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David Bokovoy

The Divine Council In D&c 128

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Given my obsession with the divine council, I have, for quite sometime now, taken a bit of interest in the thematic connection between Isaiah 40 and D&C 128. Just tonight, however, while teaching a group of students concerning this connection, I realized for the first time the full implications for this incredible link.

For me, this was a really exciting insight, so I just had to share with the board.

Joseph Smithâ??s revelation concerning the Restoration presented in D&C 128 clearly draws upon Isaiahan imagery:

"Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those [plural] that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!" (D&C 128:19)

The final section of verse 19 specifically invokes Isaiah 52:7:

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him [singular] that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7).

The repeated theme of voice that appears in both Isaiah 52 and D&C 128 derives from Isaiah 40, a chapter that marks a pivotal transitional section for the book of Isaiah:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3)

The voice said, Cry. (Isaiah 40:6)

O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good

tidings, lift up thy voice with strength (Isaiah 40:9)

With its emphasis upon the word â??voice,â? together with a double reference to â??in the wilderness,â? D&C 128:20-21 specifically reflects Isaiah 40:

"And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophetsâ??the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayetteâ?¦ The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehannaâ?¦ The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wildernessâ?¦ the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmerâ?¦and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthoodâ?¦ giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!" (D&C 128: 20-21).

Isaiah 40 is a very intriguing source for D&C 128 to create an intertextual link. The chapter begins with series of undefined masculine plural imperatives:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her (v. 1-2)

In Isaiah 40, God addresses an undefined plural audience through the dual mandate comfort/comfort and speak/cry.

Several biblical scholars have explored the possibility that Isaiah 40 features a prophetic commission in which God calls upon the members of his council to comfort, speak, and cry to Israel; see especially Frank Moore Cross, Jr., â??The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,â? Journal of Near Eastern Studies XII (1953), 274-277; Stephen A. Geller, â??Were the Prophets Poets,â? The Place is Too Small for Us: The Israelite Prophets in Recent Scholarship (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 154-165; and Christopher R. Steitz, â??The Divine Council: Temporal Transition and New Prophecy in the Book of Isaiah,â? Journal of Biblical Literature 109/2 (1990), 229-247.

In his analysis, former Harvard professor, Frank Moore Cross observed that Isaiah 40 reflects the prophetic commission described in Isaiah 6, an occasion in which Isaiah was â??permitted to become, in effect, a malâ???k or herald of Yahwehâ??s council and, like the supernatural herald, to mediate the divine pronouncementâ?; Cross 275.

Therefore, according to many scholarly interpreters, the command to comfort and cry is a command given by God directly to the members of his heavenly assembly. The voice that cries unto the prophet is the voice of one in the council.

Amazingly, with its textual allusions to Isaiah 40, D&C 128 appears to pick up on this subtle scholarly reading, associating the responsibility to cry and even to comfort with the members of Godâ??s heavenly assembly:

"And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophetsâ??the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayetteâ?¦ The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehannaâ?¦ The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wildernessâ?¦ the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmerâ?¦and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthoodâ?¦ giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!" (D&C 128: 20-21).

As a divine council text in which God invokes the members of his heavenly assembly to â??comfortâ? Israel, the imagery in Isaiah 40 directly reflects the themes of speaking and consolation associated with the heavenly host in D&C 128: 20-21. In Joseph's revelation, Moroni speaks, the Lord speaks, Michael speaks, Peter, James, and John speak, God speaks, and divers angels from the heavenly assembly speak and give comfort/consolation through the Restoration.

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David, I eagerly await your posts because I find them fascinating. But I confess, this one is way over my head, apparently.

Since Joseph Smith had the Bible and had access to Isaiah, why is this impressive? Please help me out here. I am sure it is. But I am too dense to see it. Thanks.

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The Wilderness is what is peaking my intrest... was SHE not driven into the Wilderness. And this Voice. from the dust.

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What I think David is saying is this:

In Isaiah's writings he finds:

1. Commands given to the "divine council"...

2. ...to lift up their voices...

