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1 Nephi 20

Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land

     (1 Nephi )


1 Nephi 20-21 (Translation of the Isaiah Passages):


     Through exhaustive Book of Mormon manuscript comparison, Royal Skousen has been able to piece together some of the probable interactions which took place between Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery in bringing forth the Book of Mormon. By comparing the 1829 Book of Mormon manuscripts with the Isaiah chapters in the King James Version of the Bible, Skousen has been able to generate the following interesting findings:


     1. The base text for the Isaiah quotations in the Book of Mormon is indeed the King James Version of the Bible.


     Skousen notes that Andrew Stewart, a student in his 1991 course on textual criticism of the Book of Mormon, identified unique readings in the various early English Bibles (including the King James Version); he then compared those readings with the Book of Mormon text. Not surprisingly, in every case except one Stewart found that the Book of Mormon agreed with the unique readings in the King James Version.536 But the one exception, 2 Nephi 12:16, is very interesting. [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 12:16]


     2. The original manuscript for the biblical quotes shows that the text was dictated by Joseph Smith; no physical copy was given to Oliver Cowdery to copy from.


     This conclusion can be seen when we examine Oliver Cowdery's spellings in the Isaiah portions of the original manuscript. Here we find the normal spelling variants that Oliver used when writing down other portions of the Book of Mormon.


     3. The original Book of Mormon chapter divisions of the Isaiah quotations follow a larger thematic grouping, not the interruptive chapter system found in the King James Bible.


     Although the current LDS chapter system in the Book of Mormon does agree with the King James chapter system, this has only been true since 1879, when Orson Pratt divided up the original Book of Mormon chapters to facilitate the versification of the text.


     4. The majority of differences between the Book of Mormon text and the Isaiah text are not associated with italicized words in the King James Version.


     Stan Larson, along with others, have claimed that Joseph Smith used a copy of the King James Bible to produce the biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon.537 Larson has also argued that Joseph Smith knew what the italics in the King James Version meant; namely, that the italicized words had been added by the translators of the King James Bible and could therefore be altered.538 Yet it is doubtful whether Joseph Smith would have even known what the italics meant, especially since no explanation for their use is ever given in the King James Bible. This use of italics originated with the Geneva Bible, which did explain its purpose.539 . . . In a recent study by Skousen, he found that 71 percent of the differences between the Book of Mormon text and the King James text are unrelated to italics and must be explained in terms of other factors. Moreover, the majority (62 percent) of italicized words are unchanged in the Book of Mormon. If the italicized words have an effect, they do not explain very much.


     5. Corrections in the original manuscript give very little evidence for the hypothesis that Joseph Smith altered the text while he supposedly read it off from a King James Bible.


     Stan Larson has argued that we can find evidence for this hypothesis by identifying examples where Joseph Smith first dictated the King James text540 and then made changes away from that text. . . . Skousen notes that surprisingly, there are very few potential examples of Joseph Smith's changing his mind, not only in the Isaiah passages but throughout the extant portions of the original manuscript.


[Royal Skousen, "Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 369-390]


1 Nephi 20-21 (Isaiah):


     According to Cleon Skousen, it should be kept in mind that Isaiah lived just a century before the Lehi colony left Jerusalem. Isaiah was therefore one of the most impressive authorities which Lehi, Nephi or Jacob could quote to their own people in order to prove a scriptural point. . . .

     Writing from around 750-696 B.C., Isaiah predicted the future of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Moab, Phoenicia and Syria. He told what would happen to the Ten Tribes of Israel, and later to the Jews and the Levites. He used one whole chapter to describe the life, death and ultimate victory of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53). He knew that Jehovah of the Old Testament was not the Father but the pre-mortal spirit of the Messiah who was to come. . . .

     We know Isaiah was married and had two sons whose names were given by revelation as prophetic symbols (see Isaiah 8:3,18). The scriptures indicate that Isaiah's wife was a noble woman of deep spirituality who held the distinction of being called a "prophetess" (Isaiah 8:3).

     Scripture does not tell us how long Isaiah lived, but according to Justin Martyr, writing around A.D. 150 . . . Isaiah died by being "sawed asunder with a wooden saw!" (See Dummelow's Bible Commentary, p. 409). [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 1271-1277]


1 Nephi 20-21 (Isaiah):


     According to Cleon Skousen, there are probably four reasons why Isaiah is a genuine challenge to the modern reader. In the first place, Isaiah, like all the prophets, was under certain divine restrictions. It is obvious in many places that he was deliberately obscure.

     The second factor which makes Isaiah difficult to read is his extremely advanced skill in the art of literary expression. Isaiah was not exaggerating when he said, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary" (Isaiah 50:4). But it was this "tongue of the learned" which makes complex eloquence so difficult to translate into another language. . . .

     A third ingredient of difficulty in the writings of this prophet was his tendency to identify kingdoms and nationalities who would be God's enemies in the latter days with kingdoms and nationalities who were God's enemies in Isaiah's days! . . .

     The fourth and final difficulty was the essence of Isaiah's own mind. Isaiah was quick, sensitive and scintillating. Apparently, his mental muscles flexed themselves by perpetually leaping about with lightning speed. While this was merely an intellectual exercise in psychological gymnastics for Isaiah, it often presents his humble readers with a continuous series of fantastic strides forward, backward, skyward and sideways. . . . [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 1274-1275]


1 Nephi 20-21 (Why Nephi Quotes Isaiah):


     Andrew Skinner notes that the first of the Book of Mormon chapters that quote extensively or entirely from the great prophet Isaiah are 1 Nephi 20-21, in which Nephi quotes Isaiah 48-49 from the brass plates brought from Jerusalem. That Nephi begins his expansive recitations of Isaiah with chapters 48 and 49 and not with other chapters of that prophet's book shows that, as a prophet to his family, to his descendants, and to the Gentiles and Jews of the latter days, Nephi first offers Isaiah's message of hope and redemption in Christ.

     In chapter 19 of 1 Nephi--the chapter immediately preceding his quotations of Isaiah 48 and 49--Nephi teaches the things he deems most sacred, namely, the coming of Christ and Christ's relationship to the house of Israel.

     After quoting to his brothers the testimonies of the prophets Zenock, Neum, and Zenos, Nephi reads to them many things found in the books of Moses, as written on the brass plates. He then does something that, in his view, is even more important:

           But that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. Wherefore I spake unto them, saying . . . hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off. (1 Nephi 19:23-24)


     Nephi then reads chapters 48 and 49 of Isaiah to his little gathering, bearing powerful testimony of Isaiah's ability to do three things:

     1. to help all people believe in the Lord as their ultimate Redeemer (see 1 Nephi 19:23);

     2. to address their personal circumstances (see 1 Nephi 19:24); and

     3. to provide a profound hope in the future for all the house of Israel, including Nephi's own family (see 1 Nephi 19:24).


     These three purposes, then, provide the context for Nephi's first recitation of Isaiah's words. Nephi's concerns give full meaning to and applicability of Isaiah's preexilic prophecies in chapters 48 and 49. Nephi establishes his family on the cutting edge, so to speak, of the scattering of Judah that Isaiah prophesied.

     No chapters in all of scripture teach this faith and hope in Israel's future redemption better than Isaiah 48 and 49. Similarly, no chapters more forcefully address Israel's rebellious hypocrites, including Laman and Lemuel, than do Isaiah 48 and 49. Isaiah's words teach powerfully about the Father's work and the Messiah's mission to redeem and restore the house of Israel first to their lands of promise and, more important, to the presence of the Father. [Andrew C. Skinner, "Nephi's Lessons to His People: The Messiah, the Land, and Isaiah 48-49 in 1 Nephi 19-22," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 95-119]


1 Nephi 20-21 (Why Isaiah 48 and 49?):


     Robert Parsons asks, Why does Nephi quote Isaiah 48 and 49? Having quoted Zenos', Zenock's, and Neum's very plain teachings that Christ will atone for our sins and that salvation is found only in the Son of God, Nephi says he has written these things to persuade his people to remember that God showed the prophets of old all things concerning the Jews and also that God showed many prophets what would befall Lehi's colony in the promised land (1 Nephi 19:20-21). He then says:

           Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things; and it came to pass that I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old.

