Isaiah’s dualism is very strong in this poignant stanza.
The wicked priests of King Noah asked the prophet Abinadi what Isaiah 52:7-10 meant (see Msiah 12:20-24). In a delayed response, Abinadi identified Christ as the “founder of peace” and all those who declare the message of the gospel as the publishers of peace (see Mosiah 15:13-18). Paul bore the same testimony to the Romans concerning those who preach the gospel (see Romans 10:14-15). In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord quoted the words of verse 7 in sending out modern-day priesthood holders to do missionary work (D&C 19:29; 31:3, 79:1). The Savior also cited this verse as the response of those who come to know his name and his revelations, as described in verse 6–indicating that it is the message of the gospel which will bring his people to that knowledge (see 3 Nephi 20:39-40). (Great Are the Words of Isaiah, 198-99.)
Abinadi, living in a culture descended from that of Isaiah, and blessed with prophetic vision, understood perfectly that Isaiah’s prophecy applies to more than one period of time.
And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever! (Mosiah 15:14-17)
Note his careful use of the past, present, and future tenses when identifying the messengers or heralds of peace. The King James Version of Isaiah 7-10 mixes the tenses, marking the present eight times, the past four, and the future four times. (When the King James Version struggles like this to pinpoint the time frame, it is a very good sign to us that there is some significance to the tense, the time involved, and often that means a case of dualism.) Other Bible versions are not so wavering; the Jewish Publication Society is an excellent example: it begins in present tense and gently melds into future tense.
Speaking of the dualism of location, Monte Nyman continues:
Although verse 8 speaks about Zion while verse 9 speaks about Jerusalem, the Savior quoted . . . to the Nephites and said they would be fulfilled through both the Nephites and the Jews. This again shows the dual nature of Isaiah’s prophecies. The Savior first quoted this passage following his declaration that the land of America was to be given to Lehi’s descendants after the Gentiles reject the fulness of the gospel and are “trodden under foot” by the house of Israel; he said this would fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah (see 3 Nephi 16:10-20). He later quoted the passage while instructing the Nephites concerning the restoration of the Jews. He changed the wording from “thy watchmen” to “their watchmen,” as he was referring to Jerusalem’s watchmen in this case rather than those of Zion (see 3 Nephi 20:29-35). Abinadi also recognized the universal application of this passage in teaching that “the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” and quoting these . . . verses as evidence (see Mosiah 15:28-31). (Great Are the Words of Isaiah, 199.)
Latter-day Saints are perhaps more understanding of this dualism, since they know not only that Jerusalem is called Zion after the mount the city is built upon, but also that America is called Zion, and that New Jerusalem will likewise be built on the American continent; thus Israel can be called Zion and America can be called Jerusalem. Joseph Smith said:
I received, by a heavenly vision, a commandment in June following, to take my journey to the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and there designate the very spot which was to be the central place for the commencement of the gathering together of those who embrace the fullness of the everlasting Gospel. Accordingly I undertook the journey, with certain ones of my brethren, and after a long and tedious journey, suffering many privations and hardships, arrived in Jackson County, Missouri, and after viewing the country, seeking diligently at the hand of God, He manifested Himself unto us, and designated, to me and others, the very spot upon which he designed to commence the work of the gathering, and the upbuilding of an “holy city,” which should be called Zion–Zion, because it is a place of righteousness, and all who build thereon are to worship the true and living God, and all believe in one doctrine, even the doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall bring again Zion” (Isaiah 52:8). (15)
Who Hath Believed Our Doctrine
“Who can believe the doctrine we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?
For he has grown,
By His favor,
Like a tender plant,
Like a tree-trunk out of arid ground.
He had no form or beauty,
That we should look at him:
That we should find him pleasing.
He was despised,
Rejected by men,
A man of suffering,
Familiar with disease.
As one who hid
His face from us,
He was despised,
And we held him of no account.
