2 Nephi 19
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
2 Nephi 19 (Isaiah Text & Commentary):
Note** Verse 19:1 is the last verse of Isaiah chapter 8 in the Hebrew Bible and in the German Bible. It serves as a natural transition from chapter 8 (2 Nephi 18).
1 Nevertheless, the dimness (or affliction referred to in 18:22) shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he (or the Assyrians) lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun (or the Nazareth area), and the land of Naphtali (in Northern Israel) (In other words, the first areas that the Assyrians would attack during Isaiah's time would be the areas of Galilee and beyond; however the destruction would not be as intense as that visited upon the remaining areas of Israel), and afterwards did more grievously afflict (meaning in Hebrew, "to gloriously bless" or "exalt") by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations (that is, despite the affliction in Galilee, there would also be a blessing in these areas --- Jesus grew up in Galilee and righteous Israel has been gloriously blessed through him, whereas wicked Israel has been grievously afflicted as a result of rejecting him).
(Compare Isaiah 9)
Isaiah Prophesies Even More into the Future
"Unto Us A Child Is Born, Unto Us A Child Is Given"
2 The people (the house of Israel) that walked in darkness (spiritual darkness -- apostasy and captivity) have seen a great light (that is, they will see the Savior and hear his teachings); they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (or upon them will the light shine).
3 Thou (Lord) hast multiplied the nation, and increased the joy--they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil (in other words, Christ and his faithful followers will ultimately triumph and divide the spoils or rewards).
4 For thou (Lord) hast broken the yoke of his burden (or Israel's captivity - bondage), and the staff of his shoulder, the rod (or power) of his oppressor (in essence, Christ will release them from both physical captivity and spiritual captivity).
5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning (meaning the burning at the 2nd Coming, according to Joseph Smith -- see Isaiah 9, footnote 5b) and fuel of fire.
6 For unto us a child (Christ) is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, The Mighty God, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE.
7 Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of DAVID (or upon Christ--see 2 Sam. 7:12-13), and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
The Lord now continues his message of warning
to the Northern Ten Tribes.
Wicked Israel Turns Away from Warnings to Repent
8 The Lord sent his word unto Jacob (Israel) and it hath lighted upon Israel.
9 And all the people shall know, even Ephraim (Northern Israel) and the inhabitants of Samaria (Northern Israel), that say (or boast) in the pride and stoutness of heart:
10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. (In other words, boastful Northern Israel claims they can't be destroyed successfully, but will simply refortify with better materials than before)
11 Therefore (or because of this wicked pride) the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him (or against northern Israel), and join his enemies together;
12 The SYRIANS before (or on the East) and the Philistines behind (or on the West); and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still (that is, the Lord will still let you repent if you will turn to him -- see Jacob 6:4 & 5; see also Isaiah 9, footnote 12d).
13 For the [wicked] people turneth not unto him (or unto the Lord) that smiteth (or punishes) them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts (that is, the people won't repent; they are going through the pain without learning the lesson).
14 Therefore (or for this reason) will the Lord cut off from Israel head (or government leaders) and tail (or false prophets), branch (or palm branch -- symbolic of triumph by the mighty, John 12:13) and rush (or reed -- symbolic of people low in social status) in one day.
15 The ancient (or the wicked elder), he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their [disobedient] young men, neither shall [the Lord] have mercy on their fatherless and widows (or in other words, all levels of society have gone bad; no one qualifies for mercy); for every one of them is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still (that is, please repent House of Israel! The Lord will still forgive you if you turn to him and obey his commandments).
18 For wickedness burneth as the fire (or wickedness will be out of control like a wildfire); it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forests, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
19 Through the wrath of the Lord of Hosts is the land darkened (that is, bad conditions will prevail), and the (wicked) people shall be as the fuel of the fire; no man shall spare his brother.
20 And he shall snatch on the right hand and be hungry; and he shall eat (or devour) on the left hand and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm (or he will devour those who look to his power for security, such as close friends and family) (In other words, when terrible conditions occur, wicked people will turn against anyone without feeling or restraint)--
21 MANASSEH, EPHRAIM; and Ephraim, Manasseh; they together shall be against Judah (or in essence, the descendants of the sons of Jacob who were entrusted with the care of the house of Israel shall turn on one another). For all this his (or the Lord's) anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still (that is, Israel, you can still repent; please do!).
