Isaiah & the Redeemer

I’ve noticed before in 1 Nephi, Chapter 19 that Nephi says that he reads Isaiah specifically to convince his family to believe in the Redeemer. Is he saying that they already believed in a God, in the God of Israel specifically, but not necessarily in His role as Messiah and Redeemer? Lehi preaches about a Messiah that will save the world, and he almost gets killed. A Messiah simply for Israel is good news, however. The different titles that God receives are accepted or rejected based on what that person thinks about God.

So Nephi wants his people to believe in God as a Redeemer. Well, what if they don’t understand that there is a need to redeem anyone or any people? Isaiah makes it clear that Israel has been divided and scattered and needs to be brought back together. Is this why he reads Isaiah?

I did a search this morning for “Redeemer” in the Old Testament. It turns out that of the 18 times that word shows up, 13 of them are in Isaiah! (Here is a link to the search results.) The others are one in Job, two in the Psalms, one in Proverbs, and one in Jeremiah. And the earliest it shows up in Isaiah is chapter 41.

Anyway, I find this interesting and productive to think about!

Another thought on 1 Nephi Chapter 18 (Looking for the Abrahamic Covenant)

It dawned on me this morning that if this were written in third person, it would probably be easier to see how it’s similar to Exodus. Or, vice versa, what if Moses’s story of wandering the wilderness with the children of Israel had been written in first person? (Presumably there was first-person account written originally…) but what if our account were written in first person? I see and understand the criticism that Nephi is glorifying his own righteousness over that of his brothers. But he does it so frankly and bluntly that it has a strange feel to it. It’s too matter-of-fact at points. So, I wonder, if what happens is that Nephi sees in their story a straightforward parallel to the children of Israel and Moses, and finds it almost crucial to point out those similarities so that his people can see themselves as covenant Israel — literally, really, covenant Israel — so he is willing to put into his very, very short narrative of their 8 years those moments that show their similarities such as rebellion and lack of faith, leadership calling to repentance, repentance and forgiveness, and then how God mercifully led them towards the promised land when they repented. If that’s Nephi’s goal, then he does a good job of it; but why does it sound awkward sometimes? I think it is because Moses’s story, as we have it, is third person. We read it and think, “Of course Moses is glorified in some ways by the story; he was Moses!” :) It is easy to see the pettiness of the Israelites and we don’t assume Moses is embellishing the story. But with Nephi, we have an account written in first person, which means those moments were Nephi is the hero and his brothers are petty sound a bit suspicious. I don’t distrust Nephi myself, but I can see how the literary approach would lend itself to finding Nephi a bit self-serving. However, even there I think there is an awkwardness and frankness about the story that calls me to be suspicious about the suspicious reading. :) He always shows when his brothers repent, he shows his father’s humbleness and prophetic power alongside his moment of murmuring, and he always attributes his power to God and not himself. Even the moment when he slays Laban, he shows how he was a weak person who didn’t want to listen. Imagine again all of this in third person — how would it sound? Very different.

Anyway, just a thought I hope was worth sharing/recording this morning. :)

A thought on 1 Nephi 18:9-10

 9 And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.

10 And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us, and smite us because of our iniquity, that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea; wherefore, I, Nephi, began to speak to them with much soberness; but behold they were angry with me, saying: We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us.

First off, verse 9 is horribly, horribly depicted in that “Book of Mormon Movie” from a decade ago. (Yikes!) It isn’t that their dancing itself is bad or their singing (or their clothes, if you believe the movie), those all come after the word “inasmuch.” So, what’s going on here? Well, they first “make themselves merry.” I wonder if we could read this in the more British sense of the word: they are getting drunk. They drank “insomuch” that they began to be silly, to dance, to sing, and so forth. And there inhibitions were down, and they began to speak with much rudeness, meaning, I think, with much honesty. Whatever control over themselves they had to exercise to go along with Lehi and Nephi’s plans was left off and they spoke with rude frank honesty, “even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither.” I don’t think it just a mental “forgot” that Nephi’s guessing at, I think they were verbally saying things against God, or at the least attributing God’s miracles to something else (their own strength?). I think this is why Nephi is so fearful and intervenes, and why in the end Laman and Lemuel have to be shown so drastically that God really is in charge! I like that Nephi describes himself as speaking with “soberness.” :)

Spirit “prison”

We had a study group last night (yay!!) and we picked D&C 76:71-80, which is the description of the terrestrial kingdom. It was a good night and a good discussion. The other two couples had never studied in a group before so it was a new experience and I think things went very well. Lots of side-topics of course, as happens at any study group!

