Last time we visited this series of 25 Reason Why I Believe the Bible (which admittedly was a while back), we looked at an introduction to Biblical Prophecy. We have divided Biblical Prophecy into three broad categories:
- Non-Messianic Prophecy (Prophecy about something other than Jesus)
- Old Testament Messianic Prophecy (Prophecy about Jesus found in the Old Testament)
- New Testament Messianic Prophecy (Prophecy about Jesus found in the New Testament)
Starting with this installment, and continuing for the next two, we are going to take a closer look at each type of prophecy.
The Bible is full of prophecy. Prophecy was, in fact, one of God’s chosen ways of showing who He was, and arguably the most convincing proof for the accuracy and divine inspiration of the Bible. As we will see in coming installments, the predictions of the coming Messiah prove pretty conclusively that Jesus was who He said He was, but before we tackle those we are going to look at some of the Non-Messianic prophecies of the Bible and their fulfillment in history. This is by no means an exhaustive listing of the prophecy included in the Bible but will give you feel for some of what is included. I have included scripture references so you can look up the prophecies yourself.
The Destruction of Tyre
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the book of Ezekiel (written between 593 and 565 B.C.), we read:
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. And she shall become plunder for the nations, and her daughters on the mainland shall be killed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the LORD. For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground. They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the LORD; I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. [Ezekiel 26:3-14 ESV]
And here a little history lesson on the fate of Tyre (thanks to David Padfield for assembling this information):
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of her king Zedekiah into captivity, "Nebuchadnezzar took all Palestine and Syria and the cities on the seacoast, including Tyre, which fell after a siege of 13 years (573 B.C.)" (E. A. Wallis Budge, Babylonian Life And History, p. 50). The inhabitants of Tyre fled to a rocky island half a mile offshore. The walls on the landward side of the island were 150 feet high. "The channel between Tyre and the mainland was over twenty feet deep, and frequently lashed by violent south-west winds. Their fortifications, they believed, would resist the strongest battering-ram yet devised. The city-walls stood sheer above the sea: how could any army without ships scale them? Shore based artillery was useless at such a range." (Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, p. 248).
On his way towards Egypt, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) led his Macedonian troops to victory at Sidon and then continued south towards Tyre. Tyrian envoys met with Alexander and assured him that their city was at his disposal. "However, he put their goodwill to the test by expressing his wish to sacrifice at the shrine of Heracles inside the city; for the Tyrians recognized a Phoenician god who was identified by the Greeks as Heracles, and from this deity Alexander claimed descent. Tyrian goodwill unfortunately did not extend so far as to grant him the permission he sought In short, they would not admit him into the city." (David Chandler, Alexander 334-323 B.C., p. 41).
Alexander was tempted to bypass the island fortress and continue his march towards Egypt. He sent messengers to Tyre, urging them to accept a peace treaty. Believing themselves to be safe on their island, the Tyrians killed Alexander’s ambassadors and threw their bodies from the top of the walls into the sea. This act served only to anger Alexander and embitter his troops.
Alexander determined to build a mole to get his troops from the mainland to the island. The mole is said to have been at least 200 feet wide. It was constructed from stones and timber from the old city of Tyre on the mainland. In fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, the very foundation stones, timbers and dust of the city was cast "in the midst of the water" (Ezek. 26:12).
For a while the Tyrians laughed at Alexander’s project. At first they would row boats across the channel and harangue the Macedonians. Their laughter turned to concern when they saw the mole was going to be completed. The Tyrians ignited a barge and drove it into the first mole. The towers on the mole caught fire and several of Alexander’s men lost their lives. Alexander gave orders for the work to continue, and that the mole itself should be widened and more protective towers be built.
Alexander was able to obtain ships from Sidon, Greek allies and Cyprus to form a blockade around Tyre. When the mole was within artillery range of Tyre, Alexander brought up stone throwers and light catapults, reinforced by archers and slingers, for a saturation barrage. Battle engineers constructed several naval battering rams which smashed through the walls of Tyre. Though courageous, the Tyrians were no match for Alexander’s troops. Over 7,000 Tyrians died in the defense of their island. In contrast, only 400 Macedonians were killed.
The seven month siege, from January to July 332 B.C., was over. "The great city over which Hiram had once held sway was now utterly destroyed. Her king, Azimilik, and various other notables, including envoys from Carthage, had taken refuge in the temple of Melkart, and Alexander spared their lives. The remaining survivors, some 30,000 in number, he sold into slavery. Two thousand men of military age were crucified. Then Alexander went up into the temple, ripped the golden cords from the image of the god (now to be renamed, by decree, Apollo Philalexander), and made his long-delayed sacrifice: the most costly blood-offering even Melkart had ever received." (Green, p. 262).
One historian wrote, "Alexander did far more against Tyre than Shalmaneser or Nebuchadnezzar had done. Not content with crushing her, he took care that she never should revive; for he founded Alexandria as her substitute, and changed forever the track of the commerce of the world." (Edward Creasy, Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, ch. 4).
Other sources record that the Island city of Tyre is covered with water. The fulfillment of this prophecy is clear.
The Jewish Exile
There are numerous prophecies in the Bible of the Jewish exile from the promised land. The following are some of those prophecies with their approximate date of writing included for reference:
- Moses – 1450 B.C. (Dt. 28:49-57)
- Amos – 760 B.C. (Amos 3, 5-9)
- Hosea – 753 B.C (Hos 1:2-8)
- Micah – 742 B.C. (Micah 1:2-3:12)
- Isaiah – 740 B.C. (Is 7:18-25; 9:8-10:4)
- Habakkuk – 612 B.C. (Hab 1:1-11)
- Jeremiah – 627 B.C. (Jer 5:1-19; 6:1-30; 7:30-34)
In 722 B.C., the Northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. Later in 587-586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzer laid siege to the southern kingdom of Judah thereby completing the exile of the Jews prophesied so many years earlier in the Old Testament.
Cyrus to Allow the Jews to Rebuild the Temple
Written in approximately sometime earlier than 700 B.C., Isaiah 44:28-45:3 tell of a coming King named Cyrus who would allow the Israelite to rebuild there temple:
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
“I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
[Isaiah 44:28-45:3 ESV]
This prophecy was made some 100 years before the Temple was even destroyed and 160 years before Cyrus was born. Nonetheless, we read in the book of Ezra:
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:
“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. Whoever 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 rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” [Ezra 1:1-4 ESV]
Daniel’s Succession of World Powers
In Chapter 8 of the book of Daniel, written around 550 B.C., Daniel accurately predicts the unfolding of world powers for the next 400 years:
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” [Daniel 8:1-14 ESV]
Unlike prophecies from other sources, the Bible does not leave of guessing about this particular prophecy:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” [Daniel 8:15-26 ESV]
The ram represented the Medo-Persian empire. The goat was the King of Greece – Alexander the Great who conquered the Medo-Persian empire. When he died in 323 B.C., the kingdom was divided amongst four generals. The little horn/king of bold face refers to Antiochus IV who grew out of the four divided kingdoms and ruled as a tyrant.
These are just some of the many non-Messianic prophecies of the Bible which have proven true. Indeed, no prophecy of scripture has yet to be proven untrue – a clear indication of the divine inspiration of the book.