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2 Nephi 13
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2 Nephi 13
Judgement on Judah and Jerusalem
2 Nephi 13:1–4
1 For behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff, the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water—
2 The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient;
3 The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
4 And I will give children unto them to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
In the previous chapter, Isaiah had noted that all had gone astray and pointed specifically at the house of Jacob. At the end of the chapter, Isaiah chided them for following after the trappings of men. That falling away from Yahweh’s law has consequences. In the previous verses, the Lord told Israel that they would want to hide in caves.
In this chapter he continues to describe fallen Israel, symbolized by fallen Jerusalem. These four verses begin to describe how their humiliation will be complete. When we remember that Isaiah is the prophet during the Assyrian invasion, it is easy to see these consequences as fulfilled prophecy. The right of rule was taken from Jerusalem and many of the best of the country of Judah were taken away, similar to the whole of the northern kingdom.
The ”babes shall rule over them” phrase is not meant to be literal, but rather a description of their fallen state when foreigners, whom they did not respect, would have authority over them.
2 Nephi 13:5–8
5 And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor; the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.
6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, and shall say: Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let not this ruin come under thy hand—
7 In that day shall he swear, saying: I will not be a healer; for in my house there is neither bread nor clothing; make me not a ruler of the people.
8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen, because their tongues and their doings have been against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
The conditions in a defeated Judah will be so bad that the world will appear to have turned upside down. It is in that sense that the child would stand up to the ancient, a reversal of the cultural expectation that the older person has wisdom that the child lacks.
The people will look for someone to lead them, but there will be no one, for all will be in the same situation. The Assyrian invasion conquered all of Judah and was on the verge of conquering Jerusalem when the Assyrian army left. Jerusalem did not escape Assyrian domination, only total destruction.
Thus, “Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen.” The cause for this disaster is that the people’s “doings have been against the Lord.” The sins of the people who have strayed from Yahweh have created the conditions that allowed this destruction. These should be considered collective sins of a people rather than accumulated individual sins. The concept of sin was different in Old Testament times, and a people could sin. There was individual sin, but collective sin was applied to their social or religious ideas.
2 Nephi 13:9–12
9 The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!
10 Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Wo unto the wicked, for they shall perish; for the reward of their hands shall be upon them!
12 And my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.
In verse 9, the Lord compares Jerusalem to Sodom. The comparison is to destruction, not specific sins. Those in Sodom sinned against Yahweh and were destroyed. Those in Jerusalem show in their faces that they too have sinned. Thus, “their countenance doth witness against them.”
Verses 10 and 11 are antithetical parallels. The Lord declares that all will be well for the righteous, but that the wicked will perish. That these ultimate rewards have a view to the future is suggested by verse 12, which shows that both the righteous and the wicked will suffer the embarrassment of Jerusalem. Thus, for all, “children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” Those two contradictions of expectations are given to highlight the depths to which they have fallen. As with other images, this is a world turned upside down.
2 Nephi 13:13–15
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people and the princes thereof; for ye have eaten up the vineyard and the spoil of the poor in your houses.
15 What mean ye? Ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor, saith the Lord God of Hosts.
Even though the people have left their God, their God continues to uphold his covenant. In this case, it is the God of judgment who prevails rather than the God of mercy. The reasons will be the actions of the leaders of the community who have led people astray and not lived up to their social covenants.
Isaiah often chastises the oppression of the powerful and wealthy over the poor, and he brings that theme into this judgment. Thus, the princes of Israel are condemned for unrighteously profiting from the labor of the poor. In Isaiah’s poetic language, the poor labor to provide, and what they provide goes rather to the princes. The non-egalitarian division extends to the way the powerful and wealthy treat the less fortunate. They grind them to pieces with labor for the benefit of princes, while keeping the less fortunate poor.
2 Nephi 13:16–26
16 Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon;
19 The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers;
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings;
21 The rings, and nose jewels;
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins;
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she shall be desolate, and shall sit upon the ground.
Not only are the men of Israel guilty of adopting the things of the world, but so are the women of Israel. Isaiah describes articles of clothing that were associated with the more wealthy and indicates that these trappings of wealth will be removed. The humiliation of war will affect the women as well as the men.
The women will be humiliated, but the men will die. These were all part of the real aftermath of the Assyrian invasion in many parts of Judah, and certainly in Israel, the northern kingdom of the ten tribes which had been completely conquered.
Isaiah personifies Jerusalem. Her gates become the symbolic representation of the whole, and of course, Jerusalem stands for all of Judah. Thus, all of Judah mourns this destruction.
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