2 Nephi Chapter 23
Chapters 23 and 24 of 2 Nephi are a translation of the same materials found in Isaiah chapters 13 and 14. These chapters contain Isaiah's inspired warnings to Babylon. Actually Assyria and not Babylon was the dominant nation in the Fertile Crescent during Isaiah's lifetime. But even during the so-called Assyrian period, Babylon still represented the best of culture, learning, and literature. It was also the center of apostate pagan religion. Babylonian culture and its pagan ideologies spread throughout the Middle East. Accordingly in these two chapters Isaiah often uses Babylon and her king as symbols of the world and its wickedness (cf. D&C 1:16). Thus, you should keep in mind that the term "Babylon" has both literal and figurative meanings. It refers to a specific ancient kingdom and to a spiritual condition. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether Isaiah is referring to physical or spiritual (figurative) Babylon.
In addition to warnings to Babylon, chapter 24 also contains some warnings to Assyria and Philistia. Philistia, or the land of the Philistines, is the southern Mediterranean coastal area of Palestine.
The whole of chapter 23 and the first 23 verses of chapter 24 have been termed thematically "the fall of Babylon." It should be noted that the prophesied destruction of Babylon in chapters 23 and 24 is a type of the destruction which will come upon the wicked just prior to the Lord's second coming. Isaiah likely had both the historical meanings and the latter-day implications in mind as he wrote these chapters. He writes of the Davidic king ultimately destroying the Assyrian and Babylonian kings. This is strong evidence for Isaiah's latter-day intent and application since historically, no Davidic king ever defeated a king of Assyria or a king of Babylon. On the contrary, successive Assyrian and Babylonian kings defeated Israel and exiled her people. In a latter-day context, however, the great king Jesus Christ will prevail over spiritual Babylon.
These two chapters may be outlined as follows: introduction (23:1); the Lord summons his forces (23:2-5); the anger and power of the Lord are leveled against spiritual Babylon (23:6-13); physical consequences will befall the land of Babylon and its inhabitants (23:14-22); the Lord will be merciful to Israel (24:1-3); a taunt song against the king of Babylon (24:4-21); the destruction of physical Babylon (24:22-23). To complete the outline of these two chapters, verses 24 through 27 of chapter 24 contain the prophecy of the fall of Assyria, and verses 28 through 32 of chapter 24 tell of the fall of Philistia.
1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.
verse 1 A "burden" is a prophecy of doom or judgment against a people. The "burden of Babylon" is actually Isaiah's inspired oracle or divine declaration of judgment or doom against Babylon. When a prophet like Isaiah delivers such a message, indeed it can become a "burden" for the people since additional knowledge and responsibility is placed upon them.
Again, keep in mind the probable dual meaning here. Historically, in Isaiah's day (689 BC), Babylon was attacked and destroyed by Assyria under Sennacherib (Babylon was rebuilt shortly thereafter). In the latter days, spiritual Babylon will be attacked and destroyed by the righteous members of the Lord's kingdom on the earth.
"which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see" This phrase explains the means by which Isaiah received this message of warning or "burden." He saw it in vision of the future.
verses 2-5 Here the Lord is the speaker. He summons his forces from the ends of the earth in preparation for a "holy war." Who are his forces? Historically it was the army of the king of Assyria that destroyed Babylon. Thus, from that historical standpoint, it is Assyria's army and later the army of Persia (539 B.C.) that are being rallied here. From a broader, latter-day perspective, it is the army of believers, members of the kingdom of God on the earth who are being summoned.
2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.
verse 2 "Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain" Raise the battle flag on top of the hill. A banner may also be termed an ensign. In this dispensation members of God's army will figuratively lift up an ensign, the gospel banner, upon the high mountain. The "high mountain" symbolizes the temple.
"exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles" Shout to the soldiers and raise your arm as the signal for them to attack the gates of the proud city Babylon. In this dispensation we might interpret this phrase as having an almost opposite meaning: Lift up a voice of warning to the enemy, wave the hand and beckon them to enter the gates or entrances of Zion and to the temple.
Here the word exalt means to raise, as the voice.
3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.
verse 3 "I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones" In ancient Israel the soldiers prepared for the holy war by participating in holy rituals connected with the temple (Deuteronomy 23:10-15). Thus, the Lord says, "I have called out my righteous and strong warriors." Here is perhaps further evidence that a latter-day time frame is also intended. Would the Assyrian or Persian armies, for example, be referred to by the Lord as "my sanctified ones"? In this dispensation he calls out his saints, those who are temple worthy who are made holy by Christ's power. These will battle against evil using his weapons. His "mighty ones" are heroes and men of valor.
"mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness" "Highness" refers to the Lord's exaltation. I am not angry with those who take pride in me, those who accept my sovereignty.
4 The noise of the multitude in the mountains like as of a great people, a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together, the Lord of Hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle.
verse 4 The multitudes gathered to do battle, either in Isaiah's day or in this last dispensation, are noisy. Elsewhere Isaiah likens the noise of a great multitude of people to the "noise of the seas" and "the rushing of mighty waters" (Isaiah 17:12).
In his day he gathered them to do battle with Babylon. In the latter days they are gathered with the intent of defeating evil and building Zion.
"in the mountains like as of a great people" This seems to have reference to the gathering of the saints in the Rocky Mountains. On August 6, 1842, Joseph Smith prophesied that some of the saints would "live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains" (TPJS, 255).
5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, yea, the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
verse 5 Those who join the Lord's army will be gathered from all the nations of the earth.
"the weapons of his indignation" These represent the Lord's powers. Compare this to Jeremiah 50:25: "The Lord hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation."
In his anger, the Lord is coming to destroy the whole country or the sum total of all evil on the earth.
verses 6-13 Again, the ancient city of Babylon, with all its pomp, arrogance, and worldliness, is symbolic of the world in the last days. These verses describe the effects of the Lord's anger and power when they are directed against spiritual Babylon in the latter days.
In verses 6-10, Isaiah is the speaker.
6 Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
verse 6 "Howl ye" This expression is used repeatedly by Isaiah (16:7; 23:1, 6, 14; 65:14). It implies that the wicked (those who belong to Babylon) are like dogs and wolves who howl while under duress.
"the day of the Lord" The "day of the Lord" is a day in which the Lord metes out rewards or punishments. Here, this expression refers to our day, or the last days. More specifically "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" refers to the Savior's coming in glory. For the righteous it is a "great" day. For the wicked, the times have been "dreadful."
"it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty" Christ will destroy the wicked in preparation for his second coming.
7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, every man's heart shall melt;
verse 7 The residents of spiritual Babylon will be immobilized by their fear. Their arms will hang down limp, likely in fear or despondency.
8 And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
verse 8 The people of Babylon in the day of the Lord shall all be terrified and overcome with "pangs and sorrows"-physical and emotional pain. Apparently there is a particularly noxious type of fear that will beset the wicked at a time of their impending destruction (read the graphic example of this fear in Revelation 6:15-17).
"they shall be amazed one at another" The New International Version reading is more descriptive: "They will look aghast at each other" because of the terrible happenings.
"their faces shall be as flames" Their faces will flush with guilt and shame. This expression may also refer to the fact that prior to the Lord's second coming the wicked will burn with fire.
When this verse is compared with the parallel at Isaiah 13:8 in the King James Version, it becomes apparent that the Book of Mormon text is different in that the latter does not have the following clause: "they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth." This difference between the Book of Mormon and the Bible could be accounted for by asserting either that the clause was added to the Bible account or deleted form the Book of Mormon account. Since the words "they shall be" begin the missing part as well as the immediately following clause, it may indicate that someone's eye skipped from one set of words to the other and thus account for their absence in the Book of Mormon. These words may have been lost when the printer's manuscript was made from the original manuscript, though the original is unavailable to substantiate the situation one way or another. The omission of this phrase in the Book of Mormon interfers with the fine balance of the characteristic poetic parallelism that is present when the phrase is added back. This suggests that indeed an error was made when the Book of Mormon was being produced.
