2 Nephi Chapter 8
Chapter 8 consists of Jacob's quoting Isaiah's writings from the plates of brass. These writings correspond to Isaiah 51 and Isaiah 52:1-2 of our modern day book of Isaiah.
It seems likely that the events in this chapter are most appropriately placed in the last days. The Lord calls to his people Israel, and perhaps most specifically to members of his Church, asking them to hearken to his words. At the conclusion of the last days, as the Lord ushers in the Millennium, he will bring an end to the fallen condition of the earth. He will renew the earth and restore it to its Edenic or millennial state. The Lord will dwell among his people. As the events of the last days unfold, the Lord assures us that if we are righteous, we need not fear the works of man. The Lord is greater than any man, and he will help us. He reminds us of his works of power in times past. By that same power he will bring Zion and fulfill all his promises to her.
verses 1-2 In these verses, Isaiah reminds his people of their heritage, namely that they are descended from Abraham with whom important covenants of great posterity and lands were made. Here Isaiah again is speaking messianically, as though he were the Lord.
1 Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness. Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.
verse 1 "Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness." Listen to me and follow me, all of you that seek exaltation. To "follow after righteousness" is to choose the good and godly way of life, to follow our God in all things.
"Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged." Look to your ancestry, your origins, your noble heritage. Remember the rock and quarry from whence you came. Israel had her beginnings in father Abraham, and Israel must keep the covenants that God made with him.
2 Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, she that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him.
verse 2 "she that bare you" For Nephites and Lamanites also, of course, Abraham was their ancestor, their "father," and Sarah was "she that bare you" (cf. Alma 13:15).
"for I called him alone, and blessed him" These phrases have reference to the unique Abrahamic covenant which the Lord made with Abraham alone. With this covenant the Lord blessed the house of Israel.
3 For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
verse 3 It is likely that these events are millennial and refer to the millennial restoration.
Isaiah's reference here to "Zion" is somewhat problematic. The reader must decide which definition of Zion is applicable. Isaiah may have had reference to latter-day Jerusalem. Jerusalem was laid waste by Babylon in 586 B.C. and by Rome in AD 70. Or perhaps Isaiah may have envisioned latter-day Zion, the "New Jerusalem," and those Israelites who gather there. In this latter case the term "Zion" would refer to latter-day gathered Israel. Perhaps both meanings are appropriate. Isaiah was certainly shown by revelation the future scatterings of Israel. Keep in mind that Assyria captured the northern ten tribes between 732 and 722 BC which was during Isaiah's lifetime. Thus the scattering and laying waste to Israel was very much a current and pertinent topic. If the reader desires to study a detailed discussion of the concept of Zion, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 27, Zion.
"For the Lord shall comfort Zion" "he will comfort all her waste places" Jerusalem, which was wasted, will be blessed and restored. Also the Lord will show compassion to those latter-day Israelites who are scattered and assist them in gathering and build them up physically and spiritually.
"he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord" The land of Jerusalem or Israel, which has long been as desolate as a desert, will be made into a fruitful garden like Eden. Actually the whole earth will be changed. The tenth Article of Faith states: "The earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." In a more spiritual and metaphorical vein, when we truly come to Zion, which implies a union with one another and with our God, the wilderness and desert areas of our souls will be renewed and blessed.
"Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody" In contrast with the sorrow and misery suffered by the exiled Israelites who have been wandering in sin, among gathered Israelites-in latter-day Zion-there will be songs of thanks and rejoicing and praise unto God.
4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation; for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light for the people.
verse 4 "Hearken" and "give ear," of course, mean listen.
"My people" are likely all of Israel, or perhaps in a more narrow sense, particularly those who have gathered unto the Lord.
"a law shall proceed from me" The Lord, "our lawgiver" (Isaiah 33:22), will reveal the gospel law. He will restore his gospel to the earth.
"I will make my judgment to rest for a light for the people" The Lord's "judgment" (justice or law) is a "light" in that it is steady, reliable, and true. Also the Lord himself is a light or beacon for the people. It would seem that the phrase "to rest for" may mean "to act as."
5 My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arm shall judge the people. The isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
verse 5 "My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth" The time of my second coming is at hand.
"mine arm shall judge the people" The Lord's "arm" refers to his power. The Lord's arm of judgment is his justice. The Lord himself will be our judge: "He employeth no servant there" (2 Nephi 9:41).
"The isles shall wait upon me" The word "isles" refers to scattered Israel and perhaps in this case gathering Israel wherever they may be found on the earth. These look to me.
"on mine arm shall they trust" To trust in the arm of the Lord is to trust in the Lord himself. This is in contrast to the arm of flesh, or the ability of man (including our own selves), in which we must never trust.
