Isaiah 45 Commentary

God uses Cyrus (45:1-19)

Cyrus’s many victories, and the power and wealth he gained through them, were all planned by God. God was preparing the way so that Cyrus could conquer Babylon and release the Jews. Throughout these


events, Cyrus did not know God and was unaware that God was using him to carry out his purposes for Israel (45:1-4).

To Cyrus, his release of the captive Jews was a relatively minor event in his long and glorious career, but in the eyes of God it was the purpose for which he had risen to international power. When people recognize this as God’s doing, they will praise him as the only true God (5-7). Israel, meanwhile, will enter a new era of divine blessing (8).

Some Israelites may have questioned God’s wisdom in using a heathen king to bring about their restoration. God replies that they have no right to argue with him or question the way he deals with his children (9-11). God is the creator and controller of the universe. He has used Cyrus to give the Jews their freedom and the chance to rebuild Jerusalem, and the Jews have not needed to do anything. For this they should be thankful to God (12-13).

In addition, people of other foreign nations will give their assistance to Israel. They will forsake their idol-gods for the God who cannot be seen, the God of Israel (14-17). God always works to a plan, whether in creation or in the history of Israel. The chaos that resulted from Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem is no cause for Jews to turn away from God in disappointment. They must not think that he has lost control of events or that he has some new mysterious plan for them. He will be true to his word and do for his people what he has purposed for them (18-19).

Babylon’s helpless gods (45:20-46:13)

Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon will prove to those Babylonians who survive that to trust in idols for victory is useless. Wooden gods could not foresee Cyrus’s conquest, but Yahweh, the only true God, predicted it long ago (20-21). People of surrounding nations may previously have fought against Yahweh by trusting in idols, but now they should forsake those idols and submit to the living God. Then they will find victory, righteousness and strength, and will join with all God’s true people in bringing him praise (22-25).

The prophet pictures the Babylonian refugees as they flee from the armies of Cyrus, taking with them whatever personal possessions they can carry. The Babylonian gods (two of the most important of which were Bel and Nebo), instead of saving the people, have to be saved by them. So far from helping the people, they only become a hindrance and a burden, causing the donkeys and oxen to groan under the extra weight they have to carry (46:1-2). The people of Yahweh, by contrast, are carried by him. The God who made them cares for them, and will continue to care for them to the very end (3-4). Gods of silver and gold cost their worshippers much in money, time and effort, but they cannot do anything to save their worshippers from trouble (5-7).

Many of the Jews had once been tempted to follow the idolatrous ways of the Babylonians. They are reminded that Yahweh alone is God (8-9). The future is under his control, and at the right moment he will call Cyrus to come and destroy Babylon and release the Jews (10-11). Those Jews who stubbornly refuse to trust in God must therefore change their ways, if they want to share in the blessings of the new Israel (12-13).

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