"That Ye May Have Hope"

Nephi's Use of Isaiah 49:22-23 in Teaching the Concept of Hope

Matthew L. Bowen

Matthew L. Bowen, "'That Ye May Have Hope': Nephi's Use of Isaiah 49:22-23 in Teaching the Concept of Hope," Religious Educator 23, no. 2 (2022): 30–45.

Matthew L. Bowen (matthew.bowen@byuh.edu) is an associate professor of Religious Education at BYU–Hawaii.

Nephi’s Framing of Isaiah 48–49 (1 Nephi 20–21)

Nephi and later Book of Mormon authors typically explain their uses of Isaiah’s writings in their own records. These statements occur in the framing material before and after lengthy quotations. Before Nephi’s first such quotation—the entirety of Isaiah 48–49—he offers a reason for reading this block of text to his family members, one that ultimately explains his including it in his small plates record: “But that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer, wherefore I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah” (1 Nephi 19:23).[1] This oft-cited statement of purpose is germane to understanding Nephi’s reliance on Isaiah. It is also consistent with his statement of purpose for the small plates as a whole: “For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:4).

photo of a person reading their scripturesBecause God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and the future. - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Photo by Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com.

However, Nephi makes another statement that reflects an additional purpose in quoting Isaiah 48–49. This statement has received less attention. Nephi recalls: “Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye which are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch which have been broken off. Hear ye the words of the prophet which was written unto all the house of Israel and liken it unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off” (1 Nephi 19:24; emphasis added). Because being “broken off” or scattered from the main body of Israel remained a source of anxiety for the Lehite-Ishmaelite clan,[2] including his brothers, Nephi sought to reassure them of Israel’s eventual gathering and restoration. He found an ideal text in Isaiah 48–49, where Isaiah deals broadly with the scattering and gathering of Israel. The gathering of Israel through the instrumentality of the Gentiles is addressed with particular clarity in Isaiah 49:22–23:

Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

In what follows, I propose that Nephi’s purpose clause “that ye may have hope” has direct reference to Isaiah 49:22–23 and, in particular, to the prophetic promise “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” The connection becomes clearer when we examine the meaning of the Hebrew verb employed by Isaiah, qāwâ, which means not only “to wait” (as in KJV Isaiah 49:23) but more precisely “to hope” (as reflected in the derived nouns tiqwâ and miqweh, both denoting “hope”). Further examination reveals that Nephi considered Isaiah 49:22–23 one of Isaiah’s most important prophecies. Isaiah’s prophetic promise regarding the gathering and restoration of Israel in Isaiah 49:22–23 is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic covenant (compare Genesis 22:18 and 1 Nephi 22:6–12) and anticipation of its fulfillment. Nephi’s concept of hope is thus similarly rooted in waiting for and expecting the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

Nephi included not only Isaiah 49:22–23 within his first lengthy quotation of Isaiah (at 1 Nephi 20–21) and his subsequent interpretation of these texts in 1 Nephi 22 (see especially vv. 4–12), but also, in his small plates account, an entire covenant sermon by his brother Jacob (2 Nephi 6–10)[3] based on this prophecy. Nephi himself commissioned this sermon and Jacob’s use of this text (see 2 Nephi 6:4–7). Reading Nephi’s and Jacob’s quotations of Isaiah 49:22–23 in terms of “hav[ing] hope” as mentioned in 1 Nephi 19:24 helps us understand what Nephi and his successors meant and how they felt when they used hope terminology to reassure their people concerning the prophesied future of scattered Israel.

Meaning of Hope in the Hebrew Bible and Book of Isaiah

Our English word hope, as a noun, derives from the late Old English word hopa (“confidence in the future”)[4] and has the historical sense of an “expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.”[5] As a verb, hope derives from the Old English verb hopian and means “to ‘hope,’ expect, look for”;[6] “to have trust, have confidence; assume confidently or trust.”[7] Used intransitively, the verb hope denotes “to entertain of something desired, to look (mentally) with expectation”; and as a transitive verb, it denotes “to expect with desire, or to desire with expectation; to look forward to (something desired).”[8] The underlying Hebrew noun and verb that are most often translated as “hope” in the English translations of the scriptures have a similar, if slightly more expansive, sense.

Biblical scholar and theologian Seung Ai Yang has observed that in the Hebrew Bible “hope is founded on the religious narratives of Israelite history. These narratives are punctuated by the promises of Yahweh expressed as covenants with all God’s creation and with Israel.”[9] The Abrahamic covenant, which included the promises of an eternal relationship with God, the inheritance of certain lands, and a numberless posterity (eternal increase), is thus central to the concept of hope in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible. Yang further notes that “in the accounts of Israel’s ancestors, barrenness threatened this promise of land and lineage. . . . However, Yahweh is faithful, and Israel’s barren matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, are given sons (Gen 21:2; 25:21; 30:22).”[10] The Apostle Paul referred to the perpetual hope in the fulfillment of divine promises that began with Abraham, “who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18). The divine title “hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8; 17:3) aptly describes Jehovah precisely because, as “He who makes things happen,”[11] he brings to pass all covenant promises (see Genesis 18:14; 21:1–2; Moroni 7:32), including the Resurrection[12] and ultimately the “restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets.”[13]

The Hebrew noun tiqwâ denotes an “expectation, hope (resulting from the collecting together of one’s mental powers), optimistic outlook,”[14] and the cognate noun miqweh similarly means “hope”[15] (compare the divine title “Hope of Israel,” miqwê yiśrāʾēl). The Hebrew verb qāwâ, from which the noun is derived, denotes “await, hope.”[16] The overriding sense of qāwâ is hope in the sense of waiting for or expecting something. In the Spanish edition of the Book of Mormon, the noun esperanza and verb esperar (“expect,” “wait for,” “hope”),[17] from Latin sperare (“hope” or “expect”), reflect roughly the same range of meaning as Hebrew tiqwâ and qāwâ.

In the Hebrew Bible, the verb qāwâ occurs six times (including in Isaiah 49:23) as an active participle in the qal stem. Three of these occur in Psalms, “the hymns of the [Jerusalem] temple”[18]: “Yea, let none that wait on thee [qōwêkā] be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause” (25:3); “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon [wĕqōwê] the Lord, they shall inherit the earth” (37:9); “Let not them that wait on thee [qōwêkā], O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel” (69:6).[19] It is not difficult to see an intertextual relationship between the prophetic promise “for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” in Isaiah 49:23 and “let none/let not them that wait [up]on thee [. . .] be ashamed” in Psalm 25:3 and Psalm 69:6, the former plausibly constituting an allusion to or an appropriation of the latter. Moreover, Psalm 37:9 helps us see how the concept of waiting on or having hope in the Lord relates to the Abrahamic covenant and the covenant blessing of inheriting the earth or land.

One of the other participial uses of qāwâ occurs elsewhere in the book of Isaiah also in connection with a prophetic promise: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Like the previous examples in the Psalms, those who “wait [up]on” or have hope in the Lord have an expectation of a divine blessing. When the Lord declared through Isaiah, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me [qōwāy],” he was saying, “They shall not be ashamed that have hope in me.”[20] Or, as Robert Alter has translated this line, “All who hope for Me shall not be shamed.”[21] In other words, they would receive the covenant blessing that they expected or looked for—their hopes would not be disappointed.

“They Shall Not Be Ashamed That Wait for Me”

When Nephi expresses the idea of “hav[ing] hope” in 1 Nephi 19:24, he clearly does so in the sense of hoping or waiting for what only Yahweh—the Lord Jesus Christ himself—can provide: a gathering and restoration of what had been broken off and scattered, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Elsewhere the scriptures associate hope with the resurrection of the dead for the same reason: only the Lord, Israel’s kinsman-redeemer, can redeem the soul and resurrect the dead. As the Psalmist expressed it, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest [reside] in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [šĕʾôl (Sheol) = the world of spirits];[22] neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:9–10; Acts 2:26–27; compare Acts 2:31; 13:34–35). Hence the scriptures speak of “the hope of a glorious resurrection” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:45; 138:14; compare Acts 23:6). Ezekiel, a contemporary of Lehi and Nephi who also personally experienced the scattering of Israel and exile from the land, saw in vision Israel’s gathering and restoration to its covenant lands as the physical resurrection of its dead (see Ezekiel 37:1–14). “Hope” is a crucial term in the Lord’s explanation of the meaning of the vision:

