It was God’s will that the Jews would return from the Babylonian captivity to their land after 70 years. But Babylon was unwilling to free them. Therefore, the Lord raised up the Persians to destroy Babylon. And He made Cyrus His selected tool for the freedom of the Jews (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1–4; 5:13–15; 6:3–5).
Isaiah 41:2 refers to Cyrus as the “righteous man.” Ancient authors document that this Persian king was a man of extraordinary nobility and uprightness of character. He was known among the Oriental conquerors for his high moral character, fairness and wisdom. The first half of Isaiah 41:2 reads literally, “Who caused to rise up [one] from the east, righteousness will meet him at his foot.” The second half read, “Who gave the nations before him.” Here, the prophet describes the victorious advance of the king, with one after another of his enemies bowing in submission before him. God raised him “in righteousness,” to build His city and to set His captives free (Isaiah 45:13).
Prophecy – The Jews’ Liberation
The prophet Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus’ liberation of the Jews. He said, “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” (Isaiah 44:28).
This is an amazing prophecy because it mentions Cyrus by name, a century and a half before his birth. It also predicts the notable part he was to play in the freedom of the Jews. The Persian king must have been greatly surprised later on to know that a Jewish prophecy named him, talked about his seizure of Babylon, and foretold of his plan to free the Jews many years before his birth.
Cyrus lived in a nation where few knew God as the Creator. But the Lord orchestrated the events so that Cyrus would have a chance to learn about Him as the ultimate King and the One who had selected him for his mission (Ezra 1:2). Through Cyrus’ knowledge of God, people everywhere that are scattered in his empire would learn of God, who had appointed him.
A Type of Christ
Cyrus was a type of Christ, who was also called “in righteousness” (Isaiah 42:6) and whose task was “to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1, 2). As Cyrus brought judgment upon ancient Babylon, so Christ will bring judgment upon modern spiritual Babylon (Revelation 16:19; 17:1, 5; 18:2, 21).
It was the Lord who set up Cyrus and submitted the nations of world before him. “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut’” (Isaiah 45:1).
The first part of the above verse presents the title “anointed.” This word was applied by the Hebrews to both the high priest (Exodus 30:30) and the king (1 Samuel 24:6). And in a larger sense it applied to Christ (Gr. Christos, “anointed”). The Son of God was anointed by the Holy Ghost for His work in behalf of fallen humanity (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; Matthew 1:1).
Regarding the second part of Isaiah 45:1, the Greek historian Herodotus narrates that on the night of Cyrus’ capture of Babylon, the city gates along the Euphrates were not closed. The nation was feasting and thus the Persian army was able to cross the river into Babylon without resistant and conquer it. Thus, God prepared the way for Cyrus to fulfill His will.
In His service,