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Why Is Isaiah 53 the Crown Jewel
of the Old Testament? (Part 2 of 2)
Reflections on the Come, Follow Me Study Selection for Isaiah 50–57

Figure 1. J. James Tissot (1836–1902): a. The Brazen Serpent, ca. 1896–1902[1]; b. The Raising of the Cross, ca. 1886–1894.[2] “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”[3]


This two-part essay is focused on four questions:

  1. Why, in contrast to many who study this chapter, can Latter-day Saints be confident that the Isaiah’s description of the Righteous Servant refers to Jesus Christ?
  2. Apart from the vivid word pictures in individual verses, what is the big picture being painted by Isaiah 53 (and its preface at the end of Isaiah 52)?
  3. How might we understand some of the difficult-to-comprehend verses?
  4. How has this chapter changed the lives of some Latter-day Saints?

In part one of this article, I discussed the first two questions. In this part, I’ll discuss questions three and four.


3. How Might We Understand Some of the Difficult-to Comprehend Verses?

Though the King James English used in our Bible translation is beautiful, it is often unclear—both because of its archaic vocabulary and, at times, its shaky sense of obscure Hebrew terms. Below, I will draw on the work of various Isaiah scholars to get at the plain sense of some of these difficult words and phrases.

Figure 2. Harry Anderson (1906–1996), The Ascension of Jesus.[4] in John 3:14 the “lifting up” of Jesus has as much to do with His heavenly ascent and glorious enthronement as it does with his ignominious death.[5] Hence, according to Herman Ridderbos, “the crucifixion is not presented [by John] as Jesus’ humiliation but as the exaltation of the Son of Man,”[6] a “birth from above” that He intended to share with His disciples.[7]


The Servant Shall Be Exalted (Isaiah 52:13–15)

13 ¶ Behold, my servant shall deal prudently,

he shall be exalted and extolled,
and be very high.

my servant shall deal prudently. Or, better, “my servant shall become wise.”[8] Thus, “the Servant’s wisdom is an aspect of his exaltation.”[9]

he shall be exalted. In this verse, Isaiah describes both the suffering and the exaltation of Jesus Christ. In addition, however, in the Book of Mormon the resurrected Jesus Christ Himself applies Isaiah’s description of a “suffering servant” to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Moses applies similar language to Enoch.[10] Moreover, Moses is both a type of the Messiah and also of Joseph Smith.[11]. These examples make it evident that others in addition to Jesus Christ also can be “lifted up”—becoming sons of Man[12] and receiving “everlasting life”[13]—through unwavering faithfulness in “the trial of [their] faith.”[14]

14 As many were astonied [astonished[15]] at thee;

his visage [appearance[16]] was so marred more than any man,
and his form more than the sons of men:

many were astonished at thee. The people would gape in astonishment and disdain at the Servant,[17] just as the crowd had been filled “with wonder and amazement”—“and with anger” at Abinadi.[18]

his visage was so marred. Instead, this should be translated as “I have anointed him,”[19] consistent with the Targum of Isaiah’s reference in 52:13 to “my Servant the Messiah”[20] (that is, the “anointed one”). “The verse then describes not a human being unrecognizable because he has been disfigured, but one whose appearance has changed because he has been exalted and made wise, and the Lord has anointed him.[21]

Notably, Pseudo-Clement’s Recognitions 1:45:2 defines the Greek title “Christ” with reference to an anointing of oil administered by God Himself: “Although indeed He was the Son of God, and the beginning of all things, He became man; Him first God anointed with oil which was taken from the wood of the Tree of Life: from that anointing therefore He is called Christ.”[22]

C. S. Lewis succinctly expressed the principle behind the practice of anointing all Christians: “Every Christian is to become a little ‘christ.’ The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”[23]

15 So shall he sprinkle[24] [or “gather”[25]] many nations;

So shall he sprinkle many nations. Margaret Barker observes that many versions of the Bible have substituted another word for “sprinkle,” because they did not understand the context of the passage, and so they have obscured the meaning from all their readers.”[26] So what is the correct context for the puzzling phrase “sprinkle many nations”? Remember that “the atonement blood that was sprinkled[27] was the blood sprinkled, nāzâ, on the Day of Atonement to cleanse and consecrate,[28] and also the blood sprinkled by the Servant on many nations, so that they would be able to see and understand.”[29]

em>Figure 3. Marc Chagall (1887–1985), L’Exode, 1952–1966. “If I Be Lifted Up from the Earth, [I] Will Draw All Men unto Me” (John 12:32).

So shall he gather many nations. As an alternative to “sprinkle,” the Joseph Smith translation of this verse changes the word to “gather.”[30] While there is no obvious etymological connection between these verbs that would allows us to suggest a possible scribal error that could have confused them, the Prophet’s translation is fitting in light of John 12:32: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

the kings shall shut their mouths at him:

for that which had not been told them shall they see;
and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

kings shall shut their mouth at him. Both appalled by the Servant’s debasement, and astonished at His eventual vindication and exaltation, “kings shall purse their mouths closed,”[31] left speechless in wonderment.

that which had not been told them they shall see. The end of this verse introduces the theme of the unexpected humiliation of the Servant described in 53:1–3. With closed mouths and open eyes, the earthly elite will see a truth they had never learned. How could they have imagined that the “greatest” of all would come as a “servant”[32]; that he who would “ascend up on high” must needs first descend “below all things”?[33]

The People’s Confessional (Isaiah 53:1–6)[34]

1 Who hath believed our report?
And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

Who hath believed our report? The JPS Version gives an alternate reading: “Who can believe what we have heard?”[35] Like the kings and nations referred to in 52:15, the surprising form in which the Lord’s arm is revealed through Christ’s ministry results in general astonishment and unbelief. “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.”[36] “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”[37]

the arm of the Lord. The faithful and observant among God’s people will recognize the “arm of the Lord” revealed in the report of His servants. The “arm of the Lord” is “previously mentioned in 51:9 and 52:10 as the agent of salvation. See also John 12:37-38 [as a reference to this prophecy’s fulfillment in] Jesus’ mortal ministry …, and 1 Nephi 22:10-11 and Doctrine and Covenants 45:47 [regarding its ultimate fulfillment in the Second Coming].”[38]

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.

he shall grow up before him. Throughout the chapter, we understand Isaiah “to be speaking of two divine beings: ‘He [the Son] shall grow up before him [the Father]’ (verse 2); ‘the Lord [God the Father] laid on him [the Son] the iniquities of us all’ (verse 6); ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him’ (verse 10); ‘he hath put him to grief’ (verse 10); ‘he shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied’ (verse 11); ‘I will divide him a portion’ (verse 12).”[39] Such an interpretation requires us to take the Hebrew term ‘Jehovah’ (usually translated as ‘Lord’ in the King James version) as referring to the Father. Though this is at odds with the more standard use of ‘Jehovah’ to refer to the Son in Latter-day Saint sources, it is not without precedent: “Divine names and titles, especially in the Bible, are occasionally ambiguous. The distinction between the Father and the Son is sometimes unclear. For example, the Hebrew term Elohim—a title usually applied to the Father by Latter-day Saints—often refers to Jehovah in the Bible.[40] Furthermore, people prayed to Jehovah as if he were the Father. In some cases, ambiguity may be due to the transmission of the text; in others it may be explained by divine investiture wherein Christ is given the authority of the Father.”[41]

as a root out of… dry ground. “The image [is that] of a dry plant growing in a desert. … Desert plants are [typically] scrubby [and] scraggly. … [Figuratively speaking,] the servant grows up in a spiritual desert as he is… among those who [generally] reject Him and His message.[42] Note that the plant grows despite the ground being dry, indicating a ‘water’ source other than the parched earth. The [plant] grows by the Lord’s favor [rather than by earthly sustenance].” Luke writes, “The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filed with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”[43] [The references to the tender plant also make clear that], unlike any other intercessory servant described in scripture, the servant’s mission spans “his entire lifetime from start to finish,” from his initial growth as a seedling to his being prematurely “cut off” (v. 8).”[44] The deletion following the word ‘root’ is based on the text in Mosiah 14:2.

no beauty that we should desire him. “That the servant has no outward form or beauty [‘that we should desire him’ seems a contrastive allusion to] Absalom son of David who was popular among Israel because of his considerable physical beauty and … charisma.”[45] Joseph Fielding Smith writes that: “it is expressed here by the prophet that he had no form or comeliness, that is, he was not so distinctive, so different from others that people would recognize him as the son of God. He appeared as a mortal man.”[46]

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.

He is despised and rejected of men. Compare John 1:11: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” See also Isaiah 49:7.

we hid as it were our faces from him. The concept is “the Semitic custom of not showing your face to (that is, turning away from) those whom you despise or reject.”[47] “Not only did people refuse to follow him but they shunned him. … The Servant will be viewed with the same disdain as the Jews viewed a leper.”[48]

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:

yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God,
and afflicted.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Matthew 8:16-17 applies this reference to Jesus’ healing of the sick; 1 Peter 2:24 applies it to His bearing of our sins.

yet we did esteem him stricken. “This statement [recalls] the story of Job where the innocent man is afflicted, and his friends consider him cursed by God. In that case, [as] in this one …, the [people judge him unrighteously]. Peter describes the situation in its true light: ‘For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’”[49]

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.

he was wounded for our transgressions. “Verses 5-6 [are a clear] reference to the intercessory act of vicarious atonement. Here we have a righteous one, who delivers salvation to those who cannot save themselves[—a type of all God’s servants whose mission it is to carry His message and His love to all nations.[50] In the Old Testament, we see prophets such as] Moses who pled on Israel’s behalf many times, [and Abraham who appealed for mercy on behalf of] the possible righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. [At the same time, though they were afflicted by the wicked and suffered as a result of them], none of these preceding intercessors actually participated in a vicarious expiation of sins. [In this respect Christ’s atonement was unique].”[51] This verse is paraphrased in Romans 4:25 and 1 Peter 2:24.

with his stripes we are healed. “When Jesus was scourged by Pilate’s men, the whip left stripes on his back.”[52] Paradoxically, we are healed by wounds and our garments made white by red blood: “Blood ordinarily produces stains, even indelible stains. But acceptance of the blood of Christ symbolically and actually does just the opposite. Our garments may be made white in the blood of the Lamb. ‘By the blood [of Christ] ye are sanctified.’”[53]

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 iniquity of us all.

All we like sheep have gone astray. The image of scattering sheep, each going in his own way,… shows how foolish the people were in rejecting the servant. [This depiction of the straying sheep is also meant to recall] the [wandering] that preceded the entrance [of the children of Israel] into the promised land. … This wandering about and failing to heed the [law of the] Lord was specifically [warned of] by Moses.[54]. As Jesus was the incarnation of the Law,[55] the rejection of Jesus would be the ultimate rejection of the Law.”[56]

the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all. “This passage harks back to the meaning of the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), when the high priest laid his hand on the head of the victim and, in essence, transferred to him the sins of the people.”[57] “[This phrase is the emotional center of the chapter] and leaves no doubt that the subject here is the vicarious expiation of sins. Especially note the singular ‘him’ and the very inclusive ‘guilt of all of us.’ Attempting to [arrive at an interpretation that takes ‘him’] as referring to anyone besides Jesus Christ is … most difficult … [since] no other single intercessor has suffered for ‘all of us.’” Compare this with Isaiah 43:24-25, where “it is stated that the Lord is forced into the position of … servant because of Israel’s sins and He must expiate them Himself in order to vindicate His name.”[58]

7 He was oppressed,
and he was afflicted,

yet he openeth 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.

He was oppressed and he was afflicted. “Jesus was oppressed and afflicted throughout his ministry … [b]ut this passage seems to refer particularly to the legal trials he suffered immediately before his crucifixion.”[59] “[T]he Hebrew nagas employed here implies the use of physical violence.”[60]

yet he opened not his mouth. “[M]ore than [just a prophecy of the Lord’s refusal to speak to Herod,[61] the phrase] indicate[s] the meek and submissive nature of the servant… [to] the task [he is to perform]. The servant [does not return] railing for railing [to] his oppressors, nor does he [submit to the temptation to ‘curse God and die’].”[62]

he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers. “The sheep [theme] is altered [from verse 6]. Rather than a group of shepherdless wandering sheep, we have here a single docile sheep that submits [silently to its shearing and slaughter as a literal ‘offering for sin.’”[63]

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 transgression of my people was he stricken.

