Question: Do we have any idea from the words of Isaiah what the kings of the Gentiles had not heard or considered, as prophesied in Isaiah 52:15 and quoted by Jesus in 3 Nephi 20:45 and 21:8?
Answer: The passage in question shows that it is God’s end-time servant who sets the stage for the Gentiles’ seeing what had not been told them and considering what they had not heard: “My servant, being astute, shall be highly exalted; he shall become exceedingly eminent: just as he appalled many—his appearance was marred beyond human likeness, his semblance unlike that of men—so shall he yet astound many Gentiles [Hebrew goyim; also “nations”], kings shutting their mouths at him. What was not told them, they shall see; what they had not heard, they shall consider” (Isaiah 52:13–15).
Jesus quotes this same passage within Isaiah’s larger context of his servant’s announcing Israel’s end-time exodus out of Babylon on the eve of its destruction: “Then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward” (3 Nephi 20:41–42; cf. Isaiah 52:11–15). Isaiah’s word links indicate that the “vessels” mentioned in this passage are those whom the Lord acknowledges as his “sons” and “daughters,” who are his elect (Isaiah 22:24; 66:20). These, the Gentiles’ spiritual kings and queens lead to Zion (Isaiah 49:22–23).
Jesus repeats the same Isaiah passage in 3 Nephi 21:8–14, where he elaborates on its end-time context: “And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them” (3 Nephi 21:8–9).
Thus far, Jesus informs us of controversy surrounding God’s “great and marvelous work”—that some refuse to believe its true nature. Jesus, Nephi, and Jacob, however, all define it as the end-time restoration of the house of Israel—the Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lehi’s descendants. Because Jesus’ words contain many possible nuances of meaning, the “man” who declares this to the Ephraimite Gentiles may or may not be the same person as his “servant.” Nevertheless, that end-time servant is the person to whom Jesus refers next:
“But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:10–11).
When taken together, the above prophetic data yields a picture of several things the Ephraimite Gentiles’ spiritual kings may not have heard or considered: (1) the house of Israel’s imminent departure out of Babylon in a new exodus to Zion; (2) these same spiritual kings’ and their queens’ gathering Israel’s sons and daughters and carrying them to Zion; (3) God’s great and marvelous work consisting of the end-time restoration of the house of Israel; (4) God’s servant being at the heart or the instigator of each of these events; (5) his bringing forth the words of Christ, which are on the large plates of Nephi; and (6) many Ephraimite Gentiles’ getting “cut off” from God’s people.
Jesus sums up this list of conjoined events as God’s fulfillment of his covenant with the house of Israel: “Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—And verily, verily, I say unto you, that when they shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel. And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them. And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance” (3 Nephi 20:11–14).
Word links from Isaiah additionally reiterate the Gentile spiritual kings’ ignorance of the end-time restoration of the house of Israel and of their personal role in it: “You have heard the whole vision [of Isaiah]; how is it you do not proclaim it? Yet as of now, I announce to you new things, things withheld and unknown to you, things now coming into being, not hitherto, things you have not heard of before, lest you should say, Indeed I knew them! You have not heard them, nor have you known them; before this your ears have not been open to them” (Isaiah 48:6–8).
In the end, says Isaiah, many will come to understanding: “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book [of Isaiah] and the eyes of the blind see out of gross darkness” (Isaiah 29:18). As they rise to the occasion and fulfill their end-time ministries as temporal saviors of the house of Israel, the Gentiles’ spiritual kings will themselves receive a vision of the end from the beginning and see eye to eye: “Hark! Your watchmen lift up their voice; as one they cry out for joy: for they shall see eye to eye when Jehovah reestablishes Zion” (Isaiah 52:8; cf. Ether 4:13–16); “I have appointed watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall not be silent day or night. You who call upon Jehovah, let not up nor give him respite till he reestablishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned in the earth” (Isaiah 62:6).