2 Nephi 9
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
2 Nephi 9:2 They Shall Be Restored to the True Church:
Had Joseph Smith been the author of the Book of Mormon, chapter 9 of 2 Nephi would have been quite a doctrinal feat. Monte Nyman quotes Joseph Fielding Smith as saying that 2 Nephi 9 is "one of the most enlightening discourses ever delivered in regard to the atonement" (Answers 4:57). Nyman also describes a number of additional doctrines that are brought to light:
(1) The first doctrine is that the institution of the church existed in Old Testament times. This doctrine is not readily accepted in the world. Jacob prophesied that the Jews would "be restored to the true church" (2 Nephi 9:2). Logically, one cannot be restored to a church which has not already been established. It is interesting that Stephen, in his great martyrdom speech, referred to "the church in the wilderness" at the time of Moses (see Acts 7:38). Nephi also referred to "the brethren of the church" (see 1 Nephi 4:24-26).
(2) The second doctrine concerns education. Jacob warned not to trust only the mind of man, but he noted, "to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Nephi 9:28-29).
(3) A third doctrine is that the only way into heaven is through Jesus Christ. Contrary to the teaching of modern Christianity that Peter guarded the pearly gates, Jacob declares: "The keeper of the gate [to eternal life] is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there" (2 Nephi 9:41).
[Monte S. Nyman, "Come to Understanding and Learn Doctrine," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, pp. 24-25]
2 Nephi 9:3 Rejoice . . . Because of the Blessings Which the Lord God Shall Bestow upon Your Children:
According to John Thompson, the structure and themes of Jacob's covenant speech show that he probably spoke in connection with a religious royal festival, to which the words of Isaiah which he quoted were especially well suited. . . .
Most biblical scholars divide Isaiah into three literary sections, composed of chapters 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66.119 . . . Mowinckel notes that there seems to be an association between the second division of Isaiah and the preexilic autumn festivals--namely the Feast of Tabernacles.120 . . . Engnell concluded that Isaiah 40-55 "is a prophetic collection of traditions" that may be called "liturgy, . . . not a cult liturgy but a prophetic imitation thereof."121
The conclusions of these scholars are significant in light of the possible setting of Jacob's sermon, for if the second division of Isaiah, from which Jacob obtained his quotes, is a prophetic imitation of Sukkot liturgy (the Feast of Tabernacles ceremony), then it is possible that Nephi instructed Jacob to use Isaiah not only for the prophetic teachings and elevated language, but because Isaiah's words reflect the very festival in which they, the Nephites, were participating.
More importantly, Mowinckel, in his book entitled He That Cometh, declared that the Israelite festivals were a factor in forming the basis of a "future hope" for the Messiah, who is characterized as the "ideal" king.122 Further, he stated that the Messianic faith was "from the first, associated with the Jewish hope of a future restoration [of Israel]."123 . . . These two hopes--the Messiah and the restoration of Israel--are the very things that Jacob emphasizes in his sermon. For example, Jacob makes the following quote from Isaiah: "that ye may rejoice, and lift up your heads forever [that is, have hope], because of the blessing which the Lord God shall bestow upon your children. For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come" (2 Nephi 9:3-4). [John S. Thompson, "Isaiah 50-51, the Israelite Autumn Festivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6-10," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 136-138]
2 Nephi 9:6 The Fall Came By Reason of Transgression:
Robert Millet notes that Jacob's language concerning the fall of Adam is unmistakably similar to that of the language of God to Adam, as found in Joseph Smith's translation of Genesis:
Therefore I give unto you a commandment," the Lord said to our first father, "to teach these things [the plan of salvation] freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death . . . even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven. (Moses 6:58-59; JST, Gen. 6:61-62)
Note the similarity to Jacob's teachings, based, it would appear, upon the brass plates: "There must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression" (2 Nephi 9:6).
