3 Nephi 25
Covenant Obedience Brings Peace -
3 Nephi 11 -- Mormon 7 Disobedience Brings Destruction
3 Nephi 25:1 It Shall Leave Them Neither Root Nor Branch:
According to Donna Nielsen, Israelite prophets frequently used "trees" as symbols for the people because of their long lives, deep roots, and spreading branches. The roots represented ancestry and the branches typified posterity. To be cut off "root and branch" (Malachi 4:1 / 3 Nephi 25:1) was a horrifying image because it meant no familial ties or increase. [Donna B. Nielsen, Beloved Bridegroom: Finding Christ in Ancient Jewish Marriage and Family Customs, p. 102]
3 Nephi 25:2 Son of Righteousness:
The Lord foretold the condition of those who "fear [his] name." For them, "the Son of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings." According to Kent Jackson, in the Bible the term "Sun" is used, whereas here in the Book of Mormon the record uses "Son." The translators of the King James Bible correctly recognized the term "Sun of righteousness" as an allusion to the Lord, noting this understanding by the use of the capital letter in the word "Sun." Their interpretation is borne out by the Book of Mormon, where the phrase is personified completely--"Son of Righteousness." (3 Nephi 25:2)
The personification of the metaphor "sun" to the explicit "Son" need not be viewed as a scribal matter, regardless of what may have been either in Malachi's original text or on the gold plates of Mormon's abridgment. There is no reason not to assume that the Book of Mormon text here is deliberate and inspired. [Kent P. Jackson, "Teaching From the Words of the Prophets," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, p. 201]
3 Nephi 25:2 Wings:
In 3 Nephi 25:2 we find the statement that "the Son of Righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings." The term "wings" is obviously symbolic, but of what? David Ridges notes that understanding symbolism can help one understand the scriptures and gives the following list as an aid to the reader:
Body Parts Symbolism
wings power to move, act, etc. (Example: Revelation 4:8; D&C 77:4)
palms joy; triumph, victory (Example: John 12:13; Revelation 7:9)
eye perception; light and knowledge
ears obedience; hearing
hair modesty; covering
members offices and callings
heart inner man; courage
hands action, acting
rt. hand covenant hand; making covenants
bowels center of emotion; whole being
loins posterity; preparing for action (gird up your loins)
liver center of feeling
reins kidneys; center of desires, thoughts
foot mobility; foundation
toe associated with cleansing rites (Example: Leviticus 14:17)
nose anger (Example: 2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9)
blood life of the body
knee humility; submission
shoulder strength; effort
forehead total dedication, loyalty (Example: Revelation 13:16:14:1)
[David J. Ridges, The Book of Revelation Made Easier, preface]
3 Nephi 25:2 The Son of Righteousness Shall Arise with Healing in His Wings:
According to John Pratt, a clear example of the rising sun representing Christ is the prophecy that unto the righteous "shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." (Malachi 4:2) This reference to the sun so clearly meant Christ that the phrase "Son of Righteousness" is interchangeable with it. (see 3 Nephi 25:2; 2 Nephi 26:9) Nephi pointed out that Christ would rise "with healing in his wings" at His resurrection. (see 2 Nephi 25:13) Mark wrote that when the women arrived at the tomb, the sun had risen, and Christ also had risen (see Mark 16:2,9).
Adam was given the promise that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, would come "in the meridian of time." (Moses 6:57) Later, Enoch specifically asked when the Savior would come, and he was given the same response: "in the meridian of time." (Moses 7:46) This phrase is again used in the Doctrine and Covenants to refer to the time of the first coming of the Savior. (see D&C 20:26; 39:3) But what does this phrase, "the meridian of time," mean?
In astronomy, the meridian is a north-south line passing exactly overhead that divides the sky in half. Meridian literally means "mid-day." The sun culminates (reaches its high point) as it passes over the meridian. Time before that "passover" is called ante meridiem (A.M., or "before midday") and afterward it is post meridiem (P.M., or "after midday"). . .
The law of Moses was given to prepare Israel for the "coming of Christ." (2 Nephi 11;4), but just how is the meridian of time symbolized in the calendar of the law of Moses as a "type of his coming" (Alma 25:15) "with healing in his wings?" (3 Nephi 25:2)
The Hebrew day begins in the evening, the month begins at the new moon, and the year begins in the fall. Because the Hebrew 24-hour day begins at sunset, the meridian - or middle point - of the full daily cycle is actually at sunrise.
The first day of any month is within two days of the new moon, and the fifteenth day of any month (of twenty-nine or thirty days) is near the full moon. Accordingly, the midpoint of every Hebrew month can be represented by the fifteenth day.
The meridian month of the year is the spring month Nisan. Thus, 15 Nisan represents the meridian both of the Hebrew year and of that month. In the law revealed to Moses, this meridian day of the Hebrew year was also the annual Passover feast day.
Inasmuch as Jesus died in the closing hours of 14 Nisan, his coming to the spirit world was at the beginning of the Passover feast day, 15 Nisan, the day symbolic of deliverance from the house of bondage. (see D&C 138:50) This coming fulfilled one Jewish tradition which insisted that the Redemption could take place only on 15 Nisan, as foreshadowed by the Exodus. The tradition is: "God said, 'Let this sign be in your hands: on the day when I wrought salvation for you, and on that very night know that I will redeem you; but if it is not this night, then do not believe.'" A footnote clarifies: "This apparently means: Should a pretended redeemer come at any other time, do not believe him, for the redemption will take place on that day and on no other."
The climax of the Savior's mission in the meridian of time was the act of delivering mankind out of bondage by loosing the chains of hell and breaking the bands of death. (See Alma 5:6-9) It was the apex of a crescendo that had been swelling since the fall of Adam, culminating in the three days of the Atonement (Friday) to Resurrection (Sunday).
We read that those in the spirit world had been "assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world." In fact, they were already "rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death," when the Redeemer would come to declare "liberty to the captives who had been faithful." (D&C 138:16, 18) Thus, they clearly expected the Lord to come at that very time. But why? Apparently it was because it was Passover, the day when Israel had been "redeemed" from the "house of bondage" at the exodus (see Deut. 13:5), foreshadowing the day when "the Redeemer" would proclaim "the opening of the prison," and deliver the "spirits in prison" from "bondage." (see D&C 138:42,28) [John P. Pratt, "Passover -- Was It Symbolic of His Coming?", The Ensign, January 1994, pp. 38-41]
3 Nephi 25:4 I Commanded unto [Moses] in Horeb for All Israel:
In 3 Nephi 25:4, we find the following words of Malachi: "Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." According to Matthew Brown, Abraham might have also been familiar with Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai). An apocryphal work known as the Apocalypse of Abraham depicts Abraham on Mount Horeb, the holy mountain of God, where he offers sacrifice and is informed by an angel that he will be shown "the garden of Eden." Satan appears on the scene in disguise and tries to convince Abraham to cease his worshipful activities but an angel of God, who is with Abraham, identifies Satan and commands him to "depart.".31 This same source also depicts Abraham offering prayer upon his knees and requesting that the Lord "teach" him information he had been "promised" he would receive. During this prayer the patriarch employed the curious threefold petition "El, El, El.".32 [Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, p. 40]
3 Nephi 25:4 Remember Ye the Law of Moses . . . Which I Commanded unto Him in Horeb:
In addressing the Nephites in the Americas, the Savior quoted to them the third and fourth chapters of Malachi (3 Nephi 24-25) concerning the second coming of the Lord. In this context it is interesting that just before mention is made of the work of Elijah (3 Nephi 25:5-6) which work is associated with covenant temple sealings, an exhortation is given to "remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel" (2 Nephi 25:4). One might wonder, How is obedience to the law of Moses associated not only with the coming of Elijah, but with the second coming of the Lord?
According to Matthew Brown, in order to gain a more complete understanding of these verses, it is important to understand that the Israelites who lived during the time of Moses were aware of the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 4:2; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). After Moses had led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, he took them to the foot of Mount Sinai, which was also known as "the mountain of God" (Exodus 3:1; 4:27; 18:5). There the Lord promised them that if they would obey His voice and keep His covenant He would make them "a kingdom of priests" and a holy nation (Exodus 19:1-6).
The Israelites agreed to these stipulations and proceeded to build an altar at which they entered into a covenant to be obedient to divine laws (see Exodus 24:1-8). Following this solemn ceremony, the Lord allowed several Israelite leaders, including "seventy of the elders of Israel," to ascend the mountain and see him from a distance (Exodus 24:1-2, 9-10). After this experience, the Lord revealed the pattern for the tabernacle to Moses (see Exodus 25-31) and directed that it be erected in the camp of the Israelites so that He could "dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8-9; 29:45-46).
But the tabernacle was also built for another purpose. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us that He commanded Moses to build the tabernacle so that He could reveal certain ordinances unto His people (see D&C 124:37-41). Moses "plainly taught" the children of Israel about the need for these ordinances and "sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God" as he had. But unfortunately the Lord's covenant people "hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence" (D&C 84:19-25).33 They became so hardened and rebellious, in fact, that they fashioned and worshipped a golden calf. This act of idolatry was all the more atrocious because it took place right before the holy mountain of God (see Exodus 32:1-8).34
Because of their extremely wicked behavior, Moses took the stone tablets, whereon God himself had written the laws of the covenant, and destroyed them(see Exodus 24:12; 32:15-16, 19). Some biblical interpreters feel that this action signified that the covenant had been broken. These tablets had contained "the words of the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood" that would have made it possible for the children of Israel to enter into the Lord's presence (JST Deuteronomy 10:2). It is from the Joseph Smith Translation that we learn what happened next.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.
