Isaiah 5

Isaiah 5:1-7 The song of the vineyard

This song likens the house of Israel to a wine vineyard. The structure of this song is the same as the allegory of the olive tree found in Jacob 5. The servant is the prophet, Isaiah. The lord of the vineyard, spoken of as “my well-beloved”, is the Lord of Hosts. And the vineyard is the house of Israel. One difference is that the fruit of this vineyard is grapes and the fruit of the vineyard in the allegory of the olive-tree is olives. Doctrinally, the most important difference is that the song of the vineyard does not deal with the scattering and gathering of Israel as does the allegory of the olive tree. Rather, it explains why it is that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were allowed to be destroyed—because of their wickedness, for when the lord came to his vineyard, “he looked for judgment, and behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry” (v. 7). The emphasis is on the part of Zenos’ allegory where the lord of the vineyard gets rid of the fruitless branches, “these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them, that they may not cumber the ground of my vineyard.” (Jacob 5:9)

“The Israelites had a yearly festival, at the end of their year, called the feast of ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22), because on that occasion the people were required to give thanks especially for the harvest of fields and vineyards. It has been suggested that this song, or poem, was composed and recited on such an occasion. It contains a parable in which Israel is represented as a vineyard (as in Is. 3:14), and the consequences of the neglect of unfaithful keepers. (Matt. 21:33–41) As a literary composition, no less than as a prophetic utterance, it is regarded as an outstanding piece of sacred reading.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 333)

Isaiah 5:2 planted it with the choicest vine

The house of Israel became the covenant people of the Lord because of the faith of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom 4:13). Abraham was favored of the Lord for his righteousness and faith. He could be considered “the choicest vine” which the Lord planted in his vineyard, for Abraham was both choice and chosen (Abr. 3:23).

Isaiah 5:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard?

The Lord laments that in spite of all his nurturing, tender care, and mercy, the vineyard continues to produce wild fruit. This is astonishing because the vine that was planted was choice, the land was good, and the lord of the vineyard had done all he could do to produce good fruit. The language of this verse is much like that in the allegory of the olive tree, “What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:41). Jeremiah prophesies in a similar fashion, “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” (Jer. 2:21).

Isaiah 5:5 I will take away the hedge thereof…and…break down the wall

The hedge and the wall represent the protective care that the Lord had given the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Because of their wickedness, the Lord will no longer protect them from their enemies. Therefore, the kingdom of Israel was sacked by the Assyrians (~722 BC), and the kingdom of Judah was sacked by the Babylonians (~589 BC). “Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge” (v. 13).

Isaiah 5:7 he looked for judgment, and behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry

“What is that special form of sin which Isaiah sees? It is human selfishness—the unbrotherhood of man to man….the cry which rises into his ears is the cry of stricken humanity—the cry of the poor and needy, the cry of the sad and weary…He hears God call him to lash the sins of the nation; but to him all the sins of the nation are forms of a single sin—selfishness….The burden of Isaiah is the burden of human compassion. It is the desire to right the wrongs which man has done to his brother.” (George Matheson, The Old Testament and the Fine Arts, 561-562)

Isaiah 5:8 Wo unto them that join house to house

Isaiah is speaking of greedy landowners who would displace the poor from their homes by purchasing their land. As Micah prophesied, “they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage” (Micah 2:2).

“This judgment falls upon wealthy landowners who buy up all the property then can until their lands border one another. This results in a monopoly of property that should be divided among others, especially the poor. This practice violates the spirit of the Law of Jubilee, the property law of ancient Israel, which states that ‘the land shall not be sold forever.’ (LEV. 25:33) Instead, land was to remain within families and clans as a perpetual inheritance…The hoarding of land described in verse 8 was in violation of this law, for when all property was purchased by a few wealthy individuals, there was no place for the original families to dwell. Having no homeland, they were forced to move to the cities or live on the property of the owner as indentured servants or slaves.” (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, by Victor L. Ludlow, p. 117)


“Property acquired for selfish purposes is not a blessing. Greed is never satisfied. Ownership of property is not condemned. The only question is, how did the owner get it, and to what use does he put it?” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 334)

Brigham Young

The surplus property of this community, as poor as we are, has done more real mischief than everything else besides…A man has no right to property,…[when the property doesn’t] do good to himself and his fellow-man…If the people of this community feel as though they wanted the whole world to themselves…and would hoard up their property, and place it is a situation where it would not benefit either themselves or the community, they are just as guilty as the man who steals my property. (Journal of Discourses, 1:252, 255)

James E. Faust

It is frequently astounding to see the dereliction of people in keeping the standards of ordinary fairness and justice….It is sometimes evident in commercial transactions, as well as in private contacts….This unfairness and injustice results principally from one person seeking an advantage or an edge over another. Those who follow such a practice demean themselves greatly. How can those of us who do not practice ordinary fairness and justice have serious claim on the blessings of a just and a fair God? Do some of us seek to justify our taking of shortcuts and advantage of others by indulging in the twin sophistries, “There isn’t any justice” and “Everybody does it”? (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 10 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 136) 

Spencer W. Kimball

Woe unto them who will rationalize, who will explain away their errors in these matters, who justify their oppressions. Farm hands, domestic help, and unprotected people are often oppressed, when economic circumstances place them in the position where they must accept what is offered or remain unemployed. And we sometimes justify ourselves in underpaying and even boast about it. (Conference Report, Oct. 1, 1953, p. 53)

Isaiah 5:10 ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath

This verse uses three unfamiliar measures, “bath,” “homer,” and “ephah.” In the Bible Dictionary, under “weights and measures,” we learn that a bath is a volume of liquid—approximately 8 ¼ gallons. An ephah is the dry equivalent to a bath, and a homer is ten times the amount of an ephah.

The significance in these verses is that the crops and land will be cursed so that they will produce much less than would be expected.

“In verse ten the seriousness of the desolation in the fields is demonstrated by the terms used. Ordinarily, a farmer would hope to get a thirty-, sixty-, or even a hundred-fold increase from the seed he planted. But instead he would only get one tenth back, because one homer of seed (equal to ten ephahs) would yield only one ephah of harvest. This is a unique type of ‘reverse tithing.’” (Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking the Old Testament, 149)

Isaiah 5:11 Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink

One of the many signs of alcoholism is drinking in the morning. Isaiah is describing those that drink from morning until night. Under the Law of Moses, there were no proscriptions against wine or strong drink but there are many Old Testament scriptures which warn against drunkenness and excess.

Spencer W. Kimball

The liquor fight is an eternal battle and moves from scene to scene and sin to sin.

Alcoholic Beveragesa-Kimball, Spencer W.TPThere are numerous people who profit financially—some politicians, manufacturers, wholesalers, deliverers, dispensers, and the underworld. Added to that army are the rationalizers who demand their liquor, regardless of harm to others. Do they pray over their work?

Alcoholic Beveragesa-Kimball, Spencer W.TP’The liquor traffic is sacrilege, for it seeks profit from the damnation of human souls.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick.)

Alcoholic Beveragesa-Kimball, Spencer W.TPArguments are specious, but to the gullible, unsuspecting, righteous, busy people, they are made to seem plausible. The tax argument, the employment one, the school lunch program, the freedom to do as one pleases-all are like sieves with many holes. There is just enough truth in them to deceive. Satan deals in half truths. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 206-207)

Isaiah 5:14 hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth

Apparently, hell has a large mouth which is hungry to consume the souls of men. To Joseph Smith, the Lord said, ‘if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth side after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for they good’ (DC 121:7).

Isaiah 5:18 Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity

The source of the iniquity is the vanity of man.  Isaiah teaches that as sure as the cart follows the horse, iniquity is the natural consequence of vanity. While some would find fault with the iniquity, the core problem is the underlying vanity.  So it is with our sins. We can spend forever repenting of sinful actions; completely missing the point that the underlying problem, “the cords of vanity” and the desire for sin must be rooted out.

