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The fact that the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus is both a fulfillment of and a sign that they misunderstood the prophecies in Isaiah 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. The Israelites seemed to have been waiting for a political and military savior, but they got a humble man from Nazareth instead. They were unprepared for a suffering Savior who would die on a cross. They had hoped for a victorious type of King David who would lead them to political victory over their enemies.
Some scholars (dating back to A.D. 1100) have claimed that the first half of the book of Isaiah was written by the prophet himself, but that the second half was written by multiple other authors. This would be a big deal because portions of the second half of Isaiah show up in the Book of Mormon, and these chapters describe events that didn’t happen until AFTER Lehi left Jerusalem. So was Joseph Smith just copying parts of Isaiah from the Bible and adding them to the Book of Mormon willy nilly? Not at all! Scholars believe there were multiple authors because Isaiah speaks prophetically about future events as if they have already happened. When he mentions King Cyrus by name (even though King Cyrus wasn’t born when Isaiah wrote those words) it stumps those who don’t believe in the spirit of prophecy. But we do believe in it! As further explanation, a group of 35 specialists at BYU (specialists in Semitic languages, computer science, and statistics) analyzed the writings of the book of Isaiah against other Old Testament authors. Their findings were conclusive: the writing style of Isaiah was consistent throughout all chapters and totally different from that of any other Old Testament author (Source). So it turns out this “different author” theory is actually just another piece of evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon!
Isaiah 54 is the source of a phrase we use often in the church: stakes! Why in the world are we organized into stakes in the Church? There is actually a beautiful and rich Israelite history behind this. It has to do with the idea of a “kinsman” and the way in which a tribal leader would make room for his growing family. Let’s dive in!
In ancient Israel the idea of a kinsman was very important. The kinsman in a family was the oldest male member, and he had a responsibility to support, love, avenge wrongful deaths, buy back family land that had been sold, or even buy back family members if they had been sold into slavery. The kinsman was, in fact, the family’s redeemer. But the cool thing is, this same protection could also be made available to people outside of the family through a covenant. A kinsman could bring someone under his protection and that person would then be kin-by-covenant. (Source 1 and Source 2) In fact, the kinsman was referred to in Hebrew as the גואל “go’el” which can also be translated as “redeemer.” (Source)
Okay, now let’s get to the part about tents. If a kinsman (or tribal leader) lived in a tent and his family grew too large for it, he wouldn’t necessarily build a second tent. He’d actually be more likely to ENLARGE his current tent by adding another section to it.(Source) So when Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 54:2 to “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes” it means more than “Let’s get a bigger tent!” It means “Let’s welcome as many people into a kinsman-redeemer relationship with Jesus as possible. Everyone join the family. And establish those (local wards and) stakes securely to keep us all safely under the Savior-kinsman’s care!”
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