How History Was Written Centuries in Advance
WHAT do you think of the possibility of someone writing history in advance? Some insist that such a thing is impossible, and they dismiss the question without further investigation.
But think about it for a moment: Does mere denial by skeptical persons disprove the possibility of genuine predictions? Surely it would be unwise to draw such a conclusion hastily. Probably right in your own home you have evidence of history written centuries in advance. How so?
Likely you possess a copy of the Holy Bible, which hundreds of millions of persons throughout the world view as the inspired word of God. (2 Tim. 3:16) The Scriptures are filled with predictions of events that took place hundreds of years after they were foretold. Let us consider some examples.
‘TYRE WILL BECOME A DRYING YARD FOR DRAGNETS’
An example of the astonishing accuracy of Bible prophecy concerns the ancient Phoenician seaport city of Tyre. This city grew to be very great at the expense of other people. She was a manufacturer of metal objects, glassware and purple dyes, a trading center for overland caravans, a great import-export depot. Her merchants and tradesmen boasted of being princely and honorable. (Isa. 23:8) At one time friendly relations existed between Tyre and Israel. But this did not continue, for Tyre eventually allied herself with Israel’s enemies. Because of Tyre’s treachery toward Israel, God inspired his prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others to predict that calamity would come upon this Phoenician seaport. We read, for example:
“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. A drying yard for dragnets is what she will become in the midst of the sea. . . . Here I am bringing against Tyre Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon from the north, a king of kings, with horses and war chariots and cavalrymen and a congregation, even a multitudinous people. And I will make you a shining, bare surface of a crag. A drying yard for dragnets is what you will become. Never will you be rebuilt; for I myself, Jehovah, have spoken,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.”—Ezek. 26:3-5, 7, 14.
Secular history reports that Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Tyre sometime after destroying Jerusalem and the temple of Jehovah’s worship in 607 B.C.E. The Jewish historian Josephus, drawing upon Phoenician annals and other previously written history, states that Nebuchadnezzar’s siege against Tyre lasted thirteen years. The Bible indicates that Nebuchadnezzar’s forces inflicted considerable damage upon Tyre.—Ezek. 26:8-11.
Tyre recovered from this blow struck by Babylon. However, centuries later, Grecian forces under Alexander the Great moved against Tyre, which at that time was located on an island about half a mile (0.8 kilometer) from the mainland. When the inhabitants refused to capitulate to Alexander, he became enraged and had his men scrape up the ruins of the mainland city and throw them into the sea, thus building a causeway out to the island city. Then a sea battle took place in which Alexander’s forces prevailed. After a siege of seven months, Alexander’s men took the island city. When its inhabitants put up desperate resistance, the city was set on fire. It proved to be as another prophet, Zechariah, had foretold: “In the fire she herself will be devoured.”—Zech. 9:4.
Though Tyre kept trying to make a comeback through the centuries, the city repeatedly fell before hostile forces, just as God’s prophet had foretold. (Ezek. 26:3) What is the present condition of Tyre, which was one of the great sea powers of the ancient world? Ruins and a small seaport, called Sour (Sur), mark the site. Nina Jidejian, in her book Tyre Through the Ages (1969), declares: “The port has become a haven today for fishing boats and a place for spreading nets,” exactly as prophesied through Ezekiel.—Ezek. 26:5, 14.
MEDO-PERSIA AND GREECE TO SUCCEED BABYLON
During the sixth century B.C.E., when Babylon held sway as the dominant world power, the prophet Daniel received an amazing dream vision involving two symbolic animals. The first was a ram (a male sheep) having two horns. “And the two horns were tall, but the one was taller than the other, and the taller was the one that came up afterward.” (Dan. 8:3) What did this ram represent? An angel explained to Daniel: “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia.”—Dan. 8:20.
Daniel was here given by name the world power that would succeed Babylon. True to these details, Babylon fell to Medo-Persia. The Medes (the smaller horn) at first were the stronger and the Persians thereafter gained ascendancy (the taller horn that came up afterward).
What about the second animal of this vision? Daniel tells us that it was “a male of the goats coming from the sunset upon the surface of the whole earth, and it was not touching the earth. And as regards the he-goat, there was a conspicuous horn between its eyes.”—Dan. 8:5.
