2 Nephi 21

 

A Covenant Plan of Salvation

      (2 Nephi--Enos)


 

 

2 Nephi 21 Isaiah 11:

 

     This chapter of Isaiah's writings is particularly significant as evidenced by the fact that it is referenced in all four of the Standard Works the Church accepts as scripture. In addition to the Old Testament and Book of Mormon accounts, portions of these writings are found in the New Testament (Revelation 2:16; 5:5; 19:15; and Romans 15:12) and the Doctrine & Covenants (19:15; 113:1-6; and 133:26-29); and in Joseph Smith's history as found in the Pearl of Great Price, he tells us that the entire chapter of Isaiah 11 was quoted to him by the Angel Moroni (JS-H 1;40). Additionally, on several occasions the Prophet provided commentary on verses in this chapter. (See TPJS, 14-15, 71, 93, 316.) Isaiah's vision included a look at the latter days in which we live, as well as a view of millennial conditions. In fact, when Moroni appeared to young Joseph Smith on the night of 21 September 1823, he informed him that these particular writings of Isaiah were "about to be fulfilled." [Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Isaiah Plain & Simple, p. 107]

 

2 Nephi 21 (Isaiah Text & Commentary):

 

     Chapter 21

     (Compare Isaiah 11)

 

  Note** The text that follows is a marvelous prophecy of the last days and of the Millennium. It is also a marvelous prophecy of Joseph Smith. Nephi spoke concerning this prophecy (see 2 Nephi 30:9-15). The prophet Joseph Smith also commented on certain verses within this prophecy (see D&C 113:1-6).

     Isaiah Prophesies of Christ and Joseph Smith

 

 1 And there shall come forth A ROD (or a servant in the hands of God, on whom there is laid much power). out of THE STEM OF JESSE (or out of Christ--Jesse was the father of king David. Christ was of the royal Davidic line), and A BRANCH shall grow out of HIS (or Jesse's) ROOTS (That is, the prophet Joseph Smith will represent 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 the house of Israel in the last days).

 

     He Will Have God-like Qualities of Leadership

 

 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (the rod or the branch), the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes (or from outward appearance), neither reprove after the hearing of his ears (or from hearsay).

 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod (or power) of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips (or righteous condemnation) shall he slay the wicked.

 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins (or kidneys--the symbolic center of desires) (In other words, his desires will always be righteous and his feelings will always be centered in faithfulness).

 

     Isaiah now switches focus to describe the conditions during the Millennial reign of Christ.

 

 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid (or the young goat), and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead (or herd) them .

 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed (or graze); their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

 8 And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp (or poisonous cobra), and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's (or venomous viper's) den.

 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (or kingdom), for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord (or full of devotion to the Lord), as the waters cover the sea.

 

     The Latter-days ---> The Millennium

 

 10 And in that day (the Millennium for those interpreting these verses relative to Christ; the Dispensation of the Fullness of Time for those interpreting these verses relative to Joseph Smith) there shall be a ROOT OF JESSE, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious. (Note** In D&C 113:5-6, this root is further described as "a descendant of Jesse as well as 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.")

 

     Israel Will Be Gathered the Second Time

 

 11 And it shall come to pass in that day (for Joseph Smith, the latter-days) that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria (or the region northwest of Babylonia), and from Egypt (or Lower Egypt), and from Pathros (or of Upper Egypt--south of Lower Egypt), and from Cush (or the region south of Upper Egypt), and from Elam (or the region east of Babylonia), and from Shinar (or the region of Babylonia), and from Hamath (a major city representing the Aramaean region, "Syria," north of Israel), and from the islands of the sea (that is, the Lord's people will be gathered from all nations).

 12 And he shall set up an ensign (or the Church in the last days) for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel (the lost Ten Tribes), and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

 13 The envy of Ephraim also shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim (or in other words, all of the tribes of Israel will start to unite and be on good terms with one another).

 14 But they (the whole house of Israel) shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west; they shall spoil them of the east together; they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab (two countries, along with Ammon, which were constant irritants to the house of Israel and which occupied the land which is now Jordan); and the CHILDREN OF Ammon shall obey them (In other words, the house of Israel will prevail against their enemies).

 15 And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea (or the fertile area of Lower Egypt -- Israel's enemy and the location of Israel's bondage); and with his mighty wind he shall shake his hand (symbolic of power) over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry shod (or in essence, the Lord will dry up their power and make a pathway out of bondage).

 16 And there shall be a highway (or the "strait and narrow path") for the remnant of his people which shall be left from Assyria (Israel's enemy and the location of Israel's bondage), like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt (or like when Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage and through the wilderness to the Promised Land).

[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 21:1 There Shall Come Forth a Rod out of the Stem of Jesse (Ludlow Interpretation):

 

     When Moroni visited Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah and told Joseph that "it was about to be fulfilled." (JS-H 1:40). The chapter seems to be divided into three logical parts:

     (1) vss. 1-5, Isaiah prophesies of Christ--the growth of His power in the last days through the Millennium.

     (2) vss. 6-9, Isaiah describes conditions during the Millennial reign of Christ.