The lesson comes from the beauty of the metaphor.  When we sin, it is because we are holding on to a rope that weighs us down.  We must pull the cart ourselves.  It is our own burden.  The ropes with which we pull are the underlying desires and motives of our iniquity.  The beauty of the metaphor is that the sins should be as easy to get rid of as it is to let go of a rope.  Why can’t we let go of our sins? Why do we hold on them unnecessarily?  We hold on to the rope and then complain about the bumpy road and the heavy payload. Why can’t we just let go?

“Much of the unhappiness we feel in this world comes from a refusal to let go of those things that cause our unhappiness. Often as we seek relief, we aren’t able to discern the real problem, and we have trouble shaking off a sense of dissatisfaction.


“For those suffering spiritual and emotional distress, the Sermon on the Mount offers relief… The genius of the sermon lies in the Lord’s invitation to sacrifice those very things that cause spiritual distress. He urges us to lay aside the things of this world, teaching us that real happiness is established on spiritual principles.” (Catherine Thomas, “Blessed Are Ye…,” Ensign, June 1987, 6)

Janette C. Hales

Growing up spiritually requires us to see beyond our own desires and to enlarge our way of seeing things. We not only have to let go of our selfishness but sometimes let go of things we want very badly to come to understand our Heavenly Father’s point of view. (“Growing Up Spiritually,” Ensign, May 1994, 98)

Isaiah 5:19 Let him make speed, hasten his work, that we may see it

The people described in this verse are the wicked described in verse 18. They have no interest in the work and counsel of the Holy One of Israel. They are sign seekers. They want to see to consume it upon their lusts, not to understand righteousness. Of these the Lord has said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matt 16:4).

Isaiah 5:20 Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil

Durrel A. Woolsey

Satan offers a strange mixture of just enough good to disguise the evil along his downward path to destruction…He forges a Rembrandt-quality representation by calling evil good and good evil. He has confused many people, even nations and leaders, to the point of an immoral approach to moral issues…

First, he says individual agency is justification for the destruction of a human life through abortion; second, same-gender intimate associations and even marriages are acceptable; and third, chastity and fidelity are old-fashioned and narrow-minded—to be sexually active with free expression is acceptable.

At this very moment, international heroes in sports, music, and movies not only live immoral lives but teach that immorality around the world through the powerful influence of the media. They are idolized and accepted by millions worldwide. The world in general seems to have lapsed into a coma of unrighteousness. (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 84-85)

Neal A. Maxwell

We surely have been warned and forewarned about our time, a period in which the compression of challenges may make a year seem like a decade. Members will be cleverly mocked and scorned by those in the “great and spacious building,” representing the pride of the world (1 Ne. 8:26; 1 Ne. 11:36). No matter, for ere long, He who was raised on the third day will raze that spacious but third-class hotel!


Ours will be a time of great inversion as well as perversion, as some will call good evil and evil good (see Isa. 5:20; 2 Ne. 15:20; D&C 64:16; 2 Ne. 2:5). Others, in their ignorance of spiritual truths, will “speak evil of those things which they know not” (Jude 1:10; see 2 Pet. 2:12).


Peace has already been taken from the earth (see D&C 1:35). Nation will rise against nation (see Matt. 24:7). It will also be a time of hardening as the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds (see D&C 45:27). Secular bewilderment will be epidemic amid the “distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:25) as various vexations will mock man’s cosmetic remedies:


How small, of all that human hearts endure,

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!

