Jesus said, “Great are the words of Isaiah
“For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 23:1–2).
To introduce these great words of Isaiah, let’s first turn to Understanding Isaiah by Don Parry, who writes:
“The Lord through the prophet Isaiah lists the iniquities of ancient Israel, which include rebelliousness, the commission of social injustices, and the neglect of true temple worship (1:2–15). The Lord then invites Israel to repent and cleanse herself through the power of the Atonement (1:16–20).
“In our own day the Lord has spoken through the Prophet Joseph Smith and detailed our transgressions, which include social injustices: we ‘do not impart of [our] substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted’ (D&C 105:3); further, there are ‘contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires” among us (D&C 101:6; 105).
“We, like our brothers and sisters of ancient Israel, are invited to repent and become clean through Christ’s divine sacrifice: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ (1:18).
“Isaiah 1:24–31 also has direct relevance for us today, for this section speaks of latter-day Zion (that is, us, the latter-day Church), who will be restored, redeemed, and cleansed. Our ‘dross’ and ‘tin’ will be removed; our righteous judges and counselors will be restored.”1
The book of Isaiah compiles writings of the prophet, “possibly even an abridgment of some of his work. …Chronological order is not always adhered to; therefore each chapter should be examined carefully within its own historical [and doctrinal] context”2
“Chapter 1 is a preface to the whole book of Isaiah, much like Doctrine and Covenants, section one, is to the whole Doctrine and Covenants, or like the superscription at the beginning of First Nephi is, which says “An account of Lehi…” 3 In it, as he describes the vision that God has given him of the rebellion of Israel. Then through Isaiah, the Lord calls the people to repentance, to become clean. Isaiah also made promises, threatenings43, and prophesied that “the house of the Lord” would be established in the last days and that the high and mighty would be chastened at the Savior’s Second Coming.
In “Great Are the Words of Isaiah“, Hugh Nibley wrote: “The quickest way to get an overview of the immense book of Isaiah is simply to read the first chapter. Scholars have long held that this is not part of the original book but a summary by a disciple. If so, that makes it nonetheless valuable, and indeed it is remarkable that this, the most famous chapter of Isaiah, is never quoted in the Book of Mormon. Let’s take it verse by verse.”5
THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET
King James Version
Expanded Foot Notes and Commentary
|Read Isaiah 1:1–2, looking for what the Lord said about the people of Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day.|
|1a TG Visions.
b 1 Ne. 19: 23 (23-24) 23 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.
3 Ne. 23: 1 AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
cTG Israel, Judah, People of
d2 Kgs. 15: 13 (1-13) Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the nine and thirtieth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned a full month in Samaria.
Hosea 1: 1 THE word of the LORD that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
e 2 Kgs. 15: 30, 38 (13-38) 30 And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.
Micah 1: 1 THE word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
f 2 Kgs. 16: 20 (19-20) And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead.
The name Isaiah in Hebrew is Yeshayahu and means “Jehovah saves”
The reigns of Uzziah (Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah occurred in the late 700s BC. See 2 Kgs 14–21 and 2 Chr 26–32. Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah are described as mostly righteous. Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 2
|2 aHear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have brebelled against me.||aD&C 76: 1 HEAR, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior.
b Deut. 32: 19 And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
The people of Israel are God’s children—He is their Father. This is the doctrine they have forgotten, and they will be in no condition to receive it again until they have undergone the moral regeneration that is the burden of Isaiah’s preaching—Nibley
|Isaiah often recorded the Lord’s words in a literary form called parallelism. Parallelism occurs when a writer expresses an idea and then repeats or contrasts the idea using a similar sentence structure with different words. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth” (Isaiah 1:2) is an example of parallelism. With these words, Isaiah invited all people everywhere to listen to the words the Lord had given him.
Isaiah also used images to illustrate and help people visualize spiritual ideas. Read Isaiah 1:3–4, looking for images Isaiah used to teach about the rebelliousness of the people in Isaiah’s day.
|3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s acrib:
||3a HEB stall, or manger.
b TG Apostasy of Israel.
TG God, Knowledge about.
That doctrine they have rejected. They refuse to hear it.—Nibley
|It may help to know that a crib, as used in verse 3, is a feeding trough or manger where an animal receives food from its master. In this verse, Isaiah contrasted the ox and donkey with the rebellious Israelites, who did not know the Lord, their Master, and were not aware of the spiritual nourishment He had provided them.|
|4 Ah asinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, bchildren that are ccorrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto danger, they are gone away backward.||4a TG Man, Natural, Not Spiritually Reborn.
b Isa. 57: 4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not achildren of transgression, a seed of falsehood,
c D&C 38: 11 (10-12) For all aflesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of bdarkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—
d TG Anger
Because they can’t live with the doctrine in their sinful state, they have run away from it. This is inexcusable; God does not look upon it with forbearance. He knows that they are quite capable of understanding and living by the gospel. Accordingly, He is more than displeased; He is angry.—Nibley
|In Isaiah 1:5–9, Isaiah used more imagery to describe the results of the people’s rebellion.|
|5 ¶ Why should ye be astricken any more? ye will brevolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart cfaint.||5a HEB smitten.
b TG Rebellion.
c HEB diseased.
Yet it is not He who has been giving them a hard time. They decided to go their own way, openly revolting against Him. And their system is simply not working. They are not able to cope with the situation mentally, nor do they have the spirit to carry it through. Men on their own are pitiful objects.—Nibley
|6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head
||a HEB squeezed out.
b HEB softened.
The whole thing is sick, sick, sick. Every attempt to correct the situation fails miserably. Nothing works.—Nibley
|You are completely sick …and you don’t even care; you won’t try the simplest first aid. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, p 1|
|7 aDeut. 28:51 And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.
bJer. 9:11; Micah 3:12; 2 Ne. 13:8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen, because their tongues and their doings have been against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
cTG Israel, Scattering of.
The result is internal depression and international disaster.—Nibley
|8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a avineyard, as ba lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
|aTG Vineyard of the Lord.
bIE a watchman’s hut.
The phrase “daughter of Zion” refers to Jerusalem and her inhabitants.
“You are about as secure as a flimsy shade shack in a garden.” Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, p 1
|9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small aremnant, we should have been as Sodom,
||aTG Israel, Remnant of.
The Lord did not allow Judah to be entirely destroyed, but he intended a remnant to continue, possibly symbolized by the solitary shelter—Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 3
|10 ¶ Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of aSodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.||aEzek. 16:46 And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. (see also 44–55).|
|11 To what purpose is the multitude of your asacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I bdelight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.||aTG Sacrifice.
b1 Sam. 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
|Isaiah describes in detail how his people are performing empty rituals. This counterfeit obedience is blasted by the Lord—Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 3|
|12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?||“Who authorized you to be such hypocrites?” Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, p 2|
b1 Chr. 23:31 And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the Lord in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the Lord: (see also 28–32).
cLam. 2:6 And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.
dMatt. 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
eHEB endure. (Ps. 101:5 Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.)
fIsa. 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
gTG Solemn Assembly.
|The law appointed that at the new moon special sacrifices should be offered (Num. 10:10; see also 1 Sam. 20:5–6, 29; 2 Kgs. 4:23; Amos 8:5). The prophets often speak of “new moons” along with “Sabbaths.” As the days for all Jewish feasts were reckoned by the moon, the exact time of the appearance of the new moon was of great importance—Bible Dictionary: New Moon|
|aHosea 2:11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.
bAmos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
cIsa. 43:24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. (See also Isa. 43:24–28).
|In the ancient Israelite calendar, the new moon marked the beginning of each month, and the law of Moses decreed that certain sacrifices were to take place with each new moon. The “appointed feasts” (Isaiah 1:14), or annual feasts, included the Passover (or the Feast of Unleavened Bread), the Feast of Weeks (or the Feast of Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles (or the Feast of Ingathering). (See Bible Dictionary, “Feasts.”) During these religious ceremonies, Isaiah observed that the people were not giving their offerings with pure hearts or genuine sincerity. Thus, he explained that the Lord does not delight in or accept the emptiness of going through the outward motions of obedience without real intent.|
|15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many aprayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of bblood.||a1 Sam. 8:18; D&C 101:7 (7–8). TG God, Access to.
b HEB bloods; i.e., bloodshed. Isa. 59:2 (2–3).
