2 Nephi Chapter 11
2 Nephi 11:2-4 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. 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.
1 And now, Jacob spake many more things to my people at that time; nevertheless only these things have I caused to be written, for the things which I have written sufficeth me.
verse 1 Nephi is now once again the speaker or "first person."
2 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.
verse 2 "for my soul delighteth in his words" Nephi seems to have had a great bond with the prophet Isaiah. Both of them had been residents of Jerusalem, and thus they shared a common cultural background. Both were familiar with the manner of teaching among the Jews and had special insight into the teachings of the ancient prophets (see 2 Nephi 25:5). They both had seen the Savior and had sweeping visions of the destiny of the earth. They were both "prophets of the restoration," that is many of their writings dealt with latter-day events leading to the establishment of the kingdom of God."for my soul delighteth in his words"
"for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him" The word verily means really; in truth; in fact. Isaiah really did see the Lord."for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him"
3 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.
verse 3 "I will send their words" "Their" refers to Isaiah's and to Nephi's brother Jacob's words or writings."I will send their words"
"by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word" This passage may simply be a validation of the Lord's law of witnesses, or it may be a prophetic foreshadowing of the three witnesses to the latter-day Book of Mormon plates (see also 2 Nephi 27:12; Ether 5:2-4). Furthermore, the phrase, "God sendeth more witnesses" may foreshadow the eight additional witnesses of the plates. For a more detailed discussion of the law of witnesses, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 29:8."by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word"
Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah have been considered by some to be the three great witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The testimonies of these three eye-witnesses of the Savior are contained on the small plates of Nephi. Is it possible that we would not have these testimonies had Martin Harris not lost the 116 pages of manuscript? This is a meaningless question since the Lord knew that he would lose them and that the small plates would be substituted for them. As fascinating as it would be to be able to read that lost manuscript, it is apparent that the small plates of Nephi contain materials that are even more important than that lost portion (D&C 10:45). It might even be that the central purpose of the small plates of Nephi is to bring to us the testimonies of these three witnesses.
Have you considered the faith of these great pre-advent prophets? As we exercise our faith in him today, we have advantages over them. For example, we have available to us the benefit of eye-witness scriptural accounts of the Savior's ministry and miracles. Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah had not the faith-enriching benefit of a Christ who already had come in the flesh. They had only a faith and consummate hope of his eventual birth centuries later. Their tremendous faith earned them the ultimate privilege of being allowed to see the Christ.
4 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.
verse 4 "all things . . . the typifying of him" A "type," or something that "typifies," is a symbol or pattern of something else. The law of Moses is replete with "types" of Christ. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: "It follows that if we had sufficient insight, we would see in every gospel ordinance, in every rite that is part of revealed religion, in every performance commanded of God, in all things Deity gives his people, something that typifies the eternal ministry of the Eternal Christ" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, 378)."all things . . . the typifying of him"
Let us now summarize the types and shadows of Christ that are contained in the law of Moses and should be visible to all of the righteous who lived under that law.
It should not be surprising that the law of Moses includes many things that are symbolic of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the very purpose of the law of Moses was to be a prophetic series of types, shadows, symbols, and prefigurations of him. And not just the law of Moses alone-indeed the scriptures are clear that all things bear witness of him. Nephi wrote, "We did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses. . . . 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" (2 Nephi 5:10; 2 Nephi 5:11:4, italics added). The prophet Moses wrote, "And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me" (Moses 6:63).
A great deal of material, primarily rabbinic refinement and commentary on the original Mosaic writings, has been added to the original law of Moses. In fact, so much was added in the first millennium of its existence, and so obscure became its original requirements even in that relatively brief period of time, that while living in mortality he who had given the law in its purity was repeatedly accused of breaking some minute aspect of it. This complexity in and occasional confusion about the development of the Mosaic code as presently taught poses challenges for the student of the Old and New Testaments even today. Elder Bruce R. McConkie outlined the dilemma this way: "We cannot always tell . . . whether specific sacrificial rites performed in Israel were part of the Mosaic system or whether they were the same ordinances performed by Adam and Abraham as part of the gospel law itself. Further, it appears that some of the ritualistic performances varied from time to time, according to the special needs of the people and the changing circumstances in which they found themselves. Even the Book of Mormon does not help us in these respects. We know the Nephites offered sacrifices and kept the law of Moses. Since they held the Melchizedek Priesthood and there were no Levites among them, we suppose their sacrifices were those that antedated the ministry of Moses" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 436).