     (3) vss. 10-16. Israel will be gathered the second time.

 

       In 1838, Joseph asked the Lord about the meaning of three key terms in this chapter. The revealed answers are recorded in D&C 113:

     1. Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?

     2. Verily thus saith the Lord: it is Christ.

     3. What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?

     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.

     5. What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?

     6. 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.

 

     According to Victor Ludlow, 2 Nephi 21:1 appears to be an example of synonymous parallelism, a poetic device used by Isaiah in nearly every chapter. Apparently the reference to two separate individuals (rod = branch; stem = roots) is his way of saying the same thing twice, but in slightly different words:

     A. And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

     B. And a branch shall grow out of his roots. (KJV)

 

     In section 113 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord identifies two key terms used in this verse: "rod" and "stem of Jesse." The "rod is "a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim . . . on whom there is laid much power (vs. 3-4) and the "stem" is Christ himself (v. 1-2). The reader should note also that in Revelation 22:16 the Savior calls himself the "root and offspring of David". Also, in John 15, the branches (disciples) of the true vine (Christ) are described. Therefore, 2 Nephi 21:1 could be translated as follows:

     And there shall come forth a descendant of Jesse and Ephraim who shall be a powerful servant in the hands of Christ . . . yea a helper from among his children shall come forth.

     The servant ("rod" and "branch") of Isaiah 11:1 appears to describe the great Jewish leader of the last days who will be called David. He will be an instrument (in somewhat the same manner as was Cyrus anciently--see Isaiah 44:28) used by the Lord to fulfill his divine plan of events before the Millennium.

     The term branch in the King James text comes from the Hebrew word natzar which appears in only one other prophetic book of the Old Testament--Daniel 11:7. In Daniel's vision of the last days, he mentions a "branch" coming from "roots" (see Daniel 11:7-12:1). Many other scripture mention the "branch" or leader who will build a temple and fight against the wicked king and stand witness of the Lord's final victory in the last days. He is called by many names and titles, including: "my servant, the BRANCH" (Zechariah 3:8-9); "my servant David," a "king" over the Jews (Ezekiel 37:21-28); "a righteous Branch and a King in whose days Judah would be saved (Jeremiah 23:3-8; "a Branch of righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:15); "a leader and commander to the people" (Isaiah 55:3-4); and "David their king in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4-5).

     Modern prophets have also discussed this Jewish leader of the last days. Joseph Smith said, "The throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage." (HC 6:253) In his dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives, Orson Hyde prophesied: "Raise up Jerusalem . . . and constitute her people a distinct nation and government, with David Thy servant, even a descendant from the loins of ancient David to be their king." (HC 4:457)

     In summary, the servant of Isaiah 11:1 appears to be David, the great Jewish leader of the last days. [Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, pp. 167-169] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:10]

 

 

2 Nephi 21:1 There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Illustration): Illustration of Isaiah 11:1, 10: The "rod," "stem of Jesse," "branch," "roots," and "root." [Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, p. 171]

 

2 Nephi 21:1 A rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots (Illustration): Old olive trees, Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Note the rods or branches growing out of he trunk of each tree. When the olive tree is cut down, new shoots grow out of both its old trunk as well as its far-reaching root system. Olive trees grow to a height of about eighteen feet and live for centuries. The trees' thick, gnarled trunks produce numerous branches. Olivewood is a valuable source of lumber for artisans and craftsmen. For instance, artisans carved the cherubim that were housed in the holy of holies of Solomon's temple from olivewood. The cherubim were then overlaid with pure gold. Oil produced from olives was an important food source and was used in oil lamps. Ceremonially, olive oil was used for the coronation of kings and the ritual anointing of persons and things in ancient temples. Photograph by Carrilyn Clarkson. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, pp. 80-81]

 

2 Nephi 21:1 There Shall Come Forth a Rod out of the Stem of Jesse (Sperry Interpretation):

 

     According to Sidney Sperry, in 2 Nephi 21:1 (Isaiah 11:1) we have the following:

     And there shall come forth a rod [shoot, twig] out of the stem [stump, root-stock] of Jesse,

     And a branch [sprout] shall grow out of his roots.

 

     Here we have synonymous parallelism in these lines, so that "rod" corresponds to "branch" and "stem" corresponds to "roots." And "Jesse" makes us think of the Davidic dynasty and then of Christ. Commentators give various explanations, but one gets the impression that they are groping in the dark. Many non-Jewish writers, however, do believe that it has Messianic connotations.

     By "stem of Jesse" Isaiah has reference to Christ, and by "rod" he has reference to a servant of Christ. But just who is the servant? A careful reading of D&C 113:4-6 convinces me that Joseph Smith is meant, for who fulfills the conditions of these verses, especially verse 6, better than he? Surely he had the lineage to which rightly belongs the priesthood (cf. D&C 86:8-11); he received the keys of the kingdom (D&C 65:2) for an ensign (standard--D&C 45:9) and for the gathering of the Lord's people in the last days (D&C 110:11). Moreover, the situation under which Moroni quoted the chapter from Isaiah favors Joseph Smith as being the "rod." He would logically be the "servant in the hands of Christ" who was to receive the instruction from Moroni and be prepared to understand the ancient prophecies concerning his mission in the latter days. [Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 222-223] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:10]

 

2 Nephi 21:1 A Rod out of the Stem of Jesse (Reynolds and Sjodahl Interpretation):

 

     According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, "the rod of the stem of Jesse" (2 Nephi 21:1) is the Messiah. Literally, the "stem" means the "stump" of the tree left in the ground after the branches had been cut down and the luxuriant foliage removed. The meaning is that the Messiah would come when the family of Jesse had been reduced to the social status it occupied at the time of its ancestor, before the golden age of David and Solomon. The Messiah would come as a shoot from the stump of the family tree, but the tender twig would grow and become a flourishing fruitful Tree. [George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 357] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:10]

 

2 Nephi 21:1 There Shall Come Forth a Rod out of the Stem of Jesse, and a Branch Shall Grow out of His Roots:

 

     According to Avraham Gileadi, several scriptures help us analyze the allegory of an olive tree in 2 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 11). Doctrine and Covenants 113 identifies the "stem" of Jesse as Jesus Christ (vv. 1-2). Of the "rod" it says, "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" (v. 4). Knowing these identities, we are able to examine Isaiah's allegory more closely. First, however, we should note that the context that precedes Isaiah 11:1 is the Lord's day of judgment. . . . Isaiah 11 (2 Nephi 21) establishes a latter-day context for the allegory: scattered Israel and Judah return from throughout the earth and the Millennium begins (Isaiah 11:6-12).

     Another dimension to Isaiah 11:1 (2 Nephi 21:1) appears, one we don't easily discern in the King James Version: the threefold process of "stem" (stock) to "rod" (shoot) to "branch" ends with "fruit." This progression means that in the implied context of the allegory--the Lord's day of judgment--the tree has not been bearing fruit. Something new must happen to cause the tree to again bear fruit. . . . In short, what Isaiah represents as happening to the tree eventually leads to fruit. The tree itself, though it may at some point be mostly cut down, renews itself and again becomes acceptable to the Lord.

     The Hebrew for "stock/stem" (geza) denotes the lower trunk of a tree. Since Doctrine and Covenants 113 identifies this stock/stem as Christ, it reminds us of what Jesus said: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. . . I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:1-2,5).

     We perceive that the lower trunk of the tree, Christ, always remains good. The intent of Isaiah 11:1 is to show how the branch bears fruit and becomes the new tree. If it does, the resulting context of the allegory becomes paradise: that is, those of the Lord's people who bear fruit live on into the Millennium (compare Isaiah 11:6-9). However, the context of the allegory remains destruction in the day of judgment for those of the Lord's people who do not bear fruit (Isaiah 10:33-34). In the last days, the world will experience only two destinies, one for the righteous and one for the wicked.

     In order that the tree bear fruit, a shoot springs up from the trunk of the tree. The Hebrew term for this "shoot/rod" (hoter) signifies it to be a water sprout, the sort of growth on fruit trees that farmers lop off in the spring. This water sprout cannot, of itself, bear fruit,. A water sprout characteristically grows rapidly straight upward from the lower trunk of the tree. It doesn't bear fruit but instead absorbs much of the moisture of the tree. If, however, the rest of the tree doesn't bear fruit, yet the lower trunk is good, then one could save such a water sprout and graft into it when it grows sufficiently strong. Isaiah depicts that process in Isaiah 11:1.

     The third member of the trio, the "branch" (Hebrew neser), is the one that bears fruit. The branch can do so, however, only when grafted into the shoot/rod. The branch grows out of the "graft/caudex" (Hebrew sorasaw: KJV "roots") of the water sprout. It completes the process that results in a new tree. Only this branch can grow into a full-grown, fruit bearing tree. Unlike the water sprout, which is wild by nature, the branch represents a tame, domesticated variety. In depicting the growth of the tree this way, Isaiah expresses something very similar to Zenos' allegory of the olive tree.

     There remains something else to consider. In Hebrew prophetic thought, the king of a nation (or leader of a community, or father of a family) answers, in his person, for the entire people. In a figurative sense, he personifies them. If the stock/stem of Jesse represents Jesus Christ, then Christ also represents the tree as a whole--the growth that develops from him (compare John 15:1-2,5). That growth is Christianity. But that Christianity no longer bears fruit. A new thing, or restoration, is necessary so that the tree may again bear fruit. The Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church he organized typify this new thing. As the shoot/rod, he represents or personifies figuratively the Latter-day Saints. Partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, his immediate origins (and the Latter-day Saints') lie among the Gentiles, as the water sprout signifies (compare D&C 109:60).

     Similarly, the third member of the trio, the branch, represents or personifies figuratively the natural branches of the house of Israel--the Jews, the Nephites/Lamanites, and the Ten Tribes. These natural branches are not permanently cut off, as many Christian denominations claim, but are the very reason for the tree's continued existence. When they come into the tree, it again bears fruit; Israel appears in her strength.

