Isaiah 36 – 66
Some people claim that Isaiah 40 and beyond were written by different authors. However, Isaiah simply switched to a more poetic style. His authorship is attested to by modern revelation.
Isaiah counseled Judah’s King Hezekiah. The Assyrians had already decimated the northern kingdom of Israel and carried off those inhabitants who survived. During Hezekiah’s reign, the Assyrians came against the southern kingdom of Judah. Isaiah 36-39 parallels 2 Kings 18:2–20:19 .
In Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah refers to the voice in the wilderness, a reference to John the Baptist. However, Isaiah also says that Jerusalem’s warfare is over, a reference to the last days. This indicates that John the Baptist would be a forerunner of the Second Coming, and thus he has been, appearing on earth as a resurrected being to confer the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood upon the restored Church of Christ. (See Joseph Smith History 1:66-72.)
This may seem strange to friends of other faiths. The heavens are open, and heavenly beings are thoroughly engaged in God’s work, which is to bring to pass the immortality (resurrection) and eternal life (in the presence of God) of man. Just as Elias and Moses appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, conferring priesthood keys and knowlege upon Peter, James, and John. These things are a type of things to come and a pattern which the Lord has followed since the beginning and continues to follow. Christ Himself, in Matthew 17 prophesied that John the Baptist would come prior to the Second Coming:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things (Matthew 17:11).
Elias is also another name for Elijah, who would also restore keys of power in the last days. “Elias” is also the name of a calling, that of a “forerunner” of Jesus Christ. We sometimes call this “the spirit of Elias.” The Joseph Smith translation adds…
Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist, and also of another who should come and restore all things, as it is written by the prophets. (See JST Matt. 17:10–14.)
Isaiah 40:4 refers to the great earthquakes which will precede the Second Coming. Earthquakes will transform the earth. The continents will move together, forming one land mass, with one great sea.
Isaiah 41-44 were written by Isaiah before the Babylonian exile. Most scholars think they were written afterward by other prophets. But The Book of Mormon peoples left Jerusalem before the exile, and they had these chapters (through chapter 53) of Isaiah among the scriptures they carried with them. Isaiah 41:1, 5 refer to isles. From time to time branches of Israel have been led away to various locations unknown to those remaining in the Holy Land. This includes the Ten Lost Tribes and the Book of Mormon peoples, who were descendants of Joseph through Manasseh.
The servant referred to in Isaiah 42:1-4 is Jesus Christ. The phrase “smoking flax” is a mistranslation. The words should be “glimmering wick.” The light of Christ enables the spiritually blind to see. Chapter 42, verse 7 is a reference to Christ’s visit to the Spirit World after His death, to organize the preaching of the gospel there. (See Prophet Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world.)
Joseph Smith clarified Chapter 42:19-22 as follows:
“For I will send my servant unto you who are blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness, if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant. Thou art a people, seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not. The Lord is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake he will magnify the law and make it honorable. Thou art a people robbed and spoiled; thine enemies, all of them, have snared thee in holes, and they have hid thee in prison houses; they have taken thee for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.” ( JST, Isaiah 42:19–23 .)
In Isaiah chapters 43 – 47, we see that the Lord will save Israel and destroy Babylon. Here, Isaiah the poet uses the “future perfect” tense, speaking prophetically, but in past tense. Isaiah prophesies the gathering of Israel. Isaiah 43:13 should read, “I will work, and who shall hinder it?” (JST, Isaiah 43:13 ). Regarding verses 18-21, a leader of the Mormon Church (former Presiding Bishop LeGrand Richards) once said,
“Isaiah said: ‘Behold, I will do a new thing,’ and as far as my understanding of this scripture is concerned, that new thing was the great principle of irrigation. It is true the Saints had to make the canals, they had to make the ditches, they had to put in the dams, but the land might have remained arid had not the Lord put into their minds the inspiration to do this very thing, and that is what Isaiah saw that the Lord would do ( Isaiah 43:19–20 ).”
In Chapter 44:1-2, the word Jeshurun means ”upright” or ”righteous”. In verses 5-20 Isaiah refers to “a lie in one’s right hand.” This has a two-fold meaning. Men fashion objects out of wood and metal and then worship them and attribute power to them, a horrible irony. Also, the right hand is for making covenants, and Israel were untrue to their covenants with God. In chapters 44 and 45, Isaiah prophesied of King Cyrus, the Persian, by name. At the time of the prophecy, Cyrus had not yet been born. This is the true prophetic gift, and not proof that the text was written later.
In Isaiah 45:7, the word “evil” should be “woe.” The Lord does not create evil, but He sends woe upon the unrepentant.