In Isaiah 1:16–31 we read that the Lord invited the Israelites to repent, and He warned them that if they did not change, they would continue to suffer and transgressors would be destroyed.
|16 ¶ aWash you ye, make you bclean; put away the cevil of your doings from before mine eyes; dcease to do evil;||aJer. 7:3 (1–7). TG Baptism.
bTG Cleanliness; Purification; Purity.
bTG Good Works.
eIE give a just verdict to the fatherless.
|(Isaiah 1:18 is a Seminary scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark it in your Scriptures in a distinctive way so that you can locate it in the future. Notice the parallelism Isaiah used in this verse to teach about our sins and being purified through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Try to memorize this verse and then recite it from memory.)|
|18 Come now, and let us areason together, saith the LORD: though your bsins be as scarlet, they shall be as cwhite as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.|
Cloth dyed with scarlet is color-fast [but] even though you think your sins are “colorfast,” the Atonement can cleanse you—a long process is required to get wool white, but it can be done—David Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, p.2
Snow falls infrequently in Jerusalem, creating a pristine blanket of white. Scarlet is the color of blood. The image of white wool could refer to lambs washed for sacrifice—Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 5
|19 If ye be awilling and bobedient, ye shall eat the cgood of the land:||a TG Teachhable
b TG Obedience.
c TG Abundant Life.
|20 But if ye refuse and arebel, ye shall be bdevoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it||a TG Rebellion
b TG Punish
|21 ¶ How is the faithful city become an aharlot! it was full of bjudgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.||a TG Apostasy of Israel.
b OR justice.
|The harlot is often used as a symbol for those who have prostituted their covenants with God.—Madsen and Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: a Harmony, p 5|
|22 Thy silver is become adross, thy wine mixed with water:||a TG Apostasy of Israel.|
|23 Thy aprinces are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth bgifts, and followeth after rewards: they cjudge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.||aTG Kings, Earthly.
b IE bribes; TG Bribe; Ezek. 22:12 In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God.
c HEB “do not do justice to.” TG Judgment.
|24 Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine aadversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:||a D&C 101:58 And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.|
|a HEB return; i.e., repeatedly chastise.
b Jer. 9:7 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?
Mal. 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
|26 And I will arestore thy judges as at the first, and thy bcounsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The ccity of righteousness, the faithful city.||aJer. 33:7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. (see also verse 8).
|27 aZion shall be redeemed with bjudgment, and her cconverts with righteousness||aTG Zion.
|28 ¶ And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners
||All the rest will have to go, but not because God chooses to throw them out. They will walk away from safety right into destruction; with eyes wide open they will forsake the Lord and be consumed.—Nibley, ibid.|
|29 For they shall be ashamed of the aoaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.||a IE terebinth trees and gardens were used in idol worship.
29–31. These verses are the only references to paganism—popular cults that will wither and be burned up—not be destroyed, however, because they follow pagan manners or forms, as the doctors, ministers, and commentators love to tell us, but because they were part of the cover-up for avaricious, hard, and immoral practices.—Nibley, ibid.
|30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.|
|31 And the strong shall be aas tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both bburn together, and none shall quench
||a IE as a tuft of inflammable fibers.
b bIsa. 9:16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed. (see also verses 16–21).
Okay, folks, that’s one chapter complete and just 65 more to go. Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below.
Further Study: Insights into Isaiah—The Mountain of the Lord’s House
1 Don Parry, Understanding Isaiah, Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.
2Old Testament Student Manual, Kings-Malachi, Chapter 13
3 David Ridges, The Old Testament Made Easier (part 3), Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
4 Joseph Smith Translation (JST) Isa. 1 Chapter Heading Judah’s rebellion—Promises and threatenings.
5 “Great Are the Words of Isaiah”, Hugh Nibley, in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 177–195.