     The branch not only represents in his person the house of Israel but also serves as the Lord's agent of their grafting into the tree. . . .

     In summary, Isaiah's allegory, like Zenos', predicts Gentile interaction with the house of Israel. Isaiah's allegory, however, like the rest of his prophecies, points specifically to the last days for its fulfillment. The water sprout (the Gentiles) thrives with the tree (Israel) for a time. But in the day of judgment the Lord largely cuts off the water sprout to make room for the grafting in of the natural branch. Only the part of the water sprout that nourishes the graft remains with the tree. The water sprout's nourishment of the natural branch epitomizes the latter-day role of savior that the Gentiles perform (compare Isaiah 49:22-23). [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 127-131

 

2 Nephi 21:6 The leopard (Illustration): Leopard, Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve. The leopard, a spotted cat found in the Holy Land, feeds on lambs and other small animals, thus posing a threat to the livelihood of shepherds. Photograph by Tana and Mac Graham. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 102]

 

2 Nephi 21:6 The kid (Illustration): Six goat kids foraging on a hillside near Bethel. Domesticated goats served many useful purposes to Old Testament peoples, providing meat, milk, leather, and goat-hair for cloth and tents. The kids were especially valued as food. Goats, unlike cattle, were able to feed on moderately barren ground. They were easy prey for carnivorous beasts. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 102]

 

2 Nephi 21:9 The Earth Shall Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lord:

 

     David Seely writes that the evolution of technology by which the word of the Lord has gone forth to the world is something to be appreciated. Old Testament manuscripts were written laboriously on scrolls of parchment or papyrus or on plates of brass. Early manuscripts of the New Testament were also written primarily on parchment and papyrus, adopting the form of the codex--the early form of the book. The technology of writing improved only slightly in the centuries which followed with more efficient pens, refined inks, and better writing surfaces. Some monasteries even practiced a form of mass production of manuscripts. Books were rare and expensive. They were only owned and read by wealthy nobles, the clergy, and students and professors of universities.

     In the middle of the 1400's in Mainz, Germany, however, Johannes Gutenberg changed the history of the transmission of texts forever. Gutenberg invented the first working Western moveable-type printing system. He did not, as is commonly supposed, invent printing or even moveable type. What he did invent was a system of moveable type that was fast, efficient, and economical, and that could replicate the aesthetic standards of the beautiful manuscript traditions. He started with a modification of the screw press. He then invented a hand-held typecaster into which one could pour an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony creating individual reusable pieces of type. Finally Gutenberg invented a highly viscous ink made from lead and copper oxides mixed with boiled linseed oil--a thick paste, thicker than the ink used in writing manuscripts--that would stick to the type and transfer to the paper.150 Gutenberg's first commercial job was to produce two hundred Bibles, which were completed in a fraction of the time required to copy manuscripts by hand.

     His invention quickly changed the world. It is estimated that by the mid-sixteenth century there were "well over eight million printed books"151 in circulation in Europe that included Greek and Roman classics, scientific and other academic texts, and religious works. Soon books were more easily available and literacy rates increased to match the newly available reading material--for the first time in history Europe had a literate middle class. Gutenberg's invention accelerated the diffusion of ideas, thought, invention and discovery that characterized the Renaissance.

     Although Bibles (mostly the Latin Vulgate) were more accessible to the masses, they still yearned for the word of the Lord in their own language. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg and with their distribution, the Reformation became an international event. The courageous translators of the bible were soon able to see their work printed on Gutenberg-inspired presses into German, French, and English, and the word of the Lord went forth to many nations in their native languages for the first time.

     On a spring morning in 1820, Joseph Smith was reading James 1:5 in the Smith family Bible--a Bible that had been produced with the Gutenberg printing system. Joseph followed the counsel of James and retired to the Sacred Grove. Thus began the Restoration of the gospel in the last dispensation. In 1823 the angel Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith that there was a book deposited in a hill near his home that contained "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel," and that Joseph Smith had been called to translate the book (JS-H 1:34-35, 51). By the end of June 1829, Joseph Smith had completed the translation of the Book of Mormon, and proceeded to hire the services of a local printer, E. B. Grandin of Palmyra, New York. The printing press in the Grandin print shop was one very much like the one designed by Gutenberg, and provided the means for the voices of Nephi, Alma, Mormon, and Moroni to speak from the dust, restoring the plain and precious things lost from the Bible.152

     Only now, 545 years after the completion of the Gutenberg Bibles, has much of the technology for printing finally changed. Gutenberg would not recognize the electronic and computerized printing processes of the modern world. However, as the millennium changed to 2000, historians and journalists chose Gutenberg as the "Man of the Millennium"153 and Life Books proclaimed Gutenberg's printing of the Bible as the "No. 1 Event of the Millennium."154 Ironically, Gutenberg received little recognition for his inventions in his own lifetime. In fact, in 1445 he went bankrupt, and his business was taken over by a creditor. Yet in the explosion of knowledge initiated with Gutenberg's system of printing, we can indeed see the beginning of Isaiah's vision: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9; 2 Nephi 21:9). [David R. Seely, "The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: The Restoration of the Gospel and the History of Printing," in Religious Studies Center Newsletter, Vol. 16 No. 1, Fall 2001, pp. 1-4] [See the commentary on Mormon 8:34]

 

2 Nephi 21:10 In That Day, There Shall Be a Root of Jesse, Which Shall Stand for an Ensign of the People (Ludlow Interpretation):

 

     As has been explained previously in the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:1, when Moroni visited Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah and told Joseph that "it was about to be fulfilled." (JS-H 1:40). The chapter seems to be divided into three logical parts:

     (1) vss. 1-5, Isaiah prophesies of Christ--the growth of His power in the last days through the Millennium.

