This phrase: “His hand stretched out still”, is a Jewish idiom, that appears in Isaiah 9 three times and again with variations in 2 Nephi 15:25; 19:12, 17, 21; 20:4. For many Christians, this is a simple description of the Lord’s hand stretched out in mercy. However, it may have other meanings such as God’s hand outstretched ready to strike the wicked.
John Gee, an LDS Egyptologist, wrote in A Different Way of Seeing the Hand of the Lord, “The English sentence is constructed to say that in spite of the punishments afflicted (‘for all this’), the punishments do not satisfy the Lord’s anger (‘his anger is not turned away’). …In other words, to the contrary (‘but’), the hand of the Lord is still ‘stretched out.’…Whatever ‘stretching out the hand’ is, it occurs in the context of punishing the wicked [and] by any careful reading of the English, is a hand administering punishment,” or, at least, poised to do so.
When we apply these four keys to Isaiah’s writings, a message unfolds there that is immediately applicable and recognizable to Latter-day Saints. …Knowing these four Book of Mormon keys, we understand Isaiah in a new light. Isaiah speaks to us—to our generation—like a voice from the dust.—Avraham Gileadi
So why the confusion in meanings? This is a good example of why knowing “the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:1) is helpful in understanding Isaiah’s words.
In their KnoWhy: “Why is the Lord’s Hand ‘Stretched Out Still?'” at, Book of Mormon Central, the authors write that Nephi’s people struggled with Isaiah precisely because they did not know “the manner of prophesying among the Jews.” In their explanation, they make reference to a number of scholars, including Avraham Gileadi’s “Isaiah-Key to the Book of Mormon.”
- the spirit of prophecy or the Holy Ghost
- the letter of prophecy or the manner of the Jews
- diligent searching of Isaiah’s words; and
- types, or the idea that events in Israel’s past foreshadow events in the latter days.”
Gileadi explains that Isaiah identifies the main players in our modern life drama using “ancient names and keywords. Matching these with their latter-day counterparts resembles putting together a jigsaw puzzle—every piece fits and adds to the picture.” He continues to explain that Isaiah predicted a new Passover, where the Lord destroys a world ripening in sin and offers a “glorious salvation on the earth for the Lord’s long-suffering people.”
This changes the meaning of God’s outstretched hand. Just as a parent might discipline a wayward child with a raised hand, that same parent can embrace the child in contrition.
The lesson here, of course, is to learn more about the ways of the Jews and their manner of prophesying, so that we may get a fuller interpretation of Isaiah’s intent.