Lesson 33

2 Nephi 17–20

“Lesson 33: 2 Nephi 17–20,” 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2017)


Introduction

In 2 Nephi 17–20, Nephi records an account of Isaiah trying to persuade the king of Judah and his people to trust in the Lord rather than in worldly alliances. Using types and shadows, Isaiah prophesied concerning events of his own day, the birth of Jesus Christ, and the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming of the Lord.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Nephi 17–18

The people of the kingdom of Judah fail to put their trust in Jesus Christ

Begin the lesson by inviting students to imagine a professional sports team playing a game against a local team (such as your students’ school team) of the same sport. Ask students to predict the score or outcome of this game.

  • What words describe the feelings that members of the local team might have if they competed against the professional team? (Write students’ responses on the board. These might include words such as overwhelmed, intimidated, discouraged, and fearful.)

Invite students to ponder experiences in their lives when they have felt overwhelmed, intimidated, or fearful.

As students study 2 Nephi 17–20 today, encourage them to look for truths that can help them when they are in situations that evoke these feelings.

To help students understand the content of these chapters, draw the accompanying images on the board.

Assyria diagram

To provide context for 2 Nephi 17–18, explain that the nations of Israel, Syria, and Judah were being threatened by the much stronger Assyrian Empire. If students have access to the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, it may be helpful to have them turn to map 1 (“Physical Map of the Holy Land”) and map 5 (“The Assyrian Empire”) in the Bible Maps section. These maps show the geographical areas referred to in these chapters. Consider displaying the following chart containing information about the three smaller nations (adapted from Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet [1982], 140). Refer to it as needed throughout the lesson.

Country

Judah

Syria

Israel

Capital city

Jerusalem

Damascus

Samaria

Territory or principal tribe

Judah

Aram

Ephraim

Leader

Ahaz (king), of the house of David

Rezin (king)

Pekah (king), son of Remaliah

Explain that during the prophet Isaiah’s ministry in the kingdom of Judah, the kings of Israel and Syria wanted King Ahaz of Judah to join them in an alliance against the powerful empire of Assyria. The Assyrian kings and soldiers were famous for their brutality, which included torturing and cruelly murdering the people they conquered. Assyria had already threatened Israel and Syria and was forcing them to pay tribute or face destruction. When King Ahaz refused to join the alliance against Assyria, Israel and Syria attacked Judah in order to place another ruler on Judah’s throne who would support the alliance against Assyria (see 2 Nephi 17:1, 6). Draw arrows on the diagram as follows to indicate who was planning to attack whom.

Assyria diagram with arrows

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words that indicate how Ahaz and the people of Judah felt as they considered the threats posed by Israel, Syria, and Assyria. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What do you think it means that Ahaz’s “heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind”? (Ahaz and his people were fearful and unsure about what to do after Israel and Syria had attacked them.)

  • If you had been the ruler of Judah, what do you think you would have done in this situation?

Explain that because Ahaz feared Israel and Syria, he considered forming an alliance with Assyria to protect his kingdom (see 2 Kings 16:7).

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 2 Nephi 17:3–8. Ask students to follow along, looking for the counsel the Lord told Isaiah to give to King Ahaz.

  • What counsel did the Lord tell Isaiah to give to King Ahaz? (You may need to explain that the phrase “smoking firebrands” [verse 4] refers to a burned-out torch, indicating that Israel and Syria had spent their strength. They would soon be crushed by Assyria and would no longer be a threat to Judah.)

  • If you had been in King Ahaz’s position, would you have obeyed Isaiah’s counsel? Why or why not?

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what would happen if Ahaz disregarded Isaiah’s counsel. Invite them to report what they find. (You may need to explain that in this context established means protected and allowed to prosper.)

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord invited Ahaz to do.

  • What did the Lord invite Ahaz to do?

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:13–16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the sign that the Lord would send to Ahaz.

  • What sign would the Lord send to Ahaz? (Explain that Isaiah’s prophecy indicated that the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would be broken up. This is also a prophecy of the Savior’s birth.)

Explain that the name Immanuel means “God with us” (Bible Dictionary, “Immanuel”). Consider inviting students to write the meaning of Immanuel next to 2 Nephi 17:14.

  • Why would it have been important for King Ahaz to humble himself and turn to the Lord during his nation’s crisis?

Summarize 2 Nephi 17:17–25 by explaining that King Ahaz (and many of the people of Judah) chose not to believe Isaiah and did not trust in the Lord for protection. Isaiah prophesied that the Assyrians and Egyptians would attack, capture, and enslave many people from the kingdom of Judah.

Point out that rather than trusting in the Lord’s protection, Ahaz plundered the temple treasury in Jerusalem and offered those resources to the Assyrians in an attempt to buy their protection and favor. However, the Assyrians attacked Judah anyway, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. (See 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Chronicles 28:21.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following summary of 2 Nephi 18:1–10:

In the days of King Hezekiah—the son of Ahaz—Isaiah compared the Assyrian army to a river that would symbolically flood the land of Judah and “reach even to the neck”—meaning the walls of Jerusalem (2 Nephi 18:8). This prophecy was fulfilled when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers came to attack Jerusalem, stopping at the walls of the city.

