Donald Trump: America’s King Cyrus?

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Donald Trump is now the nation’s 45th president. As usual, our democracy allowed the nation’s citizens to vote for or against the president for Hillary Clinton, who was his staunchest opponent in the campaign. Trump was elected because a number of evangelical Republicans showed up at the voting polls in huge numbers. A number of evangelicals, sadly, didn’t want a woman to occupy the office of President; this moved many of them to vote for Trump, whether they knew enough about him to make an informed decision or not (they knew enough about gender to know that “we don’t want that woman over us”).

After Trump has now been elected for a year and a half, Christians are starting to assess Trump’s rise to the highest office in the land. One of the most startling comments I’ve heard yet about Donald Trump is that he is “America’s King Cyrus,” that, like Cyrus, Trump is an unbeliever that God has used to steer America in the right direction. The same evangelicals that normally wouldn’t vote for a non-Christian or non-religious president voted for Trump because, when all else fails, they wanted someone who would put party politics above all else. If Trump pushes for reform to protect Christians from persecution, Republicans are all for it — even if Trump makes such a move in the interests of his political party and career, rather than personal religious and moral conviction.

Someone called into an evangelical talk show one day and said, “Trump is a Christian.” The evangelical leaders on the show responded with the words, “Trump isn’t a Christian. Nothing he has said or done bears testimony to Trump being a Christian.” And yet, the same ones who said this statement turned around and attempted to justify their vote for Donald Trump. “You’re not voting for a Pastor,” the evangelical respondent said. That’s funny, but the last time I checked, Republicans have always voted in the interests of not only money (financial) but also spiritual or religious interests: that is, they have voted for candidates such as George Bush Sr. and George Bush Jr. because these men are Christians. And yet, Trump is the first Republican President who has no Christian convictions or ties to Christian groups.

He has gone on record as saying that he’s Presbyterian and Protestant but then says, “I am not sure that I have ever asked God for forgiveness. I just go on and try to do a better job from there.” Does this sound like a Christian to you? What Christian isn’t sure if they’ve ever asked God for forgiveness? What Christian hesitates on such a basic question? Forgiveness is central to the Christian life because it is the basis upon which we enter into union with Christ by faith in Jesus. Anyone who can’t say with certainty that they’ve asked God for forgiveness hasn’t. That means that, for all the cultural churchgoing and partaking of the Lord’s Supper that Trump does with his church, he isn’t truly a Christian. Even the evangelicals in the talk show mentioned above agree with me.

Whenever Democratic voters call out Republicans about Trump’s “atheism” or agnosticism, Republican voters don’t respond in a consistent way. When a Democratic voter says, “How can you claim you’re voting your Christian convictions and vote for an atheist or agnostic president?,” Republicans have gained a new argument: “Donald Trump is like King Cyrus, a man who isn’t saved but is being used by God on behalf of believers.” In short, some believe Donald Trump to be “America’s King Cyrus.”

Well, there are a few responses to this. I find it interesting that Republicans decided to vote for Trump instead of abstaining from their vote and staying home rather than head to the voting booth and vote for a secular man to be their nation’s leader. It appears that the “Christian convictions” of Republicans didn’t last that long if they can vote in a secular president without so much as a blinking eye. These are the same ones that ask Democratic Christians, “How can you be Christian and Democrat?,” and tell them that Democrats are opposed to everything Christian. Truth be told, in all the media has presented, Hillary Clinton attended more Sunday services in her presidential campaign than Trump has in the last five years. If anything, she fits more of a Christian presidential candidate than DJT does. But I digress.

Republicans have been cornered with an anti-Christian president who is only attending a church and claiming “Presbyterianism” because it’s the cultural thing to do. For some atheists and agnostics in the US, they sing the song “God Bless America,” but ask them what they mean by it and you’ll discover that they don’t mean the same thing that Christians do. America has a cultural religiosity and spirituality to her, as do her citizens. And anyone living in the country can act spiritual when the occasion demands it; that doesn’t make any American Christian, however. Only a true encounter with Jesus Christ, and that person’s confession that Jesus is Lord makes one a Christian. DJT, in his own words, hasn’t had a real encounter yet — which makes him an unbeliever who just happens to be Presbyterian and “drink that little wine” and “have my little cracker,” he said. Anyone can eat a wafer and drink a little wine or grape juice. But that doesn’t make someone a Christian, either.

It appears then, that no. 45 is a “Cultural Christian,” someone who knows how to “get in the spirit” of the occasion when a church service, national tragedy, or something else along the same lines arises but really doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus otherwise. Yes, some believe his remarks at the 66th annual National Prayer Breakfast regarding Ephesians 2:10 and Jesus’ words in Matthew testify to his faith, but I believe that these words are said in the context of the occasion (it is a prayer breakfast, after all). To be honest, using Ephesians 2:10 to refer to military members, firefighters, teachers, policemen, and others who serve and protect our country isn’t “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Not every firefighter, soldier, teacher, or policemen is Christian. We are created “in Christ Jesus” for good works; only those who are saved, “in Christ Jesus,” can quote and claim this verse as their own. The President cannot claim that every member in every necessary branch of our country is saved and Christian. Therefore, Ephesians 2:10 can’t refer to every teacher, firefighter, military member, and policemen. Trump takes the verse out of context, but I think this fits with the cultural Christianity he displays. I pray a day comes when he truly does encounter the Lord, is truly convicted, and truly receives Jesus as Lord and Savior. God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth — and so do I.

With that said, let’s get to the task at hand. Is Donald Trump “America’s King Cyrus?” Is he really an unbeliever that God is using to “shake up” America and bring her back to what she is designed to be? Some Republican voters seem to think so, and a number of evangelicals do. And yet, before a claim is to be believed about God, it must be checked and verified by Scripture. So, it is to Scripture we now turn to settle the question once and for all.

First, we’ll examine what Scripture says in the Old Testament about King Cyrus. Then, we’ll apply what we’ve read to Donald Trump to see if no. 45 fits what we know about Cyrus. Then, we’ll arrive at some conclusions about whether or not America’s 45th president is its own “King Cyrus.”

Donald Trump as America’s King Cyrus?: What Scripture Says

Ezra 1

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,

2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:

All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.

5 Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. 6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.

7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods; 8 and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives, 10 thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles. 11 All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-11)

Ezra 1:1 gives us the context of the Book of Ezra: the first year of Κύρου (Kurou), Greek for “Cyrus.” Cyrus was “King of Babylon,” or, as the Greek says, “king of the Babylonians.” We also read of the “word of the Lord” being fulfilled “by the mouth of Jeremiah,” meaning that Jeremiah had spoken about King Cyrus. Cyrus “made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it in writing.” It is a fortunate thing that Cyrus put it down on documents so that we are privy to his announcement. What did he write and announce?

