You are here
2 Nephi 23
Show Full Text
2 Nephi 23
Prophecies Against Babylon
2 Nephi 23:1
1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.
A new chapter begins at this point in the Book of Mormon insertion of Isaiah chapters, and it corresponds to the second major section of Isaiah. The previous unit very clearly dealt with Assyria, which was the current threat during Isaiah’s lifetime. This chapter begins by discussing Babylon, which should be an anachronism.
The Book of Mormon has already cited passages from what scholars call Deutero-Isaiah, and second Isaiah. It is posited as a different writer, whose writings were ascribed to Isaiah. Although there are other reasons for that assignation, one of the reasons is that the text refers so clearly to the Babylonian captivity, which is a hundred years in Isaiah’s future.
It is possible to suggest that prophetic knowledge is sufficient to see what will happen and identify correctly the nations by name, but this reference to Babylon occurs in a section that is attributed to Isaiah himself. How is it that this first Isaiah might refer to Babylon if the reference to Babylon is one of the reasons that Deutero-Isaiah is suggested as being a different writer?
A non-Latter-day Saint scholar suggests that we are seeing some later editorial changes in Isaiah’s text, changes which update information that pertained to the Assyrian invasion to the later Babylonian invasion which paralleled the Assyrian invasion in many ways. With the understanding that there are times when we can see a later editorial hand making some changes in the uncontested Isaiah, perhaps that lays a foundation for understanding a later editorial hand, perhaps even a heavy editorial hand, in the Deutero-Isaiah chapters.
That would allow the texts cited in the Book of Mormon to have been part of Isaiah, but simply preserved in the forms and contexts of the later editorial hand.
2 Nephi 23:2–5
2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.
3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones, for mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.
4 The noise of the multitude in the mountains like as of a great people, a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together, the Lord of Hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle.
5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, yea, the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
With the shift to a new section, Isaiah returns to the idea of Yahweh as the punishing and angry God. The last chapter ended with Yahweh’s eventual triumph, and this chapter precedes that triumphant time. Similar to the previous prophesied destruction, Yahweh does declare that his “anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.” Yahweh is angered with those who have strayed, not with the righteous.
Similar to the previous prophecy of destruction, this will come “from a far country,” and will be the Lord’s “weapons of his indignation, to destroy the land.” These are themes from the chapters discussing the Assyrian invasion, and certainly apply to that time period. They also apply to the invasion from Babylon, and that is the reason that the later editor added in the idea that this is a prophecy of a second invasion. Since there are two prophecies of invasions, and the later editor knew that there had been two, the Assyrian and the Babylonian, we have this prophecy specifically applied to the Babylonian invasion.
2 Nephi 23:6–9
6 Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, every man’s heart shall melt;
8 And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
9 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
As with the previous prophecy, there is a description of how terrible that day will be. In verse 6, the children of Israel are told that they would “howl,” suggesting pain and torment. Note that it is because the day of the Lord is at hand. As with the explicit statements in the last unit about Assyria being the Lord’s hireling, this destruction will also come at a mortal’s hand, but as a tool of Yahweh’s wrath.
There is little difference in the nature of the description of the destruction here and that from the previous unit. Ancient war tended to have similar descriptions and terrors. Thus, these verses could apply to the Assyrian invasion, but would also be prophetic of the Babylonian conquest a century in the future.
2 Nephi 23:10–13
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
11 And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.
12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
13 Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.
Isaiah has used poetic parallels in the previous unit, and he continues that trend here. The first is a set of three parallel heavenly bodies, the stars, sun, and moon. Each is known to provide light, but in the terrible day they will be reversed and be darkened.
The reason is in verse 11. Yahweh will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity. The next image is the imagined heights that those who are arrogant and haughty believe themselves to be, which will be revered. Their positions will be reversed, continuing the theme of the reversal of common expectations.
That reversal continues with two images involved with gold. Gold is precious because it is useful, but also relatively scarce. After the destruction, it will be humankind that is scarce, and, therefore, more valuable than the gold which is the current worldly standard of value.
The shaking of the heavens and the moving of earth is a metaphor for the destruction that is coming.
2 Nephi 23:14–16
14 And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up; and they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.
15 Every one that is proud shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword.
16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
The description of the destructiveness of the invasion continues. Things will not continue with normal life, but people will be chased and be forced to flee.
The parallels in verse 15 both hinge on the image of the sword. It is mentioned in the second parallel and suggested by the verb “to thrust through” in the first. Each similar, but slightly different mention of the sword follows the destruction of similar, but slightly different types of people, the proud and the wicked.
The terror will remove all that the proud and wicked hold dear, including their children, homes, and wives.
2 Nephi 23:17–22
17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver and gold, nor shall they delight in it.
18 Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
21 But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.
22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her day shall not be prolonged. For I will destroy her speedily; yea, for I will be merciful unto my people, but the wicked shall perish.
The Medes will be allied with the enemy. This might help to clarify the original prophecy with the Assyrian invasion. At that time, the Medes were part of the Assyrian empire, but they were among those who attached and destroyed Assyria later.
As we have the prophecy, it indicates that Babylon would overthrow the children of Israel just as when Yahweh overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, both cities seen has having sinned against Yahweh. Israel’s sins are, therefore, implied to be similarly worthy of destruction.
The image of wild beasts feeding where there was once cultured pasture is the same image that Isaiah had used in the last unit.
Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.
Get the latest updates on Book of Mormon topics and research for free