Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentISAIAH 45
This chapter is a continuation of the revelation in the previous chapter. This is a prophecy concerning Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire, and how God delivered into his hands many nations, the wealth he procured, and how all his enemies were subdued (Isaiah 45:1-3); to whom Cyrus was indebted for all those wonderful victories (Isaiah 45:4-6); God reveals himself as the one true and only Deity who made light and darkness, refuting the absurd theory of the Persians that there were two gods, one of the good, and the other of the evil (Isaiah 45:7,8); the foolishness of those who question the mysterious providence of God in his relationship with his children (Isaiah 45:9-12); the remainder of the chapter has references to the absurdity of idolatry, a few allusions to the dark, lying oracles of the pagans, and certain passages which refer to the deliverance of God's people by Cyrus, but which are to be more fully fulfilled in that glorious salvation by the Messiah, which, it is declared, shall be of universal extent and everlasting duration (Isaiah 45:13-25).
Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut: I will go before thee, and make the rough places smooth; I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that it is I, Jehovah, who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel.
To his anointed
(Isaiah 45:1). The ceremony of anointing was used in the elevation of Jewish kings; but no similar ceremony was known among the pagans; and some have wondered what is meant here. It means that Cyrus was consecrated to carry out the purpose of God in the release of the Jews and termination of their captivity. We agree with Dummelow that the surname God gave Cyrus refers probably to Anointed (Isaiah 45:1) or to Shepherd (Isaiah 44:28).F1
(Isaiah 45:1). Xenophon gave the following list of nations conquered by Cyrus: The Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians, and the Babylonians.F2 The significant thing about this list of nations is that Cyrus himself acknowledged in his decree that Jehovah had indeed given him all of those nations (Ezra 1:2).
Another important implication of this first verse is inherent in the name of Cyrus as God's anointed. Archer pointed out that, "Cyrus stands as a type of Jesus Christ; and many of the promises to Cyrus have their spiritual fulfillment in the life and ministry of Our Redeemer."F3
"No one but an omniscient Being could have predicted 150 years before they occurred, that such events would take place; and these verses are one of the many prophecies which demonstrate in the most particular manner that Isaiah was inspired of God."F4
I will break in pieces the gates of brass
(Isaiah 45:2). Some of the most inconsequential, nit-picking, picayune objections to this prophecy are registered in the writings of Cheyne. He made light of the prophecy of Cyrus as follows:
"The prophet does not say `a child shall be born, Cyrus by name,' but assumes his existence, and predicts that he, rather than some scion of the house of David would be the instrument of the Jews' deliverance ... He assumes rather than predicts the existence of Cyrus; and he omits to mention by how many years, if any, his announcement preceded the birth of the Deliverer!"F5
The reason God's prophecy omitted the prophecy of the birth of Cyrus was that his ancestry was not important, as it was in the instance of God's predicting the birth of Josiah some three hundred years before the event (2 Kings 13:2), because Cyrus was not of the house of David. Like another great Type of the Son of God, i.e., Melchizedek, Cyrus stands historically as a solitary individual, and as an object of wonder, exactly as does Melchizedek. God's wisdom is displayed in this far more effectively than any mention of when or of whom Cyrus was born could possibly have done it.
Furthermore, when Cheyne also cited the fact that the brass gates of Babylon were not broken in pieces, as prophesied here, but were made useless by the drying up of the Euphrates, as an instance "of the non-fulfillment of prophecy,"F6 it appears to this writer that cavil reached some kind of a climax! The true meaning of the prophecy was not that Cyrus would literally break into pieces the 100 brass gates of Babylon, but that they would afford him no greater difficulty than if they had been so destroyed. "Herodotus tells us that Babylon had twenty-five massive brass gates, supported by brass frames, on each of the four sides of the city, one hundred brass gates in all."F7 Critics only exhibit their own frustration by such criticisms as these.
I will give thee the treasures of darkness
(Isaiah 45:3). The exact fulfillment of this came in the vast quantities of pure gold and other valuables that Cyrus took from the kings whom he conquered, of whom, especially, was Croesus, the wealthiest monarch of all antiquity. The Roman historian Pliny stated that Cyrus in the conquest of Asia obtained 34,000 pounds of pure gold, besides many other treasures.F8 Archer has given an estimate of the value of that in dollars, as calculated about 1960; but of course it would be about eight times as much in 1990, due to the inflation of the price of gold. The figure that Archer gave is $630,000,000, taken from the wealth of Croesus alone!F9
For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen, I have called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am Jehovah, and there is none else; besides me there is no God. I will gird thee, though thou hast not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am Jehovah, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.
The very special favor shown to Cyrus here on God's part was apparently motivated by three considerations: (1) that Cyrus, the most powerful monarch on earth, might acknowledge the true God; (2) that Israel might be benefited and continued as a separate nation by the termination of their captivity; and (3) that the attention of all the world might be attracted, and that the unity of God might be manifested to all the earth.F10
These objectives were fully realized. Cyrus did indeed acknowledge God. "The hand of Jehovah was so manifest in his conquests that Cyrus himself acknowledged that they were of Jehovah."F11 The last two verses of 2 Chronicles and the first paragraph of the Book of Ezra fully confirm this.
