Friday, July 19, 2013

Micah 5 versus 3 Nephi 21: The remnant of Jacob


It is interesting that when Jesus visits the Nephites, He quotes part of Micah to them, but He adds some things that change the sense of who the different people in the quotation refer to.  I have marked major changes in blue, although there are a few grammatical changes that do not change the sense of the text, which I have left unmarked.

Micah was speaking to the Israelites back in the land of Jerusalem, whereas Jesus was speaking to the Nephites in the Americas.

Micah 5:8-15
3 Nephi 21: 12-22
8 And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles
in the midst of many people
as a lion among the beasts of the forest,
as a young lion among the flocks of sheep:
who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces,
and none can deliver.
12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles,
yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest,
as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces,
and none can deliver.
9 Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries,
and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
13 Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries,
and all their enemies shall be cut off.
10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord,
that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee,
and I will destroy thy chariots:
14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent;
for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father,
that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee,
and I will destroy thy chariots;
11 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds:
15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand;
and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:
16 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land,
and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee;
and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.
17 Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee,
and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
14 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee:
so will I destroy thy cities.

18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee;
so will I destroy thy cities.
15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
19 And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
 20 For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;
 21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance;

In Micah, the prophecy is spoken as to the remnant of Jacob, that they would be like lions among the Gentiles, but also as though this remnant would have their cities thrown down, their idols and witchcrafts and soothsayers removed, etc.

In 3 Nephi 21, Jesus speaks of the remnant of Jacob in some future day, that they would be like lions among the Gentiles, but then speaks a warning to the Gentiles that without their repentance Gentile cities would be thrown down and their idols, witchcrafts, and soothsayers removed.  (I think this is directed to the Gentiles who are Christian.)  Also, two extra verses are added indicating those who would not repent and come to the Beloved Son would be cut off from among the people of the house of Israel.  This suggests that those among the Latter-day Saints must be sure to repent or they will be removed from the church as well and have vengeance and fury executed upon them “even as upon the heathen,” meaning they will get the same treatment as those who have never believed in Christ.

Micah doesn’t have an entirely scary picture of this remnant of Jacob as a lion.  Just before verse 8 there is a very positive picture of the remnant as well, and the contrast is fascinating when we read those verses together:
7 And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.
8 ¶And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. (Micah 5:7-8)
We get the curious impression that the remnant of Jacob is nourishing and refreshing AND terrifying and destructive.  This is understandable if we consider that there are righteous remnants and wicked remnants.  And yet the 3 Nephi version seems to buck this a view with the added bit, “And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest” (21:12), which makes it seem like the righteous remnant is going to be the terrible one after all.  What makes it particularly puzzling is that during all the modern history of the Latter-day Saints we have rarely if ever taken up arms against our adversaries.  Our policy as a people has usually been to seek peace, and if necessary, allow the Lord to fight our battles for us.

It is possible that this pattern will continue, since the strong “I” statements about coming destruction give us a sense that God will execute vengeance and fury on the unrepentant Gentiles on behalf of the righteous:
·      I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee
·      I will destroy thy chariots
·      I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds
·      I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land
·      Thy graven images I will also cut off
·      I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities

Mormon also references the remnant of Jacob himself as a warning to the Gentiles:
22 And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?
23 Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?
24 Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you—lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver. (Mormon 5:22-24, emphasis added)
Mormon sees these scriptures in a military way because he is a military man and has seen it happen literally to his people the Nephites.  In fact, to underscore his point, the very next chapter Mormon records is the final destruction of his people by a wicked remnant of Jacob.

Why does it say “there is none to deliver” this group?  I think it is because if they do not repent, there is no one that can deliver them spiritually, and later when they get into such trouble as threatens their lives, they are too hard-hearted to pray for deliverance, so no one can save them.

This passage is still rather unclear to us because events have not occurred that will give us an idea of who the fearsome remnant is, but neat thing is that when it starts to happen we will recognize the fulfillment and take comfort that God knew far ahead of time what was going to happen. 

I think the main message of these verses is that we must repent or we will be cut off from the church and have our share in the destruction eventually to come upon the unrepentant Gentiles.