He was taken from prison and from judgment. A plainer translation would be “[h]e was taken by force (Hebrew ‘utser) and without justice (Hebrew mish‘pat).”[64]

who shall declare his generation? “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.”[65]

he was cut off from the land of the living. Compare Lamentations 3:54.

for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. A version of Isaiah found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QIsa) renders the term “my people” as “his people.” Such a rendering would favor “the servant as being the condescending Lord as it would say the servant was [stricken] for his own people. Note the irony [in the fact that the] servant was killed as a result of the people’s sinning, and he was [also] killed for the people’s sins.”[66]

9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;

because he had done no violence [evil],
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. Highlighting the antithetical relationship between the passages describing the wicked tyrant and those describing the righteous servant,[67] Avraham Gileadi writes: “Isaiah 14:20 represents the Tyrant as unburied because of his wickedness—a covenant curse. Isaiah 53:9, however, represents the Servant as buried, implying his innocence of wickedness; the statement, ‘he had done no violence,’ confirms this. Further, 53:9, as it stands, contains an anomaly: biblical tradition generally associates violence (hamas) with wickedness[68] and deceit (mirma) with wealth,[69] not vice versa. Isaiah 53:9 should thus read, ‘He was appointed among the wicked in death; among the rich was his burial.’”[70] Another solution to this problem is suggested by conjectural emendation of the Hebrew ‘ose ra’ (meaning ‘rich’) to ‘asir’ (meaning ‘evildoers’), which would heighten the parallelism in the two pairs of terms (grave-wicked, evildoers-death).[71] Some translations also render the Hebrew term ‘bamah’ as ‘high place’ rather than ‘grave,’ which gives the image of Christ being ‘lifted up among the wicked’ (that is, crucified between thieves). This would be an explanation for where Abinadi got the term ‘crucified’ in what appears to be an interpretation of Isaiah in Mosiah 15:7.[72]

because he had done no evil. Mosiah 14:9 changes the term “violence” to “evil,” consistent in general meaning with the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation that renders this term as “injustice.”

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.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him. The term ‘pleased’ can be interpreted simply to signify that the servant’s suffering was consistent with the Lord’s will. The JPS translation is: ‘But the Lord chose to crush him’ and the AB reads: ‘Yahweh decided to crush him.’ “Certainly the Father took no pleasure in the suffering of his Son. But the Father was pleased that his Son would obediently offer such a sacrifice, meaning the sacrifice was according to the Father’s wishes and his will. The Father was pleased further because of the love manifest by his Son and also because of the blessings that would come to the rest of his children.”[73]

he hath put him to grief. 1Qisa offers the reading ‘he pierced [him].’[74]

when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. “The AB states: ‘The guilt offering (see Leviticus 4) is a type of sacrifice intended to atone for involuntary ritual offenses. The use of the term here has no particular reference to the rite of the guilt offering; the servant is compared to the victim of an atonement sacrifice.’”[75]

he shall see his seed. Rather than being bereft of descendants (verse 8) the servant will enjoy a spiritual posterity without number. “Abinadi interpreted this expression in Mosiah 15:10-13, saying that the seed of Christ are the righteous who have heard the good word of salvation and believed and obeyed: ‘These are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions.’ Elsewhere we learn that the seed of Christ are those who are ‘spiritually begotten’ as his sons and daughters (Mosiah 5:7), born of water and the Spirit (Moses 6:64-68). Beginning with this expression, we move from Isaiah’s prophecy of the Lord’s suffering to his prophecy of the Lord’s triumph.”[76]

he shall prolong his days. In a second unexpected reversal of fortune, the servant who was prematurely ‘cut off out of the land of the living’ will actually have His life lengthened as He exercises His power to break the bands of death. The blessings of immortality through the resurrection and “eternal lives”[77] through sealings to posterity which are here promised to the righteous servant are also extended to all the faithful who follow Him.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;

for he shall bear their iniquities.

He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. The Prophet Joseph Smith promised, “All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection provided you continue faithful [to Christ]. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.”[78] For the servant, as well as for all the righteous, the day will come when the sufferings of life and the pain of death “shall be sweet unto them,”[79] whereas for the unrepentant not only death but also the memory of life’s pleasures will be tainted with deep sorrow and bitterness.[80] Wrote C. S. Lewis: “[Both] good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this [Heavenly] valley but all this earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that [spirit prison], but all their life on earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me but have this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here [in the place of God’s glory] and the twilight turns to blackness down there [where Satan reigns], the Blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”[81]

by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many. The literal rendering of the Hebrew term ‘knowledge’ is problematic; some emend it to read ‘suffering,’ ‘experience,’ ‘humiliation,’ or ‘affliction.’[82] This alteration, combined with a more literal translation of the rest of the phrase would suggest the reading: ‘by his suffering my righteous servant makes the many righteous.’

for he shall bear their iniquities. See Isaiah 43:22-25.