           And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. (1 Nephi 19:22-23)


     The two chapters which follow, 1 Nephi 20-21 (compare Isaiah 48-49), contain significant differences from the King James text. But when these two chapters do testify of Christ, they do not testify as plainly as Zenos, Zenock, and Neum did. Is it possible that when Nephi says, "but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah," he has in mind that a belief in Christ comes not only through what the scriptures say of him per se, but also by understanding the covenants he has made with Israel and how they will be fulfilled? Certainly the material pertaining to Isaiah 48 and 49, which Nephi now quotes to help his people believe in Christ, deal mostly with the covenants to Israel and their eventual fulfillment. [Robert E. Parsons, "The Prophecies of the Prophets," in The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, pp. 274-275]


1 Nephi 20-21 (The Use of Isaiah):


     According to Clay Gorton, in the ten chiasma that are common to the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon and the King James version, there are found no embellishments or enhancements in the Bible version. However, textual deletions from the King James version have seriously degraded the chiastic structure of four of the chiasma and entirely eliminated a fifth chiasmus. As stated earlier, if Joseph Smith had been an imposter and had copied the Isaiah chapters from the Bible, it is inconceivable that he could have made additions to the text that would have filled in the missing elements in five of the ten chiasma that are common to the two texts.

     On the other hand, the fact that five of the ten common chiasma appear in the King James version in a degraded form clearly demonstrates that the King James version is an altered form of the Brass Plates version of Isaiah that had been copied by Nephi.

     Additionally, when comparing the Isaiah verses in the Book of Mormon with those in the Bible, we find an interesting pattern of additions and deletions to the Bible text. In regard to the Isaiah verses in the Bible, it is difficult to assume that the textual modifications are purely scribal errors (either adding or deleting text to or from the original writing), especially when such additions and deletions in the Bible are predominantly in a direction which tends to justify Israel in its apostate condition. As the uniform bending of trees in a windswept region gives evidence of the direction of the prevailing wind, so does the uniform direction of the altered Isaiah verses give evidence of the specific bias of those who wrote and re-wrote the Bible versions of Isaiah. The prevailing wind of apostate Israel was always:

     A. to justify her in her deceitful actions.

     B. to water down the judgments of God pronounced against her wickedness.

     C. to deflect God's condemnation away from Israel as the guilty party.

     D. to deny or diminish the power of God and the Messiah.

[H. Clay Gorton, The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban, pp. 65,67]


1 Nephi 20-21 (Isaiah--"Borrowed Passages"):


     According to Michael Griffith, numerous anti-Mormons have labored long and hard to show the passages from the Book of Mormon which are quotations or paraphrases of the Bible. The critics believe these "borrowed" passages discredit the Nephite record's authenticity, but such a view displays a profound lack of knowledge of biblical scholarship and of the nature of scripture.

     Rather than discrediting the Book of Mormon, the fact that the Nephite prophets quoted or paraphrased certain parts of the Bible is entirely consistent with the practices of the biblical writers.

     Indeed, some books in the Bible are simply rewritten forms of other biblical books, "done in an effort to make a new point" (Achtemeier 1980:81). For example, the books of Chronicles are largely a recasting of I and II Kings, rewritten for the purpose of accenting the importance of the Temple in Jerusalem, "and in general to claim for Judah priority over the north in religious matters" (Achtemeier 1980:81).

     Large passages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nahum, Obadiah, and Zephaniah are so similar as to appear to have been used interchangeably by their authors as they tried to express the "word of the Lord" to them (Bright; Eiselen, Lewis and Downey 680).

     The New Testament contains hundreds of quotations and paraphrases from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha (Aland 897-920; Bratcher). For example, it has been estimated that 278 of the 404 verses in the book of Revelation contain references of one kind or another to the Old Testament. And yet, the author of Revelation never specifically mentions an Old Testament book, and he seldom quotes verbatim. In fact, Revelation is "interwoven with Old Testament material to a greater extent than any other writing in the New Testament (Stendahl 158-159; cf. Ford 27).

     Moreover, the book of Revelation also contains 182 allusions to other New Testament books (Ford 42-43). The first three chapters alone contain thirty eight allusions, while chapters 20-22 show thirty.

