Isaiah 42

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant… he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles

Who is this servant who is to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles?  While most interpreters would say this is the Messiah, we should remember that Jesus told the Nephites, “that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice—that I should not manifest myself unto them save it were by the Holy Ghost.” (3 Ne. 15:23).  Therefore, we suggest that the servant spoken of in verses 1-7 and 19-21 is none other than Joseph Smith.  Consider the following evidence.

Isaiah 42:1

Other scriptures about Joseph Smith

My servant, whom I uphold

That seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded (2 Ne. 3:14)

In whom my soul delighteth

I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work (2 Ne. 3:8) 

A choice seer… highly esteemed (JST Gen. 50:27)

I have put my spirit upon him

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 (Isa 11:2)

He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles

And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek. (Isa. 11:10)

I the Lord… called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments… that they should proclaim these things unto the world (D&C 1:17-18)

Two of Isaiah’s chapters seem to weave together the mission of the Messiah with that of the Prophet Joseph Smith; they are Isaiah 11 (quoted to Joseph by Moroni) and Isaiah 42.  Isaiah 11 speaks of the common ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth and Joseph Smith, then describes the qualities of both (v. 2-3), becomes frankly Messianic (v. 4-9), then returns to the mission of Joseph Smith (v. 10).  Isaiah 42 speaks of the elect servant, Joseph Smith, then describes the qualities of both (v. 2-4), becomes frankly Messianic (v. 8-18), then returns to the mission of Joseph Smith (v. 19-21).

What other prophet has been so closely associated with the mission of the Messiah?  Only Moses, “I will raise them up a Prophet (Jesus) from among their brethren, like unto thee (Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deut. 18:18).  But then Joseph Smith has been compared to Moses.  Joseph of Egypt said Joseph Smith would be like Moses, “he shall bring them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers; and he shall do whatsoever work I shall command him.  And I will make him great in mine eyes, for he shall do my work; and he shall be great like unto… Moses.” (JST Gen. 50:28-29)

Milton R. Hunter

Approximately 3,500 years before the birth of Joseph Smith, the prophet Joseph of Egyptian fame prophesied that in the latter days God would raise up a great prophet, seer, and revelator. This prophet and seer would perform a great and marvelous work for the salvation of the human family. His name would be Joseph, and his father's name would be Joseph. He would be mighty among the people and would "do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God." (See 2 Ne. 3:4-24.) He would be "great like unto Moses." (2 Ne. 3:9.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith fits in every detail with the prophecy made anciently by Joseph of Egypt. Joseph Smith was God's holy anointed prophet, seer, and revelator through whom the gospel was revealed from heaven and the true Church of Jesus Christ established in the latter days in fulfillment of the predictions made by many of the ancient prophets. In every respect Joseph Smith was God's prophet, seer, and revelator who was "great like unto Moses." (Conference Report, October 1968, Afternoon Meeting 35)

Isaiah 42:2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street

Continuing with the idea of the prophetic threesome of Christ, Moses, and Joseph Smith, each of them brought the law of God to an apostate people.  Moses was the prophet of the Apostasy of Egyptian Bondage; Christ was the Prophet of the Apostasy of Pharisaic Judaism; Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Great Apostasy of Sectarian Christianity.  What was the mission of each?—to save Israel.  Moses saved Israel from physical bondage with demonstrations of the power of God and destructions upon Egypt.  Jesus and Joseph Smith would save Israel from bondage spiritually, with truths from God, new and everlasting covenants, and priesthood keys to open the prison doors in the Spirit World.  As messengers of spiritual salvation, neither Jesus nor Joseph was demonstrative or showy.  Their mission was to preach the truth for those who could recognize it without pomp, circumstance, or shows of force.  The waters of the Red Sea were not divided.  There was no lightning, fire, and smoke from Sinai.  The style was quiet (v. 2) and completely harmless (v. 3).

The Master’s style was not to preach a pulpit pounding sermon.  He didn’t want to draw attention to himself.  Unless he was finding lost sheep, people always came to him.  Isaiah calls attention to this aspect of his divine humility.  He was quiet and completely harmless. At times he sought privacy and anonymity but they always seemed just out of his reach.

It seems he did not want to be renowned as a miracle worker. He was not looking for good press. His behavior, as in all things, seems so different from the ways of men. “Multitudes followed him, and he healed them all” (Matt 12:15), but he didn’t want the word to get out. “Don’t tell anyone who hath done this.”  That advice, as humble as it was, just prompted the crowds to deeper adoration.  Matthew’s explanation for Christ’s intended anonymity is that it was in fulfillment of ancient scripture. He quotes, “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.” (Matt. 12:19)

Hence, Christ’s ministry was the opposite of a political campaign. He was the king of the Jews but he wasn’t running for the office. There were no megaphones, banners, or brass bands. His ministry was comprised of spiritual sermons not stump speeches. His disciples were humble followers, not political parties or special interest groups. There were no empty promises. When he kissed babies, it was not a “photo-op”, but an expression of divine love. His manner was quiet and harmless as a dove; he wouldn’t even break “a bruised reed.”

