Nephi follows Jacob’s exposition of the prophecies of Isaiah by quoting thirteen chapters of Isaiah in their entirety that deal with the apostasy of God’s people and with the king of Assyria/Babylon’s retribution on a wicked world (2 Nephi 12–24; cf. Isaiah 2–14). Considering the difficulty of inscribing so much material on his small plates, and that Nephi was writing for the benefit of his endtime readers—not those of his own day—we can’t dismiss these chapters as simply providing a historical record of Isaiah’s day or as not relevant to the Ephraimite Gentiles. Whenever Book of Mormon prophets quote Isaiah, they apply his words to the endtime as they look forward to their fulfillment among their premillennial descendants. In fact, Nephi applies Isaiah’s words expressly to “the last days”—those being “the times when they shall come to pass” (2 Nephi 25:7–8), consistent with the Jewish tradition that Isaiah’s prophecies apply to the endtime in addition to the historical context in which they originate.
Accordingly, Isaiah’s Seven-Part Structure—a synchronous holistic literary structure that systematizes the entire content of his book—establishes an endtime context for Isaiah’s prophecies. It accomplishes this by incrementally developing prophetic concepts from one unit of material in the first half of the book to its parallel counterpart in the second, then using these as a basis for developing further concepts in successive units of material in the first half and their parallel counterparts in the second until all culminates in the seventh unit of the second half of the book. Seven pairs of antithetical themes govern this systematic development of ideas: (1) Ruin & Rebirth (Isaiah 1–5; 34–35); (2) Rebellion & Compliance (Isaiah 6–8; 36–40); (3) Punishment & Deliverance (Isaiah 9–12; 41–46); (4) Humiliation & Exaltation (Isaiah 13–23; 47); (5) Suffering & Salvation (Isaiah 24–27; 48–54); (6) Disloyalty & Loyalty (Isaiah 28–31; 55–59); and (7) Disinheritance & Inheritance (Isaiah 32–33; 60–66). (Literary Message of Isaiah.)
This overarching structure’s transformation of the Book of Isaiah into an apocalyptic or endtime prophecy—a prophecy nevertheless grounded in the history of Israel of Isaiah’s day or soon thereafter—means that the ancient names of world powers in the Book of Isaiah now function as codenames of endtime ones. Assyria, the militaristic superpower from the North that conquered the ancient world, for example (2 Nephi 17:17–20; 18:3–8; 20:5–19; 21:11; cf. Isaiah 7:17–20; 8:3–8; 10:5–19; 11:11), now typifies an endtime superpower that exhibits the same militaristic tendencies and that succeeds in conquering the modern world. Egypt, the elite world superpower collapsing from within that was invaded by Assyria (2 Nephi 17:18; 21:11; cf. Isaiah 7:18; 11:16; 19:1–16; 20:1–6), now typifies today’s elite superpower—America. By the same token, God’s covenant people of Isaiah’s day, whether called Israel, Jerusalem, or Judea, now typify God’s people today “who are of the covenant”—the Ephraimite Gentiles.
In short, the Book of Isaiah’s literary organization validates Jewish tradition and Book of Mormon prophets in applying Isaiah’s words expressly to the “last days.” This means that in its endtime context, Isaiah 2–14, as quoted in 2 Nephi 12–24, applies specifically to the Ephraimite Gentiles who are God’s covenant people today, not to Israel’s natural lineages who as yet haven’t renewed their covenantal allegiance to Israel’s God or been grafted back into their own olive tree. That raises a specter of something Mormons may never have imagined of themselves, only of others, that this time around they are the ones whom God warns and calls to repentance lest they perish from the earth. Although Isaiah 2–14 contains some of the most explicit depictions of wickedness of God’s people in the Book of Isaiah—and of the direful consequences of failing to repent—the Ephraimite Gentiles’ habitually glossing over these chapters presents yet another appalling instance of their taking lightly the scriptures they have received.
Concerning the apostasy of God’s people depicted in Isaiah 2–14 (cf. 2 Nephi 12–24), we thus find their entire establishment spiritually imperiled from the people’s leaders on down: “Let me sing for my Beloved a love song about his vineyard: ‘My Beloved had a vineyard on the fertile brow of a hill. He cultivated it, clearing it of stones, and planted it with choice vines. He built a watchtower in its midst and hewed for it a winepress as well. Then he expected it to yield grapes, but it produced wild grapes’” (Isaiah 5:1–2); “He expected justice, but there was injustice; [he expected] righteousness, but there was an outcry” (Isaiah 5:7); “Yet the people do not turn back to him who smites them, nor will they inquire of Jehovah of Hosts. Therefore will Jehovah cut off from Israel head and tail, palm top and reed, in a single day; the elders or notables are the head, the prophets who teach falsehoods, the tail. The leaders of these people have misled them, and those who are led are confused” (Isaiah 9:13–16). . . . .
As we saw earlier, it is the apostasy of God’s endtime people that triggers his judgments’ falling upon all the nations of the Gentiles (cf. 3 Nephi 20:15–20). When his people “who are of the covenant” reject him, God takes the kingdom from them and gives it to “a nation that brings forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). Still, hope exists for a righteous remnant—his “saints” or “sanctified ones”—those who make sure their calling and election and choose to minister to the house of Israel. Because of their ministry, hope exists also for the house of Israel, those waiting to renew their covenant with Israel’s God. Although Isaiah 2–14 deals mostly with the apostasy of God’s endtime people and its aftermath, it also predicts the house of Israel’s return from among the nations at the time of a war to end all wars (Isaiah 2:2–4; 9:2–5; 11:10–16; 12:1–6). No parts of Isaiah 2–14 can be interpreted independently from other passages of Isaiah, however, to which they are connected structurally, rhetorically, and typologically.
(From Endtime Prophecy: A Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 395–400.)