This is Part II of the series. Ok, so this is not your one-minute version of Isaiah, even though I have abridged it. But I hope you will rejoice as you join me in learning more about this wonderful chapter. (An even more detailed version is available to those who want to download my free book, Isaiah Testifies of Christ.)
The Book of Mormon will contain the words of the righteous prophets and these words will testify to the descendants of the Lamanites and of the whole earth. The prayers of the faithful—such as Enos of whom we have already mentioned in Isaiah 28:5—will be fulfilled in that the descendants of the Lamanites will receive this book and be moved by the Spirit. The words of the Book of Mormon shall “speak from the ground.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith would play a key role in bringing forth these words in the last days (as we shall see in future installments of Isaiah 29). Through the power of the Holy Ghost, the words of the book will testify to all: Lamanite, Jew and Gentile. The Book of Mormon will be published at the last day (1) after the Nephites and Lamanites will have apostatized, (2) after the remaining Lamanites will have been humbled by the Gentile nations; and (3) at a time when the Gentile nations will be full of pride—at a time when they will have built many churches, but none unto God; at a time when they shall deny that God has any intercourse with man; at a time when miracles will be denied; and at a time when churches take advantage of the poor to build themselves up. At the last days all nations shall gather against Jerusalem. They will no more succeed than a hungry person can quench thirst or hunger in a dream.
vv. 1–8. Ariel (ארואל), or Jerusalem (ירושלים), or the City of David (דוד עיר), to include the Temple Mount, would be destroyed. One like Ariel, that is, the Nephite people, would likewise be destroyed. The people would continue to offer sacrifices upon the temple altar even after Christ would give His life for us. As a consequence, distress would come upon both of these Ariels (Jerusalem and the Nephite cities). After the destruction of the Nephites, in the latter days, the voice of the righteous prophets would come forth, as it were, from the ground (as the Book of Mormon plates were so buried).
1. “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city [where] David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
The BPE (from the Peshitta) footnotes explain that Ariel means Ari-El, or Ari of El (that is, Lion of Elohim or Abode/Home of Elohim). הוֹי, Woe, greetings, or oh! Jennings says, “Nor is it without tenderness that He here cries, ‘O Ariel, Ariel,’ for the interjection will bear equally well the rendering ‘O’ as ‘Woe.’ Thus we ought to be well prepared to see judgment and mercy mingled in what follows.” (Compare also to Isaiah 18, where הוֹי is given as a greeting rather than a warning.)
Ariel, אֲרִיאֵל. There are a number of interpretations for the meaning of this word. In Ezekiel 43:15, וְהָאֲרִאֵיל it clearly refers to the altar of burnt offerings (see Gesenius, HAL) or an “altar hearth” (WZAT) from אָרָה, to burn or kindle (Delitzsch); or אור, light (Lowth). Since Jerusalem was burnt in 70 AD, it would be easy to think that this is what was meant. The Targum (𝔗) follows this perspective. Others also follow the margin ║ (e.g., Rawlinson, Barnes, Gill), i.e., the lion of God, for אֲרִיאֵל. Margin means the notes that accompany some editions, especially of the King James Version, as alternate readings. My old missionary edition of the KJV had these notes. Our present edition of the Bible preserves some of these, also.
Gill suggests: “… it seems better to understand it of the city of Jerusalem, in which David encamped, as the word [dwelt, חָנָה] signifies; or ‘encamped against’, as some; which he besieged, and took from the Jebusites, and fortified, and dwelt in; and which may be so called from its strength and fortifications, natural and artificial, and from its being the chief city of Judah, called a lion, Genesis 49:9 whose standard had a lion on it, and from whence came the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah…” [Regarding encamped also see notes on Isaiah 29:3.] Gill adds, “…the words may be considered as of one calling to Jerusalem, and lamenting over it, as Christ did, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,’ &c. Matthew 23:37 and the mention of David’s name, and of his dwelling in it, is not only to point out what city is meant, and the greatness and glory of it; but to show that this would not secure it from ruin and destruction.”
A second very interesting point about Ariel is that several exegetes believe that reference is made to two Ariels. For instance, Gill suggests: “The words are rendered by Noldius, ‘woe to Ariel, to Ariel: to the city in which David encamped’; and he observes, that some supply the copulative ‘and; woe to Ariel, and to the city’, &c.” Clarke also speaks of two Ariels: “In the second verse it is said, I will distress Ari-el, and it shall be unto me as Ari-el. The first Ari-el here seems to mean Jerusalem, which should be distressed by the Assyrians: the second Ari-el seems to mean the altar of burnt offerings.”
