Prophets Contradicting Prophets (Isaiah vs. Jeremiah vs. Ezekiel vs. Daniel)
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01 August 2003
Revisions and Updates through 01 March 2007
One of the most amazing discoveries from a study of the various prophecies found in the Old Testament, is that God's Prophets CONTRADICT each other. I say "AMAZING" because biblical exegeis understands that GOD DOES NOT CONTRADICT HIMSELF, and yet all these prophets claim that their words are not theirs, but revelations direct from God. We will investigate in this brief article some of these contradictions.
The length of the Exile :
Jeremiah understands that Judah will go into a Babylonian Captivity for a time span of 70 years, which will take place in the course of three generations of Babylonian kings, Nebuchadrezzar, his son, and grandson, whereupon Israel will be set free.
Jer 29:10 (RSV)
"For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place."
Jer 27: 6-7 (RSV)
"Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant...All nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave."
Contra Jeremiah, Ezekiel declares that Judah will serve a Captivity of ONLY 40 years, evidently alluding to the 40 years punishment of Israel in the wilderness under Moses.
Ezek 4: 6 (RSV)
"And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, a day for each year."
Contra Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Daniel understands Israel's estrangement from God is not to be 70 years or 40 years (I find it strange, that Daniel appears to be unaware of Ezekiel and his prophecy), but "70 weeks of years," (70 x 70) or 490 years. The last deportation into Exile being ca. 586 BCE, less 490 years, suggests Daniel envisions a return of God's favor ca. 96 BCE.
Daniel 9: 2, 24-25 (RSV)
"...I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years which, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely seventy years...Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity...from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem..."
That is to say, Daniel has a dilemma, Jeremiah predicted only a 70 year estrangement from God, and that has come and gone with the 6th century BC and still the prophet's promises of Israel's flourishing and no more being oppressed by her enemies are unfulfilled. In other words after the 6th century BC restoration from the Babylonian Captivity Israel and Judah is to never again experience subjugation by her enemies, and yet the Jews are being subjugated the Seleucid Greeks and Antiochus IV (Dan 11:20-44) circa 300-162 BC. This situation, Antiochus IV's oppression of Jews (circa 168-163 BC) makes a liar out of Jeremiah who said oppression would end after the 70 year exile in the 6th century BC, not the 2d century BC. The way out of this situation for Daniel is to reinterpret Jeremiah's 70 years into 70 weeks of years (70 x 70) or 490 years extending the estrangement period and absolving Jeremiah of uttering a false prophecy that there would be no more oppression after the 6th century BC return from Exile.
Daniel is guilty of recasting Jeremiah's prophecy. He claims _contra_ Jeremiah, the 70 years will _begin_ with the "going out of the word to rebuild Jerusalem." Some Christian commentators argue this is an allusion to an event under one of the Persian monarchs. Jeremiah's prophecy _contra_ Daniel's starts with the very beginning of the Exile, not some time later under a Persian monarch. So Daniel is guilty of tearing Jeremiah's 70 years prophecy from its 587 BC exilic setting and having it "begin" in the Persian period with a Persian monarch decreeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Contra Daniel, the anonymous author of 2 Chronicles 36:20-23, understands that Jeremiah's prophecy _has been fulfilled_ by Cyrus the Great's release of Jews from the Babylonian Captivity (the release occuring ca. 539/538 BCE).
2 Chron. 36:20-23 (RSV)
"He took into exile in Babylon those who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfuil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfil seventy years. Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing" Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up."
Also "contra" Daniel, Isaiah understands that Cyrus is going to fulfil God's promise to redeem his preople and restore them to their lands and rebuild Jerusalem (Cyrus overthrew Babylon ca. 539/538 BCE, the city surrendering peacefully to him). Isaiah also speaks of God blotting out the sins of his people upon the restoration (and Babylon's demise, contra Daniel's notion that 490 years first elapse (Isa 43:14, 25; 44:3).
Isaiah 44: 26-28; 45:1-, 13, 17 (RSV)
"...who says of Jerusalem. 'She shall be inhabitated.' and of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins'...who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfil all my purpose'; saying of Jerusalem, 'She shall be built," and of the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid.' " Thus says the Lord to his anointed [messiah], to Cyrus..."he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward," says the Lord of hosts...Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation..."
Isaiah was WRONG, Cyrus did NOT rebuild Jerusalem. The rebuilding was done under Nehemiah and the Persian king Artaxerxes, NOT Cyrus (Neh 2:1).
Isaiah prophecized God would pour out his spirit on his people with the demise of Babylon and setting them free of their Babylonian captors. The prophet was WRONG, God did not pour out his spirit upon his people enabling them to wholeheartedly keep his law for they still married foreign women and worked on the Sabbath as attested by Ezra (Ezr 9:1-12) and Nehemiah (Neh 13:15-18).
Isa 43:14, 25; 44:3 (RSV)
""For your sake I will send to Babylon and break down all the bars, and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentations..."I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins...I will pour out my spirit upon your descendants..."
We have seen that the various prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel contradict each other, each claiming that God is speaking through them. If God is truly speaking through these devout men, it is apparently God who is contradicting God. Can "a house divided against itself stand" ?
Is there a way out of the above "apparent" contradictions ? For some men of faith, apparently so. They argue that "the error" is that the reader (myself) is taking the Prophets' words "too literally," not realizing that the prophets are employing "Jewish idioms," "hyperbole" and "metaphor" and did not intend that an actual 40, 70 or 490 years was to really transpire, these are merely differing ways they choose to say "a long time of indeterminate length would occur," absolving the prophets of "contradicting" each other.
Please click here for my article on the failed prophecies of Daniel revealing he was a false prophet. Please click here for my article on the failed prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah regarding Babylon revealing they were false prophets.