2 Nephi 23

 

A Covenant Plan of Salvation

      (2 Nephi--Enos)


 

 

2 Nephi 23 (Isaiah Text & Commentary):

 

     Chapter 23

     (Compare Isaiah 13)

 

     Isaiah sees in vision the destruction of Babylon, which represents the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming.

 

     Isaiah Prophesies the Destruction of Babylon

 

 1 The burden of (or the pronouncement of doom to) Babylon (which represents the wickedness of the world -- see D&C 1:16), which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

 

     The Lord Will First Gather His Righteous Forces

 

 2 Lift ye up a banner (or the Lord's banner) upon the high mountain, exalt (or raise) the voice unto them (or unto the righteous), shake the hand (that is, wave or signal with your hand), that they may go into the gates of the nobles (or in other words, that additional forces may gather with the righteous--the noble and great ones).

 3 I have commanded my sanctified ones (or Saints--footnote 3a--my covenant people), I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in MY HIGHNESS.

 4 The noise of the multitude in the mountains like as of a great people (that is, the sound of the righteous gathering together will be heard), a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together, the Lord of Hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle.

 5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, yea, the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation (or the righteous), to destroy the whole land (that is, to destroy all the wicked from the earth).

 

     The Day of the Lord's Triumph

 

 6 Howl ye (wicked ones), for the day of the Lord (or the 2nd Coming) is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from THE ALMIGHTY.

 7 Therefore shall all hands be faint (or the power of wicked men shall turn to weakness), every [wicked] man's heart (or courage) shall melt;

 8 And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be amazed (or will look in fear) one at another; their faces shall be as flames (or burn with shame and humiliation).

 9 Behold, the day of the Lord (or the 2nd Coming) cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it (which is a purpose of the 2nd Coming).

 10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine (that is, the prophesied signs of the Second Coming will be manifest--this time they will be worldwide).

 11 And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible (or the tyrants).

 12 I will make a man (or the righteous man that inherits the earth after this destruction) more precious (or rare) than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir (or more precious than the whole rich wedge of Dhofar on the southern Arabian coast which controlled the frankincense trade) (In other words, nothing of earthly value--gold symbolizing the very best--can compare in value with the righteous who will inherit the earth at the 2nd Coming).

 13 Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place (preparatory to its return to terrestrial glory), in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

 

  Isaiah now compares the destruction at the Second Coming to the destruction of the mighty, oppressive nations which ruled in his part of the world.

 

 14 And it (Babylon -- also the wicked in general) shall be as the chased roe (or a hunted deer), and as a sheep that no man taketh up (or as a sheep without a shepherd, or without anyone to defend it); and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land (or in other words, all the wicked who have come to Babylon and made Babylon their home -- meaning that they have given their lives over to sin --, will abandon it, or deny any part in it's downfall and attempt to return back [without repentance] to their more righteous "homelands" that haven't been destroyed).

 15 [Nevertheless] Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked (even those that have been "successful" at living a "double standard") shall fall by the sword.

 16 Their children, also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes (or those that follow in their pathways of wickedness will be destroyed); their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished (or in essence, the fate of Babylon and of all the wicked will be devastation).

 

  Note** The reader should remember that at the time of Isaiah, Babylonia was not a world empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar, however, Babylon was made one of the most remarkably fortified cities of the ancient world.

 

 17 Behold, I will stir up the MEDES (or Persians) against them (or against Babylon) (in truth, the Medes from Persia conquered Babylon easily in 538 B.C.), which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it (that is, the Babylonians won't even be able to bribe the Medes with all their wealth not to destroy them).

 18 Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces, and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb (that is, they will take no pity even on babies); their eyes shall not spare children.

 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (extremely wicked cities that were not only destroyed, but became desolate) (or in other words, Babylon will be completely destroyed and never inhabited again, just like those cities).

 20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the ARABIAN pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

 21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses (or the ruins of their houses) shall be full of doleful creatures (symbolizing sadness and mourning); and owls (or birds of prey) shall dwell there, and satyrs (demonic creatures of folklore) shall dance there.

 22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons (or animals such as hyenas, wild dogs, jackals) in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her day shall not be prolonged (that is, Babylon's time is up, her days are over). For I will destroy her speedily; yea, for I will be merciful unto my people (who are the righteous), but the wicked shall perish.

