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2 Nephi 19
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2 Nephi 19
2 Nephi 19:1–2
1 Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations.
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
The beginning verse starts with the word nevertheless, strongly suggesting the wisdom of the Book of Mormon’s original chapters that kept these verses in the context of the previous chapter. The last chapter ended with those who did not believe listening to the wrong voices, not being nourished by the word, and seeing only darkness when they looked to heaven. Nevertheless—that important word—signals a shift.
Isaiah had already hinted that the righteous need not fear but needed to wait upon the Lord. Isaiah now begins to explain the hope at the end of the coming misery. Through Isaiah the Lord declares that the destruction coming upon Judah will be bad, but not to the extent of the judgment upon the ten tribes (represented by the mention of Zebulun and Naphtali).
Returning to the imagery of those who look to the heavens and see darkness, Isaiah declares that there will come a day when they will instead see a great light. Isaiah contrasts the darkness of death with the light of life—but a life that is coming after the destruction.
2 Nephi 19:3–5
3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and increased the joy—they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor.
5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
Earlier, Isaiah had invoked an agricultural imagery of burned fields. While the fields that are burned are certainly destroyed, the end result is that nutrients are returned to the soil, and at a future time there will be another harvest. This is a regular agricultural practice in some regions. That imagery returns in verse 3. There is joy in the harvest. The idea is that there will come a time of abundance after the coming privation.
The yoke is the burden of foreign domination. Yahweh will remove that. The staff and rod are symbols of authority and power, respectively. Thus, both authority and power over the children of Israel will be removed. In the shorter historical future, this will remove Assyrian dominance. Then, it will remove Babylonian dominance. In the final days, when Yahweh takes his rightful place as king, it will remove power from all earthly powers and Yahweh will reign supreme.
The ultimate future salvation is referenced in verse 5. This will not be an earthly battle in which the warriors are steeped in blood, both their own and that of their enemies. It will be in the final times, when will come a burning of all the wicked prior to the installation of Yahweh as the king.
2 Nephi 19:6–7
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
The New Testament conditions modern readers to associate verse 6 with Jesus Christ. That is certainly correct, but not for Christ’s mortal mission, but rather in the ultimate Messianic role as the king over the earth. The language notes that it is a son. Perhaps this is a tie to Jesus’s most common personal identification, which was the son of man. This future messianic king is expected on earth, and Jesus declares the he is part of humankind as a Son of Man.
The other epithets clearly underscore the future role of the kingly Messiah. In verse 7 the expectation is made clear: “of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David.” There will come a Messiah out of the line of David who will be the king over all the earth.
All of this is true of Jesus as the Messiah, but the final role of his messiahship remains for the last days.
2 Nephi 19:8–12
8 The Lord sent his word unto Jacob and it hath lighted upon Israel.
9 And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart:
10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
11 Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Isaiah returns to the prophecies he has made. There are two. The first was that Remaliah (represented by their ruler Rezin) and the Syrians will not hinder Judah. Of that prophecy Isaiah notes that while it appears bleak, it will turn out well. There might be some bricks that fall, but they will be replaced with stronger hewn stones. Judah will survive and be stronger after the first threat.
The threat will be ended, not because Judah will prevail militarily, but because Assyria will sweep them away. Assyria will devour Israel, which is the name for the northern kingdom and the location of the ten tribes. What becomes the caution in this temporarily hopeful situation is that while this favorable thing is happening, Yahweh will continue to be angry with wayward Judah. When it says that his hand is stretched out still, it is an image of a ruler who is still commanding armies to come against them. Those armies will be from Assyria.
2 Nephi 19:13–18
13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.
14 Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day.
15 The ancient, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows; for every one of them is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
18 For wickedness burneth as the fire; it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forests, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
The reason that the Lord continues to be angry with the people of Judah is that they have turned from the Lord. Isaiah has noted this several times and emphasizes it yet again. They do not turn to Yahweh or seek him. Therefore, Yahweh will smite them.
Verse 14 says that “the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day.” This is poetic language to encompass the vast destruction to come. The leaders as well as the laborers, and all in between, will be rapidly destroyed. That was certainly the case as Assyria swept through Judah before encamping around Jerusalem.
Verse 17 focuses on the devastation to portions of the population that would not be militarily involved. They too will feel Yahweh’s wrath. The poetic repetition comes again that his anger is not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. It will not be over, even with those events.
In verse 18 we again have the burning. This time, it devours briers and thorns, or the wicked. There will be terrible destruction, but as with the seasonal burning of the fields, it will ultimately be a burning meant to renew. For that reason, the smoke is lifted up. This is a parallel to the incense that is offered to Yahweh in the temple. There is an ultimate divine result of this terrible devastation.
2 Nephi 19:19–21
19 Through the wrath of the Lord of Hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire; no man shall spare his brother.
20 And he shall snatch on the right hand and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm—
21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh; they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
These final verses, copied from Isaiah 9, continue the description of the destruction that is coming. The imagery of darkness is reiterated. The imagery of the agricultural fire is repeated, but now “people shall be as the fuel of the fire,” not stubble. It is a devastation so complete that all are included.
The famine that comes after will be great. There will not be enough to eat. Even after all this destruction, it will not yet be over. The poetic line is repeated that “for all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”
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