Isaiah 45:1
Thus said the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XLV.

(1) To his anointed . . .—The name is none other than the Messiah, the Christ, with which we are familiar, here and here only applied to a heathen king. It has to be remembered that the words had not yet received the special application given to it in Daniel 9:26, and had been used of the theocratic kings, of Saul (1Samuel 26:9; 1Samuel 26:11; 1Samuel 26:16), of the house of David (2Samuel 22:51; 2Samuel 23:1), and of the patriarch Abraham (Psalm 105:15). What is meant, therefore, is that Cyrus, the future deliverer, would be as truly a king “by the grace of God” as David had been, not only, like Nebuchadnezzar, “a servant of Jehovah” (Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10), but “fulfilling all his pleasure,” whom He grasps by the right hand and guides.

I will loose the loins.—Literally, I will ungird, either as a general symbol of weakening, or specifically for disarming, the sword being suspended from the girdle. The “two-leaved gates” are those of kingly palaces; the gates,” those of cities, which will have to open to him. The words here, and in the next verse, may have been used with a special reference to the “hundred brazen gates” of Babylon (Herod. i. 179).

Isaiah 45:1. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, &c. — Cyrus is called the Lord’s anointed, a title usually given to the kings of the Jews, who were God’s immediate deputies, not because material oil had been poured upon him when he was made king, as was the case with most of them, but because he was raised up, and ordained by the divine counsel, to perform God’s good pleasure, and furnished for that purpose with the necessary endowments; among which must be reckoned “his singular justice, his reverence toward the divine nature, his prudence, fortitude, and distinguished clemency and humanity:” to all which, and many other of his excellent qualities, his historian, Xenophon, bears testimony. Whose right hand I have holden — Or strengthened as החזקתיmay be properly rendered; whom I will powerfully assist, teaching his hands to war, as the phrase is Psalm 18:34, supporting and directing his right hand, and enabling him to surmount all difficulties, and to overcome all opposition. To subdue nations before him — The nations conquered by him, according to Xenophon, were “the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, the Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, Phœnicians, Babylonians. He moreover reigned over the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, the Sacæ, Paphlagones, and Mariandyni.” All these kingdoms he acknowledges, in his decree for the restoration of the Jews, to have been given him by Jehovah, the God of heaven, Ezra 1:2. And I will loose the loins of kings — I will weaken them, and render them unprepared and unable to oppose Cyrus. “The eastern people, wearing long and loose garments, were unfit for action or business of any kind, without girding their clothes about them: when their business was finished, they took off their girdles. A girdle, therefore, denotes strength and activity; and to unloose the girdle is to deprive of strength, to render unfit for action.” To open before him the two-leaved gates — “The gates of Babylon, within the city, leading from the streets to the river, were providentially left open in the night when Cyrus’s forces entered the city through the channel of the river, in the general disorder occasioned by the great feast which was then celebrated: otherwise, says Herodotus, the Persians would have been shut up in the bed of the river, and taken as in a net, and all destroyed. And the gates of the palace were opened imprudently by the king’s orders, to inquire what was the cause of the tumult without, when two parties of Medes and Persians rushed in, got possession of the palace, and slew the king.” See Xenoph. Cyrop., 7. p. 528; and Bishop Lowth.45:1-4 Cyrus is called God's anointed; he was designed and qualified for his great service by the counsel of God. The gates of Babylon which led to the river, were left open the night that Cyrus marched his army into the empty channel. The Lord went before him, giving entrance to the cities he besieged. He gave him also treasures, which had been hidden in secret places. The true God was to Cyrus an unknown God; yet God foreknew him; he called him by his name. The exact fulfilment of this must have shown Cyrus that Jehovah was the only true God, and that it was for the sake of Israel that he was prospered. In all the changes of states and kingdoms, God works out the good of his church.Thus saith the Lord to his anointed - This is a direct apostrophe to Cyrus, though it was uttered not less than one hundred and fifty years before Babylon was taken by him. The word 'anointed' is that which is usually rendered "Messiah" (משׁיח mâshı̂yach), and here is rendered by the Septuagint, Τῷ χριστῷ μου Κύρῳ Tō christō mou Kurō - 'To Cyrus, my Christ,' i. e, my anointed. It properly means "the anointed," and was a title which was commonly given to the kings of Israel, because they were set apart to their office by the ceremony of anointing, who hence were called οι χρυστοὶ Κυρίου hoi christoi Kuriou - 'The anointed of the Lord' 1 Samuel 2:10, 1 Samuel 2:35; 1 Samuel 12:3, 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 24:7, 1 Samuel 24:11; 1 Samuel 26:9, 1 Samuel 26:11, 1 Samuel 26:23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 2 Samuel 1:16; 2 Samuel 19:22-23. There is no evidence that the Persian kings were inaugurated or consecrated by oil, but this is an appellation which was common among the Jews, and is applied to Cyrus in accordance with their usual mode of designating kings. It means here that God had solemnly set apart Cyrus to perform an important public service in his cause. It does not mean that Cyrus was a man of piety, or a worshipper of the true God, of which there is no certain evidence, but that his appointment as king was owing to the arrangement of God's providence, and that he was to be employed in accomplishing his purposes. The title does not designate holiness of character, but appointment to an office.

Whose right hand I have holden - Margin, 'Strengthened.' Lowth, 'whom I hold fast by the right hand.' The idea seems to be, that God had upheld, sustained, strengthened him as we do one who is feeble, by taking his right hand (see the notes at Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 42:6)

To subdue nations before him - For a general account of the conquests of Cyrus, see the notes at Isaiah 41:2. It may be added here, that 'besides his native subjects, the nations which Cyrus subdued, and over which he reigned, were the Cilicians, Syrians, Paphlagonians, Cappadocians, Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, Phenicians, Arabians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Bactrians, Saeae, and Maryandines. Xenophon describes his empire as extending from the Mediterranean and Egypt to the Indian Ocean, and from Ethiopia to the Euxine Sea, and conveys a physical idea of its extent by observing that the extremities were difficult to inhabit, from opposite causes - some from excess of heat, and others from excess of cold; some from a scarcity of water, and others from too great abundance.' - (Pictorial Bible.)

And I will loose the loins of kings - The ancients dressed in a large, loose, flowing robe thrown over an under-garment or tunic, which was shaped to the body. The outer robe was girded with a sash when they toiled, or labored, or went to war, or ran. Hence, 'to gird up the loins' is indicative of preparation for a journey, for labor, or for war. To unloose the girdle, or the loins, was indicative of a state of rest, repose, or feebleness; and the phrase here means that God would so order it in his providence that the kings would be unprepared to meet him, or so feeble that they would not be able to resist him (compare Job 38:3; Jeremiah 1:17). See also Job 12:21 :

He poureth contempt upon princes,

And weakeneth the strength of the mighty;

Margin, more correctly, 'Looseth the girdle of the strong.' There was a literal fulfillment of this in regard to Belshazzar, king of Babylon, when the city was taken by Cyrus. When the hand came forth on the walls of his palace, and the mysterious finger wrote his condemnation, it is said, 'Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other' Daniel 5:6. The Vulgate renders this, 'I will turn the backs of kings.'

To open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut - The folding gates of a city, or a palace. It so happened in the scene of revelry which prevailed in Babylon when Cyrus took it, that the gates within the city which led from the streets to the river were left open. The city was not only enclosed with walls, but there were walls within the city on each side of the river Euphrates with gates, by which the inhabitants had access to the water of the river. Had not these gates been left open on that occasion, contrary to the usual custom, the Persians would have been shut up in the bed of the river, and could all have been destroyed. It also happened in the revelry of that night, that the gates of the palace were left open, so that there was access to every part of the city. Herodotus (i. 191) says, 'If the besieged had been aware of the designs of Cyrus, or had discovered the project before its actual accomplishment, they might have effected the total destruction of these troops. They had only to secure the little gates which led to the river, and to have manned the embankments on either side, and they might have enclosed the Persians in a net from which they could never have escaped; as it happened they were taken by surprise; and such is the extent of that city, that, as the inhabitants themselves affirm, they who lived in the extremities were made prisoners before the alarm was communicated to the center of the palace.' None but an omniscient Being could have predicted, a hundred and fifty years before it occurred, that such an event would take place; and this is one of the many prophecies which demonstrate in the most particular manner that Isaiah was inspired.

