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Mosiah 15


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 15:1 I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people (Illustration): Isaiah's Vision of Christ [Robert T. Barrett, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 8]



Mosiah 15:1 I would that ye should understand (Illustration): "Outlines of Passages Quoting Isaiah," [John Gee, "Choose the Things That Please Me": On the Selection of the Isaiah Sections in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, p. 76]

     Note* When Nephite prophets quoted Isaiah, they followed a regular pattern. The pattern they used in citing and interpreting Isaiah in the Book of Mormon may be standardized as follows:

     A. Introduction

     B. Citation of a passage of scripture

     C. Quotation of parts of the text and interpretation of the passage by explaining and defining terms

     D. Conclusion by quoting the closing verses of the section.


Mosiah 15:2 Being the Father and the Son:


     According to Avraham Gileadi, the idea of Israel's suzerain or Lord [Jehovah] assuming vassal or servant status in order to answer to his suzerain [God the Father] for his people's rebelliousness introduces the concept of a God higher than Israel's God. That is, Jehovah, the God of Israel, is a "Son" to God the "Father" (3 Nephi 11:7,11,32; compare 15:4-5). That concept does not appear explicitly in the Old Testament. Many Jews, therefore, insist that God is but "one" (Hebrew ehad; Deuteronomy 6:4); other than the Lord, they assume, no God exists (see Isaiah 44:6,8; 45:21-22). However, the idea of "the Father" and "the Son" makes perfect sense in light of ancient Near Eastern suzerain (Lord)--vassal (servant) covenant relationships.

     Abinadi (and every prophet who teaches God's redemption of humanity) here enlightens us. Abinadi says that God, who redeems his people, is both "the Father and the Son" (Mosiah 15:1-3; compare Alma 11;38-39; Ether 3:14). That abstruse statement seems at first glance to contradict the careful distinction between the Father and the Son that other scriptures teach. But when viewed from the ancient Near Eastern suzerain (lord)--vassal (servant) covenant relationship, we gain insight on how the Lord can serve as a suzerain or Father to his people Israel, but also can serve as a vassal or Son to his Father or suzerain. To Israel, the Lord is Father, and they become his sons or vassals. To God the Father, the Lord is the Son, subjecting his will to the Father in order to merit Israel's salvation (Mosiah 15:2,7).

     Moreover, as the literal and loyal Son of a divine Father--as the Son of a righteous [covenant suzerain "Father"]--the Lord is not subject to death unless he himself consents to die (See the type of Isaac's consenting to let Abraham sacrifice him--Genesis 22:9) Even if he does die, the Father must come to the aid of his vassal and deliver his Son from death. In ancient Near Eastern literatures there is the concept of the god who dies only to revive and assume the throne of a senior deity.153 Thus "God breaketh he bands of death . . . giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men" (Mosiah 15:8). What the Father does for the Son, the Son does for his sons and daughters: when "the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead . . . he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead" (Mosiah 15:20).

     Moreover, the moment one introduces the idea of the Father and the Son, one also introduces the concept of spiritual progression. That constitutes as much a part of the "good news," or gospel, as does redemption from death itself (see Mosiah 15:10-19). Inherent in a Father/suzerain--Son/vassal relationship with God is the assuming of divine attributes--becoming God-like. . . . [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 239-240]


Mosiah 15:7 Yea, Even So He [the Lord] Shall Be . . . Crucified:


     According to Cleon Skousen, early critics of the Book of Mormon thought the Old Testament prophets could not have known that Jesus would die on a Roman cross since death by crucifixion was not supposed to have been known before the Romans. These critics counted it a serious error that Book of Mormon prophets would pretend to know how Jesus would die. However, as Dr. Hugh Nibley has pointed out, it is now known that the symbol of the cross as the means by which the Savior would die has been found in the literature of ancient times. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, p. 2132]


Mosiah 15:7 He Shall Be Led, Crucified, and Slain:


     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that the ancient Americans apparently knew of the crucifixion. According to the finding and conclusions of scholars, the ancient Americans believed that Quetzalcoatl died for the sins of man. They believed their great white god had been whipped and hung from a pole. This is especially convincing (since it does not mention the cross) for those who may argue that the Catholic religion, which came with the first explorers, influenced ancient American legend and folklore. The crucifix was an indispensable token of Catholic regalia and architecture. The ancient Americans said that their god had been lashed and placed on a timber with his arms stretched out. Las Casas, the Mesoamerican historian, called him Baca, the son.154

     Quetzalcoatl gave the ancient Americans the cross--telling them that he was lifted up on it at his death. It was also said to be a symbolic representation of the tree of Life. (Warren and Ferguson, the Messiah in Ancient America, pp. 77-84)155 Figure 1 below shows a collection of crosses from Mesoamerica.156 [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. 56-57] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 10:5, 1 Nephi 19:10]


Mosiah 15:7 He shall be led, crucified, and slain [Illustration]: Figure 1. Mesoamerican crosses: No. 1 is a serpent cross; No. 2, cross shown on Quetzalcoatl's tunic; No. 3, cross from Mayapan, Yucatan; No. 4, cross of Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) with Symbol of Life at the top; No. 5, cross from the tablet of the Foliated Cross Temple at Palenque, Chiapas; No. 6, cross and Tree of Life from Yaxchilan, Guatemala, with serpent-like tail feathers extending from the tail of the bird at the top of the cross; No. 7, tree and cross from the Tablet of the Cross at Palenque, Chiapas. [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, p. 57]


Mosiah 15:10 Who Shall Declare His Generation:


     Abinadi cries out, "Who shall declare his generation? He then answers his own question: "Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed" (Mosiah 15:10).

