Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isaiah 15-17


"Moab was the eldest son of Lot's older daughter (see Genesis 19:37)" (OT Student Manual p. 155)

Although the Moabites and Israelites were cousins, they lived in continual strife. Chapters 15 and 16 entail the "burden" or pronouncement from Isaiah for Moab. Moab spiritually represents the wicked world. Although rich and powerful and prominent, none of these "sister nations" to Israel will prevail against Israel. Ludlow states, "Moab can be viewed as representing the enemies of God, with her destruction typifying the consequences coming upon those who oppose Israel at Christ's second coming" (191).

The following map, from the OT Student Manual, will help in placing the names of various cities and places referred to in these chapters.

Description of Destruction

The destruction of Moab was both real and typifies what will happen in the Last Days. Understanding the description of the destruction will help us recognize what will happen to those enemy nations in the Last Days.

In the Night

Isaiah states that "in the night" Ar and Kir are "laid to waste" (Isaiah 15:1). Many battles and wars were begun while the attacked were sleeping. The beginning of the destruction is both "sudden and unexpected" (Ludlow 192).

High Places, Baldness and Sackcloth

The false gods the Moabites worshipped could not protect them from the destruction of the Lord. They went to their temples or high places, not to worship, but to mourn.

Moab's "pride and prominence" (OT Student Manual p. 156) would be replaced with baldness and "every beard cut" (Isaiah 15:2). Baldness represented shame and reproach. In essence, the pride of Moab would be torn down and Moab would be brought to the dust.

Their rich clothing would also be replaced with sackcloth.

Heifer of Three Years Old

Various commentators (Keil and Delizsch noted in the OT Student Manual; Rashi and Drauss noted in Ludlow) say that a heifer of three years old represents youth and vibrancy and health and beauty. Ludlow surmises that this means Moab would be destroyed "at its most prosperous period" (194).

Drought, Plundering, Mourning, Slaughter

Isaiah 15:6-9 warn of other destructions that will befall Moab. Waters would be desolate. The hay would be withered and the grass would fail to grow and nothing will be green.

All that they will have laid up in storage will be carried away by invading forces.

The people will cry and howl and the waters of their rivers will be full of blood of those who have been slaughtered.

Counsel or Appeal?

Isaiah 16 contains either counsel or an appeal. What the footnotes state in the KJV LDS Bible and what Ludlow states seem to conflict.

The Passage

Isaiah 16:3-6 states, "Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; bewray not him that wandereth.

"Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land.
"And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.

"We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so."

The Footnotes

The 3a footnote says, "HEB Give counsel. This begins Moab's appeal to Judah (v. 3-5)." Footnote 6a further states, "Beginning of Judah's reply, declining Moab's appeal."

The 5b footnote implies the ruler spoken of in verse 5 is Jesus Christ.

Ludlow's Commentary

Ludlow thinks that Isaiah is giving an "unusual command" to Judah. He suggests that Isaiah is counseling Judah to protect Moab. He continues, "This relationship strongly contrasts their earlier attitude; the two often fought and rarely protected each other" (195).

Ludlow continues with his interpretation, "The Davidic ruler of verse 5, protector of Moab, can also be interpreted as a messianic figure. Before Christ returns at his second coming and fulfills such a role (see Luke 1:32:33), there will be another "king of the Jews" who will be just and righteous and who might provide aid to the descendants of Moab. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-5)"

"The last verses of Isaiah 16 abandon the promise of aid from Israel and return to a straightforward description of the catastrophe and physical desolation to come upon Moab" (195). He then continues his commentary for Isaiah 16:6-13.


To summarize, the LDS Bible footnote authors believe that Moab appealed to Judah for protection, invoking the mercy of the throne of Christ. On the other hand, Ludlow believes that Isaiah counseled Judah to protect Moab. His reference to another king of the Jews has been stated before. The two views, to me, seem to conflict.

For what it's worth, the OT Student Manual completely avoids any commentary or instruction regarding Isaiah 16:3-5. Also, for more information about the authorship of the footnotes as well as other scriptural helps, read Bruce T. Harper, “The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination,” Ensign, Oct 1981, 9.

