Insights into Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

George A. Horton Jr.

George A. Horton Jr., “Insights into Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy,” in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Truths, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 71–88.

George A. Horton Jr. was an associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU when this was published.

Some years ago a prominent clergyman said, “Were a parchment discovered in an Egyptian mound, six inches square, containing fifty words which were certainly spoken by Jesus, this utterance would count more than all the books which have been published since the first century.” [1] If that is so, how great would be the worth of not just fifty, or even a hundred, but several thousand words coming by revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ to a modern prophet.

Is it not true that we have just that in the restored verses of scripture in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible? To what degree have we treasured these inspired words and recognized them for what they are?

Recently, university students in some sections of Religion 301 (i.e., Genesis through 2 Samuel) were instructed that the King James Version, LDS Edition was the text for the class and that no other Bible would be acceptable.

A couple of weeks into the semester I noticed that one very good student continued to bring her old Bible to class. It soon became apparent that she was by far the best scripturalist in the group. She had filled a mission while her father had served as mission president, and she was highly imbued with the gospel and a love for the scriptures. Her margins were filled with notes and many verses were carefully marked.

I was determined to persuade her that she should get a new Bible, but no calculated encouragement seemed to have any effect on her. She seldom made comments during class, but would come up to the desk at the end of almost every period with a series of questions. On the day we discussed the latter part of Exodus, as the class left the room, she came to the front, waited her turn, and then opened her book on the desk.

“See right here,” she said pointing to Exodus 33:18, “Moses asked the Lord to ‘show me thy glory’ and then on down here in verse 20 the Lord replies, ‘Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.’ Now since we claim that Joseph Smith saw God and lived, how do we explain that verse?”

Can a Man See God and Live?

I felt that this was an opportunity to demonstrate the value of the KJV, LDS Edition, so I opened my Bible and placed it on the desk alongside hers.

“See the footnote to that part of the verse that says no man can see God; it refers us to Moses 1:11, which as you know is part of the Joseph Smith Translation.” So we turned to Moses’ account where he “saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of god was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence” (JST, Genesis [preface] A revelation, verse 2/Moses 1:2). Then Moses explains: “But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him” (JST, Genesis, [preface] A revelation, verse 7; Moses 1:11).

“Now let us look at the next cross-reference which refers us to the JST, Ex. 33:20 (Appendix), which is to be found just following the Bible Dictionary in the KJV, LDS Edition. It reads, ‘And he said unto Moses, Thou canst not see my face at this time, lest mine anger be kindled against thee also, and I destroy thee, and thy people; for there shall no man among them see me at this time, and live, for they are exceeding sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.’

“With regard to the question of whether any man has seen the Lord and lived, let’s also look at this cross-reference from Exodus 33:20 which refers us to the Topical Guide subject ‘God, Privilege of Seeing.’ Notice all of the scriptural instances when a man has seen God and lived. They include the great patriarch Jacob, the nobles of the children of Israel, Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, Nephi and his brother Jacob, King Lamoni, brother of Jared, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, Enoch, Abraham, and perhaps many others.”

“Well,” she said, “I had noticed earlier in chapter 33 that it says, ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend’ (Exodus 33:11), and that is another reason why I was a little confused. Anyway, what about these verses over here?” she continued as she pointed to verses 22–23. “‘And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.’”

Again we followed the little superscript “c” to the bottom of the page where, following the words “my face shall not be seen” was added “as at other times; for I am angry with my people Israel” (JST, Exodus 33:23). “Wow!” she said softly. “That makes more sense doesn’t it! The scriptures really don’t contradict themselves do they? I really like the way the JST clarifies things, and it also means that Joseph Smith’s vision of the Father and the Son is in perfect harmony with Moses’ experience, doesn’t it?”

Without waiting for a response to her question, she pointed to the next chapter. “You remember that Moses smashed the first set of commandments because the people were having a wild party when he came down off the mount. Right here it says, ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest’ (Exodus 34:1). Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a vague recollection that we Mormons don’t believe that is exactly right, but I don’t know where to look it up.”

Was There a Difference Between the First and the Second Sets of Tablets?

Again I ran my finger down to the footnotes and cross-references. When her eyes focused on JST, Ex. 34:1–2 (Appendix), she sort of whispered to herself, “I should have guessed it.” So we read the following: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them. But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment; for I have sworn in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my presence, into my rest, in the days of their pilgrimage.”

It was apparent that she was now recognizing the value of the new KJV, LDS Edition and one of its greatest assets—the addition of over six hundred verses of the Joseph Smith Translation to the footnotes and appendix plus references to the book of Moses. Looking over at my book she pointed to the other cross-references related to Exodus 34:1 and said, “Do those others have any exciting additions?”

“Let’s look at Deuteronomy 10:1 and its JST footnote. It says about the same thing but in slightly different words: ‘And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, save the words of the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood.’ Maybe President John Taylor had reference to the inspired revision when he said: ‘The first tables of stone, we are informed by the inspired translators, contained not only many instructions for the government of the people, but revelations containing the gospel of the Son of God; the principles of the higher law, that were calculated to cause all who obeyed the same, to enter into his rest, which rest was the fulness of his glory.’ ” [2] Elder Orson Pratt further explained:

‘The first law, the higher law of the gospel, contained on the first tables, was destroyed and the covenant broken, and a new law introduced. Incorporated on the second tables . . . were the ten commandments, which pertain to the gospel, which were also on the first tables. In addition to these ten commandments which pertain to the gospel, were many of those carnal laws. . . . By this second code of laws, it was impossible for Israel to enter into the fulness of celestial glory, in other words, they could not be redeemed and brought into the presence of the Father and the Son, they could not enter into the fulness of that rest that was intended to be given to such only as obeyed the higher law of the gospel.’ ” [3]

This fine student still had several other questions, all except one of which could be answered through the study aids in the KJV, LDS Edition. She was beginning to appreciate what a valuable resource was available in this edition with more than six hundred footnotes to the Joseph Smith Translation.

How Much Revision Did Joseph Do in the Pentateuch?

The major changes and additions in the Old Testament were made largely in the book of Genesis. The revelation which appears as introductory to JST Genesis contains twenty-five verses (divided into forty-two in the book of Moses and designated as chapter 1). There are about two hundred verses added or changed in JST Genesis from the common Genesis account. Exodus is next with about sixty-six changes, while Leviticus has six, Numbers has two, and Deuteronomy has seven.

In determining the number of changes, one cannot assume that all differences between the Joseph Smith Translation and the present King James Version are a result of Joseph Smith’s revision. This is one of the errors made in the parallel column edition published by Herald Publishing House, [4] otherwise, a fine study tool. A search of H. & E. Phinney’s 1828 edition of the Bible [5] used by the Prophet reveals that what at first seem to be JST changes are actually changes in various editions of the King James Version. For example, both the JST and the Phinney edition read “a” at least nineteen times in certain places in the book of Leviticus where the current KJV reads “an.” A few other examples of changes that have taken place in the King James Version itself include: “of” to “from,” “which” to “where,” “am” to “is,” “be” to “are,” and “to” to “unto.”

However, the change of “wot” to “know” (e.g., Exodus 32:1 and Leviticus 22:6) which appears as if it fits in the same category, is actually a JST change.

There are also some spelling changes in the King James Version. An example would be the change from “aught” to “ought” (Exodus 5:11).

For the remainder of this discussion, let us consider some other important questions that are relevant to the quest for insights into the study of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy:

  • Who knew the sacred name of Jehovah?
  • Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?
  • What other verses have significant changes?
  • Why “seek ye the priesthood also”?
  • What insights come from related extratextual sources?

Who Knew the Sacred Name of Jehovah?

The casual reader of the Old Testament might easily conclude that for about the first twenty-five hundred years of earthly history (from the fall of Adam to the time of Moses), men did not know the Lord God by his name of Jehovah. This is occasioned by at least two factors.

First, at the time of Moses’ confrontation with the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Authorized Version reads, “God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:1–3).

