2 Ne 15:1-7 The song of the vineyard
This song likens the house of Israel to a wine vineyard. The structure of this song is the same as the allegory of the olive tree found in Jacob 5. The servant is the prophet, Isaiah. The lord of the vineyard, spoken of as 'my well-beloved', is the Lord of Hosts. And the vineyard is the house of Israel. One difference is that the fruit of this vineyard is grapes and the fruit of the vineyard in the allegory of the olive-tree is olives. Doctrinally, the most important difference is that the song of the vineyard does not deal with the scattering and gathering of Israel as does the allegory of the olive tree. Rather, it explains why it is that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were allowed to be destroyed-because of their wickedness, for when the lord came to his vineyard, 'he looked for judgment, and behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry' (v. 7).
"The Israelites had a yearly festival, at the end of their year, called the feast of ingathering (Ex. 23:16;34:22), because on that occasion the people were required to give thanks especially for the harvest of fields and vineyards. It has been suggested that this song, or poem, was composed and recited on such an occasion. It contains a parable in which Israel is represented as a vineyard (as in Is. 3:14), and the consequences of the neglect of unfaithful keepers. (Matt. 21:33-41) As a literary composition, no less than as a prophetic utterance, it is regarded as an outstanding piece of sacred reading." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 333)
2 Ne 15:2 planted it with the choicest vine
The house of Israel became the covenant people of the Lord because of the faith of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 'For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith' (Rom 4:13). Abraham was favored of the Lord for his righteousness and faith. He could be considered 'the choicest vine' which the Lord planted in his vineyard, for Abraham was both choice and chosen (Abr. 3:23).
2 Ne 15:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard?
The Lord laments that in spite of all his nurturing, tender care, and mercy, the vineyard continues to produce wild fruit. This is astonishing because the vine that was planted was choice, the land was good, and the lord of the vineyard had done all he could do to produce good fruit. The language of this verse is much like that in the allegory of the olive tree, 'What could I have done more for my vineyard?' (Jacob 5:41). Jeremiah prophesies in a similar fashion, 'Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?' (Jer 2:21).
2 Ne 15:5 I will take away the hedge thereof...and...break down the wall
The hedge and the wall represent the protective care that the Lord had given the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Because of their wickedness, the Lord will no longer protect them from their enemies. Therefore, the kingdom of Israel was sacked by the Assyrians (~722 BC), and the kingdom of Judah was sacked by the Babylonians (~589 BC). 'Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge' (v. 13).
2 Ne 15:7 he looked for judgment, and behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry
"What is that special form of sin which Isaiah sees? It is human selfishness-the unbrotherhood of man to man....the cry which rises into his ears is the cry of stricken humanity-the cry of the poor and needy, the cry of the sad and weary...He hears God call him to lash the sins of the nation; but to him all the sins of the nation are forms of a single sin-selfishness....The burden of Isaiah is the burden of human compassion. It is the desire to right the wrongs which man has done to his brother." (George Matheson, The Old Testament and the Fine Arts, 561-562 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 100)
2 Ne 15:8 Wo unto them that join house to house
Isaiah is speaking of greedy landowners who would displace the poor from their homes by purchasing their land. As Micah prophesied, 'they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage' (Micah 2:2).
"This judgment falls upon wealthy landowners who buy up all the property then can until their lands border one another. This results in a monopoly of property that should be divided among others, especially the poor. This practice violates the spirit of the Law of Jubilee, the property law of ancient Israel, which states that 'the land shall not be sold forever.' (LEV. 25:33) Instead, land was to remain within families and clans as a perpetual inheritance...The hoarding of land described in verse 8 was in violation of this law, for when all property was purchased by a few wealthy individuals, there was no place for the original families to dwell. Having no homeland, they were forced to move to the cities or live on the property of the owner as indentured servants or slaves." (Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, by Victor L. Ludlow, p. 117)
"Property acquired for selfish purposes is not a blessing. Greed is never satisfied. Ownership of property is not condemned. The only question is, how did the owner get it, and to what use does he put it?" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 334)
"The surplus property of this community, as poor as we are, has done more real mischief than everything else besides...A man has no right to property,...[when the property doesn't] do good to himself and his fellow-man...If the people of this community feel as though they wanted the whole world to themselves...and would hoard up their property, and place it is a situation where it would not benefit either themselves or the community, they are just as guilty as the man who steals my property." (Journal of Discourses, 1:252, 255 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 102)
James E. Faust
"It is frequently astounding to see the dereliction of people in keeping the standards of ordinary fairness and justice....It is sometimes evident in commercial transactions, as well as in private contacts....This unfairness and injustice results principally from one person seeking an advantage or an edge over another. Those who follow such a practice demean themselves greatly. How can those of us who do not practice ordinary fairness and justice have serious claim on the blessings of a just and a fair God? Do some of us seek to justify our taking of shortcuts and advantage of others by indulging in the twin sophistries, 'There isn't any justice' and 'Everybody does it'?" (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 10 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 136)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Woe unto them who will rationalize, who will explain away their errors in these matters, who justify their oppressions. Farm hands, domestic help, and unprotected people are often oppressed, when economic circumstances place them in the position where they must accept what is offered or remain unemployed. And we sometimes justify ourselves in underpaying and even boast about it." (Conference Report, Oct. 1, 1953, p. 53)
2 Ne 15:10 ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath
This verse uses three unfamiliar measures, "bath," "homer," and "ephah." In the Bible Dictionary, under "weights and measures," we learn that a bath is a volume of liquid-approximately 8 ¼ gallons. An ephah is the dry equivalent to a bath, and a homer is ten times the amount of an ephah.
The significance in these verses is that the crops and land will be cursed so that they will produce much less than would be expected.
"In verse ten the seriousness of the desolation in the fields is demonstrated by the terms used. Ordinarily, a farmer would hope to get a thirty-, sixty-, or even a hundred-fold increase from the seed he planted. But instead he would only get one tenth back, because one homer of seed (equal to ten ephahs) would yield only one ephah of harvest. This is a unique type of "reverse tithing." (Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking the Old Testament, 149 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 103)
2 Ne 15:11 Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink
One of the many signs of alcoholism is drinking in the morning. Isaiah is describing those that drink from morning until night. Under the Law of Moses, there were no proscriptions against wine or strong drink but there are many Old Testament scriptures which warn against drunkenness and excess.
Spencer W. Kimball
"The liquor fight is an eternal battle and moves from scene to scene and sin to sin.
"There are numerous people who profit financially-some politicians, manufacturers, wholesalers, deliverers, dispensers, and the underworld. Added to that army are the rationalizers who demand their liquor, regardless of harm to others. Do they pray over their work?
"The liquor traffic is sacrilege, for it seeks profit from the damnation of human souls.' (Harry Emerson Fosdick.)
"Arguments are specious, but to the gullible, unsuspecting, righteous, busy people, they are made to seem plausible. The tax argument, the employment one, the school lunch program, the freedom to do as one pleases-all are like sieves with many holes. There is just enough truth in them to deceive. Satan deals in half truths." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 206-207 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 104)
2 Ne 15:14 hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth
Apparently, hell has a large mouth which is hungry to consume the souls of men. To Joseph Smith, the Lord said, 'if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for they good' (DC 121:7).
2 Ne 15:18 Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity
"Isaiah condemned those who think they can give up one sin and yet cling tenaciously ot others. 'Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope' (Isa. 5:18). Occasionally we cut the 'cords of vanity' and let go of a favorite sin, but all too often we only periodically cast off from our cart a sin here and there rather than just letting go of the cart rope." (Brent L. Top, A Peculiar Treasure, 160 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 107)
2 Ne 15:19 Let him make speed, hasten his work, that we may see it
The people described in this verse are the wicked described in verse 18. They have no interest in the work and counsel of the Holy One of Israel. They are sign seekers. They want to see to consume it upon their lusts, not to understand righteousness. Of these the Lord has said, 'A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign' (Matt 16:4).
2 Ne 15:20 Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil
Durrel A. Woolsey
"Satan offers a strange mixture of just enough good to disguise the evil along his downward path to destruction...He forges a Rembrandt-quality representation by calling evil good and good evil. He has confused many people, even nations and leaders, to the point of an immoral approach to moral issues...
"First, he says individual agency is justification for the destruction of a human life through abortion; second, same-gender intimate associations and even marriages are acceptable; and third, chastity and fidelity are old-fashioned and narrow-minded-to be sexually active with free expression is acceptable.
"At this very moment, international heroes in sports, music, and movies not only live immoral lives but teach that immorality around the world through the powerful influence of the media. They are idolized and accepted by millions worldwide. The world in general seems to have lapsed into a coma of unrighteousness." (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 84-85 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 111)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Fornication results from lust, not love. Across the desk from me sat a handsome nineteen-year-old boy and a beautiful, shy, but charming eighteen-year-old girl. They appeared embarrassed, apprehensive, near-terrified. He was defensive and bordering on belligerency and rebellion. They admitted they had broken the moral code and thus gone contrary to some standards, but they quoted magazines and papers and speakers approving premarital sex and emphasizing that sex was a fulfillment of human existence. ... Had it not been fairly well established, then, in their world, that sex before marriage was not so wrong? Did there not need to be a trial period? How else could they know if they would be compatible for marriage?
