2 Nephi 7 / Isaiah 50—the Third Servant Song A Companion to Your "Come, Follow Me" Study

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Jesus Christ's scourged back discussed in 2 Nephi 7
Click here to read the Isaiah Chapters in the Book of Mormon

Like his older brother Nephi, Jacob seems to love Isaiah and beginning in 2 Nephi 7, Jacob reads Isaiah 50 to testify of Jesus Christ and to shed his thoughts on what Nephi had shared in 1 Nephi 20 and 21. Then in 2 Nephi 8, he continues by reading Isaiah 51–52:2.

“As with many other portions of Isaiah, this chapter speaks of the future as if it had already taken place. A major question here is who has left whom when people apostatize and find themselves far away from God spiritually. Another question that Isaiah asks is, essentially, ‘Why don’t you come unto Christ?'”1

As I study this chapter this week, I am looking for reasons why Jacob used these verses; I want to understand what points he is trying to make with this extended family now that Lehi is dead and Nephi is leading the group.

So we are going back just a few verses to see what Jacob so that he can share some of his own thoughts about Isaiah 49 in 2 Nephi 6:8-18

And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words [Isaiah 49:22–23].

(1) exile and subsequent return of Judah2

For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at aJerusalem, from whence we came, have been bslain and ccarried away captive.
Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should areturn again.

(2) appearance and crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel3

And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should bscourge him and ccrucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.
10 And after they have ahardened their hearts and bstiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel,

(3) subsequent destruction and scattering of Judah4

behold, the cjudgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted.
11 Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to aperish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated;

(4) recognition by Judah of the Redeemer and a resultant gathering4

nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that bwhen they shall come to the cknowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be dgathered together again to the elands of their inheritance.

(5) Gentile responses of two sorts with appropriate consequences5

12 And blessed are the aGentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and babominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his ccovenantswhich he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.
13 Wherefore, they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet; and the people of the Lord shall not be aashamed. For the people of the Lord are they who bwait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah.

(6) final messianic recovery of Judah and globally visible manifestation of the Messiah.7

14 And behold, according to the words of the prophet, the Messiah will set himself again the asecond time to recover them; wherefore, he will bmanifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the cdestruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him; and none will he destroy that believe in him.
15 And they that believe not in him shall be adestroyed, both by bfire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by cbloodsheds, and by dpestilence, and by efamine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel.
16 aFor shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the blawful captive delivered?

Joseph Spencer explains: “As a result, it opens with talk of the Lord contending with Israel’s contenders, with a promise that he can recover “the captives of the mighty” (2 Ne. 6:17 below).8
17 But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; afor the bMighty God shall cdeliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee—
18 And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy aRedeemer, the bMighty One of Jacob.

Spencer says:  Jacob then ties this all to the questions that Isaiah opens in chapter 50: ‘Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever?”And, so our reading begins there.

Isaiah 50

2 Nephi 7

Expanded Notes and Commentary

Book of Mormon variants are in RED; King James ,ariants are STRUCK THROUGH; commentary is GREEN 

Isaiah speaks as the Messiah—He will have the tongue of the learned—He will give His back to the smiters—He will not be confounded—Compare 2 Nephi 7.

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Jacob continues reading from Isaiah: Isaiah speaks messianically—The Messiah will have the tongue of the learned—He will give His back to the smiters—He will not be confounded—Compare Isaiah 50. About 559–545 B.C.

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The Lord employed the figure of a divorce and the sale of a slave to teach that though Israel’s past apostasy scattered them among the nations, the Lord had not set aside the original covenant He made with His people. Chapter 50 continues the theme begun in chapters 48 and 49 that in the last days Israel would be gathered and established again. Old Testament Student Manual (OTSM)

aThus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s bdivorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your ciniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your dmother put away.

aYea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bbill of your mother’s cdivorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my dcreditors have I esoldyou? Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Under Mosaic law, a man who divorced his wife was required to give her a written bill of divorce. She was then free to marry again (see Deuteronomy 24:1–4). Likewise, under the ancient laws, a man could sell himself or his children into slavery to satisfy his creditors. But the Lord had no creditors; neither had He divorced His “wife,” Israel. Instead, Israel had separated herself from the Lord by her sins and was in debt to her evil creditors. “For your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away” (Isaiah 50:1).—(OTSM)
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Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I acalled, yea, there was none to answer. O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I bdry up the csea, I make their drivers a wilderness and their efish to stink because the waters are dried up, and they die because of thirst. But the Lord has power both to redeem Israel from their creditors and to forgive their transgressions against Him. This He assured them He will do. Speaking of the future as if it were already past, He reminded them that He tried to do so once before when He, Jehovah, came to earth as Jesus Christ. This statement is a messianic passage since Jesus is both Redeemer from sin and Deliverer from evil ways. Yet when He appeared on earth, there was no man ready to receive Him; when He called upon men to repent, there was none to answer (see v. 2).(OTSM)
Isaiah 50:2 compared with 2 Nephi 7:2:
KJV: “their fish  stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst”

BM: “and their fish to stink  because the  waters are dried up, and they die  of thirst”
From the perspective of the English, there seems to be no real justification for Book of Mormon to reword this passage. But the Hebrew is again helpful. There are, in fact, two variants for the first verb in this passage, as found in ancient texts: 

Hebrew Masoretic text
(=
Vulgate )
tb’š “shall stink”
Great Isaiah Scroll (=Septuagint) tybš “shall dry up”

The Book of Morom has both of these meanings, deriving from words which closely resemble one another. It is likely that the other early Hebrew versions lost one or the other of the original two verbs by haplography.—John A. Tvedtnes, “Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices from the Old Testament, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 165–78.

I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.x I clothe the heavens with ablackness, and I make bsackcloth their covering. Isaiah 50:2–3 are repeated, with changes, in D&C 133:66–69, which puts this passage in the context of the Second Coming. …These phrases may refer to drought and to the smoke of war (which, although perpetrated by man, can also be a judgment of God) that obscures the sky, and they remind us of the miracles of Moses in Egypt—Parry, Donald W., Understanding Isaiah, Deseret Book Company, Kindle Edition
 The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season thim that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord God hath given me the atongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season unto thee, O house of Israel. When ye are weary he waketh morning by morning. He waketh mine ear to hear as the learned.

This verse has been interpreted as a reference to the twelve-year-old Christ as he sat in the temple in the midst of the doctors, who were “astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47). Others, citing 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, have said that the verse refers to prophets’ being called to preach to Jerusalem, …[this] also fits the calling and mission of Joseph Smith and the elders of restored Israel, who were to cause the wisdom of the wise men to perish (see Isaiah 29:14). It would be consistent with chapter 49 to identify the servant “me” as restored Israel.—Nyman, Monte S., Great are the Words of IsaiahCedar Fort, Inc., Kindle Edition.
To illustrate His love and compassion for them, the Lord again assumes the voice of the Servant, speaking in another Servant Song to describe what He will experience, endure, and accomplish in mortality in behalf of His children (50:4–9).In the song the Servant acknowledges God’s hand in preparing for the work and supporting Him in it, giving Him the tongue of the learned, wakening and opening His ears so that He could learn (50:4–5).— Winn and Ball, Understanding Isaiah, Deseret Book, chapter 47
¶ The Lord God hath opened mine aear, and I was not brebellious, neither turned away back.  The Lord God hath opened mine aear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.x In the song the Servant acknowledges God’s hand in preparing for the work and supporting Him in it, giving Him the tongue of the learned, wakening and opening His ears so that He could learn (50:4–5). The Servant then speaks of the persecution He will endure as He willingly allows Himself to be smitten and spat upon (50:5–6), foreshadowing the cruel treatment He would receive at the hands of Pilate and the Roman soldiers commissioned to scourge and crucify Him (Matthew 26:31). The Servant closes the song by testifying of His confidence that God will sustain and support Him, whereas His adversaries will wax old and be eaten up (50:7–9), a prophecy fulfilled as the Roman empire and the Jewish leaders who condemned Him have faded in infamy, while the redeeming work of the Servant is praised and persists through eternity.— Winn and Ball, Understanding Isaiah, Deseret Book, chapter 47
In verses 6–7, next, Isaiah prophesies some details surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. In verse 6, especially, He speaks of the future as if it is past.—Ridges, David J., The Old Testament Made Easier Part 3, Cedar Fort, Inc., Kindle Edition.
agave my bback to the csmiters, and my dcheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I ehid not my face from fshameand gspitting. I gave my back to the asmiter, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from bshame and spitting. He gave His “back to the smiters” (He was scourged) and hid not His face “from shame and spitting” (v. 6; compare Matthew 26:6727:26). But in spite of such rejection and treatment, He still did not divorce Israel or sell her as a slave. The covenant was still in effect, and Israel would be restored to the status of a free and faithful wife of Jehovah.(OTSM)
¶ For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be aashamed

