1 Nephi 11:17-21 — LeGrand Baker — “the Lamb of God.”

1 Nephi 11:17-21

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

The symbolism we most frequently think of when we read the phrase “Lamb of God” is the Passover lamb whose blood was put on the doorposts so the destroying angel would pass by (Exodus 12:1-9). Peter explained the title. He reminded us of a sacrificial lamb whose symbolism seems closer to that of the Day of Atonement than to the Passover (1 Peter 1:2,18-20).

On the Day of Atonement, goats were used for the sin offerings (Leviticus 16:1-34, 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11).{1} As the New Year festival continued into the Feast of Tabernacles the Bible reports that each day many bullocks, rams, and lambs were offered (Numbers 29:1-40). However, just as the temple drama is not described in the Old Testament, so there is no indication given about what special sacrifices were performed during that temple drama. Isaiah 53, which contains allusions to the Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, that there may have been a lamb sacrificed as a symbol of the Savior’s death (Isaiah 53:6-9). When Philip taught the gospel to the Ethiopian, he began with those verses in Isaiah (Acts 8:27-35), and when Abinadi taught Alma about the Atonement, he cited the same Isaiah passages (Mosiah 14:5-10).

The cleansing power of the Savior’s atoning blood is very real. Just as the temple, the priests, and the people were symbolically cleansed by the sacrificial blood of the Day of Atonement, so we all may be cleansed by the Savior’s blood (Mormon 9:6).{1}

The image evoked by the phrase “Lamb of God” not only represents eternal majesty, justice, and mercy, but also humility and obedience, We first find the title in the New Testament in John’s testimony (John 1:29-37). Then, in the Book of Mormon, we find it again in the same context when Nephi reported his father’s vision (1 Nephi 10:9-10). Much later, Nephi concludes his writings with a reiteration and explanation of that testimony (2 Nephi 31:4-11).

The title “the Lamb of God” applies to the Savior throughout the whole continuum of his existence, from the Council in Heaven, through this life, and beyond. In John’s Revelation, the second coming of the Savior and the beginning of his millennial reign are described as triumphs of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-17, Revelation 22:1-5). That sense of triumph is augmented by two revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith (D&C 76:19-24, 88:106-107).


{1} Lambs without blemish were used for sin offerings and peace offerings (Numbers 6:14): “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty”; A lamb without blemish was used to “make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:27).

{2} The promise that the garments of the righteous will be made white by the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb is found in several places in the scriptures. Revelation 7:14; 1 Nephi 12:10-11; Alma 13:11, 34:36; Ether 13:10-11.


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