Nephi takes a chapter of Isaiah and transforms its meeting in a breathtaking fashion. With the addition of a couple of verses and the reorganization of others Nephi takes Isaiah’s prophecy primarily concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and turns it into a vision of the latter days.
Perhaps the most important addition to this chapter is thus the introductory verse which places this prophecy “in the last days, or in the days of the gentiles.” Now, rather than speaking of the decay of Israel, Nephi is speaking of the gentile nations. As such, his message of a restoration and a “glorious work” is far more poignant.
Nephi adds depth to Isaiah in other ways. For instance, in Verse 5, Nephi/Isaiah emphasize the cause of the deep sleep that is poured upon the people– namely the rejection of prophets and seers. In the original on the other hand, this causal relationship is not nearly as clear. Thus, we gain greater insight through the words of Nephi/Isaiah into the source of the apostasy that fills the land. The powerful description that “this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men” is framed in light of the unwillingness to listen to God and his prophets. For failing to hearken to the living prophets also leads to apostasy and to decay.
Because Nephi more throughly describes the decayed condition of the people, the pathos that comes from the discovery of the book that comes as if from the dirt is also more profound. This book will confound the learned who believe they are wise and therefore do not learn from God. It will cry out from the dust and help bring people back to their maker. “[F]or the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.” The work of God will be marvelous and wonderful to those who listen, but for those who ignore it, it will become like a snare and a source of offense. God’s plan of restoration is perfectly calibrated to test the hearts of man and see who will truly listen and who will walk away.