Tag Archives: Isaiah

1 Nephi, Chapter 20 “out of the waters of baptism”

 1 Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.

I have understood for some time that Joseph clearly and unworrisomely added the words “or out of the waters of baptism.” The early documents are all there and clear that it was added in 1840. That doesn’t bother me at all that he did that — he was a prophet too! — but the question is: Why?

The original sense of the verse seems to me to be to narrow House of Jacob, name of Israel, to those specifically of Judah. But why “waters”? I did a little research and it’s possible to read this as “loins.” So the idea would be those literally descended from Judah. But since through Nephi’s eyes, Isaiah has a lot to say to the remnant of Joseph as an important redeemer of the whole house of Israel.

So that makes me rethink this idea of water and baptism. At baptism you receive a new name. In our case, we take on ourselves the name of Christ. I am wondering if it is possible to think that by the time that Isaiah is writing these words, anyone who has been baptized (not that I know even a smiggin of what that meant in the Biblical world) was then considered part of Judah. By the time that the Northern Kingdom had been scattered, was anyone still associated with the covenant, the prophets, the temple, and so forth, considered Judah? Something like those in the Book of Mormon being grouped into “Nephites” and “Lamanites” even though they weren’t all literally Nephi’s or Laman’s descendants. Whether or not Isaiah meant that, it seems to me to be the sense of what Joseph Smith is saying. There is something that has caused them to be called Judah when they weren’t all originally Judah. The entire House of Israel has been reduced to Judah, but not because that is all that remains; those that remain have been renamed, or baptized, as part of Judah. Thus we get the idea that there are only “Jews and Gentiles” and the word “Jews” remains today as the only real group the world associates with the Old Testament. The rest of Israel has been either “lost” or simply “dissolved” into Judah.

I think Nephi would have understood this verse in this sort of way, even if he didn’t need to think of it in terms of baptism. And whether or not baptism has anything to do with it, Joseph’s addition made me rethink this verse in terms of names, titles, rituals, etc. rather than literal descent.

D&C 113

I had totally forgotten that D&C 113 existed! I found it again today and wondered what I’d find now, after all the years Joe and I have worked on the Abrahamic Covenant and all the ways Nephi has helped us see that covenant in Isaiah. Would it be in D&C 113 too? Or were they focused on other aspects of Isaiah so it didn’t come up?

Well! I learned a lot today! Here are some of those thoughts:

4 Behold, thus saith the Lord: It 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

This might not sound like much, but look at that description: both a descendant of Jesse (that is, of David’s family, right? Which means, of Judah) and of Ephraim (or Joseph, it says). That means that the split (and rivalry) between Judah and Joseph is overcome in one person at some point! If I understand Genesis 49 right, Jacob splits the covenant into two parts when he blesses his sons. Where as Abraham had once chosen son (Isaac) and Isaac had one chosen son (Jacob), Jacob blesses two with greater blessings than the rest: Judah will reign, and Joseph will be prosperous and multiply exceedingly. Of the two, I think Joseph’s is closer to the Abrahamic covenant, so I’d tended to assume that basically Joseph was the chosen son as far as priesthood, chosen seed, and so on went. But reading this description from D&C 113 made me realize that perhaps it really was split in some way, and in some future person those two houses of Jacob will be reunited! And on this person “there is laid much power.” It doesn’t say it was Joseph Smith, so I think we’re talking about someone else, likely in the future, and likely someone who will gather Zion? (Because so much else in D&C 113 talks about Zion? And because someone who gathers might be a king (Judah) and have priesthood rights (Joseph)? Or can I really assign to Joseph those rights of the Melchizedek priesthood? That’s messy business I guess. Anyway, on to other verses:

5 What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter? Behold, thus saith the Lord, it 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.

Whoa! And here we go again with priesthood. This descendant has a birthright, and to him, “rightly belongs the priesthood.” So, apparently, for the rest of us, we’re using it by authorization for now, by adoption? By virtue of the statement in Abraham 2 that all who embrace the gospel are “counted” as Abraham’s seed, and so by that promise can hold the priesthood? So many questions! But look at elsewhere in the D&C that talk about legal rights, or rightly belongs. There’s D&C 68 and D&C 107 that talk about literal descendants of Aaron holding the priesthood and right to being a Bishop, but there’s talk of Melchizedek priesthood too. See this from D&C 107:

40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. 41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:

So while here we have a revelation talking to a group of Latter-day Saints on how to organize themselves as Melchizedek priesthood members, this same revelation is telling them that they don’t actually have a “right” to the priesthood. They are being called within it, and being told how to use it and to organize within it, but they aren’t actually the people for whom it was intended. Those people are hidden for now but they do exist. I have wondered where else to learn about that and I didn’t realize that D&C 113 was a place to go! So here’s that part again:

D&C 113:6 descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom

So here we go! Someday there will be that person who has a right to the priesthood! And that person will be a combination of Jesse (Judah) and Ephraim (Joseph)! How incredible! How many times those two are used to represent two parts of Israel! Two nations! (Northern and Southern Kingdoms.) Two books of scripture! (The Bible and the Book of Mormon!) How amazing that the person to whom the priesthood belongs is a unification of those two parts! Perhaps that is symbolic of the moment at which Israel can really be gathered again into one! And when Zion can really be built! How amazing, and I had no idea! 🙂

The next part I want to share is a little complicated as far as who the verses are talking about, but there’s more about lineage and priesthood so I want to share it!

