“Turning of Things Upside Down”

Brant Gardner

Variant: Verse 27 is a reworking of Isa. 29:15:

15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

The changes in this verse show greater similarities to the previous Isaiah translations earlier in 2 Nephi than the very loose reinterpretations we have seen in this chapter. From here to the end of the chapter Nephi holds tighter to the original Isaiah text, but with minor variation. The variations suggest that Nephi has finished with most of the casting of the Isaianic passages, and is now back to his normal custom of finishing a unit. Having recast the first section, he finishes Isaiah because it is still applicable, but not essential to the re-use of the text to which Nephi has put it.

Note erroneous shift of intent in the phrase “turning of things upside down.” In Isaiah, this is a phrase that the Lord speaks to Israel - the same referent as the “shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not?” In Isaiah, this is an important sequence that makes sense of the questions of the thing made and the maker. The Book of Mormon rephrasing places directs this phrase to the Lord, thus disconnecting it from the essential following phrases. This type of “error” is typical of the changes I suspect of Joseph’s participation in the translation. It doesn’t fit into the greater care with which Nephi has constructed his pesher on Isaiah’s text.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon