Old Testament Lesson 37 (Isaiah 22; 24–26; 28–30)
ISAIAH THE SEER
● Isaiah was not only a prophet but also a seer.
— “A seer” said Ammon, “is greater than a prophet,” for a “seer is a revelator and a prophet also . . . A seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed . . .” (Mosiah 8:15–17).
— According to this definition, Isaiah is one of the greatest seers of all time. He saw all these things long before they took place.
THE PAINFUL FULFILLMENT OF ISAIAH’S VISIONS
● The pain caused by the vision given to Isaiah was so intense that its descriptive words in Hebrew graphically portray his condition to be more than mere sorrow: (Isaiah 21:3–4).
— “chalchalah” is the contortion produced by a cramp.
— “tzirim” is the pains of childbirth.
— “na avah” is to bend or bow one’s self in a convulsive reaction to pain.
— “ah” is a feverish and irregular beating of the pulse.
— The darkness of evening and night, which the prophet loved so much (“cheshek”, a desire arising from inclination), that he might rest from . . . labour, [was] changed into quaking by the horrible vision.”1
● The destruction of Babylon was not a pleasant thing to behold. But Isaiah also saw another destruction, the destruction of the world before the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days.
Israel and Jerusalem’s Destruction
● Israel will be threshed: mowed off its own field, beaten, and carried captive into Babylon (Isaiah 21:10). This verse seems to be a foreshadowing of the event that is portrayed in some detail in Isaiah 22 (especially the “threshing” language in vv. 3–4).
● Isaiah’s prediction of Jerusalem’s fate: (Isaiah 22).
— The “Valley of Vision” refers to Jerusalem—where Isaiah had his visions (vv. 1–7).
— The “House of the Forest” was the forest-house built by Solomon upon Zion for the storing and display of valuable arms and utensils . . . so called because it rested upon four rows of cedar columns that ran all round the royal palace (v. 8).
— “Baldness” (not natural baldness, but the shaving of the hair) was a great shame and signified great calamity (v. 12; compare Isaiah 3:24). The Lord suggests that when Judah saw their impending doom they should have seen it as a call to deep repentance and clothed themselves with sackcloth and baldness.
— Instead, Judah acted as if they had been called to a joyous feast, saying, “let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die” (v. 13). Typical of the wicked in a crisis, they prefer to indulge their passions rather than repent.
TYPES OF CHRIST
● The Messiah will appear, receive the key to the house of David, and stand as a nail in a sure place (Isaiah 22:20–25).
● Eliakim as a symbol of Christ (Isaiah 22:20–22). Eliakim was the righteous son of Hilkiah the priest. “Eliakim” means “the resurrection of the Lord” or “my God, he shall arise” Thus, hope of salvation and eternal life comes only through Eliakim—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
● The Nail in a Sure Place (Isaiah 22:23–24). The “nail in a sure place” symbolizes the terrible reality of the cross. Just as the nail that was driven in the sure place secured the body of the one being crucified, so the Savior himself is a nail in a sure place, assuring that we will not fall away.
ISAIAH’S PROPHECIES OF APOSTASY
Apostate Judah in Isaiah’s Time
● Isaiah was describing apostasy in any day or time, but more particularly in our latter days (Isaiah 24:1–5).
— “As with the people, so with the priest” (v. 2). President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The term priest is here used to denote all religious leaders of any faith. . . . From among the discordant voices we are shocked at those of many priests who encourage the defilement of men and wink at the eroding trends and who deny the omniscience of God. Certainly these men should be holding firm, yet some yield to popular clamor.”2
— Changing ordinances is a serious sin (v. 5). The gospel ordinances are part of the specific means outlined by the Lord whereby one can overcome his natural state, receive a spiritual rebirth, and become like God. Each ordinance was designed by God to teach spiritual truths and move men toward godliness. When the ordinances are changed, their power to save is lost.
● The serious consequences of apostasy (Isaiah 24:6–12).
● Jerusalem will become desolate and forsaken (Isaiah 27:7–11).
● The Northern Kingdom will be destroyed because of transgression (Isaiah 28:1–8).
