Sunday, July 25, 2010
יסף - Isaiah 29:14
Isaiah 29:14 (KJV)
Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
This morning as I was studying the scriptures I noticed a really interesting detail from Isaiah 29:14. As Latter-Day Saints we understand this verse to be a prophecy of the restoration of the Lord's church in modern times. The book of Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew and Hebrew authors often used various literary devices in their writings. One common device they used was wordplay. I believe that Isaiah intentionally used a play on words in this verse to teach his readers additional information about the restoration of the Gospel.
The key player in the restoration was the prophet Joseph Smith. We know from the Book of Mormon that the Joseph who was sold into Egypt was aware of Joseph Smith and even knew what his name would be (see 2 Nephi 3). Presumably Isaiah had access to Joseph's writings and was also aware that the great latter-day prophet's name would be Joseph.
In Isaiah 29:14 the Hebrew word which was translated into English as proceed is the word יסף yâsaph (or יסף .*(יסוף means "to add or augment" (Strong's Bible Lexicon) and is the Hebrew form of the name Joseph.
Isaiah in saying that he would "add" a marvelous work and a wonder was cleverly teaching his readers of the latter-day mission of the prophet Joseph Smith.
*יסוף and יסף are the same word. The ו in יסוף is known as a matres lectiones. matres lectiones are consonantal vowel points and the ו is there only to fit the word into it's context and does not change it's meaning.
P.S. (7/26/10) - I just found out this has been written about. Here is the article: "He Shall Add: Wordplay on the Name Joseph and an Early Instance of Gezera Shawa in the Book of Mormon" by Matthew Bowen