The prophet Jeremiah lived through one of the most troubled periods of history in the ancient Near East. He witnessed the fall of a great empire (Assyria) and the rising of another (Babylon). In the midst of this turmoil the kingdom of Judah was ruled by five kings, four of them deplorable. Jeremiah declared God’s message for forty years, warning of coming disaster and appealing in vain to the nation to turn back to God.
During Manasseh’s long reign (687–642 B.C.), which was just before Jeremiah’s time, Judah remained Assyria’s vassal. This situation brought a resurgence of idolatry, in this case a mixture of belief in the Mesopotamian astrological gods and belief in the Canaanite fertility deities. As has been discussed, a great reformation was conducted by Josiah when the book of the law was discovered in the temple and its contents were made known to the people. Aside from this brief period of reform, Judah became increasingly insensitive to spiritual things during Jeremiah’s time.
The Lord showed Jeremiah a vision of the future that put the calamities he had witnessed into a perspective of hope. Like other prophets of his time (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zechariah), Jeremiah was shown that scattered Israel would one day be gathered, that Judah would return to the lands of her possession, and that eventually all of Israel would become great. These visions and prophecies were recorded by Jeremiah and for centuries have provided hope to a nation of suffering people. They hold a very important place in the latter-day work of restoration.
Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 23; 30–31; 33; 46–51
(25-2) Jeremiah 23. Who Were the Evil Pastors?
Chapter 23 is primarily a scathing denunciation of the religious leaders of Jeremiah’s day, but in the midst of this condemnation is a remarkable prophecy relating to Israel’s future. A great gathering is predicted (vv. 3–4, 7–8) in which the “righteous Branch” (the Messiah) will become the king over Israel (vv. 5–6; see also Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 23:3; 23:4–8). Jeremiah showed that the pastors (religious leaders) of Judah had not fed and protected the sheep (Israel), but had scattered them and driven them away (enticed them away from God). That is why Jeremiah prophesied that sometime in the future righteous shepherds will be found to gather Israel again so they can serve their true king, Jehovah.
The rest of Jeremiah 23is a catalog of the sins of the Jewish religious leaders, the priests and the “prophets.” The following phrases are particularly noteworthy:
Both prophets and priests are profane (see v. 11).
They prophesied in the name of Baal and led the people into error (see v. 13).
The prophets are adulterers, liars, and supporters of evil men. They are as evil as Sodom and Gomorrah in God’s sight (see v. 14).
They speak their own words, not those of the Lord (see v. 16).
They tell the wicked they can have peace and that there is no evil in what they are doing (see v. 17).
They called themselves to the ministry and prophesy without revelation (see v. 21).
They say “Thus saith the Lord” when the Lord has not spoken through them (v. 31).
(25-3) Jeremiah 23:3. A Latter-day Gathering Promised
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that the gathering of Israel first of all means that they are converted to the Church:
“The gathering of Israel consists of receiving the truth, gaining again a true knowledge of the Redeemer, and coming back into the true fold of the Good Shepherd. In the language of the Book of Mormon, it consists of being ‘restored to the true church and fold of God,’ and then being ‘gathered’ and ‘established’ in various ‘lands of promise.’ (2 Ne. 9:2.)” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 117.)
Speaking of the great latter-day restoration of the house of Israel, President Spencer W. Kimball said:
“A great group of people left the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel.
“Another great group left the Old World [in] 600 B.C. And since the coming of Columbus to America, there have been numerous groups that have come to America from the Old World. The Lord had that in hand and watched it. He said through Nephi, ‘The house of Israel [sooner or later will] be scattered upon all the face of the earth.’ (1 Nephi 22:3.) And now He says, ‘I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them.’ (Jeremiah 23:3.)
“The gathering of Israel is now in progress. Hundreds of thousands of people have been baptized into the Church. Millions more will join the Church. And this is the way that we will gather Israel. The English people will gather in England. The Japanese people will gather in the Orient. The Brazilian people will gather in Brazil. So that important element of the world history is already being accomplished.
