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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 45

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 45:1. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, &c. — Cyrus is called the Lord’s anointed, a title usually given to the kings of the Jews, who were God’s immediate deputies, not because material oil had been poured upon him when he was made king, as was the case with most of them, but because he was raised up, and ordained by the divine counsel, to perform God’s good pleasure, and furnished for that purpose with the necessary endowments; among which must be reckoned “his singular justice, his reverence toward the divine nature, his prudence, fortitude, and distinguished clemency and humanity:” to all which, and many other of his excellent qualities, his historian, Xenophon, bears testimony. Whose right hand I have holden — Or strengthened as החזקתיmay be properly rendered; whom I will powerfully assist, teaching his hands to war, as the phrase is Psalms 18:34, supporting and directing his right hand, and enabling him to surmount all difficulties, and to overcome all opposition. To subdue nations before him — The nations conquered by him, according to Xenophon, were “the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, the Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, Phœnicians, Babylonians. He moreover reigned over the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, the Sacæ, Paphlagones, and Mariandyni.” All these kingdoms he acknowledges, in his decree for the restoration of the Jews, to have been given him by Jehovah, the God of heaven, Ezra 1:2. And I will loose the loins of kings — I will weaken them, and render them unprepared and unable to oppose Cyrus. “The eastern people, wearing long and loose garments, were unfit for action or business of any kind, without girding their clothes about them: when their business was finished, they took off their girdles. A girdle, therefore, denotes strength and activity; and to unloose the girdle is to deprive of strength, to render unfit for action.” To open before him the two-leaved gates — “The gates of Babylon, within the city, leading from the streets to the river, were providentially left open in the night when Cyrus’s forces entered the city through the channel of the river, in the general disorder occasioned by the great feast which was then celebrated: otherwise, says Herodotus, the Persians would have been shut up in the bed of the river, and taken as in a net, and all destroyed. And the gates of the palace were opened imprudently by the king’s orders, to inquire what was the cause of the tumult without, when two parties of Medes and Persians rushed in, got possession of the palace, and slew the king.” See Xenoph. Cyrop., 7. p. 528; and Bishop Lowth.


Verse 2-3

Isaiah 45:2-3. I will go before thee — To remove all obstructions, and prepare the way for thee. “The divine protection which attended Cyrus, and rendered his expedition against Babylon easy and prosperous, is finely expressed by this highly poetical image of God’s going before him, and making the mountains level.” I will break in pieces the gates of brass — I will destroy all that oppose thee, and carry thee through the greatest difficulties. “Abydenus says that the wall of Babylon had brazen gates. And Herodotus more particularly: ‘In the wall all round, there are a hundred gates all of brass; and so, in like manner, are the sides and the lintels.’ The gates, likewise, within the city, opening to the river, from the several streets, were of brass; as were those also of the temple of Belus.” And I will give thee the treasures of darkness — Treasures that have been stored up, and long kept in dark and secret places, as well in Babylon (Jeremiah 50:37; and Jeremiah 51:13) as in other countries which Cyrus conquered, and from which, as Pliny and others relate, he took infinite treasures. “Sardes and Babylon,” as we learn from Xenophon, “when taken by Cyrus, were the wealthiest cities in the world. Crœsus, celebrated beyond all the kings of that age for his riches, gave up his treasures to Cyrus, with an exact account, in writing, of the whole, containing the particulars with which each wagon was loaded, when they were carried away: and they were delivered to Cyrus at the palace of Babylon. The gold and silver estimated by weight, according to the account given by Pliny, amount to 126,224,000 pounds sterling.” — Bishop Lowth. That thou mayest know that I am the God of Israel — That I, Jehovah, who have so highly favoured thee, and have mentioned thy name so long beforehand, as the peculiar instrument of my providence, am the true God, and that Israel is my people. If this prophecy was shown to Cyrus, as Josephus says it was, Antiq., lib. 2. cap. 2, (see note on Ezra 1:1,) it is very reasonable to suppose, when he found his own name mentioned in it, and his achievements described so long before, he must thereby be brought to know and acknowledge the God of Israel to be the only living and true God.


Verses 4-6

Isaiah 45:4-6. For Jacob my servant’s sake, &c. — The prophet here gives us the reasons why God showed such favour to a prince, who had been addicted to the superstition of his country, and ignorant of the true God, that he prospered all his undertakings, and gave success to all his endeavours. It was, 1st, For Israel’s sake: For Israel, mine elect, I have even called thee, &c. — I have called thee to this honour, and that by name; not for thy own sake, but for Israel’s sake: therefore, neither despise them, though a poor and despised people, nor be puffed up in a great opinion of thyself. I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me — I knew and called thee, when thou didst neither know nor think of me; nay, when thou hadst no being. I girded thee, &c. — I made thee strong and active, and fitted and disposed thee for these great and warlike enterprises. It was, 2d, For the sake of all nations; that they might be convinced of the true divinity and almighty power of the God of Israel. That they may know from the rising of the sun, &c., that I am the Lord, &c. — That all nations may know it by my foretelling these things so long before, and by the wonderful success that I shall give thee, and by my overruling thy heart and counsels, to the deliverance of my people. Or, as Lowth explains it, “My interposing so visibly in behalf of my own people, and returning their captivity by such unexpected means, will convince the heathen part of the world that I am the only true God.”


