Isaiah 44:28
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
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(28) That saith of Cyrus.—The Hebrew form is Koresh, answering to the Kur’us of the inscription of the king’s tomb in the Murghab valley. The prediction of the name of the future deliverer has its only parallel in that of Josiah (1Kings 13:2). Such a phenomenon admits of three possible explanations:—(1) That it is a prophecy after the event—i.e., that the whole of Isaiah, or this part of it, was written at the close of the exile. (2) That the name was revealed to the prophet in a way altogether supernatural. (3) That the name came within the horizon of the prophet’s vision from his natural stand-point, the supernatural element being found in the facts which he is led to connect with it. Of these, (3) seems to commend itself as most analogous with the methods of prophetic teaching. The main facts in the case are these—(1) Events had made Isaiah acquainted with the name of the Medes, and with a people bearing the name (Elam), afterwards given by the Jews to the Persians of the Greeks (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 13:7; Isaiah 21:2; 2Kings 17:6; 2Kings 18:11). (2) Koresh or Kyros was the name of a river in that region, and the conqueror is said to have changed his previous name (Agradates) for it (Strab. Xv. 3, 6). (3) The name has been said to mean “the sun” (Plutarch, Ctesias), and this, though not accepted by many modern scholars as philologically accurate, at least indicates that the Greeks assigned that meaning to it. It would be a natural name for one who, as a worshipper of Ormuzd, saw in the sun the supreme symbol of the God of heaven. (4) The grandfather of the great Cyrus is said to have borne the same name (Herod. i. 111). (5) The facts point to the conclusion that the name Kursus; if not a titular epithet, like the Pharaoh of Egypt, may yet have had the prestige of antiquity and dignity, historical or mythical. (6) Is it altogether impossible that the prophecy, circulating among the Babylonian exiles, helped to bring about its own fulfilment, and that Agradates may have been led to take the name of Kur’us because he found his work described in connection with it (Josh. Ant., xii. 1, 2)?

My shepherd.—As guiding the flock of Jehovah, each to their own pasture.

Thou shalt be built.—Both verbs are better taken as imperatives, Let her be built; Let thy foundations be laid.

Isaiah 44:28. That saith of Cyrus — Whom God here mentions by his proper name, two hundred years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the exactness of God’s foreknowledge, and a convincing argument to conclude this dispute between God and idols. He is my shepherd — Him will I set up to be the shepherd of my people, to rescue them from wolves or tyrants, to gather them together, to rule them gently, and to provide comfortably for them. Xenophon tells us, that Cyrus used to compare kings in general, and himself in particular, to a shepherd. — Cyropæd., lib. 8. And shall perform all my pleasure — All that I command him to do, especially to give leave and order for the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, as it here follows. This prophecy, which thus speaks of Cyrus by name, as foreknown and appointed by the divine counsel for the performance of the great work designed by providence, is one of the most remarkable contained in Scripture, of the same kind with that 1 Kings 13:1-2.

44:21-28 Return unto me. It is the great concern of those who have backslidden from God, like the Jews of old, to hasten their return to him. The work of redemption wrought for us by Christ, encourages to hope for all blessings from him. Our transgressions and our sins are as a thick cloud between heaven and earth: sins separate between us and God; they threaten a storm of wrath. When God pardons sin, he blots out, he dispels this cloud, this thick cloud, so that the way to heaven is open again. The cloud is scattered by the Sun of righteousness; it is quite gone. The comforts that flow into the soul when sin is pardoned, are like clear shining after clouds and rain. Let not Israel be discouraged; nothing is too hard for God: having made all, he can make what use he pleases of any. Those that learn to know Christ, see all knowledge to be foolishness, in comparison with the knowledge of him. And his enemies will find their counsels turned into foolishness, and themselves taken in their craftiness. The exact fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture confirms the truth of the whole, and proves its Divine origin. The particular favours God designed for his people in captivity, were foretold here, long before they went into captivity. Very great difficulties would be in the way of their deliverance; but it is promised that by Divine power they should all be removed. God knew who should be the Deliverer of his people; and let his church know it, that when they heard such a name talked of, they might know their redemption drew nigh. It is the greatest honour of the greatest men, to be employed as instruments of the Divine favour to his people. In things wherein men serve themselves, and look no further, God makes them do all his pleasure. And a nobler Shepherd than Cyrus does his Father's will, till his work is fully completed.That saith of Cyrus - This is the first time in which Cyrus is expressly named by Isaiah, though he is often referred to. He is mentioned by him only in one other place expressly by name Isaiah 45:1. He is several times mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament 2 Chronicles 26:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2, Ezra 1:7; Ezra 3:7; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 5:13, Ezra 5:17; Daniel 1:21; Daniel 6:28; Daniel 10:1. He began his reign about 550 b.c., and this prophecy was therefore delivered not far from a hundred and fifty years before he ascended the throne. None but God himself, or he whom God inspired, could have mentioned so long before, the name of him who should deliver the Jewish people from bondage; and if this was delivered, therefore, by Isaiah, it proves that he was under divine inspiration. The name of Cyrus (כורשׁ kôresh; Greek Κῦrος Kuros) the Greek writers say, means 'the sun.' It is contracted from the Persian word khorschid, which in that language has this signification. Cyrus was the celebrated king of the Medes and Persians, and was the son of Cambyses the Persian, and of Mandane, daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. For an account of his character and reign, see the notes at Isaiah 41:2, where I have anticipated all that is needful to be said here.

He is my shepherd - A shepherd is one who leads and guides a flock, and then the word denotes, by a natural and easy metaphor, a ruler, or leader of a people. Thus the name is given to Moses in Isaiah 43:2; compare Psalm 77:20, and Ezekiel 34:23. The name here is given to Cyrus because God would employ him to conduct his people again to their own land. The word 'my' implies, that he was under the direction of God, and was employed in his service.

And shall perform all my pleasure - In destroying the city and kingdom of Babylon; in delivering the Jewish captives; and in rebuilding Jerusalem, and the temple.

Even saying to Jerusalem - That is, I say to Jerusalem. The Vulgate, and the Septuagint renders this as meaning God, and not Cyrus, and doubtless this is the true construction. It was one of the things which God would do, to say to Jerusalem that it should be rebuilt.

And to the temple - Though now desolate and in ruins, yet it shall be reconstructed, and its foundation shall be firmly laid. The phrase 'to Jerusalem,' and 'to the temple,' should be rendered 'of,' in accordance with a common signification of the preposition ל (l), and as it is rendered in the former part of the verse when speaking of Cyrus (compare Genesis 20:13; Judges 9:54). It was indeed under the direction of Cyrus that the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt, and the temple reconstructed Ezra 1:1; but still it was to be traced to God, who raised him up for this purpose. That this passage was seen by Cyrus is the testimony of Josephus, and is morally certain from the nature of the case, since, otherwise, it is incredible that he should have aided the Jews in returning to their own land, and in rebuilding their city and temple (see the Introduction, Section 2). This is one of the numerous instances in the Bible, in which God claims control and jurisdiction even over pagan princes and monarchs, and in which he says that their plans are under his direction, and made subservient to his will. It is one of the proofs that God presides over all, and that he makes the voluntary purposes of people subservient to him, and a part of the means of executing his glorious designs in relation to his people. Indeed, all the proud monarchs and conquerors of the earth have been in some sense instruments in his hand of executing his pleasure.

28. my shepherd—type of Messiah (Isa 40:11; Ps 23:1; 77:20; Eze 34:23).

all my pleasure—so Messiah (Isa 42:1; 53:10). This is the first time Cyrus is named expressly; and that, a hundred fifty years before the time when in 550 B.C. he began his reign. The name comes from the Persian khorschid, "the sun"; kings often taking their names from the gods; the sun was worshipped as a god in Persia.

saying—rather, "and that saith"; construed with God, not with Cyrus. God's word is instantaneously efficient in accomplishing His will.

to … to—or, "of Jerusalem … of the temple," as previously, the same Hebrew word is translated, "of Cyrus" [Barnes]. English Version is more graphic. Cyrus, according to Josephus, heard of this prophecy of Isaiah delivered so long before; hence he was induced to do that which was so contrary to Oriental policy, to aid in restoring the captive Jews and rebuilding their temple and city.

Cyrus, whom God here designeth by his proper name two hundred years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the certainty and exactness of God’s foreknowledge, and a convincing argument, and so most fit to conclude this dispute between God and idols.

He is my shepherd; him will I set up to be the shepherd of my people, to rescue them from wolves or tyrants, to gather them together, to rule them gently, and to provide comfortably for them.

All my pleasure; all that I command him to do, even to give leave and order for the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, as it here follows.

That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd,.... Or Coresh, as his name in the Hebrew language is; and in the Persian tongue signifies the "sun"; from whence he had his name, as Ctesias (q) and Plutarch (r) say; to which the Hebrew word "cheres", which signifies the "sun", has some affinity; though Joseph Scaliger (s) would have the name of Cyrus to signify "food" in the Persian language, and which answers to his character as a shepherd. The father of this illustrious person was Cambyses, king of Persia; his mother's name was Mandane, daughter of Astyages, king of Media (t). This prophecy, concerning him, was nearly two hundred years before he was born. Josephus says (u), that Cyrus read this prophecy himself, which Isaiah had delivered out two hundred and ten years before; and which is a proof both of God's prescience of future contingencies, and of the truth of divine revelation. The Lord honours him with the title and character of his "shepherd", who was to lead his flock, the people of Israel, out of the Babylonish captivity, and guide them into their own land. It is very usual, both in sacred and profane writings, for kings to be called shepherds; and if Cyrus signifies "food", as before observed, his name and office agree. Justin (w) says, he had this name given him, while he was among the shepherds, by whom he was brought up, having been exposed in his infancy. Cyrus himself compares a king to a shepherd, and observes a likeness between them (x):

and shall perform all my pleasure; concerning the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, and the encouragement of them to go up to their own land, and rebuild their city and temple; and many other things which he did, agreeably to the secret will of God, though he knew it not; and what he did he did not do in obedience to his will, but as overruled by the power and providence of God:

even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built; these are not the words of the Lord, as before, but of Cyrus, giving orders that Jerusalem should be built:

and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid; with great propriety this is said, since only the foundation was laid in his time; the Jews being discouraged and hindered by their enemies from going on with the building in his reign, until the times of Darius, king of Persia. See Ezra 1:1.

(q) Excerpta, p. 648. Ed. Gronov. (r) In Vita Artaxerxis, (s) Emendat. Temp. I. 6. (t) Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 1. sect. 1.((u) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 1. sect. 2.((w) Hist. ex Trogo l. 1. c. 5. (x) Xenophon, Cyropaedia, l. 8. sect. 18.

That saith of {f} Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

(f) To assure them of their deliverance he names the person by whom it would be, more than a hundred years before he was born.

28. The series of predicates here culminates in the mention by name of the conqueror of Babylon and liberator of Israel. The name Cyrus is in Persian Kûrush, in Babylonian Kurash, in Greek Κῦρος. The traditional Hebrew pronunciation is Kôresh, but it is probable that the original form preserved the characteristic long u which appears in the other languages. On the career of Cyrus see Introduction, pp. 17 ff.

