Isaiah 11 / 2 Nephi 21—An Ensign to the Nations

Join me in a study of Isaiah 11 about Millennial times when the stem of Jesse (Christ) will judge righteously, all enmity and hostility will cease and a knowledge of God to all the earth.

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Isaiah 11 / 2 Nephi 21—An Ensign to the Nations
Click here to read the Isaiah Chapters in the Book of Mormon

“Much of what occurred in Isaiah’s time occurs in our own. We also live in a wicked time, and the Lord has promised the wicked will experience the consequences of their actions—just as in the days of Isaiah. While our day and Isaiah’s day differ in details, the principles are the same.”1Isaiah 11 tells of Millennial times when Christ (the stem of Jesse) will judge in righteousness and knowledge of God will cover the whole earth. Studying this chapter offers readers both hope and warnings as an Ensign to the Nations is raised.

The chapter break between this chapter and the last is an arbitrary break; they should be read in connection with each other. In addition, both Nephi and the Doctrine Covenants offer commentary on selected verses (see below).  Joseph Smith noted the importance of Isaiah 11 when he said, “In addition to these, he [Moroni] quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled” (Joseph Smith—History 1:40).
The importance of Isaiah 11 was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said, ‘In addition …he [Moroni] quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:40).

 THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET
ISAIAH

CHAPTER 11

The stem of Jesse (Christ) will judge in righteousness—The knowledge about God will cover the earth in the Millennium—The Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel—Compare 2 Nephi 21.

 King James Version
Chapter 11

Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 21

Expanded Notes and Commentary

 Joseph Smith Translation (JST)  and  changes in the Book of Mormon are in RED; commentary and notes are GREEN 

aAnd there shall come forth a brod out of the cstem of dJesse, and a eBranch shall grow out of his roots:

aAnd there shall bcome forth a rod out of the cstem of Jesse, and a dbranch shall grow out of his roots.

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Rod=branch or twig
Stem=trunk
Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide (2002), p 142

D&C 113 Answers to certain questions on the writings of Isaiah, given by Joseph Smith the Prophet, at or near Far West, Missouri, March 1838.
Who is the aStem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?
Verily thus saith the Lord: It is Christ.
What is the arod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?
Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of aEphraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much bpower.

And the aspirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of bwisdom and cunderstanding, the spirit of dcounsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
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 And the aSpirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of bwisdom and cunderstanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;x

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The stem and the branch of Jesse are Jesus; the description in Isaiah 11:2–5 could only be of Jesus, the same Being described in Isaiah 9:6. He is the personification of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, reverence, judgment, righteousness, equity, and faithfulness.Ogden, D. Kelly, Verse by Verse, Old Testament: Volume TwoDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not ajudge bafter the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

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And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not ajudge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.

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Verses 2–3 describe  “Christlike qualities of leadership:

  • the spirit of wisdom
  • understanding
  • counsel
  • might
  • knowledge
  • fear of [respect, honoring of] the Lord
  • quick understanding in the fear of the Lord
  • he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes
  • neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

—Ridges, David J., The Old Testament Made Easier Part 3, Cedar Fort, Inc., Kindle Edition.

But with righteousness shall ahe bjudge the poor, and creprove with equity for the dmeek of the earth: and he shall esmite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the fbreath of his lips shall he gslay the wicked.xx

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But with arighteousness shall he bjudge the poor, and reprove with equity for the cmeek of the earth; and he shall dsmite the earth with the erod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.x

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The Book of Mormon (2 Ne. 30:9 especially) and the Doctrine and Covenants 113 reinforce the fact that Jesus Christ is the main character in Isaiah 11.…he will be the advocate of the poor and the meek and will settle their case—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

5 And righteousness shall be the agirdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his breins.

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And arighteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

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Isaiah 11:2-5 must be understood within the context established in verse 1, including the “rod” (servant) mentioned there, and verses 2 through 4 especially may refer to Joseph Smith. “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” As Doctrine and Covenants 5:6-10 clearly points out, Joseph Smith was chosen to give the Lord’s word to this generation. These verses may have a double reference to both Christ and Joseph Smith. …After all, the servant was to be an instrument in the hands of Christ to carry out his work. As the Spirit of the Lord came upon Joseph Smith, he did attain wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; further, Joseph did judge—Nyman, Monte S., Great are the Words of Isaiah  Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
6 The awolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
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The awolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.xx
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Modern revelation teaches us that “the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face” in the Millennium (D&C 101:26). Isaiah’s description of these particular animals may also be a metaphor—Bytheway, John, Isaiah For Airheads, Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.
And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
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And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
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Six animals are listed… three are wild carnivores (wolf, leopard, lion) that feed on the three tame animals (lamb, kid, calf). The wild animals, which are ferocious, aggressive, and vicious, are a threat to mankind; the tame animals are docile, submissive, and useful to man. This passage may be taken literally; or the wolf, leopard, and lion may represent those who foment war and murder; the lamb, kid, and calf may symbolize meek and peaceful people.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition, p 119) 
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of athe asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the bcockatrice’s den.
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And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.x

