PARTNER LETTER, Dec. 2016
WHEN WILL DAMASCUS BE DESTROYED?
A Prophecy at the Edge of History
Isaiah 17:1 makes this statement,
The oracle concerning Damascus. "Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, And it will become a fallen ruin.
There is SURE fulfillment in Bible prophecy. But the timing of the fulfillment is often debatable. When will Damascus (Syria’s capital) be removed from being a city? Some say it has already happened.
There are certain oracles against Damascus, but they are all BCE [fulfilled in Old Testament times], and I’m not sure they have anything to do with what’s going on there now…
Dr. Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College.
Isaiah predicted the destruction of [Damascus]... along with the... northern kingdom of Israel... [fulfilled respectively in 732 & 722 BC]... God has the ability to predict future events... But those prophecies that were completely fulfilled in the past don’t need to be fulfilled a second time.
Dr. Charles Dyer, professor at Moody Bible Institute
Yet because of the mega-crisis in Syria since 2013 (Damascus, Aleppo, etc), the prophecy of Isaiah 17 about the destruction of Damascus has risen to the forefront of prophetic speculation.
“Some Evangelicals See Biblical Prophecy In Syrian Crisis” , TIME, Aug. 29, 2013
“Some See Biblical Visions Of Doom In Syria Trouble”, USA TODAY, Sep 9, 2013
"Why Some Believe These 'End Times' Bible Verses Could Hold The Key To
The Syrian Crisis", Glenn Beck, The Blaze, Sep 8, 2013
Let’s examine some facts about the now famous Isaiah 17 Damascus-prophecy.
1. FACT: Damascus will “become a fallen ruin.”
"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed fro m being a city, And it will become a fallen ruin.”
When we track Hebrew cognate phrases for a city in “ruin”, we discover that the same fate was prophesied of none other than Jerusalem!
"And I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, A haunt of jackals; And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant."
Therefore, on account of you, Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins ... Micah 3:12 (see also Jer. 7.34; 25.18; 44.6; Lam. 1.7; 2.13)
The prophecies about Jerusalem becoming a city in “ruin” were fulfilled when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in the 6th century BC. But Jerusalem did not remain a “heap of ruins.” It was rebuilt, destroyed again in 70 AD by the Romans, and rebuilt again and remains today. Therefore, one cannot infer from Isaiah 17:1 that when Damascus becomes “a fallen ruin” it is permanent.
2. FACT: Isaiah 17:2 uses the phrase "The cities of Aroer are forsaken... “. But the Septuagint differs on Isaiah 17:2, replacing that phrase with “[Damascus will be] abandoned forever”.
Damascus still stands today as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Damascus has not been “abandoned forever.” Therefore, the Septuagint version, if correct, would require a yet future fulfillment for the Damascus prophecy. The Septuagint is a 3rd century BC Jewish translation of the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek. It became the commonly used Old Testament Bible during the New Testament period.
...the Septuagint is an actual translation from the Hebrew [Masoretic Text] into the Greek. It is the first translation of the Old Testament known. It was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles, the version from which most Old Testament quotations in the New Testament come, and the Bible of the early church…
The Origin Of The Bible, Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1992, p. 294-95. 134/294-95
But is the Septuagint correct in its rendering of Isaiah 17:2?
1. The Septuagint is a wonderful witness to the original Hebrew (Masoretic) text of the Old Testament since it agrees in the vast majority of places. But which is to be preferred when they are at variance?
Although there are numerous textual variations between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text [Masoretic], the great majority of these are minor...Yet even when the Septuagint differs and offers a better reading, nonetheless it never replaces the Hebrew as the standard form of the text. Because it is a translation, the Septuagint always remains secondary...
How We Got The Bible, Neil R. Lightfoot, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1963, p. 149 1609/149
2. The original Hebrew text, then, is preferred when it is at variance with the Greek text of the Septuagint. This is especially the case with the Book of Isaiah.
[Of the Old Testament books translated in the Septuagint]...the book of Isaiah appears to be the very worst.
The Septuagint With Apocrypha: Greek And English; Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1986; originally Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851, p. Introduction, iii. (561/iii)
Since the Hebrew text in Isaiah 17:2 does not mention the phrase “[Damascus will be] abandoned forever”, it is best not to rely on the Septuagint at that point to answer the question before us,
“When Will Damascus Be Destroyed?”
Damascus was indeed destroyed by the same series of Assyrian invasions
that ended with the Assyrian forces themselves destroyed by the Angel of
the Lord as they besieged Jerusalem. Both events seem to be prophesied
in Isaiah 17:1 and 14.
Isaiah 17:1—”The oracle concerning Damascus. ‘Behold, Damascus is about
to be removed from being a city, And it will become a fallen ruin.’”
“Under Ahaz [Damascus] was taken by Tiglath-pileser, (2 Kings 16:7, 8,
9) the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself
destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria. (2 Kings
16:9; comp. Isai 7:8 and Amos 1:5) Afterwards it passed successively
under the dominion of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians,
Romans and Saracens, and was at last captured by the Turks in 1516
Smith’s Bible Dictionary, revised & updated, Hendrickson Publishers, 2000, p.134.
