The Ancient Prophets

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"Come let us reason together"
Search me God, and know my every thought, see if there is some wicked way in me and set me free.

This page deals exclusively with the critic's charges that the Bible prophets were false prophets according to the Bible guidelines, because their prophecies have failed.

False Prophets
Besides the duty of a prophet to lead people back to the teachings of God (Deuteronomy 13: 1-4), the Bible is very clear that if a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord then whatever he or she says must come true. Deuteronomy says.
When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 22)

Based on this test, critics have stated two basic objections to Bible prophecy.

  1. If they can find one single prophecy that was not fulfilled, then the prophet and all his statements were not inspired by God.
  2. In addition, they have pointed out contradictions between the statements of prophets as proof that one or both were not speaking for God.

Understanding Prophecy
There are several things that one needs to understand before interpreting any Bible prophecy. First, Bible prophets were not like modern prophets. They were concerned with the global plan of God. They called the people back to the covenant. They gave warnings of the blessings and the curses in the terms of the covenant and finally, foretelling the future in terms of the covenant language.
So unlike modern prophets who tend to be absorbed with trivial things and who make vague statements about trivial matters. Many prophecies are usually stated in terms of what would happen if the people behaved in certain ways.
So here is a list of concepts to remember as you approach any Bible prophecy.

Covenant Prophecy
So what is a covenant prophecy? They are prophecies restricted by a covenant. In the case of the covenant with Israel, it is any prophecy that relates to the reconciliation of God with His people. Prophecies that promise to permanently destroy evil and save the good.

Covenants. These are promises and agreements made by God. They will last until their duration is over or until either party breaks the covenant, or a condition exists that allows the covenant to be broken.
Here are some covenants.
Text Covenant With Sign Duration and Terms
Genesis 8: 22 Day and night, summer and winter, cold and heat, seed time and harvest Old earth While the earth remains
Genesis 9: 15-17 Earth Rainbow All flesh will never be destroyed by water again
Genesis 12: 7;
1 Chronicles 16: 15-17
Israel Sabbath The land of Canaan would be their inheritance
1 Corinthians 11: 25;
Ezekiel 11: 19-20;
Israel (world) Sabbath The land of Canaan would be our inheritance. He would write the law in our hearts and save us from the slavery of sin. Give us rest from sin
Ezekiel 37: 26-28 Covenant of peace with Israel (world) Sanctuary God will live with us

The Terms of the Covenant with Israel. Leviticus 26 records blessings and curses if people kept the covenant. Most of what happened to Israel is due to the covenant curses and the fact that God could no longer do what he has promised in the blessings. The rules were, it was either blessings or curses. And God would not permit the cycle of rebellion and repentance to continue indefinitely. You had five chances. God would decide when each chance would end. In all cases, it took hundreds of years of disobedience and warning before God would finally act.
# Rebellion God's Actions Curse
1 Disobedient Against us, does not support us No peace, only terror and disease
2 Disobedient Punished seven times Drought and famine
3 Disobedient and hostile Punished seven times Population reduced
4 Disobedient and hostile Punished seven times with hostility War, disease and captured by enemies
5 Disobedient and hostile Punished seven times with wrath and hostility Destruction of city and sanctuary, exiled, land would rest. Cannibalism, hated by God and prayers not heard.

This web site has many discussions about the blessings and curses and how they were applied in prophecy. Therefore I will refer you to those pages.

Conditional Prophecy
A conditional prophecy is one that will be carried out unless the message or warning is not obeyed.

Jonah. Jonah was a prophet who had a problem with God's mercy. But his story gives us an insight into what was happening in the community of prophets.

Jonah did not want to prophesy because he knew that he would look like a fool after he was done. God would most likely not make the prediction come through. Jonah's actions and complaints about God shows that despite modern criticism of God as a tyrant - that he was actually consistently merciful. He was so merciful to the wicked that we find his people and prophets complaining about the following.

One must therefore ask if God is speaking lies. No. But He wanted the nation to stop their disobedience. The warning given by the prophet clearly states that God would show mercy if they were repentant. Unfortunately, people focused on the spectacular events that might happen, instead of the catasprophe that they avoided through the mercy of God.

Clearly, the role of many of the prophets were to lead the nations back to repentance. Therefore, the warnings were given but many of these prophecies were conditional. If the people repented, God would cancel his vengeance. He would rather have mercy than justice as he told Jonah.

Josiah. This shows the power of the righteous. When Josiah realized how much the people had disobeyed and what they deserved according to the terms of the covenant, he was distressed. He consulted a prophet who said that God would punish Israel. Why? The covenant terms stated that God now had the right to do this. But Josiah repented on behalf of his people. He then executed a plan to remove all the false gods and to restore a correct worship in Israel. God rewarded him by giving the land peace during his reign. But they were punished after the death of the king.

The Meaning of Forever
Forever can mean until your specified time is over. This is the problem with the different views on the doctrine of death and an eternally burning hell. In Jude 1: 7, the bible states that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered eternal fire even after the fires had gone out. Jude is writing hundred of years after the event. Is he blind or stupid? Or is our understanding of what is eternal and what is forever or when is forever wrong?

For example, in the case of an eternally burning hell, is it the punishment that will last forever (you will always be dead) or is it the punishing that will be forever (you will always be burning)?

Historical Records
Different groups have different sources of authority. Just like the argument about creation versus evolution, it will never be won because "A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still".

Bible. This is the largest body of historical records that have been faithfully recorded and handed down from generation to generation. Yet the secular world refuses to give it any credence. They would rather believe in the sparse writings of any rock that they find, declaring it to be more authentic than the records of the Hebrews. In looking at the comments of archaeologists, you realize that they refuse to acknowledge that any of the records may be accurate even when they are confronted with other archaeological evidence. The events surrounding the book of Daniel and the discovery of the Nabonidus Chronicle is such an example.

Archaeological Documents

Greek and Roman Historians. Besides archaeological findings, scholars rely on the works of several ancient historians. Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon are a few who wrote about events in those times. However, some were not above resorting to revisionist history or writing what the rulers wanted to hear. Sometimes, an historian (such as Procopius) would write under another name or wait until the rulers were dead before he would write the truth as he saw it. Roman Historians loved to paint the glories of the empire. In fact, their earlier records were written in the form of great heroic stories. It was as if Hollywood writes history for entertainment.
Despite the evidence of a revision perspective, many would rather believe them than acknowledge the Hebrew history.

See a list of some ancient historians here.


Dating Historical Events
Generally, dating the beginning and completion of historical events can be a problem. The rise and fall of Rome is a good example. It's rise can be counted from the time they had absolute power over sovereign nations or from the time they overthrew the leaders and installed their own. Such events are usually a process. Often, the best dates are those in which a very important event takes place. For example, the date of the fall of the Catholic church had been taken as 1798 when the pope was taken prisoner. This was a bold, unprecedented and symbolic event. But its fall started many years before.

If definite historical dates can be so fluid, then prophetic dates might be even more nebulous because their starting points might date from these historical events.
Fortunately, we can go by general rules that we observe with past prophecies. God considers some events cruical:

The Major Prophets
We will now look at the charges against the major prophets. Most other criticisms are about the failed predictions of Babylon, so we will deal with those as a group.

These were dealt with in detail in a separate page, so I will refer you to those arguments.

  1. Some of his disciples will not die until they see the kingdom of God come in power.
  2. After giving a prophecy of the future, Jesus said that this generation will not die until all these things are fulfilled.

Modern scholars preferred to believe the historical accounts about Babylon, declaring Daniel to be false because he mentions things that contradicted the Greek historians - even though these records were written hundreds of years later.

Because the predictions about the succession of named empires were so accurate, they chose to believe that the book must have been written after the Greek empire took over. Any other position might require one to entertain the possibility that a God who can predict the future exists.
Yet, after the discovery of the Nabonidus Chronicle, they are at a loss to explain how Daniel knew about the structure of the Babylonian empire, (specifically about the record of King Beltshazzar in Daniel 5) when all records were lost and the ancient historians were totally inaccurate.
The complete arguments are discussed here.

Now the fact that the Greek and Roman Historians were inaccurate proves that the ancient powers resorted to writing history according to what the conquerors wanted.

However, no one can accuse the Jews of sugar coating their history. In fact, some of the hatred of modern people towards God is because of the apparent cruelty recorded. The prophets constantly lamented about the unfaithfulness and rebelliousness of the people.


Israel did not get a new heart
Prophecy Deuteronomy 30: 1-10 And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, with all your heart and with all your soul; then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes, and he will gather you again from all peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you...and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live...And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord, and keep all his commandments...The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body ... for the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 30: 7 And the Lord your God will put all these curses upon your foes and enemies who persecuted you.
Critics have a problem with the prophecy of Deuteronomy 30: 1-10 and Jeremiah 50: 1-5. Their interpretation is that Moses prophecied that Israel will go into exile, but that while in this exile, if she repents, God will restore her to her land. He could make them obedient and make them prosper. The prophecy failed because the following did not happen:
  • The Jews were still rebellious after their return from babylonian exile. Ezra 9: 1-2 and Nehemiah 10: 28-31 confirm that the people were still rebellious.
  • God did not write the law in their hearts
  • God did not make them prosper, instead they suffered famine.

Explanation. Deuteronomy 10: 1 holds the key to why God could not bless them - if she repents. He was quoting from the covenant blessings and curses in Leviticus 26. They still violated the terms of the covenant and refused to voluntarily obey God. Therefore, the terms of the curses must be applied.
First, God will not force anyone to have their hearts circumcised by Him. The prophecy did not say that he would change their hearts just because they were restored to their land. He would change them when they were willingly obedient.

After they were restored to their land and they immediately went back to rebellion as Ezra and Nehemiah wrote. Therefore the curses applied. God restored them because the time of their captivity was over, not because they were truly repentant. And, because they were still rebellious he could not consistently apply the blessings.
The covenant does not state that God would change you against your will. It states that he would change you when you willingly obey the covenant.
The events of the exodus even point out that Israel must turn to God as a nation before he would act. One rebellious person could cause the whole nation to suffer. Thankfully, the actions of one righteous Jew (Jesus Christ) allowed God to bless all those whom He calls His friends.

Fulfillment. The prophecy will be fulfilled at the Second Coming. There was only one righteous man who was able to obey the terms of the covenant on His own. That was Jesus Christ.

Critics Objection 2. Their enemies did not suffer the curses.
At the third coming all the wicked will suffer the final curses. Until then God is merciful.

The Prophecies about Babylon
Revelation seems to suggest that the prophecies of the fall of Babylon have a global application. Years after the fall of ancient Babylon, along comes John who prophecies that Babylon is fallen. He uses all the language of Isaiah and Jeremiah and specifically applies them to events in the future. John is writing centuries after ancient Babylon fell, therefore there was no reason to repeat them if they were over.

But does the ancient prophecies point only to a local fulfillment. And how much of the prophecy was to be completed in their time? Can we recognize the difference?

History: Ancient Babylon Falls
Date Event
722 Assyria takes Israel
609 Fall of Josiah in the battle of Meggido. Judah loses its independence and is under the protection of Babylon.
605 Battle of Carchemish - Egypt and Babylon. The whole region came under Babylonian rule
597 The Exile began (it is traditionally dated as 586). Only the ruling class are exiled.
586 Zedekiah revolts, more people are taken into exile, the country is destroyed after a 18 month siege
539 Medo-Persia invades Babylon
537 Jewish exiles return
538/7 First decree by Cyrus to restore and build Jerusalem (Ezra 1: 1-4)
519 Second decree by Darius to restore and build Jerusalem (Ezra 6: 7-12)
522-521 Babylon revolts
520-515 Second temple rebuilt
482 Babylon revolts. They were heavily taxed, large parts of the wall are torn down and destroyed statues of the god Marduk.
457 Third decree by Artaxerxes to restore and build Jerusalem (Ezra 7: 11-12)
450 Babylon struggles under heavy taxes and high inflation
450-400 BC Reformation by Nehemiah and Ezra
363 A.D. Emperor Julian tore down the walls of Babylon
1980's Saddam Hussein tries to rebuild Babylon. He builds the Ishtar gate
1991 United States invades Iraq
2003 United States invades Iraq
Babylon was built on the Euphrates river. The river was so deep and wide that it was sometimes called a sea. The city was surrounded by walls that were wide enough for chariots to travel on. They were estimated to be to be 11 miles long, 65 feet high and 85 feet thick. The entrance from the river was blocked by huge gates. The excellent irrigation system used to create the famous hanging gardens and the river running through the center of the city made their defences seem invincible.

The river is dried up. So when the Persians besieged the city the Babylonians were not worried. The historians Xenophon and Herodotus write that Cyrus' army under the command of Gobyras dug a canal that they could connect to the River Euphrates and divert the flow of the river around the city. When the river had been lowered, Medo-Persian troops could enter the city walking along the bottom of the riverbed underneath the walls.

Conquered in one night. The Nabonidus Chronicle records that in the first month of 539 BC, the New Year's Festival was celebrated with much wine for the troops. The night that Babylon fell, there was a party. These gates were overcome because they were left open that night by the drunken guards. Cyrus was able to take the city without fighting.

