In order to understand Israel’s future, one must understand Israel’s past. In a word, Israel was obstinate. They were quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord and His covenants. This was not a surprise to the Lord, He knows the beginning from the end. As such, I have chosen to open this chapter with a declaration that clearly states this fact.
Hearken and hear this, O House of Jacob, [refers to all twelve covenanted tribes] who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear not in truth nor in righteousness. Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord of Hosts is his name. [Isaiah is openly declaring Israel’s hypocrisy and rebellion before the Lord – making covenants, but not keeping them]
Behold, I have declared the former things from the beginning; [Isaiah has declared to Israel things that will happen before they happen, ranging from his day to the latter-days] and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly.[i] And I have even from the beginning declared to thee; before it came to pass I showed them thee;
And I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst say—Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them. Yea, and thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb. [ii]
Isaiah prophesied to both Judah and the Kingdom of Israel that they would be taken into captivity long before the events happened. They could have repented. They could have changed their ways, but they did not. The Lord wanted them to know that the things that would befall them were not happenstance. There were reasons, and the reasons had to do with the covenants that they had made and then broken with the Lord.
No sooner had the Lord delivered them from Egypt than they began complaining about how good they had it when they were slaves.[iii] Aaron, Moses’s spokesperson, made Israel a golden calf, and they worshiped it in place of the True and Living God.[iv] No matter how great the miracles performed by the Lord, from the dividing of the sea, to manna from heaven, they continually left the Lord for the trends and cultures of the day. These same issues presently plague the church. Some church members have left the Lord for the precepts of men, and the praise of the world. Can those that do so expect different consequences than our forefathers experienced? Isaiah continues:
Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. [v]
Under the law of Moses, all a man needed to divorce his wife was a bill of divorcement which could be obtained for the slightest of reasons, such as a poorly cooked meal. Yet Israel is as an adulterous wife (Hosea 1) who has committed serious sins against her husband (the Lord), yet remarkably He has not sought a bill of divorce. God did not leave Israel, Israel left God. The wickedness of Judah and Jerusalem were great, however, the Northern Kingdom was even more so. The Northern Kingdom had wholly abandoned the Lord. The story of Elijah and the priests of Baal took place in the northern kingdom of Israel. They would not have the Lord for their King. Finally, after approximately two-hundred and fifty years of self-governance as an independent nation (approximately the same amount of time the United States has been independent), the Lord decided that they had become fully ripened. Therefore Isaiah prophesied the following:
Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them [the Kingdom of Israel] the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.[vi] [This section has specific references to the Assyrian army conquering the kingdom of Northern Israel and carrying many away into captivity.] I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.[vii]
Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. [viii]
Isaiah is saying that without the power of God to sustain them, Israel will fall prey to their enemies. However, the Lord reminds them that His hand of mercy is still extended towards them. What does this mean? It means that after the demise of their country, when the remnant of the people looks to the Lord from underneath the heavy burden of their captivity and once again remember and keep their covenants with Him, He will have mercy upon them. Isaiah continues:
Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer [This references Israel’s disregard for the Father, His Son, and His servants the prophets. It did not matter who the Lord would send, their response was the same- rejection]. O House of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make their rivers a wilderness and their fish to stink because the waters are dried up, and they die because of thirst.[ix]
Here Isaiah makes reference to the Lord’s tremendous power to save, but He will not force His deliverance upon us. Salvation must be sought – draw near unto the Lord and He will draw near unto you. The reward the Father has in store for Israel is so immense in scope and glory that it would be unjust for Him to bestow it upon those that do not seek for it. Therefore the Father and His servants continually admonished Israel to seek it.