9 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.
verse 9 Again, the "day of the Lord" refers to that day in which he metes out rewards and punishments. Here it refers to the latter days and the Lord's second coming. That day is a cruel day for those who are not prepared. The Lord is capable of "wrath" and "anger." This is the day of the Lord's vengeance against those who reject him whether they be in ancient Babylon or in latter day "Babylon." The land will be made a wilderness, and every sinner will be destroyed. The Lord will destroy all corruptible things at his glorious coming, including the wicked.
The agents of the eventual fall of ancient Babylon were invaders from Persia, who in 539 B.C. conquered Babylon and supplanted its international dominance with their own. Babylon never again rose to power and eventually simply disappeared as a city.
10 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.
verse 10 A cosmic upheaval will accompany the day of the Lord's vengeance and the heavenly lights will be darkened. Every star and constellation will all cease to shine. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will give forth no light. This verse possibly refers to some of the so-called "signs of the coming of the son of man" prophesied to occur in the latter days (D&C 45:39-42). The prophet Amos prophesied that for the wicked "the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light" (Amos 5:8).
11 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.
verse 11 The Lord again becomes the speaker. The "world" is synonymous for evil. I will punish all of the wicked for their sins. I will humble everyone who is proud and punish everyone who is arrogant and cruel. Those remaining will obviously be the righteous and humble.
The "terrible" are those who cause fear. The phrase "will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible" is better translated, "will put an end to the pride and ruthlessness of the tyrants and oppressors."
12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
verse 12 "Precious" in this context means rare. Those mortals who survive will be scarcer than gold. Ophir is a region of unknown location, in biblical times known for its production of fine gold. Your author can find no non-biblical or other biblical reference to "the golden wedge of Ophir," thus the expression may not refer to a specific precious object. Rather the "golden wedge of Ophir" may simply be a general reference to the gold of Ophir.
Another idea called to mind here is that those who remain on the earth, those who survive the furnace of affliction will be purified like gold. They will no longer possess dross (sin).
"even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" This awkward phrase might be better written: "a man will even be more precious than the golden wedge of Ophir."
13 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.
verse 13 I will make the heavens tremble and the earth shall be shaken out of its place on that day when I, the Lord, show my anger. This imagery suggests earthquakes and cosmic disasters causing panic among the people who will scatter like a chased roe (deer) or fleeing gazelle and like sheep who have no shepherd.
The prophecy that the heavens will shake and the earth moved out of her place has, subsequent to Isaiah, been repeated by many prophets and placed in the context of Christ's second coming (Joel 3:16; D&C 43:18; D&C 45:48; D&C 49:23; D&C 84:118; Moses 7:6). Both Haggai (Haggai 2:6-8; Haggai 2:21-23) and Paul (Hebrews 12:26- 29) explained this prophecy.
verses 14-22 These verses graphically describe the physical consequences that will befall the land and its inhabitants.
14 And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up; and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.
verse 14 As mentioned, the imagery here implies that wicked people during the judgments of the last days will be like hunted and frightened deer. They will flee for their lives and they will be like sheep without a shepherd, implying that those who have not accepted Jesus as their shepherd may not receive his protection.
"they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land" During the Lord's latter day judgments the wicked will flee to their own lands and homes in Babylon (meaning the world) looking for safety. The righteous will flee from Babylon and its carnal preoccupations to Zion and its temples.
15 Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.
verse 15 The arrogant inhabitants of the city will be stabbed to death ("thrust through"). This idea is repeated twice in a parallel fashion. The "sword" here represents war and its instruments. In the last days the wicked will destroy themselves during the many wars and battles of which the prophets have prophesied.
16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
verse 16 The wicked shall experience great devastation. While they look on helplessly, their babies will be "dashed to pieces," that is, thrown against something hard and battered to death, their homes will be looted, and their wives will be seized and raped.