Tiglath-pileser was to leave Damascus a heap of ruins in 732 BC.
Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Moody Press, 1962, p.623
The Assyrian King’s Testimony of the Destruction of Damascus—“I took
800 people together with their property, their cattle (and) their sheep
as spoil. I took 750 captives of the cities of Kurussa (and) Sama (as
well as) 550 captives from the city of Metuna as spoil. I destroyed 591
cities from the 16 districts of Damascus like ruins from the Flood.”
of Tiglath-pileser) Brent A. Strawn, Sarah C. Melville, Kyle Greenwood,
and Scott Noegelm “Neo-Assyrian and Syro-Palestinian Texts II,” Ancient
Near East: Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell Sourcebooks in
Ancient History), ed. Mark W. Chavalas (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), 333. -
See more at:
Isaiah 17:14— “At evening time, behold, there is terror! Before morning
they are no more. Such will be the portion of those who plunder us, And
the lot of those who pillage us.”
Isaiah 37:36—”Then the angel of the LORD went out, and struck 185,000
in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning,
behold, all of these were dead.”
This event occurred in 701 BC.
Damascus, therefore, became a “fallen ruin” in the Assyrian conquest of 732 BC.
BELOW: Damascus was destroyed by the Assyrians in 732 BC, and by many empires since.
But was this only a PARTIAL fulfillment of Isaiah 17:1? There are many examples in Bible prophecy of DOUBLE REFERENCE fulfillment...sometimes realized in an EARLY fulfillment, and then a future or LATER fulfillment.
Is there more to come with the Destruction Of Damascus?
4. FACT: The “IN THAT DAY” statement of Isaiah 17:7 is evidence that there will be an ‘END TIME’ destruction of Damascus, making the ULTIMATE fulfillment of the Isaiah 17:1 prophecy still FUTURE.
“In that day man will have regard for his Maker, And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 17:7
This statement in Isaiah 17:7 has an ultimate and conclusive sense that there is a FUTURE “day” when momentous events will cause Israel and the Nations to “look to the Holy One of Israel” in faith. It is in that conclusive-day that Damascus “will become a fallen ruin” in final fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1. Other “in that day” prophecies in Isaiah support that conclusion. Note that…
1.These Isaiah “in that day” prophecies (below) are CLIMACTIC verses. That is, they ALL have a clear Tribulation and/or Second Coming context.
2. These Isaiah “in that day” prophecies ALL have the same outcome—Israel and the Nations look to the Holy One of Israel. Here are those Isaiah prophecies. Compare them with our Isaiah 17:7 verse. above.
Isa. 2:11 The proud look of man will be abased, And the loftiness of man will be humbled, And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
Isa. 2:17 And the pride of man will be humbled, And the loftiness of men will be abased, And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
Isa. 12:1 Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to Thee, O LORD; For although Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, And Thou dost comfort me.
Isa. 12:4 And in that day you will say, "Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make [them] remember that His name is exalted."
Isa. 19:18 In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing [allegiance] to the LORD of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.
Isa. 19:19 In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD near its border.
Isa. 25:9 And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."
Isa. 27:13 It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem. (Isa 28:5)
All of the above prophecies of Isaiah speak of “in that day” as a conclusive-day when mankind will acknowledge the Lord. Isaiah 17:7 sets the ULTIMATE, CLIMACTIC AND CONCLUSIVE Destruction of Damascus (17:1) in that same context.
There is only one “day” when mankind will acknowledge “his Maker” and “look to the Holy One of Israel.” That “day” is when believing remnants of both Israel and the Nations arise during the Tribulation and at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Man can only honor God if he honors the Son of God (John 5:23; 1 John 2:23). That is not the situation with Israel or Damascus today.
Therefore, Damascus will be destroyed sometime during “that day”— the “day” of the final Tribulation wars that begin with the Magog invasion of Israel (Eze. 38-39) and end with the defeat of the nations at Armageddon and the Return of Christ. During the Tribulation period a remnant of mankind will arise and believe in their “Maker”, the “Holy One of Israel”—Jesus Christ.
BELOW: There is an EARLY fulfillment and a LATE fulfillment
to the Isaiah 17 prophecy of the Destruction Of Damascus.
5. FACT: Damascus will exist as a city during the Millennium?
The boundaries of the “New Holy Land” during the Millennium are given in Ezekiel chapters 47-48. Damascus is specifically named four (4) times in those chapters as being one of a number of landmarks which form the boundaries of Millennial Israel. (Eze. 47:16-18; 48:1)
Since Damascus will be destroyed during the Tribulation period, how can it exist in the Millennium?
The answer is found in the Bible’s teaching that the old creation will be transformed into a new creation when Christ reigns over the earth.
1. Just as the old sin-tainted earth of unbelievers is judged and renewed (transformed) into the New Earth of believers...
2. ...so too is the old sin-tainted Damascus of unbelievers destroyed and re-birthed (transformed} into the New Damascus of believers in the Millennium. The old gives way to the new!
Have you become a New Creation In Christ? Here's how...