The False Prophet
Deuteronomy 18:20-22
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak…

The failure of the word of a prophet was decisive proof that he had not spoken by Divine inspiration. Had his word not failed, it would not have followed that he was a true prophet, but it showed conclusively that he was a false one when his word did fail.

I. CERTAINTY OF FULFILLMENT IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD'S WORDS. If e.g. the prophecies of the Scriptures could be shown to have been falsified by events, it would, by the rule laid down in this fundamental prophetic charter, conclusively disprove their claims to inspiration. It is vain to think of defending the inspiration of the prophets, while conceding, with rationalistic writers, occasional failures in their predictions. The prophets themselves do not shrink from this test, but confidently appeal to it (Isaiah 34:16). This shows how different their inspiration was from the ordinary inspiration of genius, both in their estimation of it and in fact. No man of genius, however wide his range of vision, be he a Bacon, a Shakespeare, a Goethe, or a Carlyle, would like to rest his reputation on the absolute unfailingness of his words. While prophecy affords conspicuous instances of the certainty of fulfillment characteristic of God's words, it is to be remembered that this certainty inheres in all God's words alike. No word of God or of Christ will fall to the ground unfulfilled (Matthew 24:35). The thought should comfort God's people, and make his enemies tremble. Applies to promises and threatenings equally with predictions and doctrines.

II. THE PREDICTIONS OF SCRIPTURE ABIDE THIS TEST OF TRUE PROPHECY. The force of the evidence from prophecy can only be properly felt by those who have been at pains to examine the Bible predictions in detail. But it does not need more than an examination of the principal instances to convince us that here we have no chance guess-work, no mere forecasting of natural sagacity. We might point to the predictions in Deuteronomy respecting the future of the Jewish nation, and the punishment which would overtake them for their sins (Deuteronomy 4:25-29; Deuteronomy 28:45-68); or to the Messianic prophecies (e.g. Isaiah 53.); or to particular predictions delivered long before the events predicted occurred, or could have been foreseen, as when Amos ( B.C. 787) predicts of Israel at a time when the king and nobles were lying on beds of ivory, and indulging in every species of dissipation and amusement - "Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose Name is The God of hosts"(Amos 5:27), or when Micah ( B.C. 710), a hundred, years before the Captivity, foretells of Judah, "Zion for your sake shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps" (Micah 3:12); "Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there shall the Lord redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies" (Micah 4:10). Discovery has not tended to discredit, but in several striking instances has confirmed the truth of prophecy, as in regard to Ezekiel's prediction of the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar (Deuteronomy 29:8-16), a prediction pronounced by Kueuen and skeptical critics to be a mere guess, falsified by the event, but now strikingly confirmed from a contemporary hieroglyphic inscription (see Expositor, vol. 10.). And while it is true that an isolated sign and wonder is not proof sufficient of Divine inspiration (Deuteronomy 13.), it is certain that, taking into account the character of the prophets, the kind and number of their predictions, the holiness of their message, and the coherence of what they taught with earlier revelations, the evidence of their Divine commission is as strong as could be wished - is, in fact, decisive. - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

WEB: But the prophet, who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die."

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