Three LDS Apostles explain that two Ariels are meant (we will see Elder Orson Pratt’s narrative below, under Isaiah 29:2 notes). Elder LeGrand Richards frequently reiterated: “Not only did Isaiah see the destruction of the great city of Jerusalem, but he also saw the destruction of another great center here in America eleven hundred years after he made that prophecy.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie speaks of the multiple attacks on Jerusalem or Ariel and says: “This proclamation [against Ariel] is the setting for like woes that shall come upon another people, a people who went out from Jerusalem to become a great nation, but who, in turn, through sin fell from grace and became ‘as Ariel.’ Those who are to be ‘as Ariel’ are the Nephites, as we learn from chapter 3 of Second Nephi, Nephi’s paraphrase of Isaiah 29.”
Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. The idea of adding year upon year (עַל־שָׁנָה שָׁנָה) here is like that of Isaiah 30, adding sin upon sin (עַל־חַטָּאת חַטָּאת). Lowth has, “Ironically: Go on year after year; keep your solemn feasts; yet know, that God will punish you for your hypocritical worship, consisting of mere form destitute of true piety.”
Elder Orson Pratt has this to say, “… the Lord threatens Ariel, or Jerusalem, with judgment: he says, ‘woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices; yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow.’ After the Messiah came and was sacrificed for the sins of the world, the Jews continued to ‘kill sacrifices’ when they should have been done away; they added ‘year to year’ to the law of Moses, until they brought down ‘heaviness and sorrow,’ and great ‘distress’ upon their beloved city. The Roman army encompassed the city—cast a trench about it and finally brought it down ‘even with the ground.’ The principal part of the Jews perished, and a remnant was scattered among the nations where they have wandered in darkness unto this day.” Barnes puts this clause as an ironic statement.
Let them kill sacrifices. Barnes has, “Margin║, ‘Cut off the heads.’ The word here rendered ‘kill’ (נקף) may mean to smite; to hew; to cut down Isaiah 10:34; Job 19:26. But it has also another signification which better accords with this place. It denotes to make a circle, to revolve; to go round a place Joshua 6:3, 11; to surround 1Kings 7:24; 2Kings 6:14; Psalm 17:9; 22:17; 88:18. The word rendered ‘sacrifices’ (חגים) may mean a sacrifice Exodus 23:18; Psalm 118:27; Malachi 2:3, but it more commonly and properly denotes feasts or festivals (Exodus 10:9; 12:14; Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:10, 16:16; 1 Kings 8:2, 65; 2 Chronicles 7:8–9; Nehemiah 8:14; Hosea 2:11, 13.) Here the sense is, ‘let the festivals go round;’ that is, let them revolve as it were in a perpetual, unmeaning circle, until the judgments due to such heartless service shall come upon you. The whole address is evidently ironical, and designed to denote that all their service was an unvarying repetition of heartless forms.” Compare to Isaiah 1:11; and 66:3. But we can also see it as a siege of these two cities.
2 “Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow; [for thus hath the Lord said unto me,]
and it shall be unto me as Ariel;”
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow. Gill says, “… this he would do, notwithstanding their yearly sacrifices, and their observance of their solemn feasts, and other ceremonies of the law, in which they placed their confidence, and, neglected weightier matters.” Cheyne translates, וַאֲנִיָּה תַאֲנִיָּה, instead of heaviness and sorrow, as moaning and bemoaning, thus retaining the paronomasia.
