In Sunday School in the Mormon Church, weeks are spent studying Isaiah. Only highlights will be touched upon on this website. For more in-depth coverage, you can go to ldsgospeldoctrine.net. The Lord Jesus Christ emphasized the importance of Isaiah and quoted him often. The Book of Mormon prophets also considered him one of the greatest prophets and especially quoted him regarding the regathering of Israel in the last days. Said an early Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi,
And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him….And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men (2 Ne. 11: 2, 8).
As recorded later in the Book of Mormon account, Jesus Christ appeared after His resurrection. He organized His church among the people and counseled them to study the words of Isaiah:
“And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah. For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles. And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake” (3 Nephi 23:1-3).
The World of Isaiah
The period of Isaiah’s ministry is fairly well-documented. Some of his prophecies were fulfilled in his time. Isaiah was a prophet-statesman who ministered during the reigns of four kings of Judah. The historical records of this time come from three major sources: the second book of Kings, the second book of Chronicles, and the writings of Isaiah.
Azariah (or Uzziah) was made king of Judah. The kingdom of Judah gained strength and influence. Uzziah assumed the right to officiate in the temple. His unauthorized acts brought the judgment of God against him in the form of leprosy. His son Jotham co-ruled with him for ten years. It is mentioned that Isaiah kept a record of Uzziah’s reign, but this account is missing from the Bible. Descending further into wickedness, the northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by Assyria in 743 B.C.
Israel formed an alliance with Syria, threatening Judah. The Ammonites tried to overthrow Judah, but failed. Ahaz ruled in Judah and was an idolater who sacrificed some of his own children. Israel and Syria attacked Judah, gaining some territory, but failing to overcome the kingdom. Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Israel. The Assyrians besieged Israel, killing many, and taking others captive to Assyria. The Assyrians effected a population transfer, placing some of their own loyal, gentile subjects in Israel. The Samaritans were some of these — they claimed to be converts, but corrupted the principles of Old Testament religion, and of course, could not claim to be Israelites by birth, though they did intermarry with some priestly families.
King Hezekiah ruled in Judah, keeping the Assyrians at bay. He tried to banish idolatry and rededicate the population to the service of Jehovah. He refurbished the temple, and he re-instituted the celebration of the Passover, which had been ignored for 250 years. Hezekiah became deathly ill but was spared by the Lord when he repented of his pride. Hezekiah revealed the wealth of the treasury to the Babylonians, and he was upbraided by Isaiah. Manasseh began to rule in Jerusalem, one of the most wicked kings in the nation’s history.
Tradition records that Isaiah died as a martyr by being sawed in two at the hands of Manasseh (see R. H. Charles, ed., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2:162; Hebrews 11:37 ).
Highlights of Isaiah
Isaiah 1-12 emphasizes the establishment of Zion in the last days. Zion is defined generally as “the pure in heart,” those who follow the peaceable things of the kingdom of God. Specifically, Zion refers to a gathering together of such people, making their place of habitation the kingdom of God on earth. Such was the City of Enoch and such will be Jerusalem during the millennium. Zion will also be established on the American continent during the millennial reign of Christ.
Every time an old testament prophet chastised the Israelites for their wickedness, he also prophesied that the Lord would remember them in the last days and regather them as a holy people. This is one reason the Book of Mormon peoples gained such comfort from Isaiah. They felt isolated and exiled from the land of their birth.
The Book of Isaiah is replete with references to the Savior, often calling Him “The Holy One of Israel.” Always there is a call to repentance and loyalty to the Savior.
Some people criticize the fact that Isaiah is quoted in the Book of Mormon. This is because of its importance. There is an interesting instance in the Book of Mormon quotation of Isaiah:
“In 2 Nephi 12:16 (cf. Isaiah 2:16 ) the Book of Mormon has a reading of remarkable interest. It prefixes a phrase of eight words not found in the Hebrew or King James versions. Since the ancient Septuagint (Greek) Version concurs with the added phrase in the Book of Mormon, let us exhibit the readings of the Book of Mormon (B.M.), the King James Version (K.J.), and the Septuagint (LXX) as follows:
|B.M.||And upon all the ships of the sea,|
|K.J.||—— —— —— —— —— ——|
|LXX||And upon every ship of the sea,|
|and upon all the ships of Tarshish|
|And upon all the ships of Tarshish|
|—— —— —— —— —— ——|
|and upon all pleasant pictures.|
|and upon all pleasant pictures.|
|and upon every display of fine ships.|
“The Book of Mormon suggests that the original text of this verse contained three phrases, all of which commenced with the same opening words, ‘and upon all.’ By a common accident, the original Hebrew (and hence the King James) text lost the first phrase, which was, however, preserved by the Septuagint. The latter lost the second phrase and seems to have corrupted the third phrase. The Book of Mormon preserved all three phrases. Scholars may suggest that Joseph Smith took the first phrase from the Septuagint. The prophet did not know Greek, and there is no evidence that he had access to a copy of the Septuagint in 1829–30 when he translated the Book of Mormon.” ( The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 90–91.)
Isaiah 6 includes a vision of the celestial realm. Both John and Nephi testified that the Lord whom Isaiah saw was the premortal Jesus Christ (see John 12:41 ; 2 Nephi 11:2–3 ). In addition, some have witnessed a similar scene (see Revelation 4:1–11 ).
Isaiah 7:14 prophesies the birth of Christ, saying that a virgin would bear a son:
“This passage is cited in the New Testament as being fulfilled by the birth of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:25 ). Some commentators point out that the word translated virgin means only a young woman and not someone who has never had sexual relations. They do this in an attempt to refute this passage as proof of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. But it can be shown that the term is properly translated and did mean an unmarried woman (see Young, Book of Isaiah, 1:286–88).
“The Book of Mormon, likewise, testifies of Mary’s virginity at the time of Christ’s conception (see 1 Nephi 11:13, 15, 18, 20–21 ). Thus, the vision of Nephi affirms Isaiah’s ancient prophecy that it was indeed a virgin who would conceive.
“President Marion G. Romney spoke of the importance of spiritual direction in understanding the prophet Isaiah’s declaration:
“Here is another example in which men revise the scriptures without the inspiration of the Spirit. Isaiah, in predicting the birth of Christ, said: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ ( Isaiah 7:14 . Italics added.) When Isaiah used the word virgin, he was saying that a woman who had not known a man should bear a son.”
Isaiah 9:6 prophesies of Christ as the “Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 11 caused Joseph Smith to question some of the symbolism Isaiah used. Joseph sought clarification from the Lord, and the result is Section 113 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
A literal translation of Isaiah 12:2 reveals the names of deity:
“‘Behold El is my salvation,
I shall trust and not be afraid;
For my strength and my song is Yah, Yehovah,
And he has become my salvation.’
“‘El’ is the singular of Elohim. It seldom occurs in the Bible in singular. In the English Bible both singular and plural are rendered by the word ‘God.’ ‘Yah’ is a contracted form of Jehovah or Yehovah, which in the Bible is usually rendered in English as ‘LORD.’ In the King James Version here, to avoid LORD LORD, they have rendered it as LORD JEHOVAH. This is one of the few times the name is written out fully as Jehovah in the King James translation. [See also: Exodus 6:3 ; Ps. 83:18 ; Isa. 26:4 .] The short form Yah occurs in Hebrew also in Exodus 15:2 and Psalms 118:14 .” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings, 2:46.)
*Parts of this article have been adapted from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.
Next: Isaiah, Part 2