[Alan C. Miner, Step by Step through the Book of Mormon: The Covenant Story, Vol. 2. Adapted from David J. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier / The Book of Revelation Made Easier, 1994]
2 Nephi 19:1 Land of Zebulun:
Generally speaking, the land of Zebulun occupied a broad wedge in southern Galilee between Asher and Naphtali with Manasseh to the southwest and Isaachar to the southeast.
In the great covenant renewal ceremony at Shechem, Zebulun was assigned an inferior place with Reuben and the "handmaiden" tribes (Deuteronomy 27:13).
Zebulun suffered severely in the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29; cf. Isaiah 9:1), many of its inhabitants were deported and its territory was assimilated into the Assyrian empire. However, its tribal identity survived, and its inhabitants are included among the participants in Hezekiah's Passover (2 Chronicles 30:10-22). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pp. 1676-1677] [See Matthew 4:13-16]
2 Nephi 19:1 Land of Zebulun (Illustration): The territory of Zebulun with approximate boundaries. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1676]
2 Nephi 19:1 The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali (Illustration): The lands of Zebulun and Naphtali are in Galilee, where Jesus lived much of His youth. Artist: Tom Child. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 117]
2 Nephi 19:1 Land of Naphtali:
Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob. In most of the administrative lists the tribe of Naphtali comes last (e.g. Numbers 1:15, 42ff.; 2:29ff.; 7:78; 10:27). The Blessing of Moses commands Naphtali to "possess the lake and the south" (Deuteronomy 33:23) and following the settlement its tribal portion comprised a broad strip west of the Sea of Galilee and the upper Jordan, including the greater portion of east and central Galilee. This territory is roughly delineated in Joshua 19:32-39.
Naphtali included also the largest Canaanite city, Hazor, which dominated a vital trade route. Hazor, although destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua (Joshua 11:10f.), reasserted itself and, whilst never regaining its former prestige, it was not finally vanquished until well into the Judges' period (Judges 4:2, 23f.). Another important city was Kedesh, a levitical city and one of the cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7; 21:32). The strong Canaanite element is reflected in Judges 1:33, "Naphtali . . . dwelt among the Canaanites."
Naphtali was vulnerable because of its frontier situation and suffered attacks from the north. The tribe of Naphtali was the first west of the Jordan to be deported in 734 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29). A probable reconstruction of Tiglath-pileser III's account of this campaign notes his annexation of the region, ". . . the wide land of Naphtali, in its entire extent, I united with Assyria." Isaiah 9:1 alludes to the same event.
The territory of Naphtali included some of the most fertile areas of the entire land. Jesus spent the greatest part of his public life in this area which, because of its checkered history of deportations and infusion of new settlers, was greatly despised by the Jews of Jerusalem. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, pp. 1053-1054] [See Matthew 4:13-16]
2 Nephi 19:1 Land of Naphtali (Illustration): The land occupied by the tribe of Naphtali. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 1054]
2 Nephi 19:1 [Red] Sea?:
In 2 Nephi 19:1 we find the following:
Nevertheless, the dimness [or affliction referred to in 1 Nephi 18:22] shall not be such as was when at first he [or apparently the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser and Sargon II] lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun [or the Nazareth area] and the land of Naphtali [in Northern Israel], and afterwards did more grievously afflict [northern Israel] by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
The Book of Mormon student should take note that the word "Red" appears in 2 Nephi 19:1, whereas it is absent in the corresponding verse of Isaiah 9:1. Critics of the Book of Mormon have jumped on this supposed addition to the text as a foolish geographical mistake by Joseph Smith, for the Red Sea is well to the south of Galilee some 250 miles.
According to a posting by "mikeyom" on April 7, 1998, there are three points to consider when trying to evaluate the impact on interpretation made by the inclusion of the term "Red Sea" in 2 Nephi 19:1.
Point #1: In 2 Nephi 19:1 the Hebrew word kabad is translated as "grievously" ("and afterwards did more grievously afflict"). Some commentators have taken the position that in this instance the word "grievously" actually means "to gloriously bless" or "exalt." This has led them to make this verse a messianic prophecy. However, perhaps the primary meaning of the word kabad should remain just as it was translated--"grievously." In Genesis 18:20 we also find the word "kabad" ("And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous"). Clearly, the Lord is not saying that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are honourable. In Exodus 5:9, 8:15, 8:32, 9:7, etc., the word "kabad" is also associated with grievous trials which men must go through. Matthew Henry's Commentary on Isaiah 9:1 has a similar view: "Note, God tries what less [lighter afflictions] will do with a people before he brings greater [or more grievous] judgments.
Points #2: The phrase "by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan" implies a route. Commentators have commonly linked the phrase in Isaiah ("the way of the sea") to either a route along the Mediterranean, a route passing by the Sea of Galilee, or both. However, the phrase "by the way of the Red Sea" might imply a route of the king's highway, a major travel route that extended from the northern tip of the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba) all the way to Damascus (see map).
Point #3: Apparently the area beyond Jordan (the route of the King's Highway) was the area from which a second vexation afflicted the northern kingdom of Israel. Reading 2 Nephi 19:1 again we find the following:
Nevertheless, the dimness [or affliction referred to in 1 Nephi 18:22] shall not be such as was when at first  he [or the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser and Sargon II] lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun [or the Nazareth area] and the land of Naphtali [in Northern Israel], and afterwards  did more grievously afflict [northern Israel] by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
There are reputable commentators who suggest that a second vexation did indeed come from east of Jordan ("beyond Jordan"). The tenth chapter of 2 Kings can be cited in support:
In those days [the days of king Jehu, king over northern Israel in Samaria] the Lord began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; From the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan. (2 Kings 10:32-33)
An analysis of any Bible Atlas reveals that all of the above named locations were east of (or "beyond") Jordan, along the King's Highway. Thus one might conclude not only that there were two vexations, but that the second vexation came from "beyond Jordan" from the area or route of the King's Highway. [mikeyom, http://exmormon.org/boards/honestboard/messages/19.html; http://lds-mormon.com, 7/14/2001]
Note* Now it says or prophesies in 2 Nephi 19:2 that the people (that have been in darkness) have seen (or will see) a great light (Christ). It is interesting that when Christ came and dwelt in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, a prophecy concerning that part of his life is said to have been fulfilled (see Matthew 4:13). Could the "great light" that was to shine on the people of northern Israel "by way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan" have reference to the coming first of John the Baptist out of the wilderness to prepare the way (he taught beyond Jordan). And could the answer to the second vexation come when Christ emerged from the wilderness and presented himself to John to be baptized as John was baptizing "beyond Jordan"? Is it possible that during Christ's preparation in the wilderness he had traveled south to the Red Sea, specifically to Mt Horeb (Sinai) in Arabia (Mt. Lawz?)? Many things in Moses' life were a pattern for that of Christ. Moses was prepared for his ministry at Sinai. He spent 40 days and nights preparatory to receiving the law. Was Sinai also "the wilderness" by the Red Sea where Jesus was instructed and communed with his father for forty days? Did Jesus retrace the path of Israel from Sinai into the promised land by way of the Red Sea? Jesus was baptized of John in the waters of Jordan at Bethabara. This is the area where Joshua crossed through the waters of Jordan as he led the covenant children of Israel into the Promised land. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on the location of Mt. Sinai in 1 Nephi 4:2; 3 Nephi 25:4]
2 Nephi 19:1 The RED Sea:
Donald Parry makes Isaiah 9:1 (compare 2 Nephi 19:1) part of an extended section from Isaiah 8:16 to 9:2 (compare 2 Nephi 18:16-19:2) and gives it the title "Sealing the Testimony and the Law." It reads as follows:
Sealing the Testimony and the Law (8:16-9:2)
Bind up the testimony,
seal the law among my disciples. (8:16)
And I will wait upon the Lord, who hides his face from the house of Jacob,
and I will hope for him. (8:17)
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts,
who dwells in mount Zion. (8:18)
And when they will say unto you, seek unto them that have [spirits of the dead],144
and unto wizards that peep and mutter--
should not a people seek unto their God
for the living to [hear from]145 the dead? (8:19)
To the law and to the testimony; [and]146 if they speak not according to this word,
it is because there is no light in him. (8:20)
And he will pass through the land, distressed and hungry;
and it will come to pass that when he becomes hungry,
he will become enraged,
and curse his king and his God,
and he will look upward. (8:21)
And he will look to the earth;
And behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish;
and he will be thrust into darkness. (8:22)
But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.