Second, as you are undoubtedly aware, the King James translators translated the Hebrew tetragrammaton (JHVH or YHWH) to read Lord (i.e., large capital L and small capitals ORD), and thus it appears throughout the Old Testament 6,823 times (see preface to New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, 1:21). There are a number of additional places where it has been translated to read God (Elohim) or Lord (Adonai). It appears that the translators did this in deference to the tradition which grew up among the Hebrews that it was sacrilegious to utter the sacred name of Jehovah. The Jews through the centuries have generally substituted the word Adonai or a similar appellation.

Whatever the reasons, the King James translators only rendered the sacred name to read Jehovah instead of Lord in the Old Testament four times (Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4; it also appears at Psalms 68:4 in its shortened form as JAH). Therefore, a student of the scripture could study the Bible diligently for years, and perhaps never realize that, in a sense, beginning with Genesis 2:4, the name Jehovah appears in the text on almost every page. Knowing this, it would be obvious that contrary to what it says in Exodus 6:3, the patriarchs from Adam to Moses did know Jehovah by his name. It was Jehovah who “made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4); it was Jehovah who warned Noah of the impending flood; it was Jehovah who allowed men to be scattered at the time of the tower of Babel; it was Jehovah who instructed Abram to move from Chaldea to Canaan (cf. Abraham 1:16; 2:8); it was Jehovah who revealed that Jacob was to receive the birthright and have his name changed to Israel; and it was Jehovah who was “with Joseph” when he was made “ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:43).

If the “Almighty God” (Genesis 17:1) who appeared unto Abraham is actually the Lord God Jehovah, what can possibly be made out of the Exodus reference which indicates that “but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:3)? Fortunately, the JST corrects the problem by making the statement into a question: “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God Almighty; the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them?” (JST, Exodus 6:3).

Another JST reference that reinforces the fact that they knew the name of the Lord reads, “For thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jehovah, is a jealous God” (JST Exodus 34:14).

The foregoing throws a flood of light on the scriptures—helping us realize that Jehovah, the preexistent Lord Jesus Christ, was the God who spoke with and through the great prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament. As the prophet Isaiah so clearly informs us: “I, even I, am the Lord [i.e., Jehovah]; and beside me there is no saviour” (43:11). “Thus saith the Lord [i.e., Jehovah], your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel . . . the creator of Israel, your King” (43:14–15). All of which remind us of, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (9:6).

Who Hardened the Pharaoh’s Heart?

Many Old Testament scripture students have long been puzzled by the notion prompted by the King James Version that the Lord God Jehovah called the Midian shepherd Moses to go bring the children of Israel out of Egypt from their long bondage, and no sooner was Moses persuaded to go than the Lord promptly announced, “When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). And again, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart . . .” (Exodus 7:3). That this intent is actually carried out is reflected when the text indicates that the Lord “hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not . . . [and refused] to let the people go” (Exodus 7:13–14). Not only does the Lord seem to do this once, but as Moses pleads, coaxes, and threatens the Pharaoh, the Lord seems to do the same thing seven more times (see Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8, 17). As the text reads, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh and he hearkened not unto them” (Exodus 9:12).

Opinions among scholars seem to be divided on the implications of these passages. Many seem to feel that it is the Lord’s intent to make the task so difficult for Moses that when the Pharaoh finally lets Israel go, all Israel will know that it is because of the hand of the Lord in their behalf [6] By this they will know that he is the Mighty God of Israel to whom they owe their freedom from slavery and their redemption. Others, such as Adam Clarke, feel that the text is faulty. He points out that the same words in the Hebrew text used here were also translated “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened” in Exodus 7:22. Therefore they should be translated the same here, “lest the hardening, which was evidently the effect of his own obstinate shutting of his eyes against the truth, should be attributed to God. [7] Still other commentaries are completely silent and do not attempt to explain the implications of the passages. [8]

In the King James text, the behavior of the Lord seems to be slightly inconsistent with his attributes and character as reflected in other parts of holy writ. However, a student’s suspicion about the passage is not completely without a clue in the Authorized Version, because there are places where it clearly indicates that on occasion the Pharaoh hardened his own heart (e.g., Exodus 8:32; 9:34) or simply that his heart was hardened without attributing it to any outside source (e.g., Exodus 8:32; 9:34) or simply that his heart was hardened without attributing it to any outside source (e.g. Exodus 7:14, 22).

