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In conjunction with many other literary devices, this chiastic structure depicts God’s end-time servant under several pseudonyms or aliases that typify his end-time mission of restoring the house of Israel. As one whom God empowers over the forces of chaos, he appears as a person named “righteousness” who hails from the east (a1, a2); a Cyrus-type warrior endowed with divine power, who overthrows the forces of chaos (e1, e2); and God’s servant, a Cyrus type, who serves as a “light” to the Gentiles (g1, g2). It depicts the God of Israel who appoints his end-time servant as Israel’s Holy One, the Creator of heaven and earth (c1, c2); and so forth:
a1—Jehovah raises up righteousness from the east (Isaiah 41:2).
b1—Idolatrous nations and rulers turn into dust and stubble (Isaiah 41:2–7);
mountains and hills become dust and chaff (Isaiah 41:15).
c1—Jacob/Israel is not forsaken (Isaiah 41:17); Israel’s Holy One
regenerates and creates the wilderness (Isaiah 41:17–20).
d1—Idolaters are an abomination, worth nothing (Isaiah 41:21–24).
e1—Jehovah raises up (ha‘iroti) the Warrior figure from the sunrise (Isaiah 41:25ab).
f1—Dignitaries are trodden down as mud and clay (Isaiah 41:25cd);
false diviners are but wind and chaos (Isaiah 41:29).
g1—The Creator of heaven and earth creates the Servant figure, endows him with
his Spirit, appoints him as a light—the subject of nonweariness (Isaiah 42:1–6).
h1—Jehovah desolates the earth and its vegetation, dries up lakes and rivers—
Jehovah’s victory over his enemies (Isaiah 42:13–15).
i1—Jehovah guides the blind by his light, levels the uneven ground (Isaiah 42:16).
j1—Idolaters retreat in confusion (Isaiah 42:17).
k1—Jacob/Israel magnifies the law and becomes illustrious
because of Jehovah’s righteousness (Isaiah 42:21).
l1—Jacob/Israel is a prey, consumed by fire for
transgressing Jehovah’s law (Isaiah 42:22–25).
m1—Jehovah creates Jacob/Israel (Isaiah 43:1); Jehovah’s people are
immune to the elements as they return from exile (Isaiah 43:2–7).
n1—Babylon’s citizens come down as fugitives (Isaiah 43:14).
o1—Jehovah, Israel’s Holy One and King, creates Israel (Isaiah 43:15).
o2—Jehovah provides a way through the Sea,
a path through the mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16).
n2—Babylon’s armies of men, chariots, and
horses are snuffed out (Isaiah 43:17).
m2—Jehovah regenerates the wilderness through which his people
travel (Isaiah 43:19–20); Jehovah creates Jacob/Israel (Isaiah 43:21).
l2—Jacob/Israel’s weariness and sins bring execration (Isaiah 43:22–28).
k2—Jehovah creates and succors Jacob/Israel (Isaiah 44:1–2); Jehovah pours
out his Spirit and regenerates the wilderness (Isaiah 44:3–4.
j2—Idolaters and their works are but chaos and ashes (Isaiah 44:9, 20).
i2—Jehovah creates Jacob/Israel, removes his people’s sins (Isaiah 44:21–24).
h2—Jehovah dries up the deep and its rivers (Isaiah 44:27).
g2—The Creator of light and peace names the Cyrus figure (Isaiah 45:4–7);
Jehovah creates righteousness—by implication, the Cyrus figure (Isaiah 45:8).
f2—Those who dispute what Jehovah makes are but shards and clay (Isaiah 45:9–11).
e2—The Creator of heaven and earth raises up (ha‘irotihu) the Cyrus figure (Isaiah 45:12–13).
d2—Idolaters retire in shame and disgrace (Isaiah 45:16).
c2—The Creator of heaven and earth saves Jacob/Israel (Isaiah 45:17–18).
b2—Idolatrous nations live in darkness and chaos (Isaiah 45:19–20);
their idolatry causes weariness and exile (Isaiah 46:1–4).
a2—Jehovah brings righteousness from the east, fulfilling his word (Isaiah 46:10–13b).
(Taken from Avraham Gileadi, The Literary Message of Isaiah, Hebraeus Press, p. 138)
How is it that Latter-day Saints who have been given the key of knowledge of the end-time in the prophecies of Isaiah do not feel compelled to SEARCH them for themselves as their Savior has commanded but instead leave that up to the “wise and learned”—the academics of our day who “illuminate with mere sparks” in order to maintain their tenured professorships (Isaiah 29:13–14; 50:11)? How is it that “precepts of men” and the “line upon line” principle of learning continue to wield more power in the minds of Latter-day Saints than the Word of God they are counseled to SEARCH, in the end leading to their condemnation for never having personally tasted of its fruits (Isaiah 28:7–13; 2 Nephi 28:12–15, 26–32)? How is it that year after year Latter-day Saints pursue the same course for understanding the words of Isaiah that hasn’t worked—yet expecting a different result—because they “will not SEARCH knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32:7)?
What becomes PLAIN when applying simple interpretive tools the Isaiah Institute provides is that underlying literary structures transform the entire Book of Isaiah into an allegory of the end-time in which the names of ancient world powers serve as codenames of end-time world powers that are identifiable by how Isaiah characterizes them. What becomes PLAIN is that people who appear in the Book of Isaiah exemplify seven spiritual levels of humanity on a ladder to heaven that are recognizable by their occupants’ character traits, whether good or evil. What becomes PLAIN is that Isaiah frequently resorts to codenames to portray the main actors in the world’s end-time drama—such as the Lord’s “arm” to denote his end-time servant and the Lord’s “fire” and “sword” to denote an end-time king of Assyria—creating a prophecy within a prophecy that adds an entirely other dimension to his vision of the end-time. Must Latter-day Saints “awake to a sense of their awful situation” before giving Isaiah’s prophecy the attention it deserves?
Isaiah wrote for “the end-time”; that is, the end of the world. His prophecy describes an end-time scenario that heralds the coming of the Lord: “Go now, write on tablets concerning them; record it in a book for the end-time” (Isaiah 30:8).
Not until the end-time will people understand the prophecies of Isaiah: “In the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass. Wherefore, they are of worth unto the children of men, and he that supposeth that they are not, unto them will I speak particularly . . . for I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them” (2 Nephi 25:7–8).