This possibly confounding factor notwithstanding, let us consider several aspects of the law of Moses which are clearly symbolic of Jesus Christ:
1. Moses (like Isaac, Joseph, and so many others in the Old Testament) was himself a prophetic symbol of the Christ who was to come. As the Father said to him, speaking through Jehovah, "I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth" (Moses 1:6). As the children of Israel were fleeing Egypt and making their way to the promised land (note the Messianic prefiguration of delivering, of saving, of rescuing a covenant people from the sins and evils of the unbelieving world), Moses told them: "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken. . . . And the Lord said unto me, . . . I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him" (Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18-19). Just what is it the Lord will require of him who does not believe in and follow the Lord? We will learn that it is spiritual death.
This Prophet (note the upper case P in the text) who would be raised up like unto Moses is, of course, Jesus Christ. As the footnotes in the LDS edition of the scriptures indicate, this passage from Deuteronomy is quoted, with some variation, twice in the New Testament, twice in the Book of Mormon, and once in the Pearl of Great Price. In every instance, those references make it clear that Christ is the future prophet to whom they refer. The earliest of those declarations comes from Nephi, who said, "This prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness" (1 Nephi 22:21). Not surprisingly, the most authoritative declaration of this truth also comes in the Book of Mormon from the lips of the resurrected Savior himself. To the Nephites gathered at his feet, Christ said, "Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people" (3 Nephi 20:23; see also Acts 3:22-23). This "cut[ting] off from among the people" is surely being cut off eternally from the people of God-spiritual death.
2. The law of Moses included a host of "performances and ordinances" such as sacrifices and offerings that were directly linked with the future atonement of Christ and were meant to be in every way "a similitude of him." The sacrifices were performed in similitude of the coming sacrifice of their Messiah. The rituals out of which they gained forgiveness of sins were tokens of what was to be in the life of him whose atonement made forgiveness possible. Their every act, every ordinance, every performance pointed the hearts and minds of believing worshipers forward to Jesus Christ and him crucified. All this was understood by those among them who were faithful and true. The rebellious and slothful were like their modern counterparts, unbelieving, nonconforming, unsaved.
Paul named several of the Mosaic ordinances and performances and said they were a "shadow of heavenly things" (Hebrews 8:4-5). The "meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation," he said, were designed as "a figure [a symbol or type] for the time then present." He spoke of the various formalities involved in sprinkling blood as "patterns" of things of a much higher nature. Perhaps Amulek's statement is the clearest and best of them all. He said: "This is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal" (Alma 34:14).
Sacrifice was a way of worship in Israel. The divine decree, given to Adam, that men should repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore, was still in force among them. Compliance with that decree still required them to "offer the firstlings of their flocks" as sacrifices in "similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father" (Moses 5:5-8).
3. Feast of the Passover. At the time appointed for their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, the Lord commanded each family in Israel to sacrifice a lamb, to sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, and then to eat unleavened bread for seven more days-all to symbolize the fact that the destroying angel would pass over the Israelites as he went forth slaying the firstborn in the families of all the Egyptians; and also to show that, in haste, Israel should go forth from slavery to freedom. As a pattern for all the Mosaic instructions yet to come, the details of the performances here involved were so arranged as to bear testimony both of Israel's deliverance and of her Deliverer. Among other procedures, the Lord commanded, as found in Exodus 12:
a. "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year," signifying that the Lamb of God, pure and perfect, without spot or blemish, in the prime of his life, as the Paschal Lamb, would be slain for the sins of the world.
b. They were to take of the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it upon the doorposts of their houses, having this promise as a result: "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you," signifying that the blood of Christ, which should fall as drops in Gethsemane and flow in a stream from a pierced side as he hung on the cross, would cleanse and save the faithful; and that, as those in Israel were saved temporally because the blood of a sacrificial lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of their houses, so the faithful of all ages would wash their garments in the blood of the Eternal Lamb and from him receive an eternal salvation.
c. As to the sacrifice of the lamb, the decree was, "Neither shall ye break a bone thereof," signifying that when the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross, though they broke the legs of the two thieves to induce death, yet they brake not the bones of the Redeemer, "that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken" (John 19:31-36).
d. As to eating the flesh of the sacrificial lamb, the divine word was, "No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof," signifying that the blessings of the gospel are reserved for those who come into the fold of Israel, who join the Church, who carry their part of the burden in bearing off the kingdom; signifying also that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood, as he said, shall have eternal life and he will raise them up at the last day" (John 6:54).
e. As "the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" because they believed not the word of the Lord delivered to them by Moses and Aaron, even so should the Firstborn of the Father, who brings life to all who believe in his holy name, destroy worldly people at the last day, destroy (spiritual death) all those who are in the Egypt of darkness, whose hearts are hardened as were those of Pharaoh and his minions.
4. Feast of Pentecost. One of the three great feasts to which all the males of Israel must go each year was the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of the Harvest, or, as we are wont to say, the Feast of Pentecost. It came fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of the Passover. The burnt offerings of Pentecost included a sin-offering and a peace-offering, indicating that the great purpose of the feast was to gain a remission of sins and obtain a reconciliation with God.
With the closing of the Old and the opening of the New Dispensation, the Feast of Pentecost ceased as an authorized time of religious worship. And it is not without significance that the Lord chose the Pentecost, which grew out of the final Passover, as the occasion to dramatize forever the fulfillment of all that was involved in the sacrificial fires of the past. Fire is a cleansing agent. Filth and disease die in its flames. The baptism of fire, which John promised Christ would bring, means that when men receive the actual companionship of the Holy Spirit, then evil and iniquity are burned out of their souls as though by fire. The sanctifying power of that member of the Godhead makes them clean. In similar imagery, all the fires on all the altars of the past, as they burned the flesh of animals, were signifying that spiritual purification would come by the Holy Ghost, whom the Father would send because of the Son. On that first Pentecost of the so-called Christian Era such fires would have performed their purifying symbolism if the old order had still prevailed. How fitting it was instead for the Lord to choose that very day to send living fire from heaven, as it were, fire that would dwell in the hearts of men and replace forever all the fires on all the altars of the past. And so it was that "when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:1-4). For further discussion of the imagery of sanctification by fire and the Holy Ghost, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth.
5. Feast of Tabernacles. Another of the three great feasts at which the attendance of all male Israelites was compulsory, the Feast of Tabernacles, was by all odds Israel's greatest feast. Coming five days after the Day of Atonement, it was thus celebrated when the sins of the chosen people had been removed and when their special covenant relation to Jehovah had been renewed and restored. Above all other occasions it was one for rejoicing, bearing testimony, and praising the Lord. In the full sense, it is the Feast of Jehovah, the one Mosaic celebration which, as part of the restitution of all things, shall be restored when Jehovah comes to reign personally upon the earth for a thousand years. Even now we perform one of its chief rituals in our solemn assemblies, the giving of the Hosanna Shout, and the worshipers of Jehovah shall yet be privileged to exult in other of its sacred rituals.
Also known as the Feast of Booths, because Israel dwelt in booths while in the wilderness, and as the Feast of Ingathering, because it came after the completion of the full harvest, it was a time of gladsome rejoicing and the extensive offering of sacrifices. More sacrifices were offered during the Feast of the Passover than at any other time because a lamb was slain for and eaten by each family or group, but at the Feast of Tabernacles more sacrifices of bullocks, rams, lambs, and goats were offered by the priests for the nation as a whole than at all the other Israelite feasts combined. The fact that it celebrated the completion of the full harvest symbolizes the gospel reality that it is the mission of the house of Israel to gather all nations to Jehovah, a process that is now going forward, but will not be completed until that millennial day when "the Lord shall be king over all the earth," and shall reign personally thereon. Then shall be fulfilled that which is written: "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations . . . shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain" (Zechariah 14:9-21). That will be the day when the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Manifestly when the Feast of Tabernacles is kept in that day, its ritualistic performances will conform to the new gospel order and not include the Mosaic order of the past.
6. The Day of Atonement. Now we come to the heart and core and center of the whole Mosaic structure, namely, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the law of Moses is all about. The law itself was given so that men might believe in Christ and know that salvation comes in and through his atoning sacrifice and in no other way. Every principle, every precept, every doctrinal teaching, every rite, ordinance, and performance, every word and act-all that appertained to, was revealed in, and grew out of the ministry of Moses, and all the prophets who followed him-all of it was designed and prepared to enable men to believe in Christ, to submit to his laws, and to gain the full blessings of that atonement which he alone could accomplish. And the chief symbolisms, the most perfect similitudes, the types and shadows without peer, were displayed before all the people once each year, on the Day of Atonement.
