Seeing Christ in Others--Part 4, King Cyrus the Messiah
Dec 14, 2007
King Cyrus of Persia was not much different from other monarchs in his day. It was a time when men assumed that monarchs had the divine right to do as they pleased, kill whom they would, eliminate all potential rivals to the throne. The big difference with Persian law, however, was that they had a constitutional monarchy which said that the king was bound by the laws and decrees, once they were passed.
For this reason, King Darius had to throw Daniel into the lion's den in Daniel 6. The decree was binding upon the king, even though he tried hard to spare Daniel (Dan. 6:14).
In Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1 the prophet mentions Cyrus by name. Isaiah lived nearly two centuries earlier, during the time when Assyria had become the superpower and had conquered Samaria, deporting the Israelites to the area around the Caspian Sea. It would yet be another century before Babylon would come to power, and Babylon would rule for 70 years before being conquered by Cyrus the Persian King.
So Bible critics, who do not believe in prophecy, tell us that Isaiah 45 was written by a "second Isaiah." They do not think that the "first" Isaiah could have known the name of a future king who would issue the decree to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. After all, Jerusalem had not even been captured yet, nor was the temple yet destroyed. But Isaiah 44:28 says,
"It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid'."
For the record, I have seen enough prophecy in my own time to believe that God speaks to men of future things. What we see in the Bible are examples of this type of activity--not exceptions to the rule. But to get to our main point here, Isaiah 45:1 says,
"Thus says the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed [messiah], whom I have taken by the right hand to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings [i.e., to make kings mess their pants through fear]; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut."
In verse 5 God says to Cyrus,
"I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me."
God calls King Cyrus a "messiah" even though Cyrus did not know God and did not know who was girding him--that is, supporting him as a parent. Cyrus was too spiritually immature to know this. Yet God, in His sovereignty, was the One working through this king who worshipped other gods. This passage of Scripture is the classic "Sovereignty of God" passage. Cyrus is set forth as the primary example to prove that God is sovereign over the kings of the earth--and that He does His will through them, whether they know Him or not. Isaiah 45:6 gives us the reason why God called Cyrus, though Cyrus did not know God:
"That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other."
All other gods need man's cooperation to fulfill the will of their gods. The God of the Bible is not dependent upon men's cooperation. It is more accurate to say that men end up cooperating with God without realizing it. God works out His will, and men follow it blindly, thinking that they are doing their own will, thinking the plan was their own.
Isaiah prophesied about 730-700 B.C. Cyrus conquered Babylon in 537 B.C. and issued his decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple in 534 B.C. That was close to TWO CENTURIES after Isaiah's time.
Cyrus was a type of Christ (that is, a "messiah"). For this reason, we ought to be able to see through Cyrus' paganism and see Christ operating through Him. It is not that different from Jacob seeing the face of God in Esau. It is not that different from David, who saw the face and hand of God in Shimei who was cursing him in the Absalom revolt (2 Sam. 16:7). David's general wanted to lop off Shimei's head, but David said in verse 10, "Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him."
Wow, how many of us could see God in others while they are cursing us??
I wrote about the circumstances surrounding the birth of King Cyrus in FFI #196 on the Book of Revelation. There I showed how Cyrus was supposed to be killed at birth, because of the king's dream that he would ultimately usurp the throne. The king was Astyages, King of Media, the grandfather of Cyrus. Astyages entrusted the deed to his steward, Harpagus, who in turn gave the baby to a herdsman named Mitradates.
It happened that Mitradates's wife had just given birth to a stillborn child when her husband walked into the house with a new baby. So they substituted babies and raised Cyrus as their own child. Does this not remind us of King Herod's attempt to kill Jesus in Bethlehem?
When Cyrus was ten years old, it was discovered who he was as the result of playing a childish game called "King of the Hill." Cyrus was able to escape to Persia. But King Astyages was angry with his steward and took revenge on him by inviting him to a banquet. The steward did not know until afterward that the main "meat" course included his own son who was killed and served on a platter of meat.
The steward managed to hide his anger, but never forgot the incident. Years later, with the incident long forgotten, the steward convinced the nobles of Media to revolt against Astyages under the leadership of Cyrus. In the war, King Astyages foolishly put the steward in charge of the army. Obviously, the army was defeated, and Cyrus became the king of Media-Persia in 550 B.C.
Cyrus treated his grandfather, Astyages, with great consideration until his death. Astyages' son, Darius, was Cyrus' uncle and soon became also his father-in-law. This is the Darius who took Babylon in Daniel 5:31. He was the king of Media, but was under the authority of Cyrus, king of Persia.
So not only was Cyrus a type of Christ in the events surrounding his birth, but he was also a type of Christ in that he overthrew Babylon. (Darius actually took Babylon, but he did so under Cyrus' orders.) Cyrus later came to Babylon on a white horse in October, the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Can we see Christ in Cyrus?
This is the final part of a series titled "Seeing Christ in Others." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones