Patterns of Hebrew Prophecies

How to Understand Isaiah Part 4

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“Who predicts what happens as do I, and is the equal of me in appointing a people from of old as types, foretelling things to come?” (Isaiah 44:7— Isaiah Institute Translation)

Do we believe that the Lord revealed to Isaiah the “whole vision” or “vision of everything” (Isaiah 48:6)—something so important that it will be “of great worth . . . unto the children of men” who are living “in the last days” (2 Nephi 25:7–8)? Did you know that besides prophesying directly, Isaiah uses more than thirty types from the past to predict what happens in the last days? In other words, if today we are living “in the last days”—and Isaiah has spelled them out for us—shouldn’t we be learning these types if we want to know about the time in which we live?

Typological Thinking

The Savior gave a key to understanding the words of Isaiah when he taught that “all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:3; emphasis added). That is, past events in Israel’s history will act as types of events in the last days (The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation with Interpretive Keys from the Book of Mormon, Avraham Gileadi, p 87). This typological kind of thinking is foundational to all Hebrew prophecies. As the writer of Ecclesiastes expresses, “The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done—there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The Lord also gives us types for our protection against Satan, who “deceiveth the whole world” (Revelations 12:9): “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations” (Doctrine & Covenants 52:14; emphasis added). Discerning the Lord’s types or patterns in Isaiah’s prophecies, therefore, safeguards us from being deceived by Satan through false doctrines and precepts of men (2 Nephi 28:14–15). By learning his types, we come to know the divinity of the Lord who foretells “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:9–10), “whose course is one eternal round,” and who is “the same yesterday today and forever” (Doctrine & Covenants 35:1; 3:2).

Apocalyptic Prophecies and Classical Prophecies

Traditionally, Hebrew prophecies have been grouped into two categories:
(1) apocalyptic prophecies; and
(2) classical prophecies.

Dr. Avraham Gileadi provides a summary:

Apocalyptic prophecy predicts events that are to take place in the “last days” or “end-time,” spelling out an end-time scenario. Daniel and John fall in that category. Classical prophecy predicts events that occurred in the prophets’ own day, spelling out a historical scenario. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi fall in that category.

Yet, all prophetic writings, whether about the end of the world or not, share common visionary elements. The apocalyptic imagery John uses, describing what he sees and hears, has its roots in the prior classical prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and others. The Harlot Babylon, the Dragon, the Beast, the Woman fleeing into the wilderness, the Lamb, the Servants of God on Mount Zion—all of which John speaks—first appear in prophetic writings before his time.

So, while the visions of Daniel and John were entirely their own, one cannot isolate them from those of other prophets. Indeed, all such visions build upon and complement one another. Each seems to provide a piece of a picture that is bigger than itself, that makes the most sense as part of a larger whole (The End from the Beginning: The Apocalyptic Vision of Isaiah with Isaiah Translation, Avraham Gileadi, p 11).

A Common Theme

What, then, is the common theme across apocalyptic and classical prophecies? Searching and linking up types reveal an overarching theme—the “Day of Jehovah” or the “Great Day of the Lord”—when all prophecies and promises of the Lord are fulfilled in the last days (see Isaiah 13:6-9; 61:2; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 2:1, 11, 31-32; Obadiah 1:15, 17; Zephaniah 1:4; 2:2-3; Zechariah 14:1-3; Malachi 4:1, 5; Revelations 16:14). Dr. Gileadi summarizes as follows:

The case made by the pattern of prophecy, both classical and apocalyptic, is that at the end of the world a twofold scenario will take place. A worldwide judgment and destruction of evildoers will occur resembling ancient scenarios of judgment and destruction. Simultaneously, a complete deliverance and restoration of God’s people will occur as foreshadowed by partial scenarios of deliverance and restoration in the past (The End from the Beginning: The Apocalyptic Vision of Isaiah with Isaiah Translation, Avraham Gileadi, p 17).

Because both classical and apocalyptic prophecies point to the “Day of Jehovah,” and because that day is coming upon “all nations” (2 Nephi 12:12; Doctrine & Covenants 34:8) and upon every person (Doctrine & Covenants 1:4-13), is it any wonder the Lord commands us to “review the prophecies of the events of old” (Isaiah 46:9)? As Dr. Gileadi points out, the ancient events Isaiah describes in his book function as an allegory of the end-time. As the Lord’s people in that day are those who wait for him and look for the signs of his coming (2 Nephi 6:13–14; 26:8; Doctrine & Covenants 45:39), let us acquaint ourselves with the Lord’s types and anticipate his return!

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Kenichi Shimokawa is a native of Japan, and lived in the US for 16 years for education, full-time missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and work. After professionally trained as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapy researcher at Brigham Young University, his previous work included postdoctoral fellowship at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, and the manager of LDS Family Services Japan Office. After discovering the message of Isaiah through inspiring books on Isaiah written by Avraham Gileadi, PhD—a renowned Isaiah scholar—Kenichi has been actively involved in the work of sharing the message of Isaiah through the Hebraeus Foundation—an NPO dedicated to taking the message of Isaiah to the world and supports the work of Dr. Gileadi, including supporting the efforts to translate his work into foreign languages. Kenichi loves to work with people interested in sharing the message of Isaiah and of Jesus Christ.

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