2 Nephi 6

And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.

(2 Nephi 6:5)

This refrain can be found elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (for instance in 1 Nephi 19:24, or Jesus himself in 3 Nephi 23:1-2): the people of the Book of Mormon are members of the house of Israel, and as Isaiah prophesied concerning the entire house of Israel, his words are applicable to them too. This is likewise true of modern Israel, by blood or adoption, and the Gentiles also (3 Nephi 23:2). Isaiah, and many of the other prophets, prophesied concerning us. If Isaiah’s words are applicable to Jacob’s audience, they are also applicable to us. Sometimes we read the scriptures as if they are purely about people long ago. Sometimes we do seek to learn some lesson from them, but in too general a fashion, failing to recognise that Isaiah and others speak about us too, being blessed by the Almighty to see our day. We should be able to read to read the scriptures and recognise ourselves in them, to place ourselves in them and to feel and understand those words as they are spoken to us, even if they were first uttered many years ago or “from the dust”.

2020 Edit:

This chapter is the beginning of a sermon by Jacob, given in 2 Nephi 6-10, and which is included with little apparent context. The sermon includes an extended quotation of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 6:16-8:25//Isaiah 49:24-52:2, making Jacob one of the four voices in the Book of Mormon (alongside Nephi, Abinadi and the risen Christ) to engage in giving extended, chapter-length quotations. What’s interesting about Jacob, however, is that he appears to be doing so principally because Nephi’s asked him to speak about Isaiah. Thus he introduces the first of the (briefer) quotations in this chapter with the following:

And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah. And they are the words which my brother has desired that I should speak unto you. And I speak unto you for your sakes, that ye may learn and glorify the name of your God.

Jacob thus introduces his Isaiah quotations by specifying that his brother has asked him to speak them. His post-Nephi writings seem to bear this out: there are no explicit quotations of Isaiah at all, let alone extended ones, although if one treats Jacob 5 as a quotation (since it’s attributed to Zenos), the habit of chapter-length quotations may not be completely alien to him.

In interpreting the passages he’s quoting, Jacob employs similar methods to that of Nephi, namely using other scripture (in this chapter, another part of Isaiah, Isaiah 11:11 in 2 Nephi 6:14), and reference to his own revelations. That’s worth noting, however: while Jacob may be quoting Isaiah under assignment from Nephi, it is to revelation he has personally received (and not simply that of his brother) that he turns in trying to interpret what he is reading. Thus the following in 2 Nephi 6:8-9 and 11 (my emphasis):

And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.

Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourge him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.

Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.

It’s also worth noting that while both Nephi and Jacob quote Isaiah 49:24-26 (in 1 Nephi 21:24-26 and in 2 Nephi 6:16-18 in this chapter), they do so quite differently. To compare:

But thus saith the Lord, even the captives [ET: captive] of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

(1 Nephi 21:25//Isaiah 49:25, ET is the reading in Skousen’s Earliest text)

But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them {him} that contendeth with thee— <and I will save thy children>

(2 Nephi 6:17//Isaiah 49:25, bold represents text not in the KJV, underlined where text has been substituted for the text in curly brackets, and text in triangular brackets is text in the KJV but not in the quotation).

To quote from The Book of Mormon and its relationship with the Bible (pp. 133-134):

Here 2 Nephi 6:17 contains both a substantial addition compared to 1 Nephi 21:25 and Isaiah 49:25, and a substantial omission (‘and I will save thy children’), the combination of which is highly unlikely to be the result of error or memory. Notably, both quotations are described as being read (1 Nephi 19:22, 2 Nephi 9:1). Likewise the Book of Mormon demonstrates elsewhere that it is perfectly capable of quoting the same passage repeatedly with little or no variation (e.g. 1 Nephi 15:18, 1 Nephi 22:9, 3 Nephi 20:25, 3 Nephi 20:27//Acts 3:25) or with the same systematic changes (e.g. 2 Nephi 12:10, 19, 21//Isaiah 2:10, 19, 21). Skousen likewise suggests based on the additional clauses that the differences seen between 1 Nephi 19:25 and 2 Nephi 6:17 are deliberate (Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants, pp. 451–52, 576–77). That ‘and I will save thy children’ is omitted in 2 Nephi 6:17 but not in 1 Nephi 21:25 when, as seen, the narrative context of 1 Nephi 20-21 (namely its audience of [p. 134] Nephi’s brothers) makes the theme of the restoration of descendants particularly applicable, further suggests the differences are not accidental.

It is unlikely that both quotations are claiming to be the reading of a more authentic ancient text, and neither version is presented as more correct than the other. That both of these quotations are openly attributed and both in the Book of Mormon likewise suggests that it is hardly concealing the fact that it is deliberately quoting the same passage differently. Again, one is reminded of Christopher Stanley’s observations of Paul, that ‘he takes no pains to conceal from his audience the fact that he has incorporated interpretive elements into the wording of his quotations’ and that he may have assumed – as perhaps the Book of Mormon does – that readers would be ‘unperturbed’ by such changes (Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture, p. 264). In addition, the differences seen here between these two quotations of Isaiah 49:25 are characteristic of the differences we see between Book of Mormon quotations and their biblical sources, including additional text that serves to expand upon a theme found already in the text (in this case once again, God’s forthcoming deliverance of his covenant people). It is therefore likely that a
number of the most significant textual differences are similarly the result of deliberate alterations.

2 thoughts on “2 Nephi 6

  1. Pingback: 2 Nephi 8 – David's random ramblings

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