“It is to be done by missionary work. It is your responsibility to attend to this missionary work.” (In Conference Report, Sao Paulo Brazil Area Conference, Feb.–Mar. 1975, p. 73.)
Once one understands that the great gathering of the last days consists first of all in coming into the covenant (joining the Church), then the Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of the house of Israel become much clearer. For example, the “shepherds … which shall feed them” (v. 4) are the righteous prophets and priesthood leaders who, unlike the priests and prophets of Jeremiah’s time, lead their people to do good and obey the Lord. (See Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 30:3, 8.)
(25-4) Jeremiah 23:4–8. Who Is the Branch of David?
The “Branch” and the “new David” are explained in Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:1. The Branch and the King are the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns to earth to reign as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14; see also Revelation 19:16).
(25-5) Jeremiah 30:3, 8. In the Last Days the Lord Will Gather Israel
Chapters 30–33 deal with the prophet’s predictions of the restoration of Israel and Judah in the last days and of the Lord’s making a new and everlasting covenant with them. They have great meaning for Latter-day Saints and should be studied carefully.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson spoke of the latter-day gathering as having “three phases: the gathering of Israel to the land of Zion, the American hemisphere; the return of the Ten Tribes from the countries of the north; and the reestablishment of the Jews in Palestine as God’s chosen people.
“This miracle of the return of the Jews was to be one of the events to precede Christ’s second coming, and the scriptures are very clear with reference to this fact. Isaiah said that they shall gather ‘the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ and ‘set them in their own land,’ that they will ‘build the old waste,’ and ‘repair the waste cities.’ (see Isa. 11:11–12.)
“Jeremiah, who predicted so clearly their dispersion, also states that the Lord will ‘cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it,’ and ‘build them, as at the first.’ (Jer. 30:3; 33:7.)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1950, p. 75.)
Jeremiah 30:3has several meanings. It refers to the return of the Jews after seventy years of captivity in Babylon. It also refers to the restoration of the Jews to their homeland in the last days after they have been scattered for the second time. And it refers to the return of the lost tribes from the lands of the north. Note that the Lord will bring them.
(25-6) Jeremiah 30:9. Latter-day David, King of Israel
Once again there is a mention of the latter-day David who will be King in Israel. Sometimes He is called “the Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15) because Jesus, who is the King David of the latter days, is a branch of the ancient line of King David. (see Matthew 1:1; 12:23; 22:42; see also Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:1.)
(25-7) Jeremiah 30:11–24. “In the Latter Days Ye Shall Fully Understand”
It is the Lord Jesus Christ who saves. He is Israel’s Savior and Redeemer. He does not, however, ignore the sins of His people (see v. 11). The “lovers” who forgot Israel were the false gods that Jehovah’s unfaithful wife, Israel, sought after. No one came to the rescue but the Lord, who has always loved Israel and who promised: “They [the Chaldeans] that devour thee shall be devoured” (by the Medes and Persians). The Assyrians were destroyed by the Babylonians; the Babylonians by the Medes and Persians; the Egyptians and Persians by the Greeks. All these empires have now vanished, but the Jews still exist as a distinct people. In the latter days Israel will be the Lord’s people, and He will be their God as He desired in the beginning. The Lord promised Israel: “In the latter days ye shall consider [or fully understand] it.” Only now, in the last days, as these promises are realized, can one fully understand what Jeremiah and the other prophets were saying.
(25-8) Jeremiah 31:6–9. The Lord Himself Will Gather Scattered Israel
The watchmen mentioned in verse 6 are the righteous prophets of the latter days (see also Ezekiel 3:16–21). In the last dispensation they will cry to all people to join together in proper worship of the Lord (see D&C 1:1–2). Verse 8 speaks of gathered Israel coming from the north country (see D&C 110:11; 133:26) and from the coasts (ends) of the earth.
Elder LeGrand Richards said of this gathering: “‘I will bring them … : a great company shall return thither.’ This was something the Lord was going to do. Note that Jeremiah does not say that they will return hither, or to the place where this prediction was made, but thither, or to a distant place. He understood that Joseph was to be given a new land in the ‘utmost bound of the everlasting hills.’ (see Genesis 49:22–26; Deuteronomy 33:13–17.)” (Israel! Do You Know? pp. 177–78.)
