THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 16: Chapters 43:14-45:8
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)

Holy and Merciful Lord,
You have called us to worship You in spirit and in truth. We accomplish this by offering up our sanctified lives to You in every celebration of the Eucharist in which we are called to "lift up our hearts" to Heaven. It is the sacrifice of our humble and contrite hearts in obedience to Your Law of love that pleases You. In this the Year of Mercy, help us Lord to be true instruments of Mother Church's mercy to a heartbroken world. Help us to recognize human needs both small and great and to respond with hearts filled with compassion. Help us to remember that the life of our Blessed Mother Mary was the first door of mercy that was opened to come to the aid of a fallen world. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson as we delve more deeply into the mystery of the promise of God's Servant who is Jesus Christ. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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In the previous passage, prophecies were made of the covenant of Christ and the graces bestowed by him, because he had promised that he would make a way in the wilderness and streams in the arid land, on account of which the beasts of the field would bless him. This may be understood as the praise of spiritual sacrifice and the fruit of the new covenant in Christ. Here in the present passage, he tries to assure Israel that they have been ransomed out of Egypt and delivered from the grievous burden of slavery there but not so that they would offer cattle to him and find access to God through blood and smoke! For such things are refuse in God's sight and are shadows rather than the truth itself.
Cyril of Alexandria, (Commentary on Isaiah, 4.1.43.22)

In Isaiah 41:8 we returned to the concept of "servanthood" mentioned nine times previously (see the chart on the term "Servant" in Isaiah). The word "servant" appears forty times in the Book of Isaiah: nine times in chapters 1-39 and thirty-one times in chapters 40-66. Sometimes the term designates the nation of Israel as God's covenant people. But at other times it denotes an individual. In Isaiah 41:8-10 the servant's identity is Israel: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham my friend, 9 whom I have taken to myself, from the remotest parts of the earth [ends of the earth], and summoned from countries far away, to whom I have said, "You are my servant, I have chosen you, I have not rejected you," 10 do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. The words "Israel", "Jacob" and "you descendants of Abraham" designate the covenant people as the servant and remind us of Israel's historical divine election (Ex 19 and 24) as well as God's three-fold covenant with Abraham that will culminate in a world-wide blessing (Gen 12:1-3).

However, in the same passage, the words "my servant," "whom I have chosen," and "my friend" are relationship words that emphasize Israel's special relationship to God. God called Israel from the ends of the earth (Is 41:9). The Assyrian and Babylonian exiles had dispersed many of God's people far apart across the ancient Near East, but the time of their restoration was coming. Consequently, God told them they were not to be afraid (Is 41:10, 13). God promised to strengthen and uphold them; their enemies would be shamed as God intervened to end their oppression (Is 41:11-12).

Then in Isaiah 41:21-29 the prophet introduced one of the major themes of chapters 40-66: the Babylonian captivity proves that God is who He says He is because He predicted it and it came to pass. This assertion is an indictment against the Biblical commentators who deny predictive prophecy and claim that there are multiple authors of the Book of Isaiah because of the prophecies of the future liberator and Israel's return from exile did not come to pass until the 6th century AD.

Another theme introduced in chapter 41 that will be repeated is the theme of the failure of the pagan false gods (Is 41:21-29). Once again Isaiah uses the legal term "riv/rib" (Is 41:21). The Lord God who is Jacob's king is calling the false gods into court to challenge them to prove their power (Is 41:22-23) by asking three questions:

  1. Can they accurately predict future events and then bring them to pass?
  2. Can they point to past mighty acts that they have done?
  3. Can they present a resume of their sovereign works?

The verdict in 41:24 is that they cannot! They are from nothing, they produce nothing, and they are nothing.

Then in Isaiah 41:25-43:13 Yahweh presents His own works as evidence of His sovereignty:

  1. He has raised up and brought down earthly rulers (Is 41:25).
  2. An unnamed ruler will be sent to deliver God's people (Is 41:25).
  3. He had set this plan in motion from long ago (Is 41:26-27).

