2 Nephi Chapter 10
This chapter contains more of Jacob's personal commentary on the Isaiah passages which he has just quoted in 2 Nephi chapters 6 (verses 7, 14, and 16-18) and chapters 7 and 8.
1 And now I, Jacob, speak unto you again, my beloved brethren, concerning this righteous branch of which I have spoken.
verse 1 "this righteous branch of which I have spoken" The point has been made previously that the families of Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram and all their descendants comprised a "righteous branch" of the house of Israel, specifically from the tribe of Joseph. Jacob has just made mention of this entity in 2 Nephi 9:53.
2 For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.
verse 2 "promises unto us according to the flesh" Again, these promises were not extended by the Lord in any figurative or symbolic sense. Rather they are intended literally.
"our children shall be restored" Jacob teaches that after a long period of apostasy, his descendants will repent and gain access to the priesthood and to revelation and to the Church of Jesus Christ and thereby become a "righteous branch" of the house of Israel with a true knowledge of Christ.
Again, we may speculate as to the specific time period being referred to here. This period of restoration might the mini-millennium following the Savior's appearance to the Nephites at Bountiful. "That which will give them a true knowledge of their Redeemer" may be Christ's personal visit to the earth at that time. Also this prophesy might have application in this final dispensation.
3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ-for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name-should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him-for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.
verse 3 "as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ . . . should come among the Jews" Jacob previously taught of Jesus's mortal ministry among the Jews in 2 Nephi 6:9.
"Christ . . . should come" Most all commentaries on the Book of Mormon state that this is the first time the word "Christ" is used in the Book of Mormon (excluding the title page which was written by Moroni much later). In our current edition, and in all editions of the Book of Mormon since 1837, this is the first time the word "Christ" is found. However, in the first edition of the book in 1830, the verse 1 Nephi 12:18 (which was on page 28 of the 1830 edition) contained the name "Jesus Christ" in place of "the Lamb of God" which is found in the current edition. This change was probably made by Joseph Smith, Jr., some time after 1830.
Here the prophet Jacob prophesies that Jesus's name or title will be "Christ" which means "the anointed one" or "the Messiah." This verse has been the cause of some ridicule by critics of the Book of Mormon. The word "Christ" is a word of Greek origin ("Christos") and would not have been in common usage in Palestine at the time Lehi left Jerusalem. Common Greek ("koine" Greek) was not commonly spoken in the Middle East, until after Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, including Palestine, in about 330 B.C. The word "Christ" is not, found in the Old Testament of the King James Version of the Bible (except in several chapter headings of the LDS version).
The simple answer to this criticism is that when Joseph and Oliver "translated" the Book of Mormon in the spring of 1829, Joseph simply read the words written on his seerstone, placed in the bottom of a hat. And he read the word "Christ" (see the chapter The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, appendix A).
Prior to the elucidation of the process of translation of the Book of Mormon, we spoke often of the translation process consisting of Joseph's somehow coming to understand a concept and then putting it into his own words. We cannot exclude an element of Joseph's own vocabulary entering into the "translation" of the Book of Mormon, but mostly Joseph simply read and dictated.
This verse is one of the many examples of detailed and specific prophecy contained in the Book of Mormon. Since many people do not believe that a prophet actually can foretell specific events beyond his own historical horizon, verses like this have caused some criticism of the Book of Mormon. Other examples of specific and detailed prophecy contained in the Book of Mormon include "Mary," the mother of Jesus (Mosiah 3:8; see also Alma 7:10), Nazareth, Jesus's boyhood home (1 Nephi 11:13), and John the Beloved (1 Nephi 14:19-27). For a more complete summary of specific prophecies regarding the Savior, see the commentary for Mosiah 15:5-7.
"in the last night the angel spake unto me" We have mentioned previously that this sermon was delivered by Jacob on two successive days. Apparently the night which separated these two days was one never to be forgotten!
"there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God" Let us never be guilty of allowing ourselves to believe or preach the unqualified half truth that the Jews crucified our Savior. Keep in mind that most of Jesus's adherents during his mortal ministry were Jews. The vast majority of Jews in Jerusalem did not even know that Jesus was being crucified, and they likely would have dealt with him in a more gentle way if it had been up to them. Christ's crucifixion was engineered by a relative few of the Jewish leaders, largely Pharisees and Sadducees, whose positions of power and influence were threatened by Jesus. It is these few to whom this verse refers. It is specifically these who were "the more wicked part of the world."
"they shall crucify him" Jacob was not the first prophet to announce in scripture the crucifixion, that is, death on a cross, of Jesus. Enoch saw in vision "the Son of Man lifted up on the cross" (Moses 7:55), as did Zenock (1 Nephi 19:10). Crucifixion, the execution and public humiliation by hanging on a cross, seems to have had its origins in ancient Phoenician (Canaanite) and Persian cultures. It was not practiced by the Hebrews but may well have been known to them. If you wish to review the practice of Crucifixion, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 14, Crucifixion.
4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.
verse 4 Jesus's "mighty miracles" were a powerful testimony to the world of his divinity-a testimony which the few wicked Jewish leaders rejected. Other nations, however, would have been more inclined to acknowledge Jesus as God.
5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.
verse 5 "because of priestcrafts" "Priestcrafts" and "priestcraft" are words with a rather specific meaning. If a man represents himself as a priesthood or church leader, yet his primary motive is personal popularity, power, or financial gain rather than the selfless serving of his fellow man, then he is guilty of practicing priestcrafts or priestcraft. In other words, if his primary motive is worldly-the stuff of pride-then he is guilty of priestcraft. Might this occur within the Church of Jesus Christ as well as without the Church? What would you think might be the antithesis of priestcraft? How about selfless service in the kingdom of God?
6 Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.
verse 6 Scattering of the Lord's chosen occurs only when they fail to accept and abide gospel principles or when they apostatize from the truth. The descendants of the tribe of Judah will be scattered and persecuted because of their rejection of Jesus Christ and his gospel, not because they crucified Christ. The Jews as a nation and a tribe and a culture did not crucify the Savior, rather a few of their wicked leaders did (see the commentary for verse 3 above). The contiguity of this verse to the preceding three verses might lead to the mistaken notion that the Jews have suffered persecution over the years because they were somehow guilty of plotting his crucifixion. The ultimate heinous aberration of this idea is that the historical persecution of the Jews has somehow been deserved.
verses 7-9 These verses promise a day of restoration to the Jews and, by implication, to the rest of scattered Israel.
7 But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance.
verse 7 Here Jacob begins to speak messianically-that is, as if he were the Lord. He will continue to speak messianically through verse 19.
Here we learn that the Jews will be restored "in the flesh" (literally and not figuratively) to their homeland Palestine according to the Abrahamic covenant only when they accept Jesus as the Messiah. We may thus conclude that those Jews who constitute the present Zionist movement in the land of Isra el have no permanent claim over the land and, indeed, will not have until they accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Lord.
8 And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.
verse 8 "isles of the sea . . . and . . . four parts of the earth" These terms refer simply to scattered Israel, wherever they may be found upon the earth. See also verse 21.
"the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me" Keep in mind that the Gentiles who inhabit the great Gentile nation and who accept the gospel shall, in the latter days, have a vital role in preaching the gospel to scattered Israel and gathering them back to "Zion." See the introductory comments for 1 Nephi 20. The use of the word "nations" here in its plural form is intriguing. Perhaps the reference is to those Gentiles who accept the gospel in their homelands prior to emigrating to that singular great Gentile nation, the United States of America.
9 Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute?
verse 9 The interpretation of this verse has been previously given-see the commentary for 2 Nephi 6:7. Please see that commentary. For the convenience of the reader, I will repeat part of that commentary here:
There is a sign that awaits the gathering Israelites in the latter days: The very elect of the "Gentiles" (the "kings" and "queens") will bow down to the Israelites and humbly serve them and teach the gospel to them without shame, for true humility is seen among the disciples of Christ. Thus a magnificent and vital role is prophesied for the "Gentiles" in the latter days. Keep in mind that many of these Latter-day Gentiles will be descendants of the house of Israel. The strict Book of Mormon definition of Gentile includes all those not of the tribe of Judah, or those who did not live in Palestine in the days of Lehi. Thus, those scattered Israelites, in those days, were considered Gentiles.
10 But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.
verse 10 "this land" In the broadest sense this phrase likely refers to the western hemisphere or the Americas. The land, however, which will become the great Gentile nation is the United States of America.
Here Jacob is speaking to his people and to their descendants, the seed of ancient Joseph. North America is a promised land for this segment of the house of Israel.
verses 11-14 Here again is the same conditional promise we read in 2 Nephi 1:7. If the land's inhabitants remain righteous they will never be captured and will remain free of the oppression of monarchic governments.
11 And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.
12 And I will fortify this land against all other nations.
13 And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.
14 For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words.
15 Wherefore, for this cause, that my covenants may be fulfilled which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh, I must needs destroy the secret works of darkness, and of murders, and of abominations.
verse 15 Here the Lord declares war upon those forces of evil described in the next verse.
16 Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.
verse 16 "whore of all the earth" Here is a clear definition of this entity which has essentially the same meaning as the "kingdom of the devil" (1 Nephi 22:22-23) and the same as the "great and abominable church" as defined in 1 Nephi 14. These titles all refer to those who fight against the kingdom of God.
17 For I will fulfil my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh-
verse 17 The Lord, through the prophet Jacob, prefaces two promises which shall find literal fulfillment. These are explained in the two verses that follow.
18 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.
verse 18 "I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles" Here Jacob prophesies of the persecution of the native American Indians (including, or perhaps especially, those of Mesoamerica) by the early European American settlers, both in North and perhaps especially in Central America.
"I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles" After these native Americans are "scattered . . . and . . . smitten" (1 Nephi 13:14) before the Gentiles, some of the Gentiles will be touched by the Spirit. They will become more sympathetic toward the native Americans. Some of these Gentiles will accept the gospel, and be "numbered among the house of Israel."
19 Wherefore, I will consecrate this land unto thy seed, and them who shall be numbered among thy seed, forever, for the land of their inheritance; for it is a choice land, saith God unto me, above all other lands, wherefore I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me, saith God.
verse 19 Nevertheless, Jacob outlines what is possible for the descendants of the Book of Mormon people if they should repent and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord will consecrate the lands of the western hemisphere unto them forever. Why does he say forever? This mortal phase will not last forever. Perhaps the same lands will belong to the descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples even after the world has been celestialized and become the eternal abode of those of the celestial glory.
"a choice land . . . above all other lands" In all of the scriptures this expression or variations of this expressions are used only to describe the Americas (1 Nephi 2:20; 1 Nephi 13:30; 2 Nephi 1:5; Ether 2:7; Ether 2:10; Ether 2:15; Ether 9:20; Ether 13:2). Is there something of hyperbole here? Or is this expression actually true in absolute terms? It is food for thought.
"I will have all men that dwell thereon that they shall worship me" The Lord, again through the prophet Jacob, outlines the ideal situation: "I would that all men who dwell thereon should worship me." This, of course, will not actually come to pass.
A simplified definition of worship is imitation. A man tends to imitate that person he worships.
This is the last verse wherein Jacob speaks messianically-as though he were the Lord.
20 And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.
verse 20 "we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance" Jacob doubtless speaks here of Palestine. When Joshua led the Israelites into Palestine in about 1407 B.C., the belief was doubtless prevalent that they were being directed by God to their "Promised Land." Thus that area was the "land of [their] inheritance."
"we are upon an isle of the sea" As Jacob studied Isaiah's writings, he doubtless learned that Isaiah's figurative term for the location of scattered Israel, wherever they may find themselves in the world, was "upon the isle (or isles) of the sea." In fact, Isaiah on one occasion addressed scattered Israel as "O isles" (see Isaiah 49:1). It is, of course, also possible that the Nephite people, never having explored the land in its entirety, did believe that they were on an island. Notice also the use of this term in the following verse.
One of Jacob's favorite themes, perhaps from his own experience living in exile, was the preservation of scattered Israel, the idea that God would never abandon his chosen people. He had been exiled twice-first wandering with his family across the desert and great sea-then fleeing from the first settlement in America even deeper into the wilderness (see 2 Nephi 5:5-6). He seems to take special comfort in the promises made to the Israelites. He obviously acknowledged that he and his people were among those of scattered Israel.
21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.
22 For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.
verses 21-22 "wherefore as it says isles" Here Jacob is calling attention to the plural form of the word "isle." His meaning is clear. He is suggesting that there are other pockets of scattered Israelites in other "isles of the sea" throughout the world.
23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves-to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
verse 23 "ye are free to act for yourselves" You have your agency which is a sacrosanct characteristic that each man has always possessed, and it cannot be taken away.
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
verse 24 "after ye are reconciled unto God" Here the phrase "reconciled unto God" means simply to obey the commandments as best you can.
Usually, when it is found in the scriptures, the phrase "reconciled unto God" means to be justified-to be considered by God to be worthy of exaltation in the celestial kingdom. For a more complete discussion of this concept, see the discussion of the "law of justice" in the introductory commentary for Alma 5 and in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification.
"it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved" This is a most vital and important concept. It cannot be properly understood without understanding the concepts of "law of justice," "atonement," "law of mercy," and the "grace of God." Please review these most important concepts in the same two references mentioned in the previous paragraph.
25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.
verse 25 "may God raise you from death" Here the term "death" refers to physical death or the separation of the body and spirit.
"everlasting death" This refers to spiritual death or the separation of man from God due to the sins of each individual, and not that due to the fall of Adam..
"that ye may praise him through grace divine" You will have the opportunity to enter "the eternal kingdom of God" and praise him face to face only because of his "grace divine"-that incomparable love which he has for us that impels him to forgive us our sins even though we are unworthy.