Wondering about the meaning of Isaiah 45:3? So did I. Until I dived this deep dive study to find out the true meaning and explanation of the phrase “I will give you the treasures of darkness”. The phrase seems so contradictory. Why would we link treasures with darkness?
In this post, we will discover how God does some really unconventional things to save His people and get the attention of one who does not believe.
Let’s dive in!
What is Isaiah 45:3 about?
This post on Isaiah 45:3 is a good follow up to the post on Isaiah 43:1-2.
Isaiah was a prophet in Israel at a time when spiritual darkness covered the land.
Economically they were doing extremely well. But their morality had become rotten.
God called him to warn the people that if they didn’t change, judgment was coming. God was getting ready to punish them for their sins.
What exactly were they guilty of?
Endless drinking and partying so that they were constantly drunk and could not do God’s work. (Isaiah 5:11-12).
Idol worship was rampant (Isaiah 2:8).
Getting involved in sorcery (Isaiah 2:6)
Using their wealth as idols (Isaiah 2:7
Prideful and self-sufficient (Isaiah 2:11-17)
And this list is only the beginning.
Isaiah was commissioned to call out these sins and call the people to repent.
If they didn’t, God was going to raise up another nation to invade the land, destroy everything they had and enslave them.
Of course, God would not allow this to be their end.
After a while, they would be delivered. Isaiah 45:1-3 describes a portion of God’s plans of deliverance and it’s an unusual one.
And here’s another thing: this deliverance plan is being told to them while they are in exile and enslaved.
What is the meaning of Isaiah 45:1-3?
As I mentioned in the post on Isaiah 43:1-3, God promised Judah that he would redeem them.
This meant that he would buy them back from slavery or give something in exchange for their freedom.
To fulfill this promise, God was going to orchestrate human history. God needed someone to do His work of rescuing and delivering His children.
He calls Cyrus to do it. That’s why Isaiah 45:1 mentions his name.
But Cyrus does not fit the bill for someone who you think God would choose to do His work.
Isaiah 45:1 Meaning
Who exactly was Cyrus anyway?
Cyrus was the heathen King of Persia.
Verse 1 tells us that God “anointed” him. This word is important. It is the same word that is used to describe the High Priest in Israel.
Also, when kings like David were anointed as a symbol of being called and appointed by God, this word was used.
God was divinely appointing a king who didn’t believe in him to do His work. Cyrus would receive God’s favor.
God said he anointed Cyrus to “subdue nations” and “lose the belts of kings”. These words mean that God would give him divine favor in his battles to conquer and capture many nations.
One such nation was Babylon where God’s people were being enslaved. When Cyrus defeated Babylon, the Jews were released to go back home.
God also said He would “open doors” and gates for Cyrus. He was going to ensure that the coast was clear for Cyrus to conquer whichever nation he went against.
When Cyrus’ troops went to Babylon, they went at the perfect time. You see, there was a celebration going on inside and so the city gates which opened to the river were left open.
The walls of Babylon were extremely high and would be hard to get over or break down.
Usually, at night the gates were closed. But on this particular night, God allowed these gates to be left open, making Babylon vulnerable to attack.
In addition, God allowed Cyrus to attack on a night when they were partying. This party had been going on for weeks.
Babylon was clueless about what was about to happen because they were in a relaxed, drunken state. It was a surprise attack and they were completely unprepared.
If you are familiar with the story in the book of Daniel about the hand writing on the wall at the party, this is that same story. (Isaiah 45 is partly fulfilled in that story.)
While God was inside the party warning the Babylonian king of destruction, He was also outside the party working through Cyrus to bring down Babylon.
God’s people were inside Babylon and they needed to be released and delivered. God was at work on both ends to accomplish this.
Keep this mind as we move to verse 2.
Isaiah 45:2 meaning
In Isaiah 45:2 God says to Cyrus through Isaiah the prophet “I will go before you and level the exalted places” (ESV). Another version says “level the mountains” (NIV).
God called, anointed and appointed Cyrus. It was also His job to prepare the way for Cyrus to do the work he was called to do. This verse uses figurative language.
The “exalted places” or “mountain” is making reference to one or both of the following things. It could be talking specifically about Babylon, the strongest nation at the time.
Or it could generally mean obstacles that would prevent Him from having success in his military journey and conquering of nations throughout his life.
God also said He would “break down gates of bronze and cut through iron bars”.
As I said before, Babylon was surrounded by a wall so high and so fortified it was nearly impossible to get into the city. The wall was said to have been 300 feet high. They had the best fortification in the world at the time.
It was a common practice that cities back then built walls to protect themselves from other nations, especially those who invaded other territories.
(Remember the story of the wall of Jericho?)
Usually the walls contained a number of gates for people to get in and out of the city. These gates were often made from metals like brass, bronze, and iron.
From inside the city, the gates were fastened with iron bars across them. Yet another fact that makes it hard to get in to conquer any city.
Babylon had about 100 gates made of brass and, as is expected, iron bars across them.
Here, God promised Cyrus that not even these metal gates with metal reinforcements would keep him out.
Because God himself was going to orchestrate things to make the impossible become possible.
Again, God is trying to release His people from slavery and He is doing some things that would usually not happen. Because He keeps His promises.
Isaiah 45:3 meaning
Now that we have the context of Isaiah 45:1-3, we now have what we need to understand verse 3.
So far we know that God is speaking to a pagan king whom He has called to do His work.
What does this have to with treasures of darkness?
Meaning of Isaiah 45:3 – I will give you the treasures of darkness meaning
It is important for us to know this: God had every intention of rewarding Cyrus. And this reward was material and monetary.
Treasures of darkness in this verse is a reference to wealth as it existed then. Examples of treasures of darkness include gold and silver and precious stones.
If you have ever watched a treasure hunt movie then you will remember that treasures are almost never found easily or under welcoming conditions.
Well, that’s because in ancient times there was a practice of burying treasures. Whether under the soil or under water, the goal was to protect it from robbers or an invading enemy. They put it anywhere that the enemy would not think to look, which was usually in a dark, secret place.
As Cyrus conquered various nations, he also took over their treasures. Wherever they were buried, he would find them. Back then, this was one way nations accumulated wealth. By plundering it from other nations.
The treasures and wealth of Babylon was particularly great.
Babylon was a very accomplished city. They had the wealth of many nations stored up, nations they had attacked and plundered and conquered.
Naturally, when Cyrus defeated Babylon, he also took their treasures. (More on this later)
Meaning of Isaiah 45:3 – That you may know that it is I
Here is an amazing detail about this passage that I waited until now to share:
Remember that Isaiah is prophesying all these things about Cyrus.
But guess what?
Isaiah is delivering this prophecy about 150 – 200 years before it happens. While God is rolling out His rescue plan, Cyrus isn’t even born yet!
God reveals to Isaiah so much detail down to the very name of the king he would use to rescue his people from slavery.
Cyrus was living his life and having every success in conquering nations but he had no idea that He had been favored by God nor did he realize he was God’s instrument.
Historians of his time documented that although he didn’t know at the time this was happening, he did become aware later.
As the story goes, after he defeated Babylon someone showed him Isaiah’s prophecy with his name in it.
That was when he realized that all his military success was not because he was lucky but because of divine favor from the God of the Jews.
That was when he realized that all the wealth and treasures of darkness he had come to own was all God’s doing.
He also understood that God had called him to do the work of releasing the Jews so they could return home and rebuild Jerusalem including the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
And you know something?
Cyrus embraced his God-ordained purpose. We know this through the prophet Ezra:
Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Ezra 1:2 ESV
Cyrus not only released the Jews but he also gave them permission to rebuild the temple.
Jewish history says that on the very day he decreed that the temple should be rebuilt, Cyrus’ soldiers discovered buried treasures in Babylon that had been hidden under the Euphrates river. Silver and gold galore stored in a dark, secret place.
God did all this so that Cyrus would know that He is God.
Lessons from Isaiah 45:1-3
What should we get from these verses. Where do we go from here. This post could go on for a bit but I’ll just raise a few points for you to consider.
God has a plan for your life
Before Cyrus was even a thought, God had a plan for his life. Never mind the fact that he was born into a pagan family. Never mind the fact that he was raised by pagan parents. God had life all mapped out with purpose.
You were born with a purpose. That purpose was decided long before you existed. It doesn’t matter if your parents didn’t plan for you. It doesn’t matter who raised you or how you were raised.
But it matters that you know you exist for a reason. A big, grand, glorious reason that God Himself has taken the time to plan.
Which takes me to my next point…
God has all history in his hands, including yours
You exist at this time in history for the execution of the plan that God created long before you landed in the universe.
God laid out Cyrus’ life almost 200 years before he was born. Cyrus had a role to play that changed the course of history just the way God would have it.
Cyrus had a purpose that was intertwined with the making of world history. Whomever took down Babylon was bound to make it into the history books.
Have you thought about the roll you should be playing in history? How God has orchestrated your existence to be happening right now in the 21st century?
We are familiar with the story of Esther and how God elevated her to queenship at the perfect time in history.
You know the famous Bible quote from Esther 4:14:
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Cyrus found out after the fact that he had been called by God for a specific purpose.
As a believer, this doesn’t have to be your reality. If you don’t know why you are here right now, ask God to reveal it to you.
God can and will use anyone to accomplish His will
Just so that you know, the Jews didn’t agree with God in His decision to use Cyrus because he was pagan.
There are some clues in verses 9 – 13 of Isaiah 45.
But isn’t it just like us believers to criticize and find fault? We struggle to see God at work even when we are benefiting.
We can become so holy, so pious that we miss how God is working in the life of an unbeliever to both bless believers and bring that unbeliever into a saving knowledge of who He is.
God can and will use anyone or anything. There is not a person or creature that doesn’t belong to Him. It’s His prerogative to use whatever or whomever He wishes.
He used a donkey to talk to Balaam.
He used a raven, an unclean bird, to feed Elijah.
He used foul-mouthed fishermen and dishonest tax collectors to spread the gospel.
He used a murdering maniac to write most of the New Testament.
God will do these things especially when those who are supposed to follow Him go off and pursue their self-generated goals that do not meet God’s approval.
God will not let His plans go belly up because we fail to fall into alignment. No no!
He will get it done, even if it means using someone who neither knows nor acknowledges Him.
And for this reason, God’s help can come from some strange, unforeseen places. Pray for spiritual eyes to see them so you do not fall into unholy criticism and miss your blessing in the process.
God’s goal is always to get us to know Him
God does alot for Cyrus. He orchestrated Cryrus’ whole life: opened doors and gates, gave him victory over kings, and gave him untold amounts of wealth. God did all this so that Cyrus would know him.
The word know used here is the Hebrew word yada. It describes more than just head knowledge. Yada means to know through experience. It’s a word that describes a very intimate experience.
The truth is that for many of us, if we are honest, when God blesses us with open doors and wealth, we forget Him. But in this verse God’s desire is to call Cyrus’ attention to Him, the one true God.
Cyrus was a pagan. He believed in many different gods. He didn’t know Elohim, the Hebrew name given to God. If you read the rest of the chapter, God says a number of times “I am the Lord”.
God describes Himself and His power to Cyrus in a few of the verses after verse 3. God’s desire was to bring Cyrus into the knowledge of who He was. And God did this by allowing Cyrus to experience power through favor and victories and wealth.
Cyrus didn’t know this until Isaiah’s prophecy was shown to him. But, when the whole thing had been revealed to him, Cyrus believed it to be true.
Although we cannot say for sure that he continued to believe in God, we know that he acknowledged God’s powerful hands in his life.
As you grow in your career and amass more wealth, as God’s favor becomes more real in your life, as your bank account grows, do you still see God, as you experience success after success after success?
Are all your victories experiences that are leading you to grow closer to God or away from God? The material blessings of the Lord are not for us to lift up ourselves. They are for us to acknowledge God.
We should always remember that our wealth is God’s blessings which He intends for us to use to see him: But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV.
It is God who is behind the opened doors and gates. It is He who helps us navigate life so we can find the treasures of wealth that we seek for ourselves. And it is God who must be acknowledged, lifted up, and glorified.
Prayer points for Isaiah 45:3
Good Bible study leads our hearts to turn to God in prayer. As you consider these few verses of Scripture and what they mean in your life, pray that:
- God will make His plans for your life ever so clear that you cannot miss it.
- you will receive spiritual eyes to discern God’s movement of favor in your life.
- you will experience a closer relationship with God as your material wealth is multiplied.
Bible versions of Isaiah 45:3
Isaiah 45:3 KJV
And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
Isaiah 45:3 NKJV
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.
Isaiah 45:3 The Message
I’ll lead you to buried treasures, secret caches of valuables— Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.