Giving an Answer – Part 13
The Bible and Fulfilled Prophecy
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #095
June 15, 2017
“Our Father, we’re thankful that You are a God Who not only created all things, but because You created all things, because of Your omniscience and Your omnipotence, You know exactly how everything in life works. You oversee our lives. And sometimes You allow things to happen from Your permissive will, other ways You are directing us.
Father, above all, You have spoken to us through Your Word that we might know Your will. Father, we’re thankful that in times of difficulty, times of crisis, times of challenges, we can come to You and trust in You.
Father, we know that because You are the God Who created everything, because You are omniscient, we know that You are the God Who can declare the end from the beginning and that nothing is hidden from You. And because of that, when we look at Scripture and we see predictive prophecy, that confirms to us the reality of You as the origin of the Scripture.
Father, we pray as we study tonight that You will help us to understand these things and that our confidence will be strengthened. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We can go to all kinds of different websites today, and television shows, and all sorts of things. In fact, as I was getting ready to come tonight, I flipped on the television and it was on the American Heroes Channel. I know some you watch that. And it was a show about how the world’s going to end.
They were making all of these predictions and prognostications about, “It is going to be this way or that way? Is it going to be as a result of something that nature does? Or is it going to be a result of some sort of biological disease or virus that goes awry? Or is man going to create something and destroy himself?” And I thought, “Well, none of you know the answer; you’re just guessing.”
But we have a sure and certain word in the Scriptures. Because God, Who is the God of history, and the God Who created history, and the God Who is overseeing history, has told us exactly how history is going to come to an end—and none of those things are going to enter into it.
The problem with most predictions that we get from human beings is that they don’t come true. And they motivate all kinds of fear and worry and anxiety and get you to invest your money in this thing or in that thing and secure this or secure that. And it never comes true.
Even if there are people who, because of certain sensitivities and the way they can read people and read nonverbal communication, appear to be a telling you things that they’ve never learned—that are secret to you or things like that—it doesn’t mean that they are seeing into your soul, reading your mind, or predicting the future.
The Scripture, though, does say that that can happen in some cases. So how are we to know if God is truly speaking? And how are we to know if predictions about the future are true? Well, the Bible gives us a guideline, and that’s where we’re going to start tonight.
We’re in the 13th lesson in the subtopic in 1 Peter of “Giving an Answer.” Last week and this week and maybe the next two weeks, I want to run through, in a quick survey fashion, some key pieces of evidence that substantiate what the Bible claims about itself.
Last time we looked at that. The Bible claims not just to be a book about God, not just to be a good source of information about good things to do in life, but the very revelation from God Himself, through men, to us, that is without error. And as such, the Bible makes a number of claims about itself. These claims can be validated as we look both internally, in terms of its internal consistency, as well as externally. Did these things happen? Did these things come true? That’s especially so in this particular area. I want to look at fulfilled prophecy within the Bible.
So there are three basic questions that are most often asked by unbelievers—and sometimes by Christians who just doubt. We all go through periods where we may question what we believe. Is it really true?
Especially if you’re young, if you’re in high school, you’re in college, or a young person, and there’s this peer pressure, “How can you be a Christian?” And then you hear all these things; usually 99% of them are distortions, or completely false, about Christianity. And you come under that peer pressure.
The three key questions are:
1. Can we trust the Bible? Can you really believe the Bible? What’s the basis for believing the Bible? God doesn’t want us to just put our brains into neutral and just take an irrational leap of faith.
Faith is not a “leap.” Every now and then I’ll hear somebody say, “Well, you just take a leap of faith and believe God.” “Leap of faith” is an existentialist term for going beyond the evidence in contrast to the evidence; this is the idea that faith is believing something that’s not true. And there are people who define faith that way—faith is believing something that is not true.
That’s not what faith is. Faith is believing, on the basis of evidence, that something is true. So there’s evidence that supports the biblical view. We’re looking at that last week and this week. The second question is,
2. Who was Jesus? What did He claim? Who did He claim He was? How do we know Jesus was Who He claimed He was?
3. The third question has to do with the resurrection. As the apostle Paul says, if the resurrection didn’t happen, then everything falls apart; that’s the linchpin. So those are the three questions we’re looking at.
As we started this last time, I said that the Bible claims to be God’s revelation of Himself to man. That is either true or false. If it is false, then we just dismiss the Bible; it is no better than any other book. If it’s false, then with the claims that it makes to be the only true source of information about the only true Creator God Who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them, then it is fraud and deceptive. In fact, it’s not even a good book; it’s an evil book.
But if it is true, it is the unique book of the universe, and it should be valued above all other things. That’s the application from this for believers. If the Bible is what it claims to be, then nothing is more important, in terms of learning and studying and applying, than the Bible.
