Israel is the central focus of Bible Prophecy. God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give their descendants a specific land region in the Middle East. There are a few prophetic events set to occur which will usher in the completion of this covenant! One of these is the fulfillment of Isaiah 17. Note the bolded verses for further discussion:
The Destruction of Damascus – Isaiah 17 (ESV)
A prophecy against Damascus:
“See, Damascus will no longer be a city
but will become a heap of ruins.
The cities of Aroer will be deserted
and left to flocks, which will lie down,
with no one to make them afraid.
The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
and royal power from Damascus;
the remnant of Aram will be
like the glory of the Israelites,”
declares the Lord Almighty.
“In that day the glory of Jacob will fade;
the fat of his body will waste away.
It will be as when reapers harvest the standing grain,
gathering the grain in their arms—
as when someone gleans heads of grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
Yet some gleanings will remain,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
leaving two or three olives on the topmost branches,
four or five on the fruitful boughs,”
declares the Lord, the God of Israel.
In that day people will look to their Maker
and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.
They will not look to the altars,
the work of their hands,
and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles
and the incense altars their fingers have made.
In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.
You have forgotten God your Savior;
you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.
Therefore, though you set out the finest plants
and plant imported vines,
though on the day you set them out, you make them grow,
and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud,
yet the harvest will be as nothing
in the day of disease and incurable pain.
Woe to the many nations that rage—
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,
when he rebukes them they flee far away,
driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,
like tumbleweed before a gale.
In the evening, sudden terror!
Before the morning, they are gone!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
the lot of those who plunder us.
“Hamath and Arpad are confounded, for they have heard bad news; they melt in fear, they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet. Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee, and panic seized her; anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her, as of a woman in labor. How is the famous city not forsaken, the city of my joy? Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day, declares the Lord of hosts. And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”
(Jeremiah 49:23-27 ESV)
Prerequisites of This War:
Purpose of This War:
God’s specific intervention is not mentioned here, other than it seems “He rebukes” the peoples and nations that are raging against Israel. His intent seems to be so that “people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel”. He is addressing Israel, who has “forgotten God [their] Savior”.
Who Are the Players?
- Damascus, Syria
- Cities of Aroer – modern Jordan
- Fortified City in Ephraim – modern West Bank (ancient city of Samaria, capital of northern Kingdom of Israel)
- Remnant of Aram – Syria
- “many nations” and “peoples” – this is enigmatic
It will be interesting to see if this “many nations” and “peoples” is the same as “all his hordes – many peoples are with you” mentioned in Ezekiel 38:6 and the many nations described in Psalm 83.
Timing of This War:
This war is yet future. It has to occur when Israel is established as a nation but before her repentance and spiritual restoration. They are in a state of having “forgotten God [their] Savior”, their “Rock” and their “fortress”. There is no mention of the Temple in this prophecy, or even of Jerusalem at all. It would seem that the third Temple is yet future when this war erupts. It also must be before or in the days starting the Day of the Lord (as that is when Israel’s partial blindness is removed – Rom 11:25, and thus they would no longer be forgetting God, their rock and their fortress).
Isaiah 17 seems to share Jordan, West Bank, and Syria as conspirators with Psalm 83. It seems Isaiah 17 could be the spark which lights the fuse of Psalm 83, which in turn paves the way for an all-out explosion of Ezekiel 38-39. There is some suggestion that Psalm 83 may have been fulfilled in the 6-day war of 1967; if this is the case, Isaiah 17 could be connected with Ezekiel 38-39 in some way.
The language bolded in the passages above is very descriptive of the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord begins at some point when God rises up in wrath to protect Israel from imminent destruction. I personally suspect that the destruction of Damascus will occur either simultaneously with other wars against Israel or within days/weeks of other wars with Islamic nations. I believe these wars will be connected with the start of the Day of the Lord, from the references to the woman in labor (which is “the time of Jacob’s trouble”) and “that Day”.
Summary of This War:
The prophecy in Isaiah 17 points to the complete destruction of Damascus, Syria, never to be restored again. This is noteworthy because presently the city is recognized as the world’s longest constantly inhabited city. Other cities (not defined) are affected as well, and will be abandoned and desolated. The only modern example for a city to be abandoned completely is in the Chernobyl nuclear accident, so nuclear warfare might be involved here. In Jeremiah 49, it states that God kindles a fire in the wall of Damascus to make it fall, and that may be connected to this prophecy.
Isaiah refers to “that day” three times in this chapter. “That Day” is generally used in scripture to specifically refer to the “Day of the Lord”. Here, “that day” connects the destruction of Damascus with the “day” when the “glory of Jacob fades” and only “gleanings” remain. This is consistent with the Day of the Lord, or the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble”, where 2/3 of the Israelites will perish and 1/3 will be brought through the fires of testing (Zechariah 13:8-9). The Day of the Lord is not a single day, but a timespan of up to 7 years. This does not suggest the battle lasts for 7 years, but that the effects of it might – especially when coupled with all the other events of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
The “many nations” and “peoples” who are attempting to plunder Israel are “driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale” in the span of one evening/night. Interestingly, this same statement is made by Asaph in Psalm 83 – “Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.” (v13). It seems that the enemies flee, and are not destroyed.
Note that other end time events are not specifically dependent on this battle/war in any way, but speculation on its’ timing does make it easier to visualize fulfillment of other events such as the Third Temple construction. Logical placement (through human eyes) would put this very soon on the prophetic timetable, before or in conjunction with the rapture of the church.
There certainly has been a lot of action in Damascus lately and it is one to watch closely.
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
Commentary on the Isaiah 17 prophecy (Jack Kelley) – From 2013, but things in Syria have heated up quite considerably since then.
When God Intervenes (Douglas Berner) – Very detailed discussion, the best I have read. I recommend this book for multiple reasons!
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!