From Reliable to Divine: Fulfilled Prophecy in the Old Testament

by J Warner Wallace

If you’re trying to determine whether or not the Old Testament is historically reliable, archaeology and ancient non-Biblical records can provide “touch point” corroboration of the Biblical text. But the Old Testament claims to be much more than a reliable record of history; it claims to be the very Word of God. In order to assess such a bold claim, we must assess a distinctive feature of the Biblical narrative: prophecy. If a book accurately and repeatedly predicts the future (rather than simply record the past), it moves from reliable to Divine. There are many fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament, and many websites chronicling these accurate predictions. We’ll focus on some of the better attested examples:

Babylon Will Rule Over Judah for 70 Years
This prophecy is found in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and was written sometime between 626 and 586 BC. It was not fulfilled for approximately 50 years, depending on your calendar calculation.

Jeremiah 25:11-12
“…This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever.”

In this passage of scripture, Jeremiah said the Israelites would suffer 70 years of Babylonian domination, and after this was over, Babylon would be punished. Both parts of this prophecy were fulfilled. In 609 BC, Babylon captured the last Assyrian king and the holdings of the Assyrian empire, including the homeland of Israel. Babylon then began taking Israelites as captives to Babylon, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. This

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domination of the Israel ended in 539 BC, when Cyrus, a leader of Persians and Medes, conquered Babylon, bringing an end to the empire. The prophecy also had another fulfillment: the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple in 586 BC, but the Israelites rebuilt it and consecrated it 70 years later, in 516 BC. Restoring the Temple showed, in a very important way, the Babylonian domination had come to an end.

Babylon’s Gates Will Open for Cyrus
In Isaiah 45:1 (written between 701 and 681 BC), Isaiah made a prediction fulfilled hundreds of years later in 539 BC.

Isaiah 45:1
“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut…”

Isaiah said God would open the gates of Babylon for Cyrus and his attacking army. Despite Babylon’s remarkable defenses, which included moats and walls more than 70-feet thick and 300-feet high (with 250 watchtowers), Cyrus was able to enter the city and conquer it. Cyrus and his troops accomplished this by diverting the flow of the Euphrates River into a large lake basin. Cyrus then was able to march his army across the riverbed and into the city…

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