The verdict is that Yahweh alone is God (Is 43:8-13), and it is through this unnamed individual that Israel, God's "blind and deaf" servant, was to be liberated from the Babylonian captivity (Is 42:19-20).

In Isaiah chapters 43:14-45:25 Isaiah announces Israel's redemption from Babylon:

  1. Redemption will come through Yahweh's power and the blessings God was to bestow upon His people.
  2. He will put all the false gods and those who worship them to shame.
  3. God will restore Israel through His anointed shepherd.
  4. He will call Israel and the world to reconciliation with Him.
The Use of the Term "Slave/Servant" in the Book of Isaiah
The word "servant/slave" appears forty times in the Book of Isaiah: nine times in chapters 1-39 and thirty-one times in chapters 40-66
Nations that become the servants of Israel in the day of restoration (Is 14:2)
Isaiah (Is 20:3)
Israel who is God's chosen servant (41:8, 9; 42:19; 43:10; 44:1, 2, 21; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3, 5(?);
remnant of Israel 49:5, 6, 7; 54:17; 63:17; 65:8, 9, 13, 14, 15; 66:14)
Eliakim the Davidic vicar (Is 22:20)
Judgment on master and slave of apostate Israel (Is 24:2)
King Sennacherib's servants/ministers (Is 36:9) and King Hezekiah's servants/ministers (Is 36:11)
King David (Is 37:35)
Messiah/Jesus (Is 42:1= Mt 12:18-21; Is 52:13; 53:11) Jesus/Israel (Is 50:10)
Prophets (Is 44:26)
Gentiles/foreigners (Is 56:6)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015

The unnamed liberator and protector in Is 41:1-3 and 25 is never called "servant."

Chapters 43:14-28: The Promised Miracles of the New Exodus

In Isaiah 43:14-44:8 Isaiah announces Yahweh's coming blessing upon Israel. The coming blessing is described in terms of four key concepts:

  1. God is the covenant people's divine Redeemer who ransomed them from slavery in Babylon, which also required a judgment on Babylon (Is 43:14-21).
  2. Israel has been the guilty party in her covenant relationship with Yahweh and has deserved a just punishment (Is 43:22-24).
  3. Israel's sin caused God to take action against His people as divine Judge (Is 43:25-28).
  4. Despite her transgressions, Yahweh has remained gracious to Israel, extending His forgiveness to Israel His servant (Is 44:1-8).

Isaiah 43:14-21 ~ God's Mighty Works for Israel in the Past Repeated
14 Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake I have sent to Babylon, I shall knock down all the prison bars, and the Chaldaeans' shouts of joy will change to lamentations. 15 I am Yahweh, your Holy one, the Creator of Israel, your king. 16 Thus says Yahweh, who made a way through the sea, a path on the raging waters, 17 who led out chariot and horse together with an army of picked troops: they lay down never to rise again, they were snuffed out, put out like a wick. 18 No need to remember past events, no need to think about what was done before. 19 Look, I am doing something new, now it emerges; can you not see it? Yes, I am making a road in the desert and rivers in wastelands. 20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for bestowing water in the desert and rivers on the wastelands for my people, my chosen one, to drink. 21 The people I have shaped for myself will broadcast my praises.

In predicting future events, God will use Babylon as His instrument of judgment to punish Israel/Judah for her sins. The Babylonians will rejoice in their conquest of Judah, but then God will bring them to judgment and they will lament like the covenant people lamented when they were punished by the Babylonians. The "Chaldaeans" in verse 14 were one of several groups of ancient Semitic peoples who came together to form the Babylonian Empire. Abraham was called a Chaldaean who migrated from Ur near the Persian Gulf to Haran in northern Syria before traveling to Canaan at Yahweh's invitation (Gen 11:28, 31; 15:7).

Question: According to verse 15, who is Israel's true king? Also see 44:6. Who then are the Davidic kings?
Answer: Yahweh is Israel's true king and the Davidic kings are His civil representatives to the people in the same way the chief priests are His religious representatives.

Question: How did Yahweh "create" Israel and what events does God recall through His prophet in verses 16-17? See Exodus 14:21-29 and Exodus chapter 19 for your answer.
Answer: God redeemed an enslaved people from Egypt and created a free nation as His chosen people. These verses recall His mighty works on behalf of Israel in the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh's army.

The use of the present tense in verse 16 in the literal Hebrew is, "who makes a way", is deliberate. God's work of salvation in the Exodus liberation is not all in the past but is going to be repeated "the Exodus liberation is a pattern in salvation history. Jesus' work of redemption in Luke 9:31 is described as His "exodus" in the Greek text of the New Testament: "...and they were speaking of His exodus which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem."

18 No need to remember past events, no need to think about what was done before. 19 Look, I am doing something new, now it emerges; can you not see it? Yes, I am making a road in the desert and rivers in wastelands.
The past mighty works of God in the Exodus liberation will pale in comparison to the greater works of God in the new Exodus out of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah, more than a century later, will also speak of Yahweh doing "something new" in Jeremiah 31:22, 31 (also see 2 Cor 5:17 and CCC 711). The "road in the desert" is the path God will create for His people to return to their homeland and where they will have water to sustain them on the journey "springs in the desert (verse 20) like the Exodus miracle in Exodus 17:1-7.

The Catechism quotes Isaiah 43:19 in CCC 711: " Behold, I am doing a new thing.' Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the consolation of Israel' and the redemption of Jerusalem.'"

This oracle is to fill the people with hope that they will survive the Babylonian captivity and will be able to return home. In it Isaiah presents the Exodus liberation as the prototype of every act of liberation brought about by Yahweh in salvation history. But the future exodus liberation from Babylon will be "new" "surpassing all that happened in the past (verses 18-19). This is the doctrinal core teaching of the "Book of Consolation" in chapters 40:1-48:22.

Isaiah 43:22-28 ~ Israel's Ingratitude
22 But, Jacob, you have not invoked me; no, Israel, you have grown weary of me. 23 You have not brought me lambs as your burnt offerings and have not honored me with your sacrifices. I have not subjected you to cereal offering, I have not wearied you by demanding incense. 24 You have not brought expensive reed for me or sated me with the fat of your sacrifices. Instead you have subjected me with your sins, you have wearied me with your crimes, 25 I, I it is who blot out your acts of revolt for my own sake and shall not call your sins to mind. Remind me, and we will judge this together; state your own case and justify yourself. 27 Your first ancestor sinned, your interpreters revolted against me. 28 That is why I deposed the chief men of my sanctuary, why I put Jacob under the curse of destruction and subjected Israel to insult.

In verses 22-24 God identifies the part of Israel that is the Southern Kingdom of Judah as the transgressor (the Northern Kingdom of Israel has already paid for their sins in the Assyrian exile). The people demonstrate a lack of loyalty and commitment to their covenant with Yahweh by not invoked Yahweh in liturgical worship and in not repenting their sins.
Question: In what ways have they failed to worship Yahweh? See Ex 29:38-42 and 30:34-37
Answer: They have failed to observe the daily liturgical sacrifices of communal whole burnt offerings of the lambs and the accompanying cereal offerings. They have also failed to offer the prescribed incense offering.

What God asked in the liturgy of worship was not meant to weary the people, but they have wearied God with their repeated sins and offenses (verses 23b-24). The reed and fat in verse 24 probably refers to fragrant reeds made as offerings and burned in religious and secular occasions (see Song of Songs 4:14 and Ez 27:19). The fat of the animal is what was burned on the altar fire when God returned the main portion of the animal in a communion or sin sacrifice (Lev 3:1-5; 7:15/5 and Lev 6:17-22/24-30).

25 I, I it is who blot out your acts of revolt for my own sake and shall not call your sins to mind.
It is only God who has the power to forgive their sins.

25b Remind me, and we will judge this together; state your own case and justify yourself.
Once again in verses 25-28, Isaiah, as God's voice to the people, uses legal language to outline God's case against them. If they repent and remind God of their sins, the conditions for reconciliation can be decided.

