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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 45

Verses 1-25

Isaiah 45:1 . Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden; a figure of Christ, the anointed of the Father. This anointing equalled Cyrus with David. Before him God would loose the loins of kings by taking away their strength. In addition to what is said of the fall of Babylon, chap. 13, 14. and 21., and to what occurs in Jeremiah 51:0., we are here called to contemplate the character and conduct of Cyrus, a choice instrument which God drew from the treasures of his providence to chastise the tyranny and crimes of the east. He was anointed of God as a minister of vengeance to guilt, and as a protector of the oppressed. This anointing consisted of a spirit of wisdom, virtue, courage, perseverance, and emulation, to reign conformably to the dream said to accompany his birth, that a branch was seen to grow out of the bosom of his mother which overshadowed Asia. Whether this dream, mentioned by Xenophon, be true or false, Cyrus really reigned over Asia, from the Indus to the Hellespont, now the Dardanelles. See him, thus animated for his work, leave Media with about thirty thousand Medes and Persians. See the Lord upholding his right hand by an angel, that he might neither err in counsel, nor fall in battle. With this little army, he reduced the king of Armenia to the homage he owed the Medes; and so conquered Tigranus his eldest son by the kindness of restoring his princess, that he followed him in all his wars. Gobryas, an hereditary prince of Assyria, whose only son had been assassinated by the king, to procure revenge, introduced Cyrus into Assyria, who by one battle, which was a confusion of chariots rather than a fight, took the kingdom. Crœsus, whose kingdom included Lydia, Ionia, and Ephesus, with all his wealth to the amount of more than a hundred and twenty millions sterling, fell into his hands with equal ease. The Arabians, the Cappadocians, the Bactrians, the Sacæ, the Paphlagones, the Indians, the Mariandyni, are enumerated also among his conquests. Thus he made a circuitous route before he returned, and gave Babylon an eternal fall.

To kings and princes he was a father, and they were proud to serve under his banner; for God ungirded all their loins. To the priests he was a real friend, and gave them the tenths of all his spoil, before either he or his army took their share. To the poor and the oppressed he was a benefactor, and bettered their condition. To the army his largesses were great; for he raised them to wealth and honour, and gave them lands. The conquests therefore he made by his humanity exceeded those he made by the sword; and they appeared to the more advantage, because his conduct was contrasted with the cruelties of the Assyrian conquests, and the bloody career of Nebuchadnezzar. Hence, not only India, but Egypt, Cyprus, and other states fell under his sceptre. Babylon however he could not take by arms. The Lord therefore, according to this prophecy, opened to him the gates of brass, which were one hundred, or a hundred and twenty in number. During the night of a Babylonian festival he turned the Euphrates into his trenches, and thence into its flood-channels; and though the river was two hundred and fifty paces broad, and about twelve feet deep, yet it so diminished the stream, that the cavalry marched in at both ends of the river. Finding the gates which led to the quays open, they advanced directly to the palace, and put the whole to the sword, drunk as they were. Carnage on all found in the streets continued for three days. Thus proud Babylon paid blood for blood, and disgorged the wealth of plundered nations into more worthy hands. This account has been carefully translated from Xenophon, with a few thoughts from Herodotus, who says this was the first time Babylon had been taken; but the sacred writings affirm in fact, that the Assyrians had been masters of the city.

Isaiah 45:3 . I will give thee the treasures of darkness. Jeremiah observed that Babylon was abundant in riches: Jeremiah 51:13. Xenophon, after enumerating the treasures which Cyrus found, adds, that he discovered an image of gold forty cubits long. This, without much doubt, was the image of Nebuchadnezzar, which stood sixty cubits high, the pedestal being twenty four cubits. Daniel 3:1.

Isaiah 45:4 . I have even called thee by thy name. The Lord saw it proper to be more explicit here, and call Cyrus by name, that he might be the more impelled to obey the commands of the Lord God of heaven and earth, in rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 45:8 . Drop down, ye heavens from above. The Messiah seems here to be invoked, in all his fulness of grace and truth. No man would dispute the correctness of St. Paul’s assertion, that Christ the second Adam was the Lord from heaven. The prophet saw here the flourishing condition of the Jews after their return from captivity, and more especially the grace and glory of the christian church.

Isaiah 45:9 . Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Some critics contend here, that the clay is plastic, and receives the action; yet this clay in the next words is accused of criminally striving against its Maker. Surely we may magnify the power of grace, without the forcing of figures. The words are a rebuke to the Jews for striving against heaven, ever murmuring and complaining that God had not prevented their captivity and ruin, by which the need of emancipation would have been superseded. Every sinner who strives against God, as Pharaoh, as Zedekiah, as Caiaphas did, with all their associates and unbelievers, shall surely perish. This also appears to be the sense in which St. Paul understood the text, in Romans 9:0.

Isaiah 45:14 . The Sabeans, men of stature. See on Job 1:15.