(Samuel Johnson, “Lines added to Goldsmith’s Traveller,” in Familiar Quotations, comp. John Bartlett, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1968, p. 428). (“Overcome … Even As I Also Overcame,” Ensign, May 1987, 71)

David E. Sorensen

In the summertime one of our responsibilities was to haul hay from the fields into the barn for winter storage….One day, in one of the loose bundles pitched onto the wagon was a rattlesnake? When I looked at it, I was concerned excited, and afraid. The snake was laying in the nice, cool hay. The sun was glistening on its diamond back. After a few moments the snake stopped rattling, became still, and I became very curious. I started to get closer and leaned over for a better look, when suddenly I heard a call from my father: “David, my boy, you can’t pet a rattlesnake?”…

I would like to talk to you about the dangers of petting poisonous snakes…today’s popular entertainment often makes what is evil and wrong look enjoyable and right. Let us remember the Lord’s counsel: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20).

Pornography, though billed by Satan as entertainment, is a deeply poisonous, deceptive snake that lies coiled up in magazines, the Internet, and the television. Pornography destroys self-esteem and weakens self-discipline. It is far more deadly to the spirit than the rattlesnake my father warned me not to pet. (Ensign, May 2001, 41)

Spencer W. Kimball

Jesus Christ our Lord is under no obligation to save this world. The people have ignored him, disbelieved him, failed to follow him. They stand at his mercy which will be extended only if they repent. But to what extent have we repented? Another prophet said, “We call evil good, and good evil.” Men have rationalized themselves into thinking that they are “not so bad.” Are they fully ripe? Has the rot of age and flabbiness set in? Can they change? They see evil in their enemies, but none in themselves. Even in the true Church numerous of its people fail to attend their meetings, to tithe their incomes, to have their regular prayers, to keep all the commandments. We can transform, but will we? It seems that we would rather tax ourselves into slavery than to pay our tithes; rather build protections and walls than drop to our knees with our families in solemn prayers night and morning. (Conference Report, Oct. 1, 1961, p.31)

Isaiah 5:21 Wo unto the wise in their own eyes

N. Eldon Tanner

[When people] become learned in the worldly things such as science and philosophy, [they] become self-sufficient and are prepared to lean unto their own understanding, even to the point where they think they are independent of God; and because of their worldly learning they feel that if they cannot prove physically, mathematically, or scientifically that God lives, they can and should feel free to question and even to deny God and Jesus Christ. Then many of our professors begin to teach perverse things, to lead away disciples after them; and our youth whom we send to them for learning accept them as authority, and many are caused to lose their faith in God…

How much wiser and better it is for man to accept the simple truths of the gospel and to accept as authority God, the Creator of the world, and his Son Jesus Christ, and to accept by faith those things which he cannot disprove and for which he cannot give a better explanation. He must be prepared to acknowledge that there are certain things—many, many things—that he cannot understand. (Conference Report, Oct. 1968, pp.48-9 as taken from the 1981 Old Testament Institute Manual)

Isaiah 5:25 their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets

During the destruction of Jerusalem ~ 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to the city, while the inhabitants languished with famine. Assured that the starving Jews would not be able to put up a fight, the Roman soldiers attacked the city.

“…when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood.” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 8:5)

Isaiah 5:26 he will lift up an ensign to the nations

The ensign spoken of means the gospel and new and everlasting covenant brought through the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This great message will be sent to the house of Israel in the last days,

   And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

   Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come (2 Ne 25:17-18).

Gordon B. Hinckley

For a moment, may I take you back 142 years when there was, of course, no tabernacle here, nor temple, nor Temple Square. On July 24, 1847, the pioneer company of our people came into this valley. An advance group had arrived a day or two earlier. Brigham Young arrived on Saturday. The next day, Sabbath services were held both in the morning and in the afternoon. There was no hall of any kind in which to meet. I suppose that in the blistering heat of that July Sunday they sat on the tongues of their wagons and leaned against the wheels while the Brethren spoke. The season was late, and they were faced with a gargantuan and immediate task if they were to grow seed for the next season. But President Young pleaded with them not to violate the Sabbath then or in the future.


The next morning they divided into groups to explore their surroundings.


Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and a handful of their associates hiked from their campground a little to the south of us, on past the ground where we are, and up the hill to the north of us. They climbed a dome-shaped peak, President Young having difficulty because of his recent illness.


When the Brethren stood on the summit, they looked over this valley to the south of them. It was largely barren, except for the willows and rushes that grew along the streams that carried water from the mountains to the lake. There was no building of any kind, but Brigham Young had said the previous Saturday, “This is the place.”


The summit where they stood was named Ensign Peak out of reference to these great prophetic words of Isaiah: “And he [speaking of God] will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” (Isa. 5:26.)


And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isa. 11:12.)


There is some evidence to indicate that Wilford Woodruff took from his pocket a bandanna handkerchief and waved it as an ensign or a standard to the nations, that from this place should go the word of the Lord, and to this place should come the people of the earth.


I think they may also on that occasion have spoken of the building of the temple, which today stands a few feet east of here, in fulfillment of the words of Isaiah:

    And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

   And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2–3.)


How foolish, someone might have said, had he heard these men that July morning of 1847. They did not look like statesmen with great dreams. They did not look like rulers poring over maps and planning an empire. They were exiles, driven from their fair city on the Mississippi into this desert region of the West. But they were possessed of a vision drawn from the scriptures and words of revelation.


I marvel at the foresight of that little group. It was both audacious and bold. It was almost unbelievable. Here they were, almost a thousand miles from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles from the Pacific Coast. They were in an untried climate. The soil was different from that of the black loam of Illinois and Iowa, where they had most recently lived. They had never raised a crop here. They had never experienced a winter. They had not built a structure of any kind. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles from Nauvoo to this valley, spoke of a millennial vision. They spoke out of a prophetic view of the marvelous destiny of this cause. They came down from the peak that day and went to work to bring reality to their dream. (“An Ensign to the Nations,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 51-52)

Joseph Fielding Smith

CHURCH IS PROMISED ENSIGN TO WORLD. Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfilment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day.

No event should have been heralded among the people with greater effectiveness and received with greater evidence of joy and satisfaction. The nations should have rejoiced and welcomed it with gladness of heart, for with it came the establishment of divine truth in the earth-the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation unto all who believe. The world had been without this gospel for many hundreds of years, ever since the great apostasy and turning away from the truth which had been established by the primitive Church.

Following the raising of this ensign, the Lord sent forth his elders clothed with the priesthood and with power and authority, among the nations of the earth, bearing witness unto all peoples of the restoration of his Church, and calling upon the children of men to repent and receive the gospel; for now it was being preached in all the world as a witness before the end should come, that is, the end of the reign of wickedness and the establishment of the millennial reign of peace. The elders went forth as they were commanded, and are still preaching the gospel and gathering out from the nations the seed of Israel unto whom the promise was made. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 254-5)

Isaiah 5:26-27 they shall come with speed swiftly… none shall slumber nor sleep

LeGrand Richards

Since there were no such things as trains and airplanes in that day, Isaiah could hardly have mentioned them by name, but he seems to have described them in unmistakable words… Trains and airplanes do not stop for night. Therefore, was not Isaiah justified in saying “none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken”? With this manner of transportation the Lord can really “hiss unto them from the end of the earth,” that “they shall come with speed swiftly.” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 236)

Consider the marvels of modern transportation. By plane, one can travel to almost anyplace on the earth in less than 24 hours. In Isaiah’s day, before travelers retired, they would change into sleeping attire, which necessitated the loosening of “the girdle of their loins” and the removal of their shoes by breaking the shoe latchet. Isaiah sees that travelers in the last days would never need to change into sleeping attire; rather, they could travel across the globe without needing any sleep.

LeGrand Richards

Isaiah saw many other things in connection with this gathering. He saw that the Lord would gather Israel quickly and with speed, that they would not even have time to loosen the shoe latchets of their shoes, or to slumber or sleep. (See Isa. 5:27) Imagine a statement like that way back in the days of Isaiah, thousands of years ago, with their means of transportation at that time! (Ensign, Nov. 1975, 50)

Isaiah 5:28-29 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent… Their roaring shall be like a lion


Assyrian war chariots

3 Nephi 21 is a great commentary on Isaiah 5:26-30.   It could have been the only commentary for these verses. The resurrected Lord speaks of the ensign of the restored gospel, 3 Ne 21:4-11; He speaks of the gathering of Israel, 3 Ne. 21:22-29; and He speaks of the horses-chariots-lions imagery of Micah 5.

