Question about the Imperative to Understand Isaiah


Question: What is so important about understanding the words of Isaiah that the Savior makes it a commandment to search them diligently (3 Nephi 23:1)? Also, why does he call them “great”? Aren’t the words of other prophets great also, including the words of modern prophets?

Answer: The fact that only one prophet appears in the scriptures whose words Jesus makes it a commandment to search tells us there is something different about Isaiah’s words compared to those of other prophets. Indeed—as one discovers who searches them diligently—they differ in significant ways from any other experience of searching the prophets or searching the scriptures.

First, from the way Nephi, Jacob, and Jesus interpret the words of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, we know that they apply specifically to the end-time. Ironically today, however—assuming we are in or approaching the end-time—this is the very hour God’s people have most brushed them under the carpet, seeing no reason to learn anything more on the subject than they already know.

Second, Nephi’s prediction that (1) “in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass,” and (2) that “they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them” (2 Nephi 25:8), lets us know that the Lord has kept the words of Isaiah in reserve specifically for our day.

Third, Nephi’s prediction is borne out by the fact that persons who are coming to understand the words of Isaiah in our day are ones who are applying the literary tools now available that unseal his end-time message. Those literary tools show that Isaiah lived in a pivotal time of history that enabled him to use the events of his day or soon thereafter as an allegory of the end of the world.

Fourth, on account of the Book of Isaiah’s layered composition, without diligently “searching” Isaiah’s words (Hebrew verb chaqar, also “investigate,” “explore,” “study,” or “analyze”), it is impossible to fully perceive their meaning or the profoundness of his message. As Jesus was well aware of this, his commandment was a purposeful challenge directed at his end-time people.

Fifth, without meeting that challenge, his end-time people would not attain the divine knowledge necessary to empower them to fulfil their prescribed role of proxy saviors to the house of Israel. Their mission as spiritual kings and queens of the Gentiles inherent in Isaiah’s theology of ascent under the terms of the Davidic Covenant could entirely pass them over to their condemnation.

Sixth, what is great about Isaiah’s words is that they deal with “all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel,” including their interrelationship with the Gentiles (3 Nephi 23:2). That is, their ancient history, their imminent future, and the all-encompassing covenant theology that constitutes the “good news” or Hebrew gospel which the Book of Isaiah expounds.

Seventh, the term “great” is a word link to the “greater things” that are as yet withheld (3 Nephi 26:8–11) for our having “treated lightly the things you have received”—namely the Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54–57) and its words of Isaiah. One can thus envision why, not having known the words of Isaiah, many will reject the greater things when they come forth.

In conclusion, without accepting the imperative to search and gain an adequate knowledge of the words of Isaiah, and then reconciling that with the current political and ecclesiastical state of things, we run the risk of forfeiting our spiritual heritage. As time moves forward and we don’t, God’s plan will take a turn in favor of another people, as Jesus predicted (3 Nephi 16:10–20).

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About Isaiah Institute

The Isaiah Institute was created in the year 2000 by the Hebraeus Foundation to disseminate the message of the prophet Isaiah (circa 742–701 B.C.). Avraham Gileadi Ph.D’s groundbreaking research and analysis of the Book of Isaiah provides the ideal medium for publishing Isaiah’s endtime message to the world. No longer can the Book of Isaiah be regarded as an obscure document from a remote age. Its vibrant message, decoded after years of painstaking research by a leading authority in his field, now receives a new application as a sure guide to a rapidly changing world. To those who seek answers to today’s perplexing questions, the Book of Isaiah is God’s gift to humanity.

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