Frequently Asked Questions
Importance of Understanding Isaiah
According to the prophet Isaiah, the message of his book is intended specifically “for the endtime” (Isaiah 30:8). In-depth, modern-day research has revealed the enormous relevance of Isaiah’s message to current worldwide events, coinciding with the very time his writings have been deciphered. Rather than wait to find out if the words of Isaiah are important, make the attempt with the new literary tools now available and you will soon discover the answer.
Whether or not directives are handed down from the pulpit about a particular scripture church members should study, they know we have often been counseled to study the scriptures. That Jesus himself quotes and explains Isaiah, calls Isaiah’s words great, and makes it a commandment to search them, doubles their significance. Persons who have paid the price of learning Isaiah’s message recognize it as a purposeful challenge and testify of its importance.
As the most quoted prophet in all of scripture, Isaiah is accorded the highest honors among God’s prophetic messengers. So when Jesus says, “Search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, for they are those that testify of me” (John 5:39), or when the Book of Acts says, “They received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11), they likely had Isaiah principally in mind.
Isaiah voices a complaint against God’s endtime people, whom he saw in vision, lamenting that they neglect his words instead of searching and teaching them: “You have heard the whole vision; how is it you don’t proclaim it?” (Isaiah 48:6). Isaiah’s “vision” of “the end from the beginning” and his “good tidings” of Messiah’s salvation (Isaiah 1:1; 46:10; 52:7), instead of empowering them for the coming Day of Jehovah, leave them uninformed and deprived.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and others prophesy of God’s endtime servant who gathers Israel’s twelve tribes from dispersion and restores them to lands of inheritance on a parallel with the prophecies of Isaiah. As a descendant of David named David, God’s servant reunites Israel and Judah, builds the temple in Jerusalem, and establishes the political kingdom of God on the earth in preparation for Jehovah’s coming to reign among his elect people as King of Zion.
People who search the words of Isaiah using different interpretive tools, come to a far greater understanding than those who fail to search them or who see no need to do so. In the very act of their searching Isaiah’s messianic prophecies—connecting key words, word links, and imagery—the Spirit of God endows the searcher with a testimony of the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed that same Jehovah whose first and second comings to the earth Isaiah predicts.
The Message of the Prophet Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is both a prophecy and a theology. Isaiah’s prophecy deals with (1) a worldwide endtime scenario featuring God’s servant who prepares the way among God’s people for Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth; and (2) world conquest by an archtyrant who commits global genocide. Isaiah’s theology teaches ascent on a ladder to heaven consisting of seven spiritual levels. Ascent results in spiritual rebirth and descent in spiritual degradation.
Because literary patterns in the Book of Isaiah show that the entire book is a prophecy of the last days, we can read it as such. Using the history of his own day as an allegory of the endtime, Isaiah predicts a scenario of worldwide destruction of the wicked and deliverance of the righteous, depending on whether people keep the terms of God’s covenant. Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth in Isaiah’s scenario corresponds with the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah’s prophecies include a perfect description of God’s people today. The main difference is that today they appear under the codenames of ancient Israel, Judah, Judea, Jerusalem, and so forth. Because a major key to understanding Isaiah is that all things he spoke “have been and shall be” (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9), when Israel’s ancient history repeats itself in the endtime Isaiah’s prophecies become a reliable template that can guide God’s people how to live.
Because each step on Isaiah’s spiritual ladder is determined by God’s law on that level, the entire human family fits somewhere on this ladder. From Perdition through Babylon, Jacob/Israel, Zion/Jerusalem, Sons/Servants, Seraphim, and Jehovah, ascent or descent on the ladder depends on our choices as well as God’s grace. Once we determine what spiritual level we are on, we may ascend from there by keeping the law of God’s covenant pertaining to the next level.
Careful analysis of Isaiah’s writings shows that all messianic prophecies aren’t equal. Many deal with Israel’s physical restoration by God’s servant just prior to Jehovah’s coming to reign on the earth. Others address Israel’s spiritual salvation by Jehovah himself. Isaiah’s Zion ideology reveals that God’s endtime servant prepares the way for Jehovah’s coming by overthrowing the forces of evil and establishing a righteous category of people to whom Jehovah comes.
Isaiah’s prophecies cover the brief period of time that immediately precedes the coming of Jehovah to reign on the earth, also known as the “Day of Jehovah.” It begins with God’s raising up his endtime servant in response to a general apostasy of his people and the concurrent rise to world power of a militaristic antichrist ruler from the North. Each, respectively, rallies the righteous and wicked inhabitants of the earth to their side, some to life, others to death.
The Process of Understanding Isaiah
A key principle is to accept Isaiah’s definitions of things not the ones others have imposed on his words in books and manuals. Study things out for yourself, don’t wait for someone to tell you. As that is God’s commandment, there are blessings attached. Under the guidance of his Holy Spirit apply the research tools now available and see if they work for you. One of these shows how Isaiah encodes his prophecy by using ancient events to predict endtime events.
In contrast to non-Jews, who often use the words of Isaiah as a prooftext or “evidence” for their doctrinal beliefs, Jews show the deepest respect for God’s inspired Word. Their approach is to draw out the meaning from what the scripture actually says, not what they want it to say. Anyone else, however, is able to learn the “manner of the Jews” or Jewish approach for analyzing Isaiah and to enjoy the same benefits. The means for doing so are now made available.
Because possessing the spirit of prophecy implies having a testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10)—that he is Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world—searching Isaiah’s words under the influence of that same Holy Spirit gives one so much more the advantage. The “spirit of prophecy,” however, is but one of two dimensions involved in gaining an understanding of Isaiah’s words. The other is the “letter of prophecy,” the requirement to search and analyze them.
Because the Book of Isaiah consists of a totality of things, all its passages are layered and interrelated. Like pealing an onion, its outer layers may easily be understood while others take longer. Diligent searching and a godly life uncover layer after layer, enlarging our understanding. The beautiful thing about the words of Isaiah is that they reveal themselves from the moment we begin our search as we take advantage of the tools for analyzing them now available.
The existence of scriptural keys to understanding the Book of Isaiah suggests that his book need not be sealed to those who apply them. If it remains sealed, therefore, it is due to people’s not searching Isaiah’s words. That Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in all of scripture, and that God makes it a commandment to search his words, means they contain much that is waiting for us to learn and assimilate. God won’t do for us, however, what we can do for ourselves.
Before attempting to understand the Book of Mormon’s Isaiah passages, it is necessary to comprehend Isaiah’s words in the Book of Isaiah itself. While a modern English translation helps a great deal, the book’s literary features and inner workings must first be analyzed and understood under the guidance of the Holy Spirit with the aid of the study tools provided. How Book of Mormon writers nuance and interpret Isaiah’s words will then become abundantly clear.
Avraham Gileadi—Isaiah Scholar
Avraham Gileadi was born in the Netherlands, grew up in New Zealand, and immigrated to Israel, where he lived five years and attended rabbinical school before moving to the United States. After completing doctoral studies in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern literature, he spent forty years decoding the Book of Isaiah using structural, typological, and rhetorical modalities of literary analysis. Today, he and his wife live in Sequim, Washington State.
Avraham Gileadi’s groundbreaking work in analyzing the Book of Isaiah has made him the leader in his field of studies. The Isaiah Institute has a special interest in sponsoring his research and writing because his work opens up all aspects of Isaiah’s prophecies to readers’ understanding. This not only prepares people to live through the times when these prophecies are fulfilled but greatly helps in comprehending all other scriptures in relation to one another.
Because the Book of Isaiah contains its own checks and balances, it isn’t difficult to verify Avraham Gileadi’s groundbreaking interpretations of Isaiah. All are based on the book’s own internal literary features that are explained in the several works he has published. A reader has only to delve into the different literary approaches Avraham Gileadi uses in order to see how they confirm the meanings he has uncovered that Isaiah has layered into his book.
Each of Avraham Gileadi’s books uses a different approach to help readers understand Isaiah. Isaiah Decoded gives a general overview of Isaiah’s endtime message based on the scholarly analysis in his book The Literary Message of Isaiah. Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah provides study tools. The Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah is a verse-by-verse analysis. The End from the Beginning with Isaiah translation is a beginners’ guide.
Because each of Avraham Gileadi’s books uses a different approach for helping readers to understand Isaiah, no particular sequence works best. Most people begin by reading Isaiah Decoded, then move on to the Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah, Windows on the Prophecy of Isaiah, The End from the Beginning, and The Literary Message of Isaiah—the assurance being that by assimilating these, readers indeed end up understanding Isaiah.
The intent of Avraham Gileadi’s modern English translation of the Book of Isaiah is to make it more readable and understandable to people while remaining true to the Hebrew original. Many minor discrepancies in the Ben Asher Codex have been resolved by careful comparisons with the Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah, 1QIsaa, and the Septuagint Version, each annotated and explained in footnotes. A surface reading, however, yields but a small part of Isaiah’s deeper message.
Although the Book of Mormon quotes about a third of the Book of Isaiah, it uses the King James Version. Variations from the KJV in the Book of Mormon and JST consist mainly of changes to the English KJV and don’t rely on the Hebrew original. KJV Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon, therefore, have the same translation problems as the KJV—antique language, literalistic renderings, a loss of the sense, inconsistencies in translating Hebrew terms, etc.
Avraham Gileadi’s newest book, Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, is due for publication spring 2018. Detailed in its analysis of many misunderstood scriptures, it clarifies the nature of God, the Jewish restoration, conspiracies against a free world, messianic prophecies of a latter-day David, proxy saviors, and Israel’s Messiah, and concludes with how the Book of Mormon uses Isaiah’s prophecies as a basis for making its own endtime predictions.
Resources for Understanding Isaiah
The most comprehensive resources available for learning the message of Isaiah are the books, E-books, mp3s, videos, research aids, and beautiful modern English translation of the Book of Isaiah with comprehensive concordance available on the websites IsaiahInstitute.com and IsaiahExplained.com. Free bi-weekly newsletters on the Isaiah Institute website, as well as podcasts, workshops, and webinars sponsored by the Isaiah Institute are posted there.
The best resource for connecting all the pieces of Isaiah’s puzzle together is the Book of Isaiah itself. That involves using a concordance and learning Isaiah’s definitions of things, not those that people have always assumed or ones found in books and manuals that are based on people’s opinions not on what the scripture actually says. The research tools now available enable a person to quickly become proficient in learning Isaiah’s many internal connections.
As you begin your journey of searching the words of Isaiah, you will at first have more questions than answers. That is a normal part of acquiring an understanding of Isaiah. The challenge is to persist with searching using the literary tools available until a comprehensive picture begins to emerge. That may involve letting go of popular interpretations that are unsupported by actual scriptural evidence. In the end, you will find ways to answer your own questions.
The Hebrew language as taught today consists of (1) Modern Hebrew—the language Jewish scholars revived beginning with Jewish pioneering efforts to settle the land of Palestine; and (2) Biblical Hebrew—the language of the Hebrew Bible. Many Hebrew language courses exist in colleges and online and it is best to shop around for one that meets your purpose. Even when wanting to learn Biblical Hebrew, however, it is recommended to start with Modern Hebrew.