2 Nephi Chapter 24
1 For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land; and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
verse 1 "Jacob" refers to members of the twelve tribes or house of Israel. In one setting, after Babylonian captivity, he will allow them to return to their own land. The Lord will yet again have mercy on the people of Israel, and he will choose them anew ("choose Israel") as his elect and allow them to be redeemed and gathered to their covenant or promised lands ("set them in their own land").
In the latter days they will finally be gathered to their promised lands yet again. "Strangers" (or better translated "foreigners")-actually non-Israelites-will come and live among them. These non-Israelites will flee to Zion for safety. They will be preached to and converted ("joined with them"). They will also "cleave to"-be adopted into-the house of Israel.
2 And the people shall take them and bring them to their place; yea, from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise. And the house of Israel shall possess them, and the land of the Lord shall be for servants and handmaids; and they shall take them captives unto whom they were captives; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
verse 2 "And the people shall take them and bring them to their place" The restoration of Jacob to their lands of promise will be assisted by other peoples. Perhaps this refers to Persians who supported the return of Judah in ancient times or, alternatively, to latter-day Gentile missionaries of modern times. The latter-day Gentile missionaries ("the people") will help the scattered people of Israel gather to their promised lands. These missionaries will also gather the Gentiles from the ends of the earth. These will repent, join the Church, and be adopted into the house of Israel. The promised lands of the Israelites are America and the Holy Land. Each of these two promised lands is "the place for the city of Zion" (D&C 57:2), a place for the temple of the Lord (D&C 124:38), and a place of refuge against the forces of the world. Symbolically, these lands are a type and shadow of heaven, which is "a far better land of promise" (Alma 37:45). The Israelites and Gentiles will be gathered from a wide diversity of nations ("from far unto the ends of the earth").
"the house of Israel shall possess them" Once these Israelites and Gentiles are gathered, they will fully belong to the covenant house of Israel.
The promised land belongs to the Lord, hence it is "the land of the Lord." The Israelites gathered to the promised lands are in part the humble common people ("servants" and "handmaids"). These common people will become eternal rulers in God's kingdom, ruling over those in their former lands who oppressed them.
3 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall give thee rest, from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.
verse 3 "in that day" This expression also may have dualistic meaning, referring either to the ancient times or to the latter days. The Lord will provide the people of Israel with relief from the hardships of bondage. Temporal rest from fear and hard bondage came to the house of Israel anciently under the leadership of King David and King Solomon, both of whom were types and shadows of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, who will give the house of Israel eternal rest. The expression "hard bondage" recalls the time the Israelites spent in Egypt as slaves of the Egyptian taskmasters or when scattered Israel lived subject to oppressive governments.
verses 1-3 Historically these verses were fulfilled when Cyrus the Great of Persia captured Babylon and issued an edict allowing all captive peoples in Babylon to return to their place of origin. The first group of Jews returned to Judah in about 538 B.C. and began to rebuild their homeland. Another great exodus of Jews from Babylon began in 520 BC. Eventually the Jews were able to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the city itself, and the temple. Later on, the Jews began to enjoy autonomy and prosperity. They began to flourish and even began to proselyte other people in the area and to grow in numbers. Indeed, the population of the Jews grew into the millions by the time of Christ. While Babylon became desolate, Judea flourished.
verses 4-21 Isaiah prophesies that the Israelites, once back in their homeland, will recite a taunt-song about the "king of Babylon."
In verses 4-11 the object of the taunt song is the king of Babylon. If Isaiah had in mind an ancient historical setting, then the object of the song is indeed the historical character, the king of Babylon. If Isaiah, on the other hand, intended a latter day setting for these verses, then the king of Babylon is symbolic of Satan. In verses 12-20 the song is clearly directed at Satan himself. Likely these verses have two applications: Lucifer's fall from heaven during the premortal existence, and the time when Lucifer will be cast down to hell (outer darkness) after the Millennium.
