As the presidential race continues, along with getting to get more and more press, we are hearing more and more about what the presidential candidates claim what they will do, if they become president. We know though, through history and past experience, that when a candidate becomes a president, he does not always keep his promises that he made while running for president, as his political enemies are quick to point out. Thankfully though, our Heavenly Father always keeps His promises, as shown in the Old Testament.
People from all ages have devised many different means to many Old Testament prophecies in the Bible spoke about the Hebrews’ future conquests, captivities and freedom. These prophecies addressed how God was going to punish or have mercy on the Israelites. History has shown how the Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians were used by God to fulfill these prophecies.
To start off, the Bible recorded this prophecy to Abraham:
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (RSV Gen. 12.2).
Many years later, at about 1200 B.C., God promised to Moses a land flowing with milk and honey. This land was Jericho inhabited by the Canaanites. After defeating the Canaanites and taking the land promised to them by the Lord, the Israelites settled down in Jericho. This was the beginning of Israel being a nation and was the fulfillment of the prophecies to Abraham and Moses. Since the Israelites did not eliminate the Canaanites when they conquered their land and did not do what God commanded, the Israelites began intermarrying with the Canaanites and turned toward the gods of the Canaanites (Solomon included). Then the Northern tribes of Israel rebelled under the rule of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and thus fulfilled the prophecy:
Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ’Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen (RSV 1 Kings 11.11-13).
Like the Canaanites, the Assyrians were used by God in the time of Isaiah. This time the Lord protected the Israelites from the mighty Assyrians as Isaiah prophesied. After the death of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, the king of Babylon asked Hezekiah, king of the Israelites, to join a revolt against Assyria. Hezekiah renounced his previous alliance with Assyria and made a treaty with Egypt against the wishes of the prophet Isaiah because the prophet knew that Egypt could never help them against Assyria. Assyria, then, waged war to put down the revolt. After defeating Babylon, Tyre and the small army of Egypt, the army of Assyria marched to Jerusalem. Hezekiah sued for peace, but after hearing that Sennacherib demanded the unconditional surrender of the Holy City, Hezekiah defied him, this time with Isaiah’s blessing (Warren 125). Isaiah said,
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, or shoot an arrow there, or cast up a siege mound against it (RSV Is. 37.33).
After the angel of the Lord killed one hundred eighty-five thousand men, the Assyrians departed to Nineveh just as Isaiah said.
Now it was Babylon’s turn to be God’s instrument, and he used Jeremiah to foretell what was to come.
This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (RSV Jer. 25.11).
Also, in another chapter,
And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him” (RSV Jer. 27.6).
In 589 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar was in Palestine putting down another revolt that the Israelites were part of, and by January of 588 B.C., he besieged Jerusalem. He deported
“Its new young king Jehoiachin, his mother, high officials, leading soldiers and citizens, and skilled artisans, to the number of about 10,000 men (at least 30,000 including their wives and children who accompanied them) were deported to Babylonia along with all the gold in the Temple. The long-predicted exile of the people of Judah from the promised land had begun” (Warren 135).
During their Babylonian captivity, in the province of Anshan, a prince, of little significance at the time, named Cyrus ruled. By 550 B.C., though, Cyrus ruled most of Iran as a somewhat powerful king in the East. After conquering his rival, Babylon, he kept his word to all the people Babylon had ruled: to restore their gods and if they were deported, let them return to their homeland. After proclaiming this decree, the Jews, no less than 42,360, returned to their homeland with all the animals and precious metal taken from the temple just as Jeremiah prophesied:
“…she shall be inhabited, and of the cities of Judah, they shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins” (RSV Is. 44.26).
Throughout history, God has orchestrated the nations to achieve his ends. Prophecies were given to Israel based on their need for punishment or mercy and blessings. The nations of the Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians were used to fulfill some of these prophecies according to God’s plans even though the main characters might not have known that they were being used by God. No matter how the situation looked for the Hebrews, the prophecies were always fulfilled.
Revised Standard Version. Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1952. Print.
Warren, H. Carroll. The Founding of Christendom. Front Royal: Christendom Press, Print.