Verse 9 refers to Israel returning with weeping. They will weep because they will realize that the sufferings they have endured throughout the centuries came about because they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall lead them in the last days (see Jeremiah 50:4; Zechariah 12:10).
(25-9) Jeremiah 31:10–14. “They Shall Not Sorrow Any More at All”
These verses picture the great joy and happiness that will accompany the return of Israel. The promises of great abundance (see v. 12) and rejoicing (see v. 13) and the end of sorrow (see vv. 15–16) are exactly opposite to the promises given in other chapters of tragedy, desolation, and lamentation for Judah. Though Judah did not heed Jeremiah’s warning and his dire predictions came to pass, the hope of a brighter day was clearly given here.
While the ultimate fulfillment of these verses is yet in the future, Elder LeGrand Richards saw a parallel between verses 7–14 and the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints left Nauvoo with weeping and with supplications. They did not leave their beautiful homes because they wanted to. He saw the rivers of waters they walked by in a straight way as being the North Platte River, by which they traveled about six hundred miles. Singing in the height of Zion refers to the Tabernacle Choir, according to Elder Richards. Their mourning being turned into joy (see v. 13) refers to the Saints finding joy with one another in dancing and other activities as well as in testimony meetings.
“While the members of the Priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not paid for their services, and thousands of them have left their families for years at a time to do missionary work in the nations of the earth, paying their own expenses and without remuneration from the Church, yet, in their hearts, they feel they are better paid than any other religious leaders in the world, because of the joy and satisfaction the Lord plants in their hearts, which could not possibly be purchased with money. Thus He has satiated ‘the soul of the priests with fatness,’ and His people are satisfied with His goodness.” (Richards, Israel! Do You Know? pp. 179–80; see also pp. 177–79.)
(25-10) Jeremiah 31:15–17. Rachel Weeping for Her Children
Rachel, the beloved spouse of Jacob, earnestly desired children. She is here depicted as bitterly weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because she had none, for they had been taken captive.
“The lamentation of Rachel is heard at Ramah, as the most loftily situated border-town of the two kingdoms, whence the wailing that had arisen sounded far and near, and could be heard in Judah. … The destruction of the people of Israel by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is a type of the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem [as cited by Matthew in his gospel (Matthew 2:18)], in so far as the sin which brought the children of Israel into exile laid a foundation for the fact that Herod the Idumean became king over the Jews, and wished to destroy the true King and Saviour of Israel that he might strengthen his own dominion.” (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 8:2:25–26.)
(25-11) Jeremiah 31:22. What Is Meant by a “Woman Shall Compass a Man”?
Many times in Hebrew writing Israel is described as a woman and sometimes as a bride. The marriage relationship between the woman (Israel) and her husband (the Lord Jesus Christ) is used to depict a very tender, intimate association. The Lord used this relationship numerous times in the scriptures as an example of His commitment to care for, protect, and bless His covenant people.
“In the verse now before us, [the Hebrew word translated as ‘compass’] signifies to encompass with love and care, to surround lovingly and carefully,— the natural and fitting dealing on the part of the stronger to the weak and those who need assistance. And the new thing that God creates consists in this, that the woman, the weaker nature that needs help, will lovingly and solicitously surround the man, the stronger. Herein is expressed a new relation of Israel to the Lord, a reference to a new covenant which the Lord, ver. 31ff., will conclude with His people, and in which He deals so condescendingly towards them that they can lovingly embrace Him. This is the substance of the Messianic meaning in the words.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 8:2:30.)
