As we have been going through this study of Biblical prophecies giving great detail concerning the events that are about to unfold, we sit back in amazement at the accuracy of the information that God has chosen to leave us with. God in His omniscient wisdom chose to give us more and more detail and understanding of prophetic events as we come closer to His return. We are even now seeing an enormous amount of prophecy being fulfilled as these words are being written.
In the past two parts of this series, we have examined a number of Scripture passages detailing the next major regional war that is about to erupt in the Middle East. Most prophecy students call this the Psalms 83 war or the Psalms 83/Obadiah war. In Part 12 we will examine what Scripture has to tell us about the destruction of Damascus.
Once again, I need to credit the work of many students of prophecy before me, men like Hal Lindsey, the late Grant Jeffrey, and so many others whose books line the shelves of my study. I have especially learned a great deal in the last few years from Bill Salus’ research into the original names and tribes listed in the Old Testament and how they are linked to modern nations today. I have gleaned valuable information and compiled stacks of handwritten notes to use, integrate, and add to my own research and studies.
Damascus has been the subject of study for Bible scholars for many years. This city, which is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world at possibly 5,000 years old, is doomed to total destruction. The two best known passages describing this devastation are found in Isaiah 17:1-13 and Jeremiah 49:23-27. The Jeremiah prophecy was written well over a century after the Isaiah prophecy.
There are those who believe that Damascus was destroyed in 732 BC when the Assyrians attacked and conquered it, and are thereby convinced that the events of Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 have already happened. Scripture tells us in Jeremiah 49 that the city is still inhabited, which would indicate that it must have been restored if it is to fulfill the prophecy of both Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49.
The fulfillment of this major event is now imminent on the prophetic clock as Bible prophecy is continuing to unfold. The predicted destruction of Damascus will be an event that will have major world-wide ramifications. But prophecy is not given to make us live in fear, but rather to make us aware of the time we live in and, more importantly, make sure that our relationship with God is where it should be!
In previous articles in this series, I went into considerable detail describing the major regional conflict that we will see erupt in the Middle East at any time now. I am convinced that Scripture shows the destruction of Damascus as an integral part of this war, if not one of the very first blows struck. Israel, Jordan, and Syria are linked in Isaiah 17. Once Damascus is devastated, there is no way that this war can be reeled back in until it has run its course. Let’s take a look at what the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had to say about this event:
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. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” says the LORD of hosts…Behold, at eventide, trouble! And before morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us. (Isaiah 17:1-3; 14, NKJV)
Against Damascus. “Hamath and Arpad are shamed, for they have heard bad news. They are faint hearted; there is trouble on the sea; it cannot be quiet. Damascus has grown feeble; she turns to flee, and fear has seized her, anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor. Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy? Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, and all the men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD of hosts. “I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.” (Jeremiah 49: 23-27 NKJV)
The city of Damascus is clearly named in both passages of Scripture. Some of the other names presented in the passages however are not as easy to connect with modern day locations. We will take a brief look at these as we look into the details of these Scriptures.
Verse 2 of the Isaiah passage mentions Aroer, specifically saying that the cities of Aroer will be forsaken (abandoned in the original translation). There are several possibilities for the location of Aroer and prophecy teachers are not in total agreement on the location. The location that makes the most sense to me and also seems to fit the geographical scenario best due to its relative closeness to Damascus, happens to be located in northwestern Jordan. Aroer is also mentioned specifically in Joshua 13:24-28.
Moses also had given an inheritance to the tribe of Gad, to the children of Gad according to their families. Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half of the land of the Ammonites as far as Aroer, which is before Rabbah…”
The 32nd chapter of the Book of Numbers tells us that the tribe of Gad were agriculturalists and found this land ideal for their large herds. When Damascus meets its demise, these cities will be abandoned and be annexed once again into Israel’s territory.
If we were to go through all of the details offered by Scripture to spell out exactly what is going to happen, it would require much more than the brief overview intended in this article. I would recommend reading the thoroughly researched and well written book “Psalms 83, The Missing Prophecy Revealed” by Bill Salus. In this article I will just share a few more details to whet your appetite for studying these passages in depth for a greater personal understanding.
The first part of verse three in the Isaiah prophecy tells us that Ephraim’s fortress will fail. Ephraim today comprises the heart of the West Bank area in Israel. It is presently controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and of course is very much coveted by Hamas. The great debate about who Jerusalem belongs to, as well as the Judean territory to the south of Jerusalem and Samaria which extends north, will be resolved as checkmate ends the game of chess. The Old Testament prophets make it clear that Israel’s military will be empowered by God Himself to defeat their border enemies as well as the enemies within the land. This war will establish Israel as the “mighty army” the prophet Ezekiel prophesied would appear at the end of days. Israel’s victory will be so decisive that the rest of the events foretold for Israel in the last days will be set in motion. The devil will be enraged at Israel’s overwhelming victory and will unleash the rest of his hellish plan intended to destroy God’s chosen people. But, he is doomed to fail!
The latter portion of verse three predicts that Damascus and most of Syria will belong to Israel once again. This is not a development Israel’s enemies are expecting. The prophecies of the Koran say differently, but prophecies in the Koran have already failed badly. There are many of Muhammad’s followers who are perplexed today as they see events transpiring that do not follow Islamic eschatology, and other things that were supposed to have happened, have not. This is because there is only One who knows the end from the beginning, and His name is not Allah. Neither are Allah and the Almighty YHVH the same entity! This is a lie being propagated by many religious leaders today, but originates in hell! It is designed to deceive people.
As we continue looking at Isaiah’s passage, we find in verses 4-6 an indication that Israel will suffer serious damage and casualties in this war even though they will quickly and decisively defeat their enemies. To this point, since becoming a sovereign State on May 15, 1948, Israel has taken losses in each war they have fought. Their victories have always been miraculous and their losses have been relatively light in comparison to their enemies. This will again be the outcome, but, as the losses of their enemies will be much more devastating than ever before, so will Israel experience a much greater loss of both life and devastation of infrastructure. Yet, Israel will come out of it a formidable force to be reckoned with. This may explain why Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39 come into Israel with such a massive force of what is likely millions of troops, all heavily armed with advanced weaponry. All this against little Israel? It must be due to the unexpected and overwhelming defeat of the Muslim Arab forces in the Psalms 83 war.
In the next few verses of chapter 17 we find a common analogy and common commentary used by several Old Testament prophets. Israel is compared to an olive tree quite often, both in the Old and New Testaments. We also find numerous prophets describing the rebellion of the Jewish nation and also how God responded to them when they were obedient to Him. With the modern State of Israel, the same principle applies. Against all odds, God has brought the nation of Israel back together and has been drawing millions of Jewish people back to their homeland ever since. The nation is mostly secular, with most of the population having little belief in God. Israel today does not yet recognize their God, but soon they will have a defining moment. If they do not realize that God has been their benefactor in the Psalms 83 war, they will have a very difficult time denying it after the massive horde from Magog (Russia) and its Muslim allies are devastated. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that 85% of the invading horde will be destroyed on the mountains of Israel. Israel will recognize who saved them. In fact, the whole world will have to recognize there is a God in Israel! But, the Gog and Magog war is the topic of an upcoming article.
We are given considerable detail throughout the verses of chapter 17 which I cannot take the time for in this article, but I feel the last portion of the chapter needs some commentary. In reading verses 10-13 carefully, it becomes clear that Damascus, which represents the nation Syria, attacks Israel along with a confederation of nations. It is described in verse 12-13 using the symbolism of the Syrians joining the rushing of mighty waters, rushing like mighty seas. In the Bible, “seas” generally represent Gentile nations or peoples. We are being shown an enormous invasion by Israel’s enemies and as we have already learned earlier in the chapter, Israel will retaliate. The Scripture also tells us that God will rebuke them. The description we find in verse 13 of this passage sounds very much like what we find in Psalm 83:13-15:
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.
These prophecies seem to suggest that the destruction of Damascus is connected to the Psalms 83 war. If this is the case, then Damascus is very close to its destruction. The Mideast is in turmoil today as the escalation of hostilities increases. The list of confederated enemies for the upcoming conflict is almost complete. Even the two nations which have had long standing treaties with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, are showing signs of a desire to reject them. Egypt is participating in major military exercises that they openly admit are for war with Israel. Jordan’s King Abdullah Hussein, has actively been assembling the member nations of the Psalms 83 conflict. Jordan has also been overseeing the Temple Mount ever since Israel gave them permission to do so after the war in 1967 in which Israel took back the city of Jerusalem. The increasing turmoil and conflict on the temple mount, among other things, is likely to push Jordan closer and closer to breaking their treaty with Israel. They have been under great pressure to do so for quite some time by most of the Arab nations around them. It is only a matter of time until the treaty is no more and Jordan joins with the rest of the confederated border enemies of Israel, including Syria. These events are swiftly unfolding before our eyes today.
