Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, 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;
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].
I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
2. crooked … straight—(Isa 40:4), rather, "maketh mountains plain" [Lowth], that is, clear out of thy way all opposing persons and things. The Keri reads as in Isa 45:13, "make straight" (Margin).
gates of brass—(Ps 107:16). Herodotus (1.179) says, Babylon had a hundred massive gates, twenty-five on each of the four sides of the city, all, as well as their posts, of brass.
bars of iron—with which the gates were fastened.
And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
3. treasures of darkness—that is, hidden in subterranean places; a common Oriental practice. Sorcerers pretended to be able to show where such treasures were to be found; in opposition to their pretensions, God says, He will really give hidden treasures to Cyrus (Jer 50:37; 51:13). Pliny (Natural History,, 33:3) says that Cyrus obtained from the conquest of Asia thirty-four thousand pounds weight of gold, besides golden vases, and five hundred thousand talents of silver, and the goblet of Semiramis, weighing fifteen talents.
that thou mayest know—namely, not merely that He was "the God of Israel," but that He was Jehovah, the true God. Ezr 1:1, 2 shows that the correspondence of the event with the prediction had the desired effect on Cyrus.
which call … thy name—so long before designate thee by name (Isa 43:1).
For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
4. (See on Isa 41:8; Isa 43:14).
surnamed—that is, designated to carry out My design of restoring Judah (see on Isa 44:5; Isa 44:28; Isa 45:1). Maurer here, as in Isa 44:5, translates, "I have addressed thee by an honorable name."
hast not known me—previous to My calling thee to this office; after God's call, Cyrus did know Him in some degree (Ezr 1:1-3).
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
5. (Isa 42:8; 43:3, 11; 44:8; 46:9).
girded thee—whereas "I will loose (the girdle off) the loins of kings" (Isa 45:1), strengthening thee, but enfeebling them before thee.
though … not known me—(Isa 45:4). God knows His elect before they are made to know Him (Ga 4:9; Joh 15:16).
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
6. From the rising to the setting of the sun, that is, from east to west, the whole habitable world. It is not said, "from north to south," for that would not imply the habitable world, as, "from east to west" does (Ezr 1:1, &c.). The conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon, the capital of the world, and the overthrow of Babylon and restoration of the Jews by Cyrus, who expressly acknowledged himself to be but the instrument in God's hands, were admirably suited to secure, throughout the world, the acknowledgment of Jehovah as the only true God.
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
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).
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.
8. Drop—namely, the fertilizing rain (Ps 65:12).
skies—clouds; lower than the "heavens."
righteousness—that is, the dews of the Holy Spirit, whereby "righteousness" shall "spring up." (See latter end of the verse).
earth—figuratively for the hearts of men on it, opened for receiving the truth by the Holy Ghost (Ac 16:14).
them—the earth and the heavens. Horsley prefers: "Let the earth open, and let salvation and justice grow forth; let it bring them forth together; I the Lord have created him" (Isa 45:13). Maurer translates, "Let all kinds of salvation (prosperity) be fruitful" (Ps 72:3, 6, 7). The revival of religion after the return from Babylon suggests to the prophet the diffusion of Messiah's Gospel, especially in days still future; hence the elevation of the language to a pitch above what is applicable to the state of religion after the return.
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
9. Anticipating the objections which the Jews might raise as to why God permitted their captivity, and when He did restore them, why He did so by a foreign prince, Cyrus, not a Jew (Isa 40:27, &c.), but mainly and ultimately, the objections about to be raised by the Jews against God's sovereign act in adopting the whole Gentile world as His spiritual Israel (Isa 45:8, referring to this catholic diffusion of the Gospel), as if it were an infringement of their nation's privileges; so Paul expressly quotes it (Ro 9:4-8, 11-21).
Let … strive—Not in the Hebrew; rather, in apposition with "him," "A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth!" A creature fragile and worthless as the fragment of an earthen vessel, among others equally so, and yet presuming to strive with his Maker! English Version implies, it is appropriate for man to strive with man, in opposition to 2Ti 2:24 [Gesenius].
thy … He—shall thy work say of thee, He … ?
Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
10. If it be wrong for a child, born in less favorable circumstances, to upbraid his parents with having given him birth, a fortiori, it is, to upbraid God for His dealings with us. Rather translate, "a father … a woman." The Jews considered themselves exclusively God's children and were angry that God should adopt the Gentiles besides. Woe to him who says to one already a father, Why dost thou beget other children? [Horsley].
Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.
11. Ask … command—Instead of striving with Me in regard to My purposes, your wisdom is in prayer to ask, and even command Me, in so far as it is for My glory, and for your real good (Mr 11:24; Joh 16:23, 13, latter part of the verse; 1Jo 3:22).
sons—(Isa 54:13; Ga 3:26).
work of my hands—spiritually (Eph 2:10); also literal Israel (Isa 60:21). Maurer translates, instead of "command," Leave it to Me, in My dealings concerning My sons and concerning the work of My hands, to do what I will with My own. Lowth reads it interrogatively, Do ye presume to question Me and dictate to Me (see Isa 45:9, 10)? The same sense is given, if the words be taken in irony. But English Version is best.
I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
12. The same argument for prayer, drawn from God's omnipotence and consequent power, to grant any request, occurs in Isa 40:26-31.
I, even my hands—so Hebrew (Ps 41:2), "Thou … thy hand" (both nominatives, in apposition).
I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.
13. him—Cyrus, type of Messiah, who redeems the captives of Satan "without money and without price" (Isa 55:1), "freely" (gratuitously) (Isa 52:3; 61:1; Zec 9:11; Ro 3:24).
in righteousness—to fulfil My righteous purpose (see on Isa 41:2; Isa 42:6; Jer 23:6).
Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.
14. The language but cursorily alludes to Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, being given to Cyrus as a ransom in lieu of Israel whom he restored (Isa 43:3), but mainly and fully describes the gathering in of the Gentiles to Israel (Ac 2:10, 11; 8:27-38), especially at Israel's future restoration (Isa 2:2; 14:1, 2; 19:18-22; 60:3-14; 49:23; Ps 68:31; 72:10, 11).
labour—wealth acquired by labor (Jer 3:24).
Sabeans … of stature—the men of Meroe, in Upper Egypt. Herodotus (3.30) calls the Ethiopians "the tallest of men" (see on Isa 18:2; 1Ch 11:23).
thee—Jerusalem ("my city," Isa 45:13).
in chains—(Ps 149:8). "The saints shall judge the world" (1Co 6:2) and "rule the nations with a rod of iron" (Zec 14:12-19; Re 2:26, 27). The "chains," in the case of the obedient, shall be the easy yoke of Messiah; as "the sword of the Spirit" also is saving to the believer, condemnatory to the unbeliever (Joh 12:48; Heb 4:12; Re 19:15).
God is in thee—(Jer 3:19).
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
15. God that hidest thyself—Horsley, after Jerome, explains this as the confession of Egypt, &c., that God is concealed in human form in the person of Jesus. Rather, connected with Isa 45:9, 10, the prophet, contemplating the wonderful issue of the seemingly dark counsels of God, implies a censure on those who presume to question God's dealings (Isa 55:8, 9; De 29:29). Faith still discerns, even under the veil, the covenant-keeping "God of Israel, the Saviour" (Isa 8:17).
They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
16. ashamed—"disappointed" in their expectation of help from their idols (see on Isa 42:17; Psalm 97. 7).
But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
17. in the Lord—(Isa 45:24, 25), contrasted with the idols which cannot give even temporary help (Isa 45:16); in Jehovah there is everlasting salvation (Isa 26:4).
not … ashamed—opposed to the doom of the idolaters, who, in the hour of need, shall be "ashamed" (see on Isa 45:16).