(25-12) Jeremiah 31:29–30. “The Fathers Have Eaten a Sour Grape, and the Children’s Teeth Are Set on Edge”
This proverb conveyed the idea that children are affected by what their parents are and do. Apparently the Jews had erroneously set a stigma on the children of known sinners, overlooking the qualifying statement in Exodus 20:5–6. In this chapter, Jeremiah set the Jews straight (see also Ezekiel 18:1–4). Nothing in Exodus 20:5–6justifies saying that, in a final sense, children are punished for their parents’ sins. Nevertheless, as the following statement shows, children may suffer the consequences of parental sins:
“There is the man who resisted release from positions in the Church. He knew positions were temporary trusts, but he criticized the presiding leader who had released him, complaining that proper recognition had not be given; the time had not been propitious; it had been a reflection upon his effectiveness. He bitterly built up a case for himself, absented himself from his meetings, and justified himself in his resultant estrangement. His children partook of his frustrations, and his children’s children. In later life he ‘came to himself,’ and on the brink of the grave made an about-face. His family would not effect the transformation which now he would give his life to have them make. How selfish! Haughty pride induces eating sour grapes, and innocent ones have their teeth set on edge. ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’
“When I was a child, we used the expression, ‘He cut off his nose to spite his face.’ To us, that meant that one was fighting against fate, rebelling against the inevitable, damaging himself to spite others, breaking his toe to give vent to his senseless anger.
“Eight lovely children had blessed the temple marriage of a man and woman who in later years were denied a temple recommend. They would not be so dealt with by this young bishop. Why should they be deprived and humiliated? Were they less worthy than others? They argued that this boy-bishop was too strict, too orthodox. Never would they be active, nor enter the door of that Church as long as that bishop presided. They would show him. The history of this family is tragic. The four younger ones were never baptized; the four older ones never were ordained, endowed, nor sealed. No missions were filled by this family. Today the parents are ill at ease, still defiant. They had covered themselves with a cloud, and righteous prayers could not pass through. (see Lam. 3:44.)
“Sour grapes! Such unhappy food!” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1955, p. 95.)
(25-13) Jeremiah 31:31–34. The Restoration of the Gospel
Verses 31–34 deal with the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the day when God’s covenant will truly be established with His people. Joseph Smith said of that day: “The time has at last arrived when the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has set His hand again the second time to recover the remnants of his people, … and establish that covenant with them, which was promised when their sins should be taken away. [see Isaiah 11; Romans 11:25–27; Jeremiah 31:31–33.] This covenant has never been established with the house of Israel, nor with the house of Judah, for it requires two parties to make a covenant, and those two parties must be agreed, or no covenant can be made.
“Christ, in the days of His flesh, proposed to make a covenant with them, but they rejected Him and His proposals, and in consequence thereof, they were broken off, and no covenant was made with them at that time. But their unbelief has not rendered the promise of God of none effect: no, for there was another day limited in David, which was the day of His power; and then His people, Israel, should be a willing people;—and He would write His law in their hearts, and print it in their thoughts; their sins and their iniquities He would remember no more.
“Thus after this chosen family had rejected Christ and His proposals, the heralds of salvation said to them, ‘Lo, we turn unto the Gentiles;’ and the Gentiles received the covenant, and were grafted in from whence the chosen family were broken off; but the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God, but have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the Saints, and have broken the covenant in which their fathers were established [see Isaiah 24:5]. …
“And now what remains to be done, under circumstances like these? I will proceed to tell you what the Lord requires of all people, high and low, rich and poor, male and female, ministers and people, professors of religion and non-professors, in order that they may enjoy the Holy Spirit of God to a fulness and escape the judgments of God, which are almost ready to burst upon the nations of the earth. Repent of all your sins, and be baptized in water for the remission of them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinance of the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, that ye may receive the Holy Spirit of God; and this is according to the Holy Scriptures, and the Book of Mormon; and the only way that man can enter into the celestial kingdom. These are the requirements of the new covenant.” (History of the Church, 1:313–14.)
(25-14) Jeremiah 31:34. All Shall Know the Lord
President Joseph Fielding Smith, speaking of this prophetic promise, said: “The Lord has promised that the time shall come when every man shall be his own teacher, that is, he will know because of righteous living what to do. He will be so filled with the Spirit of the Lord that he will be guided and directed in doing right without the necessity of someone coming into his home to set it in order. Now is a good time for us to begin.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:319.)