     (2) vss. 6-9, Isaiah describes conditions during the Millennial reign of Christ.

     (3) vss. 10-16. Israel will be gathered the second time.

 

       In 1838, Joseph asked the Lord about the meaning of three key terms in this chapter. The revealed answers are recorded in D&C 113:

     1. Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?

     2. Verily thus saith the Lord: it is Christ.

     3. What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?

     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.

     5. What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?

     6. 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.

  

     According to Victor Ludlow, the servant of Isaiah 11:1 appears to be David, the great Jewish leader of the last days. In 2 Nephi 11:10 (Isaiah 11:10) another major figure of the last days is introduced: a "root of Jesse," who shall stand as an ensign for the people to which the Gentiles shall seek. The Lord identifies this "root of Jesse" as 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." (D&C. 113:5-6)

     This servant is often identified as the Prophet Joseph Smith155 In comparing Joseph Smith with the "root of Jesse," each aspect of his calling will be analyzed:

     1. Joseph: Descendant of Jesse and Joseph:

     The Book of Mormon contains an important prophecy about a descendant of the ancient Joseph who would also be named Joseph and who would do a great work of salvation among the Israelites to bring them to the knowledge of God's covenants in the last days (see 2 Nephi 3:6-11, 14-15). Joseph Smith, Jr., is this Joseph. His patriarchal blessing identifies him as the heir to the promises of Ephraim (son of the ancient Joseph), and he is called a pure Ephraimite by Brigham Young156 even though all his ancestors were not of Ephraim.157

     There is not the same recorded evidence of Joseph Smith being a descendant of Jesse through the tribe of Judah. However, there were occasions in earlier Church history when a number of the brethren, including Joseph Smith, claimed that they shared lineage with Jesus in the tribe of Judah.158

     In short, Joseph Smith fulfills the requirements as a descendant of Joseph through his son Ephraim. He was also a descendant of Judah through Jesse, and he may have descended through the same lineage as Jesus.

     Joseph Smith: Rightful Heir to the Priesthood:

     The early priesthood holders of this dispensation were lawful heirs to their power through their lineage (see D&C 86:8-11). Indeed, Isaiah prophesied that the strength of Zion in the last days would be the authority of the priesthood to which Zion "has a right by lineage" (Isaiah 52:1; D&C 113:8; see also 107:40-41, 56-57). Joseph Smith held the priesthood and through it organized the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation (see D&C 13; 20; 23; 84; 107; 124:123).

     Joseph Smith: Holder of the Keys of the Kingdom:

     With the priesthood, the Prophet also received certain keys. First, he received the office of an apostle under the hands of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of "the kingdom of heaven" (see Matthew 16:19; D&C 27:12-13). Later, through Moses, Elias,159 and Elijah, he received the keys necessary for this dispensation and was told that thus the world would know that the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" was near at hand (D&C 110:11-16). With these keys for the gathering of Israel, missionary work, the sealing powers of the temple, and other powers, Joseph Smith had the authority to usher in the dispensation of the fullness of times.160

     Joseph Smith: His Work to Be an Ensign to the Nations:

     In 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated:

           The Savior said . . . the keys of knowledge, power and revelations should be revealed to a witness who should hold the testimony to the world. . . . The testimony is that the Lord in the last days would commit the keys of the priesthood to a witness over all people . . . a special messenger--ordained and prepared for that purpose in the last days. (HC 6:363-64)

 

     Joseph recorded that Moroni had told him "that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues" (JS-H 1:33). The gospel (the everlasting covenant) has since spread worldwide, thereby becoming a light to the world, a standard (or ensign) for the Lord's people and for the Gentiles to seek and a messenger to prepare the way before Christ's second coming.161

     Joseph Smith: His Role in the Gathering of Israel in the Last Days:

     On April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith received from the resurrected Moses the keys for the "gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north." (D&C 110:11)162 A few years later, in 1841, the Prophet sent Orson Hyde to Palestine to dedicate the land for the return of the Jews, and since 1881, the Jews have returned to Israel from over a hundred nations.

[Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, pp. 170-174]

     Note* The age-old question the world has faced is whether Jesus of Nazareth would be, was, and is the anointed Messiah according to all that has been written, prophesied, and symbolically shaped in the history of the world. Those of any religion or people who beg to differ must come up with a more satisfactory explanation as to who or what might better explain such beliefs. A similar scenario can be applied for those who seek a satisfactory solution to Isaiah's criteria for the "rod" and the "root of Jesse" as found in Isaiah 11:1, 10 (2 Nephi 21:1,10). The qualifications of Joseph Smith with regards to those criteria are compelling. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

2 Nephi 21:10 In That Day, There Shall Be a Root of Jesse, Which Shall Stand for an Ensign of the People (Sperry Interpretation):

 

     As has been explained previously in the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:1, when Moroni visited Joseph Smith on the night of September 21, 1823, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah and told Joseph that "it was about to be fulfilled." (JS-H 1:40). The chapter seems to be divided into three parts: divides into three logical parts:

     (1) vss. 1-5, Isaiah prophesies of Christ--the growth of His power in the last days through the Millennium

     (2) vss. 6-9, Isaiah describes conditions during the Millennial reign of Christ.

     (3) vss. 10-16. Israel will be gathered the second time.

 

     According to Sidney Sperry, starting in verse 10, having prophesied concerning the millennial peace that shall come to the earth, Isaiah now speaks of a subject that chronologically should have preceded it, namely, the Lord's setting his hand to recover the remnant of Israel in the latter days. As was shown earlier (see the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:1) I equate the "rod" of verse 1 and the "root of Jesse" of verse 10 as referring to the same individual, that is to say, Joseph Smith the Prophet. Many authorities do give the same meaning to "rod" and the "root of Jesse," but some others, following, as they suppose, the lead of the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:12, believe that the "root of Jesse" refers to Christ. But for Latter-day Saints to believe that it is Christ, the same individual as the "stem of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1), would be inconsistent and contrary to the information given to us in the Doctrine and Covenants (113:1-6).

     If the Apostle Paul, when he quoted Isaiah 11:10, really believed that the "root of Jesse" was Christ, he was in error, an error quite easily explained. Examination of Romans 15:12 demonstrates that Paul was closely following the Septuagint (LXX--Greek translation) text of Isaiah 11:10 rather than the Hebrew. As a matter of fact, the Septuagint version is only a paraphrase of the original Hebrew. We notice that the Greek version of Isaiah 11:1 translates the Hebrew text, "stem of Jesse," as the "root of Jesse" and uses the same phrase in Isaiah 11:10. Of interest is the fact that the Greek word riza (root) is used in both verses to translate different Hebrew words. Paul would be quick to discern that the "root of Jesse" of the Septuagint text of Isaiah 11:1-5 was the Christ. And when he observed that the phrase "root of Jesse" was used again in verse 10, he would naturally assume that it too, had reference to the Christ. Hence the reason for his quotation in Romans 15:12. [Sidney B. Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, pp. 226-227] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 21:1]

     Note* While Sperry's explanation of why the Apostle Paul was in error is logical, one must contemplate whether we have the right to make such a definitive judgment. Paul, the great debator, might take exception or qualify what he said, but he is not here to defend himself. In the meantime I feel that we should leave ourselves open to clues that might explain Paul's interpretation. For example, the reader is referred to Richard Anthony's commentary on 2 Nephi 7 and the commentary of Bruce Sutton on Omni 1:18. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 7--JST of Isaiah 50 . . (Joseph & Moses)]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 The Lord Shall Set His Hand Again the Second Time to Recover the Remnant of His People:

 

     In 2 Nephi 21:11-13 we find the following:

           And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people . . .

           And he shall set up an ensign for the nations . . .

           The envy of Ephraim also shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

 

     While this prophecy concerns all the tribes of Israel, it is interesting to note the circumstances regarding the tribe of Judah. According to Cleon Skousen, an early apostle of the restored Church, Orson Hyde was assigned by direct revelation to dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews and the other tribes of Israel. In 1840 he was sent on his mission to Palestine. His companion abandoned him, but he went on alone and, after much privation and suffering, dedicated that land on October 24, 1841. . . . With his mission completed, Orson Hyde made his way slowly back to America and thence to Nauvoo. When Joseph Smith received Orson Hyde's report he was highly pleased. The tiny acorn had been planted for the gathering and growing of a mighty oak of Judah.

     In 1845, following the death of Joseph Smith, the Quorum of the Twelve issued a proclamation to all the world (see Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. I, pp. 253-266). After bearing witness of the restoration of the Gospel, the proclamation read:

     "And we further testify that the Jews among all nations are hereby commanded, in the name of the Messiah, to prepare to return to Jerusalem in Palestine, and to rebuild that city and temple unto the Lord. And also to organize and establish their own political government under their own rulers, judges, and governors, in that country. . . . Be it known unto them that we now hold the keys of the Priesthood and kingdom which are soon to be restored unto them. Therefore, let them also repent, and prepare to obey the ordinances of God."

