2 Nephi 11:2-8 Why So Much Isaiah?
Nephi gives several reasons for quoting Isaiah again, this time for 13 chapters (adding to his three other chapters in 1 Nephi 20-21 and 2 Nephi 27; others who quoted Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are Jacob, Abinadi, Moroni, and Jesus Christ). Nephi’s reasons can help us in our study. He stated: Isaiah was a witness of the Redeemer, as were Nephi and Jacob (verses 2-3); Isaiah helps prove the coming of Christ (verse 4); he helps us understand the covenants of the Lord and His grace, justice, power, mercy, and deliverance from death (verse 5); the writings of Isaiah lead us to “lift up [our] hearts and rejoice” (verse 8).
2 Nephi 25:1-8 But Isaiah is Hard!
Nephi shared several keys for understanding Isaiah, including:
- It helps to understand the “manner of prophesying among the Jews” (25:1). The writings of the Old Testament prophets were often symbolic, possessing multiple meanings, and using poetic literary forms such as parallelism and chiasmus.
- We must be “filled with the spirit of prophecy” (verse 4); having the gift and influence of the Holy Ghost, as well as the testimony of Christ.
- It helps to understand “the things of the Jews” (verse 5), which could include a knowledge of their history, customs, manner of speech, traditions, culture, and geography (“the regions round about;” verse 6).
- We should see ourselves in Isaiah’s writings, for they are “of great worth unto them in the last days” (verse 8).
- Additionally, the italicized chapter headings are an indispensable help.
2 Nephi 12-24 An Organized Approach
One reason we can sometimes be confused by the writings of Isaiah is that the topics include events ranging from pre-mortal life to the Millennium and beyond; and they aren’t in chronological order! It can help to look in multiple references for specific events or time periods, such as:
- What is the Lord doing in the last days to gather scattered Israel and build up His kingdom? (See 2 Nephi 12:2-3; 15:26; 20:20-22; 21:11-13; 24:1-2.)
What is your role—present and future—in His work?
- What did Isaiah say about the wickedness of his day and ours, and about their destruction? (See 2 Nephi 12:6-10; 13:4-5, 8-9, 12, 15-17, 24-25; 15:11-13, 18-20; 19:5; 20:1-2; 23:6-11, 15-19; 24:4-6, 10-15, 21.)
How do you recognize and reject the evil of our day?
- What did Isaiah prophesy about Jesus Christ? (See 2 Nephi 17:14; 18:13-15; 19:2-4; 20:33; 21:4-5.)
I what ways is Jesus Christ a “sanctuary” and a “great light” for you?
- What things did Isaiah prophesy about Christ’s millennial reign, and what life will be like during the Millennium? (See 2 Nephi 12:4; 14:2-6; 19:6-7; 21:5-9; 22:2-6; 24:3, 7.)
What do you most look forward to in the Millennium? Why?
We also see that an overarching theme of Isaiah is the growth of both the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. But Isaiah abundantly assures us that in the end, God’s work and kingdom will triumph and Satan and his work will be destroyed forever.
2 Nephi 25:4, 7 Nephi Prefaces His Own Prophecies
After quoting Isaiah extensively, Nephi records his own prophecies in 2 Nephi 25:9 through 30:18. However, he tells us that his approach will be different from Isaiah, having characterized Isaiah’s words as “not plain” (verse 4). Nephi declares, “I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me … for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness” (verse 4; see also verse 7). In this case, the word plain can mean “transparent,” “open,” or “comprehensible.” Nephi uses the words plain, plainly, or plainness seven times in chapter 25, plus another eight times in chapters 26-33.
2 Nephi 25:9-20 More About the Jews
The definition of Jew can be difficult to pin down, and moreover it can change, depending on the context (this is also the case with the term gentiles). In the Book of Mormon “the Jews” generally appears to refer to those of the tribe of Judah, as well as any people who have lived in Jerusalem, regardless of their tribal lineage within the house of Israel. What is clear is that the Jews are never far from the minds and hearts of the Lord and His prophets. Thus, in these verses we again encounter prophecies regarding the Jews. Nephi wrote:
- After their destruction and carrying away by the Assyrians (in about 721 B.C.) and then again by the Babylonians (in about 589 B.C.), the Jews would return again to the land of their inheritance, including Jerusalem. This return occurred in about 520 B.C. and will occur again in the latter days (verses 9-11).
- Between the destruction by Babylon and the coming of Christ among the Jews, they would suffer wars and rumors of wars; then reject and crucify Jesus because of iniquities, hard-heartedness, and stiffneckedness (verses 12-13).
- Jerusalem would suffer destruction once again (which occurred in 70 A.D. by the Romans) and again the surviving Jews would be scattered (verses 14-15).
- After many generations of scourging, the Jews will be persuaded to believe in Christ and to worship the Father with pure hearts and clean hands; thus being restored again—this time in the last days—from a lost and fallen state (verses 16-17).
- As part of the Lord’s latter-day “marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men,” the Jews will be convinced of the true Messiah as a result of the Lord’s words that will be given to them (presumably in the Book of Mormon; verses 17-18).
Nephi concludes this section of his prophecies by repeating his determination to speak “plainly.” He also bears testimony that “as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved” (verse 20). Earlier Nephi had said of the Savior, “My soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name” (verse 13). Let us fulfill Nephi’s desire and purpose, that we too may rejoice and delight in Jesus Christ’s name and in His work among His people, including His work in our own lives.
2 Nephi 25:23-30 The Purpose of the Law of Moses
In the Old and New Testaments most of the people of Israel failed to understand and properly observe the law of Moses, which had been given to help them learn about Christ and come unto Him. In these verses Nephi affirms the true purposes of the law of Moses, teaching that the Lord’s grace—accompanied by our faith, repentance, and “all we can do”—is the only way we can be saved (verses 23-25). We are to “worship him with all [our] might, mind, and strength, and [our] whole soul” (verse 29). Indeed, He is the only “source” where we may look for a remission of sins and to gain “life which is in Christ” (verses 26-27). Nephi concludes by asserting twice that “the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not” (verses 28-29). It couldn’t be more plain!