Word links in his prophecy determine that Isaiah is speaking about his own “book,” which the blind and deaf will comprehend: “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book and the eyes of the blind see out of gross darkness” (Isaiah 29:18; cf. 30:8).
Without our personally searching Isaiah’s words, we can’t fully perceive how they show that events in Isaiah’s day repeat themselves in the end-time: “I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:1–3; cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Jesus, Nephi, and Jacob always locate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies in the end-time: “Then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God” (3 Nephi 16:17–20; cf. Isaiah 52:8–10; 3 Nephi 20:32–35).
The baring of the Lord’s “arm” constitutes his empowering his end-time servant to prepare the way before him: “I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel. Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel” (1 Nephi 22:10–12; cf. Isaiah 52:10).
His servant’s end-time mission results in the house of Israel—the Jews, Lamanites, and Ten Tribes—believing in Jesus and gathering from dispersion to lands of inheritance: “When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance. And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance. Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers” (2 Nephi 10:7–9; cf. Isaiah 11:10–12; 43:5–7; 49:22–23).
Those who profess to be the Lord’s people today come under condemnation, precipitating the judgments of God that come upon them and upon all nations following the pattern of ancient Israel: “Alas, a nation astray, a people weighed down by sin, the offspring of wrongdoers, perverse children: they have forsaken Jehovah, they have spurned the Holy One of Israel, they have lapsed into apostasy” (Isaiah 1:4; cf. 2 Nephi 30:1; 3 Nephi 16:10; 20:28; 21:11–12).
The Lord raises up an end-time “king of Assyria,” a tyrannical figure who personifies God’s “anger” and “wrath” and who serves as his “rod,” “staff,” and “hand” of punishment,: “Hail the Assyrian, the rod of my anger! He is a staff—my wrath in their hand. I will commission him against a godless nation, appoint him over the people [deserving] of my vengeance, to pillage for plunder, to spoliate for spoil, to tread underfoot like mud in the streets. Nevertheless, it shall not seem so to him; this shall not be what he has in mind. His purpose shall be to annihilate and to exterminate nations not a few” (Isaiah 10:5–7; cf. 2 Nephi 10:5–7).
The Lord uses the king of Assyria and his military alliance from the North to destroy the wicked in God’s Day of Judgment: “Hark! A tumult on the mountains, as of a vast multitude. Hark! An uproar among kingdoms, as of nations assembling: Jehovah of Hosts is marshaling an army for war. They come from a distant land beyond the horizon—Jehovah and the instruments of his wrath—to cause destruction throughout the earth. Lament, for the Day of Jehovah is near; it shall come as a violent blow from the Almighty. Then shall every hand grow weak and the hearts of all men melt. They shall be terrified, in throes of agony, seized with trembling like a woman in labor. Men will look at one another aghast, their faces set aflame. The Day of Jehovah shall come as a cruel outburst of anger and wrath to make the earth a desolation, that sinners may be annihilated from it” (Isaiah 13:4–9; cf. 2 Nephi 23:4–9).
The Lord empowers his “arm”—his end-time servant—to lead a new exodus of God’s people out of bondage and out of a worldwide destruction to Zion in the pattern of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt: “Awake, arise; clothe yourself with power, O arm of Jehovah! Bestir yourself, as in ancient times, as in generations of old. Was it not you who carved up Rahab, you who slew the dragon? Was it not you who dried up the Sea, the waters of the mighty deep, and made of ocean depths a way by which the redeemed might pass? Let the ransomed of Jehovah return! Let them come singing to Zion, their heads crowned with everlasting joy; let them obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away” (Isaiah 51:9–11; cf. 2 Nephi 8:9–11).
At the Lord’s empowering his (right) “hand” and “ensign”—his end-time servant—the spiritual kings and queens of the Gentiles restore from exile those whom the Lord acknowledges as his “sons” and “daughters”: “Thus says my Lord Jehovah: I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, raise my ensign to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosoms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, queens your nursing mothers” (Isaiah 49:22–23; cf. 1 Nephi 21:15; 2 Nephi 10:9).
God’s elect of the house of Israel gather to Zion in a new exodus out of the world to prepare for the coming of the Lord: “Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, Give up! to the south, Withhold not! Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth—all who are called by my name, whom I have formed, molded and wrought for my own glory” (Isaiah 43:5–7; cf. Isaiah 11:10–12; Matthew 24:31).
The Lord empowers his end-time servant to restore Israel’s tribes to lands of inheritance: “He said: It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore those preserved of Israel. I will also appoint you to be a light to the Gentiles that my salvation may be to the end of the earth. I have created you and appointed you to be a covenant of the people, to restore the Land and reapportion the desolate estates, to say to the captives, Come forth! and to those in darkness, Show yourselves! They shall feed along the way and find pasture on all barren heights; they shall not hunger or thirst, nor be smitten by the heatwave or the sun: he who has mercy on them will guide them; he will lead them by springs of water. All my mountain ranges I will appoint as roads; my highways shall be on high. See these, coming from afar, these, from the northwest, and these, from the land of Sinim” (Isaiah 49:6, 8–12; cf. Isaiah 43:2; 51:11; 1 Nephi 20:20–21; 21:6, 8–12; 22:17; 2 Nephi 29:13).
The Lord’s coming to reign on the earth occurs when the house of Israel has prepared to meet God and has established Zion among them as in Enoch’s day: “Jehovah has made proclamation to the end of the earth: Tell the Daughter of Zion, See, your Salvation comes, his reward with him, his work preceding him. They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of Jehovah; and you shall be known as in demand, a city never deserted” (Isaiah 62:11–12; cf. cf. 3 Nephi 20:21–22); “From the west men will fear Jehovah Omnipotent, and from the rising of the sun his glory. For he will come [upon them] like a hostile torrent impelled by the Spirit of Jehovah. But he will come as Redeemer to Zion, to those of Jacob who repent of transgression” (Isaiah 59:19–20; cf. Moses 7:16–18).
by Avraham Gileadi, Ph.D.
Preconceived ideas, spiritual inertia, mental blocks, fear of the unknown, and just plain ignorance—all have prevented people from understanding the prophecies of Isaiah. Although Isaiah is the most frequently quoted prophet in all of sacred scripture, and although the Lord made it a commandment to search Isaiah’s words, most people who have attempted it have either given up or, worse, indulged in speculation.