The statement in Isa. 45:7 that God creates evil should not be misunderstood. As Kidner pointed out, "The Hebrew word (for evil) is too general a term to suggest that God is the author of wickedness...Some see here an attack upon Zoroastrian dualism, with its rival gods of good and evil; these verses are also equally opposed to polytheism, the target of most of the invective in these chapters."F12 When God speaks of his creating evil here, he is speaking of the disasters and calamities that he brings upon the enemies of his purpose. "This cannot mean that God creates moral evil, but it refers to the judgments God sends into history. He is speaking of the distress and disaster which men experience from God as a consequence of their sin (See Amos 3:6)."F13
Distil, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, that it may bring forth salvation, and let it cause righteousness to spring up together; I, Jehovah, have created it.
All creation, heaven and earth alike, are summoned to rejoice together in the righteousness and glory that shall fall upon all men as a consequence of God's rescue and deliverance of His people. What a tragedy it was, however, that the rescued nation proved to be an altogether inadequate and ineffective instrument in the achievement of such glorious things as God intended. "Consequently, the commands of this verse were not fully carried out until the coming of the Ideal Servant."F14
"That there was a partial fulfillment of this on the return of Israel to Canaan, there can be no doubt ... but there is a richness and fullness in Isa. 45:8, that is not met by anything that occurred in the return of the exiles."F15 Only the preaching of the Gospel of Christ brought results which justify the language of this verse.
Verses 9, 10
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! a potsherd among the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto a father, What begettest thou? or to a woman, With what travailest thou?
"That the infidel and discontented portion of the Jewish people is here intended, seems beyond dispute. No arguments could more forcibly evince the extreme arrogance and folly of creatures pretending to scan and carp at the plans of Divine Providence."F16 The apostle Paul quoted these words from Isaiah (Romans 9:20,21) and applied the passage there to the incredible folly of God's creatures complaining and murmuring against the doings of their Maker. Right here is another complete refutation of the silly postulation of some "Second Isaiah's" having written these prophecies. If there had ever been such a "Second Isaiah" as that imagined by critics, he would most certainly have belonged to the "establishment" of the chosen people; otherwise, he would never have been heard. But that "establishment" was precisely the reservoir of the critical attitude toward God which surfaces here. The corollary of this is that, in a thousand years, the "establishment" could never have produced such a conception as that of a pagan ruler such as Cyrus being chosen as God's anointed to deliver the people from slavery. This verse nine removes any possibility that we are dealing with anything other than the true prophecies of Isaiah in these wonderful chapters.
Regarding the question of what the objection among the infidel Jews actually was, Hailey and many others explain it as a rebellion against the idea that God "would raise up Cyrus, a heathen, to deliver Israel."F17 Some have suggested that they accused God of bungling their delivery by its long delay, or by his failure to prevent it altogether! What a stupid folly it is that mortal men would dare to murmur such criticisms against the infinite God!
Thus saith Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask me of the things that are to come; concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens; and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will make straight all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let my exiles go free, not for price nor reward, saith Jehovah of hosts.
Here is God's thundering answer to the murmuring and complaining Jews who desired indeed their deliverance but would have preferred it to come as they had perhaps imagined rather than as God had decided to provide it. God here reminded them that if they wished to know God's will and God's plans concerning his children, they should consult the Word of God, not their own speculations. He reminded them that he was the Maker, the Creator, the Ruler and the Sustainer of the whole universe, that he commanded the host of heaven, and that he had also raised up Cyrus to deliver Israel and to rebuild God's City (Jerusalem), and that was exactly what was going to happen, whether or not Israel liked it! Moreover, God here promised that he would protect and guide Cyrus in the doing of those things prophesied. He would "make straight all of his ways."
Thus saith Jehovah, The labor of Egypt, and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall go after thee, in chains they shall come over; and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, [saying], Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. They shall be put to shame, yea, confounded, all of them; they shall go into confusion together that are makers of idols. [But] Israel shall be saved by Jehovah with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be put to shame nor confounded world without end.
Isa. 45:14 here is a picture of the coming of the Gentiles into the New Israel, the Church of God. That Christians of every name and of every race and nation do actually bow themselves down to Christ and worship Him is actually going on right now all over the world; and since Christ is the True Israel, they are actually bowing down and worshipping the Israel of this passage. The mention of "chains" is not a reference to anything literal, but indicates that, "The surrender of these people to Christ will be as total as that of prisoners of war, but in reality their surrender will spring from conviction and issue in salvation,"F18 and will not be the result of any kind of physical restraint whatever. This illustration of former enemies coming and falling down and worshipping "Israel" is also specifically presented again in Rev. 3:9. See my comment on that New Testament instance of the same thing, Vol. 12 of our New Testament Series, p. 80.
The last two verses indicate the ultimate glory of Israel as exhibited in the "Israel of God" under the glorious terms of the New Covenant, in which the universal Brotherhood of the saints in Christ shall appear, Jews and Gentiles together, where no racial requirements are either needed or honored, and where every man shall give an account of himself to God, and where there is no respecter of persons or races, and "Whosoever will may come!"