2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:

All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:2-4)

“All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2). Cyrus says that “the Lord God of heaven” has given him “all the kingdoms of earth.” Now, either Cyrus is a godly king or he isn’t. I have a feeling that we’ll discover he isn’t. And yet, if he isn’t, it’s interesting that he refers to “the Lord God of Heaven,” then says in verse 3, “He is God.” Cyrus acknowledges the one true living God as God. Interesting, considering Cyrus was an ungodly ruler. And yet, we’re not surprised because the text says that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (v.1). The word for “stirred up,” Greek ἐξήγειρεν (eksegeiren), refers to “raising up” the spirit of Cyrus. God stirred Cyrus’s spirit to do this thing, and Cyrus issued a proclamation for the Jews in his territory to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord. This doing was of the Lord; that’s clearly seen by the fact that Cyrus was an ungodly man. The only way Cyrus would’ve been moved to send the Jews back into their homeland is if the Lord had impressed it upon his heart and mind.

In verse 4, Cyrus refers to “whoever is left in any place where he dwells,” referring to the men around the Jews who remained in the land. Those who remained in the land were to be given silver, gold, livestock, and freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem. Those who would stay in the land were to collect silver, gold, livestock, and freewill offerings, and hand them to those who would leave Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

5 Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. 6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. (Ezra 1:5-6)

Ezra has already said that the Lord “raised the spirit” of King Cyrus; well, the Lord also raised the spirits or stirred the spirits of the heads of Judah and Benjamin, the priests, and the Levites, “with” others who had been moved by God. In other words, God is the one who took the initiative to move on the hearts of humans. It was done because God moved first. Humans only went up to Jerusalem, Cyrus only issued his proclamation, because God is the one who stirred the hearts and minds of mankind. God gets the credit and glory for moving on the hearts of Cyrus and the Jews.

Everything occurred as planned. Those remaining in Babylon were given gold, silver, livestock, and freewill offerings, plus whatever else people were stirred to give.

7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods; 8 and Cyrus king of Babylon brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives, 10 thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles. 11 All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:7-11)

King Cyrus brought out the “articles,” the Greek phrase here being τὰ σκεύη οἴκου κυρίου (ta skeue oikou kuriou), the word skeue from the parent word skeuos referring to vessel. So the vessels that had been in the house of the Lord had been taken by King Nebuchadnezzar when he invaded Jerusalem — an invasion sanctioned by God as divine wrath against His people. The vessels were taken out of the house of God by King Nebuchadnezzar and “put in the temple of his gods” (v.7). The word here for gods could be the Greek theoi, but it is cancelled out by the fact that it is the possessive or genitive form of the word, theou, instead.

In verse 8, we see that King Cyrus didn’t get the vessels himself; instead, he sent in Mithredath the treasurer to get them, as indicated by the phrase ἐπὶ χεῖρα Μιθραδάτου γασβαρηνου (epi xeira Mithradatou gasbarenou). The word xeira refers to the hand, and Mithradatou refers to Mithredath the treasurer. The Greek word gasbarenou (Hebrew, gizbar) refers to the treasurer, someone put in charge of precious items of spoil that belonged to the victors. In times of war, one territory would conquer another, and take “spoils,” treasures that belonged to the losing group or territory. In this case, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem and took the vessels the Jews had in the temple devoted to the work of God for themselves. King Cyrus goes to his treasurer, the one in charge of all the precious possessions, the wealth of the kingdom, and commanded him to give the Jews their temple vessels back.

In verses 9-11, we’re told how many vessels were taken by the Babylonians: 30 gold platters, 30 gold basins, twenty-nine knives, one-thousand silver platters, four hundred-and-ten silver basins, and one thousand additional vessels. In verse 11, it says that the silver and gold articles or vessels were 5,400. In other words, a lot of Jewish valuables had been taken in the invasion. Interestingly enough, these treasures remained at Babylon and weren’t stolen or sold — miraculously. These vessels were counted out and given to the Jews to take back to Jerusalem for the temple rebuilding.

The captives were the ones who were given the temple vessels. Remember, there were different groups of Jews: some were taken captive to Jerusalem in the invasion, while some were left behind as in the case of Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian (Hebrew for eved-melek). His name means “servant of the king,” and Jeremiah told the servant that he would be spared from captivity because he trusted in the Lord:

15 Meanwhile the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, 16 “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. 17 But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the Lord.’ ” (Jeremiah 39:15-18)

The next time we encounter King Cyrus is in Ezra 3.

Ezra 3:1-7

And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. 4 They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. 5 Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. 7 They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Babylon. (Ezra 3:1-7)

In Ezra 3, the Jews are back in the cities of Judah, including Jerusalem. In verse 2, Jeshua (the son of Jozadak), the priests, and Zerubbabel (the son of Shealtiel) and his kinsfolk built the altar. In doing all this, they are afraid. Verse 3 says that “though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries,” they built the altar of God anyway. Verse 6 says that the foundation of the temple had not been laid at this point, yet the people are fulfilling their covenantal obligations pre-temple. The Jews were afraid after all that had happened. They were afraid of rebuilding the temple, even though the Lord was with them, because of their enemies. They realized that some had rejoiced to see the Jews carried off into captivity by the Babylonians. Those same people would hate to see the Jews return to their land out of captivity to build their temple. They were afraid because they were afraid of what their enemies would try to do (and they were afraid for good reason).

One thing of note is that the Jews kept their feasts. They offered them on the altar “as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:2). They kept the Feast of Tabernacles, the feasts for New Moons, and “for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated” (v.5). Now that the Jews are back in their land, they are willing to offer the sacrifices to the Lord that they had neglected. We’re told in the Old Testament that the Jews had forgotten at certain points in their history to offer sacrifices to God. We read of at least one or two cases:

10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech. 11 Then he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 The altars that were on the roof, the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, the king broke down and pulverized there, and threw their dust into the Brook Kidron. 13 Then the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, which were on the south of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the people of Ammon. 14 And he broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images, and filled their places with the bones of men.

15 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image. 16 As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. 17 Then he said, “What gravestone is this that I see?”

So the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”

18 And he said, “Let him alone; let no one move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.

19 Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger; and he did to them according to all the deeds he had done in Bethel. 20 He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men’s bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem.

21 Then the king commanded all the people, saying, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was held before the Lord in Jerusalem. 24 Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. (2 Kings 23:10-25)

2 Kings 23:21-23 shows us Josiah’s reforms. He tore down altars built to unknown gods, he eliminated the horses that were dedicated to the sun (yes, horses were dedicated to natural phenomena), and burned the chariots that were dedicated to the sun. Among the reforms was the re-institution of Passover among the Jews. As we’re told in 2 Kings 23:21-22, Josiah told the people to keep the Passover “as it is written in this Book of the Covenant” (v.21). Now verse 22 is essential:

22 Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. (2 Kings 23:22)

The Passover hadn’t been kept since the judges ruled over Israel. It wasn’t kept in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah, before the Babylonian Captivity. Here in Ezra 3, we find Israel coming back into Jerusalem after their Babylonian Captivity. A people that had been intent on forsaking the Lord’s way now find themselves offering the sacrifices they should have been from the start.

In 2 Chronicles 35, Josiah keeps the Passover. This is what the Chronicles tell us:

16 So all the service of the Lord was prepared the same day, to keep the Passover and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord, according to the command of King Josiah. 17 And the children of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. 18 There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept. (2 Chronicles 35:16-19)

According to 2 Chronicles 35, the Passover hadn’t been kept “since the days of Samuel the prophet…none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept…” (v.18). Whereas 2 Kings 23 tells us that the Passover hadn’t been kept since the judges ruled Israel, this Passover celebration was even newer: it hadn’t been kept since Samuel the prophet was a leader over Israel. The judges ruled Israel during Samuel’s time, but eventually, Israel wanted a king (1 Samuel 8) because his sons were wicked and did not serve in a godly manner.

In Ezra 3:7, we read that the Jews gave money for cedar logs to be brought for the building project:

7 They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Babylon. (Ezra 3:7)

The Jews had permission from King Cyrus to have cedar wood brought from the sea to Joppa. The purpose of logging the cedar wood to Jerusalem was for the building project. To rebuild the temple, the Jews would need wood to rebuild everything. Since they didn’t have wood, they paid those who would bring the cedar wood: “the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre…” They gave money to masons and carpenters, bricklayers and builders/construction workers, for their time and efforts. As for the people of Sidon and Tyre who didn’t build the temple at Jerusalem but brought cedar wood, the Jews gave food, drink, and oil. In that regard, everyone was rewarded for helping the Jews in their rebuilding the temple.

Ezra 4:1-5

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Babylon has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Babylon, even until the reign of Darius king of Babylon.

Everything seemed to be well. The Jews were granted their freedom to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple by King Cyrus. They return with the silver, gold, and other supplies they’d been given in Babylon, as well as the temple articles the Babylonians had taken from them and placed in the temple of their pagan god. When they return, they give money, food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre who bring in cedar logs so that they can rebuild. After all this effort, they now face opposition from their political enemies. Ezra 4:1 says that the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard about the rebuilding effort and decided to make trouble for the Jews. The phrase for “adversaries” in Ezra 4:1 is οἱ θλίβοντες (hoi thlibontes), referring to troublemakers, trouble-starters. The troublemakers, enemies of Judah and Benjamin, heard that οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς ἀποικίας (hoi huioi tes apoikias),  Greek for “the sons of the death (or sons of the captivity). The word apoikias here refers to the captivity, the event in which some of the sons of Israel died. In any invasion, when the foreign power infiltrates the region and takes the natives captive, some natives die in the effort. The same could be said for the Jews. Those returning to Jerusalem were not all those who had been carried off, but rather, their children and descendants. We’re told “sons” returned; this word could refer to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on.

In Ezra 4:2, the troublemakers and enemies of the Jews come to Zerubbabel (Greek Ζοροβαβελ or Zorobabel), one of those in charge of the rebuilding effort (Ezra 3:2), and tried to subvert the operation by pretending to sacrifice to the God of the Jews:

“Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” (Ezra 4:2)

The troublemakers, with bad intentions no doubt, tell Zerubbabel “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do.” Then they tell him, “we have sacrificed to Him [the God of Israel] since the days of Esarhaddon the king of Assyria (Greek Ασαραδδων βασιλέως Ασσουρ or Asaraddon Basileus Assour). But Zerubbabel and the Jews with him wouldn’t listen to the claim. “ In verse 3, they tell the troublemakers that they would build the temple alone: “we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Babylon has commanded us.” They were under direct authority from the king to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, and they didn’t want anyone else building it with them. They were the Jews, God’s people, and they wanted to build the temple themselves. In verse 4, these troublemakers respond by frustrating the plans. They did everything they could to make it difficult for the Jews to build, and “hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Babylon, even until the reign of Darius king of Babylon.

The Jews were frustrated and blocked in their efforts to rebuild the temple. Even though Cyrus had given the word, the Jews were back in the land and had to face the opposition there. Their efforts were delayed “even until the reign of Darius king of Babylon. So, how long is the distance between the first year of the reign of Cyrus and the reign of Darius? To find this out, we need to find out the names of the kings that served from Cyrus to Darius. King Cyrus served from either 600 BC or 576 BC-530 BC, according to historians; after Cyrus was Xerxes (Ahasuerus), who served from 486 BC-465 BC. Artaxerxes served from 465 BC-424 BCE. This Artaxerxes is the one that issued a proclamation that the Jews cease to rebuild the temple — brought on by a letter from Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and other Samaritans who opposed the Jews’ Temple rebuilding. You can read of the letter and royal response in Ezra 4:6-24.

The King Darius referred to here is Darius II, who occupied the throne in 424 BC. So the Temple rebuilding was delayed between 150 and 177 years (the Jews didn’t start rebuilding again until the second year of Darius II’s reign in 423 BC). Again, more generations passed, and even some of the sons who arrived from the captivity didn’t live to see the Temple rebuilt. They died while construction was delayed. Artaxerxes delayed the project thirty years more.

In Ezra 5, the prophets encourage the people to build and prophesy to them, and Zerubbabel (the son of Shealtiel) and Jeshua (Jehozadak’s son) start work on the temple again. Those who lived “beyond the river” decided to come and make trouble. They write to King Darius II to tell him that they’ve been told the Jews could rebuild the temple because of an edict of King Cyrus. The enemies wrote Darius to search, investigate, and find out if there were any documents to prove the Jews’ statements. In Ezra 6, Darius II writes back to confirm that Cyrus did issue the decree in the first year of his reign, and that the enemies of the Jews are to help them rebuild:

6 Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Babylonians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. 7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site.

8 Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. 9 And whatever they need—young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem—let it be given them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons.

11 Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. 12 And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently. (Ezra 6:6-12)

In other words, Darius found the edict from King Cyrus and told Tattenai, the governor of the region that had been persecuting the Jews, and his companions, to leave the work of the Jews alone. They were to take the taxes that had been collected from their region and give it to the Jews to aid in their rebuilding effort. “And whatever they need — young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the requests of the priests who are in Jerusalem — let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:9-10).

Tattenai, the governor of the region that had frustrated the Jews, was to not only give the Jews the taxes from their region for money, but also whatever they needed (wheat, salt, oil, wine, or animals), etc., in order to rebuild the Temple and sacrifice to the God of heaven. And King Darius II says that the Jews were to “pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:10). In other words, King Darius II complies with Cyrus’s edict and wants he and his sons to be prayed for as well. We don’t know if Darius was a God-fearer, but he certainly believed that the Jews could pray to their God and that He would hear the Jews. So, in requesting that he and his sons be prayed for, Darius II was acknowledging that he wanted the favor of the God of Israel.

The work continues until it’s finished in the sixth year of the reign of Darius II. The Jews keep Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month (they didn’t need the fourteenth day of the second month) because they were all ritually cleansed to observe it.

We’ve seen Cyrus and his role in bringing the Jews back into Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Now, let’s take a look at Cyrus in divine prophecy. The Lord declares some words about Cyrus that are a giveaway as to his role in the Lord’s plans for Israel.