Verse 7

Isaiah 45:7. I form the light, and create darkness, &c. — All men’s comforts and calamities come from my hand. “It was the great principle of the Magian religion, which prevailed in Persia in the time of Cyrus, and in which probably he was educated, that there are two supreme, coeternal, and independent causes, always acting in opposition one to the other; one, the author of all good, the other, of all evil; the good being they called Light; the evil being Darkness; that, when Light had the ascendant, then good and happiness prevailed among men; when Darkness had the superiority, then evil and misery abounded. All opinion that contradicts the clearest evidence of our reason, which plainly leads us to the acknowledgment of one only Supreme Being, infinitely good as well as powerful. With reference to this absurd opinion, held probably by the person to whom this prophecy is addressed, God, by his prophet, in the most significant terms, asserts his omnipotence and absolute supremacy. I am JEHOVAH, and none else; forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil; I JEHOVAH am the author of all these things.” Declaring that there is no power, either of light or darkness, of good or evil, of happiness or misery, independent of the one supreme God, infinite in power and in goodness. — Bishop Lowth.


Verse 8

Isaiah 45:8. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, &c. — It appears from the last clause of this verse, that these are the words of Jehovah himself, commanding blessings to descend upon his people, and exhorting his people willingly and gratefully to receive them, and to walk worthy of them. The passage is strongly figurative, and Vitringa is of opinion, that it “refers primarily to the blessings consequent upon the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity; but secondarily, and in its more complete sense, to that righteousness and salvation liberally imparted to man by the grace of the Messiah.” The words may be thus paraphrased: Let the heavens drop down, or, they shall drop down, as it were, from above, &c. God’s righteous and gracious acts, done for his people, and his blessings conferred upon them, shall be as many and illustrious as if he rained them down from heaven. But let the earth open itself, both to receive those refreshing and fertilizing showers, and to bring forth those fruits which they might be reasonably expected to produce. And let them — The heavens and the earth conspiring together; bring forth salvation — The redemption and deliverance of God’s people from Babylon, by Cyrus, and from ignorance and error, sin and death, by the Messiah. And let righteousness spring up together — Together with salvation. Let the holiness of my people bear some proportion to their privileges and advantages, and the great things I have done for them. I the Lord have created it — I am the author, both of the salvation and of the righteousness which springs up together with it.


Verse 9-10

Isaiah 45:9-10. Wo unto him that striveth, &c. — Bishop Lowth renders this verse, “Wo unto him that contendeth with the power that formed him, the potsherd with the moulder of the clay! Shall the clay say to the potter, What makest thou? And to the workman, Thou hast no hands.” “The prophet,” he thinks, “answers or prevents the objections and cavils of the unbelieving Jews disposed to murmur against God, and to arraign the wisdom and justice of his dispensations in regard to them; in permitting them to be oppressed by their enemies, and in promising them deliverance, instead of preventing their captivity. St. Paul has borrowed the image, and has applied it to the like purpose with equal force and elegance, Romans 9:20-21.”


Verses 11-13

Isaiah 45:11-13. Thus saith the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker — Israel’s Maker. A preface this which always ushers in some gracious promise: see Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 43:14; and Isaiah 44:6; and Isaiah 48:17. Ask me of things to come, &c. — The words thus rendered contain a concession, and the sense of them may be this: although the potter doth not give an account to the clay, nor parents to their children, yet I will so far condescend to you as to be at your command in this matter, to give you an account of those great actions of mine for which you quarrel with me. Many interpreters, however, prefer rendering the words interrogatively, thus: Do you, or will you, ask, or question me, of things to come concerning my sons? and concerning the work of my hands will you command me? As if he had said, Will you not allow me the liberty which yourselves take, of disposing of my own children and works as I see fit? Must I give you an account of these matters? Which he does in the words following. I have made the earth, and created man, &c. — The earth and its inhabitants are wholly and solely my creatures, and therefore are absolutely at my disposal. I have raised him up — Namely, Cyrus, named before, Isaiah 45:1; in righteousness — Not in a way of absolute sovereignty, as I might have done, but most justly to punish the oppressors of my people, to plead the cause of the oppressed, and to manifest my righteousness, truth, and goodness. And I will direct his ways — Will guide and assist him in all his marches, wars, and battles, crowning all his undertakings with success. He shall let go my captives, not for price, &c. — That is, freely, without requiring any ransom for them, as is usual in such cases. Such an exact prediction of events, which depended on the mind and will of Cyrus, is mentioned here as an infallible evidence of the certainty of God’s foreknowledge, and of his being the only true God, because idols could discover no such things.


Verse 14

Isaiah 45:14. Thus saith the Lord, &c. — Here the prophet turns to Jerusalem, or to the company of returning exiles, and relates some joyful consequence of the deliverance foretold, which probably chiefly respects the future admission of the Gentiles into the church of God. The labour of Egypt — The wealth gotten by their labour; and merchandise of Ethiopia — The gains of their merchandise; and of the Sabeans, men of stature — A tall and strong people; shall come over unto thee — O my city, or church. The sense is, Jerusalem shall not only be rebuilt, but the wealth and glory of other countries shall be brought to it again, as in former times. “The words,” says Lowth, “may be supposed, in some degree, verified in Cyrus’s devoting the tribute coming out of those rich provinces of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, to the building and service of the temple.” To which may be added, that some of the succeeding Persian monarchs settled revenues upon the temple for the offering of sacrifices for themselves and their families, Ezra 6:10. And the same was done, in after times, by Alexander the Great, and several of the Syrian and Egyptian kings, 2 Maccabees 3:2-3; 2 Maccabees 5:16.” But “the place is principally meant of the flourishing state of the church, (often described under the figure of a city,) when the Gentile world should come into it, bring in their riches to the support of it, and submit themselves to its government, as being the only seat and temple of truth.” In chains they shall come over — Subdued by the rod of the Messiah’s strength, (Psalms 110:2,) the power of his word, and led captive thereby: they shall confess themselves to be conquered, and shall willingly submit themselves to thee. The subjection of the Gentiles to God’s church is often expressed in Scripture by such metaphors as this; as Psalms 45:5; and Psalms 149:8; and Psalms 68:18, compared with Ephesians 4:8. They shall make supplication unto thee — To obtain thy favour and society; saying, Surely God is in thee — Or, with thee. We plainly discern that God is on thy side, or in the midst of thee; and therefore we desire to join ourselves with thee; and there is none else — We are now convinced that Jehovah, thy God, is the only true God, and that idols are vain and empty nothings.


Verse 15

Isaiah 45:15. Verily, &c. — These are the words of the prophet, drawn from him by the consideration of the great and various works and dispensations of God toward his church, and in the world; thou art a God that hidest thyself — Namely, from thy people for a season: thy counsels are deep and incomprehensible, and thy ways past finding out; O God of Israel, the Saviour — Who, though thou concealest the grounds and reasons of thy dispensations, and often deferrest to help thy people in the time of distress, yet art still carrying on their deliverance, and the destruction of their enemies, although in a mysterious way. And therefore it is meet that we should patiently wait for the accomplishment of these glorious things here promised us.


Verse 16-17

Isaiah 45:16-17. They — The idolatrous Gentiles, as it is explained in the end of the verse, opposed to Israel in the beginning of the next verse, shall be ashamed, &c. — Hebrew, בושׁו וגם גכלמר כלם, They are ashamed, they are even confounded, all of them; that is, after the completion of this prophecy. They shall go — Hebrew, הלכו, they go, to confusion together, the makers of idols — Both the artificers, and the masters that set them on work, and consequently all their worshippers. “The reader cannot but observe the sudden transition from the solemn adoration of the secret and mysterious nature of God’s counsels in regard to his people, to the spirited denunciation of the confusion of idolaters, and the final destruction of idolatry; contrasted (Isaiah 45:17) with the salvation of Israel, not from temporal captivity, but the eternal salvation by the Messiah, strongly marked by the repetition and augmentation of the phrase, עד עולמי עד, usque ad secula eternitatis, to the ages of eternity.” — Bishop Lowth.


Verse 18

Isaiah 45:18. Thus saith the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah; that created the heavens, &c. — This description of God is here added, 1st, To detect the vanity of idols, by asserting that none was to be owned as the true God, besides that one Jehovah who made the heavens and the earth, and the inhabitants thereof. 2d, To demonstrate God’s sufficiency to fulfil all these glorious promises made to his church, because he created the world, and upholds it by the word of his power. And, 3d, To manifest his goodness to mankind, inasmuch as he did not create the earth in vain, but for the use and comfort of men, that it might be a fit habitation for them: whence it was easy to infer that he would much more be gracious to his own people.


Verse 19

Isaiah 45:19. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place, &c. — This is declared in opposition to the manner in which the heathen oracles gave their answers; which were generally delivered not only darkly and doubtfully, but from obscure cells and caverns of the earth: such was the seat of the Cumean Sibyl:

“Excisum Euboicæ latus ingens rupis in antrum.”

