The Hebrew prophet Isaiah lived and prophesied in dangerous times. Through much of his ministry, the people and rulers of the kingdom of Judah had vacillated between faithfulness to God and succumbing to the sensuous appeal of the idolatry and paganism that had long plagued the kingdom.
Through Isaiah and other prophets, God warned that, unless the nation repented of their idolatry and returned to Him, they would be invaded and forcibly carried away into exile.
Perhaps most astonishing, though, is the fact that God foretold the very name of the monarch who would allow the Jews to return from exile and rebuild the temple—well over a century before it happened!
The Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus, leader of the Medo-Persian Empire, in 539 B.C. Cyrus thus took over the Babylonian Empire—including its thousands of exiled Jews. He issued a decree, recorded in Ezra 1:2-4, that the Jews in Babylon could return to Jerusalem:
"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 [temple] at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 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" (Ezra 1:2-3).
The temple reconstruction began in 536 B.C. and was completed in 516—70 years after the destruction of the first temple during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. And amazingly, it was made possible by a king named by the prophet Isaiah more than a century earlier.
Notice God's remarkable prophecy in Isaiah 44:24, 28: "Thus says the Lord . . . 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."'" GN