February 24, 2008
2 Nephi 6-10
In studying and understanding Jacob’s speech contained in these five chapters, I’d like to look at it from a historical and traditional perspective, that being a formal Covenant or Treaty Speech. Much of what I have included here is from John S. Thompson’s analysis presented at the 1995 FARMS Symposium now published in “Isaiah In The Book of Mormon.”
To begin, let’s organize Jacob’s words:
1. Preamble and Titulary: 2 Ne. 6:1-4;
2. Historical Overview and Covenant Speech Proper: 2 Ne. 6:5-9:22;
3. Stipulations of the Covenant or Treaty: 2 Ne. 9:23-26;
4. Cursings and Blessings: 2 Ne. 9:27-43;
5. Witness Formula: 2 Ne. 9:44;
6. Recording of the Contract: 2 Ne. 9:52.
Thompson points to several indicators that suggest this speech was given at a festival time during which covenant making and renewal were appropriate and customary, specifically the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot which is during the seventh month of the ancient Israelite calendar. Elements of Jacob’s speech reflect the traditions of this autumnal festival. Similar speeches can be found in Joshua 24, Exodus 19-24 and all of Deutoronomy. As you study these chapters, make special note of these themes and how they give people a reason or obligation for entering into THE covenant. How is this covenant different than any other covenant? How is Jacob’s speech a model for our own teaching efforts? Who is our audience and how are they the same or different than Jacob’s? How are we the same and different as a teacher in comparrison to Jacob? Who is our “Jacob?”
JUDGMENT: 2 Ne. 6:10; 8:4 (Isaiah 51:5), 9:7,15,22,44.
REMEMBRANCE: 2 Ne. 9:39-41,44,51-52,10:20,23-24.
CREATION: 2 Ne. 6:3, 8:13 (Isaiah 51:13), 9:5-6.
GARMENTS: 2 Ne. 8:24 (Isaiah 52:1), 9:14,44.
NAME OF GOD: 2 Ne. 6:4, 8:15 (Isaiah 51:15), 9:23-24,41,49,52,10:3.
SACRIFICE: 2 Ne. 9:4-22, 25-27.
FASTING: Isaiah 58:3-12; 2 Ne. 9:50-51 (Isaiah 55:1-2).
CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE: 2 Ne. 9:45-46.
THE LAW: 2 Ne. 8:4 (Isiah 51:4), 7 (Isaiah 51:7), 9:17,25,27.
What value do you find in assuming such a historical setting and formal construction and purpose for this speech? What value would the Nephites find in such a speech? Why would Isaiah be so heavily included in this speech? What does this teach us about Isaiah?
v. 1-4: Why would Nephi delegate such a speech to Jacob? Does the last line of v. 18 help answer this question?
v. 5-18: Who are God’s people past, present and future?
See the Hosea & Gomer story in the Old Testament for reference here.
“Jacob quotes Isaiah 49:22-23 and also verses 24-26, which confirm that scattered Israel shall be gathered. He then quotes Isaiah chapters 50,51 and 52:1-2, which comprise 2 Ne. 7-8. The King James Bible version of Isaiah 50 has intruduced 29 variations to the original Book of Mormon text. Of these, three are additions, twelve are deletions and fourteen are modifications. In the eleven verses of Isaiah 50 three verses contain changes that are stylistic only and five verses contain substantive changes. Only three verses remain unchanged.” —THE LEGACY OF THE BRASS PLATES OF LABAN, by H. Clay Gorton, pg. 129. The following chapter comparrison summaries are from the above referenced source.
Summarizing the differences between the Book of Mormon Isaiah and Bible Isaiah:1. Verse 1. The BM uses the rhetorical question, “To whom have I put thee away?” along with “where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement?” and “to whom have I sold you?” to demonstrate that the Lord did not reject Israel, but that Israel rejected the Lord. In the KJV the question is changed to the statement “whom I have put away,” implying that there WAS a divorce, and thus removes the implied promise of redemption.
2. Verse 2. The house of Israel is again deleted in the KJV version; and the statement “when I called there was none to answer” was changed in the KJV to read “when I called, was there none to answer?” which removes the condemnatory statement and Israel as its object.
3. Verse 4. The KJV again deletes from the text “O house of Israel,” which diverts the object of the sentence from the house of Israel to “him that is weary.”
4. Verse 8. The KJV changes “the Lord” to the indefinite pronoun “he” as the one that justifies the Messiah in his actions to smite his adversary. The KJV also removes the threat of smiting by deleting the last phrase of the verse.
5. Verse 10. The acceptance by the Lord of those who fear him and obey the voice of his servants, as stated in the rhetorical question of verse 10, is destroyed in all the other versions by the addition of a spurious answer to the question.
The main gist of these changes is to shroud the identity of the House of Israel, the identity of their God and delete or obscure the promise of Israel’s eventual redemption. Why do you think these changes were made to the KJV? How does this impact the reading and understanding of the message?
v. 1-3: What is the nature of God? Compare verse one with Isaiah 50:1 of the KJV. How has the meaning changed between these two verses? What is the value of the Book of Mormon over the KJV? Why might the KJV have been altered? Note that other Bible versions (Douay-Rheims, Septuagint, Salamanca Spanish and English) also change Isaiah to the passive “ye are/were sold,” instead of “ye sold yourselves,” implying that they were sold or abandoned by the Lord.
v. 4-11: Who is speaking here? Who’s tongue is learned and ear has been opened? Is this the same person who’s back has been smitten? What does it mean to “speak a word in season?” Is this further evidence for this being a seasonal festival speech? What does it mean to “set my face like a flint?” Why is the challenge issued in v. 8-11.
v. 8: What does “strength of my mouth” mean? Does Alma 31:5 help here? Does the word: WORD have any bearing here? How does 8:16 relate to all these “words?”
v. 10: Is the voice in this verse the same as the strength of my mouth in v. 8?
v. 11: Visualize this imagery here. Contrast spark and fire. See 9:28-29. How is this light different than the light mentioned in 8:49:28-29?
See the IF and THEN relationship outlined in the previous chapter, v. 8-11 and contrast it with the IF and THEN of this chapter. Look at all the “marching orders” in this chapter. Who are these orders given to?
Summarizing the differences between the Book of Mormon Isaiah and Bible Isaiah:1. Verse 1. The Septuagint changes the analogy of the rock and the pit from Israel’s ancestry and captivity to the difficulty of their labors.
2. Verse 19. The KJV changes “sons” to “things,” destroying the continuity with the preceding verses, and destroying the analogy to physical and temporal death, which cannot be overscome save through the redemptive sacrifice of the Savior.
3. Verse 20. The allusion to the redeeming sacrifice is again deleted in the KJV by eliminating the two sons that remain (temporal and spiritual death).
v. 9: What are the “ancient days” referred to here? What are the references to Rahab and the dragon?
v. 10: Who were the ransomed who passed through the depths of the sea? Are these the same who are redeemed? When will they be returned and to where?
v. 16: What kind of endowment is going on here?
v. 19: Who are these two sons? See v. 19 and 2 Ne. 10:25. If the terms “desolation” and “destruction” are allegorical representations of death and hell, the two enemies that remain, and that cannot be overcome (they lie at the head of ALL the streets) except through the resurrection and atoning sacrifice of the Missiah to come, why do the footnotes direct us to Rev. 11:3-12. What time period is referenced here? How is this relevant to the Nephites?
v. 1-3: What is the purpose of Jacob’s speech and what do we learn from it? How are these things temporal?
v. 4-5: What do we learn about those to whom Jacob is speaking? How might you be like them? If these people have studied themselves and know these things already, why is Jacob telling it to them again? What might they not already know?
v. 6-15: How are these things spiritual and eternal?
v. 14: What is the blessing the righteous experience?
v. 23-26: What are the stipulations of this covenant?
v. 27-43: Why are the cursings and blessings outlined? For your Gee Whiz file, v. 28 and 29 are Seminary Mastery Scriptures. Why do you think they are such? What are the 10 “woes” outlined?
v. 44: Why would Jacob do this ritual shaking off of the garments? Are we ever justified in doing the same thing, figuratively? Who might be shaking off their garments after speaking to us? See Jacob 2:2.
v. 52: In what way is the covenant recorded with the Nephites? Where and when do you make covenants? How do you record the covenants you make? Is the recording of the covenant important? Why or why not?
How many days do you think this speech covered? Where do you see a break in the speech, an intermission?
v. 1: Why would Jacob continue to speak about the righteous branch? What does “branch” mean?
See 1 Ne. 15:12-20; 2 Ne. 3:5; Jacob 5:43-45; Alma 16:17, 46:24-25. Does Isa. 11:1, Jer. 23:5, 33:15; and Zech. 3:8,6:12 mean anything here? What about D&C 18:24, Mosiah 5: 8, 10-11, 14?
v. 16: Who are the “whore of all the earth?” Why is this title used? Again, consider the book of Hosea here. What metephore is being referenced and why is this metephore so powerful? Do we recognize this metephore in our lives? If so, how? How might we greater emphasize this metephore in a possitive way today and especially in teaching our children?
For further thought on this section I suggest reading Joe Spencer’s post.
Copying from Joe’s post, I’d like to bring your attention to these thoughts of his so that you might consider them:
“1 Nephi 1-18 — the creation of the Lehite people (take a careful look at 1 Nephi 18:22-25 and see how Genesis 1 is interwoven into the narrative: as the Lehites come to a “new world,” Nephi mentions in strict succession water, land, plants, animals, and then humans… coincidence?)
1 Nephi 19-2 Nephi 5 — the fall of the Lehite people (these chapters detail the process by which the Lehites become the Nephites and the Lamanites, and it concludes with the Lamanites being “cut off from the presence of the Lord”… coincidence?)
2 Nephi 6-30 — the atonement effects the reinstatement of the Lehite people (three true messengers suddenly appear, bringing further light and knowledge to the Nephites, teaching them in succession about how the spiritual atonement of Christ intertwines with their own temporal history… coincidence?)
2 Nephi 31-33 — the reinstated Lehites are given to pass through the veil (a discussion of baptism is presented entirely as a question of passing through a gate, before which one must pray, at which one must knock, and through which one is to see the appearance of the Savior Himself… coincidence?)
This fourfold pattern (creation, fall, atonement, veil) is of course quite familiar to Latter-day Saints: this is a kind of temple text for the Nephites, according to which they are taught of their own people’s creation and fall, by which they are presented with true messengers who provide them with the knowledge they need eventually to pass through the veil and into the presence of the Lord. As Brigham Young said: “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels . . . and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416) Elder Holland has used this same language, interestingly, in describing Nephi’s three witnesses: “Standing like sentinels at the gate of the book, Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah admit us into the scriptural presence of the Lord.” (Christ and the New Covenant, p. 36)”
After reading these notes in tandem with your Book of Mormon and Bible, I think you’ll agree that the Book of Mormon and our scriptures at large deserve continued, indepth study; not just by scholars who make it their profession to do so, but by us, the average gospel student. As we do so, we will discover new ways to understand and apply the scriptural message(s). All of the above perspectives are correct and non-exclusive, valuable to us as they assist in our journey to exaltation.