Parallelism May Cover Hidden Treasures in Isaiah

Speaking at General Conference, then Elder Joseph Fielding Smith quoted this from his Father:
“I have a quotation here from President Joseph F. Smith that I want to read to you, mainly because it has never been put in print ‘… The things of God are discovered by the Spirit of God, not by the spirit of man or of the world. Those who seek shall find, and to those who knock at the door it shall be opened, and those who ask shall receive, and not otherwise. He that has the spirit discerns by the spirit and loves the works of the spirit, for they give delight and joy
… We learn a principle by coming in close contact with and studying it, and admitting it into our minds and hearts… But truth is eternal–it was not created or made, it is as a precious gem. It lies hidden from us and we must find it, and apply it, and make it ours.’” October 1938 General Conference

As we come ready to embark on the study of the Prophets, we can do so with that same Spirit of inquiry. We often hear that the Lord will reveal His truths in the Temple if we are open to these and participate with the right spirit. This is also true of Scripture study.

Yes, even when studying Isaiah. No! Rather, especially when studying the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. They can fill our souls with a joy so immense.

Parallelisms May Hide Prophetic Messages

Some of the prophetic words in the Hebrew Bible are given through parallelism. We learn that Hebrew poetry is different than Western poetry. It consists of parallelism, that is, the restatement of thoughts using different words. We may fall into the trap of thinking that it is mere repetition.

Some so-called parallelisms are used to hide a message. The Lord knew that the Scriptures would be tampered with and that some things could not be outrightly said. Also, much like parables, the difficult writing of the Prophets is meant to declare glorious truths to those who seek them.

The prophets sometimes give us hidden treasures within the confines of what appears to be simple parallelism. Alexander writes about the folly of forced parallelism, “These [false] constructions are so violent, and the contrary usage so plain, that the question naturally arises, why should the latter be departed from at all?

“The answer is because the favorite notion of exact parallelism requires it. All the writers who maintain this opinion assume that the second clause must express the same idea as the first, and in the same order … the modern writers must have parallelism still more exact, and to this rhetorical chimera both the syntax and the true sense of the passage must be sacrificed.” [Alexander, Joseph Addison (1870). The Prophecies of Isaiah Translated and Explained (Vols. 1–2). New York: Charles Scribner & Co. (Hard copy, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1962).]

Did Isaiah Hide His Real Message in This Set of Parallelisms?

It would be easy to think that Isaiah 5:26–30, for instance, is simply a description of further punishments to be poured out against Judah by the hand of a nation or nations to come from the north, namely Assyria and Babylonia.

26 And he will lift up an aensign to the nations from far,
and will bhiss unto them from the cend of the earth:
and, behold, they shall dcome with speed swiftly:
26 None shall be weary nor stumble among them;
none shall slumber nor sleep;
neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed,
nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
28 Whose arrows are sharp,
and all their bows bent,
their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint,
and their wheels like a whirlwind:
29 Their roaring shall be like a lion,
they shall roar like young alions:
yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the bprey,
and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30 And in that day they shall roar
against them like the roaring of the sea:
and if one look unto the land,
behold darkness and sorrow,
and the alight is bdarkened in the heavens thereof.

While these verses in Isaiah, on the surface, appear as an impending punishment, they are in reality a message of hope and deliverance. The source of all hope is Jesus the Christ. The glorious Gospel Standard has been erected, to go out to every corner of the world in order to gather Israel on both sides of the veil.

As you study Isaiah and the prophets and do so prayerfully, do not be surprised if your eyes are opened to see some of these treasures. I will give you a hint. One of the greatest Scriptures that testifies of Christ is hidden in Isaiah 40:3–8. Also, study the first two verses of that most wondrous chapter. I would love to hear from you and see what you have discovered.

Billikopf, Gregorio. Isaiah Testifies of Christ.

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Gregorio Billikopf belongs to the Llanquihue Branch, Puerto Montt Stake, in the south of Chile. He is the author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ and an emeritus academic of the University of California and professor of the University of Chile; author of Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue between Individuals and other books. Gregorio’s paternal grandparents are Lithuanian Jews and German Jews and on his mother’s side of the family he is Chilean. He found Christ through reading the Book of Mormon. You may contact him through


  1. I love how you helped us as readers see how a verse in Isaiah that seemed to be a message of impending punishment, is really a message of hope. Thanks for the insights you have offered


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