Destruction Assured in Three Years

Isaiah continues with his description of the destruction of Moab. He finishes Isaiah 16 by stating that this is what the Lord has spoken concerning Moab and that within three years, this destruction would be complete.

It seems as though this prophecy had been given previously. If so, then Isaiah would be establishing the words and testimony of another prophet (see 2 Cor. 13:1).


Isaiah continues to deliver "burdens" to the surrounding nations. The next warning is directed at Syria. Isaiah 17 is another chiasmus. This one is divided into five parts (see Ludlow 198-202).

Syria Will be Emptied (v. 1-3)

Similar to the warning to Babylon, Damascus, which is the capital of Syria, will no longer be a city. It will be left in ruins as the people flee the city.

Israel Will Dwindle (v. 4-6)

The next part warns of the diminishing of Israel or Jacob. Jacob becomes thin as a harvest takes place. Only a little fruit remains on the branches. Ludlow mentions that this warning is similar to the one given to Syria, thus verses 1-3 parallel verses 4-6.

The People Will Eventually Turn to God (v. 7-8)

Isaiah 17:7-8 gives us all a glimmer of hope in a troubled world. "At that day" (meaning in the Last Days) "shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel"

"And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images."

One day, mankind will turn away from idol worship and will turn to worship the true and living God. The culture of materialism and sexual sin will eventually end and will be replaced with a culture of worshiping the true and living God.

Note that when Isaiah uses the word "groves" he means Asherah poles which are "idols, images, or symbols of the pagan fertility goddess, Asherah" (Ludlow 200). For more information, read the Bible Dictionary entry for "grove."

Harvests Will Cease (v. 9-11)

Isaiah further reiterates the desolation that will come upon the people who have "not been mindful of the rock of [their] strength" (Isaiah 17:10).

Ludlow explains that the planting of pleasant plants is a part of pagan worship. Despite their best efforts to plant the best plants and their best care, none of these plants will produce a harvest because the people have "forgotten the God of [their] salvation" who is the true author of all harvests.

Those Who Threaten the Lord's Children Will Suddenly Be Destroyed (v. 12-14)

Syria and any other nation that fights Israel will "chased as the chaff" (Isaiah 17:13) or driven away. This is the Lords ultimate promise of protection to his children.

"Fear not to do good"

As I've been reading these chapters concerning the "burdens" of the various nations surrounding Israel, I get this sense that Israel and the children of God in these latter days were and are seemingly engulfed by the wicked nations of the world. It seems to me as though God was telling them and telling us today that things will get rough and difficult; nevertheless, if we strive to purify ourselves and repent of our sins, He will ultimately deliver us.

I also get this sense and feeling that everything will be fine. I need not worry about the grand events and that all I really need to concern myself with is my own salvation and that of my family. God has a plan and His plan will prevail.

I am reminded of a scripture found in D&C 6:33-34 which says, "Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye do good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

"Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Isaiah 13 & 14


Chapter 13 describes both the literal and spiritual fall of Babylon. As is the usual modus operandi with Isaiah, he uses dualism to prophesy of events. In this case, Babylon is a real nation that is wicked and is utterly destroyed. Spiritually speaking, Babylon represents the world and its desires. In the Last Days, the wicked will be completely destroyed as was Babylon the nation.

A Banner, an Ensign

In Isaiah 13:2-5, the God issues a call to His people to gather to fight Babylon. The "sanctified ones" gather and their gathering is like a "noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together." And then the bombastic statement: "the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of battle."

In a spiritual sense, we must do our part to heed the call to the great rally. We can begin by conquering the enemy within or the natural man. In the October 2000 General Conference, James E. Faust said the following, " President Joseph F. Smith taught us: “Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which he has given to the world for the salvation of men.” In simple terms, this means that we need to strengthen the good within us and to overcome the temptations of Satan. The direction finder is sure. Alma tells us, “Whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.” (James E. Faust, “The Enemy Within,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 44–46)

As we overcome Satan's fiery darts (see Eph 6:16; 1 Ne. 15:24; D&C 3:8; 27:17) we will lead a life of righteousness by example and we will have "confidence" (D&C 121:45) and can fight the adversary and his devious teachings.

The Destruction of Babylon

The fall of Babylon (physically and spiritually) will be so complete, that it will never be rebuilt or inhabited (Isaiah 13:19-20). So many inhabitants (and spiritually wicked people) will be destroyed that man will be rarer than gold. Those that are left will be the foundation for a new millennial reign (Isaiah 13:12).

Babylon's King

Again, Isaiah uses dualism to describe the downfall of Babylon's king who is synonymous to Satan - both would fall and eventually be forgotten.

Lucifer was a "son of the morning" and probably held a high rank in the counsels of heaven. But he rebelled against God and sought to take God's power to himself. "I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." The CES Institute manual notes that Bible commentators Keil and Delitzsch translated the word "congregation" as "assembly of gods."

Satan was cast to earth where he continued to wage war on the children of men. Eventually he will be thrust to Hell "to the sides of the pit" and all will look on him and wonder "is this the man that made the earth to treble, that did shake kingdoms?" (Isaiah 14:16). Kings will have memorials and tombs and will be resurrected, but Satan will have no memorial and no body. He will be cast in to outer darkness forever and will lose all power (D&C 133:73).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Isaiah 11 & 12

The Rod, Stem of Jesse, the Branch and the Roots

What are we to make of this verse?

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1).

Ludlow thinks that verse 1 is an example of "synonymous parallelism" meaning the same concept is said twice but with different language. Essentially he thinks the Rod = the Branch and the stem = his roots. Following this line of reasoning, verse one is referring to one person - the Rod or the Branch. He summarizes what he thinks by stating, "the servant of Isaiah 11:1 appears to describe the great Jewish leader of the last days who will be called David. He will be an instrument (in somewhat the same manner as was Cyrus anciently - see Isaiah 44:28) used by the Lord to fulfill his divine plan of events before the Millennium" (169).

From D&C 113 we learn that the stem is Jesus Christ. We also learn that the Rod "is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power."

LDS commentators George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl state that the Rod of the stem of Jesse is the Messiah or Jesus Christ (Commentary on the Book of Mormon vol. 1 ch. 21).

Another commentator suggested that this Rod is Joseph Smith (Isaiah Plain and Simple: the Message of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, by Hoyt W. Brewster. See chapter 11).

Yet another commentator has nicely summed up what various sources believe with regards to this passage. He says, "A partial explanation of this enigmatic prophecy is provided by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 113 where he declares himself to be the "Stem of Jesse." (D&C 113:1-2, Note that "Stem" is capitalized in the Doctrine and Covenants but not in Isaiah. See Romans 15:12) Like the trunk (stem) of a great tree, Jehovah is the life-source of Israel with its many branches. A "rod" (shoot) will grow out of the "Stem," meaning a man will come forth from Christ. This "rod" is "a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim." That is, this "servant" will have a dual lineage, being a descendant of both Judah and Joseph. Most commentators assume that Isaiah is employing synonymous parallelism (Synonymous parallelism occurs when the same thought is restated or amplified in the second clause or sentence. For example see Isaiah 1:10; 9:6; Psalm 24:1) in this passage and equate the "rod" with the "Branch." If the two clauses are wholly synonymous, then both "stem" and "roots" represent Christ, whereas the "rod" and the "Branch" represent his unidentified servant. If, however, Isaiah does not intend synonymous parallelism (as he sometimes does not), then at least three individuals are symbolized in verse one: the "rod," the "Stem of Jesse," and the "Branch." A fourth individual is described in verse 10 as "the root of Jesse." The Lord explained that this "root of Jesse" will be a "descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days." Like the "rod," he, too, will descend from both Judah and Joseph.

"The actual identities of the "rod," the "Branch," and the "root of Jesse" in Isaiah are conjectural. Some believe that both "rod" and "Branch" symbolize the second David. Others believe that the "rod" is David, and the "Branch" another latter-day figure.

