Lesson 120

Isaiah 17–23

“Lesson 120: Isaiah 17–23,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

Isaiah prophesied that the Israelites would be scattered because they had forgotten God. He also prophesied of the ensign raised up in the beginning of the last dispensation—the Restoration and establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and of the Church’s role in gathering scattered Israel from many nations. Additionally, Isaiah testified of the future Davidic king, even the Messiah, and taught about Jesus Christ’s power to deliver the oppressed and about the universal nature of the Atonement.

Suggestions for Teaching

Isaiah 17–18

Isaiah prophesies of the scattering and the latter-day gathering of Israel

Before class, write the following question on the board:

What are some situations in which people might trust in their own strength and wisdom rather than trusting God’s way?

Begin class by inviting students to respond to the question on the board. (Students may give a variety of answers. Possible answers may include purposely putting themselves in a tempting situation but believing they are strong enough to handle it, or thinking that some of the counsel in the For the Strength of the Youth booklet does not apply to them.)

  • Why do some people trust in their own strength and wisdom rather than trusting God’s way? What are the consequences of not trusting in God?

Explain that in today’s lesson they will study a group of people in Isaiah’s day who trusted in their own strength instead of relying on God. Encourage them to look for the consequences of that decision.

Summarize Isaiah 17 by explaining that it was a message of doom for Damascus, the capital city of Syria, and for the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Isaiah prophesied that these two nations would be conquered and scattered by the Assyrian army (see also Isaiah 10:5–6). Isaiah also prophesied that the Lord would rebuke and destroy the Assyrians and the other nations who oppressed Israel.

Explain that Isaiah then prophesied of a future time when several nations would turn to the Lord. Write the following words on the board: land, ambassadors, messengers, ensign, trumpet. Invite a student to read Isaiah 18:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Isaiah used these words to teach about the future.

  • According to verse 1, where is “the land” Isaiah was prophesying about?

Point out the word woe in verse 1. Explain that in this context, rather than referring to suffering or affliction, the word woe may be a greeting (see footnote a). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that one possible interpretation of the phrase “the land shadowing with wings” in Isaiah 18:1 is that it refers to the Americas (see The Signs of the Times [1952], 51).

  • How can each of the words listed on the board relate to the restored Church? (The land can refer to the Americas, where the Restoration of the Church began. Ambassadors and messengers can refer to Apostles and missionaries, who travel all over the world to spread the gospel. An ensign is a flag or banner around which armies gather for battle, and a trumpet can be used to call people together, so both an ensign and a trumpet can symbolize the latter-day call to gather to the restored Church of Jesus Christ.)

Summarize Isaiah 18:4–6 by explaining that the Lord used the imagery of a vineyard to describe the destruction of the wicked and the gathering of the righteous in the latter days.

Invite a student to read Isaiah 18:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the people will bring to the Lord.

  • What will the people bring to the Lord? (A “present.”)

  • What kind of present do you think would be most meaningful to give to the Lord?

Isaiah 19–21

Isaiah prophesies Egypt’s destruction and future conversion and the destruction of other nations

Summarize Isaiah 19 by explaining that Isaiah prophesied that because of Egypt’s idol worship and evil practices the Lord would smite Egypt. However, Isaiah also prophesied that the Egyptians would eventually recognize their need for the Lord and turn to Him.

Summarize Isaiah 20–21 by explaining that Isaiah prophesied that other wicked nations would be destroyed.

Isaiah 22–23

Isaiah prophesies that Jerusalem will be attacked and scourged by Babylon

Remind students that Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be spared from the Assyrian army (see 2 Kings 19:32–35). However, in Isaiah 22:1–7 we read that Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would not be spared when the Babylonian army attacked more than a century later.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Isaiah 22:8–11. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the people in Jerusalem thought they could depend on for protection from the Babylonian army.

  • What did the people think they could depend on for protection from the Babylonian army? (Their supply of weapons; the fortifications that strengthened the city wall; and Hezekiah’s tunnel, which diverted water into the city from a spring outside the city wall.)

Explain that the people trusted that these preparations would save them because these were the same preparations that had been made when Jerusalem had been miraculously spared from the Assyrian army during the reign of Hezekiah.

  • According to verse 11, what was the problem with the people relying on these preparations to save them?

Invite a student to read Isaiah 22:12–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord called for the people in Jerusalem to do and how they responded.

  • According to verse 12, what did the Lord call for the people in Jerusalem to do? (He “[called] for repentance” [see footnote a].)

  • According to verse 13, how did the people respond to the call to repent? (“They went on with revelry as usual” [see footnote a].)

Explain that the expression “let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die” (verse 13) refers to a belief that people are entitled to seek pleasure and commit sin without being concerned about the consequences of their actions. These people either did not believe in God or believed that He would not punish them for their sins (see also 2 Nephi 28:7–9).

  • What can this prophecy teach us about the dangers of trusting in our own strength instead of trusting in God? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but make sure they identify the following truth: Trusting in our own strength instead of trusting in God can lead us into sin and ultimately to destruction.)

