To study Bible prophecies fulfilled is to take seriously the Bible's claim that predictive prophecy is a sign of God’s power and presents the supernatural nature of his Word (Deuteronomy 18:18-22).
Prophets and prophecy are not unique to the Hebrew tradition. A prophet is a person who claims or is considered to have been contacted by the supernatural or encountered the divine. He or she functions as an intermediary with humanity, delivering the revelation received from the supernatural entity to other humans. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy. Claims of prophets are found in the traditions of many cultures through history; from the Sibylline and Delphic Oracles practices in Ancient Greece to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In most traditions, prophets have a role in society that promotes change in response to their messages and actions.
In the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Isaiah insists that Yahweh is the only person who is in a position to “make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come” (Isa. 46:10). Old Testament scholar J. Barton Payne (1922-1979) identifies 737 separate predictions in the Bible. Of these, he claims there are 594 Bible prophecies fulfilled already. If Dr. Payne's assertion is accurate, this is more than 80%.
In this article on Bible prophecies fulfilled we will investigate the remarkable predictions made by the Hebrew prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah of Jerusalem concerning the ancient cities of Tyre and Babylon. We shall consider the prophetic passages themselves and carefully compare them with the historical materials that contain the fulfillment.
Tyre in the prophecy of Ezekiel
The study of Bible prophecies fulfilled must begin by asking two questions...
1. When did the prophet deliver the predictions?
2. What is the Sitz-im-Leben (seat-in life) of the prophecy?
Ezekiel is a prophet of the Jewish exile in Babylon. He appears to have been removed to Babylon during the deportation of 597 BCE. His earliest prophecies date from 593 BCE, while the kingdom of Judah still stood. Ezekiel not only warned his contemporaries of imminent divine judgment and national disaster, but he lived to see the fulfillment of these warnings. He later envisioned a future collective restoration and spiritual rebirth of his people.
Like many of the latter Hebrew prophets, Ezekiel’s oracles of divine judgment extended from Judah to include the surrounding nations and cities of the Ancient Near East. His predictions against Tyre date from 592 to 570 BCE and are recorded in 26:3-21.
The study of Bible prophecies fulfilled must always begin with a careful reading of the biblical text.
Type Ezekiel 26:3 in the box below and click on the search icon to read the passage...
Scholars have identified seven specific predictions in the judgment oracle:
(1) Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will destroy the mainland city of Tyre (v.8).
(2) Many nations will come against Tyre (v.3).
(3) The debris of the city will be thrown into the sea (v.12).
(4) Tyre will be made bare, flat like the top of a rock (v.4).
(5) Fishermen will spread their nets over the site (v.5).
(6) Tyre will never be rebuilt (v.14).
(7) Tyre will never be found (rise) again (v.21).
Have Ezekiel's predictions concerning Tyre been fulfilled?
An historical study of Bible prophecies fulfilled must consider specific fulfillment of each prediction concerning Tyre:
(1) Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to mainland Tyre from 585 to 573 BCE. However, by the time he broke down the gates and entered the city it was empty. The Tyrians had relocated to an island a half mile off shore, where they built a fortified city. In 573 BCE mainland Tyre was destroyed.
(2) Ezekiel’s prediction that many nations will come against Tyre was fulfilled many times over: Nebuchadnezzar’s siege—573 BCE; Alexander the Great’s siege—333 BCE; Antigonus laid siege for 15 months in 314 BCE. Ptolemy II (285-247 BCE) redirected the trade traffic of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean through the new port of Bernice on the Red Sea. This meant Mediterranean distribution was through Alexandria and no longer through Tyre.
(3) In 332 BCE Alexander the Great threw the debris from the ruins of mainland Tyre into the sea to make a causeway to island Tyre.
(4) Thus in constructing the causeway, Alexander literally scraped bare the site of the original city.
(5) Today a fishing village is on the site of the original city. The fishermen dry their nets on the rocks that once formed the city’s foundation and Alexander’s causeway.
(6) The ancient city of Tyre has never been never been rebuilt. Modern Tyre has not been built over the site of ancient Tyre.
(7) Scholars have suggested that the final prediction, “You will be sought, but you will never again be found” (26:21), does not refer to the actual location, but to Tyrian wealth and power. Tyre was finally destroyed in A.D. 1291, and never rebuilt.
A comparative study of Bible prophecies fulfilled is worthwhile. We will compare Ezekiel's judgment oracle against Tyre's sister city, Sidon (28:22-23). The prophet foretold that Tyre would be destroyed, made bare lie a rock, and never rebuilt. The prediction concerning Sidon indicates that blood will be in her streets, her wounded shall lie slain, and the sword will be upon her on every side. However, there is no pronouncement of extinction. The history of Sidon reveals one of the bloodiest any city has ever had. However, ancient Sidon remains a thriving city to this day.
Prophecy scholar, George Davis, concludes: "No human mind could have foretold 2,500 years ago that Tyre would be extinct, and Sidon would continue, but suffer tribulation during the succeeding centuries; instead of Tyre enduring sorrows, and Sidon being desolate and deserted during the long period."
The histories of Tyre and Sidon appear to present case studies of Bible prophecies fulfilled.
Babylon in the prophecy of Isaiah and Jeremiah
Like Ezekiel, the pseudonymous author scholars have called Second (or Deutro) Isaiah was a prophetic voice that speaks to us from the critical period of Hebrew history between the Babylonian conquest of 587 BCE and the first generation of Jews to return from Babylon folloing Cyrus of Persia's edict of 538 BCE.