There were lots of good thoughts last night, but as I was drifting off to sleep last night I was thinking about the specific “prison” set up for those who died in the flood. We read two passages about this: D&C 76:73 (And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh) and also the similar passage in Moses 7:37-39 (37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? 38 But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them. 39 And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment). The latter one sheds some light on the situation: their parents are partly to blame (indeed their great-grandparents had refused Zion itself, so who was teaching the past generations?) so Christ pleads for them and sets up a place to visit them personally. This doesn’t sound like “prison” is entirely a bad thing!

So as I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about the word “prison.” A prison is a place where people are locked up and can’t get out. But perhaps in the case of judgement, this is a merciful thing. Rather than this group being automatically assigned to endless woe, they are assigned to a prison, a place where the final judgment can’t get to them, as much as they can’t get to the final judgement. They are preserved there. It is a temporary sentence, until their real trial can actually take place.

I like that reading of “prison.” I don’t know how scripturally accurate it is, but I like it. :)

1 Nephi, Chapter 17 (Looking for the Abrahamic Covenant)

I’m a bit distracted today, but here are some pieces of thoughts anyway:

Right about verse 22, we start to see comparisons between the Nephites and the Israelites again. This time, however, it’s sparked by something that Laman and Lemuel say:

22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.

It’s an odd thing that his brothers claim, in some ways. This is a tangent into thinking about human nature — sorry to anyone who might actually be reading this — When a prophet comes to say a people needs to repent, he comes because God has told him the people need to repent. I don’t know at what point “the people” have gone astray. When a majority of people have turned their hearts? When the dominant discourse is no longer faithful? When the leaders have influenced so many people that if there isn’t a stop to it soon the next generation will be lost? I’ve never been quite sure on that point, anyway. So it made me think of that when Nephi’s brothers talk about the people in Jerusalem. Who do you think they were referring to? Is this, “Everyone I knew was keeping the law,” or “I think the majority did,” or what? They knew prophets had come besides Lehi. But of course, there was debate at the time about who was a true prophet and who was preaching dreams they had that weren’t from God. Hmm.

But back on track now — Joe has pointed out that this verse right here opens up an opportunity for Nephi to distinguish between the law and the covenant. (The details are in a chapter of a new book he’s working on; I wish they were in a blog post I could link to!) Nephi relates the history of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness and all the help that God gave them. That’s really the focus, I guess: see how God guided them and helped them every step of the way, even when they hardened their hearts against Moses and so forth, he didn’t give up on them and eventually they were ready to go to the promised land. I don’t see the talk of the covenant as clearly as Joe does, so I’ll have to spend some more time talking to him about it and write another post, I think.

I do see the comparison here between the Israelites and the Lehites:

40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.

This sounds like 1 Nephi 1:20:

I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

I also like how the conversation God has with Nephi nicely matches the conversation Nephi has with his brothers. In both cases, there is an emphasis on how God has led them and provided the way for them to leave one place and reach a promised land. There are specific details in each (for example, God making raw meat taste sweet, and God making manna rain from heaven).

I’m afraid I don’t have much to add this morning — mostly I’m distracted wondering exactly what Joe had in mind.

1 Nephi, Chapter 16 (Looking for the Abrahamic Covenant)

Hi! So, I don’t see a lot in chapter 16 about covenants. But, I do find it interesting to think of how Nephi’s description of their journey is similar or different to his description of Moses’s people’s journey. For example, he’s already written down the time when he told his brothers how the Lord fed the Israelites and gave them water from a rock, and so forth. For Lehi’s family, there’s no tabernacle or cloud/pillar that goes with them, but there is a Liahona. Is that their sort of tabernacle and cloud/pillar? It goes with them, it communicates God’s will, it directs them. I wonder. But more interesting to me this morning is the comparison or contrast between the Israelites’ moments of hunger and the Lehites’ moments of hunger. Nephi and his brothers hunt for their food, and when their bows break, no one eats. God doesn’t rain down quail in their case. They just get hungrier and hungrier. They start to complain and murmur and keep getting hungrier. Finally in their case, Nephi makes a simple bow (so simple that it’s a miracle it worked? maybe?), then relies on Lehi & the Liahona to know where to go. What significance does this story have? Why does Nephi include it? It’s got to be more than “hey look, I was more righteous than my family.” To him, I think it’s a miracle that whenever they had faith and trusted God then He helped them have food, and when they didn’t have faith, they almost died out completely. That’s a good lesson for his people who would be reading his book: have faith and God will provide for you, lack faith and you are without His help.

So while I don’t see any reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, I do (perhaps) see some comparisons to the Israelites, and Nephi often uses the Israelites’ journey as a way to connect his people to their ancestors.

Joe’s post on what the Book of Mormon says about “adding to” or “taking away” from the Bible

Yay! It’s up! We talked a lot about this post and it went up today so I can link to it:

Definitely worth the time!!


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