In the conclusion of part three of this series of articles, I mentioned that Israel knows that they are facing war on all sides. The news in the last few days serves to strongly confirm that fact. As Friday prayers were finished in mosques in Gaza last week, once again the Palestinians were urged to challenge the Israeli military by storming the border. Incendiary terror kites launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have caused substantive ecological damage, burning half of the forested land near its southern border with Israel. The Palestinians also continue to be coached to throw molotov cocktails and hand grenades at the Israeli troops. Then of course, there is the never-ending burning of tires that continues to plague anyone east of the border.
There have also been other developments worthy of mentioning at this point. Although it has become a much too common experience for rockets to be randomly shot out of the Gaza Strip toward surrounding Israeli territory, two rockets aimed at Israel on October 17 were not typical. One of these rockets went into the Mediterranean, but the other hit a house in Beersheba, the largest city in southern Israel. Fortunately, a mother and her three children managed to get into their bomb-shelter and shut the door just as the rocket hit the house. Although the house was destroyed, the occupants were physically unharmed.
Israeli authorities investigated the attack and found that the rocket which destroyed the home in Beersheba was much more sophisticated than typical rockets from Gaza. It was discovered that a guidance system had been installed on this rocket which made it much more accurate than previous rockets shot into Israeli territory. The main reason for Israel’s blockade around Gaza has been to stifle the never-ending flow of weapons across the border, particularly the more sophisticated weaponry originating in Iran. As is usually the case, there are denials and then there are the claims of responsibility for attacks. There is even a claim that lightning caused the missiles to go off accidentally. Investigations will continue, but one thing is sure, this was a game-changer and the temperature of the Middle East cauldron continues to rise.
Israel called an emergency meeting in the Knesset and after a five hour meeting, drew up five specific changes to existing policies concerning dealing with the Gaza problem. These five changes were to be made while an initial military response was being made by the Israeli air force.
- Large numbers of military troops, tanks, and military hardware to be sent to the border immediately.
- Flight / travel routes were to be changed by the airport authority due to the security issues.
- Security restrictions were to be removed in the Gaza vicinity so that the public is allowed to prepare for the inevitable emergencies that are coming.
- An immediate policy change for the military starting October 19, was to enforce a new, wider cushion zone at the border. Soldiers have now been ordered to shoot any protester who violates the zone.
- Implementation of the new measures of force includes any rioters using incendiary balloons or kites.
These measures are of course an obvious escalation in Israel’s planned responses to further provocation. Hamas however is not backing down. In fact, people were called into their mosques on Thursday and instructed on mass participation in the demonstrations and rioting at the border. Demonstrators again were encouraged to become martyrs for the sake of Islam. Things do appear to be ramping up for a fifth war between Hamas and Israel. But, the question becomes: Is this really just another war between Hamas and Israel, or could it be leading to something much more? Most media around the world are giving little coverage to the situation because it is viewed as merely “more of the same.” I am convinced that what we are about to witness is likely the beginning of something much, much larger. Islamic clerics are telling Muslims that this is the promised all-out war between the Jews and Islam. The Bible speaks to this conflict as a major Mideast war between Israel and its enemies that lie mostly on its border. This conflict will set the stage for the more recognized massive “Gog / Magog, or Ezekiel 38-39 war.
My purpose is not to give an accounting of the current news, but to point out how the God of the Bible foretold the details thousands of years ago, details that we are witnessing in real time today. In John 14:29, Jesus said, “And now I have told you before it comes to pass so that when it does come to pass, you may believe.” There are many so-called “holy books” in our world today, but there is only one that has foretold world history in intricate detail, and with 100% accuracy before it has happened. Over 70% of Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled and the last 30% will now unfold in a very short period of time. We truly are on the knife’s edge of the end of the age!