“A spacious cave within its farmost part Was hew’d, and fashion’d by laborious art:

Through the hill’s hollow sides —” VIRG. ÆN., 6:42.

Such was that of the famous oracle at Delphi: of which, says Strabo, lib. 9., “The oracle is said to be, αντρον κοιλον μετα βαθους, ου μαλα ευρυστομον, a hollow cavern of considerable depth, with an opening not very wide.” And Diodorus, giving an account of the same oracle, says, “There was in that place a great chasm, or cleft, in the earth; in which very place is situated what is called Adytum;” that is, the cavern, or hidden part of the temple. Jehovah, on the contrary, delivered his oracles to Israel publicly and plainly. I said not to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain — Serve and worship me for naught. As I appointed them work, so from time to time I have given them abundant recompense. I Jehovah speak righteousness, &c. — That which I promise is true, and that which I command is just and good. I require nothing of my people but what is righteous in itself, and for their real advantage: whereas the idols, or their priests rather, command their worshippers to do many sinful and shameful things, even in their worship, as is most notorious. Bishop Lowth renders this clause, I am Jehovah, who speak truth, who give direct answers; observing, “This also is said in opposition to the false and ambiguous answers given by the heathen oracles; of which there are many noted examples.”


Verses 20-22

Isaiah 45:20-22. Draw near together — To attend to what I have said, and am now about to say again, concerning the vanity of your idols; ye that are escaped of the nations — Ye that survive those many and great destructions which I am bringing upon heathen nations for their abominable idolatries and other wickedness. Let those dreadful judgments upon others, and God’s great mercy in sparing you, awaken you to a more impartial and serious consideration of this subject, and induce you to renounce those idols which have now manifested their inability to afford any help to those who serve and trust in them. They have no knowledge, &c. — See on Isaiah 44:9; Isaiah 44:17-18. Let them take counsel together — To maintain the cause of their idols. See on Isaiah 41:22; and Isaiah 43:9; and Isaiah 44:7. Look unto me, &c., all ye ends of the earth — Upon these considerations I call upon all people, from one end of the earth to the other, to cast away their idols, and to turn their eyes and hearts to me, expecting salvation from me, and from me only; and they shall not be disappointed. And this is not only an exhortation to the Gentiles to turn from idols to God, but a prediction that they shall turn to him, and look unto Christ, who is and will be the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him, whether Jews or Gentiles, which is confirmed by the following verse.


Verse 23

Isaiah 45:23. I have sworn by myself — Which is the highest and most solemn oath possible, Hebrews 6:13; and therefore signifies that the matter, thus confirmed, is of extraordinary importance. The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness — It is what I will faithfully perform. And shall not return — Namely, unto me void, or without effect, as this phrase is more fully delivered, Isaiah 55:11. It is a metaphor taken from ambassadors, who sometimes return to their princes without any success in their business. That unto me every knee shall bow — Not only the Jews, but all nations shall worship me, and submit to my laws: which is signified by the bowing of the knee, a posture of reverence and subjection, and by one eminent part of God’s worship, swearing by his name. Surely shall one say — Or, shall he say, each or every one of these, who, he now declared, should bow their knees to God, &c. In the Lord — Hebrew, Jehovah. By, or from God alone, or the Messiah, who is the true Jehovah as well as man; have I righteousness — To justify me from all things, from which I could not be justified by the law of Moses. See Acts 13:39. This plainly points us to the Messiah, whose very name is the Lord our righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6; and whose great business it was to bring in everlasting righteousness, Daniel 9:24; and who of God is made unto us righteousness, 1 Corinthians 1:30. And strength — Support and assistance to bear all my burdens, overcome all my enemies, and perform all my duties. The sense is, The Gentiles shall expect and obtain from Christ both justification, or forgiveness of sins by his blood, and sanctification by his Spirit. Even to him shall men come — The Gentiles shall come to Christ, either, 1st, By constraint, or necessity, to be judged by him at the last day: or, 2d, Willingly by prayer to seek, and by faith to receive, righteousness and strength from him. Coming to Christ is put for believing on him, Matthew 11:28; John 5:50, and John 6:35-37, and elsewhere. And, or, but, all that are incensed against him — All his implacable enemies shall be brought to shame and punishment.


Verse 25

Isaiah 45:25. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel — All Israelites indeed, whether Jews or Gentiles; all believers, who are frequently called God’s Israel in Scripture; be justified — Acquitted, both from real guilt before God, and from all false aspersions before the world; for this justification of the true Israel is opposed to their enemies being ashamed, Isaiah 45:24; which seems to be intended of their public shame and confusion before God and men. And shall glory — They shall not only receive him, but they shall rejoice and triumph in him as their God and portion.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-45.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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