1.2. The Destruction of Babylon

A point of disagreement concerning the interpretation of Scripture involves how to handle passages which predict events and circumstances which evidently have not come to pass. For those who uphold the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, there are only two alternatives:
  1. Dramatic Hyperbole - Prophetic passages must be understood to employ extensive use of figures of speech such as hyperbole for dramatic effect. They should not be understood in a literal way, but must be seen as a form of dramatic exaggeration emphasizing the harshness with which God views sin and its related judgment. They were fulfilled in an approximate way by events of the past or are statements of spiritual principles.
  2. Literal Prediction - Unfulfilled prophetic passages make limited use of hyperbole, but in such a way that it is obvious where it occurs (e.g., 1S. 1S. 5:12). In the main, prophetic passages are accurate predictions of catastrophic judgments which have not yet occurred.
Depending upon which of these two views one holds when reading the OT, unfulfilled passages will either be loosely applied to the immediate circumstances or they will be seen as extending beyond the immediate circumstances and speaking to an ultimate fulfillment in the distant future. Futurist interpreters are of this latter persuasion because they understand previously fulfilled prophecy to indicate a pattern of literal fulfillment. See The Art and Science of Interpretation. This is of great importance when we come to the matter of Babylon in Scripture because all interpreters are aware that extensive prophecies concerning Babylon, and especially the manner of her destruction, have never been fulfilled as they were stated. Those who favor dramatic hyperbole as an explanation tend to believe the passages were fulfilled in an approximate, but suitable way. Those who favor literal prediction believe these passages have never been fulfilled, even approximately, and continue to speak of the future destruction of Babylon at the time of the end. We are in this latter group.