How Reliable Are Bible Predictions?
HISTORY books abound today. These accounts of what has occurred in the past often prove to be fascinating indeed. As we read them, we may see ourselves in ancient settings. Our imagination may soar as people, places, and events seem to spring from silent pages.
The Bible is such a book—one full of thrilling historical accounts. Through its pages, we can become acquainted with such men and women as Abraham, his wife Sarah, King David, Queen Esther, and the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. We can, in effect, walk with them, hear what they said, and see what they saw. But many consider the Bible to be much more than a history book. They believe that it contains what has been called history written in advance. Why so? Because the Bible is filled with predictions, or prophecies.
Yet, how reliable are the Bible’s predictions? If Bible prophecies were fulfilled in events of the past, should we not expect such predictions about future events to come true? Let us now consider some examples to see if Bible predictions are reliable.
Israel and Assyria on the World Stage
God’s prophet Isaiah, who began to prophesy about 778 B.C.E., foretold: “With the feet the eminent crowns of the drunkards of Ephraim [Israel] will be trampled down. And the fading flower of its decoration of beauty that is upon the head of the fertile valley must become like the early fig before summer, that, when the seer sees it, while it is yet in his palm, he swallows it down.” (Isaiah 28:3, 4) As thus predicted, by the mid-eighth century B.C.E., Israel’s capital, Samaria, had become like a ripe fig ready to be plucked and swallowed by the military forces of Assyria. That is just what happened when Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E.—2 Kings 17:6, 13, 18.
In time it was Assyria’s turn to march into history. Its capital was Nineveh, so infamous for cruel treatment of captives that it was called “the city of bloodshed.” (Nahum 3:1) Jehovah God himself had decreed Nineveh’s ruin. For instance, through the prophet Nahum, God said: “Look! I am against you . . . I will make you despicable; and I will set you as a spectacle. And it must occur that everyone seeing you will flee away from you and will certainly say, ‘Nineveh has been despoiled!’” (Nahum 3:5-7) Zephaniah also foretold the destruction of Assyria and the desolating of Nineveh. (Zephaniah 2:13-15) These prophecies were fulfilled in 632 B.C.E. when, surprisingly, the combined forces of Babylonian king Nabopolassar and Cyaxares the Mede plundered and razed Nineveh—so thoroughly that even the location of the city became unknown for over 2,000 years. The Babylonian Empire was next on the world stage.
Babylon’s Ruin Predicted
The Bible predicted that the Babylonian Empire would be overthrown and foretold how its capital city, Babylon, would fall. Almost two centuries in advance, the prophet Isaiah warned that the Euphrates River would be dried up. It flowed through Babylon, and gates along the river were a vital part of the city’s defenses. The prophecy named Cyrus as the conqueror and noted that Babylon’s “two-leaved doors” would not be shut to the invaders. (Isaiah 44:27–45:7) Accordingly, God saw to it that Babylon’s two-leaved doors along the Euphrates were left open during a festival on the night that the forces of Cyrus the Great made their assault. Without difficulty, therefore, they entered the city by way of the riverbed and captured Babylon.
The historian Herodotus wrote: “Cyrus . . . stationed part of his force at the point where the Euphrates flows into [Babylon] and another contingent at the opposite end where it flows out, with orders to both to force an entrance along the river-bed as soon as they saw that the water was shallow enough. . . . By means of a cutting he diverted the river into the lake (which was then a marsh) and in this way so greatly reduced the depth of water in the actual bed of the river that it became fordable, and the Persian army, which had been left at Babylon for the purpose, entered the river, now only deep enough to reach about the middle of a man’s thigh, and, making their way along it, got into the town. . . . There was a festival going on, and even while the city was falling they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until hard facts brought them to their senses.”—Herodotus—The Histories, translated by Aubrey de Selincourt.
On that very night, God’s prophet Daniel warned Babylon’s ruler of impending disaster. (Daniel, chapter 5) An inferior Babylon did exist for some centuries thereafter. From there, for instance, the apostle Peter wrote his first inspired letter in the first century C.E. (1 Peter 5:13) But Isaiah’s prophecy had stated: “Babylon . . . must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited.” God had also said: “I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant and progeny and posterity.” (Isaiah 13:19-22; 14:22) As predicted, Babylon eventually became a heap of ruins. Any possible restoration of that ancient city might lure tourists but would still leave it bereft of its “progeny and posterity.”
Daniel—Jehovah’s prophet present in Babylon when it fell—had a vision involving the conquering Medes and Persians. He beheld a two-horned ram and a male goat that had a great horn between its eyes. The goat assaulted the ram and struck it down, breaking its two horns. Then the goat’s great horn was broken, and four horns came up in its place. (Daniel 8:1-8) As the Bible predicted and history has confirmed, the two-horned ram stood for Medo-Persia. The male goat represented Greece. And what of its “great horn”? This proved to be Alexander the Great. When that figurative great horn was broken, four symbolic horns (or, kingdoms) replaced it. True to the prophecy, after Alexander died, four of his generals established themselves in power—Ptolemy Lagus in Egypt and Palestine; Seleucus Nicator in Mesopotamia and Syria; Cassander in Macedonia and Greece; and Lysimachus in Thrace and Asia Minor.—Daniel 8:20-22.
Predictions of a Bright Future
Bible predictions regarding such events as the desolation of Babylon and the overthrow of Medo-Persia are merely examples of the many Scriptural prophecies that have come true in the past. The Bible also contains predictions of a bright future that would come to realization because of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.
Some Messianic predictions in the Hebrew Scriptures were applied to Jesus Christ by Christian Greek Scripture penmen. For instance, Gospel writers pointed out that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophet Micah. (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-11; John 7:42) In fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, babes were killed after Jesus’ birth. (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18) The words of Zechariah (9:9) found fulfillment when Christ entered Jerusalem on the colt of an ass. (John 12:12-15) And when soldiers apportioned Jesus’ clothing after his impalement, this fulfilled the psalmist’s words: “They apportion my garments among themselves, and upon my clothing they cast lots.”—Psalm 22:18.
Other Messianic predictions point to a happy time for the human race. In vision, Daniel beheld “someone like a son of man” receiving “rulership and dignity and kingdom” from Jehovah, “the Ancient of Days.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Regarding the Messianic rule of that heavenly King, Jesus Christ, Isaiah declared: “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
Before Messiah’s righteous rule has full sway, something of vital significance must occur. This too was predicted in the Bible. Concerning the Messianic King, the psalmist sang: “Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one . . . In your splendor go on to success; ride in the cause of truth and humility and righteousness.” (Psalm 45:3, 4) Pointing to our day, the Scriptures also foretold: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
Psalm 72 provides a foregleam of conditions under Messianic rule. For instance, “in his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more.” (Verse 7) There will then be no oppression or violence. (Verse 14) Nobody will hunger, for “there will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” (Verse 16) And just think! You can enjoy these and other blessings in an earthly paradise when the present system of things is replaced by God’s promised new world.—Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:11-13; Revelation 21:1-5.
Surely, then, Bible predictions merit your investigation. Therefore, why not ask Jehovah’s Witnesses for more information? An examination of Bible prophecies can help you to see where we are in the stream of time. It may also promote within your heart a deep appreciation for Jehovah God and his wonderful arrangement for the eternal blessing of all who love and obey him.
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Do you know the meaning of Daniel’s vision involving a male goat and a ram?
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Will you be there to enjoy the fulfillment of the Bible’s predictions about happy life on a paradise earth?