Isaiah 44:24–45:25. The Magnificent 45th. Cyrus? Who?

Key Notes: A king is named 200 years before his time. A pagan liberator? Don't argue with God.

A new conqueror was mentioned in Isa.41:1–7, 25–29.The conqueror is now named and his relationship to God and Israel is spelled out.

44:24–28 It is God who formed Israel, who made the universe, who frustrates the wise and the foolish, who confirms the word of the prophet that Jerusalem will be inhabited, and the temple rebuilt by the aid of Cyrus, God's shepherd.

45:1–6 God has taken Cyrus by the hand, going ahead of him to conquer kingdoms, breaking doors of bronze (Babylon had 100 bronze gates), and giving him secret treasures (Croesus, king of Lydia, was once the richest king on earth). For the sake of Israel, God is calling Cyrus by name. Both he and people everywhere will know that God alone has brought this about although Cyrus at the time does not know God.

45:7–13 Evidently Israel resisted the idea that Cyrus would be their liberator, because God now tells them that He makes light and dark, peace and havoc. He makes righteousness to rain down on the earth so that salvation may sprout. It is senseless, unwise for humans to argue with him. Can the scraps of clay complain that the potter has no hands? Can the fetus argue with the parents who conceived it? God who made the universe has roused Cyrus to set the exiles free without thought of reward.

45:14–19 God promises that the wealth of Egypt will come to Israel to acknowledge Him, with its people as slaves. (See Isa.14:1,2;‘:7). They will acknowledge the God whom they previously did not know. Although the future may seem chaotic, God did not create the earth to be a chaos, but to be a habitation for people. He also did not tell Israel to seek Him in chaos but to hear His right and truthful speech.[ The Greek gods, by contrast, do not teach, but behave chaotically, even psychotically.]

45:20–25 God calls an assembly of the surviving nations to account for their idolatry. Then He calls upon them to turn to Him and be saved, vowing that ultimately every knee shall bow to Him. And in Him Israel will triumph.

Cyrus II, in 516BC, 200 years after Isaiah's time, would write a decree authorizing Jews exiled in Babylon to return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1–4). The literary critics have said that this is evidence that a "second Isaiah" wrote chapters 40–66 after the Exile because it is unimaginable that the prophet could name a king who had not yet been born. It is an argument that denies the supernatural inspiration of Scripture and the manifest power of God. Moreover, the prophecy naming Josiah and his reforms was given 300 years before its fulfillment. (IK.13:2). Isaiah 53 does all but name Jesus in this OT Gospel, 700 years before His birth.

Cyrus II, founder of the Persian Empire, was the third king of the Persians. A clay cylinder written in Aramaic has this inscription:
"I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, legitimate king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims (of the earth), son of Cambyses," etc.
Legend says that he was raised by shepherds, having been exiled by his father. He conquered the Medes, Lydia, the city of Croesus, the Greek city states, the Iranian tribes, and Babylon. He had a benevolent policy toward captive peoples:

"I returned to sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris the sanctuaries which have been in ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries."
"May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cites ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me and may they recommend me to him." {from the Cyrus Cylinder.)

Although Ezra quotes Cyrus as saying "The LORD, the God of Heaven" we understand him to be speaking politically rather than spiritually. Isaiah says Cyrus did not know God.
Interestingly, Josephus (a Jewish historian; 37–100AD) said Cyrus read Isaiah:
"This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book that the prophet Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies...." "Accordingly, when Cyrus read this and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written...." {Antiquities of the Jews XI. I; p.1–2}.

A fascinating sidelight is to see OT people and writings infiltrating the larger pagan cultures around them. We have Jonah in Nineveh, Daniel in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, Esther in the palace of Artexerxes, Isaiah with exiles from Moab, and Ezekiel among the exiles in Babylon.

Herodotus said the Persians called "Darius a merchant, Cambyses a despot, Cyrus a parent."  God calls him "anointed", and "shepherd". With these names and his role as Israel's liberator, he becomes a type of Christ. That a pagan king would be the benefactor of Israel was repugnant. Imagine Osama ben laden rebuilding California after a West Coast earthquake. It is this scandal that energizes Isa.45. God announces His intention to over-ride Israel's objections and declare His power in the political sphere.

There are several specific messages in this text.
•Try not to argue with God. It is ludicrous although it feels good sometimes. Isa.45:9–11.
•God is God. There is no other besides Him. Isaiah repeats it a dozen times. Isa.43:10,11,13; 44:6,8,24; 45:5,6,14,18,21,22;  46:9. There is no alternative, although our society says "there must be another way." People go on seeking Buddha, Mother Earth or Self.
•God creates prosperity and adversity, peace and havoc. "Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord has not done it?" (Amos 3:6). We need to reflect on the unusual beneficence shown to our country in the light of Israel's experience. Americans (and many Christians) think any attempt at correlation of spiritual and national health is superstitious. It is not.
•God has now made His invitation universal. The appeal is to the whole world to be saved.

•Before Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (45:23)... that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Fatherthat Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil.2:10–11)