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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 45

Chapter 45 Yahweh Will Raise Cyrus To Do His Will, To Restore Jerusalem and Enable All Exiles To Return From Wherever They May Be.

The point of raising the name of Cyrus before the attention of his readers is that the house of Cyrus is to inaugurate the new beginning. That is why God had ‘anointed’ him (set him apart for a sacred task). As far as God is concerned that will be his main purpose. Cyrus is then outlined as carrying out God’s further purposes in the world, by conquering nations and subduing them so that he may experience Yahweh’s power and be aware of the supernatural power behind his success (He will know that God is Yahweh). He is to be rewarded with the treasures of the nations.

We know indeed from history that Cyrus was making a world more amenable to responding to the truth. He gave no particular god special prominence, but favoured all. He wanted them all on his side. He brought them all to the same level and would, as a result, encourage exiles to return to their own land to worship their own gods. This would then enable all exiles from Israel who wished to, to do so (Isaiah 45:13; compare Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 43:5-6).

But it should be noted that there is nowhere any specific mention of Babylon, or of a Babylonian captivity, in the passage. Rather the individual emphasis, if there is one, is on African countries, Egypt, Cush and Seba (see Isaiah 43:3), the countries who had been God’s ransom for Israel, but would now (at some stage unknown) be given to Israel. Those who had been made to serve God’s purpose under Assyrian belligerence, would now be rewarded by being brought to Yahweh. (It is noteworthy that Egypt, Assyria, Tyre and Cush have all been seen as candidates for God’s future blessing, but that there is no such suggestion for Babylon - Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 19:23-25; Isaiah 23:18).

The importance of Cyrus II for Israel cannot be overstated. Not only was he to make possible a new era in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, but he would also lay the foundation for the acceptance of God’s true message by men. For instead of forcing his own gods on people he encouraged them to worship their own gods, and revealed a tolerance in religion that changed the way that things were seen. Indeed he himself was willing to worship any god who was prominent in any of the conquered nations, and give it credit. While not the ideal, and certainly not satisfactory for God’s people, this could only give a better opportunity for truth to finally prevail as men’s minds became more open to considering other religions than their own.

Note that the chapter is united around the phrase ‘I am Yahweh and there is no other’ or equivalent phrases (Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:21-22). This is of course the very opposite of Cyrus’ view. And yet paradoxically he did much to finally establish the fact of Yahweh’s uniqueness without realising it.

Verses 1-8

Cyrus Has Been Called In Order To Assist God’s Servant, His Chosen One (Isaiah 45:1-8 ).

Isaiah 45:1

‘Thus says Yahweh to his anointed,

To Cyrus whose right hand I have held,

To subdue nations before him,

And I will ungird the loins of kings,

To open the doors before him,

And the gates will not be shut.’

God speaks of Cyrus as ‘His anointed’. That was a description usually reserved from a royal point of view for the Davidic house, but the idea of ‘anointing’ is regularly used for setting apart to service and this is therefore little different from Assyria being set apart as His rod (in Isaiah 10:5), (or Nebuchadnezzar as His servant in Jeremiah 27:6). It is simply stressing that his activity results from God having set him apart for this service. Compare how He could set aside and ‘anoint’ Hazael, king of Syria, in a similar way (1 Kings 19:15-17). It was not an indication of Cyrus’ submission, but of Yahweh’s sovereignty.

One point of this stress on Cyrus as His ‘anointed’ is that the one who should have been His ‘anointed’, the scion of the house of David, had failed Him. Indeed we might see that as explaining why he is called the Anointed One. The insider had failed, and so God had to look to an outsider. Thus until the coming of Immanuel He had to look to other Israel for His instrument. It was an indication that Immanuel was yet to come.

‘Whose right hand I have held.’ The picture is not of a little child being led, but of a strong hand giving help and assistance in a difficult task. He is strengthening Cyrus’ strong right hand.

Cyrus’ rapid conquests are now depicted as being due to Yahweh. God subdues nations before him, and makes kings surrender as they put off their armour. He opens up every door, including those of king’s palaces, a sign of his being welcomed, and ensures that no gates are closed before him. When the gates banged shut it was a sign of the arrival of a hard siege, but Cyrus was to be spared that.

Isaiah 45:2-3

“I will go before you,

And make the rugged places (that which is upraised) plain,

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze,

And cut in two the bars of iron.

And I will give you the treasures of darkness,

And hidden riches of secret places,

That you may know that it is I, Yahweh,

Who call you by name, even the God of Israel.”

It is Yahweh Who gives Cyrus his wonderful victories. It is He Who goes before him, and makes the hard going easier, who breaks down the strong doors that guard the way, and destroys the locks and bolts that prevent access. He gives him the treasures hidden away in dark places, in inaccessible places, in hidden places, in underground vaults, in caves, and wherever men keep their treasures. And He does this so that Cyrus is made aware of the fact that Yahweh, Who has called him by name to do this work, is in action. ‘Making the rugged places plain’ can be compared with Isaiah 40:4. He is Yahweh’s ambassador.

This does not signify an expectancy that Cyrus will be ‘converted’. ‘Knowing that God is Yahweh’ often signifies an awareness that a divine power which is not understood is at work (Exodus 14:4), while being ‘called by name’ signifies rather the authority of the caller over the person of the one who is called by name (compare Isaiah 40:26; Esther 2:14).

‘That you may know that it is I, Yahweh, Who call you by name.’ For this phrase compare Exodus 14:4. There the Egyptians were to ‘know that He was Yahweh’ when they were destroyed at the Reed Sea, but there was certainly no thought of conversion there. It was simply that what they experienced would make them realise that they were up against something bigger than they had expected or could cope with, something which they did not understand, something greater than they had anticipated. See also the use in 1 Kings 8:60; 2 Kings 19:19; Ezekiel 21:5. In the same way will Cyrus ‘know that it is Yahweh’ because he will experience powerful victories such as he had never dreamed of, and be aware of a supernatural power at work even though he does not know its source. He may give credit to Marduk, or Sin, and to Yahweh as well when addressing Israel (Ezra 1:2) but he has been made aware of a power greater than himself. Without knowing it he has been made aware of Yahweh. Of course had he responded it might well have resulted in his conversion. But that is not the point at issue.

Behind this thought is that because he is aware that behind his success is the power of more than just his own favourite gods he will support the worship of Yahweh, which in fact he did, although not exclusively.

The treasures he will obtain are clearly his reward for doing Yahweh’s will in restoring Jerusalem and the Temple and subduing the nations. We can contrast here how Abraham refused to accept a reward for what he did (Genesis 14:22-23). But Abraham was Yahweh’s servant, not His external appointee. God is debtor to no man.

Isaiah 45:4-6

“For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel my chosen,

I have called you by your name, I have surnamed you although you have not known me.

I am Yahweh and there is none else, beside me there is no God.

I will gird you though you have not known me,

That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west,

That there is none beside me. I am Yahweh and there is none else.”

It is now made clear that Cyrus was not called for his own sake. He was called for the sake of Jacob, Yahweh’s servant, and Israel, Yahweh’s chosen. He was thus raised up to further the work of the chosen Servant of God. The reason for his anointing was not because he himself was ‘a chosen one’, but because God was setting him apart to act on behalf of those who were God’s chosen one.

‘I have called you by your name, I have surnamed you although you have not known me.’ Yahweh has called him by name so as to exercise His authority over him, and has surnamed him to show that he must do the will of Yahweh, even though he does not know Him. To surname means to give a name or title. It may refer directly to the fact the He has called him ‘My shepherd’ and ‘My anointed’.

And that will of Yahweh is that, girded by God, provided for and strengthened and borne along, he might assist Yahweh’s chosen Servant, with the result that through their witness all nations, from east to west, might be made aware of Yahweh and Who and What He is, and that they might know that there is no other God apart from Yahweh, that He alone is God. For this was the Servant’s mission.

Note the sequence of the phrases. The third and sixth line, completing each set of three, emphasise that ‘I am Yahweh and there is none else’, in other words that there is no other God apart from Yahweh. Between the first two lines and the fourth and fifth line there is progression. In the first two it is stressed that he has been called for Jacob/Israel’s sake, because they are Yahweh’s servant and chosen one, in the fourth and fifth it is stressed that God has girded him so that he can be an unwitting witness to the nations, not by his own witness, but by preserving those who are Yahweh’s witnesses. In both cases the aim is to bring out that Yahweh is the only God, and there is no other beside Him. In line three ‘I am Yahweh and there is none else’ leads the way, in line six it completes the description. ‘Beside me there is no God’, and its equivalent, complete line three and introduce line six. There is a beauty of pattern and symmetry as so often in Isaiah.

Isaiah 45:7

“I form the light and create darkness,

I make peace and create disaster (evil),

I am Yahweh who does all these things.”

Yahweh is not only the only God, He also controls all things. Forming the light and creating darkness is a reminder of Genesis 1:2-5. He is the Creator of all that is, of the very basis of creation, and He continues to sustain that light and also to produce darkness. Without light and darkness life could not go on. He continues to maintain the world as a place full of contrasts, from one extreme to another, both good and ill, and He especially continues with His work of forming light and creating darkness in a spiritual sense, so that some respond to His light, and others turn away to darkness.

‘I make peace and create disaster.’ As with the previous phrase the contrast must be seen as that of opposites. He makes peace and creates unpeace. Harmony and wellbeing is what God desires for the world, and He seeks to ensure its continuance; disaster (compare Job 2:10) destroys that harmony, and yet He has created that too. For the one makes men seek God because of contentment and prosperity, the other through trial and suffering. And God takes responsibility for all because as the Creator He is finally responsible for all. He is the One Who does all these things.

For different uses of the root for ‘evil’ compare for example Genesis 19:19, ‘some disaster’; Genesis 28:8, ‘were unsatisfactory, did not please’; Genesis 31:52, ‘do harm’; Genesis 37:20, description of a savage beast; Genesis 40:7, of looking ‘sad’; Genesis 41:3, of being ‘ill-favoured’: Genesis 44:29 ‘sorrow’ that results from the evil of misfortune; Genesis 44:34; Genesis 47:9; Genesis 48:16, ‘evil, misfortune’; and so on. It does not necessarily refer to moral evil, although it can do so.

The nations interpreted such things as these as resulting from warring and disputes among the gods. Yahweh excludes the gods and takes full responsibility for it all. No one is involved but Him (compare Isaiah 44:24).

Isaiah 45:8

“Drop down you heavens from above,

And let the skies pour down righteousness,

Let the earth open, that they may bring forth salvation,

And let her cause righteousness to spring up together,

I, Yahweh, have created it.”

We now have an illustration of how God forms the light and ‘makes peace’. He calls on the heavens to pour down righteousness, and the earth to open and result in deliverance. The first thought here is of a fruitful heaven and earth. The rains pour down at God’s command, the reward of righteousness, the earth opens up, to produce abundant fruitfulness, bringing deliverance to man, and vindication to His people (compare Isaiah 32:15).

But in the light of Isaiah 44:3-5 it goes beyond that. It speaks of God’s transforming power in producing life and salvation in men’s hearts, of the pouring out of His Spirit, of the establishing of righteousness and the vindication of His people by they themselves being made righteousness. There can never be vindication without resulting righteousness. Those who are ‘saved’ are reborn from above (compare Isaiah 55:10-11 where the word which signifies ‘bring to birth’ is actually used). Here in full glory is His purpose for His Servant.