On one day each year-the tenth day of the seventh month-Israel's high priest of the Levitical order, the one who sat in Aaron's seat, was privileged to enter the Holy of Holies in the house of the Lord, to enter as it were the presence of Jehovah, and there make an atonement for the sins of the people. In the course of much sacrificial symbolism, he cleansed himself, the sanctuary itself, the priesthood bearers as a whole, and all of the people. Sacrificial animals were slain and their blood sprinkled on the mercy seat and before the altar. Incense was burned, and all of the imagery and symbolism of the ransoming ordinances was carried out.
One thing, applicable to this day only, is of great moment. Two goats were selected, lots were cast, and the name of Jehovah was placed upon one goat. The other was called Azazel, the scapegoat. The Lord's goat was then sacrificed as the Great Jehovah would be in due course, but upon the scapegoat were placed all of the sins of the people, which burden the scapegoat then carried away into the wilderness. The high priest, as the law required, "lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat" and confessed "over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." The goat then bore upon him "all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited," even as the Promised Messiah should bear the sins of many. "For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you," Moses said, "that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Leviticus 16).
We know that sins are remitted in the waters of baptism. Baptisms were the order of the day in Israel. We know also that provision must be made for repentant persons to free themselves from sins committed after baptism. We see in the annual performances of the Day of Atonement one of the Lord's provisions for renewing the covenant made in the waters of baptism and receiving anew the blessed purity that comes from full obedience to the law involved. In our day we gain a similar state of purity by partaking worthily of the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
The symbolism and meaning of the ordinances and ceremonies performed on the Day of Atonement are set forth by Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews. He calls the tabernacle-temple "a worldly sanctuary," wherein sacrificial ordinances were performed each year by Levitical priests to atone for the sins of men and prepare them to enter the Holy of Holies. These ordinances were to remain "until the time of reformation," when Christ should come as a high priest of "a greater and more perfect tabernacle," to prepare himself and all men, by the shedding of his own blood, to obtain "eternal redemption" in the heavenly tabernacle. The old covenant was but "a shadow of good things to come . . . For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. . . . But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 9 and 10). How perfectly the Mosaic ordinances testify of him by whom salvation comes and in whose holy name all men are commanded to worship the Eternal Father forevermore!
For a more complete discussion of the law of Moses, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 16, The Law of Moses.
5 And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers; yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.
verse 5 "the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers" God covenanted with the forefathers of the house of Israel that he would gather and redeem their descendants in a future time. This would occur in the latter days."the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers"
The "great and eternal plan of deliverance from death" seems to refer specifically to the atonement and perhaps, in a more general way, to the plan of salvation. The concepts of "grace," "justice," and "mercy" are allied concepts and are reviewed Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 2, Consequences of the Lord's Atonement.
6 And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.
verse 6 Without the atonement, "Our spirits, stained with sin, unable to cleanse themselves, would be subject to the author of sin everlastingly; we would be followers of Satan; we would be sons of perdition" (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 130). See also the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:8-9.
7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.
verse 7 "if there be no Christ there be no God" If there were no Savior to redeem man from his fallen state, then all mankind would be doomed to spend eternity with Satan, and none could qualify to spend eternity with God in his presence. Thus God would have no purpose, no reason to exist."if there be no Christ there be no God"
"if there be no God we are not" Mankind could not have been born as his spirit offspring, eventually to inherit a physical body."if there be no God we are not"
"But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time." Here is the grand testimony of the Book of Mormon: Christ is God, the God of the Old Testament. He is also the God of creation and the God of our salvation."But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time."
"he cometh in the fulness of his own time" We have previously read of the period of Jesus's mortal ministry referred to as the "fulness of time" (2 Nephi 2:3; 2 Nephi 2:26). Here, we read a variation of that term."he cometh in the fulness of his own time"
8 And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men.
verse 8 Nephi must have believed that the following quotations from Isaiah (2 Nephi 12 through 24) were of tremendous value, since the space on the small plates of Nephi was limited, and he was very selective about what he chose to include on these plates (1 Nephi 19:6).