3 Nephi 12: 4 — LeGrand Baker — blessed are all they that mourn

3 Nephi 12: 4 — LeGrand Baker — blessed are all they that mourn

3 Nephi 12: 4
4  And again, blessed [enjoying “the state of the gods”] are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted
(3 Nephi 12:4).

This is a paraphrase from Isaiah 61, which is a prophecy of the Lord’s visit to the Underworld during the period between his own death and his resurrection. President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In recording his own vision, President Smith used much of Isaiah’s language:

18  While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful (D&C 138:18; compare Isaiah 61:1).

When President Smith identified the persons who were waiting to welcome the Savior, he included:

42   Isaiah. … who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound (D&C 138:42).

Knowing that, we have the key to understanding what non-LDS scholars consider to be one of the most perplexing chapters in the Old Testament. One of the things they cannot understand is why verse 3 contains the entire ancient priestly and royal coronation ceremony, then concludes with a wedding ceremony in verse 10.

Isaiah 61 appears to be a commentary on the last third of Psalm 22, which is also a prophecy that the Savior will enter the Underworld and conquer death and hell. Isaiah begins by recalling the Savior’s anointing at the Council in Heaven:

1  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives [those in the spirit prison], and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Isaiah 61:1-2a).

In the Old Testament, that which is “acceptable” is performed in righteousness—zedek—with the proper authority, in the right place and the right way, using the right words, and dressed the right way:

and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:2b).

This second verse is the one that was paraphrased by the Savior in the Beatitudes. The Isaiah version, which is still speaking of the spirits of the dead, reads, “to comfort all that mourn.” The Savior said, “Blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (3 Nephi 12:4, Matthew 5:4), There, as in the 23rd Psalm, comfort means to bring about the cessation of sorrow. In this context, to comfort does not mean to give someone an aspirin, a hug, and a warm blanket. It means to empower, and the empowerment causes one to be able to transcend suffering and sorrow.

From President Smith, we learn that they, the spirits of the dead, mourned because they “looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (D&C 138:50). And from Isaiah we learn that empowerment is accomplished by the ancient royal coronation rites. The third verse of Isaiah 61 reads:

3   To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [to make the dead a part of Zion], to give unto them beauty for ashes [a ceremonial washing to remove the ashes], the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called [new name] trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

This new name represents two important ideas. The first is the Tree of Life, and second is the principle of eternal family. Trees make fruit, fruit make seeds, seeds make trees, ad infinitum. Thus, it continues forever. The symbolic eternal repetition of this process is what Isaiah calls “the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” The new name given to those who are “comforted” contains the blessings of eternal family, but this new name is not the only part of Isaiah’s prophecy that conveys that promise.

The symbolism in the next six verses of Isaiah chapter 61 describes the relationship between the dead and those who will do genealogical and temple work, sealing families together.

Then the last two verses of the chapter bring us back to the coronation scene. It is a sacred marriage ceremony. From the relationship between Isaiah 61 and D&C 138, we know that this wedding is also part of the temple work for the dead. In Isaiah, the bride and groom sing a hymn of thanksgiving:

10   I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

The last part of their wedding hymn is a testimony of the promised resurrection. They sing:

11   For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations (Isaiah 61:11).

The Book of Mormon lays specific emphasis on the fact that in this Beatitude the Savior is quoting Isaiah 61, for as it is given in 3 Nephi, it is a more exact quote of Isaiah than the way it is recorded in Matthew (Isaiah 61:3 and Nephi 12:4 each have the word “all,” but Matthew 5:4 does not). Thus it is apparent that the Savior’s intent when he said, “Blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” is that those few words were an encapsulation of the ordinances and blessing associated with salvation for the dead and the promise to them of the blessings of eternal family relationships.

The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61

Even though the Old Testament historical books give no full account of a royal coronation ceremony, Isaiah 61 does contain all five of the most essential elements of any coronation. These rites are so fundamental to human society that they have retained their basic integrity for thousands of years. Fundamentally, the same ceremonies were used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, medieval Europe, and modern Britain. For example, on the day of her coronation, the present Queen Elizabeth II was bathed, clothed, anointed, given a regal new name, and crowned. Then, as she sat upon her throne, she spoke to her subjects.