A gradual fall. After Babylon was conquered in 539 B.C., there were two revolts in 522 and 521 B.C. causing the Persians to make Babylon a permanent possession instead of a conquered kingdom.

Prophecy: Ancient Babylon Falls
The gods of Babylon
Name Description
Tiamat sky, earth and river Euphrates
Marduk God of all creation who replaced Anu
Ishtar Fertility and war
Sin moon
Bel Marduk
Nebu (Nabu) wisdom and writing
Dagon Grain and fertility god
Tammuz fall season
Sammas sun
Dumash underworld
Mama Mother goddess
Apsu Underground water
These are the major events in the destruction of Babylon.
The Medes and Persians. Isaiah 13: 17, 19 - I am going to stir up the Medes against them ... and Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
See also Isaiah 21: 1-2 (Elam is Persia)

Cyrus frees the Jews. 2 Chronicles 36: 22-23, RSV, "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord God be with him. Let him go up."
Isaiah 44: 28. [I am the Lord] who says of Cyrus, "He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please"; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."

The Ruin of Babylon

The Future of Babylon

Efforts to restore Babylon - There were at least two attempts made to revive the city:

  1. Alexander the Great. He tried to rebuild the city until his early death. Afterwards, the four generals who eventually succeeded him, abandoned the project and built Seleucia instead.
  2. Saddam Hussein. He is trying to rebuild ancient Babylon. He ran out of money because of the Persian Gulf war. Subsequent threats by the United States to go to war with Iraq might result in the allies bombing the city - it might be a center for hiding weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons. Saddam might be banking on its status as an ancient site of antiquities to shield it from inspection and harm. I urge any future enemies to bomb the living day lights out of it!

Prophecy: Modern Babylon Falls
Isaiah 14 places the fall of Babylon as a global event called the "day of the Lord" in verses 1-16. Verse 11 - "I will punish the world for its evil".

Isaiah 24: 4-6 claims that the whole earth violated the everlasting covenant so the entire earth will be cursed. But in verse 17-22, it seems to concentrate on the local Babylon.

Isaiah 14: 26 - this is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all nations". Isaiah 14: 1-22 clearly puts the fall of Babylon at the time after the Second coming. There is no way this can be read as pointing to ancient Babylon. The language talks about realities that deal with the devil and the resurrection of the wicked.

Isaiah 13 - Verse 11 - He will punish the world for its evil.

Babylon: The New World Order and the One world Government
Looking into the future, God took an image of an empire from the past and used it to represent the final world power that would control the world just before the Second Coming. God chose Babylon. Not Greece or Rome or Persia. What was the difference? Although the other governments may have been more immoral, they did not try to force Israel to worship their gods under penalty of death. They primarily affected the last six commandments - not the first four.

  1. Babylon was never divided. It had only one ruler.
  2. Babylon made religious laws which forced the people to change their worship of God.
  3. Rich
  4. Captured and took God's people. The other powers simply occupied the country.
  5. The rescue of God's people will be similar to the rescue of Israel by Cyrus.


Babylon falls in one day
Prophecy Isaiah 47: 1-11 "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans! ... I will take vengeance, and I will spare no man. Our Redeemer -the Lord of Hosts is his name-...you shall no more be called mistress of kingdoms...These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure...disaster shall fall upon you...and ruin shall come on you suddenly..."
Isaiah appears to be saying that in one Day - in a moment- disaster will strike the city, she shall be in ruin. This prophecy was unfulfilled. Babylon did not experience "disaster," in the form of slain residents, breached walls, broken-in gates, houses on fire by looting enemy warriors. There was no ruin of any kind under Cyrus, who had ordered his soldiers not to loot the city, but to show respect and forbearance. As for all this ruin occurring in one day, it did not happen

Explanation. Although the prophecy said disaster will come in one day it did not specify what would occur. But when the critics state that there was not ruin in the "form of slain residents, breached walls, broken-in gates, houses on fire by looting enemy warriors." they were implying that Isaiah 47 mentioned this list of events. It did not. This list is mentioned in Jeremiah 51: 54-58.

