nephi saying that Isaiah’s manner of prophesying was dark and abominable? (Seems hard to justify that reading!) If not, then why didn’t he teach his people how to understand Isaiah? (It seems like Nephi could have made a distinction between Jewish traditions better left behind and those worth keeping; they did, after all, keep teaching their people about the Law of Moses.)

Another possibility: What if “their” modified the Nephites and not the Jews? What if Nephi didn’t teach them about Isaiah’s (complicated) method of prophesying because he was so busy with Lesson Number One? I think this theory might make better sense of v3 as well.

If Nephi and Jacob delighted in Isaiah so much, why didn’t they make it possible for their children to understand those things?

3 Wherefore, I write unto my people, unto all those that shall receive hereafter these things which I write, that they may know the judgments of God, that they come upon all nations, according to the word which he hath spoken.

It seems that at this point, Nephi will teach us how to understand Isaiah. How does that square with his position in the previous verse?

4 Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. But I give unto you a prophecy, according to the spirit which is in me; wherefore I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out from Jerusalem with my father; for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn.

Nephi here teaches that Isaiah will be “plain” if you have the spirit of prophecy. However, if you have the spirit of prophecy, what is the point of using it to decipher a text as opposed to using it to understand whatever matter is currently in front of you? Further, is this saying that Nephi’s people did not have the spirit of prophecy–if they had, shouldn’t they have been able to understand Isaiah even if they didn’t understand the manner of prophesying of the Jews?

5 Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.

6 But behold, I, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews; but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about; and I have made mention unto my children concerning the judgments of God, which hath come to pass among the Jews, unto my children, according to all that which Isaiah hath spoken, and I do not write them.

7 But behold, I proceed with mine own prophecy, according to my plainness; in the which I know that no man can err; nevertheless, 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.

Reminds me of Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it.” ;)

8 Wherefore, they are of worth unto the children of men, and he that supposeth that they are not, unto them will I speak particularly, and confine the words unto mine own people; for I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them.

To summarize, Nephi seems to be saying that the message of Isaiah was a lost cause for his people, because he wasn’t about to teach them how to understand Isaiah. On the other hand, people in a future time would be able to understand Isaiah. Is this a fair summary?

9 And as one generation hath been destroyed among the Jews because of iniquity, even so have they been destroyed from generation to generation according to their iniquities; and never hath any of them been destroyed save it were foretold them by the prophets of the Lord.

This is an interpretive key to understanding Isaiah: we can read Isaiah as affirming the idea that the Lord will not destroy people before warning them, through prophets, of the impending (and, presumably, conditional) destruction. Isaiah is a witness to this, because he warned people who were about to be destroyed.

10 Wherefore, it hath been told them concerning the destruction which should come upon them, immediately after my father left Jerusalem; nevertheless, they hardened their hearts; and according to my prophecy they have been destroyed, save it be those which are carried away captive into Babylon.

NB that he’s reading Isaiah here as referring to events in/near his own time.

11 And now this I speak because of the spirit which is in me. And notwithstanding they have been carried away they shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem; wherefore, they shall be restored again to the land of their inheritance.

This is also suggested by Isaiah if, again, one reads fairly literally and short-term.

12 But, behold, they shall have wars, and rumors of wars; and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh, behold, they will reject him, because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks.

How do you reconcile this verse with modern LDS theology regarding the roles of the Godhead?

13 Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.

“With healing in his wings” strikes me as an awfully metaphorical statement lumped into a verse that otherwise reads like history-in-advance.

14 And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church.

15 Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.

This seems to be summary of the Isaiah chapters.

16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.

17 And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

18 Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews.

19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

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

What does this verse suggest about ways in which we might understand the stories found in the OT?

Does the kind of typological reading taught here impact how we should read the previous chapters about Isaiah? (If that were Nephi’s intention, however, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have used an example from Isaiah?)

Interesting article on the dual nature of serpent symbolism in the scriptures.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=46&chapid=255

21 Wherefore, for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand.

22 Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

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.

27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

28 And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

29 And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

30 And, inasmuch as it shall be expedient, ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses.

General questions:

(1) What function is served by the repetition of material from Isaiah in the BoM, especially since the vast majority of the material is virtually identical to its KJV version?

(2) Sydney B. Sperry:

There are 433 verses of Isaiah in the Nephite record. Of these, 234 verses were changed or modified by the Prophet Joseph Smith so that they do not conform with the King James Version. Some of the changes made were slight, others were radical. However, 199 verses are word for word the same as the old English version. We therefore freely admit that Joseph Smith used the King James Version when he came to the text of Isaiah on the gold plates. As long as the familiar version substantially agreed with the text on the gold plates record he let it pass; when it differed too much, he translated the Nephite version and dictated the necessary changes. Citation

A couple of things here: my notes above suggest that the overwhelming majority of changed verses are so minor as not to change the meaning. And a few may be errors due to a scribe mis-hearing a word.