8 to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.

Now Zion is personified, but that’s still awesome! Zion has a right to priesthood by lineage? I don’t know but that’s cool. And also “return” to that power “which she had lost.” Part of the restoration or gathering of Israel is to gather them together so that the group itself, not just one person can have the priesthood power they have lost – that they once had, as a group, but in a scattered state they have lost. I wonder if that is a fair reading of this?

The last verse is similar: “The bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles.” And “the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen; which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation.”


Why everyone should read Isaiah with a child

This will sound crazy, but my favorite experiences with Isaiah have come while reading him to a three or five year old.

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Isaiah is becoming clear! Wow!

So if you ever want to understand scripture, just read it out loud every day to a 5 year old. I can’t believe how much I am learning from studying with Jacob. Just the act of reading it out loud, without any chance of daydreaming, and thinking about how to make sense of this to a kid, has opened up so many passages of scripture to me. The most amazing of them, to me, is Isaiah. I am finally getting that coveted feeling that Isaiah is clear! It is reading 3 Nephi, where Christ expounds on Isaiah, that has made him so much more clear to me. There I see a basic framework of what the covenant is, who it is for, and how it works with different groups over time. Once I got that framework, I realized that I could probably enter into Isaiah at any chapter and at least see the basic framework there.

So, what am I seeing as the basic framework? God gave a covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Over time, those of this covenant forgot the Lord, and over more time many forgot that they were Israel at all. God took many groups away from Jerusalem. Because of the wickedness of those at Jerusalem, says Christ in 3 Ne, they don’t even know about these groups or where they are.

Of all these “lost” groups, the Nephites have a very, very unique and crucial role to play. Their record is the one moment that will turn everything around. After Israel forgets the covenant, the Nephites are still writing. The words that Christ tells them are written down for a special, important moment in time. After Israel has all forgotten the covenant, the Book of Mormon comes–not to Israel–to the Gentiles! Israel has forgotten the covenant, and so it is made available to the Gentiles. This is sort of the “hourglass” of history. The Gentiles now have a chance to embrace the covenant. If they repent, they will be numbered among Israel and become part of that covenant family. If they reject the gospel, then as Israel remembers their covenant God will remember them, and Israel will be among the Gentiles “as a lion” in the forest who tramples down, etc. But it is specifically the Book of Mormon that both opens the covenant to the Gentiles, and that which reminds Israel that they are Israel. Both! Incredible!

Then the Gentiles and Israel see the covenant at work, and know that God did not forget his promises that his covenant people would have the blessings of the gospel, the priesthood, ordinances, knowledge, Holy Ghost, etc. Soon all nations, all people, will learn about the covenant and have the opportunity to embrace it or reject it. Then all that are proud will be made low, God will remember Israel and protect them–which of course now includes everyone who  has embraced the covenant, and excludes all that have rejected it. The words “Israel” and “Gentile” change meanings, and are less a question of lineage than faithfulness.

And Elijah comes during all of this to turn the hearts of the children (Israel) to their fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).  They will remember who they are and who their fathers were. And the Gentiles have a chance to become Israel.

Now think of the passage in Isaiah where Israel has been “barren” and asks “who are these children?” where did these come from? There will be “children” who forgot they were Israel, who will suddenly return. And there will be Israel who weren’t children, but who are “adopted.” Suddenly a mother who was “barren” – ie, there were very few who were a covenant people through the last 200 years — will find herself with children like the sands of the sea, since everyone who accepts the gospel covenant is numbered among Israel! It will be as if “Israel” was asleep, and woke up to find out that there were Israelite children all over the world in all nations, and even Gentiles had turned into Israelites!

Look again at the title page of the Book of Mormon: “Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Two purposes: 1, to show the remnant (the children) that God had a covenant with their fathers and did great things for them, and that they still have a chance to be a part of that covenant, and 2, to convince Jew (through the talk of the law of Moses?) and Gentile (in other ways?) that Jesus is the Christ! The Book of Mormon convinces them that the God they worship is indeed this very Jesus. Those are the two purposes of the Book of Mormon.

And through those 2 purposes, the Gentiles embrace the covenant and take it to the Lamanites. Then we know the work has commenced! And more and more will remember the covenant given to their fathers. And the Gentiles have a chance to accept or reject the covenant. And it goes and goes throughout the world.

Does this help make sense of Isaiah? I think this is the framework that is laid out in 3 Nephi. If anyone wants to read through those chapters and tell me what they think of my summary, I’d love the help!