Isaiah 61 — LeGrand Baker –An Endowment for the Dead

I have discussed parts of Isaiah 61 elsewhere, but this is an in-depth discussion of the entire chapter.{1}

Isaiah 61 is a deeply encoded preview of the temple rites for the dead. The code is the ancient Feast of Tabernacles temple drama. If one knows the drama, one knows the code—and it is easy to decipher. In the following analysis of the chapter I will point out the code, but leave it to the reader to make the connections.

Like other eternal principles of the gospel, it is apparent that the doctrine of salvation for the dead was known to Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets. Notwithstanding they understood it, the actual performance of baptism and other temple ordinances for the dead did not begin until after the Savior’s death. Then he visited the spirit world and authorized priesthood holders to teach the gospel to those who had died without receiving those ordinances in this life.

Perhaps the earliest written evidence we have of their understanding is Psalm 22. The first part of that psalm is a vivid prophecy of the Savior’s crucifixion. Portions are quoted in all four of the gospels. The second part of Psalm 22 is a prophecy that the Savior will preach the gospel to the dead. In the psalm, immediately after the Savior dies, he affirms:

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise the (Psalms 22:22)

The final result of that declaration will be:

27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee (Psalms 22:27).

If one chooses, one can make that a prophecy of the gospel spreading to the whole earth in the last days, but sweep of the psalm is more inclusive than that. It says everybody—“all the kindreds of the nations”—if it means everybody, it would have to include people who died without the gospel. {2}

The second half of the book of Isaiah is a commentary on the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama. Chapter 40 begins with the Council in Heaven, chapter 66 tells of the “new heavens and the new earth” where Jehovah himself will reign. As the psalms were the text of that drama, so Isaiah makes frequent references to them. In that context, Isaiah 61 appear to be a commentary on the second half of Psalm 22, for that chapter of Isaiah is a deeply encoded foreshadowing of the endowment for the dead.

Clarification of the meaning of Isaiah 61 comes from President Joseph F. Smith’s revelation about redemption for the dead. He quotes portions of it in these verses:

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit (D&C 138:30-34).

There, verse 31 quotes and combines parts of Isaiah 61:1-2. Then in verse 42 he quotes verse one again, but this time almost in its entirety. In reporting his vision, President Smith mentions by name many of the prophets who attended the Savior when he visited the sprit world. Isaiah is one of those:

42 And 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, were also there (D&C 138:42).

In revelation on the Redemption of the Dead, President Smith has taught us the meaning of the first two verses of Isaiah 61. Now with that key, we can understand the rest of the chapter.

The Savior also paraphrased Isaiah 61in the Beatitudes where he says,

4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (3 Nephi 12:4 and Matthew 5:4). {3}

The fact that the Savior made no explanation about why he paraphrased this chapter of Isaiah indicates that he knew that his audience understood what it said. In other words, we can be sure the Nephites still retained the ancient temple rites and, therefor, we may project that they also understood that the blessings of the temple ordinances and covenants would now be made available to those in the spirit world. Even though our understanding of Jesus’s audience in Matthew 5 is uncertain, for the same reason, it appears the Jews may have understood it also. When Jesus told the Jews in Nazareth the prophecy would be fulfilled soon, they took such offence that they tried to kill him. (Luke 4:16-30)

Isaiah 61 — LeGrand Baker –An Endowment for the Dead

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).

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me

In the Old Testament it reads as though it was Isaiah who was anointed. In D&C 138 it says “the Redeemer was anointed.” A reasonable question might be “Which is correct?” However, an equally reasonable answer is “both.” This is a wonderful example of a premortal ordinance. If the Savior was anointed before he was born into this world, then it occurred at the Council in Heaven. However, that may also be said of Isaiah.

to preach good tidings unto the meek;

The meek are defined very clearly in the psalms as those who keep the covenants they made in the Council in heaven.

When the Savior taught, “And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (3 Nephi 12:5)” he was quoting the psalm that says, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Psalms 37:11).” But he was also paraphrasing a different psalm that is about eternal families. It reads: “His [the meek person’s] soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth (Psalm 25:13).” That is consistent with a revelation of the Prophet Joseph’s where we are told:

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
18 Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory (D&C 88:17-18).{4}

Psalm 25 is a prayer like Nephi’s psalm in 2 Nephi 4. It is also a multi-faceted discussion of who are the meek. The psalm says:

14 The secret [sode] of the Lord is with them that fear him;
and he will shew them his covenant.

The word “secret” is translated from the Hebrew word sode, so the verse reads, “The secret [sode] of the Lord is with them that fear him [“Fear” means love, respect, honor, revere].

Sode is a Hebrew word that means the secret decisions of a council. In this context he is referring to a “sode experience” where one learns the assignments he received at the Council in Heaven. counci The verse says: Those who revere the Lord will know the secrets of the Council; and the Lord will show them [the meek] his [the Lord’s] covenant. That is, he will show them the covenants they made with him at the Council. Such information is an ultimate empowerment. One can not know where he is going unless he knows where he as been and what purpose he has in the journey.{5}

Doctrine and Covenants 138 tells us who were there to meet him when the Savior visited the spirit world.

36 Thus was it made known that our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets who had testified of him in the flesh;
37 That they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead, unto whom he could not go personally, because of their rebellion and transgression, that they through the ministration of his servants might also hear his words. (D&C 138:36-37).

So Isaiah’s words are precisely correct. The Savior was anointed to give the meek the powers to teach others so they also would have access to the priesthood ordinances performed in their behalf in human temples.

he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

In this instance, the word “bind” means “to wrap firmly” as with a compress. The connotation is to heal. The Tanakh translation is “to bind up the wounded of heart”{6}

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

Margaret 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.” {7}

and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

Here “bound” is a differenent word from “bind” in the first verse. “Bound” means “to yoke or hitch; to fasten in any sense, bind,…tie.” The connotation is to securely link two things together. The temple word is “to seal.”{8}

Again, Isaiah’s language is perfectly correct. This first verse summarizes the rest of the chapter, and concludes, as it should with the promise of “binding” the participants together. That promise is fulfilled in verse 10 which describes a marriage. If understood that way, the verse would read:

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek [the “chosen messengers ”]; he hath sent me to bind up [to heal] the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound [have been sealed together].

That is the correct sequence. After one has accepted the gospel and vicarious ordinances of the temple, then they no longer remain in the “spirit prison.”

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,

For anything to be acceptable to the Lord in the Old Testament, it had to be done correctly and with the right authority—in zedek — righteous.
The translation “righteous” is excellent because the word zedek means priesthood and temple correctness where the ordinances are performed by the right person, with the right authority, in the right place, using the right words, with the right hand movements or jestures gestures (as holding the arm to the square in baptism), and dressed the right way.
To proclaim to the dead people that this is an acceptable time is to assure them the that the ordinances performed in their behalf by the living are now valid and acceptable.{9}

and the day of vengeance of our God;

The spirits in prison will have a full opportunity to accept the gospel, with its ordinances and covenants. When that opportunity is passed, the resurrection will follow. So this opportunity in the spirit world really will be a prelude to their final judgement. “Vengeance” may be the right connotation, but it is rather harsh. The Tanakh comes closer to conveying the intent of the prophecy. “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, And a day of vindication by our God, To comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:2). Compare (Luke 4:16-21).

to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).
The Meaning of “Comfort”

In the Isaiah passages, to comfort does not me an bringing about the cessation of sorrow because the source of the sorrow is forced to go away, rather it means to change one’s situation or condition in order to bring about an end to one’s vulnerability to sorrow. The translators of the King James Bible understood that connotation and used the word “comfort” to mean the bestowal of authority or power. Thus, to be comforted meant to receive the enabling power by which one may transcend pain, sorrow, and hurt, to bring about the cessation of mourning, and thereby achieve serenity and peace.{10}

The Coronation Ceremony in Isaiah 61

(Much of the discussion of verse 3 is taken from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord)

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.{11} Verse 3 reads:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,

A.  to give unto them beauty for ashes,
B.  the oil of joy for mourning,
C.  the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
D.  that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).{12}

In Isaiah’s description of the coronation rites the word “for” does not mean “in consequence of,” but “in exchange for,” or, as the Anchor Bible has it translated, “instead of.” For that reason I have used “instead of” in the headings below.