Last time I focused on these four issues related to the uniqueness of the Bible or understanding the Bible.
1. First of all, it’s a one-of-a-kind book. There’s no other book like it.
2. Second, we looked at what the Bible claims about itself.
3. Third, we looked at the testimony of archaeology, quoting Dr. Nelson Glueck well-known famous, now dead, archaeologist, Jewish rabbi, who said that he never discovered anything in archaeology that contradicted the Bible. And you can multiply those quotes. There are lots of different archaeologists who have made that [claim].
4. Fourth is the thing we will cover tonight, the testimony of fulfilled prophecy.
There are two types of fulfilled prophecy in the Scripture. There is fulfilled prophecy that happened during the life of the prophet or during the timing of the Old Testament that had to do with different events in history, usually related to Israel. That’s the first kind of prophecy.
The second kind of prophecy was prophecy that was related to the coming of the Messiah, messianic prophecy. I’m not going to get to that tonight, because that’s the first part that we will get to next week when we talk about Who Jesus was, Who He claimed to be.
Tonight, we’re looking at this whole idea of prophecies in the Bible and how the prophecies in the Bible are unique and confirm that the Bible is the Word of God. As we start that, the first thing we have to understand is that the Bible clearly defines what prophecy is. It is foretelling, or telling the future beforehand. It is like history, only in that it is written before the fact and not after the fact. It’s not just generally true, but it is specifically true.
The Bible gave some specific tests in relation to prophecy and penalties for anyone who claimed to be a prophet but whose prophecies did not come true 100% of the time. They couldn’t be 99.5% of the time. If they have a bad day, it’s their last day. There’s only one test for prophecy, and it’s 100% true.
I want to repeat the basic presuppositions I talked about last time. Because when we approach evidence, the evidentialist thinks that the evidence is neutral. That’s why we looked at the film a couple of weeks ago, God’s Not Dead, part one, and I asked certain questions on that worksheet. Those are thought questions to teach you how to critically think about what you’re reading, what you’re listening to; so that the questions related to methodology.
Some people have a bad view of apologetics. Because what they’ve been exposed to is poor methodology, they react to the whole thing. A right thing must be done a right way. If a right thing is done a wrong way, such as the rationalist approach to apologetics, or the evidentialist approach to apologetics, then you are already causing problems with bad methodology. We spent a lot of time talking about that.
The presupposition is we never compromise our view of God.
1. The Christian God is the Creator of all things, including human beings and their ability to communicate and to understand His communication to them. That’s fundamental—not just thinking God created us, but let’s get more specific. God created every human being, and He created them with everything necessary to receive His communication and to fully comprehend His communication. It’s not guesswork. God’s not playing a shell game with us.
2. The Bible assumes His existence and claims that it [the Scripture] preserves and expresses God’s communication to mankind. It makes specific claims; and those claims can be evaluated.
3. We see that the Bible is internally consistent with its claims to be the revelation from God, and no evidence has ever surfaced which contradicts that particular claim.
Now, fulfilled prophecy is evidence of the veracity of Scripture, and God uses it that way. He does this in Isaiah. It tells something about Who He is.
In Isaiah 46:9, the Lord says, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” By the way, that’s the definition of being holy, being unique; it’s not the idea of being moral or being pure or being righteous or being just. It’s that idea of being unique or distinct.
God says, “There is none like Me. I am unique in My knowledge. I’m unique in My righteousness. I’m unique in My omniscience, My omnipresence, My omnipotence, My veracity. I’m unique. There is none like Me.”
And what is He distinguishing here? His omniscience. That means He knows all the knowable, including all the future. He declares the end from the beginning. Because of His omniscience, because He is timeless, He sees all of human history before Him as an eternal present, and He can state exactly what will and will not take place in what appears to be our future.
“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done…” There are prophecies given in the old days that have yet to be fulfilled. And He says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” So, prophecy and the fulfillment of that prophecy is evidence of the uniqueness, the holiness, of God.
One of the tests for prophecy is given in Deuteronomy 13. Always remember this: Deuteronomy 13, Deuteronomy 18. If you can think about those two chapters, that’s key. You don’t have to remember the specific verses; you can always remember those.
I remember in senior theology, with Dr. Ryrie, where he would drill us. He would just go down the line and he would call on, “Mr. So-and-so. Mr. So-and-so. Okay, Mr. Dean, stand up. What was described in footnote 15 on page 35 in the chapter you were assigned? And please tell me if he was correct or incorrect and why; defend your answer.”
Then he would go to the next person, and he would say, “Okay, what Scripture did he leave out? And you would have to come up with that off the top of your head. If you just had book and chapter, you’re okay. So those were the kinds of tests that we would be given. So you’re drilled.
If footnotes had footnotes, that’s where Dr. Waltke would ask his quiz questions. You had to know everything.
Deuteronomy 13, Deuteronomy 18, those are the two key chapters. In Deuteronomy 13 God says, “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder.” Notice that the text doesn’t say, “He gives you a false miracle, or a false sign, or a false wonder, or he just makes up something that’s going to happen in the future.”
He says, “If there arises somebody who’s a dreamer of dreams [or a prophet], and he makes a prophecy, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass.” It really happens! He’s not saying—like you and I have frequently said—so-and-so predicted the future. Oh no they didn’t. They’re just good guessers.
God says there are going to be counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders. The antichrist is going to have these kinds of counterfeit signs when he appears in the Tribulation period. This is how you know the difference: If their message contradicts My message. See, the ultimate standard of truth isn’t somebody performing a miracle, isn’t somebody giving a sign; the test that they’re from God is their message—the content of their message.
If this false prophet comes along and he makes a prophecy and it comes to pass, and then he says, “Let’s go after other gods.” In other words, “Let’s go worship other gods. Let’s go worship the Hindu gods. Let’s go worship the gods of the Greeks or the gods of the Romans. And let’s serve them.”
What does God say? He says, “You shall not listen to the words of that prophet.” The issue is if the content of his message is wrong. He may have a great personality. He may be a wonderful communicator. He may have a church that has 5,000, 10,000 people and be shown on television screens and computers around the world. But if his message isn’t the biblical message …
Notice I didn’t say “consistent.” A lot of people can say things that are consistent with the Bible, but their framework is totally false. To be “biblical” means that it derives itself from the Bible and is supported by the Bible.
Don’t get caught up in this trap that, “Oh, what they said is consistent with the Bible.” There are a lot of things in Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses that are consistent with the Bible. There are a lot of things in Satan’s worldview that are consistent with the Bible. Because, to have any selling power, it has to be consistent with reality to some degree.
To be biblical means it comes from the Bible. And the Bible, the Torah, said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” You shall worship no other gods. So if this false prophet comes along, even if he has miracles, and says, “Let’s worship other gods,” you know that he’s a false prophet because of his message, not because of whether or not it came true. That is so hard to get across to people.
Verse three says, “You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” That’s why God allows these false prophets to come along—and these false pastors, and these pastors who teach bad theology and teach legalism and all of these other things. God allows that to test people, to see if they’re going to be true to the Bible and the God of the Bible or if they just want to go after things that make them feel good, things that entertain them.
If you go on to read in Deuteronomy 13, the penalty for someone who is a false prophet is death. Because God is not going to allow a spiritual malignancy to lead His people away from Himself. So the standard is conformity to God’s Word.
Second. In Deuteronomy 18:20 we have our second test. “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” That’s the death penalty. God doesn’t put up with somebody coming along and saying, “I speak for God,” when they don’t.
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ ”—In other words, you come along and say, “Well, So-and-so says they speak for God. And so does So-and-so and all these other people. How do we know who is true and who’s not?”
That’s a legitimate question, because there are people who come out and claim all kinds of things. Joseph Smith says that God gave him a revelation of the Book of Mormon. Mohammed comes along and says God gave him a revelation, and it’s the Quran.
And there are all kinds of other people. Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy came along and said her book on Science and the Scripture is from God. How do you know? There are all kinds of people who make this claim.
He says in verse 22, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” The test for biblical prophecy is that it comes true.
So if this is the claim of the Bible—that the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible comes from God—then when there are prophetic things that are given in the Scripture, we can see that and it gives us validation and verification of the claims of the Bible.
Not all prophecies can be validated in that way, because many of them have not yet come to pass. As Isaiah 46:10 said, they were spoken in ancient times, and they’ve not yet come to pass. That’s why many of the prophets foretold of events that would happen in the near or immediate future, so that that would then validate their claims, their prophecies, that would not be fulfilled for centuries—or many, many centuries.
Isaiah 41:21–23. God is challenging those who reject Him. “ ‘Present your case,’ says the Lord. ‘Bring forth your strong reasons,’ says the King of Jacob.” That is another term for Yahweh, the King of Israel.
“Let them bring forth and show us what will happen.” You claim to be speaking for God? If you do, let’s see if you can tell us what will happen in the future. Show us what will happen. “Let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them.” Tell us about what happened, but also where it’s going to go—the latter end.
“Or declare to us things to come.” So God lays this down. Fulfilled prophecy is a validation and verification of a genuine prophecy and that something actually derives from Him.
Isaiah 41:23, “Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.” So what I want to do is look at three different examples from the Old Testament that you ought to have in your minds. They are pretty simple. A couple of these I’ve heard many, many times.
I remember when I was in high school, several times sitting in Bible class, and probably even going back before that when I was a camper at Camp Peniel, at least hearing the story of the prophecy of Tyre, which is the second example. I tried to Google a good map of fishermen laying out their fishing nets on Tyre. I even spelled it right! I got a lot of pictures of Firestone and Goodyear and Michelins—interesting.
First, we’re going to look at this prophecy from the young prophet from Judah in 1 Kings 13. Turn with me there. What you ought to do is mark these in your Bible. Take notes in your Bible so that when you’re talking to somebody and you say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got this information,” you at least know that you can get it if you look in your Bible.
1. The young prophet from Judah.
2. The prophecy against Tyre.
3. The prophecy about Nineveh.
Those are Old Testament prophecies that were given in the Old Testament and that were fulfilled also during the Old Testament time. When we finish up with that, then next week we will come back and look at what I think is the greatest of all the prophecies—we’ve covered it many, many times—and that’s Daniel 9 as a prelude to looking at the messianic prophecies.
Remember this: Biblical prophecy is the declaration of what will happen in the future, and it gives sufficient detail so as to exclude human generalizations. It’s not just some, “This is going to happen. There’s going to be a big financial problem next year.” Well, that could mean anything. There are too many people who get taken in by that kind of generalization.
In the Scripture, there are specific facts and details that are given that only God would know. In fact, in this first prophecy that I’m looking at it’s a prophecy that is given 300 years before its fulfillment, and it specifically names the king who will fulfill the prophecy, a king named Josiah. So that’s a 300-year gap.
Let me see. This is 2017. So, if you go back to 1717, that would be when Jonathan Edwards was a very young man—a young boy, probably. Then that would be like a prophecy given at that time. Okay? 300 years earlier. It can only come true with those kinds of specifics. That would be like somebody at that time saying, “There’s going to be a president named Donald John Trump, and he’s going to be elected in 2016.” That’s the kind of specificity this prophecy has.
Let’s look at the background here. This is during the reign of the first evil king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel split. They had a civil war. They had a tax-based civil war, and Jeroboam became the king of the North; Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, became the king in the South.
Jeroboam understood a basic principle; he wanted to have pure, 100% loyalty from his subjects. Then he couldn’t have them going to Judah to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem. So he set up alternate worship sites. This is the story of what takes place at the end of Chapter 12 where he sets up a golden calf in Bethel, in the South, only about 11 or 12 miles north of Jerusalem, and he set up a second golden calf in the far north in an area that was originally called Laish and this became known as the territory of Dan. So people were to come.
He is now at this temple that he set up at Bethel, and they are worshiping these shrines. Now this is leading the nation of Israel into idolatry, a violation of the first commandment that “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
It’s also an example of historical revisionism. This is what happens when politicians start rewriting history in order to justify their position. What Jeroboam did was he had them build this golden calf, like the golden calf that Aaron had had made while Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments.
And Jeroboam says of this golden calf the same thing that Aaron said. He said, “This is the god who brought you out of Egypt.” So, he is attributing to this idol everything related to Yahweh. It’s not as bad as what came along later, but this becomes the archetypical sin in the Northern Kingdom.
Every king in the Northern Kingdom is apostate, and every king follows this. At the end of every king’s reign in the north, it says, “And this king did evil in the sight of the Lord and followed in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” Over, and over, and over again, there wasn’t a single good king in the north. The other night when Bill Katz was speaking he mentioned that.
What happens is that he’s having this huge ceremony. Huge ceremony! Everybody’s out there in their finest robes; everybody is dressed up. He’s got the orchestra. He’s got all his new priesthood out there. And everybody is lined up. Then what happens is this no name nobody, who is a prophet from Judah—so he is from the other country now—comes in and crashes their party.
We’re told in verse one,
“And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord.” Notice that, “By the word of the Lord.” God is directing him. God appeared to him and said, “Go take this message to Jeroboam.”
So, he goes by the word of the Lord. Jeroboam is standing by the altar; he is right in the middle of the ceremony. This is an extremely formal ceremony. It would be like the time when the President of the United States is inaugurated and sworn into office, and all of a sudden somebody just walks out of the crowd and interrupts the whole ceremony.
“Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord [again, restating this, that this is the message from the Lord], and said, ‘O altar, altar! Thus says Yahweh [using the name Yahweh reinforces that this is the God Who gave the Ten Commandments]: “Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David.” ’ ” Now, what happened in the north? They rebelled against the house of David. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, the grandson of David. Jeroboam is the son of Nebat; he’s the son of nobody. He came out of the north; he’s not related to the Davidic line at all.
“ ‘ “Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you [and is he talking to the altar] he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.” ’ ”
“And he gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.’ ”
Let’s look at what happens in the next verse. “So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, ‘Arrest him!’ Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered.” Right in front of his eyes his hand just withered up! And it scared him to death.
“The altar also was split apart.” See, this is the near fulfillment of that prophecy. The altar split apart; that validates; it’s evidence of what this prophet is saying is true.
“The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.” Of course, this scares everything out of Jeroboam. And he pleads with him to heal his hand, which God, in His grace, does. But this is a prophecy that a king is going to come, called Josiah, in the future. We don’t know when that’s going to be.
Turn from 1 Kings to 2 Kings 23. Here we see the fulfillment. Now what’s happened in the fulfillment is that this is 300 years later. In the north they’ve had king after king after king. Under Ahab, who married Jezebel, they went from idolatry stage one to idolatry stage two. They’ve introduced Baal worship and the worship of Melqart, the name of the god in Tyre.
We are going to talk about Tyre in a minute. In Tyre, in Phoenicia, Melqart. M-L-Q, that sound is the counterpart to Malik. Remember Moloch? He shows up earlier. That’s the Moabite name for Melqart.
By the way, I read something interesting as I was studying about Tyre. Melqart is the Canaanite counterpart to Hercules.
So Melqart is also worshiped by infant baby sacrifices. All of this is introduced into the Northern Kingdom by Jezebel. We cannot imagine how horrible life was in the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom as a result of these idolatries. They would have huge, huge ceremonies.
Thousands of people would bring their babies to these idols that are shaped—they are made out of either iron or stone—with their hands out. Underneath is carved a nice barbecue pit. They’ve got a big fire chamber there, and they would stoke it up and then they would put their live infants in the arms of the god to placate the god for their sins. This went on for hours after hours as they immolated these babies. That’s just the beginning of how horrible, how pagan, how reprobate these cultures were.
When I read about this and think about this, we are so blessed to live in this nation. We are truly in an historical bubble. If it were not for the impact of biblical Judaism and biblical Christianity, that is how everything would be everywhere. But what has changed it is Judeo-Christian ethics. Judeo-Christianity is what has changed that. And Christianity is what introduced hospitals and orphanages and all these things that have made life so much better for us.
Josiah becomes king when he is eight years old according to 2 Kings 22:1. When he is about 16 years old, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovers the Law, the Torah. Nobody’s known about it. It’s been hidden away. Everybody’s ignorant. You say, “Where’s the Torah?” Nobody knows. Nobody knew what it was. Everybody had forgotten. This had gone on for a couple of generations.
So Hilkiah brings it to Josiah. Josiah reads it, and he comes under true conviction from God and immediately repents in the biblical sense—he changes his mind. “We’ve got to clean everything up.” The Baalim and the Asherah that have been brought into the temple are all removed. Everything is removed, and he starts cleansing the land from idolatry. That’s the background.
And he goes north. By this time the Northern Kingdom has been destroyed; that happened in 722 BC. This is around 615, 620 BC—maybe a little bit earlier, maybe 630 BC—but it’s 100 years after the Northern Kingdom has been destroyed. But they still have this center of worship at Bethel and he goes up there.
In 2 Kings 23:15, we read, “Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down.” That is, Josiah broke it down.
Josiah ruled from 640 to 609 BC. In 640 BC, when he came to the throne, he is eight years old. So this is 620 BC, approximately, and he reigned for 31 years. He destroys the altar.
Look at verse 15. “… both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image. As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar.”
Notice the specificity. His name is Josiah. He tears down the altar. He takes the bones out of the graves that have been buried there and burns them on the altar. “… and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed [that goes back to the 1 Kings 13], who proclaimed these words.” So this is the fulfillment.
2 Kings 23:17, “Then he said, ‘What gravestone is this that I see?’ ” Because that young man had gone off, he had disobeyed God and had died, and they buried him by the altar. So Josiah says, “Well, whose grave is that?” “So the men of the city told him, ‘It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.’ ”
2 Kings 23:18, “And he said, ‘Let him alone; let no one move his bones.’ So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.” So what we see here is a great example. Just think about the young prophet from Judah. He announces that at some time in the future this altar is going to be torn down.
He addresses Jeroboam I and says, “This altar is going to be torn down. Not only is it going to be torn down [which happened almost immediately], but eventually they are going to burn dead men’s bones on that altar and it’s going to be done by a man named Josiah.” Almost 300 years later this is precisely fulfilled. Josiah destroys the altar and burns the bones of those in the graves around there on the altar. It is precise.
The second example that we can go to from the Old Testament is the prophecy against Tyre. Tyre and Sidon are the two big cities in Phoenicia, which is modern Babylon.
What you see here in this picture is the old island of Tyre, which is located right here. And it looks as if it is connected to the mainland. But it wasn’t always connected to the mainland. The connecting of Tyre, the island, to the old city, which was on the mainland, is the story of this biblical prophecy. It was prophesied that that would happen, and that is exactly what happened.