The foregoing imagery may also refer to scattered Israel, for Israel, too, has been smitten and spat upon and scourged through the centuries. Still, Israel is represented as saying that “the Lord will help me; … I know I shall not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:7).(OTSM)
He is near that ajustifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

And the Lord is near, and he ajustifieth me. Who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near me, and I will bsmite him with the strength of my mouth.

Israel’s confidence and trust in God appears unbounded. “He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?” (v. 8). The “he” in this verse is clearly “the Lord” in a parallel verse in 2 Nephi 7:8. “Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?” (Isaiah 50:9). Israel then asks a question, as if they have learned something by their past experiences.(OTSM)
Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax aold as a garment; the bmoth shall eat them up.  For the Lord God will help me. And all they who shall acondemn me, behold, all they shall bwax old as a garment, and the moth shall eat them up. These verses, comprising the third servant song, portray the “servant” as the epitome of righteousness. As with the other servant songs, controversy surrounds the interpretation of these verses. The servant could be any number of people or peoples. Perhaps it is the prophet Isaiah …, or perhaps it is the nation of Israel … The most acceptable identification is Christ, because these verses describe events in the life of Jesus. In reading this servant song, however, we should not limit these references to the life of Christ, but should try to apply them to many of God’s chosen servants.—Victor Ludlow, Isaiah Prophet, Seer, and Poet, Deseret Book
10 ¶ Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the avoice of his bservant, that walketh in cdarkness, and hath no dlight? let him etrust in the name of the Lord, and fstay upon his God.  10 Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the avoice of his servant, that bwalketh in darkness and hath no light?

Isaiah 50 closes with the Lord’s warning that those who choose to walk in the light of their own fires rather than in the light of the Lord will lie down in sorrow (50:10–11). (OTSM)

 

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11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the alight of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in bsorrow.  11 Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of ayour fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. bThis shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow. People trust in themselves; they do not trust in God. Instead, they “walk in the light of [their own] fire, and in the sparks that [they themselves] have kindled” (v. 11). They who refuse God’s revelations and put their trust in their own reason “shall lie down in sorrow” (v. 11).(OTSM)
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Footnotes

1Ridges, David J., The Old Testament Made Easier Part 3, Cedar Fort, Inc., Kindle Edition.
2-9Spencer, Joseph M., The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record, Greg Kofford Books, p 134Other Isaiah passages quoted in the Book of Mormon


Darryl Alder, blogs for Abigail’s Oven, The Voice of Scouting, The Boy Scout, EternalCore.org and SearchIsaiah.org. His hobbies include gardening vegetables, annuals, and perennials; and baking artisan sourdough bread. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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I am a retiree from Scouting. There I blogged for VoiceOfScouting.org, a site with more than 250,000 readers. During 42 years in the workplace, I've had many years senior level management with the BSA, professional associations, and high tech user groups. My background includes capital fundraising; outdoor adventure program development; property and construction management; event/conference planning; risk management and safety; lobbying federal, state and local government agencies; public relations; strategic planning; member advocacy and staff/volunteer training. Along the way, I have also taught Gospel Doctrine Classes and been both the ward and stake Sunday School President. In these settings, I have seen teachers and class members minimize Isaiah, a book Christ has commanded us to "search diligently." (3 Ne 23:1) With that in mind, I will do my best to explore and post my discoveries about the book of Isaiah. I am not a Bible scholar; like you, I read Isaiah in the Old Testament cycle of study in LDS Gospel Doctrine Classes and again in the Book of Mormon Cycle, so this is a whole new scripture adventure for me.

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