1 Nephi 21: 12-26 & Isaiah 49 — LeGrand Baker — The Gathering of Israel

In this discussion I have divided First Nephi 20 and 21 into the following subsections: 

1. The premortal apostasy, 1 Nephi 20:1-11

2. Joseph Smith in the Council in Heaven, 1 Nephi 20:12-17

3. Apostasy preceding the Restoration, 1 Nephi 20:18 to 21:1a

4. Those who will help the Prophet Joseph, 1 Nephi 21:1-6

5. Joseph Smith restores the Temple services, 1 Nephi 21:7-11

6. The Gathering of Israel, 1 Nephi 21: 12-26

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12 And then, O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.{1}

“Israel” is a covenant name and represents several different covenants, or perhaps more accurately, the same covenant, made on several different occasions. It is apparent from these chapters of Isaiah, as well as from the psalms, that “Israel” was the name given in the spirit world to those who covenanted to support the Savior then. It is also the name given to the man Jacob and to his children and their descendants in this world. It is also the name given to those who belong to the kingdom of God in this last dispensation.

13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

The Old Testament reads:

13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted (Isaiah 49:13).

The phrase “for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established” has been removed, but remained on the brass plates from which Nephi copied this passage. The phrase is a declaration of eternal priesthood and kingship.

The east is the direction of the rising sun, the source of light, the holy place. The establishment of the feet of the people of the east is related to sacral kingship and the ancient temple coronation rites. The king of Israel was anointed king; then as a legitimate son and heir, he sat on the throne of God in the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple. The footstool of that throne was the Ark of the Covenant that contained the regalia of kingship and priesthood: the tablets on that God had written the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron, the jar of manna (they were there at least in theory, if not in fact, for some of those things were lost rather early in Israelite history). Thus while sitting upon the throne, the king placed his feet on the sacred box that contained the tokens of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. The king had “established” his feet—both asserting and giving evidence that he was the personification of the covenants associated with that kingly and priesthood regalia. This idea is different from one’s walking along the way, that is, to perform the ordinances and otherwise become worthy to enter behind the great veil of Solomon’s Temple into the presence of God. The king is no longer moving along the path— he has reached his destination and his feet are established in the authority and legitimacy of kingship and priesthood.{2}

The greatest tragedy of ancient Israel was the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the loss of the ordinances performed therein. The next lines of our verse promise that the time will come when the temples will no longer be subject to destruction:

and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they [the temples] shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted [empowered] his people

“Comfort” is a code word defined in Isaiah 61:1-3 where it means to make one a part of Zion: to wash, to remove ashes, anoint, clothe, and give a new name that may be a promise an eternal family.{3}

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

The words “but he will show that he hath not” are not in the Bible.

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

The phrase “O house of Israel” is not in the Bible.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands

That is a literal as well as a figurative description of the Savior’s part of the covenant.

thy walls are continually before me.

“Walls” are defenses. When one’s walls are before an enemy, they attack. When one’s walls are before a friend, he is on the inside, helping in the defense. This says that Jehovah will defend Zion.

17 Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

18 Lift up thine eyes round about and behold; all these gather themselves together, and they shall come to thee. And as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on even as a bride.

The sense of gathering is lost in the Old Testament but restored in the Book of Mormon. The phrase “and they shall come to thee” is simply “and come to thee” in the Bible.

Gathering also has a covenant and priesthood connotation. The elements were gathered out of the chaotic waters to create cosmos, which, in the beginning of this world’s history, was the Garden of Eden. When the Nephites were threatened destruction from the robbers, they were gathered together for their protection. The gathering in this verse is the ultimate fulfillment of the Lord’s covenants with Abraham and Joseph.

And as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on even as a bride.

The idea expressed here is marriage. It is explained more fully by Isaiah in the last two verses of chapter 61, where those who are dead prepare to be married for eternity and then to celebrate the resurrection.

There is another sense of marriage that is taught here. It is an extenson of posterity.

19 For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants; and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away
20. The children whom thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the first, shall again in thine ears say: The place is
too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell.
21. Then shalt thou say in thine heart: Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? And who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where have they been?

We are of Israel, but we are also gentiles because our historical identity as the covenant people had been lost. The gathering of Israel has two parts, both dependent on the restoration of the gospel and the temple, and both have to do with sealing eternal families. Israel—the living in this world—had lost their identity over the years of dispersion and apostasy. Israel—those who had died before the restoration—had also lost their eternal connections with family and friends. Now all of Israel could be united again and both could marvel: “Behold, I was left alone; these, where have they been?”

22 Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers

There are two kinds of kings and queens: those who rule countries (and there are not many of those left any more) and sacral kings and queens who are such by virtue of their priesthood and ordinances. The Beatitudes twice say “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet;

That is probably not literal, but not altogether figurative either. The hallmark of Zion is the mutual respect and love sacral kings and priests have for sacral kings and priests.

and thou shalt know [know means Know.] that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

There were two major functions of ancient Israelite kingship. One was temporary, the other was eternal. The temporary one was that of a military leader. The idea of military leader is expressed either in terms of actually fighting with the enemy (war in heaven, establishment of the modern state of Israel, and Jehovah’s name-title of Lord of Hosts ) or of missionary work. It remains important as long as there is evil to be subdued, but after that it will not be important. The other is to be a judge. The chief characteristic of a priesthood judge is mercy that is very akin to charity. That characteristic is permanent. This part of this chapter seems to be using it in both senses.

24 For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives delivered?
25 But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.
26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

This affirmation that Jesus is Jehovah is still in the Bible.

 

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