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.{13} 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.{14}

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.{15}

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.”{16}

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. There, 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.

the oil of joy instead of mourning {17}

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. {18}

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.{19}

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.”{20} 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.{21}

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.”{22} That initiation may have been part of what Johnson and Mowinckel understood to be an “endowment with the spirit.”{23} It is what Nibley described in his analysis of Moses chapter one, quoted above.{24} 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.”{25}

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.{26}

the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness {27}

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.){28}

The royal robes of the king are not described in detail in the Old Testament.{29} 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.{30} 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.{31}

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.{32} 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).{33} Around the waist was a sash,{34} 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.”{35}
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.”{36}

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.{37}

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).

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.{38} 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:{39}

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.{40}

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.{41} 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.{42} 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.”{43} 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.{44}

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.

The new royal name that was given to the king during his coronation ceremony in the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama was different from the one cited in Isaiah 61. The ancient Israelite royal new name is found in Psalm 2, which was sung at the time of the king’s anointing near the conclusion of the temple drama,{45} In that psalm, the king’s new name is “son,”{46} denoting that he had been adopted as a son and heir of Jehovah. Like many other psalms, this one is intended to be performed on the stage. However, like the others there are no stage directions, so one has to deduce those from what is said. Here the king is speaking and is quoting God. He says,

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Psalm 2:7).

“Son,” as it is spoken here, is the new king-name. It denotes the covenant of adoption and heirship between the king and Jehovah.{47} The next are God’s promise of invulnerability that is associated with the new name.{48} Here, as is often so, the promise is given in terms of military power:
Psalm 2 marks a high point of the ancient Israelite temple drama. It is the conclusion of all that has come before and the beginning of all that comes after.{49} In that psalm, the king’s new name is “son,”{50} denoting that he had been adopted as a son and heir of God. Mowinckel believed that the words, “thou art my son” demonstrated the cosmic role with which the king of Israel was entrusted. The king’s adoption as a son of Jehovah made him a legal heir, both to his earthly throne and to his rightful place in the eternities. This annual re-enactment of the king’s adoption renewed and affirmed the original covenant relationships between Jehovah and the king; between Jehovah and the people; and also between Jehovah, the king, and the people in the recreation of the Kingdom of God.

The ancient Israelites did not consider their kings to be gods, but they did consider them to be adopted sons of God, as Hoffimeier explains:

More directly relevant are two passages in which a Hebrew king appears to have been regarded as a son of God. In 2 Samuel 7:14, Yahweh, the God of Israel, speaks to David regarding his heir: ‘I will be his father, and he shall be my son.’ And in Psalm 2:6-7 the psalmist quotes Yahweh: ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill … You are my son, today I have begotten you.” Both passages have been used to support the adoptionist view of kingship, whereby the king becomes the son of the deity upon his assumption of the throne.{51}

The festival drama had already shown that the king’s first covenants were made at the Council in Heaven. Now they were made anew, here in mortality. The phrase, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,” emphasized the eternal relationship that covenant reaffirmed. The Apostle Paul quoted the words of Psalm 2 as a reference to the Savior (Hebrews 1:5). Whenever the Father introduces the Savior, he uses that regal name. It defines the Lord’s literal relationship with his Father as his Only Begotten, and also his status as heir{52} and Lord of Lords.{53} This same covenant name is given to many persons in the scriptures, but uniquely to the Savior. Israel’s special status before God was shown in their designation as his ‘sons,’ as Cook explained, “The people Israel knew themselves to be under the same charge by virtue of their relation to Yahweh in terms of sonship and of covenant righteousness and loyalty.”{54} In these relationships, Israel and the king’s connections with God were bound by temporal and spiritual covenants. Mowinckel explained the intent of the covenant words when he wrote:

He is ‘Yahweh’s son,’ adopted by Yahweh ‘today.’ It is the election, the anointing and the installation which are viewed as an adoption. Thereby the king is, ideally speaking, world-ruler; and all other kings are his vassals, whose duty it is to pay him homage by ‘kissing his feet’—the usual sign of homage to the liege sovereign in the East.{55}

Even though this new king-name was reaffirmed each year, conferring it upon the king was more than symbolic, as Porter and Ricks explain: “The name change or new name marks a turning point in the life of the initiate: he is ‘re-created,’ so to speak, and becomes a new man.”{56} It was typical of ancient Near Eastern practices that kings should receive a new covenant name in connection with their coronation ceremonies—often, more names than one, but, as Porter and Ricks observed, not all the new names were known to everyone.

New names were frequently conferred upon individuals at the time of their enthronement. The giving or possessing of a second name, to be kept hidden from others, is widely attested in antiquity among both mortals and divinities.{57}

The reason it was important to have many names was because each name represented the binding power of a different covenant. In the Israelite temple drama, the king’s personal history covered an enormous span of time, and during that time he played many roles with covenantal responsibilities. Nibley pointed out that, “When Re says to the gods, ‘I have many names and many forms; in me Atun and the youthful Horus are addressed,’ he signifies that he may be conjured either as the Ancient of Days or the Newly-born, depending on the name employed and the situation in which his presence is desired.{58}

Not all new covenant names were secret, but they were all sacred. In his study of Hebrew royal names, A. M. Honeyman found that the religious practice of giving and receiving a new name “is based upon the belief that the name is or symbolizes the self or soul, and that an alteration of the name will effect or symbolize and perpetuate an alteration of the self; on this supposition a man whose name has been changed is no longer quite the same man, for he has been cut off from his own past, or from certain aspects of it, and the future belongs to a different being.”{59}

A name was more than an identity, as Porter and Ricks explain, “In the cultures of the ancient Near East, existence was thought to be dependent upon an identifying word, that word being a ‘name.’ The name of someone (or something) was perceived not as a mere abstraction, but as a real entity, ‘the audible and spoken image of the person, which was taken to be his spiritual essence.’”{60}

The new name was an evidence of the coronation. The one who was called by that name was a legitimate heir—a king and priest unto God.{61}

Bratcher correctly observes that the next verses “provide a description of the salvation the prophet has been sent to proclaim in verses 1-3.”{62 }

in D&C 138, the voice who speaks this chapter is the Lord. In the first three verses he tells about the blessings that will come to the dead who accept the gospel and the vicarious ordinances of the temple. Now, beginning with verse 4, he speaks directly to the dead and descries those ordinances. It is a bit difficult for us to read because when he says “you” he is speaking to the dead, and when he says “they” he is speaking about the living. The voice does not change, but the referent does. In verse 3 “them” are those “that mourn.” It is they who will receive the rites of coronation. However, in verse 4 “they” are the living who will bless the dead. This change must be recognized or the meaning of the entire chapter falls apart. The Lord was speaking to the dead, now he is speaking to the dead. So “you” are those who are dead, and “they” are the living. To read it that way requires a bit of a mind shift, because we think of ourselves, “you,” as the ones spoken to and the dead, “they,” as the ones spoken about. If we understand that shift then everything falls neatly into place.

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.

4 And they [the living] shall build the old wastes, they [the living] shall raise up the former desolations, and they [the living] shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

A “city” can be the buildings, the people who live there, or both. Before Ford’s automobile made it necessary to build roads and give ordinary people the wherewithal to move about, only the rich traveled from place to place. Poor people often never left the environs of the villages where they and their great grandparents were born. So to “repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations” simply means to do the vicarious temple work that will seal those generations together.

5 And strangers [the living] shall stand and feed your [the dead] flocks, and the sons of the alien [the living] shall be your [the dead] plowmen and your [the dead] vinedressers.

The imagery of sheep, “flocks,” frequently represent families or followers. Here the living will “stand” to nourish the families. There is a reason that we have to stand. It is illustrated by this Old Testament story where the king had ordered that the Temple be refurbished. The workmen found a scroll which they gave to the priest, who, in turn, gave it to the king. Then this is what happened:

1 And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
2 And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.
3 And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3).

Anciently, people stood when they made covenants. In some cases (like Psalm 82) to stand is code for making covenants. So we, the “strangers” are standing to give nourishment to the dead. We now learn that the source of their sustenance is the fruit and water of the tree of life.

We the living, “the sons of the alien” become their “plowmen.” In ancient Israel the staple food produced in the field was wheat. Wheat makes bread. Bread of the sacrament represents the Savior’s blood which is symbolized by the fruit of the tree of life. “Vinedressers tend the vineyards that produce grapes. Grapes make the wine of the sacrament.

