| Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
“”If you pick up any of the four Gospels and read them at random, it will not be long before you learn that such and such an action or saying, attributed to Jesus, was done so that an ancient prophecy should come true. If it should seem odd that an action should be deliberately performed in order that a foretelling be vindicated, that is because it is odd. And it is necessarily odd because, just like the Old Testament, the "New" one is also a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right.
|—Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything:109-110|
There are numerous Biblical prophecies, some vaguely fulfilled, others strangely unfulfilled. Of course, like the bible, the Quran also contains what its followers maintain are fulfilled phrophieies. Christians tend to find these unconvincing or silly - which is coincidently the attitude which non-Christians have towards the claimed biblical prophecies.
Some Christians claim that fulfilled prophecies — if they actually existed - would prove that the Bible is inerrant or even literally true. Creationists conclude it is accurate even on scientific subjects.
This article examines various prophecies from the Bible and gives an analysis of whether or not they have been fulfilled.
- 1 The nature of prophecy in the Bible
- 2 Criteria for a true prophecy
- 3 Failed/Unfulfilled prophecies
- 3.1 Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre
- 3.2 Egypt would be a barren wasteland
- 3.3 Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt
- 3.4 The Nile River would dry up
- 3.5 Triumph of Judah
- 3.6 The Fall of Babylon
- 3.7 Damascus would be destroyed
- 3.8 Egyptians will speak the language of Canaan
- 3.9 Egypt and Assyria would convert to the Hebrew religion
- 3.10 Israel will extend from the Red Sea to the Euphrates
- 3.11 The chosen people's land promises
- 3.12 Israel will live in peace with its neighbors
- 3.13 Davidic line will endure forever
- 3.14 The Universal conversion of the Nations
- 3.15 The eternal glory, prosperity, and security of Israel
- 3.16 Apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament
- 3.17 The imminence of the Second Coming
- 4 Post-event prophecies
- 5 Non-prophecies
- 5.1 The messiah will be born to a virgin
- 5.2 The messiah will be born in Bethlehem
- 5.3 Jesus will be a Nazarene
- 5.4 Jeremiah predicted Herod's massacre
- 5.5 Jesus will be called out of Egypt
- 5.6 Jesus will be pierced
- 5.7 The suffering servant
- 5.8 Jeremiah prophesied Judas' silver
- 5.9 The opening of Mark
- 5.10 The great disappointment
- 6 Vague prophecies
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
The nature of prophecy in the Bible
It almost goes without saying that the fulfillment of any prophecy (from your daily horoscopes to those in the Bible) largely depends on how one interprets it. Some prophecies in the Bible, such as the ones about Jesus, seem to be fulfilled only because the Gospels twisted unrelated verses in the Old Testament to convince their various audiences to become Christians (and sometimes even made things up to convince readers, like the fake genealogy numbers of Matthew 1:17). Other prophecies make very vague predictions, and so all kinds of events could occur that would "fulfill" them. Still others were never predicted until after the event took place. And since there's also a large number of unfulfilled prophecies, alleged prophecy-fulfillment does not suffice to compel belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.
The actual nature of the prophetic literature can differ dramatically. Prophecies can take the form of simple predictions about military conquests, or they can be descriptions of grandiose apocalyptic events. Most major prophets will usually flip-flop between these two genres of simple military affairs to grandiose eschatology.
The Bible's own attitude towards prophecy differs from later takes. This is evident, for example, in the book of Jonah, a fictional parable[note 1] about a reluctant prophet. God has given him a command to travel to the pagan metropolis of Nineveh to preach the city's doom. Given this task, Jonah boards a ship headed in the opposite direction, apparently towards Tarshish — a land which is now either lost to history or fictitious. This leads to the familiar adventure with the giant fish. Eventually Jonah makes it to Nineveh, where the inhabitants receive his message of doom surprisingly well. The people repent, and God changes his mind and spares the city. In the Bible itself, prophecy is a call for moral improvement, not an inexorable doom.
Criteria for a true prophecy
For a statement to be Biblical foreknowledge, it must fit all of the five following criteria:
- It must be accurate. A statement cannot be Biblical foreknowledge if it is not accurate, because knowledge (and thus foreknowledge) excludes inaccurate statements. TLDR: It's true.
- It must be in the Bible. A statement cannot be Biblical foreknowledge if it is not in the Bible, because Biblical by definition foreknowledge can only come from the Bible itself, rather than modern reinterpretations of the text. TLDR: It's in plain words in the Bible.
- It must be precise and unambiguous. A statement cannot be Biblical foreknowledge if meaningless philosophical musings or multiple possible ideas could fulfill the foreknowledge, because ambiguity prevents one from knowing whether the foreknowledge was intentional rather than accidental. TLDR: Vague "predictions" don't count.
- It must be improbable. A statement cannot be Biblical foreknowledge if it reasonably could be the result of a pure guess, because foreknowledge requires a person to actually know something true, while a correct guess doesn't mean that the guesser knows anything. This also excludes contemporary beliefs that happened be true but were believed to be true without solid evidence. TLDR: Lucky guesses don't count.
- It must have been unknown. A statement cannot be Biblical foreknowledge if it reasonably could be the result of an educated guess based off contemporary knowledge, because foreknowledge requires a person to know a statement when it would have been impossible, outside of supernatural power, for that person to know it. TLDR: Ideas of the time don't count.
Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre
In Ezekiel 26:1-21, God states that Nebuchadnezzar II (a neo-Babylonian monarch, reigned circa 605 to circa 562 BCE, notable for his ambitious military conquests) would conquer, sack, and completely destroy the city of Tyrus (Tyre) and that Tyre's land would never be built upon again:
Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD: and it shall become a spoil to the nations. And her daughters which are in the field shall be slain by the sword; and they shall know that I am the LORD. For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water. And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard. And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the LORD have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD. Thus saith the Lord GOD to Tyrus; Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall, when the wounded cry, when the slaughter is made in the midst of thee? Then all the princes of the sea shall come down from their thrones, and lay away their robes, and put off their broidered garments: they shall clothe themselves with trembling; they shall sit upon the ground, and shall tremble at every moment, and be astonished at thee. And they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and say to thee, How art thou destroyed, that wast inhabited of seafaring men, the renowned city, which wast strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which cause their terror to be on all that haunt it! Now shall the isles tremble in the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure. For thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall make thee a desolate city, like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee, and great waters shall cover thee; When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living; I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord GOD.
However, this never occurred. After a 13-year siege, Tyre compromised with Nebuchadnezzar and accepted his authority without being destroyed. Despite being conquered and razed by Alexander the Great 240 years later, Tyre still exists.
Ezekiel even admits that Nebuchadnezzar failed to conquer Tyre three chapters later in Ezekiel 29:18
Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre, every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against it.
Ah well - perhaps the texts reference some other sea-side place called "Tyrus"/"Tyre", yet to be unearthed by diligent Bible-believing archaeologists...
Egypt would be a barren wasteland
In Ezekiel 29:1-15, God states that Egypt will be made into a desolate wasteland:
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, in the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt: Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee. And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it. Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
This passage is one of the most erroneous in the Bible. Since Ezekiel was penned, Egypt has never been recorded as a 'desolate waste'. There is no historical evidence of a time when people have not walked through Egypt; when for forty years Egypt was uninhabited after the civilization started there; or for when Egypt has been surrounded by other desolate countries. God sets out a checklist of specific events that will occur:
- Egypt and everything from the tower of Syene to Ethiopia will be desolate and waste
- God will own the Nile
- No humans will walk through Egypt
- No animals will walk through Egypt
- Nobody will live in Egypt for 40 years
- Egyptians will leave Egypt and be scattered among other nations
- After 40 years of scattering, Egypt will be repopulated by the scattered Egyptians
- Egypt will be a weak kingdom, and will never control "the nations"
There are two main apologist responses to this failed prophecy.