In former times he held the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali in contempt,
but afterwards he honored Galilee of the nations, by the way of the [Red]147 Sea,
along the Jordan. (9:1)
The people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. (9:2)
The Messiah---The Son Becomes the New King (9:3-7)
You have increased the rejoicing,
you have148 magnified the joy;
[and]149 they rejoice before you as one rejoices at harvest time,
and as one rejoices when dividing the booty, (9:3)
[Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah, pp. 62-64]
2 Nephi 19:1 Afflict by the Way of the Red Sea:
John Tvedtnes compares the Isaiah verses in the Book of Mormon with the King James Bible and comes up with the following:
KJV: "afflict her by the way of the sea" (Isaiah 9:1)
BM: "afflict by the way of the Red Sea" (2 Nephi 19:1)
He writes that the deletion of italicized "her" is understandable, since it is not in the Massoretic Hebrew Text. However, the Book of Mormon text must be wrong in speaking of the "RED Sea", which is certainly not "beyond Jordan, in Galilee", nor near the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. This appears to be a case of scribal overcorrection [by whom?] due to prior mention of the Red Sea in the Book of Mormon text. In Matthew 4:12-16 we have this verse of Isaiah apparently quoted as follows:
Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
[John A. Tvedtnes, "The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," FARMS, p. 45]
2 Nephi 19:1 Jordan:
The Jordan depression is unique among the features of physical geography. Formed as a result of a rift valley, it is the lowest depression on earth. The headwaters of the river Jordan, fed by springs, collect into Lake Huleh, 70 meters above sea-level. Ten kilometers south at Lake Tiberias the river is already nearly 200 meters below the Mediterranean, while at the northern end of the Dead Sea the floor of the trench has plunged to 393 meters below sea-level. Thus the name "Jordan" aptly means "the descender."
While on the north the Jordan has a vivid green vegetation cover and is the haunt of wild animals, moving southward it becomes increasingly more arid until at the head of the Dead Sea there is scarcely more than 5 cm. mean annual rainfall. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, pp. 809-812] [See 1 Nephi 10:9; 17:32]
2 Nephi 19:1 Jordan (Illustration): The Jordan valley in Old Testament times. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, pp. 811]
2 Nephi 19:1 Galilee of the Nations:
The name Galilee denotes the regional name of part of northern Palestine, which was the scene of Christ's boyhood and early ministry. The term Galilee occurs occasionally in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 20:7; 1 Kings 9:11), and notably in Isaiah 9:1. The latter reference probably recalls the region's history: it originally formed part of the lands allocated to the twelve tribes, but, owing to the pressure from peoples farther north, its Jewish population found themselves in a kind of northern salient, surrounded on three sides by non-Jewish populations--"the nations."
Galilee consists of an upland area, bordered on all sides save the north by plains. Much of Upper Galilee is at 1,000 meters above sea-level. In New Testament times it was a forested and thinly inhabited hill-country. Lower Galilee is at 450-600 meters above sea-level, but falls steeply to more than 180 meters below sea-level at the Sea of Galilee. It is to the area of Lower Galilee that most of the Gospel narrative refers.
Outside the main stream of Israelite life in Old Testament times, Galilee came into its own in the New Testament. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1, p. 537]
2 Nephi 19:1 Galilee of the Nations (Illustration): New Testament Galilee: the scene of Christ's childhood and early ministry. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1, p. 539]
2 Nephi 19:4 The yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor (Illustration): In biblical times, the staff and rod were used by taskmasters on slaves. A yoke was a wooden frame designed to harness together beasts of burden. These three items--the yoke, staff, and rod--signify oppression, or the burdens placed on Israel by its neighbors (Isaiah 10:5, 24-27). In particular, the language of this verse recalls the manner in which Egypt oppressed the Israelites before Moses led them out of captivity.
Above: Pair of yokes with crossbar and other attachments. Jericho. A yoke is a wooden frame designed to harness animals such as oxen or asses, to wheeled vehicles, plows, or other agricultural implements. Photograph by Tana and Mac Graham. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 79]
2 Nephi 19:9-10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones (Illustration): Fallen bricks with hewn stones in the background at Hisham's Palace, near Jericho. In Isaiah's time, bricks were made of mud or clay mixed with sand, straw, or other material, and then baked in a kiln or dried by the sun. Bricks were inferior to hewn stone because bricks were more breakable. Additionally, hewn stone was more expensive to prepare. Photograph by Tana and Mac Graham. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 11]
2 Nephi 19:9-10 The sycamores are cut down (Illustration): The fruit of a sycamore tree is abundant and nearly ripe, Jericho. The sycamore is a fruit-bearing tree valued for its figs and lumber. The Egyptians used its wood to make coffins, but apparently sycamore wood was not as precious as that of a cedar (Isaiah 9:10). The sycamore grows to a height of forty feet. Its branches spread widely from a short trunk. Photograph by Arnold H. Green. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 11]
2 Nephi 19:12 Philistines:
[See the commentary on 2 Nephi 12:6]