You can hardly blame anyone. Isaiah himself says that God commanded him to record his prophecies “in a book for the end-time” (Isaiah 30:8). Only then would his people understand them, as he says: “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book and the eyes of the blind see out of gross darkness” (Isaiah 29:18)—referring to his own book, the Book of Isaiah. Nephi concurs: “In the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass. . . . for I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them” (2 Nephi 25:7–8).
Indeed, understanding Isaiah has waited until the literary tools required to uncover his message have become available. In spite of people’s sincere desire or best efforts, only a hands-on knowledge of the Book of Isaiah’s internal mechanics could accomplish it.
It may seem self-evident that if we are trying to understand Isaiah from an English rendering, then it needs to reflect as closely as possible the meaning and sense of what the Hebrew text is saying. And yet, many people today still cling to antique translations such as the King James Version for their “traditional” and “poetic” value rather than accuracy. Even though one of thirteen Articles of Faith declares, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8), we often see inordinate reverence for the KJV—almost as if it was the scriptures’ original tongue.
Take the problematic Hebrew word nes, for example. It is translated three different ways in the KJV: “ensign,” “standard,” and “banner.” Yet the word nes in the Book of Isaiah is a key word that functions as a pseudonym or codename of God’s end-time servant, on the one hand, and of the end-time king of Assyria, on the other. It therefore becomes an important term to translate consistently. One figure is a rallying point for God’s people, the other for their enemies.
Literary structures in the Book of Isaiah play a key role in revealing God’s prophetic message for our day. Seven overarching structures, which Isaiah has layered one upon another, determine his book’s overall composition. They create the forest framework into which he plants the trees, the individual passages we read on the surface that are only a part of the message. Knowledge of underlying literary patterns is essential if we would understand what his writings are all about.
Linear structures follow a timeline from beginning to end. The structure, Trouble at Home, Exile Abroad, and Happy Homecoming, for example, shows that Israel’s history doesn’t end with its ancient apostasy and exile but ends with its return from dispersion at the end of the world.
Another structure—Test One, Test Two, and Test Three—resembles the Greek Odyssey as God’s end-time people face three obstacles in order to qualify for deliverance from destruction. The tyrannical king of Assyria forms the equivalent of the one-eyed Cyclops who challenges Odysseus; idolaters and their enticements are the equivalent of the sirens who woo him; and false brethren are the equivalent of his wife’s false suitors who squander his inheritance.
Isaiah’s synchronous literary structures transpose his entire book into an allegory of the end-time. In that context, the names of ancient nations and persons function as codenames of end-time nations and persons. Egypt, the great superpower of the ancient world, becomes the type of the great end-time superpower, America. Assyria, a militaristic power from the North that conquered the ancient world, becomes the type of an end-time world power from the North that conquers the modern world. And so forth.
Isaiah’s Hebrew worldview—that sacred history repeats itself—permeates his prophecy. Says the writer of Ecclesiastes, “That which has been is that which shall be, and that which has been done is that which shall be done. There is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, See, this is new? It already has been of old, in times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10). Jesus makes this an interpretive key in 3 Nephi 23:3, when he says that “all things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be”—they happened in the past and will again in the end-time.
Isaiah uses this manner of prophesying when he predicts thirty end-time versions of ancient events: Israel’s apostasy, the Babylo¬nian captivity, the callout of Abraham, Lot’s deliverance from Sodom, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Assyria’s world conquest, Assyria’s invasion of the Promised Land, Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem, the Egyptian bondage, Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, its wandering in the wilderness, the conquest of the Promised Land, the rebuilding of the temple, and so forth. All repeat themselves at the end of the world.
Isaiah uses many pseudonyms as codenames or aliases of God’s end-time servant and the end-time king of Assyria. Until we search out and connect these terms, therefore, we will fall short of perceiving the full extent of Isaiah’s prophetic message. As we do, on the other hand, an entire end-time scenario opens up, creating a prophecy within a prophecy.
Terms such as the Lord’s arm, hand, ensign, rod, staff, light, voice, darkness, anger, wrath, and so forth form connecting links throughout the Book of Isaiah that identify God’s servant and the king of Assyria. The Lord himself appears under several such pseudonyms. They provide clues to these persons’ character traits and the end-time roles they perform.
A crucial thing to keep in mind is that there exist two kinds of messianic prophecies. First are prophecies that predict the coming of an end-time servant of God who restores God’s ancient covenant people—the Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lamanites of today—by preparing them for the coming of Israel’s God Jehovah to reign on the earth. Second are prophecies that predict the coming of Israel’s God Jehovah.
Many messianic passages of Isaiah define what is clearly Israel’s temporal salvation or physical deliverance, involving a messianic person who restores Israel’s twelve tribes just prior to the coming of Israel’s God Jehovah to reign on the earth. They don’t define Israel’s spiritual salvation, which is a function of Jehovah himself.
Word links provide internal literary evidence of Messiah’s identity as Israel’s God Jehovah. Isaiah 53:5, for example, reads, “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the price of our peace he incurred, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). But the “transgressions” and “iniquities” of his people that Messiah takes upon himself, and the “peace” and “healing” that he generates on their behalf are functions specific to Israel’s God Jehovah throughout the Book of Isaiah. These word links leave no doubt that the suffering person of Isaiah 53:1–10 is Jehovah God of Israel.
People who appear in the Book of Isaiah aren’t just incidental to his prophecy. They additionally represent distinct spiritual levels, some higher, some lower, on a ladder to heaven. Each category within this hierarchy corresponds to a particular covenant and its laws that people are willing or unwilling to keep. Beginning with the lowest, seven spiritual categories are Perdition, Babylon, Jacob/Israel, Zion/Jerusalem, God’s “sons” and “daughters,” seraphim, and Jehovah.
As people ascend the spiritual ladder by keeping the laws of God’s covenants pertaining to each level, they grow more like God and acquire his divine attributes. Isaiah’s creation theme shows how God continues to create or re-create persons closer to his own image and likeness as they advance from one category to the next. Even the heavens and the earth participate in this re-creation. Wicked persons, on the other hand, are de-created, becoming less than they were.
