Isaiah 17 predicts the destruction of Damascus
Ruin, Respect, Rush, Rebuke
By Craig C. White
Isaiah 17 predicts the destruction of Damascus. There is a rule in Bible prophecy that some predictions apply to two separate events usually separated by a long span of time. I guess you could say that God instructs us to learn about future events by observing past events. Much of the prophecy in Isaiah 17 was fulfilled during the Assyrian invasion of Damascus in 734 BC. However, Damascus was not destroyed at that time. As a matter of fact it continued as an important city of the Assyrian Empire. So Isaiah’s dire predictions may also apply to future events.
Please allow me to defend the future fulfillment of the destruction of Damascus. Many Bible scholars claim that the destruction of Damascus has already taken place. They say that the Assyrian conquest of Damascus in 734 BC fulfills the Damascus prophecy. Well Damascus was conquered by Assyria in 734 BC and several cities around Damascus were burned with fire but Damascus has never been completely destroyed. These Bible teachers argue that the Assyrian conquest of Damascus happened shortly after Isaiah gave his prophecy about the destruction of Damascus.
Isaiah 17:1-2 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
It is true that the Assyrians conquered Damascus and wreaked havoc on surrounding towns shortly after Isaiah predicted the event. I am certain that much of Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in 734 BC, BUT long after Isaiah gave his prophecy the Prophet Jeremiah also predicted the destruction of Damascus.
Jeremiah 49:23-25 Concerning Damascus. Hamath is confounded, and Arpad: for they have heard evil tidings: they are fainthearted; there is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet. 24 Damascus is waxed feeble, and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as a woman in travail. 25 How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!
Jeremiah was a prophet of Israel around 600 BC. Jeremiah gave his prophecy one hundred years after Assyria conquered Damascus in 734 BC. So the Assyrian conquest of Damascus can not possibly fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy. The destruction of Damascus is yet future.
Damascus is under siege today. A lot of Bible buffs say that Damascus will be destroyed suddenly. They say that Damascus will probably be obliterated by a nuclear bomb. I don’t see that scenario communicated in scripture. Instead Jeremiah 49:27 says, “I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus”. This terminology is used several times in the Old Testament. To kindle a fire means that God will send an invading army against Damascus; just as God sent the Assyrian Army to invade Damascus in 734 BC.
God has certainly sent an army against Damascus today. The “Free Syrian Army” is fighting in Damascus against the Syrian Army. By the way, after Assyria invaded Damascus they turned south into Israel. It is possible that the armies invading Damascus today may also turn south to come against Israel. We are allowed to learn from past events!
Isaiah 17:1-2 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. 2 The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
There are several Middle Eastern cities called Aroer, but this Aroer most probably refers to the southern region of Syria. The cities of Aroer refer to Damascus and its nearby cities. The destruction described here may even spill over into nearby Lebanon.
Remember that these verses directly apply to the past Assyrian invasion of Damascus. After Assyria conquered Syria they then invaded northern Israel and carried away captives. In verse 3 below Ephraim refers to the northern kingdom of Israel. God is saying that Syria as well as northern Israel will be conquered and carried away captive so that not many people are left in their land. This is exactly what happened long ago. Assyria took Syrians captive into north western Jordan and Israel was carried away into today’s Iraq! The following verses definitely describe what happened long ago, but they also seem to describe a future ruin of Syria and northern Israel. During Israel’s future seven year “Tribulation” period only a few Jews will remain in the entire land of Israel (Zechariah 13-14). Perhaps Isaiah is telling us that Israel’s Time of trouble follows closely after the future Destruction of Damascus.
Isaiah 17:3-6 The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria: they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean. 5 And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim. 6 Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.
Verse 6 above tells us that a few Jews will be left living in Israel. This is God’s way of telling us that a future restoration of the people and land of Israel is possible!
Guess what? Isaiah is finished talking about Damascus. In verse 7 below, God is describing the Jewish people’s response during a time of national distress. Perhaps this describes Israel’s behavior during the Tribulation period. Isaiah is saying that Israel will act respectfully toward God but will still suffer judgment. They will honor God outwardly and not look to false Gods. However, verse 10 explains that the Jews have not truly remembered their God. These verses may be explaining a period of national recognition of Old Testament laws and practices, such as renewed temple sacrifices during the Tribulation period (Dan 9:27).
Isaiah 17:7-11 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. 8 And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images. 9 In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation. 10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: 11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.
Israel will suffer for their past and present neglect of God. Isaiah explains this in the verse below. Jesus quoted Isaiah in Matthew 15:8.
Isa 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Now for something completely different! Isaiah 17:12-14 below describes a multi-nation invasion into Israel. These verses refer to an event that happened around 701 BC. Assyria’s king Sennacherib was in position to attack the city of Jerusalem. Overnight, God wiped out his army while they slept. Isaiah describes God’s intervention below.
Isa 37:36 Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
The following verses may also describe a future intervention. As a matter of fact I think they may describe two future interventions by God to save Israel!
The terminology of rushing waters and floods are often used in Bible prophecy to describe a large scale overwhelming military invasion.
Isaiah 17:12-14 Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! 13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. 14 And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.
Ezekiel 38 describes a multi-national invasion into Israel led by Turkey. God fights against these armies with rain, fire, and confusion. Every nation listed in Ezekiel chapter 38 is currently fighting in Syria. Isaiah may be telling us about a Turkish led invasion into Israel that soon follows the near time destruction of Damascus. Turkey will be joined by the Free Syrian Army made up mostly of Libyan soldiers, and Hezbollah militia from Iran and Sudan.
Isaiah 17:12-14 may also describe the judgment of the nations by Jesus Christ after his second coming at the end of the Tribulation period. However, let me say this. The judgment of the nations by Jesus is described in much more horrid terms, and on a much broader scale elsewhere in the Bible. I think that Isaiah chapter 17’s rebuke by God may be a more localized event. In other words, it may describe a battle and not the entire war.
Let’s remember that these events were all preceded by the destruction of Damascus, Syria. It is High Time to Awake to the Damascus alarm. Israel will soon suffer its seven year period of indignation. Jesus Christ will soon save Israel from peril. Before all that, Jesus Christ will come in the clouds to gather every Christian who has trusted him since his resurrection, body and soul!