2 Nephi 3

 


MDC Contents

   

2 Nephi 3:1

1 AND now I speak unto you, Joseph, my last-born. Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.

2 Nephi 3:2

2 And may the Lord consecrate also unto thee this land, which is a most precious land, for thine inheritance and the inheritance of thy seed with thy brethren, for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel.

After finishing with his blessing to Jacob (that was also address to all of his sons) Lehi turns to Joseph to supply him with a blessing. Little is known of the circumstances of Joseph's birth, other than that it occurred during the long journey to the Old World Bountiful and that Joseph is younger than Jacob (1 Nephi 18:7). The timing of the births in that period of travel, and the necessity of having them old enough to weather a sea journey makes me suspicious that they might have been twins, with Jacob being the first born of the two.

The multiple birth might also explain something of the naming of the two. Both of these sons were born after the retrieval of the brass plates. Remember the significance of the plates to Lehi:

1 Nephi 5:14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine. 15 And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them. 16 And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records. 17 And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed--

Clearly the discovery of Lehi's ancestry was a transcendental event for him. In the course of the discovery of his roots, Lehi is also inspired to prophecy about his progeny. In this event, past and future became tied together, and the impression of his lineage must have been indelibly pressed into Lehi's consciousness.

When Lehi had sons born after this instance, it is no surprise, then that he would name them Jacob and Joseph, for the two important names in his lineage. Of course had they been born a year apart, he might also have used those names, but I suggest that the promises made through the lineage of Joseph were so strong that Lehi would have used that name first, unless he knew that there was a second son who could receive that name. At Lehi's age and circumstances, this is best answered if the two were twins.

2 Nephi 3:3

3 And now, Joseph, my last-born, whom I have brought out of the wilderness of mine afflictions, may the Lord bless thee forever, for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed.

Lehi's prophecies of his seed clearly show the coming agonies. His blessing to Joseph is not that his descendants will be spared the agonies, but that they should not be "utterly" destroyed. Of course this leaves room for a partial destruction, but the promise is that the lineage will continue. Thus regardless of how we understand the final demise of the Nephites (into which the Josephites had been at least politically subsumed) there would be physical descendants of that tribe, even when the political entity was long gone.

2 Nephi 3:4

4 For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.

Of course the inheritance of the Joseph of old applied to all of Lehi's sons. As with Jacob, Lehi is here speaking to both the individual and the group, reminding Joseph of the inheritance through the device of his name, but subtly reminding all of their shared inheritance.

2 Nephi 3:5

5 Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light--yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.

Lehi explains the particulars of the promise to Joseph of old. The lineage would produce a righteous people, but was not directly in the Messianic line. The important point for Lehi is the "branch which was to be broken off", for that once again highlighted his sons as the bearers of this tradition and blessing (and yet again argues for the command of the Lord in their leaving, a subtle comment for Laman and Lemuel).

It is interesting that Lehi does not expect that his descendants would be righteous throughout their existence, however, for he specifically notes that the Messiah should bring them out of darkness to the light. This clearly presumes a falling away at some point, before their ultimate redemption through the words of the Messiah.

2 Nephi 3:6

6 For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.

Lehi now testifies of the means by which this bringing from darkness to light would occur. The instrument will be a seer raised up by God. The following verses begin to define that seer, culminating in verse 15 that names that seer Joseph, the son of a Joseph. Quite clearly this is Lehi's prophecy of the role of Joseph Smith Jr. as the translator of the Book of Mormon.

2 Nephi 3:7

7 Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.

Lehi places the prophecy of Joseph Smith in the mouth of Joseph of Egypt, meaning that this is a prophecy contained on the brass plates that has been lost in the modern Biblical tradition. Thus Lehi brings together the inheritance of the lineage of Joseph. While he and his family are clearly one branch, a "branch broken off", there would yet be another inheritance of the lineage of Joseph, from which this seer would arise to become the instrument of redemption for the fallen lineage. It is most likely that while Lehi is pronouncing this upon Joseph, it is a blessing that will apply to all, as Joseph is not the only one of his sons to inherit the blood of Joseph of old.

2 Nephi 3:8

8 And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.

For Lehi, this verse indicates the magnitude of the work of the future Joseph. For the modern church, it served as an indication of the position of Joseph in the church. While the church might be a lay church, there would be one (and later others) who would have such value to the kingdom of God that they could have no other work.

2 Nephi 3:9

9 And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.

2 Nephi 3:10

10 And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.

Remembering that this is a citation from Joseph of Egypt, the two verses should be read together, for Moses was not a name that had a history of the original Joseph, for this Moses was yet in the future. Verse 10 clarifies that timeline, and indicates that yet another lost prophecy of Joseph was the name and role of the man who would lead Israel from their captivity in Egypt.

