Isaiah 45:7 Commentaries: The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.
Isaiah 45:7
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) I make peace, and create evil . . .—The words have no bearing on the insoluble problem of what we call the origin of evil. “Evil,” as opposed to “peace” or prosperity, is suffering, but not sin; normally, in the Divine counsels, at once the consequence and corrective of moral evil (comp. Isaiah 47:11; Isaiah 57:1.)

Isaiah 45:7. I form the light, and create darkness, &c. — All men’s comforts and calamities come from my hand. “It was the great principle of the Magian religion, which prevailed in Persia in the time of Cyrus, and in which probably he was educated, that there are two supreme, coeternal, and independent causes, always acting in opposition one to the other; one, the author of all good, the other, of all evil; the good being they called Light; the evil being Darkness; that, when Light had the ascendant, then good and happiness prevailed among men; when Darkness had the superiority, then evil and misery abounded. All opinion that contradicts the clearest evidence of our reason, which plainly leads us to the acknowledgment of one only Supreme Being, infinitely good as well as powerful. With reference to this absurd opinion, held probably by the person to whom this prophecy is addressed, God, by his prophet, in the most significant terms, asserts his omnipotence and absolute supremacy. I am JEHOVAH, and none else; forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil; I JEHOVAH am the author of all these things.” Declaring that there is no power, either of light or darkness, of good or evil, of happiness or misery, independent of the one supreme God, infinite in power and in goodness. — Bishop Lowth.45:5-10 There is no God beside Jehovah. There is nothing done without him. He makes peace, put here for all good; and creates evil, not the evil of sin, but the evil of punishment. He is the Author of all that is true, holy, good, or happy; and evil, error, and misery, came into the world by his permission, through the wilful apostacy of his creatures, but are restrained and overruled to his righteous purpose. This doctrine is applied, for the comfort of those that earnestly longed, yet quietly waited, for the redemption of Israel. The redemption of sinners by the Son of God, and the pouring out the Spirit, to give success to the gospel, are chiefly here intended. We must not expect salvation without righteousness; together the Lord hath created them. Let not oppressors oppose God's designs for his people. Let not the poor oppressed murmur, as if God dealt unkindly with them. Men are but earthen pots; they are broken potsherds, and are very much made so by mutual contentions. To contend with Him is as senseless as for clay to find fault with the potter. Let us turn God's promises into prayers, beseeching him that salvation may abound among us, and let us rest assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right.I form the light, and create darkness - Light, in the Bible, is the emblem of knowledge, innocence, pure religion, and of prosperity in general; and darkness is the emblem of the opposite. Light here seems to be the emblem of peace and prosperity, and darkness the emblem of adversity; and the sentiment of the verse is, that all things prosperous and adverse are under the providential control and direction of God. Of light, it is literally true that God made it; and emblematically true that he is the source of knowledge, prosperity, happiness, and pure religion. Of darkness, it is literally true also that the night is formed by him; that he withdraws the light of the sun, and leaves the earth enveloped in gloomy shades. It is emblematically true also that calamity, ignorance, disappointment, and want of success are ordered by him; and not less true that all the moral darkness, or evil, that prevails on earth, is under the direction and ordering of his Providence. There is no reason to think, however, that the words 'darkness' and 'evil' are to be understood as referring to moral darkness; that is, sin.

A strict regard should be had to the connection in the interpretation of such passages; and the connection here does not demand such an interpretation. The main subject is, the prosperity which would attend the arms of Cyrus, the consequent reverses and calamities of the nations whom he would subdue, and the proof thence furnished that Yahweh was the true God; and the passage should be limited in the interpretation to this design. The statement is, that all this was under his direction. It was not the work of chance or hap-hazard. It was not accomplished or caused by idols. It was not originated by any inferior or subordinate cause. It was to be traced entirely to God. The successes of arms, and the blessings of peace were to be traced to him; and the reverses of arms, and the calamities of war to him also. This is all that the connection of the passage demands; and this is in accordance with the interpretation of Kimchi, Jerome, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Calvin, and Grotius. The comment of Grotius is, 'Giving safety to the people, as the Persians; sending calamities upon the people, as upon the Medes and Babylonians.' Lowth, Jerome, Vitringa, Jahn, and some others, suppose that there is reference here to the prevalent doctrine among the Persians, and the followers of the Magian religion in general, which prevailed all over the East, and in which Cyrus was probably educated, that there are two supreme, independent, co-existent and eternal causes always acting in opposition to each other - the one the author of all good, and the other of all evil; and that these principles or causes are constantly struggling with each other.

