Isaiah 17: Destruction of Damascus
the last days, the Bible tells us, a horrible series of events will take
place in the lands of Israel and Syria. One of these events is the
disappearance of Damascus as one of the premiere cities in the world. The
oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet, Damascus has witnessed at
least five thousand years of human history, and some historians believe the
city actually dates back to the seventh millennium bc. In fact, Paul was on the
road to Damascus when Christ first appeared to Him, an event that
transformed not only his life, but the course of human history.
the very near future, Damascus will once again play a
major role in human events. The prophet Isaiah provides us with God's
commentary on a future conflict between Damascus and Israel, and in so
doing, He reveals certain prophecies that have been partially fulfilled in
the past. However, the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 17 remains in the
future. The current existence of Damascus, which will one day cease to be a
city, as well as the historical absence of the coalition of nations
prophesied to attack Israel and be destroyed by God, is proof that Isaiah 17
prophesies events yet future.
is what God revealed to the prophet Isaiah:
"This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look,
Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer
will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid.
There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will
also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram
will share the fate of Israel's departed glory,' says the Lord Almighty"
(Isaiah 17:1-3, NLT).
opening verses paint a bleak picture. The city of Damascus will become a
heap of ruins, utterly destroyed. Few, if any, buildings will be left
standing. The once great city will be devoid of human life and will become
home to all manner of wildlife in the absence of humans to chase them away.
According to these verses, the cities of Aroer, which are located on the northern
Arnon River just east of the Dead Sea, will also be deserted. However, the
passage doesn't say they will be destroyed in the same manner as Damascus,
just that they will be deserted. It may be that people simply flee these
cities out of fear.
addition, many of the fortified cities in northern Israel will also be
destroyed. The few who remain in Aram, thirty-eight miles south southeast of
Damascus, will share the fate of these northern Israeli cities.
"‘In that day the glory of Israel will be very dim,
for poverty will stalk the land. Israel will be abandoned like the grain
fields in the valley of Rephaim after the harvest. Only a few of its people
will be left, like the stray olives left on the tree after the harvest. Only
two or three remain in the highest branches, four or five out on the tips of
the limbs. Yes, Israel will be stripped bare of people,' says the Lord, the
God of Israel" (Isaiah 17:4-6, NLT).
breadth and scope of destruction is clearly illustrated as God describes the
stripped bare of people. Only a small fraction of people either choose to
stay in the land or else survive what is a massive holocaust, leaving only a
few inhabitants who struggle in poverty.
"Then at last the people will think of their Creator
and have respect for the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer ask their
idols for help or worship what their own hands have made. They will never
again bow down to their Asherah poles or burn incense on the altars they
built" (Isaiah 17:7-8, NLT).
result of this event, the people of Israel will once again turn to God
Almighty. Currently, the nation of Israel is predominantly secular in
nature. Other biblical passages infer that this will change as the
prophesied rebuilding of the Temple in the last days indicates a spiritual
resurgence among the Jews of Israel. Nevertheless, this passage clearly
indicates the people of Israel will turn away from all false idols and gods.
Knowing that this will happen, we must ask: Why does it happen? The answer
is found in the verses that follow:
"Their largest cities will be as deserted as
overgrown thickets. They will become like the cities the Amorites abandoned
when the Israelites came here so long ago. Why? Because you have turned from
the God who can save you—the Rock who can hide you. You may plant the finest
imported grapevines, and they may grow so well that they blossom on the very
morning you plant them, but you will never pick any grapes from them. Your
only harvest will be a load of grief and incurable pain" (Isaiah 17:9-11,
devastation that overshadows Israel will come about because Israel has
"turned from the God who can save them." All the hard work performed prior
to this event will be lost. Those who have been distracted by the things of
this world will be disappointed, for they have forgotten God, and by putting
faith in the things of this world, they will ultimately be disappointed.
Their only harvest will be "a load of grief and incurable pain." This grief
will be brought to a climax when, in the midst of their suffering, the
nation of Israel faces an imminent invasion:
"Look! The armies rush forward like waves thundering
toward the shore. But though they roar like breakers on a beach, God will
silence them. They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind or like dust
whirling before a storm. In the evening Israel waits in terror, but by dawn
its enemies are dead. This is the just reward of those who plunder and
destroy the people of God" (Isaiah 17:12-14, NLT).
Syria and Israel lie in ruin, the enemies of Israel will view her suffering
as an opportunity to invade, their ultimate goal to destroy her forever.
However, God has a different plan in mind, and He will destroy these
invaders Himself. A more in-depth illustration of this attack is foreseen in
"O God, don't sit idly by, silent and inactive! Don't
you hear the tumult of your enemies? Don't you see what your arrogant
enemies are doing? They devise crafty schemes against your people, laying
plans against your precious ones. ‘Come,' they say, ‘let us wipe out Israel
as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence.' This was
their unanimous decision. They signed a treaty as allies against you—these
Edomites and Ishmaelites, Moabites and Hagrites, Gebalites, Ammonites, and
Amalekites, and people from Philistia and Tyre. Assyria has joined them,
too, and is allied with the descendants of Lot. Do to them as you did to the
Midianites or as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the Kishon River. They were
destroyed at Endor, and their decaying corpses fertilized the soil. Let
their mighty nobles die as Oreb and Zeeb did. Let all their princes die like
Zebah and Zalmunna, for they said, ‘Let us seize for our own use these
pasturelands of God!' O my God, blow them away like whirling dust, like
chaff before the wind! As a fire roars through a forest and as a flame sets
mountains ablaze, chase them with your fierce storms; terrify them with your
tempests. Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O Lord. Let
them be ashamed and terrified forever. Make them failures in everything they
do, until they learn that you alone are called the Lord, that you alone are
the Most High, supreme over all the earth" (Psalms 83, NLT).
how do we know that Psalms 83 describes the same scene envisioned in Isaiah
17? Let's compare the two. Here's how the intentions of Israel's enemies are
Plunder & Destruction
"This is the just reward of those who plunder
and destroy the people of God" (Isaiah 17:14, NLT).