Yet it was our sickness that he was bearing,
Our suffering that he endured.
We accounted him plagued,
Smitten and afflicted by Eloheim;
But he was wounded because of our sins,
Bruised because or our iniquities.
He bore the chastisement that made us whole,
And by his bruises we were healed.
We all went astray like sheep,
Each going his own way;
And the LORD hath made the iniquities
Of all of us to rest on him.”
In examining the first stanza of “The Savior” poem we should realize that this scripture is mirrored in the eleventh chapter; this poem was probably written while Isaiah was still in the emotion of the vision, and the latter carefully composed some time later. (16)
Many biblical “experts” try to include verses thirteen through fifteen of the preceding chapter in this poem: this misses the whole point of Hebrew construction. In fact, because of this Semitic writing technique, few scriptures are as beautifully constructed as these five poems. They come together and support each other magnificently.
Quite simply, as Isaiah begins each poem, the first stanza stands in a parallel relationship with the last stanza of the preceding poem. Each poem thus begins with a “connecting” or “reiterating” stanza, has several that address its main topic directly, and close with a summation stanza (with which the beginning stanza of the next poem with compare, contrast, extrapolate, or otherwise key off of.) In this parallel construction, the verses work in this way:
“My servant shall . . . be exalted” “The arm of the LORD revealed”
(Isaiah 52:13) (Isaiah 53:1)
“His visage was so marred” “He had no form or beauty”
(Isaiah 52:14) (Isaiah 53:2)
“He shall startle many nations” “We hid . . . our faces from him”
(Isaiah 52:15) (Isaiah 53:3)
Additionally, here is the extension of the “arm of the LORD” concept discussed in the previous examination (Isaiah 52:10).
“And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” is talking about “the vindication which the arm of the LORD effects,” 17 similar to the time of the Exodus.
Like the selection examined before, again the King James Version has difficulty fixing the tense of the poem, and again this is an obvious clue that we are dealing with dualism. Atypically, perhaps, in this instance the King James is balanced and very poetical, in fact the first three verses blend past and present, future and present, and present and past (the only three combinations available in pairs) beautifully. In this instance it is tempting to call the King James Version deliberate and “more inspired.”
A key question to aid in understanding the theme, certainly to capture the feeling or tone of this scripture, is knowing who the narrator is. At the beginning of the chapter the King James rendering of “our report” lends one to believe the narrator is a messenger, a preacher of the word, a missionary. Other versions, particularly the Jewish Publication Society, cast the entire stanza into past tense. This seems to support the “all we like sheep have gone astray” concept at the end of the section, lending weight to the idea that the narrator is one of the listeners of the message, a member of the house of Israel.
If this is true, it would be tempting to conclude that the primary figure referred to in this description is not Christ, but Isaiah. This does beg the question as to what situation there was in the life of the prophet that caused him to be so despised, and why he would be considered so “uncomely.” Of course there could be many things unknown today about his life; one possibility, however, that at least is mentioned, is in Isaiah 20:3: “And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years [for] a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia . . . .”
In any case, it is quite possible that Isaiah was borrowing an incident from his life as the jumping off point in his comparison, and extending from there to his Messianic prophecy. Regardless, the poem is definitely talking about Christ, as most Christians immediately recognize. (In fact, we do have to consider that the slant on the message as translated by JPS is naturally not prophetic of Christ.) “Stripes” reminds us of Christ’s beating at the hands of the Romans, and “bruise” calls to mind his crucifixion at the hands of the Jews.
The whole stanza revolves around the contemporary issue of lepersy (note the “familiar with disease” phrase above), specifically the shame of being leperous, which causes one to hide their head in shame from others, and also causes those without the disease to deliberately look away without acknowledging the leper. Perhaps this is why some versions have the Israelites turning away, and other have the “he” in the incident hiding his face. (Regardless, it is a case of misinterpretation of worth, certainly lending to the tone of the poem.)
