Join John Bytheway and Darryl Alder as they discuss Johns presentation of Isaiah 50 from Isaiah for Airheads and explore symbolism and meaning in Isaiah’s Third Servant Song:
Darryl: Hi, we’re here today with John Bytheway. We’re talking about 2nd Nephi, chapter 7, which is also Isaiah, chapter 50. And in ‘Isaiah for Airheads‘, you start right out and say, Jacob taught these words according to 2 Nephi 7:8, to the people of Nephi, as recorded in his word, 2 Nephi 6:1. So in my recent studies, I came across a scholar who says that Jacob might not be teaching his relatives. So, tell me a little about the chapter and give me any insight you can think of where that would make sense.
John: The Book of Mormon says it was written to the Lamanites in the very beginning, but then it says liken it to all of you. And so, I don’t know, sometimes could it be both. Like Isaiah’s dualistic, maybe he’s talking to both, but I can see where he might be going.
Darryl: But, if we look at the title page, it doesn’t just say the Lamanites, it also says to the Jew and the Gentile. So, there’s kind of an order there. And I wonder Nephi’s probably tied more to the Jew from his tradition, having grown up in Jerusalem. But Jacob’s the young kid born in the wilderness, and who knows how old they are. I like to imagine that this particular set of chapters and readings happened at a general conference where Nephi has assigned Jacob to talk because he says he is. And Jacob gives some commentary about what his brother just said in Isaiah 48 and 49, which was 1 Nephi 20 and 21. Any insights you have into what’s going on between the two of them, other than there might be 20 years difference in their age?
John: Yeah, I think I can see where Jacob might be looking; more to the future. It says in 2 Nephi 6:12:
“Blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved.”
And this is the thing; the Book of Mormon we’re always told it is written for us. So, was he talking to them, was he talking to us? And the answer is probably yes, a little bit of both, don’t you think? And maybe in the same way that Isaiah can be dualistic, and as far as having multiple meanings and maybe this is the same thing here, because I’ve often thought it sounds, boy, like he’s really talking to them saying we are still house of Israel, but that’s a good message for us too.
Darryl: I wonder if Jacob by this point, has seen Christ. He says that somewhere soon, in the Book of Mormon, I’m trying to remember where, no Nephi says, “My brother and I have seen Christ.” And so, it’s Isaiah. So, that makes all three of them, witnesses of Christ. That really makes the Book of Mormon another testament for Christ for sure. That’s kind of cool.
Symbolism in the Third Servant Song
There’s a lot of symbolism in here and you’d highlighted a couple, I thought that our readers might be interested in – the hand and the arm of the Lord. What does that mean?
John: It symbolizes his power. And an extended hand is different than a shortened hand. So, have I shortened my hand, am I not involved anymore or am I involved? So, his arm is revealed, then we can all tell, whoa, the Lord’s involved in this.
Darryl: When you just did that, it made me think of Mahonri Moriancumer (the brother of Jared) when he reached out his arm and saw the finger of the Lord.
John: Yeah, you saw my fingers.
Darryl: Oh wow.
John: So that’s what I’ve always thought, and sometimes we’ll get, his hand is stretched out still, and I’ve even read that sometimes it’s a hand to strike and another to embrace. And we see kind of the arm of justice, the arm of mercy, we might say. We see both of them.
Darryl: So, this next one has to do with the word flint in verse 7, “I set my face like flint.” Now I’m a boy scout from a long time and flint is a really hard rock and when I strike steel against it, it actually shaves off a piece of the steel and makes a spark. So, talk to us about what that means there – “I set my face like a flint”?
John: Well, I’m no flint expert, but it sounds like it’s a hard stone. And when he set his face like flint, I get this sense of determination and resolve that I’m going to do the will of the Father here, and we get that in the New Testament. In the book of John, every chapter in the book of John mentions the Father except for John chapter 21. And he’s always telling us, I’m here to do the will of the Father, I’m going to take you to the Father and that determination, that’s what the flint reminds me of a really hard set.
Darryl: Yes. It’s interesting because flint’s usually black or grey. Think about that also on your face, just as you did that face to me, that is a flint-like face, for sure. I’m not going to be your kid if you have a flint face. So, in verses 5 through 7 where it talks about “I gave my back to this smiter.” You amplified things that were interesting. “I” gave my back, and I thought that was interesting, but there’s something in here about plucking hair off the cheeks. Can you find that and read it to us?