Then he [the Lord] said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope [tiqwātēnû] is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:11–14)

Ezekiel and his fellow exiles, like Lehi and his family, needed to have hope that they and their descendants would be gathered and restored to the lands of their inheritance[23] and “inherit the earth” (Psalms 25:13; 37:9, 11, 22; compare Matthew 5:5; 3 Nephi 12:5) in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. The Apostle Paul also saw Israel’s gathering and restoration as a resurrection: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

Broadly speaking, Isaiah 48 (quoted in its entirety in 1 Nephi 20) explains why Israel and Judah have been scattered and exiled, and Isaiah 49 (quoted in its entirety in 1 Nephi 21) promises divine gathering and restoration through the instrumentality of the Gentiles. The one text in Isaiah 48–49 that directly mentions hope and expressly states the basis for Israel’s hope in Yahweh comes in Isaiah 49:22–23:

1 Nephi 19:241 Nephi 21:22–23/Isaiah 49:22–23)
Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye which are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch which have been broken off. Hear ye the words of the prophet which was written unto all the house of Israel, and liken it unto yourselves, that ye may have hope [compare the Hebrew verb *tĕqawwû (from qāwâ) and the noun tiqwâ] as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles and set up my standard to the people. And they shall bring thy sons in their arms and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers and their queens thy nursing mothers. They shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth and lick up the dust of thy feet. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me [Hebrew qōwāy].

Nephi addresses his brothers as “ye which are a remnant of the house of Israel” and thus draws them into a dominant Isaianic theme.[24] The concept of a gathered “remnant” was so important to Isaiah and his prophetic mission that one of his sons was named Shear-jashub (šĕʾār yāšûb), a name meaning “a remnant shall return.”[25] The name Shear-jashub at once emphasized the divine judgment (scattering and exile) and the divine hope (restoration and gathering)[26] emphasized in Isaiah 48 (1 Nephi 20) and Isaiah 49 (1 Nephi 21), respectively, as noted above.

In describing his brothers as “a branch which have been broken off” and separated from “your [Israelite] brethren from whom ye have been broken off,” Nephi uses language directly from Zenos’s allegory (see especially Jacob 5:30), which Nephi’s brothers have heard both Lehi and Nephi use previously (see, e.g., 1 Nephi 10:12; 15:12).[27] Like Zenos’s allegory, Isaiah 49:22–23 offered hope to scattered Israel that they could be fully gathered and restored—a type of resurrection. Jacob uses resurrection imagery similar to what is found in Ezekiel 37 and clearly blends it with the prophecy in Isaiah 49:22–23:

But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh upon the earth unto the lands of their inheritance.

And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion from the isles of the sea and from the four parts of the earth. And the nations of the Gentiles shall be great in the eyes of me, saith God, in carrying them forth to the lands of their inheritance.

Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers. Wherefore the promises of the Lord is great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute? . . .

For I will fulfill my promises which I have made unto the children of men that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh. (2 Nephi 10:7–9, 17)

The author of Hebrews suggests that Abraham specifically had in mind God’s ability to raise the dead in conformance with his covenant promises when he offered up Isaac as commanded: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17–19). If Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob’s family all “died in faith, not having received the promises” (v. 13),[28] the resurrection of the dead must constitute the horizon for the complete fulfillment of those promises, since the Lord intends to perform them “while they [his children] are in the flesh” and to fully restore them “in the flesh.”

The fact that Isaiah 49:22–23 and Zenos’s allegory both offer hope for this type of restoration in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant plausibly explains why Jacob quotes and expands upon both texts at great length in his sermons and writings (see 2 Nephi 6–10; Jacob 5).