Then said I [Isaiah]: Lord, how long? [How long would Israel be scattered for as a result of their stiffneckedness?] And he said: Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate; And the Lord have removed men far away, for there shall be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.[x]
The Lord revealed to Isaiah that Israel will be lost until everything they once had is gone, their wealth, their lands, their homes and cities, everything. However, even in punishment the Lord works towards the salvation of his people; it is His work and His glory. What can seem like the worst trials of our lives can prove to be for our eternal good, if we will but put our trust in Him. Without the pain and agony of Gethsemane, there could have been no victory over death and sin, no glorious resurrection unto eternal life and salvation. Likewise, without the Northern Kingdom’s Assyrian captivity, they never would have turned their hearts unto the Lord and counseled together to keep His covenants and statues as they never had done while they were in their own land. [xi]
Thus, with the Kingdom of Israel we see a foreshadowing of things to come. He has provided the way for deliverance.The righteous seek Him early, however, all but the vilest of sinners, the sons of perdition, will – after they have walked the length and breath of Hell – rise again in a glorious resurrection unto a kingdom of glory beyond all description.[xii] In all things the Lord works for the salvation of mankind.
Furthermore, Isaiah stated that the Lost Tribes would not return until after the world had fallen into apostasy, a great forsaking of the gospel. It has now been approximately 2,400 years since the Ten Tribes have inhabited the lands of Northern Israel, and the great apostasy has both come and gone.
In the next verses, Isaiah provides insight into the good that the Lord intends to come to pass as a result of the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit…I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion: Behold, thou art my people. [xiii]
These verses are full of meaning and prophecy. Isaiah foresaw the following things:
- The captive exiles are made free
- They would have the word of the Lord
- They would be hidden in the shadow of the Lord’s hand
- The Lord would plant the heavens with them
- The Lord would use them to lay the foundations of the earth
- They would serve to bring about the identification of Zion
All six of these prophecies are directly associated with the mission that the Lord would give to the Lost Ten Tribes. We will consider all of them in sequence.
1) The captives are made free
Many scriptures have witnessed to the fact that a large body of the Lost Ten Tribes was once again made free from their Assyrian captivity. My favorite of these is the account from the Apocrypha. I have reviewed this before, but it is worth reviewing. You will remember that this is the prophet Ezra who, having been granted a vision of the Second Coming of the Lord, saw a large host of people and questioned his angelic guide about them. This was the angel’s response.
Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes [covenants], which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow places of the river. For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth. Then dwelt they there until the latter time.[xiv]
The above description shows that this group was freed both from spiritual and physical bondage. They were delivered from spiritual bondage in the sense that they finally repented and sought the Lord – to keep his covenants and commandments. They were delivered from physical bondage in that the Lord brought them out of their captivity and led them to a new land where never before man had dwelt. A land where they would dwell until the latter times, which of course implies that they will return from Arsareth to us in the latter-days, that is to say, our days.
2) The lost tribes would have the word of the Lord
Through Isaiah, the Lord clearly states that these exiles would have the word of the Lord, “I have put my words in thy mouth”. On the evening of the first day that Christ visited the Nephites, when He perceived that they were tired, He made the following statement:
But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither He hath taken them.[xv]
From this verse we learn that the Lost Ten Tribes literally had the word of the Lord, to the same extend that the Jews and the House of Joseph had them. Furthermore, from other scriptures we know that they have both written scriptures and living prophets among them, and that one day their record will become ours.[xvi]
3) The lost tribes would be hidden in the shadow of the Lord’s hand
Isaiah saw that the knowledge of this group would be lost from mankind. As in all things, the Lord did this for His own purposes. Consider the following account from the Allegory of the Olive Tree.
And these will I place in the nethermost part of my vineyard, whithersoever I will, it mattereth not unto thee; and I do it that I may preserve unto myself the natural branches of the tree; and also, that I may lay up fruit thereof against the season, unto myself; for it grieveth me that I should lose this tree and the fruit thereof. And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard went his way, and hid the natural branches of the tame olive tree in the nethermost parts of the vineyard…[xvii]
The Lord had a reason in mind 2,400 years ago when he led the Ten Tribes away, just as He had a reason for keeping their whereabouts hidden. For the generations that passed away while the Ten Tribes were covered in the shadow of the Lord’s hand their whereabouts were not relevant. This is because they were never going to have any interactions with them, they were not there to interact with. The same will not be true for the latter-days.
