Thursday, February 01, 2007

Isaiah 20 - Naked and Barefoot

This chapter is a good example of where the gulf between our culture and the culture of Isaiah makes it difficult for us to grasp what is being communicated:

2 At the same time spake the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.

3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia;

It’s hard to fathom a prophet going around sans clothing for three whole years. I tend to think the understanding of what is meant has been lost in the translation.  Some bible scholars think that by refusing to wear the priestly vestments, Isaiah was also indicating the Lord’s frustration with the people and their misunderstanding of the mosaic law.  What does seem certain, though, is that whatever happened, it was done with the intent to punctuate what Isaiah had to say:   

4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.

6 And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?

The prophesy indicates that Judah will not be able to rely on Egypt and Ethopia for help against the powerful aggressor, Assyria.   This is a reminder to me that we cannot rely on the arm of flesh to protect us from our enemies. The doom of those who rely on worldly power is slavery- domination by the world.  This prophesy highlights that fact by pointing out that even the people that Israel is tempted to rely on will themselves become captives to the Assyrians.

In present-day affairs, there is an obvious emphasis around us on physical security.  This reminds me of the following quote:

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel -- ships, planes, missiles, fortifications -- and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us … or he will fight our battles for us …

A lest we think that we are immune from this thought in our domestic affairs:

Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, it is hoped, a long and happy life. Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources … to build up the kingdom of God … to bless others in every way that they may also be fruitful.

-       Spencer W. Kimball, The False Gods We Worship

Often times we might ask ourselves amid the external threats and troubles, “What are we to do?”  The answer is to be proponents of good more than enemies of evil.  Strength and protection lie in the positive power of doing good.    Fighting evil is fine and necessary, but it is not the same as doing good. 


Jeff Stevens said...


Let me be the first to say thank you. Your thoughts on Isaiah are a comfort to read. I think "rumors of wars" abound and many of us tend to focus on the "what if's". Staying focussed on following God's ways are the best way to be at peace. I hope all of us can eventually hear God's calling as Isaiah did and follow the instructions even half as diligently.


Anonymous said...


Not a bad job. And, though the prophecy of Isaiah may pertain to Judah, it could pertain to Ephraim! Consider this, who did the nation of Assyria actually take captive anciently? Though Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem, and destroyed much of Judah prior to that, the Lord eventually saved Jerusalem, though they went through much pain and suffering before.

And, so it may be in our day.

Who is 'Egypt' today? Is it 'Egypt', the nation that we know? It might be. But, then again, that name might be more of a 'type' of a 'has been world power', such as Egypt was.

Who does Ephraim, if 'Ephraim' is the United States, for example, ally with much (if not the most)? Is it not, possibly, and "has been" world power (that, in the first days of the restoration of the gospel and church WAS THEN THE WORLD POWER (Great Britain)!

Who is our major ally in Iraq? The UK (or 'Great Britain'). Might they not be the 'Egypt' spoken of? Once a great military power. And still nothing to completely scoff at. But, now, but a shadow of what they once were?

And, who (if it is a nation), is Assyria? Ancient Assyria, straddled what is modern-day Iraq and modern-day Iran. Assyria might be Iran. But then, on the other hand, it could be 'China' also. Or even the two, and/or others, working together!

And yes, to some extent, Israel relies SOME on Egypt, since they have a treaty with them, and with Jordan (or at least a truce). However, I would almost suspect a nation, or even a group (like al Qaida) to possibly be 'Assyria'. Assyrians were indeed known as a 'terror' as no other super power before or since has been known (even Rome may have been almost 'kind & gentle', kinduv) compared to 'Assyria' (though, on the other hand, Rome was more an extension of the Assyrian/Babylonian/Persian/Greek/Roman tradition of 'terror' and torture. And, don't forget, Nineveh, which was one of Assyria's capitals during a certain period, typifying Assyria at that time, repented at the preaching of Jonah!

There is much I think we can, even need to learn, more about those ancient civilizations and cultures, so we can gain a better understanding of the types that Isaiah and other prophets used. Obviously, they saw the similarities between the Assyrians, and whomever of our day they spoke of, as the Lord showed them. (And, I can't help but suppose that Nephi saw much what Isaiah saw, as the Spirit carried him to the top of that exceedingly high mountain, and showed him the vision). Why else would Nephi, of all the Book of Mormon prophets quote Isaiah so extensively?

Anyway, there are a number of possibilities there. And President Kimball certainly did/does show how much we trust in the "arm of flesh". Of course, this is true not only militarily. But, economically, and domestically, members of the (LDS) Church, overall, trust in the "arm of flesh" (their own arm), by sending their wives, mothers and "daughters of Zion" (many, though not all, with long, haughty necks, etc) to work outside of the home, instead of (most of them) staying at home, as President Benson admonished us strongly to do.

I even remember hearing a sealer at the Logan Temple years ago declare that President Benson's admonition for women to stay at home was "merely (his) own opinon"!!! Some pretty strong heresy, for one who derived his sealing authority from that President of the Church (then)!!! (I am sorry I did not correct him on that then & there–but, I didn't want to make a scene in the sealing room. I should have spoken with the Temple President, or sent him or President Benson a letter about it, though).

Of course, this sealer's wife, and apparently, married daughters, didn't follow the prophet's (and hence, the Lord's) advice. All who do not will reap the fruits of their rewards, both individually, and societally.

The crisis in subprime and alt-A lending on indicators of problems in our families, where infidelity and divorce is rife, as well as the predatory practices of those 'drunkards of Ephraim' who are 'drunk with power', as the money lenders and money changers in the Temple (which is where the treasury, or stock exchange, was located) were. And the Savior cleansed that 'den of thieves' twice during his ministry!

Much is yet to come upon us in the United States. No one who reads Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, and realizes that Nephi (and others) quoted those prophecies for us in this "day" because they were and do apply to "us". The calamities are truly coming. And we are largely, ill-prepared for them!