The Disaster. But Daniel 5: 30 states that the king was killed and that the fall happened in one night. Beltshazzar did not expect it. In fact he was having a party when the handwriting on the wall appeared and God stated that the kingdom would be taken by the Medes and Persians that same night.
So, disaster did strike in one night. Their secure city was invaded when the invading army went under the gates of the city. After that night, Babylon was no longer the world empire. They were now ruled by the Medes and Persians. The list of disasters in Jeremiah 51 occurred during its gradual fall and they also point to the efforts of Cyrus to penetrate the city on that night. He conquered Babylon by lowering the river, breaching the walls and entering the city through the gate that protected it at the river. Later on

In one day . Ancient Babylon fell in one night. But Modern Babylon will also fall in one prophetic day (Revelation 18: 8).
Symbolic prophecy is used in Revelation. Here, the fall of Babylon will occur in one day during the seven last plagues. Now, in Bible prophecy a day is equivalent to a year. So these plagues would occur in one year.

The Decline was too slow
Prophecy Isaiah 13: 1-22; 14: 22. Isaiah 13: 1, 4, 17, 19-20, 22; 14: 1, 2-3, 22 The Oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw ... Hark, a tumult on the mountains as of a great multitude ! Hark, an uproar of Kingdoms, of nations gathering together ! The Lord of Hosts is mustering a host for battle ... Behold I am stirring up the Medes against them ... and Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, shall 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 ... Its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged. The Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land ... they will take captive their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: 'How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! ... How you are fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the Dawn! How you are cut to the ground, you who made the nations low! ... I will rise up against them says the Lord of Hosts, and I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, offspring and posterity, says the Lord. And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, says the Lord of Hosts.
  • Isaiah's statement, "Its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged," suggests that he was not envisioning a slow economic decline of Babylon
  • Israel and Judah never took "captive" the Babylonians, even after their release from the Babylonian Captivity

The Days will not be prolonged. This is the critics own interpretation. The days until its initial fall would not be long. The Bible actually predicted that it would fall in one day. That is what happened on the night when the Persian army unexpectedly invaded the city while Babylon was having a party. At that time it would cease to be the world power but would be a conquered nation.

However, the total destruction that was predicted would occur over many years. Jeremiah 27: 6-7 says that "many nations and great kings" would subjugate Babylon. Therefore, at a minimum, we would expect the total destruction to occur after two or more conquering nations.
The Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans all contributed to the total collapse of the empire.

Rule over captors. This prophecy comes from Isaiah 14 verse 2. Chapter 14 clearly describes Satan and events during the millennium. So the prophecy is concerned with that period of time. Therefore, if verse 2 is connected to these times what could it mean? The wicked will eventually be destroyed and after the Second Coming we will be in heaven and all the wicked will be dead - so we could not be holding them as captives. After the resurrection, they face judgment and destruction.

This statement makes more sense when we understand what will happen during the millennium. We will act as judges over the angels and the wicked. We will review all the decisions of God. We will have power over the lives of the wicked at that time. Therefore, we will be ruling over them because we will be making decisions about their destiny. Jesus will rule with a rod of iron during these times. He will judge and destroy them.

The gods were not destroyed
Prophecy Isaiah 21: 2, 9 "Go up, O Elam, and lay siege O Media ... Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods he has shattered to the ground."
Isaiah 46: 1-2 Bel is bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and cattle.
Jeremiah 50: 2 ... Babylon has been captured, Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered; her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered
Jeremiah 51: 44 I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will make what he has swallowed come out of his mouth; and the nations will no longer stream to him. Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down.
  • Babylon's gods were not destroyed and tumbled to the ground and shattered by battle-crazed enemy warriors.
  • The Medes did not destroy Babylon Isaiah (13: 17-22). Babylon peacefully surrendered in 539 BCE to Cyrus the Persian (not to a Median led coalition, Cyrus having defeated and absorbed the Median empire ca. 560 BCE).

Gods destroyed. Their Gods were destroyed after they revolted in 482 B.C. The critics would like all these to happen in one day, but the prophecy does not restrict this event to one day. It predicted that the fall would be caused by many nations and kings. Therefore, if you looked at the ancient ruins with the images and carvings of their gods they would be among the "beasts of the field", shattered and destroyed. In modern times most of the world still worships YHWH but Bel and Marduk and all the other Babylonian gods are forgotten. They have been defeated.

Medes. Although the Persians conquered the Medes, they made them partners in their conquest. After Babylon was conquered - Darius, a Median King ruled.

The Temple was rebuilt too slowly
Prophecy Isaiah 44: 28 It is I who said of Cyrus, He is My shepherd! and he will perform My desire. And He declares of Jerusalem, She shall be built. And of the temple, Your foundation will be laid.
Predictions of a soon to be rebuilt Temple and City would be delayed; some 21 years after the return, the Persians permitted the Temple to be completed, and some 90 years after the return, Jerusalem was restored with walls by Nehemiah A slow rebuilding does not fulfill the prophecy.