The JST reports, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart, that he hearkened not unto them” (Exodus 7:13). In fact, the translation is corrected systematically in all nine occurrences in this particular context (cf. JST, Exodus 4:21; 7:13; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8, 17).

We are left to wonder how many people, because of such passages as this, and others that are similar dealing with causality in life, ascribe actions and responsibility to the Lord that are clearly the result of men exercising their own agency?

What Other Verses Have Significant Changes?

In the following examples, the JST versification is the same as the KJV unless otherwise specified.

Corrections in the Book of Exodus

The following are not all-inclusive (there being about sixty-six), but these indicate some of the more interesting changes:

1. Exodus 3:2. The “angel of the Lord” who appeared at the burning bush is changed to read “the presence of the Lord” which makes the entire conversation that follows with Jehovah (I Am) much more comprehensible.

2. Exodus 5:4. The JST strengthens the Pharaoh’s charge from “Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works?” to “Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, lead the people from their works?”

3. Exodus 6:30. We are often perplexed by the seeming difference between Stephen’s assertion that Moses was “mighty in words” (Acts 7:22) and Moses’ own response to his call, “Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). A significant insight comes when the JST clarifies another Moses statement that “I am of uncircumcised lips,” by rendering it to read “I am of stammering lips, and slow of speech” (JST, Exodus 6:29).

4. Exodus 7:1. This passage has Moses becoming “a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” It is corrected in the JST to read “I have made thee a prophet to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy spokesman.”

5. Exodus 12:37. The JST simply adds the fact that there were women in addition to the six hundred thousand men plus children.

6. Exodus 14:20. The antecedents to them and these are plainly clarified to be first the Egyptians and in the latter case the Israelites. To the former, what came up before them was a cloud of darkness, but to the Israelites it gave light by night.

7. Exodus 21:20. In the JST, the penalty for murdering a servant is designated as death, rather than merely punishment.

8. Exodus 22:18. It is not a “witch” who shall be put to death, but “Thou shalt not suffer a murderer to live.”

9. Exodus 22:28. “Revile the gods” is corrected to read “Thou shalt not revile against God.”

10. Exodus 23:3. The King James text gives us a shock in saying, “Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause,” but fortunately it is a wicked man that shalt not be countenanced.

11. Exodus 32:12. Moses takes the Lord to task for his judgments upon Israel, and boldly says, “Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.” Doesn’t this seem a little presumptuous for mortal man, prophet or no prophet, to be demanding of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth? The JST corrects it to read, “Turn from thy fierce wrath. Thy people will repent of this evil: therefore come thou not out against them.”

12. Exodus 32:14. Continuing the thought, the text reads, “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do.” What a revolting thought to consider that a perfect God would entertain such evil thoughts that it would be necessary for him to repent. Does that suggest that he could make other mistakes? Heaven forbid! Did not Moses say in other places, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (Numbers 23:19), and “his work is perfect: for all his ways . . . are without iniquity, just and right” (Deuteronomy 32:4). The inspired revision says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day. Therefore, see thou do this thing that I have commanded thee, or I will execute all that which I had thought to do unto my people.” (JST Exodus 32:14). Alas, it is men who always have need of repentance.

13. Exodus 32:35. It sounds as if the plagues came on the people not just because they asked for the golden calf, but more particularly because they worshipped the calf.

Corrections in the Book of Leviticus:

The basic changes are as follows:

1. Leviticus 12:3–5. There are corrections in these three verses which seem euphemistic. That is, the changes appear to be made in order to read more comfortably in a puritan society. In verse 3, there is a change from “the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” to “the man child shall be circumcised.” In verses 4 and 5, there is a change from “the blood of her purifying” to “the time of her purifying.” There is probably no objective way of knowing whether these changes were the Prophet’s idea, or whether they came from the Lord.