3. ...noting specifically one who is to "cry in the wilderness"

which has interesting paralells to Joseph Smith's writings:

A. Many members of Joseph's "grand council"...

B. ...lift up their voices...

C. ...even specifically "in the wilderness"

As points 1-3 are scattered throughout several chapters of Isaiah, point 1 being a relatively recent idea in Biblical scholarship, therefore the correlation of Joseph Smith's points A-C is remarkable.

The question seems to me to be whether Joseph could have combined all three elements in a single passage coincidentally, whether he could have obtained a level of understanding through genius or scholarship a century ahead of it's time, or whether this shows a level of insight that testifies of his inspiration and calling as a prophet. I'll stick with option #3.

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Thanks, stn9. Now I see. But the critic argument can be that Joseph was just a genius, and anybody with an IQ over 160 could have done it?

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Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her (v. 1-2)

Prayers to heavenly Mother?

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Thanks, stn9. Now I see. But the critic argument can be that Joseph was just a genius, and anybody with an IQ over 160 could have done it?

Actually... I think there was a book in the barn that talked about this... :P

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Hello Stn9,

What I think David is saying is this:

In Isaiah's writings he finds:

1. Commands given to the "divine council"...

2. ...to lift up their voices...

3. ...noting specifically one who is to "cry in the wilderness"

which has interesting parallels to Joseph Smith's writings:

A. Many members of Joseph's "grand council"...

B. ...lift up their voices...

C. ...even specifically "in the wilderness"

As points 1-3 are scattered throughout several chapters of Isaiah, point 1 being a relatively recent idea in Biblical scholarship, therefore the correlation of Joseph Smith's points A-C is remarkable.

The question seems to me to be whether Joseph could have combined all three elements in a single passage coincidentally, whether he could have obtained a level of understanding through genius or scholarship a century ahead of it's time, or whether this shows a level of insight that testifies of his inspiration and calling as a prophet. I'll stick with option #3.

This is a nice summary, thanks for helping to clarify my post. It is true that D&C 128:19-21 draws specifically upon Isaiah 40 through the repetition of â??voice,â? and the phrase â??in the wilderness.â? This is meaningful, since Iâ??m convinced that the scholarly view which interprets Isaiah 40 as a reference to God invoking the heavenly assembly to speak to and comfort Israel is correct.

Though, even today, very few readers pick up upon the historical meaning for Isaiah 40 as a text which invokes the members of the heavenly realm to speak and comfort, D&C 128:19-22 presents the same message. The members of the heavenly realm speak and comfort/console. D&C 128 draws upon Isaiah 40, and we know that both texts feature this highly subtle conceptual view. I find this link quite extraordinary, to say the least.

While it is important to recognizeâ??as you didâ??the connection between the members of the council speaking in both Isaiah 40 and D&C 128, one ought not overlook the second correspondence, namely that God invokes the heavenly assembly to â??comfortâ? in Isaiah 40 and the heavenly assembly specifically offers consolation in D&C 128.

It's been almost 24 hours and I'm still quite stoked about the way these two passages reflect one another.

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Yes, I should have noted the message of comfort as points 4 and D. :P

As I typed the above I thought of an exchange in the Book of Mormon, where the issue of a message of "comfort"--termed "publishing peace" in this case--is central:

Mosiah 12:20-21, 25

20 And it came to pass that one of them said unto him:

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Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her (v. 1-2)

Prayers to heavenly Mother?

Not in my opinion. The language that follows makes clear that Jerusalem is to become again the Bride of Heaven, and that we're not talking about the Queen of Heaven:

"2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORDâ??s hand double for all her sins."

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Thanks, stn9. Now I see. But the critic argument can be that Joseph was just a genius, and anybody with an IQ over 160 could have done it?

It is the consolation element that would be hard to pick up on in my opinion. We expect the voice crying in the wilderness stuff...but it is usually associated with threats. Aside from the significance of this motif showing up, I like the inclusion of consolation as a necessary piece...it presents a much softer edge. I like it a lot.

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David, I eagerly await your posts because I find them fascinating. But I confess, this one is way over my head, apparently.

Since Joseph Smith had the Bible and had access to Isaiah, why is this impressive? Please help me out here. I am sure it is. But I am too dense to see it. Thanks.

