The Cyrus Enigma
Virtually all commentaries of the bible take it for granted that pretty much the entire 45th chapter of Yashai-Ya'oh (Isaiah) is a prophecy about the historical king of Persia named Cyrus the Great (547-517 BC). Is this interpretation correct? Let's find out. כה־.אמר.יהוה.למשיחו.לכורש.אשר.־החזקתי.בימינו. לרד.־לפניו.גוים.ומתני.מלכים.אפתח.לפתח.לפניו.דלתים. ושערים.לא.יסגרו. "Thus says YA'OH to His messiah, to Chorash, who I have strengthened in his right hand, to spread out before him peoples, and the loins of kings will I open, to open before him double-leaved doors, and gates will not be closed".
Yashai-Ya'oh (Isaiah) 45:1 First the problems. Chorash (Cyrus) the king of Persia was a gentile idol worshiper from Anshan in Elam. In his own royal inscriptions he praised the Babylonian gods Bel and Nabu and he called Marduk, the supreme god of the Babylonian pantheon, his lord whom he and his son both revered. Below is an excerpt from the Cyrus Cylinder based on Mordechai Cogan's translation and published in W.H. Hallo and K.L. Younger, The Context of Scripture. Vol. II: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World (2003, Leiden and Boston):  at the command of Marduk, the great lord, I settled in their habitations, in pleasing abodes, the gods of Sumer and Akkad, whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon.  May all the gods whom I settled in their sacred centers ask daily  of Bel and Nabu that my days be long and may they intercede for my welfare. May they say to Marduk, my lord: "As for Cyrus, the king who reveres you, and Cambyses, his son ... " Cyrus Cylinder, Frag. A, lines 33-35. Thus, something seems fundamentally and intuitively not right for a biblical text to call Cyrus a "messiah" (anointed one). This is true even though YA'OH owns everything and can handpick whomever He chooses from any race to carry out a task He wants done. Putting it another way, YA'OH once made a donkey talk with a man's voice according to Numbers 22:28-30, but that donkey was not also "His messiah". In the scriptures, the noun משיח (mashaykh) and the verb משח (mashakh) are both restricted in their usages for the most part to the tabernacle and the holy vessels thereof, to the Loaym priests, and to Ya'ohsharal kings. The verb is once applied to a foreign king in 1 Kings 19:15, but Khaza'al (Hazael) the king of Aram was never referred to "His messiah". Neither was Cyrus the king of Persia ever anointed to be king of Persia by a prophet of Ya'ohsharal. Thus, for Yashai-Ya'oh 45:1 to call Cyrus "His messiah" introduces more than just an odd curiosity. It raises eyebrows as if the donkey who spoke with a man's voice had been called "His messiah". Perhaps Cyrus the Great was a Ya'ohsharalay (Israelite) by blood? We know for a fact he wasn't because he provided a record of his paternal pedigree. He traced his genealogy back several generations. Cyrus belonged to the race of the Medes out of whom sprang the Persians in Iran. One could make another argument, as many have in the past, that Cyrus was "His messiah" despite being a gentile idol worshiper because of the specific task he was raised up by YA'OH to perform, and this of course was the issuing of the royal order to rebuild the temple and Yaroshalam in 519 BC (not 538) which allowed for all of the exiled tribes of Ya'ohsharal living scattered within his vast empire to return and re-occupy the holy land. Clearly this act set Cyrus apart as a very special instrument of YA'OH regardless of his own religious beliefs and even his racial background. Nevertheless, there is still a problem the above excuse does not address. So let's tackle the problem and address it head on and not pretend it isn't there when it is. The Persians under Cyrus captured Babylon peacefully without any fighting in the autumn of 539 BC. The city's absentee king Nabonidus I (556-539 BC) was dethroned and deported and Cyrus took up residence in the city and ruled it directly for nine consecutive years (539-530 BC). At that point Cyrus set his sights on other ventures and entrusted Babylon to his maternal-uncle Darius the Mede (530-520 BC) and departed for Persia. The chronology of Persia as reconstructed by modern European scholars dismisses Darius the Mede as a fiction, but the Book of Danay'al (Daniel) which attests to the historicity of his reign is not to be rejected. The city of Babylon revolted against Medo-Persian rule ten years after Cyrus's departure. The rebels were led by Nabonidus II the son of Nabonidus I. Cyrus had to return to the city and retake it violently in 520 BC. The re-capture of Babylon was the beginning of Cyrus's second term as sole "king of Babylon" (520-519 BC) and the first year of his second term began in the spring of 519 BC. This "first year" was the year that Cyrus issued his famous decree to rebuild the temple in Yaroshalam (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 6:1-5). The order of Cyrus was issued exactly seventy years from the desolation of Yaroshalam which began in 589/8 BC when the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC) began their siege of Yaroshalam in the ninth year of the reign of Tsadak-Ya'oh (Zedekiah) king of Ya'ohdah (2 Kgs 25:1; Jer 25:12; 29:10; 39:1; 52:4; Dan 9:2; Ezek 24:1-2). Babylonian Chronology 605-323 BC: Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC) Belshazzar (aka Amel-Marduk) (563-560 BC) Nergal-shar-usur (560-556 BC) Labashi-Marduk (556 BC) Nabonidus I (556-539 BC)
Cyrus (539-530 BC)
Darius the Mede (530-520 BC)
Nabonidus II (520 BC)
Cyrus (520-519 BC)
Cambyses (519-511 BC)
Barziya (511-510 BC)
Nebuchadnezzar III/IV (510-509 BC)
Darius II Hystaspes (510-474 BC)
Xerxes (486-465 BC)
Bel-shimani (484 BC)
Shamash-eriba (479 BC)
Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC)
Darius III (424-405 BC)
Artaxerxes II (405-359 BC)
Artaxerxes III (359-338 BC)
Arses (338-336 BC)
Nidin-Bel (336 BC)
Darius IV (336-331 BC)
Alexander the Great (331-323 BC)
Shortly after the retaking of Babylon Cyrus decided to elevate his son Cambyses to the throne in the autumn of 519 BC so he would not once again be required to reside in the city permanently. The Babylonians required their king to be present in order to preside over the feasts as required by the Babylonian religion. Cyrus was in the "third year" of his second term as king of Babylon when Danay'al was visited by a messenger from heaven according to Danay'al 10:1. This was the year 517 BC, the same year Cyrus was killed on the battle field. The heavenly messenger told Danay'al that he had been delayed in coming to him for twenty-one days because he was busy with the "kings of Persia" (Dan. 10:13). These "kings" (plural) would by Cyrus and his co-regent son Cambyses. The messenger told Danay'al that he was returning to finish fighting the "ruler of Persia," and that afterwards the "ruler of Yon" came. ויאמר.הידעת.למה.־באתי.אליך.ועתה.אשוב.להלחם.עם.־ שר.פרס.ואני.יוצא.והנה.שר.־יון.בא. "And he said: You know why I came to you, and now I will return to war with the ruler of Persia, and when I am gone, behold, the ruler of Yon came." Danay'al 10:20 This can only mean that Cyrus was slated to be killed in battle and that eventually the Persian Empire would be conquered by a future ruler of Yon who we now know from hindsight to be Alexander the Great. It was necessary to go over all of this history in order for the reader to fully grasp the following point. Cyrus was killed only two years after his royal order was issued and it was never realized in his lifetime. The exiles of Ya'ohsharal who returned to the holy land in 519 BC to do the rebuilding were hindered and thwarted in their work: "And by their secret plots, and popular persuasions and commotions, they hindered the finishing of the building all the time that king Cyrus lived: so they were hindered from building for the space of two years, until the reign of Darius". 1 Esdras 5:73 Cyrus did not rebuild the temple nor the city of Yaroshalam, obviously since he died many years before they could be finished. You're now thinking to yourself, "So what? Cyrus was raised up by YA'OH to give the order to rebuild the temple and then he fell from grace immediately afterwards and YA'OH decided to have him unceremoniously taken out. Same thing happened to Sha'ol (Saul) who was anointed to be the first king of Ya'ohsharal. What's the problem?" Here is the problem. אנכי.העירתהו.בצדק.וכל.־דרכיו.אישר.הוא־.יבנה.עירי. "I raised him up in righteousness. And all his ways will I direct. He will build my city".
The historical Cyrus was not raised up in "RIGHTEOUSNESS" nor were "ALL HIS WAYS" directed by YA'OH. Cyrus never stopped being a hardcore idol worshiper. He also did not "BUILD MY CITY". This prophecy in Yashai-Ya'oh 45:13 does not speak of someone who would simply take steps to initiate a building project but who would not finish it. It says he will build YA'OH a city. This does not fit the Cyrus who was killed in battle in 517 BC. Since it does not fit then the 45th chapter of Yashai-Ya'oh cannot be talking about Cyrus the Great or else it is a false prophecy. Now for the solution. The only prophecy in Yashai-Ya'oh that talks about the historical Cyrus is this one: האמר.לכורש.רעי.וכל־.חפצי.ישלם.ולאמר.לירושלם. תבנה.והיכל.תוסד. "The one saying to Chorash: "My shepherd, and all my desire he will carry out: even saying to Yaroshalam, 'You will be built', and to the Temple, 'You will be founded'".
This prophecy at the end of the 44th chapter of Yashai-Ya'oh does fit Cyrus the Great and no one else because it speaks of a Cyrus who will "say" to Yaroshalam and to the temple that they will be rebuilt. That is all Cyrus the Great did. He issued a verbal and written order for the rebuilding but he did not finish them because he was killed two years after this order was handed down. Josephus tells us that Cyrus was shown this prophecy and that upon reading it and seeing his own name he became filled with zeal to have it be fulfilled (Antiquities 11.1.1-3). There is no a-priori reason to question the validity of this story in the writings of Josephus. Yashai-Ya'oh 44:28 does predict the historical Cyrus. However, the "Cyrus" that Yashai-Ya'oh chapter 45 speaks of does not fit the historical Cyrus. This chapter has to be talking about a different man. He is called "Cyrus" because he is to accomplish similar things, and therefore be reminiscent of the historical Cyrus, but he is not Cyrus. Let's look at chapter 45 in more depth. כה־.אמר.יהוה.למשיחו.לכורש.אשר.־החזקתי.בימינו. לרד.־לפניו.גוים.ומתני.מלכים.אפתח.לפתח.לפניו.דלתים. ושערים.לא.יסגרו. "Thus says YA'OH to His messiah, to Chorash, who I have strengthened in his right hand, to spread out before him peoples, and the loins of kings will I open, to open before him double-leaved doors, and gates will not be closed".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:1 The historical Cyrus was a great conqueror, but he had to capture Babylon TWICE. The doors of the city that were flung open wide for him peacefully in 539 BC were closed on him in 520 BC, forcing him to march upon the city with violence and thereby setting in motion the prophecy of Babylon's fall according to Yaram-Ya'oh (Jeremiah) 50-51 which entails a series of invasions by northern kings and not just one invasion. Yet the "Cyrus" this verse is talking about will not have to re-open any doors nor put down revolting kings. The doors they open for him will not be shut. Even their "loins" will be opened for him, which means YA'OH will ungird and disarm their hearts. For the chief weapons of ancient warfare were the spear and the bow, neither of which was carried at the loins. אני.לפניך.אלך.והדורים.אישר.דלתות.נחושה. אשבר.ובריחי.ברזל.אגדע. "I, before you, will I go and the honorable ones will I make straight. Doors of brass will I break, and bars of iron will I cut down".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:2 According to Herodotus, the gates of Babylon were made of solid brass, and there were supposedly one hundred of them in number (1:179). But solid brass gates have, however, nowhere been found, and such gates would have been utterly improbable and inconvenient due to their enormous weight. So the picture in verse 2 is the same as in verse 1. It is not describing military victories but rather how great difficulties and strong obstacles in general will be moved out of the way for this "Cyrus". ונתתי.לך.אוצרות.חשך.ומטמני.מסתרים.למען.תדע.כי־. אני.יהוה.הקורא.בשמך.אלהי.ישראל. "I will give to you treasures of darkness, and riches hidden underground, so that you will know that I YA'OH, the one calling by your name, am the ala'aym of Ya'ohsharal".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:3 The historical Cyrus did heap up tremendous amounts of wealth, all the riches of Asia and Babylon, but none of that made him a devotee of YA'OH as the one and only true god. He was a polytheist worshiping many gods until the day he died. Thus, verse 3 can hardly be talking about the historical Cyrus. The "Cyrus" that verse 3 is talking about will use the hidden treasures given to him by YA'OH to benefit His people Ya'ohsharal: למען.עבדי.יעקב.וישראל.בחירי. ואקרא.לך.בשמך.אכנך.ולא.ידעתני. "For the sake of my servant Ya'oh-ghakab, and Ya'ohsharal, my chosen".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:4a With all the great wealth amassed by the historical Cyrus, not even a fraction of it was used to benefit the people of Ya'ohsharal. He may have been compelled to fulfill the prophecy shown to him and let the people return to the holy land, and he did credit YA'OH for giving him the kingdoms of the world, but in no way did he donate significantly to the restoration with his own money. The expenses for reconstructing the temple alone were paid in the form of a grant and that was it (Ezr 3:7; 6:4). It evidently was not enough to finish the work. During the remaining two years of Cyrus's life after giving the order to rebuild he did nothing to silence the opposition who frustrated the work and weakened the hands of the people (Ezr 4:5). That may explain why YA'OH turned on him and targeted him for destruction and had him killed on the battle field. Nevertheless, verses 3-4a simply do not fit the historical Cyrus. ואקרא.לך.בשמך.אכנך.ולא.ידעתני. "And I have called to you in your name. I will surname you, but you didn't know me".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:4b The root of the verb אכנך in verse 4b means to call someone by a figurative name, not by their literal name or their title. The historical Cyrus did not have a figurative name, so this verse cannot be talking about him at all. The appellations "Shepherd" and "Messiah" are not figurative names. These are realistic titles that a leader is called by the people who follow him. Verse 4b predicts that a "Cyrus" will be given a figurative name, and that he didn't know YA'OH, meaning he didn't always know the name YA'OH. The holy name was revealed to him and here is why. אני.יהוה.ואין.עוד.זולתי.אין.אלהים. אאזרך.ולא.ידעתני.למען.ידעומ.מזרח.־שמש. וממערבה.כי.־אפס.בלעדי.אני.יהוה.ואין.עוד. "I am YA'OH and there is none else, and beside me there is no ala'aym. I will gird you, but you did not know me, so that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is no one except me. I am YA'OH and there is no one else".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:5-6 The purpose of this "Cyrus," the very reason why he is to be born, could not be more clear from these two verses. He is to be raised up so that the entire world learns that YA'OH is the only god there is. There is no one else besides Him. In no way, shape, or form does the historical Cyrus fit this prophecy. The historical Cyrus tolerated the gods of all religions and Marduk was his lord, not YA'OH. Yashai-Ya'oh 45:7-8 are verses where YA'OH talks about Himself and His deeds. Verse 13 is where the prophecy resumes its description of the "Cyrus" to come who cannot be confused with the historical Cyrus the Great. אנכי.העירתהו.בצדק.וכל.־דרכיו.אישר.הוא־.יבנה.עירי. וגלותי.ישלח.לא.במחיר.ולא.בשחד.אמר.יהוה.צבאות. כה.אמר.יהוה.יגיע.מצרים.וסחר.כוש.וסבאים.אנשי. מדה.עליך.יעברו.ולך.יהיו.אחריך.ילכו.בזקים. יעברו.ואליך.ישתחוו.אליך.יתפללו.אך.בך.אל.ואין. עוד.אפס.אלהים. "I raised him up in righteousness. And all his ways will I direct. He will build my city, and my captives will he send forth, not for price and not for reward, says YA'OH tsaba'oth. Thus says YA'OH: the labor of Matsraym and the merchandise of Chosh and of the Saba'aym, men of stature upon you; they will pass over to you and to you they will belong. After you will they come, in firebrands will they pass over, and to you will they worship, and to you will they pray: 'Surely Al is with you and there is none else, no ala'aym!'"