‘That they may bring forth salvation.’ ‘They’ being the heavens, the skies and the earth. ‘Her’ then reverts to the earth. They bring forth the fruit of righteousness. and deliverance for man. It is total deliverance for His own.

‘I Yahweh have created it.’ Yahweh has brought it about from nothing. It is all His doing quite apart from the working of the world and natural events. In His sovereignty He personally intervenes to produce a situation that would not otherwise have happened. Cyrus can have his part in encouraging the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, but only God can perform the miracle that rebuilds the hearts of men.

Verses 1-25

YAHWEH IS ABOUT TO ACT SO AS TO ESTABLISH HIS PEOPLE AND PREPARE THE WAY FOR HIS SERVANT (Isaiah 44:24 to Isaiah 48:22 ).

As with what has gone before it is necessary for us to determine the viewpoint from which we will see these narratives, and in order to do so we must put ourselves in the shoes of Isaiah. Chapters 1-39 were mainly behind him, Hezekiah was dead, and what lay before him was the future in terms of Manasseh’s reign. That reign had not had a promising beginning. Manasseh had taken the people back to the old ways,and the ways of Assyria, and had thereby defiled the Temple (2 Kings 21:2-7; 2 Chronicles 33:2-10). The voice of Isaiah was silent (Isaiah 1:1). Judah was once more in subjection to Esarhaddon, the King of Assyria (Isaiah 37:38), who was overseeing Judah from Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). The people were corrupted, the Temple was defiled, and Babylon was to be seen by Judah as the great enemy, as, in Isaiah’s eyes, it had always been.

Isaiah had already prophesied something of what the future held. He had informed Hezekiah that his sons would be carried off as trophies to Babylon (Isaiah 39:6-7), and had declared that God’s punishment must come on the personnel who ran the Temple (Isaiah 43:27-28), and the miserable fate of those who trusted in idols (Isaiah 43:27; Isaiah 44:11). (And this would in fact all actually happen in the near future (2 Chronicles 33:11). For invasion from Babylon would result in Manasseh and his entourage being taken captive to Babylon, the Temple inevitably being sacked, and the people being decimated in the warfare that accompanied it).

But the question now was, how did this fit in with what he had already been saying. How could the Servant whose future had looked so glowing be restored, and what was going to be Yahweh’s response to the situation. These chapters will now deal with that question.

As we have seen the problems were threefold. The first was that the condition of Yahweh’s people was in doubt because of their spiritual position and condition (Isaiah 42:19-25; Isaiah 43:22-28), the second was the persistent interference of false gods (Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 44:9-20), especially those of Assyria and Babylon, and the third was that the nations were still preventing His people from coming home (Isaiah 41:11-12; Isaiah 42:13-16; Isaiah 43:1-7). So before the Servant could be restored, and in order that ‘he’ might fulfil his proper function, each of these matters would have to be dealt with. In this section therefore we will discover how Yahweh intends to deal with these questions.

· In the case of the first He will rebuild Jerusalem and re-establish (or lay the foundations of) a new Temple (Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 44:28), using the house of Cyrus as His instrument.

· In the case of the second He will destroy the daughter of Babylon who is responsible for all the lies and deceit connected with the occult and with false gods (Isaiah 46:1-2; Isaiah 47:1-15). But here Cyrus is not mentioned as involved.

· In the case of the third He will deal with all the nations whose lands contain exiles, so that His Servant might be restored in order that ‘he’ may begin again (Isaiah 44:27; Isaiah 45:1-7) in line with God’s promises to Abraham (Isaiah 41:8). This section will include prophecies concerning the subjection of Egypt/Ethiopia (Isaiah 45:14-17), the humbling of Babylon’s gods (Isaiah 46:1-2), and the destruction of the great enemy Babylon from which all men must flee (47; Isaiah 48:20).

In the terms of those days the restoration of Jerusalem and the building or restoration of the Temple were prerequisites if the Servant was to be able to do his work, and it had become necessary because the previous Temple had been defiled and those who served in it were rejected (Isaiah 43:28). Thus it was essential that God should make all things new. Equally important if the gods and the occult were to be dealt a bitter blow was the downfall of Babylon, because from there came all that was deceptive and evil, as it cultivated idolatry and the occult, and thought itself so superior that it could behave as though it was unobserved, even setting itself up against Yahweh (Isaiah 47:10; compare Isaiah 14:10-13), as it had always done (Genesis 11:1-9). And finally if His people who were exiled all around the world were to return, it would be necessary to find someone who could deal with the nations who held them captive, so that they could be enabled to do so.

These are the matters that the narrative will now look at. The section opens with a declaration of Yahweh’s credentials:

1) He is their Redeemer Who formed them from the womb. Compare for this Isaiah 43:1 which demonstrates that it is describing Israel, ‘thus says Yahweh Who formed you, O Israel, fear not for I have redeemed you’. For formation from the womb see Isaiah 44:2 where Yahweh, speaking to ‘Jacob my Servant, and Israel whom I have chosen’ says that He has ‘formed them from the womb and will help them.’ Compare also Isaiah 49:1 where The Servant, Who is identified as spiritual Israel (Isaiah 49:3 with 5-6), is ‘called from the womb’, and Isaiah 49:5 where he is ‘formed from the womb to be His Servant’. Clearly then He is also speaking to His Servant here.

2) He is the One Who, with none around to help, made all things, stretching out the heavens alone, and spreading out the earth when none was with Him. He alone is the Creator of all things.

3) He is the One Who oversets the occult world, frustrating and making fools of deceitful ‘diviners’, and showing up the recognised ‘magicians’, the ‘wise men’, by deliberately acting in order to show up their knowledge as foolish.

4) In contrast He is the One Who confirms the word of His true Servant and performs the counsel of His true messengers, that is He fulfils their prophecies so that all may be aware that they are His true prophets.

So Yahweh, the Creator of all things, Who opposes and countermands the exponents of the occult by making things happen in such a way as to make them look foolish, has chosen His Servant, the true Israel within Israel, from the womb (it is all in His divine sovereignty) in order that He might confirm his teaching and fulfil his prophecies. Whatever the true Servant is and does will be confirmed and carried into effect by Yahweh. He is the one who is to bear God’s message to the world (compare Isaiah 2:4).

But having done so He must prepare the way before them. And in doing this He will restore the situation for them. At present the nations hold many of them captive, Jerusalem has been laid waste, and the Temple is defiled, all of which prevent His Servant Israel from fulfilling their obligation. So now He declares how He is going to remedy matters.

It will be noted initially how firmly these ideas are introduced, and in each case they are introduced, not as concerned about a catastrophe but as a guarantee of their fulfilment. For above all they are introduced as being the work of Yahweh.

It is first made clear that the source of these actions is the One Who does everything according to His will, in fulfilment of His word.

1) He says to Jerusalem, “You shall be inhabited”, and to the cities of Judah, “You shall be built. And I will build up its waste places.”

2) He says to the deep, “Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers.”

3) He says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd and will perform all My pleasure.”

4) Even saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built”, and to the Temple, “You shall be established” (or ‘your foundations shall be laid.”

If we see this as a chiasmus with 1). and 4). going together, and 2). and 3). going together, there are two emphases. The first is the important one of the restoration of Jerusalem and Judah after its mauling by Sennacherib, and after its future destruction by Esarhaddon (hinted at in Isaiah 39:6-7; Isaiah 43:28), and as it later turns out again by Nebuchadnezzar, because Israel does not take advantage of the opportunity gained by Manasseh’s repentance. The guarantee given by His word is that Jerusalem will be reinhabited after its mauling, the cities of Judah will be rebuilt after their devastation caused by war, the waste places caused by war and famine will be restored (built up), and this will include the re-establishing (and as it later turns out the total rebuilding) of the Temple, all of which have been prepared for previously (Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 43:19-20; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 43:28).

The second is Yahweh’s action in the drying up of the deep and the rivers, through the activities of His shepherd, Cyrus, who will do all His pleasure (further expanded on in Isaiah 45:1-7). Countries in those days were often defined in terms of their rivers (compare Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 7:18; Isaiah 7:20; Nahum 3:8), which were of such vital importance to them, and their drying up was seen as a judgment on them (Isa 19:45; Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 50:2; Psalms 74:15; Jeremiah 50:38; Jeremiah 51:36; Ezekiel 30:12; Zechariah 10:11). The drying up of the deep and the rivers may well therefore signify the desolation of the land of The River, and therefore of both Assyria and Babylon, in which case this is the promise that both will be dealt with through this instrument whom Yahweh has chosen and anointed. But their drying up also reflects what Yahweh had previously done to Egypt when He dried up their deep (Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 63:13; Joshua 2:10), and what He had done when He entered Canaan (Joshua 4:23; compare Psalms 114:3-5), and on top of that it parallels the boast of Sennacherib that with the sole of his feet he had dried up the rivers of all the places that he besieged (Isaiah 37:25). As he had done to others, so would be done to Assyria, and their accomplice Babylon. As a result restoration was promised to God’s people, which would include the opportunity of return from exile, the restoration of life in Judah, the reinhabiting of Jerusalem, the restoration of the Temple, and destruction to their enemies.

Noteworthy in this description is the total lack of mention of the enemies that Cyrus will deal with. The house of Cyrus has not been raised up in order to deliver them from the Babylonian empire, but to deliver them from all their enemies (Isaiah 45:1-7), whoever they may be, and to be God’s instrument as Yahweh fulfils His purpose to restore Judah and the Temple (Isaiah 44:26-28) in readiness for God’s outpouring of righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 45:8; compare Isaiah 44:1-5). Isaiah does not pretend to know the details, and shows no awareness of the activities of Nebuchadnezzar. He still thinks in terms of Assyrian Babylon..

It will be noted that in what follows, describing the activities of Cyrus, it is his destruction of nations and taking of their cities and treasures, ‘for Jacob my Servant’s sake and Israel my chosen’, that is emphasised (Isaiah 45:1-3). While he would also certainly play his part in giving permission for the building of a new Temple (Isaiah 44:28 with Ezra 1:1), on our reading of it that is here seen as a by-product of his activity. The raising up of the new Temple was to be the work of Yahweh. That was not, of course, to prevent Cyrus having a part in the process. But no heathen king could establish the Temple of Yahweh. (Apart from the lessons learned however, it actually matters little which view we take for Cyrus II was undoubtedly involved in both). Cyrus’ main assignment was to be the defeat and denuding of the nations for Israel’s sake (Isaiah 44:27-28 a; Isaiah 45:1-6).

So as we go into this new section we carefully note God’s promise of a restored Judah, a new or restored Temple, and a new or restored Jerusalem, alongside of which the idolatrous city of Babylon will be destroyed because of all that it represents. This latter is, however, not connected with Cyrus, which from the point of view of accuracy was a good job because Cyrus did not desolate Babylon. Rather having taken it easily, and being welcomed by the priests of Marduk, he restored it to its previous importance within his empire. The final demise of Babylon in fulfilment of Isaiah’s words took place much later.

Isaiah accepts these strands of information without flinching, and without trying to fit them together. He is very much lacking in the full details. What he is aware of are the principles involved. The Temple must be restored, the exiles must return from all over the world, Babylon must be destroyed. But it is important from our point of view to recognise that while Cyrus is very much involved in the general picture, he is not described as being involved with Babylon, and once he has made the world ready for Yahweh’s Servant, he departs immediately from the picture.