(25-15) Jeremiah 31:36. A Warning to Israel
The Lord, who has worked so long and hard to establish His righteous people, said that if those saving and exalting priesthood ordinances cease to exist, then Israel also will cease to exist—forever. This statement surely indicates the importance of ordinances in the Lord’s plan.
(25-16) Jeremiah 33:3–14. Prophecy of the Latter Days
The Lord knows all things, including the future. Prophecy is future history, that is, history in reverse. In Jeremiah 33:3–14the Lord again spoke of the restoration of Israel and Judah in the latter days. Notice the language He used to describe the process:
“I will cure them … I will cleanse them … I will pardon all their iniquities” (vv. 6, 8).
In the latter days even the desolate land will be restored to its former condition (see v. 12). The cities that were once desolate will again be full of people and their bounteous flocks (“to tell” means “to count”) (see v. 13). In the latter days the Lord will perform all that He has promised to the house of Israel and the house of Judah (see v. 14).
(25-17) Jeremiah 33:15–16. The Branch of David
“The Branch of righteousness” that will “grow up unto David” and “execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (v. 15) is Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5–6). When this millennial event occurs, the Jews will dwell safely in Jerusalem.
The last part of verse 16 is not a particularly good translation since it implies that Jerusalem herself will be called “the Lord our righteousness.” According to Adam Clarke it should read: “And this one who shall call to her is the Lord our Justification,” that is, Jesus Christ Himself, the Branch of David (The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:344).
(25-18) Jeremiah 33:17–26. Becoming Sons and Daughters of Christ
The seed of David are those who repent of their sins, accept the ordinances of the gospel, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and follow the new David, Jesus Christ. King Benjamin explained this concept to his people, after they had signified their willingness to covenant with God to do His will and be obedient to His commandments (see Mosiah 5:7).
Abinadi also explained what it meant to see the seed of Christ (see Mosiah 15:11–13).
(25-19) Jeremiah 46. The Conquest of Egypt by Babylon: Israel to Be Saved
The “brigandines” in verse 4 were a coat of mail or armor, usually made of overlapping metal scales like the scales of a fish. The “day of the Lord” (v. 10) refers to the Second Coming (see Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18). It will be a “day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries” (v. 10). Verses 14 and 25 mention Egyptian cities. No is a name for Jupiter’s city, or Thebes. Egypt is described as a fair heifer, but destruction would come to her from the north (Babylon) (see v. 20). Amidst all this turmoil, however, Israel was promised that the Lord would save her and her seed and that she would return, for the Lord Himself would be with her. The last two verses are the only ones in chapter 46 that were not fulfilled in Jeremiah’s time or shortly thereafter.
(25-20) Jeremiah 47. The Destruction of the Philistines Foretold
The “waters” that “rise up out of the north” (v. 2) refers to a multitude of people coming from Chaldea. The stamping of hoofs, the rushing of chariots, and the rumbling of wheels describe a war. The destruction is attributed to the Lord, who allows wicked nations to do such things against those who have become ripe in iniquity.
(25-21) Jeremiah 48. Moab Is Destroyed for Contempt of God
Moab was doomed to destruction, and the Lord pronounced a curse upon her enemies if they did not proceed to destroy her. God is the author of life and has the right to give and take it. These people had forfeited their lives by their idolatry and other crimes. The wrath of God is seen in verse 35 where He pronounces doom on those who deceive the people in attempting to practice their idolatry in the holy places. Verse 42 predicts that Moab will be destroyed as a people. The implication is not that all the Moabites would be destroyed, but that their identity as a people would cease. This prophecy was fulfilled literally, even though people continued to live in the land of Moab. They were taken captive by the Chaldeans and never afterward resumed their status as a nation. Verse 47 promises that the Lord will “bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days.” This passage could mean the conversion of the remnants of these people to the gospel in the last days.
(25-22) Jeremiah 49. Destruction to the Ammonites, Edom, Kadar, Hazor, and Elam
It is believed that this prophecy was given after the capture of Jerusalem. The Ammonites had taken advantage of the depressed condition of Israel and invaded their territories, hoping to make them their own. Jeremiah intimated that God would preserve the descendants of Israel and bring them home again one day to their inheritances (see v. 2). The promise to the Ammonites (v. 6) was fulfilled when they returned with the Moabites and Israelites with permission given the edict of Cyrus.
