The deliverance of the Jews by Cyrus. (1-4) God calls for obedience to his almighty power. (5-10) The settlement of his people. (11-19) The conversion of the Gentiles. (20-25)
Verses 1-4 Cyrus is called God's anointed; he was designed and qualified for his great service by the counsel of God. The gates of Babylon which led to the river, were left open the night that Cyrus marched his army into the empty channel. The Lord went before him, giving entrance to the cities he besieged. He gave him also treasures, which had been hidden in secret places. The true God was to Cyrus an unknown God; yet God foreknew him; he called him by his name. The exact fulfilment of this must have shown Cyrus that Jehovah was the only true God, and that it was for the sake of Israel that he was prospered. In all the changes of states and kingdoms, God works out the good of his church.
Verses 5-10 There is no God beside Jehovah. There is nothing done without him. He makes peace, put here for all good; and creates evil, not the evil of sin, but the evil of punishment. He is the Author of all that is true, holy, good, or happy; and evil, error, and misery, came into the world by his permission, through the wilful apostacy of his creatures, but are restrained and overruled to his righteous purpose. This doctrine is applied, for the comfort of those that earnestly longed, yet quietly waited, for the redemption of Israel. The redemption of sinners by the Son of God, and the pouring out the Spirit, to give success to the gospel, are chiefly here intended. We must not expect salvation without righteousness; together the Lord hath created them. Let not oppressors oppose God's designs for his people. Let not the poor oppressed murmur, as if God dealt unkindly with them. Men are but earthen pots; they are broken potsherds, and are very much made so by mutual contentions. To contend with Him is as senseless as for clay to find fault with the potter. Let us turn God's promises into prayers, beseeching him that salvation may abound among us, and let us rest assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right.
Verses 11-19 Believers may ask in prayer for what they need; if for their good, it will not be withheld. But how common to hear God called to account for his dealings with man! Cyrus provided for the returning Jews. Those redeemed by Christ shall be provided for. The restoration would convince many, and convert some; and all that truly join the Lord, find his service perfect freedom. Though God be his people's God and Saviour, yet sometimes he lays them under his frowns; but let them wait upon the Lord who hides his face. There is a world without end; and it will be well or ill with us, according as it shall be with us in that world. The Lord we serve and trust, is God alone. All that God has said is plain, satisfactory, and just. As God in his word calls us to seek him, so he never denied believing prayers, nor disappointed believing expectations. He gives grace sufficient, and comfort and satisfaction of soul.
Verses 20-25 The nations are exhorted to draw near to Jehovah. None besides is able to help; he is the Saviour, who can save without the assistance of any, but without whom none can save. If the heart is brought into the obedience of Christ, the knee will cheerfully obey his commands. To Christ men shall come from every nation for blessings; all that hate his cause shall be put to shame, and all believers shall rejoice in him as their Friend and Portion. All must come to him: may we now come to him as the Lord our Righteousness, walking according to his commandments.
Isaiah 45:1-25 . THE SUBJECT OF THE DELIVERANCE BY CYRUS IS FOLLOWED UP.
Isaiah 45:1-7 . These seven verses should have been appended to previous chapter, and the new chapter should begin with Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 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 Daniel 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].
2. crooked . . . straight--( Isaiah 40:4 ), rather, "maketh mountains plain" [LOWTH], that is, clear out of thy way all opposing persons and things. The Keri reads as in Isaiah 45:13 , "make straight" (Margin).
gates of brass--( Psalms 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 ( Jeremiah 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. surnamed
that thou mayest know--namely, not merely that He was "the God of Israel," but that He was Jehovah, the true God. Ezra 1:1 Ezra 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 ( Isaiah 43:1 ).
--that is, designated to carry out My design of restoring Judah MAURER here, as in Isaiah 44:5
, translates, "I have addressed thee by an honorable name.
" hast not known me
to My calling thee to this office; after
God's call, Cyrus did
know Him in some degree ( Ezra 1:1-3
5. ( Isaiah 42:8 , Isaiah 43:3 Isaiah 43:11 , 44:8 , 46:9 ).
girded thee--whereas "I will loose (the girdle off) the loins of kings" ( Isaiah 45:1 ), strengthening thee, but enfeebling them before thee.
though . . . not known me--( Isaiah 45:4 ). God knows His elect before they are made to know Him ( Galatians 4:9 , John 15:16 ).
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 ( Ezra 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 ( Genesis 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].
create evil--not moral evil ( James 1:13 ), but in contrast to "peace" in the parallel clause, war, disaster (compare Psalms 65:7 , Amos 3:6 ).
8. Drop--namely, the fertilizing rain ( Psalms 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 ( Acts 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" ( Isaiah 45:13 ). MAURER translates, "Let all kinds of salvation (prosperity) be fruitful" ( Psalms 72:3 Psalms 72:6 Psalms 72:7 ). 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 ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 45:8 , referring to this catholic diffusion of the Gospel), as if it were an infring ement of their nation's privileges; so Paul expressly quotes it ( Romans 9:4-8 Romans 9:11-21 ).
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 2 Timothy 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 ( 11:24 , John 16:23 John 16:13 , latter part of the verse; 1 John 3:22 ).
sons--( Isaiah 54:13 , Galatians 3:26 ).
work of my hands--spiritually ( Ephesians 2:10 ); also literal Israel ( Isaiah 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 Isaiah 45:9 Isaiah 45:10 )? 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 Isaiah 40:26-31 .
I, even my hands--so Hebrew ( Psalms 41:2 ), "Thou . . . thy hand" (both nominatives, in apposition).
13. him--Cyrus, type of Messiah, who redeems the captives of Satan "without money and without price" ( Isaiah 55:1 ), "freely" (gratuitously) ( Isaiah 52:3 , 61:1 , Zechariah 9:11 , Romans 3:24 ).
in righteousness--to fulfil My righteous purpose Isaiah 42:6 , Jeremiah 23:6 ).
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 ( Isaiah 43:3 ), but mainly and fully describes the gathering in of the Gentiles to Israel ( Acts 2:10 Acts 2:11 , 8:27-38 ), especially at Israel's future restoration ( Isaiah 2:2 , Isaiah 14:1 Isaiah 14:2 , 19:18-22 , 60:3-14 , 49:23 , Psalms 68:31 , Psalms 72:10 Psalms 72:11 ).
labour--wealth acquired by labor ( Jeremiah 3:24 ).
Sabeans . . . of stature--the men of Meroe, in Upper Egypt. HERODOTUS (3.30) calls the Ethiopians "the tallest of men"
thee--Jerusalem ("my city," Isaiah 45:13 ).
in chains--( Psalms 149:8 ). "The saints shall judge the world" ( 1 Corinthians 6:2 ) and "rule the nations with a rod of iron" ( Zechariah 14:12-19 Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:27 ). 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 ( John 12:48 , Hebrews 4:12 , Revelation 19:15 ).
God is in thee--( Jeremiah 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 Isaiah 45:9 Isaiah 45:10 , 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 ( Isaiah 55:8 Isaiah 55:9 , Deuteronomy 29:29 ). Faith still discerns, even under the veil, the covenant-keeping "God of Israel, the Saviour" ( Isaiah 8:17 ).
16. ashamed--"disappointed" in their expectation of help from their Psalms 97:7 ).
17. in the Lord--( Isaiah 45:24 Isaiah 45:25 ), contrasted with the idols which cannot give even temporary help ( Isaiah 45:16 ); in Jehovah there is everlasting salvation ( Isaiah 26:4 ).
not . . . ashamed--opposed to the doom of the idolaters, who, in the hour of need, shall be "ashamed"
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 ( 2 Peter 3:13 ).
19. not . . . secret--not like the heathen oracles which gave their responses from dark caverns, with studied obscurity ( Isaiah 48:16 ). Christ plainly quotes these words, thereby identifying Himself with Jehovah ( John 18:20 ).
I said not . . . Seek . . . in vain--When I commanded you to seek Me (Jehovah did so, Isaiah 45:11 , "Ask Me," &c.), it was not in order that ye might be sent empty away ( Deuteronomy 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 ( Isaiah 62:6 Isaiah 62:7-10 Psalms 102:13-17 Psalms 102:19-21 ). 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.
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" ( Isaiah 45:16 ). Ultimately, those that shall be "left of all the nations which shall come against Jerusalem" are meant ( Zechariah 14:16 ). They shall then all be converted to the Lord ( Isaiah 66:23 Isaiah 66:24 , Jeremiah 3:17 , Zechariah 8:20-23 ).
21. Challenge the worshippers of idols ( Isaiah 41:1 ).
take counsel together--as to the best arguments wherewith to defend the cause of idolatry.
who . . . from that time--( Isaiah 41:22 Isaiah 41:23 ; 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 ( Isaiah 42:6 Isaiah 42:21 , Psalms 85:10 Psalms 85:11 , Romans 3:26 ).
22. Look . . . and be ye saved--The second imperative expresses the result which will follow obedience to the first ( Genesis 42:18 ); ye shall be saved ( John 3:14 John 3:15 ). Numbers 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 ( Acts 16:30 Acts 16:31 ). 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" ( Isaiah 45:21 ), that is, the look of conversion ( Psalms 22:27 ).
23. sworn by myself--equivalent to, "As I live," as Romans 14:11 quotes it. So Numbers 14:21 . God could swear by no greater, therefore He swears by Himself ( Hebrews 6:13 Hebrews 6:16 ).
word . . . in righteousness--rather, "the truth promise), and it shall not return (that is, which shall not be revoked)" [LOWTH]. But the accents favor English Version.
tongue . . . swear--namely, an oath of allegiance to God as their Isaiah 65:16 ). Yet to be fulfilled ( Zechariah 14:9 ).
24. Rather, "Only in Jehovah shall men say of me (this clause is parenthetical), is there righteousness" (which includes salvation, Isaiah 45:21 ,"a just God and a Saviour," Isaiah 46:13 ), &c. [MAURER].
strength--namely, to save.
shall men come--Those who have set themselves up against God shall come to Him in penitence for the past ( Isaiah 19:22 ).
ashamed--( Isaiah 45:16 , Isaiah 54:17 , 41:11 ).
25. all . . . Israel--the spiritual Israel ( Romans 2:29 ) and the literal Israel, that is, the final remnant which shall all be saved ( Isaiah 45:17 , Romans 11:26 ).
justified--treated as if they were just, through Christ's righteousness and death ( Jeremiah 23:5 ).
glory--literally, "sing" in His praise ( Jeremiah 9:24 , 1 Corinthians 1:31 ).