Doctrine and Covenants 95:7 refers to “the Lord of Sabaoth, which
is by interpretation, the creator of the first day, the beginning and
the end.” When I first read that, I thought it was logical because Sabaoth looks like a form of the word “sabbath,” the first day (now) in Christianity. Wrong! The Hebrew word Sabaoth, used often in the Bible, generally refers to “hosts” in the military sense. So it’s easy to assume this was just sloppiness on Joseph Smith’s part. As is so often the case when we wish to criticize, there may be more to the story.
John A. Tvedtnes has a fascinating article, “Lord of Sabaoth” on his Book of Mormon Research site. Tvedtnes writes:
If the title denotes the Lord of armies, how could the Lord have told
Joseph Smith that it meant creator? For an explanation, we must turn to
the earliest occurrence of the Hebrew term in the Bible, in Genesis 2:1, which sums up the creation by saying, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” In this passage, the term is clearly connected to creation rather than warfare.
In his commentary on Genesis 2:1,
E. A. Speiser noted that the term rendered “hosts” was an allusion to
all that God had created, not to angelic armies as some had supposed.[i]
The verbal root of the Hebrew noun means “to gather, to assemble,”
which is what armies do in time of war. But it is also a process of
creation and, in the context of Genesis 2:1,
it might best be translated “assemblage,” in reference to all of God’s
creation. When Isaiah wrote of the “Lord of hosts,” he added “thou hast
made heaven and earth” (Isaiah 37:16). Note also Psalm 148:1-5:
“Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him
in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his
hosts Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the
heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and
they were created.”
Understood in this way, one can better see why the prophet Isaiah
heard the heavenly beings surrounding the throne of God cry out, “Holy,
holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
All of God’s creations reflect his glory, as we read in Psalm 19:1,
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his
handywork” (cf. Psalm 57:5, 11; 89:6; 108:5; Habakkuk 3:3).
A third- or fourth-century AD Jewish copper amulet found near Kibbutz
Evron, Israel, has a Greek inscription that speaks of “the One who made
the heavens and founded earth and established sea
everything, Iao Sabaoth” [Jehovah of Sabaoth], confirming the meaning.[ii]
After describing the sun, moon, stars, and the earth, the Lord told
Joseph Smith, “Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen
any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and
power” (D&C 88:47; cf. D&C 84:101).
Perhaps Doctrine and Covenants 95:7 offers an appropriate interpretation after all.