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:13-14 We've already seen that verse 13 in no way reflects the historical Cyrus. Neither do the events predicted in verse 14 belong to his days on earth. The actions of the historical Cyrus the Great simply did not trigger the events prophesied in verse 14. At no point during the entire history of the Persian Empire did Africans from different parts of Africa flee to became the slaves of the people of Ya'ohsharal in exchange for Ya'ohsharal's own deliverance (Yashai-Ya'oh 43:3-4). אכן.אתה.אל.מסתתר.אלהי.ישראל.מושיע. בושו.וגם־.נכלמו.כלם.יחדו.הלכו.בכלמה.חרשי.צירים. "Surely you are Al, the one hiding Himself, the Al of Ya'ohsharal, the Savior. Ashamed they were and also confounded they were. All of them together went into confusion, the makers of idols".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:15-16 Verse 15 tells that YA'OH is hiding Himself. The implication is that He will use a "Cyrus" to reveal Himself and to make known to the world that there is none else except Him. The historical Cyrus was not used in this fashion. Verse 16 also cannot be talking about the times of the historical Cyrus, for it condemns everyone who embraces idolatry and Cyrus the Great was an idol worshiper. ישראל.נושע.ביהוה.תשועת.עולמים. לא.תבשו.ולא.־תכלמו.עד.־עולמי.עד. "Ya'ohsharal was saved in YA'OH, a salvation everlasting; you will not be ashamed, and you will not be confounded, until everlasting forever".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:17 Verse 17 uses the prophetic perfect tense. Ya'ohsharal נושע "was saved" in YA'OH because the future event is an absolute certainty. But what does this have to do with the historical Cyrus the Great? The answer is nothing at all. Everlasting salvation for the people of Ya'ohsharal was not triggered by Cyrus the Great. The people and the temple were eventually destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The salvation this verse is talking about is a political salvation which will be triggered by a different "Cyrus" whom YA'OH will raise up to be "His messiah". All of these points that I am bringing out and going over in detail have been looked at by others, particularly biblical text critics who have used them to build their case to dismiss Yashai-Ya'oh chapters 40-55 as just the wishful thinking of an anonymous Deutero-Isaiah author in the 6th century BC. They argue this author put all his hopes on Cyrus the Great and these hopes were not realized as he had anticipated. As far as critics are concerned, we are dealing with high hopes that became false predictions. The details of chapter 45 simply do not accord with the history of Cyrus the Great, and this is correct. They do not. Yashai-Ya'oh 45:18-19 are verses where YA'OH once again talks about Himself and His deeds and how there is no one else except Him. Verses 20-25 are an exhortation to the people of Ya'ohsharal who apparently will witness the coming of "Cyrus". הקבצו.ובאו.התנגשו.יחדו.פליטי.הגוים.לא.ידעו. הנשאים.את.־עץ.פסלם.ומתפללים.אל.־אל.לא.יושיע. "Cause yourselves to assemble and come. Make yourselves draw near together, the ones escaped of the peoples they did not know. The ones setting up the tree as their graven image, and the ones praying to an Al that cannot save".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:20 This verse is a commandment to assemble and to come. But come to where? Where are the ones who escaped suppose to go? Clearly this command is a directive to pick up and leave the lands where the people of Ya'ohsharal had been enslaved, but who are now free to move elsewhere. They must migrate to the wilderness (Ezek 20:34-38). The escapees are further described as living among "people they did not know". These enemy host nations make a "tree" their graven image and they pray to a god who cannot save. This is an unmistakable allusion to the Christmas tree and the god-man at the center of the pagan Christian religion. The god of Christianity is being mocked here centuries before the religion even came into existence. It is now time for the escapees of YA'OH to turn to YA'OH and to Him alone. Their EXODUS to the wilderness will mark the beginning of their self-determination, their political freedom, and their restoration as an independent nation. Where does the second "Cyrus" fit into all of this? He is simply a temporary leader YA'OH raises up for His people to set all of this in motion. The historical Cyrus the Great told the people they could go home and rebuild the temple, but he was not a real leader for them. The second "Cyrus" is different. He will be the one who not only tells the tribes of Ya'ohsharal to exit the lands of their captors and to assemble in the wilderness but who also builds a city wherein the tabernacle of YA'OH will be reared up again as prophesied in Yashai-Ya'oh 4:6. הגידו.