4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased!
verse 4 "it shall come to pass in that day" The meaning of the time reference "in that day" depends on the intended subject of this prophecy. If ancient Babylon's king is intended, then it might refer to the time of Israel's return to Palestine in about 538 BC. If Satan and a latter-day context is intended, then the latter-day reference is likely. Perhaps both meanings were intended by Isaiah.
"thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon" A proverb is a song or saying. In this case it is a song of derision against the king of Babylon. "Thou shalt sing this taunt-song, or satirical song, about the king of Babylon."
The taunt song shall say, "How the cruel king of Babylon has fallen, and how the tyranny has ceased." The "golden city" is the proud city of Babylon. Again, the king of ancient Babylon is a type for Satan in all dispensations.
5 The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the scepters of the rulers.
verse 5 The Lord has terminated the power of these evil rulers, either the king of Babylon or Satan. The "staff" and "scepters" are the symbols of the rulers' power.
6 He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.
verse 6 A "continual stroke" implies constant and repeated blows. He who angrily oppressed the people and never stopped persecuting the nations he had conquered is brought down. This angry and wicked oppressor is either the king of Babylonia or Satan.
"none hindereth" No one restrains the bringing down of the Babylonian king. No one helps him or comes to his aid.
7 The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet; they break forth into singing.
verse 7 Babylon is destroyed; Satan is thrust down to hell. Now, at last, the whole earth enjoys rest and peace, and its people break forth into songs of joy. Enoch asked the Lord, "When shall the earth rest?" (Moses 7:58), to which the Lord responded, "for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest" (Moses 7:64), referring to the Millennium, when Satan is bound and powerless.
8 Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, and also the cedars of Lebanon, saying: Since thou art laid down no feller is come up against us.
verse 8 This imagery illustrates how those who once were persecuted by the king of Babylon will rejoice when he has become powerless. Fir trees, cypress, and Lebanon cedars may have been chosen for the imagery because Babylon harvested ancient forests of these species to support their extravagant building practices. The cypress trees and the cedars of Lebanon rejoice over the fallen king-the king of Babylon or Satan, saying: Since you are "laid down" in death, there is no one to cut us down. This verse recalls other scriptures in which God's creations (the trees, forest, mountains, earth, and heavens) "break forth into singing" when the Lord redeems Jacob (Isaiah 44:23), comforts his people, and has mercy of the afflicted.
A "feller," of course, is a woodsman or tree cutter and represents the king of Babylon or Satan.
9 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
verse 9 Hell is the translation of the Hebrew Sheol meaning the underworld or the place of the dead. Sheol is translated as "grave" in verse 11. "Hell from beneath"-hell below is preparing to welcome the king of Babylon or Satan.
"it stirreth up the dead for thee" The New International Version reading here is instructive. It says that hell "rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you-all those who were leaders in the world, they are caused to rise from their thrones." These will marvel that the mighty king of Babylon or Satan has been cut down and become like them.
10 All they shall speak and say unto thee: Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?
verse 10 All these dead kings in hell call out to the king of Babylon or Satan saying, "Now even you are as powerless as we are! You have become weak just like us!" During mortality the king of Babylon, of course, ruled with glory and power and possessed great wealth and importance.
11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave; the noise of thy viols is not heard; the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
verse 11 Now your glory and vanity are lost once you are placed in the grave. The "noise" or sound or your "viols"-the fiddles or violin-like instruments that previously honored thee, are no longer heard.
"the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee" Literally, "Your bed is maggots and your blanket is worms." This describes a fallen and disgusting condition.
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
verse 12 Lucifer, bright morning star, "you have fallen from heaven. You are thrown to the ground (actually cast out of heaven and into the earth), you who did previously conquer nations." Lucifer was once a mighty individual, a truly eminent person in the premortal existence, before the Father cast him to earth with his angels. Referring to Satan, we read in modern revelation: "And was called Perdition [the lost one], for the heavens wept over him-he was Lucifer [the light bearer or "shining one"], a son of the morning" (D&C 76:26).
Isaiah indicates here that the object of this taunt song is no longer just the ancient historical king of Babylonia. Especially "honored" by the song now is Satan himself.
"which did weaken the nations" Satan's work among the nations has brought dishonor, corruption, perversion, anarchy, immorality, exploitation, war, greed, and a myriad of other evils to every nation and people since the beginning: "And the children of men were numerous upon all the face of the land. And in those days Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts; and from thenceforth came wars and bloodshed; and a man's hand was against his own brother, in administering death" (Moses 6:15).
13 For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;
verse 13 You have said resolutely, "I will climb up to heaven and place my throne above the stars of God. I will sit like a king on that mountain in the north where the gods assemble."
To exalt here is to "raise with pride; to make undue pretensions to power, rank, or estimation" (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language).
"thou hast said in thy heart" Satan was and is a self-centered individual who secretly makes his own plans without seeking God's guidance.
"I will ascend into heaven" Even though Lucifer enjoyed a position of prominence in the premortal world, he was not content with his status, as it was below that of the Father. He said to the Father, "Give my thine honor" (D&C 29:36-37).
"I will exalt my throne above the stars of God" The inordinately ambitious Lucifer errs here in at least two regards. First, he believes that he is able to exalt or deify himself. Yet, the scriptures inform us that no one can become exalted without Jesus Christ and his atonement. Secondly, Lucifer speaks concerning his "throne." Yet no one can possess a heavenly throne without overcoming the world and receiving God's permission and blessing. "To him that overcometh will I grant to set with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).
The "stars of God" are righteous people who are favored of God. Satan desires a throne higher than these righteous sons of God.
"the mount of the congregation" Alternate translations render this phrase "assembly of the gods" or "the mountain where the gods assemble." This refers to the general assembly of the exalted where decisions have been made or are being made concerning the creation of the worlds and other eternal events. Lucifer desires to become part of this assembly which would give him equal power and authority with the gods.
"in the sides of the north" This is alternately translated "in the farthest north" and is an allusion to heaven, meaning a place far away from the habitations of humanity.
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.
verse 14 I will ascend above the clouds-to heaven-and be like unto God. Ironically Lucifer wanted to ascend to heaven, yet he fell and was "cut down to the ground" (see verse 12).
The term "Most High" suggests a vertical hierarchy. God is higher than all. He is the Most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
verse 15 Instead you will be thrust down into the deepest and darkest parts of hell-actually outer darkness. Satan sought a high position in heaven. Instead God will send him to the place farthest from heaven.
16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?
verse 16 Hell's inhabitants will be amazed that Lucifer, who shook kingdoms with his evil intentions, has been brought down to the depths. They will "narrowly look upon thee," that is, stare or squint at you-look at you "closely and with minute scrutiny" (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language) and ask, "Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?"
The word "man" here is Isaiah's reminder that Lucifer is by no means a god.
17 And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners?
verse 17 Is this the man who turned the world into a desert and destroyed cities? Is this the man who never allowed his captives to go free?
"and opened not the house of his prisoners" This is perhaps a reference to the fact that Lucifer does not want his spiritual captives, or those bound by sin, to be released.
18 All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house.
verse 18 "all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house" The kings who ruled over telestial earth are buried in magnificent tombs decorated with marble. The implication is that Lucifer will not even enjoy this privilege.
19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and the remnant of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.
verse 19 Here is imagery describing how the king of Babylon, a type of fallen Lucifer, will be treated. This verse conveys the idea that both the king of Babylon and Satan will ultimately receive no respect.
The grave of Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon's king, has never been discovered, and Lucifer will never have a grave or a monument because he never received a body. The implication is that the body has never been buried, but abandoned like garbage. Thus Nebuchadnezzar, and also Satan, share the fate of the dead among the poorest people, like those stabbed in a brawl. Symbolically they are simply dumped into a stone-lined pit and left to the birds and animals.