So the consequence is that, having in His eternal counsels, brought Abraham to the land like a ‘bird of prey’ (Isaiah 46:11), He will not allow Abraham’s seed to fail, but will restore them so that they might fulfil their task as His Servant..

This description of Abraham as a ‘bird of prey’ is interesting and significant. There can seem little doubt that in using it he has in mind that having originally, within the eternal purposes of God, arrived in the land, Abraham had, like a great bird of prey, descended on the king of Babylon and had driven him off and spoiled him (Isaiah 41:2; Genesis 14:0), just as his seed would later do with the Canaanites. Thus Isaiah is now to see the continued presence of Abraham in the land in his seed (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 45:4) who are God’s Servant, as a guarantee that Babylon will again suffer through the hand of their Kinsman Redeemer as He acts on behalf of His people, as He did in the days of Abraham. Yahweh too will swoop on Babylon, but this time to destroy it completely.

Further Note on Babylon.

In view of all that he has previously said about Babylon (Isaiah 44:13-14) it is clear that Isaiah could have expected nothing less than its destruction. Nor could he have doubted that it was necessary. For the shadow of Babylon, the great Anti-God and proponent of the occult, continually hung over the world, and over the people of God, and had to be dealt with. Her evil spiritual influence was known throughout the Near Eastern world, and was affecting the future of Yahweh’s Servant. There was therefore no alternative to her permanent destruction.

And yet that has not been the theme of Isaiah’s message. Indeed Babylon has only been mentioned once, and that almost incidentally, in Isaiah 43:14. At this stage Isaiah is interested in the work of the Servant, not in Babylon. He does not see Babylon as the threat to Israel’s freedom and independence, (he does not even mention it in chapter 45), only as the centre of all that is devilish.

And this is despite the fact that Babylon had yet to appear in order to loot David’s house and take the errant sons of David to become eunuchs in the house of the king of Babylon as God had already revealed through him (Isaiah 39:6-7). But that was a different issue dealing with the rejection of the current house of David. It said nothing about the destruction of the Temple or the future of the Servant.

So while, as we have gathered in Isaiah 43:28, he was becoming more and more aware that the Temple had been profaned and must be replaced, he does not make any claim that he knows how or when it will come about. Nothing is said about the way in which it will come to be in that state. He simply knows that it will necessarily be so because God’s people have defiled it (Isaiah 43:22-28). But at no stage, when speaking of the restoration of the Temple, does he mention Babylon as involved, or connected with its destruction in any way. Had he known specifically he would surely have said so. But that was something not revealed to him. While he knew that the Temple must be replaced because defiled, and may well have suspected who the culprit might be, he clearly did not see it as part of his message to Israel.

What he did know was that it was through the folly and unbelief of Ahaz that Assyria had come to tread Israel down (Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 52:4). And at this present time he sees that threat as slightly altered in that the direction of the threat now comes from a Babylon, through whom Assyria was operating. This is clear from the fact that later, when Manasseh was arraigned for misbehaviour against Assyria, it was to Babylon that he was carried off in chains to give account (2 Chronicles 33:11). And this involvement of Babylon in the affairs of Israel as acting on behalf of Assyria would chill Isaiah’s heart, for he knew what God had said about Hezekiah’s children and that Babylon was the permanent enemy of God from the beginning. Indeed it was he who had been called upon to demand its permanent destruction, never to be restored (Isaiah 13:19-20; see also 14; Isaiah 21:9; Isaiah 23:13). And he knew that through the folly of Hezekiah Babylon had been awakened to the prosperity of Judah and would one day come for her treasures (Isaiah 39:6-7). So when it began acting as broker on behalf of Assyria, in Isaiah’s eyes Babylon, the great Anti-God, came to the fore. Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, rebuilt Babylon and appointed one of his sons there as crown representative and prince, and it would seem that Babylon was now the taskmaster acting on behalf of Assyria with regard to Judah. As the primeval rebellious city, and as the great Anti-God, it had even ingratiated itself with Assyria. It had to be destroyed

So that is why Babylon itself, with its encroaching ways, has to be got rid of, and Yahweh will now assure Israel from his own experience that the gods of Babylon, having been humiliated by the Assyrians, had been revealed as what they were (Isaiah 46:1-2). Babylon herself was thus doomed (47). All men are therefore to turn from any consideration of, or affinity, with Babylon and recognise the triumph of Yahweh in establishing His people (Isaiah 48:20). So physically Israel’s deliverance from the nations will be by the hand of a Persian king, but spiritually their spiritual life will be saved by the establishment of the new Temple (Isaiah 44:28) and by the destruction of Babylon (Isaiah 48:20), the great threat to Yahwism (47; compare Isaiah 14:13-15).

These then are now the matters with which Isaiah will deal, and the ideas that are mentioned are in huge contrast, and are all important for the work of the Servant, but he does not interconnect them. On the one hand there is to be the full restoration of a pure, new, and undefiled Temple, a place through which the Servant can operate if ‘he’ is willing, and on the other there is to be the destruction of the evil daughter of Babylon with all her false sorceries and idols. For until both these things have occurred the work of the Servant will continue to be hindered. However, this destruction of Babylon is more connected with Assyria (Isaiah 46:1-2) than with Cyrus.

Cyrus is rather seen as the one whose conquests will prepare the way for Israel by conquering the nations and acting on Israel’s behalf. For what Cyrus will do is to be ‘for Jacob, My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect’ (Isaiah 45:4). That is the specific reason why Yahweh has called him by name and put His own name on Him (surnamed him), even though he himself does not know Yahweh. It is because he is acting in order that the Servant might benefit. We must not confuse the two activities of preparing the way for the Servant, which was the purpose of raising up Cyrus, and the destruction of Babylon which will occur through the hand of Yahweh. Both were necessary but no connection is identified between them. To Isaiah they represented the good and the bad about the future as stunningly revealed by Yahweh.

There is no thought in these chapters that Isaiah is over-anxious. He is perfectly aware, on his pinnacle of faith and with his magnificent view of God (40), that the situation is no-contest. And once he has introduced the one who will restore the Servant (45), he puts the gods of Babylon firmly in their place as burdens on the backs of beasts which far from helping them can only make the weary beasts stumble (Isaiah 46:1-2), and proclaims the end of the daughter of the Chaldeans (47). Then, the great enemy having been dealt with, He reintroduces the Servant in his ministry to His people and to the world (49). It is clear that until Babylon is out of the way the Servant cannot finalise his ministry.

It should be noted how little detail is given with regard to these external threats. Isaiah is not necessarily aware of all the full ramifications of them, and is certainly not concerned about them. His whole thought is concentrated on what Yahweh is doing. It is those facts of which he is sure.

End of note.

Verses 9-13

Isaiah Counters Any Possible Opposition That What He Has Suggested Is Unacceptable And Declares Yahweh’s Sovereign Power To Accomplish His Will (Isaiah 45:9-13 ).

Having earlier in chapters 7, 9, 11 referred to the raising of one supernaturally born from the Davidic house to bring about God’s final restoration, it is understandable that some might cavil at the idea of an ungodly outsider being the means of their present deliverance and the rebuilding of the city and the temple. There was no way that they could see him as the son of David and therefore it would mean the delay of all to which they looked forward. Isaiah counters by simply stating that God can do what He likes when He likes and we have no right to question it.

Isaiah 45:9

‘Woe to him who strives with his maker,

A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth,

Shall the clay say to him who fashions it, “What are you making?”

Or your work, “He has no hands.”

Woe to him who enters into an argument with his Maker, says Isaiah, for no one has the right to contend with and disagree with his Maker, any more than the clay can ask the potter what he is making, or his work can say that he cannot do it. The clay is submissive. It neither questions the potter’s purpose nor his ability. And we are all only potsherds, like other potsherds, (even Cyrus), while He is the Potter. Thus no one has the right to question what God has determined to do, under any circumstances.

If therefore Yahweh chooses to use a Persian to advance His purposes, that is His decision, and if He determines to use the worm Jacob as His Servant, although only when he has been transformed, then that too is His decision. No one has any right to question either.

Isaiah 45:10

‘Woe to him who says to a father, “What are you begetting?”

Or to a woman, “With what are you in labour?” ’

The second picture with a similar intent is that of a couple having a child, except that it adds the idea of being intrusive. Woe to him (shame on him) who aggressively questions a man and his wife about what they are producing. The parents receive what comes from the hand of God and it is no one else’s business, and it would be wrong for others to seek to interfere. So are His people to receive what comes from His hands without questioning it, leaving it in the hands of the Father.

In the same way it not open to men, even to His people, to question His ways. He will work in His own way and make His children whom He will.

Isaiah 45:11-12

‘Thus says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker,

“Ask of me of the things to come.

Concerning my sons and concerning the work of my hands,

Command me.

I have made the earth and created man on it,

I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens,

And all their host have I commanded.” ’

This can only be biting sarcasm, for it concerns the Holy One of Israel and the Maker of Israel, the One Who is set apart and distinctive, and the One Who is Lord over all as its Creator.

The question is, how dare His people question Him, the Maker of all things, about whom He will produce (as His sons) or about what He will do and make (as the potter)? They cannot. They have no right to. Thus we may paraphrase, ‘Go ahead. Go on asking me of things to come. Go on asking me about my future sons. Go on commanding me concerning the work of my hands. If you do I will take no notice! You are presumptious. It is totally unacceptable. For I control both heaven and earth, I both created man and the earth, and I stretched out the heaven and command all their host, both animate and inanimate. So I can do what I will with both.’

Isaiah 45:13

“It is I who have raised him up in righteousness,

And I will make straight all his ways.

He will build my city, and he will let my captives go free,

Not for price or reward, says Yahweh of hosts.”

God, (the ‘I’ is stressed), then confirms what He intends to do, and He will do it whatever questions may be asked, continuing to confirm his sovereignty. He has already in His mind raised Cyrus up ‘in righteousness’, (i.e. there is nothing wrong in what He is doing. It is perfectly valid. It is in fact in order to advance good and to fulfil God’s righteous purpose), and will go before him to straighten the way before him. And the reason for it is in order that he might rebuild Jerusalem and free all those of God’s people taken into captivity wherever they may be. It is in order that he might repair all damage that has been caused in the past. And he will do it without demanding payment.

So Yahweh is, through Cyrus, preparing the groundwork for His people’s restoration. Humanly speaking it will then be in their hands what they will do. But they will have no excuse. If the exiles wish to they will be able to return from wherever they are, from Assyria, from Media, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar (Babylon), from Hamath, to the land of God’s inheritance, and there will be a Jerusalem to return to. That is Cyrus’ task, and why God has called him, and it was what Cyrus achieved from God’s point of view.

Note that while Cyrus is ‘raised up in righteousness’ because God is using him righteously, he is not ‘called in righteousness’, a different concept. He may be ‘called by name’ but he is not ‘a called one.’ He is not one of the called of God. He is but a shadow of what the Servant is.

Verses 14-17

Yahweh’s Final Victory For His True People (Isaiah 45:14-17 ).

After his brief moment of glory Cyrus is now left behind and Isaiah moves on to the final victory of God’s people through the work of the Servant. There is no limit as to time. Isaiah sees a patchwork of events that will occur, but is in no position to fit them together.

Isaiah 45:14

‘Thus says Yahweh,

“The labour of Egypt, and the merchandise of Cush (Nubia),

And the Sabeans, men of stature, will come over to you,

And they will be yours, they will follow after you.

In chains they will come over.

And they will fall down to you, they will make supplication to you, saying,

“Surely God is in you, and there is none else, there is no God.”

Yahweh first promise to His Servant is that the North African nations, with all their wealth and vigour, the nations which were once given as their ransom (Isaiah 43:3), will one day subject themselves to them, because they acknowledge their God. The labour of Egypt may represent their production, or it may signify that they will be bondmen (a suitable reversal of the bondage in Egypt), the merchandise of Cush is their riches, the tallness of the Sabeans may well indicate their usefulness as servants. They will follow after Israel in chains (taking Christ’s yoke on them) and will subject themselves to Israel’s God, recognising that He alone is God (compare Isaiah 45:5-6 and in respect of Egypt Isaiah 19:16-22).

The basic idea is of their total subjection to Israel’s God. The chains are symbolic of being in submission, of being made captive, in the end of being under Christ’s yoke. Those who sought to enchain Israel will themselves be voluntarily chained. This was partially through the Dispersion when God’s word and Law was taken into these areas and responded to, bringing them ‘under the yoke of the Law’, it was fulfilled in the triumph of the Gospel when the ‘soldiers’ of Christ went out to North Africa with the sword of the word in their hands and captured their hearts and received their obedience to Yahweh. It has continued in the missionary activity of the church. And it will reach its final fulfilment when all the redeemed from these nations enter the Holy City in eternity in total submission to Yahweh (Revelation 21:24).

The mention of such a combination of nations was most likely in the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah when Cushite Pharaohs ruled Egypt.

Isaiah 45:15

‘Truly you are a God who hides yourself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.’

This sudden revelation of a switch in fortunes brings an expression of praise from Isaiah. This is something new, he says. Clearly God has been hiding from His people and the world much of what He is going to do. His salvation is going to be greater than anyone has comprehended.

Isaiah 45:16

‘They will be ashamed, yes, confounded, all of them,

They will go into confusion together who are makers of idols.’

Such activities of God will spell the death knell of idols. In the light of the worldwide spread of the truth idolatry will be put to shame. Those who make them will be ashamed of them, they will all be filled with confusion together, they will be put to shame. No one will want to have anything to do with them. When God arises even Babylon will be put to shame.

Isaiah 45:17

‘But Israel will be saved by Yahweh with an everlasting deliverance.

You will not be ashamed or confounded everlastingly for ever.’

But for God’s true people there will not be shame, but an everlasting deliverance. Never again through all eternity will they be ashamed and confounded. Note the strong emphasis on everlasting. It will be true for ever and ever and ever

Verses 18-25

So Yahweh Calls Men Around The World To Repent (Isaiah 45:18-25 ).

God then points out that He did not create the world to be empty, but to be inhabited. It was not just Jerusalem that He wanted to be inhabited with His own (Isaiah 44:26), it was the world. Nor did He proclaim His word in secret, as in a secret society. His words were not empty of meaning, like stilted phrases of a cult. His world was intended for all, and so were His words, that all might live in it and know righteousness, and what is right. Thus He calls on such inhabitants of the world as have turned from their useless idols, to come together to consider things. Was it not He Who had told them about these happenings from the beginning? So let those at the ends of the earth turn to Yahweh, and let them recognise His sovereignty. For He alone provides strength and reality.

Isaiah 45:18

‘For thus says Yahweh who created the heavens,

He is God.

Who formed the earth and made it.

He established it.

He did not create it a waste, He formed it to be inhabited.

“I am Yahweh and there is none else.”’

The rather complicated structure of the verse is in order to stress Yahweh’s design and purpose in creation. He ‘created’, then He ‘fashioned’, then He ‘made’ it what it became, then He established it. Thus His purpose was not to leave it empty and a waste (tohu - compare Genesis 1:2). He wanted it to be designed and inhabited and established. It was not created in order to be a ‘waste’, it was created for a specific purpose resulting from what God would do with the ‘waste’. Indeed He made it for man to live in, He made it for all men, and He wanted them to live in it as His people. (For ‘be inhabited’ compare Isaiah 44:26). And who did this? It was Yahweh, the One Who is God (Psalms 96:5). It was Yahweh and no other. The implication therefore is that all should look to Him

This does not mean that the creation was not originally created ‘empty’ before light came and gave it substance. Genesis 1:2 says that it was precisely created in that way, as Isaiah is well aware (that is why he mentions it). It means that that was only the very first stage in the process of creation. After that would come His forming process, the final stage of which was man. Into the darkness He brought light. Into the emptiness He brought electromagnetic waves. So the world owes all to His activity in design.

Isaiah 45:19

“I have not spoken in secret, in a place of the land of darkness.

I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek me in emptiness (tohu).’

I, Yahweh, speak righteousness. I declare the things that are right.”

In the same way that the world was made in order to be inhabited, so were Yahweh’s words spoken in order to have effect. He has not spoken in secret, or in some place in a land of darkness where nothing can be seen and men can meet in secret. It was not to some secret society. Nor did He tell His people, the seed of Jacob, to seek Him in what was empty and barren, in the kind of empty words which often accompany rituals, or even in an empty land. Rather He speaks righteousness, and declares the things that are right. His message is not empty or turgid but positive and demanding and full of content. And it is all about righteousness and goodness and truth, that which all men in their inner hearts all men long for.

Alternately ‘the land of darkness’ may refer to the countries to which exiles have been taken away from ‘the land of light’, from Israel. Then we would remove the comma and read ‘I have not spoken in secret in a place of the land of darkness’, the idea being that He has spoken openly there, not with empty phrases but about righteousness.

Isaiah 45:20

“Assemble yourselves together, and come,

Draw near together, you who have escaped of the nations,

They have no knowledge who carry the wood of their graven image,

And pray to a god who cannot save.”

Those who have escaped of the nations are invited to, as it were, assemble themselves and to come and draw near to consider a verdict. The impression given is that these escapees have escaped from idolatry, for they are contrasted with those who have no knowledge, being idolaters. Idolatrous people are derided, for they look to a god who cannot save. Alternately they may be being called on to now recognise and face up to the folly of idolatry.

These words could be referring to faithful Israel among the worldwide exiles who have returned to purity of religion, or it may have in mind Gentiles who have been attracted by the faith of the dispersed of Israel, or those who have been disillusioned about the gods by what has come on the earth, or indeed all who have escaped the judgments which have come on the earth and are seeking answers. In other words those whose hearts might be open to truth.

They are contrasted with those who carry around wooden graven images at their religious festivals (see Isaiah 46:1), who are without sense and spiritual awareness, praying to a god who cannot save, and they are called to a positive response, to consider the facts.

The gods who cannot save are in striking contrast with the One Who calls on the whole world to be saved if they will but look (Isaiah 45:22). And the gods who have to be carried about on carts (compare Isaiah 46:1-2) are in striking contrast to the God Who is over heaven and earth and created all things (Isaiah 45:18).

Isaiah 45:21

“Declare and bring it forth,

Yes, let them take counsel together,

Who has shown this from ancient time?

Who has declared it of old?

Have not I, Yahweh?

And there is no God else beside me,

A righteous God and a saviour,

There is none beside me.”

The appeal continues to those who are disillusioned with idolatry. They are to declare and bring forth what they now think. Then he calls on them to gather in solemn court and speak to each other and discuss matters together and to recognise Who has shown ‘this’ from ancient time, and declared it of old. ‘This’ may be the fact of their exile experiences and their intended purifying effects, or more likely Isaiah’s and other more ancient prophecies concerning all the events and judgments which have disillusioned men. In view of the reference to ancient time the latter is probably more likely.

And Who has shown it from ancient times? Why, none other than Yahweh of course, the One beside Whom there is no other (repeated twice). The One Who is righteous and Who can deliver. Note again the stress on righteousness. This is central to the appeal. And it is further stressed that not only is He righteous but also a Saviour. He does not leave those who seek Him in unrighteousness.

We should note that God is righteous because He is the source and arbiter of righteousness. All is measured by His standards, and He is holy. He is the perfect standard of what right is. (That is why to sin is to come short of the glory of God - Romans 3:23). And His righteousness is revealed in the salvation which He brings to His repentant people through the blood of offerings. And because He is righteous He expects righteousness from all who would worship Him.

Isaiah 45:22

“Look to me and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else.”

So the call goes out to the ends of the earth to look to the only God for deliverance. All these wondering people must now turn to Him. In Him is salvation. The non-mention of the name Yahweh would suggest that the call is intended to include all nations as ‘all the ends of the earth’ suggests. It is a universal cry. But the call can only go out through His Servant, for there is no one else to take it. This is to be the Servant’s present task. It may well be that Isaiah was in touch with many exiles and was able to get his writings through to them.

Isaiah 45:23

“By myself have I sworn,

The word is gone forth from my mouth in righteousness and will not return,

That to me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear.”

‘Only in Yahweh,’ one will say to me, ‘is righteousness and strength.’

Even to him will men come,

And all who were incensed against him will be ashamed.

In Yahweh will all the seed of Israel be put in the right, and will glory.’

Notice the continued emphasis on righteousness. It lies at the root of this whole section. God is calling the nations to righteousness. And that righteousness can only result in every knee bowing to Him, and every tongue swearing fealty to His name. The fact that they can be ‘saved’ signifies that righteousness can be made available to them through forgiveness (compare Isaiah 44:22). It proclaims that they can both be ‘put in the right’ and then ‘made right’. Righteousness became almost parallel in meaning with deliverance and salvation precisely because Israel came to recognise that God’s salvation would produce righteousness, and a people acceptable to God. It would be a righteous deliverance. Full deliverance must involve righteousness, for before Yahweh, the righteous One, there can be no true deliverance without it. To walk rightly is to have been freed from all unrighteousness.

A mighty word which will accomplish its purpose has now gone out from Yahweh, and He has guaranteed its fulfilment by an oath (compare Genesis 22:16-18). He will bring it about buy His sovereign power. And the fulfilment of it is that ‘to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear.’ It is a word that has gone out in righteousness, so that its results will be righteous. Thus the submission will be on the basis of righteousness. Those accounted righteous will submit in order to serve, the unrighteous in order to fear the consequences. Those who refuse His righteousness will be ashamed (Note here how it is to be part of the Servant’s activity to make many accounted righteous, because He will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11)). And it is a submission that is certain for everyone. Every knee will have bow. All nations round about might in the future be bowing to Cyrus, but one day he will be replaced. In that day every knee will bow to Yahweh and every tongue swear fealty. The whole world will own Yahweh as King, whether for blessing or for judgment. (In Philippians 2:5-11 this is applied to Jesus Christ by Paul as the One to Whom all would bow).

Indeed in that day men will say, ‘Only in Yahweh is righteousness and strength.’ They will know that there is nowhere else to look. They will know that there is no other name in heaven and earth whereby men can be saved. He alone will be able to provide men with righteousness. He alone will be able to give them strength. He alone will be able to vindicate them.

But there will be those who will still be antagonistic towards Him. They too will have to come and bow the knee, but for them it will be to hear the sentence of judgment. They will be ashamed before Him. They will weep and gnash their teeth as sentence goes against them.

In that day all the true seed of Israel, those taken within the protection of Israel, will have been put in the right (Isaiah 53:10), and they will be able to glory, and cry ‘glory to the Righteous One’ (Isaiah 24:16). They will be justified and will glory. These represent those are the faithful in Israel, and all those who unite with the faithful in Israel through the cross (Ephesians 2:12-22).

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 45". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/isaiah-45.html. 2013.