Reading through the Bible together

Thursday, April 10, 2014

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This chapter is so rich that it is hard to keep comments to a minimum.

First of all, here is Cyrus again. Evangelists quote Isa. 44:26-45:1, and effectively impress the audience, when telling the story of the conquest of Babylon, and how this was prophesied by Isaiah 150 years ahead of time. The name of the conqueror, the subduing of kings and nations, the drying up of the river, the fact that the gates would be left open, and the declaration that Jerusalem and its Temple would be rebuilt—it’s all there in these verses.

Cyrus’ version of the story—written on the Cyrus Cylinder, now in the British Museum—tells of the conquest of Babylon without a battle, and the subsequent release of captives to worship as they see fit in their own lands. The Greek historian, Herodotus, fills in some of the details. While laying siege to the city of Babylon, Cyrus’ favorite horse drowned in the river Euphrates. Upset with the river, he had his men dig canals coming out of it to dry up the river.  The Euphrates always ran under the walls of and through the city, once its water level dropped enough, Cyrus’ army was able to wade on the river bed, finding the gates of the city open.  That night, the king of Babylon was slain (Dan 5:28).

Many liberal scholars have taken the position that the section of Isaiah 40-66 cannot have been written by the prophet Isaiah, but by a “second” Isaiah. One of the main reasons is the mention of Cyrus before his birth, the specificity of this prophecy, and the fact that in a number of places the text speaks of the Babylonian exile and the return of the exiles. Their assumption is that this portion of Isaiah was written two centuries later, while these events were taking place, not ahead of time.

But there are solid reasons to believe Isaiah’s authorship, not the least of which is the fact that the apostle John quotes from Isaiah 6 as well as Isaiah 53 as from one single author (see John 12:38-41). The book of Isaiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, copied 150 years before Christ and discovered in 1947, gives no hint of book divisions, or of multiple authors as liberal scholars say. 

Here is the second point about this chapter. In verses 11 and 12, God gives two powerful reasons as proof of His deity and attributes: the fact that He can foretell the future, and that He is the creator of the universe. It is this last aspect which I found so often in these chapters, and which I ended up calling: “God’s signature.” God’s signature has three components: 1) He created the heavens, 2) He created the earth, and 3) He created the human race to fill the earth. This is mentioned six times in this section of Isaiah (42:5; 44:24; 45:12, 18; 51:13, 16), twice in this chapter! “I have made the earth, and created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded” (v.12).

One of the most rewarding experiences for me, in the last few years, has been to learn so much more about cosmology and the grandeur of God. The fine-tuning of the universe, as well as the planet on which we live, and even our very own biology is marvelous evidence that there is one God, and He, alone has the power to form such a grand design. Praise be to His holy name! He is the Creator!

Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary