With the Israeli election turmoil, Iran stepping up its attacks, and another US attempt at a so-called peace plan waiting in the wings, events in Syria have become an ongoing speculation of prophecy watchers. Turkey, Iran, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas and other enemies of God and of Israel in the Syrian theatre have many wondering about the Isaiah 17 prophecy, the destruction of Damascus, and whether we are now entering into the end time scenario written so much about by the prophets in the Bible. Certainly, the crucible of prophecy is being stirred and heated, but we must pay close attention to the actual words and context of the prophets to discern current events.
According to the prophet Isaiah, 17:1, “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” Many point to this verse to speculate when and how Damascus will be destroyed. If we study the context of the prophecy, Chapter 10 begins with prophesying judgment on Assyria and Ephraim (one of the tribes of Israel) for attacking Israel. Damascus is named as one of the Assyrian’s vassals. Damascus also is included in end time judgment accounts of Egypt, Babylon, Moab, Assyria, Ethiopia, Tyre, Philistia and others. This demonstrates the near and the far of prophesy. Some of this was fulfilled historically; other parts of it are yet to be fulfilled.
There has been a lot of talk that this is the time that perhaps Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled. Damascus, after all, is hardly a city nowadays. It is maintaining a heartbeat after years of civil war and fighting that includes various al Qaeda terrorist groups, Hezbollah from Iran, Russian interests, American interests, Turkey, the Islamic State, and, of course the Assad government. The ingredients are there for the total destruction of Damascus. Damascus may be devastated by this massive gathering of many forces, but it is not the total destruction prophesied by Isaiah. As with most prophecy, it often appears to be fulfilled, but in types and shadows, layers, and signs before it is ultimately fulfilled.
The context of Isaiah 17 is judgment on nations that come against Israel, beginning in Chapter 9 and continuing through Chapter 24. The phrase “In/At that day” is mentioned no less than four times in Isaiah 17, a short chapter of 14 verses. This phrase is an indicator for the Day of the Lord, meaning when the Lord returns to judge the nations that came against Israel. Verse 7 says, “At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.” Verse 11 speaks that the harvest shall be a day of grief and of desperate sorrow. Context is key. It’s irresponsible to take just one verse and develop a scenario or doctrine around it. In Syria, we are seeing prophetic movement, but we will know when God fulfills the prophecy. It will be clear. And all will know that God is God.