"Failed" Biblical Prophecies


Do we have any answer, catch-all or case-by-case, to answer claims that certain Biblical prophecies have failed to come true - like these? (Warning: Whomever wrote this article was rather much a smart-aleck about it.)

Tyre is one I’ve got covered. Any answers to the others?


The problem with "literal" interpretation of prophecy is just that.

eg Isaiah The wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall rest together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

This prophecy for instance is used by JWs to have a peaceful time on the earth. However this is prophecy we are talking about not prose.

The wolf is unclean the lamb is clean, the leopard is unclean the kid is clean the lion if unclean the calf is clean. So when was this prophecy fulfilled?

Acts 10. It is a prophecy about the joining together of Jew (clean) and Gentile (unclean) we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Many of the prophecies concerning the surrounding nations of Israel were fulfilled when the gospel message spread and took those nations over. So the prophecies are not "failed" they are just misunderstood.


Re: the Tyre prophesy, if you read all of chapter 26 the destruction of the entire city wasn’t predicted but only the destruction of the mainland – see especially verses 6 and 8. This happened. Here are some links that others have found helpful in demonstrating that this is historically accurate: [list]
*]apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790 [/list]So that should answer that criticism.

Re: the Egypt prophesy, the desolation and conquering of Egypt did happen in accordance with the prophesy, but the atheist misinterprets some of that and that misinterpretation results in confusion. First, part of the atheist’s confusion is that he thinks that Nebuchadnezzar was prophesied to do all the things in the prophesy. That’s not true. Civil war, emigration, and changing social conditions all played their part. The text doesn’t deny any of that. Second, the portion of Egypt that it decrees desolation upon is the portion “from the tower of Syene unto the border of Ethiopia” – Eze. 29:10. I don’t know why the atheist failed to research this, but Christian commentators have done their research and shown from history and archeology that that isn’t the whole of Egypt. Look up verse 10 at this commentary, which says:
according to Herodotus (i), Syene was a city of Thebais, where he was told were two mountains, which gave rise to the Nile. Pliny (k) says it was six hundred twenty five miles from Alexandria; and it is by him, as well as Strabo (l), placed under the tropic of Cancer; who both say, in the summer solstice, at noon, no shadow is cast there; to which the poet Lucan (m) refers, It is now called Essuaen; which city, as Mr. Norden (n) says, who lately travelled in those parts, is situated on the eastern shore of the Nile; and he relates that there remain still some marks of the place where the ancient city stood; as to the rest, it is so covered with earth, that there is nothing but rubbish, from which, in some places, one would judge that there were formerly magnificent buildings here. The utter destruction of which, with the rest of Egypt prophesied of, appears to have been fulfilled. … Josephus (s) says the south border of Egypt is Syene, which separates it from Ethiopia; and that between Pelusium (the entrance of Egypt) and Syene are two hundred and fifty miles. It lay between Egypt and Ethiopia, so that it might seem doubtful to which it belonged. Nebuchadnezzar had the victory there, thus bringing the sword, and destroying the town in that area, which is why it is in ruins.

Second, the population of Egypt emigrated partly, not entirely, and this was due to several factors, including civil war. We are aware that Ezekiel 29:11 makes it sound like a complete depopulation; this isn’t the only place in the Bible where poetic exaggeration is used as an excuse for saying that the Bible is full of errors; that’s something apologists have dealt with for hundreds of years, and if you want to see some resources that explain why exaggeration occurs and how that isn’t the same thing as errors, I can refer you to that; but once you admit the principle that poetic exaggeration is not the same as error, the objection that Egypt was never wholly uninhabited falls apart. Apart from that, you’ll notice that the atheist doesn’t mention that the depopulation was supposed to last 40 years according to Eze. 29:11-14, after which it would go into captivity, and that was fulfilled: Cyrus king of Persia conquered Babylon 43 years after that prophesy and fulfilled it. So not only do the prophesies regarding Tyre and Egypt line up with history, they are both very good examples of Biblical prophesy coming true.

Cont’d next post.


Cont'd from last post.

Re: the drying up of the river Nile in Isaiah 19, the atheist mentions how no record of this is preserved, as if that is some great thing. The Nile isn't a magical river that is always full. During the dry season, it is greatly diminished. Archeology has discovered large jars for long-term storage of large amounts of water, presumably for the dry season, and these would be unnecessary if the drying up of the river was unthinkable. If God prepared some great drought, it could have dried up just as the passage said, and there is no reason why the atheist should be so surprised at this, even from a natural perspective.

Re: the language of Canaan being spoken in Egypt in Isaiah 19, that is symbolic for the language of worshiping God. There is much that is symbolic in Isaiah 19 and anyone can see that by reading it. This is fulfilled in the many Christians who worship there today.

The atheist notes several places where God said a battle would be won, or God would drive a people out, and it didn't happen. This is similar to the Jonah story, in which God promises destruction to the Ninevites, and when they repent, He cancels His threat. There's a similar thing going on in these passages, except instead of the bad guys repenting, it's the good guys who fail to do God's commands. When God says He will do something for you, if you fail to do your part, God won't do it. That's a simple Biblical principle that God had told the Israelites many times, and so they learned by experience that if they didn't follow His commands He wouldn't fulfill His promises. The Israelites were the ones who were responsible for the enemies not being driven out, and not all of the land being given over to them, etc. That means it was an unfulfilled promise, but it doesn't mean it was an unfulfilled prophesy. You have to learn to make a distinction between the two.

Re: Israel living in peace, that is a messianic prophecy and isn't intended to reach fulfillment until the end of time.

