Prophecies That Came True
Humans cannot foretell the future with any certainty. Time and again their efforts at prediction fail miserably. So a book of prophecies that did come true has to attract our attention. The Bible is such a book.
1. (Include introduction.) What is proved by the fact that the Bible records prophecies that came true?
MANY Bible prophecies have come true in such detail that critics claim they were written after the fulfillment. But such claims are untrue. God, being almighty, is fully capable of prophesying. (Isaiah 41:21-26; 42:8, 9; 46:8-10) Biblical prophecies that came true are evidence of divine inspiration, not of late authorship. We will look now at some outstanding prophecies that came true—providing additional proof that the Bible is God’s word, not just man’s.
The Exile in Babylon
2, 3. What led up to King Hezekiah’s showing all the treasures of his house and dominion to envoys from Babylon?
2 Hezekiah was king in Jerusalem for about 30 years. In 740 B.C.E. he witnessed the destruction of his northern neighbor Israel at the hands of Assyria. In 732 B.C.E. he experienced God’s saving power, when the Assyrian attempt to conquer Jerusalem had failed, with catastrophic results to the invader.—Isaiah 37:33-38.
3 Now, Hezekiah is receiving a delegation from Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon. On the surface, the ambassadors are there to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery from a severe illness. Likely, though, Merodach-baladan sees Hezekiah as a possible ally against the world power of Assyria. Hezekiah does nothing to dispel such an idea when he shows the visiting Babylonians all the wealth of his house and dominion. Perhaps he, too, wants allies against a possible return of the Assyrians.—Isaiah 39:1, 2.
4. What tragic consequence of Hezekiah’s mistake did Isaiah prophesy?
4 Isaiah is the outstanding prophet of that time, and he quickly discerns Hezekiah’s indiscretion. He knows that Hezekiah’s surest defense is Jehovah, not Babylon, and tells him that his act of showing the Babylonians his wealth will lead to tragedy. “Days are coming,” says Isaiah, “and all that is in your own house and that your forefathers have stored up down to this day will actually be carried to Babylon.” Jehovah decreed: “Nothing will be left.”—Isaiah 39:5, 6.
5, 6. (a) What did Jeremiah say in confirmation of Isaiah’s prophecy? (b) In what way were the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah fulfilled?
5 Back in the eighth century B.C.E., it may have seemed unlikely for that prophecy to be fulfilled. One hundred years later, however, the situation changed. Babylon replaced Assyria as the dominant world power, while Judah became so degraded, religiously speaking, that God withdrew his blessing. Now, another prophet, Jeremiah, was inspired to repeat Isaiah’s warning. Jeremiah proclaimed: “I will bring [the Babylonians] against this land and against its inhabitants . . . And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”—Jeremiah 25:9, 11.
6 About four years after Jeremiah uttered that prophecy, the Babylonians made Judah part of their empire. Three years after that, they took some Jewish captives, along with some of the wealth of the temple at Jerusalem, to Babylon. Eight years later, Judah revolted and was again invaded by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. This time, the city and its temple were destroyed. All its wealth, and the Jews themselves, were carried off to distant Babylon, just as Isaiah and Jeremiah had foretold.—2 Chronicles 36:6, 7, 12, 13, 17-21.
7. How does archaeology testify to the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning Jerusalem?
7 The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land notes that when the Babylonian onslaught was over, “the destruction of the city [Jerusalem] was a total one.”1 Archaeologist W. F. Albright states: “Excavation and surface exploration in Judah have proved that the towns of Judah were not only completely destroyed by the Chaldeans in their two invasions, but were not reoccupied for generations—often never again in history.”2 Thus, archaeology confirms the shocking fulfillment of this prophecy.
The Fate of Tyre
8, 9. What prophecy did Ezekiel utter against Tyre?
8 Ezekiel was another ancient writer who recorded divinely inspired prophecies. He prophesied from the end of the seventh century B.C.E. on into the sixth—that is, during the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and then during the first decades of the Jews’ exile in Babylon. Even some modern critics agree that the book was written at approximately this time.
