Pages 2-7: spring 1993
AN EXAMPLE OF "PROPHECY FULFILLMENT"
What about all of those amazing examples of prophecy fulfillment? This is
a question that fundamentalists almost always resort to in trying to defend
their claim that the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God. Their ques-
tion can easily be answered with another question. What prophecy fulfill-
ments? Upon careful examination, these so-called prophecy fulfillments in-
variably turn out to be arbitrary distortions or misapplications of vaguely
written or highly symbolic OT scriptures. They are "prophecy fulfillments"
only in the fertile imagination of fundamentalists who desperately want them to
be prophecy fulfillments.
An example of the extremes that fundamentalists will go to in their search
for prophecy fulfillment occurred in "The Blind Ruler," a short article by
Wayne Jackson in the December 1992 issue of Reasoning from Revelation, a
simplistic insertion that accompanies its parent publication Reason & Revela-
Even though he was a captive in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel
uttered oracles regarding his brethren who were as yet in the
land of Canaan. One of his prophecies had to do with Zedekiah,
who was serving as the "prince in Jerusalem" (Ez. 12:10).
Zedekiah had been appointed ruler to replace Jehoiachin, when
the latter was taken into Babylon in 597 B.C.
The prophet anounced that the "rebellious house" of Israel,
along with the haughty ruler, would be taken into captivity (vss.
11,12). Concerning Zedekiah specifically, Ezekiel (speaking for
God) declared: "My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall
be taken in my snare; and I will bring him to Babylon to the land
of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he shall die
there" (vs. 13).
This prophecy almost seems to contain a discrepancy. If the
king is to be brought to the land, surely he will see it. That
appears to be common sense. Or is it? The fact is, the predic-
tion is extremely precise.
When the Babylonians came against Jerusalem in 586 B.C.,
Zedekiah fled the city, hoping to escape the in- vaders. He was
pursued, however, and captured near Jericho. He was then
transported to Riblah (north of Canaan). There he was forced to
witness the execution of his sons. This was the last scene he
was to view upon the Earth, for his eyes were put out, and he
was led away to Babylon in chains. Imprisoned there, he finally
died in that distant land (II Kings 25:6-7; Jeremiah 39:7; 52:11).
Ezekiel's prophecy was carried out to the letter. Fulfilled
prophecy is a convincing evidence for the integrity of the Bible
I don't really pick on Mr. Jackson intentionally. It is just that his
determination to "prove" the inerrancy of the Bible provides such an excellent
source of fundamentalist nonsense. This example of prophecy fulfillment that
he believes he has found is no exception.
Insofar as the Bible relates them, Mr. Jackson has accurately summarized
the circumstances of Zedekiah's capture and treatment by the Babylonians.
His interpretation of them is where he enters the Never-Never Land of
fundamentalist speculation and wishful thinking. He wants to see prophecy
fulfillment in the Babylonian treatment of Zedekiah, yet the alleged prophecy
that he quoted (Ezekiel 12:10) doesn't mention Zedekiah. In fact, the entire
book of Ezekiel makes no mention of Zedekiah by name. Jackson's "proof text"
refers only to a "prince in Jerusalem," and at this time there were many
other princes in Jerusalem. Jeremiah, another prophet contemporary to
Zedekiah, made many references to "the princes" in Jerusalem (17:25; 24:8;
26:10; 36:12-19). Mr. Jackson's task, then, is to prove, not speculate, that
Ezekiel's "prince in Jerusalem" was in fact Zedekiah and not someone else.
Certainly the circumstances of Zedekiah's capture, treatment, and impris-
onment, as they are related in the passages Jackson cited, appear to "fulfill"
what was said in Ezekiel 12:10 about the "prince in Jerusalem"; however,
even if Ezekiel was in fact referring to Zedekiah here, we have every reason
to believe that the statement was written after the fact, and if we allow that
advantage, anyone can be a prophet.
In the total context of the passages that Jackson cited, we learn that
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah to be a puppet king in Jerusalem after
the overthrow of Jehoiachin. If we accept Mr. Jackson's chronology, which
appears to be right, Zedekiah became king in 597 B.C., and reigned for 11
years (2 Kings 24:18). In Zedekiah's ninth year, Nebuchadnezzar besieged
Jerusalem again (25:1) and finally captured it two years later (25:2). The
famous Babylonian captivity of the Jews began in 597 B.C. with the over-
throw of Jehoiachin, and then in 586 B.C., when Zedekiah was defeated, the
"rest of the people" who had remained in Jerusalem were also "carried away
The prophet Ezekiel was evidently taken to Babylon with the first wave of
prisoners, because he identifies himself at the beginning of his book as one
of the captives by the River Chebar "in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's
captivity" (1:1-2). This would have been also the fifth year of Zedekiah's
puppet reign. In other words, by his own admission, Ezekiel did not begin
writing his book until just a few years before Zedekiah's overthrow, and, as
we will later see, Mr. Jackson's own criteria for evaluating prophecy fulfill-
ment would disqualify Ezekiel 12:10 as an example of fulfillment even if he
could unequivocally establish that (1) the statement was referring to Zedekiah
and (2) it was written before the fact.
I'll return to the first of these problem areas later to pit Mr. Jackson
against himself, but before doing that, let's notice that problem number two
kicks the props right out from under the claim that "Ezekiel's prophecy [in
12:10] was carried out to the letter." As just noted, Ezekiel began his book
in the fifth year of the captivity, but he didn't finish it until at least the
25th year of the captivity:
In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of
the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year
after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of
Yahweh was upon me (40:1).
Ezekiel was taken into captivity at the time of Jehoiachin's overthrow. Then
eleven years later, Jerusalem fell to Babylon a second time. The "twenty-fifth
year of our captivity," then, would have been "the fourteenth year after the
city [Jerusalem] was captured." However, it would have also been 14 years
after Zedekiah's capture and the treatment he was accorded as summarized in
Mr. Jackson's article. Obviously, then, before he finished his book, Ezekiel
had had the opportunity to know exactly what had happened to Zedekiah. So
what assurance can Jackson give us that Ezekiel did not write his book to
make it appear that he had foretold the fate of Zedekiah? I can show Mr.
Jackson prophesies in the Book of Mormon that he would summarily reject for
the same reason that all rational people will reject his claim that Ezekiel pre-
cisely predicted the fate of Zedekiah.
For now, I will just let Mr. Jackson refute his own argument. Writing in
the Christian Courier, Jackson once listed three criteria of valid prophecy:
In order for prophecy to be valid, the following criteria must
obtain. It must involve: (a) Proper timing (i.e., significantly
preceding the fulfillment); (b) Specific details--not vague general-
ities or remote possibilities; (c) Exact fulfillment--not merely a
high degree of probability" ("The Holy Bible: Inspired of God,"
May 1991, p. 2, emphasis added).
By Jackson's own admission, then, Ezekiel 12:10 cannot be a valid prophecy.
It clearly lacks "proper timing." As already noted, Ezekiel didn't begin writ-
ing his book until six years before Zedekiah's capture, so even if 12:10 was a
reference to Zedekiah and even if the statement was made prior to his cap-
ture, it did not "significantly precede the fulfillment." Ezekiel could have
appraised the political climate of the time to make an educated guess of what
was likely to happen to Jerusalem and to its king who was presumptuous
enough to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:20).
Likewise, Ezekiel 12:10 was too vaguely stated to meet Mr. Jackson's own
standards of "valid prophecy." To say that "the prince in Jerusalem" would
be taken to Babylon but would not see it, even though he would die there, is
hardly my idea of "specific details." It reeks with "vague generalizations"
and "remote possibilities." If Ezekiel had wanted to utter an unequivocal
prediction of Zedekiah's fate, why didn't he say something like this: "Nebu-
chadnezzar will besiege Jerusalem, and king Zedekiah will try to escape by
night. The Chaldeans will capture him in the plains of Jericho and take him
before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah, where he will be forced to watch the execu-
tion of his sons. Then the Chaldeans will blind Zedekiah and imprison him in
Babylon, where he will die"? If just one prophet had made a prediction half
as precise as this, which could be proven to have been made significantly
before the fact, that would have put a lot of punch into the prophecy-fulfill-
ment argument. As it is, the Hebrew prophets left us nothing but vague,
symbolic generalizations that are as meaningless as the horoscopes that are
published daily in our newspapers. That doesn't say much for the omniscient,
omnipotent deity who allegedly inspired those prophets.
