4 Keys to Hack Isaiah! (from Nephi) | Search Hack 4








Learn the manner of prophesying among the Jews. Isaiah was “what LDS scholar Victor L. Ludlow called a ‘deliberately difficult’ prophet.… Conceal what you are going to say. Never use the same noun twice when referring to a person, group or place (Isaiah uses five different names to describe the same place in one instance). Speak of future events in past tense at times [because you saw the future yesterday in a vision]. In fact, have no time frame — move in and out of past, present and future without telling the reader what you’re doing. Use complex symbolism rather than simple parables. Never let anyone know whether you’re being literal or figurative. All of these come under the heading of the ‘manner of prophesying among the Jews.’” (John Bytheway, “Nephi’s Keys to Understanding the Isaiah Chapters” )















Have the spirit of prophecy.

…For because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. (2 Nephi 25:4)

John Bytheway says that this verse often solicits this response, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, Nephi, you were a prophet!” Nephi was, after all, a prophet and most of us do not feel we could be like him in this matter, selling ourselves short.  Though most of us may not have his stature we are God’s children and if confirmed members of His Church we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He also reminded us that “John the Revelator taught that the testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).”
Ask yourself, if you have a testimony of Christ and if you do how did you get it? Probably some form of personal revelation, which means you have had the spirit of prophecy. Joseph Smith taught:

God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149).

If yours is a righteous desire to search the words of Isaiah, as we are commanded by the Lors, surely He will “prepare a way” for you to keep that commandment. Bytheway concludes “this way, you have the spirit of prophecy.”














Know the regions round about. Nephi had an advantage of growing up in Jerusalem, just 140 years after Isaiah made these prophecies. For the modern-day reader, we have to learn about Judah 2500+ years later. Isaiah uses 108 different place names with strange pronunciations that can lose the reader.

There are maps of the Holy Land in your scriptures that that may be helpful, but if you feel lost, Bytheway writes,”take heart. You’re in good company. One day, while the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, he looked up and asked, ‘Emma, does Jerusalem have a wall around it?’ She said, ‘Yes, Joseph, Jerusalem has a wall around it. Everybody knows that.’ He said, ‘Thank goodness; I thought I was being deceived.’ And he went right on translating the record. (Events in Life of Prophet, “Elect Lady,” LDS Church News, 1994, 09/10/94).

If Joseph Smith didn’t know that much about Jerusalem while translating, then we don’t need to feel lost as we begin to learn our Holy Land geography.… I suggest if you can just remember four kingdoms, you’ll be in great shape:”

the military superpower to the northeast
the cultural, commercial center to the east
the apostate kingdom just north of Judah
the kingdom just north of Israel

(I might also have mentioned Egypt, but you’ve all heard about Egypt, and it would mess up my system of fours.) You might say I have a BIAS for the four above. BIAS = Babylon, Israel, Assyria, and Syria.” (John Bytheway, “Nephi’s Keys …”)
















Live in the last days

I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them. (2 Ne 25:8.)

Nephi makes an intriguing statement that begs the question: Why will Isaiah better understood in the last days? Perhaps it is because all around us we see things Isaiah prophesied happening around us. We are witnessing the growth of the Church, construction of temples, and the gathering of Israel by our missionary force. If we carefully study the scriptures the Lord’s Spirit may help us see these things fulfilled. Also as we review we can use these resources:

  1. Restoration scriptures which help clarify Isaiah passages, like the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
  2. The synopsis at the beginning of each chapter Isaiah and the Book of Mormon. These helpful summaries offer guidance and doctrinal points.
  3. Scripture footnotes add clarifying comments and offer other references.
  4. The LDS Bible Dictionary contains short articles on Isaiah, the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.
  5. Maps of the Holy Land in the back of the scriptures and Old Testament Institute manuals.
  6. Modern prophets who have commented on Isaiah in their writings and General Conferences(See LDS Scripture Citation Index where Church leaders have quoted Isaiah more than 4000 times)
  7. Books and articles from faithful LDS scholars on understanding Isaiah.” (John Bytheway, “Nephi’s Keys …”)


Video: Skyler Hunter | Mobaliz Video Content manager 2018.

Author: John Bytheway | in notes from 2008 in Meridian magazine and at Isaiah Helps

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Search Isaiah is a resource for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to dive into the book of Isaiah. By sharing a vast range of resources including study guides, articles, podcasts, and more, we hope to provide readers with ways to search the book of Isaiah.


  1. Skyler, I wish you knew how much these hacks help me as a Gospel Doctrine Teacher. I need one every week from now on. Please keep them coming


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