The Lord said He had made Edom bare (see vv. 7–22), meaning He had uncovered all her hiding places and made them known to her enemies. The widows and orphans of Esau would be cared for by the Lord, who is the best of husbands to the one and the most loving father to the other.
Verse 39 speaks of the Lord’s bringing again the captivity of Elam in the latter days. Again, it is supposed that this passage means their conversion, as with the Moabites.
(25-23) Jeremiah 50. Babylon to Be Destroyed Forever
Scattered Israel will be brought again into the lands of their inheritance. They shall seek the Lord and join with Him in a perpetual covenant which cannot be broken. The “assembly of great nations from the north country” (v. 9) is discussed by Clarke: “The army of Cyrus was composed of Medes, Persians, Armenians, Caducians, Sacae, &c. Though all these did not come from the north; yet they were arranged under the Medes, who did come from the north, in reference to Babylon.” (Commentary, 4:383.)
By these captors Israel would be “scattered as sheep” (v. 17), and the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, would be punished. In the future, however, Israel will be brought again to their lands of inheritance (see v. 19) and will be forgiven (see v. 20). They will be led by the Lord Jesus Christ (see v. 34). He is the advocate with the Father (see D&C 29:5) and pleads our cause before Him.
Verses 41–46 describe the destruction of Babylon, which was a wonder to all the surrounding nations, because they thought Babylon was impregnable. Here Babylon is seen not only as a national power but as the symbol of worldliness and spiritual wickedness. (Compare D&C 133:14.)
(25-24) Jeremiah 51. The Lord Destroyed Babylon
This chapter is a continuation of the prophecy in chapter 50. “A destroying wind” (v. 1) is the east wind because it is hot and dry from the desert and carries with it particles of sand that do much damage. The metaphor here is used to mean the power of the Lord in destroying Babylon. With reference to the fanners (see v. 2), Clarke said: “When the corn is trodden out with the feet of cattle, or crushed out with a heavy wheel armed with iron, with a shovel they throw it up against the wind, that the chaff and broken straw may be separated from it. This is the image used by the prophet; these people shall be trodden, crushed, and fanned by their enemies.” (Commentary, 4:387.)
In all this, Israel was promised that she had not been forgotten (see v. 5) and that she would be redeemed. Because Babylon is also a symbol of the world, a charge was given Israel to flee from her wickedness and to be responsible for saving their own souls (see v. 6). God would have healed them, as He would all His children, before their destruction, but sometimes, like Babylon, they resist turning to the Lord and therefore are not healed (see v. 9).
Jeremiah 50–51was written and sent to Babylon in the days of Zedekiah (see Jeremiah 51:59–64). They are difficult to interpret unless two principles of Hebrew prophecy are accepted: the dual nature of many prophecies, and the recurring use of archetypes and metaphors.
The dualism of these chapters is evident, for some verses refer specifically to the destruction of the Babylon of that day by nations from the north, and yet, the destruction of Babylon is associated again and again (see Jeremiah 50:4–5, 19, 20, 33–34) with events that will not occur until the time of the gathering and restoration of Israel and Judah. For example, Israel did not participate in the return from Babylon, but Israel and Judah will be restored together in the last days.
Jeremiah predicted the downfall not only of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon but of spiritual Babylon as well. His vision swept across the centuries from 600 B.C. to beyond A.D. 2000. And the downfall anciently of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was a prototype of the future downfall of “Babylon the Great” (see Revelation 18–19).
Notes and Commentary on Obadiah
(25-25) Who Was Obadiah?
Obadiah was a seer who was privileged to see in vision the salvation of Israel and other important events of the latter days. His book is the shortest of those of the prophets and, indeed, of all the books of the Old Testament. Nothing more is known about him than what is in the book. A man named Obadiah protected the Lord’s prophets during Ahab’s reign (see 1 Kings 18), but it is not likely he was the author of this book. The book of Obadiah is included with Jeremiah’s writings because he prophesied of the destruction of Edom in ways similar to Jeremiah.