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 18:11–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord instructed Isaiah and the people of Judah to do during this crisis. (After verse 12 is read, explain that the word confederacy implies joining with other nations.)

  • In verse 13, what do you think it means to “sanctify the Lord … and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread”? (The people of Judah were to trust in the Lord and fear His power rather than fearing the power of their enemies.)

  • According to verse 14, what did the Lord promise to become as the people of Judah placed their trust in Him? (A sanctuary. You may need to help students understand that a sanctuary is a place of refuge, protection, and peace.)

Explain that King Hezekiah, unlike his father, Ahaz, chose to trust in the Lord and follow Isaiah’s counsel. As a result, the Lord defended the people in Jerusalem by sending an angel to destroy the attacking army. (See 2 Kings 19:32–35.)

  • What truths can we learn from the accounts we have studied in 2 Nephi 17–18 about the blessings that come from putting our trust in the Lord during times of difficulty? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we put our trust in the Lord during times of difficulty, He will help, protect, and be with us. Write this principle on the board.)

  • What are the dangers of putting our trust in worldly powers and influences rather than in the Lord?

  • When have you turned to God for strength when you were initially tempted to turn to other sources? How did God help you?

Consider sharing an experience in which you trusted in the Lord during a difficult time. Testify of how the Lord helped you.

Invite students to ponder any difficulties they are currently facing in their lives. Ask them to write in their class notebooks or study journals what they will do to place their trust in the Lord as they work through the difficulty they thought of.

Summarize 2 Nephi 18:15–22 by explaining that Isaiah admonished the house of Israel to look to the Lord rather than to false teachers for guidance.

2 Nephi 19–20

Isaiah proclaims the birth of Jesus Christ and describes the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming

Explain that there are several prophecies of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in 2 Nephi 17–18 that are further developed in 2 Nephi 19–20.

Invite a couple of students to read 2 Nephi 19:2, 6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional prophecies Isaiah gave about Jesus Christ.

  • What did Isaiah prophesy about Jesus Christ?

  • What truth can we learn from these verses about who Jesus Christ is? (Students may use different words but should identify the following truth: Jesus Christ is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. You might want to invite students to consider marking these phrases in verse 6.)

Summarize the remainder of 2 Nephi 19–20 by explaining that Isaiah prophesied of the punishments that would come upon Israel and Judah by Assyria’s hand. Isaiah warned Israel that destruction and captivity would soon come upon them, and he foretold a later attack on Judah.

Conclude by testifying of the truths students learned in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Nephi 19:6–7. “The government shall be upon his shoulder”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that though we often associate Isaiah’s prophecy in 2 Nephi 19:6–7 with the birth of Christ, it will also be fulfilled at the time of the Millennium:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“The fact that the government would eventually be upon his shoulders affirms what all the world will one day acknowledge—that he is Lord of lords and King of kings and will one day rule over the earth and his Church in person” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 80).

Elder Holland also explained the significance of the various titles applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in these verses:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“As ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ he will be our mediator, our intercessor, defending our cause in the courts of heaven. …

“Of course, as noted by Isaiah, Christ is not only a mediator but also a judge [see Mosiah 3:10; Moroni 10:34; Moses 6:57]. It is in that role of judge that we may find even greater meaning in Abinadi’s repeated expression that ‘God himself’ will come down to redeem his people [Mosiah 13:28; see also Mosiah 13:34; 15:1; Alma 42:15]. It is as if the judge in that great courtroom in heaven, unwilling to ask anyone but himself to bear the burdens of the guilty people standing in the dock, takes off his judicial robes and comes down to earth to bear their stripes personally. Christ as merciful judge is as beautiful and wonderful a concept as that of Christ as counselor, mediator, and advocate.

“‘Mighty God’ conveys something of the power of God, his strength, omnipotence, and unconquerable influence. Isaiah sees him as always able to overcome the effects of sin and transgression in his people and to triumph forever over the would-be oppressors of the children of Israel.

“‘Everlasting Father’ underscores the fundamental doctrine that Christ is a Father—Creator of worlds without number, the Father of restored physical life through the Resurrection, the Father of eternal life for his spiritually begotten sons and daughters, and the One acting for the Father (Elohim) through divine investiture of authority. All should seek to be born of him and become his sons and his daughters [see Mosiah 5:7].

“Lastly, with the phrase ‘Prince of Peace,’ we rejoice that when the King shall come, there will be no more war in the human heart or among the nations of the world. This is a peaceful king, the king of Salem, the city that would later become Jeru-Salem. Christ will bring peace to those who accept him in mortality in whatever era they live, and he will bring peace to all those in his millennial and postmillennial realms of glory” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 80–82).