27 Your first ancestor sinned, your interpreters revolted against me. 28 That is why I deposed the chief men of my sanctuary, why I put Jacob under the curse of destruction and subjected Israel to insult.
"Your first ancestor" probably refers to Jacob-Israel (see verse 22) who was a most imperfect man "deceiving his own father to cheat his brother of his birthright. The "interpreters" who revolted are the false prophets of the past (see 1 Kng 13:11-32; 19:2-4) and the present. The point is, Israel/Judah has been sinful from the beginning. Consequently, Isaiah promises God's judgment of all sin (verse 28).

Israel is God's chosen people and He will never abandon them; however, the lawsuit in verse 26 calls the people to a necessary examination of conscience that leads to confession of sins. The reasons God has given for the people's failures in verses 22-27 is the reason God has subjected Judah to judgment and deposed the chief priests of His Sanctuary, which will be destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC, when the people are disgraced and sent into exile.

Chapter 44: Yahweh, the First and the Last

Isaiah 44:1-5 ~ Yahweh's Blessings for Israel
1 And now listen, Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen. 2 Thus says Yahweh who made you, who formed you in the womb; he will help you. Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant. Jeshurun whom I have chosen. 3 For I shall pour out water on the thirsty soil and streams on the dry ground. I shall pour out my spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring, 4 and they will spring up among the grass, like willows on the banks of a stream. 5 One person will say, "I belong to Yahweh," another will call himself by Jacob's name. On his hand another will write "Yahweh's" and be surnamed "Israel."

Israel has sinned and they have wearied the Lord God with their faults, but God's love is so great that, in spite of everything they have done, He will forgive them and will take them back.

44:2 Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant. Jeshurun whom I have chosen. Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel also found in Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26. There is word play between the words "Jeshurun" and "Jacob." The term Jeshurun probably means "loyal"; it is from the Hebrew root "ysr", with vowels yashar, meaning "honor," or "upright," as opposed to "Jacob" which means "he who supplants."

3 For I shall pour out water on the thirsty soil and streams on the dry ground. I shall pour out my spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring, 4 and they will spring up among the grass, like willows on the banks of a stream.
God promises to redeem both the land and the people. The promise in 3b is fulfilled on the Jewish feast of Pentecost in 30 AD when the community of the new Israel of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus received the gift of God the Holy Spirit. The Old Sinai Covenant was only a tutor and a guide. It could not forgive original sin, therefore Heaven remained closed and there was only the hope of eternal salvation; and it could not give the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant in Christ gave both.

5 One person will say, "I belong to Yahweh," another will call himself by Jacob's name. On his hand another will write "Yahweh's" and be surnamed "Israel."
This verse speaks of a "sign" of belonging to Yahweh. Converts will be joined to Yahweh and will be integrated into Jacob-Israel. In Christ, the Gentiles will be joined with the Jews as a New Covenant order.

Isaiah 44:6-23 form Isaiah's assertion that Yahweh is the only God "there is no one or thing that can be compared to Him. Legal language is also employed in these passages in the form of a "riv/rib" as in earlier passages. There are four stages to Isaiah's argument:

  1. The confession of faith that Yahweh is the one and only God (verse 6).
  2. The challenge to compare Yahweh to other so-called gods (verses 7-8).
  3. The ridiculing of worthless, man-made idols (verses 9-20).
  4. An exhortation to acknowledge Yahweh as the sovereign author of mankind's history (verses 21-22).

Isaiah 44:6-8 ~ There is Only One God
6 Thus says Yahweh, Israel's king, Yahweh Sabaoth, his redeemer: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God except me. 7 Who is like me? Let him call out, let him affirm it and convince me it is so; let him say what has been happening since I instituted an eternal people, and predict to them what will happen next! 8 Have no fear, do not be afraid: have I not told you and revealed it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God except me? There is no Rock; I know of none.

The Church's Catechism refers to verse 6 where it notes that "...our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last (cf. Is 44:6), the beginning and the end of everything" (CCC 198). Notice that Isaiah strings together a series of names and titles that emphasize the power of God alone to bring about these promises for Israel's future: "Yahweh", "Israel's king", "Yahweh Sabaoth (of hosts)", "Redeemer", the "I AM" who is the "first and the last" "the beginning of all and the end of all.