A time of testing precedes people’s spiritual ascent or rebirth. That trial period forms a descent phase in which those with whom God makes a covenant must prove faithful under all conditions. With each ascent, God’s tests become correspondingly greater as persons are required to keep a higher law. The blessings of higher covenants and their laws, however, increase exponentially. Whether God’s people ascend as a nation or as individuals, the process is the same: their descent phase involves humbling and overcoming opposition while their ascent phase is marked by joy and exultation. Israel’s Messiah established the pattern of descent before ascent. Descending below all, he ascended above all to his Father throne.
(Excerpts taken from the book, Becoming Kings and Queens of the Gentiles, pp 5–26.)
Excerpts from Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.
Understanding Isaiah’s writings—more than is the case with other prophets—resembles learning a new language. Although it is a deliberate challenge, it amply rewards as one connects the pieces and discovers Isaiah’s definitions of things. Scholars who don’t come to terms with the literary features of the Book of Isaiah—who see it as a patchwork, not a tapestry—can’t help but misread its prophetic message and highlight some things while downplaying others. Many people treat lightly this poetic masterpiece and never gain an understanding of what it is about. What should one accept, Handel’s rendition of Isaiah’s prophecies or Isaiah’s words themselves? In support of Jesus’ earthly mission, the Book of Mormon backs Isaiah. But despite its effusive witness of Jesus as the one true Messiah—based on the words of Isaiah and other prophets (2 Nephi 1:10; 25:18)—it is of singular significance that the Book of Mormon never discusses the mission of God’s “servant” and “son” in reference to Jesus.
What the Book of Mormon does, on the other hand, is predict that “the Holy Messiah” will come to earth and lay down his life “according to the flesh” and take it up again “by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (2 Nephi 2:8). Like John the Baptist, who recognized the proxy sacrifice for sin Messiah would make on behalf of humanity, the Book of Mormon calls him “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 10:10; Alma 7:14). It also asserts that, of itself, “the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood” (Mosiah 3:15). The high priest Alma teaches that the “Son of God” will “take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy” (Alma 7:12). In a word, he will “take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:13), by so doing paying the price of justice on their behalf.
Using Isaiah 53 as his text, the prophet Abinadi predicts that “God himself shall come down among the children of men” and “go forth in mighty power,” but that he would “be oppressed and afflicted” in the flesh (Mosiah 13:34–35; 15:1–2). Abinadi’s applying parts of Isaiah 53:11–12 to Jesus when depicting Israel’s spiritual salvation is thus of the same order as Jesus’ applying parts of Isaiah 61:1–2 to himself. Jesus’ taking upon himself his people’s iniquities, bearing their sins, and making intercession for transgressors (Mosiah 15:8–9, 12)—on the model of a vassal king who answers for his people’s disloyalties to the emperor—follows the same pattern of a vassal king’s obtaining the temporal salvation of his people under the terms of the Davidic Covenant. When God’s people on the American continent came to realize how such temporal salvation had been burdening their king, “every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins” (Mosiah 29:38) and their laws of government changed.
By limiting itself to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the transgressions of those who believe in him, as depicted in Isaiah 53, the Book of Mormon evidently has different things in mind for Isaiah’s prophecies concerning a “servant” and “son” who restores God’s people. Although Book of Mormon prophets saw the latter days in vision, and themselves predict many end-time events, they stop short of telling all so that their readers too could exercise faith as well as them. Instead, when predicting that time, these descendants of Jews, and also Jesus himself, quote Isaiah—not in a context of Jesus’ messianic mission but of God’s fulfilling his covenants with Israel’s ancestors to bring back their children from dispersion to the lands of their inheritance. In sum, to Book of Mormon prophets Isaiah’s writings as a whole embody the very “restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began” that Jehovah/Jesus accomplishes through his end-time servant and fellowservants.
(Excerpted from Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 176–177.)
Essential to understanding how Book of Mormon prophets interpret Isaiah’s words is to determine their definitions of things, not the ones “everyone believes.” People who feature in the Book of Mormon’s end-time scenario, for example, are, first, the “house of Israel.” These consist of (1) the Jews; (2) Israel’s Ten Tribes who went captive into Assyria and were lost from history; and (3) Lehi’s descendants and others who migrated to the Americas from Jerusalem. Second, the Gentiles. These comprise (1) peoples from the old world who would migrate to the Americas; and (2) those to whom the gospel would be restored that was taught by Jesus and his disciples. As noted, the latter are identified as the “fulness/consummation of the Gentiles” (melo’ haggoyim, Genesis 48:19; mistranslated in the King James Version; cf. Romans 11:25; 1 Nephi 15:13; 3 Nephi 16:4), an expression in Jacob’s birthright blessing of Ephraim that foresaw Ephraim’s descendants’ assimilating into the Gentiles (cf. Hosea 7:8).
Although Latter-day Saints fall in the category of descendants of “Ephraim [who] assimilated into the nations” or Gentiles (’eprayim ba‘amim hu’ yitbolal; ibid.), the Book of Mormon never identifies them as the house of Israel, which expression it reserves solely for Israel’s natural lineages—the Jews, Israel’s Ten Tribes, and Lehi’s descendants, as stated. The prophet Joseph Smith acknowledges Latter-day Saints’ Gentile identity in the Kirtland Temple’s dedicatory prayer when he speaks of “us, who are identified with the Gentiles” (Doctrine & Covenants 109:60). Additional Book of Mormon expressions that refer to the believing Gentiles are (1) “the saints of the church of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 14:12, 14)—but not until an “everlasting” division has taken place among them; and (2) as with Israel’s natural lineages, the “covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2). (A comprehensive analysis of the Book of Mormon’s definition of the Gentiles and house of Israel appears in Gileadi, The Last Days, 109–173.)
Even though Book of Mormon prophets have taken pains to ensure that the things they write are “given unto [men] in plainness, even as plain as word can be,” they know that many readers “will not understand great knowledge” because they “will not search knowledge” but instead “suppose they know of themselves” (2 Nephi 9:28; 32:7). Indeed, it is because they have not diligently searched the words of Isaiah and of Book of Mormon prophets that Latter-day Saints misread them. That kind of “searching”—as distinct from reading or studying—isn’t an option for understanding them. It is a requirement that is built into the very fabric of prophetic writings, enlightening the mind of the person who persists in searching but darkening the minds of those who labor under the premise that they already know. To rely on others—on “authorities” or “experts”—for one’s understanding is to “rely on an arm of flesh” (2 Nephi 28:31). Searching the scriptures is God’s commandment to all his people, not to a select few.