2. Leviticus 21:1. “There shall none be defiled for the dead” to “There shall none be defiled with the dead.”

3. Leviticus 21:11. A clarifying word is added in this verse: “Neither shall he go in to touch any dead body.”

Corrections in the Book of Numbers:

This book contains only two changes:

1. Number 16:10. Discussed hereafter in the section on “Seek Ye the Priesthood Also.”

2. Numbers 22:20–22. A strange paradox exists in the Authorized Version. Balaam is being harassed with pleadings and lucrative bribes to curse the advancing Israelites coming into the land of Moab. King Balak sends his emissaries to further persuade Balaam. Then God instructs Balaam, “If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them,” and then when Balaam does just that the text says, “And God’s anger was kindled because he went.” Does God vacillate? The corrected version reads, “If the men come to call thee, rise up if thou wilt, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.”

Corrections in the Book of Deuteronomy:

The changes are as follows:

1. Deuteronomy 2:30. KJV reads, “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate.” The correction here is reminiscent of several Exodus passages. As corrected it reads, “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for he hardened his spirit.”

2. Deuteronomy 10:2. Discussed earlier, in the section dealing with the first and second sets of tablets.

3. Deuteronomy 14:21. This passage gives the impression the Lord has a double standard-one for Israel and another for strangers. “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself; thou shalt give it unto the stranger . . . or thou mayest sell it unto an alien” is corrected to read, “Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself; thou shalt not give it unto the stranger . . . or thou mayest not sell it unto an alien.”

4. Deuteronomy 16:22. The JST qualifies the kind of image set up. “Neither shalt thou set thee up any graven image; which the Lord thy God hateth.”

5. Deuteronomy 34:6. What happened to Moses at the time of his death has been the subject of some speculation. The scripture says, “And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” From statements by ancient and modern prophets, it is clear that Moses was translated. In speaking of Alma it was said, “He was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses” (Alma 45:19). Maybe the following from the JST hints more strongly in that direction. “For the Lord took him unto his fathers” (JST, Deuteronomy 34:6). Josephus also lends credence to the idea of translation, saying, “As he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God.” [9]

Seek Ye the Priesthood Also?

During the long Israelite sojourn in the wilderness of Paran, times had been hard. Moses had sought for assistance and the Lord responded by calling “seventy men of the elders of Israel” (Numbers 11:10–16), and placed upon them the spirit that was upon Moses.

Not long after this time Korah, who was a Levite (but not of Aaron), and two Reubenites, led 250 leaders of Israel in a rebellion against Moses, charging that he and Aaron “take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy . . . [why] lift ye up yourselves above the congregation” (Numbers 16:3). In his rebuke to Korah and the sons of Levi among the group, Moses says, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation . . . to bring you near himself to do the service of the tabernacle . . . and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them . . . and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:9–10).

Bible scholars have puzzled over this statement because the Levites in the group already held the Levitical Priesthood which the Lord had restricted to their tribe only. Some have guessed that the group was trying to get the same authority held by the sons of Aaron or Aaron himself, [10] but they have also felt that the problem was in their timing (i.e., it was premature). Others have guessed, “What else was this but the first foregleam of the universal priesthood of all believers,” [11] which they thought would be forthcoming in the Christian dispensation.

We remind ourselves that the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood and its ordinances were taken from the people generally, at the time of the second set of tablets, and was no longer widely available to the Israelites (JST, Exodus 34:2; JST Deuteronomy 10:1). Nevertheless, the JST rendering of Numbers 16:10 provides an insight into what the group was seeking after: “And he hath brought thee near to him [the Lord], and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee; and seek ye the high priesthood also?”

Since there was to be only one high priest, and since many of this group already held the Levitical Priesthood, this seems like a direct reference to the fact they were seeking the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood. This makes sense because this would also accommodate the non-Levites who were part of the group.