Explanation. That is the opinion of the critic. There was no specific time mentioned. A slow rebuilding does not contradict the prophecy. And this prophecy only says that the foundation will be laid.

The fact is that the temple and the walls were rebuilt. Also, the progress was delayed because the people were more interested in building nice homes for themselves than finishing the temple.


Babylon is being rebuilt
Prophecy Jeremiah 51: 62, 64 O Lord, you have said concerning this place, that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man or beast, and it shall be desolate forever. When you finish reading this book, bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, thus more shall Babylon sink, to rise no more ..."
This did not happen. Even now, Saddam Hussein is trying to rebuild the city and they can point to at least one Arab who has placed his tent there.

Explanation. The focus of the prophecy is that Babylon will not rise again to be a thriving civilization. Logically, one would expect that people would pass through it - if only to verify that it is not used as a permanent housing for people.
In ancient times, an Arab who pitched a tent would be setting up a permanent living space. With modern housing this statement no longer indicates permanent structures.
Fulfillment. The Persian Gulf war intervened to stop the rebuilding efforts and the long sanctions by the United Nations further helped to stop the project. I suspect that future hostilities with the United States or earthquakes in the region might destroy any progress that was made.

Europe. Some insight can be gained by looking at the prophecy about the ten divisions of Rome. Daniel 2: 41-43 states that the divisions of Rome will never unite again as one political kingdom that resembled the old Roman empire. It specifically mentions attempts to unite by marriage as failing.
Many different kinds of attempts have been made to unite Europe - marriage, war and economics. It demonstrates that attempts to break a prophecy will fail even if they seem destined to succeed.

Modern Babylon. It is ironic that the country that is identified as part of the new Babylon, is preventing the old Babylon from being constructed. The fall of modern Babylon is discussed here.

The exile did not last 70 years
Seventy Year Domination
609Battle of Megiddo
605Battle of Carchemish
597Ruling class exiled
586Temple Destroyed
539Conquered by Persia
535Decree of Cyrus
516New temple dedicated
Prophecy Jeremiah 25: 8-12 Because you have not obeyed my words ... this whole land shall be desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation.
The Exile began in 587 and ended in 538 BCE, it was 49 years duration, not 70 years.

Explanation. The prophecy was not only against Israel but against all nations in the region. They were to serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Look at the dates of critical events during that period. These dates are taken from the Jewish virtual library.

Fulfillment. Israel served the king of Babylon 70 years. From 609 B.C. when it lost the independence to the fall of Babylon in 539. But the historical dates show another interesting pattern. The land, the people an the temple were all under subjugation for seventy years. Verse 12 seems to suggest that the end of the seventy years should be taken at the fall of Babylon even though the exiles would be officially released one to two years later. This fact suggests that the seventy years is connected to the time of their domination by Babylon not just to their physical exile.

Was Babylon covered by the sea or not?
Prophecy Jeremiah 51: 42-44 "The sea has come up on Babylon; she is covered with its tumultuous waves. Her cities have become a horror, a land of drought and a desert, a land in which no one dwells, and through which no son of man passes ... the wall of Babylon has fallen."
Jeremiah 51: 54 "Hark! A cry from Babylon! The noise of destruction from the land of the Chaldeans! For the Lord is laying Babylon waste, and stilling her mighty voice ... for a destroyer has come upon her, upon Babylon; her warriors are taken, their bows are broken in pieces; for the Lord is a God of recompense, he will surely requite ... Thus says the Lord of Hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground and her high gates burned with fire."
Jeremiah 51: 62-64 Oh Lord, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it neither man or beast, and it shall be desolate forever. When you finish reading this book, bind a stone to it, cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the evil I am bringing upon her."
Jeremiah contradicts himself. Was there a sea or not? How can Jeremiah claim that God has dried up the sea of Babylon and then claim the city is covered by the sea?

Jeremiah later claims that the broad wall of Babylon will be leveled and the city will be submerged beneath the waves of the Euphrates, never again to rise.
Explanation. In symbolic prophecy, the sea represents people and nations (Revelation 17: 15). Jeremiah was saying that Babylon was invaded by an army - ("she is covered with its tumultuous waves").
Then, Babylon would be uninhabited - without people, without the sea ("a land of drought and a desert").

Contradictions. Here is a list of other possible contradictions.