It is only my opinion, but it seems to make sense that after we perform the ordinances for the dead, they probably have to do something to accept those ordinances. Their partaking the sacrament seems to be an appropriate ordinance to accomplish that. It is possible, for we know there are beautiful plants spirit world.{63}

6 But ye [the dead] shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you [the dead] the Ministers of our God: ye [the dead] shall eat the riches of the Gentiles [the living], and in their [the living] glory shall ye [the dead] boast yourselves.

So the dead are “named the Priests of the Lord.” They have the priesthood and become “the Ministers of our God.” Ministers teach and bless, these dead priesthood who have accepted the gospel and received the priesthood, are going on missions to help others.

Now the dead will have the same blessings as the living, “the Gentiles” and the dead missionaries will have the same blessings as the living receive.

7 For [in place of] your [the dead] shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they [the living] shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their [the living] land they [the living] shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them [the living] .

“Double” here and elsewhere is code for the birthright blessings of Abraham, which were the crowning ordinances of the ancient temple rites.{64} The Law of Moses required that the birthright son receive a double portion as an inheritance. Even before Moses that was done. Consequently, there is no tribe of Joseph. Joseph received the birthright so he has two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. So it reads:

For [in place of] your shame ye [the dead] shall have double [the birthright blessings of Abraham]; and for confusion they [the living] shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their [the living’s] land they shall possess the double [those same birthright priesthood blessings]: everlasting joy shall be unto them [the living] .

8 For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their [the living] work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them [the living] .

For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering.

When those dead people lived in our world they could just burn up a old sheep and call that their repentance. However, now they must sacrifice the same thing that the living have to sacrifice—a broken heart and contrite spirit.

And I will direct their [the living’s] work in truth.

The work we are doing is family history, and there are many people who can testify that is, in fact, directed in truth.

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them [the living] .

As the work is family history, so the “everlasting covenant” must have to do with the promise of “binding the hearts of the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children.”

9 And their [the living] seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their [the living] offspring among the people: all that see them [the living] shall acknowledge them [the living], that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.

Now we learn who “they” really are. They are “the seed which the Lord hath blessed”—the covenant people of the House of Israel.

Through the end of verse 9, the Lord has been speaking either about or directly to the dead people who accept the gospel and its ordinances in the spirit world. Now the voice changes and in the last two verses of the chapter we here the rejoicing of the dead.

Verse 10 is a sacred marriage ceremony that is the culmination of all that has gone before. Now the bride and groom together sing a “hymn of thanksgiving.”{65}

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.

In verse 3 the sacred clothing was an important part of the coronation ceremony. We find that same clothing again. This time it is a significant part of the wedding ceremony.

The last part of their wedding hymn is their testimony of the promised resurrection.

50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
51 These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life (D&C 138:50-51).

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.

The promise is that like a seemingly dead seed that has been buried in the earth, so their dead and buried bodies would live again “so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”

The Savior opened the world of the dead to missionary work with the promise that the ordinances performed by the living in this world would be valid for them also. It is good to know that even many generations before that happened, the people understood that temple work could eventually be done for their dead as well as for ours.



PLEASE  NOTE:  More complete bibliographic information can be found in the bibliography of Who Shall Ascend Into the Hill of the Lord that is found in the “published books” section of this website.

{1} Some of this, especially the coronation ceremony in verse 3, is taken from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.

{2} For a discussion of Psalm 22 see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “Act 2, Scene 7: Jehovah Conquers Death and Hell.” First edition, p. 415-442; second edition, p. 300-323.

{3} For a discussion of that Beatitude see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, chapter “3 Nephi 12:4 – ‘all they that mourn’,” First edition, p. 940-45 ; second edition, p. 656-59.

{4} The “poor,” like the “meek,” are those defined by the Beatitudes. They are those who keep their temple covenants. For a discussion of the meaning of “poor” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? First edition, p. 936-40; second edition, p. 653-55.

{5} For a discussion of the meaning of Psalm 25 and the “meek” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? First edition, p. 535-43; second edition, p. 378-90.

{6} Strong # 2280. The Tanakh is the official Jewish English translation of the Old Testament. Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia and Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

{7} Margaret Dee Bratcher,”Salvation Achieved, Isaiah 61:1-7; 62:1-7; 65:17 – 66:2,” Review and Expositor, v. 88, 1991, 178.

{8} Strong # 631,

{9} For a discussion of the meaning of zedek and righteous” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? First edition, p. 279-84; second edition, p. 198-201.

{10} See “meaning of ‘Comfort’,” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? First edition, p. 467-71; second edition, p. 340-42.
Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 84-85.

{11} For an excellent discussion of the coronation ceremony, see Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 236-71.

{12} The meaning of the new name is an echo of the Lord’s words to Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory——to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

{13} Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 241-43, 256-57.

{14} For discussions of washing, see Nibley, “What Is a Temple?” 363-64; Nibley, “Sacred Vestments,” Temple and Cosmos, 91-138; Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 241- 43; Tvedtnes, “Baptism for the Dead,” 62-67 .

{15} For a description of how it was understood in the Savior’s day, see Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston, The Complete Works: The History of the Jews, book 4, chapter 4 (London: London Printing and Publishing, 1876), 69.

{16} Interpreter’s Dictionary: for “scarlet,” 4:233; for “hyssop,” 2:670.

{17} For discussions of the anointing of Israelite kings, see Donald W. Parry, “Ritual Anointing with Olive Oil in Ancient Israelite Religion,” Allegory of the Olive Tree, 266-71, 281-83. For a discussion of the olive tree as the Tree of Life and of the tree and its oil as symbols of kingship see Stephen D. Ricks, “Olive Culture in the Second Temple Era and Early Rabbinic Period,” Allegory of the Olive Tree, 460-76.

{18} Borsch, Son of Man, 184.

{19} Widengren, “Baptism and Enthronement,” 213-14. The quotes he uses are from Ps. Clem. Recognitions syriace, ed. Frankenberg, I, 45, 4 and I, 46, 335.

{20} Gospel of Philip, New Testament Apocrypha, Revised Edition, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Westminster: John Knox, 1991), 1: 199, 92.

{21} Gospel of Philip, 200, 95.

{22} For discussions of secrecy, see Lundquist, “Common Temple Ideology,” 59; Lundquist, “What Is a Temple?” 109-11; Hugh Nibley, “Myths and the Scriptures,” Old Testament and Related Studies, ed. John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1986), 37-47; Nibley, “On the Sacred and the Symbolic,” 569-72; Nibley, “Return to the Temple,” 61-66; Packer, Holy Temple, 25-36.

{23} See: Johnson, Sacral Kingship, 14-16, and Mowinckel, He That Cometh, 374.

{24} Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless, 5-6.

{25} Borsch, Son of Man, 95-96.

{26} Johnson, “Hebrew Conceptions of Kingship,” 207-8, quotes 1 Samuel 16:13.

{27} For a discussion of Adam’s garment of light, that garment and its significance, see Ricks, “Garment of Adam,” 705-39. For discussions of sacred clothing, see Draper and Parry, “Seven Promises,” 134-36; Hamblin, “Temple Motifs,” 453-54; Nibley, “Sacred Vestments,” 91-138; Parry, “Garden of Eden,” 145; Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 254-56; John A. Tvedtnes, “Priestly Clothing in Bible Times,” Temples of the Ancient World, 649-704. For a discussion of Egyptian Christian clothing. see C. Wilford Griggs, et al., “Evidences of Christian Population in the Egyptian Fayum and Genetic and Textile Studies of the Akhmim Noble Mummies,” BYU Studies 33, 2 (1993): 215-43.

{28} Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 280-81.

{29} There is an interesting coronation scene described in Zechariah that shows the importance of sacred clothing in Zechariah 3:1-10.

{30} See Ricks, “Garment of Adam,” 705-39; Borsch, Son of Man, 185, 194; Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship, 62-63; Widengren, “King and Covenant,” 21; Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 254-57.

{31} Widengren, Ascension of the Apostle, 25.

{32} For an in-depth discussion of the temple clothing of ancient Israel see Tvedtnes, “Priestly Clothing,” 649-704.

{33} Exodus 28:4. For excellent illustrations, see Moshe Levine, The Tabernacle, Its Structure and Utensils (Tel Aviv, Israel: Melechet Hamishkan, 1989), 127-33.
Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 256-57.

{34} Our Old Testament calls it a “girdle”; in the Tanakh it is called a “sash” (Exodus 28:8).

{35} For a beautifully illustrated book that reconstructs this clothing see Moshe Levine, The Tabernacle: Its Structure and Utensils (Tel Aviv, Israel: Melechet Hamishkan, 1989).

{36} Ephesians 6:10-18. It is also in D&C 27:15-18.
Two of the more interesting are in verse 14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”

{37} Marvin H. Pope, The Anchor Bible, Job (Garden City, New York: 1965), 319-20.

{38} Another example is the clothing described in the Hymn of the Pearl.

{39} For discussions of the garment of light, see: “The heavens were fashioned from the light of God’s garment.” (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 1:8).
“And my likeness was covered with the light of my garment.” The Paraphrase of Shem (VII, 1), The Nag Hammadi Library in English [San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1988], 346, 11-12).
Nibley suggests this garment is the Shechinah, which is “the cloud of brightness and glory that marked the presence of the Lord.” (LDS Bible dictionary) (Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 373.)

{40} There is more discussion of sacred garments in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness,” First edition, 483 -495; Second edition, 349 – 373.

{41} A. M. Honeyman, “The Evidence for Regnal Names Among the Hebrews,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 67 (1948): 13-25.
Among the scholars who have discussed the evidence for the ancient Israelite use of sacred king-names are: Bruce H. Porter and Stephen D. Ricks, “Names in Antiquity: Old, New, and Hidden,” By Study and Also By Faith, 1:501-22.
Mowinckel, Psalms in Israel’s Worship, 1: 63 and fn. 86.
Hoffmeier, “Son of God: From Pharaoh to Israel’s Kings,” 48.

{42} See J. E. Barnhart, “The Meaning of the Name Israel,Harvard Theological Review 65, 1 (1972):137-46.
Porter and Ricks, “Names in Antiquity,” 501-22.

{43} Truman G. Madsen, “‘Putting on the Names’: A Jewish-Christian Legacy,” By Study and Also By Faith, 1: 459.

{44} Madsen, “Putting on the Names,” 1:458.

{45} Bentzen, King and Messiah, 16-20.

{46} Cook summed up the work of many scholars regarding the meaning of “son” in this psalm. Cooke, “Israelite King as Son,” 202-25.

{47} Johnson, Sacral Kingship, 128-30. See also Mowinckel, Psalms in Israel’s Worship, 1: 58, 63; Honeyman, “Evidence for Regnal Names, 23-24; Hoffmeier, “Son of God: From Pharaoh to Israel’s Kings,” 48. Borsch, Son of Man, 152. For discussions of new king names, see Nibley, “Return to the Temple,” 59-61; Ricks and Sroka, “King, Coronation, and Temple,” 244-46, 256-57; Draper and Parry, “Seven Promises,” 136-37.

{48} For a discussion of the covenant of invulnerability, see the chapter called, “The Promise of Invulnerability.”

{49} Bentzen, King and Messiah, 16-20.

{50} Cooke summed up the work of many scholars regarding the meaning of “son” in this psalm.”Israelite King as Son,” 202-25.

{51} Hoffmeier, “Son of God: From Pharaoh to Israel’s Kings,” 48.

{52} Examples are: Christ’s baptism, the Mount of Transfiguration, his appearance to the Nephites, and Joseph Smith’s first vision.

{53} For Margaret Barker’s discussion of the relationship between the ancient coronation ceremony and the Savior’s baptism, see “High Priest and the Worship,” 93-111.

{54} Cooke, “Israelite King as Son,” 216-17.

{55} Mowinckel, Psalms in Israel’s Worship, 1:65.

{56} Porter and Ricks, “Names in Antiquity,” 507.

{57} Porter and Ricks, “Names in Antiquity,” 507-8.

{58} Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 140-41.

{59} Honeyman, “Evidence for Regnal,” 13.

{60} Porter and Ricks, “Names in Antiquity,” 501.

{61} There is more discussion of covenant names in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Psalm 2, The Ancient Israelite Royal King-name,” First edition, p. 499- 517; second edition, p. 360- 373.

{62 } Margaret Dee Bratcher,”Salvation Achieved, Isaiah 61:1-7; 62:1-7; 65:17 – 66:2,” Review and Expositor, v. 88, 1991, 178.

{63} See, for example, “Kimball, Heber C. – funeral of J. M. Grant” under “favorite quotes” in this website.

{64} For example Isaiah 40:1-2.

{65} Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), 536.

PLEASE  NOTE:  More complete bibliographic information can be found in the bibliography of Who Shall Ascend Into the Hill of the Lord that is found in the “published books” section of this website.


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