2 Nephi 8

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner. But my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

(2 Nephi 8:6//Isaiah 51:6)

So much of what I find myself worried about, or thinking about or even simply curious about is in the grand scheme of things so impermanent. As the Lord speaks through Isaiah here, even the earth and the heavens are fleeting and will pass away. So why do I expend so much energy and so much thought and so much emotion of that which does not last, good or bad? While some of those things must take their proper place, surely what I should be most worried about is those things which are permanent, such as the Lord and the salvation he offers?

Edit 2020:

This chapter continues the quotation from Isaiah, now covering Isaiah 51 and 52:1-2. Much of this chapter seems to be offering reassurance, that despite any present trial or suffering Zion (and by analogy us) will be redeemed, and emphasising both the ephemerality of those things that trouble us, and the power of God in contrast. Thus in addition to the verse quoted above there’s some other powerful passages along the same lines:

Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart I have written my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool. But my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

(2 Nephi 8:7-8//Isaiah 51:7-8)

It can be natural to worry about what other people think or say about us or to us, but these are likewise temporary things, and it is God’s opinion, and the consequences that flow from that, that are of lasting import. Verse 12-13 likewise touch on this point.

Verses 9-11 are particularly interesting:

Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?

Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?

Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

This is mostly a reference to the Exodus, Rahab being Egypt and the dragon (Hebrew: תַּנִּֽין tannin, lit: sea monster/serpent) can be seen as standing for Pharoah (although it has a whole host of other allusions, to the widespread – indeed near ubiquitous – myth of the chaoskampf and ultimately, I believe, to the pre-Earth struggle against the original “dragon”). The Exodus, due to its scale and spectacular nature, has become the preeminent example of God using his power to deliver his people, and so is used here as reassurance that God can and will deliver Zion in the end. Indeed, Jeremiah 16:14-15 makes an even more striking point in this regard:

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.

That is God’s work in gathering and delivering Israel in the last days will be so spectacular and miraculous that it, and not the Exodus, will henceforth become the example of God’s power.

There’s some interesting and significant differences between the passage as quoted in this chapter and as found in the Bible in verses 19-20 (underlined is text that is substituted for text in curly brackets, while bold text is found only in the BoM):

These two sons {things} are come unto thee, who shall be sorry for thee—thy desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword—and by whom shall I comfort thee?
Thy sons have fainted, save these two; they lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net, they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.

As these verses read in the bible, the two “things” that come to Israel are “desolation and destruction”, and “the famine and the sword” (two pairs). A couple of small differences make the verses here read quite differently: it is two sons who come to Israel, who shall be sorry for the desolation and destruction that have happened to it, and shall be a means of God to help Israel. These two, unlike the other sons, will not faint in the face of these perils. These two may well be connected to the two witnesses of Revelation 11. It’s an interesting example of how some fairly small insertions and substitutions can communicate new meanings (as for where such differences come from, I find it quite funny that commentators tend to ascribes such differences either to an original text – which for reasons I outline here and in tBoM&irwtB I find quite unlikely – or to Joseph Smith. It doesn’t seem to cross many minds that it might be the likes of Jacob and Nephi – and in a sense, God himself – doing it).

 

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