By Harry R. Osborne
In the previous article, we noted that God spoke though the prophet Isaiah of his power to show man about events to come. God used this power as a proof of his existence and his guidance of Bible writers. The prophecies are of such a detailed nature and so contrary to the probability of fulfillment in many cases that they cannot be explained as merely an example of human insight. Today, we will continue with further instances of fulfilled prophecies regarding the nations.
The case of Tyre is a good example. In Ezekiel 26, several prophecies are made regarding this ancient city. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar would defeat the city, but also said that many nations would come against it (vv. 3, 8). The degree of its destruction is made clear when it is said that the city would be made like “a bare rock,” a place for fishermen to spread their nets, and its stones and timbers would be thrown into the water. This was said between 592 and 570 B.C.
When Nebuchadnezzar defeated the city of Tyre in 573 B.C., he killed a number of the inhabitants, but found that the majority of the people had fled on ship to an island just off the coast. For more than 200 years, the inhabitants of Tyre returned to the site of the mainland city in an effort to restore it and make it their habitation. Each time an enemy would come against them and they would be forced to re-turn to the safety of their island city.
In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great demanded the citizens of Tyre to submit to him, but they refused. When the people of Tyre fled to the island fortress as they had done to escape other enemies, Alexander determined to overthrow the is-land city as well. To accomplish that end, he made a causeway from the mainland to the island city. The material for that causeway came in part from throwing the materials which made up the mainland city into the sea, leaving it bare.
Historical accounts of Alexander’s conquest of Tyre tell us that his seven month Beige of the city ended when his forces succeeded in reaching the island fortress and batter-ing its walls down. Over 8,000 of the inhabitants of Tyre were killed by Alexander’s armies and some 30,000 of the citizens of that city were sold into slavery. Though a few later attempts were made to restore the city, the site was finally abandoned and left desolate.
Today, the modern city of Tyre is built down the coast from the ancient site. Upon the original site, no city exists despite the fact that ample water is present from a spring which could supply the needs of a large modern city. In-stead, that ancient site is a place of bare rock where fishermen daily spread their nets for mending. Notice the words of the prophecy stated over 2500 years ago and its stunning fulfillment even to this day:
And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Lord God (Ezek. 26:14).
Though it may have been relatively safe to predict that Nebuchadnezzar would defeat Tyre, how could the prophet have foreseen in such detail the things that would happen hundreds of years in the future? How could the prophet have known that his predictions would still be a correct representation of the situation over 2500 years later? What are the odds of such?
Peter Stoner in Science Speaks estimated those odds at one in 75,000,000 by verified calculations. When Ezekiel spoke, Tyre was a major center for merchandising due to her chief place among seafarers in ancient times. When he spoke of the defeat of Sidon in Ezekiel 28, he did not say Sidon would never be built again. How could the prophet have foreseen by mere human ability that the lesser city would not be totally destroyed in defeat, yet correctly predict that the greater city would never be rebuilt? Human wisdom would reverse the two. The facts suggest the great probability that something beyond mere chance is needed to explain these predictions. If God was behind such as the prophets claimed, a rational answer is seen. When one admits that God so inspired the writers of the Bible, one must see that the message of that Bible in all things must be the instruction of an omnipotent and omniscient God, not the words of mere men.
The prophecies made by Bible writers regarding ancient Nineveh and Babylon are amazing in large part due to the time in which those prophecies were made. The destruction of each city was predicted, not after the powers had begun to fall apart, but at the height of power. The specific details given in the prophecies make a powerful case for their ultimate author being more than a mere man with human insight.
Less than 50 years before the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC, the Bible prophet Nahum predicted its downfall. At that time, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian kingdom, the dominant power. Nineveh was more heavily fortified than any ancient city to that point in history. It had walls 100 feet tall and 50 feet thick. Three chariots could ride abreast on the walls. Its towers were 200 feet tall. A moat 150 feet wide circled the seven miles around the city.
Though it seemed an impregnable fortress, Nahum said that the city would be totally destroyed and never rebuilt (3:19). The prophet added that it would be taken during a state of drunkenness (1:10), that the city would be flooded (1:8; 2:6) and that it would be burned (3:13). All of these predictions were fulfilled in the conquest.
The seemingly impenetrable walls were weakened by a flood in the rainy season causing a collapse of one section during 612 BC. The Assyrians, however, were so confident in their ability to defeat any attackers that they became lax. During a siege of the city that had only been in progress for three months, the Assyrians had a drunken feast. The con-federated armies of the Chaldeans and Medes under Arbaces found out about the feast and attacked through the breach in the wall. During the conquest of the city, Nineveh was devastated by fire. Such a mighty fortress falling after a siege of only three months was unparalleled. For instance, Ashdod was a far smaller and less fortified city. But it took Psammetichus 29 years of siege to take that city.
How could Nahum know that such a strong city would fall with relative ease in the height of its power? How could he know it would happen due to a flood and the drunkenness of its defenders? How could he correctly predict that such a fortress would never be rebuilt?
Much the same thing is seen in the prophecies regarding Babylon. Isaiah and Jeremiah both have much to say about the destruction of Babylon. Isaiah wrote about 100 years before Babylon became the dominant power. Jeremiah wrote during the peak of Babylon’s reign as the leading power. Both predict with amazing accuracy the fate of this powerful city. Isaiah foretold the fact that it would come to belike Sodom and Gomorrah (13:19). He said it would never again be inhabited, nor would the Arab even pitch his tent or feed his sheep there (13:20). Instead, it was predicted to be a place for desert creatures to dwell (13:21) and a place covered with swamps of water (14:23). Jeremiah said that its stones would not be removed for other building projects (51:26), but that it would be as “heaps” (51:37).
These prophecies were made even though Babylon was fortified beyond Nineveh. Babylon’s walls enclosed a 196 square mile city including vast acreage for food supplies. Each side was 14 miles long. The outer walls were 311 feet high with 250 watchtowers 100 feet above the outer walls. The walls were 87 feet thick wide enough for eight chariots to ride abreast on top. It had 100 gates of solid brass. Such massive fortifications, however, did not help Babylon when the Medo-Persian invaders diverted the river flowing through its walls and conquered the city while the Babylonians were involved in a drunken feast to one of their gods as the book of Daniel records.
So complete was the devastation of Babylon that it was left in ruins and eventually became uninhabited. Through the years, one part of the ancient city became a harbor for desert animals while another part became a swamp area due to the effects of the continually shifting river. Though many building projects took place around Babylon, its materials were not used to build any of them. The old city now lies under tons of silt about 54 miles outside of modern Baghdad.
The prophecies of the Bible regarding these cities came true with 100% accuracy despite the fact that many of the prophecies were totally contrary to what a rational person would have predicted at the time. The accuracy of the prophets cannot be explained by human insight or luck. The odds of the predictions about Babylon alone coming true by chance have been calculated by Stoner as one in 5,000,000,000! Think about the odds of all Bible prophecies concerning all ancient events coming true without fail. Reason and probability suggest that God must be behind the Bible.
(For further documentation see Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell)
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 23, p. 8-9
December 7, 1995