Next, what do you think of Sperry’s position that JS just read from the KJV? Does that seem likely to you? What does that imply about the translation process? Does it conflict with Emma’s statement that he never worked with a book while translating? (Could he have had portions of the KJV memorized?)

(3) Skousen estimates that 1/3 of the changes to the Isaiah text affect the words that are in the italics in the KJV. (Note that the italics are used for words with no equilavent in the Hebrew text–usually needed in English to render a smooth translation.) Does this impact how you think of the KJV italics?

(4) Joe Spencer:

Importantly,

the thus privileged “more sacred things” consist of what the record describes

as the words of three witnesses: (1) Nephi’s brother Jacob, who

quotes and comments on Isaiah 50–51 (and a few verses from Isaiah 49),

(2) Isaiah, in the shape of the “Isaiah chapters,” and (3) Nephi himself,

whose contribution is systematically built on an appropriation of Isaiah

29 (and a few other scattered references to Isaianic texts). That Isaiah is

sandwiched between the other two witnesses appears to be intentional,

since they both consistently and explicitly defer to Isaiah. From the beginning

to the end of the “more sacred things,” explicitly structurally

privileged in the small plates, Isaiah is the star of the show. Citation

That’s all, folks.

Update:  Nice post here on the G&A church.

10 Responses to BMGD #9: 2 Nephi 11-25

  1. LDS Anarchist on February 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    May I suggest you put the whole thing in sense lines, without punctuation or capitalization, and use indentations to indicate quotations. Also, you might want to put beholds and other textual pauses in bold or bold type. Finally, divide the text into the original chapters found on the plates themselves, such as the first edition of the BoM had. Then you’ll see that Isaiah becomes a breeze to read. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

    and in that day thou shalt say

    o lord i will praise thee
    though thou wast angry with me
    thine anger is turned away
    and thou comfortedest me
    behold
    god is my salvation
    i will trust and not be afraid
    for the lord jehovah is my strength and my song
    he also has become my salvation

    therefore
    with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation
    and in that day shall ye say

    praise the lord

    Etc. (I’m not sure if that formatting will come out right in this comment. We’ll see when I press the “post comment” button…)

  2. Julie M. Smith on February 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    LDS Anarchist, that’s a great idea. I always recommend that people try to outline the passage as part of their study, and this is a clever way to do that. It may even avoid the junior high English trauma flashbacks some people have when I use the word “outline.”

  3. ricke on February 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    “People, the text might seem impenetrable as it stands, but it just isn’t that hard with the right tools.”

    So, I’m just wondering why people who presumably have the right tools are unable to interpret passages in the same way (compare commentaries and translations by Gileadi, Nyman, Parry, etc.).

  4. Julie M. Smith on February 21, 2012 at 9:22 am

    ricke, I didn’t suggest that the right tools would lead to unanimity in interpretation; I did suggest that it would lead to an end to the sense that Isaiah is impenetrable.

  5. Mark B. on February 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks, Julie. I’ll have to get back at this when I’m not at work. But I will echo your dismay at the way the Sunday School treats these passages.

    Have they no sense of irony? How can they read Nephi’s praise of the words of Isaiah, and then simply suggest that we ignore them? Arrrrggghhh!!

  6. Ben S. on February 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Excellent stuff (though I haven’t been able to do more than skim.) You’ll have a Book of Mormon commentary finished at the end of the year, if you can maintain it that long.

  7. Tim J on February 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I think the main reason we skim the Book of Mormon Isaiah chapters is because they are covered a bit more in depth during the OT year which 5 straight weeks in Isaiah–which still isn’t enough but I would hate to be the guy that decides how to divvy up the BOM into 48 sections giving appropriate attention to the deserving sections.

  8. Sam Brunson on February 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Tim J,
    That’s probably absolutely true. But it would be cool if they (a) devoted more than one year to a book of scripture, or (b) explicitly said, We’re not going to hit the whole BoM, and instead picked a few areas to spend real time on.

    Of course, that would presumably mean that we’d need more than one manual, and we wouldn’t just repeat the same thing every four years. But one can dream.

    And again, Julie, thanks! I’m using your questions and commentaries as I read my scriptures this year, and they’re immensely helpful.

  9. Tim J on February 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Agree with everything you said, Sam.

  10. Mark B. on February 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I agree with Sam, too. One problem with the current approach is that they do this every year (or every fourth year)–there’s never any guidance in the teachers’ manual that would help the teacher actually teach something about what Isaiah. And they always seem to point out Nephi’s statements about how much he loved Isaiah, how his words could be understood if one had the spirit of prophecy (and knew the manner of prophesying among the Jews), about how Isaiah saw the Redeemer and prophesied all things concerning the House of Israel–and then the lesson proceeds to ignore almost everything in those 13 chapters.

WELCOME

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