John Bytheway and Darryl take a closer look at Jacobs use of Isaiah 51 in 2 Neph 8 when the Lord promises to gather Israel and comfort Zion.
Darryl: Hi, we’re here today with John Bytheway, and we’re discussing 2 Nephi 8, which is Isaiah 51, and a couple of verses of 52. So, the thing that I liked very best was in verses 3–5, you give us some insight; a safety tip. Sign me up, sign my kids up!
John: If this is the millennial day, bring it on, it sounds great. Joy, gladness, thanksgiving, melody, then important safety tip: repent first.
Darryl: I mean there are some really nice things there and this is one of my first moments I’ve probably felt very happy in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon because it’s a lot of doom and gloom up until then. So, this thing about writing the law in your heart and you quoted 2 Corinthians 3. Can you talk to us about that at all?
John: It’s just one thing to have the Word of God in your head, but another to have it go the distance and becomes a governor for your life. And when it helps you govern your life, then it’s wonderful to have it on paper. But having it here, you carry it with you like you carry a Bible or the scriptures in your heart.
Darryl: So, it’s not on your forehead. That’s not enough?
John: That’s a symbol, but yes, we’ve got to get it inside and have it actually help us make decisions and govern us. That’s what that means.
Darryl: So, you mentioned those worms and moths again. What’s going on there?
John: Corruption and decay. I think that it is often used to show the things that are permanent and things that are temporary. And the Lord is always reminding him he’s permanent and his things are permanent, and man’s things decay and change.
Darryl: Young kids nowadays, they don’t believe in dragons. What do we do about that reference?
John: It’s a metaphor. There was a metaphorical Leviathan. I read about that, and that Rahab is sometimes a synonym for Egypt. So, he’s just saying that he’s really powerful, and I don’t know why that’s never really bothered me because I figured that they were talking about that you’re so powerful.
Darryl: Well, that’s interesting when you use the word, Leviathan. That’s actually a popular nomenclature, it goes along with zombies and some of the other things. I think I like the word Leviathan better.
John: I think I saw it one of the commentaries I had read.
Darryl: So, what is Rahab?
John: It’s a poetic synonym for Egypt and that’s in Psalms 87: 4. And in a more general way, it’s just a representation of Satan.
John: Victor Ludlow talks about Babylon kind of being like the commercial cultural center of the world. He would say to think of something like Wall Street. Assyria was like a brutal superpower that was to be feared and they would kill people and display their carcasses outside the city so that everybody else would want to be obedient.
Darryl: So, those are the three big superpowers that Isaiah refers to?
John: Yes, I believe so.
Darryl: And they’re good symbols for today, it sounds like.
Darryl: I wanted to celebrate because in 2 Nephi 8:11 you said to notice the word singing, joy, holiness, gladness.
John: Yes, sorrow and mourning shall flee away. So, the redeemed of the Lord shall return. And isn’t there that theme all over the place. Scatter, gather, scatter, gather, scatter, gather. That was hard to say. I did that pretty good. But all over, they’re either scattering or gathering, it seemed to be in that process. And here again is the “remnant shall return, the redeemed will be gathered.” This is last days gathering, and it’ll be a happy event. I think missionaries are making it happen as we speak.
Darryl: So, one of the things I’ve noticed in Isaiah is that there’s always something coming from the east, and something coming from the west and it’s usually the Philistines from the west, but a wind seems pretty harmless.
John: From what I’ve read, a west wind is coming from the Mediterranean and has more moisture to it. An east wind is dry and hot and will dry out the vegetation. So, it becomes a symbol of destruction. You’re going to reap the east wind.
Darryl: That’s interesting because I have a background being in a family that had a greenhouse and we sold plants. So, some botany there. I happened to buy two today, so I noticed that the next day, they could be dead, crisp dead, if the wind blew. If the warm wind blows, it could just do it.
John: That fast! Yes.
Darryl: In 2 Nephi, 8:15, “whose waves roared you”, you do a footnote there and I always think it’s important for our readers to take a minute and look at the footnotes. When I taught stake institute, I usually spent a whole day trying to help people learn how to navigate what’s at the bottom of our scriptures. What I had, growing up and in college, was this thin little strip down the middle and it was not very helpful and it was very Protestant. There are lots of hours in here. Can you give us an insight into this footnote and how and why you referenced it?
John: The best commentary on the scriptures is other scriptures, and these people who wrote these footnotes, prayed over them, pored over them and it’s nice to see these connections. So, when it says, “whose waves roared, I the Lord thy God, whose waves roared, the Lord of Hosts, is my name,” takes us to footnote and it’s not me, but it’s in 1 Nephi 4:2. And interestingly, Nephi used stories from their past to motivate. So, 1 Nephi 4:2 says, “Therefore, let us go up, let us be strong like unto Moses. He truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through out of captivity on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.” So, clearly, the scripture publications committee saw that correlation – these waves roared, Nephi is using Moses and like we looked at 2 Nephi 8:7, it really sounds like there are illusions to the ransom passing over on dry ground, to the whole Moses delivering story.
Darryl: So, I’m not into wine culture, but I think I know what a dreg is. Do you have any explanation therefor drunk on the dregs? I have made grape juice before and I know that what’s left in the bottom, is very sour, thick, chewy and full of seeds.