But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage. Therefore do as I have commanded thee, and be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai. (JST Exodus 34:1-2; emphasis added)
This remarkable restoration of scripture, and the Prophet's assertion that the "law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel,"35 finds support in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Zohar, for instance, we read that the first set of stone tablets given to Moses "emanated from the tree of life" but the second set "came from the side of the tree of good and evil." And according to Jewish kabalah, the first tablets "were the light and doctrine of the Messiah, the outpouring of universal deliverance, the source of eternal life on earth" while the second pair "represented the indirect or 'fragmented' manifestation of this light."36
Because the children of Israel chose to be "lawless and disobedient" and to believe in precepts that were "contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:9-10), the Lord "added" the Law of Moses unto the gospel as a strict "schoolmaster"37 to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah (JST Galatians 3:19-20, 24). At that time the Savior would once again invite all Israel to participate in the ordinances of the temple and thereby qualify to enter into the presence of the Lord.38 [Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, pp. 58-59] [See the commentary on Jacob 4:4-5]
3 Nephi 25:4 Horeb:
We find in the words of Malachi, which the Savior gave to the Nephites, a charge to "remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel" (3 Nephi 25:4). The reader should note that Mt Sinai is also called Horeb in the Old Testament. The Israelites reached Sinai in the 3rd month after their departure from Egypt (Exodus 19:1), and camped at its foot on a plain from which the top was visible (Exodus 19:16,18,20). The Lord revealed himself to Moses on this mountain . . . The covenant made here between God and the people played a major role in binding the tribes together and molding them into one nation serving one God.
The location of this mountain is uncertain. . . . Tradition and most of the modern scholars accept Jebel Musa as Mt Sinai. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pp. 1460-61] [However, see the commentary on 1 Nephi 4:2]
3 Nephi 25:4 Horeb (Illustration): (1) The Sinai Peninsula (2) The granite summit of Jebel Musa, the most probable location of Mt. Sinai. [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 1460]
3 Nephi 25:4-5 Moses . . . Elijah:
We find the following in the words of Malachi, which Jesus gave to the Nephites: "Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (3 Nephi 25:4-5). With this in mind, it is interesting that in 1 Nephi 21:11, Isaiah prophesies that in the last days, the Lord will gather his people to Zion: "And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highway shall be exalted" (Isaiah 49:11). According to Richard Anthony, this "mountain" set up by the Lord is through the tribe of Joseph, and constitutes the "way" God will redeem his people (D&C 133:18:34). The "highway" of the Lord leads to the "mountain of the Lord's house." It was Moses (3 Nephi 25:4), of the loins of Joseph, who delivered the keys of this gathering, or the keys of this highway, to Joseph Smith, who was also of the loins of Joseph, on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland temple (D&C 110:11). It is a subject of great meditation, that this temple in Kirtland was built basically as a house where these keys could be restored, and instruction in their use could take place. The Kirtland temple was different in purpose than other Latter-day temples.
It is in the temple, or "mountain" or "high place," that sealing powers are exercised. These sealing powers, or the keys of these sealing powers were held anciently by Elijah, the Tishbite, or prophet from Tishbe. The town of Tishbe was located in the lands assigned to and settled by the tribe of Manasseh. It was this same Elijah (3 Nephi 25:5), also a descendant of Joseph, who delivered these keys to Joseph Smith on April 3, 1836 in the "mountain" of the Lord's house, and made a "way" for the children of Israel, here and in the spirit world, to be "exalted." [Richard D. Anthony, Isaiah & Joseph, pp. 64-65, unpublished] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 7; 3 Nephi 24:1]
3 Nephi 25:4-5 Elijah:
According to Andrew Skinner, Jews regard the prophet Elijah as the "messenger of the covenant" (Malachi 3:1), and a chair is to be provided for him at circumcision ceremonies. This belief is based on rabbinic reasoning as may be found in passages like one from the medieval text entitled Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer:
The sages have instituted the custom that people should have a seat of honor for the messenger of the covenant, for Elijah, may he be remembered for good, is called the messenger of the covenant, as it is said, And the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in, behold he comes (Malachi 3:1).39
Jews also regard Elijah as the forerunner of the Messiah or Messianic age, and a seat is again provided for him at the Passover Seder table, along with a cup of wine--the cup of Elijah. The words of the Passover Haggadah importune God to send the prophet and, thus salvation: "May the Compassionate One send us Elijah the Prophet of blessed memory, to bring us good tidings of sympathy and salvation."40 (These words are part of the Grace after Meals recited after every formal meal by traditional Jews.)