Isaiah 45:15 . Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself. Princes act on the great theatre of the world, and do their pleasure. Meanwhile, it is God who sends the Assyrian, as the rod of his anger, against a hypocritical nation: chap. 10:5. He bids the willing Jews also expel the Christians from Jerusalem, hiding himself in a beclouded providence; but it is with the grand design of spreading the gospel throughout the Roman world. So here; a divine and secret impulse moved Cyrus to be the shepherd of Israel’s scattered flock. The Lord’s way is in the sea, his paths in the mighty waters, and his footsteps are not known.

Isaiah 45:19 . I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. The holy oracles were not muttered among the shades, nor from subterranean caverns like the incantations of the wizards, the sibyls, or pythonesses of the heathen. 1 Samuel 28:8. Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 19:3. The sacred oracles seek no concealment, but on the contrary, court examination and enquiry, both at the hand of enemies and friends, and are fully capable of sustaining the strictest scrutiny. When the righteous Lord promulgated his holy law, and entered into covenant with his people, it was not done in a corner, but on the top of a mountain burning with fire, in presence of thousands of the people, and accompanied with the ministration of innumerable angels. The predictions delivered by the prophets were not addressed to a small handful of people, dwelling in some remote or obscure part of the earth, but to a people distinguished above all others by the peculiar favour of providence, and situate in the very centre of the ancient world, amidst all the learning and science of Greece and Rome. When the gospel was promulgated the disciples received a commission from the Lord, that what they had heard of him in secret they were to proclaim on the house top; and the miracles and signs and mighty deeds wrought in confirmation of their testimony were done in presence of great multitudes, and before their bitterest adversaries. So far from speaking in secret, in a dark place of the earth, as did all the pretenders to divination, to signs and lying wonders, the lively Oracles have evermore sought the utmost publicity, and challenged the severest tests of truth. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Proverbs 8:1-3. And of the ministry of the apostles it is declared, that their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. Romans 10:18. How grand and distinguishing therefore is the character of divine revelation, when contrasted with the guile, the artifice and affected mysteries of every species of false religion.


From this most luminous prophecy we may learn that the kingdoms of the earth are the Lord’s, and he giveth them to whom he will. When the oppressors have had their day, and abused their trust, God most righteously suffers them in turn to be oppressed.

The Lord we see exerts his arm in the visitations of his providence, principally with a view to the preservation of his elect, or praying people, who sigh for the wickedness of the world. God called Cyrus by name, for the sake of Jacob and Israel; and that Cyrus, on reading these prophecies, which Daniel carefully showed him, prophecies written a hundred and fifty years before he was born, might know that there is no God besides the God of Israel; that he rules from the rising to the setting of the sun; and that he creates the light and the darkness, the good and the evil of the world. Good and evil therefore are not gods, as the Persians erroneously supposed.

The Lord next promises a happy state of religion, after the return from captivity. Drop down, ye heavens, from above: and consequently, that the Jews should be still and quiet under the afflictions of providence, and not strive with their Maker, who according to his promises would assuredly pour down covenant blessings on their heads. Yea, Cyrus should release the captives, and build the city and sanctuary of the Lord. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sabea, came to him in chains. Of their spoil he made an offering to the Lord for the building of his temple; and acknowledging the truth of this prophecy, he says, The Lord had commanded him so to do. Babylon and all its idols should then be ashamed and confounded. All the lying oracles were struck dumb, and all the impious altars thrown down, while Israel was saved with a glorious salvation. Yes, the Lord who created the heavens and the earth, has never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain.

The Lord having punished Israel for violating his covenant, and punished Babylon for its cruel oppression, as the Hebrew prophets had most astonishingly foretold, all the surrounding nations which had survived the calamities were called upon to assemble, and investigate all these most singular occurrences, and to acknowledge that JEHOVAH was just in punishing Israel and Babylon; that he was their Saviour at the expiration of the seventy years, and that there was no God in heaven or earth besides him.

Having made it the golden rule of our comment on the prophecies to say, that the sacred seers referred all their sorrows and all their joys to the Messiah, we cannot but add, that as God redeemed and restored Israel by Cyrus, so he has ransomed the nations by Christ Jesus. Hence the conversion of the whole gentile world to the faith and worship of the Lord Jesus is here expressly foretold. The ends of the earth, even the remotest isles and nations of the gentiles, are called to look to him for salvation. In his person and work he is just such a Saviour as they need. The glory of his gospel is qualified to shame away the darkness of superstition, being everyway worthy of God to reveal, and of man to embrace. Sinners, look up to him at the right hand of the Father. You are weak, but he is strong; you are poor, but he is rich; you are defiled, but he has opened a fountain; you are dying men, but he has opened immortality and life by his resurrection from the dead. Sinners, look up to him, and with a confidence that cannot look in vain; for God has sworn, and St. Paul repeats the words, that every knee shall bow to him. Yes, for mercy or for judgment the heavens and the earth shall bow; therefore take your choice, and that without delay.

Here is also a promise of righteousness from the Lord, for all our righteousness is impure. As he justified his people from the reproaches of the heathen, so Jesus will justify you freely by his grace. He was made a sin-offering for you on the cross, that you might be made the righteousness of God in him. Your sin shall be purged by his blood, your persons shall be acquitted at his bar, you shall inherit all the privileges of adoption by union with your head, you shall glory in purity of heart, and in all the wonderful works of the Lord.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 45". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.