Lesson 33: 2 Nephi 17–20

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012


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; 19:1–7

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

Begin class by asking students to list as many descriptive titles of Jesus Christ as they can. Write their responses on the board. Then invite them to read 2 Nephi 17:14. Add the title Immanuel to the list on the board, or circle it if it is already there. Invite students to find the meaning of this name in Matthew 1:23 or in the Bible Dictionary.

  • What is the meaning of the title Immanuel? (“God with us.”)

Point out that the ultimate significance of Isaiah’s prophecy about Immanuel is found in Matthew 1:18–25. Invite a student to read this passage aloud.

  • How was Isaiah’s prophecy about Immanuel fulfilled?

  • When have you seen the reality of the Lord as Immanuel, or “God with us,” in your life?

Explain that 2 Nephi 19:6–7 is one of the most well-known prophecies about the Savior. Read this passage aloud. Point out that this passage contains several titles for Jesus Christ. (If any of these titles are not already on the board, add them to the list.)

  • Which of these titles best describes how you feel about the Savior? Why?

Before you teach the rest of this lesson, give students some historical background for 2 Nephi 17–18. Explain that these chapters frequently refer to three small nations—Judah, Israel, and Syria—and their kings, as well as to the Assyrian Empire, which sought to conquer the three smaller nations. If students have access to the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, it may be helpful to have them turn to maps 1, 3, and 5, which show the geographical areas referred to in these chapters. You may also want to help students understand the context of these chapters by displaying the following chart (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

Write alliance on the board.

  • What is an alliance? (Possible answers include an association, union, treaty, or pact.)

  • What are some reasons a nation might seek an alliance with other nations?

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. When King Ahaz refused, Israel and Syria attacked Judah in an effort to force the alliance and place another ruler on Judah’s throne (see 2 Nephi 17:1, 6). 2 Nephi 17–18 describes the counsel that the prophet Isaiah gave King Ahaz as the king tried to determine how to defend Judah against the threats posed by Israel, Syria, and Assyria.

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:1–2.

  • 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 attacked them.)

Explain that because Ahaz feared Israel and Syria, he considered forming an alliance with Assyria to protect his kingdom (see 2 Kings 16:7). Isaiah told Ahaz that if he (Ahaz) would put his faith in the Lord instead of making political alliances, the Lord would protect the kingdom of Judah.

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:3–8 aloud. (If the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible is available, invite students to read Isaiah 7:4, footnote a. If it is not available, explain that the phrase smoking firebrands refers to a burned-out torch. The Lord was essentially saying, “Don’t be alarmed by the attack. Those two kings have little fire left.” Israel and Syria had spent their strength. They would soon be crushed by Assyria and would no longer be a threat to Judah.)

Have several students take turns reading aloud from 2 Nephi 17:9, 17–25. As they read, have the class identify what the Lord revealed would happen to the people of Judah if they relied on political alliances instead of trusting in the Lord.

  • According to these verses, what would happen if Ahaz would not trust in the Lord? (Judah would be destroyed.)

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:10–12 aloud. (You might need to explain that when Isaiah directed Ahaz to ask for a sign, he was actually urging Ahaz to seek the Lord’s counsel regarding his problem. When Ahaz refused, he was saying that he did not need God’s help and that he intended to rely on his own judgment.)

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 17:13–14. Direct students to again notice the word Immanuel in 2 Nephi 17:14 and its meaning, “God with us.”

  • Why was it important for Ahaz to want God to be with him during his nation’s crisis?

  • Why is it important for us to turn to the Lord rather than rely only on our wisdom?

Read 2 Nephi 18:5–8 aloud to students. When you read verse 6, explain that the word Shiloah sometimes refers to Jesus Christ. When you read verse 8, explain the phrase “reach even to the neck” by pointing out that the head, or capital city, of Judah was Jerusalem. Isaiah prophesied that the Assyrians would advance to the walls of Jerusalem—in other words, the neck of the city. This prophecy was fulfilled when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers came to attack Jerusalem, stopping at the walls of the city. The Lord defended His people by sending an angel to destroy the attacking army. (See 2 Kings 19:32–35.)

Invite students to read 2 Nephi 18:9–10 silently, looking for the Lord’s warning to those who would work together to fight against Judah.

  • What would be the consequences for those who would fight against Judah?

  • According to 2 Nephi 18:10, why would these nations be destroyed?

Remind students that King Ahaz feared the threat of Israel and Syria, and he was thinking about joining forces with Assyria. Invite students to read 2 Nephi 18:11–13 silently.

  • What did the Lord say concerning whether Judah should form a confederacy (join Assyria)?

  • In whom did Isaiah tell the people to put their trust?

To help students apply these chapters in their lives, ask:

  • What are the dangers of putting our trust in worldly powers and influences rather than in the Lord? (Encourage students to think of situations that might tempt them to make decisions based on fear.)

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

Testify that God will be with us when we trust in Him, even during times of difficulty and fear. (You may want to write this principle on the board.)

2 Nephi 19:8–21; 20:1–22

Isaiah describes the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming

Summarize the historical context of 2 Nephi 19–20 by explaining that Ahaz rejected Isaiah’s counsel and chose to make an alliance with Assyria (see 2 Kings 16:7–20). Judah became a vassal state, paying tribute to Assyria for protection against the threat of Syria and Israel. As Isaiah prophesied, Assyria eventually conquered these smaller kingdoms—Damascus (Syria) in 732 B.C. and Samaria (Israel) in 722 B.C. Assyria had also overrun all of Judah, except for Jerusalem, by 701 B.C.

Explain that when Assyria conquered Syria and Israel and laid siege to Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem, Ahaz was no longer the king of Judah. A righteous king, Hezekiah, was then on the throne. Because Hezekiah placed his trust in the Lord, the Lord defended the city of Jerusalem against the siege of the Assyrian army. In the night, an angel of the Lord smote the camp of the Assyrians. In the morning, 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian army were found dead (see 2 Kings 19:34–35; 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 37:36).

Isaiah’s prophecies in 2 Nephi 19–20 focus on 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. The messianic prophecies of 2 Nephi 17–18 are further developed in 2 Nephi 19–20. The Immanuel prophecy is amplified in 2 Nephi 19 as Isaiah promises new light and a new leader: Hezekiah historically, and the Messiah prophetically. This is an example of a prophecy with dual fulfillment. It is also an example of a type, meaning that one event serves as a prophecy of a future event. Isaiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Assyria in 2 Nephi 20 is a type of the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming.

Write the following scripture references on the board: 2 Nephi 19:12, 17, 21; 20:4. Have students identify a phrase that is repeated in these verses. Write the phrase on the board. (“For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”) Explain that these verses are about the consequences that come to people who rebel against the Lord and refuse to repent. They express the Lord’s displeasure with people who continue in sin.

Explain that in other scripture passages, similar words are used to express the Lord’s mercy for those who will repent. Although He is a God of justice, He is also infinitely merciful to those who will come unto Him. Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 28:32 aloud. Then read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded somewhere on the wintry plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process, this conference calls out Jehovah’s unrelenting refrain, ‘[My] hand is stretched out still’ [see Isaiah 5:25; 9:17, 21]. ‘I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them,’ He said, ‘[and even if they] deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, … if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts’ [2 Nephi 28:32]. His mercy endureth forever, and His hand is stretched out still. His is the pure love of Christ, the charity that never faileth, that compassion which endures even when all other strength disappears [see Moroni 7:46–47]” (“Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 106–7).

Invite students to state in their own words a truth they learn from these verses. (Make sure students understand that Jesus Christ is a God of judgment and mercy. His mercy is extended to those who repent and keep His commandments.)

  • How would you apply this principle in your life?

Isaiah foresaw that in the last days the Lord’s people would return to Him and cease relying upon ungodly associations for security and peace. If students have access to the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, invite them to read Isaiah 10:20, footnote c, and explain the meaning of the word stay. You may want to explain that, in this context, the word stay means to lean on, rely upon, or place confidence in something or someone. Assure students that as we place our confidence in the Lord, we do not need to fear the judgments that will come upon the people of the earth leading up to the Second Coming.

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:

“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” (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:

“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” (Christ and the New Covenant, 80–82).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

2 Nephi 19:1–7. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 19:1–2 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to look for the Lord’s description of the people and the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali. Students should note words and phrases such as “vexation,” “afflicted the land,” “people that walked in darkness,” and “land of the shadow of death.” (If students have access to the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, you may want to have them find the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali on map 3 in the Bible maps and photographs section.)

Explain that during the period of time covered by the Old Testament, multiple wars were fought in an attempt to control this region. Many people lost their lives. It was as if the people were vexed, afflicted, and living in a region marred by the fear of death.

Explain that in New Testament times, the cities of Nazareth, Capernaum, and Cana were located in that region. (If students have access to the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, you might have them look at map 11 in the Bible maps and photographs section.)

  • What was significant about those cities during New Testament times? (Jesus Christ spent much of His time ministering to the people in those cities.)

  • Isaiah said that those who “walked in darkness” and dwelled in the “land of the shadow of death” would see “a great light” (2 Nephi 19:2). What do you think this prophecy meant? (This was a prophecy that when the Messiah [Jesus Christ] would come, He would minister in that part of the world.)

2 Nephi 20:24–34. Jerusalem is saved by God

Isaiah’s description of the Assyrian army’s advance upon Judah will be more engaging to students if they can visualize the progress of the army from city to city. Display a map of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and identify the location of each city mentioned in 2 Nephi 20:24–34. The last village mentioned—Nob—was located on a hill just outside of Jerusalem. Conclude the discussion by having students read 2 Kings 19:32–35, which describes the destruction of the Assyrian army as they camped outside Jerusalem.