However, Gill provides no textual evidence for this. Again, the false prophecies are suddenly considered "symbolic".
Second, Christian apologist John Oakes argued that Egypt was, in fact, depopulated:
There are a number of destruction prophecies targeting Egypt, one of the less complicated and up front ones is found in the book of the minor prophet Joel.
In Joel 3:19, God declares that Egypt will become desolate for their violence against the Hebrews.
“Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
Once again, from the establishment of the Pharaonic monarchy to modern day, Egypt has never been uninhabited, let alone "desolate".
Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt
In Ezekiel 29:16-21, God claims that Egypt will be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar:
And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD. And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.
It is not known whether Nebuchadnezzar actually campaigned in Egypt; however, it is certain that he did not actually conquer the land of Egypt proper.
Another major prophet, Jeremiah, also declares that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt. He does this twice. The first example is here in Jeremiah 43:9-13:
Take in your hands large stones, and hide them in the mortar in the pavement which is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and he will set his throne above these stones which I have hid, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. He shall come and smite the land of Egypt, giving to the pestilence those who are doomed to the pestilence, to captivity those who are doomed to captivity, and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword. He shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them and carry them away captive; and he shall clean the land of Egypt, as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin; and he shall go away from there in peace. He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis which is in the land of Egypt; and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.’
Only a few specifics are given here. Nebuchadnezzar will apparently desecrate Egypt's religious sites and break the Obelisks in the city of Heliopolis. Jeremiah foresees Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Egypt again in Jeremiah 46:13-25, which goes into more detail.
The word which the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadrez′zar king of Babylon to smite the land of Egypt:
“Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; proclaim in Memphis and Tah′panhes; Say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared, for the sword shall devour round about you.’ Why has Apis fled? Why did not your bull stand? Because the Lord thrust him down. Your multitude stumbled and fell, and they said one to another, ‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people and to the land of our birth, because of the sword of the oppressor.’ Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’ “As I live, says the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts, like Tabor among the mountains, and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come. Prepare yourselves baggage for exile, O inhabitants of Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant. “A beautiful heifer is Egypt, but a gadfly from the north has come upon her. Even her hired soldiers in her midst are like fatted calves; yea, they have turned and fled together, they did not stand; for the day of their calamity has come upon them, the time of their punishment. “She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away; for her enemies march in force, and come against her with axes, like those who fell trees. They shall cut down her forest, says the Lord, though it is impenetrable, because they are more numerous than locusts; they are without number. The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame, she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.” The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh, and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him.
There's a lot of information we need to go over, but the first most significant aspect of this text is that it quite specifically states that Nebuchadnezzar will "smite" the land of Egypt, and then goes on to describe this event.
Jeremiah names two major ancient Egyptian cities, Memphis and Tahpanhes. He says that "the sword shall devour within them", and also states that Memphis will be "laid waste". He also names the city of Thebes, but doesn't discuss any major details. This prediction concludes with the ambitious declaration that God will "bring punishment on Egypt, Pharaoh, and those who trust in him". Another interesting aspect of this is that Jeremiah tells the Egyptians to "prepare baggage for exile". If this passage was written after the Babylonian captivity, it is entirely possible that this author was simply projecting what happened to his people onto a people he disliked.
Anyways, Memphis was never destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and neither was Tahpanhes. He didn't touch Heliopolis either. Nebuchadnezzar never "smote" Egypt, certainly not to the extent described here. The only known military conflict between Nebuchadnezzar's forces and Egyptian forces was the Battle of Carchemish, which didn't even take place in Egypt.
Finally, Jeremiah 46:28, the last verse in this chapter, tells us that God will destroy the nations to which he has driven the Israelites.
Fear not, O Jacob my servant, says the Lord, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end.
Egypt was one of the nations he drove them to (Jeremiah 43-44). This appears to imply that Egypt will be destroyed, something which definitely didn't happen.
The Nile River would dry up
In Ezekiel 30:12, God promises to dry up the Nile:
I will dry up the streams of the Nile and sell the land to evil men; by the hand of foreigners I will lay waste the land and everything in it. I the LORD have spoken.
There is no evidence that this has happened in recorded history. At least not yet?
There are two main responses to this verse as well:
First, Christian apologist John Gill argues that the verse is actually symbolic:
That's great. So, when God says, "I will do X", he's really just spouting metaphors. Lovely.
Second, Christian apologist John Oakes argues that the verse does not, in fact, assert that the Nile itself will dry up:
In Isaiah 19:1-8, God said that the Nile river would dry up and the "waters shall fail from the sea":
The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards. And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts. And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the brooks of defence shall be emptied and dried up: the reeds and flags shall wither. The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more. The fishermen will groan and lament, all who cast hooks into the Nile; those who throw nets on the water will pine away.
The prophet blatantly identifies the dried-up river (Isaiah 19:5) with the Nile (Isaiah 19:8). And he goes even further to say one of the seas Egypt borders will drain, and this appears to coincide with the Nile River drying up. There is absolutely no hint of this prophecy being interpreted symbolically or metaphorically. Isaiah actually goes out of his way to stress the literal, physical, carnal fulfillment of this prophecy.
Christian apologist John Oakes argues that the skeptics are misinterpreting this verse and it did, in fact, happen:
The prophet Zechariah makes some audacious and even absurd predictions, but one that happens to stick out is his prophecy that the Nile River will be dried up.
Zechariah 10:11 tells us the following:
They shall pass through the sea of Egypt, and the waves of the sea shall be smitten, and all the depths of the Nile dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart.
Once again the Nile has never been 'dried up'.
Triumph of Judah
In Isaiah 7:1-7, God tells the king of Judah that he shall not be harmed by his enemies.
And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind. Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
Yet it did come to pass, and his enemies did harm him. As the Bible itself in 2 Chronicles 28:1-8 tells us:
Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers.
The Fall of Babylon
The prophetic literature of the Old Testament predicts the destruction of the city of Babylon in a number of ways. The first example is Isaiah 13, which is Isaiah's prophecy concerning Babylon. Another much longer description of the fall of Babylon is Jeremiah 50-51. The actual fall of Babylon does not fit with either of these descriptions. The first example that must be covered is Isaiah 13:17-20, which reads as follows:
Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or dwelt in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
The first and most obvious flaw in this prediction is that Babylon did not fall to the Medes. It fell to the Achaemenid Empire. Another flaw in this prediction is that when Babylon did fall to the Achaemenid Empire, it was not destroyed. The conquerers simply occupied the territory, assimilating it into their empire without wreaking the total destruction described in Isaiah 13. This is why many Babylonian structures are still intact today. Babylon certainly was not rendered "like Sodom and Gomorrah on the day that God overthrew them". Jeremiah 50-51 essentially makes the same prediction, only it takes way longer to explain it. Either way, Babylon was not utterly devastated by the Medes the way Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 50-51 predict.
Damascus would be destroyed
Isaiah 17:1-2 tells us that Damascus will be laid waste, and it will remain uninhabited forever.
An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins. Her cities will be deserted for ever; they will be for flocks, which will lie down, and none will make them afraid.
Damascus is currently the capital of Syria and has a population of approximately 1.5 million people. But it is remarkable that the words "for ever" are completely absent in the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew version of the Bible officially in use among the Jews) and the Text of the Great Isaiah Scroll (the oldest complete copy of the book of Isaiah), but in the Septuagint (a Greek translation of Hebrew Bible) you can find the expression "εις τον αιώνα" meaning literally "till the age", that in certain contexts can mean "for ever". It could be an addition of a translator.
Egyptians will speak the language of Canaan
Isaiah 19:18 Isaiah:
Isaiah 19:18 In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction.
Not only has the Canaanite language never been spoken by Egyptians, but it is now an extinct language. There is the very unlikely possibility Isaiah was referring to Hebrew, which is technically a Canaanite language. However, Hebrew was also never adopted by the Egyptians. And according to the context of this passage, Isaiah is specifically referring to Pagan Egypt, which ceased to exist in the 4th century (see above). So even if Egyptians started speaking Hebrew at this very moment, it would still be an inaccurate prediction, unless again they begin doing these things (highly unlikely). Also, it's worth noting that Isaiah believes the Egyptians will convert to Mosaic Judaism and start offering sacrifices to the LORD shortly after this incident (Isaiah 19:21)—a practice no longer done by Jews since the Temple was destroyed and priesthood lost.
Christian apologist John Gill argues that the Canaanite language was Hebrew, so this already counts:
TLDR: It's another "symbolic" passage.
Second, Christian apologist John Oakes argues that the Jews, in fact, entered Egypt:
Egypt and Assyria would convert to the Hebrew religion
One of the more radical assertions made in Isaiah is that the nation of Egypt would convert to Judaism. The passage which declares this appears to imply that Assyria would also convert. This prophecy is built upon the prophecy discussed above that says the Nile River would dry up. Isaiah 19 as a whole appears to predict that God would terrorize the Egyptians into a conversion. What makes this prophesy so radical and catastrophic is that implies that when Egypt and Assyria do convert, they will become equal to Israel as God's people.
Isaiah 19:21-25 reads as follows:
And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and burnt offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will smite Egypt, smiting and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will heed their supplications and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.
This never happened. There was never a day in which the Egyptians and Assyrians collectively converted to Mosaic Judaism and practiced the Hebrew sacrifices. They also never became conjoined to Israel. Isaiah 19 as a whole describes an extremely specific event. It essentially describes an individual day in which the following events occur:
- The Lord will terrorize Egypt (19:1, 19:16-17)
- The Nile River will dry up and the "waters will fail from the sea". (19:5-8)
- Some Egyptians will speak the language of Canaan. (19:18)
- The Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians and they will sacrifice to him. (19:19-22)
- There will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria and they will apparently worship with each other. (19:23)
- Egypt, Assyria, and Israel will become conjoined together as God's people. (19:24-25)
Precisely 0% of this actually occurred. Isaiah 19 is one massive failure.
Israel will extend from the Red Sea to the Euphrates
Exodus 23:25-31 (NIV):
And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines [Mediterranean Sea], and from the desert unto the river [the Euphrates river]: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
God makes a few promises:
- Once the Israelites conquer Israel, they will have no lack of food or water or have sickness or infertility
- The Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites will be driven out, during many years
- Israel will extend from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates
1: It's almost certain that Israelites don't have 100% food, water, and health security. The fact that Israelites had infertility is documented by the Bible: Elizabeth and Zacharias, the mother and father of John the Baptist, were both "advanced in age" and thus unable to make a kid.
2: Eventually, Israel did take control of the land. If, however, the Hittites in Exodus are the same as the historical Hittites, then YHWH didn't drive them slowly from the Levant - instead the Hittite Empire rather suddenly disappeared in the Bronze Age collapse.
3: Israel's borders have rarely reached the Red Sea, and have never reached the Euphrates, which passes through northern Syria.
The chosen people's land promises
In the Bible, God allegedly made promises to Abraham to deliver him land then under the control of other tribes. For example, upon Abraham entering Canaan, Genesis 12:7 states, in part, "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'" (NIV) This promise was reiterated in slightly different ways throughout the books of Genesis and Exodus.
However, this did not reasonably soon thereafter come to be, as illustrated by Hebrews 11:13, which, regarding Abraham's descendants, states,
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (NIV)
Similarly, in Exodus 23:31 God promises to give the Israelites all the land from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and from the Euphrates River to "the desert." Historically this never happened.
Joshua was also promised specific land. Per Joshua 1:3-5:
I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (NIV)
Strangely, Joshua 11:23 indicates that he did indeed take the land:
So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war. (NIV)
However, history and the Bible indicate all the land was not taken. Per Joshua 13:1-5:
When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites: from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite; the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron—that of the Avvites from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek, the region of the Amorites, the area of the Gebalites; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath. (NIV)
Israel will live in peace with its neighbors
Ezekiel 28:24-26 predicts that Israel will live in peace with its neighbors:
No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God. (NIV)
A consistent aspect of history is that Israel has never gotten along with its neighbors even when there was no Jewish state. (Or, if you prefer, that its neighbors have never gotten along with it.) There's still hope that Israel and the neighborhood will be peaceful one day, but it requires everyone in the region to stop "inflicting punishment" on each other.
Davidic line will endure forever
At several instances in the Old Testament God promises David that the descendants of Solomon will rule Judah forever. For example, in 2 Samuel 7:13-16 (NIV) God tells the prophet Nathan:
He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
There is no indication that this is anything other than a literal promise. In fact the promise is reiterated during times when the future of the earthly kingdom is in doubt. In 1 Kings 11:34-36 (NIV):
But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon's hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David my servant, whom I chose and who observed my commands and statutes. I will take the kingdom from his son's hands and give you ten tribes. I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name.
Unfortunately for the prophet Nathan, the Davidic line ended with King Zedekiah in about 586 BCE. Biblical inerrantists, spotting a possible loophole, claim that Jesus, being descended from David, fulfilled this prophecy. Acts 2:29-31 (NIV):
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.
However, there are many reasons this is an unsatisfactory solution. Aspects of the 2 Samuel reference above, specifically "When he does wrong," do not seem consistent with Christian doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God. Additionally, the line of kings is described as being continuous. Consider Jeremiah 33:17 (NIV):
For this is what the LORD says: 'David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel[.]
This leaves unexplained the near 600-year gap between Zedekiah and Jesus. Further, there is the question of the Davidic line after Jesus, as he apparently
died ascended childless. Note: Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 as evidence for Jesus' siblings. Note: A precedent is previously set for biblical linage being a mantel rather then genetic linage due to Gen. 24 and 27, Jacob's theft of Esau's blessing and the selling of the birthright.
In reality the only evidence available that Jesus is a descendant of David is in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. The alleged prophecy stresses the literal descendancy from David. We read in 2 Samuel 7:12 (NIV):
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.
However, if the virgin birth doctrine be valid then Jesus is not actually the son of Joseph, making virgin birth seem incompatible with Jesus' descendancy from David.
Finally, several Bible verses seem to indicate that Jesus is in fact not of the line of David. For example Matthew 22:41-45 (NIV) states:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" "The son of David," they replied. He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." ' If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?"
Christian apologist John Oakes argues that Jesus actually fulfilled this prophecy:
The Universal conversion of the Nations
One consistent theme throughout the Biblical prophecies that a reader will notice is the worldwide conversion to the Hebrew God. Imagery and predictions about this concept are a common theme throughout many Prophet books, and are not isolated to a specific book. This idea is often accompanied by similarly audacious and ridiculous predictions. We will explore and analyze some of the expressions of this idea.