Getting back to the coming destruction of Damascus, the first part of Isaiah 17:14 tells us how fast the destruction of Damascus happens. “Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more.” Not only is it very fast, it is as devastating as it is sudden. What is a very large city on the evening is a shattered ruin in the morning. Not only is Damascus obliterated, but so is the entire surrounding area devastated, all the way down over the Syrian border into northwestern Jordan. What is not affected in Jordan by the destruction of Damascus, will be brought under subjection to Israel in the Psalm 83 war. The consequences of this war upon Israel’s enemies are confirmed in the prophecies of both Obadiah and Zephaniah.
The passage in Jeremiah describing the destruction of Damascus adds some interesting details. One thing that is clear from the Isaiah prophecy is that Israel responds to an attack of some sort. The last phrase of Isaiah 17:14 tells us: “This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those that rob us.” This also ties in with the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God made His covenant and promise to the patriarch of the Jewish nation thousands of years ago and this covenant has not been rescinded, nor will it ever be. Here in the prophecies of this coming conflict, God will once again fulfill His end of the covenant by cursing those who curse the descendants of Abraham. The world may have forgotten–or conveniently ignored, but God does not forget, nor does He lie. In Jeremiah 49:23-24, the Scriptures say:
Against Damascus. Hamath and Arpad are shamed, for they have heard bad news. They are faint-hearted; there is trouble on the sea; it cannot be quiet. Damascus has grown feeble; she turns to flee, and fear has seized her. Anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor…
Hamath and Arpad are ancient cities mentioned many times in the Bible and are recorded in history as two of the more important cities of ancient Aram, which today is Syria. What is the threatening bad news from the sea (Mediterranean) that is causing such fear and anguish? According to research done by Bill Salus, Hamath is approximately 120 miles north of Damascus, and Arpad about 200 miles northeast of Damascus, about 25 miles from modern day Aleppo. Since we just read in Isaiah 17:9 the prediction that Syria’s “strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch,” we can conclude that Israel’s military retaliation will cause the inhabitants of several major cities in Syria to abandon their homes at the time when Damascus is destroyed. What could do such a thing? As can be confirmed today, Israel has Dolphin class submarines that patrol many waters, including the coastline of Syria. What no one can confirm outside of Israel is that these submarines are likely equipped with nuclear weapons. Could this be why there is so much consternation just before Israel’s retaliation? It’s quite possible. Jeremiah doesn’t just describe a few soldiers being killed but rather gives a description of all of the men of war being killed, along with a tremendous number of civilians.
Due to Israel’s enemies possessing weapons of mass destruction of their own, and a hatred that drives them to desire the complete extermination of the Jews, Israel’s military will find itself having to hit very hard and fast if it is to survive. Damascus is not far from the border between Syria and Israel, and is in a position to be a great threat of great devastation to Israel. Most terrorist organizations in the world have a presence in Damascus and with the continued threats coming from Bashar al-Assad, it would not take much deliberation for Israel’s leaders to decide upon a quick and devastating response, especially in light of the fact that Israel will be forced into a multi-front war. Israel will have no room for error, nor leniency toward those who have declared themselves their mortal enemies.
Even though Israel does not want war, and certainly has no desire to use weapons of mass destruction upon any nation, they will be pushed into a corner where they will have no choice if they intend to survive. Scripture seems to indicate that Israel will be allowed by God to win this conflict with their military. This will then fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy that the regathered Jewish nation will have an exceedingly mighty army (Ezekiel 37:10).
This “exceedingly mighty army” prophesied by Ezekiel will however be overwhelmed by the massive force called Gog and Magog coming against them on the mountains of Israel. This is an alignment of nations that comes against Israel very soon after the Psalm 83 war. In Part 13 of this series, we will look at what the Bible says about this major conflict, and how it is distinct from the Psalm 83 war. One of the nations involved with Russia in the Gog and Magog war is Iran. It seems however that Iran gets hit twice before Jesus Christ returns to set up His millennial kingdom. Ancient Elam (which is the western portion of modern day Iran) will be devastated first. We will discuss this in introduction to the Gog/Magog war, which I believe will be World War III.
To Be Continued in Part 13