2 Nephi 3:11

11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins--and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.

After the parenthetical clarification of the Moses prophecy, Joseph returns to the topical prophecy, that of the future Joseph. This new Joseph would bring forth the word of God, and would be a power for conversion, not just the presentation of the word. The last phrase "which shall have already gone forth among them" refers to the Bible. Joseph Smith would bring forth the Book of Mormon, and have power to convert also through the word of God as found in the Bible.

2 Nephi 3:12

12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.

Here Lehi delineates the Lord's plan for the records kept by his peoples. Both those of the Old and New Worlds would write of their dealings with the Lord, and the combination of the two would be the basis for establishing the word of God without contentions or false doctrines.

2 Nephi 3:13

13 And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.

This verse refers to Joseph's humble economic, educational, and social position. He was one of the "weak" of the earth, but made powerful through God's blessing and calling.

2 Nephi 3:14

14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;

This ultimate restoration of the gospel (here in the context of the revelation of the gospel to the remnants of the house of Joseph - through Joseph the son of Lehi) would be protected by the Lord, so that the seer would prevail over those who would oppose him. This redemption would come, in spite of opposition.

2 Nephi 3:15

15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.

Joseph of Egypt specifically prophecies the name of his descendant, this future seer. This is quite obviously Joseph Smith, Jr.

2 Nephi 3:16

16 Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.

Verse 16 serves as a transition between the subject of the future Joseph the seer and the future Moses the liberator. This is still a citation from Joseph of Egypt, though it is not clear how these verses are related to the previous ones. The "thus prophesied Joseph" is obviously an intercalation by Lehi, but we cannot tell if the Moses texts follow as closely to the Joseph prophecy as they appear to here. However, the rest of the transitional phrasing "I am sure of this thing, even as I as sure...." makes it fairly certain that this is a continuation of the citation with little or nothing removed.

2 Nephi 3:17

17 And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.

Joseph of Egypt uses "a Moses" as the identifier, almost indicating a title rather than a name. This leave open the possibility that the original was not so specific as to name, but either Lehi or Joseph Smith filled in the obvious person the possible title referred to. The rest of the text makes it very clear that the prophecy is directly related to the Moses. Just as with Nephi's prophecy of the birth of the Messiah, but Book of Mormon is much freer with the historical names of prophesied people.

2 Nephi 3:18

18 And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.

Verse 18 is oddly parallel to verse 17, and appears to be deliberately so. It appears to require a second "Moses" and therefore a second "spokesman." Grammatically, one would hope for a direct object in the sentence "I will raise up unto the fruit of they loins..." The missing object must be "another" in order to make the parallelism of the phrases work.

In any case, this has been the traditional interpretation of verse 18, with the "spokesman" of the second, parallel, Moses being identified as Sydney Rigdon. "Many members of the Church believe that Sidney Rigdon is the "spokesman" referred to in this prophecy. It appears that Joseph Smith is the prophet mentioned in this verse, and the Lord promised Sidney Ridgon that he should "be a spokesman to my servant Joseph." (D&C 100:9)" (Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to your Study of the Book of Mormon. Desert Book 1976, p. 129).

2 Nephi 3:19

19 And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.

The focus of the prophecy returns to Joseph Smith, for it describes the writer, not the spokesman. The writing here is specifically the Book of Mormon, which is clearly the fulfilment of the prophecy that "it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust".

2 Nephi 3:20

20 And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.

2 Nephi 3:21

21 Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.

Ultimately it is the faith and faithfulness of the descendants of Lehi that will be the awakening call to their distant descendants who shall receive the Book of Mormon. Though Joseph Smith brings for the Book it is a Book of the words of Lehi's seed that are written and that will have the power to bring their lineage back to the Savior's path.

2 Nephi 3:22

22 And now, behold, my son Joseph, after this manner did my father of old prophesy.

2 Nephi 3:23

23 Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book.

Lehi ends his blessing/lecture by returning to the original premise. This is a blessing to Joseph and his seed (and by extension the seed of his brothers). The end of the promise is that his seed will not be destroyed, and that they will hearken to the words of the book that shall be given to them.

2 Nephi 3:24

24 And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.

Lehi reiterates the mission of Joseph Smith, though he allows himself the literary license to lump the differing branches of the house of Joseph into a single entity, which is the explanation for the "and there shall rise up one mighty among them..." where the antecedent is clearly the posterity of Joseph, son of Lehi.

2 Nephi 3:25

25 And now, blessed art thou, Joseph. Behold, thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi, and it shall be done unto thee even according to the words which I have spoken. Remember the words of thy dying father. Amen.

       
      by Brant Gardner. Copyright 1998