[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 23:3 For Mine Anger Is Not upon Them That Rejoice in My Highness:

 

     According to Richardson, Richardson and Bentley, critics claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized some passages from the Bible, inserting them into the Book of Mormon. Yet a careful comparison of those Book of Mormon passages that are shared with the Bible shows that the Book of Mormon actually restores original text from the Bible and makes many clarification of Biblical wordings.

     An example is found by a careful study of 2 Nephi 23:3 which reveals a much clearer translation of what was said in Isaiah 13:3. The Isaiah passage reads, "I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness." The Book of Mormon passage reads the same as Isaiah only to the word "anger." It clarifies the nonsense of the King James translation from the Masoretic text: "for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness. (For more information, see John A. Tvedtnes, A Sure Foundation, pp. 24-5; also in "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon" in Isaiah and the Prophets)163 [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, pp. 20-21]

 

2 Nephi 23:12 Ophir:

 

     The country from which fine gold was imported to Judah (2 Chronicles 8:18; Job 22;24; 28:16; Psalms 45:9; Isaiah 13:12), sometimes in large quantities (1 Chronicles 29:4), and with valuable wood (1 Kings 10:11), silver, ivories, apes and peacocks (1 Kings 10:22), and precious stones (2 Chronicles 9:10). It was reached by Solomon's fleet from Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqabah (1 Kings 22:48). These voyages took "three years," that is perhaps one entire year and parts of two others. . . . In Isaiah 13:12 Ophir is paralleled with oqir, "I will make precious." Various theories have been put forward for the site of Ophir: Southern Arabia (Yemen), Southeastern Arabia (Oman), the east African coast (Somaliland), India (north of Bombay), and others. Josephus (Ant. 8. 164), LXX and Vulgate (Job 28:16) interpreted Ophir as India. In favor of this interpretation are the facts that all the commodities named are familiar in ancient India, and it is known that from the 2nd millennium B.C. there was a lively sea-trade between the Persian Gulf and India. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 1119]

 

2 Nephi 23:12 Ophir:

 

     Walter Kaiser notes that the legendary wealth of King Solomon came, in part, from the fact that his ships were supposed to sail to "Ophir," from which they "brought back 420 talents of gold" (1 Kings 9:28)--equivalent to a whopping sixteen tons, or 14.5 metric tons, of gold. Solomon's ships supposedly sailed from the Red Sea port of Elath (Ezion Geber), but where was Ophir? Although no one knows for sure, the fact that it was indeed a real place is supported from archaeological finds. In 1956, at the coastal site of Tell Qasile (just north of Tel Aviv in Israel), a small ostracon was found with a shipment notice written on it saying, "gold of Ophir for Beth-Horon, thirty shekels." Thus not only was the site shown to be a real location known from the world of commerce of the day, rather than the imaginary site it was alleged to have been, but it also was a source of gold as well. [Water C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, pp. 105-106]

 

2 Nephi 23:12 Ophir:

 

     According to George Hourani, from the first Book of Kings we find: "And King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom; and Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipment that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon." (1 Kings 9:26-28)

     Ezion-geber can now be identified with confidence as the site at Tall al-Khulayfah, west of al-Aqabah, which was excavated by an American expedition in 1938-1940. It is quite likely that Solomon himself (c. 974-932) built the town and the large copper refinery which has been unearthed there, after the subjection of the Edomites by his father David.

     The "Ophir" to which Solomon's ships sailed may well have been in India, for the voyage was made only once every three years. The merchandise brought from Ophir--gold, silver, jewels, almug wood, ivory, apes and peacocks--smacks of India, etymologically and economically.

     Yet in a footnote, Hourani writes that Ophir is probably not India but southern Arabia. The main evidence is philological: the Hebrew words for ape, ivory, and peacock are loans from Sanskrit and Tamil. (George F. Hourani, Arab Seafaring, pp. 9, 130)

     With this in mind, it is interesting that the Jewish scholar, Raphael Patai writes:

           In the biblical account, the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem is bracketed between two references to Solomon's Ophir expedition (1 Kings 9:26-10:13; 2 Chron. 8:17-9:12). This makes it appear, without it ever being stated explicitly, that the country of Sheba was believed to be either identical with or a close neighbor of Ophir. (The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times, 1998, p. 13.)

 

     Concerning the Queen of Sheba and the location of Sheba we find the following:

           An unnamed Sabaean (*Sheba) monarch who journeyed to Jerusalem to test Solomon's wisdom (1 Ki. 10:1-10, 13; 2 Ch. 9:1-9, 12). A major purpose of her costly (1 Ki. 10:10) yet successful (1 Ki. 10:13) visit may have been to negotiate a trade agreement with Solomon, whose control of the trade routes jeopardized the income which the Sabaeans were accustomed to receive from the caravans which crossed their territory . . . The spices, gold and precious stones with which she sought Solomon's favour (1 Ki. 10:3, 10) would have been typical of the luxurious cargoes of these caravans, which linked the resources of E Africa, India and S Arabia to the markets of Damascus and Gaza by way of oases like Mecca, Medina and Tema. (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, p. )

 

2 Nephi 23:12 Ophir (Illustration): The Land of Sheba [The University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, p. 1431]

 

     If the country of Sheba was known from the times of Solomon, and if Sheba was located in the general region of Sana'a (Nahom), and if Ophir was associated with a sea port beyond this location, then it is possible that Ophir was not only linked to Nephi's Bountiful, but Lehi and Nephi might have been purposefully aiming in that direction in order to take advantage of seafaring knowledge that might help them in their journey to the promised land. One of the leading candidates for Bountiful is the region of Salalah, Oman. This fertile "wedge" was the head of the incense trade. The "golden" incense of Salalah was worth it's weight in gold. It very easily could have been exchanged for expensive items brought in on ships from India such as gold, apes, peacocks, etc. If Salalah was the land Bountiful and the place where Nephi launched his ship, then his voyage was truly more valuable than any merchant ship laden with gold and other trade items from that area. They were the covenant children of "one man"--Christ. Thus, Isaiah's prophecy--"I will make a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" could have been interpreted with significance to the lives of Lehi and Nephi. The context was the destruction, scattering and gathering of Israel. The Book of Mormon reader should note Nephi's comments regarding these Isaiah chapters (see 2 Nephi 25) in far away places. From them he makes "his prophecy" :

           Wherefore, for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand. (2 Nephi 25:21)

 

     Nephi could only keep his part of that promise by leaving the "golden wedge" of Ophir to follow "one man"--Christ. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes. Expanded from an idea originally passed to me by George Potter] [See the Potter commentary on 1 Nephi 17:1] [See the commentary on Tarshish--2 Nephi 12:16]

 

2 Nephi 23:14 As the chased roe and as a sheep that no man taketh up (Illustration): A "chased roe" is a hunted deer, and "sheep that no man taketh up" are vulnerable because their shepherds are absent. The imagery implies that the wicked will be like hunted deer. They will flee for their lives during a time of wars.

     Gazelles, Biblical Zoo, Jerusalem. According to Mosaic law, the roe deer was a clean animal that could be eaten. It may have been a delicacy as King Solomon made it part of the royal table (1 Kings 4:22-23). Many species of deer and antelope still inhabit Israel and may be seen in the upper Galilee region or Judean hills. Photograph by Tana and Mac Graham. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 48]

 

2 Nephi 23:17 Medes:

 

     Media was the name for northwest Iran, southwest of the Caspian Sea and north of the Zagros Mountains, covering the modern province of Azerbaijan and part of Persian Kurdistan. The inhabitants were called Medes or Medians and were Japhethites (Genesis 10:2).

     Assyrian kings sought to keep the eastern passes of Media open to the traders. Tiglath-pileser III (743 B.C.) and Sargon II (716 B.C.) claim to have conquered the land of the Medes. Sargon II transported Israelites to Media (2 Kings 17:6; 18:11). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 2, p. 970]

 

2 Nephi 23:17 Medes (Illustration): Media [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 2, p. 970]

 

2 Nephi 23:19 Chaldees:

 

     Chaldea was the name of the land in southern Babylonia. The term was later used to denote Babylonia as a whole, especially during the last dynasty of Babylonia (626-539 B.C.).

