Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar. Homer's, The Iliad. Tolstoy's, War and Peace.
These are all examples of classic literature that are highly regarded by people all over the world. They are praised for their quality, studied by university students and so beloved that they are placed in personal home libraries alongside other such classic and even modern works.
Is the Bible just another example of classic literature? Is it placed on your bookshelf next to Tom Sawyer, Crime and Punishment, Tale of Two Cities and perhaps even the Koran?
Or is the Bible the inspired word of God as many believe...and as its own pages attest?
As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and therefore deserves a spot on our desks - open, pages dog-eared, verses highlighted, notes in the side-columns - because it is the one book that should truly guide and govern our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
But why do I elevate the Bible above Uncle Tom's Cabin or Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations? Simply because it says that it's the inspired word of God? Am I blindly making a claim about this book without any evidence to back it up?
Not at all.
There are many evidences of the Bible's inspiration, but in this series of articles, I'm appealing to the general prophecies of the Bible as evidence. So far, I've explained...
In this article, I'd like to focus on Ezekiel's prophecy of Tyre.
The Context of Ezekiel 26
The Babylonian army came against the city of Jerusalem on multiple occasions before finally conquering and destroying the city in 586 B.C. Ezekiel was one of the earlier captives carted off to Babylon. It was during his captivity in Babylon that "the heavens were opened" to Ezekiel and he saw "visions of God" (Ezek. 1:1). It is generally believed that his ministry stretched from about 593-573 B.C.
Ezekiel's job as a prophet of God in Babylon was to admonish and teach the other Jewish captives who were in Babylon (2:2-8) and to serve as a "watchman" for Israel" (3:16-21).
He would have been a contemporary of Daniel, whose prophecies we've already considered. He also would have been in Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar ultimately conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. - something that, though expected, would have been devastating news for the Jewish captives.
While Ezekiel's ministry was largely focused on the captive Jews, he also made prophecies about other nations and cities. In Ezekiel 26, we find a detailed prophecy of the destruction of Tyre, a Phoenician port city that would have been one of the leading cities in that region at that time.
The Prophecy Itself
Here's the prophecy, from Ezekiel 26:1-14...
"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, 2 "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.' 3 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. 4 And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. 5 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. 6 Also her daughter villages which are in the fields shall be slain by the sword. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.'7 "For thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. 8 He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you. 9 He will direct his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. 10 Because of the abundance of his horses, their dust will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen, the wagons, and the chariots, when he enters your gates, as men enter a city that has been breached. 11 With the hooves of his horses he will trample all your streets; he will slay your people by the sword, and your strong pillars will fall to the ground. 12 They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water.13 I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more. 14 I will make you like the top of a rock; you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken,' says the Lord God."
Let's break down the many components of the prophecy itself:
- Many nations would come against Tyre (vs. 3).
- The city would be destroyed (vs. 4).
- The city would become bare as a rock (vs. 4).
- Fishermen would one day spread their nets where the city itself once was, proving its complete destruction (vs. 5, 14).
- Nebuchadnezzar would come against the city (vs. 7).
- The rubble of the city would be cast into the sea (vs. 12).
- The city would never be rebuilt (vs. 14).
Were these prophecies fulfilled? Was Tyre destroyed in this manner? What about the details of this passage? For example, was the rubble of the city cast into the sea? Is there any way for us to know, historically, whether these things came to pass?
After capturing Jerusalem in 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) besieged Tyre for 13 years, until 573 B.C. The people of Tyre fled to an island that was half a mile offshore.
Later in history, Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) arrived at Tyre after having conquered another Phoenician port city, Sidon. When they refused to grant him access to their city, it was war! Using the rubble from the old city (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar), Alexander’s men build a land bridge to the island. The siege lasted until 332 B.C. when the Greeks conquered Tyre completely!
This website details Alexander's siege of Tyre in great detail and even explains how he built a land bridge, or "mole," from the shoreline to the island. You can see the picture (at right) for a better understanding of this part of the siege.
So, Ezekiel's prophecy was fulfilled exactly!
- Multiple nations came against Tyre - Babylon, Greece.
- Nebuchadnezzar led the first assault.
- The rubble of the city was cast into the sea - Alexander's "mole."
- The city was scraped bare as a rock.
- Fishermen did use the old city foundation as a place for spreading their nets.
- The city was never rebuilt.
Why This is So Amazing!
One might argue that it wouldn't have been so spectacular for Ezekiel to prophecy about Nebuchadnezzar's offensive against the city of Tyre. Tyre was, after all, a leading city in that region, and the Babylonian forces were conquering that very region. In fact, even though Ezekiel's prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar was stated in terms of what would happen (in the future), one might argue that Ezekiel technically may have been alive when it happened and could have written about it after the fact.
However, that doesn't account for the second half of the prophecy.
How could Ezekiel have known that a second nation would besiege the city? How could he have known that they would have cast the city's rubble into the sea? These things didn't happen for at least another 200 years. Ezekiel would have been long dead by then!
This is yet another example of a Bible prophecy that is so specific in nature that can be confirmed historically by even reputable secular sources.
As with any powerful evidence such as this, there are always going to be the skeptics and naysayers who try to discredit some aspect of the evidence. This is understandable when we know that many of these skeptics begin with the presupposition that there isn't a God. Nevertheless, let's address these questions in some detail here before we conclude our brief study.
Some will contend that the city of Tyre was rebuilt and therefore, the prophecy falls flat. This is an understandable objection. Here are two possible solutions (I think both are true):
- "The modern city of Tyre is of modest size and is near the ancient site, though not identical to it. Archaeological photographs of the ancient site show ruins from ancient Tyre scattered over many acres of land. No city has been rebuilt over these ruins, however, in fulfillment of this prophecy." (Dennis and Grudem, “Tyre,” The ESV Study Bible)
- "In point of fact, the mainland city of Tyre later was rebuilt and assumed some of its former importance during the Hellenistic period. But as for the island city, it apparently sank below the surface of the Mediterranean…All that remains of it is a series of black reefs offshore from Tyre, which surely could not have been there in the first and second millennia b.c., since they pose such a threat to navigation. The promontory that now juts out from the coastline probably was washed up along the barrier of Alexander’s causeway, but the island itself broke off and sank away when the subsidence took place; and we have no evidence at all that it ever was built up again after Alexander’s terrible act of vengeance. In the light of these data, then, the predictions of chapter 26, improbable though they must have seemed in Ezekiel’s time, were duly fulfilled to the letter—first by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century, and then by Alexander in the fourth." (Archer, “Tyre,” Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
Others will contend that Ezekiel must have written this prophecy after the fact, or that somehow, these prophecies were written by someone else after the fact. To respond, I will quote part of an article from Apologetics Press (click here for the full article). Here are the facts (from the article) regarding the timing of Ezekiel's ministry and writings:
- "No evidence supports the thesis that Ezekiel’s predictions were penned later than 400 B.C. Moreover, the book (Ezek. 1:1; 8:1; 33:1; 40:1-4) claims to have been composed by the prophet sometime in the sixth century, B.C., and Josephus attributes the book to the Hebrew prophet during the time in question" (The Prophet Motive, Kenny Barfield,1995, p. 98).
- In addition, Ezekiel was included in the Septuagint, which is the “earliest version of the Old Testament Scriptures” available—a translation from Hebrew to Greek which was “executed at Alexandria in the third century before the Christian era” (Septuagint, 1998,p. i).
- Simon Greenleaf, the lawyer who is renowned for having played a major role in the founding of Harvard Law School and for having written the Treatise on the Law of Evidence, scrutinized several biblical documents in light of the procedures practiced in a court of law. He noted one of the primary laws regarding ancient documents: “Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise” (1995, p. 16).
How is it that Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel had such intimate knowledge of future events...most of which occurred long after they were dead and gone? If I made such prophetic statements today, I would astound the world...and rightly so.
A skeptic might not think much about one such prophecy...but three? Don't you see that a pattern is emerging in this book that claims to be divinely inspired and has been viewed as such for thousands of years by so many people in the world? Doesn't this at least cause you to think?
"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).