Failed prophecies in the Bible?

I received a question from someone alleging a failed prophecy in Daniel 5:31.  She asked if this meant that he is a false prophet and if other such failed prophecies undermine credibility in the scriptures.

My response is below:

Most often these alleged contradictions or errors come from the most uncharitable or superficial reading of scriptures.  I’ll include an except from a commentary that gives a ready answer to the concern you raised about Daniel 5:31, and simple internet searches can typically find solutions to other alleged contradictions.

This does not seem to be the appropriate place to start your search, however.  If Daniel had named Cyrus instead of Darius, would you become a Christian?  Probably not!  Rather I would start by answering the most fundamental question, is Christianity offering something that you are interested in?  The message of Jesus is that you are offered forgiveness for your sins and reconciliation to God, that is to say that your life will be reconciled to him and his purpose.  This entails turning your back on your old life and giving up those goals in place of the one goal of glorifying God in your life.  Assuming this is true, is this an offer that you would want to accept?  If this isn’t even something that you would want, then that answer will be more important than many other questions about Christianity.


  1. Darius the Median—that is Cyaxares II, the son and successor of Astyages, 569–536 B.C. Though Koresh, or Cyrus, was leader of the assault, yet all was done in the name of Darius; therefore, he alone is mentioned here; but Da 6:28 shows Daniel was not ignorant of Cyrus’ share in the capture of Babylon. Is 13:17; 21:2, confirm Daniel in making the Medes the leading nation in destroying Babylon. So also Je 51:11, 28. HERODOTUS, on the other hand, omits mentioning Darius, as that king, being weak and sensual, gave up all the authority to his energetic nephew, Cyrus [XENOPHON, Cyropaedia, 1.5; 8.7].


Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 631). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Matt Bilyeu

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