He is my shepherd] Or simply, My Shepherd. “Shepherd” here means “ruler” as in Jeremiah 3:15; Ezekiel 34. pass.; Micah 5:5 : comp. the Homeric ποιμένες λαῶν. It is one of the honorific titles alluded to in ch. Isaiah 45:4.

perform all my pleasure] Or, complete all my purpose; cf. ch. Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 53:10. This use of the Heb. word for “pleasure” illustrates the transition to its later sense of “business” (ch. Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:13) or “matter” (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:6). Comp. Arab. shay’ (= thing) from shâ’a (to will).

even saying] If the text be right the meaning would probably be that Cyrus would accomplish Jehovah’s purpose by giving the order for the rebuilding of the Temple &c. LXX. and Vulg. read “that saith,” substituting a participle for the inf. of the Heb. In this case the subject is Jehovah, as throughout the passage.

Instead of to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be …, the Heb. has of Jerusalem, Let her be.… See on Isaiah 44:26.

According to Josephus (Ant. XI. Isaiah 1:2) it was the reading of this verse that fired Cyrus with the ambition to restore the Jewish Temple and nationality. The statement, if true, would of course detract nothing from the significance of the prophecy. But it has no claim to be accepted, and would assuredly never have been made but for the assumption that the words were written by Isaiah “one hundred and forty years before the destruction of the Temple.”

Verse 28. - That saith of Cyrus. The mention of Cyrus by name, here and again in Isaiah 45:1, has no doubt been one of the main grounds on which has been set up the theory of two Isaiahs. It has been thought incredible, or at any rate contrary to the analogy of prophetical revelation, that so minute a matter as the name of a man should have been announced in prophecy more than a century before his birth. There is, however, the parallel case of Josiah, who, according to the author of the Books of Kings, was announced by name more than three centuries before his birth (1 Kings 13:2). And there are the extremely minute facts noted in Daniel 11, which were prophetically de-dared from two centuries to three centuries and a half before they happened. It is, perhaps, assuming that we know more than we really do know about the object and laws of prophetic utterance, to lay it down that there can be no minute prophecy except when the prophet is living in the midst of the events. It is certainly a very marvellous thing that Isaiah, living at the close of the eighth and the beginning of the seventh century B.C., should -mention a king by name who did not ascend the throne till the middle of the sixth; but no one can suppose that God could not have made such a revelation to him if he pleased. An attempt to minimize the marvel, without postulating two Isaiahs, has been made by the supposition that "Cyrus" was not really a proper name, but an old title of the Persian (Achaemenian) kings, signifying" the sun," and that Isaiah, therefore, only meant to point out Persia as the power which would destroy Babylon, which he had already done in effect in Isaiah 21:2. But, in reality, there is no sufficient ground for either of the two statements

(1) that Cyrus meant "the sun," and

(2) that it was an old titular name of all the Persian kings.

That "Cyrus" meant "the sun," rests upon the weak authorities of Plutarch and Ctesias, and has been disproved by Sir H. Rawlinson ('Cuneiform Inscriptions,' vol. 2, p. 112). That it was an old titular name of all the Persian kings is directly contrary to the evidence. Out of fourteen Achaemenian kings, two only bore the name; and they bore it as their one and only personal appellation. It was also borne by an Achaemenian prince who had no other name. It is as purely a proper name as Cambyses, or Xerxes, or Darius. The theory of Dean Plumptre ('Biblical Studies,' p. 195) must therefore be set aside as untenable, and we must face the fact that the great Cyrus, who reigned from B.C. 559 to B.C. 529, is mentioned in prophecies attributed to a writer whose death cannot be placed much later than B.C. 700. The name which the Greeks expressed by Κύρος and the Romans by "Cyrus," is in the original Persian Kurush, in the old Babylonian Kuras, and in the Hebrew Koresh. He is my shepherd; i.e. not a mere ordinary king, who was often called "the shepherd of his people (ποιμὴν λαῶν)," but "my shepherd" - the shepherd of my people, who will tend them and care for them. And shall perform (literally, accomplish) all my pleasure. Cyrus is said by Josephus to have had ibis prophecy pointed out to him on his conquest of Babylon, and to have thereupon determined to fulfil what was written ('Ant. Jud.,' 12:1, § 2). His edict, reported by Ezra (Ezra 1:2-4), contained a statement that "Jehovah had charged him to build him a house at Jerusalem." It is difficult to see any sufficient political object for his restoration of the Jews to their country. Thou shalt be built; rather, it shall be built. Thy foundation shall be laid; literally, it shall be founded. The decree of Cyrus found by Darius at Ecbatana required that "the foundations of the house should be strongly laid" (Ezra 6:3), and prescribed its dimensions and materials. (On the actual laying of the foundations, see Ezra 3:8-13.)