The assumption by some that they “know the gospel” or “know the doctrine”—that if they haven’t heard something a hundred times before it can’t be true—is the very thing that prevents them from perceiving the truth. For even what they know, or think they know, is often in doubt: “Your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54–58).
Other scriptures, in fact, tell us that “a scourge and judgment” will indeed be poured out on the children of Zion. Says Jehovah to his end-time people of Ephraim: “A hail shall sweep away your false refuge and waters flood the hiding place. Your Covenant with Death shall prove void, your understanding with Sheol have no effect: when the flooding scourge sweeps through, you shall be overrun by it. As often as it sweeps through, you shall be seized by it: morning after morning it shall sweep through, by day and by night [it shall seize you]; it shall cause terror merely to hear word of it. The couch will be too short to stretch out on, the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in” (Isaiah 28:17–20; cf. Doctrine & Covenants 5:19; 45:31; 133:2). In other words, our darkened minds and the condemnation that rests upon us—because we accept only our cosmetic rendering of the scriptures, misread their meaning, and underrate their importance—are even now sealing upon our heads God’s imminent judgments.
(Excerpted from Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 329–332.)
The Book of Mormon’s reliance on the prophecies of Isaiah when discussing end-time events similarly aids our understanding of what all scriptures say on this subject. But only if we allow them to speak without our jumping to conclusions because of traditionally held beliefs, or because something “seems to fit,” or because “so-and-so says it.” Essential to this process is to leave aside popular ideas that are aired abroad or contained in books and manuals and to start by taking baby steps in our personal search of the scriptures, then to build upon what they say until all becomes clear and we wonder why we didn’t see it before! Another key is to recognize the Book of Mormon’s principle of revealing things piecemeal. In so doing, it follows Isaiah, who predicts the same events in different combinations with other events until an entire sequence of events unfolds. That, however, requires the reader to search the scriptures and connect the parts, while it prevents the casual viewer from comprehending them.
Fourteen such events characterize the Book of Mormon’s end-time scenario that is based on the prophecies of Isaiah. They are (1) God’s “setting his hand the second time” to restore the house of Israel; (2) God’s “baring his arm” in the eyes of all nations; (3) his servant’s fulfilling a mission to the nations; (4) the Gentiles’ rejecting the fulness of the gospel after having received it; (5) God’s performing his “great and marvelous work” among the nations; (6) Gentiles, including former believers, “fighting against Zion”; (7) the (spiritual) kings and queens of the Gentiles’ nurturing the house of Israel; (8) the house of Israel’s receiving the fulness of the gospel; (9) the saints and God’s covenant people being endowed with divine power; (10) the house of Israel’s returning from the four directions of the earth; (11) the destruction of the wicked; (12) the deliverance of the righteous; (13) the house of Israel’s receiving lands of inheritance; and (14) the Father’s fulfilling his covenants with the house of Israel.
By the Book of Mormon’s own definition, these synchronized events—as a totality, not as isolated phenomena—comprise God’s “great and marvelous work” and typify his fulfilling his covenants with his people Israel. The Book of Mormon presents these events domino fashion, as mentioned, within a series of scriptural passages that appear in 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, and 3 Nephi, by that means establishing a single end-time scenario. Only by taking all such passages together, not separately, therefore, does this complete scenario appear. Chapters of Isaiah from which the above sequence of events is drawn consist principally of the Book of Isaiah’s high point around chapters 48–55 but include also others, such as chapters 11 and 28–29. As with the Book of Mormon passages, however, these chapters can’t be isolated from others in the Book of Isaiah—to which they are linked by a network of literary interconnections—without distorting the message of both Isaiah and the Book of Mormon.
The part played by the Gentiles in these events—principally by the descendants of Ephraim who assimilated into the Gentiles—is to facilitate the house of Israel’s restoration through seven phases. The first two precede the Book of Mormon’s end-time scenario while the final five comprise it: (1) the restoration of the gospel to the Gentiles; (2) the completion of the Gentiles’ scattering of the house of Israel; (3) God’s end-time servant’s bringing forth Jesus’ words to the Gentiles; (4) the Gentiles’ rejecting the fulness of the gospel after having received it, resulting in their being “cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:11); (5) the (spiritual) kings of the Gentiles’ receiving the words of Jesus that the servant brings forth and ministering to the house of Israel; (6) the gospel’s turning from the Gentiles back to the house of Israel; and (7) the house of Israel’s restoration.
(Excerpted from Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 354–356.)
Isaiah the son of Amoz, brother of King Amaziah of Judah, prophesied in Jerusalem during a pivotal period in Israel’s history (742–701 B.C.). Many things transpired in that day that typified what would happen at the end of the world. As both a prophet and poet, Isaiah encoded layers of meaning into his prophecies that require one to search them in order to discover their meaning.
At a young age, Isaiah saw God in the temple at Jerusalem, where God called him as a prophet: “I heard the voice of my Lord say, Who shall I send? Who will go for us? And I replied, Here am I; send me! And he said, Go, and say to these people, Go on hearing, but not understanding; Go on seeing, but not perceiving. Make the heart of these people grow fat; dull their ears and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand in their heart, and repent, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:8–10). So far had his people drifted away from God that he sent Isaiah to warn them of calamities that lay just ahead.
Isaiah’s prophecies divided people into those who would see, hear, understand, repent, and be healed of their behavioral dysfunctions and those who refused. His prophecies spell out the evil consequences of people’s not paying attention to God’s commandments, but they also portray the glories God promises those who take his words to heart. Isaiah’s name, “yhvh is Salvation” (Hebrew yeshayahu), heralded a message of hope to those who would understand his words.
When Isaiah was prevented by a ruling king from prophesying to the people, he called his children by symbolic names that portended Assyria’s imminent invasion of Israel and God’s deliverance of a remnant of his people. Two sons—Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, “Hasten the Plunder, Hurry the Spoil,” and Shear-Jashub, “A Remnant Shall Repent/Return” (Isaiah 7:3; 8:3)—prefigured what was about to happen.
After more than forty years of serving as God’s prophet—covering the reigns of five kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh—Isaiah was sawn in half by the wicked King Manasseh (Ascension of Isaiah 5:1, 11). Toward the last part of his life, Isaiah lived in Israel’s desert regions with a small coterie of prophets to escape Manasseh’s wrath. Eventually, however, the king’s cohorts tracked him down.
by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.
Having come to the U.S. in 1973 from pursuing rabbinic studies in Jerusalem, and seeing an immense need for a modern English translation of Isaiah that reflects the sense or meaning of the original, I made that a priority in any effort to make Isaiah’s prophecies understandable. The literalistic, obscure and inconsistent 1611 A.D. King James Version many churches clung to for its traditional and poetic value, and a growing number of modern translations and the liberties they took with the Hebrew text, didn’t fully do justice to what I considered the Word of God.
Although I was fluent in Hebrew, I nevertheless researched every Hebrew term of the Masoretic Text of Isaiah except prepositions, etc. using the latest Hebrew lexicons, dictionaries, and concordance before making a judgment call on how to translate a verse or passage. I additionally compared the complete Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah and Greek Septuagint Version, in footnotes specifying textual problems that clouded the meaning. I found that Jewish scribes to whom we owe the faithful transmission of the Book of Isaiah suffered from similar foibles as we do today.
Twelve modern English Bibles in publication during the 1970s that I further compared word for word helped me perceive many disparities in translation that were to be avoided. I observed the telltale hand of committees of translators who compromised clarity of meaning for the sake of covering every jot and tittle. Several religious denominations sprouted their own translations that were biased toward their theological orientation. I completed the translation of the Book of Isaiah in 1979 during my doctoral program in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.
Because I knew from Isaiah’s own words, and from literary patterns which I analyzed for my Ph.D. thesis, that Isaiah’s was an end-time prophecy—one that transforms the history of his day and soon thereafter into an allegory of the end-time—I used as many modern terms as feasible that nevertheless reflect the Hebrew original. When seriously stumped over a textual anomaly, I typically resorted to prayer and received an answer by the next day or even the same night. At the founding of the Isaiah Institute in 1990, this translation became its official version of Isaiah.
After I had observed that the KJV translated the same terms in Hebrew in several different ways, it became important to me to translate words consistently. By then, I had discovered that certain keywords such as God’s “arm,” “rod,” “staff,” “hand,” “ensign,” “light” and “covenant” acted as pseudonyms or aliases of God’s end-time servant, while a series of similar terms such as God’s “anger,” “wrath,” “rod,” “staff,” “sword,” “fire” and “darkness” served as pseudonyms or aliases of an end-time king of “Assyria”—codename of a militaristic world power from the North.
Because Isaiah’s use of these terms as aliases of two main characters in his end-time vision told a story within a story, and because an intricate web of word links connected these terms and the contexts in which they appeared—and as all these interconnections were overlaid by literary structures layered one upon another that revealed their own message over and above what you read on the surface—it became paramount for me to give the utmost credence to what God was endeavoring to communicate through the words of Isaiah and to honor that in this translation.
Avraham Gileadi was born in the Netherlands during World War II. During the war, his father’s Dutch underground organization helped a New Zealand pilot escape to England. This led to the family emigrating to New Zealand in 1950. In 1968, Avraham Gileadi emigrated to Israel, where he learned Hebrew, attended rabbinical school, and studied Jewish analytical methods. In 1973, he moved to the United States, married and raised a family of nine children. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies under the tutelage of Professor Roland. K. Harrison of Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada, with Professor Hugh Nibley as chairman. For his doctoral thesis (“A Bifid Division of the Book of Isaiah.” Diss., Brigham Young University, 1981), he analyzed a complex literary structure in the Book of Isaiah that radically impacts the book’s interpretation. During his Ph.D. program, he translated the text of Isaiah into modern English, with annotations from the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, 1Qsaa, and the Greek Septuagint Version, LXX, and published it with analyses of Isaiah’s literary patterns uncovered during a decade of postdoctoral research.
During six of his eight years at BYU, he taught Hebrew, Old and New Testaments, and an honors class in the literary analysis of Isaiah. Under the direction of Ellis Rasmussen, dean of Religion, he completed footnotes for the LDS edition of the Bible of translation problems in the King James Version of the Hebrew prophets. He also reviewed and revised the Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon for the church’s Translation Division, discovering many Hebrew prophetic structures and literary patterns in the Book of Mormon. He translated the Book of Isaiah into modern English with annotations from the Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah and the Septuagint Version, publishing it with analyses of Isaiah’s literary patterns discovered during a decade of post-doctoral research. Sponsored by the Hebraeus Foundation (est. 1990), Avraham Gileadi has lectured widely, given seminars and firesides, and published many books on the Book of Isaiah and related subjects that teach Jewish analytical methods and help one understand Isaiah’s prophecy.
Question: “In preparation for Isaiah, I read the following from the Come Follow Me manual: “For the most part, people today aren’t the primary audience of the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets had immediate concerns they were addressing in their time and place—just as our latter-day prophets address our immediate concerns today.” Does prophecy from the Old Testament apply to us today? What should I expect when I read from it?”
Answer: Jesus’ commandments to “search the prophets” and “search. . . the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 20:11; 23:1, 5), rather than dating Old Testament prophets, makes them relevant long after they lived. Because the Hebrew worldview is typological—not necessarily purely logical as in western culture—it is wise to “liken all scriptures unto us. . . for our profit and leaning” (1 Nephi 19:23). When the Lord says he gives us “a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived” (Doctrine & Covenants 52:13), that pattern appears in the scriptures, specifically in the prophets.
Because we are to “live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Doctrine & Covenants 84:44), if we fail to comprehend the sum total of God’s words in the scriptures that we currently have, we won’t be fit to “receive more of my word” (2 Nephi 29:8). That includes Jesus’ words on the large plates of Nephi, called “the greater things,” that are still withheld from us (3 Nephi 26:6–11). Instead, we will remain “under condemnation” for having “treated lightly the things you have received” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54).
Such condemnation stems from the self-sufficient attitude, “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:29). It is typified by people mostly relying on the pulpit narrative or “line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept” mode of learning which the Lord condemns (Isaiah 28:9–13). Of such, he says, “From them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30), leading many Latter-day Saints “in Zion” to ultimately “deny” the Lord (2 Nephi 28:24–32) and be “cut off” (3 Nephi 21:11).
