Ablam Atsikin

Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2021.

Degree Name

Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)


Gina-Hens Piazza


A postcolonial reading of the Cyrus oracle (Isa 44:24-45:13) expands the portrait of Cyrus. This thesis argues that a contrapuntal reading of this oracle and the Cyrus Cylinder offers an alternative interpretation of the Persian king. The theological presentation of YHWH endorsing Cyrus as the divine instrument typically receives positive appropriation in scholarly literature. While Cyrus, YHWH’s shepherd and anointed, is posed as a benevolent foreigner, he is also a conqueror of Judah. Enlisting a literary analysis of Isaiah 44:24-45:13, this study discloses the multi-dimensional character of this text. It argues that the Cyrus oracle functions as not only a theological treatise but also a propagandistic instrument. While the Cyrus poem emancipates Judah from the Babylonian hegemony, it also reinforces Judah’s subjugation to YHWH’s agent, namely, Cyrus himself.

The counterpoints of the texts of the Cyrus oracle and Cylinder reveal the anticonquest ideology embedded in this religious literature. Moreover, both texts, from subjugated nations Judah and Babylon, exalt Cyrus as a liberator. The Isaian text praises Cyrus’s righteousness or legitimacy and his benevolence (Isa 45:13) in an attempt to decolonize the minds of Judeans engulfed in the Babylonian polytheistic culture. But it also aims to reinforce their recolonization by Cyrus and the Persians. Thus, this religious text works to maintain Judah in a subordinate status. One also notes that not all sacred texts stemming from this era host a colonizing influence. Qumran covenanters give evidence of resisting the empire through some of their literature.

In conclusion, this study not only contributes to ongoing postcolonial biblical interpretation; it also seeks to render literary justice as well as social justice. Further, this reading may help to inform the geopolitics of today’s world marked by power, especially in formerly colonized nations such as my own country, Togo.