(25-26) Obadiah 1:1. What and Where Was Edom?
Edom is another name for Esau, Jacob’s brother. The Greek form of the word Edom is Idumea. Those who settled in Edom were close kin to the residents of Judah. Sidney B. Sperry said: “The history of the relations between Israel and Edom is from the beginning fraught with envy and hate. In Gen. 36:1we have the following statement: ‘Now these are the generations of Esau—the same is Edom.’ This recalls to us the struggle for supremacy from birth, or even before, of Esau and his younger brother Jacob (Israel). … Esau sold his birthright to his brother for a mess of pottage and finally the holy patriarchal inheritance also. Esau, it will be recalled, married among the Canaanites, which fact was a great trial to his parents.” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 318–19.)
Because of their wickedness and lasting hatred for Israel, Edom, like Babylon, became a symbol of the world (see D&C 1:36).
(25-27) Obadiah 1:3–9. Edomites Lived in False Security
The world famous ruins of Petra, in modern Jordan, are remarkable. A whole city was carved out of rock cliffs. It could be entered only through a narrow gorge. From the high cliffs, the Edomites could protect themselves from invading enemies with great success. Petra, or Mount Seir, was in the land of Edom, and many scholars think it was the capital of Idumea. Though many of the ruins now visible at Petra date from a later period, they still give dramatic impact to Obadiah’s words.
(25-28) Obadiah 1:10–15. The Reasons for Edom’s Mighty Fall
These verses summarize the reasons for Edom’s mighty fall: the violence shown against their brother Jacob, and their rejoicing at the destruction of the children of Judah in “the day of distress” (v. 12). J. R. Dummelow believed that Edom’s destruction was partly due to their assisting Nebuchadnezzar during his siege and capture of Jerusalem (see A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 574).
(25-29) Obadiah 1:16–21. A Day of Deliverance and Rejoicing
These verses have both a temporal and a spiritual meaning for Latter-day Saints. If Esau (Edom) represents the worldly wicked, these verses may be seen as referring to that day when Israel will be completely restored and evil eliminated. Mount Zion, a symbol for deliverance and holiness (see v. 17), will be the inheritance of the “house of Jacob,” whereas the “house of Esau” will be stubble, fit only to be burned. The “house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame … and they shall kindle in them [Esau], and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau” (v. 18). Eventually, “saviors shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (v. 21).
Points to Ponder
(25-30) Prophecies Fulfilled
Leviticus 26and Deuteronomy 28have been referred to on numerous occasions in this manual and in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel [religion 301, 2003]. They are two of the most important chapters in all scripture because the whole history of Israel is foreshadowed in them. Some of the major calamities of the human race are explained in the doctrine revealed in these two chapters. President Kimball referred to Leviticus 26again and again as it pertains to our day (see Conference Report, Apr. 1977, pp. 5–6; Oct. 1977, p. 5). These two chapters give the conditions upon which Israel could remain in the promised land.
(25-31) Saviors on Mount Zion
In yet another example of prophetic dualism, Obadiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Edom or Idumea and the restoration of Israel refers also to the last days. Elder Theodore M. Burton spoke of the role we ourselves play as “saviors on Mount Zion” (see Obadiah 1:21). You may wish to write in your journal the things that are of particular worth to you.
“As revealed by the scriptures, one of the characteristics of these last days is the appearance of saviors on the earth. This was prophesied in Old Testament times: [Obadiah 1:21].
“It was prophesied by Paul in New Testament times, referring to people who had lived on the earth in times of old: [Hebrews 11:39–40].
“It has also been prophesied of us who live today: [D&C 86:11].
“So the Lord himself has placed his seal of approval upon this work.
“A logical question then follows: For whom am I to be a savior? In section 127 of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 6, the Prophet Joseph Smith used these words: ‘for your dead.’ …
“Our dead, then, are clearly our own progenitors or direct ancestors, as Joseph Smith explained:
“‘But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations, and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah.’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Deseret Book, 1968], p. 330.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1972, pp. 47–48.)