Isaiah 45:15-25 is a testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The pre-existent Jesus Christ was Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 46:11 the ravenous bird from the east is King Cyrus. In Isaiah 47, Babylon is equated with Lucifer, who is Satan. They both exalted themselves and both fell.
Isaiah 48 describes Judah’s apostasy. Isaiah 49 contains a prophecy of the re-gathering of Israel with the help of the Gentile nations. So many people will come, both to Zion and the Old Jerusalem, that they will complain that the land is “too strait [narrow] for me: give place to me that I may dwell” ( Isaiah 49:20 ). This is already occurring in modern Israel.
In Isaiah 51:17-23 there is mention of the two sons who fainted. This is a reference to the two prophets mentioned in Revelation 11:1–6 who will keep the armies fighting the War of Armageddon from defeating the Jews (see also Doctrine and Covenants 77:15 ).
By means of these two servants of God and the miracles they work, God will remove from Israel’s hand “the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury.” The promise is “thou shalt no more drink it again” ( Isaiah 51:22 .) Instead, the cup of fury shall be given to those who have trampled on and walked over the covenant people of the Lord. It will then be their turn to know suffering. (See v. 23 .)
In Isaiah 52:7 the one who brings good tidings is Jesus Christ. Isaiah 52 refers to Zion and to Jerusalem. There will be two world centers from which the law and the gospel will come forth during the millennium — Old Jerusalem, which will become a holy city, and New Jerusalem, or Zion, on the American continent. Also in this chapter, the Lord commands us to gather out from Babylon, but not in haste. We are to make preparations and do things in order. This commandment was reiterated to the Latter-day Saints when the Lord prompted them to gather to Kirtland, then to Missouri, then to the west. There were many who did not listen. Those who were unprepared put a great burden on those who were, who were forced to support them, and caused a failure of some of the Lord’s purposes for them. This is similar to the experience of the Isrealites who made exodus from Egypt. They got to the promised land fairly quickly, but they were turned back into the wilderness by Moses because they were unworthy to proceed. Unless we keep God’s commandments, we have no promise from Him.
Isaiah 52:13-15 contains another image of Christ as the servant who was marred. The Prophet Joseph Smith also suits this imagery as the battered servant who prepared for the Second Coming. Isaiah 53:3 also refers to Christ as a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Verses 4-9 speak of Christ as “wounded for our transgressions.” Isaiah 53:10 talks about the “seed” of Christ.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie summarized what Abinadi [a Book of Mormon prophet] taught as follows: “The seed of Christ are those who are adopted into his family, who by faith have become his sons and his daughters. ( Mosiah 5:7 .) They are the children of Christ in that they are his followers and disciples and keep his commandments. ( 4 Ne. 17 ; Morm. 9:26 ; Moro. 7:19 .)” ( Mormon Doctrine, p. 700.)
The Book of Mormon peoples brought their scriptures (engraved on metal plates) with them from Jerusalem to the Americas. The scriptures that the ancient prophet Mormon abridged from their final collection included parts of Isaiah, but there are some differences from what we have in the King James Version. Compare Isaiah 55:1 with 2 Nephi 9:50–51 . Jesus is the living water and the bread of life.
Isaiah 56 promises the gospel to all, including Gentiles and those previously excluded by the Law of Moses. In Isaiah 59 the prophet explains that our iniquities separate us from the Lord. This pertains also to the law of Christ. Christ saves us through His grace, and nothing we can do of our own accord can save us. However, He will not save us in our sin, for sin permanently separates from God. He does save us from our sin, however, when we repent. Repentance is work, and this work is necessary for our salvation.
The reference in Chapter 60 is not to the wise men who would visit the Christ Child, but to Zion, the Holy City of the last days. Chapter 60:19-20 says people will no longer live by the light of the sun by day. This is because of the brilliance of the people of Zion. They will shine brightly enough that this light will illuminate everything.
Isaiah 64 describes the devastations and natural upheavals that will accompany the Second Coming. See also D&C 133:37–39 and D&C 88:87–91 . Isaiah 65:17–25 refers to the Millennium. Isaiah 66 explains how the nation of Israel will become followers of Christ “all at once,” when He appears and saves them at the Battle of Armageddon.
Isaiah foretold many calamities in these final verses, but there is comfort:
President Hugh B. Brown spoke words of comfort and assurance: “I want to say to you, brethren, that in the midst of all the troubles, the uncertainties, the tumult and chaos through which the world is passing, almost unnoticed by the majority of the people of the world, there has been set up a kingdom, a kingdom over which God the Father presides, and Jesus the Christ is the King. That kingdom is rolling forward, as I say, partly unnoticed, but it is rolling forward with a power and a force that will stop the enemy in its tracks while some of you live.” (“The Kingdom Is Rolling Forth,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, p. 93.)