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner. But my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
verse 6 "Lift up your eyes to the heavens" Here, clearly, the Lord speaks of his second coming and the events surrounding it. In this verse, when the Lord speaks of the heavens' and earth's passing away, he is foretelling the events either immediately prior to the Millennium or after the Millennium. This latter time is before the earth's celestial transformation.
"heavens shall vanish" Though the earthly heavens and the earth itself as we know them seem permanent, they will vanish or "pass away" when the Lord comes again in glory. They will be replaced by new heavens (2 Peter 3:10; 3 Nephi 26:3; D&C 45:22) and a new earth-a terrestrial or paradisiacal earth and heavens. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us-with our current limited state of understanding-to understand the meaning of a "new heaven" or "new heavens."
"like smoke" Smoke is visible in the air only briefly and then vanishes.
"the earth shall wax old like a garment" This phrase is good example of a figure of speech known as a simile (see the introductory commentary for Jacob 5).
It is part of Latter-day Saint theology that the earth is a living entity with a spirit (or spirits) and a body (or bodies), and that it will die and then be resurrected. Though heaven and earth will pass away, just as all clothing deteriorates and disintegrates, the Lord and his righteousness continue forever.
7 Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart I have written my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.
verse 7 "ye that know righteousness" Again Isaiah speaks messianically to the Lord's people-his Church.
"in whose heart I have written my law" We are truly of God when not only our acts reflect obedience to God's law but when our hearts-meaning our true feelings, desires, attitudes, and intentions-are all turned to do his will. When we submit ourselves to God, he writes his law in our hearts even as he wrote the law on tablets of stone in Moses's day.
"fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings" For those of you who accept the Lord there will be inevitable opposition, but do not be afraid when people taunt and insult you.
8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool. But my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
verse 8 "the moth shall eat them up like a garment" All things earthly, including the godless men who would reproach the Lord's people, are transitory and subject to corruption and decay, as is a garment. But the Lord's righteousness is permanent and never ends.
"from generation to generation" This phrase symbolizes forever.
verses 9-11 Now the first person or speaker changes. Isaiah is no longer speaking messianically as though he were the Lord. The speaker is Israel herself, especially those of Israel who "follow after righteousness." They cry unto the Lord for assurance that he will indeed bring the promised blessings.
9 Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?
verse 9 "Awake, awake!" Please awaken to our plight, Lord, and help us!
"Put on strength, O arm of the Lord . . . as in the ancient days." The Hebrew reads "clothe yourself with strength." Use thy power and authority to save us, as you did in ancient times. The phrase "ancient days" here has reference to the time of Moses-the miracles in Egypt, the exodus, the wanderings in the wilderness, and the entry into Palestine.
"Rahab" Was it not you who cut the dragon Rahab into pieces? At the time of Isaiah an ancient myth existed regarding the creation of the world. According to the myth, Rahab the dragon was vanquished by the Lord and cut in two, to form the heaven and the earth. Rahab signified chaos. Chaos is overcome through creation. In other words, the question being asked here might be "Was it not you who created heaven and earth?"
Alternatively the symbol of Rahab the dragon was commonly used to refer to Egypt. Perhaps Isaiah is reminding the people of the Lord's victory over Egypt when he worked his miracles there. The next verse suggests that this latter was Isaiah's intent.
In any case the point of the imagery here is that the Lord has power over all of the elements and all of his enemies.
10 Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
verse 10 Here, clearly, Isaiah has reference to the Lord's miracles in leading the Israelites out of Egypt. God dried up the sea so the children of Israel could cross.
"the ransomed" To "ransom" is to obtain the release of a captive by paying the price. "The ransomed" are obviously the Israelites whom the Lord rescued from bondage in Egypt, which is a type for the bondage of sin from which Christ ransomed humankind.
11 Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
verse 11 As were the ancient Israelites at the time of Moses, scattered Israel will be ransomed and redeemed in the latter days. As the Latter-day Saints gather in Zion, they will sing and shout for joy.
The "everlasting Joy and holiness" which "shall be upon their heads" suggests priesthood ordinances, specifically the ordinances of the temple.
As the Israelites gather, they will do so with great rejoicing, as they will realize that the prophecies are being fulfilled. This joy will even displace the sorrows resulting from Israel's trials.
verses 12-16 In these verses Isaiah again speaks as though he were the Lord and asks scattered Israel three questions. He then answers them in reverse order. The three questions are: Why do you fear mortal man? Have you forgotten your Creator? Why fear your oppressors? The answers are (in reverse order): You will be freed from your oppressors. I am the great Creator. You are my people, and I will teach and protect you.
12 I am he; yea, I am he that comforteth you. Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, who shall die, and of the son of man, who shall be made like unto grass?
verse 12 "I am he that comforteth you" I am the one who strengthens you.
Why should you fear mortal man and his offspring who are no more enduring than grass? Grass, of course, withers quickly and dies easily as do humans. The expression "son of man" (without a capital "m") refers not to Jesus Christ but to the offspring of mortal man.
13 And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth, and hast feared continually every day, because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?
verse 13 The first sentence in this verse is complex, and its construction makes it difficult for the reader to realize that he is reading a question. This question contains two separate ideas. The first is, "Have you forgotten the Lord who created you-the same who created heaven and earth?" The second is, "Why should you live in constant fear of the fury of those who oppress you and those who seem ready to destroy you?"
"and hast feared continually every day" And hast thou feared continually? Scattered Israelites throughout history have often lived as scattered and fragmented groups living among other dominant cultures. In this situation, living outside of Zion and outside of the comfort and protection of a major body of Israelites, they have often lived as a repressed and oppressed minority. They have been regarded by those who rule over them with suspicion and even jealousy.
"And where is the fury of the oppressor?" This question is really the Lord's first answer: Their fury can no longer touch you.
14 The captive exile hasteneth, that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.
verse 14 "The captive exile hasteneth, that he may be loosed" Again, the "captive exile" is scattered Israel. The captive's period of exile hastens to its conclusion, and he is freed.
"and that he should not die in the pit" He will not be allowed to die in exile. The "pit" is a place of captivity, such as a dungeon. It can also refer to Sheol, the place of the dead.
"nor that his bread should fail" He will not be allowed to starve in exile-to suffer for lack of nourishment, either physical or spiritual.
15 But I am the Lord thy God, whose waves roared; the Lord of Hosts is my name.
verse 15 This verse seems to have a few words missing. What was probably intended was "I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea whose waves roared" as is found in Isaiah 51:15 ("Conjectural Emendation and the Text of the Book of Mormon," Stan Larson, a FARMS reprint).
"I am the Lord thy God" "the Lord of Hosts is my name" Here is the answer to the second question. The phrase "Lord of Hosts" implies that he is the ruler over great numbers on earth and in heaven, even a great heavenly army.
16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion: Behold, thou art my people.
verse 16 "And I have put my words in thy mouth" I have provided you with instruction, with my gospel, and with ongoing revelation.
"and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand" Even though the Lord has allowed his people to be scattered and punished, he has provided them a measure of protection to keep them from being destroyed.
"that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth" As the Lord created the heaven and the earth originally, so will he create a new heaven and a new earth in the millennial day.
"and say unto Zion: Behold, thou art my people" The Lord avers that those of Israel are indeed his chosen people. He has not forgotten them.
He thus answers the first question by saying, "You are my people. I have not forgotten you. You have no need to fear any mortal man."
verses 17-23 Here Isaiah seems to admonish a specific part of scattered Israel, those descended from the land of Judah-largely the Jews. Because of an incessant and almost refractory tendency to apostatize from the truths of the gospel, the ancient Jews were many times punished. They were carried captive to Babylon. Later, some were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Soon, however, their spiritual fabric would rend again to the point where most of them would reject Christ during his mortal ministry. Because of their iniquity they would again be scattered under the fist of Rome. However, dispersion and persecution will not be their permanent lot. These verses provide promise that the Lord will again bless and gather them as they return to Christ.
17 Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury-thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling wrung out-
verse 17 "Awake, Awake, stand up" Rouse yourself, O Judah, and get up! Hearken to the voice of God.
"which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury" You have drunk the cup the Lord gave you to drink. The "cup of his fury" is his judgments. You have suffered the relentless oppressions the world has heaped upon you. And no one but you is to blame.
"thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling wrung out" "Dregs" refers to the last vestiges, the sediment remaining at the bottom of a cup of wine; the last remaining, unwanted part of something. You drank the cup of the Lord's punishment down to the last drop ("those drops wrung out"), and it made you reel and stagger. The "cup" here is a symbolic expression for the bitter or poisonous potion typifying experiences of suffering.
18 And none to guide her among all the sons she hath brought forth; neither that taketh her by the hand, of all the sons she hath brought up.
verse 18 There is no one among your people to take you spiritually by the hand and lead you. This verse explains the sorry spiritual state of the Jews. They have no prophets or inspired leaders among their own people ("among all the sons she hath brought forth"). Since there is no one among her own people, she must look elsewhere for spiritual guidance, perhaps to the other remnants of Israel or even to the Gentiles. Unfortunately, there has been an unfailing proud tendency not to do so.
