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"WE have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed." 2 Peter 1:19.
The prophetic scriptures afford infallible evidence that the voice of the living God speaks in Holy Writ. One of the distinguishing marks of divinity is the power that foretells and records the course of history long ages before the events come to pass.
God's challenge to false religious systems in olden time was this:
"Declare us things for to come.
Show the things that
are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods."
Isa. 41:22, 23.
And all the gods of the nations were silent; for they are no gods. The Lord alone, the one who speaks by the Holy Scriptures, is able to tell the end from the beginning.
"I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand." Isa. 46:9, 10.
By this means God has borne witness of Himself through the ages, that it might be known that the Most High rules above all the kingdoms of men, and that men might recognize His purpose to put an end to sin and bring eternal salvation to His people. "I have spoken it," He declares, "I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."
The fulfilment of the word of prophecy in history is a fascinating story. To the Lord, the future is an open book, even as the present. The word is spoken, telling of the event to come; it is written on the parchment scroll by the prophet's pen. Time passes; centuries come and go. Then, when the hour of the prophecy arrives, lo, there appears the fulfilment. And it is seen in matters pertaining to individuals, as well as in the affairs of cities and empires.
The Word Fulfilled after Long Waiting
In the dream divinely given to the lad Joseph, it was plainly foretold that his brothers would one day come as suppliants before him. His father rebuked him for telling the dream, saying, "Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Gen. 37:10. The brothers sold the lad into slavery, to be well rid of him. Yet twenty years later, all unconscious of his identity, these same brethren presented themselves before the prime minister of Egypt, and "fell before him on the ground." Gen. 44:14.
Again: the wicked stronghold of Jericho had been utterly destroyed. Joshua declared:
"Cursed be the man . . . that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first
born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it." Joshua 6:26.
The hands of angels had thrown down its walls, and its ruin was to stand as a memorial. More than five hundred years later, when the apostate Ahab was ruling, and Israel and Judah had departed from the Lord, Hiel the Bethelite set out to rebuild Jericho. "He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born."
But accident and death may come at any time. The work on the walls went on, no one thinking of the neglected Scriptures with their warning of long ago. So the full account runs:
"He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Joshua the son of Nun." 1 Kings 16: 34.
The fate of some of the mightiest cities the world ever saw has borne testimony through the centuries to the fulfilment of the prophetic word.
The Witness of Nineveh
Nineveh was founded by Nimrod. He built not only his capital here by the Tigris, but other towns round about, conceiving first of all the idea of grouping the capital and its suburbs into one great city, the "Greater Nineveh," as we would say in these days of Greater London and Greater New York. At the dawn of history Nineveh was "a great city." Gen. 10:11, 12. In Jonah's day it was an "exceeding great city." Sennacherib, of the Bible story, was its beautifier. Rawlinson says:
"The great palace which he raised at Nineveh surpassed in size and splendor all earlier edifices."—"Second Monarchy,” chap. 9.
"In the book of Jonah," says Records of the Past, Nineveh is stated to have been an exceeding great city of three days' journey; and that being the case, the explanation that Calah on the south and Khorsabad on the north were included seems very probable. The distance between these two extreme points is about thirty miles, which, at ten miles a day, would take the time required."- Vol. XII, part 1, January and February, 1913.
A description is preserved on the clay cylinder in the king's own words:
"For the wonderment of multitudes of men
I raised its head
- 'the palace which has no rival'
I called its name."- Taylor Cylinder, "Records of the Past."
Vol. XII, part 1.
At the preaching of Jonah the city had repented; but in later years pride of conquest and luxury and wealth were
filling it with blood. The prophet Nahum warned it of certain doom, appealing to those who had any fear of God to turn to Him. The message was:
"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him." Nahum 1:7.
Some, no doubt, heeded the warning and turned to God for refuge. But the city's life of sin ran on. Then the prophet Zephaniah spoke the word, just as the stroke was to fall:
"Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction;