Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cup of Trembling

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:2

As you might have guessed by now, I enjoy collecting information that helps me understand unfamiliar scriptural phrases and terminology. Best of all, I love seeing the same imagery in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. That’s because when I figure out the Biblical understanding, I then have an insight to apply to modern scriptures. One fact equals several more scriptures made more meaningful and less confusing.

According to one scholar, " ‘cup of trembling’ means a cup of wine mixed with poison. In the East many princes, governors, and prominent men are poisoned during banquets and dinners. Some of those who are suspicious of the poisoning tremble when the cup is handed to them.

The days were to come when Jerusalem would be a cup of trembling to the nations who would come to fight against it and besiege it. They would tremble because the capital city and Judah would be defended by God himself [verses 3-6]. (Lamsa, George M. 1964. Old Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper Collins., pg 951)

The words “cup” and “tremble” or “trembling” are found together or in close proximity in five places in the standard works. Nephi’s recounting of Isaiah is one example:

2 Nephi 8:17,22

17 Awake, awake,stand up, O Jerusalem, which has drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury—thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling wrung out--

22 Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God pleadeth the cause of his people;behold I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of my fury;thou shalt no more drink it again.

Additionally, I believe it is also alluded to in the poignant description of the Savior’s experience with the Atonement.

D&C 19:18

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink--

I am eternally thankful that because the Savior drank the painful and bitter cup, we- through our repentance- can know the sweetness of reconciliation with Him.


  1. Regarding D&C 19:18: I think it significant that Christ suffered both body and *spirit*. In other words that the atonement was both a bodily and a spiritual suffering. Now since the Spirit of Christ proceeds from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space (D&C 88:12) and is further the life which is in all nature (D&C 88:13) then it follows that Christ's suffering must have extended to nature as it is permeated by the Spirit of Christ. And that is exactly the way President John Taylor put it when he wrote what follows in his masterful little book, "An Examination Into and an Elucidation of the Great Principle of the Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," written while he was President of the Church and published in 1882. Here are his words (I wish there was a way to blockquote or otherwise set off quotations in this comment section):

    The suffering of the Son of God was not simply the suffering of personal death; for in assuming the position that He did in making an atonement for the sins of the world He bore the weight, the responsibility, and the burden of the sins of all men, which, to us, is incomprehensible. As stated, "the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffereth the pains of all men;" and Isaiah says: "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," also, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all," and again, "He hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many;" or, as it is written in the Second Book of Nephi: "For behold, he suffereth the pains of all men; yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women and children, who belong to the family of Adam;" whilst in Mosiah it is declared: "He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people."

    Groaning beneath this concentrated load, this intense, incomprehensible pressure, this terrible exaction of Divine justice, from which feeble humanity shrank, and through the agony thus experienced sweating great drops of blood, He was led to exclaim, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." He had wrestled with the superincumbent load in the wilderness, He had struggled against the powers of darkness that had been let loose upon him there; placed below all things, His mind surcharged with agony and pain, lonely and apparently helpless and forsaken, in his agony the blood oozed from His pores. Thus rejected by His own, attacked by the powers of darkness, and seemingly forsaken by His God, on the cross He bowed beneath the accumulated load, and cried out in anguish, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" When death approached to relieve Him from His horrible position, a ray of hope appeared through the abyss of darkness with which He had been surrounded, and in a spasm of relief, seeing the bright future beyond, He said, "It is finished! Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." As a God, He descended below all things, and made Himself subject to man in man's fallen condition; as a man, He grappled with all the circumstances incident to His sufferings in the world. Anointed, indeed, with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He struggled with and overcame the powers of men and devils, of earth and hell combined; and aided by this superior power of the Godhead, He vanquished death, hell and the grave, and arose triumphant as the Son of God, the very eternal Father, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, the Redeemer, the Savior of the world; having finished and completed the work pertaining to the atonement, which His Father had given Him to do as the Son of God and the Son of man. As the Son of Man, He endured all that it was possible for flesh and blood to endure; as the Son of God He triumphed over all, and forever ascended to the right hand of God, to further carry out the designs of Jehovah pertaining to the world and to the human family.

    And again, not only did His agony affect the mind and body of Jesus, causing Him to sweat great drops of blood, but by reason of some principle, to us unfathomable, His suffering affected universal nature.

    "World upon world, eternal things,
    Hang on thy anguish, King of kings."

    When he gave up the ghost, the solid rocks were riven, the foundations of the earth trembled, earthquakes shook the continents and rent the isles of the sea, a deep darkness overspread the sky, the mighty waters overflowed their accustomed bounds, huge mountains sank and valleys rose, the handiwork of feeble men was overthrown, their cities were engulphed or consumed by the vivid shafts of lightning, and all material things were convulsed with the throes of seeming dissolution. Thus was brought to pass that which was spoken by the prophet Zenos: "The rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God to exclaim, The God of nature suffers." [1 Nephi,xix, 12.] And it is recorded, that so confessed the Centurion, and they that were with him watching the body of Jesus. For when they witnessed the earthquake, and the other things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God." So also was fulfilled that which is written in the prophecy of Enoch:

    "And the Lord said unto Enoch, Look; and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men; and he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the Saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory; and as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day." —Pearl of Great Price.

    Thus, such was the torturing pressure of this intense, this indescribable agony, that it burst forth abroad beyond the confines of His body, convulsed all nature and spread throughout all space.
    John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement ( 1882)

  2. In my opinion, the Atonement is the most important subject that we can study. The majority of my truly significant spiritual growth is related to gaining a deeper and ever increasing appreciation for Christ's great sacrifice.

    Thank you for these wonderful quotes. I tried to read Mediation and Atonement all the way through over 30 years ago and it was a challenging effort.

  3. Oh, Steve! Your post goes so perfectly with Donna's! It all reminds me of Cleon Skousen's talk where he told of being taught by Elder Widstoe more about the principle of justice vrs. mercy... and how the Atonement wasn't just for mortals, but for all of creation, as well. He told of how all of the intelligences cried for justice when they saw mankind in sin (when they, themselves, were being obedient), but when they saw the Savior in pain in the Garden and on the Cross, His pain filled them with such compassion that they felt He had atoned for man's disobedience. Powerful talk and concept!