Elder Orson Pratt, as we said, speaks about the second Ariel: “The latter part of the second verse [of Isaiah 29:2] speaks of another event that should be similar to the one which was to happen to Ariel, or Jerusalem: it reads thus; And it shall be unto me as Ariel’ [Isaiah 29:2]. This cannot have reference to Ariel itself, but it must refer to something which should be ‘As Ariel.’ It would be folly to say that Ariel shall be as Ariel. Therefore the word ‘it’ must refer to a nation that should suffer similar judgments to those which should befall Jerusalem. In the three following verses the Lord describes more fully the second event; he says, ‘And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shall be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. Moreover, the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away; yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.’ These predictions of Isaiah could not refer to Ariel or Jerusalem because their speech has not been ‘out of the ground, or low out of the dust’ but it refers to the remnant of Joseph who were destroyed in America upwards of fourteen hundred years ago. The Book of Mormon describes their downfall, and truly it was great and terrible. At the crucifixion of Christ, ‘the multitude of their terrible ones,’ as Isaiah predicted ‘became as chaff that passeth away,’ and it took place, as he further predicts, ‘at an instant suddenly.’ Many of their great and magnificent cities were destroyed by fire, others by earth thereby buried in the depths of the earth. This sudden destruction came upon them because they had stoned and killed the prophets sent among them. Between three and four hundred years after Christ they again fell into great wickedness, and the principal nation fell in battle. Forts were raised in all parts of the land, the remains of which may be seen at the present day. Millions of people perished in battle and they suffered just as the Lord foretold by Isaiah—And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee, and thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground,’ etc. This remnant of Joseph in their distress and destruction, became unto the Lord as Ariel. As the Roman army lay siege to Ariel, and brought upon her great distress and sorrow, so did the contending nations of ancient America bring upon each other the most direful scenes of blood and carnage. Therefore, the Lord could, with the greatest propriety, when speaking in reference to this event, declare that, ‘It shall be unto me as Ariel.’”
A Latter-day Saint scholar Philip Reynolds explains: “…remember that the Lamanites, about 100 B.C., built a city which they called Jerusalem (Alma 21:2), which was destroyed at the time of the crucifixion (3 Nephi 9:7).”  We also need to turn our attention to 3 Nephi 8:5–7; 11–12.
And [That] I [the Lord] will camp against thee [her] round about, and will lay siege against thee [her] with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee [her].”
The Targum (𝔗) has, “And I will encamp against thee with armies; and I will build a fortified camp (כַרקֹום) against thee, and I will cast up a mound against thee.”
The whole notion of encamping around (Isaiah 29:3, 1) is very interesting to us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as we turn to 2 Nephi 26:15, 18 and read about the many fortifications to be built, to no avail, by the peoples in the American continent whose fall would be as abrupt as that of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
That I the Lord will. Faussett, Gill, Barnes and many others agree with the Book of Mormon and the JST in making these the words of the Lord.
… camp against her round about, and will lay siege against her with a mount, and I will raise forts against her. Faussett suggests that the prophecy would be more fully fulfilled by the “Roman siege (Luke 19:43; 21:20).” As we have said, this attack would take place not only against Jerusalem but also against the Nephites in the final battle.
Mounts and forts. LHI assigns to צַרְתִּי / מְצֻרֹת the idea of siege works or apparatus that were used to overcome or destroy the fortified walls. Regarding the siege we read in the ISBE a number of related operations. The process of besieging included (1) surrounding the city, (2) placing archers on forts to discharge their weapons, (3) an inclined road made of packed soil and other matter was constructed so battering rams could be brought against the walls of the city, (4) battering rams could now be used to tear down or breach the walls, and (5) finally rushing the breach through which the attacking armies could enter the surrounded cities.
thou [she] shalt be brought down, [and] shalt speak out of the ground, and thy [her] speech shall be low out of the dust; and thy [her] voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy [her] speech shall whisper out of the dust.”
And she shalt be brought down. Gill writes, “To the ground, and laid level with it, even the city of Jerusalem, as it was by the Romans.” And no doubt Jerusalem was also intended as one that would be brought down. The idea here also corresponds to the peoples of ancient America that were brought down after the great and last battle of the Nephites and the Lamanites around Hill Cumorah as well as the disasters that took place in the American continent at the time of the crucifixion of Christ.
And shalt speak out of the ground, and her speech shall be low out of the dust; and her voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and her speech shall whisper out of the dust. The Targum (𝔗) has, “And shalt speak from beneath the earth …” Nägelsbach writes: “שׁחַח is used by Isaiah with tolerable frequency (Isaiah 2:9, 11, 17; 5:15; 25:12; 26:5). The word is used especially of a suppressed voice (Ecclesiastes 12:14)… The voice will, like that of the spirit of one dead, come forth out of the earth.” And if we follow Gesenius, not just come forth, but spring forth with the force of a wild beast who is low, ready to leap with much energy. ¶ The words of Elder Orson Pratt fill my eyes with tears of joy: “One of the most marvelous things connected with this prediction is that after the nation should be brought down, they should ‘speak out of the ground.’ [Isaiah 29:4.] This is mentioned or repeated four times in the same verse. Never was a prophecy more truly fulfilled than this in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith took that sacred history ‘out of the ground.’ It is the voice of the ancient prophets of America speaking ‘out of the ground’; their speech is ‘low out of the dust’; it speaks in a most familiar manner of the doings of by gone ages; it is the voice of those who slumber in the dust. It is the voice of prophets speaking from the dead, crying repentance in the ears of the living. In what manner could a nation, after they were brought down and destroyed, ‘speak out of the ground?’ Could their dead bodies, or their dust, or their ashes speak? Verily, no: they can only speak by their writings or their books that they wrote while living. Their voice, speech or words, can only ‘speak out of the ground,’ or ‘whisper out of the dust’ by their books or writings being discovered.” I wish to testify of the tremendous force with which the Spirit of the Holy Ghost will affirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of the divinity of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ … permitting the ancient Nephite and Lamanite prophets to whisper out of the dust. See my conversion story in the January 1992 Ensign, entitled “On Sacred Ground.”
5 “Moreover the multitude of
thy her strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones [shall be] as chaff that passeth away; yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.”
Moreover the multitude of her strangers shall be like small dust (דַּק כְּאָבָק). Gill says “… the simile of ‘small dust,’ to which they are compared, is not used to express the weakness of them, but the greatness of their number.” Rawlinson says: “In primitive societies every stranger is an enemy; and hence language the formation of primitive men often has one word for the two ideas. In Latin hostis is said to have originally meant ‘foreigner’ (Cic., ‘De Off,’ 1:12).” The Nephites, in the last battle in Cumorah were surrounded by an innumerable enemy or strange people.
And the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away. Rawlinson says, “‘Chaff,’ in Scripture, is always a metaphor for weakness.” This clause refers not to the attackers (those were described as small dust because of their great numbers), but rather to the attacked, the Nephite nation who at one time had been great. Now, they were consumed as chaff. While a few were indeed scattered, most were killed on Hill Cumorah. Those who were left were hunted down and killed by the Lamanites. Moroni was the only Nephite who lived to tell the story (Moroni 1).
It shall be at an instant suddenly. Elder Mark E. Peterson wrote: “Isaiah’s words were fulfilled to the letter. The people who wrote the Book of Mormon were indeed destroyed ‘at an instant suddenly’ (Isaiah 29:5). The book was sealed and placed in the ground for safekeeping by the last survivor of the Nephite nation—Moroni.”
“[But, behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations--]
6 [And when that day shall come]
Thou shalt [they shall] be visited of the Lord of hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and [with a] great noise, [and] with storm, and [with] tempest, and [with] the flame of devouring fire.”
This speaks of the total apostasy that would prevail before the coming of the Book of Mormon (as indicated by the idea of being drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations, as we also saw in Isaiah 28).
And when that day shall come they shall be visited of the Lord of hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire. Faussett well says that these verses refer to the last days, a time where neither Jew nor Gentile shall be possessed of the truth. (Also see D&C 88:88–90.)
the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel [Zion], even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision;”
The Targum (𝔗) has, “And the multitude of all the nations, that are gathered together against the city, and the altar which is in her, and all their camps and their armies, that are oppressing her, shall be like a phantom (literally, as a dream of the imagination) of the night.” The LXX (𝔊) uses Αριηλ (Ariel) in the first instance but Ιερουσαλημ (Jerusalem) instead of her in the same verse.
The Book of Mormon has Zion (צִיּוֹן) here, rather than the Ariel (אֲרִיאֵל) found in the Masoretic text, which makes the comments by Nägelsbach particularly interesting: “The concluding words of this verse ‘the multitude of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion,’ which correspond exactly to what we find in Isaiah 29:7, except that there instead of ‘Mount Zion’ the name ‘Ariel’ occurs, furnish the key to the understanding of the enigmatical word Ariel. Can it be deemed accidental that the Prophet in Isaiah 29:8 repeats those words of Isaiah 29:7 with the sole change of substituting for ‘Ariel’ the words ‘Mount Zion?’” The Book of Mormon does have a small difference, Zion (צִיּוֹן) vs. Mount Zion (צִיּוֹן הַר).
Govett, while also speaking of the early verses of this chapter, makes suggestions that fit well here: “These characteristics [i.e., dream of a night vision] point out that time as the day of the Saviour’s second advent. Moreover, as the enemies of Jerusalem are in the 7th verse stated to be ‘a multitude of all nations,’ this proves that the siege here spoken of will take place at the time of the Great Confederacy, so often alluded to. If the reader will compare this chapter with the twelfth and fourteenth chapters of Zechariah, he will discover the most evident harmony in the siege of Jerusalem there predicted; in its besiegers being ‘all nations,’ in the issue,—their utter discomfiture; and that too, after they have taken the city…”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “In the day when all nations are gathered at Jerusalem to fight against the chosen people; in the day when the house of Judah accepts Him in whose hands and feet are the nail marks of Calvary; when they look upon him whom they have pierced and ask, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ (Zechariah 13:6); and when he identifies himself as their God—in that day, the Lord of Hosts, the ancient God of battles, shall again fight their battles. Israel shall triumph. Their enemies shall be destroyed.”