     Portions of Ephesians and Colossians are virtually identical to each other (Vestal and Wallace 37; Barth 556-606). As is quite well known, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are basically expansive rewrites of, or commentaries on, Mark's gospel. Matthew and Luke "not only add material to Mark's general content, but reorder and in some cases recast the Marcan material" (Achtemeier 1980:81). No serious New Testament scholar disputes the fact that Matthew and Luke used Mark as their foundational source.

     Theodor Gaster has identified 140 New Testament verses which either quote from or allude to passages found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (v, 412, 418-420).

     As for the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon, they actually constitute further evidence of the Nephite record's authenticity. It should be remembered that the book of Mormon authors had access to the Brass Plates, which contained the book of Isaiah. LDS scholars like Sidney Sperry and John Tvedtnes have convincingly demonstrated that the Nephite record quotes from an authentic ancient version of Isaiah and that this version is more accurate than the King James Isaiah (Sidney Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, 1967:91-97; John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," in Monte S. Nyman, editor, Isaiah and the Prophets, 1984:165-178; Also The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, 1981.)

     An analysis of the Book of Mormon Isaiah, observes Sperry, shows that it "hews an independent course for itself, as might be expected of a truly ancient and authentic record. It makes additions to the present [King James] text in certain places, omits material in others, transposes, makes grammatical changes, [and] finds support at times for its unusual readings in the ancient Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions . . . " (Sperry, Answers, 1967:97). The Book of Mormon's version of Isaiah is also supported by Isaiah texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Aramaic Targumim.

     It should be pointed out that the versions of Isaiah which support the Nephite Isaiah were either unknown or unavailable to Joseph Smith in his day.

     Some anti-Mormons have suggested that Joseph Smith was acquainted with the Septuagint (LXX), i.e., the Greek Old Testament. However, the prophet did not know Greek, and there is no evidence that he read or studied the Septuagint prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that he did, how would Joseph Smith have known that some of the LXX's Isaiah readings were superior to those in the King James translation? And how would he have known which of the Septuagint's Isaiah readings were better than their counterparts in the KJV? [Michael T. Griffith, Refuting the Critics, pp. 91-92] ] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 3:3; 1 Nephi 13:40; 2 Nephi 3:11; Mormon 7:9; see also Vol. 6, Appendix C]


1 Nephi 20-21 ("Borrowed Passages") [Illustration]: Parallel Passages [George D. Smith, Jr., "Defending the Keystone," in Sunstone, May/June, p. 48]


1 Nephi 20-21 (The Use of Isaiah in Joseph Smith's Time):


     Andrew Hedges has written an excellent article which reviews and discusses the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon as compared with eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century American use and understanding of this biblical prophet. It addresses the question of whether the interpretation of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon was unique, or whether it was a reflection of the time period of America in which Joseph Smith lived.

     Hedges notes that surprisingly enough, despite its own emphases on Israel's covenant with God and the importance of living the spirit of the law, the book of Isaiah played a relatively humble role in early America's religious history. Ministers quoted it far less frequently than they quoted other biblical texts. . . .

     Virtually every minister who turned to the book of Isaiah in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries--with the notable exception of Joseph Smith, as Ann Madsen has shown541--used it as the text of a sermon or to illustrate a particular point. But despite the emphasis early Americans placed on reading the Bible, they used Isaiah almost exclusively as a good quote book. The Nephites, on the other hand, who quoted Isaiah extensively and who took time to develop fully his teachings about Christ, the Lord's covenants with his people, and the future restoration of Israel, used it as a primary source for learning about the history of what the Lord had done for the salvation and redemption of mankind. . . .

     Two biblical commentaries commonly used by American ministers, scholars, and churchgoers in the 1830s were the multivolume sets by Thomas Scott and Adam Clarke. Both works are masterpieces of scholarship . . . Both tackled Isaiah with gusto, and serious students of the Bible no doubt found their discussions of various topics as helpful as we find good commentaries today. By their own admittance, however, portions of Isaiah remained shrouded in mystery and obscurity for these commentators--portions which, interestingly enough, are highly developed in the Book of Mormon. . . .

     A commonly held belief in America during the 1800s, and one that these commentators apparently endorsed, was that, in the words of the Reverend Leonard Woods, "no command or promise, either of the Old Testament or the New, was particularly addressed by the writers to any individual now living."542 . . .

