This is the chapter of Isaiah quoted to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni, telling him that it was about to be fulfilled, which means it’s important for our day! So let’s take this thing apart!
The first verse talks about a rod which will “come forth…out of the stem of Jesse.” We know from the Doctrine and Covenants that the stem of Jesse means Jesus Christ. We also know that the rod that comes forth from the stem is a servant of Christ who descends partly from Jesse and partly from Ephraim, “or the House of Joseph.” According to the scripture, a great deal of power will be laid on his shoulders. Isaiah tells us that this servant will have the Spirit of Christ resting on him as well as the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the spirit of the fear of the Lord (v2).
“And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 2 Nephi 21:3-5”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated, “Are we amiss in saying that the prophet here mentioned is Joseph Smith, to whom the priesthood came, who received the keys of the kingdom, and who raised the ensign for the gathering of the Lord’s people in our dispensation? And is he not also the ‘servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power’? (D&C 113:4–6.) Those whose ears are attuned to the whisperings of the Infinite will know the meaning of these things” (Millennial Messiah, 339–40). So we’re pretty sure that the rod and branch mentioned in this scripture means the Prophet of God.
In verses 6-9, Isaiah talks about lots of hereditary enemies (wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, lion and calf, cow and bear) living and eating together in peace and, particularly, the lion eating straw like the ox. It also talks about small children playing in ordinarily dangerous places (asp’s hole, cockatrice’s den) without taking any harm. Finally, no one will hurt or destroy at the “holy mountain” (the temple), because the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters covering the sea. This, I believe, is a reference to the time referred to as the Millennium, or that thousand years during which the Lord himself is supposed to reign personally over the earth.
In verse 10, the root of Jesse is discussed again. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that this person “is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.” According to the website Daily Bible Study, “The English word ensign is derived from a French word meaning a sign. The term was originally used primarily for military identification items ranging from badges (a modern-day example is shown below) to banners and signal flags. An ensign, or ensign-bearer, was also sometimes used as a term for someone who carried, or who was responsible for, a flag or banner. The word "ensign" is used to translate two Hebrew words of the Scriptures (pronounced) oth, meaning a signal, or beacon, and nace meaning a flag or signal.” In other words, we’re talking about a prophet (potentially in Joseph Smith’s line, but maybe not) who acts as a signal of the people, someone they will, almost of necessity, look to. The non-Hebrews (Gentiles) will look to him and they will find a glorious kind of rest in doing so.
Finally, the last few verses, 11-16 detail the gathering of a remnant. Specifically, that the Lord will decide to gather his chosen people a second time, recovering all of those that are left, scattered throughout the nations, as he said they would be. Joseph Smith was given keys relating to gathering scattered Israel on April 3rd, 1836. Also, Ephraim will no longer envy Judah (like it did in Isaiah’s time) and Judah will no longer vex Ephraim (like it did in Isaiah’s time). Together, they will reclaim the lands of Israel and make recovery of his chosen people that much easier. What an amazing time to be in!
Applying This Scripture To My Life
This scripture means OUR TIME, which means US. This is stuff that is happening now or has happened recently. It’s stuff that should be a sign to us to prepare ourselves. The Second Coming of the Lord is coming very soon. We have to be ready so as not to be caught off guard.
Also, as a side note, I absolutely love the poetic feel of this chapter. I think, as well as being a prophet, Isaiah must have been a poet. Given all that he prophesied about and the beautiful imagery he used, it’s no wonder Nephi’s soul delighted in his words.
What’s your opinion of this chapter in the Book of Mormon? What would you say it means in your life? Do you agree or disagree with me regarding the poetic feel of Isaiah?