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Cyrus, God’s Instrument
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
and the gates shall not be closed:
I will go before you
and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I surname you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I the Lord do all these things.
Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the skies rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation may spring up,
and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also;
I the Lord have created it.
Woe to you who strive with your Maker,
earthen vessels with the potter!
Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, “What are you making”?
or “Your work has no handles”?
Woe to anyone who says to a father, “What are you begetting?”
or to a woman, “With what are you in labor?”
Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Will you question me about my children,
or command me concerning the work of my hands?
I made the earth,
and created humankind upon it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness,
and I will make all his paths straight;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,
says the Lord of hosts.
Thus says the Lord:
The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia,
and the Sabeans, tall of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours,
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will make supplication to you, saying,
“God is with you alone, and there is no other;
there is no god besides him.”
Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
All of them are put to shame and confounded,
the makers of idols go in confusion together.
But Israel is saved by the Lord
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.
For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it a chaos,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
“Seek me in chaos.”
I the Lord speak the truth,
I declare what is right.
Idols Cannot Save Babylon
Assemble yourselves and come together,
draw near, you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge—
those who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
There is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is no one besides me.
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.”
Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.
In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.
Isa 45:1-25. The Subject of the Deliverance by Cyrus Is Followed Up.
Isa 45:1-7. These seven verses should have been appended to previous chapter, and the new chapter should begin with Isa 45:8, "Drop down," &c. [Horsley]. Reference to the deliverance by Messiah often breaks out from amidst the local and temporary details of the deliverance from Babylon, as the great ultimate end of the prophecy.
1. his anointed—Cyrus is so called as being set apart as king, by God's providence, to fulfil His special purpose. Though kings were not anointed in Persia, the expression is applied to him in reference to the Jewish custom of setting apart kings to the regal office by anointing.
right hand … holden—image from sustaining a feeble person by holding his right hand (Isa 42:6).
subdue nations—namely, the Cilicians, Syrians, Babylonians, Lydians, Bactrians, &c.; his empire extended from Egypt and the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and from Ethiopia to the Euxine Sea.
loose … girdle loins—that is, the girdle off the loins; and so enfeeble them. The loose outer robe of the Orientals, when girt fast round the loins, was the emblem of strength and preparedness for action; ungirt, was indicative of feebleness (Job 38:3; 12:21); "weakeneth the strength of the mighty" (Margin), "looseth the girdle of the strong." The joints of (Belshazzar's) loins, we read in Da 5:6, were loosed during the siege by Cyrus, at the sight of the mysterious handwriting on the palace walls. His being taken by surprise, unaccoutred, is here foretold.
to open … gates—In the revelry in Babylon on the night of its capture, the inner gates, leading from the streets to the river, were left open; for there were walls along each side of the Euphrates with gates, which, had they been kept shut, would have hemmed the invading hosts in the bed of the river, where the Babylonians could have easily destroyed them. Also, the gates of the palace were left open, so that there was access to every part of the city; and such was its extent, that they who lived in the extremities were taken prisoners before the alarm reached the center of the palace. [Herodotus, 1.191].
gates of brass—(Ps 107:16). Herodotus (1.179) says, Babylon had a hundred massive gates, twenty-five on each of the four sides of the city, all, as well as their posts, of brass.
bars of iron—with which the gates were fastened.
3. treasures of darkness—that is, hidden in subterranean places; a common Oriental practice. Sorcerers pretended to be able to show where such treasures were to be found; in opposition to their pretensions, God says, He will really give hidden treasures to Cyrus (Jer 50:37; 51:13). Pliny (Natural History,, 33:3) says that Cyrus obtained from the conquest of Asia thirty-four thousand pounds weight of gold, besides golden vases, and five hundred thousand talents of silver, and the goblet of Semiramis, weighing fifteen talents.
that thou mayest know—namely, not merely that He was "the God of Israel," but that He was Jehovah, the true God. Ezr 1:1, 2 shows that the correspondence of the event with the prediction had the desired effect on Cyrus.
which call … thy name—so long before designate thee by name (Isa 43:1).
hast not known me—previous to My calling thee to this office; after God's call, Cyrus did know Him in some degree (Ezr 1:1-3).
girded thee—whereas "I will loose (the girdle off) the loins of kings" (Isa 45:1), strengthening thee, but enfeebling them before thee.