     Although the commentators of Joseph Smith's time seem to have addressed more of Isaiah's themes than did those who confined themselves to writing sermons and theological treatises, it is clear that neither group used the ancient prophet's writings as extensively as they are used in the Book of Mormon. Neither did any early Americans use Isaiah's words with the same interpretive slant that we find in the Nephite record. [Andrew H. Hedges, "Isaiah in America, 1700-1830," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, pp. 391-403]


1 Nephi 20-21 (The Use of Isaiah):


     The following statistical observations concerning the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages and their King James Version counterparts are instructive.

     A. Of the 372 verses in the twenty chapters of Isaiah found in the Book of Mormon, differences are found in 165 verses (44% of the verses).

     B. Thirty-eight percent of the altered verses contain substantive changes (62 verses).

     C. Only one of the 20 Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon contains no differences -- 2 Nephi 21/ Isaiah 11.

     D. 2 Nephi 22 / Isaiah 12 contain only one different word. In verse two the Book of Mormon version records "he also has become my salvation," whereas in the King James version we read "he also is become my salvation." This innocuous change of tense does not alter the meaning of the passage.

     E. A total of 348 textual changes are found in the 165 altered verses.

     F. The differences between the Book of Mormon and King James Isaiah texts are in the form of either additions, deletions, or modifications to the original text of the Book of Mormon translation of the original records. Of these, 28% (104 verses) are additions, 30% (112 verses) are deletions and 42% (156 verses) are modifications.

  [H. Clay Gorton, The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban, p. 32]


1 Nephi 20 (Note* Commentary on Isaiah)


     A simple, yet very effective commentary on the words of the prophet Isaiah, as quoted by Nephi, can be found included (within parenthesis) in the scriptural text of the companion book to this commentary called The Covenant Story (Volume 1). The style used is patterned after David J. Ridges' Isaiah Made Easier, and much of the wording or meaning has been adapted from that text by permission of the author. [See David J. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier / The Book of Revelation Made Easier, 1994]

     For the benefit of the reader, the Isaiah text and commentary from The Covenant Story (1 Nephi 20-21) will be included in this commentary. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


1 Nephi 20 (Isaiah Text & Commentary):


     Chapter 20

     (Compare Isaiah 48)


     The Lord speaks to the House of Israel scattered abroad (or more specifically for Nephi to the tribe of Joseph to which they belong).

     The Duplicity of Ancient Israel


 1 Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob (or the 12 tribes of Israel - more specifically the tribe of Joseph), who are called by the [covenant] name of ISRAEL, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear (or make covenants) by the name of the Lord, and make mention of (or pray to and talk about) the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness (or in other words they claim to be the Lord's people but break covenants and don't live the gospel).

 2 Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city (or they claim to be the Lord's people), but they do not stay themselves (or rely) upon THE GOD OF ISRAEL WHO IS THE LORD OF HOSTS; yea, the Lord of Hosts is his name.


      In the next several verses, Isaiah reminds Israel that there is no lack of obvious evidence that the true God exists.

     From the Beginning, Israel Was Given Proof of the Lord


 3 Behold, I (the Lord) have declared the former things (or prophecies) from the beginning (so you would have plenty of evidence that I exist); and they (the prophecies) went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly (so that you can know I really am your God, and your idols are false).

 4 And I (the Lord) did it because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew (that is, you won't bend your neck in humility), and thy brow brass (that is, it is hard to get anything through your thick skulls);

 5 And I have even from the beginning declared (or prophesied) to thee; before it (or the prophesied events) came to pass I showed them (to) thee; and I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst say--mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them. (Thus, I have shown you my power through prophecies so you couldn't claim your idols have power.)

 6 Thou hast seen and heard all this (or these obvious evidences that I exist); and will ye not declare (or acknowledge) them? And that I have showed thee new things (or things that you couldn't possibly have known in advance) from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them (or you didn't pay attention to them).

 7 They (the prophesied events) are created now (or happening now), and not from the beginning (that is, nobody could have guessed the fulfillment of these prophesied events back in the beginning when the prophecies were given), even before the day when thou heardest them not (or even back when there was no clue that the prophesied events would take place) they were declared unto thee, lest thou shouldst say--Behold I knew them.