The he-goat does battle with the ram, overcoming it. (Dan. 8:6, 7) Then something unusual takes place. Daniel continues: “As soon as [the goat] became mighty, the great horn was broken, and there proceeded to come up conspicuously four instead of it, toward the four winds of the heavens.”—Dan. 8:8.
Upon inquiring of an angel as to the meaning of this part of his symbolic vision, Daniel received this reply:
“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.”—Dan. 8:21, 22.
Here it is foretold that Medo-Persia would be followed as a world power by Greece.
What about the he-goat’s “great horn” that was broken and in place of which four other horns appeared? As noted in the angel’s explanation, the great horn represented the “first king” of Greece as a world power. That was Alexander the Great. Interestingly, after Alexander died, in time his empire was divided up four ways among four of his generals, “toward the four winds of the heavens,” as foretold.—Dan. 8:8.
According to Josephus, this prophecy was shown to Alexander when he came near Jerusalem. We read: “When the book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he [Daniel] had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated; and in his joy he dismissed the multitude for the time being, but on the following day he summoned them again and told them to ask for any gifts which they might desire.”—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, chapter VIII, paragraph 5.
In just these few details of a prophetic vision, therefore, the Bible’s book of Daniel set forth history more than 200 years in advance. And the same Bible book reaches even farther into the future. How so?
HISTORY SIX CENTURIES IN ADVANCE
A unique prophecy found in Daniel, chapter 9, gives details of history more than six hundred years in advance. This prediction specifies that “Messiah the Leader” would appear sixty-nine “weeks of years . . . from the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” and that, shortly thereafter, Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed. (Dan. 9:24-27; An American Translation) How was this fulfilled?
A decree for the restoration and the rebuilding at Jerusalem was given by Persian King Artaxerxes Longimanus during the twentieth year of his reign. The decree went into effect in the fall of that year, which was 455 B.C.E. Counting forward sixty-nine weeks of years (each “week” being seven years long), or 483 years, from 455 B.C.E., brings us to the year 29 C.E. According to the Scriptural record, that was precisely the year in which Jesus of Nazareth presented himself as Messiah, at his baptism in the Jordan River.—Luke 3:21-23; 4:16-21.
This same prediction states that Messiah would be “cut off . . . at the half of the [seventieth] week.” (Dan. 9:26, 27) In precise conformity Jesus died on Passover Day in the spring of 33 C.E., exactly half a ‘week of years,’ or three and a half years, after his Messianic career began at baptism.—Matt. 26:2; John 13:1, 2.
As for Jerusalem’s destruction, this prophecy states concerning the generation in which the Messiah would appear and be cut off in death: “And the city and the holy place the people of a leader that is coming will bring to their ruin. And the end of it will be by the flood. And until the end there will be war; what is decided upon is desolations.” (Dan. 9:26) Five days before his death Jesus provided further details about this, as we read:
“And when he got nearby [Jerusalem], he viewed the city and wept over it, saying: ‘If you, even you, had discerned in this day the things having to do with peace—but now they have been hid from your eyes. Because the days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.’”—Luke 19:41-44.
Concerning the foretold “fortification with pointed stakes,” Josephus reports that, during the Jewish revolt, Roman General Titus urged the building of a wall around Jerusalem. His soldiers denuded the countryside of trees and erected in just three days an encircling fence of stakes nearly five miles (8 kilometers) long. In the holocaust that followed, 1,100,000 of Jerusalem’s “children” perished. As for the thoroughness with which these predictions of the city’s destruction were fulfilled, only three towers and a portion of the western wall remained standing. Josephus writes: “All the rest of the fortifications encircling the City were so completely levelled with the ground that no one visiting the spot would believe it had once been inhabited.”
This destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 70 C.E., some 605 years after Daniel wrote his Bible book (about 536 B.C.E.). How faith-inspiring it is to consider fulfillments of detailed Bible prophecies written centuries in advance! But Scriptural predictions do not deal merely with the distant past. Many are having a remarkable fulfillment today, and they indicate how you may enjoy a bright and happy future. The next article will consider some of these.
[Diagram on page 391]
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455 B.C.E. 33 C.E. 70 C.E.
29 C.E. 36 C.E.
69 Weeks of Years 70th
(=483 Yrs.) “Week”
Year of Jesus Jerusalem
Artaxerxes “Cut Off” Destroyed