19 These two sons are come unto thee, who shall be sorry for thee-thy desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword-and by whom shall I comfort thee?
verse 19 "These two sons are come unto thee, who shall be sorry for thee" Perhaps these two sons are the two witnesses who will be instrumental in keeping enemy armies from totally defeating the Jews (Revelation 11:1-6). These will be sent by the Lord because there is no priesthood leadership among the Jews. John the Revelator describes two great servants of God who will stand and fight for Jerusalem against the armies of the world. For three and one-half years they will have power over the heavens, earth, and their enemies. Then they will be killed (Revelation 11:3-13). Joseph Smith prophesied concerning these two witnesses, calling them "two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration (D&C 77:15)." Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggests that these two prophets may be Latter-day Saints, perhaps members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or of the First Presidency (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:507-11). For a more complete discussion of the two prophets, see the subtitle "Two prophets in Jerusalem to prophesy, die, and be lifted up after three days" in the section titled "Signs of the Seventh Seal-Prior to the Lord's Second Coming" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 26, Signs of the Lord's Second Coming-Those that Punish and Cleanse.
"thy desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword" A threefold calamity has befallen you-your lands have been devastated by war, your people have starved, and many of your people have fallen by the sword.
"by whom shall I comfort thee?" There is no one to offer you sympathy and comfort.
20 Thy sons have fainted, save these two; they lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net, they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.
verse 20 "Thy sons have fainted" The Jews have no spiritual leadership among their own people.
"save these two; they lie at the head of all the streets; as a wild bull in a net" These two "sons" or prophets are depicted as a "wild bull in a net." A bull may be captured, but it is still dangerous until it is worn down or killed. While these two cannot stop the eventual overthrow of Jerusalem, they somehow stay off the destruction until they are finally subdued and killed.
"they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God" They have been imbued with and they wield the power of God's anger.
21 Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, and not with wine:
verse 21 "Hear this, you who stagger as though you were drunk." The Jews are depicted as being drunk and afflicted, not with wine but because they have drunk from the cup of the wrath and punishment of God.
22 Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God pleadeth the cause of his people; behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again.
verse 22 "Your Lord defends you and says, I am removing the cup which I gave you in my anger-the 'cup of my fury.'" You will no longer have to drink this "wine" of punishment that renders you drunk and afflicted.
Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines dregs as, "The sediment of liquors; grounds; feculence; any foreign matter of liquors that settles to the bottom of a vessel."
23 But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; who have said to thy soul: Bow down, that we may go over-and thou hast laid thy body as the ground and as the street to them that went over.
verse 23 "I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee" I will give the same "wine" or punishment or judgment to those who unrighteously oppress you.
"who have said to thy soul: Bow down, that we may go over-and thou hast laid thy body as the ground and as the street to them that went over" The oppressors of the Jews are characterized as those who made them lie down in the street so that they might trample them, and the Jews had complied with their request. In some ancient societies, the vanquished were forced to lie on the ground while the victor walked over them.
verses 24-25 In this chapter's concluding verses, Jacob quotes from Isaiah 52:1-2. Again, the first person is either Isaiah or the Lord. It would now appear that he is speaking more to gathering Israel in general and not just to the Jews.
24 Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
verse 24 Here is the rallying cry for the latter-day scattered Israel, particularly to their priesthood leaders, to gather Israel.
"Awake, awake" While scattered you have been spiritually sleeping. Here is a call for the covenant people of the Lord to measure up to their responsibilities in the Abraham covenant.
"O Zion . . . O Jerusalem" Zion and Jerusalem are the two capital cities of the Lord's latter-day kingdom. They symbolize all of his gathered covenant people.
"put on thy strength" Roust out your priesthood leaders (see D&C 113:7- 8).
"put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city" Jerusalem (the Jews) must increase in beauty and holiness before the Lord in preparation for their gathering. They must replace her slave garments with beautiful garments, perhaps the garments of royalty and dignity or the holy garments of the temple.
"for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean" They must also purge themselves of those who are disobedient and unrighteous, including disbelieving Gentiles, who will not gather.
25 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
verse 25 "Shake thyself from the dust" The Lord's people must rid themselves of "the dust" which represents sin, humiliation, and servitude.
"arise, sit down" The Lord's people are instructed to get up out of the dust, where slaves must sit, and sit instead in a place of honor, as on a throne.
"loose thyself from the bands of thy neck" These bands hold an individual captive. Here these bands are the curses of God placed upon scattered Israel. These curses are removed as members of the house of Israel return to the Lord and repent of their sins. You will be able to free yourselves from the curses that God has placed upon you.