 8 Yea, and thou heardest not (or in other words, you ignored the prophecies); yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear was not opened (or in essence, from the beginning you not only failed to understand, but refused to listen); for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously (that is, I knew you Israelites would be trouble), and wast called a transgressor from the womb. (In other words, you would be rebellious from your infancy)


     The Lord Will Purify Israel with Affliction


 9 Nevertheless, for my [covenant] name's sake (or because I am called the God of Israel) will I defer mine anger, and for my praise (or that I might merit your honor) will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off. (Thus, I will not destroy Israel - or the tribe of Joseph - completely)

 10 For, behold, I have refined thee (Israel), I have chosen thee (or I will make thee) in the furnace of affliction. (In other words, I will purify you in the refiner's fire).

 11 For mine own sake (or because I love you), yea, for mine own sake will I do this (this refining and purifying), for I will not suffer my name to be polluted (that is, I will not allow my covenant name or Priesthood--Abr. 1:18-- to be made unholy by not keeping my own covenant promises), and I will not give my glory unto another (Thus, I will remain true to the covenants I have made with you).


     The Lord Governs All Things

      The Lord Has Always Spoken to Israel by Covenant


 12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called (or to whom I have given a covenant calling), for I AM HE (your Jehovah, your Christ, your Messiah); I am THE FIRST, and I am also THE LAST (I am the Firstborn, and the Eternal God)

 13 Mine hand hath also laid the foundation of the earth (I am the Creator), and my right hand (or covenant hand) hath spanned (or governed) the heavens. (And I have done this through the covenant power of the Priesthood) --- [and by that power] I call unto them (or unto the house of Israel) and they stand up together. (Therefore, Israel - stand up and listen!)

 14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; who among them (or who among Israel's idols) hath declared these things (these prophecies) unto them (or unto Israel)? The Lord hath loved him (or Israel); yea, and he (the Lord) will fulfill his word which he hath declared by them; and he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall come upon the CHALDEANS (specifically the learned people of southern Babylonia--but meaning also all the people of Babylonia). (In other words, these powerful people, who symbolize all those who are temporally and spiritually depraved, will be destroyed.)

 15 Also, saith the Lord; I the Lord, yea, I have spoken; yea, I have called him (my covenant servant) to declare (or to declare Me--the Lord), I have brought him (my servant), and he shall make his (or Israel's) way prosperous (or in other words, Israel will be helped by Me).

 16 Come ye (Israel) near unto me (for I am the Lord's servant); I have not spoken in secret; from the beginning, from the time that it (the gospel covenant) was declared have I (the Lord's servant) spoken; and the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me.

 17 And thus saith THE LORD THY REDEEMER (Christ), THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL; I have sent him (my servant). THE LORD THY GOD WHO TEACHETH THEE TO PROFIT (or benefit by the message), WHO LEADETH THEE BY THE WAY THOU SHOULDST GO, hath done it.


     Obedience to the Lord's Servant Brings Peace


 18 O that thou (Israel - also Laman and Lemuel) hadst hearkened to my commandments--then had thy peace been as a river (that is, remember what Lehi said to Laman when he named the river Laman - that through Christ you could have peace flowing constantly into your life), and [if thou hadst hearkened] thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. (Moreover, thy righteousness would be constant - something that you Laman & Lemuel have not exhibited thus far in our journey to the promised land)

 19 Thy seed also had been (or would have been) as the sand; the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel (or grains of sand) thereof (In other words, you would have the same covenant blessings promised to father Abraham and Jacob); his (Jacob's--Israel's) name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me. (That is, the house of Israel could have had it very good, and avoided such great destruction.)

 20 Go ye forth of Babylon (that is, Stop following wicked Babylon!), flee ye from the Chaldeans (or from unrighteousness). With a voice of singing declare ye (that is, declare my servants message through obedience, which will bring about happiness and joy worthy of song). Tell this [message], utter to the end of the earth (or to all men); say ye: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob (that is, Israel - including Laman and Lemuel - can be saved if they will repent and obey the Lord's servant).

 21 And they (the children of Israel who were brought out of bondage in Egypt) thirsted not; he (or the Lord's servant) led them through the deserts; he (the Lord's servant) caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed out. (Just look what the Lord has done for those who trust in him!)

 22 And notwithstanding he (or the Lord's servant) hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.

[Alan C. Miner, Step by Step through the Book of Mormon: The Covenant Story, Vol. 1. Adapted from David J. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier / The Book of Revelation Made Easier, 1994]


1 Nephi 20 (Isaiah 48):


     David Ridges explains that every verse in 1 Nephi 20 reads differently than in Isaiah 48 in the Bible. This might seem odd since Nephi lived just 100 years after Isaiah, which puts him much closer to the original records containing Isaiah's writings, including the brass plates. [David J. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, p. 117]


1 Nephi 20:1 Hear This, O House of Jacob, Who Are Called by the Name of Israel:


     In 2 Nephi 20:1 we find the following:

           Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness.


     According to Amy Hardison, anciently when one made a covenant, one received a new name. Perhaps the greatest of all covenant blessings is expressed in Isaiah 43:1 in the promise given to covenant Israel: "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine." Jacob is one of the covenant fathers with whom God established, or reestablished, the Abrahamic covenant, and "Israel" is Jacob's covenant name.

     When we enter into Christ's church by covenant, we receive the name of Christ. In ancient times, a name was more than an identifying label. Your name was your essence, what you were all about, your identity rather than just your identification."543 Thus, to take on Christ's name is both a privilege and an obligation. [Amy Blake Hardison, "Being a Covenant People," in Covenants Prophecies and Hymns of the Old Testament, pp. 31-32]


1 Nephi 20:1 Or out of the Waters of Baptism:


     The phrase "or out of the waters of baptism" (1 Nephi 20:1) first appeared in the 1840 and 1842 editions of the Book of Mormon. It did not appear again until the 1920 edition, and it has been in all editions since that time. According to McConkie and Millet, it appears to be a prophetic commentary by Joseph Smith to explain the meaning of the phrase "out of the waters of Judah." Such editorial comments by modern rules of [style] would be identified by the use of brackets. If this phrase were a restoration of the original text, as found in the more pure version on the brass plates from which it comes, it would have appeared in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, and we would also expect to find it in the Joseph Smith Translation of Isaiah 48:1, but we do not.

     Through the use of this phrase, Joseph Smith is calling our attention to the fact that the ordinance of baptism was as common to the people of the Old Testament as it was to the people of the Book of Mormon. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 151-152] [For information on the practice of baptism in O.T. times, see the commentary on 2 Nephi 31:6]


1 Nephi 20:2 Nevertheless, They Call Themselves of the Holy City:


     The phrase "Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts" in 1 Nephi 20:2 is changed in the King James Isaiah 48:2 to "For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel." This change from negative to positive removes the condemning implications of the verse and declares that Israel depends on the Lord.

     Continuing through verse 8 of 1 Nephi 20, the Lord declares to obstinate Israel that he had advised them in advance of the miraculous works that he performed among them so that they would not be able to attribute those works to the idols they had made. By subtle changes made to verses 6 and 7 in the King James version, the clear intent of the passage has been obscured, making Israel less accountable for her idolatry. [H. Clay Gorton, The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban, p. 68]


1 Nephi 20:10 I Have Refined Thee, I Have Chosen Thee in the Furnace of Affliction:


     In 1 Nephi 20:10 there is a discrepancy between the King James Version and the Book of Mormon. Isaiah 48:10 of the King James Version reads, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. The King James Version phrase "but not with silver" is not found in the Book of Mormon. Victor Ludlow comments that this phrase disrupts the flow of the verse so badly that many commentators have said that its "meaning is obscure," that it has "defeated all commentators up to the present," and that it was probably "altered by a scribe who took the meaning to be 'I have not sold thee for money.'" . . . Perhaps this verse is an example of a "gloss," an addition made by a later scribe in order to clarify the verse as he understood it. If so, the gloss was assuredly written after 600 B.C. when the Brass Plates of Laban were taken from Jerusalem, because the phrase is not quoted in the Book of Mormon version of this verse. [Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, p. 404]


1 Nephi 20:11 I Will Not Suffer:


     Although roughly 150 pages (or portions of pages) of the Original Manuscript have been preserved, the handcopied 464-page Printer's Manuscript is in the possession of the RLDS Church in Independence, Missouri. According to Stan Larson, these manuscripts are of great value because, for the most part, they substantiate the correctness of the present Book of Mormon text--fully 99.9% of the text is published correctly.

