2 Nephi 10 tweet: Christ is His name. Jews 2b scattered but gathered again by Gentiles. Land is given to N-ites. Cheer up, choose life, b reconciled 2 God.

2 Nephi 10 is the conclusion of Jacob’s speech to the Nephites that began in 2 Nephi 6. As a way of wrapping up this section of scripture, in this post I’ll consider Jacob’s speech as a whole (i.e. 2 Nephi 6–10) by working through a series of questions.

What was the purpose of Jacob’s speech?

In an essay in which he discusses the imagery of God as a Divine Warrior in Jacob’s speech, David Belnap suggests the following purpose for Jacob’s speech:

The purpose of the speech was to answer an ongoing concern of the Nephites. Since their departure from Jerusalem it appears that the Nephites had felt cut off and isolated from God’s promises because they lacked a permanent land of inheritance. By the time of Jacob’s speech, the Nephites had been driven from two lands of inheritance and thus it seems that questions had arisen as to whether or not the covenant made to Israel was still in force with this community who had been broken off and scattered from both the greater house of Israel and their own family in the New World.1

Jacob would have been speaking in large measure to the first generation of Lehites who had personally known Jerusalem, and their children in whom they would have instilled a deep sense of its history and holiness. It’s hard to over-estimate how traumatic it would have been to have left behind their holy city, never to see it again. They would have considered Jerusalem as the literal dwelling place of God. Leaving Jerusalem in a sense would have been like cutting themselves off from the Lord. Jeremiah had told the people of Lehi’s Jerusalem, “your fathers have forsaken me … and have not kept my law and ye have done worse than your fathers … therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not” (Jeremiah 16:11–13). In spite of Nephi’s best efforts to persuade them otherwise, many of the Nephites may well have harboured feelings that their flight from Jerusalem broke their covenant relationship with God. In addition to this primal traumatic exile, these Nephites also had to endure a second exile when they were forced to flee their new land of inheritance (see 2 Nephi 5: 4 – 5). This perhaps explains why Jacob sounds so downbeat when towards the end of his life he says:

Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore we did mourn out our days. (Jacob 7:26)

If others felt as Jacob did, it would seem that the Nephites felt abandoned and lost, cast out into a wilderness, and therefore forgotten by God. It is this sense that God has forgotten them – that His covenant with them has been broken – that Jacob seeks to address in his speech. He himself states:

Let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance. (2 Nephi 10:20)

So why did Jacob quote extensively from Isaiah to address this issue?

Shortly after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, the city itself was conquered and Lehi’s contemporaries were either killed or carried away captive into Babylon. These Jews would have experienced similar feelings of despair as those of the Nephites at being cut off from Jerusalem, and by extension from the Lord. For these Jews exiled in Babylon Isaiah’s words would have been a source of comfort and hope:

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away … The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail … And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I 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, Thou art my people. (Isaiah 51:11,14,16; cf. 2 Nephi 8:11,14,16)

Jacob explicitly likens the words of Isaiah to the Nephites. In essence he tells his people that their experience is the same as the general Israelite experience, and therefore the promises made to the general Israelite community still apply to them as well.

What is the connection then between Jacob’s use of Isaiah and the doctrine of the Atonement that he teaches in 2 Nephi 9?

By likening Isaiah to those Israelites scattered upon the isles of the sea, e.g. the Nephites, Jacob widens the application of the Abrahamic covenant. Israel viewed the covenant made with Abraham (and renewed with Isaac and Jacob) in very exclusive terms. But with the way he reads Isaiah, Jacob extends the blessings of the covenant far beyond the borders of Israel. First he likens Isaiah’s words, and by extension the Abrahamic covenant, to scattered Israel and then, as part of this likening, to the Gentiles as well:

And it shall come to pass that they [Israel] shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth; and the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance. Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute? (2 Nephi 10:8–9)

Significantly, Jacob also suggests that the Jew can be an enemy to Zion and God:

Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God. (2 Nephi 10:16)

It is not a person’s genetic makeup that ultimately determines whether or not one is of Israel. As Jacob plainly teaches, all flesh is fallen and in need of redemption. Therefore, it is an individual’s faith in Christ and personal righteousness that defines one in the covenantal relationship with God, not their ancestry. Jacob skilfully demonstrates the universal application of God’s covenant with Israel by likening Christ’s redemption of all flesh to not only His original creation, but also the great sign of Israel’s exclusive claims on God – the Egyptian exodus. In his ‘Divine Warrior’ essay, Belnap puts it this way:

God as Redeemer and Savior meant he was their warrior delivering them as he delivered their forefathers in the great salvific act of the Exodus, which itself was a type of the creative act in the beginning when God as the Divine Warrior defeated the forces of chaos, engendering the cosmos.

Jacob increases our understanding of the Divine Warrior by adding elements not found in the preceding passages. In [2 Ne 9:10], God prepared a way, another exodus for his people to escape the monster; in verse 11 this way is God’s deliverance for his people; and in verse 26 the deliverance is the act of the atonement.1

Finally, in 2 Nephi 10 why does Jacob use the Greek word Christ instead of the Hebrew word Messiah?

In 2 Nephi 10:3 Jacob reveals the name of God as Christ. This is the first time that the word Christ is used in the Book of Mormon. The word Christ is Greek and the same term in Hebrew is Messiah (they both mean ‘anointed one’), which Nephi used on a number of occasions before Jacob’s revelation. If Christ and Messiah mean the same thing, it prompts the question why this title was revealed to Jacob at this time. That is, for Jacob’s listeners and for modern readers does the name Christ confer different meaning than does Messiah?  Joe Spencer suggest the following:

Could there be anything more appropriate than a revelation of a Greek—non-Hebrew—term for the Messiah in this context, in this exposition of the moment when the covenant is translated into the context and even language of the Gentiles? I think there’s something quite significant in the revelation of a specifically Greek name in connection with the story Jacob is trying to tell. “Christ” is the symbol of the covenant opened unto the Gentiles, the symbol of the weaving together of the redemption of the flesh (open to all, Greeks included) and the covenant (effected through the Hebrew Messiah).2

Spencer is suggesting that it is because Jacob understands that the Abrahamic covenant has a universal scope (including Gentiles) that reaches far beyond Israel’s historical exclusive claims, that he learns by revelation the name Christ, which name would ultimately have universal appeal. Regarding the use of Christ and Messiah titles, Taylor Halverson identifies an interesting trend:

The Hebrew term Messiah is used 28 times by Nephi (not including his quotes of Isaiah) before Jacob’s revelation about the name Christ. But after that Nephi only uses the term Messiah 10 more times. And it is striking to note that Jacob never uses the term Messiah. After the death of Nephi, Messiah is used only three times in the remainder of the Book of Mormon. Before Jacob’s revelation, Christ is never used in the Book of Mormon. After Jacob’s revelation Christ is used nearly 400 times.3

In closing I want to note one other thing. 2 Ne 10:24 has strong similarities with its more well known big brother, 2 Ne 25:23. But I’ll wait till we get to 2 Ne 25 before opening that can of worms.

And with that we come to the end of Jacob’s masterful sermon. But Nephi will pick up this work of likening Isaiah to scattered Israel over the next several chapters.

Next week’s reading: 2 Nephi 11–13

  1. http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1413&index=5
  2. https://feastuponthewordblog.org/2012/02/08/book-of-mormon-lesson-8-o-how-great-the-goodness-of-our-god-2-nephi-6-10-sunday-school/
  3. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865647065/Finding-the-first-use-of-the-name-Christ-in-the-Book-of-Mormon.html?pg=all See also: https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/why-does-an-angel-reveal-the-name-of-christ-to-jacob
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