“I Am the First, and I Am Also the Last”

Brant Gardner

Yahweh identifies himself as “the first and… the last.” Isaiah is the first time we see this phrase applied to Yahweh. In other contexts it applies to the totality of the acts of the kings, or of the whole law (2 Chr. 28:26, 35:27; Neh. 8:18). The similar titles of Alpha and Omega, used in Revelation (1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13) and in 3 Nephi 9:18 are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The phrase “I am he” alludes to the “I Am” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex. 3:15). God also identifies himself as “I Am” in Isaiah 41:4 and the nearly parallel 44:6. Yahweh continues by defining his role in the creation. The right hand is associated in both biblical and world literature as a symbol for the right (as opposed to the wrong) and the good. Blenkinsopp also suggests that the sky is the more “difficult” to create and, hence, the work of the right hand.

Literature: Verse 13 refers to the elements of the Hebrew cosmos to underscore Yahweh’s creation of the whole of the universe. Stripping these phrases to their most essential elements, we would have:

• God (symbolized by “hand”) creates earth.

• God creates heaven.

• They “stand together.”

The Hebrew conception of the universe has the underworld, surface of the earth, and the heavens as the three important planes of existence. Isaiah uses the two “opposite” creations (earth as underworld and the heavens) to symbolize the entire universe. Even though he leaves out the explicit creation of the surface of the earth, it is implied in a creation that establishes the other two planes between which the surface lies.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1