Even though the non-Biblical ancient and modern coronation ceremonies are remarkably alike—and remarkably like the original Israelite coronation ceremony in Isaiah 61—there are striking differences in ritual and meaning. Nibley, while discussing the first chapter of Moses, painted a vivid picture of the significance of the ultimate coronation ceremony in the context of Moses’ sode experience. He began by citing these verses from the Book of Moses:

23   And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men.
24   And it came to pass that when Satan had departed from the presence of Moses, that Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son;
25   And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.
26   And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.
27   And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.
28   And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.
29   And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof (Moses 1:23-29).

Nibley then writes:

And now the scene changes (verses 23 and 24 read like stage directions); the lights go up, the music soars and Moses, though remaining on earth, is again invested with glory and hears the voice of God proclaiming him victor, worthy and chosen to lead God’s people “as if thou wert God” — the type and model of the ancient Year King proclaimed after his victory over death as God’s ruler on earth. He is specifically told that he shall “be made stronger than many waters” — for he has just passed through the waters of death and rebirth, de profundis; and shown himself capable and worthy of the mission which is now entrusted to him. After this royal acclamation, reminiscent of combat and coronation episodes dramatized in the earliest year rites throughout the ancient world, after the coronation, the scene again changes, as Moses and the reader view the field of labor in which the prophet is to work; he receives a thorough briefing, an intimate knowledge of the earth in its cosmic setting, its physical makeup (“every particle” of it), and everything that lives upon it.

The coronation ceremony in Isaiah 61 is less dramatic, but very significant for the people who experienced it. The Isaiah chapter is about vicarious work for the dead, but the ceremony was much the same as that used for living kings. We know that Isaiah 61 was a prophecy about salvation for the dead because its first verse is quoted in D&C 138:42. By identifying the “captives” as those in the spirit prison waiting to hear the gospel, it shows that the events described in Isaiah 61 are a prophecy, of which the events described in Section 138 are the fulfillment. The Isaiah prophecy reads:

1  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).

Bratcher made an interesting comment about the meaning of the first verse. Her observation fits perfectly into Joseph F. Smith’s revelation that this is about the Savior’s establishing missionary work among the dead. She wrote, “‘To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners’ … Some difficulty exists in the translation of the phrase “release to the prisoners.” The Hebrew word translated “release” appears everywhere else in the Old Testament with the meaning “the opening of blind eyes.”

The Meaning of “Comfort”

In verse 2, “comfort” is an important word whose meaning is difficult for us to capture because it has changed since the King James Version was translated. In 1622, when the English word was nearer in time to its Latin origins, the first definition of “comfort” meant just exactly what the Latin said: “with strength,” to strengthen, or to empower. “Comfort” still meant that in 1787 when the American Constitution was written, and treason was defined as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” (That did not mean it was treason to give the enemy an aspirin and a warm blanket. It meant that it is treason to empower an enemy.) The most extensive analysis of the Hebrew word is by Gary Anderson, who writes,

This verb “to comfort” (n-h-m) does not connote a simple act of emotional identification. Comfort can imply either the symbolic action of assuming the state of mourning alongside the mourner, or it can have the nuance of bringing about the cessation of mourning. In grammatical terms, the former usage reflects a processual usage of the verb, while the latter usage would be resultative.” He goes on to explain, “The latter usage, to bring about the cessation of mourning, is very common in prophetic oracles of deliverance. The famous exhortation of Isaiah 40:1, ‘Comfort, comfort, my people,’ comes to mind immediately. As Westermann noted, the term conveys ‘God’s intervention to help and restore.’”

Anderson’s definition can account for the way the English translators used the word “comfort” to mean the bestowal of authority or power—an empowerment—and it also adds substantial depth to the meaning of the 23rd Psalm and other scriptures where “comfort” might be read as “to give consolation,” they might also be read as “to give power and authority, thus enabling one to transcend sorrow.”

The next verse, Isaiah 61:3, explains how the empowerment will happen by detailing the events of a rather standard coronation ceremony. The verse begins with the promise that the people will be made a part of Zion, then it describes the ceremony itself. (One thing to keep in mind, as we read Isaiah’s description of the ceremony, is that the word “for” does not mean “in consequence of,” but rather, it should be understood as “in exchange for,” or, as the Anchor Bible has it translated, “instead of.” For that reason we have used “instead of” in the headings below.) The words in the King James translation read:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

Each of those steps is as interesting as it was indispensable.

to give unto them beauty instead of ashes

The denotation of the Hebrew word translated as “beauty” is the beauty of a hat or turban, rather than a direct reference to the hat itself. The connotation is the glory of a crown. Some translations accept the connotation and use a word for the hat, often “diadem” or “crown,” rather than the more literal “beauty” as is found in the King James Version. In either case, the meaning is that the ashes were removed and then replaced by a crown. The removal of the ashes necessarily implies a ceremonial washing. The ashes would have been those of a red heifer, and the washing a ceremonial cleansing from sin.

