Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Isaiah 17, and the destruction of Damascus?


The oracle concerning Damascus in Isaiah 17 tells us that Damascus will be totally destroyed at some point in time (Isaiah 17:1-3). As Damascus has never suffered this fate we can confidently assume that this prophecy will happen sometime in the future. Considering the situation that currently exists in Syria, can we presume that it will happen soon?

Bashar al-Assad has faced a chorus of criticism over his eight-month crackdown on opposition protesters that has left, according to sources reporting to the UN, at least 3,500 people dead. Despite the fact that many Western powers condemns Syria's brutal crackdown, the regime has shown no indication that it will soften its position.
Jordan’s King Abdullah suggested that Assad step down, Turkey added pressure threatening to cut power supply to Syria, and in a surprise move, the Arab League voted to suspend Damascus' membership of the alliance. Though Syria is being confronted from all sides she still has two powerful allies in Russia and Iran. Moscow has been an ally since the Cold War and Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean, Tartus, is in Syria. About ten days ago newspapers reported that Russian warships were heading towards Syria’s waters. On Monday, 21 November, presidential sources in Damascus announced three warships had entered Syrian territorial waters outside Tartus port. Those sources stressed the Russian ships would not anchor in the Syrian port, indicating that their mission was not just to show the flag for the Assad regime but was on operational duty along its coasts to resist any foreign intervention in Syria unrest. Also aboard the vessels were Russian technical advisers who arrived to help Syria set up an array of S-300 missiles Damascus has received in recent weeks. The S-300 system is regarded as one of the most potent anti-aircraft missile systems available. The system's radar is able to simultaneously track up to 100 targets while engaging up to 12. Deployment time for the S-300 is five minutes, and they have a very long life span, with no maintenance needed. Informed sources confirm that Moscow sees a Western attack on Syria as a “red line” that it will not tolerate. Following the Russian ships the US navy also arrived in the Mediterranean to flex its muscles. The Nuclear aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush has reportedly anchored off Syria. As an Arab League deadline to allow observers into the country passed with no response from Damascus, the possibility of intervention in Syria seems to be growing.

At this point in time I want to bring you back to the ultimatum Syria gave in early October. The Syrian leader threatened to set fire to the Middle East by striking Israel, stating in a meeting with the foreign minister of Turkey, a NATO member: “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need no more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv”. He further stressed that Damascus will also call on Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch a fierce rocket and missile attack on Israel, one that Israeli intelligence could never imagine. “All these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack US warships in the Persian Gulf as American and European interests will be targeted simultaneously”, Assad reportedly said. Iran, an even more important ally of Syria, has traditionally seen Syria as a gateway to the Arab world and a key supply link to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah. It is very likely that Iran is sitting in the wings waiting for intervention by the West, before going to Syria’s rescue.

Israel reacted with a warning of its own: “If a single Syrian missile explodes in Tel Aviv, Damascus will be first to pay the price, and if the missile offensive persists, one Syrian town after another will be destroyed”. The Israeli message to Assad cited the warnings Defence Minister Ehud Barak and other government members addressed in the past year to Hezbollah, that if Tel-Aviv comes under attack from its missiles, not only Beirut but all of Lebanon would go up in flames. Assad was given to understand that Syria would go the same way as Lebanon if it engaged in missile hostility against Israel.

As we have seen many times before, things in the Middle East have a tendency to build up and then calm down again. However the current situation facing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is very different from any problems we have seen in the past. He has a very serious threat on his hands with the continued protests threatening to turn into civil war. Considering his direct threat to attack Tel-Aviv together with the terrorist group Hezbollah operating out of Lebanon and Syria, the potential for something major to happen on the border of Israel became a reality on Monday, 29 November, when according to “DEBKAfile”, a four-Katyusha rocket volley from South Lebanon hit Galilee in northern Israel. IDF sources read the rocket attack as the Assad regime's last warning to the US, fellow NATO members and Gulf nations that Israel would be first to pay the price for their planned intervention in Syria. This incident could trigger a Lebanese-Israel border clash followed by a massive rocket assault on Israel as promised by Assad.

Looking at the current situation one would think that the destruction of Damascus is imminent, as Israel will respond with a nuclear attack fulfilling the Isaiah 17 prophecy. The oracle tells us that Damascus, the oldest city in the world, will be removed from being a city and become a fallen ruin (Isaiah 17:1-3). The current situation between Israel and Syria is indeed very explosive, but the destruction will not take place very soon. The Bible tells us that the predicted judgment on Syria ("Damascus") in Isaiah 17 is shown to occur in the same period of time as God's discipline of Israel. A significant key to this time frame is found in Isaiah 17:7 which declare that the people of Israel will turn back to God. Israel has not turned back to the Lord. Bible prophecy shows this will occur by the end of the future seven year tribulation period, not before. It will be then that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:26) as believing Jews will then move into the millennial kingdom (the thousand year rule of Christ upon the earth).
Before all surviving Jews of that dreadful era turn to the Lord, there will be "desolation" (Isaiah 17:9). The Hebrew word used for "desolation" in this passage is the same one utilized in Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11, which refer to "the abomination of desolation," cited by Jesus in Matthew 24:15. The "abomination" refers to the act of "the man of sin, the son of perdition" who abominates the future Jewish temple by presenting himself in the temple as God to be worshipped (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). This act will occur at the exact midpoint of this future seven year Tribulation period. Up till that point, two Jewish prophets will have free reign to proclaim God's Kingdom message to Israel from Jerusalem (Rev 11:3-8). Although many Jews will believe in Jesus Christ during the first three and a half year period, the majority of Jews in Israel will still be unbelievers. When the Jewish prophets "finish" their ministry of 1,260 days, "the man of sin" ("the beast" of Revelation) will kill them and abominate the temple. Then the Antichrist will give orders to his army to bring "desolation" upon Israel by hunting down believing Jews to arrest and to kill them. However, God will protect many of the faithful followers of Jesus during the last three and a half years of that seven year period; yet, other Jews will not survive. In fact, Zechariah 13:8 warns that two-thirds of all Jews living in the land of Israel will die during that era. Those Jews who do survive will end up believing in Jesus Christ and returning to the Lord, as predicted in Isaiah 17: 7 and as portrayed in Zechariah 12-14. As presented in Zechariah, Israel will be invaded by the nations, as their armies gather in preparation for the war they intend to wage against Christ at His return (Rev 16:12-16). This will be "the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7).  As written in Zechariah 14:1-4, Jesus will return to deliver Israel, and when He does, He will "fight against those nations" (Zechariah 14:3) which will be gathered in, and around, Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2). Therefore, Isaiah 17 predicts a very troublesome period for Israel, one that will include an invasion by the nations. However, God will use that same dark era to shine the light of the gospel to the Jews, resulting in the spiritual salvation of Israel, which will then be followed by the physical deliverance of the Jews at the return of Christ.

Although the divergence between Syria and Israel looks like the beginning of the destruction of Damascus by Israel, the Bible tells us otherwise. The Destruction of Damascus is not about to happen. I build this argument solely on verse 7 of Isaiah 17: “In that day man will have regard for his Maker and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel”.

by Johann Loots


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  4. I believe that current events in Syria have nothing to do with Isaiah 17 (or Isaiah 7-8 and Amos 1). Isaiah and Amos were contemporary prophets, and both predicted that Syria and Israel would soon be destroyed by the same opponent, Assyria. II Kings 16 shows in detail that their prophecies were fulfilled, and this is validated by historical records as outlined in this article:

    One of the biggest keys pointing to the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 in Isaiah's own time period is the phrase "in that day" in verse 4. Isaiah clearly prophesied that Damascus and Syria would fall in the same "day" that Israel would fall. And we know that Israel (the northern kingdom) fell in 722 B.C.