“A Marvelous Work and a Wonder”

Brant Gardner

In the prophetic mode, one does not expect a precise chronology. Therefore we have no need to expect that the beginnings of the belief of the Jews in their true Messiah is a predecessor to the beginning of the "marvelous work and a wonder." These are facets of the process of fulfilling the prophecies, and they come in their own time and order. From a logical standpoint, this verse is actually the predecessor as it indicates that the Lord will "set his hand again the second time" to restore his people. Certainly the beginning of the process is indicated in the "set his hand."

Nephi notes that in the latter days of the fulfillment of these prophecies, that the Lord will set his hand the second time. When was the first time that he set his hand to "restore his people from their lost and fallen state?" This is somewhat confusing in that Nephi is using language typically reserved for one eschatological function and is applying it to another.

In Isaiah, as well as most of Nephi's writings, the term "restore" is typically used a a description of the reuniting of scattered Israel. It is the glory of a righteous people that is being "restored." In this case, Nephi is selecting an element of that eschatological restoration, that is, the righteousness, and is linking that return to righteousness with the earthly mission of the Messiah. In Nephi's terms, then, the first attempt to "restore" Israel came through the Messiah' gospel.

It is important to make sure that we see Nephi' vision of the Savior in his own terms rather than our own. The presence of such a developed christology this early in Book of Mormon history lends itself to the argument that the Book of Mormon reflects a "Christian" (that is a modern sectarian Christian) view of the history of the gospel in Israel. While the language of the Book of Mormon clearly couches its christology in more modern terms, passages as this one underscore the superficiality of the words as a description of Nephi's understanding.

In using the term "restore" in the context of realigning Israel with the Lord, Nephi places his vision of the future precisely parallel to that of Isaiah. Without the christological vocabulary, Isaiah's prophecies may include a Messiah, but they include a presumably Jewish Messiah whose mission is to restore the House of Israel to its proper position before the Lord.

Nephi sees Jesus' mission on earth not in terms of separation, but of repentant healing. Where the Christian world views itself as separate from Judah, and sees the mission of Jesus to establish a division, a new covenant that would pass glory of chosen people from the lineage of Judah to the separate community of Christian believers, both Isaiah and Nephi see the Messiah as a reformer of Israel - one who does not divide, but who brings back or restores the honored position of Israel.

Textual: The term "marvelous work and a wonder" is a direct citation of Isaiah 29:14. Nephi is placing his words (and by extension, the entire Book of Mormon) as a fulfillment of Isaiah 29:11-14. Nephi will pick this thread up again in 2 Nephi 26:16

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon