The Destruction of Damascus


Dr. John Hoole



Before we get to the Scripture I want to put a kind of disclaimer before you. Prophecy is a fascinating subject. I think most people want to know what the future holds – and I am no exception.


What is so wonderful about Biblical prophecy however, is the fact that it is inspired by God and is 100% accurate.


Once an event prophesied in Scripture occurs we can look back at the passages that speak of that event, and marvel at the perfection, precision, and fulfillment of the prophecy.


But things are a bit different when we are studying prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. In the case of yet future fulfillment, the Bible accuracy is still infallible. But often the human interpretation can be in error, especially when it comes to details and timing of future fulfillment.


This morning we are going to look at one such prophecy.  Biblical prophecy often gives us the result without explaining how the world gets there.


Example: the restoration of Israel.  Israel did not exist from AD 70, when the Romans destroyed it, until May 14, 1948. Ezekiel wrote of Israel’s rebirth in the prophecy of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37).


In writing that Israel would become a nation again (the end result), he did not tell us of the Balfour Declaration, World War II, the Holocaust, and other events that impacted the restoration of Israel (how the world got there).


Bible prophecy is more than what happens with Israel and Christians.  It also speaks of other nations. Syria is one of those nations.


As with many other prophecies, the Bible tells us the end result of Syria but does not always give us much information on how Syria arrives there.


Once upon a long time ago, several Hebrew prophets predicted that the Syrian capital city of Damascus would someday cease to exist as a city. Three of the prophets who prophesied against Damascus are Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos.


Damascus is mentioned 59 times in the Bible,so these three prophets are not the only writers that speak of this city and its future.


First, let’s look at Isaiah, whose prophetic ministry spanned between 740 – 701 BC. We find his assessment of the future of Damascus in chapter 17.


Isaiah 17:1 KJV

1    The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.


Let’s look at how it is worded in a couple other translations.


Isaiah 17:1 NIV


1    An oracle concerning Damascus: "See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.


Isaiah 17:1 NASU


1    The oracle concerning Damascus. "Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin.


The other two major prophecies about Damascus are found in Jeremiah 49:23-27 and Amos 1:1-5.  We will look at these passages later.


As we look at what the future is for the city of Damascus, I want to answer several questions:

1.   What will happen to Damascus?

2.   How will the prophecy be fulfilled?

3.   What are the reasons Damascus will cease being a city?

4.   What is the result of  this activity?

5.   How will Israel be impacted?


The city of Damascus is considered by many to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. During its history it has been conquered many times, but always remained intact to this day. But, although Damascus is possibly the oldest city in the world, one day, according to Isaiah 17:1, it will cease to be a city. Damascus will one day become a heap of rubble.


Some would say the prophecies of Isaiah about Damascus were fulfilled in 732 BC, when the king of Assyria, Tiglath Pileser, conquered Damascus.


Tiglath Pileser captured Damascus and killed king Rezin. About a decade later (721 BC) the Syrians, under King Sargon, would also conquer the northern 10-tribe kingdom of Israel. Almost two decades later, Sargon’s son, Sennacherib, fought against Hezekiah, king of Judah, and lost (Isa 37).


So, could this prophecy in Isaiah 17 be already fulfilled?  Not if you take Scripture literally.


Isaiah prophesied that Damascus would cease to be a city, and would become a heap of ruins. That has never happened to this city, even by the Assyrians or by any other army.

And why would Isaiah mention Assyria and their various conquests 37 times in his book of 66 chapters, but never mentions them the destruction of Damascus  as one of their conquests in chapter 17.


Damascus survives to this day as the second most populated city of Syria, behind Aleppo.


The prophet Jeremiah also spoke of the demise of the city of Damascus. This is important because Jeremiah lived a century after Assyria conquered Damascus. His ministry lasted from the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign – 626 BC-  until after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.


One Hebrew chronology work – Seder HaDaroth – gives Jeremiah finishing his ministry in 578 BC.


So, if Jeremiah is prophesying the demise of Damascus at a date much after the conquest of the Assyrians, then the prophecy given by Isaiah, saying Damascus would cease to be a city, could not have already occurred when conquered by the Assyrians.


Let’s read again the prophecy in Isaiah, but add verse 2.


Isaiah 17:1-2 NKJV


1    The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap.

2    The cities of Aroer are forsaken;  They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.


Again, Damascus is destined for destruction, causing it to cease from being a city. In verse two we find another name associated with the destruction of Damascus.


The cities of Aroer are adversely affected, causing them to be “forsaken.” The word used for forsaken is azab, which means “abandoned, left behind, released, or neglected.”


There are actually three places in the Bible called Aroer.


Aroer Judah, 12 miles southeast of Beersheba. It is now called Ar’arah.


Aroer Sihon is the name of a town on the north bank of the Arnon River, which empties into the Dead Sea from the east side This Aroer is 13 miles east of the Dead Sea, and today is called Arair.


Aroer Gad is mentioned in the Bible as being located near Rabbah. Rabbah is mentioned 15 times in the Bible and is the capital city of the Ammonites. Today it is called Amman, the capital city of the nation of Jordan.


Amman is located in northern Jordan and is only 109 miles from Damascus. Aroer Gad could possibly the one signified by Isaiah 17. It is the area where most Jordanians live today.


Since Aroer becomes, according to Isaiah 17:2, a place for flocks to graze, it is thought that whatever caused Damascus to cease to be a city, necessitated the inhabitants of Aroer to flee from their homes.


But Aroer is not sited as being destroyed like Damascus. Neither was it reduced to a heap of rubble.


The same idea of destruction, not only Damascus, but the surrounding area is continued in the Jeremiah prophecy.


Jeremiah 49:23,24,27 NIV


23    Concerning Damascus: "Hamath and Arpad are dismayed, for they have heard bad news. They are disheartened, troubled like the restless sea.

24    Damascus has become feeble, she has turned to flee and panic has gripped her; anguish and pain have seized her, pain like that of a woman in labor.


27    "I will set fire to the walls of Damascus; it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad."


Notice the first two places mentioned – Hamath and Arpad. Hamath today is called Hamah and is the fourth largest city in Syria, with about 700,000 people.


Arpad is believed to be either a city or region in northern Syria.


The full destruction of Damascus does not seem to reach all the way to Hamath and Arpad because Jeremiah does not say that these places are destroyed. He says they heard the bad news concerning Damascus.


The destruction of Damascus just 75 miles to their south does, however, cause them to be troubled.


I want us to notice who receives a harsh prophecy just prior to mentioning Damascus.


Jeremiah 49:1-2 NIV


1    Concerning the Ammonites: This is what the Lord says: "Has Israel no sons? Has she no heirs? Why then has Molech taken possession of Gad? Why do his people live in its towns?

2    But the days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will sound the battle cry against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it will become a mound of ruins, and its surrounding villages will be set on fire.


Do you remember anything about the city of Rabbah? I mentioned it once earlier in this lesson.


Four hundred years prior to the time of Jeremiah, David committed adultery with Bathsheba. David had her husband, Uriah, sent to the front of the battle, where he was killed. That battle took place in this city – Rabbah. I have twice been to the citadel in Rabbah, where it is believed that battle took place.


Today, the name of that city is Amman, the capital of the country of Jordan. I take you on this side road to ask: Could the leveling of Damascus and Amman take place at the same time?


This question also become interesting because of the place we read in the second verse of Isaiah 17.  If we accept Aroer as being the one in the territory of Gad, which makes the most sense it is located quite close to the city of Rabbah – Amman.    And we noted earlier that because of what happened to Damascus, the cities of Aroer were forsaken – Isaiah 17:2.




We need to keep in mind two other battles that I think will have a relationship with this event.


Psalm 83 Battle – Inner ring.


Ezekiel 38 & 39 - invasion of Israel – Outer ring.


You should notice that neither Damascus nor Syria is mentioned as a participant in either these two wars?  Could it be that before either war, Damascus and Syria are already gone? If so, that could account for its absence. If Syria was still a viable nation when these wars occur, certainly, they would want to take part in destroying Israel.


The destruction of Damascus might be that which sparks the inner Psalm 83 war.


From Ezekiel 38/39 and Psalm 83, we are told each participating nation in these battles will be destroyed. Therefore, if we can actually place the time of destruction of one people groups or nations, it will give us a time slot for that entire set of nations.


Let’s look at what the prophet Obadiah says. In his short one-chapter book with only 21 verses we find Obadiah’s entire prophecy is against the people of Edom. And Edom is part of the inner.


Obadiah 15-16 NKJV


15    "For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head.

16    For as you drank on My holy mountain, So shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, and they shall be as though they had never been.


Notice, in verse 15, the phrase, “The day of the Lord.” That is a phrase found in both the Old and New Testaments 35 times. It is almost always used of a period beginning with the start of the 7-year long Tribulation.


Now notice it says the day of the “Day of the Lord” is NEAR. That means that the period of Tribulation hadn’t yet started.


It also makes it sound like the Psalm 83 nations are destroyed before the Tribulation.  Here is a way in which the sequence of events might happen:


1.   1st, Damascus will be destroyed.


2.   Then the Psalm 83 inner circle war will begin almost immediately, and all enemy nations will be destroyed.


3.   Period of calm–length unknown.


4.   Russian-led outer circle invasion of Israel


5.   God will destroy 5/6 of the “outer-circle” coalition’s forces.