9 Ezekiel recorded a striking prophecy about the destruction of Israel’s northern neighbor Tyre, which had gone from a position of friendship with God’s people to one of enmity. (1 Kings 5:1-9; Psalm 83:2-8) He wrote: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘Here I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up against you many nations, just as the sea brings up its waves. And they will certainly bring the walls of Tyre to ruin and tear down her towers, and I will scrape her dust away from her and make her a shining, bare surface of a crag. . . . And your stones and your woodwork and your dust they will place in the very midst of the water.’”—Ezekiel 26:3, 4, 12.
10-12. When was Ezekiel’s prophecy finally fulfilled, and how?
10 Did this really happen? Well, a few years after Ezekiel uttered the prophecy, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, laid siege to Tyre. (Ezekiel 29:17, 18) It was not, however, an easy siege. Tyre was partially situated on the mainland (the part called Old Tyre). But part of the city was on an island about half a mile [800 m] offshore. Nebuchadnezzar besieged the island for 13 years before it finally submitted to him.
11 It was, however, in 332 B.C.E. that Ezekiel’s prophecy was finally fulfilled in all its details. At that time, Alexander the Great, the conqueror from Macedonia, was invading Asia. Tyre, secure on its island location, held out against him. Alexander did not want to leave a potential enemy at his rear, but he did not want to spend years in a siege of Tyre, as Nebuchadnezzar had done.
12 How did he solve this military problem? He built a land bridge, or mole, across to the island, so that his soldiers could march across and attack the island city. Notice, though, what he used to build the mole. The Encyclopedia Americana reports: “With the debris of the mainland portion of the city, which he had demolished, he built a huge mole in 332 to join the island to the mainland.” After a relatively short siege, the island city was destroyed. Moreover, Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in all its details. Even the ‘stones and woodwork and dust’ of Old Tyre were ‘placed in the very midst of the water.’
13. How did a 19th-century traveler describe the site of ancient Tyre?
13 A 19th-century traveler commented on what was left of ancient Tyre in his day, saying: “Of the original Tyre known to Solomon and the prophets of Israel, not a vestige remains except in its rock-cut sepulchres on the mountain sides, and in foundation walls . . . Even the island, which Alexander the Great, in his siege of the city, converted into a cape by filling up the water between it and the mainland, contains no distinguishable relics of an earlier period than that of the Crusades. The modern town, all of which is comparatively new, occupies the northern half of what was once the island, while nearly all the remainder of the surface is covered with undistinguishable ruins.”3
14, 15. What prophecies did Isaiah and Jeremiah record against Babylon?
14 Back in the eighth century B.C.E., Isaiah, the prophet who warned the Jews of their coming subjugation by Babylon, also foretold something astounding: the total annihilation of Babylon itself. He foretold this in graphic detail: “Here I am arousing against them the Medes . . . And Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans, must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation.”—Isaiah 13:17-20.
15 The prophet Jeremiah also foretold the fall of Babylon, which would take place many years later. And he included an interesting detail: “There is a devastation upon her waters, and they must be dried up. . . . The mighty men of Babylon have ceased to fight. They have kept sitting in the strong places. Their mightiness has run dry.”—Jeremiah 50:38; 51:30.
16. When was Babylon conquered, and by whom?
16 In 539 B.C.E., the time of Babylon’s rule as the preeminent world power came to an end when the vigorous Persian ruler Cyrus, accompanied by the army of Media, marched against the city. What Cyrus found, however, was formidable. Babylon was surrounded by huge walls and seemed impregnable. The great river Euphrates, too, ran through the city and made an important contribution to its defenses.
17, 18. (a) In what way was there “a devastation upon [Babylon’s] waters”? (b) Why did Babylon’s ‘mighty men cease to fight’?