Isaiah 44:21-28

21 “Remember these, O Jacob,

And Israel, for you are My servant;

I have formed you, you are My servant;

O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!

22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,

And like a cloud, your sins.

Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!

Shout, you lower parts of the earth;

Break forth into singing, you mountains,

O forest, and every tree in it!

For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,

And glorified Himself in Israel.

24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,

And He who formed you from the womb:

“I am the Lord, who makes all things,

Who stretches out the heavens all alone,

Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;

25 Who frustrates the signs of the babblers,

And drives diviners mad;

Who turns wise men backward,

And makes their knowledge foolishness;

26 Who confirms the word of His servant,

And performs the counsel of His messengers;

Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’

To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’

And I will raise up her waste places;

27 Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry!

And I will dry up your rivers’;

28 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd,

And he shall perform all My pleasure,

Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,”

And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ’ (Isaiah 44:21-28)

Here in Isaiah 44, the prophet quotes the word of the Lord. The Lord has forgiven Israel for her sins and removed them. Now, Israel must return to the Lord. At the end of the chapter, the Lord refers specifically to Cyrus by name: “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure,’ saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28).

The phrase “My Shepherd,” found in the NKJV and other translations, is present in the Hebrew (roi, meaning “shepherd”). The Hebrew word roi (pronounced “row-E” rather than “roy”) is the same Hebrew word used in Psalm 23:1 to refer to the Lord as roi, “my shepherd.” This means, then, that Cyrus was considered by God to be “My Shepherd,” acting on God’s behalf, doing all the Lord’s pleasure in bringing the Jews back to rebuild Jerusalem and relay the foundation of the temple.

How was King Cyrus a shepherd?

It’s interesting that the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) doesn’t call Cyrus “My Shepherd,” but instead, uses the Greek word phroneite, meaning “to consider, to think upon, to choose,” which means God considered Cyrus as an instrument of His. The Hebrew Old Testament calls Cyrus God’s Shepherd. Cyrus is a shepherd because, under his proclamation, the Jews return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and rebuild the temple. He is like a shepherd because, as a shepherd gathers the sheep into the fold, so Cyrus brings the Jews together in their city and temple once again. With the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, the sheep have, once again, “reunited in the same fold.”

God directly addresses Cyrus for the future (Isaiah 45:1-13)

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,

To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held

To subdue nations before him

And loose the armor of kings,

To open before him the double doors,

So that the gates will not be shut:

2 ‘I will go before you

And make the crooked places straight;

I will break in pieces the gates of bronze

And cut the bars of iron.

3 I will give you the treasures of darkness

And hidden riches of secret places,

That you may know that I, the Lord,

Who call you by your name,

Am the God of Israel.

4 For Jacob My servant’s sake,

And Israel My elect,

I have even called you by your name;

I have named you, though you have not known Me.

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;

There is no God besides Me.

I will gird you, though you have not known Me,

6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting

That there is none besides Me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other;

7 I form the light and create darkness,

I make peace and create calamity;

I, the Lord, do all these things.

8 “Rain down, you heavens, from above,

And let the skies pour down righteousness;

Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,

And let righteousness spring up together.

I, the Lord, have created it.

9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!

Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!

Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’

Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?

10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’

Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’ ”

11 Thus says the Lord,

The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:

“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;

And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.

12 I have made the earth,

And created man on it.

I—My hands—stretched out the heavens,

And all their host I have commanded.

13 I have raised him up in righteousness,

And I will direct all his ways;

He shall build My city

And let My exiles go free,

Not for price nor reward,”

Says the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 45:1-13)

In Isaiah 45, the Lord directly addresses Cyrus in the prophecy of Isaiah with the words “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held.” Cyrus is called “His anointed” the Greek phrase Οὕτως λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς τῷ χριστῷ μου Κύρῳ (outos legei kurios ho theos to xristo mou Kuro) meaning “thus says the Lord God of My anointed one Cyrus.” The word xristo is the Greek word from which we get Xristos, meaning “anointed.” Cyrus is “anointed” for his role as “shepherd” (from Isaiah 44:28). In Isaiah 45:1-3, the Lord tells Cyrus that He will “subdue nations before him” (v.1), “loose the armor of kings” (v.1), and “give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places” (v.3) so that “That you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.” The Lord did this for Cyrus so that Cyrus would know that He is the God of Israel, that He is Israel’s God.

For Jacob My servant’s sake,

And Israel My elect,

I have even called you by your name;

I have named you, though you have not known Me.

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;

There is no God besides Me.

I will gird you, though you have not known Me,

6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting

That there is none besides Me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other;

7 I form the light and create darkness,

I make peace and create calamity;

I, the Lord, do all these things.’ (Isaiah 45:4-7)

In verse 4, the Lord tells Cyrus that “I have called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.” The Lord repeats the same statement in verse 5 when He says, “though you have not known Me.” In other words, Cyrus is not saved, is not a believer, doesn’t belong to the God of Israel. He isn’t a God-fearer, doesn’t worship the God of Israel. We’ve seen before, though, in his edict or proclamation of the Jewish rebuilding in Jerusalem, that he wants the Jews to pray for him. All the kings wanted the Jews to pray to their “God” for the kings; they believed that “the gods” could bring prosperity and success if people would pray on their behalf. All kings believed that in the day, but again, that doesn’t make them godly or righteous in the eyes of the Lord. Here with Cyrus, we see that God has elevated this ungodly king and given him victory and success because God wanted His people to come back into the land. He has raised Cyrus up so that Cyrus would acknowledge Him, but He has also done it to show the world that He is God, and “there is none besides Me,” God says in verses 5 and 6 (“there is no God besides Me, there is none besides Me”). God wants to show the nations His power and might, that everyone is created by Him and that He can use anyone for His purposes, saved or not. I think that’s what we can take away from this study of King Cyrus: that is, God can use the most ungodly people to rule in favor of His sons and daughters. The least likely people to speak for God can be used by God to speak for Him in ways no one could’ve seen coming.

As a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I took a course there under Dr. Bart Ehrman, the Religious Studies Chair of the university. He is someone who once professed faith but then, as a result of his academic studies, was led to believe there are errors in Scripture and ultimately became an agnostic who no longer believes that God can be known. I was told that Ehrman’s class would change my life while I was at Carolina, but that was an understatement. It was in his New Testament Literature course that I was moved by the Holy Spirit to pursue a Master of Divinity at seminary. I always thought I’d attend seminary after my four years of college, but it was Spring 2003 in Ehrman’s class that the Spirit impressed upon me that seminary was the next step. In the Fall of 2006, upon entering seminary, I met up with a handful of classmates that had also taken the New Testament Literature course with me at UNC. They were there at seminary because of Ehrman’s class; imagine their surprise when I told them I was there because Bart Ehrman had also influenced me to seek out the truth at seminary.

I tell the above story to say that the Lord truly moves in mysterious ways. I had a professor at UNC who was a Christian man, a deacon in his local church, someone who always prayed for me during and after I finished his course. And yet, though he was a sweet, dear servant of Jesus whom I remember fondly, he isn’t the reason I ended up at seminary pursuing an MDiv. The most unlikely candidate, atheist professor Dr. Bart Ehrman, the most prolific author against Christianity that this generation has ever seen, is.

My dear friends who attended seminary with me have gone in various directions now: one is a Pastor who is pursuing his Doctor of Ministry; two others are missionaries on the mission field. As for me, I’m a preacher, teacher, theologian, and Pastor — and you benefit from the Ehrman encounter I had some 15 years ago. Who knew that God would take such a staunch atheist and motivate Christians to seek out the truth and live it out for Him? We all know God is sovereign, but I wish sometimes that we’d take more time to consider just how this Sovereign God of ours truly works. His wonders are marvelous, and His ways are past finding out. We can never know why God does what He does, or exactly what is in God’s mind when He does it, but what we do know is that God works things out in such a way that we say to ourselves, “God did it better than I ever could or would have.” That’s what I think about when reflecting upon my Ehrman encounter with a man that I would’ve never crossed paths with otherwise. And the Lord is using Bart Ehrman to raise up generations of Christians, something Ehrman would likely never consent to if he realized what he is truly doing as an atheist professor. No atheist rejoices in raising up generations of Christians, yet God has him doing it in the most unlikely place of all: secular university life, in a religious studies class, of all courses!

And in addition, the Lord has used me to demonstrate that one can be a Christian, go to secular university, and come out a stronger Christian than ever. The lie of the enemy, Satan, today is that our children can’t endure a place such as secular universities. The lie is that our children can’t maintain their faith in the midst of all these so-called “intellectual challenges.” But I am a living testimony that God will be with you, that you can trust His promise, that you can go into secular university life with your head up, work hard, perform well, and still maintain the truth of the Christian faith. I’m not the wisest person in the world, and God kept me. What He has done in my life He can do in yours and the people you love. God is no respecter of persons. And God can even use an atheist to motivate you in the right direction. If that last sentence blows your mind, do not worry: it still blows mine as well.

Now, back to Isaiah 45.

We know the Lord has raised up Cyrus to display His glory; He has so much as told us that. In verse 7, the Lord gives examples of His power:

7 I form the light and create darkness,

I make peace and create calamity;

I, the Lord, do all these things.’ (Isaiah 45:7)

The Lord’s power can be seen in that He “forms light,” the Greek phrase κατασκευάσας φῶς (kataskeuasas phos) referring to the formation of light. The word kataskeuasas is from the Greek kataskeuazo, meaning to furnish, prepare, or build. So God designs the light. We’ve seen this back in Genesis 1 when God said “Let there be light.” The Lord says that He also creates darkness. The word darkness here isn’t the Greek word for night, nuktos, but the word for darkness. Darkness refers to more than the absence of sunlight or light in general. Light and darkness are polar opposites, yet the Lord created them both. The same can be said for “peace” and “calamity” in the second statement. The word for “calamity” here, the Greek κακά (kaka), has been translated as “evil” in some Bible translations. The problem with that is that context doesn’t support the translation of kaka as “evil.” The reason concerns the fact that God is discussing the polar opposites that He creates: He creates light and darkness, He creates peace (Greek εἰρήνην or eirenen), and the opposite of peace is “chaos,” unrest, or trouble. The opposite of peace is not evil. Not everything chaotic is evil. In fact, trouble can be a sign from the Lord to warn someone that what they’re doing is wrong. Chaos and unrest can be instructive, so it’s not all evil. Something that’s evil is inherently bad; it isn’t bad for God to give His children unrest to wake them up out of their spiritual slumber, anymore than it is evil for a parent to give their children a little trouble to let them see heading down a destructive path will ruin their lives. Trouble can be instructive and transformative.

Jonah discovered the same when, upon being told to go preach to the Ninevites, he fled from the presence of the Lord on a boat to Joppa. God met him on the boat and even stirred up the wind and waves so that Jonah would be thrown over and end up in the belly of a whale. This was trouble and unrest in Jonah’s life, but it was designed to teach Jonah about what trouble awaits the person who rebels against God’s command. Jonah was so hateful against the Ninevites, those he believed weren’t worth saving, but what about his own heart? Was his heart not evil? How could Jonah, a godly man supposedly, want to flee from God rather than preach repentance to the ungodly Ninevites? God’s heart is that we turn from our sins to Him and be saved. Who was Jonah to think that he could rule the Ninevites as “beyond salvation”?

As Jonah’s example shows, the trouble and unrest were due punishment, correction for a rebellious prophet who wanted to make his own decision rather than submit to the will of the Lord who called him and made him a prophet. Even prophets get out of line in God’s economy sometimes, and God chastises them as He does all others because God chastises all those He loves, and scourges every son He receives (Psalm 94:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19).

With that being said, the kaka of Isaiah 45:7 is not “evil,” but instead, “Trouble, calamity, unrest.” The Lord creates unrest, the opposite of peace. He did this in Egypt as well. When Pharaoh wouldn’t let His people go, God protected the health and flock of His people while bringing down the plagues on the Egyptians to shame their false gods. Finally, God killed all their firstborn, an action that motivated Pharaoh to release the Jews into the wilderness. Was the Lord evil to bring trouble and unrest to those who’d held His people in slavery for 430 years? Not at all. God’s kaka, His calamity, on the people of Egypt was out of righteous judgment. It wasn’t evil for God to punish the Egyptians; it was evil for the Egyptians to enslave human beings for over four centuries. That violates every human’s moral sensitivities. With that said, though, we can defend the Greek word kaka as referring to calamity, the NKJV translation, and not “evil.” The Lord never created evil because He is good. In Genesis, God looked upon everything He’d made and called it “good, very good” (Genesis 1:31). And we know from James that the Lord doesn’t do evil because He doesn’t tempt any man:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)

God does not tempt any man. There it is. The Tempter, Satan, is evil and tempts humans, but God does not. God is good, and since evil is its opposite, God doesn’t do evil. God delivers righteous judgment for sin and wrongdoing, but He Himself does not do evil. Is it evil for a judge to sentence a mass murderer to life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection? It isn’t evil for a judge to render a righteous sentence, neither is it evil for God to render a righteous judgment in His encounter with humanity.

If God does not do evil, then the Lord would never say that “I create peace and I create evil.” Not only does the Lord not do evil, but evil is not the opposite of peace; chaos or trouble is. In context, then, the word kaka refers to trouble, unrest, or calamity, not evil. And the Lord creates trouble or unrest (Greek κτίζων κακά or ktizon kaka, in context, refers to creating trouble or unrest).

In Isaiah 45:9-13, we get the impression that the Lord is responding to some who had a problem with Cyrus being His instrument of freedom and deliverance:

9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!

Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!

Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’

Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?

10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’

Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’ ”

11 Thus says the Lord,

The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:

“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;

And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.

12 I have made the earth,

And created man on it.

I—My hands—stretched out the heavens,

And all their host I have commanded.

13 I have raised him up in righteousness,

And I will direct all his ways;

He shall build My city

And let My exiles go free,

Not for price nor reward,”

Says the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 45:9-13)

In verses 9 and 10, the Lord shows the futility of the child questioning father and mother, or the clay questioning the Potter. The same can be said for the Lord using Cyrus: who are the Jews to “command” God? How can they, His creation, question Him, the Creator? The Lord says, “concerning the work of My hands, you command Me” (Isaiah 45:11), hinting that the Jews were questioning how God could use a Babylonian to bring back His people. King Cyrus was the king of the Babylonians, the ones who took the Israelites hostage. How could the hostage-holders be the ones responsible for freeing the hostages? It would be akin to the slavemasters being used to free the slaves. “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!” the Lord says in verse 9, telling the Jews that they are neither to argue nor fight against God. Can the clay talk against its Maker? Can the son speak against his father and mother? The Lord uses the idea of a son asking his father or mother about what did they create (bring forth via birth). The mother/father/birth/create analogy is used with the Lord to talk about His own people. “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons,” the Lord says (Isaiah 45:11). In verse 12, the Lord says that He is the Sovereign Creator of the universe: “I have made the earth, and created man on it. I — My hands — stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded” (Isaiah 45:12).

God appeals to His creative power and the things He has done. He has made the earth, which shows His power. He created man on the earth, another testimony to His creative power. “My hands…stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” The Lord says His hands have stretched out the heavens. The description is one that makes us think of someone rolling out the heavens as a scroll. Like rolling out a scroll, God expanded the heavens to the current shape and size they are. The Greek phrase τὸν οὐρανόν (ton ouranon) refers to Heaven collectively; the NKJV translates it “heavens” to show the plurality of the collective singular “heaven.” The Hebrew translation is more particular and descriptive than the Greek notion of heaven. As we’ve also seen with the Greek word for wine (oinos), the Greeks didn’t distinguish types of wine either.

Not only does the Lord stretch out the heavens like a scroll, but He also commanded “the host.” The Greek term for “host” here is τοῖς ἄστροις  (tois astrois), referring to constellations, the stars. God stretches out the heavens and commands the stars in the heavens (sky). In verse 13, the Lord says of Cyrus, “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward” (Isaiah 45:13). The Lord said that “He shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward.”

“He shall build My city” is a reference to rebuilding Jerusalem, and “let My exiles go free” refers to God’s people that are in exile, in captivity. Who else can this be except for Cyrus and the Jews? In Isaiah 45:1, the Lord calls Cyrus “My anointed.” This is enough of a giveaway for the context of the passage. Cyrus rebuilt Jerusalem and let the Jews go free back into their land, “not for price nor reward.” Cyrus didn’t let the Jews return to their homeland and rebuild the city and temple for money (“price”) nor a reward of any kind. Cyrus was not given a reward of some kind for what he did; he did it because God compelled him in his heart and mind to do it.

We’ve now covered Cyrus in Scripture. We see that the Lord raised up Cyrus, one who did not “know Me,” the Lord says of him, in order to teach the nations and Cyrus about His sovereign power, that He alone is God and worthy of worship. Now that we’ve examined Cyrus and his role in the Jews returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple, we’ll now turn to how America’s current leader in the highest office in the land is or is not America’s King Cyrus.

 

Is Donald Trump America’s “King Cyrus”?

We’ve now got a working idea of King Cyrus, who he was, and what he did for the Jews. With this information in mind, we’re now ready to approach the million-dollar question of the research: that is, is Donald Trump America’s “King Cyrus”?

The answer, to first be brief, then explanatory, is a resounding “No.” Of course, there are reasons to deny our President is a modern-day King Cyrus. Let’s look at those reasons below.

King Cyrus frees the Jews; Donald Trump frees no one

The first reason pertains to Cyrus’s role as God’s “shepherd.” Cyrus freed the Jewish slaves or captives to return to their own land. Donald Trump has not freed any “captives” to return to their homeland. If you don’t count the illegal immigrants that the President is now working to keep united (on a familial basis), Donald Trump has not freed any captives that America held in her grasp, and thus, cannot be America’s “King Cyrus.”

King Cyrus’s Babylon was the captor; America isn’t a captor

King Cyrus inherited the Jewish captives because of Babylon. Babylon’s history saw her capturing the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar and taking the Jews into bondage (Ezra 1:7-8; 2:1; 5:12, 14; 6:5). If Donald Trump is America’s “King Cyrus,” then what country or territory are we holding captive? When did Donald Trump invade this unfortunate territory? And where are the spoils of war that would certainly boost our economy without all the recent tariffs imposed on Chinese goods?

America would have to be a captor holding a country, region, or territory for the analogy to be even remotely plausible. Yet, America is not a captor. Donald Trump still wants the dictator-like military parade, but that alone doesn’t make a leader a captor. A leader must take a territory hostage and plunder them of their goods to fit the label. Some would say, “Well, King Cyrus didn’t capture anyone, so Donald Trump doesn’t have to invade a territory to fit the label.” Even if that is true, America doesn’t own captives anymore. The slaves were freed by Abraham Lincoln’s the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. If Abraham Lincoln were being defined as a “King Cyrus,” there could be room to appreciate the comparison. But we’re talking about Donald Trump. America hasn’t owned any other territories within years (including Puerto Rico), so America can’t be a captor country. And without America being a country that has taken slaves within recent memory, Trump can in no way, shape, or form “inherit” a captor country as its leader.

Donald Trump, even as a casual Christian, is religiously better than King Cyrus

Few may have seen this next point coming, but it’s one that poses serious problems for the idea that Donald Trump is America’s “King Cyrus.” What is it? That Donald Trump, contrary to King Cyrus, actually knows God — though he appears to be more of a casual Christian than a committed one.

King Cyrus, the king of Persia, did not know the Lord. We read of this a few times, stated by God Himself, within Isaiah:

4 For Jacob My servant’s sake,

And Israel My elect,

I have even called you by your name;

I have named you, though you have not known Me.

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;

There is no God besides Me.

I will gird you, though you have not known Me,

6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting

That there is none besides Me.

Isaiah 45: 4, 5 repeats “though you have not known Me,” reminding us that Cyrus was not saved and did not worship the God of Israel. Donald Trump may take Scripture out of context (case in point, the Prayer Breakfast mentioned earlier), and he may take of the Lord’s Supper at church with the wafer and drink and not understand or believe it all, but he is at least a cultural Christian who attends a Presbyterian church. King Cyrus was not a God-worshipper or God-fearer at all. He didn’t align himself with the God of Israel. He wasn’t freeing the Jews because he was God-fearing. It would likely be an insult to Donald Trump to be labeled “America’s King Cyrus” because at least Donald Trump has a level of great respect for Christianity. Cyrus didn’t have that respect for Judaism, but did what he did because God impressed it upon him. Yes, he calls God “God of heaven” and says “he is God” in the opening verses of Ezra, but Cyrus wasn’t a Jew of any kind. He had some familiarity with Jewish practices because the Jews were in his territory, but he wasn’t a “Jew” within by any means.