A Decendant of David on the Throne and Levitical Priests Forever
Prophecy Jeremiah 33: 17-18 (RSV) For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever.
David's descendants after the Exile (ca. 587-538 BCE) never were restored to the throne. In 70 CE the Temple was destroyed by the Romans and there were no more priests. The Romans in 70 and 135 CE broke God's covenant with the Levitical priests, He has not had a meal in nearly 2000 years
Explanation. To understand verses 17 - 18, you must read the entire chapter - especially verses 14-16 and 20.

Verses 14-16 places the fulfillment at a time in the future when a righteous branch shall come from David. Only in "those days" will this promise be true.
Verse 20 says that this covenant can be broken when the covenant with the day and night is broken.

The Priests of Levi. After the death of Christ the role of the priests of Levi ceased. A new and better priesthood was inaugurated according to the line of Melchizedek. Therefore the Levitical line lasted for the entire length of their time - until that time was over.

The Branch of David. Jeremiah 33: 14-16 - Look, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: "the Lord is our righteousness".

This is a Messianic prophecy. Jesus Christ was the only righteous branch of any family on earth. It will either be fulfilled at the first, second or third coming. This is a statement where the words reach across thousands of years.

A Son of David on the Throne. A descendant of David has been on the throne of David - His name is Jesus. At the Second Coming, everyone will be kings and priests to God for 1000 years. We will be like the priests of the tribe of Levi, but only Jesus will be a priest like Melchizedek.
We will offer burnt offerings, but only those offered at the feast of tabernacles (thank offerings, free will and peace offerings). It will also be only the grain offering portion - because no animals will be killed. The Lamb has already been killed forever.

The Covenant with the Day and Night. Jeremiah 33: 20 - If you can break my covenant with the night, so that day and night not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers."

The covenant with the day and night (Genesis 8: 22) will be broken in the new earth. According to Revelation 22: 5 and 21: 1, 22-25, "There will no longer be any night" in the New Jerusalem. See the discussion on "Day and night kind of time" It seems that when the new earth is created, God will change the covenant. Why? Certain roles will no longer be needed. Up to that time we still have duties to perform in terms of the judgment of the wicked during the 1000 years and for a short time after the third coming.


Israel still sinned after the Restoration
ProphecyEzekiel 44: 6-7,15,23 RSV O house of Israel, let there be an end to all your abominations, in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning it, when you offer me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant...the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me; and they shall attend on me to offer me the fat and the blood, says the Lord God."
Ezekiel has God declaring that his food, "the fat and the blood," shall be served him only by Levites who are descendants of Zadok.

Ezekiel apparently contradicts Jeremiah's prophecy, that in the restoration, God will write his Law upon his people's hearts such that no man need teach his fellow 'Know the Lord,' (Jeremiah 31: 31-34) for Ezekiel requires that the priests are to instruct the people in how to honor God. Ezekiel 44: 15, 23, RSV,

Explanation. Ezekiel does not contradict Jeremiah. If you read Jeremiah chapter 31, it does not say that these things will happen after the restoration. At no point in the entire chapter does He imply or state that the coming days are linked to the restoration. But He does link the coming days to the day when He will make the new covenant (Jeremiah 31: 31). Until then, the priests of Levi can offer sacrifices, and a rebellious people must be taught the law.

Verse 31 says the days are coming when He will make a new covenant. And these things will happen after the new covenant. It is this covenant which writes the law in our hearts.
He repeatedly says that "the days are coming". There will be a day when He will apply the blessings but until then we have a continuing cycle of disobedience and punishment under the old covenant.

When Christ was born, for the first time a human responded to the terms of the covenant. Christ had the law written on His heart - and He never sinned. He put this covenant into effect with His death. At His resurrection, He showed proof to the entire universe that He could resurrect the dead and bring the righteous home.

Fulfillment. The Bible shows that the only time the true nation of Israel will be faithful to the covenant is at the time of the Second Coming. At the time of the first coming, only one righteous man had the covenant written in His heart. At the Second Coming, the whole nation of the true Israel will have the law written on their hearts.


Zerubbabel will be King
Prophecy Haggai 2: 20-23 Speak to Zerubbabel, 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 Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, says the Lord, and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.
Haggai confidently prophesied that God was about to overthrow the kingdoms of the world and make Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, king. The event never happened.