For a more detailed study of the possible ties between the JST and the brass plates, see Robert L. Millet, "The Brass Plates: An Inspired and Expanded Version of the Old Testament," in The Old Testament and the Latter-day Saints, Proceedings of the 1986 Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Randall Book Company, 1986), pp. 415-43). [Robert L. Millet, "Redemption Through the Holy Messiah," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 128-129]
2 Nephi 9:7 Atonement:
The word atonement appears only once in the entire New Testament, but twenty-eight times in the text of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is clearly the most profound treatment of this supremely important subject found anywhere (see Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, pp. 81-82; or Ensign, May 1988, pp. 69-70). [Dallin H. Oaks, "Another Testament of Jesus Christ," CES Fireside for College-age Young Adults, 6 June 1993, B.Y.U., p. 7]
2 Nephi 9:8 From Before:
[See the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:28]
2 Nephi 9:13 O How Great the Plan of Our God:
In 2 Nephi 9:13 it says, "O how great the plan of our God!" Hugh Nibley notes that the word "plan" is not found in the Bible, yet it's found forty-two times in the Book of Mormon . . . and thirty-six times in the book of Alma. . . . Origen tells us that in the early church they taught that you earned your position here before you came here. So whatever happened to the plan? How did it drop out of the Bible? . . . When the temple was lost the rabbis took over. They were learned men but they were not priests. . . . The philosophers at the School of Alexandria took it over, and in their place you have the doctrines of St. Augustine--this takes the place of the plan. That is, you are predestined to damnation or you are predestined to salvation. . . . This predestination doctrine of St. Augustine was taken over by the Lutherans and by the Calvinists especially. What happens to you is because you were predestined that way. Of course, you didn't live before you came here; you didn't earn it or anything like that. . . . All creation had to be instantaneously, simultaneously complete. Everything was completely there all at once, so you had no background or anything. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, pp. 295-296] [See the commentary on Jarom 1:2; Alma 22:13]
2 Nephi 9:14 Being Clothed with Purity, Yea, Even with the Robe of Righteousness:
According to John Thompson, the structure and themes of Jacob's covenant speech show that he probably spoke in connection with a religious royal festival, to which the words of Isaiah which he quoted were especially well suited. According to the Lord's instruction in Leviticus concerning the Day of Atonement, the high priest was to "wash his flesh in water" and then to "put on the holy linen coat," "linen breeches," "a linen girdle," and a "linen mitre" (Leviticus 16:4). While wearing these garments, the high priest was to make atonement for himself, the temple, and the people by sacrifice (see Leviticus 16:33). During this ceremony, the high priest and priests were instructed on numerous occasions to remove their garments, wash themselves, and wash their clothes (see Leviticus 16:23-24, 26,28).124
Such emphasis on garments being kept clean (for example, from the blood of the sacrifices) in connection with the temple and the Day of Atonement may have inspired Jacob to take off his garments and display them before the Nephites, saying, "I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye . . . that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood" (2 Nephi 9:44). This theme is further supported by Jacob's reference to "being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness" (2 Nephi 9:14) and by an Isaiah passage which Jacob quotes: "Awake, awake, put on they strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean" (2 Nephi 8:24, parallel to Isaiah 52:1).125; [John S. Thompson, "Isaiah 50-51, the Israelite Autumn Festivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6-10," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 131-132]
2 Nephi 9:21 He suffereth the pains of all men (Illustration): The Greatest of All. Jesus Christ suffered "the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam." Artist: Del Parson. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 95]
2 Nephi 9:23 He Commandeth All Men That They Must Repent, and Be Baptized in His Name:
According to Daniel Ludlow, the teachings of Jacob clearly indicate that the early Nephites considered baptism an essential ordinance of the gospel: "And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God" (2 Nephi 9:23). Nephi also taught the necessity of baptism (2 Nephi 31:5-13). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 139]
Many years after the lifetimes of Nephi and Jacob, the symbolism and significance of Christ's atonement and resurrection as they relate to the ordinance of baptism would become confused and even lost by the Nephites. The misunderstanding of this "doctrine of Christ" (2 Nephi 31:2) would necessitate covenant discourses by King Benjamin (Mosiah 2-5) and the prophet Abinadi (Mosiah 13-16). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 31:6; Mosiah 18:12-16]