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 bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

and made intercession for the transgressors. “[In this context the Hebrew verb denoting the process of intercession] means ‘to intervene,’ as in Isaiah 59:16. … [Thus this phrase] does not mean, as some editors imagine, that he made prayers of intercession for [the transgressors], but that with his life, his suffering, and his death, he took their place and underwent their punishment in their stead.”[83]


4. How Has This Chapter Changed the Lives of Some Latter-day Saints?

With permission of a friend, I read from his personal account entitled: “How a Secular Jew Living for Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Became a Latter Day Saint Devoted to God, Family and Country.” About his first encounter with Isaiah 53, he wrote:

Now, in a credible Christian church, I found myself reading a chapter of Jewish scripture for the first time, and it seemed to be talking about the character, and life details, of Jesus Christ – as very little that I knew about him. Then I read the words in verse 5 “with his stripes we are healed.” I stopped. “This sounds awfully Christian to me”, I asked Mark “Are you sure these are Jewish verses you gave me to read, and not Christian”. He tells me the Jewish prophet Isaiah was born and wrote these verses hundreds of years before Jesus was born, so you wouldn’t call them Christian, even if they are accepted by Christians as a prophecy of the Jewish Messiah to come. So I asked, “Was Jesus a verifiable historic character, and not just a legend like King Arthur”. Mark explained that there were non-Christian historians at the time that did write of Jesus as a renowned Jewish leader that lived and died in Israel, and at the same time his followers kept records of his life and teachings.

So I went on reading, now assured that I am reading Jewish verses, and that this man Jesus was a real historical figure, and not just a mythical legend. As I kept reading I saw more life details I recognized to be like Jesus, what little I knew of him: a despised man of Grief” “brought as a lamb to the slaughter”, “so he opened not his mouth.” Finally, I read, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our sorrows” a religious concept I thought was exclusive to Christianity, and certainly not part of Jewish beliefs, but there it was.

And then it happened: All the wild crazy things I overdid, and all the strange deadly accidents I walked away from unhurt, and all the profound questions that had been occurring to me recently, the gaining of carnal pleasures beyond the wildest dreams of most men, that had ended up leaving me emotionally numb, – these all came together to bring me to a point of humility that I could honestly ask… “AM I WRONG?”. “Have I been wrong my whole life, about there not being a God, and Jesus just being some smart Jewish philosopher the gentile world foolishly overvalued?”

As I asked this question with open and honest humility something flowed into me. It was like pure molten love and knowledge pouring into my body, saturating my heart and mind, and and filling me with the answer. “I am God, I know you, I love you, and Jesus is my son and your Messiah”—not in words, but in a transfer of love, and knowledge to the very core of my understanding.

And then I knew.

I knew there was a God who lives, because I was feeling his presence and his love for me personally inside me, and through me, as it endowed me with knowledge of his son’s calling as the Savior of the world.



For Latter-day Saints, reflecting on the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ brings life changing renewal each week when we take the sacrament. Including Isaiah 53 as part of that reflection can enrich our understanding of His love and example. Indeed, my wife Kathleen silently repeats portions of Isaiah 53 in her mind, along with other verses and portions of the ordinances, each Sunday as part of her sacrament devotional as well as at other times.

George Herbert (3 April 1593–1 March 1633),[84] a Welsh poet, orator and priest, has beautifully captured the unstinting invitation of the Lord that repeatedly calls us back to the sacrament table to feel his forgiveness and taste his goodness. The central character in the verse below is “Love,” a personified virtue who, of course, represents the Savior. It has been set to moving music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Christopher Palmer comments on the song as follows:[85]

Both what Herbert said … and the way he said it appealed to the Christian agnostic (or “disappointed theist”) in Vaughan Williams, … “Love bade me welcome” looks both more inward and. … far further forward than the other songs. The rapt stillness at its center—the Act, at which point, in the traditionally Edenic key of E, wordless voices intone the O sacrum convivium[—used within a liturgy on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper[86]—]is one of the great moments in Vaughan Williams.

Here is the poem:[87]

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, you shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smilingly did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.



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———. "Young man, hidden prophet: Alma." In Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture, edited by Matthew L. Bowen, 91-100. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018.

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Jewish Publication Society. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

Jones, F. Stanley, ed. An Ancient Jewish Christian Source on the History of Christianity: Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27-71. Society of Biblical Literature Texts and Translations 37: Christian Apocrypha Series 2, ed. Jean-Daniel Dubois and Dennis R. MacDonald. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1995.

Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1946.

———. 1942-1944. Mere Christianity. New York City, NY: Touchstone, 1996.

Ludlow, Daniel H., ed. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 4 vols. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992. (accessed November 26).

Madsen, Truman G. "The suffering servant." In The Redeemer: Reflections on the Life and Teachings of Jesus the Christ, 223-48. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000.

Neumiller, S. Kurt. 1998. Comments on Isaiah 53. In Latter-day Saint Seminar. (accessed December 16, 2018).

Nickelsburg, George W. E., and James C. VanderKam, eds. 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37-82. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012. (accessed October 28, 2021).

Palmer, Christopher. "Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, Flos Campi, Five Mystical Songs, Fantasia on Christmas Carols (CD Liner)." Hyperion CDA86420, 1990.

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Pseudo-Clement. ca. 235-258. "Recognitions of Clement." In The Ante-Nicene Fathers (The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325), edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. 10 vols. Vol. 8, 77-211. Buffalo, NY: The Christian Literature Company, 1886. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

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Seely, David Rolph. "‘A prophet like Moses’ (Deuteronomy 18:15–18) in the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Dead Sea Scrolls." In “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson, 359-74. Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, 2017.

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[1] The Jewish Museum, New York. (accessed January 31, 2017). No known copyright restrictions. This work may be in the public domain in the United States.
[2] Published in J. F. Dolkart, James Tissot, p. 249.
[3] John 3:14. Compare Alma 33:19–22.
[4] (accessed November 19, 2016). © Intellectual Reserve, Inc. Permission granted with the kind assistance of Hailey Walker, Correlation Intellectual Property, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
[5] See J. M. Bradshaw et al., By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified, pp. 48–54. Compare Isaiah 6:1; John 8:28; 1 Nephi 13:30, 37; 16:2; Alma 13:29; 36:3; 37:37; 38:5; Helaman 8:14–15; 3 Nephi 27:14–15, 22; Mormon 2:19; Ether 4:19; Moses 7:24, 47, 55, 59. It should be noted that the basic Aramaic/Syriac verb meaning “to crucify,” *zqp, literally means to “raise,” “lift up,” “elevate.”
[6] H. N. Ridderbos, John, p. 137. For more on the double meaning of “lifted up,” see M. Barker, King of the Jews, pp. 203, 366; J. M. Bradshaw et al., By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified, p. 50, citing 3 Nephi 27:14–15. Barker also observes (M. Barker, King of the Jews, pp. 202–203):

The three themes of this chapter—heavenly birth, lifting up, and a snake bite—are all found in Revelation 12:13– 17: the Woman in heaven gave birth to her son, the ancient serpent was ready to bite him, about to “devour” him (Revelation 12:4), and the child escaped by being lifted up to the throne of God. The serpent went on to attack the Woman’s other children, those who were keeping the commandments and bearing witness [of] Jesus, and presumably these were the snake bites that were an ever-present danger to Jesus’ followers. Looking to the exalted Jesus would protect them. The mark of the ancient serpent was worn on the right hand and the forehead of his followers (Revelation 13:16), exactly where the observant pro-Moses group wore their phylacteries (Deuteronomy 6:8).

[7] See J. M. Bradshaw et al., By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified, pp. 49–54.
[8] M. Barker, Isaiah, 52:13, p. 534.
[9] Barker, 2003 #6230}, 52:13, p. 534.
[10] Regarding the application of this prophecy to Joseph Smith, see 3 Nephi 20:43. Compare 3 Nephi 21:10. Note the observation of Gaye Strathearn and Jacob Moody that 3 Nephi 21:10, using the language of Isaiah 52:13-15, appears to have reference not only to the prophet Joseph Smith, but also the Book of Mormon (G. Strathearn et al., Christ’s Interpretation. See Doctrine and Covenants 10:43).

Like Alma, one of the “hidden seed” of the Lord prophesied by Isaiah (see Isaiah 53:8, 10; 54:17), who was the sole individual among Noah’s priests to whom “to whom” or “upon whom” (ʿal-mî) the Lord was “reveal[ing]” his arm as Abinadi’s prophetic successor (Mosiah 17:2 and Mosiah 14:1, quoting Isaiah 53:1. See M. L. Bowen, Alma; M. L. Bowen, Young Man; A. P. Schade et al., To Whom), Joseph, son of Jacob, (like Jesus Christ Himself) was not known among his brethren for a time, but eventually revealed himself to them as the one that God had sent away in order to assure their (temporal) salvation (Genesis 45:5).

There also seems to be a textual affinity between Isaiah’s prophecy and the story of Enoch in the book of Moses and in the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch. Because of Enoch’s continued “faith” (Moses 7:13) and “righteousness” (Moses 7:19), he was “high and lifted up … in the bosom of the Father and of the Son of Man” (Moses 7:24). The parallel between Enoch being lifted up in this verse and the Son of Man being “lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men” in Moses 7:55 (cf. Isaiah 52:13; John 3:14; 8:28) is noteworthy. In addition, as we have argued earlier in this article, there may be some connection between the idea of being “lifted up” and initiation into the heavenly mysteries like Enoch (Moses 7:59). In the Book of Parables 71:3 Enoch recounts: “And the angel Michael, one of the archangels, took me by my right hand, and raised me up, and brought me out to all the secrets; and he showed me all the secrets of mercy” (G. W. E. Nickelsburg et al., 1 Enoch 2, 71:3, p. 320). Later in the account, Enoch was proclaimed as the “Son of Man” (ibid., 71:14, p. 321), a concept that may be disconcerting for some readers but which poses no problem for Latter-day Saint theology (see J. M. Bradshaw et al., God’s Image 2, overview Moses 7, p. 117).

Unlike priesthood ordinations performed by men, the ordinance by which one becomes a “son of God” (= son of Man) is administered directly by God Himself (J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath, pp. 59–65), just as this status was conferred upon Enoch as part of his heavenly ascent: “And [the high priesthood after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch] was delivered unto men by the calling of [God’s] own voice” (JST Genesis 14:29).

