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Isaiah 29:1–10 Jerusalem to Be Brought Down by the Lord
Isaiah pronounces “woe” to the inhabitants of the great city of Jerusalem (called “Ariel” and “Mount Zion”) because it rejected God’s prophets and seers (29:10). Therefore, “the multitude of all the nations” will engage in war against these inhabitants. Historically, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, and others waged war against Jerusalem. Prophetically, “all nations” will yet war against Jerusalem before the Second Coming of Jesus (Zechariah 14:2, 6). Nephi paraphrased portions of Isaiah 29:2–4 and likened Isaiah’s words to the destruction of his own people (2 Nephi 26:15).
Woe. Distress will come to Jerusalem’s inhabitants because of God’s forthcoming judgments. Ariel, Ariel. A name of Jerusalem, which is translated “lion of God,” “lioness of God” (the lion is a symbol of Judah (Genesis 49:9) or “altar-hearth” of God, perhaps referring the temple altar (and its sacrifices). Either way, Ariel is a name of Jerusalem. Add year upon year. Signifies the passing of time; year after year, century after century, the Jews celebrate religious festivals in Jerusalem.
I will cause distress to Ariel. The pronoun “I” refers to the Lord, who will bring distress to Jerusalem because of the iniquity of its people. That distress will come when nations war against Jerusalem.
camp against her/mound/siege works. These three expressions pertain to an army laying siege to Jerusalem. The Lord Himself will lay siege, meaning that He will allow the armies to battle against her.
she will be brought low and speak from the ground. Jerusalem will be destroyed, and she will cry to us out of the dust through her records; so, too, the Jaredites and Nephites speak to us through the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 26:16–17; Mormon 8:23; Moroni 10:27). voice will be like a spirit of the dead. The word translated “spirit of the dead” (Hebrew ’ov) is difficult to translate. The lexicons present various translations, including “skin-bottle,” “necromancer,” “ghost,” “medium,” and “spirit of the dead.” In my view, “spirit of the dead” makes the best sense in this passage.
multitude of the ruthless like blown chaff. “Multitude,” mentioned twice in this verse, refers to the nations that destroyed Jerusalem in the past—Assyria, Babylon, Rome, and others are now “like fine dust” and “blown chaff” (see 17:13), meaning that they have gone the way of the earth because of God’s judgments against them. in an instant, suddenly! Nephi explained, “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” (2 Nephi 26:18).
they will be visited by the Lord. God holds the destinies of all nations in His hands, and His judgments will come upon them for their role in destroying Jerusalem and her inhabitants. thunder/earthquake/great sound/whirlwind/tempest/fire. Judgments that are sent upon the nations, including the “Gentiles and also the Jews” in the last days because of their great wickedness (2 Nephi 27:1–2). Furthermore, great judgments await the wicked who reject the testimonies of God’s prophets and missionaries (Doctrine and Covenants 43:24–25; 88:88–90).
nations that wage war against Ariel . . . will be like a dream. Time passes quickly. Millennia have passed since the Babylonians, Romans, and other nations have warred against Jerusalem. These warring nations are now like a dream, which fades away in the morning.
hungry person who dreams . . . but awakens and his soul is empty. The nations who fight against Jerusalem will have no more lasting gratification than does a hungry person who dreams only of eating.
all you that do iniquity . . . for you will blind yourselves. Those who conduct themselves wickedly will blind themselves spiritually and dwell in spiritual blindness. They will also be like drunk souls who stagger, not from drinking strong drink but from walking in apostasy and darkness.
you have rejected the prophets. Verse 10 summarizes the purpose of God’s judgments—the wicked have rejected God’s prophets and seers.
Isaiah 29:11–14 The Book of Mormon (JST 29:11–26)
Scholars have various views concerning the meaning of this section of Isaiah, but the Joseph Smith Translation (marked in brackets), provides us clarity and understanding. Isaiah prophesies concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Many mortals would be involved: an unlearned man (Joseph Smith), two men (Martin Harris and Charles Anthon), three witnesses, and other witnesses. Isaiah refers twenty times to a “book,” speaking of the golden plates. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon constituted a “marvelous work and a wonder.”
Isaiah JST 29:11
words of a book. The Book of Mormon. them which have slumbered. The Jaredites and Nephites have “slumbered in the dust” (see also JST 29:14), or have died, meaning their bodies have returned to the dust. Both Job (7:21) and Daniel (12:2) have used the expression “sleep in the dust” to refer to death.
