Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


Nephi, scripture, Joseph, texts


In explaining the prophecies of Isaiah in which his soul delighted, Nephi sets up an intriguing wordplay on the name Joseph. On several occasions he combines segments of Isaiah 11:11 and Isaiah 29:14 to foretell the gathering and restoration of Israel at the time of the coming forth of additional scripture. The most discernible reason for Nephi’s interpretation of these two specific texts in the light of each other is their shared use of the Hebrew verb yāsap, which literally means “to add” but can have the more developed senses to “continue” or “proceed to do” something and “to do again.” This verb is also the source of the name Joseph, which means “may He [the Lord] add,” “He shall add,” or “He has added.” Rachel, the mother of the patriarch Joseph, is said to have explained the giving of this name to her son with that basic sense in mind: “And she called his name Joseph [yôsēp], and said, The Lord shall add [yōsēp] to me another son” (Genesis 30:24; emphasis in all scriptural citations is mine). Thus when Nephi combined these two prophecies together through their common use of yāsap, he was also using a wordplay on the name Joseph both to remind us that it was the seed of Joseph that would be gathered and to foretell the involvement of another Joseph, Joseph Smith, in the gathering and in the coming forth of scripture.