Mosiah Chapter 14
Mosiah 14 Abinadi quotes Isaiah 53 in preaching to the court of King Noah.
Here Abinadi quotes in its entirely the material contained in Isaiah 53. This chapter is considered by many Christians to be the most sublime messianic prophecy in all the scriptures. The verses from this chapter have formed the text of countless sermons. In a very few verses, Isaiah provides an overview of the Savior's life and mission. It is likely that Abinadi is not the first Book of Mormon prophet to utilize the materials in Isaiah 53. Many of the concepts contained herein were also taught previously by Book of Mormon prophets such as Nephi and his brother Jacob.
Isaiah 53 is often called the "Song of the Suffering Servant."
The Jews, of course, do not consider Isaiah 53 to be a prophecy of Jesus Christ and his suffering. The Jews were looking for an invincible millennial Messiah to come in power and glory. The Messiah described by Isaiah in this chapter would come from humble and obscure beginnings, would look like an ordinary man, and he would suffer and die. In his first coming to earth he came as a suffering servant. In his second coming he will come as a reigning King. In his first coming he would not overthrow earthly kingdoms and governments but rather conquer something far greater, even sin and death.
The Jews interpretation is that Isaiah is not describing the suffering of a particular individual, but rather the future travails of the entire nation of Israel. Obviously the priests of Noah also did not consider Isaiah 53 to be a prophecy of Jesus's coming. Matthew, John (John 12:37-38), Peter, Paul, and Philip understood that at least parts of this chapter referred to Jesus. Abinadi's commentary on these verses in Mosiah 15-16 will corroborate the Christian view and furnish details not found in the writings of any Christian scholar.
John W. Welch said of this chapter:
In this poem, Isaiah speaks in short, powerful phrases. His compact expressions project strong bursts of imagery; he does not dwell long on each painful scene in the travail of the Redeemer. Each of these flashes evokes sober reflection. Isaiah has seen the suffering of the servant, but it is almost as if he cannot stand to look (Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch, a FARMS publication, 293).
verses 1-3 Here Isaiah describes Christ's mortal life.
1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
verse 1 In this verse, Isaiah asks two questions. The first is: "Who hath believed our report?" The word "report" may be interpreted as words. Here Isaiah alludes to the fact that he (Isaiah) and all other prophets since the world began had prophesied and testified of the Messiah, yet few had believed them. The second question is: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" This rhetorical question might be rephrased: "Who will witness and who will directly benefit from the Lord's using his power to bring about salvation for his people? Isaiah will partly answer his own question in Mosiah 15:31 (Isaiah 52:10). There he says that all will have the opportunity to witness the Lord's power and the Lord's salvation (see Mosiah 16:1 and its commentary).
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
verse 2 "For he [the servant, or Jesus Christ] shall grow up before him [Elohim] as a tender plant [a helpless newborn of humble beginnings] and as a root out of dry ground [Jesus will come forth out of the dry sterile and nearly impenetrable ground of apostate Judaism]." In other words, the servant shall grow up in the caring and watchful presence of Elohim, but in most humble circumstances and among a spiritually impoverished people.
"he hath no form nor comeliness" "there is no beauty that we should desire him" These phrases do not necessarily imply that the mortal Jesus will be unattractive physically. Rather they suggest that he will not be distinguishable from other Jewish boys or Jewish men. He will have no distinctive features, no glorious affect, to make him identifiable as the son of God or to draw attention to himself. He will not come as an exalted and glorified being. He will not come as the bigger-than-life political deliverer that many expected.
It is, of course, also possible that his physical appearance was not unusually attractive. Your author, being not particularly physically "comely" himself, will admit to the secret, silent hope that the Savior's physical features were not especially handsome.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
verse 3 No one on earth has ever loved with the intensity and the sensitivity of Jesus, yet he experienced bitter sorrow, disappointment, and rejection throughout his life. Isaiah eloquently prophesies that he will be "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Surely no one who has ever sojourned on this earth has ever been more "acquainted with grief."
Even some of his family members rejected him at first (John 7:5). People in his hometown tried to kill him (Juke 4:16-30). His own countrymen rejected him (John 1:11). One of his closest associates betrayed him (Luke 22:48). In the end "all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matthew 26:56), and his enemies demanded his execution (Matthew 27:22-23).
"we hid . . . our faces from him" Keep in mind the common practice of prophets' writing in the past tense of events yet in the future (the so-called "prophetic perfect" verb tense). Here, stated in the past tense, Isaiah perceives that people, particularly the nation of Israel, will in the future, ignore him or look the other way as though he were of no worth. This expression is used in describing the people's reaction to lepers. In other words the people will shun him.
"he was despised" Moreover, they will hate him and seek to kill him, eventually succeeding in their efforts.
"and we esteemed him not" The past verb tense is still being used for events yet to occur in the future. Isaiah uses the word we here as a rhetorical device to draw us, the readers, in. We are participants with those who were there. Our "esteem" of Christ is measured by our willingness to obey his commandments. People living in Christ's day or in the present day are preoccupied by wickedness. They resent and despise Christ for intruding into their selfish and lustful way of living.
verses 4-6 In these verses Isaiah describes the terrible ordeal of Christ's Atonement.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
verse 4 It is a classic irony that even though Christ was suffering for the sins of all mankind and suffering the pains and sufferings of all humankind-so that he might become their Savior-including those who were actual witnesses of Christ's crucifixion, the onlookers thought he was being justly punished for the crime of blasphemy. The reality is that he suffered willingly in order to overcome the effects of our sins as is made clear in the next verse: "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." To qualify to become our Savior, the Lord had to suffer to the extent that he "descended below [us] all" (D&C 122:7-8; see also Alma 7:11-12).
"stricken" It is interesting that the word "stricken" is used some sixty times in Leviticus 13 and 14, always with the same meaning-that of suffering the emotional pain of having leprosy. Jesus will be viewed with the same disdain as the Jews viewed a leper.
"smitten of God, and afflicted" It has been common in many ages for people to assume that someone who suffers justly (for their sins) is being punished by God. Those who see the Christ suffer consider that he is being punished for sin. Ironically, they are correct. It is the Father who orchestrated his terrible ordeal (see Matthew 26:39; 3 Nephi 11:11; D&C 76:107). But it is not his own sin for which he suffers; rather, it is for ours.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
verse 5 "wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities" "Wounded" (Hebrew chalal) is better translated as "pierced fatally." "Bruised" (Hebrew daka') is more correctly "crushed."
"the chastisement of our peace was upon him" The suffering necessary for our healing and peace of mind ("our peace") was borne by him. It is notable that the Hebrew word shalom, meaning "peace," derives from the verb shillem, meaning "to reconcile" or "to make whole." Thus the peace of Christ is far more than a friendly greeting-shalom. It is instead a gift of the Spirit, a wholeness of being, a oneness with God (Keith Meservy, "Isaiah 53: The Richest Prophecy on Christ's Atonement in the Old Testament," A Witness of Jesus Christ: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament. Edited by Richard D. Draper [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990] 155-77).
"with his stripes we are healed" The marks they left in his skin (palms, wrists, side) are a symbol of his atoning sacrifice by which we are made whole.
6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
verse 6 Like a herd of sheep, every one of us has followed together the wrong road and committed sin (see also Romans 3:23). Each of us has given in to our "natural" human frailties, our "own way." Yet his atonement applies to us all.
"the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all" The Lord (the Father) hath laid on him (the Son) the iniquities of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
verse 7 While Jesus was oppressed and afflicted throughout his ministry, this passage seems to refer particularly to the legal trials he suffered immediately before his crucifixion which he suffered without speaking (Matthew 26:67-68; Matthew 27:29-30; Mark 15:3-5; Luke 23:9; John 19:9). "Dumb" means silent. He was persecuted harshly, yet he never complained, nor did he offer any excuses or apologies for his teachings. He was tormented, yet he endured it quietly and submissively like "a sheep before her shearers."
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
verse 8 "He was taken from prison and from judgment" is better rendered "He was taken by force (Hebrew 'utser) and without justice (Hebrew mish'pat).
"who shall declare his generation" Among scholars there is considerable difference of opinion as to how the Hebrew word, here rendered "generation," should be translated. Some would prefer to translate it as "fate." Thus one possible meaning of this phrase might be, "Who cares about his fate?" or "Who cares about him?" or "Who will pay attention to him and obey him?" The phrase, when thus interpreted, seems to emphasize his aloneness and his rejection.
Another proposed meaning of "his generation" is his genealogy, his genesis, his roots, his origin. Who will tell the source whence he sprang? What of his mother and Father? The idea is that the only ones who can testify of Christ's true origin are those who have an understanding of his mortal and immortal attributes, derived from his mortal mother and immortal Father.
The New International Version renders this phrase as "who can speak of his descendants?" implying that because he was "cut off from the land of the living" he had none. But Jesus did indeed have descendants, those who become his children through righteousness. He shall see his seed.
"he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken" Not only will Jesus suffer, but he will also die. He will be put to death to atone for the sins of all people.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
verse 9 The word "because" here is better rendered though. Jesus died between two thieves though he had never committed a crime or told a lie. He was buried in a rich man's tomb (that of Joseph of Arimathaea-see Matthew 27:57-60),
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
verse 10 "it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief" This phrase has at least two possible interpretations: (1) "Lord" is likely a reference to Elohim, the Father, thus teaching that it was the Father's will that Christ suffer the agony of the atonement-"he hath put him to grief." The Father had in mind a purpose for the suffering of the Son, thus he did not intervene and spare the Son (3 Nephi 11:11; D&C 76:107; John 3:16). (2) Isaiah may be differentiating between the two roles of the Savior: it pleased Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, to bruise Jesus, pointing to the fact that the great Jehovah would come in the person of Jesus, and that they are, indeed, one God (cf. Mosiah 14:2-4).
