Dr. Tiemeyer refutes the idea that the Cyrus Cylinder is the source for Isaiah 45:1,3.

Nov 12, 2010
Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, For the Comfort of Zion (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010) 96-97

Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Turning to more specific examples, it has commonly been argued that Isa 44:28–45:8 contains parallels with the Cyrus Cylinder and, in turn, that these parallels prove the Babylonian domicile of the author of Isa 40-55. What has particularly captured scholars are the expressions "whose right hand I have grasped" and "he called his name", both found in line 12 of the Cyrus cylinder and in Isa 45:1 ... and 45:3 . . .

To begin with the alleged parallel to Isa 45:1, a mere cursory glance establishes the fact the Cyrus cylinder does not use the phrase qata sabatu or the related qata ahazu, i.e. cognate expressions of the Hebrew...that is found in Isa 45:1. In fact, the verb sabatu ("to seize") is nowhere attested on the entire cylinder. Rather, it contains the phrase it-ta-ma-ah qa-tu-us-su, derived from the verb tamahu + qatu ("to give in the hand"; "in die Hand geben"). Also, the subject and the object differ in the two texts. While the hand belongs to Cyrus in the biblical text, the hand belongs to Marduk in the Cyrus cylinder. It is therefore far from obvious that the Hebew and the Akkadian expressions convey the same meaning. In fact, as shown by Oppenheim, and as reflected in the recent, more idiomatic translation of the cylinder by Cogan, a better way to translate the Akkadian is "He surveys and looked throughout all the lands, searching for a right-out king whom he could support." Thus, although Isa 45:1 is reminiscent of the Cyrus cylinder, the parallels are more general than what has often been assumed. Furthermore, it is unlikely that this general similarity between Isa 45:1 and the Cyrus cylinder reflects a situation in which the Isaianic author borrowed directly from the Akkadian text. Instead it is preferable to see the similarity as arising from a shared ideology within the ancient Near East, where the specific relationship between a king and his deity is expressed in terms of the deity supporting and strengthening the ruler. Furthermore, this ideology is not restricted to Isa 40–55 (41:9, 13; 42:6) but is also attested elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (Jer 31:32; Ps 110:5).

To turn to Isa 45:3, the phrase suma zakaru is the semantic equivalent of the Hebrew... Yet this expression is integral to biblical Hebrew, as can be seen by its occurrence in not only Isa 48:1 and 49:1 but also Exod 31:2 and 35:30. Following Talmon's criteria above, the text of Exodus, rather than the Cyrus cylinder, is thus the most likely source of influence on Isa 45:3.

There are also other reasons to doubt that Isa 44:28–45:8 has anything to do with the Cyrus cylinder. Kuhrt has demonstrated that the content of the Cyrus Cylinder is modeled after earlier Assyrian prototypes, such as royal buildings inscriptions and foundation texts. The closest stylistic parallels to the Cyrus cylinder are a group of texts which relate to Assurbanipal's rebuilding of Babylon and the re-establishment of the cult of Marduk. The Cyrus cylinder therefore does not reflect Cyrus's own religious and political convictions; rather, it shows how Cyrus adopted local traditions and procedures, as befitting anyone claiming to be a legitimate ruler of Babylon. In addition, as the text is related specifically to Marduk, and as it reflects mostly inner-Babylonian conditions (lines 28–36), it lacks direct bearing on the situation in Judah. It is, however, possible, from a more general perspective, that Cyrus followed a policy similar to that of earlier Assyrian rulers who supported the reinstatement of the privileges of particular cities that occupied key-positions in troublesome areas . . .

BHR Staff Commentary

Copyright © B. H. Roberts Foundation
The B. H. Roberts Foundation is not owned by, operated by, or affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.