Treadeth Down and Teareth in Pieces

3 Nephi 20:15-16

15 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—

16 Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

3 Nephi 21:12

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.

What do these verses mean?

I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down

This is a theme, a recurring theme, in the Savior’s teachings to his American Hebrews (see 3 Nephi 20:16; 3 Nephi 21:12) and one to which Mormon later refers (Mormon 5:24). There has been much discussion concerning its meaning. Many Latter-day Saints conclude that it refers to a type of Lamanite uprising, a rebellion by Lamanites (identified in this interpretation as “a remnant of Jacob”-see 3 Nephi 20:16; 3 Nephi 21:12; Mormon 5:24) against the “Gentiles” in America. We have chosen to take another approach to these passages.

It is interesting that in 3 Nephi 21 the Master quotes a prophecy from Micah 5:8-14, an oracle which uses language similar to that above. According to this account the rending of the Gentiles, this metaphor of a lion among the sheep, takes place in a day when such things as witchcraft, soothsayers, idolatry, immorality, priestcrafts, lying, and deceit are all destroyed and done away. When will such things be done away? Clearly, after the Lord comes and the millennial day has begun. It would seem that the image of the remnant of Israel rending its Gentile enemies is symbolic of Israel’s ultimate victory over its foes, a victory which comes when the Savior returns and the wicked are destroyed. “Except for a few who are the humble followers of Christ, the Gentiles will not repent. They will revel in their abominations and sin against the restored gospel, and they will be burned by the brightness of our Lord’s coming while the righteous-here called the remnant of Jacob-shall abide the day. And then, in the prophetic imagery it will be as though the remnant of Israel overthrew their enemies as a young lion among the flocks of sheep.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah, p. 248; see also p. 242; Mortal Messiah 4:334-35.)

Notes

This commentary comes from Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert Millet’s Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, pages 111-112.

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