4) The Lord would plant the heavens with the lost tribes
To me this reference fits very well with other citations we have reviewed. Such as the earlier citation from the Apocrypha wherein it states that the Lord led the Lost Ten Tribes to a place wherein never before man had dwelt. It also agrees with the wording of the Lord’s covenant with Israel as stated by both Moses and Nehemiah.
[Moses] If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee.[xviii]
[Nehemiah] But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.[xix]
Christ also mentions a host of His elect being gathered from the ends of heaven in the last days. Consider the following verse.
The Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.[xx]
The common theme of these accounts is the ends of heaven in connection with the gathering of Israel. It could be easy to misunderstand the words of a single prophet, but four? In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.[xxi] And let us not forget the curious entry in Wilford Woodruff’s journal:
President Young said he heard Joseph Smith say that the Ten Tribes of Israel were on a portion of land separated from this Earth.[xxii]
As we continue with this analysis, we will find that these are not the only such references, there are many more, but these are sufficient for this illustration.
5) The Lord would use the lost tribes to lay the foundations of the earth
The foundations of the earth are typically associated with the creation. Therefore this reference to the Lost Ten Tribes and the creation of the earth cannot refer to the initial creation. We know however, that the Lord has much greater plans for the earth than its present state suggests. Consider the following from the Doctrine and Covenants:
Therefore, [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
We learn here that the Earth will become a new celestial sphere. We also learn that before this process can take place, the earth must be “sanctified from all unrighteousness”. This sanctification takes place by cleansing the earth by fire. Furthermore, we know that another part of the sanctification process will be when the New Jerusalem, or Zion, is built upon the American continent. We learn this fact in many different places, but the tenth article of faith is a great succinct summary.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American Continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
As the presence of God the Father is the glory with which the earth will be crowned, and Zion will be the city wherein God dwells, it could be said that the foundations of the new earth will be the foundations of Zion itself, the city of the Lord. Jesus Christ tells us that it will be the Lost Ten Tribes that will lead the charge in the building of the New Jerusalem. Consider the following account:
And [the Gentiles] shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob [Lost Ten Tribes], and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.[xxiii]
As we continue we shall also come to understand that the Remnant of Jacob, or the Lost Ten Tribes will destroy the wicked by fire – sanctifying the earth in preparation for the Lord’s coming. Thus, they help lay the foundations of the new earth by both building Zion and by destroying the wicked. This latter part will be reviewed and elaborated upon in greater detail as we continue.
6) The Lost Ten Tribes would serve to bring about the identification of Zion
As noted above, the Lost Ten Tribes, or the Remnant of Jacob will return to build Zion. While Zion is a place, it is best described as a people.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.[xxiv]
Latter-day Saints know and look forward to the day when Zion will be built. This was a consuming desire of the early saints, however, the New Jerusalem will not be built until the Remnant of Jacob returns. In a previous section we learned that the Remnant of Jacob will initially arrive in America. What better way to identify the Lord’s people than the endorsement of a vast “heavenly” host who miraculously appear from a highway cast out of the great deep? As we continue, we will see that all of these missions are consistently identified with the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. This is a major theme of Isaiah’s work, particularly of the chapters Nephi transcribed in the Book of Mormon.
[i] 1 Nephi 20:1-3
[ii] 1 Nephi 20: 5&8
[iii] Exodus 14:11-12
[iv] Exodus 32
[v] 2 Nephi 7:1
[vi] 2 Nephi 18:7
[vii] 2 Nephi 20:6
[viii] 2 Nephi 20:4
[ix] 2 Nephi 7:2
[x] 2 Nephi 16: 11-12
[xi] 2 Esdras 13:40-46
[xii] D&C 76:89
[xiii] 2 Nephi 8:14,16
[xiv] 2 Esdras 13:40-46
[xv] 3 Nephi 17:4
[xvi] D&C 133:26, 2 Nephi 29:13
[xvii] Jacob 5:13&14
[xviii] Deuteronomy 30:4
[xix] Nehemiah 1:9
[xx] JSM 1:37
[xxi] 2 Corinthians 13:1
[xxii] Waiting for World’s End, The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, 1993, p. 291
[xxiii] 3 Nephi 21:23
[xxiv] Moses 7:18