“The Wickedness of the Pastors of My People”

Brant Gardner

Victor Ludlow comments: “These six verses [1–6] comprise one of the four recognized ‘servant songs’ of Isaiah (along with 42:1–4, 50:4–9, and 52:13–53:12). Various scholars offer numerous possible identities for this servant: Isaiah, the nation Israel, Jesus Christ, and even Joseph Smith.” Seeing anyone except Isaiah as the servant requires an explanation of the difference between the narrator’s first person and a possible future fulfillment of the role. In prophetic utterances, however, the referent of the first person is not limited to the recorder/prophet. In addition, the malleability of prophecy makes it easy to apply the verses to another, or even more than one. The redemption of Israel is part of a long process, not the result of a single action or person; thus, the applicability of the verses to more than one person is quite permissible.

Literature:Verse 2 uses “mouth” as a metaphor for speech. Yahweh’s word issues from the prophet’s mouth. The next two metaphors are weapons: the word is a sharp sword and a polished shaft (arrow). Their message is that Yahweh’s word is powerful enough to penetrate. However, the image also puns on pî-hereb (Deut. 13:16), a Hebrew term which refers to the sword edge as its “mouth”—where the sword “devours” its enemy.

Although the servant has powerful, piercing weapons, at least one appears not to be used but rather “hid” in “his quiver.” Westermann suggests that “hid” be read as protection rather than removal. In other words, the arrow is still available, but it is under Yahweh’s protection.

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