Isaiah 45:1-13 is, in many ways, a microcosm of Second Isaiah as a whole. Anchored firmly in historical context, this passage portrays people still confined to exile, yet also looking forward to the possibility of future release and redemption. In tone, it is strikingly different from the majority of other prophetic works: the exiled people are not condemned for their sins or warned of impending catastrophe: if they are guilty of anything, it is only their hesitation to believe that their salvation is imminent. In this sense, Isaiah 45:1-13 is not a passage solely aimed at predicting future events or condemning present transgressions. Rather, it is an argument for the unerring primacy of Yahweh, despite the appearance of the contemporary historical situation.
An understanding of historical context is necessary for a full understanding of Isaiah 45:1-13, and the central historical figure of the passage is Cyrus, the newly ascendant leader of Persian Empire that was posing a threat to the floundering Babylonians. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562, a string of especially ineffectual kings ruled Babylon.
[...] IX, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. David E. Green, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 50-53. Clifford, p Baltzer, p Graham S. Ogden, “Moses and Cyrus: Literary Affinities between the Priestly Presentation of Moses in Exodus VI-VIII and the Cyrus Song in Isaiah XLIV 24-XLV Vetus Testamentum, Vol Fasc (Apr., 1978), p JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1516968. Ogden, p Ogden, p Blenkinsopp, The Anchor Bible Vol. 19A, p “Translation of the text on the Cyrus Cylinder,” [...]
[...] He took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Ashen, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything. (italics added) This action taken by Marduk appears strikingly similar to the language used by Yahweh in his calling of Cyrus. The call begins with “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped.” (Isa 45:1) and later continues with Yahweh telling Cyrus the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name” (Isa 45:4). [...]
[...] Babylonian and other Near Eastern pantheons of the time tended to see creation as a battle of the forces of order against the forces of chaos, a worldview unsurprising for a polytheistic religion. Consequently, in many religions of the time, the sun god would be portrayed as ruling during the day and battling the chaos of darkness at night. Yahweh defiantly claims control over both sides of this duality. Rather than striving with either force, Yahweh claims to have created them. [...]
[...] Another thematic thread that runs through Isaiah 45:1-13 that emphasizes the universal power and supremacy of Yahweh are the linguistic and syntactical choices that tie the passage back to the Exodus tradition. In his 1978 article, Graham Ogden noted the numerous literary similarities between the call of Cyrus in Isaiah 45 and the call of Moses in Exodus 8. The terms gō' ēl and nth, both frequently utilized in Exodus, are also used by Second Isaiah, including twice in the call of Cyrus (44:24 and 45:12). More definitively is the distinctive use of 'anî yhwh am Yahweh'), a phrase that is central to both passages. [...]
[...] attributed for ending the Babylonian Exile, granting the Israelites safe passage to Judah. However, while Second Isaiah was preaching his message most likely after the rise of Cyrus in 550 and before the fall of Babylon in 539 the exile was still in full effect.This forced relocation led the exiles to ask many questions about the efficacy of the worship of Yahweh, such as whether He could be worshipped outside of Judah, whether He could be worshipped after the destruction of the Temple, or even whether Yahweh himself had been defeated and killed by the Babylonian gods. This attitude can be seen both in Second Isaiah's portrayal of God as silent or hidden (Isa 42:14, Isa 45:15) as well as in the writings of earlier exilic prophets (see Ezek 10). [...]
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