17 The Greek historian Herodotus describes how Cyrus handled the problem: “He placed a portion of his army at the point where the river enters the city, and another body at the back of the place where it issues forth, with orders to march into the town by the bed of the stream, as soon as the water became shallow enough . . . He turned the Euphrates by a canal into the basin [an artificial lake dug by a previous ruler of Babylon], which was then a marsh, on which the river sank to such an extent that the natural bed of the stream became fordable. Hereupon the Persians who had been left for the purpose at Babylon by the river-side, entered the stream, which had now sunk so as to reach about midway up a man’s thigh, and thus got into the town.”4
18 In this way the city fell, as Jeremiah and Isaiah had warned. But notice the detailed fulfillment of prophecy. There was literally ‘a devastation upon her waters, and they were dried up.’ It was the lowering of the waters of the Euphrates that enabled Cyrus to gain access to the city. Did ‘the mighty men of Babylon cease to fight,’ as Jeremiah had warned? The Bible—as well as the Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon—records that the Babylonians were actually feasting when the Persian assault occurred.5 The Nabonidus Chronicle, an official cuneiform inscription, says that Cyrus’ troops entered Babylon “without battle,” likely meaning without a major pitched battle.6 Evidently, Babylon’s mighty men did not do much to protect her.
19. Was the prophecy that Babylon would “never be inhabited” fulfilled? Explain.
19 What about the forecast that Babylon would “never be inhabited” again? That was not fulfilled immediately in 539 B.C.E. But unerringly the prophecy came true. After her fall, Babylon was the center of a number of rebellions, until 478 B.C.E. when she was destroyed by Xerxes. At the end of the fourth century, Alexander the Great planned to restore her, but he died before the work had progressed very far. From then on, the city just declined. There were still people living there in the first century of our Common Era, but today all that is left of ancient Babylon is a heap of ruins in Iraq. Even if her ruins should be partially restored, Babylon would be just a tourist showpiece, not a living, vibrant city. Her desolate site bears witness to the final fulfillment of the inspired prophecies against her.
The March of World Powers
20, 21. What prophecy did Daniel see of the march of world powers, and how was this fulfilled?
20 In the sixth century B.C.E., during the Jewish exile in Babylon, another prophet, Daniel, was inspired to record some remarkable visions foretelling the future course of world events. In one, Daniel describes a number of symbolic animals that displace one another on the world scene. An angel explains that these animals foreshadow the march of world powers from that time onward. Speaking of the final two beasts, he says: “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia. And the hairy he-goat stands for the king of Greece; and as for the great horn that was between its eyes, it stands for the first king. And that one having been broken, so that there were four that finally stood up instead of it, there are four kingdoms from his nation that will stand up, but not with his power.”—Daniel 8:20-22.
21 This prophetic foreview was fulfilled exactly. The Babylonian Empire was overthrown by Medo-Persia, which, 200 years later, gave way to the Greek world power. The Greek Empire was spearheaded by Alexander the Great, “the great horn.” However, after Alexander’s death, his generals fought among themselves for power, and eventually the far-flung empire broke into four smaller empires, “four kingdoms.”
22. In a related prophecy of the march of world powers, what additional world power was prophesied?
22 In Daniel chapter 7, a somewhat similar vision also looked far into the future. The Babylonian world power was pictured by a lion, the Persian by a bear, and the Greek by a leopard with four wings on its back and four heads. Then, Daniel sees another wild beast, “fearsome and terrible and unusually strong . . . , and it had ten horns.” (Daniel 7:2-7) This fourth wild beast prefigured the powerful Roman Empire, which began to develop about three centuries after Daniel recorded this prophecy.
23. In what way was the fourth wild beast of Daniel’s prophecy “different from all the other kingdoms”?
23 The angel prophesied regarding Rome: “As for the fourth beast, there is a fourth kingdom that will come to be on the earth, that will be different from all the other kingdoms; and it will devour all the earth and will trample it down and crush it.” (Daniel 7:23) H. G. Wells, in his book A Pocket History of the World, says: “This new Roman power which arose to dominate the western world in the second and first centuries B.C. was in several respects a different thing from any of the great empires that had hitherto prevailed in the civilised world.”7 It started as a republic and continued as a monarchy. Unlike previous empires, it was not the creation of any one conqueror but grew relentlessly over the centuries. It lasted much, much longer and controlled far more territory than any previous empire.