Mr. Jackson wants to find prophecy fulfillment in the fate of Zedekiah,
but he conveniently said nothing about an embarrassing prophecy failure
that Jeremiah made concerning Zedekiah. During the Babylonian siege of
Jerusalem, the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah and led him to make this
remarkable prediction about Zedekiah's eventual fate:
Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, "Go and speak to
Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, 'Thus says Yahweh: "Be-
hold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon,
and he shall burn it with fire. And you shall not escape from
his hand, but shall surely be taken and delivered into his hand;
your eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, he shall
speak with you face to face, and you shall go to Babylon."' Yet
hear the word of Yahweh, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says
Yahweh concerning you: "You shall not die by the sword. You
shall die in peace; as in the ceremonies of your fathers, the
former kings who were before you, so shall they burn incense for
you and lament for you, saying, 'Alas, Lord!' For I have pro-
nounced the word, says Yahweh" (Jer. 34:2-5, emphasis added).
Zedekiah's fate (according to the Bible) was as Mr. Jackson briefly summa-
rized it. When the Chaldeans made a breach in the wall of Jerusalem, Zede-
kiah tried to escape by night. He was captured and taken before Nebuchad-
nezzar, who forced him to watch the execution of his sons. Then the Chal-
deans put out Zedekiah's eyes, took him to Babylon, and imprisoned him till
the day of his death (2 Kings 25:6).
I wonder if this is Mr. Jackson's idea of dying in peace. I wonder too
when incense was burned for Zedekiah and lamentations were made for him as
in the ceremonies of his fathers, "the former kings who were before him."
Are we to believe that the Chaldeans permitted this kind of funeral ceremony
in Babylon for a captive king who had been accorded the treatment just
described? Are we to believe that the captive Hebrews in Babylon would
have even wanted to so honor the king who had presided over the downfall of
Prophecy fulfillment indeed! Anyone who sees prophecy fulfillment in the
fate of king Zedekiah must be desperate for something to shore up the badly
battered inerrancy doctrine.
SILENCE IN FANTASYLAND
Although we have a standing offer of free space for all writers who wish
to respond to our rebuttals of their articles reprinted from fundamentalist
papers, we have had no takers. In the last issue, we reprinted Clarence
Lavender's article "Was It Morally Right for God to Order the Killing of the
Canaanites?" along with our reply to it, but we have heard nothing from him.
The issue before, we reprinted Dave Miller's article "Why I Believe in the
Inerrancy of the Scriptures" with our rebuttal, but he has not accepted our
offer to publish his reply.
On the preceding pages, we reprinted Wayne Jackson's article "The Blind
Ruler" with our response to his claim of prophecy fulfillment in the fate of
Zedekiah. Since Jackson has repeatedly declined our invitations to respond
to articles we have published about his fundamentalist assertions, we predict
that he will answer with silence this time too.
Why do these champions of Bible inerrancy conduct themselves in this
way? Their inerrant "word of God" commands them to "contend earnestly for
the faith" (Jude 3) and to be "ready always to give answer to every man"
that asks them a "reason for the hope" that is in them (1 Peter 3:15). Well,
we have asked Miller, Lavender, Jackson, and many others to give us their
answers, but they refuse to do so. Why?
The answer is probably as simple as the one suggested in a recent tele-
phone call from a man who has left the Worldwide Church of God. In refer-
ring to our offer of free space to inerrantists and their consistent refusals to
accept, he said that their silence is an admission that they cannot refute our
arguments. "If they thought they could," he said, "then they would."
We think he is right. Our offer is still open to any inerrantist who will
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