6. From the rising to the setting of the sun, that is, from east to west, the whole habitable world. It is not said, "from north to south," for that would not imply the habitable world, as, "from east to west" does (Ezr 1:1, &c.). The conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon, the capital of the world, and the overthrow of Babylon and restoration of the Jews by Cyrus, who expressly acknowledged himself to be but the instrument in God's hands, were admirably suited to secure, throughout the world, the acknowledgment of Jehovah as the only true God.
7. form … create—yatzar, to give "form" to previously existing matter. Bara, to "create" from nothing the chaotic dark material.
light … darkness—literally (Ge 1:1-3), emblematical also, prosperity to Cyrus, calamity to Babylon and the nations to be vanquished [Grotius] … Isaiah refers also to the Oriental belief in two coexistent, eternal principles, ever struggling with each other, light or good, and darkness or evil, Oromasden and Ahrimanen. God, here, in opposition, asserts His sovereignty over both [Vitringa].
8. Drop—namely, the fertilizing rain (Ps 65:12).
skies—clouds; lower than the "heavens."
righteousness—that is, the dews of the Holy Spirit, whereby "righteousness" shall "spring up." (See latter end of the verse).
earth—figuratively for the hearts of men on it, opened for receiving the truth by the Holy Ghost (Ac 16:14).
them—the earth and the heavens. Horsley prefers: "Let the earth open, and let salvation and justice grow forth; let it bring them forth together; I the Lord have created him" (Isa 45:13). Maurer translates, "Let all kinds of salvation (prosperity) be fruitful" (Ps 72:3, 6, 7). The revival of religion after the return from Babylon suggests to the prophet the diffusion of Messiah's Gospel, especially in days still future; hence the elevation of the language to a pitch above what is applicable to the state of religion after the return.
9. Anticipating the objections which the Jews might raise as to why God permitted their captivity, and when He did restore them, why He did so by a foreign prince, Cyrus, not a Jew (Isa 40:27, &c.), but mainly and ultimately, the objections about to be raised by the Jews against God's sovereign act in adopting the whole Gentile world as His spiritual Israel (Isa 45:8, referring to this catholic diffusion of the Gospel), as if it were an infringement of their nation's privileges; so Paul expressly quotes it (Ro 9:4-8, 11-21).
Let … strive—Not in the Hebrew; rather, in apposition with "him," "A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth!" A creature fragile and worthless as the fragment of an earthen vessel, among others equally so, and yet presuming to strive with his Maker! English Version implies, it is appropriate for man to strive with man, in opposition to 2Ti 2:24 [Gesenius].
thy … He—shall thy work say of thee, He … ?
10. If it be wrong for a child, born in less favorable circumstances, to upbraid his parents with having given him birth, a fortiori, it is, to upbraid God for His dealings with us. Rather translate, "a father … a woman." The Jews considered themselves exclusively God's children and were angry that God should adopt the Gentiles besides. Woe to him who says to one already a father, Why dost thou beget other children? [Horsley].
11. Ask … command—Instead of striving with Me in regard to My purposes, your wisdom is in prayer to ask, and even command Me, in so far as it is for My glory, and for your real good (Mr 11:24; Joh 16:23, 13, latter part of the verse; 1Jo 3:22).
work of my hands—spiritually (Eph 2:10); also literal Israel (Isa 60:21). Maurer translates, instead of "command," Leave it to Me, in My dealings concerning My sons and concerning the work of My hands, to do what I will with My own. Lowth reads it interrogatively, Do ye presume to question Me and dictate to Me (see Isa 45:9, 10)? The same sense is given, if the words be taken in irony. But English Version is best.
12. The same argument for prayer, drawn from God's omnipotence and consequent power, to grant any request, occurs in Isa 40:26-31.
I, even my hands—so Hebrew (Ps 41:2), "Thou … thy hand" (both nominatives, in apposition).
14. The language but cursorily alludes to Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, being given to Cyrus as a ransom in lieu of Israel whom he restored (Isa 43:3), but mainly and fully describes the gathering in of the Gentiles to Israel (Ac 2:10, 11; 8:27-38), especially at Israel's future restoration (Isa 2:2; 14:1, 2; 19:18-22; 60:3-14; 49:23; Ps 68:31; 72:10, 11).
labour—wealth acquired by labor (Jer 3:24).
thee—Jerusalem ("my city," Isa 45:13).
in chains—(Ps 149:8). "The saints shall judge the world" (1Co 6:2) and "rule the nations with a rod of iron" (Zec 14:12-19; Re 2:26, 27). The "chains," in the case of the obedient, shall be the easy yoke of Messiah; as "the sword of the Spirit" also is saving to the believer, condemnatory to the unbeliever (Joh 12:48; Heb 4:12; Re 19:15).
God is in thee—(Jer 3:19).
15. God that hidest thyself—Horsley, after Jerome, explains this as the confession of Egypt, &c., that God is concealed in human form in the person of Jesus. Rather, connected with Isa 45:9, 10, the prophet, contemplating the wonderful issue of the seemingly dark counsels of God, implies a censure on those who presume to question God's dealings (Isa 55:8, 9; De 29:29). Faith still discerns, even under the veil, the covenant-keeping "God of Israel, the Saviour" (Isa 8:17).
not … ashamed—opposed to the doom of the idolaters, who, in the hour of need, shall be "ashamed" (see on Isa 45:16).
18. (See on Isa 45:12).
not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited—Therefore, Judah, lying waste during the Babylonish captivity, shall be peopled again by the exiles. The Jews, from this passage, infer that, after the resurrection, the earth shall be inhabited, for there can be no reason why the earth should then exist in vain any more than now (2Pe 3:13).
19. not … secret—not like the heathen oracles which gave their responses from dark caverns, with studied obscurity (Isa 48:16). Christ plainly quotes these words, thereby identifying Himself with Jehovah (Joh 18:20).
I said not … Seek … in vain—When I commanded you to seek Me (Jehovah did so, Isa 45:11, "Ask Me," &c.), it was not in order that ye might be sent empty away (De 32:47). Especially in Israel's time of trial, God's interposition, in behalf of Zion hereafter, is expressly stated as about to be the answer to prayer (Isa 62:6, 7-10; Ps 102:13-17, 19-21). So in the case of all believers, the spiritual Israel.
righteousness—that which is veracious: not in the equivocal terms of heathen responses, fitly symbolized by the "dark places" from which they were uttered.
right—true (see on Isa 41:26).
20. escaped of the nations—those of the nations who shall have escaped the slaughter inflicted by Cyrus. Now, at last, ye shall see the folly of "praying to a god that cannot save" (Isa 45:16). Ultimately, those that shall be "left of all the nations which shall come against Jerusalem" are meant (Zec 14:16). They shall then all be converted to the Lord (Isa 66:23, 24; Jer 3:17; Zec 8:20-23).
21. Challenge the worshippers of idols (Isa 41:1).
take counsel together—as to the best arguments wherewith to defend the cause of idolatry.
who … from that time—(Isa 41:22, 23; see on Isa 44:8). Which of the idols has done what God hath, namely, foretold, primarily as to Cyrus; ultimately as to the final restoration of Israel hereafter? The idolatry of Israel before Cyrus' time will have its counterpart in the Antichrist and the apostasy, which shall precede Christ's manifestation.
just … and … Saviour—righteous in keeping His promises, and therefore a Saviour to His people. Not only is it not inconsistent with, but it is the result of, His righteousness, or justice, that He should save His redeemed (Isa 42:6, 21; Ps 85:10, 11; Ro 3:26).
22. Look … and be ye saved—The second imperative expresses the result which will follow obedience to the first (Ge 42:18); ye shall be saved (Joh 3:14, 15). Nu 21:9: "If a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived." What so simple as a look? Not do something, but look to the Saviour (Ac 16:30, 31). Believers look by faith, the eye of the soul. The look is that of one turning (see Margin) to God, as at once "Just and the Saviour" (Isa 45:21), that is, the look of conversion (Ps 22:27).
word … in righteousness—rather, "the truth (see on Isa 45:19) is gone forth from My mouth, the word (of promise), and it shall not return (that is, which shall not be revoked)" [Lowth]. But the accents favor English Version.
strength—namely, to save.
shall men come—Those who have set themselves up against God shall come to Him in penitence for the past (Isa 19:22).
justified—treated as if they were just, through Christ's righteousness and death (Jer 23:5).