Jesus’ personally provides the Nephites with the words of Malachi, and also explains them (3 Nephi 24–25). That testifies of their pertinence to the end-time, when Malachi’s prophecies are fulfilled: “These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations” (3 Nephi 26:2). Jesus’ quoting the words of Micah in the context of the Ephraimite Gentiles’ apostasy and house of Israel’s restoration (3 Nephi 16:13–15; 20:16–19) similarly affirms their significance.
Most importantly, the Book of Mormon’s use of the words of Isaiah details their relevance to our day. Whenever Jesus and Nephite prophets speak of us—the Ephraimite Gentiles—they quote Isaiah’ words and interpret them. Nephi predicts that “in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass” (2 Nephi 25:8). Jesus’ key that “all things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be” (3 Nephi 23:3) informs us that even the historical events Isaiah describes serve as an allegory of the end-time.
End-time events such as the house of Israel’s exodus out of Babylon, and the Assyrian wars Nephi cites that are a type of our day (1 Nephi 20–21; 2 Nephi 12–24; cf. Isaiah 48–49; 2–14), apply to us. They tell us that in the end we will divide into those who harden their hearts and end up fighting against Zion and those who serve as spiritual kings and queens who restore the house of Israel—Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lamanites—at the time God’s judgments come upon the world (1 Nephi 14:1–17; 15:20; 2 Nephi 6:5–18; 10:7–19; 3 Nephi 20:11–12, 21–46; 21:6–11, 20–29).
Having proven from the literary analysis of the Book of Isaiah that his entire prophecy paints an end-time scenario—one that uses the history of Isaiah’s day or soon thereafter as an allegory of the end-time—we can go forward, as Nephi says, and apply Isaiah’s words to ourselves for our profit and learning. In other words, within the end-time context of his prophecy what Isaiah said of God’s people in his day now applies to us. We are the people to whom Isaiah’s words apply.
In Isaiah’s end-time context, it is the apostasy of God’s people as a whole that precipitates God’s worldwide judgment. As in the pattern of Israel’s ancient exile—the Ten Tribes into Assyria and Jews into Babylon—so long as God’s people maintained a sufficient standard of righteousness, no evil world power could harm them or conquer the world. But when they became worldly, self-righteous, idolatrous, and corrupt, misfortunes in the form of covenant curses became their lot.
As one of two messianic figures in the Book of Isaiah, God’s end-time servant prepares the way for Jehovah/Jesus’ coming to reign on the earth. Called to restore Israel’s twelve tribes, initiate their new exodus out of Babylon on the eve of its destruction, build the new temple, and so forth, his messianic ministry is principally of a temporal nature to prepare the house of Israel—the Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lamanites of today—to meet their God by establishing Zion among them.
As the Savior and Redeemer of his people, it is Israel’s own God who “pays the price of our peace” and fulfills the role of his people’s Messiah. The new covenant he makes with his elect, whom his end-time servant gathers to Zion, forms a composite of all the positive features of the covenants he made with his people and with individuals in the past, namely divine protection against enemies, paradisiacal lands of inheritance, and offspring endowed with his Holy Spirit.
A final division takes place between the righteous and the wicked of God’s people as the coming of the Lord draws near. Even as evil reaches its zenith, God empowers his repentant people over it. His coming to them as the embodiment of Salvation contrasts sharply with the ignominious fate of their enemies. While God’s servants—those who serve as saviors to his people—inherit glory, those from among their own brethren who persecuted them suffer an everlasting shame.
Nephi follows Jacob’s exposition of the prophecies of Isaiah by quoting thirteen chapters of Isaiah in their entirety that deal with the apostasy of God’s people and with the king of Assyria/Babylon’s retribution on a wicked world (2 Nephi 12–24; cf. Isaiah 2–14). Considering the difficulty of inscribing so much material on his small plates, and that Nephi was writing for the benefit of his endtime readers—not those of his own day—we can’t dismiss these chapters as simply providing a historical record of Isaiah’s day or as not relevant to the Ephraimite Gentiles. Whenever Book of Mormon prophets quote Isaiah, they apply his words to the endtime as they look forward to their fulfillment among their premillennial descendants. In fact, Nephi applies Isaiah’s words expressly to “the last days”—those being “the times when they shall come to pass” (2 Nephi 25:7–8), consistent with the Jewish tradition that Isaiah’s prophecies apply to the endtime in addition to the historical context in which they originate.
Accordingly, Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure—a synchronous holistic literary structure that systematizes the entire content of his book—establishes an endtime context for Isaiah’s prophecies. It accomplishes this by incrementally developing prophetic concepts from one unit of material in the first half of the book to its parallel counterpart in the second, then using these as a basis for developing further concepts in successive units of material in the first half and their parallel counterparts in the second until all culminates in the seventh unit of the second half of the book. Seven pairs of antithetical themes govern this systematic development of ideas: (1) Ruin & Rebirth (Isaiah 1–5; 34–35); (2) Rebellion & Compliance (Isaiah 6–8; 36–40); (3) Punishment & Deliverance (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46); (4) Humiliation & Exaltation (Isaiah 13–23; 47); (5) Suffering & Salvation (Isaiah 24–27; 48–54); (6) Disloyalty & Loyalty (Isaiah 28–31; 55–59); and (7) Disinheritance & Inheritance (Isaiah 32–33; 60–66). (Literary Message of Isaiah.)
This overarching structure’s transformation of the Book of Isaiah into an apocalyptic or endtime prophecy—a prophecy nevertheless grounded in the history of Israel of Isaiah’s day or soon thereafter—means that the ancient names of world powers in the Book of Isaiah now function as codenames of endtime ones. Assyria, the militaristic superpower from the North that conquered the ancient world, for example (2 Nephi 17:17–20; 18:3–8; 20:5–19; 21:11; cf. Isaiah 7:17–20; 8:3–8; 10:5–19; 11:11), now typifies an endtime superpower that exhibits the same militaristic tendencies and that succeeds in conquering the modern world. Egypt, the elite world superpower collapsing from within that was invaded by Assyria (2 Nephi 17:18; 21:11; cf. Isaiah 7:18; 11:16; 19:1–16; 20:1–6), now typifies today’s elite superpower—America. By the same token, God’s covenant people of Isaiah’s day, whether called Israel, Jerusalem, or Judea, now typify God’s people today “who are of the covenant”—the Ephraimite Gentiles.