In concert with what is unfolding in the Gaza Strip and its border with Israel, there are other threatening developments which confirm the next great conflict in the Mideast is already on its way. The terrorist organization Hezbollah, which has been an avowed enemy of Israel since it was formed in 1985, has a confirmed 150,000, if not more, missiles and rockets aimed at the State of Israel. Israel has not been blind to this fact, but it is now reported that Iran has changed its strategy from basing precision missile factories in Syria to transferring them to Lebanon, under the protection of Hezbollah. This began in earnest several months ago but is now escalating. It is a well known fact that Israel has been destroying Iranian facilities in Syria. Caravans of precision weaponry being moved overland to Hezbollah in the past have also been destroyed before they could arrive at their destination. Israel, to this point, has avoided direct missile strikes or bombing raids within Lebanon’s boundaries, but this may now change. Israel has vowed not to allow sophisticated weapons that threaten its existence to be brought near its borders with any country.
Anticipating another conflict with Hezbollah, Israel is building barriers and deploying tanks and troops on the border with Lebanon. To this point, Hezbollah’s huge missile arsenal is not precision equipped, but with cargo planes originating from Iran landing in Damascus and then continuing on to Beirut, Israel knows that a game-changing decision will need to be made sooner, rather than later. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nazrallah’s missile factories are now being prepared for retrofitting of their missiles with Iranian precision equipment. Israel cannot allow it.
Of the ten enemies specifically mentioned by the seer Asaph in his prayer of complaint and petition to the Jehovah GOD in Psalm 83, three are located in Israel’s neighbor, Jordan, and are identified as Ammon in the north, Moab in central Jordan, and Edom in the south. In light of an existing treaty between Israel and Jordan, some Bible prophecy teachers have found it difficult to accept that Jordan might become part of a coalition attacking Israel once again. Yet, Asaph documented these specific enemies from north, central, and southern Jordan. One way or another, Jordan’s soon to come actions will prove God’s Word to be right again.
The relationship between Jordan and Israel has often been contentious over the past years, but the treaty between them has held. Now, in the last few days, we are seeing the treaty beginning to come apart. An agreement between Jordan’s previous king and Israel’s former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, had allowed the lease of about 250 acres of Jordanian land to Israeli farmers for the 25 years. Next year this lease is due to be cancelled or renewed. King Abdullah, under enormous pressure from his citizens which are 70% Palestinian, has decided to cancel this portion of the treaty. I expect that the rest of the treaty will begin to fail very soon. Jordan’s king is presently rebuilding relations with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Syria and Qatar, as well as with other middle eastern nations. This provides a compelling insight into what is about to happen.
Another border nation with a treaty with Israel is Egypt which has the largest population and is militarily the most powerful Arab nation today. To this date, Egypt’s treaty between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed in Washington D.C. in 1979 has held. Although the treaty was in jeopardy during Mohamed Morsi’s short time as president of Egypt, peace has prevailed–especially in light of the cooperation between Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Benjamin Netanyahu. Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, and was a friend of Hamas, is presently in prison. Will something happen within Egypt that puts its present leadership in jeopardy; possibly even releasing Morsi once again? Only God knows, but one way or another, Egypt will be under the rule of a “cruel master” according to Isaiah 19, and as a result, will join the coalition against Israel thereby ensuring its defeat at the hands of the Jewish nation. This is, however, a subject for another time.
This, at long last, brings us to Damascus. Is it truly possible that Damascus, which has been a continuous city for about 5,000 years, will be totally destroyed? This is what the Bible tells us.
Many voices will say that Damascus is already destroyed. Video footage taken with drones flying over the city show miles of infrastructure destroyed. Bridges, buildings, and residences destroyed beyond repair, just heaps of ruin. Yet, the Bible describes a coming destruction many times worse than what is seen today.
There are also those who would say that Damascus was destroyed in 732 BC when the Assyrians overran the city. What happened to Damascus at that time does not fit the destruction foretold by the Hebrew prophets.
Isaiah takes a complete chapter to describe what happens to the city. He starts by saying:
The burden against Damascus, “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”
Then the prophet Jeremiah wrote about the destruction of Damascus about 1,500 years later. This means that Damascus would have to have been restored in order for Jeremiah to write about another destruction of Damascus at some time in the future.