In ancient Israel, putting a mixture of water and the ashes of a red heifer on one’s head was a formal purification ordinance. A red heifer was sacrificed once each year and its ashes were kept to be used in an ordinance that made a person ritually clean. In Isaiah 61 it was used in preparation for other ordinances that would follow. Instructions for the preparation and use of the ashes are given in Numbers 19.

Just as the sacred anointing oil was perfumed with a recipe that could not be legally duplicated, so there was also a sacred recipe for the ashes of the red heifer. The ashes contained “cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet” that were burned with the heifer. The instructions were:

5    And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
6     And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer (Numbers 19:5-6).

Cedar is a fragrant smelling wood. Hyssop is a small bush, a branch of which was used for daubing the lintels of the Israelite homes in the first Passover (Exodus 12:22). It was also used in the ritualistic cleansing of lepers (Leviticus 14). Scarlet was “a highly prized brilliant red color obtained from female bodies of certain insects and used for dying woven fabric, cloth, and leather.”

Psalm 51 was sung in conjunction with a cleansing ordinance—the most likely and most appropriate would have been the occasion of the king’s purification that was preliminary to his being clothed and anointed as king:

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
according to thy lovingkindness:
according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot
out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions:
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done this evil in thy sight:
that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and
be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity;
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:
and in the hidden part thou shalt make me
to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness;
that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation
[that is one of 
the connotations of “to comfort”];
and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation:
and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips;
and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice;
else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God,
thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion:
build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices
of righteousness,
with burnt offering and whole burnt offering:
then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar (Psalm 51:1-19).

The phrase, “purge me with hyssop” necessarily implies a cleansing with the ashes of the red heifer, for (except for leprosy) that was the only ordinance where hyssop was used as part of a ceremonial cleansing agent—that is, the ashes of the red heifer also contained hyssop.

It is important to observe that the purging he requested was not a physical cleansing but a spiritual one. Then, in verses 16 and 17, we find the words that are echoed in the Book of Mormon just before the Savior arrived:

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice;
else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:16-17).

When the Savior came to America, he instructed the people that there would be no more blood sacrifices, but rather they should sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit. This psalm foreshadows those instructions and shows that the pre-exilic Israelites also understood that the blood sacrifices of the Law would be fulfilled, and the sacrifices required in their place would be a broken heart and contrite spirit, as in the psalm uttered by the women at the cross:

18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18).

the oil of joy instead of mourning”

Inasmuch as the early scenes of the drama had already shown that the king had been foreordained at the Council in Heaven, this concluding anointing was a re-affirmation of that premortal ordinance. As Borsch believed, “ The ceremony is said to take place in the heavenly realms just as the royal ritual was often described as though it were taking place in heaven. Let us notice, too, that the anointing act here is not associated primarily with cleansing or healing, but rather with a rite like King David’s. It is said that the ceremony makes the pneumatic into a god as well, just like the one above. In other words he will be a royal god.”

Widengren quoted Pseudo-Clement to show that the anointing oil was symbolically a product of the Tree of Life:

This idea of an anointing with oil from the Tree of Life is found in a pregnant form in the Psalm Clementine writings, from which some quotations may be given. In the passage concerned, the author (or rather his original source) discusses the problem of the Primordial Man as Messiah. He is represented as stressing the fact that the Primordial Man is the Anointed One:

But the reason of his being called the Messiah (the Anointed One) is that, being the Son of God, he was a man, and that, because he was the first beginning, his father in the beginning anointed him with oil which was from the Tree of Life.

Primordial Man, who had received the anointing, thanks to which he had been installed in the threefold office of king, high priest, and prophet, is then paralleled with every man who has received such anointing:

The same, however, is every man who has been anointed with the oil that has been prepared, so that he has been made a participant of that which is possessed of power, even being worth the royal office or the prophet’s office or the high priest’s office.

The apocryphal Gospel of Philip, teaches the same. It reads, “But the tree of life stands in the midst of paradise. And indeed (it is) the olive-tree. From it came the chrism [anointing oil]. Through it came the resurrection.” On the nest page Philip added:

The chrism [anointing oil] is superior to baptism. For from the chrism [anointing oil] we were called “Christians,” [that is, “anointed ones”] not from the baptism. Christ also was so called because of the anointing. For the Father anointed the Son. But the Son anointed the apostles. And the apostles anointed us. He who is anointed possesses all things. He has the resurrection, the light, the cross.

Borsch mentioned other facets of the coronation ceremony that are not explicitly mentioned in the Isaiah passage, but which were very important. In the following, he wrote that the king was “initiated into heavenly secrets and given wisdom.” That initiation may have been part of what Johnson and Mowinckel understood to be an “endowment with the spirit.” It is what Nibley described in his analysis of Moses chapter one, quoted above. It was this spiritual empowerment—not just the physical ordinances—that qualified one to be king. Borsch writes,

The king is anointed. The holy garment is put on him together with the crown and other royal regalia. He is said to be radiant, to shine like the sun just as does the king-god. He is initiated into heavenly secrets and given wisdom. He is permitted to sit upon the throne, often regarded as the very throne of the god. He rules and judges; all enemies are subservient. All do him obeisance.

The New Year’s festival temple drama’s coronation ceremonies reached to both ends of linear time; beginning in the Council, then the Garden; and at the conclusion when the king became anew “a son of God.” Consequently, even though a king may have ruled for many years, at this point in the festival, after he had symbolically proven himself, and was escorted into the Temple—then he was again crowned and became again king in fact. The importance of anointing and its association with the king’s remarkable spiritual powers are described by Johnson:

The fact that the king held office as Yahweh’s agent or vice-regent is shown quite clearly in the rite of anointing which marked him out as a sacral person endowed with such special responsibility for the well-being of his people as we have already described. Accordingly the king was not merely the Messiah or the ‘anointed’; he was the Messiah of Yahweh, i.e. the man who in thus being anointed was shown to be specially commissioned by Yahweh for this high office: and, in view of the language which is used elsewhere in the Old Testament with regard to the pouring out of Yahweh’s ‘Spirit’ and the symbolic action which figures so prominently in the work of the prophets, it seems likely that the rite in question was also held to be eloquent of the superhuman power with which this sacral individual was henceforth to be activated and by which his behavior might be governed. The thought of such a special endowment of the ‘Spirit’ is certainly implied by the statement that, when David was selected for this office, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.

the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness”

Nibley translated this line a bit differently, and in doing so, he expanded its meaning by projecting its implications to the marriage ceremony that follows in verse 10. He writes:

After you put off the old garments and put on those of spiritual white, you should keep them always thus spotless white. That is not to say that you must always go around in white clothes, but rather that you should be always clothed in what is really white and glorious, that you may say with the blessed Isaiah 61:10), “Let my soul exult in the Lord, for he hath clothed me in a robe of salvation and clothing of rejoicing.” (The word here used for “clothe” is endy, to place a garment on one, and is the ultimate source of our word “endowment,” derived in the Oxford English Dictionary from both induere, to invest with a garment, and inducere, to lead into or initiate.)

The royal robes of the king are not described in detail in the Old Testament. However, some scholars believe that the descriptions of the High Priestly garments were originally descriptions of the royal robes, and the miter hat was the crown used by the king in the coronation ceremony. The implication is that the post-exilic editors who re-worked the books of Moses, allotted to the High Priest the royal garments that had once been worn by their kings. Widengren was among those who believed that all of the ceremonial clothing of the High Priest, including the breastplate which held the Urim and Thummim, was an adaptation of the earlier sacral clothing of the king.

The coronation clothing is almost always described as two separate garments (as partially discussed earlier in connection with Psalm 45). The sacred clothing attributed to the Aaronic priesthood High Priests consisted of white linen undergarments and outer royal robes. The undergarments were a two part suit—a long sleeved white shirt and breeches “to cover their nakedness” (Exodus 28:42. see also Mosiah 10:5). Above that he wore a solid blue robe with a fringe of alternating golden bells and pomegranates. The pomegranates were made of blue, purple, and scarlet threads—the same colors as in the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:4-42). Around the waist was a sash, also woven in the same colors as the fringe and the veil. His breastplate was a kind of pouch or pocket in which he placed the Urim and Thummim. It was supported by shoulder straps attached to an apron called the ephod. His crown was a miter, a flat hat made of fine linen, with a gold plate attached that was worn on his forehead. Engraved on the plate were the words “Holiness to the Lord.”

This same ritual clothing—or something very much like it—was worn by the early Christians. Paul described the sacral garments as the protective “armor of God.”

The scriptures often speak of the clothing in terms of their meaning rather than of their physical appearance. Thus, the outer one is usually called “majesty,” representing the powers of kingship, and the other “glory,” representing the authority of priesthood. For example, in Psalm 45, the king’s blessing from Elohim included the instructions to dress himself properly:

3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness;
and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible thing. (Psalm 45:3-4).

We find the same imagery in Job, only here two double sets of clothing are mentioned. (We have wondered if the reason is because, even though no woman is ever mentioned in the narrative, the second set might belong to his wife.) The Lord asks Job:

9 Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
10 Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. …
14 Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee (Job 40:9-14).

Later, but in the same context, Job responds:

4 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee (Job 42:4-5).

There is a fragment of an ancient text of the Book of Job that suggests the clothing is a replacement for something else that he must first “remove” (as in the Hymn of the Pearl). It reads:

Or have you an arm like God?
Or with voice like his can you thunder?
Remove now pride and haughty spirit
And with splendor, glory, and honor be clothed.

There is a similar description in Psalm 21, and it was apparently sung during a similar ceremony to the one described in Job 40:1-17. After the coronation ceremony, before the king entered God’s presence, he was dressed in clothing called “honour and majesty” (Psalm 21:5). We will discuss this psalm more fully below.

The important thing is that there are always two, and they always seem to represent royal and priestly authority, and with rare exceptions, they are always worn together. A similar idea is in the Doctrine and Covenants, where two ideas, “perfectness and peace,” are joined together as “charity:”

125   And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.
126   Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen (D&C 88:125-126).

It is significant that these sacred royal garments were patterned after those worn by Jehovah himself, as is shown in two of the psalms. One of those is Psalm 93:

1 The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty;
the Lord is clothed with strength,
wherewith he hath girded himself:
the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
2 Thy throne is established of old:
thou art from everlasting (Psalm 93:1-2).

The other is Psalm 104 where Jehovah’s royal clothing is described as honor and majesty, only there Jehovah wears an additional garment of light:

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, thou art very great;
thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment:
who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain.
(Psalm 104:1-2).

The interpretation of Figure 3 in Facsimile No. 2 in the Book of Abraham shows that the clothing given to earthly holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood is symbolic of the clothing worn by God. It reads:

Fig. 3.      Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.

Nibley’s description of the High Priest’s garments—which, if the above quoted scholars are correct, were originally the king’s royal garments—emphasizes their sacred nature:

The combination of the items that make up the full clothing comes from the description of the high priestly garments at the beginning of Exodus 28. Very recently in Jerusalem, a magnificent book was published based on an attempt to reconstruct the kelîm, the supellectila, the implements and equipment of the temple, and the priestly garments (fig. 17). A section at the end of the book describes them in detail. In this particular passage there is general assemblage, a listing, and then a description of what the articles are.

Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother,” the Lord tells Moses (cf. Exodus 28:2), lokabod ultip’eret, “both for glory and for magnificence”—to give an impression, to fill one with awe. And the Lord instructed Moses to say to all the people of “thoughtful-mindedness” and intelligence “that they shall do so, and make such garments for Aaron, for holiness, and for his priesthood, to represent his priesthood to me” (cf. Exodus 28:3). “And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ‘epod [the much disputed ephod!], and the mo’il,” a “cloak, a covering, a long garment”; “a kotonet,” the “shirt”; “a tashbe,” a thing elaborately woven in a checkerboard pattern, or something similar; “a mitre,” mi .z ne -p e -t, “a turban,” “a round cap”; “and a girdle” or “sash”; “and these garments they shall make holy for Aaron, thy brother, and for his sons, to serve me in the priesthood” (Exodus 28:4).

The patriarch Levi reported that during his sode experience he was dressed in similar sacred robes. His account reads:

And there again I saw a vision as the former, after we had spent there seventy days. And I saw seven men in white raiment saying unto me: Arise, put on the robe of the priesthood, and the crown of righteousness, and the breastplate of understanding, and the garment of truth, and the plate of faith, and the turban of the head, and the ephod of prophecy. And they severally carried (these things) and put (them) on me, and said unto me: From henceforth become a priest of the Lord, thou and thy seed forever. And the first anointed me with holy oil, and gave to me the staff of judgment. The second washed me with pure water, and fed me with bread and wine (even) the most holy things, and clad, me with a holy and glorious robe. The third clothed me with a linen vestment like an ephod. The, fourth put round me a girdle like unto purple. The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive. The sixth placed a crown on my head. The seventh placed on my head a diadem of priesthood, and filled my hands with incense, that I might serve as priest to the Lord God. And they said to me: Levi, thy seed shall be divided into three offices, for a sign of the glory of the Lord who is to come. And the first portion shall be great; yea, greater than it shall none be. The second shall be in the priesthood. And the third shall be called by a new name, because a king shall arise in Judah, and shall establish a new priesthood, after the fashion of the Gentiles [to all the Gentiles]. And His presence is beloved, as a prophet of the Most High, of the seed of Abraham our father:

Therefore, every desirable thing in Israel shall be for thee and for thy seed,
And ye shall eat everything fair to look upon,
And the table of the Lord shall thy seed apportion.
And some of them shall be high priests, and judges, and scribes;
For by their mouth shall the holy place be guarded.,
And when I awoke, I understood that this (dream) was like the first dream.

