Mosiah 14

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 is despised and 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 has borne our griefs, 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 was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

(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 the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, 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 shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he 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 intercession 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.

 

2 Nephi 25

2016 Comments:

There’s so much in these chapters and the next few, sadly too much to really fit into my thesis, so a case study around 2 Nephi 25-30 had to get chopped out (though some of my thoughts on this section can be found here).

A few verses that stuck out this time though:

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.

(2 Nephi 25:9)

A general pattern is being described here: ancient Israel was punished many times for their iniquities, but they were always warned first. On one hand this can be quite reassuring, especially on an individual scale (it reminds me of Elder Packer’s comment that the Lord will always warn us if we’re about to make a major mistake). On a bigger scale, it’s perhaps less reassuring, because the nations of our time have been warned: the Book of Mormon is all about the destruction of whole civilisations.

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.

(2 Nephi 25:22)

The next couple of verses tend to get a lot of attention, but there’s a lot here too. I keep coming back to this this notion of us being judged by the scriptures. When we first come into contact with them (especially the Book of Mormon), it is we who are in the position of judge, trying to determine if they are true. When we gain a spiritual witness that they are, however, that relationship changes: now we are accountable for how we measure up to them.

I find myself wanting, on many things.

2020 edit:

While included in the reading of 2 Nephi 11 onwards for 2020’s Come Follow Me schedule, 25 really begins a separate section from 2 Nephi 25-30 (indeed, there’s a chapter break at the beginning of 25 in the pre-1879 chapters too). However, it does begin by talking about interpreting Isaiah, which is why I guess it got folded into an already packed week.

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.

(2 Nephi 25:4)

If anyone struggles to understand Isaiah, apparently you are not alone in this as Nephi explains here that Isaiah is not plain, in comparison to his own writings. In verse 1 he likewise states that “Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand”. Apparently knowing “the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (v. 1), knowing “concerning the regions round about” (v. 6), and knowing about the “judgments of God, which hath come to pass among the Jews” (v. 6 again) can help in interpreting Isaiah,  but above all else it is “the spirit of prophecy” that can make Isaiah “plain”.

One important reason that prophecy is needed to understand Isaiah comes down to the fact that Isaiah wasn’t writing purely for his own time. Some of what he spoke did apply to his own time, as indicated by Nephi pointing out the utility of knowing things “which hath come to pass among the Jews”, past tense. But he spoke of other time periods as well, often at the same time, with events of different time periods mingled together, or speaking in such a way that the thing he was speaking about has multiple fulfilments in many different times and places. Thus, per 2 Nephi 16//Isaiah 6, we’ve seen that Isaiah’s own contemporary audience were not given to understand him, while Nephi goes even further:

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 25:7-8)

Isaiah will be understood when it is fulfilled, and so will only be completely understood in the last days (which we haven’t quite reached yet).

I’ve also written before about the themes on the title page (more on this in The Book of Mormon & the Bible). Here in 2 Nephi 25, however, we can see how those three themes (revelation & prophecy, the restoration of Israel, and Jesus being the Christ & eternal God) are part of a cohesive whole:

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 25:17-18)

In order to restore Israel, God will bring his words to them, and those words will convince them that Jesus is the Christ. Thus all three themes relate to the “marvelous work and a wonder” that God will carry out in the last days. And the Book of Mormon will be a tool in carrying that out, something which Nephi has become very much aware of:

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 25:21-22)

Perhaps one reason that Nephi dwells mentally so much in the future, and not so much with his own people is because he has become painfully aware that the real significance and influence of his own writings will occur several thousand years in the future. On one hand it’s an awe-inspiring and rather scary responsibility (and thus perfectly understandable that Nephi then writes of “labor[ing] diligently to write”). On the other, one can see how it’d focus one’s perspective rather differently than is the norm.

Nephi is speaking of his writing also makes a statement about grace:

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.

(2 Nephi 25:23, my emphasis)

That last clause – “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” – has often been understood as implying that God’s grace only comes after we have done everything we possibly can in terms of living righteously, as if we must become perfect first. But I believe that has been misunderstood. Such a notion is incompatible with how the Book of Mormon speaks about grace in other passages (see, for instance, Mosiah 2 and Mosiah 4, and for that matter 2 Nephi 2). Our very capacity to act comes as a gift from God. Sure, we need to choose to accept and follow Christ, and seek to repent, but we then need grace to accomplish that very act of repentance. Moreover it is not just the scriptures that teach this; I know from my own experience that I have needed grace long before “perfection” and what’s more, God has given it. He’s never held back his grace, his blessings, or his miracles from me until I’ve done everything I possibly could.

I think our mistake here is to read “after” in the sense of “until after” as if the verse said we are not saved by grace, until after all we can do. But it doesn’t say that. What seems more in keeping with the teaching of the rest of scripture is to understand the “after” in the same way we’d understand it in the phrase “after all is said and done”: We are saved by grace, after all is said and done; we are saved by grace, after all we can do. That is, our acts alone cannot save us (as 2 Nephi 2:5 very clearly teaches), nor perfect us. After all we have done, no matter all we have done, we need grace to save us. “After” does not mean “because” (as Elder Uchtdorf points out, in a Conference address that turns out to cover much the same topic). Nor does it mean “following”. It can mean “despite”, if we seek, as Nephi urges in that very verse, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.

2 Nephi 22

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 comfortedst me.

(2 Nephi 22:1//Isaiah 12:1)

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to worry about messing things up. It’s comforting to know that – while we may well do things that displease the Lord – He is merciful and forgiving, and always prepared to receive and comfort us if we repent.

2020 Edit:

This chapter – the quotation of Isaiah 12 – is very short, as Isaiah 12 is, an artefact of imposing the Isaiah chapter divisions upon the lengthy quotation in 1879. As such, I can pretty much quote it in full, and I’m going to:

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 comfortedst 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, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.

Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

(2 Nephi 22//Isaiah 12)

Why quote this in full (other than because I can)? Because this chapter really serves as a conclusion, a summary and even a punctuation to many of the preceding chapters, which have laid out both forthcoming judgments to come upon Israel for her wickedness, but also the future deliverance, found above all else in the figure of Christ, the Holy One of Israel, who will restore and redeem Zion. And true to the way that Isaiah can, and should, be read as having multiple fulfilments, as being filled with types and antitypes, it can apply to each of us individually too (as I did in my original post). I suspect Nephi did too; the whole statement that “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” is reminiscent of his own words in 2 Nephi 4:19 that “nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted”. Likewise this chapter is echoed in his declaration in the same passage that:

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

(2 Nephi 4:30)

The Lord is praiseworthy; despite our individual and collective rebellions and weaknesses, he is merciful, and has provided for our salvation and our joy. In him we can trust, and not be afraid. And trust is the crucial thing: trust is what separates true and living faith from simple belief. The devils believe God exists, and tremble (James 2:19), for they did not trust him and rebelled against him. Likewise we might believe about him (that he exists), but not in him (that we trust him, and place our confidence in him). But we need to have that confidence and trust in him to follow him, to take us through what may seem some very strange roads and through the valley of the shadow of death itself. If we let go at that point, out of fear and doubt in his judgment, we will be lost. But if we hold on, trusting in his guidance, trusting that whatever trials we may go through, and indeed submitting to all things he sees fit to inflict upon us, then he will bring us safely through to the other side. For he is our strength and our song: he, and he alone, has the capacity and full will to save us, and will if we trust him enough to let him.

2 Nephi 18

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.

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

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:

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

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

(2 Nephi 18:9-13//Isaiah 8:9-13)

Unfortunately the people of Judah were prone to react to future fears the way we do: to seek for security elsewhere. They sought it in alliances (hence the warning not to “associate yourselves” and “a confederacy”). For us, I guess we can end up looking for that security in wealth, power, status or even our relationships. But like the ancient Judahites, any real, eternal, security, can really only come as we draw closer to God.

2020 edit:

Oddly enough, it was pretty much exactly the same passage, and the same point, that came to my mind as I read this chapter today.

Lest I just repeat myself, however, there was another verse that also caught my attention:

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.