     In Larson's view, the Original Manuscript is a remarkably "clean" document with no major deletions, additions, or revisions of the text. One of the minor corrections, however, is interesting because it involves the only major Biblical passages to be found in the surviving parts of the Original Manuscript (chapters twenty and twenty-one of 1 Nephi). Generally speaking, these biblical passages are in the wording of the King James Version. However, at 1 Nephi 20:11 some of the wording has been revised as follows:

        I will not

     "how should I suffer my [name] to be polluted"


     In light of this correction, Larson contends that:

           "Scribal corrections in the manuscripts reveal efforts by Joseph Smith at the time of the original translation to clarify or restate a thought, indicating his intimate involvement in the process . . . After following the wording of the King James Version Joseph Smith apparently decided that it needed improvement."

[Stan Larson, "Textual Variants in Book of Mormon Manuscripts," from Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 10 (Autumn 1977): 8-30] [For other variants, see the commentary on Alma 62:27; Helaman 16:7; Mormon 8:10; and Ether 1:41]

     In regards to Joseph Smith's translation process and the many Biblical passages which appear word for word (and also with changes) in the Book of Mormon, B.H. Roberts has written the following:

           How can the strange fact be accounted for, viz., that the translation in the Book of Mormon corresponding to Isaiah, Malachi and the words of the Savior, are in the language of King James' translation? . . . [or in other words], since Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of the Urim and Thummim, why is it that he did not give throughout a translation direct from the Nephite plates, instead of following our English Bible, since translation by means of the Urim and Thummim must have been so simple and so easy?

           It is at this particular point where, in my opinion, a very great mistake is made, both by our own people, and our friends in the world. That is, translation by the Urim and Thummim is not so simple and easy a thing as it might at first glance appear. Many have supposed that the Prophet Joseph had merely to look into the Urim and Thummim, and there see, without any thought or effort on his part, both the Nephite characters and the translation in English. In other words, the instrument did everything and the Prophet nothing, except merely to look in the Urim and Thummim as one might look into a mirror, and then give out what he saw there. Such a view of the work of translation by Urim and Thummim, I believe to be altogether incorrect. I think it caused the Prophet the exercise of all his intellectual and spiritual forces to obtain the translation; that it was an exhausting work, which taxed even his great powers to their uttermost limit; and hence, when he could ease himself of those labors by adopting a reasonably good translation already existing, I think he was justified in doing so. . . .

           [But] how are the differences to be accounted for? They unquestionably arise from the fact that the Prophet compared the King James' translation with the parallel passages in the Nephite records, and when he found the sense of the passage on the Nephite plates superior to that in the English version he made such changes as would give the superior sense and clearness. This view is sustained by the fact of uniform superiority of the Book of Mormon version wherever such differences occur. It is also a significant fact that these changes occur quite generally in the case of supplied words of the English translators, and which in order to indicate that they are supplied words, are printed in Italics. . . .

           Whether [these answers] will be altogether satisfactory or not, this I would suggest to you: consider more especially the positive testimony that exists for the truth of the Book of Mormon, particularly following the injunction of Moroni, in chapter ten, verses four and five of his book, wherein he makes the promise that those who will ask God the Eternal Father for a testimony of the truth of the Nephite record, shall receive such a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost; "and by the power of the Holy Ghost," as Moroni teaches us, "we may know the truth of all things." [B.H. Roberts, "Bible Quotations in the Book of Mormon: And Reasonableness of Nephi's Prophecies," Improvement Era, 7 (January 1904): 179-196, reprinted by F.A.R.M.S.]


1 Nephi 20:18 Then had thy peace been as a river (Illustration): The Jordan River, just south of the Sea of Galilee. The Jordan River was an important water system in the Holy Land that still serves the needs of the communities in the region. Photograph by Justin Craig. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 67]


1 Nephi 20:18 Thy righteousness as the waves of the sea (Illustration): A view of the Mediterranean Sea coast, near ancient Joppa. Both Isaiah and Lehi liken bodies of water to persons. Lehi says to Laman, "O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!" (1 Nephi 2:9). Isaiah writes: "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river" (Isaiah 48:18). Photograph by Mindy Anderson. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, pp. 66-67]