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Source:Echoes:Ch8:6:Abinadi on Isaiah
Abinadi's Interpretation of Isaiah 52–53
Abinadi's Interpretation of Isaiah 52–53:
A century before Lehi left Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah prophesied, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7). The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi explained that the passage referred to "all the holy prophets . . . who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!" (Mosiah 15:13–15). He added, "O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people" (v. 18).
Abinadi saw in Isaiah's prophecy reference to both the Lord, who redeems his people, and the prophets he sends to preach salvation and peace. This interpretation is strikingly similar to the one found in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11QMelchizedek (also known as 11Q13), which cites the Isaiah passage, then explains that "the mountains are the pro[phets . . . ] And the messenger is [the ano]inted of the spirit about whom Dan[iel] spoke [ . . . and the messenger of] good who announces salv[ation is the one about whom it is written that] he will send him 'to comfo[rt the afflicted, to watch over the afflicted ones of Zion']."29 The Hebrew term rendered "anointed" here is masiah, Messiah. The interpretation of the Isaiah passage in the scroll agrees with Abinadi's teachings in mentioning both the Messiah and the prophets. But while both documents compare the messenger to the Messiah, the Jewish text differs by associating the prophets with the mountains. Similarly, a number of other early Jewish texts compare the patriarchs and their wives to mountains.30 One text, Midrash Tanhuma, suggests that the mountain mentioned in Zechariah 4:7 is the Messiah.
Abinadi further explained that the "generation" and "seed" of the Messiah mentioned in Isaiah 53:8, 10 consisted of the prophets who had foreseen the advent of Christ to the earth (see Mosiah 15:10–13). This interpretation is also found in a thirteenth-century Ethiopian Christian document unavailable in English until 1935, more than a century after the Book of Mormon was first published. Commenting on the placing of vegetation on the earth as described in Genesis 1:11–12, the Book of the Mysteries of the Heavens and the Earth says that "the trees are symbols of the Apostles, and must be so interpreted. And the green herbs are the symbols of the children of the Apostles, and the children of the Apostles are those who have believed through their hands. And the seed are those servants who have sown seed on the face of the earth. The words 'each kind of seed' refer to their various companies, and to their various preachings." The apostles, like the prophets before them, taught of Christ, and those who accepted their testimony are here called their "seed."31That the first-century BC Nephite prophet Abinadi should interpret these Isaiah passages in the same way as early Jewish and Christian texts that were unknown when the Book of Mormon was published suggests that the story is authentic and draws on early traditions.