“Review the prophecies of the events of old! I am God, there is none other. I am divine; nothing resembles me” (Isaiah 46:9—Isaiah Institute Translation). Do you believe the prophecies of Isaiah are of more than just historical interest? Have you sensed that they may contain an immense body of truth we have hardly conceived even exists? Did you know that besides prophesying directly about the last days, Isaiah foretells the future mostly by drawing on the past? Persons and events in Israel’s ancient history, in other words, act as types of what the world will see happen again as history repeats itself (see Isaiah 44:7). That being so, how do we identify these types in Isaiah’s writings?
Isaiah’s types consist of “precedents of persons and events from Israel’s past that function as models or patterns of end-time ones” (Avraham Gileadi, Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah: Study Tools for Understanding Isaiah, 319). Just as the Savior declared, “All things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be” (3 Nephi 23:3; emphasis added), so all ancient events Isaiah chose to talk about act as types of the last days. Even the names of persons, objects, and nations serve as types. In short, everything in the Book of Isaiah is there for a reason. Dr. Avraham Gileadi explains how Isaiah carefully selected historical types to serve his prophetic purpose:
Having seen the end from the beginning in a great cosmic vision, Isaiah is able to view these two contexts—Israel’s ancient history, particularly his own day; and also the last days, the time of the end—and frame his words in such a way as to capture both in a single prophecy. . . . Isaiah takes pains to be selective in what he says about nations, persons, and events. He mentions only those things that apply on two levels at one time.
… In short, we must accept entities and events as Isaiah describes them. Reading history back into his writings is not a key to understanding Isaiah. That approach leads to confusion because Isaiah’s message is ahistorical—his book is typologically oriented (Avraham Gileadi, The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation with Interpretive Keys from the Book of Mormon, 92–94).
Isaiah’s prophecy about Egypt, the ancient world’s superpower on which smaller nations relied for defense against Assyria, for example (Isaiah 30:1–2; 31:1-3), matches perfectly the world’s end-time superpower—America. Assyria, the ancient militaristic nation from the North and its alliance, perfectly match Russia and its allies. And so forth with other names of nations in Isaiah’s day that function as codenames of end-time ones. Isaiah’s prominent new exodus event similarly parallels Israel’s ancient exodus out of Egypt (Isaiah 11:15–16; 43:14–17; 51:10–11; 63:11–13). And that includes the saints’ end-time trek to the New Jerusalem we read of in Doctrine & Covenants 103:15–20:
Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel. For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be. Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence. But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.
Composites of Types
Many of Isaiah’s types of the last days consist of combinations of more than one ancient type. As Dr. Gileadi notes, “When something in the past isn’t an exact type of the end-time, …Isaiah may combine several types from the past to round out his prediction of the future. That is, he may use composites of types to portray a single end-time person or event” (Avraham Gileadi, Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah: Study Tools for Understanding Isaiah, 215). Isaiah’s Babylon, for example, is a composite entity made up of the ancient types of the Old Babylonian Empire of Hammurabi, the Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar, and the worldwide shipping and merchandising empire of Tyre and Sidon (Isaiah 23). In short, as Isaiah defines it, Babylon is an idolatrous materialistic world civilization consisting of all that is not Zion (Avraham Gileadi, Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah: Study Tools for Understanding Isaiah, 25–29). Its destruction by fire rained from the sky Isaiah likens to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “And Babylon, the most splendid of kingdoms, the glory and pride of Chaldeans, shall be [thrown down] as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19; compare 14:22–23; 47:11).