     According to Ann Madsen, the cultural reference here to "declaring a generation" may be to the descendants of a man, whose sons declare his generation. Jewish tradition is heavy with the idea that a son must somehow speak for his father after his death. There is a formal ceremony at the grave one year after the father's death in which the son speaks a formulaic prayer in his father's behalf, thus "declaring his generation" and the continuance of "his seed." At this point Abinadi asks--and answers--a question not covered in Isaiah 53: "Who shall be his seed?" [Ann Madsen, "'What Meaneth the Words That Are Written?': Abinadi Interprets Isaiah," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, Num. 1, 2001, p. 11]


Mosiah 15:12 These Are They Whose Sins [Christ] Has Borne:


     Allen & David Richardson and Anthony Bentley note that the Book of Mormon was written by prophets who were conversant with Hebrew customs and language (1 Nephi 1:2). Part of the Hebrew language was a style of writing called "prophetic perfect." In the prophetic perfect style of writing, the prophet who speaks of the future describes the event as if it had already occurred. For example, "But behold I have obtained a land of promise" (spoken by Lehi while in the wilderness Valley of Lemuel before they left on their journey, 1 Nephi 5:5); "After [Christ] was baptized with water, the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove" (spoken by Nephi approximately 550 years before Christ's birth, 1 Nephi 31:8); "These are they whose sins [Christ] has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions" (spoken by Abinadi approximately 150 years before Christ's birth, Mosiah 15:12).

     Angela Crowell noted the following in her article entitled "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon":

           The Prophetic Perfect is a common usage in the language of the prophets. The prophet so transports his mind ahead that he describes a future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him. This happens in making promises or threats, and also in the language of contracts.157


[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson, and Anthony E. Bentley, Voice from the Dust-500 Evidences Supporting the Book of Mormon, p. 268] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:5]


Mosiah 15:15 O How Beautiful upon the Mountain Were Their Feet:


     In Mosiah 15:15 we find the words, "And O how beautiful upon the mountain were their feet!" Why the feet? According to Hugh Nibley, it's the feet that bring the message. . . . In mythology whenever a messenger like Hermes received a message, immediately upon receiving the message--without any delay--to his feet he bound his beautiful slippers (Kala pedila is beautiful feet). So we have the stock phrase from Homer, those beautiful lines. "They were immortal, they were golden which bore him over the seas, or over the endless expanse of the earth like a wind." His sandals are always represented as having wings. It's the winged messenger, the messenger that comes to the door, the postman who brings the good news. So it's the feet that you hail--"How beautiful are the feet of him upon the mountainside"--because he is the messenger. . . . He [the Savior] has redeemed his people. What a message! The poetic and romantic parts of the Old Testament are culturally aligned to the Mediterranean Minoan zone; they use that business of the feet, "How beautiful are the feet," which means "How beautiful is the one who brings the message." Without the feet he would never deliver the message. He doesn't need his hands. He could hold it in his mouth, but he has to have feet to deliver it. Well, we won't split hairs over that. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 88]


Mosiah 15:18 O How Beautiful upon the Mountains Are the Feet of Him That Bringeth Good Tidings:


     Hugh Nibley comments, "Why would help come from the mountains? That is explained very well in those wonderful verses of Isaiah which the prophet Abinadi uses so effectively, Isaiah 52:7 . . . "How beautiful upon the mountainside are the feet of him who brings good tidings'--literally, are the legs of the runner who brings good news and who causes us to hear that there is peace. . . . Abinadi is announcing that from the other side of the mountain, from the other world comes the good news. This is revelation. It's the welcome messenger from the other world, the angel who brings us the gospel--who brings us the message of salvation, who brings us the message of peace, which you don't find on this side of the mountain" ("The Mountain of the Lord's House," lecture 16 of Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price [series of videotaped lectures from a 1986 honors class at Brigham Young University on the Pearl of great Price], transcript pp. 8-9).

[Quoted in Ann Madsen, "'What Meaneth the Words That Are Written?': Abinadi Interprets Isaiah," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, Num. 1, 2001, n. 13, p. 78]


Mosiah 15:20-23 Christ--for So Shall He Be Called (Chiasmus):


     According to Donald Parry, parallelism is universally recognized as the characteristic feature of biblical Hebrew poetry. Chiasmus is a form of inverted parallelism in which the important words or ideas are conveyed in the pattern A-B-C-D-D-C-B-A. . . . A good example is found in Mosiah 15:20-23:

     19. For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.

A But behold, the bands of death

  B shall be broken.

    C and the Son reigneth,

      D and hath power over the dead;

        E therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.

          F And there cometh a resurrection,

            G even a first resurrection;

              H yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be,

                I even until the resurrection

                  J of Christ--

                  J for so shall he be called.

                I And now, the resurrection

              H of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept

           the commandments of God,

            G shall come forth in the first resurrection;

          F therefore, they are in the first resurrection.

        E They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them;

      D thus they have eternal life

    C through Christ,

  B who has broken

A the bands of death.

[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, p. 171]


Mosiah 15:26 The Lord Redeemeth None Such That Rebel Against Him and Die in Their Sins:


     [See the commentary on Alma 34:33]