CHAPTER 45

Isa 45:1-25. The Subject of the Deliverance by Cyrus Is Followed Up.

Isa 45:1-7. These seven verses should have been appended to previous chapter, and the new chapter should begin with Isa 45:8, "Drop down," &c. [Horsley]. Reference to the deliverance by Messiah often breaks out from amidst the local and temporary details of the deliverance from Babylon, as the great ultimate end of the prophecy.

1. his anointed—Cyrus is so called as being set apart as king, by God's providence, to fulfil His special purpose. Though kings were not anointed in Persia, the expression is applied to him in reference to the Jewish custom of setting apart kings to the regal office by anointing.

right hand … holden—image from sustaining a feeble person by holding his right hand (Isa 42:6).

subdue nations—namely, the Cilicians, Syrians, Babylonians, Lydians, Bactrians, &c.; his empire extended from Egypt and the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and from Ethiopia to the Euxine Sea.

loose … girdle loins—that is, the girdle off the loins; and so enfeeble them. The loose outer robe of the Orientals, when girt fast round the loins, was the emblem of strength and preparedness for action; ungirt, was indicative of feebleness (Job 38:3; 12:21); "weakeneth the strength of the mighty" (Margin), "looseth the girdle of the strong." The joints of (Belshazzar's) loins, we read in Da 5:6, were loosed during the siege by Cyrus, at the sight of the mysterious handwriting on the palace walls. His being taken by surprise, unaccoutred, is here foretold.

to open … gates—In the revelry in Babylon on the night of its capture, the inner gates, leading from the streets to the river, were left open; for there were walls along each side of the Euphrates with gates, which, had they been kept shut, would have hemmed the invading hosts in the bed of the river, where the Babylonians could have easily destroyed them. Also, the gates of the palace were left open, so that there was access to every part of the city; and such was its extent, that they who lived in the extremities were taken prisoners before the alarm reached the center of the palace. [Herodotus, 1.191].Cyrus’s work and strength foretold, Isaiah 45:1-4. God hath all power, Isaiah 45:5-12; will assist Cyrus, Isaiah 45:13,14. The mystery of Providence, Isaiah 45:15. Idols and their worshippers shall be destroyed, and God alone exalted, 16—21. The Gentiles come in to Christ, Isaiah 45:22-25.

His anointed, i.e. his king, whom God hath designed, and separated, and fitted, in all respects, for his work and service; in which and such-like respects divers persons are said to be anointed, who never had any material oil poured upon them, as the king of Tyrus, Ezekiel 28:14, and Christ, Isaiah 61:1, and Zerubbabel, Zechariah 4:14, and Christians, 2 Cop. 1:21 1Jo 2:27. And they are thus called by way of allusion to the practice of the Jews, whose kings were frequently anointed, 1 Samuel 10:1 16:13, &c.

I have holden, or strengthened; whom I will powerfully assist, teaching his hands to war, as the phrase is, Psalm 18:34, supporting and directing his right hand to strike home.

Nations; the Babylonians, and those other nations which were confederate with them, and fought for them, as may be gathered from Jeremiah 51:9.

I will loose the loins of kings; I will weaken them, for a man’s strength consists much in his loins, and receiveth some advantage by the girding of his loins: or, I will take away their girdle, which was about their loins, to wit, their power and authority, whereof that was an ensign, of which see on Job 12:18 Isaiah 22:21.

To open before him the two-leaved gates; the great and magnificent gates of their cities and palaces, which shall be opened to him as conqueror.

Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,.... Cyrus is called the Lord's anointed, not because he was anointed with material oil, as the kings of Israel and Judah were; but because he was appointed by the Lord to be a king, and was qualified by him for that office; and was raised up by him to be an instrument of doing great things in the world, and particularly of delivering the Jews from their captivity, and restoring them to their own land:

whose right hand I have holden; whom he raised up, supported, strengthened, guided, and directed to do what he did:

to subdue nations before him; which was accordingly done. Xenophon (y) relates, that he subdued the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, both the countries of Phrygia, the Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians, and Babylonians; also the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, the Sacae, Paphlagonians, and Megadinians; likewise the Greeks that inhabit Asia, Cyprians and Egyptians. Herodotus (z) says, that he ruled over all Asia: all which the Lord subdued under him; for it was he that did it rather than Cyrus; it was he that clothed him with strength and courage, gave him skill in military affairs, and success and victory:

I will loose the loins of kings; as Croesus king of Lydia, and Belshazzar king of Babylon, by divesting them of their dignity, power, and government; and particularly this was true of the latter, when, by the handwriting on the wall, he was thrown into a panic; "and the joints of his loins were loosed", Daniel 5:6, "to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut"; the gates of cities and palaces wherever he came, which were opened to receive him as their conqueror and sovereign; this was very remarkably true of the gates of the palace of the king of Babylon, when the army of Cyrus by a stratagem had got into the city, and were come up to the king's palace, they found the gates shut; but a clamour and noise being made, the king ordered to see what was the matter; the gates being opened for that purpose, the soldiers of Cyrus rushed in to the king, and slew him (a); but, what is more remarkable, the gates of brass, which shut up the descents from the keys to the river, were left open that night Babylon was taken, while the inhabitants were feasting and revelling; which, had they been shut (b), would have defeated the enterprise of Cyrus; but God in his providence ordered it to be so.

(y) Cyropaedia, l. 1. p. 2.((z) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 130. (a) Cyropaedia, l. 7. c. 22, 23. (b) Herodot. l. 1. c. 191.

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to {a} Cyrus, whose {b} right hand I have held, to {c} subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

(a) To assure the Jews of their deliverance against the great temptations that they would abide, he names the person and the means.

(b) Because Cyrus would execute the office of a deliverer, God called him his anointed for a time, but after another sort than he called David.

(c) To guide him in the deliverance of my people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Isaiah 45:1-7. The apostrophe to Cyrus expresses dramatically the purpose of Jehovah in raising up the Persian conqueror. The idea that the true God has made a personal revelation of Himself to the mind of Cyrus is not implied; Cyrus is to learn the religious significance of his mission from its results (Isaiah 45:3), just as mankind at large comes to understand it (Isaiah 45:6). The direct address to Cyrus (Isaiah 45:2 ff.) is prefaced in Isaiah 45:1 by a series of clauses describing his invincible career, which has already attracted the attention of the world. There is a startling resemblance between some of the expressions here used of Jehovah’s choice of Cyrus, and some of those employed by the Babylonian writer of the “Annalistic Tablet” in describing him as the favourite of Merodach. We read there that “Merodach … appointed a prince who should guide aright the wish of the heart which his hand upholds, even Cyrus …” that he “has proclaimed his title; for the sovereignty of all the world does he commemorate his name,” and that he “beheld with joy the deeds of his vicegerent, who was righteous in hand and heart,” and that “like a friend and comrade he went at his side.” (See Introduction, p. xviii.)

to his anointed, to Cyrus] The Hebr. word for “anointed” (mâshîǎḥ), when used as a substantive, is almost confined to the kings of Israel; although in later times there was a tendency to employ it in a wider sense (e.g. of the Patriarchs in Psalm 115:15, of the people in Habakkuk 3:13). Unless Psalm 2:2 be an exception it is never used in the O.T. of the future ideal king (the Messiah); hence the idea that the rôle of the Messianic king is by the prophet transferred to Cyrus is not to be entertained. The title simply designates him as one consecrated by Jehovah to be His agent and representative. This, however, is the only passage where the title is bestowed upon a foreign ruler; Nebuchadnezzar is called the “servant” of Jehovah (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10), but the more august designation of “His Anointed” is reserved for one who as the Deliverer of Israel and the instrument of the overthrow of polytheism, stands in a still closer relation to Jehovah’s purpose. Comp. “My Shepherd” in ch. Isaiah 44:28; also ch. Isaiah 46:11, Isaiah 48:14.