[11] D. R. Seely, Prophet Like Moses. Of course, though Moses’ career as a prophet can be mapped to Isaiah 52-53 and undisputedly paralleled that of the Savior in many respects, even to the point of “atoning for the sins of his people (verbal stem kpr) and even offering his life to God (Exodus 32:30-34), … [Moses] does not die, not at that point at any rate, and we are not told that his sufferings had a salvific effect on others” (J. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 40-55, p. 119). It seems therefore that if Moses was a model for the servant of Isaiah 52-53, he served as a type rather than as the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus was a prophet “like” Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). See also J. W. Welch, Light, p. 22; ibid.; S. Haddock, Sistine Chapel art illustrates parallels between Moses and Christ (September 3, 2011).
[12] See Samuel Zinner’s extensive discussion of the plurality of “sons of man” in the mystical sense of the term in Gospel of Thomas Logion 106 (S. Zinner, Gospel of Thomas).
[13] John 3:16.
[14] Ether 12:6. Compare 1 Peter 1:7. Here, Moroni is speaking specifically of the sure witness that came when Christ personally “showed himself unto our fathers” (Ether 12:7).
[15] See Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, 1979/2003, Isaiah 52:14, note a, consistent with 3 Nephi 20:44.
[16] See Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, 1979/2003, Isaiah 52:14, note b.
[17] Compare Isaiah 53:3.
[18] Alma 13:8.
[19] M. Barker, Isaiah, 52:14, p. 534. Barker’s reading follows 1QIsaa, which reads msḥty “anointed” instead of msḥt (“marred” or “disfigured”) as in the Masoretic text.
[20] See ibid., 52:14, p. 534.
[21] Ibid., 52:14, p. 534. See Psalm 89:19–20.
[22] Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions, p. 89. Compare F. S. Jones, Recognitions (1995), pp. 76–77.
[23] C. S. Lewis, Mere, p, 154.
[24] See Ezekiel 36:25; 1 Peter 1:2, referenced in Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, 1979/2003, Isaiah 52:15, note a.
[25] See Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, 1979/2003, Isaiah 52:15, note a, citing JST Isaiah 52:15. See S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, p. 827, as found in OT 2, p. 110.
[26] M. Barker, King of the Jews, p. 560n118.
[27] Hebrews 10:22.
[28] Leviticus 16:19.
[29] M. Barker, King of the Jews, p. 560.
[30] See Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, 1979/2003, Isaiah 52:15, note a, citing JST Isaiah 52:15. See S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, p. 827, as found in OT 2, p. 110.
[31] R. Alter, Hebrew Bible, 2:801n. kings shall seal their lips.
[32] Matthew 23:11.
[33] Doctrine and Covenants 88:6.
[34] For the commentary on Isaiah 53, I will rely heavily on the insightful work of S. Kurt Neumiller (S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53). I have taken the liberty to insert my own edits to his commentary in brackets and to add scripture references in endnotes. I also draw liberally on quotations from D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, among others.
[35] Jewish Publication Society, Tanakh, p. 732.
[36] Doctrine and Covenants 93:31.
[37] John 1:5.
[38] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[39] J. W. Welch, Isaiah 53, pp. 302–303.
[40] For example, Isaiah 12:2.
[41] D. H. Ludlow, Encyclopedia, s.v., Jehovah, Jesus Christ. See J. R. Clark, Messages, 5:32.
[42] Compare Amos 8:11-13.
[43] Luke 2:40.
[44] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[45] Ibid.. See 2 Samuel 14:24-25; 15:1-6.
[46] J. F. Smith, Jr., Doctrines, 1:23; Doctrine and Covenants 93:11–17.
[47] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[48] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 474.
[49] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53. See 1 Peter 3:18.
[50] See Isaiah 43:22-28 and 46:3-4.
[51] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[52] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 475. See Matthew 27:24-26.
[53] T. G. Madsen, Suffering, p. 232. Compare Moses 6:60; see also 1 Nephi 12:10; Alma 5:21; Ether 13:10.
[54] See Deuteronomy 12:8, Ezekiel 34:6, and Zecharaiah 13:7. New Testament parables also speak of sheep who have gone astray (for example, Matthew 10:6; 18:12). See also Doctrine and Covenants 1:16: “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.”
[55] See John 1:1-3; 3 Nephi 15:9.
[56] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[57] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 475.
[58] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[59] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 475. See Matthew 26:67-68; 27:29-30.
[60] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53. See Isaiah 58:3; Exodus 3:7.
[61] See Luke 23:9.
[62] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53. See Job 2:9.
[63] Ibid.. See v. 10; compare Jeremiah 11:19; Psalms 38:14.
[64] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 476.
[65] Ibid., p. 476. See Mosiah 15:10-13; and v. 10 of the present commentary.
[66] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[67] Isaiah 14:20-21.
[68] See Genesis 6:11-13.
[69] See Psalms 52:2-7.
[70] A. Gileadi, Literary, p. 167.
[71] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[72] Ibid..
[73] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 476.
[74] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53. See Psalm 22:16.
[75] Ibid..
[76] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 477.
[77] Doctrine and Covenants 132:24.
[78] J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, p. 296.
[79] Doctrine and Covenants 42:46.
[80] Doctrine and Covenants 42:47; cf. Luke 16:25.
[81] C. S. Lewis, Divorce, p. 68.
[82] D. W. Parry et al., Isaiah, p. 477.
[83] S. K. Neumiller, Isaiah 53.
[84] Wikipedia gives the following about the life of Herbert (G. Herbert, Temple):

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and priest. Being born into an artistic and wealthy family, he received a good education which led to his holding prominent positions at Cambridge University and Parliament. As a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, George Herbert excelled in languages and music. He went to college with the intention of becoming a priest, but his scholarship attracted the attention of King James I. Herbert served in parliament for two years. After the death of King James and at the urging of a friend, Herbert’s interest in ordained ministry was renewed. In 1630, in his late thirties he gave up his secular ambitions and took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as a rector of the little parish of St. Andrew Bemerton, near Salisbury. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill, and providing food and clothing for those in need. Throughout his life he wrote religious poems characterized by a precision of language, a metrical versatility, and an ingenious use of imagery or conceits that was favored by the metaphysical school of poets. He is best remembered as a writer of poems and the hymn “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life.”

Many of Herbert’s poems were included in a posthumously published volume entitled The Temple.

[85] C. Palmer, Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, Flos Campi, Five Mystical Songs, Fantasia on Christmas Carols (CD Liner).
[86] O sacrum convivium is a liturgical reflection on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: “O sacred banquet! / in which Christ is received, / the memory of his Passion is renewed, / the mind is filled with grace, / and a pledge of future glory to us is given. / Alleluia.” As the words make it clear, however, the sacrament is only a foretaste of the celestial feast. Thus, in the musical setting for Herbert’s dialogue with Deity, one might further imagine the culminating encounter of Divine acceptance, the wordless refrain in the crucial instant at once expressing both the ineffable joy of the penitent soul and the magnitude of the love freely offered through the sufferings of our Lord
[87] G. Herbert, Temple, 162, p. 200.

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