While I don’t believe Trump is a committed Christian (and that’s my personal opinion, not objective truth), King Cyrus wasn’t committed to the God of Israel. Thus, Donald Trump isn’t America’s “King Cyrus” because he is somewhat religious.

Cyrus rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple with his edict; Trump has only declared Jerusalem as its recognized capital

When King Cyrus issued his edict, he moved the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and temple that had been destroyed under King Nebuchadnezzar. Trump cannot be America’s “King Cyrus” because he has not rebuilt a city or a temple. His affiliation with Jerusalem is that he has declared it to be the recognized capital of Israel for the US government. Sure, Trump wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and he wants Jerusalem recognized as the official capital, but that doesn’t equate to “rebuilding Jerusalem.” And, as usual, Trump’s endorsement of Israel doesn’t sit well with Europe.

Trump may want the Jews to have Jerusalem back as their capital, but this goodwill gesture does not make Trump a “King Cyrus.” When Cyrus sent the Jews back to their homeland, he gave them money, the treasures Nebuchadnezzar had taken in the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, and so on. And the Jews were given money, salt, oil, wine, grain, and animals for their sacrifices — all by order of the king. Has Trump pledged that Israel be given “whatever” they need to sacrifice to the God of Israel?

King Cyrus released the Jewish captives without price or reward; Donald Trump isn’t that benevolent

King Cyrus released the Jews without any recognition otherwise. He did it because God laid it on his heart and mind, period. If Donald Trump were America’s “King Cyrus,” he would do a lot of really good things without claiming recognition. But that’s not Donald Trump’s style.

Remember the incident of the three UCLA basketball players who went to China and were arrested for shoplifting? The President worked hard to free them from China’s clutches, but when he did, he made sure to announce it worldwide on social media and demand a thank you for his hard work. Of course, it goes without saying that the job of the President of the United States is to do such work to see after the welfare of his citizens, but the President wants a pat on the back, a stroke of his ego, after such acts of kindness. Cyrus got no reward or parade from his good deed, but the President wants a military parade in his honor. Cyrus was ungodly, but even he didn’t have the quantity of ego that our President has. Cyrus did what he did out of obligation; Trump does it out of ego. The two personalities of the Persian and American leader are nowhere in the same ballpark.

King Cyrus was raised up by God; whether God raised up Donald Trump as President is debatable

The Lord says in Isaiah 45 that Cyrus is “My Shepherd,” that “I have raised him up,” and so on. In Ezra, we read that the Lord God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to issue an edict declaring the Jews free to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and temple. Republicans who consider Donald Trump to be America’s “King Cyrus” assume that God has raised up Donald Trump for America, that he is a return to all that was once right about this country. And yet, how do they know this? We read that the Lord raised up Cyrus, but we don’t read that God raised up every leader of Babylon. In the same vein, we have no prophecy that God declares Donald Trump to be his servant or that God has raised him up to “put America back on the right path.” Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) slogan may sound good in theory and look good on red caps, but to assume God has raised up Donald Trump is to make an assumption for which there is no biblical or evidential support.

Some evangelicals make this assumption because they believe that Donald Trump will do what is right: that is, what seems right to them. One thing that made Trump popular during his presidential campaign is that he talked against “Washington” and acted as if his presidency would inaugurate a grassroots campaign against political corruption. He criticized the government and talked about its problems, which is what every candidate does. Now that he’s in office as president, he doesn’t want his governmental staff and policies criticized. He doesn’t even want Americans to protest injustices by kneeling at football games, and has said that the NFL should fire those football players to teach them a lesson. When did it ever become acceptable to fire football players because they kneel to peacefully demonstrate their convictions? The NFL has now ruled that players can stay off the field during the national anthem but that kneeling while on the field during the anthem will result in a fine. Donald Trump has said that NFL players that kneel are ruining our country, but they’re not; rather, what they’re doing by kneeling is peacefully protesting their convictions. In short, they’re reminding Donald Trump and our country that life in America is not as perfect as some want to pretend it is. Standing for the national anthem, placing one’s hand over one’s heart in loyalty won’t remove the racial, socioeconomic, and prejudicial injustices that still exist in this country. But, in line with Trump’s desired $12 million military parade, it is all part of what modern-day dictatorships do. I think “democracy” is slowly being replaced by “dictatorship” in this country. North Korea has gotten to our President’s head.

We know that God has raised up government, that God has ordained government, and that we are to obey the government God has established by paying taxes, for example (Romans 13:1-7). And yet, it’s a large leap to go from saying “God ordains government” to saying “God ordains every leader who serves in government.” God ordained Cyrus according to Isaiah 44 and Isaiah 45 but there were other leaders God never says in Scripture He ordained. Perhaps that should guide us when it comes to leaders: some are God-ordained while others are not, in the same way that some religious leaders are ordained in their roles while others are not. Some leaders are simply permitted by God because of the will of the people. In Israel, God chose judges to guide the people but consented to their wrong desire for a king to govern them “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8).

This becomes even more obvious when discussing America, a democracy that votes in leaders rather than has a council or body of a few decide. The vote for president that many focus on is the popular vote because the vote for president is less about the Electoral College (though it decided the Trump/Hillary election battle) and more about popularity. Trump was voted in by evangelicals because they found him to be more popular, more likable, than the Democratic Hillary Clinton. As the wife of former President Bill Clinton, she is a reminder of the moral sin of Clinton’s Oval Office rendezvous with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Trump is successful, has money, is no stranger to celebrity status, and was bold enough to speak out no matter how crass the statement. That made him a popular pick for evangelicals. The President’s financial success is another thing that made him a popular pick. For evangelicals who have a lot of financial wealth in this world, Trump is “one of their own” who would do much to protect their financial interests. Democrats vote for candidates who will bring them greater financial success, too, but financial success was one of the motivating factors for the Trump evangelical vote.

America voted in Donald Trump by way of an election process that involved the votes of millions of Americans. In a theocracy, the people don’t vote; rather, God chooses the leaders. This is why, in the Book of Judges, we read that “God raised up” so-and-so. Even in Ezra, we read that “God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus,” the word “stirred” being translated “raised” (Greek egeiren). To prove that every leader is God-ordained is hard and difficult, if not downright impossible.

We know about Cyrus, but what evidence is there that Trump is God-ordained? The only evidence I’ve heard is from the lips of evangelicals who are so glad Obama is out of office they’d give the label to anyone succeeding him (Republican in political perspective, of course).

If Donald Trump is God’s man

Evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump (not all did) say that our President is “God’s man” or “the right man for the job.” Jimmy Swaggart, on his own SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN), has said that Trump is “the right man for the job.” His wife, Frances Swaggart, has said that “Trump is the kind of man we want to be president,” referring to him speaking of God in his State of the Union address. These same individuals who claim to be pro-Trump are anti-Obama, as if to say Obama never did anything good as president, or that he was never the right man for the job. Many today would argue that Obama’s presidency still outshines Trump’s first two years — and that the trend will continue through the end of Trump’s term.