I'm not sure if you'll appreciate it much, but I'm right here with you on this one, Charity. Given JS's familiarity with OT prophetic utterances, the difference between "those" and "the one who is bringing" just doesn't seem great enough to warrant much speculative parallelism here.

Singular Hebrew ("the one who is") to plural English ("those")?

Is this really something upon which to hang one's hat? I've seen much better arguments from your (that is, DV's) electronic pen, so to speak.

Well, I've told folks here on FAIR/MADB to consult you (DV) on the Divine Council (and I'll do it again), buy I really don't find this particular instance that striking.

But, I could certainly be wrong. I am, after all, a contra-mopologist.

Best.

CKS

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In his analysis, former Harvard professor, Frank Moore Cross observed that Isaiah 40 reflects the prophetic commission described in Isaiah 6, an occasion in which Isaiah was â??permitted to become, in effect, a malâ???k or herald of Yahwehâ??s council and, like the supernatural herald, to mediate the divine pronouncementâ?; Cross 275.

Hi David,

I agree, VERY fascinating although it took me a few times reading through to get what you were saying. But where I get a bit lost is in the above quote. I read Is 6 but from there I dont see anything that suggests a divine council is involved, can you explain a bit more?

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Thanks, stn9. Now I see. But the critic argument can be that Joseph was just a genius, and anybody with an IQ over 160 could have done it?

Oh, I don't know, Charity. Some LDS apologists' fascination with weak parallels come across as less than persuasive. I'm not sure how much of a genious Joseph Smith would had to have had to come up with the idea that kings sat on thrones. How could Joseph Smith have known that? Well, my response is: how could Joseph Smith NOT have known that?

Theophilus07

Don't derail our academic threads with this kind of stuff . ~ Mods

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I guess I'm not as keenly attuned , as are you , to these things David. From the "voice" and "crying in the wilderness" things I can't pick out a command to the Divine Council. I get the picture of the Divine Council from the blaringly obvious OT references (Psalms 82 ; Deut 32 ; Zech 3) and the Sanhedrin as an earthly mirror of the Divine Council , but I don't see it so obviously in the scriptures you posted.

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Hi David,

I agree, VERY fascinating although it took me a few times reading through to get what you were saying. But where I get a bit lost is in the above quote. I read Is 6 but from there I dont see anything that suggests a divine council is involved, can you explain a bit more?

Smith , if I might take a stab at it here...I don't really see the Divine Council from David's OP D&C / Isaiah references , but I can see it in the Isaiah 6 reference. David wrote:

In his analysis, former Harvard professor, Frank Moore Cross observed that Isaiah 40 reflects the prophetic commission described in Isaiah 6, an occasion in which Isaiah was permitted to become, in effect, a mal?k or herald of Yahweh's council and, like the supernatural herald, to mediate the divine pronouncement; Cross 275.

The glimpse of the Divine Council is seen here :

Isaiah 6: 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

The Lord and others , the "us" , constituting the Divine Council had apparently agreed on a message to send to Israel and then the Lord appointed Isaiah as their Mal'ak...messenger or angel...to carry out the delivery of the agreed upon message.

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The Lord and others , the "us" , constituting the Divine Council had apparently agreed on a message to send to Israel and then the Lord appointed Isaiah as their Mal'ak...messenger or angel...to carry out the delivery of the agreed upon message.

Ed,

Thanks for that, I think you have it. Maybe thats why I'm not a scholar, I dont take time and read carefully enough!

But now that you point it out, it sounds to me like the same us as used in Gen 3:22.

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Ed,

Thanks for that, I think you have it. Maybe thats why I'm not a scholar, I dont take time and read carefully enough!

But now that you point it out, it sounds to me like the same us as used in Gen 3:22.

You're welcome. I'm not a scholar either and I have the same problem....I tend to zoom right past things or just don't get it when I first read it. Then someone will point it out and I'll be , "Doh!!! How could I have missed that?" :P

Just like you pointed out the similarity with the Divine Council reference at Gen 3:22. That hadn't even come to my mind. Thanks for the insight.

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Since several posters seem interested in understanding why many scholars interpret Isaiah 40:1-2 as an invocation of the divine council, Iâ??m going to attempt to provide a brief response.

Remember that Isaiah 40 begins with a series of masculine plural imperatives (2nd person command forms). This feature in and of itself points to the divine council as the most likely recipient of the imperatives.

As Frank Moore Cross observed:

â??The proclamation of Yahweh to his council frequently appears in early poetic or epic sources couched in a series of plural imperatives. This style is familiar from Psalm 82, where Yahweh holds court in the heavenly assembly and directs [the gods] â??Judge ye the weak and fatherless; deal justly with the oppressed and poorâ?¦â?? One may also compare the early Canaanite poem, Psalm 29â?¦ where the council of the [gods] is directed to do obeisance to Yahweh when he makes his holy appearance before them. Similarly we find in the Canaanite mythological texts the directives of gods to messengers, the speeches of messengers in Elâ??s assembly, and the decrees of gods before the divine council. These are characteristically reiterated literary types, frequently introduced in a series of plural imperativesâ? â??The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,â? Journal of Near Eastern Studies XII (1953), 276-277; footnote 8.

To properly understand the issues, requires a bit of secondary reading on the topic of prophetic interaction with the council. Much has been written concerning this subject in recent decades.

In a variety of Old Testament texts, Biblical prophets appear as messengers and mediators of the divine council. The book of Amos declares that â??God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret [s

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I'm not sure if you'll appreciate it much, but I'm right here with you on this one, Charity. Given JS's familiarity with OT prophetic utterances, the difference between "those" and "the one who is bringing" just doesn't seem great enough to warrant much speculative parallelism here.

Singular Hebrew ("the one who is") to plural English ("those")?

Is this really something upon which to hang one's hat? I've seen much better arguments from your (that is, DV's) electronic pen, so to speak.

Well, I've told folks here on FAIR/MADB to consult you (DV) on the Divine Council (and I'll do it again), buy I really don't find this particular instance that striking.

But, I could certainly be wrong. I am, after all, a contra-mopologist.

Best.

CKS

It seems a bit

Hello CKS,

I really am interested in any critique that you or any others might offer. It appears, however, that you may have read my OP too quickly, since the distinction between the singular and plural references I highlighted is a very minor, if not inconsequential, issue for my analysis.

Regards,

--David

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Oh, I don't know, Charity. Some LDS apologists' fascination with weak parallels come across as less than persuasive. I'm not sure how much of a genious Joseph Smith would had to have had to come up with the idea that kings sat on thrones. How could Joseph Smith have known that? Well, my response is: how could Joseph Smith NOT have known that?

Theophilus07

Don't derail our academic threads with this kind of stuff . ~ Mods

Hello Theophilus,

"How could Joseph Smith NOT have known that?" Well, as Frank Moore Cross wrote: "The problem of the identity of the subject of these imperatives has baffled commentators. Traditionally it has been held that Yahweh here directs prophets in general, Israel's priests, or the remnant of the faithful to proclaim the message of consolation." (see Ibid 275).

Joseph's use of Isaiah 40 in his revelation breaks from all of these traditional interpretations and presents the heavenly assembly as the "voice" and the givers of "consolation."

"Giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!" (D&C 128: 21).

Hope that help.

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Ed,

Thanks for that, I think you have it. Maybe thats why I'm not a scholar, I dont take time and read carefully enough!

But now that you point it out, it sounds to me like the same us as used in Gen 3:22.

And Don't forget about the Tower!

Gen. 11: 7

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one anotherâ??s speech.

And how about the 3 that had lunch with Abraham?

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And Don't forget about the Tower!

Gen. 11: 7

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one anotherâ??s speech.

And how about the 3 that had lunch with Abraham?

Yeah , and David pointed out 1 Kings 22. There are alot more obvious references to the divine council in the OT than I realized. It's just that the Isaiah 40 one is not all that obvious to me. I'm starting to get the picture from David's explanations , though.

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Well he is the God of gods and the Lord of Hosts. :P

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Isaiah 40:1-8

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORDâ??s hand double for all her sins.

3

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