Isaiah 41

Isaiah 41:1-5 Chiasmus in Isaiah’s writings.

A common literary form in Old Testament prophecy is called chiasmus.  It means ideas are repeated in reverse order as in the following example:

A.  O islands… let the people… come near

            B.  Who raised up the righteous man from the east? (Rhetorical question suggesting the Lord)

                        C.  He gave them as the dust to his sword (might and power of the man)

                        C.  He pursued them and passed safely (might and power repeated)

            B.  Who hath wrought and done it? (Rhetorical question suggesting the Lord repeated)

A. The isles saw it… drew near, and came

Isaiah 41:1-16 Prophetic Parallelism:  The Isles or Israel?

This chapter is a good example of Isaiah’s literary parallelism.  Some of the more obscure passages can be elucidated by identifying these parallels.

The first half of chapter 41 is a compare and contrast exercise.  Isaiah describes the inhabitants of the isles of the sea as they watch the events of the Apocalypse and Second Coming and fear for their own safety.  The House of Israel, on the other hand, will respond to the same events completely differently because they will be the recipients of the Lord’s tender care and protection. Isaiah compares the surviving ends of the earth to the Israelites at the last day.

Inhabitants of the Isles of the sea


House of Israel


People must strengthen themselves


I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee


Messiah rules over nations and kings


Messiah fights Israel’s battles; confounds their enemies


Many destroyed as dust, stubble


Enemies of Israel “shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought


I the Lord, the first, and… the last: I am he (Lord is identified)


The Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (Lord is identified)


The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid


Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed


The people had to help their neighbors


The Israelites receive their help directly from the Lord


This exercise in parallelism helps us understand Isaiah’s point, especially in the first several verses.  The inhabitants of the isles and the ends of the earth will watch in amazement and fear at the power of the Messiah’s Second Advent.  Yet, they will have to fend for themselves, strengthen themselves, etc.  They will fear for their lives. The House of Israel, on the other hand, has nothing to worry about—no need to worry about their safety, their crops, their enemies, their weaknesses.  The Lord will take care of everything. 

All of this would come not because of their righteousness, but in order to fulfill the covenant made to their fathers, “Jacob whom I have chosen” and “Abraham my friend” (v. 8). Because of the fathers were the sons chosen “and not cast… away” (v. 9).

Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Do not fear, for I the Lord am with you.” (D&C 68:6, see also Isaiah 41:10; John 14:18)

You are not alone on this journey. Your Heavenly Father knows you. Even when no one else hears you, He hears you. When you rejoice in righteousness, He rejoices with you. When you are beset with trial, He grieves with you.

Heavenly Father’s interest in you does not depend on how rich or beautiful or healthy or smart you are. He sees you not as the world sees you; He sees who you really are. He looks on your heart. And He loves you because you are His child.

Dear sisters, seek Him earnestly, and you will find Him.

I promise you, you are not alone. (Conference Report, April 2013, 129)

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As His covenant people, we need not be paralyzed by fear because bad things might happen. Instead, we can move forward with faith, courage, determination, and trust in God as we approach the challenges and opportunities ahead.  Moses’s counsel to the people of his day still applies: “Do not be afraid. … See the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today” (Ex. 14:13 New King James Version)

We do not walk the path of discipleship alone. “The Lord thy God … doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”  (Deut. 31:6)

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Ex. 14:14 New King James Version)

In the face of fear, let us find our courage, muster our faith, and have confidence in the promise that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)

Do we live in a time of peril and turmoil? Of course we do.

God Himself has said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Can we exercise the faith to believe and to act accordingly? Can we live up to our commitments and sacred covenants? Can we keep the commandments of God even in challenging circumstances? Of course we can!

We can because God has promised, “All things shall work together for your good, if [you] walk uprightly.” (D&C 90:24) Therefore, let us set aside our fears and live instead with joy, humility, hope, and a bold confidence that the Lord is with us. (Conference Report, Apr. 2017, 107)

Isaiah 41:10 for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee

Chieko N. Okazaki

We do not know the challenges and adversities that life will give us. But the scriptures promise us that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), and we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philip. 4:13).

The scriptures are filled with testimonies of the strength that comes from the Savior. I always feel a lift of the heart that comes to me when I read these rejoicings of the prophets:

Moses exulted, “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Ex. 15:2).

David sang, “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect” (2 Sam. 22:33).

To Isaiah, the Lord promised, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).

How can we build this kind of faith in the strength of the Savior? David had counsel for the people of his time that I repeat to you: “Seek the Lord and his strength … continually” (1 Chr. 16:11). “Blessed is the man [or woman] whose strength is in thee. … Go from strength to strength” (Ps. 84:5, 7).

Sisters, strengthen yourselves by seeking the source of true strength—the Savior. Come unto him. He loves you. He desires your happiness and exults in your desires for righteousness. Make him your strength, your daily companion, your rod and your staff. Let him comfort you. There is no burden we need bear alone. His grace compensates for our deficiencies.

Your strength will strengthen others—your children, your husband, your friends, and your sisters in the gospel. That strength will flow back from them to you when you need it. (“Strength in the Savior,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 95-96)

Aileen H. Clyde

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord” (Isa. 54:10; see also 3 Ne. 22:10).

Such scriptural language overwhelms my reasoning and floods me again with the reality of God’s love and of our importance to him. Did he speak to our intelligences in that way in the long-ago council when we understood enough to choose to follow Christ? It was surely then, before our mortal experience, that we began with our part of building the covenant relationship with the Savior which is vital to our eternal lives. I believe we chose to be guided then, as we need to be guided now, by his loving care for our divine and unique identities. Our decision then was of the greatest import. Now, when we face crossroads and dilemmas, we can look again to that same source for courage to move forward on our journey.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10).

Of the many blessings that have come to me through my knowledge of Christ’s gospel, I am most grateful for the doctrine that teaches us that our lives here have eternal meaning and are for the glory of God. We are central in his great work. He teaches that as we receive his light, we can reflect that light in the world. (“Covenant of Love,” Ensign, May 1995, 26)

Joseph B. Wirthlin

We live in perilous times. The influence of Satan often appears to be unchecked and overwhelming. Remember the promise that God has given to those who build and maintain brightly burning bonfires of testimony to counter the wolves that threaten us. This is His promise: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will … uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Isa. 41:10

The strength of the Church lies in the depth and vitality of the personal testimonies of its members. Firm, secure testimonies will be the difference between faithfulness and disaffection.

I bear testimony that in order for us to enjoy a happy, rewarding, and spiritual life, we must make sure that our testimonies are built upon the foundation of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, humble and sincere repentance, and following the example of the Savior (Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 36)

Isaiah 41:18 I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys

Orson Pratt

Is there anything said about this desert in prophecy? Yes. You can find many prophecies in Isaiah, David's psalms, and other Prophets, predicting that, about or near the time of the coming of the Lord, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be made glad for them.” (Isa. 35:1) That the “desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.” (Isa. 35:1-2) Isaiah further says that “the Lord shall comfort Zion: he shall comfort all her waste places; he shall make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” (Isa. 51:3) Also that he would “cause springs of water to break out in the desert. And that the parched ground should become pools of living water.” (Isa. 41:18 D&C 133:29)

How is it brethren? I appeal to you who are acquainted and were here in 1847? Many of you know that, in places where there would be a little spring then, about sufficient to water half an acre, now there is water enough to water land sufficient to sustain several hundred families. This is a literal fulfillment of the prophecy which says that, “the parched ground shall become pools of living water.” (D&C 133:29) (Journal of Discourses, 17:317)

Isaiah 41:18-29 Prophetic Parallelism:  The Lord or the Idols?

This time the Lord makes a case for accepting him as the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  Of course, it is ridiculous that he should have to make such a case.  His argument is that he has power to create the earth, to change the rivers and fountains, to plant the trees, to foretell the future.  The idols on the other hand are given much more respect than they deserve.  They just sit there and get all the credit.  The Lord asks for evidence of divinity from the idols.

The Power of the Lord God Jehovah


The weakness of idols and their makers


I have power to open the rivers and fountains


Can the idols tell us what is going to happen?


I have power to make pools in the wilderness and springs in the dry land


Can the idols reveal past, present, or future?


I have power to bring forth trees in the wilderness: the cedar, shittah, myrtle, and oil tree.


Can the idols prophecy to prove they are gods?


I have power to bring forth trees in the desert: the fir, pine, and box tree


Can they do anything at all to impress us?


These have I made that all may see that “the Holy One of Israel hath created it.”


They are good for nothing, completely worthless, a “work of nought


Isaiah 41:2-4, 25-28 Prophetic Parallelism:  Man from the East or man from the North

The Messiah is compared to the poster child of the idolaters who comes from the north. The king of the Jews is contrasted to the king of the north as described by Daniel (Dan. 11:15-19).



Wicked King


Comes from the East


Comes from the North


Isaiah declares his righteousness


None can say he is righteous


Israel’s enemies are as dust and stubble


Claims to have good news from the battle to deliver to Jerusalem, but has none


Pursued his enemies in perfect safety


Pursues slowly with feet covered in mortar and clay


Isaiah 41:29 they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion

“Anciently the consequences for idol worship were grave: The cities of idolaters would be wasted, their lands made desolate, and the people scattered. (See Lev. 26:30–33.) Israel was warned that images were ‘vanity’ and the ‘work of errors’ and that there was ‘no breath in them.’ (Jer. 10:14–15.) Worshipping graven images divided the heart (see Hosea 10:2), and worshippers would corrupt themselves (see Deut. 4:16). Isaiah called images ‘wind and confusion.’ (Isa. 41:29.) These consequences are still in force. Worshipping modern graven images still results in confusion, corruption, and a divided heart. Since material possessions cannot save, trusting in them will eventually lead to a personal scattering away from God and his kingdom. The following true accounts illustrate the consequences of placing worldly things above God in our lives.

• “I have a friend who was a gifted salesman, but he started to use his Sundays for selling. As he became more successful, he lost his testimony. He now belittles ‘foolish’ religious traditions. This has affected his entire family. They aren’t a happy family, but they do have money. He worshipped money, and now he is cursed with it.”

• “A boy I know has devoted his life to body building, and he now has huge muscles. He didn’t go on a mission because he was afraid of losing the physique he was developing.”

• “I know of a lady who, as a teenager, put alcohol and drugs above the Lord. Her obsessions later ruined her marriage and were passed on to her children. In time, she realized she needed to change her life. She came back to the Church and eventually went to the temple. But the damage was already done. Her worship of graven images is reflected in the way her children are living their lives.”

“Key to countering the influence of modern images is keeping our hearts centered on God. If we do, we will live our lives in harmony with life’s real purposes.” (Dennis Largey, “Refusing to Worship Today’s Graven Images,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 10-11)