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? . . . These things said Esaias when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (John 12:37-38, 41. See Isaiah 53:1)
1 Dualism is a type of parallelism, parallel writing, which is a characteristic of Semitic languages (and cultures).
Parallelism simply put is highly structured and extremely literary repetition; because of this synonymous restating it can be a powerful teaching technique. Isaiah’s writing is superb in it use of parallelism; of all the Bible writers he is unquestionably the master of this profoundly instructive craft.
Dualism is parallelism of topics or subjects. Often a similar event will happen to more than one nation, person, etc. If the description of that event deliberately applies to both (or if more, all) situations, that is dualism. Good examples of dualism are:
(1) The fall of Satan’s kingdom and Babylon.
(2) The scattering of the Jews and the Nephites/Lamanites.
(3) The first and second comings of Christ.
(Note the comment in the Bible Dictionary that “The bulk of Isaiah’s prophecies deal with the coming of the Redeemer, both in his first appearance . . . and as the Great King at the last day, as the God of Israel.”)
Since the purpose of such a penetrating comparison of topics is to point out similarities, readers frequently don’t notice that Isaiah is discussing more than one topic.
Isaiah’s works “take many local themes (which begin in his own day) and extend them to a latter-day fulfillment or application. Consequently, some prophecies are probably fulfilled more than one time and/or have more than one application.” (Bible Dictionary)
In fact, one could easily conclude that more than anything else The Prophet through his repetition is pointing out the consistency of God, that He is unchanging and universally fair in sending the gospel message to all of His children, constantly encouraging them to strive toward eternal perfection.
While the purpose of dualism is usually (and in fact its whole structure is geared toward this) comparing somewhat analogous situations, to demonstrate similarities, it is also used to display differences, contrasts.
2 Ascend a lofty mountain,
O herald of joy to Zion;
Raise your voice with power,
O herald of joy to Jerusalem–
Raise it, have no fear;
Announce to the cities of Judah:
Behold your God!
(Isaiah 40:9 JPS)
3 Or, “The Repairer,” or even “The Sealer.”
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. (Isaiah 58:12)
Comfort, oh comfort My people,
Says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem
And declare to her. . . .
Let every valley be raised,
Every hill and mount made low.
Let the rugged ground become level
And the ridges become a plain.
(Isaiah 40:1, 2, 4 JPS)
4 Like a shepherd He pastures His flock:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
And carries them in His bosom;
Gently He drives the mother sheep.
(Isaiah 40:11 JPS)
5 Keeping track of all of these can be a daunting task, but should be approached with the enthusiasm of trying to decipher and decode the people and events alluded to–a challenge, a game of hide and seek. Be assured that Isaiah intends to bring to the mind of his audience many messengers, and very few readers will find them all.
6 Mission of Messiah
Messiah is above the spirit and power of Elijah, for He made the world, and was the spiritual rock unto Moses in the wilderness. Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord, although the spirit of Elias might begin it. . . .
Mission of Elijah
The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.
It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. He should send Elijah to seal the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children. . . .
Now was this merely confined to the living, to settle difficulties with families on earth? By no means. It was a far greater work. . . .
I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah. . . .
I went into the woods to inquire of the Lord, by prayer, His will concerning me, and I saw an angel, and he laid his hands upon my head, and ordained me to a Priest after the order of Aaron, and to hold the keys of this Priesthood, which office was to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and also to baptize. But I was informed that this office did not extend to the laying on of hands for the giving of the Holy Ghost; that that office was a greater work, and was to be given afterward; but that my ordination was a preparatory work, or a going before, which was the spirit of Elias; for the spirit of Elias was a going before to prepare the way for the greater, which was the case with John the baptist. He came crying through the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And they were informed, if they could receive it, it was the spirit of Elias; and John was very particular to tell the people, he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. [see Isaiah 49.6]
Mission of Elias to Prepare the Way
The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world.
That person who holds the keys of Elias hath a preparatory work. . . .