The anonymous prophet known as Second Isaiah is one the Hebrew Bible's greatest poets. His message of hope and consolation to the Jewish exiles during the last years of the Babylonian captivity (c. 540 BCE) continues to be a source of spiritual nourishment and encouragement to Jews and Christians in the complex and confusing culture of our postmodern world. Here is a clear case of Bible prophecies fulfilled in an ongoing mystical sense is the spiritual experience of believers throughout the generations.
Second Isaiah announces that Judah's time or punishment if fulfilled. Yahweh has not only fully pardoned his people, but also is granting them freedom, guiding them on a "new exodus" out of Babylon and back to the Promised Land. It would not be especially remarkable to find oracles of divine judgment predicting Babylon's destruction in the chapters of Second Isaiah, as indeed we find in Chs. 46 and 47, or to determine these Bible prophecies fulfilled.
What is more remarkable is the very specific predictions against Babylon made by Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eight century BCE (13:19-22, and 14:23) as well as the additional predictions of Jeremiah (51:26 and 43) dating from the late seventh of very early sixth century BCE.
Are these ancient predictions concerning Babylon another remarkable example of Bible prophecies fulfilled?
I recommend that you read the relevant prophetic passage before proceeding with this article.
Left: Ishtar Gate (reconstructed), Babylon.
When Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century BCE predicted the destruction of Babylon, it was a over a hundred years away from becoming a world power. At present it was just a small rebellious province within the Assyrian Empire in what is today southern Iraq.
Supplemented by Jeremiah's later additions, scholars have identified eight specific predictions about Babylon:
(1) Babylon will be like Sodom and Gomorrah (13:19).
(2) The city will never be inhabited again (13:20, Jer, 51:26).
(3) Tents will not be pitched their by Bedouins (13:20).
(4) Sheepfolds will not be built there (13:20).
(5) The ruins will be infested by desert creatures (13:21).
(6) Stones will not be removed for other construction projects (Jer. 51:26).
(7) The ancient city will not be frequently visited (Jer. 51:43).
(8) The site will be covered with swamps of water (14:23).
Have the predictions concerning Babylon been fulfilled?
The fulfillment of the predictions concerning Babylon are not as specific as those concerning Tyre, but they are no less an impressive example of Bible prophecies fulfilled.
The first prediction indicates that Babylon would be destroyed and become like Sodom and Gomorrah. However, it does not suggest destruction in the same manner. Austen H. Layard, an early pioneer is the field of Biblical archaeology and specialist on Nineveh and Babylon, describes the ruins of Babylon as he found them in mid nineteenth century CE:
"...the site of Babylon a naked and hideous waste. Owls start from scanty thickets and the foul jackal skulks through the furrows. Truly, ‘the glory of kingdoms and the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency is as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Wild beats of the desert lie there; and their houses are full of doleful creatures; and owls dwell there... And the wild beasts of the island cry in their desolate houses..."
More recently, Christian apologist Floyd Hamilton noted in the 1960s:
"Travelers report that [Babylon] is absolutely uninhabited, even by Bedouins. There are various superstitions current among the Arabs that prevent them from pitching their tents, while the character of the soil prevents the growth of vegetation suitable for the pasturage of flocks."
While bricks and other building materials have been salvaged from the ruins of Babylon for surrounding cities, the rocks of the foundation stones, which had been imported as great cost to Babylon, have never been removed. It also interesting to note that nearly all ancient cities are prominent tourist destinations; however Babylon is not. It has had relatively few visitors.
In more recent times with the Iraq/Iran war of the 1980s, Desert Storm in the 1990s, and Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent occupation of Iraq by American and coalition forces since 2003, Babylon remains largely "off the beaten track."
In 1853 Layard noted that a great part of the county below ancient Babylon had become one great swamp. The embankments of the rivers, neglected for centuries, had broken away and water had spread over the much of land. Thus a large part of the ancient remains of the Babylon of Hammurabi lies beneath deep beds of silt.
The observations of archaeologists and apologists suggest more Bible prophecies fulfilled.
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted that Babylon would never be inhabited again. However, an interesting postscript began in 1983, when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein started rebuilding Babylon on top of the ancient ruins. He inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads: "This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq" recalling the ziggurat (terraced stepped pyramid) at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with "Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna."
Interestingly, in the late eighth century BCE, Isaiah predicted that the fury and taunting of the ruler of Babylonia (now Iraq) will be broken (14:3-5). On 5 November 2006, Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity by the Iraqi Special Tribunal. He was executed for these crimes on 30 December 2006. After the downfall of Hussein the inscribed bricks from Babylon became sought after as collectors’ items and the ruins of Babylon are no longer being restored to their original state.
What are the probabilities for Bible prophecies fulfilled?
Mathematician Peter Stoner, former chair of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College (California) and chair of the Science Division at Westmont College (Santa Barbara, CA), calculated the mathematical probability of the specific fulfillment of numerous prophetic predictions in the Bible. According to Stoner, the probability of the predictions concerning Tyre is 1 in 7.5 x 107. The probability of the fulfillment of the Babylonian predictions by Isaiah of Jerusalem and Jeremiah according to Stoner is 1 in 5 x 109.
Whether these mathematical probabilities are accurate, the histories of Tyre and Babylon appear to bear witness to Bible prophecies fulfilled.
A more detailed discussion of how to interpret fulfilled prophecy may be found in my eBook, Developing a Sound Hermeneutics, Second Edition (2009).
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