Isaiah (Part 51): Rescue Revelation Means -1 (Ch 44b)
In the section of our study called Rescue Revelation Shown (Isaiah 42:17 – 43:13), we encountered three ideas about God’s caregiving revelation that were presented in chiasms. The caregiving ideas and the chiastic emphases are as follows:
1. Caregiving revelation among the distrustful (42:17-25)
MAGNIFIED INSTRUCTION (TRUTH)
2. Caregiving revelation among the fearful (43:1-7)
GOD GAVE EGYPT/NATIONS FOR JUDAH
3. Caregiving revelation among the ineffectual (43:7-13)
NO OTHER GOD/RESCUER
In the section we just completed called Rescue Revelation Assured (Isaiah 43:14 – 44:20), we find three ideas about God’s rescue which also correspond to the three chiastic emphases:
1. Rescue is by God; it is not by Jacob (43:14-28)
MAGNIFIED INSTRUCTION (TRUTH)
2. Rescue is for Jacob; it is for God’s chosen (44:1-5)
GOD GAVE EGYPT/NATIONS FOR JUDAH
3. Rescue is by God; there is no other (44:1-5)
NO OTHER GOD/RESCUER
This section concludes in verses 21 through 23 of chapter 44 with a summary of the section, noting that God formed Israel, swept their (national) sin away, and rescued them. God states it as if it had already occurred although the prophecy is pointing to a future event. Doing so provides assurance that what God says will happen will happen.
Verse 24 of chapter 44 begins a new section that continues to the end of chapter 45. This section may be called the Rescue Revelation Means because in it God reveals whom he will use to accomplish the rescue from Babylonian captivity.
The first few verses of this section (44:24-28) remind us of God’s control even as God names Cyrus as the rescuer. God begins in verse 24 declaring that he is Yahweh (the Existing One). He states that he alone created implying that he alone controls. The next few verses contain Hebrew participles pointing back to God. In verse 25 he controls all the false gods and false efforts of others at control. In verse 26 God declares that he controls the realization of his word. This is immediately followed by examples. In 26b he declares that the covenant land would recover. In verse 27 he states that Babylon will fall. And in verse 28, while naming Cyrus as rescuer, he tells us that the Jews would be rescued.
It may at first seem odd that we link verse 27 with the fall of Babylon. The verse actually just mentions that rivers will dry up. But this is precisely how Babylon was captured. Note the following description by the historian Herodotus:
Cyrus on his way to Babylon came to the banks of the Gyndes, a stream which, rising in the Matienian mountains, runs through the country of the Dardanians, and empties itself into the river Tigris. The Tigris, after receiving the Gyndes, flows on by the city of Opis, and discharges its waters into the Erythraean sea. When Cyrus reached this stream, which could only be passed in boats, one of the sacred white horses accompanying his march, full of spirit and high mettle, walked into the water, and tried to cross by himself; but the current seized him, swept him along with it, and drowned him in its depths. Cyrus, enraged at the insolence of the river, threatened so to break its strength that in future even women should cross it easily without wetting their knees. Accordingly he put off for a time his attack on Babylon, and, dividing his army into two parts, he marked out by ropes one hundred and eighty trenches on each side of the Gyndes, leading off from it in all directions, and setting his army to dig, some on one side of the river, some on the other, he accomplished his threat by the aid of so great a number of hands, but not without losing thereby the whole summer season.
Having, however, thus wreaked his vengeance on the Gyndes, by dispersing it through three hundred and sixty channels, Cyrus, with the first approach of the ensuing spring, marched forward against Babylon. The Babylonians, encamped without their walls, awaited his coming. A battle was fought at a short distance from the city, in which the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian king, whereupon they withdrew within their defenses. Here they shut themselves up, and made light of his siege, having laid in a store of provisions for many years in preparation against this attack; for when they saw Cyrus conquering nation after nation, they were convinced that he would never stop, and that their turn would come at last.
“Cyrus was now reduced to great perplexity, as time went on and he made no progress against the place. In this distress either some one made the suggestion to him, or he bethought himself of a plan, which he proceeded to put in execution. He placed a portion of his army at the point where the river enters the city, and another body at the back of the place where it issues forth, with orders to march into the town by the bed of the stream, as soon as the water became shallow enough: he then himself drew off with the unwarlike portion of his host, and made for the place where Nitocris dug the basin for the river, where he did exactly what she had done formerly: he turned the Euphrates by a canal into the basin, which was then a marsh, on which the river sank to such an extent that the natural bed of the stream became fordable. Hereupon the Persians who had been left for the purpose at Babylon by the, river-side, entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up a man's thigh, and thus got into the town. Had the Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians to enter the city, but would have destroyed them utterly; for they would have made fast all the street-gates which gave upon the river, and mounting upon the walls along both sides of the stream, would so have caught the enemy, as it were, in a trap. But, as it was, the Persians came upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of the central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learnt the capture but too certainly. Such, then, were the circumstances of the first taking of Babylon.
What Herodotus explains is that the Euphrates River used to flow past the city of Babylon. The Babylonians dammed and redirected the river to flow under the walls and through the city. Cyrus, therefore, simply dug a channel to allow the river to return (partially) to its previous course, thus lowering the water level of the river to Babylon and allowing them to march into the city through the river bed under the city walls.
Nabonidus, the Babylonian king was out with his army recovering from their defeat by the Persian force at the city of Opis. His son, Belshazzar, as second in command in the empire, was the leader in Babylon at the time. We read of Belshazzar’s attitude while surrounded by Cyrus in Daniel 5. There we learn that Belshazzar, so confident that Cyrus could not gain entrance to the city, decides to throw a party. It was this foolish arrogance that kept them from taking the measures to close the interior city gates to the river, thus allowing the Persians, once gaining access under the exterior city wall, to charge into the city and easily conquer it. With his capital in the hands of Persia, Nabonides surrendered soon after.
The fact that Cyrus conquered the city and almost immediately issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple is a matter of historical record. But it would seem that some discrepancy exists in the timing.
According to our historical record based on the Ptolemaic dating system, the capture of Babylon and release of the Jews occurred in 538 BC. The following is a list of Persian kings from Cyrus to the demise of the Persian empire in 330 BC at the hands of Alexander the Great of Greece:
Darius I 522-486
Xerxes I (486-465) also called Ahaseurus in Esther
Artaxerxes I (465-424) king during the time of Nehemiah
Then the following from 424 to 330 BC:
Daniel 9:24 begins the passage relating Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. God ordained 70 weeks or 70 periods of seven years (490 years total) for final focus on Israel as his covenant people. Verse 25 reads, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks.” These 69 weeks make up 483 of the 490 years. The problem is that Christ began his ministry around AD 26. If we backtrack 483 years, we come to 458 BC, not 538 BC when Cyrus issued the decree. So, is the Bible wrong?
Many scholars tried to solve the problem by saying that the decree mentioned in Daniel 9:25 is not the Cyrus decree, but it was rather the decree of Artaxerxes probably in 458 BC, which he issued to send Nehemiah back to Jerusalem to help build the wall around the city.
At the very beginning of the 20th century, a scholar named Martin Anstey began to question the Ptolemaic calendar. He decided to build a calendar from Adam to Christ using almost exclusively information gathered simply from the pages of Scripture. His work, Romance of Bible Chronology, reveals that during the Babylonian through Persian period, Ptolemy’s calendar is off by about 80 years. Thus, if we take the Ptolemaic date of Cyrus’s decree, 538, and add 80 years, the result is 458 BC, which is in sync with Daniel 9:25’s 483 years between the decree and Christ.