to subdue &c.] Render: to subdue before him nations, and to loose the loins of kings; to open before him doors, and that gates should not be shut; the infinitive construction is resolved into the finite verb. To loose (lit. “open”) is to ungird, or disarm; see 1 Kings 20:11, where the same verb forms the contrast to “gird.”Verses 1-7. - GOD'S WILL CONCERNING HIM ANNOUNCED TO CYRUS. This direct address of God to a heathen king is without a parallel in Scripture. Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Abimelech, were warned through dreams. Nebuchadnezzar was even promised Divine aid (Ezekiel 30:24, 25). But no heathen monarch had previously been personally addressed by God, much less called "his anointed," and spoken to by his name (ver. 4). Three motives are mentioned for this special favour to him:

(1) that he might acknowledge Jehovah to be the true God;

(2) that Israel might be benefited and advantaged by him;

(3) that the attention of the whole world might be attracted, and the unity of God made manifest far and wide (vers. 3-6). Verse 1. - Thus saith the Lord to his anointed. The "anointed of Jehovah" is elsewhere always either an Israelite king, or the expected Deliverer of the nation, "Messiah the Prince" (Daniel 9:25). This Deliverer, however, was to be of the line of David (Isaiah 11:1), and of the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), so that we can scarcely suppose Isaiah to have seen him in Cyrus. But he may have seen in Cyrus a type of the great Deliverer, as he saw in the release of Israel from the power of Babylon a type of their deliverance from sin. Whose right hand I have holden; rather, strengthened (comp. Ezekiel 30:24). To subdue nations before him (see above, Isaiah 41:2, and the comment ad loc.). Among the nations subdued by Cyrus may be mentioned the Medes, the Babylonians, the Lydians, the Caftans, the Caunians, the Lycians, the Bactrians, the Sacae, the Parthians, the Hyrcanians, the Chorasmians, the Sogdians, the Arians of Herat, the Zarangians, the Arachosians, the Satagydians, and the Gandarians. I will loose the loins of kings; i.e. render them weak and incapable of resistance" (comp. Daniel 5:6), net "disarm them" (Cheyne); for the chief royal weapons were the spear and the bow, neither of which was carried at the girdle. To open before him the two-leaved gates. The cities and forts repro-sented on the Assyrian monuments have invariably their gateways closed by two large gates or doors which meet in the centre of the gateway. The bronze plating found at Ballarat gave the dimensions, and showed the strength of such gates ('Transactions of the Society of Bibl. Archseol.,' vol. 7. pp. 83-88). There is already good ground, therefore, for exuberant rejoicing; and the reply of the church to these words of divine consolation is as follows: "Exult, O heavens; for Jehovah hath accomplished it: shout, ye depths of the earth; break out, ye mountains, into exulting; thou forest, and all the wood therein: for Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob, and He showeth Himself glorious upon Israel." All creation is to rejoice in the fact that Jehovah has completed what He purposed, that He has redeemed His people, and henceforth will show Himself glorious in them. The heavens on high are to exult; also the depths of the earth, i.e., not Hades, which would be opposed to the prevailing view of the Old Testament (Psalm 66, cf., Psalm 88:13), but the interior of the earth, with its caves, its pits, and its deep abysses (see Psalm 139:15); and the mountains and woods which rise up from the earth towards heaven - all are to unite in the exultation of the redeemed: for the redemption that is being accomplished in man will extend its effects in all directions, even to the utmost limits of the natural world.

This exulting finale is a safe boundary-stone of this fifth prophecy. It opened with "Thus saith the Lord," and the sixth opens with the same.

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