Jehovah’s Word Is Sure!
‘I Jehovah make good my servant’s word.’—ISAIAH 44:24-26, Byington.
1. What future was predicted back in 1864?
WHAT will tomorrow bring? People would like to know. But how unsatisfying their forecasts! To illustrate: Back in 1864 naturalist Alfred R. Wallace predicted this man-made ‘future for the human race’: “Each one will . . . work out his own happiness in relation to that of his fellows; . . . the well balanced moral faculties will never permit any one to transgress on the equal freedom of others; . . . each man will be guided by the best of laws; a thorough appreciation of the rights, and a perfect sympathy with the feelings, of all about him.” Why, Wallace foretold that man would convert our earth into “as bright a paradise as ever haunted the dreams of seer or poet”!
2. The failure of mere human forecasts leads to what questions?
2 The author of those words died just nine months before mankind was plunged into the dark night of World War I. Where, then, was that ‘bright paradise’ filled with compassionate people? And what of today? Unquestionably, ‘the love of the greater number has cooled off’—and that despite any predictions to the contrary. (Matthew 24:12) But should this make us doubt all prophecy? Jehovah God identifies himself as the One ‘who reverses wise men and makes their knowledge foolish, while making good his servant’s word.’ (Isaiah 44:24-26, By) However, some may ask: ‘Can we rely on Bible prophecies? Is Jehovah’s Word really sure?’
Ruin and Restoration
3. In keeping with Leviticus 26:27-35, what happened to Judah and Jerusalem in the seventh century B.C.E.?
3 There is an abundance of evidence to prove that we can, indeed, rely on Bible prophecy. For instance, prophecies of ruin and of restoration came true in the case of God’s ancient people, the Israelites. When they faithfully worshiped Jehovah, they prospered in their God-given ‘land of milk and honey.’ (Leviticus 20:24; 1 Kings 4:1, 20) But they had been forewarned that this virtual paradise would become a devastated wilderness if they disobeyed. (Leviticus 26:27-35) In the year 607 B.C.E., some 900 years after Moses recorded Leviticus, the Babylonians conquered Judah and Jerusalem. Not long thereafter, Jews remaining in the land fled to Egypt, and the foretold desolation was complete.—Jeremiah 39:8-10; 40:5; 41:2; 43:1-7.
4. (a) Long before Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E., what promise had Jehovah made to his people? (b) How was this promise fulfilled?
4 More than a century before Jerusalem’s destruction, however, Jehovah had promised to return his repentant people to their desolated homeland and to restore its paradisaic splendor. (Isaiah 35:1-4) God also had said: “I Jehovah, . . . who make good my servant’s word and execute my messengers’ plan, am he who says of Jerusalem ‘it shall be inhabited’ and of the cities of Judah ‘they shall be rebuilt and I will rehabilitate her wastes.’” (Isaiah 44:24-26, By) In 539 B.C.E., Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians led by Cyrus, even as Isaiah had foretold. (Isaiah 44:27–45:6) Cyrus’ decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple went into effect in 537 B.C.E., and in time the land of Judah did undergo the foretold transformation. (Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 35:5-10; Ezekiel 36:35) How sure Jehovah’s Word!
Tyre Could Not Defy Prophecy
5. Through Ezekiel, what had Jehovah foretold regarding Tyre?
5 Divinely inspired prophecy also was fulfilled upon the ancient city of Tyre, rightly called “the Queen of the Sea.” Concerning this Phoenician seaport, Jehovah had declared: “I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up against you many nations . . . Here I am bringing against Tyre Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon . . . and your towers he will pull down . . . And your stones and your woodwork and your dust they will place in the very midst of the water. . . . And I will make you a shining, bare surface of a crag. A drying yard for dragnets is what you will become.”—Ezekiel 26:3-14.
6. In fulfillment of prophecy, what happened to ancient Tyre?
6 Such a downfall seemed impossible. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Babylonian siege of Tyre lasted 13 years. (Josephus, Against Apion, Book I, Chapter 21) History does not record how effective Nebuchadnezzar’s efforts were, although the loss of Tyrian property and lives must have been great. A later prophetic pronouncement through Zechariah indicated that God would destroy the city completely. (Zechariah 9:3, 4) This prophecy was fulfilled nearly 200 years after it was given. By then those living in the nearby island city of Tyre felt secure behind its formidable walls. However, in 332 B.C.E., the forces of Alexander the Great overthrew that island city, using debris from mainland Tyre to build a causeway leading to the island. Since then this artificial peninsula has been enlarged by sand deposited there by the water. Moreover, in the present seaport village, fishermen can be seen drying their nets—another fulfillment of prophecy. Certainly, Jehovah’s Word is sure!