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An asp is a viper, one of the deadly snakes in the Holy Land. The cockatrice is another venomous serpent. To appreciate the peaceful period when a little child may, without worry, play on the hole of a viper—Ogden, D. Kelly, Verse by Verse, Old Testament: Volume TwoDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

They shall anot hurt nor bdestroy in all my holy mountain, for the cearth shall be full of the dknowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.x

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They shall not ahurt nor bdestroy in all my holy cmountain: for the dearth shall be full of the eknowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.x

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The knowledge of God will then cover the earth as the waters cover the mighty deep. There will be no place of ignorance, no place of darkness, no place for those that will not serve God. Why? Because Jesus, the Great Creator, and also the Great Redeemer, will be himself on the earth, and his holy angels will be on the earth, and all the resurrected Saints that have died in former dispensations will all come forth, and they will be on the earth. What a happy earth this creation will be, when this purifying process shall come, and the earth be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the great deep! What a change! Travel, then, from one end of the earth to another, you can find no wicked man, no drunken man, no man to blaspheme the name of the Great Creator, no one to lay hold on his neighbor’s goods, and steal them, no one to commit whoredoms—for all who commit whoredoms will be thrust down to hell, saith the Lord God Almighty, and all persons who commit sin will be speedily visited by the judgments of the Almighty! —Elder Orson Pratt,  Journal of Discourses, 21:325

Isaiah’s soul seemed to be on fire, and his mind wrapt in the visions of the Almighty, while he declared, in the name of the Lord, that it should come to pass in the last days that God should set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, assemble the outcasts of Israel, gather together the dispersed of Judah, destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea and make men go over dry-shod, gather them to Jerusalem on horses, mules, swift beasts, and in chariots, and rebuild Jerusalem upon her own heaps; while, at the same time, the destroyer of the Gentiles will be on his way; and while God was turning the captivity of Israel, he would put all their curses and afflictions upon the heads of the Gentiles, their enemies, who had not sought to recover, but to destroy them, and had trodden them under foot from generation to generation.

At the same time the standard should be lifted up, that the honest in heart, the meek of the earth among the Gentiles, should seek unto it; and that Zion should be redeemed and be built up a holy city, that the glory and power of God should rest upon her, and be seen upon her; that the watchman upon Mount Ephraim might cry—’Arise ye, and let us go up unto Zion, the city of the Lord our God;’ that the Gentiles might come to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising; that the Saints of God may have a place to flee to and stand in holy places while judgment works in the earth; that when the sword of God that is bathed in heaven falls upon Idumea, or the world,—when the Lord pleads with all flesh by sword and by fire, and the slain of the Lord are many, the Saints may escape these calamities by fleeing to the places of refuge, like Lot and Noah.” —Elder Wilford Woodruff, History of the Church, 6:26

10 ¶ And in athat day there shall be a broot of Jesse, which shall stand for an censign of the people; dto it shall the eGentiles seek: and his frest shall be glorious.x

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10 And in that day there shall be a aroot of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the bGentiles seek; and his crest shall be glorious.

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D&C 113 Answers to certain questions on the writings of Isaiah, given by Joseph Smith the Prophet, at or near Far West, Missouri, March 1838.
What is the aroot of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?
Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a adescendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the bpriesthood, and the ckeys of the kingdom, for an densign, and for the gathering of my people in the elast days.
The standard, or ensign, that the Gentiles will seek after is the everlasting covenant, or the gospel of Jesus Christ: Doctrine and Covenants 45:9 And even so I have sent mine aeverlasting bcovenant into the world, to be a clight to the world, and to be a dstandardfor my people, and for the eGentiles to seek to it, and to be a fmessenger before my face to prepare the way before me.
11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the asecond time to brecover the cremnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the dislands of the sea.
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11 And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand again the asecond time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from bAssyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from cShinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.xxx xx

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See 2 Nephi 25:17 and
2 Nephi 29:1 for Nephi’s explanation of this verse. These two verses in the Book of Mormon both paraphrase the phrase “the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people” from Isaiah 11:11. In each, there are slight variations due to context (“I” instead of “the Lord”) and who is speaking. Also note that 2 Nephi 25:17 uses “restore” but 2 Nephi 29:1 uses “recover” just like Isaiah 11:11. Neither one refers to “the remnant of his people”, but only refers to “his/my people.”—Isaiah in the Book of Mormon
Jesse was the father of David. Isaiah speaks of the Stem of Jesse, whom he also designates as a branch growing out of the root of that ancient worthy. He recites how the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; how he shall be mighty in judgment; how he shall smite the earth and slay the wicked; and how the lamb and the lion shall lie down together in that day—all of which has reference to the Second Coming and the millennial era thereby ushered in.—Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pp. 192–95).

12 And he shall set up an aensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

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12 And he shall set up an aensign for the nations, and shall assemble the boutcasts of Israel, and cgather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Because of latter-day revelation, we understand that the phrase “he will set up an ensign for the nations” in verse 12 refers to the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsOld Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
We are from Ephraim. The Lord expects us, since we are the custodians of his gospel as restored in these latter days, according to my understanding, to extend the hand of friendship to Judah, because after all we are all descendants of the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and we come under the promises that through their descendants should all the nations of the earth be blessed.

I do not know how the enmity and the envy between Ephraim and Judah can disappear except that we of the house of Ephraim, who have the custody of the gospel, should lead out in trying to bring to this branch of the house of Israel the blessings of the restored gospel. …And it seems to me that the only way that the tribe of Judah can be sanctified to dwell in his presence forever and ever will be when we bring to them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior promised them it would be brought in the latter days.” —Elder LeGrand Richards, Conference Report, Oct. 1956, pp. 23–24

13 The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not aenvy bJudah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.

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13 The aenvy of Ephraim also shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not benvy cJudah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraimx

 

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Anciently, during the days of the divided kingdoms, Judah (the leading tribe of the Southern Kingdom) and Ephraim (the leading tribe of the Northern Kingdom) were often in competition. Sometimes they were even at war with each other. Isaiah prophesied that in the last days that conflict would come to an end. Ezekiel, in a similar prophecy, promised that the house of Israel would no longer be divided, but under their true king, the New David (see Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:1) there would be one united nation again. (see Ezekiel 37:15–25.) Jeremiah and Zechariah also spoke of the future reuniting of the house of Israel (see Jeremiah 3:18Zechariah 10:6–7)—Old Testament Student Manual
14 But they shall afly upon the bshoulders of the Philistines toward the west; cthey shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.

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14 But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the aPhilistines towards the west; they shall spoil them of the east together; they shall lay their hand upon bEdom and cMoab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.

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Compare the translation in the New International Version: “They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia.” As Israel gathers to God’s signal (ensign) and possesses righteousness, the priesthood, and the power received in the temple, then Israel’s former enemies, the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites—symbols for the nations of our day—will be subject to them.—Parry, Donald W., Understanding IsaiahDeseret Book Company. Kindle Edition
15 And the Lord shall utterly adestroy the tongue of the bEgyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.

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 15 And the Lord shall utterly adestroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind he shall shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over bdry shod.

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We have also presented before us, in verse 15, the marvelous power of God, which will be displayed in the destruction of a small branch of the Red Sea, called the tongue of the Egyptian Sea, and also the dividing of the seven streams of some river [perhaps the Nile], and causing men to go over dryshod; and lest any should not understand it literally
(continued in next verse)
16 And there shall be aan bhighway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

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 16 And there shall be a ahighway for the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

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verse 16 says that ‘there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.’ Now we have only to ask whether, in the days of Moses, the Red Sea was literally divided or whether it was only a figure? for as it was then, so it shall be again.—Parley P. Pratt, Voice of Warning, p. 35
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Review

  1. What do the rod, a stem, and roots each represent? (see Doctrine and Covenants 113:1–6)
  2. According to Isaiah 11:1, what comes out of the stem?
  3. Whom does the stem of Jesse represent?
  4. According to verses 3–4, who is the rod?
  5. According to verses 5–6, who is the root of Jesse?
  6. How does Isaiah 11:10 describes Joseph Smith?
  7. What did Isaiah say that the root of Jesse would be for the people?
  8. What is an ensign?
  9. What is the standard, or ensign, that the Gentiles will seek after?
  10. How is establishing an ensign similar to what the Lord did through Joseph Smith

1Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide (2002), p 142


Chapters of Isaiah Quoted in the Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 20 21
2 Nephi  7  8  12  13 14 15  16  17
18 19 20 21 22 23  24  27
Mosiah  14
3 Nephi  20  22

 

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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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