In short, the Book of Isaiah’s literary organization validates Jewish tradition and Book of Mormon prophets in applying Isaiah’s words expressly to the “last days.” This means that in its endtime context, Isaiah 2–14, as quoted in 2 Nephi 12–24, applies specifically to the Ephraimite Gentiles who are God’s covenant people today, not to Israel’s natural lineages who as yet haven’t renewed their covenantal allegiance to Israel’s God or been grafted back into their own olive tree. That raises a specter of something Mormons may never have imagined of themselves, only of others, that this time around they are the ones whom God warns and calls to repentance lest they perish from the earth. Although Isaiah 2–14 contains some of the most explicit depictions of wickedness of God’s people in the Book of Isaiah—and of the direful consequences of failing to repent—the Ephraimite Gentiles’ habitually glossing over these chapters presents yet another appalling instance of their taking lightly the scriptures they have received.
Concerning the apostasy of God’s people depicted in Isaiah 2–14 (cf. 2 Nephi 12–24), we thus find their entire establishment spiritually imperiled from the people’s leaders on down: “Let me sing for my Beloved a love song about his vineyard: ‘My Beloved had a vineyard on the fertile brow of a hill. He cultivated it, clearing it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. He built a watchtower in its midst and hewed for it a winepress as well. Then he expected it to yield grapes, but it produced wild grapes’” (Isaiah 5:1–2); “He expected justice, but there was injustice; [he expected] righteousness, but there was an outcry” (Isaiah 5:7); “Yet the people do not turn back to him who smites them, nor will they inquire of Jehovah of Hosts. Therefore will Jehovah cut off from Israel head and tail, palm top and reed, in a single day; the elders or notables are the head, the prophets who teach falsehoods, the tail. The leaders of these people have misled them, and those who are led are confused” (Isaiah 9:13–16). . . . .
As we saw earlier, it is the apostasy of God’s endtime people that triggers his judgments’ falling upon all the nations of the Gentiles (cf. 3 Nephi 20:15–20). When his people “who are of the covenant” reject him, God takes the kingdom from them and gives it to “a nation that brings forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). Still, hope exists for a righteous remnant—his “saints” or “sanctified ones”—those who make sure their calling and election and choose to minister to the house of Israel. Because of their ministry, hope exists also for the house of Israel, those waiting to renew their covenant with Israel’s God. Although Isaiah 2–14 deals mostly with the apostasy of God’s endtime people and its aftermath, it also predicts the house of Israel’s return from among the nations at the time of a war to end all wars (Isaiah 2:2–4; 9:2–5; 11:10–16; 12:1–6). No parts of Isaiah 2–14 can be interpreted independently from other passages of Isaiah, however, to which they are connected structurally, rhetorically, and typologically.
(From Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 395–400.)
Isaiah describes his book as being written in “parables” (Ascension of Isaiah 4:20). Although anchored in history, his prophecies are end-time in nature, in which history acts as an allegory of the end-time. From that perspective, those parts of Israel’s history Isaiah chose to record possess the dual function of foretelling the end of the world. Having seen “the end from the beginning” in a cosmic vision (Isaiah 46:10), Isaiah patterned his prophecies in such a way that the end was foreshadowed by events in the beginning.
Although many people believe we are nearing the end of an age, even the end of the world, few have a clear idea of what to look for that may reveal where we are in the sequence of events. A lot of popular ideas to which people subscribe, when analyzed and compared with the prophecies themselves, are seen to have no clear scriptural basis so that the truth lies buried under mounds of speculation.
God’s answer to this tide of “zeal without knowledge” is the prophecies of Isaiah. With as much detail as still allows for the exercise of faith, they spell out the end from the beginning so that a believer is left in no doubt about events that are about to overtake the world. Layers of literary structures transform the Book of Isaiah into an end-time prophecy that was preconceived by a single author. A woven tapestry of terms, concepts, and typologies interconnect all its parts.
As a case in point, a seven-part literary structure covering the entire Book of Isaiah develops a theology of spiritual ascent on a ladder to heaven. Isaiah’s “good news” or gospel, in other words, shows that Jesus’ gospel was not an innovation but was had among Israel’s prophets from the beginning. Isaiah teaches how persons who love God by keeping his commandments that are the terms of his covenants are spiritually reborn on ascending levels of a ladder to heaven.
Isaiah realized his prophecies would be most relevant to people at the end of the world, not in his day. He knew Israel’s ancient history would repeat itself on the world stage and that his writings would at that time finally be understood: “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book and the eyes of the blind see out of gross darkness” (Isaiah 29:18).
In a world growing ever more perplexing, oppressive, and invasive, would it assure you to know where current events are headed—that from the beginning God prepared a way through them for those who believe in his Word? Not only to deliver you from the worst-case scenario the world has ever known but to allow those very times to reshape you into far more than you were before? Would it comfort you to know that God has orchestrated adversarial end-time conditions for the very purpose of empowering you above them provided you align yourself with his will?
It may admittedly be difficult for anyone to conceive that Isaiah’s prophecies capture not only an entire timeline of end-time events but that they additionally teach a theology of salvation based on God’s covenants—a theology designed to re-create his children ever closer to his own image and likeness. We don’t see it as our task, however, to convince you of Isaiah’s end-time message. We know from experience that as you enter this journey of discovery you will convince yourself as you apply the simple interpretive tools the Isaiah Institute provides.
These interpretive tools have always existed within Isaiah’s writings themselves. But they were not made known because they waited for the time his prophecies would be fulfilled. Once you start on your journey of applying them in your personal search, you will discover that Isaiah’s prophecies help open up all of God’s Word to your understanding.
Because the knowledge of God’s covenants was largely lost over many centuries, understanding them is essential to knowing how God operates in human history and in his children’s personal lives. We observe this particularly with the prophecies of Isaiah. People’s breaking the covenants in the past did not invalidate the covenants themselves, which are eternal. The Sinai and Davidic Covenants, for example, remain as operative today as they were anciently. Isaiah illustrates that when we relate to God through them we obtain power with him to accomplish his designs for his children’s happiness.