The good being or principle, they call light; and the evil, darkness; the one, Oromasden, and the other Ahrimanen. It was further the doctrine of the Magians that when the good principle had the ascendency, happiness prevailed; and when the evil principle prevailed, misery abounded. Lowth supposes, that God here means to assert his complete and absolute superiority over all other things or principles; and that all those powers whom the Persians supposed to be the original authors of good and evil to mankind were subordinate, and must be subject to him; and that there is no power that is not subservient to him, and under his control. That these opinions prevailed in very early times, and perhaps as early as Isaiah, there seems no good reason to doubt (Hyde, de Relig. Veter. Persar, xxii.) But there is no good evidence that Isaiah here referred to those opinions. Good and evil, prosperity and adversity, abound in the world at all times; and all that is required in order to a correct understanding of this passage is the general statement that all these things are under providential direction.

I make peace - I hush the contending passions of mankind; I dispose to peace, and prevent wars when I choose - a passage which proves that the most violent passions are under his control. No passions are more uncontrollable than those which lead to wars; and nowhere is there a more striking display of the Omnipotence of God than in his power to repress the pride, ambition, and spirit of revenge of conquerors and kings:

Which stilleth the noise of the seas,

The noise of their waves,

And the tumult of the people.

7. form … create—yatzar, to give "form" to previously existing matter. Bara, to "create" from nothing the chaotic dark material.

light … darkness—literally (Ge 1:1-3), emblematical also, prosperity to Cyrus, calamity to Babylon and the nations to be vanquished [Grotius] … Isaiah refers also to the Oriental belief in two coexistent, eternal principles, ever struggling with each other, light or good, and darkness or evil, Oromasden and Ahrimanen. God, here, in opposition, asserts His sovereignty over both [Vitringa].

create evil—not moral evil (Jas 1:13), but in contrast to "peace" in the parallel clause, war, disaster (compare Ps 65:7; Am 3:6).

All men’s comforts and calamities come from my hand. I form the light, and create darkness,.... Natural light, or that light which was produced at the first creation, and of which the sun is the fountain and source; or day which is light, and night which is darkness, the constant revolutions of which were formed, appointed, and are continued by the Lord, Genesis 1:3, moral light, or the light of nature, the rational understanding in man; spiritual light, or the light of grace, by which things spiritual and supernatural are known; the light of joy and comfort from Christ, the sun of righteousness; and the light of eternal glory and happiness: this is all from God, of his producing and giving; and so darkness is his creature; that natural darkness which was upon the face of the earth at the beginning; what arises from the absence of the sun, or is occasioned by the eclipses of it, or very black clouds; or any extraordinary darkness, such as was in Egypt; or deprivation of sight, blindness in men; and, in a figurative sense, ignorance and darkness that follow upon sin; judicial blindness, God gives men up and leaves them to; temporal afflictions and distresses, and everlasting punishment, which is blackness of darkness:

I make peace, and create evil; peace between God and men is made by Christ, who is God over all; spiritual peace of conscience comes from God, through Christ, by the Spirit; eternal glory and happiness is of God, which saints enter into at death; peace among the saints themselves here, and with the men of the world; peace in churches, and in the world, God is the author of, even of all prosperity of every kind, which this word includes: "evil" is also from him; not the evil of sin; this is not to be found among the creatures God made; this is of men, though suffered by the Lord, and overruled by him for good: but the evil of punishment for sin, God's sore judgments, famine, pestilence, evil beasts, and the sword, or war, which latter may more especially be intended, as it is opposed to peace; this usually is the effect of sin; may be sometimes lawfully engaged in; whether on a good or bad foundation is permitted by God; moreover, all afflictions, adversities, and calamities, come under this name, and are of God; see Job 2:10,

