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2 Nephi 26
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2 Nephi 26
Christ’s Future Visit to the Nephites
2 Nephi 26:1–3
1 And after Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my beloved brethren; and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do.
2 For behold, I say unto you that I have beheld that many generations shall pass away, and there shall be great wars and contentions among my people.
3 And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.
The 1830 edition did not have the chapter break that separates our chapters 25 and 26 of 2 Nephi. The original chapter included our chapters 25, 26, and 27. Therefore, these verses were intended to follow immediately after Nephi’s discussion of the Messiah’s atoning mission.
After the atonement, the Messiah will rise from the dead. As part of his victory over death, he will appear to Nephi’s descendants. In 2 Nephi 25:12, Nephi had suggested that wars and rumors of wars would precede the coming of the Messiah. That theme is repeated here in the New World context. Nephi declares that many generations would pass, but then there would be great wars and contentions. Our understanding of Nephi history tells us that wars and contentions were frequently part of their challenges, but Nephi is using them as a sign of the coming of the Messiah.
It is after wars and contentions that the signs would be given of the Messiah’s birth. Indeed, there are wars and contentions that come before the New World appearance of the signs of the Messiah’s birth, and then death. During Nephi’s vision associated with the tree of life, he saw the future appearance of the Messiah, and saw that it came after tempests and great destructions. Those are the destructions that he is referencing here.
2 Nephi 26:4–7
4 Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble.
5 And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and whirlwinds shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder.
6 And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
7 O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.
At the time when the Messiah will appear to the Nephites, that day will be accompanied with terrible destructions. There will be cities burned, there will be cities submerged, and there will be great quaking of the ground. These destructions will be accompanied by thunderings, and lightings, and earthquakes. All these things will take place in the descriptions in 3 Nephi.
Here, there are prophecies. What is important is that Nephi declares that he has seen it. During his experience with the tree of life vision, he saw these future events, and described the thunderings and lightings, and the earthquakes that he saw in the vision. This connection to Nephi’s important vision is important because it will combine with the themes from Isaiah and become the foundation for Nephi’s exposition that will end 2 Nephi. Nephi is not only discussing Isaiah, but intermixing Isaiah to form a different version of the vision that he saw.
Nephi is declaring that his vision was true by using Isaiah’s prophecies to elucidate that vision.
Destruction of the Nephites
2 Nephi 26:8–9
8 But behold, the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets, and destroy them not, but look forward unto Christ with steadfastness for the signs which are given, notwithstanding all persecution—behold, they are they which shall not perish.
9 But the Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness.
Isaiah 3:10 (quoted in 2 Nephi 13:10) has Yahweh command Isaiah: “Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” Nephi has the same message for those who live at the time of the great destructions preceding the Messiah’s appearance. Those who will be righteous and look forward to the Messiah will not perish in that terrible day. It is intended to be a parallel promise to the one Yahweh commanded that Isaiah declare.
The Book of Mormon uses the title Son of Righteousness as a name for the Messiah. Although it is similar to the phrase Sun of righteousness in Malachi 4:2, the Malachi version is sun, and Nephi’s version indicates the s-o-n. The idea that the Messiah would heal them is both accurate prophecy of what will happen when the Messiah arrives, but also a possible allusion to Malachi 4:2, which says that “the Sun of righteousness [will] arise with healing in his wings.”
The final phrase is an important timed prophecy. After the Messiah appears, there will be four hundred years pass away in righteousness. That four hundred years accurately predicts the timing of the destruction of the Nephites but does not accurately predict that the whole time will be righteous. That is because the timing of the righteousness is not the point. The point is the four hundred years.
Assuming that the Book of Mormon is taking place in Mesoamerica as Nephi wrote, a four-hundred-year prophecy would have been particularly significant. Mesoamericans used a base 20 method of counting, and their four-hundred-year period was called, in Maya, a baktun. It had the kind of psychic force that a thousand years does for us, who are used to a base 10 system.
2 Nephi 26:10–11
10 And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell.
11 For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul.
After the four hundred years Nephi mentioned in the previous verse, his people will be destroyed. Again, he declares: “I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass.” He saw it in his vision which was associated with the tree of life. Nephi continues to interweave his vision with the themes from Isaiah. In this case, there is no reference to Isaiah as this is very specific to the Nephite nation.
Nephi indicates that “the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man.” The Nephites will have had access to the Spirit of the Lord and the Lord’s protection. However, that protection is conditional upon righteousness. The Lord certainly tolerates times when humankind might be in need of repentance, and they are given time to do so. However, there will come a time, when there is too much unrighteousness, perhaps for too long, perhaps with no indication of repentance—when that Spirit will be withdrawn. When the Spirit is withdrawn, the promise of protection is withdrawn, and, therefore, Nephi declares that “then cometh speedy destruction.”
Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 26:12–14
12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;
13 And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.
14 But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men.
In verse 12, Nephi mentions that he had already spoken of the convincing of the Jews that Jesus is the very Christ. He is referring to 2 Nephi 25:18 where he specifically said that his words would be “for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah.” As the coming Messiah, Jesus would manifest “himself unto all those who believe in him,” and would work “mighty miracles, signs and wonders.” Those would be evidence that he was truly the Messiah.
With that purpose in mind, Nephi moves to the next phase of his vision, which is the time when the convincing of the Jew and Gentile would begin to come to pass. From Nephi’s perspective, that will be the last days. From our perspective, it is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 26:15
15 After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.
Nephi uses military terms to describe the state of his descendants in the last days. They have dwindled in unbelief and will be smitten by the gentiles. The story of the coming forth of the words of the Nephites is presented through an interpretation and application of Isaiah 29.
The beginning of verse 15 is Nephi’s words, but when he says “yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them,” he is restating Isaiah 29. It is not a precise copy, but one that will be adapted to the purpose of defining how the Nephite words would become a means of convincing the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Messiah.
After loosely quoting from Isaiah 29:3, Nephi uses Isaiah’s phrase “they shall be brought down” to indicate that his brethren would be slaughtered and therefore be buried and become as dust. That is the intent of “even that they are not.” The Nephites will perish.
In spite of having perished, however, they will have written down their words, and the prayers of the faithful will preserve that which was written.
2 Nephi 26:16–17
16 For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.
17 For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God.
Nephi uses Isaiah 29:4 as the basis for this expansion. Our verse 16 is mostly a quotation, but Nephi adds, after quoting that “their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit,” the idea that the Lord will give those from the dust power to speak to men—to “whisper concerning them.” The important aspect is that it would come from out of the dust. It appears that Nephi’s vision included hiding the Nephite record in the ground, which would be a more literal fulfillment of this prophecy that even Isaiah would have understood.
At this point Nephi departs from Isaiah and continues the way he applies Isaiah to the future of his people’s writings. Those words are sealed up in a book. It will not be available to those descendants of Nephi who have dwindled in unbelief.
2 Nephi 26:18–19
18 Wherefore, as those who have been destroyed have been destroyed speedily; and the multitude of their terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away—yea, thus saith the Lord God: It shall be at an instant, suddenly—
19 And it shall come to pass, that those who have dwindled in unbelief shall be smitten by the hand of the Gentiles.
Although Nephi is not quoting Isaiah, he is alluding to Isaiah. Verse 18 alludes to Isaiah 29:5, which says: “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.” This is not a complete quotation, but a modified quotation. The essence and much of the wording is preserved, but it is recontextualized into Nephi’s vision of the future, rather than Isaiah’s original context.
The image of speedy destruction will be applied to the future Nephites who will “dwindle in unbelief and be smitten by the gentiles.”
2 Nephi 26:20–23
20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.
21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.
22 And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
23 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.
In Isaiah 3:14 and 15, Isaiah condemned the inequalities imposed by the ruling elite. Nephi takes up that cause but puts the issue in the hands of the gentiles who are building up churches. Nephi is combining Isaiah with his vision’s understanding of the great and abominable church. That symbolic church represents those who “preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain.” The phrase “grind upon the face of the poor” echoes very similar language in Isaiah 3:15.
Nephi ties secret combinations to the great and abominable church. Jacob had tied secret combinations to works of darkness in his discourse. In 2 Nephi 9:9, Jacob says: “And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.”
Nephi’s declaration that the Lord God does not work in darkness echoes Jacob and firmly declares that secret combinations are antithetical to God.
All Invited to Come to the Lord
2 Nephi 26:24–25
24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
After declaring that Yahweh does not work in darkness, Nephi declares that what he does is for the benefit of the world. In particular, he will lay down his life to provide atonement for all humankind.
Starting in verse 25 there will be several verses that begin with the interesting rhetorical reversal which asks if the Lord has said something that we know to be contrary to what Yahweh desires. Here, Nephi asks if Yahweh says to any, “depart from me.” The answer, of course, is no. The ending phrase conflates Isaiah 7:22, “And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land,” and Isaiah 55:1 “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
2 Nephi 26:26–28
26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
The reversals of expectation continue with further declarations of things Yahweh has not asked of his people. Unlike the previous verse, these verses do not appear to directly invoke Isaiah. They may, however, be seen as progressive ideas.
First, humankind should be able to worship.
Second, humankind should be able to partake in the atonement, here described as “his salvation.” The atonement provides the conditions to allow repentance, hence the verse enjoins all to repent.
Third, men should partake of Yahweh’s goodness. This is plausibly a reference to the conditions of the heavens. These great benefits are available to all. One person should not be seen as more important or favored over another. The same conditions apply to all.
2 Nephi 26:29–31
29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
Nephi defines priestcraft as using one’s position as a teacher of the gospel for personal gain and praise of the world. Nephi declares that those who are looking out for themselves are not seeking the welfare of Zion.
Nephi also contrasts the quality of charity with the sin of priestcraft. Where one should have charity, they should not be enriching themselves on the faith of others. Nephi recognizes that caring for the welfare of Zion is work, but it is work that should not be done for personal profit.
2 Nephi 26:32–33
32 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
Nephi finishes this section by reprising some of the ten commandments. Nephi had said, early in this chapter, that the Nephites should continue to live the law of Moses. This reiteration ties back to that earlier command (see 2 Nephi 25:30 to 2 Nephi 26:1).
Nephi had also asked questions as reversals of expectations. In verse 33 he reprises those commands in their positive form. All should partake of Yahweh’s goodness, and none should be denied. The language of pairs, male and female, bond and free, echo language in Galatians 3:28 (which Nephi also echoed in 2 Nephi 10:16).
The addition of “black and white” is interesting as those terms are typically metaphorical in the Book of Mormon but appear to refer to humankind here. This may be a translator’s choice to indicate that all races are equally invited.
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