והגישו.אף.יועצו.יחדו.מי.השמיע. זאת.מקדם.מאז.הגידה.הלוא.אני.יהוה. ואין־.עוד.אלהים.מבלעדי.אל־.צדיק. ומושיע.אין.זולתי. "You all tell, and you all bring near. Indeed, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from old, from then he declared it?" Is it not I, YA'OH, and there is no other ala'aym from beside me, an Al of righteousness, and a Savior; there is none except me".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:21 This verse and the rest of the chapter tell us to reflect upon how YA'OH has predicted the aforementioned events that will come to pass long in advance so that when they do happen we will know that it was Him and there is no one else. פנו־.אלי.והושעו.כל־.אפסי.־ארץ.כי.אני.־אל.ואין.עוד. "Turn to me and be you saved all the ends of the earth, for I am Al, and there is no one else".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:22 To be saved we must look to YA'OH and to Him alone. The "ends of the earth" in this verse is specifically the people of Ya'ohsharal who are living scattered there until they obey the directive given in verse 20 and put their Exodus into action. בי.נשבעתי.יצא.מפי.צדקה.דבר.ולא.ישוב. כי.־לי.תכרע.כל.־ברך.תשבע.כל.־לשון. "In myself, have I sworn. It has gone forth from my mouth the word of righteousness, and it will not return, that to me will bend every knee, and will swear every tongue".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:23 It is to YA'OH that every knee must bow and every tongue must swear. There is no middle man named Jesus Christ who dies for your sins. On the other hand, members of the Christian clergy aware of the inconsistencies and the obstacles that are met with when trying to see the historical Cyrus the Great in Yashai-Ya'oh 45 have no hesitation to replace him with their savior god-man due to Paul's misappropriation of this verse in his letters (Phil 2:10-11). For them Cyrus the Great was a type and a foreshadow of Jesus Christ, and therefore Jesus Christ is the "second Cyrus" who fulfilled the prophecy of Yashai-Ya'oh 45. This interpretation is to be rejected, as it requires one to water down the whole chapter and drown it in meaningless and contrived "spiritual" allegories. אך.ביהוה.לי.אמר.צדקות.ועז.עדיו.יבוא. ויבשו.כל.הנחרים.בו. "Only in YA'OH to me, that one said, is righteousness and strength. Unto Him he will go, and they will be ashamed, all who burn with anger against him".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:24 This verse is butchered beyond recognition in the English versions. The verb אמר "that one said" in the basic stem, 3rd person masculine singular perfect tense, is referring to "His messiah," i.e. the second "Cyrus," about whom this entire chapter is speaking. Unlike the historical Cyrus the Great, this second "Cyrus" will openly confess that righteousness and strength are only found in YA'OH. He will turn to YA'OH and go to Him. The verb יבוא "he will go" is imperfect 3rd person masculine singular. Whereas the English versions have "shall men come" which is incorrect. Everyone who burns with anger for this "Cyrus" will be put to shame, implying that he will have haters. ביהוה.יצדקו.ויתהללו.כל.־זרע.ישראל. "In YA'OH they will be justified, and they will commend one another, all the seed of Ya'ohsharal".
Yashai-Ya'oh 45:25 All the seed of Ya'ohsharal obviously refers only to those redeemed. What does this have to do with Cyrus the Great? Nothing at all. What does it have to do with the second "Cyrus"? As I stated in a previous article, Cyrus the Great was compensated for his having issued the royal decree for the rebuilding of the temple. He was compensated with Babylon, the wealthiest and the most powerful city in the world at that time. But the second "Cyrus" who will send the captives out of the land of the pyramids in the New World will not do it for ransom or compensation. He will do it without a price or reward (Yashai-Ya'oh 45:13). What matters to him will be the gathering of the people unto YA'OH so they are justified in Him, and that they are brought to a place where they can be restored as a nation; where they can commend and uplift one another as the prophet Yashai-Ya'oh foresaw. All of this will begin happening very soon, or YA'OH has not spoken by me.
His name is YA'OH
Always has been. Always will be.