Re: David's line lasting forever, that's a fulfilled one: the Davidic dynasty still has its living king, and He is Jesus. He still holds the throne, so the dynasty is still enduring.

Re: Cyrus conquering Babylon, that one happened, it is a pretty well-known historical event, even the atheist admits that it happened and merely says that the writer of Isaiah would have seen it coming.

Re: the messianic prophesies, whether these have been fulfilled or not has always been a point of dispute between Christians and non-Christians. There are lots of Christian answers to the objections surrounding those prophesies, and how not everything in them seems literally fulfilled during Jesus' life; check around for some of those answers and get back to me if you don't find any, but I think you will, they're pretty common in apologetics literature. That also goes with the prophesy about Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

It is interesting that there's almost only two points where atheists think their case is rock-solid, and those Tyre and Egypt. Christians seem to have well-known answers for everything else. That atheists should have only those two as the big buggaboos actually says a lot in favor of the Old Testament Prophets. They have prophetic passages from end-to-end, and atheists can only find two where the apologetics literature gets difficult? That is actually a big testament in its favor. And I find the Christian arguments re: Tyre and Egypt to be particularly strong anyway, so I'm happy to point out the winning nature of the Bible on those two points as well.

Anyway I hope that helps. God bless!


if you want to see some resources that explain why exaggeration occurs and how that isn’t the same thing as errors, I can refer you to that

Yes, please.

Re: David’s line lasting forever, that’s a fulfilled one: the Davidic dynasty still has its living king, and He is Jesus. He still holds the throne, so the dynasty is still enduring.

That’s not contested by the author. But there is a gap of some 500 years between Zedekiah and Yeshua where there was no king ruling Israel per se. Atheists are under the belief that Jeremias’s prophecies and Our Lord’s words to Solomon declare there will be a King ruling over Israel forever. They fortify their position by noting that Rehoboam was given Judah and Benjamin so that the line of David would always rule over someone.


[quote="TarkanAttila, post:5, topic:325802"]
Yes, please.

That's not contested by the author. But there is a gap of some 500 years between Zedekiah and Yeshua where there was no king ruling Israel per se. Atheists are under the belief that Jeremias's prophecies and Our Lord's words to Solomon declare there will be a King ruling over Israel forever. They fortify their position by noting that Rehoboam was given Judah and Benjamin so that the line of David would always rule over someone.


That's based on an interpretation of the davidic prophesies that has several lines of evidence against it. The classic interpretation of the davidic prophesies is that David would never lack a royal descendant -- not that these descendants would always be enthroned.

Evidence for this interpretation (and against the atheistic one) can be found in the prophesies themselves and in Jewish history. In Jewish history, when David's throne was empty they still pointed to his descendants as royalty, and important descendants of David were styled "prince," such as Judah NaHasi, the editor of the Mishnah. (Other famous davidic descendants include Rashi, Maimonides, Don Isaac Abrabanel, and the Maharal of Prague.) Very many times in Jewish history, even when David's throne was uninhabited, the davidic prophesy was recalled to bear witness to the permanence of the line of David, which shows that that is how they interpreted it, and not as meaning his descendants would hold the throne forever. An example of that is in 1 Maccabees 2:57 -- that passage recalls the Davidic prophesy as a truth being fulfilled at that time, but David's descendants weren't in power, the Hasmonean dynasty was, and it descended from Levi. That shows that they understood the promise to refer to a perpetual line of royal descendants, not that these descendants would always be enthroned.

As far as Scripture goes, the same writers who insist that David's line and his throne would last forever also insist that his descendants would occasionally be deposed and yet remain royal. And they also promise that one day a single descendant would take the throne forever. All three of these elements appear in Psalm 89, for example: [LIST]
*]Continuous descendants ("your line will be established forever") who would therefore be royal ("and your throne will endure for all ages") -- Psalms 89:4, 29, 36-37.
*]Disenthronement when God's commands are spurned yet a preservation of the royal line -- Psalms 89:30-37, Psalms 89:38-45.
*]A future descendant of David who will hold the davidic throne forever -- Psalms 89:46, 49, 24.[/LIST] The three elements of the davidic prophesies also show up in other passages: [list]
*]The perpetuity of his descendants ("your line or house") and their royalty ("the throne") -- 2 Samuel 7:16, 26, 1 Kings 2:45, 1 Kings 9:5, 2 Chronicles 7:18.
*]The possibility of disenthronement -- implied by the conditional nature of the promises about them -- 1 Kings 2:4, 1 Kings 8:25, 2 Chronicles 6:16, Psalm 132:12.
*]A future descendant who will hold the throne in perpetuity -- Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 16:5, Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 33:17-18.[/list] On the surface level it is sometimes difficult to sort out exactly which of these are messianic, which are conditional, and what exactly is implied by the term "your throne" (e.g. does the throne cease as soon as the king is deposed or does it continue to exist because he is royal?), but the evidence, to me, supports what I have mentioned here, if only they are properly understood.

Anyway I hope that helps. God bless!


Oh by the way, I said I’d point you to some resources that deal with the question of exaggeration, but I actually found it a bit difficult to find something that discusses that in a general way. Usually the authors who mention it simply state it as a self-evident fact: just because someone exaggerates something, e.g. “I made $40,000 last year,” when I actually made $40,200, doesn’t mean I’m lying or stating a falsehood. One thing I found was a book called “Taking a Stand for the Bible.” I haven’t read the book, but the chapter on inerrancy looks decent from the Google Books preview, and it has a section on “What Inerrancy Does Not Claim” where paragraph 3 is about hyperbole and imprecision and why those are acceptable. It’s not much more than what I just told you, but you may be interested. The page in question can be previewed here. Anyway I hope what I said in my other post was helpful. God bless!


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