Ancient Types of End-Time Events
Searching Isaiah’s types further reveal that all end-time events are interlinked, forming a great composite of types of their own that Isaiah calls the “Day of the Lord.” A single scenario that characterizes Isaiah’s “whole vision” or “vision of all” (Isaiah 48:6) spells out God’s Day of Judgment that is coming upon the world and his deliverance from the destruction of his elect. So what are the typological events we find in the Book of Isaiah that comprise this grand vision? Thirty such events include, but are not limited to, the following list that is taken from Avraham Gileadi’s The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation with Interpretive Keys from the Book of Mormon (91–92). A fuller description of these events also appears in Dr. Gileadi’s book, Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah: Study Tools for Understanding Isaiah (53–144):
- Israel’s Apostasy (Isaiah 1:2–4; compare Amos 3–9; Hosea 1–14)
- The Babylonian Captivity (Isaiah 47:6; 52:5; compare Jeremiah 20:4–6)
- The Tower of Babel (Isaiah 2:15; 30:25; compare Genesis 11:4–9)
- The Call of Abraham (Isaiah 41:8–9; 51:2; compare Genesis 12:1–3)
- Lot’s Deliverance from Sodom (Isaiah 33:14–16; 57:1–2; compare Genesis 19:15–17)
- Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt (Isaiah 43:2, 16–17; 51:9–11; compare Exodus 14:21–31)
- Israel’s Wandering in the Wilderness (Isaiah 40:3–4; 49:9–12; compare Numbers 14:33)
- Israel’s Pilgrimage to Zion (Isaiah 30:29; 35:8–10; compare Psalm 122:1–4)
- The Lord’s Protective Cloud (Isaiah 4:5–6; 60:2; compare Exodus 14:19–20)
- The Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah (Isaiah 3:9–11; 13:19; compare Genesis 19:24–25)
- Cosmic Cataclysm (Isaiah 13:10, 13; 24:19–20; compare Joshua 10:11–14)
- A Return to Chaos (Isaiah 24:19–20; 34:9–10; compare Genesis 1:2).
- The Flood (Isaiah 8:7; 28:2; compare Genesis 7:10–24)
- Assyria’s World Conquest (Isaiah 10:5–14; 37:11, 17; compare 2 Kings 19:11, 18)
- Assyria’s Invasion of the Promised Land (Isaiah 5:26–30; 10:28–32; compare 2 Kings 18:9–10, 13)
- The Egyptian Bondage (Isaiah 10:24; 52:4; compare Exodus 1:8–14)
- Assyria’s Siege of Zion (Isaiah 36:1–2; 37:33–35; compare 2 Kings 19:32–34
- The Passover (Isaiah 26:20–21; 31:5; compare Exodus 12)
- The Lord’s Descent on the Mount (Isaiah 30:30; 31:4; compare Exodus 19:10–20)
- The Lord’s Consuming Fire (Isaiah 10:16–17; 66:15–16; compare Numbers 11:1; 26:10)
- Israel’s Victory over Midian (Isaiah 9:4; 10:26; compare Judges 7–8)
- Cyrus’ Universal Conquests (Isaiah 41:2, 25; 45:1–2; compare Ezra 1:2)
- Israel’s Conquest of the Promised Land (Isaiah 11:14; 54:2–3; compare Joshua 1–12)
- The Rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple (Isaiah 44:28; 61:4; compare Haggai 1–2)
- The Reign of the Judges (Isaiah 1:26; 32:1; compare Judges 2:16–18)
- The Davidic Monarchy (Isaiah 9:6–7; 11:1–5; compare 2 Samuel 2:4; 5:3)God’s Covenant with Israel (Isaiah 54)
- Zion as the Lord’s Residence (Isaiah 12:6; 24:23; compare Psalm 132:13)
- The Creation (Isaiah 65:17–18; 66:22; compare Genesis 1)
- Paradise (Isaiah 11:6–9; 51:3; compare Genesis 2:8)
You will notice that each of these events is significant in Israel’s ancient history. If we are to prepare for the Second Coming of our Savior and for all that precedes his glorious return, wouldn’t it be important to acquaint ourselves with Isaiah’s end-time version of these events? Can we sense how such knowledge will be of “great worth unto the children of men” who live “in the last days” when “the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled” (2 Nephi 25:7-8)? Do we realize that complete reliance on the Lord and his power is the only way for deliverance and salvation from such globally destructive phenomena (Isaiah 1:9; 31:5–6; 35:4; 37:33–36; 45:21–22; 59:1–4)? Even if it seems difficult to fathom the unfolding of these worldwide events, let us not account the “oracles of God … as a light thing” (Doctrine & Covenants 90:5) lest we be “brought under condemnation” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54–59). Using the literary tools now available, our diligent searching of the words of Isaiah and determining the meaning of his types will expose God’s grand picture of the last days to our view. As we do our part, the Holy Ghost will testify of the truth of Isaiah’s words to us individually (Moroni 10:5).