2 Nephi Chapter 12
2 Nephi 12-24 Isaiah 2-14
This chapter is the first of thirteen consecutive chapters which Nephi will quote from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 2-14). You may find it helpful, as you prepare to study these chapters, to read the two supplemental articles which are intended to provide background material to assist your study of the Isaiah materials in the Book of Mormon. These articles are, Historical Setting for the Book of Isaiah, and Introduction to the Book of Isaiah.
One might well ask the question: Why did Nephi feel it important to quote such a large quantity of the writings of Isaiah on the small plates of Nephi? Why is it that these writings were judged to be so vital both to the Nephites and to latter day Israelites? Let's consider a few reasons. First, Isaiah died less than a hundred years before Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. Thus, he was regarded as an almost contemporary prophet, and his writings were likely considered by the Nephites to be pertinent and relevant. Second, the Nephites were an important branch of the house of Israel, and Isaiah often wrote of the destiny of the house of Israel (2 Nephi 6:5) and of God's covenants and promises to the house of Israel. Third, Isaiah frequently wrote of the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, a subject obviously dear to the hearts of Nephi, Jacob, and other righteous Nephites (2 Nephi 11:2-4). Finally, Isaiah also treated the themes of repentance and the judgments of God and key events relating to the latter days, themes valuable to Nephi and the other Book of Mormon prophets who will quote from Isaiah's writings.
verses 1-5 These verses contain a prophecy that speaks to us in this final dispensation. The principle themes of these verses are the gathering of Israel, temples, and temple service. Joseph Smith summarized the connection between the gathering of Israel and temple service: "The object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world . . . was to build unto the Lord a house whereby he could reveal unto his people the ordinances of his house and the glories of his kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation" (HC, 5:423).
1 The word that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
verse 1 "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw" This statement and other similar statements (for example, see 2 Nephi 18:5: "The Lord spake also unto me, again, saying") indicates prophetic authority."The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw"
Please note that when the following material was revealed to Isaiah, he "saw" it. How did he "see" the word? Perhaps he saw in vision the things described in his prophecies and then recorded them in a scroll or book. Or perhaps he saw them written out on a scroll or in a vision of a heavenly book as did Lehi (see 1 Nephi 1:11-14) or Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76:11-12; D&C 76:28).
"concerning Judah and Jerusalem" This vision of Isaiah certainly deals primarily with Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah. The latter had been in existence for about 200 years at the time of this writing. But Isaiah's prophecies also deal with the entire house of Israel, including the lost ten tribes, as the Book of Mormon abundantly testifies. Nephi wrote, "Hear ye the words of the prophet [Isaiah] . . . which were written unto all the house of Israel" (1 Nephi 19:24; 2 Nephi 6:5, 3 Nephi 23:2)."concerning Judah and Jerusalem"
Using his typical dualistic approach, in this chapter, Isaiah insightfully connects major problems in Judah during his day with important prophecies of conditions and events in the latter days.
verses 2-4 One interesting point is that the wording of Isaiah 2:2-4 is also found, with only slight variation, in Micah 4:1-4. Micah was a prophet who was a contemporary of Isaiah. He lived in a rural village twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. Why the similar wording? Did Micah borrow the words of his mentor Isaiah? Did they both borrow the words of an older prophet? Did they both see the same heavenly vision, and were they inspired to record it in essentially the same words?
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.
verse 2 When are the "last days"? Secular biblical scholars generally believe that this term refers to the meridian of time, or the period of Christ's ministry. We know, however, that the "last days" are the "latter days" or this final dispensation. The term also includes the Millennium.
"it shall come to pass in the last days" What exactly is being prophesied to occur in the last days? The two verses that follow this one do itemize the things that will occur. Is the establishment of "the mountain of the Lord's house . . . in the top of the mountains" specifically prophesied to occur in this verse? For reasons that are not clear, Joseph Smith translated one phrase in this verse as "when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established" instead of "that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established" (from the KJV). This leaves this awkward sentence without a subject. In spite of this, it seems likely that the intent of the verse is that the establishment of the temple or temples is an integral part of the prophecy."it shall come to pass in the last days"
The phrase "mountain of the Lord's house" refers to the temple or temples of God.
The temples "shall be established in the tops of the mountains," but which mountains? This prophecy might be fulfilled in one of four ways:
1. The temple in Salt Lake City and other nearby temples are certainly located in the tops of the Rocky Mountains. Might the expression "all nations shall flow unto it" refer to the great family history organization to which people of all nations flow in order to do ancestral research? In the dedicatory prayers of both the Salt Lake and the Idaho Falls temples, mention was made of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy in verse 2.
2. The day is yet in the future when a temple will be built on that "Mount Zion" which is "the city of New Jerusalem" in Jackson County, Missouri (D&C 84:2-4).
3. When the Jews gather in old Jerusalem, they will assemble in "the mountains of the Lord's house" (D&C 133:13), and a temple will be built there in the mountains of Judea as a part of the final work of restoration (Ezekiel 37:24- 28).
4. This prophecy may refer to all of the Lord's temples built in these latter days (McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 275). This interpretation might explain how "all nations" could flow to the temple of the Lord, for it is quite impossible that all peoples could come to a temple or temples in the mountains of North America.
Perhaps more important than the location of any specific temple, this prophesied sign is the latter-day establishment of the temple ordinances.
"shall be exalted above the hills" Spiritually, the temples represent, figuratively, the highest point on earth, which symbolically connects heaven and earth. It is where God's word is revealed to his prophet."shall be exalted above the hills"
"all nations shall flow unto it" For something to "flow" up a mountain, there must needs be a power operating stronger than gravity, certainly the power of God and the drawing power of the temple. People of all nations shall come to the temples to receive their blessings. Joseph Smith taught that "there should be a place where all nations shall come up from time to time to receive their endowments" (TPJS, 367)."all nations shall flow unto it"
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
verse 3 Both expressions, "the mountain of the Lord" and "the house of the God of Jacob," also refer to the temple or temples of God.
"he will teach us of his ways" In the temples we have the opportunity to be close to the Spirit of God. Through the mediation of the Spirit we may receive personal revelation (see Isaiah 54:13) or the Spirit may confirm to us the truth of the scriptures and the truths of the revelations given through his apostles and prophets. Once we learn his ways, we are able to "walk in his paths," that is, walk the walk of Jesus Christ."he will teach us of his ways"
This verse seems to differentiate between two separate headquarters of the church in the latter days, "Zion" (the New Jerusalem in the western hemisphere) and "Jerusalem." Those remnants of Israel that are of the house of Joseph, those descendants of the other ten tribes, and Gentiles that become church members are to gather to Zion, and the Jews to Jerusalem: "Let them therefore who are among the gentiles flee unto Zion. And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem" (D&C 133:12-13).
"out of Zion shall go forth the law" What "law"? Which "Zion"? Zion is a title often used to describe both Old and New Jerusalem. In this dispensation, some church general authorities have interpreted this passage. Each has suggested that "Zion" refers to the latter-day Church of Jesus Christ with its headquarters in the United States of America. Elder Mark E. Petersen, for example, identified the general conferences of the Church as the fulfillment of this passage-especially as these conferences are broadcast to the world by radio and television (Why the Religious Life, 200-01, 305-07). President George Albert Smith taught a broader concept as he dedicated the Idaho Falls temple. He taught the "going forth" of the "law" as the establishment in the world of governments similar to our divinely-inspired constitutional form of government (Improvement Era, October, 1945, 564). The prophet Joseph Smith equated the "law" with the theocracy of Jesus Christ who will rule during the Millennium from Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, which serve as the seat of government (TPJS, 248-52)."out of Zion shall go forth the law"
"and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" In what sense will the word of the Lord proceed forth from Jerusalem? Joseph Smith taught the manner in which the Lord's word would proceed forth: "Moses received the word of the Lord from God himself; he was the mouth of God to Aaron, and Aaron taught the people, in both civil and ecclesiastical affairs; . . . so will it be when the purposes of God shall be accomplished [during the Millennium]; when 'the Lord shall be king over the whole earth' and 'Jerusalem his throne.' 'The law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem'" (TPJS, 252)."and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem"
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks-nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
verse 4 This verse depicts the cleansing judgments of God that will usher in the Millennium. Weapons of destruction are turned into tools of production, symbolizing millennial peace. During the Millennium, peace will prevail. We will have a world without war.
"And he shall judge among the nations" The Hebrew term hokiyach means to "settle the case." Here and in the King James Version it is translated judge. When the Savior makes his "great and dreadful" appearance on the earth, he will be the judge of the world (John 5:27; Acts 10:42; Hebrews 12:23)."And he shall judge among the nations"
"Plowshares" are the cutting blades of a plow.
A "pruninghook" is a tool with a hooked blade that is used for pruning plants.
"Swords" and "spears" represent war and destruction, and "plowshares" and "pruninghooks" represent peace and prosperity (TPJS, 248).
"neither shall they learn war any more" Not only will the nations destroy their weapons and convert them into useful implements, but also they will not even learn-study or gain knowledge of-war."neither shall they learn war any more"
5 O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.
verse 5 "for ye have all gone astray" This verse, interpreted literally in a prophetic sense, might be taken to imply that there would be a complete apostasy before the time of establishment of the "mountain of the Lord's house." An alternate interpretation, however, might be that Isaiah's attention has shifted from the future back to his own people. He is rebuking them for their pride and idolatry."for ye have all gone astray"
verses 6-9 Isaiah presents a list of sins committed by Israel including practicing false temple worship (verse 6), seeking after earthly riches (verse 7), building up arms and weaponry (verse 7), worshiping idols (verse 8), and indulging in pride (verse 9). People in our day are also guilty of such sins.
6 Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and hearken unto soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
verse 6 "O Lord" This expression is not found in the King James Bible and indicates that Isaiah is addressing the Lord in prayer."O Lord"
"thou hast forsaken thy people" The term "forsaken" carries the sense of abandoning the house of Israel and leaving them without the Spirit of God and without revelation through prophets."thou hast forsaken thy people"
"they be replenished from the east" "East" is ordinarily the sacred direction. Holy temples are oriented eastward and the Lord at his second coming will come from the east (Matthew 24:27). Here, however, the Israelites have sought to be spiritually directed (replenished) by apostate religious systems from heathen countries in the east, especially Assyria and Babylonia."they be replenished from the east"
The "Philistines" were a group of people who occupied southwest Palestine and who often warred against Israel.
"hearken unto soothsayers" Soothsayers are persons who pretend to prophesy or predict the future-false prophets."hearken unto soothsayers"
"they please themselves in the children of strangers" The Hebrew sepiyqu means to "clasp hands." Another possible translation of this phrase is that the Israelites shake hands with and enter into covenants with people outside the house of Israel ("strangers") who are unsavory people. This phrase might also refer to God's command not to intermarry with those outside the house of Israel."they please themselves in the children of strangers"
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.
verse 7 "Silver," "gold," and "treasures" are symbolic of worldly materialism. The Lord's people are ever commanded to seek him rather than the riches of this world.
"Horses" and "chariots" are symbolic of warfare and military might.
Isaiah's repeated use of the word "full" here and in the following verse corresponds to the phrase "fully ripe" which implies completely wicked and fully ready for destruction by the Lord (see Alma 37:31; Alma 45:16; D&C 101:11; 43:26; and 26:17).
8 Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.
verse 8 "Idols" are both the heathen deities constructed of wood and stone and also more abstract things that men become excessively devoted to, including worldly wealth, honors of men, and things of the flesh.
verses 6-8 We may summarize these three verses: For thou, O Lord, hast withdrawn thy blessings and influence from thy chosen people because they have become filled with false religious ideas. They have accepted the paganistic and idolatrous teachings of false mystics from the East. They have come to believe in fortune tellers as do the Philistines, and they have entered into covenants with unsavory people outside the house of Israel-foreigners. These foreigners bring a coarser, baser influence to Israel which damages Israel's spirituality. The Lord's chosen have filled their land with all manner of worldly possessions. The form of worship among some Israelites has even deteriorated to a point of idol worship, probably including the institutional fornication which was part of the ancient fertility cults.
9 And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not, therefore, forgive him not.
verse 9 The "mean man"-the common or ordinary man-has not been humbled, neither has the man of importance. Both are guilty of pride. Therefore, Lord, do not forgive them. Isaiah is still praying to the Lord.
verses 10-22 These verses contain one of the greatest prophecies recorded in the standard works of Christ's second coming and his judgments on the proud.
10 O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee.
verse 10 "The "wicked ones" are obviously the wicked of the earth.
This verse presents a scenario similar to one in Revelation 6:15: "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountain" due to their "fear of the Lord."
"the glory of his majesty" The terms "glory" and "majesty" refer to God's royalty and kingship."the glory of his majesty"
11 And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
verses 10-11 Here Isaiah begins an elaborate warning and threat that extends to the end of chapter 12. The time frame for these verses is not at first apparent. The sectarian scholars still cling to the idea that Isaiah is looking forward to the "Messianic age," or the time of the Savior's mortal ministry. It seems clear, however, that instead they refer to his second advent, his second coming, that pre-millennial period of cleansing when the telestial-bound souls will be purged from off the earth, and all the rest will be abased and humbled before the Lord's power and majesty when he appears to all the world in glory.
"Lofty looks" and "Haughtiness" refer to pride.
These warnings likely apply specifically to those who remain on earth after the great purging of the wicked. Hence their meaning becomes: O ye wicked ones (since those of telestial merit have already been purged, this greeting is likely directed to the proud and worldly who are deserving of a terrestrial, reward), even though you hide in the rocks or in the dust (John the Revelator foretells the same event in Revelation 6:15-16), you will not escape. All those who do not humble themselves shall be forced into a state of humility by the power and glory of the Lord's coming. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. It is better for us to humble ourselves than to be "compelled to be humble" (Alma 32:13-15).
In this hour the Lord alone shall be exalted.
verses 12-16 These verses stress the universal application of the pre-millennial purging and humbling to be dealt to the "proud" of all nations. Isaiah uses symbolisms to represent the major flaws in the character and institutions of ancient Israel.
12 For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty, and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.
verse 12 The term "Lord of Hosts" means Lord of Armies. It implies ruler over great numbers. The same title is found in the Doctrine and covenants as "Lord of Sabaoth" (D&C 87:7; D&C 88:2; D&C 95:7). Sabaoth means hosts or armies and should not be confused with Sabbath.
The Lord's hosts or armies consist of ancient Israel, which was called "the armies of the living God" (1 Samuel 17:26; 1 Samuel 17:36); the hosts of heaven, also called armies (Daniel 4:35; Revelation 19:14; D&C 88:112); and the latter-day Church, described as being "terrible as an army with banners" (D&C 5:14) and "the army of Israel" (D&C 105:26, 30-31; 109:73). As the Lord's army, we are equipped with the "whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11-17; D&C 27:15-18), spiritual armor designed to assist us to use light and truth in the battle against the forces of evil. Jehovah is the "captain" (2 Chronicles 13:12), "leader" and "commander" (Isaiah 55:4), and "man of war" (Exodus 15:3) who will lead us against the armies of evil.
The "day of the Lord of Hosts" is the second coming of the Savior and all those happenings associated with that magnificent event.
Throughout the writings of Isaiah, the phrases "day of the Lord," "in that day," "day of visitation," "day of his fierce anger," "and day of the Lord's vengeance" are found more than fifty-five times, underscoring how frequently Isaiah's writings emphasize the last days and the second coming.
As part of this "day" and prior to his actual coming, the wicked will be purged from off the earth. Among those who remain will be many proud and haughty whose arrogance will be stripped away. This is the Lord's day. All who remain to inhabit the earth will humbly acknowledge him as Lord.
"soon cometh" The implication of this phrase is that we must always be prepared for the Lord's coming, for he will come "soon" or "quickly" (D&C 33:18; D&C 34:12; D&C 49:28)-he will come unexpectedly."soon cometh"
"upon all nations" The Lord's judgment will be universal."upon all nations"
13 Yea, and the day of the Lord shall come upon all the cedars of Lebanon, for they are high and lifted up; and upon all the oaks of Bashan;
verse 13 "the day of the Lord" This is the same as "the day of the Lord of Hosts" in the previous verse."the day of the Lord"
The "cedars of Lebanon" and the "oaks of Bashan" are symbols of both worldly strength and material splendor. Those who are mighty and strong and wealthy will be brought low.
The oak forests of Bashan are located east of the northern part of the Jordan River. The hardwoods of cedar or oak were rare in Palestine and to own them was a status symbol.
14 And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills, and upon all the nations which are lifted up, and upon every people;
verse 14 In this context the "high mountains" and "hills" represent apostate temple systems that attempt to imitate the Lord's true temple, the "mountain of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:2-4).
15 And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall;
verse 15 The "high tower" and "fenced wall" represent man's misguided trust in man made defenses-leaning on the arm of flesh. A "fenced wall" is also a wall around a city.
16 And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
verse 16 The "ships" represent the people's commercial enterprises. The "ships of Tarshish" were probably used as an analogy by Isaiah to represent wealth and economic prosperity. The precise location of Tarshish is unknown, but it was probably a prosperous and bustling Mediterranean seaport. Perhaps because of the city's connection with wealth and affluence, the destruction of Tarshish and its ships symbolizes the Lord's judgment on the proud and arrogant.
The term "pleasant pictures" is more correctly translated in modern translations as "pleasant ships." These were apparently the pleasure boats in which the wealthy traveled throughout the Mediterranean.
Isaiah thus prophesies that in that pre-millennial period, the Lord will abase all these superficial symbols of wealth and power. The general theme that God's justice will ultimately prevail and triumph over evil is probably the most important theme found in Isaiah's writings (see also 2 Nephi 13:1-8; 2 Nephi 13:10-26; 2 Nephi 13:14:1- 6; 15:5-6, 25-30; 17:17-25; 18:6-8; 19:1-21; 20:5-19, 24-27; 21:6-9, 14-16; 23:1-22; and 24:1-21).
Contained in this verse is an interesting point which testifies of the Book of Mormon's authenticity as a translation of an ancient document. If you compare this verse with the King James Version of Isaiah 2:16, you will note a phrase not present in the latter-"upon all the ships of the sea." Apparently this phrase was contained in the Isaiah writings on the brass plates. Yet for some reason it did not make it into the King James Version. It is intriguing that the phrase "upon all the ships of the sea" is found in another version of the Old Testament, the ancient Greek version called the Septuagint. Tradition has it that this version was translated from the Hebrew into Greek by seventy elders (thus the name Septuagint, meaning seventy and the common symbol used for this version-LXX) probably some time before the third century BC. There is no evidence that the twenty-three year old Joseph Smith possessed or even knew about the Septuagint when he translated the Book of Mormon. If he had had access to it, he would not have been able to read it since it was written in Greek. It is of further interest that the same verse in the Greek does not contain the phrase "upon all the ships of Tarshish." Thus the Book of Mormon contains the most complete translation of this verse.
17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.
verse 18 To "abolish" means to destroy.
19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
verses 17-19 A reiteration of the fate of the proud and worldly. The earth's proud and wicked attempt to hide in the cavities of the earth because they feel more comfortable, as do moles and bats in darkness. They try to hide from God and his glory, and they find themselves in Satan's domain, beneath God and his saints' dwelling place.
Again, those being addressed here are not the wicked telestial souls who will be purged from the earth. Rather this prophecy pertains to those terrestrial individuals who qualify to remain to receive Christ at his second coming but who need be brought low and humbled in his great day.
Verse 19 refers to the display of the Lord's power, when he comes in glory, which will cause the earth to tremble. Many prophets have placed earthquakes in the context of the end of the earth (Ezekiel 38:19-20; JS-M 1:29; Revelation 6:12-17; Revelation 16:18).
Might it be that the haughty and proud terrestrial souls that inhabit the earth at the time of the Lord's second coming in glory will become aware of the terrible destruction occurring and that this is what causes them to hide.
20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;
verse 20 The imagery of this verse is striking. The people will bury their idols in the ground (the habitation of moles) or pile them in caves (the habitation of bats). The irony here is that people who lusted after these beautiful material objects made of precious metals, will throw these precious items to animals who are blind from living so long in darkness and who will not be able to see or appreciate them at all. They will cast away their idols when they realize how meaningless they are.
21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
verse 21 "Clefts of the rocks" are crevices or caves into which the wicked will flee in order to hide from the Lord. Perhaps these "clefts" and "ragged" rocks will result from the earthquakes in verse 19.
22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?
verse 22 "Cease ye from man" Isaiah exhorts Israel to stop placing confidence in man and his status symbols and idols and trust in the Lord. This is one of the most important themes in all of the writings of Isaiah (see also 2 Nephi 17:1-16; 2 Nephi 18:1-4; 2 Nephi 18:9-15; 2 Nephi 20:24-34; 2 Nephi 20:24:32)."Cease ye from man"
"whose breath is in his nostrils" Man is never more than a few breaths away from death. Therefore, anyone who leans on the arm of flesh may see his support disappear in an instant."whose breath is in his nostrils"
"wherein is he to be accounted of" How much is he worth? Is he worth patterning your life after?"wherein is he to be accounted of"