I was rereading some of Nephi’s sermons tied to his incipient Christianity. It struck me that it’s not clear Nephi knows about the 2cd temple period and restoration from Babylon. Now I’m still not 100% sure of this. So I appreciate any feedback. Nephi gets some fragmentary prophecies of the future but most are tried to Jesus in Roman Jerusalem (although Nephi doesn’t know it’s Rome). He then primarily focuses in on the fate of his people and the restoration of the Lamanites. The history of Babylon and the return with Nehemiah and company is missing.
His vision of the tree of life contains a lot in it. Yet historically it starts with Jesus being baptized (1 Nephi 11:27) This is then tied to the apocalypse of the large and spacious building. There’s then this very bizarre part that doesn’t get discussed much. The tall and spacious building fights the 12, but it’s the building that loses. (36) Then the vision shifts to America. First we have Christ’s appearance then the return and triumph of the building, the filthy water and so forth such that Nephi’s seed is overpowered.
What’s missing though is a discussion of the first restoration of Israel. We know from the limited prophecies of Isaiah that it will be restored. But those are vague – and several key texts of deutero-isaiah related to the restoration are missing and possibly not held by the Nephites. (Such as Isaiah 45) So what does Nephi think happens to the people taken to Babylon?
1 Nephi 15:20 seems to represent his believe.
“I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again.”
But of course this is not what happened. Cyrus allow them to return. They build the second temple and then are conquered by the Greeks. With the death of Alexander the two Greek empires (Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid) conquer them at different times. After the Greeks there’s a brief period of independence under the Maccabees then they’re conquered by Rome. After the first uprising in 70 AD (prophesied by Jesus) the temple is mostly destroyed. After a second rebellion Rome completely demolishes Jerusalem turning it into a classic Roman city Aelia Capitolina. Most of the Jews were killed, exiled or sold into slavery. The few who remained were a small minority. This is the diaspora that continued until the aftermath of World War II.
In Nephi’s interpretation though this is not what happens. This first off suggests that he really doesn’t have a lot more revealed than what he recounts in 1 Nephi. The rest is him filling in the gaps – largely on the basis of how he reads the prophecies of Isaiah. Most telling is that for him the restoration isn’t what we understand happened with Nehemiah but a future gathering we associate with the 2cd coming. (1 Nephi 30 seems quite relevant)
The closest we come to something beyond a last days restoration is Lehi’s father’s testimony that Nephi recounts in 2 Nephi 3. He prophesies about a second Moses who rises up. Often this is interpreted as a prophesy of Joseph Smith. But the imagery clearly borrows from Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt. He also quotes some unknown texts regarding prophecies of Joseph of Egypt. There’s also an other mysterious figure in verse 24 who is “one mighty among [thy seed]” who helps restore Israel. Given Nephi’s quotation of Isaiah 10 in 2 Nephi 20, it appears Nephi thinks this prophesy of a later Moses is Isaiah’s prophecy. (See 2 Nephi 20:24)
If Nephi sees the restoration from Babylon primarily as tied to the second coming, perhaps seeing the restoration as Israel in terms of his own people’s restoration to Israel, how does he understand Christ? He knows Jesus is born as the Messiah around 600 years after they left Jerusalem. (2 Ne 25:19) We know he thinks the events of the second coming are well after that. From our perspective Christ is born amongst restored Israel, but it appears Nephi doesn’t think that despite recognizing it is at Jerusalem.
This is really weird, and not something I’ve noticed before. I suspect given the texts he quotes from Isaiah that Nephi thinks the final prophecies are about Babylon and restoration. He may even think the prophesies about Joseph are about the middle east and Babylon/Assyria. Yet he knows Christ is born before the restoration and that he doesn’t restore Israel before his death.
 2 Nephi 3 really deserves a discussion all of its own. While we all know the typical reading there are oddities in it.