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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 45

 

 

Verse 1

Sec. 4. (2) THE TIMES OF CYRUS AND MESSIAH.

1. This subdivision of section four presents more in detail the relations of Cyrus to Immanuel.

To his anointed, to Cyrus — Jehovah’s “anointed” in the typical aspect of kingship and royal command, relating to Israel in particular. For Israel’s sake Cyrus was anointed king. He subdued all nations within and contiguous to Babylon — Medes, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hyrcanians, and the nations of account in Asia Minor.

I will loose the loins of kings — This means, to weaken, as “to gird up” the loins, means to put strength into one.

To open… two leaved gates — By which Cyrus entered the city of Babylon. Herodotus speaks of the gate by the river (Euphrates) having been left accidentally unclosed on the night of the attack. To the same effect says Xenophon. (See HERODOTUS 1:191, and XENOPHON’S Cyrop., vii, Isaiah 5:10.)


Verse 2

2. Gates of brass — See preceding verse. The Lord, by his prophet, promises the removal of every barrier. A hundred years later, Herodotus speaks of great Babylon’s gates of brass that were destroyed. This helps to confirm Isaiah’s knowledge of their existence.


Verse 3-4

3, 4. Treasures of darkness — Perhaps “darkness” is to offset “riches of secret places” in the parallel member. These treasures were to be taken by Cyrus, or given to him in his various conquests. The amount received from Croesus in Lydia alone was said to be one hundred millions sterling. Added to these were all the resources of Babylon, the “exactress of gold.” Cyrus was to learn from such prosperity, first, that the Lord fulfilled his promise to the letter; and second, that he was the true God, the God of Israel. He had called Cyrus by name as Israel’s redeemer. By this and other facts, Cyrus could not but believe and accept the prophecy as really intended for himself.


Verse 5-6

5, 6. I girded thee — Rather, I will gird thee. The Hebrew is future. “Gird thee” means, I will invest thee with royal power and great dignity, a fact that occurred a century and a half later; an evidence of divine prediction that the whole idolatrous world could never gainsay.


Verse 7

7. I form the light, and… create evil — Zoroastrianism — the Magian religion — held God to be one and omnipotent, but he was derived from the light principle. The God Jehovah here assumes priority to and creatorship of light. He claims also to be no rival with Ahriman, the evil deity of the East. God himself rejects dualism absolutely. He is the one sole sovereign. “Evil,” as it exists in the world, is the result, not of God’s direct creation, but of actualized possibility likely to occur in beings free to choose the right or the wrong way; such freedom as is essential to moral responsibility. Jehovah lays down his eternal protest against the old Zend or Persian religion.


Verse 8

8. Pour down righteousness — The first sign of transition from Cyrus to Messiah’s days. God has been elaborately revealed as the true God; there is no allowing the idea, moreover, that he is a rival with the conception of a Magian deity born of the light, and a contender, half-and-half, in a system of dualism. Full conviction ought at this stage to have been furnished that he is the one pure, sole Sovereign of the universe, or there is none. And now the prophet goes off in rapture that Jehovah is, still further, the God of all righteousness, which distils like dew and pours like rain upon the face of the earth. The world, too, through divine ordering, is ready to receive righteousness whether in drops or showers. This transition is to Messianic times; and this figure shows provision for salvation to all, whether gradual or more rapid, and copious to all who are ready to take it as freely offered.


Verse 9-10

9, 10. The Lord chooses Cyrus — an outsider to the covenant — to be his servant and medium for forwarding mankind’s redemption, and he is both right and wise in so doing. Yet he knows the temper of his own people to criticise the proceeding, and he thus protests.

Woe unto him — God’s yearning to console is often, in this way, at a break through these chapters. He frequently takes occasion thus to show how absurd for man to strive with his Maker — a strong way of putting human preposterousness. See chap. Isaiah 41:11.

Potsherd strive with (or among)… potsherds — Let man be compared with nothing higher than his own kind, certainly not with the infinite God. The tenth verse varies the illustration, but with the same import. A “potsherd” is a dried fragment of a skin bottle, or else a broken piece of pottery, a worthless thing, with which helpless man is compared when he shows discontent with God’s doings. See Jeremiah 18:1-5.


Verses 11-13

11-13. Ask me of things concerning my sons — Very differently ought the true Israelite to do. He should ask the Maker of all what is to be the outcome of things in Israel at a time when they seem bordering upon ruin.

I… made the earth, and… man — Is it unsafe to leave desperate affairs in his hands? No human workmanship can say of Him that made it, He has no hands. Much of this kind of rebuke can be detected in Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 40:28; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 48:13.

Have raised him up — That is, Cyrus.

In righteousness — “In” is expressive of element in which, hence, causal. Rightness, on the whole, and from all considerations, has determined the choosing of Cyrus as a leader subordinate with God in setting Israel back into Jerusalem and Zion.

Not for price nor reward — Here is God’s word for it, that Cyrus was not moved to co-act with God in relation to Israel from selfish motives. With character like this, Cyrus was worthy to be God’s servant. Add to the reinstating of Israel in Judea, that he restored the treasures and the golden vessels to the temple, which also he helped to rebuild. Shall a true Israelite complain of God?


Verse 14-15

14, 15. The labour of Egypt — The profits of labour upon her productive soil were the wealth of Egypt. See note on Isaiah 43:3. The restoration to Zion is here contemplated as if already accomplished. The idea of the verse, superadded to that of Isaiah 43:3, is as if it contained a promise of large portions of the Gentile world coming over to Israel when they shall be restored. And as they surrender they shall seem to say: “Only in Israel is God, (EL, Mighty One,) and there is none else, no God, (Elohim,) none for one moment to be called by that name.

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself — Namely, in thy mysterious but gracious providences. The good he designed to bring to his people was not yet made apparent; but his heart of love was yearning over them, and his wisdom employed in working out for them a great deliverance.

God… the Saviour — So termed because of his purpose to redeem them from their captivity.


Verse 16-17

16, 17. They shall be ashamed… Israel shall be saved — A marked antithesis. The sixteenth verse states the disappointment and disgust with idol religion on the part of its old devotees, (Isaiah 42:17,) both among Gentiles and idolatrous Jews. On the other hand, both faithful and reformed Israel, and converts thereto, with confident mien shall rejoice in conscious salvation now and evermore.


Verse 18-19

18, 19. In substance, God repeats the great things he has done to encourage the true Israel, and all who become such, to trust him and forget forever the absurd idol system they countenanced.

I am the Lord… there is none else — Still rings, as it were, the never-ending refrain. From this oft-recurring idea there branch two others. (1) Prophecy coming from God is a thing of light — true knowledge; no black art, no voice from the secret, dark place, so necessary to idol prophets. (2) God’s love, shown in creating all things and ruling all affairs, attests itself also toward all his true people. Obeying God’s order to seek unto him, Israel has not to seek in vain, nor long to seek, as do idolaters. God is a real Being, not nonentity, like base, dumb idols.


Verse 20

20. Assemble… and come — The challenge again (Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 42:9)

to try him and prove that he is an Infinite Reality.

Escaped of the nations — The “escaped” are those who have survived the divine judgments which sweep over the idolatrous world.

Have no knowledge — Silly idolaters have none. With such, reason and conscience are perverted, truth and error exchange meanings, good sense goes for nothing. The “escaped” ones seem, in this verse, invited to a convocation for a somewhat different object from the one in Isaiah 41:1, namely, to test the question of prediction, to reason with those demented ones yet in favour of idols.


Verse 21

21. Tell ye… this — This what? Whether any one of idol worshippers has had from his god knowledge that Israel is to be restored to Zion? From what date in the past has an idol predicted this? Have not I the Lord alone done this? The controversy with idols takes this shape now. Moreover, “I, the only one able to predict, am a just God and a Saviour; can carry out what I have predicted, and will do it.”


Verse 22

22. Look unto me, and be ye saved — The “just God” is of most tender mercy also, and here invites all the ends of the earth to be “saved” in like manner with Israel.


Verse 23

23. Unto me — To God as supreme. His claim cannot be set aside.

Every knee shall bow — Thus acknowledging him as the only supreme One.

Every tongue shall swear — Same idea made lucid to all. Every being in the universe shall make confession, having the character of an oath, that Jehovah is all-supreme, righteous, just, yet merciful. Angels, devils, and men, shall confess. The reader will recall St. Paul’s use of this passage (Romans 14:11) to show how all men shall confess accountability to God.


Verse 24-25

24, 25. In the Lord have I righteousness — This declaration will not be a forced oath of allegiance and homage. He shall know that God is so loving and just, and he so undeserving and lost, that he will come of his own hearty will to him. The incorrigible will be compelled in conscience and reason to confess also, but will hold out still in rebellion.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/isaiah-45.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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