"Regardless, the "root of Jesse" is almost surely the Prophet Joseph Smith. He holds the keys of this kingdom in both time and eternity and is the president of the last and greatest of all dispensations, the dispensation of the fulness of times. (See D&C 27:12-13; 90:1-3; 112:30-32; 128:18-21) He is the living ensign to which the present generation must gather. We cannot, in reality, come to Christ if we do not accept his servant, Joseph Smith.

"The Lord's works are first spiritual and then temporal, or physical. (See D&C 29:31-32) All of the spiritual keys, powers, doctrines, and ordinances revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith must be honored and implemented before Zion, the second ensign, can be literally established in fullness and glory. (See D&C 64:41-43; 105:3-5) That day is not far off (Witness of Jesus Christ: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, Richard D. Draper. See ch. 14 "The Two Davids").

So any hope I had of finding a definitive answer on who the rod and branch is or are, is lost in a sea of opinions. It could be Christ or Joseph Smith or a powerful Jewish leader named David.

Characteristics (of the great leader or of the Lord)

Whoever this rod or branch is, he will have many great characteristics. The spirit of the Lord will be upon him. He will have the spirit of wisdom and insight; counsel and valor; devotion and reverence for the Lord. He will have a keen sense for the truth. He will not judge with his eyes or pass judgment with what he hears. He will judge the poor with equity and give justice to the lowly of the land. He will "smite the earth with the rod of his mouth." I find this phrase interesting. Christ uses this same phrase in D&C 19:15 when he commands us to repent.

Regardless of who the rod or branch is, all these characteristics apply to Christ as well. And if they apply to Christ, then we must apply them to ourselves since we must strive to be like Him.

The Millennium

In Isaiah 11:6-9 we read how peace will reign on the earth. Even the animals will not kill or injure one another.

While leading Zion's Camp, Joseph Smith taught the men a valuable lesson. "While making their camp at the close of the day after crossing the Embarras River in Indiana, the brethren discovered three prairie rattlesnakes, which they were about to kill. The prophet called to them saying, "Let them alone—don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety" (Church History and Modern Revelation, vol. 3. Joseph Fielding Smith. See Lesson 88 "Zion's Camp").

The Root of Jesse

"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:10).

In verse 10 we have more tree terms applied to a man. D&C 113:5-6 states that this root is a "descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days."

There seems to be greater clarity from scholars who tend to think the root of Jesse is Joseph Smith. He indeed possesses the keys to the kingdom and is an ensign to all the earth in these latter days.

The Gathering of Israel

President Hinckley said the following in 1989, "Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and a handful of their associates hiked from their campground a little to the south of us, on past the ground where we are, and up the hill to the north of us. They climbed a dome-shaped peak, President Young having difficulty because of his recent illness.

"When the Brethren stood on the summit, they looked over this valley to the south of them. It was largely barren, except for the willows and rushes that grew along the streams that carried water from the mountains to the lake. There was no building of any kind, but Brigham Young had said the previous Saturday, “This is the place.”

"The summit where they stood was named Ensign Peak out of reference to these great prophetic words of Isaiah: “And he [speaking of God] will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” (Isa. 5:26.)

“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isa. 11:12.)

There is some evidence to indicate that Wilford Woodruff took from his pocket a bandanna handkerchief and waved it as an ensign or a standard to the nations, that from this place should go the word of the Lord, and to this place should come the people of the earth. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “An Ensign to the Nations,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 51)

The 10th Article of Faith states, "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes."

Isaiah further teaches that "there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt" (Isaiah 11:16).

The restoration of the 10 tribes will truly be miraculous. Isaiah compares it to when "Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left" (Exodus 14:29).

D&C 133:22-27 says "And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.

"He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land;

"And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.

"And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.

"And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.

"And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep."

See also D&C 110:11.

Spiritual Growth

Ludlow compares the psalm in Isaiah 12 with one's spiritual growth.

In Isaiah 12:1-2 the individual gains his own testimony of the atonement when he is forgiven his sins.

The next progression is when the individual wishes to share with other the joy of salvation (baptism … Isaiah 12:3).

Next, the individual exhorts others to "declare his doings among the people" (Isaiah 12:4).