  • Why do you think trusting in our own strength instead of trusting in God can lead us to commit sin?

  • Why do you think Satan is successful in promoting the idea that people are entitled to seek pleasure and commit sin without being concerned about the consequences of their actions?

Write the names Shebna and Eliakim on the board.

Summarize Isaiah 22:15–25 by explaining that Isaiah told a story about Shebna, the keeper of the treasury of Jerusalem. Shebna was prideful about Jerusalem’s wealth. Isaiah prophesied that Assyria would take Shebna and many of Jerusalem’s treasures into captivity. Write the words prideful and loved riches under the name Shebna on the board.

Explain that Isaiah prophesied that a man named Eliakim, which means “God shall cause to arise” (see verse 20, footnote a), would replace Shebna. Eliakim was a person who loved and obeyed the Lord. Write the words obedient and loved God under the name Eliakim on the board.

  • What do you think Isaiah was trying to teach with this story?

Explain that there is important symbolism in this story. Only by replacing the love of treasures with the love of God could Jerusalem and its people be redeemed. Likewise, we can be saved only if we abandon the things of the world and follow the Savior.

Explain that the name Eliakim has symbolic meaning because it points to Jesus Christ and the Atonement. Invite a student to read Isaiah 22:21–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Isaiah prophesied about Eliakim that points us to Jesus Christ and the Atonement.

  • What did Isaiah prophesy about Eliakim that points us to Jesus Christ and the Atonement? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but make sure they identify the following truth: Jesus Christ holds the key of the house of David and the keys of salvation for all mankind. You may need to explain that the phrase “the key of the house of David” [verse 22] symbolizes the right to rule, which can be obtained only through the holy priesthood of God. Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood and has power to “shut” and to “open” [verse 22], that is, to bind or loose, and no one can override that power.)

  • Why is it important to understand that we must rely on Jesus Christ for our salvation? How does knowing that Jesus Christ holds the keys to our salvation affect how you feel about Him?

Summarize Isaiah 23 by explaining that Isaiah prophesied that the coastal city of Tyre, located in modern-day Lebanon, would also be destroyed.

Commentary and Background Information

Isaiah 18:7. “In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord”

“The Saints are so determined to offer to the Lord a worthy gift of gathered Israel that, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, they ‘have labored without pay, to instruct the United States [and now the world] that the gathering had commenced in the western boundaries of Missouri, to build a holy city, where, as may be seen in the eighteenth chapter of Isaiah, the present should “be brought unto the Lord of Hosts.”’ (History of the Church, 2:132.) Mount Zion is identified in modern revelation as the New Jerusalem (see D&C 84:2). Thus, once the Church is restored and Ephraim begins the work of gathering Israel from their scattered and peeled condition … , they can present a restored house of Jacob to the Lord as a gift that will delight Him.

“The Jerusalem Bible renders the phrase in Isaiah 18, ‘a people terrible from their beginning,’ as ‘the nation always feared’; and it renders the phrase ‘whose land the rivers have spoiled’ as ‘the country criss-crossed with rivers.’ These passages seem to refer to America, where the Restoration was to take place” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 156–57).

Isaiah 22:10–11. “The houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. … Ye made also a ditch between the two walls”

The phrase “the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall” (Isaiah 22:10) refers to the houses that were destroyed to fortify the walls of the city during Hezekiah’s time.

The phrase “a ditch between the two walls” in verse 11 refers to Hezekiah’s tunnel (see 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:3–4). The people were proud of themselves for the engineering feat of diverting water into the city, but they did not even think about the Lord, who had created the spring from which the water came. One interpretation of verse 11 is that some of the people mistakenly assumed that the tunnel and other earlier physical preparations, not the Lord’s power, had saved Judah from the invading Assyrians. Thus, when the Babylonians attacked, they trusted that these preparations would save them once again. Isaiah taught the people that unless they trusted in the Lord these preparations would not save them.

Isaiah 22:22–25. “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place”

“Isaiah made a symbol of Shebna’s replacement, Eliakim. His name means ‘God shall cause to arise,’ anticipating the Savior, who holds the ‘key of the house of David’ but was fastened ‘as a nail in a sure place’ until the burden of the Atonement was complete. Upon Him rests ‘all the glory of his father’s house.’ Isaiah recommended depending on Him for everlasting security (Isa. 22:20–25 and fn.)” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament [1993], 517–18).

“The ‘nail in a sure place’ (Isaiah 22:23) is messianic and symbolizes the terrible reality of the cross, though only a part of the total suffering of the Lord that caused Him to ‘tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit’ (D&C 19:18). Just as the nail of the cross that was driven in the sure place secured the body of the one being crucified, so the Savior Himself is, to all who will, a nail in a sure place, for He has given them power so that none need be lost (see John 17:12). As Christ brings the redeemed to the Father, the glory becomes His own, and the redeemed and their offspring will become part of the family of heaven under the throne of Christ (see D&C 19:2; Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:27–28; Philippians 2:5–113:21)” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 159).