Isaiah says that God challenges any false god to give evidence of past or future events he has predicted. God assures the people through Isaiah that they have nothing to fear because God is their "rock" who has brought to fulfillment events He promised in the past and they are His eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of those events.

Question: What is the point in verse 7?
Answer: The accurate fulfillment of predictive prophecy is proof that God is who He says He is and is proof of God's power and sovereignty over mankind.

In verse 8 "Rock" is a title for God often used in Biblical poetry, and can also be used for false gods. It is used for Yahweh in Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18 and 31b; but for false gods in Deuteronomy 32:31a (also see "Rock" as a title for God in 2 Sam 23:3; Ps 18:2/3, 46/47; 19:15; 28:1; Is 17:10; 30:29; etc., and for Christ is 1 Cor 10:1-4).

In Isaiah 44:9-45:25 the focus is on:

  1. God's superiority to idols (Is 44:9-23)
  2. Israel's restoration through God's agent Cyrus (Is 44:24-45:25)

Isaiah 44:9-20 ~ The Makers of False Idols
9 The makers of idols are all nothingness; the works they delight in serve no purpose. And these are the witness against them: they see nothing, they know nothing; and so they will be put to shame. 10 Whoever fashioned a god or cast an image without hope of gain? 11 Watch how all its devotees will be put to shame, and the men who made it too, who are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forward and feel both fear and shame! 12 The blacksmith makes an axe over the charcoal, beats it into shape with a hammer, works on it with his strong arm. Then he feels hungry and his strength deserts him; having drunk no water, he is exhausted. 13 The wood carver takes his measurements, outlines the image with chalk, executes it with the chisel, following the outline with a compass. He makes it look like a human being, with human standards of beauty, so that it can reside in a house. 14 He has cut down, cedars, has selected an oak and a terebinth which he has grown for himself among the trees in the forest and has planted a pine tree which the rain has nourished. 15 Once it is suitable to burn, he takes some of it to warm himself; having kindled it, he bakes bread. But he also makes a god and worships it; he makes an idol from it and bows down before it. 16 Half of it he burns on the fire, over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is replete; at the same time he warms himself and says, "Ah, how warm I am, watching the flames!" 17 With the remainder he makes a god, his idol, bows down before it, worships it and prays to it. "Save me," he says, "for you are my god." 18 They knew nothing, they understand nothing, since their eyes are incapable of seeing and their hearts of reflecting. 19 Not one of them looks into his heart, not one of them has the knowledge and wit to think, "I burned half of it on the fire and cooked food over the embers. Am I right to make something disgusting out of what is left? Am I right to bow down before a block of wood?" 20 He hankers after ashes, his deluded heart has led him astray; he will not save himself, he will not think, "What I have in my hand is nothing but a lie!"

Isaiah makes an argument concerning the futility and foolishness of worshiping idols in verses 9-20 in a satirical passage. It is similar to Wisdom 13:10-12; to Jeremiah 2:26-28, and 10:1-16.
Question: In verses 9-11 Isaiah begins with a general denunciation of man-made idols. What three points does Isaiah make about the worship of idols?
Answer:

  1. People of make and worship idols only reveal their own ignorance.
  2. Their actions demonstrate their own shame.
  3. Their work in making the idol and their worship of it is worthless.

Then in verses 12-20 Isaiah illustrates the futility of idol worship giving a detailed account of the idol's creation from common materials that are also used for other purposes and ending with worshipper falling down in front of the useless idol "all of which demonstrates the spiritual blindness of those who worship idols (Is 44:18-20).

Question: What obvious truth does the maker of idols and those who worship it miss? See verse 20.
Answer: A tree that is used to make an idol and which was also used as fuel to cook a food for a meal could have no spiritual power. They worship a lie they created.

