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Understanding Isaiah can be difficult. We'll dive into 3 things that can help you understand the Book of Isaiah a little more. You'll learn more about chiasmus, types, and symbolism. For additional help, purchase the book Isaiah Made Easier by David Ridges.
First, let's talk about Isaiah himself. When did Isaiah’s ministry occur? Isaiah began his ministry about 740 B.C. He continued until about 701 B.C. He is one of the greatest prophets who ever lived.
What is Chiasmus? It is a writing form in which the author says certain things and then intentionally repeats them in reverse order for emphasis. Chiasmus was not discovered by scholars until after the time the Book of Mormon was published.
Often, but not necessarily always, the pivot point or midpoint of the chiasmus is the main message. For example, in the chiasmus used by Isaiah in the first eight verses of Isaiah chapter 3, the main message is found in verse 5, where he emphasizes that when a society collapses because of wickedness, everyone is persecuted and oppressed by everyone else.
Next, we'll talk about "types." The word “type” means something that is symbolic of something else. For example, both Joseph who was sold into Egypt and Isaac were “types” of Christ; in other words, many things that happened to them were symbolic of the Savior. The following charts show some of the ways in which these great prophets were “types” of Christ:
Isaiah also uses symbolism in his writing. One example is in Isaiah chapter 9. Symbolism here can include that Assyria would represent the devil and his evil, prideful ways. King Ahaz could symbolize foolish and wicked people who make alliances with the devil or his evil ways and naively think that they are thus protected from destruction spiritually and often physically.
Red: sins; bloodshed (Example: Rev. 6:4; D&C 133:51)
Blue: heaven; godliness; remembering and keeping God’s commandments (Example: Numbers 15:37–40) green life; nature (Example: Rev. 8:7)
Amber: sun; light; divine glory (Example: D&C 110:2, Rev. 1:15, Ezek. 1:4,
Scarlet: royalty (Example: Dan. 5:29; Matt. 27:28–29)
Silver: worth, but less than gold (Example: Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, Isa. 48:10 notes)
Gold: the best; exaltation (Example: Rev. 4:4)
Eye: perception; light and knowledge
Ears: obedience; hearing
Hair: modesty; covering
Members: offices and callings
Heart: inner man; courage
Hands: action, acting
Right Hand: covenant hand; making covenants
Bowels: center of emotion; whole being
Loins: posterity; preparing for action (gird up your loins)
Liver: center of feeling
Toe: associated with cleansing rites (Example: Lev. 14:17)
Nose: anger (Example: 2 Sam. 22:16; Job 4:9)
Blood: life of the body
Knee: humility; submission
Shoulder: strength; effort
Forehead: total dedication, loyalty (Example: Rev. 14:1—loyalty to God); Rev. 13:16 (loyalty to wickedness, Satan)
1: unity; God
3: God; Godhead; A word repeated 3 times means superlative, “the most” or “the best” (See Isaiah 6:3).
4: mankind; earth (see Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 456). (Example: Rev. 7:1. Four angels over four parts of the earth)
7: completeness; perfection. When man lets God help, it leads to perfection. (man + God = perfection) 4 + 3 = 7
10: numerical perfection; well-organized (Example: Ten Commandments, tithing) (Example: Satan is well-organized, Rev. 13:1)
12: divine government; God’s organization (Example: JST Rev. 5:6)
40 days: literal; sometimes means “a long time” as in 1 Samuel 17:16
forever en dless can sometimes be a specific period or age, not endless
(see BYU Religious Studies Center Newsletter, Vol. 8, No. 3, May 1994)
Horse: victory; power to conquer (Example: Rev. 19:11; Jer. 8:16)
Donkey: peace (Example: Christ came in peace at the Triumphal Entry)
Palms: joy; triumph, victory (Example: John 12:13; Rev. 7:9)
Wings: power to move, act, etc. (Example: Rev. 4:8; D&C 77:4)
Crown: power; dominion; exaltation (Example: Rev. 2:10; 4:4)
Robes: royalty; kings, queens; exaltation (Example: Rev. 6:11, 7:14; 2 Ne. 9:14; D&C 109:76; 3 Ne. 11:8)
Purchase Isaiah Made Easier by David Ridges.