(2 Nephi 18:14//Isaiah 8:14)

This verse, along with a couple of others with similar stone themes, has been applied to the Savious in the Gospels, in 1 Peter 2, and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (in Jacob 4; interestingly while Jacob 4 associates the same three verses – Isaiah 8:14, Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 – as 1 Peter 2 does, they quote different portions of some of those verses. More on that in chapter four of The BoM & the Bible). In many of those it’s applied to the Saviour’s relationship with Israel, namely that he’ll be rejected, but will ultimately become a sanctuary to them.

Yet a thought that’s been running though my head recently is that this verse likewise has a wider application. The Lord frequently permits parts of the gospel to become “a stone of stumbling” or “rock of offense” to us: aspects we don’t understand at first, things that may go against our own views at the time, or we just find difficult. And I’ve found that in many cases there are answers to these difficulties, indeed that with such answers things previously perceived as difficulties may turn to be things that strengthen one’s testimony. But such answers only tend to arrive after one has already persevered through them. I am forced to conclude that while the Lord wants us to succeed and wants us to exercise faith, he doesn’t make it easy for us. This life, after all, is a test.

2 Nephi 14

And now the quotation of Isaiah 4…

Firstly, it may be of interest to note that at least some commentators over the centuries suggest that verse 1 should really be a continuation of chapter 3, which may make it read a little differently. The chapter divisions are not original, of course, so this is possible. In the Book of Mormon, the current chapter divisions, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, date from Orson Pratt’s publication of the 1879 edition; in the pre-1879 chapters, all of 2 Nephi 11-15 are one chapter (chapter VIII).

Verses 3-4 attract some interest:

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—

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.

I’ve commented a lot on God’s judgments in past posts (I don’t know if that reflects me or simply Isaiah!), but what I think this passage underlines is that this process of judgment is not simply to punish, though there will be those who will be. God also intends to refine us, if we will let ourselves be refined. For those who endure, God’s actions will cleanse and sanctify us. Holiness is possible, if we submit to God’s will and endure what he sees fit to inflict upon us.

However, on my current read through I was also struck by verses 5-6:

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.

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.

It’s quite something to picture: future Zion will be so imbued with the presence and power of God that each “dwelling-place” is described as enjoying the same visible presence as that the Israelites experienced when crossing Sinai.

2 Nephi 13

Being the quotation of Isaiah 3…

One set of verses that always catch my attention, and did 4 years and did today, are the following in verses 1-5

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—

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

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

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

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.

One judgment to come upon the Kingdom of Judah – and per likening things unto ourselves, and the fact that these prophecies are subject to multiple fulfilment, us too – is a paucity of leadership and talent. They are to be deprived of leadership in every sphere, in fact: political, legal, religious, military, and deprived of those with integrity, those who can give wise counsel, those with the capacity for good craftsmanship, and those with the capacity to inspire with speech. Instead “children” and “babes” – I presume mostly metaphorical ones – shall reign in every sphere.

Much of modern historiography has come to emphasise wider social conditions and de-emphasise supposed “great men” as agents in shaping history. But I’d argue that individuals can play a powerful role, and I have argued (in a presentation called “The Book of Mormon and the ‘great man’ theory of history”) that the Book of Mormon depicts this too, although the Book of Mormon also makes allowance for the influence of wider social conditions, as in 4 Nephi, and ultimately leaves God sovereign over history. What these verses suggest, however, is that the presence of such individuals may in turn reflect the condition of a society (perhaps due to both natural and supernatural factors). Certainly in this case, a society may reach the point when it will be given the leadership it deserves. As said, these are verses I’ve often pondered, as I’ve looked at the world we inhabit and compared the leadership we have in our era to those of previous eras, and wondered whether this is a phenomenon to which we have already become partly subject.

2 Nephi 11

Come Follow Me’s reading schedule is a little unbalanced; the coming week covers 15 chapters, so blog posts and edits for 2 Nephi 11-25 will have to be somewhat brief to be manageable.

