Stealing Isaiah: No peace for the wicked Nephi copies (more or less) Isaiah 48.
(No official LDS cartoon for this chapter.)
(20:1-21:26) For no apparent reason, Joseph Smith Nephi copied two chapters from the
King James Version of Isaiah (48 and 49) onto his brass plates, changing a
word here or there just for the heck of it.
(20:1) Out of the waters of baptism
The phrase "out of the waters of baptism" was not included in
the 1830 version of the BoM, and
of course it wasn't in Isaiah either, since baptism was unknown in Old Testament times.
Joseph Smith Nephi must have been getting tired of writing. Why else would he copy two chapters
nearly verbatim from the King James Version of the Bible?
I suspect that the answer is much like Bill Clinton's answer to the question, "Why did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?"
Except that in Nephi's case he couldn't, could he? How could Nephi copy from a book that didn't exist at the time and
wouldn't exist for another 2200 years or so?
Well, it's complicated, but I think it goes something like this.
Nephi was copying from the plates of Lehi -- the plates that he had to go back to Jerusalem to get by murdering Laban. Lehi's plates were written in Reformed Egyptian (it's a lot like Pig Latin) and these plates contained the writings of the Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah. So Nephi just copied Isaiah 48 and 49 in reformed Egyptian onto his plates, making them chapters 20 and 21 of First Nephi.
I know what you're thinking.
Why are chapters 20 and 21 of 1 Nephi nearly identical to Isaiah 48 and 49 in the King James Version of the Bible?
Well, silly, that's because Joseph Smith translated them, along with the rest of the Book of Mormon, into English from the
Reformed Egyptian. And the Bible that Joseph Smith was familiar with was the King James Bible, so he naturally modeled his translation after that.
Now some of you smart asses out there are going to say something like this: How could the plates of Lehi include Isaiah 48 and 49
since these chapters are a part of Deutero-Isaiah,
which wasn't written until after the Babylonian exile, 70 years or so after 1 Nephi was supposedly written?
And the answer to that is this: the same God who revealed Isaiah to Isaiah (or to whoever wrote Deutero-Isaiah) revealed the same
stuff to whoever wrote the plates of Lehi. It's as simple as that.
As you read 1 Nephi 20 and 21, though, you'll notice something strange: If you compare it to the KJV's Isaiah 48 and 49, the text is
nearly identical, but some of the words have been changed.
For example, here is 1 Nephi 20:1.
Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the
waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of
Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness. 1 Nephi 20:1
And here is the corresponding verse from the King James Version of Isaiah 48.
Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of
the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in
truth, nor in righteousness. Isaiah 48:1
So now you'll probably want to know why there are differences.
And now some of you will probably ask how Isaiah (or the author of Deutero-Isaiah) could have included "out of the waters of baptism"
since baptism was totally unknown in Old Testament times. And the answer, of course, is that God told him about baptism nearly 600 before it existed.
OK, so are we all clear now on how Isaiah 48 and 49 ended up in 1 Nephi 20 and 21, and why it is nearly (but not quite) identical to the
King James Version of the Bible?
Good. Let's get on to more important matters -- like why God included these chapters in the Book of Mormon in the first place.
The short answer to that question is this: No one has any idea. Except that, as Joseph Smith Nephi explains later,
Nephi's "soul delighteth" in the words of Isaiah.
20:1 Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters
of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name
of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in
truth nor in righteousness.
20:2 Nevertheless,they call themselves of the holy city,
but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord
of Hosts is his name.
20:3 Behold, I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out
of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly.
20:4 And I did it because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew,
and thy brow brass;
20:5 And I have even from the beginning declared to thee; before it came to pass
I showed them thee; and I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst
say -- mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them.
20:6 Thou hast seen and heard all this; and will ye not declare
them? And that I have showed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know
20:7 They are created now, and not from the beginning, even before the day when thou
heardest them not they were declared unto thee, lest thou shouldst say
-- Behold I knew them.
20:8 Yea, and thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time
thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and wast
called a transgressor from the womb.
20:9 Nevertheless, for my name's sake will I
defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not
20:10 For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of
20:11 For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do
this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another.
20:12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called,
for I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last.
20:13 Mine hand hath also laid the
foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens. I call unto them and they
stand up together.
20:14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear;
who among them hath declared
these things unto them? The Lord hath loved him; yea, and
he will fulfill his word which
he hath declared by them; and he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall come upon
20:15 Also, saith the Lord; I the Lord, yea, I have
spoken; yea, I have called him to declare, I have brought him, and he shall make his way
20:16 Come ye near unto me; I have not spoken in secret; from the beginning,
from the time that it was declared have I spoken; and the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent
20:17 And thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;
sent him, the Lord thy God who teacheth thee to profit, who leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst
go, hath done it.
20:18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments
-- then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
20:19 Thy seed also had been as the sand; the offspring of thy bowels like
the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before
20:20 Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of
singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed
his servant Jacob.
20:21 And they thirsted not; he led them through the deserts; he caused
the waters to flow out of the rock for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed
20:22 And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also,
there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.