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Abinadi Uses the Quoted Isaiah Chapter in his Argument
1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
Verse 1’s declaration that “God himself shall come down among the children of men” is the important concluding statement after Abinadi’s quotation of Isaiah 53’s suffering servant text. That text spoke of a mortal who would take upon himself our iniquities. Then Abinadi declares that God himself, or Yahweh himself, would be that man.
The rest of the verses are attempting to clarify the Nephite understanding of God. First, as part of the house of Israel, Yahweh is their God. When that God changed habitation, when that God condescended to come to earth, that shift gave him a different designation.
Abinadi clarifies that there is no difference in person between Yahweh in the heavens and Yahweh as a mortal. It is simply the change of location and subjection to humanity that creates the designation as the Son of God. He is both the Father and the Son simultaneously. The Father as God, the Son as mortal. Nevertheless, it is the same being. It is the state that changes the designation.
It is also possible that the terminology created a different type of designation for the mortal Messiah. While modern readers easily see Son of God as a title for Jesus Christ, it is possible that the use in the Book of Mormon derives more from the tradition surrounding Israelite kingship.
In Psalms 2:7, the Lord says to the king: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” The Israelite kings joined with their ancient Near Eastern counterparts in considering themselves sons of god. If this is the meaning, then the import of this change in state is not to create a new biological relationship, but rather a new regnal designation for the coming atoning Messiah.
5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
These verses are Abinadi’s explanation of the verses in Isaiah 53, which speak of specific events in the life of the suffering servant. In verse 5 Abinadi notes that as a mortal, the atoning Messiah would suffer temptation, and be cast out by his own people. In Isaiah 53:3 it says that the servant would be despised. In 53:8 he had been imprisoned.
In verse 6, Abinadi notes that he will do miracles, and that he would be “as a sheep before the shearer is dumb.” Both of those statements are familiar to Christians, and Abinadi must have relied upon other information to make those connections to Isaiah. However, when Abinadi noted in verse 5 that the coming Messiah would not yield to temptation, that picked up directly on Isaiah 53:9 which declared: “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
The crucifixion of the Messiah not only fulfilled the suffering servant’s imprisonment, but clearly the requirement that he be killed, or, in the language of Isaiah 53:8, “cut off from the land of the living.”
8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—
9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
Isaiah opened the door for Abinadi to discuss the atoning mission of the Messiah when he said that our iniquities would be placed upon the suffering servant. Abinadi makes that more explicit by recounting the doctrine of the Messiah as it had been taught among the Nephites from Nephi’s time. Yahweh himself would come down and do two very important things. He would first break the bands of death. Then he would mercifully break the bands of sin.
However, Abinadi is indirectly speaking about the passage that the priests presented him with. In Mosiah 12:23 we have the quotation of the line “he hath redeemed Jerusalem” from Isaiah 52:9. In verse 9 above, Abinadi declares that when Yahweh takes upon himself our sins, he redeems us.
Abinadi weaves in a line from Isaiah 53:8 (quoted in Mosiah 14:8) which asks “who shall declare his generation?” In Isaiah 53:8 the rest of the verse speaks of his death, thus leaving him without seed. Thus, Abinadi plays off the idea of the Messiah not having subsequent offspring or generation and suggests that he indeed will see his seed. Then Abinadi asks who that seed might be, leading to his next point.
11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?
13 Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.
Abinadi has asked, who are the seed of this Messiah? This is a question that was generated from one of the passages that the priests of Noah presented him with. Abinadi declares that the seed of the Messiah are the all the prophets who have prophesied of the coming of the Messiah. This is an ingenious line of argumentation because it will pit the priests of Noah against the holy prophets. The prophets “believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins.” If the priests of Noah do not also look forward to that day, then they have placed themselves firmly against the word of the prophets and scripture.
14 And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!
15 And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!
16 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
17 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!
18 And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people;
19 For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.
Now Abinadi brings his response to the opening verses of the Isaiah passage. He declares that it is the prophets who have published peace. He does that by nearly quoting Isaiah 52:7 in his argument (in our verse 14). This opens the rhetorical argument that not only do the prophets publish peace, but that this is the same as declaring the Messiah.
Abinadi makes this connection when he says, “For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people.” Thus, Abinadi argues that the prophets are Yahweh’s seed, and Yahweh is the one who has redeemed his people. Therefore, the one who has most effectively published peace is Yahweh in his mortal ministry as the Messiah.
Abinadi Explains the First Resurrection
20 But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.
21 And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called.
22 And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore, they are the first resurrection.
23 They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death.
24 And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord.
25 And little children also have eternal life.
Modern explanations of the result of the atonement focus on the redemption from death and the redemption from sin. Abinadi also makes that distinction, but perhaps not as clearly as modern readers might expect. The idea of the resurrection overcoming death is obvious. Abinadi declares that there is a first resurrection. The definition of that is somewhat unclear, for he says that it includes “those that have been, and who are, and who shall be.” The only qualifier is “until the resurrection of Christ.” It appears that in this definition, the first resurrection is for all who die prior to the Messiah’s resurrection, who clearly could not have been resurrected until the bands of death were broken.
The explanation of the difference between resurrection and exaltation begins in verse 23 when Abinadi says that “they are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ.” The resurrection breaks the bands of death, and the Messiah’s atonement allows them to have eternal life with God. The concept that there is an element of one’s personal merit in this process comes when Abinadi mentions that those who did not have the opportunity to choose to know the truth have access to the restoration. The concept of restoration will be explored later when it is more fully developed in Alma.
The idea that those who are ignorant, “not having salvation declared unto them”, also leads to the declaration that “little children also have eternal life.” They are placed in that same category of inability to actively choose.
26 But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection.
27 Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim.
After proclaiming that those who were ignorant could be redeemed, Abinadi turns the argument to the priests of Noah personally. They are not ignorant. They have declared that they teach the law of Moses. However, it is because of their acceptance of the scriptures that Abinadi condemns them. Abinadi declares: “for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins.”
This is a strong condemnation, and perhaps even stronger than the general prophesy that caused Abinadi to be brought before Noah and the priests. He very clearly accuses them of willful rebellion against God, and pronounces that “salvation cometh to none such.”
What is important in this condemnation, however, is that there is an escape clause. When Abinadi says that this applies to those who die in their sins, he leaves open the possibility of repentance, for the priests have not yet died, and, therefore, have opportunity to repent. That is important because one of the condemned priests is Alma1 the Elder, who will take that opportunity to repent and not fall under that condemnation.
28 And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.
29 Yea, Lord, thy watchmen shall lift up their voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
30 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
31 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
After the condemnation of the priests of Noah, Abinadi returns to the positive aspects of the Messiah’s mission. There will come a time when “the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” The phrase “nation, kindred, tongue and people” is used in that order in Revelations 5:9, but the elements are also in Revelation 7:9 and 11:9. It shows up frequently in the Book of Mormon.
Verses 29 through 31 quote Isaiah 52:8–10 and were the final verses that the priests of Noah quoted when beginning Abinadi’s interrogation. Abinadi is tying up the threads of his explanation of the passages that the priests put to him. There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition. Abinadi continues speaking without break in Mosiah 16.
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