On this map, we see the northern part of Israel. Here is Samaria in the south [of this map]. This area up here is the area of Galilee. This is the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Kinnereth.
Over here where you see this little bump in the coastline is where modern Haifa is located. Mount Carmel, where Elijah met the priests of Baal, is located right there. And then you go north.
Notice how close [it is]. As Elijah challenged the priests of Baal, he’s just south of their headquarters. Their headquarters is up here in Phoenicia, Tyre and Sidon. In fact, here is Zarephath, in between, which is where Elijah hid out for a while. So, this is the location of Tyre.
Here is a 19th-century map that gives you another look at the location of the modern city of Tyre.
What we see in the announcement here is that Ezekiel is making this announcement. This takes place around 586, 590 BC, and it is an announcement of what will take place from Nebuchadnezzar. The prophecy that is given by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 26 is given before Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar is part of that prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t attack Tyre until he has subjugated and destroyed Jerusalem.
Turn with me to Ezekiel 26. That part of Ezekiel’s prophecy would have been a near fulfillment validation of his prophecy given to the people of his generation. So, this is probably around 590-ish when he makes this prediction.
We’ll read the first few verses. Ezekiel 26:1, “And it came to pass in the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, because Tyre has said against Jerusalem, “Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.” ’ ”
What’s going on here? Tyre looks down here and is gloating over a now destroyed Jerusalem. Now, it hadn’t happened yet. This is a prediction; Tyre is going to gloat over Jerusalem. They’re going to rejoice. They’re going to be like the Palestinians and the Arabs who went out and danced in the street and celebrated when they heard about the twin towers going down on 9/11.
And for their gloating over the destruction of Jerusalem, God is going to punish them. This is the announcement of that punishment. So that the first part of this is going to come within a couple of years, but it’s ongoing. As we will see, this is a prophecy that focuses on numerous attacks against Tyre.
“ ‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples’ [that is talking about Jerusalem].
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you, as the sea causes its waves to come up.’ ” You don’t see too many great waves down at Galveston, but you can still get the point: Waves come in one after the other.
And that’s what this prophecy is talking about. Over the next centuries there is going to be wave after wave of conquerors that come. Each conqueror that comes down the coast is going to lay siege to you and they’re going to destroy another part of you until, ultimately, you are destroyed.
So, it’s not saying that this initial attack by Nebuchadnezzar is going to destroy you. It’s simply saying that this is going to be the beginning; that’s the first wave of many waves. And it’s going to be like the sea.
Now using the sea is a good analogy for Tyre, because the old city of Tyre is located on this map along the coast. But the new city, the island city, is off the coast, like Galveston is off the coast of Texas. Except it was about a half mile across, from the mainland to the island.
What happens is God goes on to describe this. He uses the sea and the ocean as the metaphor, because these are a seagoing people. “And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre [that’s the old city] and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock.”
This is a summary prophecy. I’ve told you many times how Hebrew narrative writes: First you give the overview, and then you come in and spell out the details. Just like Genesis 1 gives the overview of the seven days of creation, and then in chapter 2 Moses comes back and gives the details of the creation of man on the sixth day.
This is the overview. “There will be wave after wave after wave that are going to come. And what’s going to happen in all those waves is that they will destroy the walls, they will break down your towers, and it will get to the point where they will scrape off all the topsoil, down to the rocks, so that nothing is left of your glory. Everything that you see here is going to be taken down—nothing left but the tops of the bedrock.”
“ ‘It shall be a place for spreading nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord God; ‘it shall become plunder for the nations.’ ”
“ ‘Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword’ ” [the daughter villages are the suburbs, the satellite towns that surrounded Tyre].
So here is a map. 700 to 800 m is about half a mile across the water. First there is Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he went back up, and he is going to wipe out Tyre. We will get there in in just a minute. That’s in 586 BC. It’s an 11-year siege.
But then, in the fourth century, around 330 BC, somewhere in there, Alexander is going to come. And there’s still some civilization over here, because Nebuchadnezzar didn’t wipe it all out. But it’s at that time that he wants to lay siege to Tyre. He surrounded them, lay siege to Tyre, and the people started evacuating to the island. In order to get to the island, he had his men tear down the old city and start throwing all of the rubble and all of the dirt into the waterway to build a causeway out to the island.
So in order to get enough dirt and enough rubble to fill it all in and to have a wide enough causeway to get there, they had to scrape the tops of the rocks, so that nothing was left of the old city.
Now verse seven goes back to a little more immediate fulfillment. “For thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…’ ” Now, the liberal critics say, “Nebuchadnezzar didn’t come from the north. He came from Jerusalem, which is in the south. See, the Bible is wrong.”
If you think of the Fertile Crescent, nobody comes across the desert directly from Babylon or Nineveh to Jerusalem; they all came up towards Turkey and then down from the north. So all of the enemies—the Assyrians, later the Babylonians, later the Persians—all come from the north.
That becomes the idiom for the invader. The evil invader always comes from the north, even if he may have bypassed you and he comes back. So that is just not the way it should be understood there. Nebuchadnezzar was from the north. There are passages in Jeremiah that specifically speak of this attack; Nebuchadnezzar comes from the north because that’s the direction that all the enemies came from.
“… Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields [all your suburbs get wiped out]; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you.” This is stage one. Liberal critics say, “See, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t destroy it.” Well, it doesn’t say Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it. It just says he laid siege to it and conquered it.
Slides 26 and 27
It goes on and describes that down through verse 12.
So, what we learn from this is that the prophecy says that Nebuchadnezzar will destroy the city of Tyre.
1. He will lay siege to it, and he will destroy the suburbs and environs.
2. It goes on to say that many other nations will come against Tyre like waves.
3. Tyre will become like the top of a flat rock.
4. Fishermen will spread their nets over the site.
5. Tyre will be thrown into the water and never be rebuilt.
All of that came true. It didn’t come true in one invasion, but he says there will be many nations that come against you.
In an article written in Bible and Spade Journal that came out in 2006, they observed, first of all:
1. The rubble from Tyre would be put into the sea. This was fulfilled in 332 BC by Alexander the Great’s army, 250 years after Ezekiel was written.
2. The passage does not state that Nebuchadnezzar would capture the island city and get its wealth. On the other hand, it does not say Nebuchadnezzar would not conquer Tyre at all—he conquered “Old Tyre.” It simply states he did not get anything of value from it. This is exactly what Ezekiel 29:17ff states. There is no contradiction.
3. The total destruction of Tyre would be accomplished gradually by one nation after another.
4. In the end Tyre would be destroyed down to the bare rock and never rebuilt. The final destruction took place in AD 1291, 1,300 years after Christ. The initial prediction was given in about 588, 590, roughly 600 BC, so it’s almost 1,900 years from the prophecy to its fulfillment.
The third prophecy is in Nahum. That’s another one of those books. Y’all had fun the other night going through Jonah, and tonight we’re going to look at Nahum.
Nahum is related to Jonah in that in Jonah we see the grace of God who sent Jonah to the Gentiles to announce the gospel, they turned to God, and God reprieved them for well over 100 years. In Nahum we have the announcement of God’s eventual judgment and destruction of Nineveh, which was the capital of Assyria, at that time the greatest empire in the world.
This is a map of modern country borders laid over a map of the of the Middle East. Down here we have Jerusalem. This area is Syria. Here is Beirut; that’s not too far from where Tyre and Sidon are located.
Here is Iran alongside the Persian Gulf. And just north of Iran you have Azerbaijan and Armenia and these other places. These lines represent different borders of different ancient empires. Right about there is where the modern Iraqi city of Mosul is located. And then ancient Nineveh was located across the river from Mosul.
Here is an ancient map. This is a map I was thinking about earlier. All of the invaders from the area of the Fertile Crescent, instead of crossing the desert here, which is almost impossible, they would go to the north and then swing down and invade from the north. They were always those northern invaders. That just caps off what I was saying about Tyre. So, this is where Nineveh was located.
What we see here is that Nahum wrote around 660–655 BC. Now, you will read in some commentaries that, “Well, we really don’t know when he wrote. It could have been much later; it could have been here; it could have been there.” But he mentions the sack of Thebes. Thebes is in Egypt. In Nahum 3:8 he calls it “No-amon.” And he mentions the destruction of Thebes, which occurred—we can date that—in 663 BC. So, he had to have written this after 663 BC.
Thebes, though, is rebuilt nine years later in 654 BC. The statement that he makes in Nahum 3:8 would not make sense if Thebes had already been rebuilt. He makes a statement like, “You’re going to become like Thebes.” If Thebes had been rebuilt, then the sentence would not make any sense.
So, it had to been written between 663 and 664 BC. Nineveh was destroyed in August of 612 BC, which is at least 43 years later. This kind of specificity shows the accuracy of biblical prophecy.
I’m going to look at about five things here that are predicted by Nahum.
1. He predicts that the outer ring of fortresses would be easily destroyed.
There was a large wall going around Nineveh to protect Nineveh. He is saying that wall is going to be totally destroyed, and then it would come down and the people would take it. In fact, if you read the verse it says, “All your strongholds [your fortifications, your defenses] are fig trees with ripened figs.”
What in the world does that mean? Well, when I grew up, my folks had a fig tree in the backyard. I don’t know that we ever tried to do this. When the fig tree is loaded with ripe figs, if it is shaken the figs will easily fall off. They’ll drop off. I don’t think mine ever got that ripe, because the birds would always get to them. So, this is an idiom for something that is easily accomplished.
When it says, “Your strongholds are fig trees,” they’re going to be easily knocked down. That’s the prediction. According to the Babylonian Chronicle, the fortified towns surrounding Nineveh began to fall in 614 BC. That included Tabris, which is present day Sharif-Khan, which is a few miles northwest of Nineveh. This is documented historically.
2. Nahum predicted that the Ninevites would attempt to strengthen their fortifications by making bricks and mortar. “We’re going to reinforce the walls. We’re going to make more bricks, and we need more mortar in order to do that.”
Nahum 3:14 says, “Draw your water for the siege! Fortify your strongholds! Go into the clay and tread the mortar! Make strong the brick kiln!” This is where you would dry the bricks.
Olmsted is the classic work. I remember Randy Price taking me through the Dallas Seminary bookstore the year before I started Dallas. He would just walk down and say, “You need this book. You need this book. You need this book.” And I’m walking with this huge load of books. Little did I know he was creating a bibliophile and an addict at the time.
This was one of those first books I bought and started to read, Olmsted’s, History of Assyria. It is a classic work on the history of Assyria. And he notes that archaeologists have discovered the ancient moat around Nineveh. It was filled with fragments of stone and mud bricks from the walls heaped up where they fell when the walls collapsed.
3. The third prediction in Nahum is in Nahum 3:13 where Nahum predicted that the gates would be destroyed.
Olmsted again reports that, “The main attack was directed from the northwest and the brunt fell upon the Hatamti gate at this corner … Within the gate are traces of the counter-wall raised by the inhabitants in their last extremity.” In other words, as that that gate collapsed, they tried to throw up a second wall of defense, and that too was breached.
Nahum 3:13 says, “Surely, your people in your midst are women! The gates of your land are wide open for your enemies; Fire shall devour the bars of your gates.” Now that’s the next point.
4. Nahum predicted that it would be destroyed by fire.
5. He predicted that it would be destroyed by flood.
By both. Usually, if you’re going to predict something, you would say, “Well, it’s going to be destroyed by fire.” So both are included. That’s exactly what happened.
In Nahum 1:10, Nahum 2:13, and Nahum 3:15, there is reference to fire, that Nineveh would be “devoured like stubble fully dried” [like tinder].
In Nahum 2:13 God says, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions.” Like the eagle is a symbol of America, the lion was a symbol of Assyria. I have seen the Assyrian lions from the lion gates there in the British Museum in London.
Nahum 3:15, “There the fire will devour you, the sword will cut you off.” So, Nahum predicted that the city would be destroyed by fire, and this is exactly what took place. Archaeological excavations have revealed charred wood charcoal, and ashes. According to R. Campbell Thompson and R.W. Hutchinson in their work, A Century of Exploration at Nineveh, which was published in 1929, they said, “There was no question about the clear traces of the burning of the temple (as also in the palace of Sennacherib), for a layer of ash about two inches thick lay clearly defined in places on the southeast side about the level of the Sargon pavement.” Nahum predicted it would be burned by fire; it was burned by fire.
Also, it was flooded. There was a river that ran through Nineveh, and they broke the dam and it flooded the city. Nahum 1:8, “But with an overflowing flood.” Nahum 2:6, “The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved.” Mud bricks don’t do well in water. Nahum 2:8, “Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water.” So, all of these statements predicted a destruction by fire, a destruction by flood, and all of this was specifically fulfilled.
What I’ve shown here is that the Bible claims that to validate a prophet it has to come true 100%. That there would be false prophets, but they would be punished by death. And they may even make some statements or claim some things that might come true. The way you would tell if it was a prophet from God is that their message was totally consistent.
We looked at three examples. The example of the young man, the young prophet from Judah, who announced judgment on King Jeroboam I of the Northern Kingdom. He said that the altar in front of him would be split—and it immediately split—and that eventually a king named Josiah would burn bones on that altar. That happened 300 years later by King Josiah.
The second example we looked at was the prophecy against Tyre. The prophecy was that Tyre, the old city, would be completely destroyed and scraped down to the bedrock. And that is what happened when Alexander the Great came along in 332 BC and built a causeway out to the island.
Then, the third example we looked at was the prophecy from Nahum about the destruction of Nineveh, that it would be destroyed by fire and by water. A lot of other specific details were given.
So the Bible validates itself. God uses signs and evidences to show that His Word is true. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to have our faith strengthened and encouraged by Your Word. Understanding that You have declared the end from the beginning, nothing is hidden from You, and that You will work out Your purposes in human history.
Father, we pray that we might be able to internalize this information, make it part of our package of knowledge that we can use at necessary times as we are witnessing and talking to people about the Lord. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”