The Remnant’s Return and the Cyrus Cylinder

This month we will read Ezra and Nehemiah, which describe the return of a “remnant” of God’s people from Babylonian captivity, and their subsequent efforts to rebuild the Law of Moses and the walls of Jerusalem. Over a century earlier, this return was prophesied by Isaiah, right down to the name of the King who would send them home to the land of Israel: Cyrus the Great...and it is confirmed by secular history!

In 2010, there was a dispute between the Iranian and British governments, specifically those in charge of the British Museum, over an ancient artifact called “The Cyrus Cylinder” (see picture inside). This archaeological artifact dates back to the 500’s B.C., and is a key piece of Babylonian and Ancient Near Eastern history. The dispute was over the British Museum’s refusal to loan the artifact to the Iranian government. Eventually, it was “loaned” to the Iranian government for three months and showcased in Iran, where almost a million people came to view it. Later, in 2013, the cylinder toured 5 museums the United States, where over 300,000 more people viewed it. In an AP article describing the political ramifications of these actions, the cylinder itself is described in this way:

The artifact is a 6th century B.C. clay tablet with an account in cuneiform of the conquest of Babylon by Persian King Cyrus the Great. It describes how Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and restored many of the people held captive by the Babylonians to their homelands. (ALI DAREINI, AP)

This is certainly an accurate description, but it fails to address, or even mention, the cylinder’s connection to the Bible. In reality, the Cyrus Cylinder is a major confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Bible, and a significant secular proof to the fulfillment of Biblical prophesies.

Isaiah 44:28 “(The LORD) says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure.’ Even saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, “To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—To subdue nations before him…”

Written in the late 700’s BC, these specific prophesies were made more than 100 years before Cyrus the Great was born. He went on to be king of the Persians, conqueror of Babylon, and the king who returned the Jews to Jerusalem. The Cyrus Cylinder is the primary extra-biblical source to confirm these events.

In an effort to discredit these prophesies, modern liberal-critical “scholars” suggest that there had to have been multiple authors of the book of Isaiah. They believe that Isaiah wrote Chapters 1-39, and another or multiple authors wrote Chapters 40-66, or Deutero-Isaiah. This view is in contradiction with 1) what the book claims for itself, 2) the New Testament, which quotes from both sections and identifies Isaiah as the author (Matt. 3:3, 8:17, 12:18; John 1:23, 12:38-40; Rom. 10:16, 11:26), and 3) over 2000 years of common acceptance of Isaiah’s authorship.

There are three main arguments that are used to suggest two or more authors for the book of Isaiah. First, the style changes from judgment to hope in Chapter 40 and following. Secondly, some words are used in Chapters 40-66 that are not used in the first part of the book. Finally, Isaiah shows knowledge of specific future events, which is “impossible.”

Essentially, the arguments are this: 1) the style changes from judgment to hope when the message changes from judgment to hope; 2) different words are used when the message changes; and 3) the prophetic portions are fake because prophesy is fake. Such is the circular reasoning of false teaching.

The weakness of these arguments illustrates the strength of the Biblical position. Obviously, style changes when the message changes—that would be true of any writing or communication. You would not speak to someone in anger the same way you would speak to them in love. As for the vocabulary, you clearly wouldn’t use words like hope, peace, or love when talking about judgment, destruction, and fear. Finally, the main reason they make the argument for two or more authors is because they cannot accept the existence of real prophesy—it is this bias that drives both their rejection of Isaiah as the sole author of the book and the media’s omission of this link to the Bible when the Cyrus Cylinder is in the news.