Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (an old-earth Creationist ministry) claims that the Bible has thousands of fulfilled prophecies, and he gives us his top 13. Let’s continue our critique (part 1 here).
9. Edom will become barren
“Jeremiah predicted that despite its fertility and despite the accessibility of its water supply, the land of Edom (today a part of Jordan) would become a barren, uninhabited wasteland.”
Reading the cited passage in Jeremiah (49:15–20), I feel like I’ve been called in to settle a playground dispute. Israel and Edom are arguing and calling each other names. “You think you’re so strong?” Israel says. “My big brother will take care of you!”
Here are a few selections of the bravado. These are coming from God’s mouth:
I will make you small among the nations, despised by mankind.
Edom will become an object of horror; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds.
The young of the flock will be dragged away; their pasture will be appalled at their fate.
Ross says that Edom will be made “a barren, uninhabited wasteland.” If you look at a satellite map of where it was—a rough circle from the Dead Sea south to the Gulf of Aqaba—it does look pretty dry.
There’s a lot of trash talking here and in the other passage mentioned (Ezekiel 25:12–14) but no mention of their fertility or water. Did God take away their water? Apparently not, since ancient Edom has always had almost no arable land. In the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, its economy was based on the caravan trade.
Ross’s story of fertile land suddenly turned into a desert is at best a fairy tale. At worst, it’s the breaking of the ninth Commandment against lying.
(I’ve lost interesting in passing along Ross’s ridiculous probability estimate. Just assume that it’s a bajillion to one against whatever happening without God’s intervention.)
10. The rebuilding of Jericho
“Joshua prophesied that Jericho would be rebuilt by one man. He also said that the man’s eldest son would die when the reconstruction began and that his youngest son would die when the work reached completion. About five centuries later this prophecy found its fulfillment.”
Ross cites Joshua 6:26. After Joshua’s army had plundered and destroyed Jericho, Joshua is either speaking a curse or making a prophecy against anyone who would rebuild the city:
At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.
The fulfilment is in 1 Kings 16:33–4:
In King Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua.
We can date the prophecy by noting that Joshua came from the 13th century BCE, and we can date the fulfilment by noting that King Ahab came from the 9th century BCE. That sounds good for Ross’s claim except that there is good evidence (the “Deuteronomistic history”) that Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings were edited together by one person, creating a unified story from Moses to the destruction of Judah by Babylon (see also Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? p. 103).
No historical hypothesis can be proven, but the plausible natural explanation that the “fulfilment” was deliberately written to satisfy the “prophecy” destroys Ross’s claim.
11. Elijah’s fiery chariot
“The day of Elijah’s supernatural departure from Earth was predicted unanimously—and accurately, according to the eye-witness account—by a group of fifty prophets.”
Ross’s source is 2 Kings 2:3–11. In this story, Elisha is tagging along as Elijah makes several visits, and at each stop, local prophets tell Elisha ominous news: “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
Sure enough, the prophecy comes true: “A chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
We’ve not seen this kind of claim so far. Instead of a prophecy in one part of the Bible confirmed in a later book (not that we’ve seen this yet, but that has been Ross’s claim), all we have here is a story contained in one chapter.
Elijah lived during the reign of King Ahab (9th century BCE), while 2 Kings was written in the 6th century BCE. This story was kept alive orally for three centuries, and when it’s written down it has magical events. Why accept that as history?
To be concluded in part 5.
is a mirror reflecting the age
— Jesuit scholar Ignatius Jesudasan
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/28/16.)
Image from NASA, public domain