Isaiah 44:28The promise takes a new turn here, acquiring greater and greater speciality. It is introduced as the word of Jehovah, who first gave existence to Israel, and has not let it go to ruin. "Thus saith Jehovah, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I Jehovah am He that accomplisheth all; who stretched out the heavens alone, spread out the earth by Himself; who bringeth to nought the signs of the prophets of lies, and exposeth the soothsayers as raging mad; who turneth back the wise men, and maketh their science folly; who realizeth the word of His servant, and accomplisheth the prediction of His messengers; who saith to Jerusalem, She shall be inhabited! and to the cities of Judah, They shall be built, and their ruins I raise up again! who saith to the whirlpool, Dry up; and I dry its streams! who saith to Koresh, My shepherd and he will perform all my will; and will say to Jerusalem, She shall be built, and the temple founded!" The prophecy which commences with Isaiah 44:24 is carried on through this group of vv. in a series of participial predicates to אנכי (I) Jehovah is ‛ōseh kōl, accomplishing all (perficiens omnia), so that there is nothing that is not traceable to His might and wisdom as the first cause. It was He who alone, without the co-operation of any other being, stretched out the heavens, who made the earth into a wide plain by Himself, i.e., so that it proceeded from Himself alone: מאתּי, as in Joshua 11:20 (compare מני, Isaiah 30:1; and mimmennı̄ in Hosea 8:4), chethib אתּי מי, "who was with me," or "who is it beside me?" The Targum follows the keri; the Septuagint the chethib, attaching it to the following words, τίς ἕτερος διασκεδάσει. Isaiah 44:25 passes on from Him whom creation proves to be God, to Him who is proving Himself to be so in history also, and that with obvious reference to the Chaldean soothsayers and wise men (Isaiah 47:9-10), who held out to proud Babylon the most splendid and hopeful prognostics. "Who brings to nought (mēphēr, opp. mēqı̄m) the signs," i.e., the marvellous proofs of their divine mission which the false prophets adduced by means of fraud and witchcraft. The lxx render baddı̄m, ἐγγαστριμύθων, Targ. bı̄dı̄n (in other passages equals 'ōb, Leviticus 20:27; 'ōbōth, Leviticus 19:31; hence equals πύθων πύθωνες). At Isaiah 16:6 and Job 11:3 we have derived it as a common noun from בּדה equals בּטא, to speak at random; but it is possible that בּדה may originally have signified to produce or bring forth, without any reference to βαττολογεῖν, then to invent, to fabricate, so that baddı̄m as a personal name (as in Jeremiah 50:36) would be synonymous with baddâ'ı̄m, mendaces. On qōsemı̄m, see Isaiah 3:2; on yehōlēl, (Job 12:17, where it occurs in connection with a similar predicative description of God according to His works.

In Isaiah 44:26 a contrast is draw between the heathen soothsayers and wise men, and the servant and messengers of Jehovah, whose word, whose ‛ētsâh, i.e., determination or disclosure concerning the future (cf., yâ‛ats, Isaiah 41:28), he realizes and perfectly fulfils. By "his servant" we are to understand Israel itself, according to Isaiah 42:19, but only relatively, namely, as the bearer of the prophetic word, and therefore as the kernel of Israel regarded from the standpoint of the prophetic mission which it performed; and consequently "his messengers" are the prophets of Jehovah who were called out of Israel. The singular "his servant" is expanded in "his messenger" into the plurality embraced in the one idea. This is far more probable than that the author of these prophetic words, who only speaks of himself in a roundabout manner even in Isaiah 40:6, should here refer directly to himself (according to Isaiah 20:3). In Isaiah 44:26 the predicates become special prophecies, and hence their outward limits are also defined. As we have תּוּשׁב and not תּוּשׁבי, we must adopt the rendering habitetur and oedificentur, with which the continuation of the latter et vastata ejus erigam agrees. In Isaiah 44:27 the prophecy moves back from the restoration of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah to the conquest of Babylon. The expression calls to mind the drying up of the Red Sea (Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 43:16); but here it relates to something future, according to Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 50:2 -namely, to the drying up of the Euphrates, which Cyrus turned into the enlarged basin of Sepharvaim, so that the water sank to the depth of a single foot, and men could "go through on foot" (Herod. i. 191). But in the complex view of the prophet, the possibility of the conqueror's crossing involved the possibility or the exiles' departing from the prison of the imperial city, which was surrounded by a natural and artificial line of waters (Isaiah 11:15). צוּלה (from צוּל equals צלל, to whiz or whirl) refers to the Euphrates, just as metsūlâh in Job 41:23; Zechariah 10:11, does to the Nile; נתרריה is used in the same sense as the Homeric ̓Ωοκεάνοιο ῥέεθρα. In Isaiah 44:28 the special character of the promise reaches its highest shoot. The deliverer of Israel is mentioned by name: "That saith to Koresh, My shepherd (i.e., a ποιμὴν λαῶν appointed by me), and he who performs all my will" (chēphets, θέλημα, not in the generalized sense of πρᾶγμα), and that inasmuch as he (Cyrus) saith to (or of) Jerusalem, It shall be built (tibbâneh, not the second pers. tibbânı̄), and the foundation of the temple laid (hēkhâl a masculine elsewhere, here a feminine). This is the passage which is said by Josephus to have induced Cyrus to send back the Jews to their native land: "Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written" (Jos. Ant. xi. 2). According to Ctesias and others, the name of Cyrus signifies the sun.But all that can really be affirmed is, that it sounds like the name of the sun. For in Neo-Pers. the sun is called char, in Zendic hvarĕ (karĕ), and from this proper names are formed, such as chars'ı̂d (Sunshine, also the Sun); but Cyrus is called Kuru or Khuru upon the monuments, and this cannot possibly be connected with our chur, which would be uwara in Old Persian (Rawlinson, Lassen, Spiegel), and Kōresh is simply the name of Kuru (Κῦρ-ος) Hebraized after the manner of a segholate. There is a marble-block, for example, in the Murghab valley, not far from the mausoleum of Cyrus, which contained the golden coffin with the body of the king (see Strabo, xv 3, 7); and on this we find an inscription that we also meet with elsewhere, viz., adam. k'ur'us.khsâya thiya.hakhâmanisiya, i.e., I am Kuru the king of the Achaemenides.

(Note: See the engraving of this tomb of Cyrus, which is now called the "Tomb of Solomon's mother," in Vaux's Nineveh and Persepolis (p. 345). On the identity of Murghb and Pasargadae, see Spiegel, Keil-inschriften, pp. 71, 72; and with regard to the discovery of inscriptions that may still be expected around the tomb of Cyrus, the Journal of the Asiatic Society, x. 46, note 4 (also compare Spiegel's Geschichte der Entzifferung der Keil-schrift, im "Ausland," 1865, p. 413).)

This name is identical with the name of the river Kur (Κῦρ-ος); and what Strabo says is worthy of notice - namely, that "there is also a river called Cyrus, which flows through the so-called cave of Persis near Pasargadae, and whence the king took his name, changing it from Agradates into Cyrus" (Strab. xv 3, 6). It is possible also that there may be some connection between the name and the Indian princely title of Kuru.

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