The “City of Bloodshed” Bows
7, 8. (a) Through his prophets, what had Jehovah foretold regarding Nineveh? (b) Why would it have seemed impossible for Nineveh to become a “desolate waste”?
7 God’s prophetic Word also proved true in the case of ancient Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire that oppressed Jehovah’s people. (2 Kings 17:1-6; 1 Chronicles 5:6, 26) Concerning Nineveh, at the height of its power Jehovah declared through his prophets: “Plunder silver, you men; plunder gold; as there is no limit to the things in arrangement. . . . Emptiness and voidness, and a city laid waste! . . . Woe to the city of bloodshed.” (Nahum 2:9, 10; 3:1) “He will make Nineveh a desolate waste, . . . and in the midst of her, droves will certainly lie stretched out.”—Zephaniah 2:13, 14.
8 How could this possibly occur? Nineveh was “the great city.” (Jonah 1:2) According to ancient historian Diodorus, Nineveh had a 100-foot (30-m) wall, wide enough for three chariots abreast to travel upon it. In the prophet Jonah’s day (the ninth century B.C.E.), more than 120,000 men inhabited the city. (Jonah 4:11) Was all of this to become a “desolate waste”?
9. How has Nineveh supplied further proof that Jehovah’s Word is sure?
9 In 632 B.C.E., 16 or more years after Zephaniah’s prophecy, the Babylonians and the Medes besieged Nineveh. According to Diodorus (Book II, Chapter 27), “heavy and continuous rains” caused the Euphrates River to overflow its banks. It “both inundated a portion of the city and broke down the walls for a distance of twenty stades.” Nineveh was taken. “They carried off much spoil from the city and temple-area and turned the city into a ruin-mound and heap of debris,” states the ancient Babylonian Chronicle. Nineveh became a lost city for centuries. Its overthrow certainly was “good news” to God’s people, who were reassured that “Jehovah is good” and “is cognizant of those seeking refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7, 15) Today, a visitor to Nineveh’s ruins in Iraq may see sheep grazing near its mounds, just as foretold. In this we have further proof that Jehovah’s Word is sure.
“A Conspicuous Horn” Is Broken
10. (a) What prophetic vision is recorded in Daniel 8:1-8? (b) How did Gabriel explain the features of this prophecy?
10 In a prophetic vision, Daniel saw a two-horned ram killed by a male goat with “a conspicuous horn.” This horn was broken and four horns replaced it. (Daniel 8:1-8) What could this mean? The angel Gabriel explained: “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 8:16, 20-22.
11, 12. How was Daniel 8:20-22 fulfilled?
11 Mighty Babylon had been conquered by Medo-Persia, the envisioned two-horned ram. But God’s angel had foretold that “the hairy he-goat,” Greece, would kill the ram. This is exactly what occurred in the fourth century B.C.E., when Greek-speaking armies of Alexander the Great overthrew the Medo-Persian Empire. However, Alexander unexpectedly died at the age of 32 in 323 B.C.E., leaving behind no qualified successor. With Alexander’s death, the “conspicuous horn” was broken. But what about the foretold ‘four horns that finally stood up instead of it’?
12 Alexander had a number of generals, but four of them finally established themselves in power. So it was that the “conspicuous horn” was broken and eventually was replaced by ‘four horns,’ or “four kingdoms.” By 301 B.C.E., these generals had established themselves in power: Ptolemy Lagus (Egypt and Palestine); Seleucus Nicator (Mesopotamia and Syria); Cassander (Macedonia and Greece); and Lysimachus (Thrace and Asia Minor).* Again we see that Jehovah’s Word is sure.
“Messiah the Leader” Appears!
13. What does Daniel 9:24, 25 say about the appearance of the Messiah?
13 The book of Daniel also provides particularly outstanding evidence that Jehovah’s Word is sure. Centuries in advance, Daniel was inspired to pinpoint the time for the Messiah’s appearance on earth. This thrilling prophecy said, in part: “There are seventy weeks that have been determined upon your people and upon your holy city, in order to terminate the transgression, and to finish off sin, and to make atonement for error, and to bring in righteousness for times indefinite, and to imprint a seal upon vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. And you should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.”—Daniel 9:24, 25.
