Alma 32:37-43: The Summary that Wasn’t
August 2, 2008 by juliemariesmith
Well, a very short discussion left me with little to summarize. But I stumbled upon something else that I thought I’d share.
I was thinking about Alma 31:36 with its odd double referent to Alma clapping his hands upon his co-workers. I found the word in Isaiah 55 and also found, much to my surprise, that virtually every word of that chapter lines up with something we’ve seen in Alma 32. I’ll reproduce Isaiah 55 in full and then comment after each verse:
1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Alms 32 ends with the note that those who plant the seed and nourish the tree will not thirst. It stands to reason, then, that those thirsting would be those listening to Alma. Isaiah’s reference to those with no money is obviously applicable. What Alma describes as growing fruit that “ye shall feast upon . . . even until ye are filled”, Isaiah calls buying without price. I like the way that the Isaiah chapter ties together the poverty of the audience to the price-less-ness (two meanings) of the fruit that faith can produce. The thing about the end of this verse is that there is a price for wine and milk–it just isn’t paid by the consumer. There is a subtle but important Christology here . . .
2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Isaiah’s words here would be Alma’s words to the Zoramite rich if he spoke to them: why are you buying fancy clothes? Note also the reference to “the good”–a main theme for Alma.
3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
This, of course, is exactly what the Zoramite poor did.
4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
. . . exactly what Alma is.
5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
I think it is clear from Alma’s reaction to the Zoramite prayer that he didn’t “know” this nation and, later, when the converted Zoramite poor follow Alma et al to Jershon, they are “run[ning] unto [him] because of the Lord thy God.”
6 ¶ Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Given that a new and bloodier war will soon begin, with the Zoramites in the middle, this call to seek now seems especially pertinent.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Given that the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites, the idea of “returning” is especially appropriate.
8 ¶ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
I think this is an interesting commentary on the process of knowledge/faith acquisition that Alma develops in this chapter.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
This is an interesting foil to the Rameumptom–
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
There’s that seed metaphor again. The watering (Christ=living water) that Alma left unstated is more explicit here, buttressed also by the “bread” reference.
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
The “so shall” parallels “my word” to the seed of the previous verse. I can’t help but tying this to the biggest irony that I see in Alma 30-35: Alma decides to take this mission to the Zoramites specifically so that they won’t enter into a league with the Lamanites and therefore threaten the peace of the Nephites. Of course, that is exactly what ends up happening as a direct result of his mission. This verse solves, in a sense, that irony for me by suggesting that the preaching was for God’s purposes, which may have been larger than even Alma’s.
12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
The converted Zoramites do in fact go out–to the land of Jershon, where they are welcomed with open arms and nourished and given land, etc.
Another way to read this verse is directed at Alma and his fellow workers: Alma’s prayer had asked for comfort in this (sure to be) difficult Zoramite mission, which would here be promised (=joy). Alma preaches from a hill (=break forth in singing). It is Alma who does the clapping–Alma, who, by his own parable, is a tree because he has planted the seed and seen the tree grow up within himself. Note that Alma 31:38 specifically associates joy with their missionary endeavors.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
My margin notes on v13 read “thorn and briar are signs of abandonment. Cypress (=fir) and myrtle require water and cultivation and may allude to the end of the earth’s curse.” The (the good, useful, productive, safe) tree is an everlasting sign–the sign issue is one that Alma addresses specifically in this chapter (and, of course, with Korihor). Note also that it is a sign that won’t be cut off (=cast out, also suggested by parallel to apply to the thorn and briar), another major theme in this chapter.