I the Lord do all these things; and therefore must be the true God, and the one and only one. Kimchi, from Saadiah Gaon, observes, that this is said against those that assert two gods, the one good, and the other evil; whereas the Lord is the Maker of good and evil, and therefore must be above all; and it is worthy of observation, that the Persian Magi, before Zoroastres (m), held two first causes, the one light, or the good god, the author of all good; and the other darkness, or the evil god, the author of all evil; the one they called Oromazes, the other Arimanius; and, as Dr. Prideaux (n) observes,

"these words are directed to Cyrus king of Persia, and must be understood as spoken in reference to the Persian sect of the Magians; who then held light and darkness, or good and evil, to be the supreme Beings, without acknowledging the great God as superior to both;''

and which these words show; for Zoroastres, who reformed them in this first principle of their religion, was after Isaiah's time.

(m) Vid. Pocock. Specimen Arab. Hist. p. 147, 148. (n) Connexion, part 1. p. 215.

I form the {h} light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

(h) I send peace and war, prosperity and adversity, as in Am 3:6.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. It has been very generally supposed that the expressions of this verse cover a polemic against the Zoroastrian dualism, with its eternal antagonism between Ahuramazda, the god of light and of goodness, and Ahriman, the god of darkness and evil. The prophet’s language, however, is perfectly general, and it is hardly probable that he would have contented himself with a vague allusion to so important a controversy. And apart from the question whether Cyrus was a Zoroastrian in religion, it is doubtful whether a sharply formulated dualism was a prominent feature of Persian religion in his time. It is more likely therefore that the only dualism here referred to is the dualism latent in every polytheistic system, viz., the ascription of good and evil events to different classes of deities. The context shews that the writer is thinking of the effect of Jehovah’s victory, not specially on Cyrus, but upon men in general; and the truth he asserts is simply that Jehovah as the only God is the disposer of all events, good and evil alike.

