Book: The Hunt for Ancient Israel
Chapter: “He Shall Accomplish My Desired Will”: The Yehudized Cyrus in the Book of Isaiah
This paper analyses the presentation of Cyrus in Isa 40–48 by emphasising its imperial context. After locating the Cyrus discourse in Isa 40–48, in which this foreign king is situated among Israel, YHWH, other deities, kings and peoples, I will explore how scholars have compared the presentation of Cyrus in Isa 40–48 to various material related to Persian kings. Such comparisons are carried out from different points of view, like pursuit of influence or a comparison that aims at shedding light on the prophetic discourse by bringing in new perspectives. I will discuss two recent studies, by Kratz and Silverman, which both explicate the presentation of the topic of creation and Cyrus in Isaiah as due to an influence of Achaemenid imperial ideology and cosmology. When scholars read this prophetic discourse through the lens of this scholarly constructed ideology, the focus tends to be on assumed similarities without paying enough attention to decisive differences. While Kratz and Silverman map influence of the prophetic discourse of Cyrus mainly from material related to Darius I, I will rather compare the presentation of Cyrus in Isa 40–48 to the Cyrus cylinder. This analysis will be informed by perspectives taken from postcolonial studies, illuminating how accommodation and resistance to the Empire were simultaneously engaged. In all instances, what matters is how Cyrus is placed under the authority of the deity of Israel in this prophetic discourse.