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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 45

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLV.

God calleth Cyrus for his church's sake: by his omnipotence he challengeth obedience: he convinceth the idols of vanity by his saving power.

Before Christ 712.

SEE the analyses on ch. Isaiah 44:6. The second section of this discourse is divided into two parts: The first part respects the overthrow of the Babylonish empire, and the deliverance of the people of God from captivity, to be effected by Cyrus: Wherein we have, first, an apostrophe to this prince: and here the purpose of God, concerning him, and his success in subverting the Babylonish monarchy, is foretold; and the ends and design of this divine purpose are declared, Isaiah 45:4-7. An epiphonema, or exultation of the prophetic chorus, or of God himself, is subjoined; wherein the joyful consequences of this great work are figuratively described, Isaiah 45:8 and the malignant censurers of the ways of God are refuted. Secondly, we have a direct prophetical and doctrinal discourse of God, wherein, vindicating his honour against the blasphemers of his providence, he ascribes the raising up of Cyrus to himself, as the principal cause, Isaiah 45:11-13 and applies the joyful consequence hereof to the consolation of the pious, Isaiah 45:14. Another epiphonema of the chorus is subjoined, celebrating the ways of the divine providence, and their own lot, Isaiah 45:15-17. Thirdly, we have a reproving discourse of God to the Gentiles; wherein, from this work, and his prediction of it, he vindicates the truth of his divinity, and shews the vanity of idols and their worshippers, Isaiah 45:18-21. The second part of this section respects the calling of the Gentiles to the communion and salvation of God; and herein, first, we have a gracious invitation of the Gentiles to this communion, Isaiah 45:22 and secondly, the design of God concerning their conversion, faith, and salvation, emphatically set forth, Isaiah 45:23-25. The disposition of the parts of this prophesy is dramatic; for there are various persons who are here introduced: God himself, the ruler of the universe; Cyrus, to whom the discourse of God is directed; and also all nations, which in like manner are addressed by an apostrophe, together with a chorus, representing the church, and addressing God. See Vitringa.


Verses 1-3

Isaiah 45:1-3. Thus saith the Lord See ch. Isaiah 41:2-3. Cyrus is called the Lord's anointed; that is to say, appointed by the divine counsel to perform God's good pleasure, and furnished for that purpose by the divine providence with the necessary endowments. Whose right hand I have holden, should rather be rendered, Whose right hand I have taken hold of. See ch. Isaiah 41:6. To loose the loins of kings, signifies, to render them weak and infirm, unprepared and unable to oppose Cyrus. Comp. ch. Isaiah 5:27, &c. To open before him the two-leaved gates, &c. signifies, that the most strongly-fortified cities, most closely shut and guarded, such as were Babylon and Sardis, should be compelled to open their gates to this conqueror, aided by God. In the next clause there is a manifest allusion to the gates of Babylon, for Nebuchadnezzar made 25 gates of solid brass to every side of the great wall which encompassed Babylon; the whole number of the brazen gates being 100. In the third verse it is promised, that Cyrus should find much hidden spoil and great treasures among the conquered nations; and accordingly we learn from history, that the riches which he gained in his conquests amounted to a prodigious value: Nor can we wonder at it; for those parts of Asia, at that time, abounded in wealth and luxury. Babylon had been heaping up treasures for many years; and the riches of Croesus, king of Lybia, whom Cyrus conquered and took prisoner, are in a manner become proverbial. The rapidity and wonderful success of Cyrus were such, that heathen historians have particularly remarked the interposition of the Deity in his cause: "O son of Cambyses, the gods certainly respect thee, or thou couldest not have arrived at such good fortune," says Harpagus to him in Herodotus, lib. i. 100. 124. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1 and Vitringa.


Verses 4-7

Isaiah 45:4-7. For Jacob my servant's sake The prophet here gives us the reasons why God shewed such favour to a prince addicted to the Pagan superstition of his country, and ignorant of the true God; that he prospered all his undertakings, and gave success to all his enterprises. These causes were particular and general: the one respecting the Jewish nation, ver, 4, 5 the other respecting all nations, and Cyrus himself, Isaiah 45:6-7. The principal cause of this whole event is subjoined to either passage, namely, the God of Israel, and he alone: For it is the design of this whole discourse, to convince all nations of the true divinity of Jehovah, and to draw them from the superstitious worship of false gods. Bishop Warburton observes, ingeniously at least, and Vitringa also makes nearly the same remark, that the words of the 7th verse, being directed to Cyrus, king of Persia, may be understood as spoken to the Persian sect of the Magians, who held light and darkness, good and evil, to be the supreme beings, without acknowledging the great God of heaven and earth, who is infinitely superior to them both. In opposition to this opinion, the prophet instructs Cyrus, that light and darkness, or good and evil, are under the direction and disposal of Almighty God; hereby guarding the Israelites from the doctrine of the two principles which were held by the Persians, and shewing that it was founded upon absurdity. See Div. Leg. vol. 4 and Vitringa.


Verse 8

Isaiah 45:8. Drop down, ye heavens, from above Drop down, &c. and let the clouds pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and all kinds of salvation flourish; and let righteousness shoot forth together, &c. Vitringa is of opinion, that this strongly-figurative passage 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 sense of the metaphor may be resolved into these positions. That God is willing, first, with the deliverance of the people to be effected by Cyrus, or after that deliverance and the time of Cyrus, that there should be a nearer alliance between heaven and earth than there had been before: secondly, that righteousness, as a celestial gift, should be sent down from heaven to earth, liberally and gently, and should widely diffuse itself among men. Thirdly, that the minds of men should be disposed to receive that righteousness; and that, fourthly, the faithful, together with righteousness, should be made partakers of the full salvation which God had prepared for the world; and fifthly, that all causes, celestial and terrestrial, should concur to produce this effect of the divine providence and grace. The prophet's ideas are taken from the spring, when, the rains descending, the earth opens to receive them, and is thereby rendered fruitful.


Verse 9-10

Isaiah 45:9-10. Woe unto him that striveth Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker; the potsherd with the potter: Shall the clay, &c.? The greater number of interpreters are of opinion, that this reproof refers to the impious and malevolent censurers of God among the Jewish people, who, dissatisfied with their present state of banishment, found fault with the ways of God towards their nation, and at the same time contemned the promises of deliverance given by the prophets, as not probable, or likely to take effect. In this view the passage is sufficiently clear. See Romans 9:20-21.


Verses 11-13

Isaiah 45:11-13. Thus saith the Lord Thus, &c.—They ask me of things to come: Would ye then give me commands concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands? As much as to say, "You, hypocrites, inquire into the future fate of the church, and ask and consult my prophets concerning it: Would you therefore give me commandments, and that concerning my sons, and the work of my hands? For if you suppose—which you do, by inquiring of my prophets—that I know future things, you ought also thence to collect, that I am the true God, the ruler of the universe, and of my people; and who, it is reasonable to suppose, am endowed with the highest wisdom: So that you foolishly cavil against my designs, as if you could mend them; the designs of my providence towards my sons, and the work of my own hands: Sons whom, as a father, I cannot neglect." The reader must observe, that this verse is in immediate opposition to the reproof in the preceding ones. The Almighty adds, I have made the earth, &c. "Can I therefore want power or wisdom to raise up a deliverer of my people, and Cyrus in particular?" for it is evident that he is spoken of in the 13th verse. See chap. Isaiah 41:2. Cyrus not only dismissed the Jewish captives without price or reward, but bestowed very liberal presents upon them, and exhorted his subjects to the same liberality. See the first chapter of Ezra.


Verse 14

Isaiah 45:14. Thus saith the Lord, &c.— This illustrious prophesy contains an apostrophe to Jerusalem, or to the company of returning exiles, and without all doubt relates some joyful consequence of the deliverance foretold; which consequence immediately respects religion; and the meaning of the sentence is, that it should come to pass, that in time, after the return from Babylon, proselytes of various nations, and among these particularly Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Sabeans, should be joined to the Jewish church, and be convinced by the reasons demonstrating the truth of the Jewish religion. They should come, suppliant and adoring God, to Jerusalem, and, confessing their faith, humbly entreat to be admitted into the communion of that church. Which accession of proselytes from these and other nations should be fulfilled under the oeconomy of Gospel grace, when not only individuals, but whole nations, chained and bound, that is, bound in the spirit (Acts 20:22.), should submissively receive the doctrine of this holy religion. The prophet, in chap. Isaiah 14:1-2 speaks of the proselytes to religion in terms which fully explain the phrase, In chains they shall come over. See 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 and Vitringa.


Verses 15-17

Isaiah 45:15-17. Verily, thou art a God The church or chorus of believers which are here introduced cry out, and interrupt, as it were, the divine discourse with exultation; which may be divided into three articles. The first explains the nature of God, with respect to his ways, and the order of his counsels and providence;—in this verse. See chap. Leviticus 8, 9. The ways and judgments of God are a great deep; and therefore not to be judged of too presumptuously by the narrow human intellect. The second article contains an apostrophe to idolaters, convicting them of their folly from this wonderful nature and these wonderful doings of God: It should be rendered, They are ashamed, &c. The makers of idols walk in ignominy together: that is, after the completion of this great prophesy. The third article sets forth the privilege and hope of the church, But Israel is saved by Jehovah with an everlasting salvation; not only that procured by Cyrus, but that procured by a much greater than he; Jesus, the Jehovah, and true Saviour of his faithful people.


Verses 18-21

Isaiah 45:18-21. For thus saith the Lord The Almighty here renews his discourse to the proselytes of the nations, to confirm them in their belief of the true religion, and to eradicate all the prejudices of idolatry from their minds. A preface suitable to the scope of the discourse is prefixed, consisting of two articles; the first, in this verse, claiming to God the glory of creating this earth with a wise and gracious design: The second, in Isaiah 45:19 wherein God, first, opposes his predictions, and the manner of them, to the manner in which the ministers and prophets of the false gods delivered their prophesies, I have not spoken in secret, &c. Secondly, declares that they who sought him, should not do so in vain; and thirdly, that his promises were righteous and true; and should never fail those who confided in them: After which, we have in the 20th and 21st verses, the conviction of the proselytes; those who are escaped of the nations; where the truth of God and the vanity of idols are set forth, from the mighty work which God had done for the deliverance of his church, and from his prediction of that work. We may read the second clause of Isaiah 45:19. I said not to the seed of Jacob, in vain, seek me. The beginning of the 21st verse would be more clearly rendered thus, Come forth, and produce your arguments; nay, let them take counsel together, &c. See ch. Isaiah 41:21 and Vitringa.


Verse 22

Isaiah 45:22. Look unto me, and be ye saved The proselytes of the nations were invited to embrace the faith of the true God; but that seemed too narrow and confined; for what forbids all nations without distinction, delivered from the error of idolatry, to believe in the true God, and to worship him alone? Therefore the SON OF GOD here discovers himself, opening all the riches of his grace, and inviting all nations without distinction to his communion: Exhorting all the ends of the earth to receive justification procured by him for the human race, and therewith eternal salvation. The apostle, Romans 14:11 has instructed us to apply these words to God the Son: they are wholly evangelical. To look, is the act of a sinner, fully persuaded no less of his own misery than of the divine grace; whereby God has determined to save sinners through his Son, turning themselves in faith and hope to God in Christ, and humbly suing for pardon and salvation from him. See Acts 4:12 chap. Isaiah 17:7, Isaiah 52:10 and Vitringa.


Verse 23

Isaiah 45:23. I have sworn by myself I have sworn by myself; the word of truth is gone out of my mouth, a word which shall not return,—That, &c. These are the words of the Son of God, declaring the purpose of grace, to illuminate all nations without distinction with the light of the Gospel, and to bring them to the true religion who worship the Father by the Son, the Mediator and Saviour, whom he hath appointed the Lord and Judge of the whole world. See Romans 14:11. Philippians 2:10-11 where St. Paul explains the phrase, Every tongue shall swear, by every tongue shall confess to God. To swear by the name of Christ is to confess his name, to profess his faith, and acknowledge his divinity.


Verse 24-25

Isaiah 45:24-25. Surely, shall one say, &c.— The discourse of the Son of God is here continued. He declares more fully the sum of the oath mentioned in the preceding verse; that is, he explains the purpose of grace concerning the manner, the means, and the cause of that salvation which was to be offered to all nations. By strength may be here meant that grace or redemption founded upon the justification obtained for man through Christ. Respecting the latter clause of Isaiah 45:24 see chap. Isaiah 1:11 and compare 1 Corinthians 1:31. Jeremiah 9:23-24.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Cyrus was the type of the great Redeemer, and, in his deliverance of the captive Jews, prefigured the greater redemption which Jesus should obtain for believers of all nations: more than two hundred years before the event came to pass, we have him particularly named and pointed out, and his great conquests described, which, through the mighty hand of God upon him, he was enabled to obtain over kingdoms which seemed much more powerful than his own, and which opened a way at last to him, in conjunction with the Persians, for the conquest of Babylon. We have here,

1. The conquests that he should obtain: Nations are subdued before him, and kings submit to his yoke; the strongest cities cannot resist his arms, nor the most difficult passes stop his march; God goes before him, and therefore resistance is vain. The treasures of his enemies become his spoil, and among them, those of Croesus, king of Lydia, the richest monarch of that age: and by these he was enabled to pursue his victories to the final overthrow of the Babylonish monarchy.

2. God's grand design in this was to serve his Israel. Cyrus himself was a stranger to the true God, or had very obscure ideas concerning him, and meant his own grandeur and glory alone, or principally at least; but it was for Jacob's sake that God had raised him up, and ordained him to be such a conqueror, in order that he might be their deliverer. Note; (1.) In all God's providences, in the revolutions of states and kingdoms, there is wheel within wheel; and God hath purposes to answer for the good of his faithful people, which the great agents employed in these things little think of. (2.) Christ is exalted to the throne for the sake of the faithful, hath all power given him, and all the unsearchable riches of grace to bestow; therefore they may expect at his hands every mercy and blessing they can need.

2nd. The design of God in raising up Cyrus, was to make his own power and glory to appear: therefore,

1. He asserts his own Godhead, and besides him there is no other: his works declare his universal dominion; light and darkness, good and evil, not the evil of sin, but of suffering, are all from him: and if Cyrus was so wonderfully strengthened for his conquests, the world must take notice to whom he stands indebted; though he probably knew but little, if any thing, of the hand that supported him, in this prophetic word it evidently appears the work was of God. Note; Since prosperity and adversity both come from God, in both he is to be acknowledged, and our duty is to correspond with his designs.

2. A glorious prophesy is revealed, of the abundance of blessings which, by the incarnation of the Redeemer, should descend on the Israel of God. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness, or, as some would render it, the righteous One, the Lord Jesus, who, descending from above, as the rain waters the earth, would cause the souls of men to bring forth the blessed fruits of grace and holiness: let the earth open; the barren hearts of men, that are dead like earth, till enlivened by the precious influences of the Spirit of Jesus; and let them bring forth salvation, or the Saviour, and let righteousness spring up together, even that righteousness, holiness and complete salvation which are the issue of his work of grace in the faithful soul. I the Lord have created it, the work is wholly Divine in the contrivance and execution of it, and our righteousness and salvation are derived from him alone.

3. A woe is pronounced on the rebellious; either the enemies of God, who opposed his people's deliverance, or the faithless Jews who despaired of it. Poor worms of dust, as potsherds of the earth, may strive with each other; but to contend with God, or find fault with him, is as absurd as for the clay to pretend greater wisdom than the potter, and unnatural as for the child to quarrel with his parents for having begotten and brought him forth. God's sovereignty, wisdom, justice and goodness, in all his works and ways, are incontestable, and it is as wicked as foolish to find fault with or oppose them. Note; (1.) They who quarrel with God and his providences, only aggravate their own sufferings. (2.) Nothing can be a greater argument for entire resignation to the Divine will, than the consideration, what God is, and what we are; and we then act as becomes creatures, when, as clay in the hands of the potter, we are content to be just what our Maker pleases.

3rdly, We have,

1. In Isaiah 45:11 the encouragement that God gives to his people to wait upon him in prayer, and to enquire concerning the great events which he had foretold; either the restoration of his people from their captivity, or the glorious increase of the sons of God, who would be raised up by the preaching of the Gospel. Or the words may be read interrogatively, in correspondence with the former verse, as implying a reproof to those who questioned the fitness of his dispensations.

2. God displays his own glorious power in the creation of all things, as a ground to engage his people's confidence, and particularly mentions their deliverance by Cyrus; it is spoken of as already done, because determined in the Divine mind. God had raised him up in righteousness, and directed all his ways, and he should without price discharge them, and with his favour assist them to rebuild Jerusalem. This also may refer to the greater than Cyrus, that Messiah whom God would raise up in righteousness, not for one nation only, but for all people, whose way he directed to the full accomplishment of this great work; and who, having by his own arm wrought out redemption for all the faithful, discharges them from all the arrests of sin, and from the bondage of corruption, without money and without price.

3. He promises that a great increase should be made to them. Many of the neighbouring nations, probably on their return, became converts to their religion: or rather this refers to Gospel times, when, by the word of truth, the Gentiles, Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Sabeans, gladly received Christ's gentle yoke, and yielded themselves up to God in the Gospel of his dear Son.

4. Though sometimes in their afflictions he appeared to hide himself, yet he was still the God of Israel, the Saviour, ready in due time to appear for the help and consolation of his believing people. Note; God is not the less tender of us, or farther from our help, when he corrects us: if he chasten us, it is to engage us more earnestly to seek him.

5. The idolaters should be confounded and ashamed, as the Babylonians were, when their gods, as well as themselves, went into captivity; and as was more abundantly seen, when the Gospel triumphed over the powers of darkness, and idolatry was generally abolished.

6. God promises his Israel, his faithful people, an everlasting salvation. Israel shall be saved IN, or BY the Lord; the work is his, and shall be surely accomplished for the faithful; not merely from Babylon, and the yoke of their captivity, but with an everlasting salvation through the Lord Jesus: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end, or unto the ages of eternity; so permanent is that salvation which Christ by his blood and infinite merit hath purchased, and will bestow on every persevering believer.

7. God gives his Israel the strongest assurances of his love. He who made the heavens with such admirable wisdom, and fashioned the earth so fearfully and wonderfully, the only true God and Creator, he speaks the glorious promise, not with a muttering low voice in secret, as the oracles of the heathens were delivered, but openly and publicly: and no true believer ever did, or shall seek his face in vain; he will ever hear and answer such; and his word of righteousness is a full ground for their trust and confidence, Note; (1.) The word of promise is the great argument for the prayer of faith. (2.) If none seek God's face in vain, how inexcusable are they who reject their own mercies, and restrain prayer before God. (3.) Whatever God says or does is altogether righteous and true, and the faithful soul ever acquiesces therein.

4thly, The folly of idolaters had before been declared. Now,

1. God calls his people, the converts from heathenism, to see the vanity of those who persisted in the abominable worship of idols, and to remonstrate with them against it: they pray unto a god that cannot save them; though all the votaries of idols consult together, they cannot bring a proof of any one instance wherein their false gods shewed the least prescience of future events, for they are no gods; the living Jehovah alone claims this as his prerogative, and besides him there is no other; a just God, whose works and words are all righteousness and truth, a Saviour, able to the uttermost to bless and protect his true worshippers. Note; They who by Divine grace have themselves been converted to God, are especially called upon to shew zeal for his glory, in order to the conviction and conversion of others.

2. All nations are called upon to look to Jesus and be saved: by him the everlasting salvation promised is obtained, and through him alone to be received, for there is none else; becoming incarnate, and by an obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, lifted up as the serpent in the wilderness, every perishing sinner may look to him and live: he is God, and therefore he saves to the uttermost; the guilty, the weak, the tempted, the disconsolate, have all their fears silenced, and their countenances lightened by the bright beams of grace and mercy that flow from the crucified Jesus.

3. According to his solemn oath, the nations of the faithful redeemed shall be saved by him, and his enemies bow before him. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall, both respecting the promise and the prophesy, be assuredly fulfilled, and shall not return void, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear; pay their allegiance, and join the worship of him their Redeemer, as will be seen in the day when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ; and especially in the judgment day, to which the apostle refers this passage, Romans 14:10-11. Surely, shall one say, triumphing in their interest in the glorious Redeemer, In the Lord, or only in the Lord, have I righteousness and strength, renouncing themselves, and by faith laying hold of the all-sufficient grace of Jesus their Lord, to justify, sanctify, and save them: even to him shall men come, all that will believe; and all that are incensed against him, who are either careless transgressors of his law, or proudly reject his infinite merit and strength to trust on their own, they shall be ashamed at the vanity of their confidence, and the misery which their iniquities will bring upon them, while the humble believer will rejoice, for in the Lord shall all the seed of

Israel, the living members of Christ's church, be justified from every accusation of sin, the law, and their own consciences, and shall glory, not in themselves, but in the Lord their righteousness; at whose feet their crown is laid, and to whose rich and unmerited grace the whole of their salvation is ascribed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-45.html. 1801-1803.

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