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Interpreting Interpreter
Striking Him a Nail

This post is a summary of the article ““A Mystery to the World”: A New Proposal for Isaiah 22:20-25” by Spencer Kraus in Volume 58 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at


The Takeaway

Kraus examines the temple themes associated with a messianic prophecy in Isaiah 22, which references a “nail in a sure place”. He notes that the nail could be interpreted as striking Christ rather than Christ himself being the nail, and that the verse apparently referencing Christ’s fall could be a conditional curse rather a reference to future events.


The Summary

In this article, Spencer Kraus considers Isaiah 22:20-25, a passage that refers to Eliakim, a figure that many have equated with Christ. It describes how Eliakim would receive authority, how God “will fasten him as a nail in a sure place”, and how the nail, once removed, would fall and be cut off. Kraus argues that the themes of this passage reference the temple in a variety of ways, and he provides an alternative translation. This translation omits the word “as”—a word that is usually supplied by translators but that is missing from the Hebrew text. Excluding this word opens the possibility that Eliakim is having a nail fastened to him, rather than himself being the nail. The translation also changes the phrase “will be removed” to “should be removed”, rendering the latter portion of the passage as a conditional curse, paralleling similar language in Amos, emphasizing our own agency in accepting or rejecting the temple’s promised blessings.

The temple themes identified by Kraus include (1) the names Eliakim and his son Hilkiah referencing the blessings of the temple, (2) the “giving into his hand” referring to the authority given to priests anointed to temple service, authority that includes the keys of the temple, (3) the nail itself, which is potentially connected to Ezra’s discussion of a nail the lord would strike on behalf of those attending the temple, and (4) the conditional curse, which is connected to Amos’ reference to temple altars. As Kraus concludes, “The Lord’s promise of mercy is eternal…and could rightfully be described as “a nail in a sure place” for all who come to him and honor the covenants they have entered in His holy temple.”


The Reflection

Kraus provides an interesting example of how subtle nuances in translation can substantially alter the interpretation of scripture. It strikes me that it should be difficult to maintain Solo Scriptura in the context of those interpretive differences, but to each their own. In the meantime, they generally allow for more and more interesting options in discovering the truths contained in a given passage, and the options proposed by Kraus could be useful in making sense of what might otherwise be a confusing prophecy, and ties in some temple imagery for good measure.

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