Isaiah prophesies of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will remove our burdens, destroy our oppressors, and eradicate wars and warfare (9:4–5). His divine names—“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (9:6)—reveal many significant truths about Him. He possesses “His kingdom” and the “throne of David” and will rule over “forever” (9:7). Consequently, “there will be no end to the increase of His dominion and peace.”
the land of Zebulun/Naphtali. Isaiah identified these two lands in this Messianic prophecy because Jesus dwelt in Capernaum, a city that was located “in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim” (Matthew 4:13).
people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light. This passage was fulfilled when Jesus Christ left “Nazareth . . . [and] came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim” (see Matthew 4:14–16). great light. Jesus Christ was the “great light” seen by the inhabitants of Zebulun and Naphtali; He is “the light [that] has shined upon them” during His mortal ministry.
You have magnified the rejoicing. JST, 2 Nephi 19:3 omit “not,” for which compare several medieval Hebrew Bible manuscripts. In verse 3, Isaiah employs four words to emphasize the great joy that comes because of Jesus Christ—“rejoicing,” “rejoice,” “rejoices,” and “joyful.”
How has the Lord “magnified the rejoicing?” The answer is found in the threefold repetition of because in verses 4–6: because the Lord has removed the burdensome and oppressive yoke, staff, and rod (verse 4); because war and warfare will be abolished (verse 5); and most importantly, because the Christ child will be born, and He will be the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” (verse 6).
“As the day of Midian” is not found in 2 Nephi 19:4.
the throne of David. This passage is fulfilled in Jesus Christ: “The Lord God shall give unto him [Jesus Christ] the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Zeal of the Lord. Meaning, the Lord’s passion and intense determination “will do this” (see also Isa 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; 63:15).
Isaiah prophesies against the Northern Kingdom of Israel for the pride and great sins of the people. The prophecy consists of four parts, each concluding with the refrain “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” Part 1 (9:8–12): because of the kingdom of Israel’s pride, it will be destroyed by neighboring armies. JST is represented in brackets. Note that “and honorable” (verse 15) is omitted in 2 Nephi 19:15.
“Jacob,” “Israel,” and “Ephraim” are all terms that refer to the “inhabitants of Samaria,” or the kingdom of Israel. Samaria was the capital city of Israel. pride/arrogance of heart. These terms describe the core evil of the people.
Bricks have fallen/we will build with hewn stones. Because of their pride, Israel maintained that even if their buildings were destroyed (“Bricks have fallen down”) they would rebuild with stronger materials (“hewn stones”).
Aram on the east/Philistines on the west. Two of Israel’s enemies—Aram and the Philistines—would attack from different directions. they will devour Israel with open mouth. “Devour” and “open mouth” are symbolic of a lion’s attack. The prophets often compare warring nations to lions that mangle and destroy (Numbers 23:24; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Micah 5:8; 3 Nephi 20:16). For all this His anger is not turned away. Despite God’s judgments against Israel, the people continue to sin, so “His anger is not turned away.” Part 2 (9:13–17): Because Israel refused to “return” (meaning, to repent) to God, Israel will be destroyed. This includes Israel’s leadership—“elder,” “prophet who teaches lies,” “those who guide this people”—as well as “young men,” “orphans,” and “widows” because “every one of them is godless and evil.”
people did not return to Him. “Return” (Hebrew shuv) means to “repent.” True repentance means we return to God and walk on His path.
Lord cut off from Israel head and tail. Verse 15 explains the symbols. The “head” are the elders and old men of the community; the tail represents the false prophets. palm branch and reed. The palm branch, located high up on the tree, symbolizes the community’s leaders; the reed, located near the ground, represents the common people. The Lord will cut off these people in “one day,” or quickly, because they caused the people “to err” (verse 16).
every one of them is godless and evil. These words summarize why the Northern Kingdom was destroyed: because its inhabitants—“every one of them”—is “godless and evil.” This includes young and old; even “orphans and widows.” Part 3 (9:18–21):
For wickedness burns as a fire. Isaiah compares wickedness to a fire that rages and burns uncontrollably and easily consumes “briars and thorns” and even forests’ thickets. The people (meaning the wicked), “will be like fuel for fire.”
Israel is immersed in wickedness, to the point that brothers fight against brothers and conduct themselves disgustingly.
Ephraim, Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were sons of Joseph, and later the names of the chief tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. These two will combat with each other, and also “together they will be against Judah,” that is to say, Ephraim, or the Northern Kingdom of Israel, will strive against Judah, or the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Part 4 (10:1–4): inasmuch as Israel abuses those who are socially weak—the needy, widows, orphans, and others—it will be destroyed.
Woe. Severe anguish and trouble will result from God’s judgments on Israel because of its “iniquitous laws,” “oppressive decrees,” and failure to provide justice to the needy, widows, and orphans. In fact, the wicked were plundering the orphans and widows, two of the most helpless social groups in ancient society.
what will you do in the day of visitation? Because of pride and wickedness, Israel will not seek help from God. Rather, the people will attempt to hide “under the prisoners” or they will “fall under the slain,” attempting to hide from God. “Day of visitation” pertains to the day of God’s wrath and judgment upon the wicked (Doctrine and Covenants 56:1, 16; 124:8, 10).
all this His anger is not turned away. Isaiah presents the fourth refrain.