Another valuable change in the text is found at Exodus 18:1, which in the Authorized Version refers to “Jethro, the priest of Midian.” The correction in the JST is enlightening when we find that Jethro is “the high priest.” This reference cannot possibly be to the office held by Aaron which was to be in the tribe of Levi only, but for Jethro, who was not a descendant of Jacob, it must have reference to the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood. This strongly suggests there were others living during this period who held the Melchizedek Priesthood. The affirmation of this brings us to another area where one can gain insights into the priesthood during the period of the Pentateuch.

What Related Extratextual Sources Are Available?

As has been suggested before, [12] as the Prophet Joseph worked on the inspired revision, he often inquired of the Lord about the matter he was pondering and received revelations that are integrally related to the Bible—in other words, they could be looked upon as an extension of the biblical text. He worked on the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy during the period of 20 July to 22 September 1832. Is it any surprise that he should receive a revelation on priesthood lineage and other matters pertaining to Moses that is dated 22 and 23 September 1832? The Lord speaks of the gathering in the last days and then adds: “For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house. And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro” (D&C 84:5–6). Jethro’s priesthood line is then traced all the way back to Adam.

Continuing on, the Lord says, “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also.” (D&C 84:19–25.) This valuable insight is not clearly stated in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament. Neither are some of the related priesthood duties; for example, “And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John” (D&C 84:26–27).

While searching for insights in the books from Exodus through Deuteronomy, we might ask whether it is possible that the apostle Paul also, not unlike Joseph Smith in this respect, received some of his revelations while studying the Old Testament record? Paul gives us great insights on the Mosaic period, particularly in Hebrews chapters 3–5 and 7–11. Consider his comment, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11). He reminds us that the law of Moses gave forth “patterns,” “figures,” and was “a shadow of good things to come,” namely, Jesus Christ, who would be the sacrifice to “bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:23–24, 28; 10:1).


It has been suggested that although the combined JST changes in Exodus through Deuteronomy are less than half those in Genesis, they still provide many useful insights, such as:

1. Mortal man, under certain conditions, can see God and live.

2. Ancient Israel had the full gospel law (cf. Hebrews 3:8; 4:2), the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the higher ordinances associated with it until they forfeited their rights through disobedience.

3. Perhaps they knew the Melchizedek Priesthood had been taken generally, and was only retained by the prophets. In any event, these rebellious Israelites complained because they did not have power and authority like that of Moses.

4. The Lord Jesus Christ was known to the early patriarchs from the time of Adam by his name Jehovah.

5. If a man’s heart is hardened, it is the man, not the Lord that is responsible for the condition.

6. A wide variety of small but significant changes add to the internal consistency of the biblical account.

7. There are related extratextual sources available which provide further insights into the books of Moses.

In conclusion, if we were to hear of a new discovery of even a few authentic words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how much effort would we make to find out what they say? Would it matter whether they came from an Egyptian mound or ancient parchment? If we knew that the Lord prompted a prophet to make even one change in the scriptures (let alone hundreds), to what lengths would we go to find out what it was? Wouldn’t we want to know why it was significant enough to warrant a change? The sum and substance of the whole matter is—we ought to consider every JST change as a valuable treasure waiting to be discovered.

Should we not enthusiastically search the scriptures, compare the corrections, seek the Spirit, and ponder the words of the modern prophets, that we may continue to gain greater insights not only into Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but into all the words the Lord has seen fit to give for our instruction, blessing, and eternal salvation?


[1] Charles A. Callis, Fundamentals of Religion (Independence, MO: Zion’s Printing and Publishing, 1945), 155.

[2] Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1855–56), 16:152; emphasis added.

[3] Journal of Discourses, 15:69.

[4] Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1970).

[5] H. & E. Phinney’s Stereotype Edition, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments Together with the Apocrypha (Cooperstown, NY: H. & E. Phinney, 1828).

[6] The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1955), 493.

[7] The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, n.d.), 1:324.

[8] The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, 40–45.

[9] Flavius Josephus, Josephus’ Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1970), Antiquities 4:8:48.

[10] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, 25 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, n.d.), 3:99.

[11] The Interpreter’s Bible, 12 vols. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1953), 2:221.

[12] Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 257.