and create evil] i.e. not moral evil, but physical evil, calamity. Cf. Amos 3:6, “shall evil befall a city and Jehovah hath not done it?” The prophet’s words are startlingly bold, but they do not go beyond the common O. T. doctrine on the subject, which is free from the speculative difficulties that readily suggest themselves to the mind of a modern reader. There is no thought in the O.T. of reducing all evil, moral and physical, to a single principle. Moral evil proceeds from the will of man, physical evil from the will of God, who sends it as the punishment of sin. The expression “create evil” implies nothing more than that. It is true (as we see from the Book of Job &c.) that the indiscriminateness of physical calamities had begun to cause perplexity in the age to which the prophecy belongs. But the discussion of that question never shook either of the two positions, that sin originates in man, and that God is the author of calamity.Verse 7. - I form the light, and create darkness. It has been recently denied that there is any allusion in these words, or in those which follow, to the Zoroastrian tenets; and it has even been asserted that the religion of the early Achaemenian kings was free from the taint of dualism. But according to some authorities, "a god of lies" is mentioned in the Behistun inscription; and the evidence is exceedingly strong that dualism was an essential part of the Zoroastrian religion long before the time of Cyrus (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. pp. 332, 333, 2nd edit.). It is quite reasonable to suppose that Isaiah would be acquainted with the belief of the Persians and Medes, who had come in contact with the Assyrians as early as B.C.. 830; and a warning against the chief error of their religion would be quite in place when he was holding up Cyrus to his countrymen as entitled to their respect and veneration. The nexus of the words, "I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness," is such as naturally to suggest an intended antagonism to the Zoroastrian system. Under that, Ormuzd created "light" and "peace," Ahriman "darkness" and "evil." The two were eternal adversaries, engaged in an inter-ruinable contest. Ormuzd, it is true, claimed the undivided allegiance of mankind, since he was their maker; but Ahriman was a great power, terribly formidable - perhaps a god (diva) - certainly the chief of the devas. It was from Zoroastrianism that Manicheism derived its doctrine of the two principles, and to the same source may, with much probability, be traced the "devil-worshippers" of the Zagros mountain chain. The first strophe of the first half of this sixth prophecy (Isaiah 44:24.), the subject of which is Cyrus, the predicted restorer of Jerusalem, of the cities of Judah, and of the temple, is now followed by a second strophe (Isaiah 45:1-8), having for its subject Cyrus, the man through whose irresistible career of conquest the heathen would be brought to recognise the power of Jehovah, so that heavenly blessings would come down upon the earth. The naming of the great shepherd of the nations, and the address of him, are continued in Isaiah 45:1-3 : "Thus saith Jehovah to His anointed, to Koresh, whom I have taken by his right hand to subdue nations before him; and the loins of kings I ungird, to open before him doors and gates, that they may not continue shut. I shall go before thee, and level what is heaped up: gates of brass shall I break in pieces, and bolts of iron shall I smite to the ground. And I shall give thee treasures of darkness, and jewels of hidden places, that thou mayest know that I Jehovah am He who called out thy name, (even) the God of Israel." The words addressed to Cyrus by Jehovah commence in Isaiah 45:2, but promises applying to him force themselves into the introduction, being evoked by the mention of his name. He is the only king of the Gentiles whom Jehovah ever meshı̄chı̄ (my anointed; lxx τῷ χριστῷ μου). The fundamental principle of the politics of the empire of the world was all-absorbing selfishness. But the politics of Cyrus were pervaded by purer motives, and this brought him eternal honour. The very same thing which the spirit of Darius, the father of Xerxes, is represented as saying of him in the Persae of Aeschylus (v. 735), Θεὸς γὰρ οὐκ ἤχθησεν ὡς εὔφρων ἔφυ (for he was not hateful to God, because he was well-disposed), is here said by the Spirit of revelation, which by no means regards the virtues of the heathen as splendida vitia. Jehovah has taken him by his right hand, to accomplish great things through him while supporting him thus. (On the inf. rad for rōd, from râdad, to tread down, see Ges. 67, Anm. 3.) The dual delâthaim has also a plural force: "double doors" (fores) in great number, viz., those of palaces. After the two infinitives, the verb passes into the finite tense: "loins of kings I ungird" (discingo; pittēăch, which refers primarily to the loosening of a fastened garment, is equivalent to depriving of strength). The gates - namely, those of the cities which he storms - will not be shut, sc. in perpetuity, that is to say, they will have to open to him. Jerome refers here to the account given of the elder Cyrus in Xenophon's Cyropaedia. A general picture may no doubt be obtained from this of his success in war; but particular statements need support from other quarters, since it is only a historical romance. Instead of אושׁר (אושׁר)? in Isaiah 45:2, the keri has אישּׁר; just as in Psalm 5:9 it has הישׁר instead of הושׁר. A hiphil הושׁיר cannot really be shown to have existed, and the abbreviated future form עושׁר would be altogether without ground or object here. הדּורים (tumida; like נעיימם, amaena, and others) is meant to refer to the difficulties piled up in the conqueror's way. The "gates of brass' (nedhūshâh, brazen, poetical for nechōsheth, brass, as in the derivative passage, Psalm 107:16) and "bolts of iron" remind one more especially of Babylon with its hundred "brazen gates," the very posts and lintels of which were also of brass (Herod. i. 179); and the treasures laid up in deep darkness and jewels preserved in hiding-places, of the riches of Babylon (Jeremiah 50:37; Jeremiah 51:13), and especially of those of the Lydian Sardes, "the richest city of Asia after Babylon" (Cyrop. vii. 2, 11), which Cyrus conquered first. On the treasures which Cyrus acquired through his conquests, and to which allusion is made in the Persae of Aeschylus, v. 327 ("O Persian, land and harbour of many riches thou"), see Plin. h. n. xxxiii. 2. Brerewood estimates the quantity of gold and silver mentioned there as captured by him at no less than 126,224,000 sterling. And all this success is given to him by Jehovah, that he may know that it is Jehovah the God of Israel who has called out with his name, i.e., called out his name, or called him to be what he is, and as what he shows himself to be.
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