Friday, August 13, 2010
Holiness Shall Be Upon Their Heads
As I was reading the scriptures this evening I noticed a very interesting line in 2 Nephi 2:11. In this verse the prophet Jacob (son of Lehi) is quoting Isaiah chapter 51. In the KJV Isaiah 51:11 reads:
"Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
This chapter is about the latter-day redemption of Israel and this verse refers to the return of Israel to the lands of their inheritance.
This verse is slightly different in the version found in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon verse reads this way:
"Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away" (italics added)
The Book of Mormon version adds the phrase "and holiness" when speaking of the blessings which are to be upon the heads of redeemed Israel in the latter-days. I believe this small change is very significant. I believe it is a reference to the role the temple is to play in the lives of modern Israel.
In ancient Israel the temple high priest wore ceremonial clothing as he administered in the temple (see illustration above). He wore a turban or cap with a gold plate on the front above his forehead which read: קדש יהוה (qôdesh yehôvâh) which has been translated into English as "holiness to the Lord" or "holiness to Jehovah". This plate was known as the "crown". (see Exodus 29:6)
Anciently only the high priest passed through the veil of the temple and into the symbolic presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies. In modern temples all worthy Latter-Day Saints who enjoy the temple endowment take upon themselves the identity of the temple high priest and pass through the veil into the symbolic presence of the Lord in the Celestial Room.
Latter-Day Saints understand themselves to be modern day Israel so they see themselves being described in 2 Nephi 8 and Isaiah 51. Therefore, when Isaiah says that modern Israel will have joy and holiness upon their heads he may be referring to this gold plate. This may be his way of saying that Israel will enjoy the privileges previously restricted to the high priest.
Interestingly, an alternate translation of this verse by Avraham Gileadi reads:
"Let the ransomed of the Lord return! Let them come singing to Zion, their heads crowned with everlasting joy; let them obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing flee away." (italics added)
We know from the the text of the Book of Mormon that the authors of the book had access to the writings of Isaiah from the Brass Plates. (see 1 Nephi 19:22 - 24) It would be fascinating to know if the most faithful rendering of this verse to what Isaiah originally wrote would be something like:
"Let the ransomed of the Lord return! Let them come singing to Zion, their heads crowned with everlasting joy and holiness..."
There may also be another reference to the temple in chapter 51. Gileadi's translation of verse 9 begins with:
"Awake, arise; clothe yourself with power..."
The "clothe yourself with power" phrase sounds very much like a temple reference to Latter-Day Saints especially when compared with modern scripture such as D&C 43:16:
"And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken." (italics added, note: endow and clothe have similar meanings)
As I study the scriptures I am astonished at how often subtle and not so subtle references to the temple are made therein. The scriptures are temple texts and if one reads them with the temple in mind those references become very conspicuous. It's a fascinating and rewarding way to read the scriptures and one which I believe the prophets intended for us.