"Finally, the boy said, 'Yes, we yielded to each other, but we do not think it was wrong because we love each other.' I thought I had misunderstood him. Since the world began there have been countless immoralities, but to hear them justified by a Latter-day Saint youth shocked me. He repeated, 'No, it is not wrong, because we love each other.' ...
"The Savior said that if it were possible the very elect would be deceived by Lucifer. He uses his logic to confuse and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black.
"This young couple looked up rather startled when I postulated firmly, 'No, my beloved young people, you did not love each other. Rather, you lusted for each other.' ... The beautiful and holy word of love they had defiled until it had degenerated to become a bed fellow with lust, its antithesis. As far back as Isaiah, deceivers and rationalizers were condemned: 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' (Isaiah 5:20.)
"If one really loves another, one would rather die for that person than to injure him. At the hour of sin, pure love is pushed out of one door while lust sneaks in the other. Affection has then been replaced with desire of the flesh and uncontrolled passion. Accepted has been the doctrine which the devil is so eager to establish, that illicit sex relations are justified. When the unmarried yield to lust, that is called fornication. When married fall into this same sin, that is called adultery." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, pp. 278-9)
David E. Sorensen
"In the summertime one of our responsibilities was to haul hay from the fields into the barn for winter storage....One day, in one of the loose bundles pitched onto the wagon was a rattlesnake? When I looked at it, I was concerned excited, and afraid. The snake was laying in the nice, cool hay. The sun was glistening on its diamond back. After a few moments the snake stopped rattling, became still, and I became very curious. I started to get closer and leaned over for a better look, when suddenly I heard a call from my father: 'David, my boy, you can't pet a rattlesnake?'...
"I would like to talk to you about the dangers of petting poisonous snakes...today's popular entertainment often makes what is evil and wrong look enjoyable and right. Let us remember the Lord's counsel: 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil' (Isa. 5:20).
"Pornography, though billed by Satan as entertainment, is a deeply poisonous, deceptive snake that lies coiled up in magazines, the Internet, and the television. Pornography destroys self-esteem and weakens self-discipline. It is far more deadly to the spirit than the rattlesnake my father warned me not to pet." (Ensign, May 2001, 41 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 108)
Spencer W. Kimball
"Jesus Christ our Lord is under no obligation to save this world. The people have ignored him, disbelieved him, failed to follow him. They stand at his mercy which will be extended only if they repent. But to what extent have we repented? Another prophet said, 'We call evil good, and good evil.' Men have rationalized themselves into thinking that they are 'not so bad.' Are they fully ripe? Has the rot of age and flabbiness set in? Can they change? They see evil in their enemies, but none in themselves. Even in the true Church numerous of its people fail to attend their meetings, to tithe their incomes, to have their regular prayers, to keep all the commandments. We can transform, but will we? It seems that we would rather tax ourselves into slavery than to pay our tithes; rather build protections and walls than drop to our knees with our families in solemn prayers night and morning." (Conference Report, Oct. 1, 1961, p.31)
2 Ne 15:21 Wo unto the wise in their own eyes
N. Eldon Tanner
"[when people] become learned in the worldly things such as science and philosophy, [they] become self-sufficient and are prepared to lean unto their own understanding, even to the point where they think they are independent of God; and because of their worldly learning they feel that if they cannot prove physically, mathematically, or scientifically that God lives, they can and should feel free to question and even to deny God and Jesus Christ. Then many of our professors begin to teach perverse things, to lead away disciples after them; and our youth whom we send to them for learning accept them as authority, and many are caused to lose their faith in God...
"How much wiser and better it is for man to accept the simple truths of the gospel and to accept as authority God, the Creator of the world, and his Son Jesus Christ, and to accept by faith those things which he cannot disprove and for which he cannot give a better explanation. He must be prepared to acknowledge that there are certain things-many, many things-that he cannot understand." (Conference Report, Oct. 1968, pp.48-9 as taken from the 1981 Old Testament Institute Manual)
2 Ne 15:23 Who justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness
"This recalls how the Gadianton robbers, when they finally got control of the government and the law courts, when 'they did obtain the sole management of the government,' at once turned 'their backs upon the poor and the meek' (Helaman 6:39), 'filling the judgment-seats' with their own people (Helaman 7:4), 'letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money.' (Helaman 7:5.) They 'justify the wicked for reward,' says Isaiah (5:23). (Old Testament and Related Studies, p. 228).