Finally his testimony is manifested when he sings and testifies the truth of the gospel (Isaiah 12:5).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Isaiah 9 & 10

A Great Light

Isaiah 9:2 describes the contrast between the people walking in darkness and the light that is shined on them. Ludlow suggests that there are three possible interpretations for this verse.

The first one is that the darkness represents Assyria and the light represents "the king who protects his people from Assyria" (153). Since Hezekiah is the victorious king who later defeats the Assyrians, he is the "light."

The second interpretation is that the darkness represents Israel's wickedness and the light is her recognition of those sins and her attempt to change. Both Isaiah and Hezekiah helped reform the Israelites after their captivity.

The third is the most common Christian interpretation. The darkness represents "a period of wickedness and apostasy" and the light of Christ dispels the darkness. Matthew 4:12-16 explicitly refers to Christ as the light.

Isaiah 9:3-5 seems to fit with each of the above interpretations. Viewed through the lens of each interpretation, we can see how Israel defeats Assyria; how Israel overcomes her wickedness; and how Christ defeats sin and death.

"For unto us a child is born"

I really love the words in Isaiah 9:6-7. Every time I read this passage, I think of Handel's Messiah. One of the most ingrained memories I have as a young man is that of going to The Messiah at Christmas time with my mom. She is the one who first told me how Handel locked himself in a room writing this masterpiece. When it was finished he exclaimed, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." A simple search of the Internet will register a handful of versions of this story, but none seem to have a source. The common element is that Handel feverishly wrote The Messiah in 24 days and when he finished the Hallelujah chorus, he was in tears and uttered those words ( Whether the story be true or not, the feelings and awe that this work inspires in me shakes me to the core and brings me to tears.

Four Warnings to Israel

Isaiah gives four major warnings to the northern kingdom of Israel. With each warning he tells them, "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." In other words, depending on how the people react, His hand may be outstretched to mercifully help if they repent or it is held out to smite them down in their wickedness.


In Isaiah 9:10, the people say that even if they are destroyed by the Lord, they will take the fallen bricks and build an even better city. In this their pride is manifest.

Evil Leaders

Since the people did not turn to the Lord, nor sought him, He will take away their leaders. Perhaps the leaders tried to warn the people and the people did not heed them, therefore the Lord took their leaders away. Or perhaps the leaders did not properly lead the people and therefore the Lord took them away.


Isaiah 9:18-21 we read how selfish the people are. "No man shall spare his brother." Everyone is so selfish that no one will help his brother in need.


The needy and poor and the widows and fatherless do not receive any justice. The people will not succor those in need. Therefore the Lord will not succor His people in the day of their need. "Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain" (Isaiah 10:4).

Assyria: A Tool in the Lord's Hands

We learn from Isaiah that Assyria was a tool in the Lord's hand. But instead of heeding the Lord, Assyria seeks to not only take what the Lord has allowed, but to take more. "It is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few" (Isaiah 10:7). For this pride the Lord will "punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks" (Isaiah 10:12).

The Lord rhetorically asks, "shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith?" (Isaiah 10:15). We can all be tools in the Lord's hands. But we must never boast of our own accord. In all we do, we must recognize the Lord's hand. I am reminded of something I learned in my humanities class at BYU. JS Bach often signed his compositions with SDG. SDG is Soli Deo Gloria which is Latin meaning "for the Glory of God." I think that if more of us held the perspective that our lives should bring glory to God, then our actions would be more in tune with His will and will would truly be instruments in the Lord's hands.

As Ludlow points out, Assyria was eventually annihilated by the Babylonians and Persians beginning with the sack of Nineveh in 612 BC.

The Hope of the Remnant

Despite the Assyria conquest, Israel will return. The Lord gives the people hope by telling them that a remnant will return. This remnant will not only return to their lands, but they will return to the Lord.

The Lord also promises that the Assyrian army will come close to Jerusalem, but will not conquer her (Isaiah 10:28-32). The Lord will cut down the Assyrians before they can invade. This passage also foretells of the time before the 2nd Coming of the Lord (see Zechariah 14:2; Revelation 11:1-13; and JST Matthew 24).