● An overflowing scourge will come—the people will be “trodden down” (Isaiah 28:14–15, 18–20).
— “Death, maweth, as used here is the god of the underworld, Sheol or hell. Perhaps the Canaanite god of the underworld, Mot, is intended, or the reference may be to the Egyptian Osiris. It was customary for the prophets to speak of the alien deities as lies and falsehood (Amos 2:4; Jer.10:14).”3 The Israelites were worshiping these false gods.
● Israel is counseled not to trust in the arm of flesh (Isaiah 30:1–7; 31:1–8). The people were trying to find protection from Assyria by relying on Egypt, rather than relying on the Lord. The result of these efforts will be shame and confusion, not deliverance. This, of course, meant that the people had to live worthily so they could receive the Lord’s protection.
— Monte S. Nyman wrote: “The warning in [Isaiah 30:1–7] is . . . extended to our day by the Lord’s commanding Isaiah to record it as a witness for the latter days (verse 8); a marginal note in the KJV identifies the ‘latter day.’”4
● Israel’s response was to rebel (Isaiah 30:8–11). They wanted Isaiah to teach “smooth things” [false doctrine] rather than “right things.” The people did not want to hear the Lord’s rebukes or his calls for them to repent.
— President Harold B. Lee said: “Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; . . . as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5). There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”5
● As a result, Israel will be destroyed (Isaiah 30:12–17).
● The land will become a wilderness (Isaiah 32:9–14).
● This condition will continue until the latter-days (Isaiah 32:15–17).
Conditions Preceding the Restoration
● Prophets and seers will be covered (Isaiah 29:9–10).
● Hypocrisy will be rampant (Isaiah 29:13).
● Covenants will be broken (Isaiah 24:1–6).
ISAIAH’S PROPHECIES OF THE RESTORATION
The Book of Mormon
● Isaiah spoke of a place far removed from “Ariel” (Jerusalem) (Isaiah 29:1–3).
— Nephi’s interpretation of this scripture is found in 2 Nephi 26:15–17.
— Elder LeGrand Richards said: “If you will read [Isaiah 29:1–2] thoughtfully, you will know that he [Isaiah] not only saw the destruction of Jerusalem, but he saw the destruction of another great center like unto Jerusalem. . . . He adds: ‘And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.’ [Isaiah 29:4.] Nobody in this world could explain that intelligently or know what people Isaiah saw like unto Jerusalem without the Book of Mormon . . . [quotes 2 Nephi 26:15–17]/ . . . The Book of Mormon is the promised record that God said he would bring forth and join to the record of Judah. How could anyone understand this prophecy of Isaiah without the explanation contained in the Book of Mormon.”6
● The Nephites will speak as a voice from the dust (Isaiah 29:4–10).
— They shall open the earth and find salvation (Isaiah 45:8).
— Truth shall spring out of the earth & righteousness from heaven (Psalm 85:11).
— Enoch’s prediction of truth coming out of the earth (Moses 7:62).
— The unlearned man to whom the book was delivered was, of course, Joseph Smith. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We have no hesitancy . . . in stipulating that Joseph was, by the standards of the world, “not learned.” Isaiah foresaw it. (Isaiah 29:12) . . . Emma Smith reportedly said that Joseph, at the time of the translation of the Book of Mormon, could not compose a “well-worded letter let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon . . . [which was] marvelous to me, a marvel and a wonder, as much as to anyone else.” This obscure young man apparently paused while translating and dictating to Emma— probably from the fourth chapter of 1 Nephi—concerning the “wall of Jerusalem,”—and said, in effect, “Emma, I didn’t know there was a wall around Jerusalem.”7
● The restoration as a marvelous work and a wonder (Isaiah 29:13–17). Elder LeGrand Richards said: “What would really constitute a marvelous work and a wonder? . . . In the accomplishment of this promised marvelous work and a wonder, the Lord had in mind a ‘restitution of all things’ and moved upon Peter to so prophesy to those who had crucified his Lord: [Acts 3:19–21].”8
● The spiritually blind and deaf will understand true doctrine (Isaiah 29:18). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “[Spiritual deafness is] the state of those who are lacking in spirituality, whose spirit ears are not attuned to the whisperings of the still small voice of the Spirit. Similarly, spiritual blindness is the identifying mark which singles out those who are unable to see the hand of God manifest in the affairs of men. Such have ‘unbelief and blindness of heart’ (D&C 58:15); they are ‘hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds.’ (3 Ne. 2:1).”9
● “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding” (Isaiah 29:19–24).
● Israel will be restored and “fill the face of the world with fruit”—the gospel of peace (Isaiah 27:1–6).
— At the same time the Lord “shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, . . and he shall slay the dragon”(v. 1).
— Both “dragon” and “serpent” are scriptural terms for Satan (Revelation 12:9). Leviathan includes not only Satan personally but all who serve him. Isaiah saw the destruction of Babylon, or the world, before Zion could be fully established.
● Israel will return to the Lord and enjoy his blessings. Zion will prosper (Isaiah 30:18–30).
● The Lord will reign over his people and strengthen them (Isaiah 28:5–13).
— God will give knowledge and understanding to his children (vv. 9–13).
● The Lord’s people will settle in a desert and it will blossom (Isaiah 35:1–7).
● The “ransomed of the Lord” (10 tribes) will return (Isaiah 35:8–10). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads’ [Isaiah 35:10).”10
Work for the Dead
● This demonstrates the Savior’s love and mercy (Isaiah 49:9–10).
ISAIAH’S PROPHECIES OF JUDGMENTS UPON THE WICKED
The “Apocalypse of Isaiah”
● This section is commonly known as the “Apocalypse of Isaiah” (Isaiah 24–27).
● The wicked will be punished for their sins (Isaiah 24:21–22).
● Isaiah 26 is a song, or psalm, of praise to the Lord, in response to God’s release of Israel from her scattered condition in the earth (v. 15). Verse 18 is a clear statement of the fact of resurrection, the Lord’s and our own. It also rejoices in the final destruction of the wicked.
● The judgment to come forth upon the wicked Because of these judgments the faithful are encouraged to “stand in holy places” (Isaiah 26:20–21). Isaiah pictures God’s people as hiding within their chambers.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “We do not say that all of the Saints will be spared and saved from the coming day of desolation. But we do say there is no promise of safety and no promise of security except for those who love the Lord and who are seeking to do all that he commands.”11
● Judgments will be sent against covenant breakers (Isaiah 28:17–22).
— A “bed too short” is how the unrighteous will feel at the judgement if they are not covered by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ (v. 20). With a blanket that is too small to cover him, he will twist and turn and constantly seek comfort, but will not be able to find it.
● The wicked will be burned with fire (Isaiah 30:27–30; 33:10–13).
● The Lord will destroy the armies of all nations (Isaiah 34:1–10).
● The Lord will make “a full end of all nations (D&C 87:6).
The Savior Is Our Strength and Refuge
● Isaiah wrote of the Savior strengthening us during the storms, tempests, deserts, and heat of our lives. What do the following images teach about the Savior?
— He is a refuge from the storm (Isaiah 25:4).
— He is a shadow from the heat (Isaiah 25:4).
— He is a hiding place from the wind (Isaiah 32:2).
— He is a covert (cover) from the tempest (Isaiah 32:2).
— He is rivers of water in a dry place (Isaiah 32:2).
— He is the shadow of a great rock in a weary (thirsty) land (Isaiah 32:2).
— The Savior knows our trials and directs our paths (Isaiah 30:19–21; Alma 37:37).
— He will strengthen us when adversity comes.
The Savior Is Our Sure Foundation
● “Righteousness to the plummet” continues the metaphor (Isaiah 28:17). When something plummets, it drops straight down. A builder uses a plumb bob to find a straight vertical line. The plumb bob is a heavy weight attached to a cord which, when dropped, falls perpendicular to its beginning point. Thus the builder knows he has a straight line.
— With righteousness and justice as his “plummet,” the Savior starts with the chief cornerstone (himself) and lays out a perfect and firmly built house of righteousness that can resist any storm.
ISAIAH’S PROPHECIES OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
The Second Coming of Christ
● The righteous will rejoice at the Second Coming of Christ (Isaiah 25:1–11).
● The righteous will be crowned with much glory (D&C 58:3–4).
● God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (Revelation 7:17).
● There will no more sorrow, pain, or sin (Revelation 21:4).
● “In this mountain” is a phrase refers to the temple—a millennial or messianic temple (vv. 6–7, 10). Not just the Jerusalem temple but Zion as a temple city (Ezek 40–48).
— In Temple Scroll of the Qumran community, this same city is described, which requires a three-day purification for admission. Both the city and Mount Zion (the temple) have all the sanctity of Mount Sinai.
— The vail that is spread over all nations” will be dispelled (v. 7). This veil may be the “dark veil of unbelief” (Alma 19:6; Ether 4:15) which characterizes those who reject the gospel. Or, it could be a more literal “veil of darkness,” such as that described in Moses 7:61 when the heavens shall be darkened and “shall shake, and also the earth.”
The Feast of the Faithful
● When the Lord comes he will prepare a feast for the faithful (Isaiah 25:6). Often this is spoken of as the “bridal feast” or the “messianic banquet”.
— The temple symbolism in this verse includes a rich “feast” (v. 6). This is a sacral, communal meal carried out in connection with temple ritual, often at the conclusion of or during a covenant ceremony. (Exodus 24:7–11; 1 Kings 8:62–66).
— There is to be yet another messianic sacramental meal (Revelation 19:9).
— Those before the throne of God serve him day and night in his temple (Revelation 7:15, 17). The Lord dwells among them, feeds them, leads them unto living fountains, and wipes away all tears from their eyes.
— The same concept is found in the Doctrine and Covenants—the “supper of the Lord” (D&C 58:6–12).
— The list of invited guests includes Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Adam, Peter, James, and anyone else who is willing to qualify—“all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world” (D&C 27:5–14).
— Those whom the Father has given him out of the world are the faithful Saints of all ages (Luke 14:15–24).
● At that time God will remove the veil separating us from him, and all who are worthy to be there will see his face (Isaiah 25:7, 9).
● The resurrection of terrestrial spirits will also occur “at his coming” (D&C 88:99; 76:73–75; 88:95–99). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Following this great event, and after the Lord and the righteous who are caught up to meet him have descended upon the earth, there will come to pass another resurrection. This may be considered as a part of the first, although it comes later. In this resurrection will come forth those of the terrestrial order, who were not worthy to be caught up to meet him, but who are worthy to come forth to enjoy the millennial reign.”12
● The Lord will reign in both Jerusalem and Zion (Isaiah 24:23).
● Christ will reign in righteousness (Isaiah 32:1).
● The righteous will dwell in “everlasting burnings” (Isaiah 33:14–17). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “[Some men] shall rise to the everlasting burnings of God; for God dwells in everlasting burnings, and some shall rise to the damnation of their own filthiness, which is as exquisite a torment as the lake of fire and brimstone.”13
— The Book of the Lord (vv. 16–17). The names of those who have kept their covenants are enrolled in a special book known as “the book of the Lord” (v. 16), “the book of the law of God” (D&C 85:5), or “the book of life” (Rev. 20:12).
— Records of men’s works are kept on earth by the Lord’s clerks, but the book of life is the record kept in heaven. Both records should agree (D&C 128:6–9). Of those whose names are recorded in the heavenly book, “no one of these shall fail” (Isaiah 34:16).
— The promise that “none shall want [lack] their mate” (JST, Isaiah 34:16) is particularly interesting to Latter-day Saints since they believe that only through the ordinance of celestial marriage can one have his mate eternally.
1. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. , 7:1:379.
2. In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 9.
3. The Interpreter’s Bible, 5:317.
4. “Great Are the Words of Isaiah,” 121.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126.
6. In Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 118.
7. In Conference Report, October 1983; Ensign, November 1983, 54.
8. A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, rev.ed. , 34–35.
9. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 184.
10. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 17.
11. In Conference Report, 31 Mar-1 Apr. 1979, 133; Ensign, May 1979, 93.
12. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:296.
13. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 361.