Isaiah 44:21-23 ~ A Call to Remember
21 Remember these things, Jacob, and Israel, since you are my servant. I formed you, you are my servant; Israel, I shall not forget you. 22 I have dispelled your acts of revolt like a cloud and your sins like a mist. 23 Come back to me, for I have redeemed you. Heavens, shout for joy, for Yahweh has acted! Underworld [Sheol] shout aloud! Shout for joy, you mountains, forests and all your trees! For Yahweh has redeemed Jacob and displayed his glory in Israel.

Question: What does Yahweh ask Israel to remember and to do?
Answer:

  1. Yahweh created Israel.
  2. Israel is Yahweh's servant.
  3. God will never forget Israel.
  4. God has forgiven Israel's past sins.
  5. God calls Israel to return to Him in repentance.

It is for these reasons that Israel can trust God and can believe His promise to redeem His people. Then God asks the heavens, the grave and nature (that is worshipped by pagans) to express joy that the One True God has redeemed His people for the purpose of displaying His glory in them.

Isaiah 44:24-28 ~ Yahweh Alone is Creator of the World and the Lord of History
24 Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, he who formed you in the womb: I, Yahweh, have made all things, I alone spread out the heavens. When I hammered the earth into shape, who was with me? 25 I, who foil the omens of soothsayers and make fools of diviners, who confound sages turning their knowledge into folly, 26 who confirm the word of my servant and make the plans of my envoys succeed; who say to Jerusalem, "You will be inhabited," and the towns of Judah, "You will be rebuilt and I shall restore the ruins of Jerusalem"; 27 who say to the ocean, "Dry up! I shall make your rivers run dry"! 28 who say to Cyrus, "My shepherd." He will perform my entire will by saying to Jerusalem, "You will be rebuilt," and to the Temple, "You will be refounded."

Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, he who formed you in the womb... The "you" is plural and refers to all human beings. God formed all of us and has known us since we were "in the womb."

In this last section of chapter 44, Isaiah provides another argument from greater to lesser like 40:12-26 and 27-31. Returning to the theme of His omnipotence, Isaiah begins with a description of God's creation of the cosmos and then moves to Yahweh announcement that proof of His sovereignty over creation and human history is going to be manifested to His covenant people in their return to the Promised Land and in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. God will bring about the redemption of His people through a particular king at a determined time in human history.

Question: Who is God's agent through whom this prophecy will be fulfilled? What is the connection to Isaiah 41:2-3?
Answer: It will be accomplished through God's "shepherd" Cyrus who is the unnamed instrument of God's divine plan in 41:2-3.

"Shepherd" is a title of leadership in the Bible and is used for Yahweh, for kings, and for priests in both the positive and the negative. God is Israel's divine "Shepherd;" David is called "the shepherd of his people;" failed priests are "bad shepherds;" and Jesus will call Himself "the Good Shepherd" (e.g., Ps 80:1; 2 Sam 5:2; Ez 34:2; Jn 10:11). In Isaiah 44:28 God calls Cyrus "My shepherd" in the understanding that he will be God's agent in fulfilling a divine mission in returning the covenant people to their homeland so they can rebuild the Temple.

Cyrus was the king of Persia in the 6th century BC "keep in mind that Isaiah is writing this prediction at the end of the 8th century BC. Cyrus was one of the great military leaders and empire builders of history. Despite his great military successes, very little is known about him personally. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that he was born in the region of the Zargos Mountains. This mountain range begins in northwestern Iran and spreads into Iraq and Eastern Turkey, spanning the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau. In 43:2-3 Isaiah said this individual would have his origin in the north but would come from the east.(1)

Isaiah 45:1-7 ~ Cyrus, God's Anointed-one (Mashiach)
1 Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings, to open gateways before him so that their gates be closed no more: 2 I myself shall go before you, I shall level the heights, I shall shatter the bronze gateways, I shall smash the iron bars. 3 I shall give you secret treasures and hidden hoards of wealth, so that you will know that I am Yahweh, who call you by your name, the God of Israel. 4 It is for the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, that I have called you by your name, have given you a title though you do not know me. 5 I am Yahweh, and there is no other God except me. Though you do not know me, I have armed you 6 so that it may be known from east to west that there is no one except me. I am Yahweh, and there is no other, 7 I form the light and I create the darkness, I make well-being, and I create disaster, I, Yahweh do all these things. 8 Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down saving justice [righteousness], let the earth open up and blossom with salvation, and let justice sprout up with it; I, Yahweh, have created it!