The prophet Amos writes about Damascus’ destruction in Amos 1:3-5, saying:
Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron, but I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad.
Is it possible that the three transgressions of Damascus were fulfilled in the Arab – Israeli wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973? Some, as do I, believe this is the case. Syria was one of the main enemies Israel faced in these wars and I believe that Syria’s involvement in the coming major Mideast war will become the fourth and final straw that brings God’s judgement on Damascus as Amos prophesied.
As we look again at Isaiah’s prophecy, this passage alone makes it quite clear that the prophecy has never been fulfilled to this very day. No matter how much destruction is a reality in Damascus today, the city still exists. The full destruction is still future. Another factor that is made clear in this passage is that the destruction of Damascus is quite widespread. The destruction of Damascus is apparently so vast that the populations of nearby cities need to be evacuated and the lands rezoned for agricultural purposes. According to thorough research done by author Bill Salus for his books outlining the prophecies concerning the Middle East, of the three possibilities for the cities of Aroer, the one that fits the description the best is Aroer Gad. It was located in the area of ancient Ammon, in northern Jordan.
Damascus is located in southern Syria and is only 109 miles (175 km) from modern day Amman, Jordan. Aroer Gad was part of the tribal territory of the patriarch Jacob’s son, Gad. We find in Numbers 32 that the tribe of Gad requested and was given this territory because he had sizable flocks and the land was most suitable for his purposes.This tells us that the destruction of Damascus spills over into northern Jordan. When we look into Jeremiah’s description of what happens, we are given some more details about the northern Jordanian cities.
Against the Ammonites (northern Jordan today),. Thus says the LORD: “Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then does Milcom inherit (Aroer) Gad, and his people dwell in its cities? Therefore behold, the days are coming”, says the LORD, “That I will cause to be heard an alarm of war in Rabbah of the Ammonites; it shall be a desolate mound, and her villages shall be burned with fire. Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 49:1-2
Rabbah was the chief city of an ancient semitic nation on the eastern side of the Jordan river. So, we find in this passage that Israel comes against Damascus and as the destruction is so vast, it dooms what was ancient Rabbah, or today’s Amman, Jordan. At the time when Jeremiah wrote this prophecy, Milcom was the Ammonite god. Since Milcom and all the other pagan Arab gods have all since been replaced by Allah, Jeremiah likely is referring to Islam in this prophecy.
In this passage, Jeremiah’s is asking why do Arabs (or Jordanians today) live in the cities given to one of Jacob’s twelve sons? This is a great question in light of all the failed attempts throughout history to annihilate Jacob’s descendants. Since Jacob still has descendants alive today, God will require an answer of the inhabitants of Israel’s bequeathed land as to why Jacob’s descendants are not allowed. It is an interesting fact of history that although Jordan was known as The Emirate of Transjordan as of April 11, 1921, and later as the Hashemite Kingdom in 1946, the land of Transjordan was originally to be given to the Jews. It is of course today the independent state of Jordan and under the rule of King Abdullah II since 1999.
As we go ahead with Isaiah’s prophecy, he says:
“In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, and reaps the heads with his arm; it shall be as he who gathers heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” says the LORD God of Israel.
