2 Ne 7:1 Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement?
In this verse, the relationship between the Lord and the House of Israel is compared to the relationship between husband and wife and the relationship between master and servant. The Lord asks the house of Israel if He is responsible for the dissolution of the relationship. This could be proven if the Israelites had received the bill of divorcement. This document was required by the Law of Moses to prove the divorce between a man and a woman (see Deut 24:1-4 and Matt 19:7-8). The rhetorical question posed obviously implies that they had received no such document because the Lord had not rejected them but that the children of Israel had rejected Him. The same implications applies to the relationship between master and servant, 'for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves.'
"In the time of Isaiah, if a man was pressed by his creditors, he had the possibility of relieving his debt by selling his children as slaves. (Ex. 21:7; Neh. 1-5; Matt. 18:25.) And if he died, a creditor might take his children as payment. (2 Kgs. 4:1.) This slavery was not permanent; the person was indentured to work for a fixed number of years. In answer to the question 'To whom has the Lord ever been in debt?' Isaiah answers that the Lord is indebted to no one and therefore has not been forced to sell Israel; Israel's separation and captivity is her own fault." (Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 420 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 32)
Jeremiah repeats this imagery, explaining that the children of Israel were "divorced" from the Lord in two great phases represented by their being taken captive by their enemies. The first occurred when the northern Kingdom (Israel) was sacked by the Assyrians. The second was when the southern Kingdom (Judah) was sacked by the Babylonians. Jeremiah's comment laments that the house of Judah should have repented when they saw what happened to their sister, Israel. Instead, they 'played the harlot':
'...Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? She is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree (to practice idolatry), and there hath played the harlot (by making love to other gods).
And I said after she had done all these things, turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away (sacked by the Assyrians), and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.' (Jer 3:6-8)
2 Ne 7:2 is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?
Jeffrey R. Holland
"These children will have a happy home and sealed parents yet. In the last days that bill of divorcement against their mother will be set aside, and so will the demands of any creditors. The Lord is in debt to no one, so neither will his children be. He alone can pay the price for the salvation of Israel and the establishment of Zion. His wrath is turned away, and he will not castoff his bride or allow her children to be sold into slavery.
"As for the shortening of his hands, the scriptures repeatedly testify that the reach of God's arm is more than adequate, the extent of his grace entirely sufficient. He can always claim and embrace the Israel that he loves. In spite of their unfaithfulness, his hand remains constant, not shortened or slackened or withheld." (Christ and the New Covenant, 84-85, as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 32-33)
2 Ne 7:4 The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned
From verse 4 to the end of the chapter, the scripture speaks of one who was given 'the tongue of the learned.' Like many Isaiah prophecies, this has a dual fulfillment. In this instance, it refers to both Isaiah and Jesus Christ. In the case of the latter, the fulfillment of this prophecy is found in John, for 'the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?' (John 7:15) Yet, Jesus and Isaiah went to a private school-one which far outclassed the rabbinical tradition of the Pharisees. Their teacher was God; their subject was the truth; their learned tongue was literally a gift of God by the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
2 Ne 7:5 The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious
The meaning here is that the Lord had given both Isaiah and Jesus Christ specific callings by speaking to them, thereby opening their ears. After receiving their callings from the Lord they had the option to reject or accept their responsibilities. Like Jonah, they could have run away, but both chose to be obedient and not turn their back on the Lord.
Isaiah's imagery is appropriate for us as well. We are all born in a carnal world, essentially spiritually deaf. For worldly people have hard hearts, 'and their ears are dull of hearing' (Acts 28:26). In order to hear the things of the Spirit, we must be humble and obedient. When we are, the Lord literally opens our ears to the truth. Hence, Jesus repeatedly exhorted his listeners, saying, 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear' (Matt 11:15). When this process is complete, we can declare as did Isaiah, 'The Lord God hath opened mine ear (to the things of the Spirit), and I was not rebellious.'
2 Ne 7:6 I gave my back to the smiter...I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
This obviously has reference to the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was scourged according to the Roman practice of scourging (Matt 27:26):
"Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip...with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals...For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging; the soldiers often taunted their victim." ("On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ," Journal of the American Medical Association, Mar. 1986, vol. 255, no. 11, p. 1457)
The phrase, 'I hid not my face from shame and spitting', is fulfilled twice. When Jesus was before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, he was spat upon. This happened again at the hands of the Roman soldiers:
'Then did they (the members of the Sanhedrin) spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,
Saying, Prophecy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?' (Matt 26:67-68)
'And when they (the Roman soldiers) had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.' (Matt 27:29-30)
2 Ne 7:7 Therefore have I set my face like a flint
Flint is a material used to make fire by striking a rock or steel against the flint to make sparks. Jesus' face was set as flint when he was struck in the face and head during the beating he received, 'And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands' (Mark 14:65).
2 Ne 7:7-9 the Lord God will help me
It's impossible to know what Jesus was thinking as he was being brutally mocked. Perhaps Isaiah was given a glimpse into the Lord's mindset. Perhaps the Master thought of this passage as the villainous blows landed:
'the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
And the Lord is near, and he justifieth me. Who will contend with me (at the last day)? Let us stand together (for now I stand alone). Who is mine adversary? Let him come near me, and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth (in the day of vengeance, for vengeance is mine, saith the Lord)
For the Lord God will help me. And all they [who condemn me this day] shall wax old as a garment, and the moth shall eat them up.'
2 Ne 7:8 Who is mine adversary? Let him come near me, and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth.
This has reference to the judgments that will come upon the wicked in the last days. The Lord has said that 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay' (Rom 12:19). In this instance, the vengeance of the Lord is patiently held in reserve for approximately 2000 years. Then the wicked will receive their just reward. Isaiah describes the wicked in verses 9-11 and then promises, 'This shall ye have of mine hand-ye shall lie down in sorrow.'
This is a good example of how Isaiah speaks Messianically. In verse 7, he is referring to an event which took place during Christ's mortal ministry. In verse 8, he is referring to an event which will take place during His Second Coming. This is commonly done in Isaiah's and other prophets' writings. There is no statement which makes it clear that these events will occur in two separate appearances or that the Messiah will be crucified before any of the apocalyptic punishments will be administered. In the meridian of time, there was confusion about what things the Messiah would do. The Jews expected Christ to destroy their enemies and become a political leader. They had a history of military heroes who were referred to as saviors (Neh 9:27). The Messiah was expected to come to deliver the Jews from the oppression of the Romans. Without the benefit of hindsight, it would have been difficult to know which prophecies referred to Christ's first coming and which applied to his second unless one had seen it in vision as had Nephi and Jacob.