17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it.
verse 17 "I will stir up the Medes against them" Historically, the Medes were a people who came from Media, located in northwest Persia or Iran. Media became part of the Persian Empire when the Medes were conquered in the middle of the sixth century BC by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Under Cyrus, the Persians and Medes easily conquered Babylon in 538 BC. Some twenty years later the walls of Babylon were demolished, following which the city never again became the capital of an independent people. Two centuries later, after the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, conquered the Persians, Babylon rapidly declined in commercial and cultural importance as Seleucia became the major city in the area. By the time of Christ, only a few astronomers and mathematicians continued to live in the ancient, sparsely populated city. After they left, Babylon remained a deserted tell (mound), which sand and brush gradually covered until it became a hill used only by wild animals and as grazing land for nomadic flocks (Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, 1:335).
"which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it" The Medes will not go into battle to obtain plunder (silver and gold); instead, their motivation is to kill, and gain power and control.
Perhaps the Medes or Persians are symbolic of latter day nations who have wicked designs upon one another.
18 Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
verse 18 Again, the archer's bow and arrow symbolize war and its various instruments. With their bows and arrows the Medes will slaughter the young men. One meaning of the word dash in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines is "To break; to destroy." The merciless soldiers will also slay children ("the fruit of the womb").
"their eyes shall not spare children" Another phrase emphasizing the fact that no one will be spared during the wars. Even small children are killed so that future generations will not arise in rebellion to avenge their parents' deaths.
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
verse 19 Isaiah seems again to be the speaker in this verse, and the Lord resumes as the first person in the following verse and throughout the remainder of the chapter.
Babylon, with its riches, glorious gardens, magnificent temples, fortressed walls, and high towers, was legendary in the ancient world. It was the most glorious of all the world's kingdoms. Again, Babylon is symbolic of the world in the latter days.
"the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency" The Chaldeans of the first millennium BC were a Semitic people. They were a founding people of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, whose marvelous capital, Babylon, was a monument to their accomplishments. Chaldea is often used as a synonym for Babylon. Nebuchadrezzar was a Chaldean. It was under Nebuchadrezzar (605-562 BC) that Babylon reached its zenith of power, pomp, and splendor, but his empire fell only a generation after his death" (New Layman's Bible Commentary, 781).
"shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" Sodom and Gomorrah are regarded as prototype examples of God's divine judgment on all those who are evil (Jude 1:7). These cities became a heap of ruins (Genesis 18-19) as will ancient Babylon and latter-day "Babylon."
Bible scholars have suggest that Sodom may have been leveled by a great explosion and fire caused by the ignition, perhaps by a stroke of lightning, of the naturally occurring petroleum products including gases in the area.
20 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.
verse 20 Isaiah's prophecy in this verse certainly came to pass. Babylon did become an uninhabited wasteland.
"from generation to generation" This expression implies a very long time.
"Arabian" refers to nomadic wanderers of the region. Apparently Babylon was to be so devastated that even these hardy people would not choose to camp there.
To "make their fold" is to enclose and tend sheep during the night.
21 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.
verse 21 Wild animals of the desert will come to infest the site. The "houses" or buildings of Babylon will overflow with "doleful creatures." Doleful means sad. Isaiah identifies creatures of the night that are ritually impure and are not domesticated. Such creatures will inhabit desolate Babylon, even taking over the abandoned houses.
"owls shall dwell there" Isaiah uses the images of bitterns and owls to characterize desolate places.
"Satyrs shall dance there" Satyrs are goat-like creatures in Greek mythology. The Hebrew word actually means "he-goats."
John the Revelator wrote that "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Revelation 18:2).
22 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.
verse 22 "And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses" Apparently "wild beasts of the islands" are hyenas. Hyenas will cry in the abandoned palaces of destroyed Babylon.
"and dragons in their pleasant palaces" The Hebrew word for dragon means "wild dogs" or "Jackals." Jackals or wild dogs will cry or howl in Babylon's palaces. The fact that palaces will be inhabited by creatures indicates that even wealthy, upper-class groups will not be exempt from God's destructions and judgments.
"her time is near to come, and her day shall not be prolonged" Babylon's time, or end, is near! Babylon (the worldly) will possess worldly honor for only a moment and will then be quickly destroyed.
I, the Lord, will destroy her speedily sparing only the righteous.