The Bible says you shouldn’t “treat prophecies with contempt”… at least not without testing them first. Then you can reject the bad ones. So let’s do that. Let’s see how many of the Bible’s prophecies have turned out to be wrong (according to the Bible and/or in reality).
I’m not quite going to be able to “test them all“, though, because a lot of prophecies are unfalsifiable. That means even if they are in fact false, even if those predictions are never going to come true, there’s no way to know that. It’s always possible that those particular things just haven’t happened yet. But here’s what I will be evaluating:
- Prophecies that specify or imply any kind of deadline for fulfillment. (These can be falsified (shown to be false) if the deadline has gone by.)
- Prophecies that are no longer possible to fulfill, even if they didn’t originally have a deadline. (If it hasn’t happened yet in that case, it’s a false prophecy.)
- Prophecies that say something will never happen. (These can be falsified if it does happen.)
- Prophecies that are considered to be already fulfilled. (Some of these may not exactly be falsifiable, but I can still dispute the supposed fulfillment.)
I’ll be writing about true predictions in later posts. For now, here are some of the false ones:
Acknowledged false prophecies
The Bible doesn’t completely deny that prophecies can be false. Usually it tries to portray the false ones as having nothing to do with God, but then of course it has to go and contradict itself and attribute ALL prophecy to God.
Sometimes in the Bible, God even intentionally has prophets make false predictions. He had Ahab’s prophets tell him he would be victorious, when he knew Ahab was going to die in battle. Even God’s own prophet Micaiah, who could never prophesy anything God hadn’t put in his mouth, gave the same false prediction at first. God’s prophet Elisha, too, told a king he would live when he knew the king was about to die. God deceived his people when he told the prophet Jeremiah that they would have peace.
No more false or delayed prophecies?
In Ezekiel 12, though, God tells Ezekiel that from now on, not only will there be no more false prophecies ever again, there won’t even be any more delayed prophecies. God is tired of people thinking his predictions aren’t going to come true any time soon (if ever). So he says from now on, all prophecies will be fulfilled without delay.
That means every prediction that is made after this chronologically and isn’t fulfilled immediately is not only a false prophecy itself, but also shows that this Ezekiel 12 prediction is false. And there are plenty of those. The very next chapter is all about false prophets, who aren’t supposed to exist anymore.
In the chapter after that, God says his people are going to stop going astray and sinning. Did that happen immediately? No, if they had, God would have instantly forgiven them and not punished them. Instead, God immediately starts talking about how much he’s going to punish his people, and how much they deserve it. And he goes on like that for at least several chapters.
A few chapters later, we hear about the false prophets again, who are still having “false visions” despite God’s prediction that they wouldn’t anymore. Then God says he’s going to destroy Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. But that doesn’t happen without delay. All of those nations lasted at least another century, except Philistia… which had already been conquered two centuries earlier.
Next, God claims that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon will completely and permanently destroy Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar did attack Tyre during Ezekiel’s time, but unsuccessfully. It wasn’t really conquered until decades later (by a different king, after Babylon was taken over by Persia). Tyre wasn’t actually destroyed until hundreds of years later, by Alexander the Great. And Tyre did later recover. It existed in the New Testament, and it still exists today.
God also claims he’s going to make Egypt a desolate uninhabited wasteland,1 which never happened. Then in the next chapter, he says the day of the Lord is near, when all nations will be destroyed. That certainly didn’t happen immediately. A couple of chapters after that, God describes a bunch of nations being destroyed. But that should have already happened if the “no more delay” thing was true, since he had already said all the nations would be destroyed. Some of those nations had in fact already come to an end before Ezekiel was written, and others continued to exist for a long time after.
God told Ezekiel that the Jews would return from captivity, which didn’t happen for a few more decades, and that the other nations would never scorn or oppress them again, which wasn’t true at all. He said Israel would no longer have malicious neighbors, but Israel has never been completely at peace with its neighbors.
He went on to claim that all the Israelites would return from the nations where they had been thoroughly scattered, so the twelve tribes would live in their land again. That never happened. The people from the former kingdom of Judah returned, but the majority of the tribes (which formed the kingdom of Israel and which were exiled first) never came back as far as I know. God says Israel will then be attacked after reassembling “in future years”. That sure doesn’t sound like it’s happening without delay.
Daniel, too, made false or delayed predictions after God claimed that those would never be made again. He predicted the rise of a unique kingdom that would “devour the whole earth“, which never happened. And he predicted that sin would permanently come to an end in “seventy sevens” (490 years?), which would be a significant delay even if it was true. And then there’s Jesus, who is said to have promised he would return “soon“, yet 2000 years later he still hasn’t come back. His words were certainly not “fulfilled without delay”.
More unacknowledged false prophecies
Back when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, God claimed that from then on all animals would become submissive and would fear humans. But the Bible says some animals, like the Leviathan, remained fearless and never submitted to humans at all.
God said if Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, all the water in Egypt would turn into blood. Not just the big exposed natural bodies of water, but all the water everywhere in Egypt. But that’s not quite how it turned out. People were still able to get actual water in Egypt. They just had to dig a little.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised his people that he would never inflict his wrath on them again, or even rebuke them again. But God does continue to constantly rebuke his people and talk about how he’s planning to punish them, all throughout Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and quite a few times in other later books as well. God can’t even predict his own behavior.
Isaiah said the uncircumcised would never enter Jerusalem again, but Jerusalem does not have a ban on uncircumcised visitors.
John the Baptist predicted that someone greater than him would come after him. This is supposed to have been fulfilled by Jesus. But according to Jesus himself, as someone born of a woman, he could not have been greater than John.
Jesus claimed that anyone who came to him would never be hungry or thirsty again. So are all Christians “breatharians“, able to live without eating or drinking? Of course not. Jesus is wrong, as usual. Even if you interpret his claim metaphorically, he’s still wrong.
Jesus also claimed that everyone who believed in him would be able to do everything he could do and more. Specifically, he said they would be able to handle snakes and drink poison without being harmed. Unfortunately, he was wrong, and a lot of people have died trying to do those things. Being a Christian doesn’t give you any of those abilities.Continue reading False predictions in the Bible