The horses-chariots-lions imagery is something the latter-day saints can’t quite make sense of.  Hopefully, we will make it both easy and amazing.  Consider the image above in light of Isaiah’s description, their “arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like whirlwind.”  This is war imagery with the horses running so fast that their hoofs make sparks like flint and the wheels of the chariots are spinning like a tornado.  In the picture above, it is the Assyrians who are depicted—the same empire that destroyed the kingdom of Israel (c. 720 BC).

But Isaiah is not prophesying about the Assyrian army, he is prophesying about the army of the Lord, composed of those who have accepted the call of the ensign, who have traveled without sleep or slumber to gather to Zion, who will be so powerful that they will be as a lion amongst the beasts of the forest (3 Ne. 21:14).  A good Bible historian remembers that the lion imagery was used by the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed Jerusalem (c. 587 BC).

ishtar gate lion.jpg

Ishtar Gate of Babylon

But Isaiah is not prophesying about the Babylonian army, he is prophesying about the army of the Lord composed of those who have accepted the teachings of Joseph Smith (3 Ne. 21:11), those who are his “people who are a remnant of Jacob”, those who “shall be among the Gentiles” (3 Ne. 21:12).  The covenant people of the Lord, the latter-day saints and the descendants of Lehi have great power.  This idea is repeated multiple times in the Lord’s teachings at the Bountiful temple:

   …remember that… the words of Isaiah should 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.

And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—

Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off…

And thou shalt beat in pieces many people (3 Ne. 20:11-19).

This is a major theme of the Lord’s teachings to the Nephites.  The otherwise obscure chapter of Micah 5 with its horses-chariots-lions imagery is repeated in chapters 16, 20, and 21 of 3 Nephi.  Jesus teaches it repeatedly under the direct commandment of his Father (3 Ne. 16:10).  The words, “saith the Father” are repeated three times, and “Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me” twice (3 Ne. 10-16).  The Lord then ties these teachings to the prophecies of Isaiah, “then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled.” (v. 17)

   But if the Gentiles will repent…I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel. (3 Ne. 16:13-15)

It was depressing for Isaiah to live in a time of spiritual decline. Many of his chapters condemn the wickedness of his day and foretell the judgments of God.  The message always seems like gloom and doom.  Perhaps that’s why Isaiah’s chapters frequently end on a happy note, usually a millennial prophecy.

The immediate judgments of this chapter were exacted by the Assyrians and Babylonians on Israel (720 BC) and Judah (587 BC), respectively. In the millennial day, the tables are turned—the roles reversed.  In so many ways, the Lord fixes all those things that went wrong with his covenant people. He always makes things right in the end.  So in the millennial day, it will be the covenant people of the Lord who will strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.  Wicked Gentiles and spiritual Babylon will have something to fear, for the covenant people become the protagonist of the horses-chariots-lions imagery.  We don’t usually think of the saints as soldiers in God’s army in a literal sense.  What are we to make of this?  How might this be fulfilled?

Are we to take this literally or figuratively?  Remember the prophecy, “Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand” (D&C 45:70).

Isaiah 5:30 they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea

This verse is not easy to understand as it is written. Let’s paraphrase this verse, and take some liberties based on other scriptures, “And in that day when Zion is established in great power and glory they (the inhabitants of Zion) shall roar against them (their enemies) like the roaring of the sea; and if they (their enemies) look unto their own land, behold, darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. But if they look unto the land of Zion, behold, great light and joy, for the saints are protected by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.” (See DC 45:70, Moses 7:17, 61, 2 Ne. 14:5)