2 Ne 15:25 Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people
"Can God be angry? The Scriptures say he can. For instance, Num. 25:4; 32:14; Deut. 21:20, and many other passages. The question is similar to another: 'Can God hear?' Or 'see?' The Psalmist answers that query by propounding another: 'He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall he not correct?' (Psalm 94:9, 10) May we not continue and ask: 'He that made his children sensitive to the injustice and sufferings of fellow beings, shall he be immovable, himself as a cold marble statue?' That is unthinkable. The Scriptures speak not only of his wrath, but of his 'fierce wrath.' However, they also give us to understand that,
'His anger endureth but a moment,
But his favor all our life:
There may be weeping in the evening,
But in the morning there is joy.'
(Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, pp. 336-7)
2 Ne 15:25 their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets
During the destruction of Jerusalem ~ 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to the city, while the inhabitants languished with famine. Assured that the starving Jews would not be able to put up a fight, the Roman soldiers attacked the city.
"...when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 8:5)
2 Ne 15:26 he will lift up an ensign to the nations
The ensign spoken of means the gospel and new and everlasting covenant brought through the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This great message will be sent to the house of Israel in the last days,
'And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come' (2 Ne 25:17-8).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"CHURCH IS PROMISED ENSIGN TO WORLD. Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfilment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day.
"No event should have been heralded among the people with greater effectiveness and received with greater evidence of joy and satisfaction. The nations should have rejoiced and welcomed it with gladness of heart, for with it came the establishment of divine truth in the earth-the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation unto all who believe. The world had been without this gospel for many hundreds of years, ever since the great apostasy and turning away from the truth which had been established by the primitive Church.
"Following the raising of this ensign, the Lord sent forth his elders clothed with the priesthood and with power and authority, among the nations of the earth, bearing witness unto all peoples of the restoration of his Church, and calling upon the children of men to repent and receive the gospel; for now it was being preached in all the world as a witness before the end should come, that is, the end of the reign of wickedness and the establishment of the millennial reign of peace. The elders went forth as they were commanded, and are still preaching the gospel and gathering out from the nations the seed of Israel unto whom the promise was made." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 254-5)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Many ancient prophecies foretold that in the last days the Lord would set up an ensign to the nations, a standard to which Israel and the righteous of all nations might gather. (Isa. 5:26; 11:10-12; 18:3; 30:17-26; 31:9; 49:22; 62:10; Zech. 9:16.) This ensign is the new and everlasting covenant, the gospel of salvation (D. & C. 49:9); it is the great latter-day Zion (D. & C. 64:41-43); it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 228)
2 Ne 15:26-29 they shall come with speed swiftly
"Since there were no such things as trains and airplanes in that day, Isaiah could hardly have mentioned them by name, but he seems to have described them in unmistakable words. How better could 'their horses' hoofs be counted like flint, and their wheel like a whirlwind' than in the modern train? How better could 'Their roaring...be like a lion' than in the roar of the airplane? Trains and airplanes do not stop for night. Therefore, was not Isaiah justified in saying 'none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken'? With this manner of transportation the Lord can really 'hiss unto them from the end of the earth,' that 'they shall come with speed swiftly.' (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p. 236)
2 Ne 15:27 None shall slumber nor sleep
Consider the marvels of modern transportation. By plane, one can travel to almost anyplace on the earth in less than 24 hours. In Isaiah's day, before travelers retired, they would change into sleeping attire, which necessitated the loosening of 'the girdle of their loins' and the removal of their shoes by breaking the shoe latchet. Isaiah sees that travelers in the last days would never need to change into sleeping attire; rather, they could travel across the globe without needing any sleep.
"Isaiah saw many other things in connection with this gathering. He saw that the Lord would gather Israel quickly and with speed, that they would not even have time to loosen the shoe latchets of their shoes, or to slumber or sleep. (See Isa. 5:27) Imagine a statement like that way back in the days of Isaiah, thousands of years ago, with their means of transportation at that time!" (Ensign, Nov. 1975, 50 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 116)
2 Ne 15:30 they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea
This verse is not easy to understand as it is written. If we paraphrase this verse, and take some liberties based on other scriptures, the meaning is more clear, "And in that day when Zion is established in great power and glory they (the inhabitants of Zion) shall roar against them (their enemies) like the roaring of the sea; and if they (their enemies) look unto their own land, behold, darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof. But if they look unto the land of Zion, behold, great light and joy, and the saints are protected by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night." (See DC 45:70, Moses 7:17, 61, 2 Ne. 14:5)