The Old Testament book of Ezekiel has many prophecies, including predicting that the city of Tyre would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. Yet the city exists today with many people having lived there for many years. Some people claim this is an example of a false prophesy and use it as a reason to reject the Bible and Christianity. But an examination of the text and the facts reveals that the Bible is accurate and no reason exists to reject the text and the faith as a whole.
To understand the answer will first require an explanation of the question. The book of Ezekiel is the writings of the Jewish prophet of the same name, speaking about Israel and surrounding countries. Ezekiel spoke from 593 to 571 B.C. Ezekiel chapter 26 contains the following prophecies about Tyre (verse numbers in parenthesis)
1. Tyre will be laid waste (2)
2. Many nations will come against Tyre in waves (3)
3. The walls and towers will be destroyed (4, 9, 11, 12)
4. She will be scraped clean, like the top of a rock (4, 14)
5. She will be a place for the spreading of nets (5, 14)
6. The nations will plunder her (5)
7. The “daughter villages” will be killed (6, 8)
8. The army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon will attack (7). His army and their actions are described (7-11)
9. Nebuchadnezzar will lay siege (8)
10. Nebuchadnezzar’s army will breach the walls and enter the city (10)
11. The remains of the city will be cast into the sea (12)
12. The songs and harps will be heard no more (13)
13. She shall never be rebuilt (14)
14. There will be a slaughter (15)
15. She will be a desolate city, and not be inhabited (19, 20)
16. The sea will cover her (19)
17. She will be no more and never be found again (21)
Using my list, the one prophecy of the destruction of Tyre is actually about 17 prophecies, all of which predict specific aspects of what will happen to Tyre. The primary issue at hand are my numbers 13, 15, and 17, found in verses 14, 19, 20, and 21, namely, that the city will never be rebuilt, inhabited, nor found again. Yet the city of Tyre exists today — it is on the standard maps, anyone can find photos of it on the internet, and travel companies will take you there. Some people have used this as a justification that the Bible is untrue and that Christianity is not worth following.
I maintain that when the facts are considered, there is a reasonable explanation for this issue, and the conclusion to reject the Bible is unfounded. Because of the length of the explanation, the answer will require more than one post. The main answer will be in part two, while here I will explain the supporting information.
Prophecy in Ezekiel
The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy by J. Barton Payne provides an exhaustive list of all prophecies in the Bible, a description of each, and explanation of what has happened regarding that prophecy. With literally thousands of prophecies to deal with, even though Payne’s book is 750 pages, he cannot write at length about each prophecy. Attempting an exhaustive list of prophecies is nevertheless a formidable task. Payne therefore does not have space to expand upon our question, but we will deal with his statements in part two.
Payne lists 66 prophecies in Ezekiel, with this one about Tyre listed as a single prophecy (p.362-363). As I have shown above, what Payne lists as a single prophecy is actually more than a dozen prophecies, each of which would have a separate fulfillment and must be examined separately. Therefore Payne’s 66 prophecies in Ezekiel, if examined as carefully as this one about Tyre, would likely balloon to a much greater number.
It is significant, therefore, that this one facet of one prophecy is mentioned by the critics, while they ignore the many others. The rest of the prophecies are unchallenged, since it would be difficult to question them in the face of the facts of their fulfillment.
The critic will be quick to point out that if some were unfulfilled and proven false, it would create a problem that would not be eliminated by any number of ones that were fulfilled true. The Biblical standard for a prophet is 100% true, and there is no room for error. So the critic has legitimate ground to investigate all prophecies to test their fulfillment.
But the shoe can fit on the other foot just as easily. Even if one prophecy were to be shown incorrect, it does not disprove the rest of the Biblical claims that are shown true. Using the critics own logic, only in reverse, finding one incorrect part of the Bible does not disprove the greater part, which the evidence proves true. So even if one Old Testament prophet were shown incorrect on one point (which has not happened), it does not follow that the entire Bible should be rejected, which seems to be the logic of the critics. Many liberal Christians, although incorrect in thinking so, maintain that there are many factual errors in the Bible, yet hold that God exists and the spiritual teachings within the Bible to be true, and place their full faith and trust in those teachings. They find these spiritual teachings to be well worth dedicating their entire lives to. Their actions put the teachings of the Bible into practice every day, and show that the Bible benefits the world around them. Liberal Christians have long maintained that the Bible has factual errors, yet hold to Christianity with passion and dedication. While the liberals’ are incorrect in their views about the facts in the Bible, and denial of Biblical inerrancy is a significant mistake, they are nevertheless more logically consistent in this point than the critics, for it does not follow that a factual error justifies denying the existence of God, the falsity of the spiritual truth contained in the Bible, or rejection away from the faith. Even strict inerrantists allow for a few copy errors in the text, and do not think this reduces the value of the Biblical teachings whatsoever.
More to come in part two.