Sacred garments are not unique to Hebrew literature. Ostler explains, “The idea of the garment is completely at home throughout the ancient world, always in connection with ordinances of initiation related to the “endowment of the Spirit.” The garment is usually mentioned in relation with other ordinances, especially the anointing.” Rubin and Kosman explain further:

This clothing assumed special attributes of its own, independent of its wearer. Wearing regal clothing added authority and a dimension of the regal. The Bible also stressed the transfer of Aaron’s priestly garments to his son Eleazar. There were also garments unique to prophets, such as Samuel’s special coat and Elijah’s distinctive mantle. The holy garments of the Bible thus help link the world above to that below. Here the garment does not function for personal territorial separation and defense of selfhood, but for linking the worlds. This special quality requires the wearer to be ritually pure. Otherwise, the garment can have a deleterious effect. The garment represents the charisma of a formal position without a direct reference to the quality of the priest wearing it. As these garments denote a formal position, their design is also formal and unalterable.

In the vision of Daniel (7:9), however, the clothing of God (the “ancient of days”) is as white snow, and is therefore not merely metaphorical. On angels being clothed, see for example, Ezek 9:2. The angels that appeared to humans were undoubtedly clothed. See for example, Judg 13:15; and regarding the “men” that appeared to Abraham, see Gen 19:1. Incidently, humans also occasionally wear metaphoric garments, as in, “I clothed myself in righteousness and it robed me; justice was my cloak and turban” (Job 29:14).

In the pseudepigraphal account of the marriage of Joseph in Egypt, his clothing is described in terms that are reminiscent of the royal Hebrew garments:

And Joseph was dressed in an exquisite white tunic, and the robe which he had thrown around him; was purple, made of linen interwoven with gold; and a golden crown (was) on his head, and around the crown were twelve chosen stones, and on top of the twelve stones were twelve golden rays. And a royal staff was in his left hand, and in his right hand he held outstretched an olive branch, and there was plenty of fruit on it, and in the fruits was a great wealth of oil.

that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified”

One is “called” by one’s name. Similarly, here to be “called” is to be given a new name. One finds the same usage in the Beatitudes: “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Nephi 12:9); and in Isaiah: “and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). A new name is a new covenantal identity. In our verse, it denotes one’s new relationship with God, much as Nibley writes, “In Egyptian initiation rites one puts off his former nature by discarding his name, after which he receives a new name.” Truman Madsen explains,

     “In antiquity, several ideas about names recur, among which are the following:
1. In names, especially divine names, is concentrated divine power.
2. Through ritual processes one may gain access to these names and take them upon oneself.
3. These ritual processes are often explicitly temple-related.”

The regal new name given to the enthroned dead in Isaiah 61 is “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.” It is a promise of eternal lives. “Trees” suggests the tree of life. “Righteousness” is zedek—correctness and propriety in performing and receiving sacred ordinances. “The planting of the Lord” implies eternal increase (trees make fruit, fruit make seeds, seeds make trees, ad infinitum). And the words “that he [God] might be glorified” proclaim that the glory of God is inseparably connected with the continuation of the family (as in Moses 1:39). The importance of the family is again emphasized at the end of chapter 61 where we find “a song of rejoicing” in celebration of the sacred marriage. It is a hymn sung by the bride and groom:

10  I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

Nibley cited Assmann to give a version of the cosmic myth that concludes with a sacred marriage:

Here is how Assmann puts it: (1) The hero is cast out of his happy home, his original condition of life, against his will, but for his own good as he realizes. (2) He must go forth to undergo a series of trials and tests, (3) symbolic of overcoming death by resurrection, and so (4) return to his former home as a changed person, (5) being received back when he identifies himself in a formal testing. (6) Transfiguration and exaltation go with coronation and marriage.

For a discussion as “son” and the ancient Israelite new king-name, see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “Psalm 2, The Ancient Israelite Royal King-name.”

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