Commentators on the Book of Haggai have noted that around 522-521 BCE that the Persian king Cambyses died of an accident and upon his death Darius claimed the throne. Rebellions broke out against Darius in various satrapies or provinces of the Persian Empire. Evidently Haggai thought this was God's doing, and that the Persian empire was about to expire, and that God would make Zerubbabel king, having removed the Persians who historically had refused to allow a Jewish kingdom to be restored. Zerubbabel is not heard of again after 522 BCE, he mysteriously disappears from Jewish history. Some scholars have suggested that he was recalled to Persia, to nip in the bud, any rebellion. Darius did permit the restoration of the Temple but not the restoration of the kingdom.

Explanation. There are two main objections to this line of reasoning:

  1. The text did not say that he would make Zerubbabel a king. He said that he would make him a seal (or sign) or a signet ring on the day God conquers the nations.
    What did Zerubbabel do that was to be a sign?

    The book of Haggai has only two chapters. It tells the events of a three month period during the second year of Darius the king (a Mede). In the first chapter, God was not pleased with the people. They built their own houses and left the temple in ruins. In verse 7 of the second chapter, He challenges them to look at the second temple which was inferior to the first. He would make this temple more glorious than the first after he shakes the nations.
    Verse 22 is a prophecy given 3 days later. It references verse 7. On the day He shakes the nations, the following will happen. Zerubbabel was chosen to be an ancestor of Christ. Christ came to the temple and filled it with glory. This is the fulfillment. Zerubbabel would be a sign of what God would do through Christ.
  2. The Jews were not expecting the Persian kingdom to be the last. The prophecies of Daniel predicted that at least two more kingdoms would come after the Persian kingdom.
  3. God has not overcome the nations. He will do this at the end of time. Just as Zerubbabel saw the downfall of Babylon, Christ would come at the downfall of Babylon the Great.

How does this help to answer the question about what Zerubbabel did as a sign? The only thing that he did was to take a remnant and rebuild the house of God.
When Christ first entered the temple the prophecy was fulfilled. Although the second temple was inferior in wealth, size and structure, it had the presence of God in Jesus Christ.

The wealth of the nations was brought to the baby when the wise men came with their gifts of gold and precious spices.

When He died, Jesus overthrew the nations and brought eternal peace between God and humans. He reclaimed the right to own the world from the spiritual forces.

At His second coming, Jesus will physically destroy the nations and take his people. This will bring physical peace to the new nation of Israel.
At the first coming Christ was the one faithful remnant of Israel. He rebuilt the temple of God (His body) in three days at the resurrection.
In the last days, just before the Second Coming, the dragon goes after the remnant of God. But they win in the end as they leave a corrupt sanctuary and an unclean people to join in the true worship of God. This future remnant rebuilt the house of God and a knowledge of the temple and sanctuary services. They also point the world to the seal or the sign of God - the Sabbath.
Therefore, in the last days, the remnant church will fulfill the sign of Zerubbabel.

Prophet Text Prophecy Critics Objection Fulfillment
Moses Deuteronomy
30: 1-10
God would permanently change their hearts People still sinned Conditional prophecy. They did not keep the covenant. Therefore they received the curses - not the blessings of a new heart.
Isaiah 13: 17-22 Medes will destroy Babylon. Only the Persians destroyed Babylon The Medes and Persians worked together to conquer the world. The Persians were the most dominant.
47:1-11 Babylon destroyed in one day The city was taken without resistance and was not destroyed The total destruction of Babylon would occur at the hands of many nations but its initial fall would occur in one night.
44: 28 Rebuilt Temple and city delayed 90 years Took too long The prophecy did not mention a time limit and only promised that the foundation of the temple would be laid.
Jeremiah 33: 17-18 David would have a descendant on the throne This has been no priests since 70 A.D. and no descendants of David on the throne since 53 B.C. Jesus Christ as the descendant of David is the true king who is also a priest. The tribe of Levi will no longer have
51: 11 Day of revenge by the Medes destroying Babylon See Isaiah 13: 7-22
51: 42-44 Sea or no sea Contradiction The prophecy uses symbolic language. "Sea" represents people. So Babylon would be flooded by the sea (army) and then it would be a desert (have no people).
Ezekiel 44: 6-7 The people would not need priests because God will write the laws in their hearts People are still sinning This will occur after the Second Coming.
Haggai 2: 20-23 Zerubbabel would be King This never happened This was never predicted. The prophecy only states that God would make Zerubbabel as a signet ring.

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. (Romans 8:28) Time: 100 minutes
Print: 18 pages
Copyright     Updated : November 20, 2002
Author: Laverna Patterson. Editor: Patterson (March 2008)
Belshazzar. From the research of Nadine Gordimer URL: "http://www.duke.edu/~jfk2/truth.html"