“The People of the Lord Are They Which Wait for Him”

Here it becomes necessary to further explore Jacob’s use of Isaiah 49:22–23. Jacob begins his covenant sermon, which quotes and interprets everything from Isaiah 49:22–52:2, with a quotation from Isaiah 49:22–23 in 2 Nephi 6:6–7. In 2 Nephi 6:8–15, Jacob interprets Isaiah’s prophecy with reference to the people of Nephi and their descendants. In verses 13–14 Jacob gives an interpretation of Isaiah 49:22–23, which he has just quoted in 2 Nephi 6:6–7, including a clear interpretation of the phrase “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me”:

2 Nephi 6:6–7/Isaiah 49:22–232 Nephi 6:13–14

And now these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles and set up my standard to the people. And they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers. They shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Wherefore they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet. And the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed, for the people of the Lord are they which wait for him [i.e., those who have hope in him] for they still wait for [i.e., hope for, expect] the coming of the Messiah.

And behold, according to the words of the prophet, the Messiah will set himself again [yôsip] the second time to recover them. Wherefore he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory unto the destruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him. And none will he destroy that believe in him.

Brant Gardner[29] and later John Gee and Matthew Roper[30] have noted the importance of Jacob’s covenant sermon (2 Nephi 6–10) for early Nephite polity and the incorporation of gentile “others” into the nascent nation. One of the immediate practical functions of Jacob’s use of Isaiah in his covenant sermon was to establish a scriptural and theological basis for incorporating these gentile “others” into the people of Nephi as “the covenant people of the Lord,” a designation used repeatedly in Nephi’s writings.[31] Here Jacob uses Isaianic terminology to redefine “Nephite” identity in terms of shared faith rather than lineage. Whether of Israelite or gentile ancestry, “the people of the Lord are they who wait for him” (i.e., those who have hope in Christ) and those that “believe in him”—that is, “repent and believe in his Son” (2 Nephi 30:2).[32]

Jacob declares that “the covenant people of the Lord” at that time consisted of “they which [would] wait for” or “hope for” Christ’s first coming in mortality. But he also implicitly defines “the people of the Lord” beyond that time in terms of those who would wait or hope for his Second Coming—a coming preceded by a restoration. Jacob, paraphrasing Isaiah 11:11, prophesies that “the Messiah will set himself again the second time to recover” or gather such a people. The Hebrew verb rendered “set . . . again” in the KJV translation of Isaiah 11:11 is yôsîp, which Nephi and Jacob may have viewed as an echo of the name Joseph (yôsip), the name of the servant through whom the Messiah would bring to pass this restoration.[33]

Jacob helps his audience see the connection between “believ[ing] in” (having faith in) Christ and having hope in Christ by drawing a parallel between “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:23; 2 Nephi 6:7) and “none will he destroy that believe in him” (2 Nephi 6:14), which he seems to draw from Isaiah 28:16: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” “Believing” in or having faith in “[the] tried stone, [the] precious corner stone, [and] sure foundation” constitutes the first principle in what Nephi defines as the doctrine of Christ.[34]

“A Perfect Brightness of Hope”

The necessity of waiting for or having hope in Yahweh as conveyed in Isaiah 49:23 (i.e., having hope centered in Christ) as an outgrowth of faith in the Lord (as in Isaiah 28:16) also appears to have influenced Nephi’s understanding of his fifth principle of the doctrine of Christ.[35] In 2 Nephi 31:19–20, Nephi outlines how one should endure to the end in faith, hope, and charity:

And now my beloved brethren, after that ye have got into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done. Behold, I say unto you: Nay. For ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men; wherefore if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father, ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:19–20)

The “perfect brightness of hope” with which one must “press forward” as a part of “endur[ing] to the end” is the same “hope” that Nephi endeavored to instill in his brothers (see 1 Nephi 19:24) when he read Isaiah 48–49 to them from the brass plates—hope centered in Christ (“they shall not be ashamed that wait for me,” Isaiah 49:23/1 Nephi 21:23). Centuries later, Paul taught that such “hope maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:5, Greek elpis, “hope”), perhaps even alluding to Isaiah 49:23 and Psalms 25:3; 37:9; 69:6.

photo of students laughingHelping students understand that hope in a scriptural context is far more than idle or abstract optimism about the future but entails actively waiting on the Lord and expecting the fulfilment of divine covenant promises can motivate them in their learning, doing, and becoming. Photo by Savanna Richards, © BYU Photo.

Application for Religious Educators

Helping students understand that hope in a scriptural context is far more than idle or abstract optimism about the future but entails actively waiting on the Lord and expecting the fulfilment of divine covenant promises can motivate them in their learning, doing, and becoming.[36] Nephi taught his brothers from Isaiah 48–49, and in particular from the promise in Isaiah 49:22–23, in order to kindle hope in them—as a foundation for their “more fully believ[ing] in the Lord their Redeemer” (see 1 Nephi 19:23–24). This kind of hope, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained, is essential to having faith unto salvation:

Hope is a gift of the Spirit. It is a hope that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior. This kind of hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls.[37]

President Uchtdorf further observed that “hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.”[38] Helping students recognize that the “perfect brightness of hope” is not merely maintaining a sunny outward appearance in spite of inner personal angst and anxiety, but rather confidently waiting for and expecting the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises in his timing, will help them center their hope in Christ. Some days their hearts, like Nephi’s, will sorrow and groan and their souls will grieve; nevertheless they, like him, will “know in whom [they] have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:17, 19).

As a component of enduring to the end in faith, hope, and charity, waiting on the Lord constitutes an essential principle of the doctrine of Christ. When students “obtain a hope in Christ” (Jacob 2:19),[39] they will wait on the Lord as the Lord’s qōwê (“those who wait [on him]”), as mentioned by Isaiah and in the Psalms. They will “cheerfully do all things that lie in [their] power; and then . . . stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:7; compare Exodus 14:13–14). They will “have hope,” as Abraham, Nephi, and Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah did, that the Lord will fulfill every promise to us and will “verif[y] his word unto [us] in every particular” (Alma 25:17). With spiritually mature eyes, they will hope for and expect every blessing in their patriarchal blessings to be fulfilled, recognizing that the horizon for the fulfillment of some blessings is the Resurrection. They will wait on the Lord to fulfill these blessings “while they are in the flesh” (2 Nephi 10:15, 17) in mortality or in the morning of the Resurrection.

Finally, acquainting students with the semantic range of qāwâ as both “to hope for” and “to wait” or “to expect” will help them—and us all—to better understand Alma the Younger’s explanation of how faith and hope work together in his parable of the word as seed (see Alma 32). We note that in this comparison, Alma appears to use Hebrew qāwâ in the sense of “hope for” and “wait”: “And now as I said concerning faith: faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which is not seen, which are true” (v. 21; compare Ether 12:4–9). “Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith and your diligence and patience and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you” (Alma 32:43; compare Jacob 5:46). To “hope for things … not seen” is to “wait for the tree to bring forth” the expected fruit. Paul taught the Romans the same truth: “For we are saved by hope [Gk. elpidi]: but hope [elpis] that is seen is not hope [elpis]: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for [elpizei]? But if we hope [elpizomen] for that we see not, then do we with patience wait [apekdechometha, eagerly wait] for it” (Romans 8:24–25).


Nephi’s statement of purpose in reading Isaiah 48–49 to the members of his family and quoting this text for future readers—namely, “that ye may have hope” (1 Nephi 19:24)—has direct reference to Isaiah’s prophetic promise that “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:23/1 Nephi 21:23). Recognizing that Nephi and Isaiah express the same concept and that it is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic covenant helps us better understand how ancient Israelites, including Nephi, Jacob, and their successors, understood the concept of hope (see further, e.g., 2 Nephi 33:9; Jacob 4:4–6, 11; Alma 5:10; 7:24; 13:29; 22:14; 25:16; 27:28; 32:21, 41; 38:2; 58:11; Ether 12:4, 6, 8–9, 28; Moroni 7:1, 3, 40–48; 8:14, 26; 9:25; 10:20–22). Like Saints of old, “we hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future.”[40]


[1] Book of Mormon quotations will generally follow Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). I am using Skousen’s work here, as elsewhere, in the hope that Latter-day Saint educators and readers will gain a greater familiarity and appreciation of it and thus use it more often.

[2] See, e.g., Jacob 7:26; Alma 13:23; 26:36.

[3] See John S. Thompson, “Isaiah 50–51, the Israelite Autumn Festivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998), 123–50.

[4] Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. “hope,” https://www.etymonline.com/word/hope.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 20 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1989), s.v. “hope.”