"when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed" When thou (the Father) shalt make his (Christ's) soul an offering for sin, he (Christ) shall see his seed. That is, when one is forgiven of sins through the atonement, one is spiritually begotten of Christ and becomes "his seed," or child (cf. Mosiah 15:2-4). Jesus's "offspring" will include those who become his spiritually begotten sons and daughters-those who take upon themselves his name and his covenants and abide in them (see Mosiah 15:2-4; Mosiah 15:10-13; D&C 84:36-38).
"he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" Christ is promised the blessing of eternal life. He will be resurrected and become immortal. Also because of Christ, the will and the purposes of the Father ("the pleasure of the Lord") will succeed.
11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
verse 11 "He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" "He" (the Father) will see the travail of "his" (the Son's) soul, and the Father will be satisfied.
"by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" "His knowledge" may refer to the knowledge the gospel brings, or to the knowledge and ability Jesus has, as a result of the atonement, to save and exalt us. The use of "many" rather than "all" suggests that some, the unrepentant, will not be justified (cf. D&C 19:16-19).
"My righteous servant" is the Savior. Who is the speaker or first person (to whom does "my" refer?) in this phrase? It is likely the Father (see verse 12).
Christ shall "justify" many. The word "justify" is a rich word. To be justified is to be regarded as righteous by God-free of sin, legally innocent. Man cannot be exalted if he is not justified. For a thorough discussion of the process of justification, see Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17.
Justification requires three essential ingredients:
1. An individual must strive mightily to keep the commandments, including participation in the required saving ordinances and covenants. Also he must repent often whenever he falls short.
2. The Holy Spirit must then assess the intention of the man's heart. If the laws and ordinances have been kept with an honest heart and with sincere intent, then the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, will ratify the act of repentance. This is often referred to as being "sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise." The "Holy Spirit of Promise," of course, is one of the names for the Holy Ghost.
3. It should be recognized that as hard as a man tries to live the commandments and maintain a pure heart, he invariably falls short of perfection, and "the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (Alma 45:16). Thus, man cannot be justified on his own merit. He needs help. The needed help comes because of the grace of God.
The term grace refers to the love God has for man. Particularly, it refers to that aspect of God's love that inclines him to extend to man blessings the man does not actually merit or deserve. Blessings may be extended to man by God, according to the concept of grace, even when that man is lacking in merit. Thus, in the case of justification, the Holy Ghost may justify an individual when proper effort and progress has been made, even though that individual falls somewhat short of the mark. The Spirit extends to the deserving individual the blessings of the Savior's atonement. Thus, it may be said that "by the law no flesh is justified" (2 Nephi 2:5)-the commandments, in and of themselves, do not save anyone. While it is vital to live the commandments, it is not enough. Without the grace, or leniency, of God, no man could be justified. This grace or leniency is available from the Savior because of his atoning sacrifice, and, as we have noted, it is extended to an individual only on conditions of personal effort and personal righteousness.
By this process, then, an individual may become justified or free of sin. The absolute necessity of complying with the laws of the gospel may be referred to as the "law of justification." There are no unearned blessings. Some Protestant sects have misinterpreted Paul's teachings (Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:19-28; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:1-10; Galatians 2:15-21), and have taught that man is justified by faith alone, without works. For an explanation of Paul's teachings and for a more complete discussion of historical Christianity's apostate doctrine of salvation, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 4, chapter 10, The Afterlife, chapter 11, Grace and Works, and chapter 12, The Fate of the Unevangelized.
A concept related to justification is sanctification. When an individual is in a state of justification, the Holy Ghost can then begin the process of sanctifying that individual. Sanctification consists of two separate phenomena. The first is that an increment of the natural self of the individual is purged from him. Second, he is granted an increment of an attribute of Christ. Again, for a more complete explanation of sanctification, see Justification and Sanctification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17. This is an ongoing and incremental process and is also afforded to an individual by the principle of grace and not by his own merit. Personal righteousness implies more than simply being free of sin. It also includes the incremental spiritual growth resulting from the process of sanctification.
"bear their iniquities" Metaphorically, Christ carries the sins of the people upon his shoulders.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
verse 12 "will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong" Again the speaker or first person in this verse is the Father. Christ and his celestial spiritual offspring ("the great" and "the strong") will become joint heirs of everything the Father has: possessions, glory, power, knowledge, and godhood. Christ's portion, among the great and strong, will be the first and greatest. He will share his inheritance with all of his "children."
"he hath poured out his soul unto death" He went the whole way and willingly gave his life.
"he was numbered with the transgressors" He lived among and was mistaken by some as a sinner. He was hung on the cross between two thieves.
"Intercession" is an act done on behalf of someone else.