Isaiah 45 Study Notes
45:1-8 In this section, written at least 140 years before it was fulfilled, God speaks to Cyrus and announces how he intends to use him as his agent. The passage divinely commissions Cyrus. There is no reason to believe that Cyrus was conscious of his role as God’s agent of redemption any more than Assyria or Babylon were conscious that they were used as the tool of God’s anger. Indeed, the final lines of vv. 4 and 5 state as much.
45:1 God called Cyrus his anointed. The Hebrew word can be rendered “Messiah” in English. Here the use is metaphorical of God’s invisible commissioning of this earthly king to function as a royal deliverer of his people. In the ancient Near East, when a god grasped the right hand of someone, it indicated special favor, commissioning, guidance, and divine endowment with skill.
45:3 As Cyrus defeated nations (including Medes, Lydians, and Babylonians), their wealth would come into his possession. These treasures were hidden away from the world and thus are associated with darkness and considered secret.
45:4 God’s actions toward Cyrus have nothing to do with God’s love for Cyrus or the Persians. He will use them on behalf of his people whom he calls his servant (see note at 44:1). The fact that God named Cyrus and called him shows that the Persian king was under his control. The fact that God could foretell Cyrus through Isaiah also shows God’s ability to read the future.
45:5-7 No one should ascribe these great acts of redemption to any other god than the Lord, the only true God. His lordship is not just over Israel but the entire world (from the rising of the sun to its setting). He is in control not only of the good things but also of the difficult things that occur in history.
45:8 This verse describes more than literal fruitfulness; it talks about how, on God’s command, the future will see the earth morally replenished.
45:9-13 The woe oracle in these verses responds to those who would argue with God for using a pagan king like Cyrus to accomplish his purposes.
45:9 On woe oracles, see notes at 1:4; 5:8-30. Humans are the pot and God is the potter. This image reminds humans of their proper place in relationship to God. There may be an allusion here to Gn 2:7 where God took the dust of the ground and formed Adam. The ancient Near Eastern myths of Atrahasis and Enuma Elish describe humans as the product of clay. Where the biblical and ancient Near Eastern accounts differ profoundly is in the second element that forms humans. In the Bible God used his own breath, indicating a high view of humanity. In Mesopotamian accounts the second element was the blood of a demon god, expressing a lower view of human life.
45:10 The second metaphor of God as parent (father and mother) and his human creation as the child also expresses an unbalanced power relationship. A baby does not question his birth any more than a pot questions its creation. So why should Israel question God’s plan?
45:13 The one stirred . . . up is Cyrus.
45:14 Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia; see note at 18:1-7) were nations associated with the Nile Valley. The Sabeans were an Arabian tribe. This verse anticipates a time when these foreign nations will recognize that the God of the Israelites is the one true God.
45:16-17 Shame comes on those who trust in idols because their confidence is misplaced. Those who trust in the Lord will never be disgraced.
45:18 The claim that God did not create the world to be uninhabited (a wasteland) may be a polemic against an ancient Near Eastern myth, according to which humans were created only after the minor gods went on strike from digging irrigation canals and thus needed a workforce.
|Hebrew pronunciation||[bah RAH]|
|Uses in Isaiah||21|
|Uses in the OT||48|
|Focus passage||Isaiah 45:7-8,12,18|
Bara’, occurring in the active and passive, is theological in that it has no clear subject other than God. Bara’ always connotes create, though occasionally it is better translated be done (Ex 34:10) or bring about (Nm 16:30). It suggests creating something new (Jr 31:22). The participle refers to God as Creator (Is 40:28). He not only created the whole universe (Gn 1:1) but such particulars as sea creatures (Gn 1:21), heavenly bodies (Is 40:26), and wind (Am 4:13). Bara’ most frequently describes the creation of human beings (Is 45:12), both peoples and individuals (Ezk 21:30; 28:15). Bara’ applies to providential acts such as new generations (Ps 102:18). God creates disaster as well as words of praise (Is 45:7; 57:19). Spiritually, he creates clean hearts (Ps 51:10) and will create Jerusalem to be a joy (Is 65:18). The related noun beriy’ah, translated something unprecedented, indicates circumstances that God would create (Nm 16:30).
45:20 The description of the nations as fugitives may imply a previous judgment against them.
45:21 The challenge to speak up and present your case indicates that this passage has a legal background. The issue involves the gods’ ability to reveal the future.