John: 2nd Nephi, 7:6. “I gave my back to the smiter, and my cheeks to them, that plucked off the hair.”
Darryl: Have you ever heard of hair being plucked off?
John: I don’t think it’s mentioned in the account, in the New Testament, that they pulled his hair out. But I know one of the commentaries, Hoyt Brewster says that was a way to humiliate or degrade someone, to pull their hair out.
Darryl: So, I know the Babylonian shaved them completely, shaved them bald, shaved their face. So, I wonder if… I mean, that’d be torturous to have a beard plucked out.
John: Yes, I don’t think they were careful either when they did it, and we’ll talk about that in 2nd Nephi chapter eight. But this idea of scabs, if someone shaves you and they don’t care about being careful, if you’re a prisoner, you’re going to have scabs.
Darryl: So much more torment there than I want to think about. You cited something in 2nd Nephi 7:9, there’s a footnote “A” that refers to Romans and the Joseph Smith translation. I want to be sure we bring that out because it meant something to me.
John: “It says the Lord is near, he justifieth me.” And it sounds like, this is the Messiah talking about the Father is with me, and it could also mean as we see in Isaiah, that the whole house of Israel, the Lord will be near them. But, yeah in Romans 8:31, the footnote here, which says, “if God before us, who can be against us,” and that’s a good point. God and one other person is a majority. You’ve probably heard that before. But the JST says, “if God before us who can prevail against us?”
Darryl: What a good word, prevail really…
John: Yes, kind of changes it, that we’ll have opposition, but they won’t prevail because God will be with us.
Darryl: So, in verse 9, there are two more symbols: wax and moths.
John: When I see wax in the scriptures, it always seems to be connected with growing. A lot of times in the Book of Mormon, they wax to stronger.
Darryl: That’s interesting because we talked about the moon waxing and waning, and that’s the only use in English that I was even familiar with before this.
John: Do you know what I always think of, which probably is incorrect? I always think of when you go to Nauvoo and they’re dipping the candles and showing you because each layer grows, and I think of the wax growing, which is probably not at all what they were talking about, but it just reminds me of that.
Darryl: For some reason, I was reading this today and thinking about waxing on and waxing off from the Karate Kid. But that’s not what it means. But you had something very clever here about the moth I thought was…
John: Oh, what did I say?
Darryl: Well, something about Purina, the Purina dog food company.
John: Purina moth chow, because moths are usually symbols of decay and destruction. So, where thieves can break through and steal, and moths corrupt, if you set your heart on material things, they all corrupt, they either rust, or fabric decays and moths get in it and stuff like that.
Darryl: So, you talked about this book with the symbol of Jesus knocking at the door and you did a nice summary with that. You talked about Matthew 7, through 8, and some assurance Isaiah gave us. Can you reflect on those?
John: Yeah, the idea of asking, I can’t remember, it might’ve been Boyd K Packer, that says…that command is given so often about asking. It’s so interesting, it never says don’t bother us up here, we’re busy, but it’s always just ask, just ask, just ask. Let’s see, where is Matthew verse is…
Darryl: It was the very end of the chapter.
John: Oh, of 2nd Nephi, 7.
Darryl: It was in your very summary. So, Matthew, 7:7, it says, “Isaiah assures modern day Covenant Israel that God is constantly available, constantly willing to keep his promises,” but I didn’t look up the Matthew one. It says, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” And you showed us that and it’s almost like a parallelism. Though Isaiah didn’t say that exactly, that’s what I was missing, and I just wanted to get that clarified. Isaiah was essentially saying the same thing.
John: Yes. God is there, he’s available, his arm is not shortened. His miracles were real, he’s reminding them of them and I just get that sense of, hey, I’ve always been here, type of a message in 2nd Nephi, 7.
Darryl: Well, I can tell you what, I’ll never think of this painting that Del Parson made of Jesus at the door the same way again, because I didn’t have a dad, or anyone else, until today, thank you, John Bytheway, for showing me there’s no knob on the door.
I’m the one who has to open the door if I want to let Christ in.
Thank you, appreciate you visiting with us today.
John: Great, I enjoyed it. Thanks.