It appears by how Isaiah wrote this passage that Israel comes under attack “in that day,” and Isaiah’s wording seems to indicate that there will likely be casualties in Israel, possibly many. This is something that is yet to come, but as a result of this attack, we find these things coming to pass:
- Damascus ceases to be a city (verse 1)
- The cities of Aroer are forsaken (verse 2)
- The fortress of Ephraim, and kingdom of Damascus ceases (verse 3)
- The Syrian remnant becomes subservient to the glory of the children of Israel (verse 3)
Due to the attack on Israel and Israel’s response, the cities that are forsaken because of Israel. We see this in verse 9. I won’t explain all of the idioms used in the next verses but will mention that the Valley of Rephaim is the location of two historic wars the Israelites won against their nemesis, the Philistines. God is saying that He will help them win this battle supernaturally as well. Whatever the attack is from Israel’s enemies in this soon to come war, the Jews once again survive the attempted genocide, both the “uppermost boughs” and the “fruitful branches”, the less populated areas as well as the more populated ones. Going on in Isaiah’s prophecy we read this:
In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. (Isaiah 17:7-8)
As a result of another miraculous victory for Israel, mankind will “in that day” find themselves questioning the power of false gods, whether they be technology, materialism, or the gods of religion, specifically Allah. The humiliation of Allah and his prophet Muhammad will cause many to turn to the God of creation, who promised to not only bring them back to their homeland but also protect them from their enemies after their return. In the end, the false god of Syria will suffer great disrespect. Allah is the would-be god of Syria today, and the god that will prove to be impotent to save anyone.
In verse 9, I believe we find Biblical proof of who is responsible for the destruction of Damascus. The verse reads:
In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation.
The destruction Isaiah refers to is of a militarily strong city, not a weak city, not a weak Syria. This devastation that affects Damascus and even down as far as Amman, Jordan, also appears to affect the large cities to the north of Damascus. These are identified as an “uppermost branch.”
Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow. Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. (Isaiah 17:10-13)
We see here that Damascus, identified by the pronoun “you”, is paying no attention to God. This passage also points out that Syria, represented by its chief city, Damascus, comes against Israel as part of a confederated force of nations. Seas generally represent Gentile nations in the Bible, and in these verses they are roaring and rushing like mighty waters. We have a picture of a mighty military invasion. We know that it is an invasion of Israel because it is Israel that retaliates.
The disaster for Damascus is shown by these verses by describing a “heap of ruins”, and the “day of grief and desperate sorrow” experienced by Israel’s enemies. We find a direct connection with Isaiah’s prophecy here and Psalm 83. If we were to examine the original Hebrew, we would find that six identical Hebrew words describing this destruction are used in both passages.
O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like the chaff before the wind! As the fire burns the woods, and as the flame sets the mountains on fire, so pursue them with your tempest, and frighten them with Your storm. Psalm 83:13-15
The nations will rush in like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. Isaiah 17:13
One additional nation is mentioned in Psalm 83 that has not been mentioned in this study. By following excellent research that has been done by other Bible prophecy researchers, men like Bill Salus, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and others, we know that Abraham had descendants that are represented today in Saudi Arabia as the Ishmaelites. Genesis 25 provides information about Abraham, his second wife, Keturah, and their offspring. In verses 1-3 we find this listing of descendants:
Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim.
This was of course after Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah had died. As the Bible confirms, Abraham took Keturah as wife and continued to have children, who then bore their own children. Two of these, through his son Jokshan, were Sheba and Dedan. These names are important as they point to the fact that these descendants are mentioned in other Scriptures that we will refer to in later articles in this series. For this writing, I will just mention that Sheba and Dedan historically are connected to the Arabian peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is of interest for several reasons. One, is that Saudi Arabia has strong connections to the West. In spite of the fact that Saudi Arabia is known to export and fund extreme Wahabi Islam around the world, there is still a resistance to Russia’s involvement in the Middle East. This will be a factor when we discuss the Gog / Magog war detailed in chapters 38-39. It is also interesting in light of unfolding current events with the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. There are many questions about his true connections, one of them being to the Muslim Brotherhood. One reason for mentioning his death in this article is the fact that Saudi Arabia is reported today to be very near a civil war, and the death of Khashoggi is apparently adding much fuel to that fire. Why is this important? Because of what the Bible says about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the gathering coalition against Israel.
Isaiah penned these words in the last verse of Isaiah 17:
Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us.
This short little verse tells us how long it takes for Damascus to be totally destroyed. Overnight Damascus is totally obliterated. Israel’s enemies eventually all face the judgment spoken by God in Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you…”
In Part Five of this series, we will finish looking at what Scripture has to say about the destruction of Damascus, including details we are given by other Old Testament prophets.
Continued in Part Five…