One popular Haggadah suggests the following:
This is the cup of Elijah the Prophet, for our legends tell us that Elijah enters every house where a Seder is taking place. Why Elijah? Of all our Biblical Prophets, it is Elijah who became the kindly mediator between Heaven and Earth [see the video reference below]. The Bible stories tell us of a fiery chariot sent to carry him up to Heaven. And from Heaven, he was to return to help prepare mankind for the dreamed-of time of the coming of the Messiah, the time of judgment and redemption. The prophet Malachi foretold this about Elijah, when he said,
Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord, And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers.41
Text and tradition show us that the Jewish people believe that Elijah is both the messenger of the covenant and the forerunner of the Messiah. These two propositions are grounded ultimately in the Torah--specifically Malachi's prophecies. The former belief relies on Malachi 3:1, while the latter on Malachi 4:5-6, part of which was just quoted in the Haggadah excerpt. But what is also true, though perhaps not emphasized as much, is that both beliefs are inextricably tied to the temple. According to the complete texts of Malachi, the messenger Elijah--the keeper of the covenant in Jewish belief--is sent as a preparer so that the Lord-Messiah, who is continually sought after, may come to his temple. The full texts of Malachi 3:1, followed by Malachi 4:5-6, read:
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. . . .
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse [emphasis added].
The connection between Elijah, the Messiah, and the temple is implied in Leo Trepp's explanation of the progression of the Seder service as it encompasses for its participants past, present, and future aspects of Passover.
The Future enters. A child opens the door, a welcome for Elijah. By this time, tired and a little drowsy, the child may actually feel him, coming in and taking a drop of the wine from his cup; did you not notice the ripples? . . . The door is closed again, and Psalms are recited: Praise the Lord for He is good, His goodness endureth forever. The hymn whose tune became the theme song for Pessah is sung: God of Might build up Thy Temple soon.42
It is very interesting that in the LDS canon of scripture--the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, only the words of Malachi 4:5-6 are to be found quoted in all the books. LDS doctrine is built upon the idea, among others, that Elijah is indeed a messenger of the Lord's covenant, the keeper of the powers of the fullness of the priesthood, and the forerunner of the Messiah. Not only did the Lord say to Joseph Smith that he was going to reveal the priesthood through Elijah the Prophet (D&C 35:4), he declared that Elijah possessed the power to direct the efforts of turning the hearts of the children and fathers to each other (D&^C 27:9). On 27 March 1836 the Latter-day Saints dedicated their first temple in Kirtland, Ohio. One week later on 3 April 1836--the second day of Passover that year--Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith in the temple (see D&C 110). Thus the concept of Elijah links the Latter-day Saints with the authority of past prophets and sages in ancient Israel, with the temples, with the Abrahamic covenant and the promises made to future generations through that covenant, including:
1. the promise that Abraham (his posterity in other words) would be become a great nation (Genesis 12:2)
2. the promise that through him all families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3),
3. the promise that Abraham's descendants would inherit designated lands (Genesis 13:14-15),
4. the promise that Abraham's descendants were to become as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 13:16; 15:5),
5. the promise that kings and nations would come from his posterity (Genesis 17:6),
6. the promise that the covenant between Abraham and Jehovah would be everlasting (Genesis 17:7).
One Latter-day Saint Church leader, whose doctrinal explications carry considerable weight in the LDS Church, has said of the covenant of Abraham:
These same promises were made to Isaac and to Jacob and to their posterity after him. They are "the promises made to the fathers," which by the hand of Elijah the prophet, have been planted in "the hearts of the children." (D&C 2:1-3) These are the promises that make us "the children of the covenant, the covenant made with our fathers, the covenant into which we are privileged to enter, the covenant of eternal life, of eternal lives, of a continuation of the seeds forever and ever." And in order to fulfill this covenant, Jehovah promised to gather Israel. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah--Book 4, pp. 338-39)43
When he is married in the Temple for time and for all eternity, each worthy member of the Church enters personally into the same covenants the Lord made with Abraham. This is the occasion when the promises of eternal increase are made, and it is then specified that those who keep the covenant made there shall be inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 508)44
[Andrew C. Skinner, "Inextricable Link between Temple, Covenant, and Chosenness," in Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism, pp. 80-84] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 22:9; Helaman 8:18; 3 Nephi 20:25, 20:27, 25:4-5; Mormon 5:20; Ether 13:11]
3 Nephi 25:4-5 Elijah (Video): John A. Tvedtnes, "Elijah and the Priests of Baal," FARMS, 2001.