This verse is a quote of Isaiah 14:19 where the word "raiment" in the book of Isaiah is rendered "remnant" here in this verse. Brother Sidney Sperry feels that the word raiment is more appropriate and should have been used. He suggested that the meaning of the verse is: "Clad with the slain, i.e., the corpse of the King of Babylon is surrounded by other dead bodies [in a common grave]" (Book of Mormon Compendium, 242).
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.
verse 20 "Renowned" means remembered by future generations. You are guilty of destructive and murderous acts against mankind and nature. Accordingly, you will not be buried like other kings with their large monumental tombs.
"the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned" None of your evil kind will ever be honored. As mentioned above, Satan never received a body, and thus he cannot ever receive an honorable burial. We might interpret this as meaning that Satan and his sons of Perdition will be cast into outer darkness where there is none of God's glory.
21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquities of their fathers, that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
verse 21 "Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquities of their fathers" Let the slaughter begin. The children of evildoers will perish because they espoused the sins of their fathers.
"that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities" The righteous will possess the lands of promise and build cities of Zion for the pure in heart. The wicked, however, will not be blessed to inherit such cities of Zion.
verses 22-23 These verses foretell the destruction of physical Babylon.
22 For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of Hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord.
verse 22 The Lord says, "I will attack Babylon and bring it to ruin. I will leave no children or other survivors.
The phrase "the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew" implies that all will be destroyed. Absolutely all inhabitants will be destroyed.
23 I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts.
verse 23 I will turn Babylon into a marsh haunted by such as the "bittern." A bittern is a fowl native to Europe. It has long legs and neck, and stalks among reeds and sedge, feeding upon fish. I will sweep Babylon with the "besom," or broom, of destruction. Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines besom as, "a broom; a brush of twigs for sweeping."
Isaiah uses the images of bitterns and owls to characterize desolate places.
There are a number of instances in original manuscript of the Book of Mormon where Dr. Royal Skousen feels that Oliver made a mistake in transcribing Joseph Smith's dictation. If a word or a phrase was unknown to him, he substituted a more common word or phrase (but with varying degrees of success). In each of these cases, the substitution is found in the original manuscript and was later copied into the printer's manuscript. It was then either corrected by the typesetter or appeared in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. This verse offers such an example. In the original and printer's manuscripts, this verse read ". . . and I will sweep it with the bosom of destruction." The word bosom was changed to besom by the typesetter, and it therefore appeared in the 1830 edition. Dr. Skousen feels that the reading in the present edition is the correct one.
verses 24-27 Isaiah now continues with a short warning to Assyria.
24 The Lord of Hosts hath sworn, saying: Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand-
verse 24 The Lord God has sworn an oath: "What I have intended ("purposed") will happen. What I have determined to do will be done." And what is it the Lord has determined to do?
25 That I will bring the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot; then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
verse 25 I will destroy the Assyrians in my land of Israel and trample them on my mountains. I will free my people from "his yoke" (Assyria's vassalage) and from the burdens Israel has had to bear at Assyria's hand. This defeat of Assyria likely occurred in 701 BC during the reign of King Hezekiah. The Assyrians under Sennacherib had laid siege to Jerusalem. Assyria seemed about to crush Jerusalem when a peculiar catastrophe suddenly struck the Assyrian army. Some accounts have it that 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers died though this may have been a greatly exaggerated legend. At any rate Sennacherib departed quickly back to Nineveh (capital city of Assyria), never to return. For a more complete historical description of this event see the supplemental article, Historical Setting for the Book of Isaiah.
Symbolically or figuratively speaking the yoke of Assyria (which represents the world) is removed from covenant Israel as Israel accepts Jesus Christ and forsakes their sins.
26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all nations.
verse 26 "This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth" This is my plan for or my promise to the world, and it will surely come to pass.
"and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all nations" The Lord is in control of all nations and has power over all the earth, to punish and to reward.
27 For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
verse 27 Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines disannul as, "To annul; to make void; to deprive of authority or force; to nullify; to abolish." When the Lord has a plan, who has the ability to cancel or nullify his plans? He has stretched out his arm to punish or protect, and who shall stop him?
verses 28-32 Isaiah concludes with a warning to Philistia. The Philistines occupied the area of Palestine which is on the Mediterranean coast of Judah. The Philistines were often at war with the Israelites.
28 In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
verse 28 A "burden" is a prophecy of desolation or destruction on a wicked nation. Thus, this verse states that the following prophecy or warning to Philistia was given by Isaiah in the year that Ahaz died which was about 715 BC. The reader will recall that Ahaz was an unrighteous king of Judah who refused to follow Isaiah's counsel (see the introductory commentary for 2 Nephi 17 and the supplemental article, Historical Setting for the Book of Isaiah.
29 Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken; for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
verse 29 Before offering an interpretation of this verse, let us review a brief historical note. During the time of Isaiah, Philistia survived attacks by the Assyrian army under two different Assyrian kings, Shalmaneser and Sargon. The latter captured the Philistine city of Ashdod. At the time of the writing of this verse, yet another destruction of Philistia lay in the future. A third Assyrian king, Sennacherib, would later capture several Philistine cities and render them vassals of Assyria.
"Palestina" is Philistia or Palestine which consists of the five kingdoms, Gaza, Ekron, Gath, Ashdod, and Ashkalon.
"Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken" People of Philistia, you have no reason to be glad simply because the rod that beat you is broken. The rod[s] that beat Philistia were the Assyrian kings Shalmaneser and Sargon. Isaiah warns the Philistines that they have no reason to rejoice just because Shalmaneser and Sargon are dead and that Assyria has lost her leader. Another oppressor king will follow.
"for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice" Apparently "the serpent's root" is that place from which it gives birth. A "cockatrice" is a venomous snake. When one snake dies a more poisonous one comes in its place. The metaphor in this verse suggests that Philistia's next oppressor will be somehow related to its first, perhaps a descendant.
"and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent" Isaiah again uses imagery to describe how the poisonous snake (Assyria) will yet produce offspring that will war against the Philistines. The serpent is called fiery probably because of its terrible burning venom. It is call flying probably because of the speed with which it strikes.
30 And the first-born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety; and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
verse 30 "And the first-born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety" The Lord will provide for those who are humble and righteous and who suffer (the poor and needy) even among the Philistines. They will join with the Zion people and be protected. The New International Version of the Bible suggests that the first-born of the poor are the "poorest of the poor."
"I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant" "Thy root" is your posterity. In essence Isaiah is saying, "But because of your disobedience, the Lord will send a terrible famine upon you Philistines (in Philistia or Palestine) that will kill all of you." Note how the King James Version has Isaiah speaking for the Lord in both the first person ("I will kill thy root with famine") and the third person ("he shall slay thy remnant").
"he shall slay thy remnant" Even those few who survive the famine ("thy remnant") shall be destroyed.
31 Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved; for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
verse 31 "Dissolved" means destroyed.
"Howl and cry for help, all you Philistine cities! Be terrified, all of you. A cloud of dust is coming from the north-it is the Assyrian army, and none whom the Lord has designated shall avoid it.
Philistia was repeatedly invaded by Assyrian armies. It was finally Babylon, however, and Nebuchadnezzar who snuffed out any remaining sparks of Philistine independence in 604 BC.
"none shall be alone in his appointed times" The Jerusalem Bible reads "there are no deserters in those attacking Assyrian battalions," which means that all enlisted men who belong to the Assyrian army are mighty warriors; there are no cowards or stragglers among them.
32 What shall then answer the messengers of the nations? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
verse 32 What then shall we tell the messengers or envoys that come to the promised land inquiring from other nations how they might be saved from Assyria's destructive forces? We will tell them that the Lord has established Zion, and the meek and obedient shall find safety there. The poor also will find both temporal and spiritual salvation in Zion.