One atheist blog posted this as one piece of evidence against Biblical prophecy:
In 2 Kings 19, Sennacherib, king of Assyria has come against Judah. King Hezekiah is afraid, but Isaiah tells him that the threat will go away and Sennacherib will fall by the sword in his own land. We see in verse 37 of the chapter that this is exactly what happens to him.
Is this a good example of prophecy fulfillment? Not for our purposes. The prophecy and its fulfillment are both given in the same chapter. And since 2 Kings records events that run through the Babylonian captivity, it seems quite likely that this entire account was written long after the events transpired. So how can we know that the prophecy was actually spoken and not just added in after the fact? We can’t. So it fails the first of the criteria we established. In other words, while this prophecy doesn’t provide any proof against the Bible, it doesn’t serve as any real evidence for it either.
To understand what is going on in 2 Kings 19, we have to understand the war that was raging at the time. The following is from The Bible Knowledge Commentary:
Sennacherib led his armies into Judah as expected. This was in 701 b.c., the 14th year of … Hezekiah’s sole reign which began in 715 b.c. On their way to Judah the Assyrians defeated the rebels in Phoenicia, which caused several other members of the alliance to withdraw. Then Sennacherib marched his armies down the coast into Philistia where he brought the Philistine cities into line. Next he attacked all the fortified cities of Judah except Jerusalem and captured the people. Sennacherib’s inscriptions refer to his conquest of 46 strong cities of Hezekiah plus many villages. (elipsis in original)
This is confirmed in 2 Kings 18:13, which says “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” So the Assyrians had been at war for a while and captured every single city of Judah plus those of the surrounding nations. Into this context Assyria comes against Jerusalem.
In such a context, to say that the invading commander would stop, turn around, and be defeated in his own land would be fantastic at best. That Isaiah said that Sennacherib would do so, and that it actually happened, is some evidence that Isaiah spoke for God.
But there is a great deal more to what Isaiah said about Sennacherib. Isaiah said, speaking for God, “Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’” (Isaiah 37:7), “I will turn you back on the way by which you came.’ (Is. 37:29), that for two years Judah would be able to eat from what grew naturally, without having to plant crops (Is. 37:30) and the third year the people of Judah would still be there to plant crops (Is. 37:30), there would be a remnant in Jerusalem that would grow (Is.37:32). This is in contrast to every other city of Judah which had their populace taken captive by the Assyrians. To make such a claim is amazing, and them coming true due to happenstance or Isaiah being a good guesser is not reasonable.
Even more amazingly, even though Assyria had conquered 46 other cities in Judah, cities and the surrounding nations, and Jerusalem already failing to buy their way out of war, Isaiah goes further with his prophesy. After Assyria’s spokesman had spent considerable time threatening Jerusalem (2 Kings 18), Hezekiah the king was in despair. Isaiah, again speaking for God, says
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 35 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.(37:33-35).
Now we have an amazing statement. This conquering nation had demolished every foe it had encountered in Judah and surrounding nations, had already rejected the large payment Judah offered, threatened complete destruction, and Jerusalem was demoralized and without funds or friends. Yet Isaiah says Assyria would not even fire an arrow or surround the city. Yet all of God’s words, given through Isaiah, were literally fulfilled.
Because Isaiah’s immediate prophesies came true, the other prophesies he made were also held to be true. By no means were the prophets in the Old Testament accepted as true prophets blindly and without question. Men like Isaiah showed themselves to be true prophets with situations like the Assyrians, therefore the Jewish leaders accepted their words as evidence of speaking for God.
Regarding the other portions of the original quote, the author also claims “it seems quite likely that this entire account was written long after the events transpired.” This falls under what I call the “it seems to me” fallacy. Such statements are given without proof or logic, and are, in the end, mere opinion that proves nothing. (I’ve already spoken against this fallacy here.)
But what about this claim: “it seems quite likely that this entire account was written long after the events transpired. So how can we know that the prophecy was actually spoken and not just added in after the fact? We can’t.” Well, all history is written after the fact, so if we are rejecting it because the writer wrote of past events, we would have to reject all historical accounts. But do we know this account was written “long after the events transpired”? We do not; to suggest so is unsupported. What we do know is that Isaiah spoke of many nations and their situations and lived through several kings of Israel and Judah. His actions and statements are spoken of in three Old Testament books written by at least three authors: 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. The situation with Sennacherib is spoken of in all three of these books. So while the end of 2 Kings stops with the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, we have no evidence that these events transpired long after the time they were written down. Many Bible scholars hold that the Jewish scribes of the Babylonian period compiled earlier documents into the canon of scripture we have today. So it is entirely possible that three independent authors transcribed what Isaiah said during his lifetime. Even if the events were first written down during the Babylonian captivity, which we have no evidence of being true, there were only 136 years between Hezekiah and the captivity, a rather short period for ancient books, and certainly not considered a long period.
In summary, all the evidence we have points to Isaiah’s statements happening prior to the events, so that the leaders of his day would know Isaiah was speaking the words of God. those Jewish leaders were much closer to the events than we are, and we are on shaky ground when we try to out-guess them today. We can trust our Bible as the word of God because the writers proved themselves to the true prophets during their day. False prophets were rejected at that time and their words not kept for future generations.