     When Mardukapla-iddina II (Merodach-Baladan), the chief of the Chaldean district of Bit-Yakin, seized the throne of Babylon in 721-710 and 703-702 B.C. he sought help from the west against Assyria (Isaiah 39). The prophet Isaiah warned of the danger to Judah of supporting the Chaldean rebels (Isaiah 23:13) and foresaw their defeat Isaiah 43:14), perhaps after the initial invasion by Sargon in 710 B.C. Since Babylon was at this time under a Chaldean king, "Chaldean" is used as a synonym for Babylonian (Isaiah 13:19; 47:1,5; 48:14,20), a use later extended by Ezekiel to cover all the Babylonian dominions (Ezekiel 23:23). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 257-258] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 20:14]

 

2 Nephi 23:19 Chaldees (Illustration): Chaldea: a name for part of Babylonia taken over for the whole land in 8th and 7th centuries B.C. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 257]

 

2 Nephi 23:19-23 Babylon . . . Shall Be As When God Overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah:

 

     In 2 Nephi 23:19-22 we find a prophecy of the destruction of Babylon. According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, Babylon was one of the great cities of the ancient world, perhaps the greatest. Its walls were, for height and width, one of the wonders of the world. The temple of Bel, the terraced ("hanging") gardens, the immense copper gates, and the artificial lake were, up to that time, the greatest achievements of human skill and ingenuity. The fields and farms and flocks yielded almost incredible returns, and the wealth, luxury and power of the ruling classes were correspondingly great. If any city, or country, could be regarded as invincible, Babylonia and Babylon might be so considered. But centuries before their fall Isaiah predicted, with supernatural knowledge of the details, the destruction of the city and the overthrow of the government.

     It was done by means of strategy. After a long siege, apparently without effect, Cyrus, who led the besieging Medes and Persians, decided to turn the Euphrates out of its course and enter on the dry river bed. That was a gigantic undertaking. The river was 1500 feet wide and 12 feet deep. However, the undertaking was successful. The invaders entered from two sides, the former inflow and outflow of the river, and so quietly did they take possession that most of the people did not know what was happening till it was too late to make resistance. Aristotle had been informed that some of the inhabitants did not know until three days afterwards that the city had fallen. When the king of Babylon learned that Cyrus was at the gate of the palace, he commanded that he be admitted. He was. The king and all the revelers surrounding him perished. Many Babylonian princes, at that time, ended their useless earthly lives in a drunken debauch. The kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. [George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 364]

 

2 Nephi 23:19 Sodom:

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 13:9]

 

2 Nephi 23:19 Gomorrah:

 

     The city of Gomorrah, according to one viewpoint, is thought to be one of the cities of the plain located north of the Dead Sea, where the Jordan Valley broadens into the "Circle" or "Plain" of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 34:3), the evidence being "that Abraham and Lot looked upon the cities from near Bethel (Genesis 13:10).

     On the other hand, there is a view that Gomorrah lies buried beneath the shallow waters of the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

     As Lot saw it, the Circle of the Jordan was supremely attractive from every material viewpoint (Genesis 13:10), but it was to become desolate. The efficient cause of this destruction of the cities was probably an earthquake, with an accompanying release and explosion of gaseous deposits. Biblically and fundamentally it was God's judgment, remembered again and again throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 1:9; Jeremiah 49:18; etc.) [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary , Vol. 3, p. 1237] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 13:9]

 

2 Nephi 23:20 Arabian:

 

     Arabia is not often referred to by this name in the Bible, since its inhabitants were generally known by the political or tribal names of the smaller groups to which they belonged.

     In the time of Hezekiah these people were very familiar (Isaiah 13:20; 21:13), and some even served as mercenaries in the defense of Jerusalem against Sennacherib. In the time of Josiah (Jeremiah 3:2) and in the closing days of the kingdom of Judah, the Arabians were coming to prominence as traders (Jeremiah 25:23-24; Ezekiel 27).

     Arabia did not, as it does today, denote the whole of the great peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, but only the area to the immediate east and south of Palestine. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 83-86]

 

2 Nephi 23:20 Arabian (Illustration): Ancient Arabia. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, p. 85]