24, 25. (a) How did the ten horns of the wild beast make their appearance? (b) What struggle between the horns of the wild beast did Daniel foresee?
24 What, though, about the ten horns of this huge beast? The angel said: “And as for the ten horns, out of that kingdom there are ten kings that will rise up; and still another one will rise up after them, and he himself will be different from the first ones, and three kings he will humiliate.” (Daniel 7:24) How did this work out?
25 Well, when the Roman Empire started to deteriorate in the fifth century C.E., it was not immediately replaced by another world power. Rather, it disintegrated into a number of kingdoms, “ten kings.” Finally, the British Empire defeated the three rival empires of Spain, France, and the Netherlands to become the major world power. Thus did the newcomer ‘horn’ humiliate “three kings.”
Daniel’s Prophecies—After the Fact?
26. When do critics claim that Daniel was written, and why?
26 The Bible indicates that the book of Daniel was written during the sixth century B.C.E. However, the fulfillments of its prophecies are so exact that critics claim it must have been written about 165 B.C.E., when a number of the prophecies had already been fulfilled.8 Despite the fact that the only real reason for making this claim is that Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled, this late date for the writing of Daniel is presented as an established fact in many reference works.
27, 28. What are some of the facts that prove that Daniel was not written in 165 B.C.E.?
27 Against such a theory, though, we must weigh the following facts. First, the book was alluded to in Jewish works produced during the second century B.C.E., such as the first book of Maccabees. Also, it was included in the Greek Septuagint version, the translation of which began in the third century B.C.E.9 Third, fragments of copies of Daniel were among the more frequently found works in the Dead Sea Scrolls—and these fragments are believed to date to about 100 B.C.E.10 Clearly, soon after Daniel was supposedly written, it was already widely known and respected: strong evidence that it was produced long before critics say it was.
28 Further, Daniel contains historical details that would have been unknown to a second-century writer. Outstanding is the case of Belshazzar, the ruler of Babylon who was killed when Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E. The major non-Biblical sources of our knowledge of the fall of Babylon are Herodotus (fifth century), Xenophon (fifth and fourth centuries), and Berossus (third century). None of these knew about Belshazzar.11 How unlikely that a second-century writer would have had information that had been unavailable to these earlier authors! The record concerning Belshazzar in Daniel chapter 5 is a strong argument that Daniel wrote his book before these other writers wrote theirs.a
29. Why is it impossible that the book of Daniel was written after the fulfillment of the prophecies therein?
29 Finally, there are a number of prophecies in Daniel that were fulfilled long after 165 B.C.E. One of these was the prophecy about the Roman Empire, mentioned earlier. Another is a remarkable prophecy foretelling the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah.
The Coming of the Anointed One
30, 31. (a) What prophecy of Daniel predicted the time of Messiah’s appearance? (b) How can we calculate, based on Daniel’s prophecy, the year when Messiah was due to appear?
30 This prophecy is recorded in Daniel, chapter 9, and reads as follows: “Seventy weeks [of years, or four hundred and ninety years] are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city.”b (Daniel 9:24, The Amplified Bible) What was to happen during these 490 years? We read: “From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until [the coming of] the anointed one, a prince, shall be seven weeks [of years], and sixty-two weeks [of years].” (Daniel 9:25, AB) So this is a prophecy about the time of the coming of “the anointed one,” the Messiah. How was it fulfilled?
31 The command to restore and to build Jerusalem ‘went forth’ in “the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king” of Persia, that is, in 455 B.C.E. (Nehemiah 2:1-9) By the end of 49 years (7 weeks of years), much of Jerusalem’s glory had been restored. And then, counting the full 483 years (7 plus 62 weeks of years) from 455 B.C.E., we arrive at 29 C.E. This was, in fact, “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” the year when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer. (Luke 3:1) At that time, Jesus was publicly identified as God’s Son and began his ministry of preaching the good news to the Jewish nation. (Matthew 3:13-17; 4:23) He became the “anointed one,” or Messiah.