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
18. (See on Isa 45:12).
not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited—Therefore, Judah, lying waste during the Babylonish captivity, shall be peopled again by the exiles. The Jews, from this passage, infer that, after the resurrection, the earth shall be inhabited, for there can be no reason why the earth should then exist in vain any more than now (2Pe 3:13).
I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
19. not … secret—not like the heathen oracles which gave their responses from dark caverns, with studied obscurity (Isa 48:16). Christ plainly quotes these words, thereby identifying Himself with Jehovah (Joh 18:20).
I said not … Seek … in vain—When I commanded you to seek Me (Jehovah did so, Isa 45:11, "Ask Me," &c.), it was not in order that ye might be sent empty away (De 32:47). Especially in Israel's time of trial, God's interposition, in behalf of Zion hereafter, is expressly stated as about to be the answer to prayer (Isa 62:6, 7-10; Ps 102:13-17, 19-21). So in the case of all believers, the spiritual Israel.
righteousness—that which is veracious: not in the equivocal terms of heathen responses, fitly symbolized by the "dark places" from which they were uttered.
right—true (see on Isa 41:26).
Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
20. escaped of the nations—those of the nations who shall have escaped the slaughter inflicted by Cyrus. Now, at last, ye shall see the folly of "praying to a god that cannot save" (Isa 45:16). Ultimately, those that shall be "left of all the nations which shall come against Jerusalem" are meant (Zec 14:16). They shall then all be converted to the Lord (Isa 66:23, 24; Jer 3:17; Zec 8:20-23).
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
21. Challenge the worshippers of idols (Isa 41:1).
take counsel together—as to the best arguments wherewith to defend the cause of idolatry.
who … from that time—(Isa 41:22, 23; see on Isa 44:8). Which of the idols has done what God hath, namely, foretold, primarily as to Cyrus; ultimately as to the final restoration of Israel hereafter? The idolatry of Israel before Cyrus' time will have its counterpart in the Antichrist and the apostasy, which shall precede Christ's manifestation.
just … and … Saviour—righteous in keeping His promises, and therefore a Saviour to His people. Not only is it not inconsistent with, but it is the result of, His righteousness, or justice, that He should save His redeemed (Isa 42:6, 21; Ps 85:10, 11; Ro 3:26).
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
22. Look … and be ye saved—The second imperative expresses the result which will follow obedience to the first (Ge 42:18); ye shall be saved (Joh 3:14, 15). Nu 21:9: "If a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived." What so simple as a look? Not do something, but look to the Saviour (Ac 16:30, 31). Believers look by faith, the eye of the soul. The look is that of one turning (see Margin) to God, as at once "Just and the Saviour" (Isa 45:21), that is, the look of conversion (Ps 22:27).
I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
23. sworn by myself—equivalent to, "As I live," as Ro 14:11 quotes it. So Nu 14:21. God could swear by no greater, therefore He swears by Himself (Heb 6:13, 16).
word … in righteousness—rather, "the truth (see on Isa 45:19) is gone forth from My mouth, the word (of promise), and it shall not return (that is, which shall not be revoked)" [Lowth]. But the accents favor English Version.
tongue … swear—namely, an oath of allegiance to God as their true King (see on Isa 19:18; Isa 65:16). Yet to be fulfilled (Zec 14:9).
Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
24. Rather, "Only in Jehovah shall men say of me (this clause is parenthetical), is there righteousness" (which includes salvation, Isa 45:21, "a just God and a Saviour," Isa 46:13), &c. [Maurer].
strength—namely, to save.
shall men come—Those who have set themselves up against God shall come to Him in penitence for the past (Isa 19:22).
ashamed—(Isa 45:16; Isa 54:17; 41:11).
In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
25. all … Israel—the spiritual Israel (Ro 2:29) and the literal Israel, that is, the final remnant which shall all be saved (Isa 45:17; Ro 11:26).
justified—treated as if they were just, through Christ's righteousness and death (Jer 23:5).
glory—literally, "sing" in His praise (Jer 9:24; 1Co 1:31).