Isaiah 42:3 the smoking flax shall he not quench

“The Greek word for flax was linen, which is one of the products prepared from the fibrous plant. Flax was grown in various parts of the Near East anciently, especially in Egypt. It was cultivated in the tropical climate of Jericho at the time of the Israelites' incursion into the land of Canaan. (See Josh. 2:6.) The ‘smoking flax’ is a reference to the wick of an oil lamp. The gentleness of the Messiah would figuratively disallow his even putting out the smoking linen wick used in a lamp.” (D. Kelly Ogden, Where Jesus Walked: The Land and Culture of New Testament Times [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 89)

Isaiah 42:6 I the Lord… give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles

   Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants… ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God—

   Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.

   Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel. The Lord hath said it. Amen. (D&C 88:1, 9-11)

Isaiah 42:7 to bring out the prisoners from the prison

What prison?  How is anyone supposed to know what prison Isaiah is talking about?  Well, of course, no one could know what prison if the doctrine had not been revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  The prison in question is not physical, it is spiritual. Isaiah, as always, is talking big.  This is not a prison with a few hundred prisoners.  We are talking about billions of souls—the entire spirit world—even the righteous don’t get out of prison if the Messiah doesn’t redeem mankind (2 Ne. 9:9; see also D&C 138:49-50).

Harold B. Lee

The gates of hell would have prevailed if the gospel had not been taught to the spirits in prison and to those who had not had ample opportunity to receive the gospel here in its fulness. It would have prevailed if there was not a vicarious work for the dead … [or] other vicarious work pertaining to the exaltation which those who accept the gospel might receive, both ordinances for the living and for the dead. (Conference Report, Apr. 1953, pp. 26–28)

Theodore M. Burton

I am interested in the words of Isaiah, or as Jesus gave them as quoted by Luke:

". . . he hath sent me . . . to preach deliverance to the captives, and . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised"  Luke 4:18

Bible interpreters have said that the original words from Isaiah have reference to the release of the Jewish captives from Babylon, but that Jesus applied them to the release of sinners from the guilt and bondage of sin, through his ministry. But was this Jesus' intent, and what sinners were held prisoners through the guilt and bondage of their sins?

I claim that Isaiah and Jesus were speaking of specific prisoners as given in the following quotations from Isaiah:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited (Isa. 24:21-22)

I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house  (Isa. 42:6-7)

Jesus, the Deliverer

There is no question but that Jesus was to be the Deliverer and that they that sit in this prison were to be in the bonds of darkness, which must refer to spiritual darkness rather than to political prisoners here upon the earth. The work of Jesus definitely was not confined solely to those of his own earthly generation who heard his voice in person as on this occasion when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth. His work was a greater work, a universal work, and applied not only to the whole wide world of those then living, but also to all who ever lived or ever would live upon this earth. (Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 33)

Bruce R. McConkie

Salvation for the dead is Bible doctrine. This is perfectly clear to all of us now that we have received latter-day revelation. We now know what Jesus meant when he said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25), and the true meaning of his statement to the thief on the cross: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). We can now understand Peter’s statements about our Lord’s ministry in the spirit world, where he preached the gospel while his body lay in the Arimathean’s tomb. (1 Pet. 3:18–20, 1 Pet. 4:6.) Paul’s statement about baptism for the dead now makes sense (1 Cor. 15:29), as do Isaiah’s and Zechariah’s statements about freeing the prisoners in the pit (Isa. 42:7, Isa. 49:9, Isa. 61:1, Zech. 9:11) and Obadiah’s prophecy about saviors who “shall come up on mount Zion” (Obad. 1:21). Even Malachi’s enigmatic promise that Elijah would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,” lest the Lord come “and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5–6)—even this takes on sense and meaning because the doctrine of salvation for the dead has been set out for us in plainness in latter-day revelation.