The confusion and shame of idolaters which is prophesied in Isa. 45:16 has indeed already been fulfilled. "From the time of the conquest of Babylon, idolatry began to decline; and shortly after the Christian era, in consequence of the spread of the Gospel, it disappeared from the best sections of Asia, Africa, and Europe."F19 With the Edict of Theodosius, Emperor of Rome, in 380 A.D. paganism with its elaborate system of temples, priests, sacrifices, etc. was officially outlawed for all of what is known as Western Civilization.
Throughout all of these last twenty-seven chapters, Isaiah's message points more and more to Jesus Christ and the reign of Messiah and less and less to the physical return of captive Jews from Babylon.
Verses 18, 19
For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am Jehovah; and there is none else. I have not spoken in secret, in a place of the land of darkness; I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I, Jehovah, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
Here is the heavenly answer to the objection of the unbelieving leadership of captive Israel to the effect that "God was a God who hid himself' (Isaiah 45:15). The revelation of God through his Holy Word is altogether sufficient for mortal men, as this passage flatly declares. Furthermore, God's oracles are not dim and equivocal pronouncements such as the Delphic oracle to Croesus; but they are plain, truthful, and enlightening.
These two verses set forth the two great witnesses of God's love and concern for fallen mankind. The very manner in which the earth itself has been created, and made so wonderfully suitable for human habitation (in Isa. 45:18) are exactly the very same grounds of Paul's appeal in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 14:17) to the effect that the fruitful seasons of the earth were evidence that "God has not left himself without witness."
Isa. 45:19 appeals to the revelation of God's Word that idols are nothing and that only Jehovah is the One and Only True God; and besides him, there is no other.
Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that carry the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Declare ye, and bring [it] forth; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath showed this from ancient time? who hath declared it of old? have not I, Jehovah? and there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. By myself have I sworn, the word is gone forth from my mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Only in Jehovah, it is said of me, is righteousness and strength; even to him shall men come; and all they that were incensed against him shall be put to shame. In Jehovah shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
The Old Israel is hardly in this passage at all, for it is addressed "unto them that escaped of the nations," i.e., to all of the redeemed of the whole earth, as indicated in Isa. 45:22.
Note also that the last two verses here have the expressions "Only in Jehovah," and "In Jehovah shall all the seed of Israel be blessed," these being the exact parallels of the great Pauline conception of salvation "in the Lord," "in Christ," "in him," "in the Beloved," and equivalent expressions, which are found "one hundred-sixty nine times in Paul's New Testament writings."F20
There is a widespread misunderstanding of what is meant by Isa. 45:23. Wardle thought that the meaning is, "Every man shall swear allegiance to God";F21 However, the New Testament usage of this passage shows more clearly what the Spirit says. "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10,11). Also, in Rev. 6:14-17, we are given a more intimate glimpse of the nature of that confession which even the most wicked of men shall eventually make.
This passage also teaches that "no Israelite shall be saved apart from his union with Jehovah and "in Jehovah," a status that has never been attained by any person who ever lived apart from his being baptized "into Christ" (Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:13; and Gal. 3:27); because Christ is indeed "God come in the flesh." He is actually called "God," no less than ten times in the Greek New Testament (John 1:1,18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Heb. 1:8; Phil. 2:6; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13; and 1 John 5:20, etc.). Thus, in these verses the great climax of Isaiah's prophecies is fully realized in the glorious salvation to all men in the New Covenant. "The religion of Israel is to become the religion of all mankind; and this anticipation finds its fulfillment in the Christian dispensation,"F22 and this is proved by Paul's application of these verses to Christ in Phil. 2:10,11, and in Rom. 14:11.
We should not overlook the fact that this passage "also abolishes the last vestiges of nationalism in the true religion."F23 It is also inherent in the same truth that the last vestiges of racism have also been forever removed in the true religion. No man will ever be saved on account of his race, or denied salvation on the basis of it. "Preach the Gospel to the whole creation; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16).
Footnotes for Isaiah 45
1: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 443.
2: Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (London: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. IV, p. 179.
3: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 641.
4: Albert Barnes' Commentary, Vol. II, p. 145.
5: T. K. Cheyne's Commentary, pp. 290, 291.
6: Ibid., p. 293.
7: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 481.
8: Albert Barnes' Commentary, Vol. II, p. 147.
9: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 641.
10: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 1Ob, p. 173.
11: Albert Barnes' Commentary, Vol. II, p. 148.
12: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 614.
13: Homer Hailey, p. 380.
14: Ibid., p. 381.
15: Albert Barnes' Commentary, Vol. II, p. 151.
16: E. Henderson, p. 357.
17: Homer Hailey, 381.
18: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 615.
19: E. Henderson, p. 359.
20: John Mackay, President, Princeton University, God's Order (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1953).
21: Peake's Commentary Series, p. 464.
22: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 434.
23: T. K. Cheyne's Commentary, p. 300.