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The Cyrus Prophecy

Introduction – God’s Word
If you were to say that the Christian faith is predicated on Christ, you would be absolutely correct. But how do we know about Christ? What tells us that He died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day? What tells us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life?”
The Bible!
 
While the Christian faith is predicated on Christ, there is another sense in which it is predicated on the Bible, and specifically, the belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God! Yes, everything that defines me as a Christian – rather than a simple theist – is found in the Bible.
 

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Like the Thessalonians, I welcome the Bible as “the word of God.” I am a Christian because of the message it contains, and my belief that said message is from my Creator.

But how can I know that the Bible’s message is from God? Is this something I accept blindly, or because of tradition? While many Christians do not have solid reasons for their faith, I do. Yes, a degree of faith is essential, but by no means is it a blind faith.

In yesterday’s article, I explained Daniel’s Prophecy of the five kingdoms. In today’s article, I’d like to touch on another very detailed, very specific prophecy from the Old Testament that, once again, illuminates the divine inspiration of the word of God.

The Context of Isaiah 44:28
In just a moment, I’ll quote the prophecy about Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28, but first, I’d like to establish some very important context. This will aid us in our understanding of the prophecy.
 
The prophet Isaiah ministered from about 740-700 B.C. (dates vary slightly depending on the source, but these are approximate). According to Isaiah 1:1, he worked primarily with “Judah and Jerusalem” during the days of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.”
 
During Isaiah’s ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians. This took place in 722 B.C. Isaiah even prophesied of this in Isaiah 10:5-11. Apparently, after they laid waste to the Jews in the north, the Assyrians were planning to take Jerusalem as well. It was a stressful time for King Hezekiah and the Jews in the south, but God intervened and they were spared from war (Isaiah 36-37)
 
Despite the fall of Israel (in the north), the pressure against Judah and the moral decay of the Jews at large, the city of Jerusalem – the heart of the southern kingdom – was preserved. Even the famous temple of Solomon endured this stressful time relatively unscathed.
 
The Prophecy

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone…Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ Thus says the Lord to His anointed, toCyrus, whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings” (Isaiah 44:24, 28-45:1).

There are a few highlights in this passage worth hitting:
  • God would use an individual named Cyrus to accomplish His will.
  • Cyrus would order the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem.
  • Cyrus would order the reconstruction of the temple.
Did these things come to pass? Was there even a man named Cyrus?
 
Yes!
 
Cyrus was a Persian king who reigned from 559-529 B.C., approximately 150 years after Isaiah’s ministry in Judah. He was the king who conquered the city and empire of Babylon in October of 539 B.C. This was during the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Because Babylon came under the control of Persia, the Jewish people became subjects of Persia. Thankfully, their new king was benevolent. He gave them permission to return to their homeland, rebuild their city and their temple!
 
There is both biblical and historical evidence that these things really happened!
 
First, from the Bible:
 

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up'” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

First of all, the prophecy of Jeremiah that is mentioned here can be found in Jeremiah 29:10. This was a prophecy that God would bring the Jewish people back to their homeland. Cyrus certainly fulfilled that prophecy!

But Cyrus also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 44:28. As king of Persia, his heart was “stirred up” by God to order the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem!
 
But there is also historical evidence of this as well.
 
The Cyrus Cylinder (pictured at right). This is a clay cylinder inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform that records Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. On the cylinder, Cyrus claimed to have brought relief to the inhabitants of Babylon, return a number of the religious images of the captives to them, and even restore their temples!
 
Why This is So Amazing!
First of all, Isaiah made the prophecy about Cyrus over 100 years before Cyrus was even born! How did Isaiah know anything about Cyrus? I mean, it would be one thing if Isaiah had prophesied that a nameless “king” would come and help the Jewish people. That would be very generic and we could easily glance over this text without giving it a second thought.
 
Imagine if I said that, “100 years from now, a president will…rebuild Washington D.C.” Okay, that’s possible. But what if I said, “100 years from now, a president by the name of Julius Randle will rebuild Washington D.C.” Would you be impressed? Absolutely! Note: I picked Julius Randle because I’m a fan of Kentucky basketball.
 
But not only did Isaiah mention the king by name, he was specific about what Cyrus would do. And remember, both Jerusalem and the temple were standing during Isaiah’s time. So Isaiah was implying that they would be destroyed (which they were in 586 B.C.), would therefore need to be rebuilt…and that Cyrus would be the one to give the order.
 
Here’s the question…
 
How did Isaiah know this? How could he have known this?
 
There is no human explanation. Not for a prophecy like this that is so specific and that has both biblical and historical confirmation!
 
An Objection
There is always some kind of objection to information as powerful as this. As I pointed out with the Daniel prophecy, the only viable objection is that Isaiah’s prophecy wasn’t written during the ministry or time of Isaiah (in the 8th century), but later, after these events had already happened.
 
The argument is made that Isaiah 1-39 were written by Isaiah during his lifetime, and that Isaiah 40-66 must have been written by various other authors later on. Some will point out that there is a clear transition in the text of chapter 40 – that while the first 39 chapters were written in the land of Israel before its fall to Babylon, the latter part of Isaiah was written from the land of Babylon.
 
Please note that this is NOT stated in the text.
 
While it may appear that the events and prophecies of Isaiah 40-66 were written at a later date, this position doesn’t take into account the very nature of prophecy and foreknowledge. In other words, the only real reason to assign Isaiah 40-66 to a different author(s) and a later date is because many struggle to believe that Isaiah could have prophesied so accurately about the future.
 
Furthermore, Jesus assigned the later chapters of the book of Isaiah to Isaiah himself, not to some other author. See Matthew 3:3; 12:17-18; John 12:38-41; Acts 8:28.
 
An excellent article on this object can be accessed here.
 
Conclusion
I’d like to think that I’m a reasonable person. If a prophecy is generic or potentially self-fulfilling, I’m not going to present it as strong evidence of the Bible’s inspiration (even though, from a Christian perspective, I still view such prophecies as valid).
 
But the prophecy of Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28 is very specific. Just like the prophecy of the sequence of kingdoms in Daniel 2 was very specific.
 
In other words, there’s a pattern in the Bible. We’re starting to see that the authors of Scripture, especially the Old Testament, had special insight into future events. The only explanation for this pattern is that these men were inspired by the God they claimed to serve, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
And just as Daniel’s prophecy included details of the kingdom of Christ, Isaiah’s writings have a similar impact. If Isaiah 44:28 is impressive, what about Isaiah 53 where we find a detailed prophecy of a man who “bore the sins of many” (Is. 53:12)?
 
Did Isaiah just get lucky? There’s no way.
 
Can his writings be assigned to a later date? No.
 
Was Isaiah a prophet of the God of heaven?
 
I believe so…and if he was…
 
…there’s a Savior named Jesus who is willing to bear your sins.
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