A Closer Look at Some Biblical References Found in the Book of Mormon

The following are some Biblical references found in the Book of Mormon that illustrate the complexity of the Book of Mormon and how subtle Biblical references are masterfully woven into the narrative beyond direct quotes.

  1. Captain of fifty = (Isaiah 3:3)/(1 Nephi 3:31)

This quote from 1 Nephi seems to be a reference to a passage in Isaiah, and yet it is significantly modified to become a subtle part of the Book of Mormon narrative.

  • “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:31)
  • The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (Isaiah 3:3)

 

  1. Let good and bad grow together = (Jacob 5:65)/(Matt 13:29-30)

The allegory of the olive tree refers to doctrine found in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares by stating that the Lord’s servants should let both good and bad olives to grow together until the last day. Jesus says that they should let the wheat and tares grow together to prevent ripping out the wheat. Jacob 5 says to let wild and tame fruit grow together so that the roots of the olive tree do not overpower the branches and kill the tame fruit.

  • “But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:29-30)
  • “And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:65)

 

  1. Jacob/the Nephites have I loved; Esau/the Lamanites have I hated = (Romans 9:13)/(Helaman 15:3-4)/(Malachi 1:2-3)

The author of the Book of Mormon uses the Biblical reference of the Lord hating Esau and loving Jacob but changes the subjects to the Nephites and Lamanites.

  • “They have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them…But behold my brethren, the Lamanites hath he hated because their deeds have been evil continually” (Helaman 15:3-4)
  • “yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste” (Malachi 1:2-3)
  • “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13)

 

  1. Make it after the pattern shown thee in the mount = (1 Nephi 17:7-8)/(Exodus 25:40)/(Hebrews 8:5)

The Lord tells Nephi to get into the mountain and construct a ship after the manner which was shown to him. This is a reference to Moses who constructed the tabernacle after being shown its construction in the mount.

  • “Arise, and get thee into the mountain…Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee” (1 Nephi 17:7-8)
  • “And look that thou make them after the pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount” (Exodus 25:40)
  • “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5)

 

  1. Man/Nations are nothing; less than nothing/dust (Helaman 12:7)/(Isaiah 40:15-17)

The language has been changed significantly but the reference is nonetheless explicit. This is another example where a doctrine is preached that has been significantly modified by the author of the Book of Mormon but is nonetheless a reference to ancient scripture

  • “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth” (Helaman 12:7)
  • “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity” (Isaiah 40:15-17)

 

  1. Setting a mark on their foreheads = (Alma 3:13, 18)/(Ezekiel 9:4)

This is another modified reference where the Lord gives a mark to the righteous on their foreheads, but the wicked Amlicites mark themselves on their foreheads to separate themselves from the righteous.

  • “they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads…Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads”
  • “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4)

 

  1. Not be afraid of tens of thousands = (1 Nephi 4:1)/(Psalm 3:5-6)

David in this Psalm declares that the Lord will protect him and that he will not be afraid of tens of thousands of his enemies. When Laman and Lemuel are fearful because Laban can command fifty men, Nephi subtily references this Psalm by saying that the Lord will protect them from fifty men, and even tens of thousands of men, therefore they should not be afraid.

  • “let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban, and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands” (1 Nephi 4:1)
  • “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about” (Psalm 3:5-6)

 

  1. Oath and a curse = (Nehemiah 5:13/10:29)/(Alma 46:22)

Various examples of prophets making a symbolic oath which will result in death if they do not fulfill it are found throughout the Bible. The people who choose to follow Captain Moroni into battle make a unique oath and curse by ripping their cloaks and casting them at the feet of Moroni

  • “Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not his promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise” (Nehemiah 5:13)
  • “They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law” (Nehemiah 10:29)
  • “Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression” (Alma 46:22)

 

  1. Curse God and die = (Job 2:9)/(Mormon 2:14)

Job’s wife tells him that he has been cursed by God, so that he might as well curse God and die. Mormon uses similar language to describe the state of his soldiers who cursed God and wished to die but would still fight for their lives.

  • “And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword and their lives” (Mormon 2:14)
  • “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9)

 

  1. Dwelt in tents = (Judges 8:11)/(Jeremiah 35:7)/(1 Nephi 2:15)

A very clear distinction is given to people in the Bible who dwell in tents. Nephi also makes this clear distinction, possibly to show that they were strangers in their own lands and they did not cease being strangers until they arrived to the promised land.

  • “And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host” (Judges 8:11)
  • “Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers” (Jeremiah 35:7)
  • “And my father dwelt in a tent” (1 Nephi 2:15)

 

  1. God speaks once, twice, yet men do not perceive it = (Job 33:14)/(3 Nephi 11:3, 6)

This connection may be a bit of a stretch, but it is interesting how Elihu, the friend of Job, tells him that God speaks once or twice and people do not perceive it. The people of Nephi, when Christ first appears to them after his resurrection, twice hear a voice and do not understand it. Only on the third time the voice appears do they understand the words being spoken to them.

  • “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (Job 33:14)
  • “they heard a voice as if it came out of haven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard…And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not….And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard” (3 Nephi 11:3, 6)

 

  1. Great and marvelous are they works = (1 Nephi 1:14)/(Revelation 15:3)

Upon receiving a revelation from the Lord regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi praises God in a phrase that is similar to Revelation 15:3, which is possibly a reference the “song of Moses” or “song of the Lamb.”

  • “And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are they works, O Lord God Almighty!” (1 Nephi 1:14)
  • “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of god, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 15:3)

 

  1. Great gulf dividing the righteous and the wicked = (1 Nephi 12:18)/(Luke 16:26)

Nephi and Lehi’s visions of the tree of life are full of symbolism found within the Bible. One such example is the great gulf dividing the righteous and the wicked.

  • “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26)
  • “And the large and spacious building, which my father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God” (1 Nephi 12:18)

 

  1. Loftiness of man = (Isaiah 2:17)/(Jacob 5:48)

On several occasions the prophets in the Bible refer to those who are proud as being “lofty” and that they must be brought down in humility. Zenos’ allegory of the Olive Tree notes that the fruit in the vineyard is becoming corrupted because the branches are too lofty and must be cut down.

  • “And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches therefore overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves” (Jacob 5:48)
  • “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17)

 

  1. A righteous branch = (Jeremiah 23:5)/(Genesis 49:22)/(2 Nephi 3:5/9:53)

Prophets have referred to Jesus Christ as a righteous branch coming forth from the family line of King David. Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, gives a prophecy cited in the brass plates in the Book of Mormon, stating that a righteous branch will be raised among his own seed, which is not Jesus Christ, but instead the Nephites on the American continent. In Genesis, Joseph is referred to as a fruitful bough.

  • “Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord…” (2 Nephi 3:5)
  • “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper” (Jeremiah 23:5)
  • Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall” (Genesis 49:22)

 

  1. Rod of Iron = (1 Nephi 11:25)/(Revelation 7:17/19:13, 15)

Nephi sees a vision of a rod of iron leading to the tree of life. He is told that the rod of iron represents the word of God. The Apostle John sees a vision of the Lamb of God leading his followers to the tree of life. The symbolism is very accurate since Jesus is also referred to by John as “the Word of God.”

  • “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life, which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25)
  • For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters…” (Revelation 7:17)
  • “and his name is called The Word of God…and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 19:13, 15)

 

  1. They have become like a rock/flint = (2 Nephi 5:21)/(Jeremiah 5:3)/(Ezekiel 3:9)

The Bible refers to people becoming hardened or having their faces becoming hard like a rock or flint. In the Book of Mormon, this symbolism in the Bible is expanded to include the color of flint, serving as an outward curse against the Lamanites to symbolize how they hardened their hearts against the Lord.

  • “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them…they had become like unto a flint…the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21)
  • “As an adamant harder than flint have I made my forehead” (Ezekiel 3:9)
  • “they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3)

 

  1. A tree/well springing up unto everlasting life  = (John 4:14)/(Alma 32:41)/(1 Nephi 11:25)

Nephi uses the “fountain of living waters” and the “tree of life” interchangeably. Surprisingly, this synonymous relationship is subtly referenced when Alma teaches that gaining a testimony is like planting and nourishing a seed until it becomes a tree “springing up unto everlasting life.” Alma words are similar to those of Jesus when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, referring to himself as a well of living waters.

  • “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life, which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25)
  • “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life” (John 4:14)
  • “But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patients, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41)

 

  1. Describing women as tender and delicate = (Isaiah 47:1)/(Jacob 2:7)

The author of the Book of Mormon makes sure to use obscure adjectives found in Isaiah, describing women as “tender and delicate” in Jacob’s discourse to his people.

  • “O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” (Isaiah 47:1)
  • “your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God” (Jacob 2:7)

 

  1. Using “Wisdom” as a feminine noun = (Luke 7:35)/(Mosiah 8:20)

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Book of Mormon refers to gendered nouns on a few occasions (Alma 42:24) but it is interesting to me that wisdom is consistently a feminine noun in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon

  • “for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!” (Mosiah 8:20)
  • “But wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:35)

 

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