2 Nephi 9:23 He Commandeth All Men That They Must Repent and Be Baptized in His Name:
In 2 Nephi 9:23, Jacob declares that the Lord "commandeth all men that they must repent and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. It is interesting that one will not find the word "baptize," "baptism," nor any form of the word in the Old Testament (see Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). Nevertheless according to Adam Clarke, at the time of Christ in the Old World, baptism was a very common ceremony among the Jews, who never received a proselyte into the full enjoyment of a Jew's privileges till he was both baptized and circumcised. But such baptisms were never performed except by an ordinance of the Sanhedrin, or in the presence of three magistrates: besides, they never baptized any Jew or Jews, nor even those who were the children of their proselytes; for, as all these were considered as born in the covenant, they had no need of baptism, which was used only as an introductory rite. Now, as John [the Baptist] had, in this respect, altered the common custom so very essentially, admitting to his baptism the Jews in general, the Sanhedrin took it for granted that no man had authority to make such changes, unless especially commissioned from on high; and that only the prophet, or Elijah, or the Messiah himself, could have authority to act as John did. [Adam Clarke, Clark's Commentary: The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, p. 517]
2 Nephi 9:26 That Awful Monster, Death and Hell, and the Devil:
In Jacob's discourse on the Lord's covenant atonement for sin, Jacob speaks of the Lord himself delivering His people from the grasp of "that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment" (2 Nephi 9:26). According to Avraham Gileadi, Jacob builds on a background of the ancient Near Eastern suzerain (lord) -- vassal (servant) covenant relationship and transforms ancient Near Eastern personifications of chaos into "that awful monster" and "the devil," the common enemies of God and man.
According to the terms of these suzerain-vassal covenant relationships, the suzerain (lord) is bound by the covenant to protect the vassal (servant) by undertaking to annihilate a common enemy, provided the vassal remains loyal to the suzerain, does not recognize another as suzerain, and reports any evil word against the suzerain.126
The first of the Ten Commandments seeks to ensure that the Lord's people recognize no other divine suzerain: "Thou shalt have no other God before me" (Mosiah 12:35; compare Exodus 20:3). Moreover, we find that the common enemy that threatens the Lord's people--the enemy that God himself must come and annihilate--is death (Mosiah 13:28; 15:1-8). In other words, though political powers may threaten them, the people's ultimate enemy is death itself.
This aspect of covenant theology possesses a mythical flavor. Ancient Near Eastern literatures personify Death as a god of chaos whom the righteous god must conquer. His doing so establishes harmony in the earth and enables him to assume the throne of a higher deity.127
In order to conquer death, therefore, the Lord must come to the aid of his vassal whom death threatens. God himself, in other words, must come down to mortality and face "that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil," the common enemies of God and man. [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 181,235]
2 Nephi 9:27-38 Wo . . . Wo . . . Wo . . . Wo:
John Welch has noted that Jacob makes ten statements in his sermon in 2 Nephi 9:27-38 all of which begin with the word "wo." (John W. Welch, "Jacob's Ten Commandments," in F.A.R.M.S. Update, March 1985. He suggests Jacob was deliberately imitating the Decalogue, setting forth ten of the basic tenets of Nephite religion. In this list are included "Wo unto the liar" (2 Nephi 9:34); "Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth" (2 Nephi 9:35); "Wo unto them who commit whoredoms" (2 Nephi 9:36); and "Wo unto those that worship idols" (2 Nephi 9:37). [David Roth Seely, "The Ten Commandments in the Book of Mormon," in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon, p. 180]
2 Nephi 9:40 Shaken:
Wade Brown notes that occasionally, uniqueness of authorship in the Book of Mormon is demonstrated not in the combination of words but in the context of how particular words are used. A word may be common to many authors but used in a specific thought pattern by only one.
For example, consider the phrase "shaken." In the Book of Mormon, "shaken" is utilized by several writers. But only Jacob used "shaken" in reference to testimony or faith. In one of his sections he stated, "the righteous fear them not for they love the truth and are not shaken." (2 Nephi 9:40) In a second section he stated "I will unfold this mystery unto you if I do not by any means get shaken from my firmness in the spirit" (Jacob 4:18). In a third section he stated "Sherem . . . had hope to shake me from the faith . . . I could not be shaken" (Jacob 7:5).
Thus Jacob used "shaken" in three of his four sections but only in reference to adherence to personal faith. All other authors who used the phrase wrote it in reference to things or people being physically moved or rattled. [C. Wade Brown, The First Page of the Golden Plates, pp. 30-31]