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Fulfilled Bible Prophecy Dealing With Nations

(One example of archaeology supporting the Bible.)

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Fulfilled prophesy is one of the many proofs we have that the Bible is completely accurate. (You can read about other proofs on our How Do You Know The Bible Is True? page.) Many prophecies can be proven through archaeology.

The Ancient Nation of Edom

The example on this page deals with the destruction of Edom and its capital city of Petra. Remember the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?” The last part where they go through a narrow canyon and into a temple in a lost city was filmed at Petra. What happened in the movie was . . . well, just a movie. For example, the “temple” is really a magnificent tomb cut into the cliff.

Edom was a very powerful nation and Petra was not only a great city, but Edom’s capital. The people of Edom were proud of the strength of their cities, over which Petra reigned supreme. Located next to the mountain (or mountain range) of Mount Seir, other nations and people often referred to Petra as “Mount Seir”—a symbol of their strength and lofty position. Unfortunately, they were a very evil nation and each of the many prophecies about them in the Bible includes God’s judgment of their actions and a description of their future destruction. The Old Testament book of Obadiah is completely devoted to this topic. Other examples include the following:

    Ezekiel 25 (Estimated date of writing, 593-570 B.C.)
    12 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,”
    13 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword.” ’
    Ezekiel 35 (Estimated date of writing, 593-570 B.C.)
    1 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
    2 “Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir and prophesy against it,
    3 and say to it, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:

          “Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against you;
          I will stretch out My hand against you,
          And make you most desolate;
    4    I shall lay your cities waste,
          And you shall be desolate.
          Then you shall know that I am the LORD.

    5 “Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end,
    6 therefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you.
    7 Thus I will make Mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it the one who leaves and the one who returns.
    8 And I will fill its mountains with the slain; on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those who are slain by the sword shall fall.’ ”
    Jeremiah 49 (Estimated date of writing, 626-580 B.C.)
    15  “For indeed, I will make you small among nations,
          Despised among men.
    16  Your fierceness has deceived you,
          The pride of your heart,
          O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
          Who hold the height of the hill!
          Though you make your nest as high as the eagle,
          I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD.
    17  “Edom also shall be an astonishment;
          Everyone who goes by it will be astonished
          And will hiss at all its plagues.
    18  As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah
          And their neighbors,” says the LORD,
          “No one shall remain there,
          Nor shall a son of man dwell in it.”
    Isaiah 34 (Estimated date of writing, 740-680 B.C.)
    10  It shall not be quenched night or day;
          Its smoke shall ascend forever.
          From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
          No one shall pass through it forever and ever.
    11  But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it,
          Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
          And He shall stretch out over it
          The line of confusion and the stones of emptiness.
    12  They shall call its nobles to the kingdom,
          But none shall be there, and all its princes shall be nothing.
    13  And thorns shall come up in its palaces,
          Nettles and brambles in its fortresses;
          It shall be a habitation of jackals,
          A courtyard for ostriches.
    14  The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals,
          And the wild goat shall bleat to its companion;
          Also the night creature shall rest there,
          And find for herself a place of rest.
    15  There the arrow snake shall make her nest and lay eggs
          And hatch, and gather them under her shadow;
          There also shall the hawks be gathered,
          Every one with her mate.

Like the prophecies in the book of Obadiah (written about 585 B.C.), these were unbelievable predictions! It would be like predicting that everyone in Los Angeles will be killed and that Southern California will become uninhabited except for wild animals—while the rest of the United States continues normally!

So, What Happened?

The history books tell us that Edom did OK for perhaps a hundred years after their final warning from God’s prophets. Then, during the fifth century (400-499) B.C. the “Edomites” were overwhelmed by other Arab groups. In turn, these groups were taken over by the Nabataeans, who started living in the area sometime around 312 B.C. By the way, the Nabataeans, not the Edomites, are the people who cut the temples in the sandstone walls of Petra.[1] Under the Nabataeans, the city of Petra flourished until 106 A.D., when the Romans conquered Petra.[2] From that time it slid into disuse, to the point that Edom was almost uninhabited from the 7th to the 12th century A.D. It revived slightly in the 12th century when the crusaders built a castle there called Sel. Afterward, it remained so forgotten that it had to be rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss traveler Johann. L. Burckhardt.[3]

In 1865, George Smith included two accounts that described what Petra was like in his day. Compare these descriptions with the prophecies written in the Bible 2,400 years earlier.

    Captain Mangles, who visited these ruins, says, that when surveying the scenery of Petra, ‘the screaming of the eagles, hawks, and owls, who were soaring over our heads in considerable numbers, seemingly annoyed at any one approaching their lonely habitation, added much to the singularity of the scene.’[4]
    So plentiful, as observed by Mr. Cory, ‘are the scorpions in Petra, that, though it was cold and snowy, we found them under the stones, sometimes two under one stone!’ The sheik, and his brother, who accompanied Mr. Cory, assured him that ‘both lions and leopards are often seen in Petra, and on the hills immediately beyond it, but that they never descend into the plain beneath.’[4]

The Scorecard

Now, let’s “tally the score.”

  • Edom was overthrown as a nation.
  • The nation and city have become a desolation, as Ezekiel 25:13; Ezekiel 35:4,7 and Isaiah 34:11-13 predicted.
  • It has never been populated again as Jeremiah 49:18 predicted.
  • It has had bloody history as Ezekiel 25:13 and 35:6,8 predicted.
  • Edom became populated with wild animals and birds (instead of people) as Isaiah 34:11, 13-15 predicted.

The likelihood that these prophecies came true by some random chain of events is all but impossible. (Compare Petra to Jerusalem, another city often torn by war, that still thrives today.) Also remember that this is a fraction of the Bible prophecies made about nations that have been fulfilled. We could continue with other examples, but the point has been made. The Bible contains many prophecies, all of which accurately predict future events—something that no other “sacred writing” can claim.


[1]Thompson, J.A. (1962) The Bible and Archaeology Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan p. 232,233
[2]Millard, Alan (1985) Treasures From Bible Times, Lion Publishing pic, Oxford, England, p. 60-63.
[3]Encyclopedia Britannica, 13/xvii-751
[4]Smith, George (1865) The Book of Prophecy Longmain, Green, Reader, and Dyer. London p. 221,222

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