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Isaiah 54:1–17 Zion and Her Stakes Established in the Last Days
This chapter sets forth a prophecy that Zion will be established in the latter days (Latter-day Saint Bible chapter heading; 3 Nephi 21–22). God exhibits great tenderness and compassion to His people, who symbolically are portrayed as a woman and God’s wife. Accordingly, the prophecy speaks concerning Israel’s “youth,” “widowhood,” (54:4), and “children” (54:13); she (Israel) is called a “barren one,” “married wife” (54:1), “wife” (54:6), and “afflicted female” (54:11). And God Himself informs Israel that He is her “Husband” (54:5). In the Hebrew language, many of the grammatical forms in this chapter are feminine, referring to Lady Zion, though these forms are lost in the translation. So too, in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:14; emphasis added). Isaiah 54 is cited in 3 Nephi 22:1–17, but with some variant readings. JST 54:10 attests “people” rather than “peace.”
Sing gladly, O barren one. God commands Israel to “sing gladly” because she will no longer be barren; rather, she will have numerous children, referring to the inhabitants of Zion. who did not labor with child. Unlike a mother who labors, often in great pain and with difficulty, to bear children, Zion will not have to labor. This signifies a great miracle—in the last days people will flock to Zion; they will be coming home, as it were, to their mother.
tent/curtains/cords/stakes. The tent recalls the tabernacle of Moses, which was a mobile temple. The word stakes here is the source of the latter-day ecclesiastical divisions of the Church. “Cords” and “stakes” serve to hold up and stabilize the tent. As a family grows, the tent can be enlarged, the cords lengthened, and the stakes strengthened. Such is the Lord’s image of Zion in the last days. The five command forms—“enlarge,” “stretch out,” “do not hold back,” “lengthen,” and “strengthen”—teach us what we should do to build Zion in these latter days (see Doctrine and Covenants 133:9). The Lord cites this passage in a revelation to Joseph Smith: “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:14; emphasis added. See also Doctrine and Covenants 133:9).
you will break forth on the right and on the left. Zion will grow and increase in all directions. nations/cities. Covenant Israel will reside in cities and nations throughout the world.
you will forget the shame of your youth/your widowhood. Again, the Lord uses symbolism to describe Lady Zion. Youth to widowhood encompasses the whole of life, meaning that Israel (as a whole) conducted herself shamefully during ancient times, but in the last days she will be blessed mightily by Jehovah, her husband.
Your Maker is your Husband/Lord of Hosts/Redeemer/Holy One of Israel/God of the whole earth. These titles of Jehovah are descriptive of His divine roles and redeeming work. The Lord is symbolically Israel’s loving Husband (50:1; 62:5; Revelation 19:7–9).
Lord has called you. Latter-day Israel to gather to Zion and to share the gospel with the world. wife forsaken/wife of youth. Israel was refused because of her sins; but this was temporary, “for a small moment” because the Lord promises, “With great mercies, I will gather you.” I will gather you. The theme of gathering is prominent in Isaiah.
I hid my face. Jehovah turned away from His covenant people because of their wickedness, but after they return to Him, the righteous will be blessed to see His face. moment/everlasting. The Lord uses these contrasting terms to instruct us regarding His “wrath” (“moment”) versus His loving-kindness (“everlasting”).
waters of Noah. The flood at the time of Noah signified a great judgment against the wicked. Here the Lord reminds His people of the flood but promises that just as He will no longer destroy the world with the flood, He will no longer be angry with His people.
mountains will depart/hills will totter. Both mountains and hills are symbols of stability, but while they may depart or totter, God’s “lovingkindness will not depart from” His people, nor “will the covenant of [His] people totter” because he “has compassion” on them.
O afflicted female, tossed with tempest, not comforted! Israel, during her apostate period, was afflicted and tossed around like she was in a fierce storm.
I will set your stones with antimony/foundations with sapphires/battlements of rubies/gates of beryl/walls of precious stones. The scene for Zion changes now, when the Lord promises her great blessings and privileges. Using feminine forms (in the Hebrew, to denote a female), the Lord states that He Himself will build her (Zion) as a fortress (Zion [tziyyon] in Hebrew denotes a “fortress” or “castle”), with battlements, stone walls, and gates. This fortress, however, will not be any average fortress but will feature precious stones, including rubies, beryl, and sapphires (Hebrew sappir may be a sapphire or lapis lazuli—the Hebrew word is rare and difficult to translate).
your children will be taught of the Lord. Zion’s children will be taught about the Lord and by the Lord Himself, which will result in great “peace” for Zion’s children.
you will not fear. (see also Doctrine and Covenants 45:70–71). Zion and her children will not fear because “oppression” and “terror” (wicked people, armies, rulers, etc.) will remain far away.
I have created the smith/I have created the destroyer to destroy. God has created both the person who creates (the smith) and the one who destroys (evil persons), but all are subject to His great power. He, therefore, can protect Zion from oppression and terror, mentioned in the previous verse.
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper. God’s protection for Zion and her children has no limits—there is no weapon on earth that will prosper against Zion in the latter days. This promise is twice repeated in revelations to Joseph Smith: “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” (Doctrine and Covenants 71:9), and also, “That no weapon formed against them shall prosper” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:25). This is the inheritance of the servants of the Lord. Those who love the Lord and keep His commandments receive the blessings listed in verses 12–17; it is their “inheritance” and birthright promise. their righteousness is of Me. Ultimately, we do not possess righteousness on our own; rather, it comes from God.
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