"They devise crafty schemes against your
people, laying plans against your precious ones. ‘Come,' they say, ‘let us
wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its
existence.' This was their unanimous decision" (Psalms 83:3-5, NLT).
"For they said, ‘Let us seize for our own use
these pasturelands of God!'" (Psalms 83:12, NLT).
Here's how the fate of Israel's enemies is described:
"They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind or
like dust whirling before a storm" (Isaiah 17:13, NLT).
"O my God, blow them away like whirling dust, like
chaff before the wind!" (Psalms 83:13, NLT).
the description of their fate alone, it is reasonable to conclude that the
armies of Isaiah 17:12 are the same nations that sign a treaty against the
Lord in Psalms 83:5-8. Below is a list of those nations and their modern
Edomites = Jordan / Parts of the West Bank
Ishmaelites = The Arab people
Moabites = Jordan / Parts of the West Bank
Hagrites = Jordan / The Arab
Gebalites = Lebanon
Ammonites = Jordan
Amalekites = Southern
Israel / Gaza
Philistia = Gaza
Tyre = Lebanon
Assyria = Syria /
Parts of Turkey and Iraq
The Descendants of Lot = Jordan
studying the geographical history of these ancient people and places, we can
uncover which nations they currently compose. According to Psalms 83, in the
aftermath of the destruction of northern Israel and Damascus, Israel will be
invaded by armies from Jordan, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza. All
of these locations are heavily populated by the enemies of Israel today.
But are the nations cited in Psalms 83 the only nations involved in this
attack? It's quite possible that additional conspirators are named in the
book of Ezekiel. Isaiah 17 and Psalms 83 might well foreshadow the war of
Gog and Magog.
Ezekiel 38-39, an enormous coalition of nations, "a vast and awesome
horde"—will roll down on Israel "like a storm and cover the land like a
cloud" (38:9, NLT). This prophesied future war in Ezekiel has many
similarities to Isaiah 17:12-14. Both prophets foresee a time when enemy
armies rush toward Israel while she awaits unprepared. Both prophets foresee
God's instantaneous destruction of Israel's enemies. And in both scenarios,
the marching armies intend to plunder and destroy the people of Israel:
"You will say, ‘Israel is an unprotected land
filled with unwalled villages! I will march against her and destroy these
people who live in such confidence!'" (Ezekiel 38:11, NLT).
"But Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of
Tarshish will ask, ‘Who are you to rob them of silver and gold? Who are you
to drive away their cattle and seize their goods and make them poor?'"
(Ezekiel 38:13, NLT).
Plunder & Destruction
"This is the just reward of those who plunder
and destroy the people of God" (Isaiah 17:14, NLT).
the events predicted in Isaiah 17 and Psalms 83 be a catalyst for the war of
Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39? Although it is not a certainty,
the possibility cannot be completely ruled out.
Looking at today's geopolitical landscape, it's not difficult to envision
the scenario outlined in Isaiah 17 and Psalms 83. Syria has been adamant in
its demand that Israel surrender the Golan Heights, threatening war if
Israel fails to comply. Meanwhile, the summer 2006 war between Israel and
Hezbollah has apparently convinced leaders in Damascus that Syria can be
victorious in a conflict with Israel by simply overwhelming the tiny nation
with rocket attacks. From a greater perspective, it has convinced the entire
Islamic world that Israel isn't the militarily invincible nation it once
Syria's rocket technology is far more advanced than that deployed by
Hezbollah, and Syria is known to possess chemical weapons, including the
highly lethal VX and Sarin gases. If Syria miscalculates and attacks Israel
with these weapons, the Israeli response will be swift and devastating.
Israel is armed with nuclear weapons, and if its survival is put in
question, it will not hesitate to use them.
this happens, a mortally wounded Israel will become an irresistible target
for her enemies. The surrounding Muslim nations will see an opportunity to
destroy her, while Russia will see an opportunity to seize the upper hand in
the oil-rich Middle East.
Today, the most virulent enemies of Israel reside in the very places named
in Psalms 83--Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan,
Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Syria leadership and its Axis of Evil partners
in the city of Damascus.
this writing, the conditions are ripe for the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 and
Psalms 83, paving the way for the Rapture of the church and the beginning of
the Tribulation. In light of such developments, we should zealously preach
the gospel of Christ to all who will listen, for the hour is late, and the
return of Christ is near.
Britt Gillette is the author of
Signs of the Second
Coming: 11 Reasons Jesus Will Return in Our Lifetime and
Coming to Jesus: One Man’s Search for
Truth and Life Purpose. He’s also the founder of
End Times Bible Prophecy.