Biblical minimalists are commonplace in the scholarly and religious worlds. This term applies to writers and scholars who do their best to “minimize” the credibility of the Bible; they deny its Divine authorship, its prophecies, its histories, etc. They assert, for instance, that biblical prophecies couldn’t possibly have been inspired and written before the prophesied events occurred. They assert they were written “after the fact” by ancient writers who merely claimed that prophets penned the words. By doing so, they deny the reality that any Divine Creator God inspired the Bible’s narratives and prophecies. They write articles in Biblical Archaeology Review and other scholarly papers and publications. Because they deny God in their writings and analysis, the world loves them because the world does “not want to retain God in its knowledge” (Romans 1:28). Many Christians are intimidated by these erudite minimalists and defensively reply that they simply have “faith” that the Bible is or might be true.
However, Christians have irrefutable evidence that biblical prophecies were written before the prophesied events actually transpired. The evidence is right before our eyes in our modern world. This post will focus on just one such powerful piece of evidence. It is found in Zephaniah 2 and related prophecies. The Bible has been preserved for us for many centuries and even millennia in various ancient documents. It is not necessary to go through them to document something very obvious. Zephaniah 2 has existed in its current form for many centuries…just in English. For those who speak Latin, Hebrew or Greek, they can attest that ancient codices, documents, scrolls and manuscripts contained the book of Zephaniah long before the English language even existed. Let’s demonstrate that the ancient prophecy of Zephaniah 2 has been precisely fulfilled in our modern era, and that it was foretold long, long ago. This makes it very clear that whoever inspired the prophecy of Zephaniah 2 not only knew the future, but had the power to make the prophecy come to pass at its intended time. No biblical minimalist can scoff at this prophecy and say it was written “after the fact.”
The King James Bible dates back to 1611, long before the prophecy in Zephaniah 2 came to pass in the 20th century. In Zephaniah 2:1-2 it states that this prophecy is for a time just prior to the “day of the Lord’s anger.” The “day of the Lord” is a prophesied time at the climax of this current age when the Divine Creator intervenes in mankind’s affairs and imposes a Messianic Age/Millennium of peace on the earth, but he will do this after his anger consumes and punishes those who have hated him and opposed his will on the earth. This prophetic time is also called “the latter days” in many biblical prophesies or “the time of the end” in Daniel 12:1-4. This means Zephaniah 2 could not have been fulfilled in any ancient time period; it can only be fulfilled near the end of our current age. Zephaniah 2:3-5 give a warning and lamentation for native peoples living in the old region of Palestine just before a major prophesied “latter day” event takes place. Verses 6-7 are the key part of this prophecy. It foretells that a “remnant of the house of Judah” will again inhabit the “sea coast” or “coast” of the old Promised Land and that their territory will also specifically include the city of Ashkelon. “Judah” refers to the Jews, whose name has long been based on the first syllable of the word “Ju-dah,” pronounced “Jew-duh.” Therefore, this prophesy will be fulfilled at a time just prior to the end of this age when a Jewish population will return to the old Promised Land and set up a nation that will include the coastal region along the Mediterranean Sea and the specific city of Ashkelon. In 1948, the modern Jewish nation called “Israel” was formed when refugee Jews from Europe and elsewhere founded an independent nation in the old Promised Land. The Jewish homeland included the Mediterranean seacoast and the city of Ashkelon. Indeed, the city of Ashkelon is very close to the southern terminus of the state of Israel’s coastal land in 1948 along the Mediterranean Sea. Perhaps that is what the prophecy meant to tell us: That the new Jewish nation’s coastal territory would terminate very close to the city of Ashkelon at its southern-most point. Everything prophesied in Zephaniah 2:5-7 happened in 1948 exactly as prophesied. Native populations were displaced as the Jews formed their new nation in the old Holy Land with a long stretch of the Mediterranean Sea as their western border which terminated very close to the city of Ashkelon.
Consider also how appropriate the term “remnant of the house of Judah” is to the time when the Jewish nation was born in 1948. Many of the Jews who founded the Jewish state in 1948 were survivors of the Holocaust, when the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews from the face of the earth. It was indeed, a mere “remnant” of Europe’s Jewish population which migrated to Israel to help settle the new Jewish homeland. The terminology of Zephaniah 2’s prophecy strongly infers the Holocaust that occurred just prior to the founding of the Jewish state. Verses 8-11 also prophecy that there will be many border disputes and border demands made by surrounding nations against the new Jewish nation. Indeed, surrounding nations tried to annihilate the new Jewish nation as soon as it was born, but the Israelis defied all the odds and beat back an overwhelming number of soldiers to save their state from extinction. Several wars have affirmed Jewish sovereignty over much of the old Promised Land’s territory. These pressures on the Israeli borders continue today as Hezbollah and Hamas seek to destroy the Jewish state and they are backed by Iranian forces deployed into southern Lebanon and into Syria. Zephaniah’s language foretells God will fight against those who “magnify themselves against their border” (verse 8). This prophecy is perfectly consistent with the prophecy about “Judah” (the Jews) in the latter days contained in Genesis 49:8-10 that the Jews will be like a victorious lion in the latter days in their fighting against their enemies.
The prophecy in Zephaniah is also striking in one easily-overlooked aspect. Notice that it does not say a word about Jerusalem being in the territory controlled by the Jews when their new nation would be founded. Given the long historical relationship between Jews and the city of Jerusalem, this is very noteworthy. It strongly indicates that Jerusalem will not be part of the Jewish nation at the time it is founded. This aspect of the prophecy also came to pass. Jerusalem was not a part of the Jewish state until after a later war when the Jews took control of Jerusalem from the Jordanians. Now it is time to consider what Zechariah 12 and 14 have to say about the role of the Jewish nation in the latter days. While Zephaniah 2 omits Jerusalem from any mention in connection with the Jewish nation when it was founded in 1948, Zechariah 12:1-9 and Zechariah 14 repeatedly mention Judah and Jerusalem as being inseparably linked together and mentions them often as one entity. In doing so, biblical prophecy is extremely accurate in foretelling what would happen in our modern time. While Zephaniah 2 accurately foretold the founding of the Jewish state but made no mention of Jerusalem being part of it at its founding (which happened in 1948), Zechariah 12 and 14 prophesy that Jerusalem and the Jews (Judah) will be linked together as one entity by the time the latter days draw to a close. This has happened. The fact that Zechariah 14:4 mentions the “Mount of Olives” makes it crystal-clear that this prophecy is literal, not symbolic or metaphorical.
Believers in the Bible need not be “apologists” at all. It is the biblical “minimalists” who need to apologize for doubting the veracity of the Bible’s accounts and prophecies. The founding of the state of Israel and exact details of its 20th century history were foretold many long centuries ago in biblical prophecies that long pre-date the Jewish state that was founded in 1948. No biblical minimalists can deny that Zephaniah 2 was precisely fulfilled in 1948 and that the prophecy was written long, long before the prophesied events came to pass. This prophecy proves that a Creator God inspired biblical prophecies and brings them to pass at their appointed times. Indeed, God points to his ability to bring his prophecies to pass as a proof of his reality and sovereignty over all human affairs (Isaiah 41:21-26, 42:9, 46:8-11). We are now deep into the latter days of our current age. Many more prophecies will be fulfilled in the years ahead of us. Can we trust the accuracy and Divine authorship of the Bible? Zephaniah 2 declares the answer is a strong “yes.”
For more evidence that we are living in the prophesied latter days, please read my article, Are We Living in the Biblical Latter Days? For definitive proof the Jews are the people who are referred to as “the house of Judah” in the Bible, please read my article, Four Reasons the Jews are Judah.