Isaiah 44:28
That said of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, You shall be built; and to the temple, Your 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.)

The second half of the prophecy commences with Isaiah 44:21. It opens with an admonition. "Remember this, Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art servant to me, O Israel: thou art not forgotten by me." The thing to which the former were blind - namely, that idolatry is a lie - Jacob was to have firmly impressed upon its mind. The words "and Israel," which are attached, are a contract for "and remember this, O Israel" (compare the vocatives after Vâv in Proverbs 8:5 and Joel 2:23). In the reason assigned, the tone rests upon my in the expression "my servant," and for this reason "servant to me" is used interchangeably with it. Israel is the servant of Jehovah, and as such it was formed by Jehovah; and therefore reverence was due to Him, and Him alone. The words which follow are rendered by the lxx, Targum, Jerome, and Luther as though they read לא תנשׁני, though Hitzig regards the same rendering as admissible even with the reading תנּשנּי, inasmuch as the niphal נשּׁה has the middle sense of ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι, oblivisci. But it cannot be shown that nizkar is ever used in the analogous sense of μιμνήσκεσθαι, recordari. The niphal, which was no doubt originally reflective, is always used in Hebrew to indicate simply the passive endurance of something which originated with the subject of the action referred to, so that nisshâh could only signify "to forget one's self." We must indeed admit the possibility of the meaning "to forget one's self" having passed into the meaning "to be forgetful," and this into the meaning "to forget." The Aramaean תנשׁי also signifies to be forgotten and (with an accent following) to forget, and the connection with an objective suffix has a support in ויּלּחמוּני in Psalm 109:3. But the latter is really equivalent to אתּי וילחמו, so that it may be adduced with equal propriety in support of the other rendering, according to which תּנּשׁני is equivalent to לי תנש (Ges., Umbr., Ewald, Stier). There are many examples of this brachyological use of the suffix (Ges. 121, 4), so that this rendering is certainly the safer of the two. It also suits the context quite as well as the former, "Oh, forget me not;" the assurance "thou wilt not be forgotten by me" (compare Isaiah 49:15 and the lamentation of Israel in Isaiah 40:27) being immediately followed by an announcement of the act of love, by which the declaration is most gloriously confirmed. - Isaiah 44:22 "I have blotted out thy transgressions as a mist, and thy sins as clouds: return to me; for I have redeemed thee." We have adopted the rendering "mist" merely because we have no synonym to "cloud;" we have not translated it "thick cloud," because the idea of darkness, thickness, or opacity, which is the one immediately suggested by the word, had become almost entirely lost (see Isaiah 25:5). Moreover, קל עב is evidently intended here (see Isaiah 19:1), inasmuch as the point of comparison is not the dark, heavy multitude of sins, but the facility and rapidity with which they are expunged. Whether we connect with מסהיתי the idea of a stain, as in Psalm 51:3, Psalm 51:11, or that of a debt entered in a ledge, as in Colossians 2:14, and as we explained it in Isaiah 43:25 (cf., mâchâh, Exodus 32:32-33), in any case sin is regarded as something standing between God and man, and impeding or disturbing the intercourse between them. This Jehovah clears away, just as when His wind sweeps away the clouds, and restores the blue sky again (Job 26:13). Thus does God's free grace now interpose at the very time when Israel thinks He has forgotten it, blotting out Israel's sin, and proving this by redeeming it from a state of punishment. What an evangelical sound the preaching of the Old Testament evangelist has in this passage also! Forgiveness and redemption are not offered on condition of conversion, but the mercy of God comes to Israel in direct contrast to what its works deserve, and Israel is merely called upon to reciprocate this by conversion and renewed obedience. The perfects denote that which has essentially taken place. Jehovah has blotted out Israel's sin, inasmuch as He does not impute it any more, and thus has redeemed Israel. All that yet remains is the outward manifestation of this redemption, which is already accomplished in the counsel of God.
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