This is, of course, an explicit quotation of Isaiah 53, and in this case there’s very few textual differences between the passage as we have it here and as we find it in the King James Version (for those differences – and an example of part of the same passage being quoted very differently in Alma 7:11//Isaiah 53:4 – see the appendix in The Book of Mormon and its relationship with the Bible)
One thing that struck me when reading this passage today – and this was actually prompted by a question from someone about verse 12 – is how so much of this chapter is about the various paradoxes and ironies that are part and parcel of the atonement itself. Going through the chapter itself:
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
(Mosiah 14:2//Isaiah 53:2)
Despite being the long looked for Saviour and deliverer, he will not be seen as an attractive figure. Our expectations are so different you still see it (our expectations) in our artwork.
He isand rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Mosiah 14:3//Isaiah 53:3)
Instead he shall be rejected; I believe this refers not just to those who rejected him at the time, but those who learn of him and reject him now, who reject his teachings and regad his life with little esteem. While bringing a message of ultimate joy he himself will experience sorrow and be “acquainted with grief”.
Surely he hasour , and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
(Mosiah 14:4//Isaiah 53:4)
Indeed, he’ll bare our pains and sorrows, but people won’t see that, and will regard him as suffering on his own account.
But he wasfor our , he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are .
(Mosiah 14:5//Isaiah 53:5)
Yet out of his wounds and sufferings will come peace and healing for us.
All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
(Mosiah 14:6-7//Isaiah 53:6-7)
Christ will have placed upon him all our iniquities, and be taken like a sheep to be slaughtered, yet it is we who are the sheep who have gone astray, and who have done all that he is suffering the penalty for.
He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
(Mosiah 14:8, 10//Isaiah 53:8, 10)
Christ will be cut out of the land of the living with no descendants for our transgressions, and yet Christ shall also see his seed (his children: us) and “prolong his days” (live forever more).
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with thein his death; because he had done no , neither was any deceit in his mouth.
(Mosiah 14:9//Isaiah 53:9)
Christ, despite being innocent of any evil and any deceit, will be executed and placed amongst the wicked (think the thieves – robbers – being crucified alongside him) and despite his poverty, placed amongst the rich in his death (my thought here is of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb).
He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shalltheir iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the, and shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made for the transgressors.
(Mosiah 14:11-12//Isaiah 53:11-12)
Christ will be “numbered with the transgressors” in the mode of his death, suffering the death of a vile criminal in what surely looks like a defeat. And yet by that death he bears our sins and intercedes for the actual transgressors, namely us. And that apparent defeat, that loss to death, will paradoxically be the greatest victory over death, and so he will be numbered amongst the greatest of conquerors and rulers: the act of dividing the spoil is associated with the victorious in war (see for instance 1 Samuel 30:16-26). By his victory he has delivered many, allowing us to take our place as subjects of his kingdom, and before him every knee shall bow, including all those great kings and strong ones of the past. Moreover, while those worldly conquerors before him have merely conquered cities, nations and peoples, he has taken death itself as his captive and conquered sin, those enemies which have defeated all before and since. For the greatest paradox of the atonement is that from his death comes life.