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The Davidic Servant: A Future Messianic Figure Who Will Appear
As of late, I have come across several blogs that deal with the Davidic servant. This personage will finish up the remainder of the Lord’s marvelous work and a wonder among the nations. It is my belief that he will be a nobody from within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He will never have held positions of prominent authority nor will he be respected. He will follow the pattern of the Savior in how he operates, meaning he will appear outside of the established ecclesiastical and political hierarchy. However, he will go first to the Gentiles/Ephraimites of the Church to plead with them to correct their course.1 Once the Gentiles reject and maim the Lord’s servant, undoubtedly he will then be commissioned to preach solely to the House of Israel and restore them to their lands of inheritance. This will cause quite the rift within the Church, forcing many to take sides either for or against the Lord’s work. Then, Brigham Young’s prophetic utterance will surely come to pass:
The Gentiles will be as much mistaken in regard to his (Christ’s) second advent as the Jews were in relation to the first. 2
Just as the Jews were not ready to accept one outside the ecclesiastical ranks who possessed the power of God, when the servant comes, most members of the Church will reject him in similar fashion. He will call on any and all in the Church, even the highest echelons of authority, to repent of their unjust dealings against the poor and the needy of the Church. Unfortunately, the scriptures tell us that this will not go over well with the Gentiles, for their hearts shall be hardened against the Lord and against the still small voice.3 Unfortunately, they will mar the servant beyond human recognition and likeness.4
Back in the year 2011, I came across this passages of scripture, and it left me totally perplexed. This particular chapter is a question and answer session between the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Lord about the 11th chapter of Isaiah. Often, leaders in the Church today will interpret this scripture as dealing with the Church itself being the ensign to the nations. However, this section of Doctrine and Covenants elucidates how Isaiah does not say that at all. Isaiah 11 was so befuddling to Joseph Smith that even he took it to the Lord and got the correct interpretation. In fact, this section is not clarifying doctrine about the Church, but instead about the different beings who have prominent roles to play within God’s Plan of Salvation to the world.
The first being identified in this section is quite straightforward. In the New Testament, Christ states, “I am the true vine…”5 What exactly is a vine? Well, it is the stem of a plant within the grape family. Isaiah commences the 11th chapter by addressing three horticultural images: a rod, a stem, and a root (branch).6 Joseph Smith’s first inquiry concerns the stem, where he asks, “Who is the Stem of Jesse spoken of in the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th verses of the 11th chapter of Isaiah?7 The Lord responds that it is himself, Jesus Christ. This impresses on my mind that Christ is the vine that gives life to all those who are connected, or grafted, into Him. He provides the nutrients, water, and empowerment for us to carry out our missions upon the earth. Without His atonement, none of the work of salvation is possible. Many have identified Christ alone as the Davidic servant, or as the Elias Who Restores All Things. However, Christ himself, though having held the office of Elias during His ministry, disabuses the reader from this notion through the continued session between He and Joseph Smith in 113th section.
The work of salvation has more than one character on the stage. The Prophet continues to inquire of the Lord about the two remaining horticultural images. In the 3rd verse, he asks, “What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?”8 The Lord’s response denotes that the personage is not Himself, for the descriptive terms He uses easily should dissuade any reader from misunderstanding this section.
It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power. 9
The Lord clearly states that the personage is a servant of Christ, meaning someone sent from Him to be His emissary upon the earth. However, there is more to the “rod” than just this simple utterance. Note that this person is not purely from the Stem of Jesse as Christ is, meaning the personage is not pure Judah. The “rod” is an individual of dual Israelite lineages with a specific mission, according to Isaiah 11. The mission of this person is denoted by the fact that he is the “rod.” According to vine-dressing practices, a “rod” or a “shoot” is a graft taken from another tree within the vineyard. The whole purpose for this is to keep the original tree from perishing. Gileadi gives much more clarity in his commentary, so let’s turn there:
In effect, when an olive tree no longer bears good fruit it can (1) be cut down, or (2) kept growing if one or more limbs show signs of life. In this case, such a limb is the watersprout, the kind of shoot that grows straight up from a tree’s trunk but doesn’t itself bear fruit. For that reason, farmers lop them off in the spring. If the watersprout can keep the tree alive, however, then it may be permitted to grow until it becomes sufficiently strong to support a graft. 10
The “rod,” though hailing from a different part of the vineyard, is of pure Israelite descent, but his mission is not to the natural branches of Israel. His jurisdiction pertains to those of mixed lineages springing from the Gentiles. Thus, his mission was the same as that given to the Apostle Paul, who called himself the Apostle of the Gentiles, even though he was a pure Israelite.11 Like the Apostle Paul, this individual magnified his calling to great heights, trying consistently to get those of mingle lineages to bear fruit for the Kingdom of the Lord. Though initially Paul’s labors produced numerous converts, the Gentiles and their idolatry eventually led to an apostasy and the removal of the Priesthood from among them. Amidst this apostasy, the Gentiles went so far as to corrupt the scriptures of the Lord, causing countless individuals to stumble in the past as well as in the present.12
So, who is the “rod” spoken of in Isaiah 11 and in D&C 113? I submit to you that it is none other than the Prophet Joseph Smith. He, like the Apostle Paul, was a personage of pure Israelite descent and assigned with the mission of gathering those of mingled Israelite lineages from among the Gentile nations. This is not to say that none of the early apostles or the members were not of pure Israelite lineages.13 Heaven forbid! DNA testing has recently verified the descent of Joseph’s royal heritage.14 Even Joseph Smith knew he was pruning the vineyard that was the mighty Gentile nation. During the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer, the Prophet states this:
Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. 15
Another clue that the “rod” is Joseph Smith resides in the definition of what a rod or shoot does in horticulture. It is simply used to keep the natural tree alive, so that a future date it can have enough strength to have a natural branch (root) grafted back into the natural tree. More often than not, this grafted rod does not bear fruit. What does this mean for us? Well, Joseph Smith did his part and tried to teach the early members of the Church the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but time after time members, past and present, have rejected these teachings. Without the meat of the Gospel, few will bring forth fruit that will allow an individual to enter into the Kingdom of God. Milk alone will not save us.16 Joseph Smith brought the light of the Gospel, but countless continue to reject it daily. The covetous nature of early members thwarted Zion being established in Joseph’s day.17 They were forced out of Jackson County into Illinois. From my study of all this, it appears to me that Joseph Smith knew more than ever, at that point, that setting up the Kingdom of God upon this continent would have to wait for a later date, under the direction of a different personage. Now, it should be clear to all who hold the writings of holy writ sacred that apostasy has set in once again, just as in the days of the primitive church. The wild and degenerate nature of the fruit being produced today will only serve as kindling for the burning that will occur at the Lord’s Day of Judgment.
So who will the Lord send us in these darkening days? He will send none other than the root (branch) to set all in order and carry out the complete restorative mission the Lord shall yoke upon him. So, who is the personage exactly? Returning back to the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith also inquires about this horticultural image. He states, “What is the root of Jesse spoken of in the 10th verse of the 11th chapter?”18 I find the Lord’s answer quite fascinating.
Behold, thus saith the Lord, it is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs to the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days. 19
There are two things that make this verse highly mysterious and interesting. The first pertains to the Lord’s statement concerning this person’s lineage from Joseph, but when the Lord spoke about the rod, He clarified which son of Joseph the person would descend from, namely Ephraim. Here the Lord leaves it up for grabs, meaning lots of study and pondering. The second detail that captivates me is the phrase “rightly belongs the priesthood.” I will try to address the two in my own interpretation of this particular scripture. Before that, Isaiah 11 has something to tell us about this individual.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. 20
In comparing these verses immediately above, it should be clear that both the Lord and Isaiah are calling this being the ensign. It is not the Church that serves as the standard bearer in combat—no lifeless entity can perform such a function; rather, it is the great general of the Lord, the Davidic servant, who shall bear Jehovah’s standard to all the world. Some may say, “It’s Joseph Smith!” My question is “how so?” Many often conflate verses 4 and 6 of the 113th section to denote the same being, when Christ and Isaiah clearly say they are separate. Isaiah 11:1 and D&C 113:4 do not call the “rod” an ensign also, pointing further away from Joseph Smith. Another indicator that the “rod” is associated with the Gentiles is due to the declaring that part of his lineage is from Ephraim. So what? Not so fast. An investigative reading of Joseph Smith’s Translation of Genesis 48 offers some thought provoking insights about Ephraim, namely that Ephraim would become a multitude of nations. The word Gentile is interchangeable with the word nations, essentially meaning the same thing. Manasseh, on the other hand, was never associated with such. The most important thing about the “root” is that this individual will spring from the natural lineages of the House of Israel. All this has led me now to embark upon my interpretation of two quandaries presented in 6th verse of the 113th section.
The Davidic Lineage Among the Native Americans
So, last year during scripture study, I was reading the Book of Mormon for my own profit and learning. I study by taking Cornell Notes on each chapter I read, chasing various footnotes simultaneously. From this exercise, I never knew that such rich revelation could be poured out upon one’s head. The Book of Omni provided this great manifestation for me. This text, as well as the Book of Jarom, conveys the reasoning why the author wrote this account. The main reasoning for their accounts pertain to keeping genealogical data for their future posterity in the latter-days.21 Out of all the books the compiler, Mormon, could have chosen, he chose the Book of Jarom and the Book of Omni to include in his abridgment of the plates. Many probably read these texts and wonder why they were even included, but with a closer investigation the reasons become apparent.
In the kingdom of the Nephites, having been set up by Nephi, the scepter of power eventually fell to a man named Mosiah, father of King Benjamin. The account tells us that he was warned of the Lord to flee from the Land of Nephi in order to preserve his people.22 While they were traveling through the wilderness, King Mosiah and his people stumbled onto a civilization entirely separate from their own. The scriptures tell us they were called the People of Zarahemla, but this is only of secondary importance. There are two questions of primary importance: 1) who did they descend from? and 2) where did they come from? The scriptures again make bear in plainness the answers to these questions. It states that they arrived from Jerusalem. The knowledge of who they are is an enlightening bit of information. The people of Zarahemla descended from Mulek, who the Book of Mormon prophets tell us was the only living son of King Zedekiah.23 If you know anything about King Zedekiah, he was the last Davidic king to rule over the Kingdom of Judah at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Elder Orson Pratt gives some interesting details on this matter:
On this river, not a great distance from the mouth thereof, in what is now termed the United States of Columbia, they built their great capital city. They also discovered another nation that already possessed that country called the people of Zarahemla. They also were a branch of Israel who came out from the city of Jerusalem five hundred and eighty-nine years before the coming of Christ, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, at the time he was taken captive, and the Jews were carried into Babylon. One of the sons of Zedekiah, King of Judah, being commanded of the Lord, left the city of Jerusalem with a colony, who were brought forth and landed north of the Isthmus and journeyed southward, passed through the narrow neck of land which we term the Isthmus into the United States of Columbia, and formed their settlements there, and when discovered by the Nephites had dwelt there near four hundred years. 24
So why even bother with all this? Well, if it is not clear now, then let me continue to press the point. Zedekiah was a direct descent of King David, the line from which the Davidic servant (the root) will spring. That line persists today only with in the descendants of the Lamanites. Some will look at verse 4 of the 113th section of Doctrine and Covenants and claim that the “rod,” Joseph Smith, has just as much right to the scepter of kingship as the root. Unfortunately, that is not true. According to various accounts, Mulek was the last son of Zedekiah, but not the last child in general. He also had a daughter, whom many legends refer to as Tamar Tephi-Tea. It is said that this daughter of Zedekiah married another descendant of Judah in the British Isles long ago. According to one man’s research, these intermarried with some of the Ephraimites there and are the direct ancestors of Joseph Smith.25 Then, again there are various accounts of Jesus Christ’s own children living among the British Isles, who were taken there after Christ’s crucifixion. So, the claim to kingship could be made along those lines. However, it is my belief that Zedekiah’s son, Mulek, was preserved to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecies of a messianic figure emerging in the East–the East according to Jerusalem where Isaiah tarried.
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.26
The land of America, where David’s blood still flows in the veins of those of Lamanite heritage, is that far country of Isaiah’s prophecy. So, if the Tamar Tephi-Tea is from whom Joseph Smith descents, then that disqualifies him as the “root.” This leads me to conclude that the “root,” to whom rightly belongs to the priesthood, lays claim to such because he will be a descendant of Mulek, the last remaining son of King Zedekiah. This answers the second quandary for me about D&C 113:6. Yet, the first still remains.
Now that I’ve tried to argue that the Davidic servant will descend through King David’s line through the male heir, the investigation will now be turned to whether or not he will be from Ephraim or Manasseh on the Joseph side of the equation. Admittedly, this particular part of the conundrum is much harder to answer. I understand that Ephraim should be given deference, since the Lord himself calls them his firstborn. 27 However, does this necessarily mean that the servant must descend through Ephraim? I personally do not believe this must be the case. I reason that since King David, although Ephraim had the birthright during his day, was chosen King over Israel to be an instrument in the Lord’s hand to unite the Tribes of Israel. Did this negate the birthright blessings of Ephraim? Absolutely not. Christ too serves as another example. He, like David, being a pure descendant of Judah was the Holy One of Israel sent to the lost sheep of Israel. Again, Ephraim is out of the picture. The whole role of Ephraim is for them to become a grand class of “High Priests” endowed with great spiritual power to administer saving ordinances to the entire House of Israel. 28
The descriptions of the Davidic servant as a warrior automatically turns my mind to the warrior class of Israel, Manasseh. 29 In the Old Testament, the tribe that consistently vanquished the enemies of Israel was Manasseh. It was this tribe of valiant warriors who subdued the kingdoms of Sihon and Og. All indicators in the scriptures point to the eastern clans of Manasseh, Machir and Gilead, being on the front-lines of battle. Also, during King David’s reign, he installed many men from the Tribe of Manasseh as generals and captains in his armies.30 The military success of Manasseh grew to such a level in the Book of Judges, jealousies arose among the tribe of Ephraim. Gideon, whom the scriptures call “a mighty man of valor,” responded to the Ephraimites politically, but later on Ephraim’s effrontery would become so egregious that they even attempted to march on Manasseh militarily. This event forced the Manassite Jephthat to proclaim “Why, then, have you come up to me this day, to fight against me?” 31 Forcing Jephthat’s hand, the Tribe of Manasseh slaughter 42,000 Ephraimites.
In light of this information, and in conjunction with the Record of Manasseh, the Book of Mormon, I am inclined to think that the Davidic servant will descent through the Tribe of Manasseh on the Joseph side of the equation. However, this is only speculation, and only time will tell. From reading Gileadi’s works on Isaiah, the Davidic servant will be a leader who will embody the best qualities of a military leader and of a political genius. Also, he will be of the natural lineages of the House of Israel, of which the Lamanites definitely are.
Brigham Young, Character of God and Christ, etc. Journal of Discourses 8:115.
3 Nephi 16:10-12, 3 Nephi 20:15-22, Mormon 8, Mormon 5:19-24
Isaiah 52:13-15 (Gileadi Translation) cf. 3 Nephi 21: 9-11
John 15:1 (KJV)
It should be noted by the reader that there is no better scholar on the Book of Isaiah than Avraham Gileadi. Pertaining to this particular subject, he gives a vivid and erudite commentary about the horticultural imagery of Isaiah 11.
Avraham Gileadi, Apocalyptic Commentary of The Book of Isaiah (San Diego, CA: Hebraeus Press, 2013), 87.
Romans 11:1, 13 (KJV)
1 Nephi 13:21-29
Vern Grosvenor Swanson, Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline, Revised Edition (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2013), 197. Simply reading the information of this source without having read the previous 196 pages will probably leave you wanting. You need to read more than just one page, so that you can see how the author makes the connections.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (KJV) cf. Isaiah 28 (Gileadi Translation)
See Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1989).
Isaiah 11:10 (KJV)
Jarom 1:1-2 cf. Omni 1:11
Omni 1:15, Mosiah 25:2 cf. Heleman 6:10, 8:21
Elder Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 14:323
Swanson, Dynasty of the Holy Grail, 35, n. 11.
Isaiah 46:11 KJV cf. Isaiah 46:11 (Gileadi Translation)
D&C 133:26-32 cf. Alma 13
Isaiah 9:6 (Gileadi Translation)
Val Brinkerhoff, The Remnant Awakens (Digital Legends Press, 2016), 228, n. 62.
Judges 12:1-3, See Bible Dictionary about Gideon