Isaiah 45:1-7 is a royal enthronement prophecy. See similar enthronement prophecies in Psalms 2 and 110. Cyrus is summoned by name and is called God's anointed, in Hebrew mashiach (verse 1). This is a title that has been reserved for Israel's kings, priests and prophets; and it will become the title of the promised Redeemer-Messiah. But in this case, the title is being given to a pagan, foreign ruler who does not know Yahweh (verses 4-5) but who God will endow with powers to bring about God's divine plan for Israel/Judah's return to the Promised Land. Cyrus is the only non-Israelite to receive the title "messiah." Isaiah ends this passage with another declaration of God's sovereignty over creation and the history of man in verses 5-7.

Uses of the Title Mashiach/Anointed-one in the Old Testament
Priests: Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22
Kings: Saul    = 1 Sam 2:35; 12:3, 5; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam 1:14, 16
        David = 1 Sam 16:6; 2 Sam 19:21; 22:51; 23:1; Ps 18:50; 20:6; 28:8
        Probably King Zedekiah = Lam 4:20
        Israel's Davidic kings in general = Ps 2:2; 28:8; 84:9; 89:38, 51; 132:10, 17; Lam 4:20
        The Davidic Messiah = Is 61:1; possibly Dan 9:25, 26

Others: Cyrus = Is 45:1
        The future Messiah, or Cyrus, or a priest = Dan 9:25, 26
        Saul's shield = 2 Sam 1:21
        Israel's leaders in the Exodus = 1 Chr 16:22; Ps 105:15
        Israel =Hab 3:13

Michal E. Hunt Copyright (C) 2015

In the Greek LXX Old Testament translation the Hebrew word "mashiach/masiah" is translated "christos" as it is in the New Testament. The word "Christos" for "anointed one" is found in the New Testament c. 350 times. The Greek transliteration of "mashiach/masiah" is "messias" and John 1:41 uses both Greek words: We have found the Messiah [messias] (which means Christ [Christos]).

8 Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down saving justice [righteousness], let the earth open up and blossom with salvation, and let justice sprout up with it; I, Yahweh, have created it!
The words translated "saving justice/righteousness," "salvation," and "justice," correspond to three Hebrew abstract nouns. The first and third mean the same thing, "righteousness" (Navarre Bible: Major Prophets, Isaiah, page 202). St. Jerome interpreted the first two words as adjectives ""righteous" and "saving," interpreting them as having a direct reference to the Messiah, the "Just," "Savior" Jesus Christ.(2) In this passage, the prayer is for the deliverance and "saving justice" that Cyrus is to bring, but which is in reality Yahweh's intervention in human history for the sake of His people.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: In what different ways did God use Gentile rulers in the Old Testament: for example, Pharaoh, the Assyrian kings, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and Cyrus?

Question: Do you think God still uses earthly rulers to bring about His divine plan whether for judgment or blessings today, and if so in what ways?

Endnotes:
1. Cyrus the Great of Persia ruled the largest empire the world had known at that time for between 29 and 0 years. He was believed to have been born c. 600 or 576 BC and was killed in 530 BC. He was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, and under his rule his empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East except Egypt. Cyrus the Great was a tolerant ruler who respected the religions and customs of the people he conquered. He not only allowed the exiled Judahites to return to Judah and gave them the funds to rebuild their Temple, but he also permitted all the peoples who had previously been conquered and exiled by the Assyrians to return to their homelands.
2. A sermon attributed to St. Augustine applies this verse to Christ and the Virgin Mary (De Navitate Domini, 1). In Latin this prayer is known as Rorate coeli desuper, and it used in the Advent liturgy.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:
43:19 (CCC 711); 44:6 (CCC 198, 212)