Elder McConkie also says: “Let us be reminded that most of the wars fought from the fall of man to this hour have been religious wars. It was so before the flood; it was so in ancient Israel… and it will be so—a thousand times over—in the coming Armageddon. The nations that distress Jerusalem in that day will be in opposition to the Lord Jehovah. They will be fighting against Mount Zion.”
8 “Yea, it shall be unto them, even
be as when an unto a hungry [man] which dreameth, and, behold, he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty: or as when like unto a thirsty man which* dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh, but he awaketh, and, behold, [he is] faint, and his soul hath appetite; Yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against mount Zion.” * JST: uses “who” instead of “which.”
Yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and, behold, he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty. Have we not all experienced similar dreams at one time or another? Those who fight against the Lord will no more have power over Israel than to satisfy their hunger or thirst while they dream. The natural man may be ever searching to dictate to God but no satisfaction can be obtained—no enduring happiness—unless we align our desires with those of God.
Or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh, but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite. Rawlinson explains, “The entire host of the ‘terrible ones’ would melt away and disappear, as a night vision before the light of day it would dissolve into nothing, vanish, leave no trace.” This speaks against Israel’s enemies.
Yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against mount Zion. Once again, this has reference to the nations who in the last days will surround Jerusalem and will even succeed to some degree before the triumphal entry by the Lord of hosts who will stand in the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the mount will then split in two making possible the refuge and escape of the Lord’s people. A nation will be born in a day as they are converted to the Lord and recognize Jesus Christ as the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 66:8).
 Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament.
 Elder LeGrand Richards, A Testimony, Ensign (CR), November 1980, p.63. Also see Elder LeGrand Richards, Conference Report, April 1967, First Day-Morning Meeting, p.21–22.
 Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp.430–436.
 Pratt, Orson. Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, number 6, Prophetic evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon, Latter-day tracts, p. 87.
 Reynolds, Philip C., ed. Commentary on the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, Utah. 4:289–290.
According to the Targum Lexicon, ‘Siege works.’
 See SIEGE in ISBN for a very interesting and thorough article on this subject—in terms of the actions of both the attackers and the defenders.
 Gesenius has, “To sink down, Habakkuk 3:6; used of beasts of prey couching down and lying in wait in their lairs, Job 38:40,” and LHI has low.
 Pratt, Orson. Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, number 6, Prophetic evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon, Latter-day tracts, p. 87.
 HCSB, LHI, ISV, LBP, LITV, NASB, and RV use fine. Most others use small.
 Mark E. Petersen, Isaiah for Today, p.108.
 Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp.430–436.
Don't Miss a Post!
Stay up to date with the latest news, fulfilled prophecies, and study tips
I like your scholarly article on the book of Isaiah, and though I have had a recent stroke that has deeply hindered my present capacity, I have loved the writings of Isaiah since I was an Idaho farm boy of fourteen when I first read the Book of Mormon. I would like to read your other articles, and discuss the meanings of those articles as well, even though I struggle with language, I love salient discussions on the gospel and study the scriptures every day. I wish you well in you future projects and look forward to reading them. Respectfully, Heber J. Trunnell St. George, Utah
Dear Brother Heber. Thanks so much for your kind comments. They made my day! Your language is great, and I hope for many blessing to come upon you. Your love for the scriptures is an example to all. Just last night I was watching a video on the new seminary curriculum and one of the sisters spoke about the youth (and by implication all members) should fall in love with the scriptures. There are two ways to download the PDF of the book Isaiah Testifies of Christ: one is returning to the article and clicking on the link in the first paragraph, and the other, if it works from this comment, is to link here: http://holyscriptures7.blogspot.com/2017/10/isaiah-testifies-of-christ-3rd-edition.html
[…] is the third, and longest, of four installments (Part I: Isaiah 29; Part II: Isaiah 29:1-8) on Isaiah 29, comprising of verses 9–16 (and including aids from latter-day […]
[…] Isaiah 29, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, comprising of verses 17–24 (Part I: Isaiah 29; Part II: Isaiah 29:1-8; and Part III: Isaiah […]