32. According to Daniel’s prophecy, how long would Jesus’ earthly ministry be, and what would happen at the end of it?
32 The prophecy adds: “And after the sixty-two weeks [of years] shall the anointed one be cut off.” It also says: “And he shall enter into a strong and firm covenant with the many for one week [seven years]; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to cease.” (Daniel 9:26, 27, AB) In harmony with this, Jesus went exclusively to “the many,” the fleshly Jews. On occasion, he also preached to the Samaritans, who believed some of the Scriptures but had formed a sect separate from mainstream Judaism. Then, “in the midst of the week,” after three and a half years of preaching, he gave up his life as a sacrifice and was thus “cut off.” This spelled the end of the Mosaic Law with its sacrifices and gift offerings. (Galatians 3:13, 24, 25) Hence, by his death, Jesus caused “the sacrifice and offering to cease.”
33. For how long would Jehovah deal exclusively with the Jews, and what event marked the end of this period?
33 Nevertheless, for another three and a half years the newborn Christian congregation witnessed solely to Jews and, later, to the related Samaritans. In 36 C.E., however, at the end of the 70 weeks of years, the apostle Peter was guided to preach to a Gentile, Cornelius. (Acts 10:1-48) Now, the “covenant with the many” was no longer limited to the Jews. Salvation was preached also to the uncircumcised Gentiles.
34. In harmony with Daniel’s prophecy, what happened to fleshly Israel because they rejected the Messiah?
34 Because the Jewish nation rejected Jesus and conspired to have him executed, Jehovah did not protect them when the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Thus, Daniel’s further words were fulfilled: “And the people of the other prince who shall come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and even to the end there shall be war.” (Daniel 9:26b, AB) This second “prince” was Titus, the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
Prophecy That Was Inspired
35. What additional prophecies about Jesus came true?
35 In this way, Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks was fulfilled in a remarkably exact manner. Indeed, many of the prophecies recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled during the first century, and a number of these had to do with Jesus. The place of Jesus’ birth, his zeal for God’s house, his preaching activity, his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, the manner of his death, the fact that lots were cast for his garments—all these details were prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. Their fulfillment proved without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, and it demonstrated again that the prophecies were inspired.—Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7; Zechariah 11:12; 12:10; Matthew 26:15; 27:35; Psalm 22:18; 34:20; John 19:33-37.
36, 37. What do we learn from the fact that Biblical prophecies have come true, and what confidence does this knowledge give us?
36 In fact, all the Bible’s prophecies that were due to be fulfilled have come true. Things have happened exactly in the way the Bible said they would. This is strong evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. There must have been more than human wisdom behind those prophetic utterances for them to have been so accurate.
37 But there are other predictions in the Bible that were not fulfilled in those times. Why? Because they were due to be fulfilled in our own day, and even in our future. The reliability of those ancient prophecies makes us confident that these other predictions will without fail come true. As we will see in the next chapter, this is indeed the case.
a See Chapter 4, “How Believable Is the ‘Old Testament’?” paragraphs 16 and 17.
b In this translation, the words in brackets have been added by the translator to clarify the meaning.
[Blurb on page 133]
All prophecies that were due to be fulfilled came true. Things happened exactly the way the Bible said they would
[Picture on page 118]
Archaeologists have discovered that the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar was a total one
[Picture on page 121]
Photograph of modern Tyre. Hardly a vestige remains of the Tyre the prophets of Israel knew
[Picture on page 123]
Tourists who visit the site of ancient Babylon are witnesses of the fulfillment of the prophecies against the city
[Pictures on page 126]
Daniel’s prophecies of the march of world powers were fulfilled so accurately that modern critics think they were written after the fulfillment
[Picture on page 130]
Daniel prophesied the exact time when the Messiah would appear in Israel