 

[W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 1329-1330]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people (Illustration): Orson Hyde (1805-1878). [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 1329]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Assyria:

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 17:17]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Pathros:

 

     Pathros is Egyptian p't'--rs(y), "the Southland," in essence Upper Egypt, the long Nile valley extending north-south between Cairo and Aswan. Thus, the terms Mizraim for Egypt (Genesis 10:14; 1 Chronicles 1;12), especially Lower Egypt, Pathros for Upper Egypt and Cush for "Ethiopia (North Sudan) occur in this significantly geographical order both in a prophecy of Isaiah (11:11) and in a subsequent inscription of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria. Jeremiah similarly identifies Pathros with Egypt (Jeremiah 44:15) and specifically Upper Egypt as distinct from the cities (and land) of Lower Egypt (Jeremiah 44:1). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1159]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Pathros (Illustration): Old Testament Africa. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 18]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Pathros (Illustration): The Course of the River Nile. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 1087]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Cush:

 

     The region south of Egypt, in essence, Nubia or Northern Sudan. Originally the name of a district somewhere between the second and third cataracts of the Nile (about 2000 B.C.), "Kush" became also a general term for Nubia among the Egyptians, which wider use Hebrews, Assyrians and others took over.

     Throughout Isaiah (11:11; 18:1); 20:3-5; and 43:3; 45:14), Egypt and Ethiopia are closely linked--for in the prophet Isaiah's time the "Ethiopian" 25th Dynasty ruled over both. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 349-350]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Cush (Illustration): Old Testament Africa. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 18]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Elam:

 

     The ancient name for the plain of Khuzistan, watered by the Kerkh river, which joins the Tigris jut north of the Persian Gulf. . . . The mountainous region to the north and east was known as Anshan and, from an early period, formed a part of Elam. Sumerian and Semitic plainsmen looked upon these ranges as the abode of evil spirits. . . .

     Elamite history is obscure from about 1000 B.C. until the campaigns of Sargon of Assyria (c. 721-705 B.C.). Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal subjected the Elamites and deported some of them to Samaria, taking Israelites to Elam (Ezra 4:9; Isaiah 11:11).

     After the collapse of Assyria, Elam was annexed by the Medo-Persian empire. Elam is called upon by Isaiah to crush Babylon (Isaiah 21:2) and this was carried out (Daniel 8:2). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 433-434]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Elam (Illustration): Elam, the ancient name for the plain of Khuzistan. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 433]

 

2 Nephi 21:11 Shinar:

 

     The land in which were situated the great cities of Babylon, Erech and Akkad (Genesis 10:10). It lay in a plain to which early migrants came to found the city and tower of Babel (Genesis 11:2) and was a place of exile for the Jews (Isaiah 11:11; Daniel 1:2). The LXX interprets it as "Babylonia" (Isaiah 11:11). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1439]

 

2 Nephi 21:12 And He [the Lord] Shall . . . Gather Together the Dispersed of Judah from the Four Corners of the Earth:

 

     Hugh Nibley makes an interesting statement regarding the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. He says the following:

           Remember, until very recently all the Christian churches absolutely insisted that the Jews would never return to Jerusalem because the veil of the temple was rent, and the Lord said the temple was destroyed and the Jews would never go back to Jerusalem. It was like that all the time up until 1948 when Harry Truman sent an ambassador. He visited the pope on the way, and the pope said, "Absolutely nothing doing; the Jews must never go back to Jerusalem. It would frustrate all prophecy." They thought the Jews would never go back. I have an article on that in the Encyclopedia Judaica. I had to look up a lot of this stuff, and, believe me, the Christian world was against it. The only people that ever believed the Jews would go back to Jerusalem, of course, were the Mormons. We always preached that they would go back to Jerusalem, just as we would have Zion over here. (see Joseph Smith--Matthew 1:20).

[Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 133]

 

2 Nephi 21:13 Ephraim:

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 17:2]

 

2 Nephi 21:13 Judah: write up

 

     [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:4]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Edom:

 

     The term Edom denotes either the name of Esau, given in memory of the red pottage for which he exchanged his birthright (Genesis 25:30; 36:1,8,19), or the Edomites collectively (Numbers 20:18,20-21; Malachi 1:4), or the land occupied by Esau's descendants, formerly the land of Seir (Genesis 32:3; 36:20-21,30: Numbers 24:18). It stretched from the Wadi Zered to the Gulf of Aqabah for about 160 kilometers and extended to both sides of the Arabah or wilderness of Edom (2 Kings 3:8,20), the great depression connecting the Dead Sea to the Red Sea (Genesis 14:6; Deuteronomy 2:1,12; Joshua 15:1; Judges 11:17-18; 1 Kings 9:26, etc.). It was a rugged, mountainous area, with peaks rising to 1,067 meters. While not a fertile land, there are good cultivable areas (Numbers 20:17,19). In Bible times the king's highway, which ran from the Gulf of Aqabah to Damascus in Syria, east of the Dead Sea and Jordan valley, passed along the east plateau of Edom (Numbers 20:14-18). The capital of Edom, Sela, lay on a small plateau behind Petra. Other important towns were Bozrah and Teman.

     At the time of the Exodus, Israel sought permission to travel by the king's highway, but the request was refused (Numbers 20:14-21; 21:4; Judges 11:17-18). Notwithstanding this discourtesy, Israel was forbidden to abhor his Edomite brother (Deuteronomy 23:7-8).

     Joshua allotted the territory of Judah up to the borders of Edom (Joshua 15:1, 21), but did not encroach on their lands.

     David conquered Edom and put garrisons throughout the land (2 Samuel 8:13-14). This conquest of Edom enabled Solomon to build a port at Ezion-geber, and to exploit the copper-mines in the region, as excavation shows (1 Kings 9:26-28).

     In Jehoshaphat's time the Edomites joined the Ammonites and Moabites in a raid on Judah (2 Chronicles 20:1), but the allies fell to fighting one another (vv. 22-23). Jehoshaphat endeavored to use the port at Ezion-geber, but his ships were wrecked (1 Kings 22;48).

     Under Joram (Jehoram), Edom rebelled, but, although Joram defeated them in battle, he could not reduce them to subjection (2 Kings 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10), and Edom had a respite of some 40 years.

     Amaziah later invaded Edom, slew 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt, captured Sela their capital and sent 10,000 more to their death by casting them from the top of Sela (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11-12). Uzziah, his successor, restored the port at Elath (2 Kings 14:22), but under Ahaz, when Judah was being attacked by Pekah and Rezin, the Edomites invaded Judah and carried off captives (2 Chronicles 28:17). the port of Elath was lost once again. Judah never again recovered Edom. Assyrian inscriptions show that Edom became a vassal-state of Assyria after about 736 B.C. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 410-411]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Edom (Illustration): (1) The land of the Edomites between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqabah. (2) The mountains of Edom, near Petra. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 411]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Edom (Illustration): The route of the ancient "King's Highway." [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 860]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Edom (Illustration): . The mountains of Edom, near Petra[Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 860]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Moab:

 

     Moab was the son of Lot. Both the descendants and the land were known as Moab, and the people also as Moabites. The core of Moab was the plateau east of the Dead Sea between the wadis Arnon and Zered, though for considerable periods Moab extended well to the north of the Arnon.

     The Bible has preserved the names of many Moabite towns (Numbers 21:15,20; 32:3; Joshua 13:17-20; Isaiah 15-16; Jeremiah 48:20ff.).

     Moses was forbidden to attack Moab despite their unfriendliness (Deuteronomy 2:28-29), although Moabites were henceforth to be excluded from Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Nehemiah 13:1).

     As Israel prepared to cross the Jordan, they camped in the "plains of Moab" (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 3:1) and were seduced by Moabite and Midianite women to participate in idolatrous practices (Numbers 25; Hosea 9:10).

     David subdued Moab, but towards the close of Ahab's life Moab began to break free again. Later, Judah was invaded by a confederacy of Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, but confusion broke out and the allies attacked one another so that Judah was delivered (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).

     In the prophets the Moabites are often mentioned and divine judgment pronounced on them (see Isaiah 15-16; 25:10; Jeremiah 9:26; 25:21; 27:3; Ezekiel 25:8-11). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, pp. 1014-1016]

  

2 Nephi 21:14 Moab (Illustration): Moab and possible sites of the "city of Moab." [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 1014]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Ammon:

 

     The Ammonites were regarded as relatives of the Israelites, who were commanded to treat them kindly (Deuteronomy 2:19). At an early date the Ammonites occupied the territory between the Arnon and Jabbok rivers (Deuteronomy 2;20-21, 37). At the time of the Exodus, Israel did not conquer Ammon (Deuteronomy 2:19, 37; Judges 11:15). However, the Ammonites were condemned for joining the Moabites in hiring Balaam, and were forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel to the 10th generation (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Their chief town was Rabbath (Rabbah), modern Amman.

     In the days of the Judges, the Ammonites assisted Eglon of Moab to subdue Israelite territory (Judges 3:13). In the time of David the Ammonites went to war against Israel. The Israelites captured Rabbah, the Ammonite capital (2 Samuel 12:26-31; 1 Chronicles 20:1-3) and put the people to work. Later, Solomon included Ammonite women in his harem, and worshipped Milcom (Molech) their god (1 Kings 11:1,5,7,33). An Ammonitess, Naamah, was the mother of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21,31; 2 Chronicles 12:13). In the days of Jehoshaphat, the Ammonites joined Moabites and Edomites in a raid on Judah (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).

     The Ammonites were bitterly attacked by the prophets as inveterate enemies of Israel (Jeremiah 49:1-6; Ezekiel 21:20; 25:1-7). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1, pp. 40-42]

 

2 Nephi 21:14 Ammon (Illustration): The territory of the Ammonites, to the east of the river Jabbok. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1, p. 41]

 

2 Nephi 21:15 The Tongue of the Egyptian Sea:

 

     The "tongue of the Egyptian Sea" (2 Nephi 21:15) is also termed a "river." The term "river of Egypt" is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4,47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 24:7; etc.). The word translated river is really brook; consequently the name denotes not the Nile, but the Wady el-Arish, a desert stream on the border of Egypt. [LDS Bible, Bible Dictionary, p. 661]

 

2 Nephi 21:15 The Tongue of the Egyptian Sea (Illustration): Egypt, showing the Wadi el-'Arish and the river Shihor, both possible identifications with the "River of Egypt." [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1, pp. 431]