Did Isaiah prophesy that Cyrus the Great would conquer Babylon in 539 B.C.?
The prophecy of Isaiah contains many prophecies. This article is about one. Did Isaiah prophesy that Cyrus the Great would conquer Babylon in 539 B.C.? This brief study has two parts: the prophecy itself, and then the strong evidence the prophecies were real and were fulfilled.
Prophecy That Cyrus Will Defeat Babylon
There are two primary passages about the prediction that King Cyrus II would conquer the king of the Babylonian empire. The first one is Isaiah 13:17-19.
Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will their eye pity children. And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 13:17-19 (NASB)
The prophecy clearly and unambiguously states that the Medes would be against Babylon—the Babylonian Empire (v.1 ). Then later in a long prophecy in Isaiah 21:1-10, the prophecy is repeated. In verse 2, the prophet commands Media, the Medo-Persian Empire, to go and engage in battle. Then in verse 9 of that passage, the prophet declares “Fallen, fallen is Babylon.” The Hebrew grammar is spectacular when it uses the perfect tense to speak as if the prophecy had already been fulfilled. Babylon fell to the Medes
Then in Isaiah 44:2, 28 and Isaiah 45:1-7 we learn the name of the King of the Medo-Persian empire. His name is Cyrus. So, the prophecy is that the Medo-Persian king named Cyrus would eventually conquer the city of Babylon.
Evidence Supporting the Prophecy
But is there evidence that these prophecies were fulfilled? Yes, there is evidence that supports, but does not confirm, the existence of the prophet Isaiah and that he lived about 727 to 686 B.C.  during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The dates of his ministry would also be the dates of his prophecy regarding King Cyrus, the Mede, and the Babylonian Empire. What follows gives support that the prophet Isaiah lived about 727 to 686 B.C. Then evidence is provided that affirms the time when King Cyrus reigned as king over the Medo-Persian empire. During his reign he conquered the Babylonian Empire.
First, we need to know that the name of the prophet Isaiah appears thirty-two times in the Old Testament. It occurs thirteen times in 2 Kings, three times in 2 Chronicles, and sixteen times in Isaiah. The books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are historical books which recorded the history of Israel. Since they refer to Isaiah, this means that Isaiah existed prior to the writing of the books. Therefore, it is established that 2 Kings was written about 561-538 B.C. and 2 Chronicles about 450-430 B.C. Liberal critics generally agree with the dating of these books. This means that there is agreement that Isaiah wrote at least before 450 B.C.
Second, it is also important to know that King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned together nineteen times in 2 Kings, and fifteen times in Isaiah. This is important because in 2015 the Smithsonian Magazine and other news organizations reported that archaeologists had found evidence of a bulla identified with King Hezekiah and a bulla identified with Isaiah. Here is a portion of their report,
In 2015, archaeologists announced that they had discovered the bulla (a clay impression of a seal) of king Hezekiah, who ruled Judea in the late 8th and early 7th centuries B.C., at a site in Jerusalem. Just 10 feet away, the excavation team unearthed another bulla bearing the name “Isaiah.” As Owen Jarus reports for Live Science, one of the archaeologists who works at the site has written an article positing that the “Isaiah” mentioned in the seal might be none other than the Isaiah of the Old Testament, a prominent Hebrew prophet and Hezekiah’s close advisor.
. . .
The seal in question is inscribed with the name “Yesha‘yah[u],” Hebrew for “Isaiah,” followed by the word “nvy.” Part of the seal is broken off, but Mazar believes that “nvy” might be an incomplete word that was once followed by the Hebrew letter aleph. If she is correct, the seal would spell out the Hebrew word for prophet—and provide the first reference to Isaiah outside of the Bible.
Scholars generally agree that Isaiah was a historical figure who lived in Jerusalem at the end of the 8th century. According to the Bible, Isaiah and Hezekiah were thrust together when the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. Isaiah discouraged Hezekiah from accepting the Assyrians’ offer of surrender, promising him that God would save Jerusalem. As Mazar notes, “the names of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned in one breath 14 of the 29 times the name of Isaiah is recalled. No other figure was closer to king Hezekiah than the prophet Isaiah.”
This is significant archaeological evidence, because it is the first step to proving that the prophet Isaiah lived during the time of King Hezekiah.
McClintock and Strong created a table that provides the dates of the individual prophecies in Isaiah. The table indicates the prophecies were given between 725 B.C. and 712 B.C., respectively. So, we have solid proof that the prophecies of Isaiah were given before 538 B.C. and archaeological evidence that suggests the prophecies did occur during the time of 725 B.C. and 712 B.C.
Third, Jack Finegan in his extremely detailed book Handbook of Biblical Chronology demonstrates with multiple historical details from Julius Africanus that Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) became king of the Persians in 560/559 B.C.[4, 5] Then he reigned for thirty years to 531/530 B.C. These dates were determined from Julius Africanus, the Chronicle of Eusebius, and cuneiform sources. It is generally agreed that the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.
This strongly indicates, but does not prove, that the prophecy about King Cyrus II conquering the Babylonian Empire in Isaiah occurred at least 173 years before being fulfilled. This strongly indicates that Isaiah was a true prophet of God. This also means that God spoke through him, and the book of Isaiah is truth. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says,
“‘But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, how will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (NASB)
In addition to the prophecy about King Cyrus II conquering the Babylonian Empire, there are many prophecies about Jesus Christ that were fulfilled. Since the full book of Isaiah, called the Great Isaiah Scroll, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know the prophecies were made before Jesus fulfilled them because the Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah was dated about 150-100 B.C. and Jesus Christ was upon this earth from about 3/2 B.C. to A.D. 33.
So, God has spoken!
1. Philippe Bohstrom. “Isaiah the Prophet, Man or Biblical Myth: The Archaeological Evidence.” Haaretz. Mar 19, 2018. (www.haaretz.com/archaeology/2018-03-19/ty-article-magazine-ext/isaiah-the-prophet-man-or-myth/00000180-179b-db53-a3aa-179f1ff00000)
2. Brigit Katz. Is This the Seal of the Prophet Isaiah? February 26, 2018. (www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/seal-prophet-isaiah-180968255/)
3. McClintock and Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 1887, vol. IV. p. 675.
4. Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Hendricksen. Grand Rapids. 1998., para. 288, 326-328, p. 156, 178-179.
5. Julius Africanus. “The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus”, Chapter 13, Section 2. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Hendrckson Publishers. 1995. vol. 6, pp. 133.
6. Ibid. para. 328, p. 179.
7. Ibid. para. 327-328, p. 179.
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Isaiah the Prophet, Man or Biblical Myth: The Archaeological Evidence
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