Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Liberating the Captive: Jacob 2 and Isaiah 58

I was reading Jacob's great sermon in Jacob 2-3 the other morning and was struck by a few thematic similarities with Isaiah 58. Both of these are strong social commentaries set against the annual autumnal harvest/ingathering festival (Atonement/Tabernacles). Within this context, Jacob instructs his people to do the following:

1. Clothe the naked (Jac 2:19)
2. Feed the hungry (Jac 2:19)
3. Liberate the captive (Jac 2:19)
4. Administer relief to the sick and afflicted (Jac 2:19)
Contrast this to what Isaiah tells us:

1. Loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the
oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke (Isa 58:6)
2. Deal thy bread to the hungry (Isa 58:7)
3. Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house (Isa 58:7)
4. When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him (Isa 58:7)
5. Hide not thyself from thine own flesh (Isa 58:7)
Granted, the wording is not exact enough to show a direct dependancy (not to mention perceived Deutero- or Trito-Isaiah timeline issues), but the lists are fairly similar. There are other texts that also stress the social requirements, and many of these have a similar locus. King Benjamin's speech touches on some of the same themes (but not with as compact a list) and also shares an autumnal festival (Tabernacles) setting. And the Day of Atonement did have a strong link to the Sabbatical/Jubilee requirement to release servants from bondage.

Just a few thoughts from the comfort of my couch this morning . . .


Michaela Stephens said...

This traditional requirement to liberate the captive could have been what Ammon referred to when he told King Lamoni that it was against the law of his father to have any slaves. This suggests that in Nephite culture servants went free after their period of servitude was over, or after debts were paid off and in Lamanite culture servitude continued indefinitely. King Lamoni seemed to be aware of the idea of paying off debts, in that he was willing to offer himself and his people as slaves to the Nephites in order to make restitution for the many murders they had done, as a sort of payment of debt.

I like your blog! Keep it up!

Joey Green said...


What great insight. I'm convinced that the Lamanites kept some aspects of their ancestral religion with them. When the sons of Mosiah labor among their former enemies, they are afforded access to Lamanite synagogues, temples, and houses of worship; and the Lamanites seem to have an affinity for apostate Nephites serving as priests and leaders in their culture. If we remember that this issue of releasing servants was one of the central themes of the divisive religious reforms that were occurring in Jerusalem just before Lehi's departure, it makes sense that the conflict would continue to cause friction in the New World as Lamanites, Nephites, and Mulekites all probably had different interpretations of this issue.


Joey Green