President Bashar al-Assad
Picture by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr
Russia has asked Syria to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and then have them destroyed, in an attempt to avoid US military strikes.
~ Jim Muir, BBC, “Give up weapons, Russia urges Syria“
Secretary of State John Kerry made an, apparently, off-the-cuff answer to what it would take to not invade Syria. He made a “rhetorical argument” (I have my own description, and it involves what comes from cattle) that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could hand over all his chemical weapons and open them up for international inspections (I assume by the UN) “next week”. Before the end of the day, Russia thought that was such a good idea that they said they would push Syria for it, and apparently Syria is willing to go along with this tentative plan!
The US is still skeptical, and I would cautiously remind everyone that part of the problem with Saddam Hussein was his continually playing delay games in the face of potential invasion. Still, what if Assad really does acquiesce?
Well, for one thing, this would be a tremendous PR coup for Russia. Oh, sure, Kerry and the Obama administration will try to spin it, but their obvious backpedaling might just come back to bite them. It will become obvious to the rest of the world that Russia is no lightweight when it comes to influence in the Middle East.
Some of the consequences are a little harder to see. A lot of speculation has been fueled by Bible prophecies in regards to Syria.
17 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.
3 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.
There is a lot here, and yet it is still pretty vague if you are treating it honestly. So, let’s analyze it to see what we can dig out of it and make some sense of it:
1. It starts out with “the burden of Damascus”, and it is obvious, and stated, that “a ruinous heap” means it will no longer exist as a functioning city, to say the least. It certainly won’t be a working capital of a sovereign nation.
2. Aroer is mentioned as well, although it simply says it will be “forsaken”.
a. The most famous Aroer is in modern Jordan, and it is to the east of the Dead Sea. It is way south of Damascus! I have included a small map below, click on it to go to the original website to view it:
b. Another Aroer has been identified as the ruins in Arara, 20 miles south of Hebron.
c. A third Aroer was in the territory of Gad, and it has not been identified.
d. The problem is that all of these are not present day cities, and two of them already are ruins. Therefore, the forsaking of something that no longer exists is problematic at best.
e. For this reason, some believe this prophecy is in the past, but that brings its own issues, which we will now look at.
3. Ephraim is mentioned, which might lend credence in the minds of some that this was a prophecy already fulfilled.
a. The problem, of course, is that Assyria had already taken the northern kingdom by the time Isaiah became a grown man.
b. Since this prophecy about Ephraim and Jacob is post-Assyria, this is most likely a prophecy for the future.
So, how to reconcile these issues? If you look at the map above, you can see Dibon, which now is called “Iron Age Dhibhan” in Jordan. It’s not far from Madaba and Amman.
Re-reading the verse, “The cities of Aroer” is plural. Normally, it would mean Aroer, any suburbs if they exist and surrounding towns. However, since Aroer is already gone but the surrounding towns are not, there is nothing preventing the verse meaning the towns surrounding (what once was) Aroer.
Furthermore, since Damascus is a real and thriving (although war torn at the moment) city, it stands to reason that this prophecy must be future. Or, as The Blaze reports in “Why Some Believe These ‘End Times’ Bible Verses Could Hold the Key to the Syrian Crisis“:
Joel C. Rosenberg, a communications specialist and author, has become known for his fascinating insights into both the Bible and End Times. Specifically noting Isaiah 17:1-3 and Jeremiah 49:23-27, Rosenberg explained on his blog earlier this summer that Damascus’ destruction has not yet happened (the latter verse also promises this same destruction).
“These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth. It has been attacked, besieged, and conquered. But Damascus has never been completely destroyed and left uninhabited,” he writes. “Yet that is exactly what the Bible says will happen. The context of Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 are a series of End Times prophecies dealing with God’s judgments on Israel’s neighbors and enemies leading up to — and through — the Tribulation.”
In spite of spending all this time dissecting this, I’m now about to tell you something to take to heart: It really doesn’t matter, except for one small detail, and the detail is not that Damascus will be destroyed! In fact, I’ve not covered this before because the point that Damascus will be destroyed really isn’t even the point! It points to a time for something else to occur!
First, though, let’s look at why it isn’t as significant, to Syria at any rate, as first glance might appear. Psalm 83 lists some nations that will join together to come against Israel. Israel, naturally, includes the modern nation of Israel as well as Israelites scattered abroad. In v 6, it lists the Hagarenes, which were Arabian conquerors of Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. The COG has long viewed Psalm 83 as an end time event, so Syria in some form exists, although Damascus will not necessarily survive to that point.
Why would Syria be so made? Well, if your capital was destroyed by some enemy force, wouldn’t you be upset? Back to Isaiah 17, remember that Ephraim and Jacob are also affected by events that occur around the time that the area of Aroer and Damascus are destroyed.
3 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.
4 “In that day it shall come to pass That the glory of Jacob will wane, And the fatness of his flesh grow lean.
Notice how Syria rises, even without a capital, while all of Jacob’s glory dissipates. This, to me, indicates the beginning of “Jacob’s Trouble”, aka the Tribulation.
That is why I believe that Damascus is significant. The future of Damascus is very much tied to prophecy and when Damascus is destroyed, then the persecution and shame of the descendants of Israel will not be far behind.
However, it doesn’t look like that day will be today or tomorrow. However, God did not just bring in the Assyrians to conquer the northern Kingdom of Israel in one fell swoop, either. He sent prophet after prophet, He vexed them and plagued them in smaller ways at first, and then He turned up the heat until the inevitable came.
President Obama can backpedal all he wants. He can try to take credit for coming up with the idea in his discussions with President Putin. However, if anyone has proof of coming up with any idea it is … the Pope! Remember? Pope Francis sent a letter to Putin previously saying military involvement in Syria is a “Futile Pursuit“.
Now, isn’t that interesting?
“The problem, of course, is that Assyria had already taken the northern kingdom by the time Isaiah became a grown man.”
Question: What is your definition of a grown man?
Isa 7:1 And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
Isa 7:2 And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
The context is what has been termed the Syro-Ephraimite War which has been suggested occurred in 735-734 BC. (Isaiah didn’t want Ahaz to seek help from Assyria for deliverance, 2 Chronicles 28:16).
I ask this question in regard to:
Isa 7:3 Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field;
So around, say 735-34 BC, Isaiah already had a son.
2Ki 16:9 And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.
Aram and Israel were defeated in 732 BC.
It was another 10 years later that Samaria fell to Shalmaneser; cp. Sargon II claim.
Isa 7:8b Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
So from around 735 to 670 BC this was to take place.
Ezr 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
If the interpretation of Isaiah 17 is to be understood from a type/antitype fulfillment perspective, a question that could be asked is, do the Assyrians fulfil the type and the antitype – inflicting both punishments on Damascus – first on the Aramaeans and then on the Arabs?
As the antitype refers to the end-time descendants of Ephraim is there an application for the end-time descendants of Aram?
John from Australia wrote: “The context is what has been termed the Syro-Ephraimite War which has been suggested occurred in 735-734 BC. (Isaiah didn’t want Ahaz to seek help from Assyria for deliverance, 2 Chronicles 28:16).”
Good catch. It was taking me too long to nail it down for this article (there are far too many “experts” that make a lot of false claims about Isaiah and esp. the book), and I went with a commentary that was obviously not correct.
Of course, this actually reinforces my main point that this is future. 🙂
“If the interpretation of Isaiah 17 is to be understood from a type/antitype fulfillment perspective, a question that could be asked is, do the Assyrians fulfil the type and the antitype – inflicting both punishments on Damascus – first on the Aramaeans and then on the Arabs?”
Perhaps. It is too easy to get locked into being too literal with types and antitypes. For example, Tyre is prophesied to be destroyed and only fish nets being laid out upon the bare rocks in Eze 26. That has mostly been fulfilled (notice the “mostly”). The prophesy mentions Babylon, but Babylon did not completely destroy it. Nebuchadnezzar only took the mainland portion of the city, not the island. Still, even after Alexander the Great destroyed the island city, there are still buildings in Tyre, and there is an effort to rebuild a portion of it. The change in pronouns from “he” (Nebuchadnezzar) to “they” (multiple invaders) to “I” (God) indicates there is yet a future fulfillment. However, it is obvious that the three actors are not the same.
Don’t get me wrong. Assyria (Germany) will be involved. However, exactly how that works, I don’t know. It is important to remember that ultimately whatever is left of Syria becomes part of the King of the South.
Interesting post John, I didn’t actually think of these events in this light, thank you for writing this and sharing.
Alright, guys. It’s not “type/anti-type.” It’s “type/ante-type.” A past event that foreshadows a similar event in the future. (Yeah, I’m being picky. Forgive me!).
Anyway, Syria is pretty much thrashed already. Even if Assad does retain power, it will take his country decades to recover from the destruction. They’re off the table in terms of being a regional player. (A mad dictator willing to destroy his own country to keep his office furniture… imagine that).
Actually, the dictionary says it’s “antitype” without the hyphen.
At any rate, “pretty much thrashed” is still a long way from “a ruinous heap”. The point is that Damascus, as well as the cities near ancient Aroer, will be destroyed, Damascus will no longer be a functioning capital, and that will signal or accompany a major power shift away from the descendants of Israel, accompanied apparently by severe economic difficulties.