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NIV Isaiah 45:23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.

In the BibleHub interlinear "before me" seems to be absent (added by the translators) and the person to whom all will bow is not identified:

http://biblehub.com/interlinear/isaiah/45-23.htm

It seems to read:

"I have sworn by myself, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that shall not be revoked: all shall bow the knee to [?] and every tongue shall swear/bless"

Is the implied object YHVH or Cyrus?

NIV Isaiah 45: 14This is what the Lord says: “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,c and those tall Sabeans— they will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you, coming over to you in chains. They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying, ‘Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.’ ”

This certainly is a very significant messianic prophesy and is the obvious background for Paul's passage in Philippians 2. Of particular note to me is the fact that YHVH says that he will confer on Cyrus an exalted title even though Cyrus does not recognize YHVH (yet) because the conferring is for his own glory!:

Isaiah 45: 4For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. 5I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, 6so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.

God refers to Cyrus as his "shepherd":

KJV Isa 44:28  That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

In addition he refers to Cyrus by the messianic title of "anointed" (ie: "Christ" or "Messiah") and that to him God will open doors that no one will shut:!

NIV 1“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:

It sounds like he will be more than a king - he will be the Suzerain (Lord)!

Note that God giving Cyrus an exalted title is not intended to glorify Cyrus but to glorify God.

So again, who is the one to whom every knee is bowed in Isaiah 45:23?

Ultimately the Hebrew here is somewhat irrelevant for NT studies since Paul cites the LXX (as usual) and it has an explicit "to me" (EMOI). In light of that and given the context I see it as bowing to God to bow to Cyrus, since it is God who has chosen him by name, anointed him, empowered him, etc.

  • Although some will say this arises from a fault inherent to interlinears, Biblehub does a particularly bad job (though I realize it's the only such resource available free of charge). If one keeps in mind the limitations of the format, Crossway's ESV-BHS interlinear is a substantially better resource, albeit a costly one. Try a library. – Susan Apr 11 '18 at 19:02
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כִּי־לִי תִּכְרַ֣ע כָּל־בֶּ֔רֶךְ
For to me every knee shall bow

תִּשָּׁבַע כָּל־לָשֽׁוֹן
Every tongue shall confess.

The highlighted לי is the preposition lamed ("to", "for", "toward") with a suffixed first person singular personal pronoun. The translation "to me" adds nothing of the translator's opinion. The NIV (quoted in the question) uses "before me" which is an English stylistic choice but still makes no meaningful assumptions beyond the Hebrew text.

God refers here to himself. This is explicit; there is no "implied object". The antecedent for the first person pronoun is abundantly clear from the previous verse:

אֲנִי־אֵל
I am God

  • Thank you. Can you please elaborate on what the sense of "for me" might be? Might it have the sense of "because of me"? IE: "because of me all shall bow the knee [to Cyrus]"? – Ruminator Apr 11 '18 at 19:05
  • Although I would be happy to take it at face value ("TO me"!), the rigorous way to go about this would be to look at a lexicon under כרע ("bow down") and see what it says about that verb used with the preposition ל (or, failing that, to do your own search). The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew is the best (I think hands down) resource for this sort of thing. It tells us that ל in this context means "of direction, to" and gives further examples: "בַּעַל Baal 1 K 19:18, טֶבַח slaughter Is 65:12...". – Susan Apr 11 '18 at 19:14
  • I can appreciate how "to me" makes sense for "bowing" but given the context "because of me" also is compelling. He has just said that all would bow to Cyrus. Why? Because he is causing it all. But even if "to me" is intended it may be an example of "bowing to Cyrus is bowing to me" since God is behind his conquering. "...They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying, ‘Surely God is with you, and there is no other; there is no other god.’ ” – Ruminator Apr 11 '18 at 19:35
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As Susan pointed out in her answer in the preceding verse 18 the antecedent of the pronoun is definitely God and not Cyrus.

Isa. 45:23 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

In addition the speaker is made clear in verse 18 with no other speaker being introduced between verse 18 and verse 23.

Isa 45. 45:23 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

This indicates that every pronoun I between verses 18-23 is a reference to Jehovah, the YHWH.

This might be controversial here, but the only groups I am aware of that would argue that Isa. 45:23 is Cyrus are groups like the Jehovah's Witness. There point is not to look at the specific grammar of the passage, their point is to undermine the association that this passage has with the New Testament, because the apostle Paul two times links this object of Isa. 45:23 to Jesus, God the Son (Phil. 2:10, Rom. 14:11).

The Romans passage is especially telling because Romans 14:10 describes the judgment seat of Christ. Then in the very next verse Paul introduces verse 11 with the phrase For it is written, which introduces an exact quote of Isa. 45:23. It would have been utter nonsense for Paul to quote a verse suggesting that Old Testament individuals would bow the knee to Cyrus, and by the addition of Romans 14:11 so would Christians. The plain grammar of Isa 45 and Romans 14 point to the fact that Jehovah will be the object of this worship and Jesus is being presented to our minds as the person of Jehovah.

Of course I come to this conclusion based on my historical understanding of the Scriptures, I am unafraid to remind readers that I am a fundamental Baptist. Others may not be so willing to tell others that their theological bias is the bias of the Jehovah's Witness.

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The first 7 verses and verse 13 of Chapter 23 are about Cyrus. The rest, which must be quoted in its entirety to give the proper contexts, shows that this is about YHVH's honor exclusively in saving Israel:

8“Rain down, O heavens, from above, and let clouds pour down righteousness. Let the earth open, let them bring forth deliverance, and let righteousness spring up together. I, יהוה, have created it.

9“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! (a potsherd with the potsherds of the earth). Does clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?

10“Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you bringing forth?’ Or to the woman, ‘What are you labouring over?’ ”

11Thus said יהוה, the Set-apart One of Yisra’ĕl, and his Maker, “Do you ask Me about My sons what is to come? And about the work of My hands do you command Me?

12“I have made the earth, and created man on it. I, My hands have stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.

13“I have stirred him up in righteousness, and all his ways I make straight. He builds My city and lets My exiles go, not for price nor reward,” declares יהוה of hosts.

14Thus said יהוה, “The labour of Mitsrayim and merchandise of Kush and of the Seḇaites, men of size, come over to you and they are yours. They walk behind you, they come over in chains, and they bow down to you. They make supplication to you, saying, ‘Indeed, Ěl is in you, and there is none else, no mighty one.’ ”

15Truly You are Ěl, who hide Yourself, O Elohim of Yisra’ĕl, Saviour!

16They shall be put to shame, and even be humiliated, all of them – the makers of idols shall go away together in humiliation.

17Yisra’ĕl shall be saved by יהוה with an everlasting deliverance. You are not to be ashamed nor hurt, forever and ever.

18For thus said יהוה, Creator of the heavens, He is Elohim, Former of earth and its Maker, He established it, He did not create it to be empty, He formed it to be inhabited: “I am יהוה, and there is none else.

19“I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. I have not said to the seed of Ya‛aqoḇ, ‘Seek Me in vain.’ I am יהוה, speaking righteousness, declaring matters that are straight.

20“Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the gentiles. No knowledge have they who are lifting up the wood of their carved image, and pray to a mighty one that does not save.

21“Declare and bring near, let them even take counsel together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has declared it from that time? Is it not I, יהוה? And there is no mighty one besides Me, a righteous Ěl and a Saviour, there is none besides Me.

22“Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am Ěl, and there is none else.

23“I have sworn by Myself, a word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, so that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue swear.

24“One shall say, ‘Only in יהוה do I have righteousness and strength’ – he comes to Him. And all those displeased with Him shall be put to shame.

25“In יהוה all the seed of Yisra’ĕl shall be declared right and boast. ”

quoting ISR Version

While Cyrus is to be a vehicle for Israel's return to its homeland, no where is it indicated that he is to be worshipped as YHVH is. In fact, YHVH says every knee will bow to HIM. This includes Cyrus, who is not to be thought of as a contender for YHVH's honor.

  • What is the ISR version? If it is your own translation you must say so. – Ruminator Apr 12 '18 at 21:11

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