But in the beginning days of our era, we need not suppose that Joseph Smith understood these passages any more than the sectarian world does today. For that matter we have every reason to believe that he did not so much as know of their existence until the Lord began the schooling process that was to make him, before his death, one of the greatest prophets and most exalted seers ever to grace the face of this lowly planet. In spite of the biblical passages, only some of which we have noted, it is clear that neither young Joseph nor any of the professors of religion who held sway in his day had even the slightest glimmering of knowledge about this merciful and equitable doctrine until He whose doctrine it is began the modern-day revelatory processes. (“A New Commandment: Save Thyself and Thy Kindred!” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 8)

Wilford Woodruff

I pray God's blessing upon the men working on the temple, and his blessing upon the Saints, that their hearts may be inclined to build them. If you knew and understood the feelings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and those of his brethren associated with him, and the feelings of the millions of the human family who are shut up in their prison houses (Isa. 42:7) we would not tire, we would labor with all our might until the building was finished and dedicated, and then we would labor for the redemption of our dead.  (Journal of Discourses, 21:301)

Isaiah 42:9 Isaiah paraphrased

“New things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”  In modern English, the message is, “I tell you what is going to happen before it happens to prove that I am the only one who can foresee the future.  My prophecies are proof that I am God.”

Isaiah 42:10-12 the end of the earth… ye that go down to the sea… the isles… the villages of Kedar… the inhabitants of the rock… the top of the mountains

The message of the gospel is for all the ends of the earth, particularly in the last days.  The Jews welcomed converts but didn’t really seek them out.  They were not evangelical.  They were more proud of their chosen status than concerned with the salvation of Gentiles.  Hasn’t that changed in the church today?  Now, we have a message for everyone.  The Lord gave the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants with the same message:

   Hearken, O ye people of my church… Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea…

   Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth that all that will hear may hear…

   Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments…

   That faith might increase in the earth;

   That mine everlasting covenant might be established;

   That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. (D&C 1: 1-23)

Those who accept the message of the Restoration have reason to sing a new son and praise the Lord. Isaiah continues, “Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands.”

Isaiah 42:13 the Lord shall go forth as a mighty man… a man of war…  he shall prevail against his enemies

Moses was a type for Christ because of the way he saved Israel militarily.  Jesus the Messiah never became the great military leader the Jews anticipated because that was to be part of the Second Coming, when Jesus returns with angelic cavalry, on “a white horse… in righteousness doth he judge and make war… he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood… and the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses… and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 19:11-16)

The scene will be reminiscent of Moses versus Pharaoh, when the children of Israel rejoiced at the victory:

   The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

   The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

   Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. (Ex. 15:2-4)

Isaiah 42:16 I will lead them in paths that they have not known

Chieko N. Okazaki

The image of the path is a useful one, because it teaches us that there is a way by which we may come to our Savior. But in another way it is misleading. Paths lead from one point to another. The image suggests that we are over here and the Savior is over there and that we must follow the path to reach him. It implies that there is a distance between us and the Lord and that we must traverse that difference to find ourselves with him. Yet, in reality, he is already with us. Yes, there is a path, and yes, we do have far to go; but the Savior is walking beside us on the path already, prepared to go with us the whole distance. Isaiah 42:16 records the Savior's promise to us: "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." He is beside us, even when we cannot see him in our blindness. He is making crooked things straight before us. He is lighting our darkness. And he will not forsake us. (Aloha! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 128)

Isaiah 42:19-21 Who is blind but my servant?

This verse doesn’t make sense without the Joseph Smith Translation.  The JST makes two major changes in the writings of Isaiah:  the first is chapter 29 which speaks of the Book of Mormon, and the second is this passage which speaks of the Prophet’s own mission and the servants of the Restoration.

   For I will send my servant unto you who are blind; yea, a messenger to open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf;

   And they shall be made perfect notwithstanding their blindness, if they will hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant.

   Thou art a people seeing many things but thou observest not; opening the ears to hear, but thou hearest not.

   The Lord is not well pleased with such a people, but for his righteousness’ sake he will magnify the law and make it honorable.

The same theme is found in Isaiah 29, “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” (Isa. 29:18)  The Book of Mormon gives sight to the spiritually blind and a hearing ear to those who were deaf to God.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins

In the days prior to the glorious First Vision, the religious fervor of Manchester, New York, USA, was extremely confusing. In Joseph Smith’s words, “So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person … to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:8).

The Book of Mormon refers to this pre-Restoration confusion as an “awful state of blindness … because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:32; emphasis added).

Over the centuries, the clear spiritual eyesight provided by the Bible blurred as many plain and precious parts were lost, sometimes unintentionally through flawed translation and sometimes intentionally by corrupt editing, “that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 13:27; emphasis added).

One of the most common of the Savior’s miracles was restoring eyesight to the blind. The Savior’s more important mission and miracle, however, was healing the spiritually blind. “I am come into this world,” He said, “that they which see not might see” (John 9:39).

Using Isaiah’s metaphor and Nephi’s vision of spiritual blindness in the latter days, we may consider the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a miraculous restoration of spiritual eyesight.

Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness.

… I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel. …

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, … [and] these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.

And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.

… These last records … shall establish the truth of the first. … They both shall be established in one (1 Nephi 13:32, 34–36, 40–41; emphasis added)—

--coming together to help us see the truth.  (