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Abinadi Quotes Isaiah
1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
The priests of Noah began this interrogation by asking for an explanation of verses in Isaiah 52. Abinadi’s rebuttal now inserts the whole of Isaiah chapter 53. These chapters are part of an alternating pattern in Isaiah which has chapters that focus on Jerusalem and what has become known as the suffering servant. The priests of Noah quoted from one of the Jerusalem chapters, and Abinadi answers with a suffering servant chapter.
In the context of the conflict between a law of Moses that the priests assume to be complete and a law that Abinadi declares looks forward to a future Messiah, the contrast between the two types of chapters in this part of Isaiah provide an interesting backdrop but underscores the way that the priests of Noah and Abinadi see the scriptures.
In the Jerusalem chapters, Jerusalem is both the subject and a collective reference. When the priests of Noah used the verses in Isaiah 52, they dealt with the salvation of Jerusalem, and by extension her people. While true, there are different types of redemption and salvation, and the redemption and salvation of Jerusalem is temporal.
What Abinadi will do by quoting the suffering servant is to counteract the quotation of authoritative scripture with not only another authoritative quotation, but the following chapter (or text, since it does not appear that the modern chapters were reflected on the brass plates from which the Nephites took their quotations of Isaiah).
Abinadi begins with what we know as Isaiah 53:1. The important question asked is “who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” That is very much the nature of the question that Abinadi is asking. The scriptures are being put forth as conclusive, but right in those scriptures it asks, “who has believed [them]?” Abinadi has already declared that the priests of Noah have not believed them (for if they had, they would have lived according to them). Now, Abinadi will use the scriptures to declare his case for the coming Messiah and the salvation that cometh only through him.
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
Although Abinadi began with the very first verse in our chapter, the evidence for chapters in what Nephi copied from Isaiah in 2 Nephi suggests that our modern chapter divisions had not yet been implemented when Nephi wrote. Thus, Abinadi begins with a sentence that he wants to use as an accusation, but he skipped verses that shifted from Isaiah’s emphasis, in chapter 52, on Jerusalem to the personal emphasis on the suffering servant.
Isaiah 52:13 and 14 say: “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”
It is the image of the marred visage of Isaiah 52:14 that is echoed in Isaiah 53: “when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Even more than simply following the chapter from which the priests of Noah selected their challenge verses, what Abinadi does is quote to them the extension and elaboration of that chapter which emphasizes the suffering servant. At the beginning of our chapter 15 in Mosiah (which was not separated into a separate chapter in 1830), Abinadi will identify the suffering servant as the future Messiah.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
The important part of these verses are found in verses 5 and 6. The same themes are part of verses 3 and 4, but in 5 and 6 they are stated in a way that makes it clear that the suffering servant suffers for us, and that our sins or transgressions are somehow laid upon him. Importantly, in verse 5 it says that “with his stripes we are healed.” The next verses will describe what was meant by his stripes, but the point here is that we are healed. Thus, the clear argument is made that there is an individual, described as human, whose suffering provides our healing from transgressions and iniquities.
Therefore, Abinadi says that there is a person who will be responsible for our salvation, not the law. When Abinadi said that the law alone would not save us (in Mosiah 13:28), this is the foundation for his argument. The scriptures, through the respected prophet Isaiah, declare that it is a person and not the law.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The important indicators of the identity of this suffering servant are elucidated. He is oppressed and afflicted. He is imprisoned and executed. Christians have recognized Christ in these verses from very early times. Abinadi sees Christ, or the Messiah, in those same terms long before Christian hindsight clarified them.
The end of this servant is death, but a death that sees him bearing “the sins of many” and making “intercession for the transgressors.”
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition. While Pratt’s reorganization of the chapters makes it easier to compare and connect this chapter with Isaiah 53 that it quotes, it makes it more difficult to see as part of the continuing argument Abinadi is making. In particular, it is important to see the very next verse as being tied to this chapter. It is Abinadi’s essential understanding of this chapter and the crux of the difference between Abinadi’s preaching and that of the priests of Noah.
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