The first expression of this concept is found in Isaiah 2:1-4, which states the following:
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
It shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This verse has catastrophic consequences for the New Testament. In many Bible translations, this passage opens with "In the last days", so this is essentially an End Times prophecy. The problem is that it contradicts just about all of the Book of Revelation, and especially Jesus' statement that one of the signs of the end would be war. This opens with a few passages about how The Lord's 'mountain' (which some people believe to be the Temple in Jerusalem) will be exalted and raised above all other mountains. This passage then goes on to specifically state that all the nations of the Earth will flock to Jerusalem and worship the Hebrew God. It then goes on to describe some form of world peace, in which nations no longer 'train for war'. This completely contradicts Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:6-7 which says that wars and international conflicts will characterize the last days. Essentially, Isaiah 2:1-4 provides its own unique idea about the end times. Despite its conflict with New Testament eschatology, we are noting this passage for its prediction that the nations will convert and flock to Jerusalem. This passage is repeated verbatim in Micah 4:1-4. The author of Micah likely plagiarized it.
Isaiah 25:6-9 gives a similar vision.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Once again, all the peoples of the Earth are involved in this prophecy. It appears to be optimistic, with "The Lord wiping away tears from all faces".
Chapters 40 to 55 of The Book of Isaiah comprise a separate work known as 'Second Isaiah' or Deutero-Isaiah. This piece of writing is considered to have been written at around 540-535 B.C.E. It is sometimes cited as the first expression of Jewish eschatology.:247 This piece of writing contains many visions of foreign nations converting and acknowledging the Hebrew God.
Isaiah 45:14-17 describes Israel's exalted status in God's eyes, and how Egypt and Ethiopia will recognize the Hebrew God.
Thus says the Lord: The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabe′ans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours, they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will make supplication to you, saying: ‘God is with you only, and there is no other, no god besides him.’” Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior. All of them are put to shame and confounded, the makers of idols go in confusion together. But Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.
In Isaiah 45:20-25 God commands all ends of the Earth to turn to him:
“Assemble yourselves and come, draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’ “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed, all who were incensed against him. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.”
A similar and slightly more aggressive statement is made here in Isaiah 49:22-23
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame
We find similar imagery employed here in Isaiah 60:2-5
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
This promise turns into a bit of a threat in Isaiah 60:10-13
Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in my wrath I smote you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste. The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the Lord; so shall your descendants and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord.
Wait a minute, when did God make a new heavens and a new Earth? Regardless of that, God blatantly declares that all flesh will come and worship him. A similar prediction is made by the prophet Micah, in Micah 7:16-17
The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds, they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall fear because of thee.
More of these bold prophecies are found in the Book of Zechariah. One dramatic vision is here in Zechariah 8:20-23
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.
Despite all of the literature above, these ideas culminate in this obviously acid-inspired masterpiece in Zechariah.
Behold, a day of the Lord is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzzi′ah king of Judah. Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the Lord), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Han′anel to the king’s wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security. And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will lay hold on the hand of his fellow, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other; even Judah will fight against Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the nations round about shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the asses, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.
This prophecy, Zechariah 14:1-21, describes an apocalyptic and almost downright eschatological event. Zechariah essentially prophecies the following event:
- There will be a day in which all the nations of the Earth declare war on Jerusalem.
- God will personally fight for Jerusalem and rot the flesh of their enemies.
- This day will be characterized by continuous, unending light. (Cosmic aberrations are a common mythological motif in apocalyptic literature.)
- God will become King over all the Earth, and his name will become one. (This appears to imply that God will unite the world under one language, an idea that also appears in Zephaniah 3:9.)
- The nations that survive this will come and worship God at Jerusalem. (God will apparently withhold rain from anyone who fails to do this.)
Needless to say, Zechariah is a pretty wacky piece of writing. We could go on for longer, but a full analysis of the expression of this idea throughout the prophetic literature would take way too long.
That fact that these absurd visions are the wishful pipe-dreams of possibly intoxicated mystics is transparently obvious. None of these radical claims have any historical basis. There has never been a time when the entire world has collectively converted to the worship of the Hebrew God, and it's safe to say that such an event will never happen. One could argue that some of these predictions simply haven't come true yet, but until they do come true, they will continue to look very silly.
The eternal glory, prosperity, and security of Israel
Another common recurring theme found throughout Biblical prophecy is the eternal glory and security of Israel. This concept is almost always tied into the universal conversion prophecy. This, like the universal conversion of the nations discussed above, is a nonspecific concept that is scattered throughout many books. We will explore and analyze how this idea is presented. The first major expression of this idea is God's promise to the Israelite's who were recently emancipated from Egyptian captivity in Exodus 23:25-31. This prophecy is discussed above since it contains a failed territory promise. The second major expression of this idea is also discussed above, when God promised that the Davidic monarchy will never end, a promise made in 2 Samuel 7:13-16. Both of these promises are remarkable illustrations of the idea we are discussing, yet the promise of Israel's perpetual prosperity finds much more dramatic and often euphoric expression later on, especially in the beatific visions characteristic of the Book of Isaiah.
The divine protection of Jerusalem is first articulated in Isaiah 33:20:
Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.
An identical message is conveyed in Joel 3:17:
See the images on the right.
So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwell in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy and strangers shall never again pass through it.
Isaiah 35:8-10, a similar vision, reads as follows:
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way, the unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 52:1-2 makes a hilarious statement.
Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion, put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust, arise, O captive Jerusalem, loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
The easiest way to falsify Isaiah is to buy your uncircumcised friend a plane ticket to Jerusalem. The prophet goes on to promise Israel eternal peace here in Isaiah 54:9-10:
For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Comparable imagery is located here in Isaiah 54:16-17:
Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy, no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord.”
Isaiah 65:17-21 makes this fantastical promise:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create, for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
The prophet Ezekiel also promises Israel that they will live in peace with their neighbours in Ezekiel 28:24-26
And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord God. “Thus says the Lord God: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land which I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.”
Visions like this are scattered all over the prophets. Amos 9:13-15, the finale of the Book of Amos, says this:
Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed, the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
Euphoric visions of Israel's future glory are so frequent throughout the prophetic literature that we cannot discuss all of it. Nonetheless, the mere existence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the historical conquests of Jerusalem (some of which were ironically due to Jerusalem's depiction in The Bible), and the rest of Israel's not-so-peaceful history are enough to refute most of these "prophecies".
Apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament
This section will explore the various examples of apocalyptic literature throughout the Old Testament. Apocalyptic literature is worth discussing here since it is all invariably insane and entirely pseudohistorical.
The Book of Isaiah when read in detail appears to be a hotspot of doomsday fear-mongering. Apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament seems to be concentrated in Isaiah.
The first notable example is Isaiah 2:12-19
The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, for all the towering mountains and all the high hills, for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, for every trading ship and every stately vessel. The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
The prophecy of Isaiah 2 is essentially warning of a catastrophic event brought on because of the Israelites disobedience. It uses quite frightening language, and is considered to be the first expression of apocalyptic expectation in The Bible.
However, Isaiah certainly doesn't stop it there. Another cataclysmic event is prophesied in Isaiah 13, which is supposed to be a destruction prophecy targeting Babylon, but Isaiah manages to tie the rest of the world in as well.
Isaiah 13:6-13 reads as follows:
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every heart will melt with fear. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the Lord is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make people scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.
Cosmic aberrations (in this case, the sun and moon being darkened) are a common mythological motif in apocalyptic literature. Isaiah is describing an event which will be preceded by such aberrant events (Isaiah 13:10). We should also note that similar imagery is described in the apocalyptic literature of the New Testament, where Jesus says that Judgement Day will be foreshadowed by similar cosmic aberrations in Matthew 24:29-31. Back in Isaiah 13, God's statement that he will "make men more rare than gold" appears to imply that most humans will be killed in the event predicted by Isaiah 13.
The next example is considered by some to possibly be a separate author. Isaiah 24-27 is sometimes distinguished as 'Apocalypse Isaiah'.
It opens with the announcement that the world will be destroyed:
See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants— it will be the same for priest as for people, for the master as for his servant, for the mistress as for her servant, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word.
An interesting thing about Isaiah 24 is that after this destructive event is prophesied, the author shifts from prophetic tense to present tense. He proceeds to explain that the Earth is currently experiencing a cataclysmic event throughout Isaiah 24:4-20. One notable phrase is Isaiah 24:19-20, which reads as follows:
The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again.
So the event predicted in the first three verses had apparently arrived. According to Isaiah 24, the world ended a long time ago.
Isaiah 24:6 specifically states that most humans have perished.
Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.
Another strikingly obvious instance of apocalyptic prophecy in Isaiah is Isaiah 34:1-7. Which reads as follows:
Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it! The Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is on all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will stink; the mountains will be soaked with their blood. All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed. The sword of the Lord is bathed in blood, it is covered with fat— the blood of lambs and goats, fat from the kidneys of rams. For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. And the wild oxen will fall with them, the bull calves and the great bulls. Their land will be drenched with blood, and the dust will be soaked with fat.
Here we again see the mythological motif of aberrant cosmic phenomena. God is enraged against all the nations for some unnamed reason, and is about to manifest some divine retribution.
Needless to say, absolutely none of these ludicrous ravings actually came true.
Jeremiah, another major Old Testament prophet, also took his shot at writing an apocalyptic prophecy.
Jeremiah 25:15-33 tells us that the "cup of God's wrath" will be handed to all the nations of the Earth, and those slain by The Lord on that day will extend from one end of the Earth to the other.
Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword which I am sending among them.
So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and princes, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his princes, all his people, and all the foreign folk among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ash′kelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes that dwell in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world which are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink.
Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword which I am sending among you.’
And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! For behold, I begin to work evil at the city which is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.’
You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:
‘The Lord will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, says the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, evil is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth! And those slain by the Lord on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall be dung on the surface of the ground.
Jeremiah is describing a divine mass execution that will apparently be worldwide in scale. We would like biblical literalists to explain to us when and how they believe this happened.
The book of the Prophet Haggai is a very brief writing. Haggai is one of the minor prophets that most people who read the Bible tend not to bother looking at. However, using absurdly vague language, Haggai manages to prophecy an imminent worldwide cataclysm. Haggai 2:6-9 states the following:
For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.
This cataclysmic event is further explained here in Haggai 2:20-23:
The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, “Speak to Zerub′babel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders; and the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his fellow. On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerub′babel my servant, the son of She-al′ti-el, says the Lord, and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.”
The language is annoyingly vague, what does Haggai mean by "Shake the heavens and the earth, overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and destroy the strength of the kingdoms?" We can't exactly be sure, but it's still quite obviously a major worldwide event. The fact that this prophecy culminates with Zerub'babel's exaltation as God's 'signet ring' (whatever that means, more vague language) implies that this apocalyptic event would occur during the reign of King Zerubabel. However, if a worldwide catastrophic cataclysm really did occur around 2500 years ago, we would expect be slightly more aware of it. There is no historical event that can be correlated to Haggai's prophecy.
Another minor prophet, Zephaniah, is distinct since he boldly asserts that the absolute destruction of the world is imminent.
Zephaniah 1:2-3 literally says the following:
“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” says the Lord. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. I will overthrow the wicked; I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” says the Lord.
What makes this unique from other apocalyptic literature, is that God actually plans to kill every human, as Zephaniah 1:18 explains:
Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.
God explains that his plan to murder everyone will come to fruition very soon, in Zephaniah 1:14.
The great day of the Lord is near— near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
Fortunately, the imminent mass extinction event prophesied by Zephaniah never came.
Joel is another minor prophet. He predicts an apocalyptic event which doesn't seem as destructive or cataclysmic as what is described in Zephaniah, yet it's still dramatic enough to include here.
Joel 2:30-3:2 says the following:
And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations, and have divided up my land.
Here we again find the mythological motif of cosmic aberrations. In Joel's case, he is describing the sun darkening and the moon becoming blood. After those events occur, God will bring all the nations of the earth to the Valley of Jehoshaphat and "judge" them there.
The imminence of the Second Coming
Christians today tend to believe that Jesus didn't put an expiration date on the Second Coming, and that he simply said he was coming back 'very soon' (which is itself a questionable claim considering how much time has elapsed since he supposedly said that). Eschatological hopes are usually gradually extinguished, but the 'I am coming back very soon' doctrine doesn't seem to bother Christians for some reason.
However, statements like this can be found throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 16:27-28, Jesus says the following:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
Hmm, so the Second Coming was supposed to happen around the 1st century while some of Jesus' listeners were still alive. That would make Jesus about 2000 years late and counting. Similar promises are made in Mark 9:1, Luke 9:26-28, and elsewhere. Apologists are forced to argue that 'the Son of Man coming in his kingdom' isn't actually talking about the Second Coming, and is referring to something else. But the preceding phrases like "Then he will reward each person for what they have done" make it quite clear that he is in fact talking about the Second Coming.
Another way in which the imminence of the Second Coming is illustrated is in Matthew 24. This chapter is often titled "The Signs of the End". Jesus explains the signs that will foreshadow the Second Coming, then describes the Second Coming, and then he makes a rather peculiar prediction about that event.
Matthew 24:29-34 reads as follows:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.
That generation passed away a long time ago and none of those events took place. The same prediction is made in Mark 13:24-31 and Luke 21:25-32. Apologists will argue Jesus is referring to a non-dead generation that was alive 2000 years ago but is somehow also alive today. They will likely say that when Jesus used the word generation, he didn't literally mean that generation. (You'd then have to wonder why he bothered saying it at all if he didn't really mean it.) This isn't as certain of a mistake as the other example, but it still requires an elaborate series of mental gymnastics to resolve.
Prediction is writing about something that will occur in the future.
Postdiction is writing about something that has already happened, also known as "history". It is easy to predict what has already happened.
Cyrus will conquer Babylon
100prophecies.org claims that before 681 BCE the prophet Isaiah predicted Persia would defeat Babylon and furthermore that this prophecy was fulfilled in 539 BCE. Bible inerrantists would have us believe that Isaiah prophesied specifically that Cyrus would be Babylon's conqueror and would enter through gates, and that he made this prediction over 140 years before the event. They cite Isaiah 45:1 (NIV) as predicting that "Babylon's gates would open for Cyrus":
This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut[.]
This claim is ridiculous, on two grounds.
First, Isaiah's reference to gates, although the actual means Cyrus used to gain entry to the city of Babylon, was nonetheless meant figuratively. This is evidenced by noting the continued use of obviously figurative language in the next verse (NIV):
I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
Furthermore, Babylon is not actually mentioned anywhere in the chapter.
Second, in reality, this section of Isaiah was likely written approximately 537 BCE. Even if the "prediction" was not made after the event, its occurrence was hardly impossible to foresee and the name of Cyrus would have been well known. Imagine someone in the future who digs up a document from late 2002 which "prophesies" the Iraq War and the defeat and death of Saddam Hussein - how impressed should our future reader be of the author's oracular powers?
Christian apologist John Oakes flatly rejects this prophecy as a failure:
“”I would submit to you that it is a part of our standard hermaneutic that the new covenant scriptures define how the old covenant scriptures are fulfilled in them. This came up in cross-examination, let me give you an example. Sometime next year, Lord willing, I will be debating one of the leading Islamic apologists in the English-speaking world, and one of the topics that we are going to be debating is whether Mohammad is prophesied in the Bible. And interestingly enough, this man said, 'I'll debate you on that, however, first, you must debate me on whether Jesus is prophesied in the Old Testament. Now isn't that interesting? Now, I have a feeling that Brother Shisko [his debate opponent] and I would make almost identical presentations concerning the Messianic prophesies. But we would do so by allowing the new covenant scriptures to fulfill--to determine how the old covenant scriptures are fulfilled. Have you ever noticed how you can go to many of the Messianic Psalms, and there are sections of those Messianic Psalms that were not fulfilled in the life of Christ? They had to do with David. And so if we go from--if we go backwards, if we go from the Psalm and say 'this is how it must be fulfilled,' we would have a hard time even proving the Messiahship of Jesus.
This section is for alleged prophecies alluded to that were never made or that were not intended to be prophetic.
The messiah will be born to a virgin
Matthew alleges that Jesus' birth fulfilled a prophecy by being born to a virgin. This is (1) very, very unlikely and (2) not actually prophesied.
The messiah will be born in Bethlehem
Matthew alleges that Jesus' having been born in Bethlehem fulfills a prophecy. In Matthew 2:4-6 (NIV) King Herod is concerned about the birth of the "King of the Jews."
When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
While the quote from the prophet, Micah, appears to predict Jesus will come from the city of Bethlehem, he was not quoted precisely. Micah 5:2 (NIV):
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Several translations make it clear that Micah was referring to a clan named Bethlehem Ephrathah, not a city.
Alternately, Micah 5:2 (KJV) states:
But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
This translation is particularly troubling for Matthew. There are not thousands of towns in Israel, much less the subsection of Judah, today. It makes more sense that thousands refers to the people of Judah, rather than the towns of Judah.
There is also evidence that Bethlehem Ephrathah refers to the descendants of Ephratah. 1 Chronicles 2:1-51 states:
These [are] the sons of Israel; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, [....] These were the sons of Caleb the son of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah; Shobal the father of Kirjathjearim, Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of Bethgader."
The Septuagint (which Matthew usually uses, but apparently did not here) is even more explicit. Micah 5:2 (Brenton Translation):
And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrathah, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Judah: yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel.
The word house was often used in Hebrew to signify a family or a clan as in "the house of Judah" or "the house of David." It was never used in the sense of "land" as Matthew applied it here.
The Micah quote has also been taken out of context, originally showing no indication of being a messianic prophecy, instead referring to a military leader. Micah 5:6:
And they [the person from Bethlehem Ephrathah] shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.
Micah stated this in the context of the "many nations [that] have gathered against you [Judah]" (4:11), especially the Assyrians. It makes sense to assume that Micah, rather than predicting a distant Messiah, was promoting a leader to help Judah against the contemporary Assyrian threat. There is serious doubt that Micah intended his statement to be a Messianic prophecy.
Finally, there is no evidence outside of Matthew and Luke that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem. To trust Matthew and Luke on Jesus' prophetic fulfillment is circular, since the point of prophecy is to prove that the Bible is trustworthy. There are no historical documents supporting a Jesus born in Bethlehem. Besides, even Matthew and Luke do not agree on the details. Luke has Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem from Nazareth for the dubious reason of partaking in a census in 6 CE, while Matthew has them starting in Bethlehem and escaping to Nazareth by way of Egypt at least ten years earlier.
|Bethlehem Ephrathah was a town in the time of David, it was a town during the time of Micah and it was a town during the time of Jesus. It was never a clan.||This appears to go against authoritative translations of Micah.|
|What Micah is saying is that the clan of Judah which lived in Bethlehem was a small clan. What is the point here? Is this supposed to disprove that Micah prophesied the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem?||While possible, Oakes provides no evidence to suggest his view (Bethlehem is a town with a clan inside) over the simpler view (Bethlehem is a clan).|
|The Jews were very well aware of this prophecy and they never interpreted it how RationalWiki falsely interprets this! We know that the Jews interpreted this to imply that the Messiah would come from the town of Bethlehem. I am content to let the Jews interpret their own scripture rather than RationalWiki critics.||Unfortunately, Oakes provides no evidence that Jews interpreted this verse as he suggests.|
Jesus will be a Nazarene
In the Bible, Jesus is born in Bethlehem but grows up in Nazareth. Matthew credits the Nazareth upbringing as a fullfilment of prophecy:
Matt. 2:23 And [Mary, Joseph, and Jesus] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.
Unlike most of the other "prophecies" in this category, we can't even tell which Old Testament passage, if any, Matthew is twisting to fit the story; no OT prophecy seems relevant. It's almost as if he's just flat-out declaring that this was prophecied and hoping no one calls his bluff. Of course, even this one isn't too big a stone for apologists to swallow. As web page dedicated to this particular problem puts it: "First, it is necessary to point out that a genuine textual problem only exists if one has exhausted every possibility of interpretation, and there simply is no reasonable explanation that resolves the difficulty."
The most popular Christian explanation is that "Nazarene" is a figurative expression for anyone who is despised or rejected, as Jesus is at various points in the New Testament and the Messiah at various points in the old. Not only is that a heck of a cop-out, but if it's Matthew's intention, then it makes little sense for him to say that Jesus moving to a literal Nazareth is a fulfillment of the "figurative Nazarene" prophecy. A likelier possibility, and one which makes the author of Matthew look less dishonest and/or stupid, is that "the prophets" doesn't mean the Old Testament authors, but some other person or group of people, or an oral tradition. Of course, in that instance the case for a "fulfilled prophecy" is left empty-handed (and it's a catch-all excuse for similar failures).
One potential concept for the misaligned statement was referring to various prophesies that Jesus would be a Branch of David, Jeremiah 33:15 "In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land." The Hebrew term for branch is ne·tser and the Book of Numbers, chapter 6, denotes becoming a Nazirite to consecrate yourself to God. This is supported by the note that no pre-Christian texts denote a town of Nazareth at all, and the etymology in the name originates from that Hebrew word ne·tser. But this doesn't really explain why the 'He shall be a Nazarene prophecy' was fulfilled by Jesus moving to a literal town called Nazareth.
Jeremiah predicted Herod's massacre
Matthew 2:16-18 claims that Herod's massacre of the infants was prophesied by Jeremiah. The verse reads as follows:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”
Yet when we read the verse cited (Jeremiah 31:15-17) in its context, a few problems emerge.
Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not.” Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country".
It is transparently obvious that Jeremiah 31:15-17 is talking about the Babylonian captivity. Rachel's children are quite clearly not dead.
Jesus will be called out of Egypt
Matthew 2:15 cites Jesus' return from Egypt as being the fulfillment of a prophecy:
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
The source is Hosea 11:1:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
Note that the quote as it appears in Matthew is incomplete. The first part, the reference to Israel, is missing. In fact, the passage in Hosea is not a prophecy of Jesus leaving Egypt but rather a reference to the exodus of the Israelites.
In defense of the claim that Matthew gave an incomplete quote to hide the fact that Hosea was not intended as a prophecy, biblical inerrancy site AboutBibleProphecy.com notes, "Matthew wasn't trying to hide anything, he was trying to show that the life of Jesus had many parallels with the history of the Jewish people." It should be noted, however, that per Matthew's own words he in fact intended to show that the words of "the prophet" were "fulfilled" and not to show a parallel.
It should also be noted that among the gospel accounts the journey of Jesus to Egypt is unique in Matthew.
|These folks clearly do not understand Hoseah 11:1[.] This passage reminds the people that God called Moses out of Egypt (which happened)[.] It also reminds the people that he called his children Israel out of Egypt (which happened).|||
|It is ALSO a predictive prophecy that God will call Jesus out of Egypt, as he calls all people out of “Egypt” metaphorically. All of us are called out of slavery in Egypt metaphorically, as all of us are slaves to sin and are called out of “Egypt” when we are saved in Christ. Hosea 11:1 is both a recounting of what God did and a prophecy of what God was still to do. Again, RationalWiki seems not to understand this passage.||There's no textual evidence that Hosea 11:1 is metaphorical or applied more than 1 time. The fact that God goes on to recount yet more history suggests against a metaphorical hypothesis. Hosea 11:2-5:
Jesus will be pierced
John 19:37 (KJV) claims that Jesus being pierced in the course of his execution fulfills a prophecy:
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
The source of this prophecy is Zechariah 12:10 (KJV):
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
The verse in John is an inaccurate quote, leaving out the word "me." This is problematic for assuming the verse refers to Jesus: The "me" is the one who is pierced, while the "him" is the one who is mourned for. Jesus cannot be both and fulfill the prophecy.
Furthermore, the context of Zechariah 12 is of an invading army, not a Messianic prophecy of Jesus.
The suffering servant
- Main article: Fourth Servant Song
The Fourth Servant Song, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, is frequently referred to in the New Testament as being the source of prophecies allegedly fulfilled therein. Although many Christian scholars maintain the author had foreshadowed Jesus' crucifixion, other (especially Jewish) scholars maintain that he had meant instead to refer to the mistreatment of the nation of Israel.
Jeremiah prophesied Judas' silver
Before Judas commits suicide in Matthew, he renounces the money he got for betraying Jesus. It is stated that the chief priests used that money to buy a field, and this act somehow fulfilled a prophecy made by Jeremiah.
Matthew 27:5-10 explains this:
And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
The problem is that no such verse exists anywhere in the Book of Jeremiah.
The opening of Mark
The Gospel of Mark opens with an alleged prophecy fulfilment in the following four verses Mark 1:1-4:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Only part of the passage used here is actually found in the Book of Isaiah. Mark 1:3 appears to be quoting Isaiah 40:3:
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
This verse appears to be what Mark 1:3 is using, and we can see that a fundamental aspect of the text has been altered. Mark says "A voice crying in the wilderness", and proceeds to say that this fulfils John the Baptist's preaching in the wilderness. Yet Isaiah 40:3 clearly says "A voice cries: In the wilderness--". In Isaiah 40:3, a voice is crying about the wilderness, it's not a voice crying in the wilderness. One could argue that this appears to fit in other translations, and that argument could work. However, the entire context of Isaiah 40 (and all of Isaiah 40-55) is the divine emancipation of the Israelites out of the Babylonian captivity. There is no textual evidence that it is prophesying anything else.
That brings us to the second aspect of this supposed prophecy fulfilment, Mark 1:2. The verse used here is not actually in Isaiah. Some footnotes say that Mark 1:2 is quoting Malachi 3:1, which says the following:
Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
When we examine this in the context of Malachi 3 (and the entirety of the Book of Malachi), we see that the author of Mark left out the rest of the passage in Malachi concerning this "messenger", and that this isn't a messianic prophecy at all. The Book of Malachi is essentially just 4 chapters of God complaining about how the Israelites aren't sacrificing to him properly. Let us examine the passage referenced in Mark 1:2 in its original context. Malachi 3:1-4 reads as follows:
Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap, he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
It is transparently obvious that Malachi 3:1-4 is talking about someone who will guide the Israelites back to properly practicing Levitical law, something which Jesus definitely didn't do.
So that concludes our analysis of Mark 1:1-4. The author took two passages from different books, slapped them together, changed the text of one to fit their context, and declared them to be a continuous passage from one book.
The great disappointment
In Daniel 8:14, it claims that:
For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.
William Miller, a Baptist preacher, predicted and preached the imminent return of Jesus Christ to the earth. He first assumed that the cleansing of the sanctuary represented purification of the Earth by fire at Christ's Second Coming. Then, using an interpretive principle known as the "day-year principle", Miller, along with others, interpreted a prophetic day to read not as a 24-hour period, but rather as a calendar year. Miller stated: "My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844." Nothing happened, aside from a lot of confused Christians suddenly noticing Matthew 24:36 and starting up Seventh-day Adventism.
|Miller was simply mistaken in this false interpretation. The fact that Miller gave a false interpretation of Daniel 8 says nothing about the reliability of the Bible. [....] This prophecy has nothing to do with the return of Jesus, despite William Miller’s incorrect interpretation. The fact that William Miller had a grossly incorrect interpretation of this passage does nothing to change the fact that this is an amazing prophecy which was fulfilled more than two thousand years ago. Miller was a false teacher, but the Bible is inspired by God as proved, in part, by Daniel 8:9-14.||The fact that a Bible which is purportedly literally true could be so wrongly misinterpreted does give one caution. Maybe Daniel could have, say, explained his prophecy rather than making vague predictions? Still, Oakes makes a valid point that this was a problem in interpreting the Bible. It points to the thought that reading meaning into the Bible might just be a wrongheaded idea.|
|In fact, the prophecy in Daniel 8:9-14 is about the desolation of Israel under Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC. At this time the Greek ruler sacrificed pigs in the temple and outlawed all forms of Jewish worship, including making curcumcision of male childred a capital crime. All this is recorded by Josephus as well as in 1 Maccabees. The desolation of the temple began in November 167 BC and ended on December 25, 164 BC. The duration of the desolation of the temple was three years and one or two months, which is approximately 1150 days which is 2300 evenings and mornings. This is one of the most amazingly precise prophecies in the entire Bible. [....] [In] the 550s BC God told Daniel the exact length of the desolation of the temple.||Strangely, Daniel didn't get the date correct. As Chris Sandoval states:
A prophecy should be obvious as predicting an event before the occurrence of the event. If the prophecy is not obvious as having predicted the event even after the occurrence of the event, then it suffers from vagueness.
Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream
In Daniel 2:31-33 the prophet is asked to interpret the king's dream. The vision is described as follows:
You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. (NIV)
Daniel explains that the gold head of the statue apparently represents the Babylonian Empire and the remaining parts represent kingdoms that would follow.
The 100prophecies.org website claims Daniel herein predicted the rise of three specific historic kingdoms. They claim the silver chest and arms predicted the Medo-Persian Empire, which conquered the Babylonian Empire. They offer as evidence the observation that the two arms represent the Medes and the Persians.
The proper name for the Medo-Persian Empire is the Achaemenid Empire which formed when Persia conquered Media and other nations. With this understanding it becomes unclear why the chest and arms should suggest this empire more than any other. Daniel describes this second kingdom as being "inferior" to the first in Daniel 2:39. It is not stated why this contextual observation or that this part of the statue is made of silver should suggest the Achaemenid Empire.
The website claims the brass belly and thighs predict the Grecian Empire, which conquered the Medo-Persian Empire. They offer as evidence the observation that the empire started out united under Alexander the Great but was divided up after his death.
The proper name for the Grecian Empire is Macedonia, a kingdom existing well before Persia defeated Babylon, and one which the Greeks of the various Greek city states considered at best as semi-Greek or half barbarous. Macedonia grew to briefly take over territories previously controlled by the Persian Empire under Alexander the Great before fracturing as Alexander's generals established their own successor states in various parts of the former empire. Ultimately, these states were absorbed by the Roman Empire, although their society and culture remained largely unchanged until well after the birth of Christianity. With this understanding it becomes unclear why the concepts of unification and division should suggest Macedonia more than any other empire that has risen and fallen or why the observation that this part of the statue is made of bronze should suggest this empire. In verse 39 Daniel predicts this third kingdom "will rule over the whole earth."
The website claims the iron legs and feet partly of iron and partly clay predict the Roman Empire, which conquered the Grecian Empire. No evidence is presented to support this claim.
In Daniel 2:40 Daniel predicts that the fourth kingdom "will crush and break all the others." No attempt is made to show that the Roman Empire defeated the Babylonian or Achaemenid empires. Daniel further predicts that the fourth kingdom "will be a divided kingdom" (Daniel 2:41) and "will be partly strong and partly brittle" (Daniel 2:42) and its people "will be a mixture and will not be united." (Daniel 2:43) It is not stated why either these contextual observations or that this part of the statue is made of iron and clay should suggest the Roman Empire.[note 2]
It is unclear why the alleged prophecy should suggest the mentioned empires more so than any other kingdoms. Pharaonic Egypt, Phoenicia, Edom, Media, and Ptolemaic Egypt and the various Persian empires, for example, had great influence on the region of ancient Israel as well and all, in addition to many subsequent empires, would seem to as adequately meet the criteria of the Bible verses. In fact some of these kingdoms are included in several alternate interpretations that have been proposed by various Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and Jehovah's Witness camps as to which empires Daniel might have been predicting.[note 3] If this passage is unambiguously predicting the rise of future kingdoms why can the precise identity of the kingdoms not be determined? (At least after the occurrences, such a retrospective identification ought to be easy)
Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy
Dispensationalists claim the seventy weeks prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 predicts the crucifixion of Jesus and the Antichrist, in which the Antichrist will enter a third temple and commit a blasphemous act. This is false. According to Daniel 12, the Day of Judgement was supposed to happen 3 and a half years after Antiochus' persecution of the Jews in the 2nd Century BCE. This would make Daniel a false prophet but most Christians still insist that it's describing a future Great Tribulation.
Instead of predicting Jesus, most contemporary scholars think The Messiah in verse 26 (In Hebrew Translations, Messiah is translated as Prince) is Onias the third, a pious religious leader who opposed the Hellenization of the Jews and was murdered. Jews considered religious leaders and rabbis to be "annointed ones".
The coming prince that will destroy Jerusalem and commit the Abomination of Desolation is describing Antiochus Epiphanes' reign of terror against the Jews during the Maccabean Revolt, not the Antichrist. Historical data shows that Antiochus committed the "abomination that causes desolation" when he sacrificed a pig to a statue of Zeus in the 2nd temple and forced the Jews to end their daily sacrifices. This occurred 3 and a half years after he established a covenant with the Jewish people and subsequently annulled it. The Books of Maccabees describes Antiochus Epiphanes in greater detail and goes so far as to describe Antiochus in the same manner as the coming prince in the seventy weeks prophecy. The entire chapter of Daniel 11 is obviously describing Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus considered himself divine and God incarnate.
All references to the Abomination of Desolation in the New Testament are basically rehashes of the Book of Daniel. Paul wrote an epistle around 50 CE that said the "man of lawlessness" would enter the second temple and declare himself divine. However, since the temple was destroyed in 70 CE and none of Paul's prediction came true as Paul said it would, Christians have reinterpreted the prophecy to mean that the Antichrist would enter a revived 3rd temple and declare himself divine. This proves that Paul was oblivious about the temple's imminent destruction and was probably a false prophet.
- Prophecies: Imaginary and unfulfilled, Farrell Till
- The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah, Jim Lippard
- Prophecies, Promises, and Misquotes in the Bible, the Skeptic's Annotated Bible
- See, generally, the introductory notes to the book of Jonah in the New Oxford Reference Bible.
- By contrast, this description of the fourth kingdom fits very well with Alexander the Great's conquests, followed by the fracturing of his empire into competing successor states.
- It's generally accepted, by scholars who place less store on divine inspiration and more on standard historical methodology, that the four kingdoms (or five, including the feet) are: the Neo-Babylonian Empire (golden head), the Median Empire (silver chest and arms), Achaemenid Persia (bronze belly and thighs), Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire (iron legs), plus the Hellenistic successor states (iron and clay feet - specifically the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt). This is also due to these boring scholars spoiling all the prophetic fun by pointing to a far more likely composition date of the Book of Daniel being during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BCE), as opposed to its purported composition during the reign of the Neo-Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar II (around 605-562 BCE). The Book of Daniel is curiously erroneous when it comes to the details about its supposed time of composition during the Babylonian captivity. Then it becomes increasingly amazingly accurate until about the time of the successor states of Alexander the Great before it again goes off the rails. To historians, this suggests someone cobbling together a distant past from what little they knew and making educated, but often wrong, guesses about the future.
- God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (2007) Twelve. ISBN 0446579807.
- See the Wikipedia article on Nebuchadnezzar II.
- Tyre Phoenician Cities.
- Google Maps Satellite View of Tyre
- Failed Prophecies by Paul N. Tobin (2000) The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to Christianity (archived from October 14, 2001).
- John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible Ezekiel 29 Study Light (archived from May 15, 2018).
- Ezekiel 29 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered by Berend de Boer (archived from September 10, 2019).
- John Oakes (April 6, 2015). "Can you explain all the unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies listed at RationalWiki?".
- History of Memphis - History of Tahpanhes
- Ezekiel 30:12 Bible Hub.
- Verify in the Hebrew text: https://www.sefaria.org/Isaiah.17?ven=Tanakh:_The_Holy_Scriptures,_published_by_JPS&vhe=Miqra_according_to_the_Masorah&lang=bi
- Verify in a translation of the Isaiah Scroll: http://dssenglishbible.com/scroll1QIsaa.htm
- See in the Septuagint: https://studybible.info/interlinear/Isaiah%2017
- Sea of the Philistines (Great Sea) Bible Hub.
- Exodus 23:31 Bible Hub.
- History of Religious Ideas, Volume 2 by Mircea Eliade. (1982) University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226204030
- Biblical prophecies fulfilled by Babylon and the neo-Babylonian Empire 100prophecies.org
- "The Baptism Debate" uploaded by Alpha & Omega Ministries on March 10, 2014
- Was Bethlehem Birth Prophesied? by Joseph Francis Alward (January 8, 1998) Skeptical Views of Christianity (archived from October 31, 2013).
- Prophecy Fulfillment: An Unprovable Claim by Farrell Till (1996 / January-February) The Skeptical Review (archived from November 2, 2006).
- Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled by Farrell Till, The Secular Web.
- Was Bethlehem Birth Prophesied? Christianity Revealed.
- Micah 5 Skeptic's Annotated Bible.
- Does Old Testament Prophecy Point to Jesus? (5/17/2007) Debunking Christianity.
- Did Matthew misinterpret Hosea 11:1? ("When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.") AboutBibleProphecy.com
- Malachi 1:7-8 Malachi 1:14 Malachi 2:1-4
- The Failure of Daniel's Prophecies by Chris Sandoval (2007) The Secular Web.
- Biblical prophecy fulfilled by nations around Israel, including Egypt and Edom 100prophecies.org