[6] J. R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960; repr., 2007), 189.

[7] Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. “hope.”

[8] Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “hopian.”

[9] Seung Ai Yang, “Hope,” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), 886.

[10] Yang, “Hope.”

[11] William H. Brownlee, “The Ineffable Name of God,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 226 (1977): 45. On the name Jehovah (or Yahweh) as “He creates,” see Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 65.

[12] See, e.g., Mosiah 13:35; 15:20; Alma 12:25; 33:22; 40:3; 42:23; Helaman 14:15–18; Mormon 7:6; 9:13; Ether 13:10–12.

[13] See Doctrine and Covenants 27:6; 86:10. See also Acts 3:21; Alma 40:22–25.

[14] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 1781–82 (hereafter cited as HALOT).

[15] HALOT, 626.

[16] HALOT, 1082.

[17] 1 Nephi 19:24: “that ye may have hope” = “para que podáis tener esperanza”; 1 Nephi 21:23 (Isaiah 49:23): “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” = “porque los que me esperan no serán avergonzados.”

[18] Margaret Barker, The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008), 45.

[19] Other versions have Psalm 69:7.

[20] The prophecy in Isaiah 49:22–23 is similar to another prophecy in Isaiah 60:9 that gave ancient Israel/Judah hope in the Lord that he would gather their descendants: “Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far.”

[21] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, vol. 2, Prophets—Nevi'im (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019), 790.

[22] Compare Doctrine and Covenants 121:4.

[23] See, e.g., 1 Nephi 22:12; 2 Nephi 6:11; 9:2; 10:7–8; 3 Nephi 29:1.

[24] See especially Isaiah 10:20–22; see also, e.g., Isaiah 1:9; 6:13; 11:11, 16; 37:31–32; 46:3.

[25] On the Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return”) theme, see Matthew L. Bowen, “Ominous Onomastics: Symbolic Naming and Paronomasia in Old Testament Prophecy,” in Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament: The 46th Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. Aaron P. Schade, Brian M. Hauglid, and Kerry Muhlestein (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 2017), 21–46.

[26] See Bowen, “Ominous Onomastics,” 22.

[27] For an in-depth discussion of this subject, see Noel B. Reynolds, “Nephite Uses and Interpretations of Zenos,” in The Allegory of the Olive Tree: The Olive, the Bible, and Jacob 5, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 21–49. Lehi and Jacob also invoke Zenos with this phrase later in 2 Nephi 3:5 and 10:22.

[28] Hebrews 11:8–13 explains: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

[29] Brant Gardner, “A Social History of the Early Nephites” (paper delivered at the third annual FairMormon Conference, Provo, UT, 2001), https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/august-2001/a-social-history-of-the-early-nephites.

[30] John Gee and Matthew Roper, “‘I Did Liken All Scriptures unto Us’: Early Nephite Understandings of Isaiah and Implications for ‘Others’ in the Land,” in The Fulness of the Gospel: Foundational Teachings from the Book of Mormon, ed. Camille Fronk Olson et al. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 51–65; see especially the discussion on pp. 55–58.

[31] See 1 Nephi 14:14; 15:14; 30:2. Mormon uses this expression in Mormon 3:2, and his son Moroni uses it in Mormon 8:15 and 8:21.

[32] Near the end of his small plates record, Nephi specifically frames the issue of covenant polity in terms of living the doctrine of Christ: “For behold, I say unto you: As many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off. For the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, which is the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 30:2).

[33] See Matthew L. Bowen, “‘The Messiah Will Set Himself Again’: Jacob’s Use of Isaiah 11:11 in 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44 (2021): 287–306.

[34] See Noel B. Reynolds, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Taught by the Nephite Prophets,” BYU Studies 31, no. 3 (1991): 31–50.

[35] See Noel B. Reynolds, “The True Points of My Doctrine,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5, no. 2 (1996): 26–56.

[36] See Thomas S. Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign, November 2008, 60–62, 67–68.

[37] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,” Ensign, November 2008, 21–22.

[38] Uchtdorf, “Infinite Power of Hope,” 22; emphasis added.

[39] Compare 1 Corinthians 15:19.

[40] Uchtdorf, “Infinite Power of Hope,” 23.