John: He’s endured all of it, all the way to the bottom. But, he won’t do it again, that’s the promise. It’s as if you’ve taken it all the way to the dreg.
Darryl: So, you visualize a 55-gallon wood drum and you get all this wine out. Not being a wine drinker, I am hoping it’s sweet, not sour. But, whatever’s left in the bottom, that’s what this is, right? It’s not good to the last drop.
John: It sounds bad. The reference I’ve seen to it, sounds bad. Drank it to the dregs.
Darryl: The two witnesses that are spoken of in Revelation 11:3, seems like Isaiah is touching on them here. Can you give us some insight? There’s always a lot of speculation, especially among millennials, about end days. Who are those two people going to be in Israel?
John: Bruce R. McConkie wrote in The Millennial Messiah that they could be members of the council of the 12 or first presidency, in page 390, Millennial Messiah. And in this Book of Mormon Reference Companion, which I love. It says: “Because Israel has lost the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its power to guide, direct and save, God has sent two priesthood holders to assist and bless them. These two are the same two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11:3. They will testify in Jerusalem for three and a half years, will be killed and left dead in the streets, then will be resurrected and lifted up to meet Jesus Christ as he returns to make his appearance to this case.”
Darryl: I got called on a mission to Germany and I was really glad I didn’t get called to Israel because I always assumed that was just two elders. It’s interesting that Elder McConkie said that it might actually be apostles.
John: Yes, like apostolic witnesses is what he felt.
Darryl: Boy, to lose two of our apostles at once. I mean, if this just happened at General Conference, it would really be a hit. I thought about this in 2 Nephi 8:24, “Put on thy strength o Zion, put on thy beautiful garments.” And I thought; that can be metaphorical but even the term, for us who’ve been in doubt, do you think it has any reference at all to that?
John: I think it could. The fact is, that it’s kind of fun to see in Moroni 10:31, the very last verses of the Book of Mormon, Moroni uses this Isaiah language. It says “arise, put on thy beautiful garments, strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders.” And if you look at that, in Isaiah language, like put it up, write it on a chalkboard you see the threefold mission of the church, what they used to call that. They’ve added now to take care of the poor. Can’t remember the exact words, but to “put on thy beautiful garments, redeem the dead,” that means to go to the temple. Hoyt Brewster, in his Isaiah, ‘Plain and Simple’, said perhaps this also implies the privilege of receiving sacred clothing in holy places. And when you think about the highest use of the priesthood that we have, it’s within the temple. So, there’s, “put on thy beautiful garments, redeem the dead, strengthen thy stakes, perfect the saints, enlarge thy borders, proclaim the Gospel.” You can see all of them there in the closing lines of Moroni 10:31.
Darryl: So, 2 Nephi, 8:24, it talks about the uncircumcised and uncleaned. There’s references in the Bible, when I read this I had to think about this experience for me. So, I had a Jewish neighbor, he’s LDS, but he has Jewish heritage. A time came, I finally needed to be circumcised as an adult. This is not something I recommend. That’s best done as a baby. So, when they circumcised all those guys with their rusty old swords and they all got sick and fell dead over the next few days, I went, that’s me. So, this whole thing is a token of the Abrahamic Covenant. Can you shed light on this, because these days, circumcision is common for male babies, just for health and cleanliness?
John: Yeah, it’s pretty debated too. It’s debated, and I don’t know medically the part of the debate, I could just see that means to me, that’s where I leave it alone and say that means those who haven’t made covenants will not come into Jerusalem.
Darryl: Alright. So, what this neighbor wanted to do was call the Mohel, and the Mohel performs a circumcision ritually on a baby. And I said, no, I’m going to go under anesthesia and let a doctor do this. I’ll leave that to the Mohels and to the doctors these days. So, now my favorite verse in all of Isaiah, the hilarious one, “Arise and sit down.” Now, how do you do both? Tell me about that.
John: I wondered that too. In fact, when I present this to my classes, I was like, well make up your mind, which one is it. When we remember that they were often taken slaves and maybe even with bands around their neck, dragged off to Babylon or the northern kingdom, dragged off to Assyria. I remember Ben Hur when they stopped in a village and they’re all on the ground. But this is, get up off the ground, shake yourself from the dust and sit down in dignity as on a throne so the commentaries say, and take your rightful place as Covenant Israel and that helps me make sense of it. It’s off the ground, it’s not just that you are already on a chair but get off of the ground and sit down in dignity. Paul Hoskisson says as on a throne even. So, then I think okay, it’s not contradictory, it’s, take your place rightfully.
Darryl: I don’t get to smile at it anymore, and now it has meaning, thank you.
John: You can keep it the old way if you want.
Darryl: Well, John, we appreciate you taking time with us again today. I hope you have a safe trip to Israel because that’s where you’re headed next week, right?
John: Yes, to do some more research.
Darryl: So, I understand you might see a wine press and could you bring me back some dregs, so I can see how bad they are. Right?
John: They don’t put wine in it, but there’s the carved limestone in a place called The Nazareth Jesus knew, and I can step in it and get a picture of me, if they’ll let me.
Darryl: I’d love to see your feet purple. All right, well thanks a lot and we hope you enjoy your trip.
John: Thank you.