This is the Elias spoken of in the last days, and here is the rock upon which many split, thinking the time was past in the days of John and Christ, and no more to be. But the spirit of Elias was revealed to me, and I know it is true; therefore I speak with boldness, for I know verily my doctrine is true. . . .
This is the difference between the spirit and power of Elias and Elijah; for while the spirit of Elias is a forerunner, the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure; and the same doctrine, where we are exhorted to go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, &c. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.335-340, edited)
(Joseph Smith is characteristically modest here when he speaks about his monumental calling, but the conviction still comes through. There can be no question that he understood, very well, this calling. Pay particular attention to his comment in Joseph Smith History 1:40: “In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. . . .”)
(John speaks more of the commission of Christ in John 12:44-50: “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”)
7 Or “Messiah: The Gatherer”
8 See Isaiah 1:18 & 28:10.
9 Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, Laurence Perrine, Ed., 1983, 517-524, edited.
10 “Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural Education,” Robert B. Kaplan, Language Learning 16 (1966), 1-20, edited.
1. Synonymous Parallelism: The balancing of the thought and phrasing of the first part of a statement or idea by the second part. In such cases, the two parts are often connected by a coordinating conjunction.
Example: His descendants will be mighty in the land
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
2. Synthetic Parallelism: The completion of the idea or thought of the first part in the second part. A conjunctive adverb is often stated or implied.
Example: Because he inclined his ear to me
I will call on him as long as I live.
3. Antithetic Parallelism: The idea stated in the first part is emphasized by the expression of a contrasting idea in the second part. The contrast is expressed not only in thought but often in phrasing as well.
Example: For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
But the way of the wicked shall perish.
4. Climactic Parallelism: The idea of the passage is not completed until the very end of the passage. This form is similar to the modern periodic sentence in which the subject is postponed to the very end of the sentence.
Example: Give unto the Lord, O ye sons of the mighty
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
(“Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural Education,” Robert B. Kaplan, Language Learning 16 (1966), 1-20, example borrowed from Dr. Ben Siegal.)
11 I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken, I can have little right to the name of a poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.
For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; (Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems (1802), Preface, William Wordsworth)
“The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and at the same time to throw over them a certain coloring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.” (Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems (1802), Preface, William Wordsworth, italics added)
12 (Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems (1802), Preface, William Wordsworth)
13 (Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems (1802), Preface, William Wordsworth, emphasis added)
14 I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this modde successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind and in whatever degree, from various causes is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will upon the whole be in a state of enjoyment. (Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems (1802), Preface, William Wordsworth)
15 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.79)
The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians; having been found through the ministration of an holy angel, and translated into our own language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years, containing the word of God which was delivered unto them. By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph who was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come, with as many of the Gentiles as shall comply with the requisitions of the new covenant. But the tribe of Judah will return to old Jerusalem. The city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.” (Isaiah 35:10); and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land. But Judah shall obtain deliverance at Jerusalem. See Joel 2:32; Isaiah 26:20 and 21; Jeremiah 31:12; Psalms 1:5; Ezekiel 34:11, 12 and 13. These are testimonies that the Good Shepherd will put forth His own sheep, and lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion, and to Jerusalem; besides many more testimonies which might be brought. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.17)
You know there has been great discussion in relation to Zion–where it is, and where the gathering of the dispensation is, and which I am now going to tell you. The prophets have spoken and written upon it; but I will make a proclamation that will cover a broader ground. The whole of America is Zion itself from north to south, and is described by the Prophets, who declare that it is the Zion where the mountain of the Lord should be, and that it should be in the center of the land. When Elders shall take up and examine the old prophecies in the Bible, they will see it. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.362)
16 AND there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD:
And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
Neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,
And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:
And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,
And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,
And faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
17 Footnote ‘a’ to Isaiah 53:1, JPS, referring to “the arm of the LORD”.
Note that Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah is Salvation.”