And yet, how do they know that Trump is “God’s man?” They don’t have any concrete evidence; they simply like what the President is saying and doing. Democrats have liked what Democratic presidents such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have done in history; is that evidence enough to make them “God’s men”? If we’re going to say that Donald Trump is “God’s man,” without concrete evidence to back up the claim, then Democratic voters can say that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are “God’s men.” Republicans should be willing to say these men were chosen by God, without concrete evidence, if they’re willing to accept that Donald Trump is God’s man without any concrete evidence.

And yet, a number of diehard Republicans wouldn’t dare suggest that Clinton or Obama were chosen by God. This alone tells me that they only apply spiritual language to Republican leaders and Presidents who agree with their financial and political views. The spiritual, baptized labels are only given by Republicans to those they agree with. It’s nothing more than political back-scratching and religious manipulation: “you give me what I want, I proclaim you’re a man (or woman) of God.” However, we mortals cannot make someone a man or woman of God any more than we can decide who goes to Heaven or who goes to Hell. It’s simply not up to us to decide who is chosen and who’s not because they do things we like. What decides if a person is chosen of God is God’s call on their lives, how they carry themselves, how they govern in the office to which they’re called, and so on. And so far, Trump has had a mixed presidency with some good and a lot of bad publicity. He has had more missteps than he’s had successes. That doesn’t sound to me like he’s a man of God; other former presidents have had better track records in their first 18 months.

Finally, with regard to DJT as a man of God, some of the same ones making this estimation are the same ones that, when criticized by Democrats for voting in a man who’s “never asked God for forgiveness,” respond with the words, “we’re not electing a Pastor.” Well, if you’re not electing a Pastor, you’re not electing a religious leader at all — which means that Republicans should leave off the “God’s man” language altogether. In reality, no, the President is not assumed to be a Pastor or any other religious leader. He is a secular leader, voted in to protect the interests of the country (in this case, America) as well as the rights of every citizen. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has forgotten this in favor of appeasing his evangelical supporters. In July 2017, the President sent a tweet worldwide with the words, “The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.” The new transgender policy will allow transgenders to serve who do not have gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder (GID), rather than ban all transgenders, but it goes to show that Trump’s stance is that of a pastor who assumes, contrary to the views of Donnie Swaggart and the Swaggart family, that Trump does see himself as a religious leader of sorts. If we’re not electing a Pastor, then why would the President’s spiritual convictions matter at all? What need would there be to ban LGBT members from the military as though America were a church banning LGBT persons from spiritual leadership?

I agree that the Scriptures are opposed to homosexuality, that God made mankind male and female for sexual intimacy. I also believe that we cannot change our gender any more than we can change our mortal flesh into divinity, that God made gender and that His gender laws reflect His goodness. And yet, religious convictions have nothing to do with politics. The goal of political leaders is to look out for the welfare of the country. One need not be a Christian leader to guide the country into better financial policies. One can be an atheist and accomplish ideal political goals. And when a Christian takes the highest office in the land (even a cultural Christian like Trump), he or she has the obligation of looking out for all constituents — even those they believe are immoral and sinful. This is why Obama could call himself a “practicing Christian” in an ABC interview and yet, be in favor of same-sex marriage. The reason comes down to the fact that politics concerns civil laws, the rights of citizens, whether LGBT, atheist, or otherwise, not the practices of Christians and church members. Politics and religion are to remain as separate as church and state are to be. When the atheist is allowed to practice his atheism in our country, the Buddhist his Buddhism, and the Muslim his Muslim faith, then Christians are allowed to practice their beliefs. Religious freedom for all entails religious freedom for Christians. The moment America becomes a theocracy, she gives way to a “Muslim brotherhood” where Christians have to live like Muslims, or an atheist brotherhood where Christians must cease their Christian practices because it offends the State. Theocracy undermines even Christian practice, were the government in the hands of a Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist Congress.

LGBT members are as capable of serving in the military as heterosexual members are, and their rights as US citizens guarantee them the ability to be who they are provided they do no harm to other citizens. They are worthy to work, serve, and enjoy the same rights that you and I enjoy. And, to bring things closer to home,  Jesus loves them and also died for them just as He died for you and me.

Civil law and spiritual law are two different things. A number of things are permissible civilly that God is opposed to spiritually. And yet, civil law is not based on the Bible; spiritual law is. Civil law is not based on the Bible, though church law is. And yet, it takes a big believer to live in a world where civil law doesn’t always agree with spiritual or church law, and he or she still get along with those they disagree. The Lord did not tell us to legislate the kingdom of God, but rather, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Evangelicals are trying to subvert the divine command by legislating morality (anti-LGBT laws, for example), but if we were witnessing as we should be, God’s law, written on the hearts and minds of every person (Romans 2:14-16), would legislate morality on its own.

In trying to make DJT America’s King Cyrus, we are trying to baptize the role of President, a role that isn’t religious or spiritual in nature. Additionally, we are searching Scripture trying to find a way to characterize or label Donald Trump when we should spend more time addressing the spiritually-dying souls in our world. Whether or not Donald Trump is America’s King Cyrus has little to do with the fact that the unbelievers evangelicals are passing laws against are on their way to Hell unless they are changed by the gospel of Christ. If we spent more time on the gospel campaign, and less on the political campaign trail, we’d have had a bigger impact than legislation ever could by now. Legislation is no substitute for salvation.

Conclusion

We’re at the end of our study regarding Donald Trump as America’s King Cyrus. The evidence from Scripture shows us that Donald Trump isn’t America’s King Cyrus. He can’t be for a number of reasons. And yet, we’ve also seen that Republicans who voted for him see him as such because he does things they like and approve. And yet, claiming he is God’s man without proof opens the door for all Presidents, past and future, to be labeled “God’s man or God’s woman” without any concrete evidence.

Republicans like Donald Trump. He is the man they wanted to vote for — and they did. Yet, DJT is also a cultural Christian who doesn’t invest much time in Scripture (as considered by his out-of-context verses above). He appears to be King Cyrus because he isn’t all that Christian or godly in his behavior. The claim that Donald Trump is America’s King Cyrus is problematic because, the Republicans that make the claim assume that America is in bondage and that Donald Trump is the one who “frees” her. But if America is in bondage, what is she in bondage to? Do these Republicans consider the previous eight years of Democratic rule in the White House under Obama to have been a “Babylonian Captivity” of sorts? If they do, I’d sure love to hear how it is that they can make this argument without understanding that King Cyrus didn’t inherit a kingdom that was held captive, but rather, one that captured others as prisoners of war.

The label of King Cyrus is being applied here by sheer misunderstanding of the biblical text. If it shows anything, it’s that the same voting base that hailed Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency needs to spend more time in the Word and less time in the politics section of the local newspaper.