In any case, from my original posts four years ago:

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 11:2-3)

I’m not entirely sure why these verses have hung on me today. There’s lots that can be found in them, of course, such as this concept of Nephi, Isaiah and Jacob acting as three witnesses of Christ. Likewise in the concept that God will both send more witnesses and vindicate his words. But what I think most sticks out to me at this time is the power of scripture, to both convince and act as evidence for other of God’s words. It’s very easy when writing about scripture to hung up on one’s own words, but really it’s the scripture itself that has the most power.

Back to 2020:

It’s verse 4 that caught my attention today:

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.

Typology has long been a traditional approach to Christian interpretation of scripture, dating from the New Testament, and its an approach the authors of Book of Mormon adopt and advocate at many times themselves. Thus events, individuals, and all many of other things may not only have a significance in and of themselves, but also for what they pre-figure or symbolise, the antitype. This is often (as it is here) Christ, but can be other things. In a sense, it is a way in which actual events or individuals can also have a symbolic meaning. In an other, it’s also an understanding of the world and its history, understanding that God is able to shape events so that prophecy is given not just in words, but in the fabric of historical events and in the lives of individuals.

However, despite the advocacy of typology within the Book of Mormon (including, as in Alma 37, applied to events described in the Book of Mormon itself), it’s an approach to reading we don’t always do much of in the modern Church. Perhaps that’s something we should strive to do more of.

 

“The ox knoweth his owner”

I’m really having trouble comprehending it’s December already. This year has gone by so fast, and with such unexpected (and in some cases undesirable) twists, that I can’t quite compute that the year is nearly drawing to a close while I am in such an unanticipated place. So I guess on with the Christmas videos!

I love the film Ben Hur so much: while fictional, and obviously including other things, I particularly like it’s depiction of Christ (who is shown more in the effects he has on others). The first scene is a fairly standard depiction of the nativity, but one I enjoy for all that. One interesting detail can be seen from 2:25 onwards, as the wise men enter the stable they pass between a donkey and an ox, which briefly grabs our attention though it’s lowing. Many traditional depictions of the nativity include a donkey and ox, but this is not a detail drawn from the Gospels, but actually from Isaiah 1:3:

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

Early Christians saw this verse as applying to Christ, and so the donkey and ox found their way into Christian iconography, a place which they have continued to claim until the present day.


Incidentally, while writing this I came across what looks like an interesting website on Christian iconography in art at http://christianiconography.info. The page on the nativity discusses a range of details (including the above) that you’ll find often find not only in Medieval artwork, but in modern depictions as well.

2 Nephi 24

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.

(2 Nephi 24:1//Isaiah 14:1)

While a quotation from Isaiah (and this verse is quoted word for word, unlike say verse 2), this verse manages to encapsulate one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Despite misdeeds, trials and tribulations, God has not forgotten Israel, and will have mercy upon them and keep His covenants with them; meanwhile salvation for the Gentiles required becoming part of the House of Israel. While there were exceptions, this was not a common view at the time of the publication of the Book of Mormon; much of Christianity was supercessionist at least in part, believing that the Gentile Church had replaced or was the true continuation of Israel. The Book of Mormon declares the opposite: Israel has not been forgotten, God is about to fulfil his covenants with them in restoring them spiritually and physically, and that the Gentiles need to repent or face the judgment of God.

God’s long suffering, mercy and faithfulness towards a people to whom he has made promises can of course be reassuring to us on a individual scale. Despite the elapse of hundreds of years, God had not forgotten Israel. Likewise, despite our own personal weakness and wanderings, he will not forget us (Isaiah 49:15-16) and “he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23).

2020 Edit:

This chapter (meaning Isaiah 14, which 2 Nephi 24 quotes), most notably features the Lord’s judgment upon “Lucifer”. Some have taken this to mean the Adversary, some the King of Babylon, some other figures. Which is correct? For anyone following so far, the answer should suggest itself: both possibilities can be absolutely correct. Isaiah is addressing the tyrants of his day (Sennacherib, king of Assyria), the future tyrants from Babylon and maybe other figures in the future, all of whom are types of the original who sought to usurp the highest authority and deprive men of their agency.

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!

The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the scepters of the rulers.

He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet; they break forth into singing.

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.

(2 Nephi 24:4-8//Isaiah 14:4-8)

Both Assyria and Babylon bestrode the nations, moving entire populations in a gigantic programme of ethnic cleansing to subjugate any who tried rebellion. Yet within centuries they were no more, backwaters and ruins, unable to further oppress those they had ruled over. Likewise the Adversary has oppressed mankind, both individually and collectively, taking us into captivity through sin, and inspiring any tyrant he can. Yet the time will come when he will no longer have any power to tempt or otherwise influence the hearts of men, while humanity will be delivered from the captivity of death and hell with which he has sought to trap us through the power of Christ’s redemption.

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.

10 All they shall speak and say unto thee: Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?

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.

(2 Nephi 24:9-11//Isaiah 14:9-11)

Those the Assyrians and Babylonians slew can likewise point to the fact that in the grave these mighty kings have become just like those they conquered. In the final judgment, the Adversary too will be reduced, no longer possessing the power and influence he once had.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!

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;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

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?

And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners?

(2 Nephi 24:12-17//Isaiah 14:12-17)

For all their pride and ego, for all that they sought to conquer, the kings of Assyria and Bablyon are likewise subject to death, in the which they shall appear rather pathetic figures, causing those who see them thereafter to wonder that they caused so much trouble. So too with the Adversary: he literally sought to usurp God, demanding God’s honour and power, and so he lost he previous high estate and was cast down. And he shall be cast down yet further.

All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house.

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 24:18-20//Isaiah 14:18-20)

While the remains of many kings lie in rest in ornate tombs, the King of Babylon here will not. His remains shall lie unmarked, and his memory abandoned. These verses apply with even more force to the Adversary: all those who lived on earth, no matter what they did with it, will be resurrected and re-receive a physical body, their “house”. But the Adversary and those who followed him in the war in heaven lost their first estate, and so never gained and will never regain a body, so that their spirits will be diminished and without habitation. Whatever slings they throw at us in this life, they will lose – indeed they have already lost – their war against the Almighty. His power is greater, and so whatever trials we’re going through now, we can draw closer to him for protection, trusting that he will deliver us, and defeat the enemy of our souls.

2 Nephi 23

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

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.

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.

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.

(2 Nephi 23:19-22//Isaiah 13:19-22)

It’s not been unknown for believers in Western nations to see their nation as inheritors of or as a new Israel. This is perhaps best known in the case of the United States (so much so that commentators have assumed – wrongly – that the Book of Mormon is in the same tradition), but it’s also appeared in different forms in England (such as during the Commonwealth).

Yet I can’t help but feel (and believe the Book of Mormon’s own passages support this) that when the Book of Mormon quotes such passages of Isaiah as above, it is treating Western nations not as the new Israel, but the new Babylon or Assyria. Which cities, after all, are the Babylon or Nineveh of our times? Which cities are “the glory of kingdoms” today?

Such passages should and must be taken as a warning, especially against placing any confidence or finding any security in such current greatness. Nineveh and Babylon were glorious and mighty in their day, but such worldly glory and power were fleeting. It will be fleeting for us, too.

2020 Edit:

It may be of interest to note that one of the basis by which many biblical scholars claim to distinguish between “first” and “second” Isaiah (chapter 40 onwards) is that in the first the enemy is Assyria, and in the second it is Babylon. Yet in both this chapter and the chapter following, it is Babylon that receives the most prominent mention.

There are some passages here too that speak more in terms of a cosmic disaster, of the sort that is perhaps more clearly associated with the second coming:

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.

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.

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.

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

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.

(2 Nephi 23:9-13//Isaiah 13:9-13)

The textual variations in verse 15 likewise push interpretation to a wider setting (and place, as is typical for the Book of Mormon, a greater emphasis on pride):

Every one that is proud {found} shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked {unto them} shall fall by the sword.

(2 Nephi 23:15//Isaiah 13:15, underlined text is substituted in the BoM for text in curly bracked as found in the KJV)

All of which points to this prophecy having wider application that Babylon alone (although Babylon is indeed in ruins, and has been for many centuries). As I indicate in my original post, this is a warning not just for Babylon, but one we should take seriously too.