14. (a) On what Scriptural basis can we say that in the “weeks” of Daniel 9:24, 25 each day counts for one year? (b) In what year did ‘the word to rebuild Jerusalem’ go forth? (c) How long were the 69 “weeks,” and when did they begin and end?
14 Were these “weeks” literal? No, for all the things prophesied here regarding the Messiah did not occur within 70 weeks, or less than a year and a half. These proved to be “weeks” in which each day counted for one year. (Compare Numbers 14:33, 34.) “The word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” went forth in the 20th year of Persian King Artaxerxes (Longimanus). (Nehemiah 2:1-18) Since he began ruling in 474 B.C.E., his 20th year was 455 B.C.E. Hence, the 69 weeks of years from ‘the word to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader’ amounted to 483 years (7 × 69) and extended into 29 C.E.
15. In 29 C.E., what expectation existed among the Jews?
15 In that year John the Baptizer was busy “preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” And what about the Jews? “The people were in expectation and all were reasoning in their hearts about John: ‘May he perhaps be the Christ?’” (Luke 3:3-6, 15) With regard to such expectation, Jewish scholar Abba Hillel Silver stated: “The first century, however, especially the generation before the destruction [of Jerusalem], witnessed a remarkable outburst of Messianic emotionalism. This is to be attributed . . . not to an intensification of Roman persecution but to the prevalent belief induced by the popular chronology of that day . . . The Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century C.E.” That “popular chronology” was based on the book of Daniel.
16. (a) Why was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar significant? (b) When Jesus was baptized, what took place?
16 Daniel’s prophecy had indicated that the 69 weeks of years would extend into 29 C.E. Well, did the Messiah appear on time in that year? Indeed he did! John the Baptizer had begun his preaching and baptizing “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” (Luke 3:1-3) Since Tiberius became Roman emperor on August 17, 14 C.E. (Gregorian calendar), John’s work began during the 15th year after that, or in the spring of 29 C.E. In the fall of that year Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John, and the holy spirit then descended from heaven to anoint Jesus as the Christ, or Messiah. (Luke 3:21, 22) Messianic prophecy had been fulfilled.* Once again it had been proved that Jehovah’s Word is sure.
17. What were some Messianic prophecies fulfilled in connection with Jesus Christ?
17 Many other Hebrew Scripture prophecies were fulfilled in connection with Jesus Christ. For instance, Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:18-23; 2:3-6) Young children were killed after his birth. (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18) He had a forerunner. (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3) Jesus carried our sicknesses. (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:16, 17) He entered Jerusalem on the colt of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:12-15) One apostle betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-16, 46-56; John 13:18) After Jesus’ impalement, soldiers apportioned his clothing among themselves and cast lots for his inner garment. (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23, 24) His bones were not broken, but he was pierced. (Psalm 34:20; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:33-37) After parts of three days in the grave, he was resurrected. (Jonah 1:17; 2:10; Matthew 12:39, 40; Mark 9:31; Acts 10:40) These are mere examples of how Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies. But they, too, prove that Jehovah’s Word is sure.
The Future Can Be Known
18, 19. (a) Why is it not futile to ask what tomorrow will bring? (b) What further questions are raised?
18 Jesus, the Messiah, himself uttered hope-inspiring prophecy. For example, he foretold his future “presence.” (Matthew 24:3-14) In fact, heartening prophecies with 20th-century significance were recorded by various Bible writers. So it is not futile to ask, ‘What will tomorrow bring?’ We can find out!
19 So far, we have considered some Scriptural prophecies that were fulfilled in times past. But what about our day? Do we have further thrilling evidence that Jehovah’s Word is sure?
For details, please see pages 188-95 of the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” published in 1958 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
For further details on the “seventy weeks,” please see chapter 7 of the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Can You Remember?
□ As foretold, what happened to ancient Tyre?
□ How has Nineveh provided evidence that Jehovah’s Word is sure?
□ What happened in fulfillment of Daniel 8:20-22?
□ How long were the 69 “weeks,” and when did they start and end?
□ What were some of the Messianic prophecies fulfilled in connection with Jesus?