Which Jewish Prophecies Have Come True?

Dear Jew in the City,

What are the prophecies that were set to transpire in exile? Is there anything we’ve seen in Jewish history so far that matches up to that?



Dear Rafi,
Thanks for your question. We’ve discussed prophecies before, so I’ll share with you a few of my favorites, and then I’ll give you the same caveat I give everyone who asks questions like this.

The prophet Jeremiah predicted the destruction of nations like Ammon, Moav and Edom; sure enough, there are no nations identifying as such around today. However, when it came to Egypt, Jeremiah foretold that the nation would endure, although it would no longer be the world power it once was. As you are no doubt aware, Egypt exists today, but it is not what most nations would consider a force to be reckoned with (Jeremiah 46).

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 foretells that the Jews would sin and be exiled, but that God would return them to the land of Israel. This has clearly occurred.

Isaiah prophesized that the land of Israel would be desolate in the Jews’ absence, but that it would blossom upon their return (Isaiah 41). Sure enough, lands that were formerly swamps and sand dunes are now orange groves.

Zechariah chapter 2 (et al.) foretells how the city of Jerusalem would expand to many times its original size, extending far beyond the original city walls. If you’ve ever been to Jerusalem, you’ve no doubt noticed how absolutely tiny the Old City is compared to the modern city of the same name!

The prophet Zechariah made a lot of other prescient observations. In some very difficult prophecies, he anticipated the holiday of Chanukah and the Hasmonean dynasty (chapter 4, et al.) and foretold how Babylonia would become the center of Jewish life and learning during the exile (chapter 5). (You’ve no doubt heard of the Babylonian Talmud. That’s our “default Talmud,” being considered more authoritative than the Jerusalem Talmud, which was written in Israel.)

Finally, Isaiah 40:31 foretells Jews returning “on eagles’ wings.” While surely a fanciful metaphor in Isaiah’s day (and for millennia after), it seems a pretty clear reference to air travel to Israel in general. It might, however, refer to the 1949 airlift of Yemenite Jews to Israel. (Typically called “Operation Magic Carpet” in English, the mission’s Hebrew name was mivtzah al kanfei nesharim – “Operation On Eagles Wings.”)

Those are some of my favorite prophecies, which I think are easy to see in history. Now for the caveat: you can really only see such things with hindsight. And hindsight requires distance.

Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue with a head of gold, a torso of silver, a stomach and thighs of copper, legs of iron, and feet of clay (Daniel 2). These segments represent the powers that would succeed Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, but they are not identified. We can identify them with the benefit of hindsight, but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know their identities and neither did we for at least a millennium.

Similarly, in the list of the names of Haman’s ten sons who were hanged (Esther 9), three letters are written smaller than the rest of the text: a taf, a shin and a zayin. This was known to be a prophecy, but the meaning was obscured for thousands of years. It is now crystal clear. Tafshinzayin corresponds to the Hebrew year 5707. On October 16, 1946 (21 Tishrei, 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. The connection between this execution and that of Haman’s sons was driven home by Nazi Julius Streicher, whose last words, reported in Newsweek magazine, were “Purimfest 1946.” But again, this requires hindsight to see.

Consider the following verse from Sefer Yoel (3:3), which is recited as part of the Pesach Haggadah. Referring to the War of Gog and Magog, God says, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.” After 9/11, there were those who thought this was a clear reference to that event. 

I was literally at the World Trade Center on 9/11. I was sequestered in a building on Water St. for about three hours, after which I ventured out and was evacuated to Brooklyn on foot via the Manhattan Bridge. Why weren’t we evacuated via the Brooklyn Bridge, which was closer? Because of the giant pillars of smoke that were approaching from Ground Zero. I took the following picture with a disposable camera from the Manhattan Bridge.

Do I think 9/11 was the fulfillment of that prophecy? I couldn’t say. Not enough information to go on. I’d like to think that it might be, because I’d hate to see a worse day than that, but we simply don’t have the “big picture” view to make such a determination.

Bottom line, I tell people not to worry about prophecies too much. They’re an interesting diversion, but they’re really only visible through the rearview mirror. Most prophecies are rather obscure, and people are too quick to apply them to things in the news. We should concern ourselves less with the prophecies in the Torah and occupy ourselves more with the mitzvos. If we do what we’re supposed to do, God will ensure that history plays out the way it’s supposed to.

Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Educational Correspondent
Follow Ask Rabbi Jack on YouTube

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  • Avatar photo R. S. says on April 11, 2024

    In reference to the small letters ת,ש,ז – taf, shin and zayin, which are written smaller than the surrounding text, there is also, in that same text, the letter ו – Vav, whose numeric value is 6, which is written larger than the surrounding text. The Vav adds to the info, giving us info that the date written in tiny letters occurs in the Jewish calendar’s sixth millenia.

    The small letters hint to the year within the millenia, as we commonly write the Jewish year in Hebrew, omitting mention of the specific millenia. And the large Vov refers to which millenia.


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