Isaiah JST 29:12–16
book shall be sealed. These verses reveal many truths concerning the portion of the golden plates that remained sealed (in contrast to the portion of the plates that were translated and published as “The Book of Mormon”). The sealed plates are “a revelation from God” (v. 12), will not be revealed to those who are wicked (v. 12), will “come forth” in “the own due time of the Lord” (v. 15), will “reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof” (v. 15), will “be read by the power of Christ” (v. 16), and will not be revealed by Joseph Smith (v. 14).
Isaiah JST 29:14
the book shall be delivered unto a man. That man was Joseph Smith, who later testified that the “heavenly messenger delivered [the plates] up to [him]” (Joseph Smith—History 1:59).
Isaiah JST 29:17
three witnesses shall behold [the plates] by the power of God. The three witnesses—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—declared, “We . . . testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God” (Testimony of Three Witnesses). they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. The three witnesses indeed did testify to “all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people,” saying “We, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record. . . . We also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God . . . ; we know of a surety that the work is true” (Testimony of Three Witnesses).
Isaiah JST 29:18
none other which shall view [the golden plates], save it be a few. A few others saw the golden plates, including Mary Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Hiram Page, Hyrum Smith, and others. words of the faithful should speak, as it were, from the dead. The faithful here who spoke from the dead include Nephi, Alma, Samuel, Mormon, Moroni, and many others.
Isaiah JST 29:20
deliver them to another/show them unto the learned. Martin Harris “presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments,” and to Dr. Mitchell (Joseph Smith—History 1:64–65), both of whom were “learned.”
Isaiah JST 29:21
I cannot read it. During Harris’s meeting with Anthon, Anthon asked Harris to deliver the golden plates to him so that he could translate them. Harris replied that “part of the plates were sealed, and that [he] was forbidden to bring them,” to which Anthon responded, “I cannot read a sealed book” (Joseph Smith—History 1:65).
I am not learned. Joseph Smith was not learned or formally educated.
seal up the book again and hide it up unto me. After Joseph Smith translated the golden plates, he delivered them to Moroni (Joseph Smith—History 1:59).
this people draw near unto Me with their mouth . . . their hearts are far from Me. Jesus Christ recited these words to Joseph Smith during the First Vision (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). marvelous work and a wonder. The Book of Mormon is a “marvelous work and a wonder”; so is the restoration of temples and temple worship, gospel ordinances, and all aspects of the Restoration of the Gospel. Isaiah’s words, a “marvelous work and a wonder,” are paraphrased in the Doctrine and Covenants (4:1; 6:1; 11:1; 12:1; 14:1, and elsewhere). wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish. The teachings and precepts of the world’s wisest and greatest scholars are foolishness to God, and their wisdom will perish (see also Paul’s paraphrase of Isaiah’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18–19).
Isaiah 29:15–24 The Humble Rejoice in the Book
Isaiah continues with his prophecy of the coming forth of “the book” (the Book of Mormon), which will come forth when “Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field be regarded as a forest.” And importantly, the book will open the eyes of the spiritually blind (29:18) and increase the joy that belongs to the meek and needy (29:19).
Who sees us? And who knows us? The wicked hide their deeds in the dark, thinking that no one knows. But God says, “I know all their works” (29:16). Indeed, “God . . . knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9:20).
Should the thing he made say to its maker, He did not make me? Just as an earthen vessel should not claim that the potter did not make it, we should not claim that God did not create us or that God “has no understanding.”
Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field. When the Book of Mormon comes forth, Lebanon, or Palestine (the greater area of the Holy Land), will become a fruitful and fertile land (see also Ezekiel 36:33–36; Amos 9:14–15; see Isaiah 35:1–2, 5–7, 10).
the deaf will hear the words of the book/the eyes of the blind will see. One of the great promises associated with the Book of Mormon is that those who read it with pure intent will comprehend spiritual matters, including the great spiritual power associated with the book.
meek/poor will be joyful in the Holy One of Israel. The Book of Mormon carries a powerful spirit with it, which increases one’s joy in God.
Isaiah prophesies that the “ruthless,” in the end, “will come to nothing,” and that those “who watch for iniquity will be cut off.” Set in the context of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Isaiah may be referring to those who fight against the Book of Mormon and its sacred teachings.
Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob. Just as God redeemed father Abraham, He promises descendants of Israel that they “will not now be ashamed,” they will sanctify God’s name, and they will “hold in awe the God of Israel.” The JST makes changes to Isaiah 29, including new verses and a change of versification. Consult also 2 Nephi 27 for understanding regarding Isaiah 29.
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