Syria in Prophecy



John Hoole – September 1, 2013




(Click on images and charts for larger version)


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 and fulfillment of the prophecy.


But, 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 again at one such prophecy.  It is a subject we looked at more than a year ago, but because it so much is in the news today, I think it would be good to visit it again today.




For 2½ years, there has been a serious on-going uprising in Syria.  Syria was emboldened by the outcome of the 2006 war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  This war was not decisive for Israel as previous wars had been.  Since then, Syria’s behavior towards Israel has almost invited Israel’s confrontation.


I am not supporting either side in the civil war in Syria, not knowing that the members of the uprising are any better than Bashar Assad.  The Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda are strong players in the current uprising.  So also is Hezbollah involved on the other side in support of Bashar Assad.  But I am concerned how this unrest might spill over to Israel.


Let me show you a map of the Middle East so you are able to see the geography of that area.  I will be showing a number of maps today.


It has been known for years that Syria has a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, Here is a map detailing the location of the major chemical weapons sites.  Assad has acknowledged their stockpile of such weapons of mass destruction, but his government has added they will use them if foreign troops are dispatch to help the rebels.


Let me begin with one of the many scriptural passages that focuses on Damascus, the capital city of Syria.  I will follow that by detailing the current political environment as it is today.


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.


First, Isaiah, whose prophetic ministry spanned between 740 – 701 BC.  Let’s look at what this prophet wrote.


Isaiah 17:1 NKJV


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


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


Isaiah 17:1 NIV


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


Isaiah 17:1 NASU


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


The other two Damascus prophecies we will look at 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?




A meeting  is currently underway in Jordan as I write these notes.  It includes the top military chiefs from Western and Arab countries.  The gathering in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is co-chaired by, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He is accompanied by U.S. Central Command head General Lloyd Austin.  According to Jordanian state media, others taking part are defense chiefs from:  Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.


Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are key supporters of the anti-Assad opposition, and have long been lobbying for a stronger response from the West.  Here is another map showing the location of many of Middle East participants.  Jordan is struggling under the burden of almost a million Syrian refugees who have fled to their country.  This has become an economic burden on a country whose population is on 6½ million.


Early in the build-up, Britain and France were the European countries most likely to contribute to any military response, while Germany and Italy were viewed as more leery.  By Thursday, the U.K. and France joined those not approving a strike.


In the event that a decision is taken to initiate military action against Syria, the United States has an array of Sixth Fleet naval assets in the Mediterranean.  Four guided-missile destroyers, each armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are now located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  They are:  USS Gravely, USS Barry, USS Mahan and USS Ramage.  The 6th Fleet Command Vessel, USS Mount Whitney is also there.  A fifth guided-missile destroyer, the USS Stout, is on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean.


Each of these five destroyers are capable of carrying up to 90 cruise missiles, although most experts say they are likely carrying about half that number.  Cruise missiles have a range of nearly 1,000 miles, which allows each vessel to stay out of range of Syria’s anti-ship missiles.


Russia and China have warned the West to be cautious and not attack Syria.  Both Syria and Iran have said, “if the US strikes Syria, they will rain down hundreds of missiles on Israel.  People of Israel have made another run on gas masks.


Russia has evacuated 75 people from Syria, but have not evacuated their embassy in Damascus.  They have, however, positioned an assault ship ready to evacuate Russian nationals is needed.  Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean, including an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser in the coming days.  The missile cruiser is the Moskva.  I know that this ship is currently in the north Atlantic, so I don’t know when it will arrive.


Here is another map showing the military assets that are now in position.  The United Kingdom (UK) has a number of war planes at their Akrotiri base on Cyprus, which is less two hundred miles from Syria.  Many of them arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But Russia also has a Naval Base on the island of Cyprus.  France has jet fighters stationed at United Arab Emirates if need.  And the United States has an Air Force Base in Incirlik, just 5 miles east of Adana, Turkey.


At a breath-taking rate, world events are increasingly lining up with predictions given by the prophets of the Bible.  These events could signify that “The Day of the Lord” is drawing near.  The biblical prophets are very specific as to geo-political alignments that will occur in the last days.  And the rapidly festering situation in Syria is just one example of this phenomenon.


Isaiah 17:1


The burden of Damascus.  Behold! Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.


We know this is a prophecy for the future, because it has never been fulfilled.  Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.  Though it has been captured by enemies, it has never been destroyed.


Today, the heart of the city of Damascus is the Old City.  Even under Islamic rule, the ancient heart of the Old City remains divided into three quarters, Muslim, Jewish and Christian.  And between the Jewish and Christian quarters is a biblical street – Strait Street.  Today it is called Bab Sharqi.  And, in Arabic, the name of the city is Dimashq.


In a vision, God speaks to Ananais, telling him to go to the house of Judas, located on Strait Street to see a man named Saul of Tarsus, who later became the apostle Paul.  You will remember in Acts 9 the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  Parts of that road are still visible in northern Israel.


But, although Damascus is the oldest city in the world, one day, according to Isaiah 17:1, it one day will cease to be a city.  Damascus will one day become a heap of rubble.


If you think about it, this prediction is perhaps without precedent in modern times.  There have been several modern cities that have been merely “abandoned.”  A famous example of this is Pripyat, Ukraine.  This is the city where the Chernobyl nuclear reactor leak happened.  It has become as deserted as a ghost town.  But for a town to become a heap of ruins requires something unprecedented.  There are some Bible scholars that say this is the closest to a nuclear devastation of any passage in the Bible, except for, possibly, 2 Peter 3:10-11.


Over the last couple of decades, the unrest between Syria and Israel has continued to escalate.  In July 2007, a chemical warhead exploded at a Syrian missile facility while being fitted to a Scud missile, killing several dozen of Iranian and Syrian technicians.  The only significant target within the range of the Scud would have been Tel Aviv.


Just two months later, in September 2007, the Israeli Air Force bombed a secret Syrian nuclear facility deep inside the country.  This demonstrated Israel’s ability to render the Russian state-of-the-art anti-air defenses ineffective.  The bombed Syrian nuclear facility that was being operated in conjunction with North Korea.  Syria followed by spending more than 3 billion dollars to strengthen their military, anticipating an eventual conflict with Israel.  Much of this has been aided by support from Russia.


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 Assyrians, under King Sargon (son of Tiglath Pileser), would also conquer the northern kingdom of Israel.  Almost two decades later, Sargon’s son, Sennacherib, fought against Hezekiah, king of Judah, and lost.


So, could this prophecy in Isaiah 17 be already fulfilled?  Not if you take Scripture literally as I do.  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.  And why would Isaiah mention Assyria 37 times in his book of 66 chapters, but never mention it in chapter 17 when speaking of the ruin of Damascus. 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.  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.


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


Jeremiah 49:23-27 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.  Hamah is the fourth largest city in Syria today, with about 700,000 people.  It is located 29 miles directly north of the city of Homs, which is where this two-year-old uprising was centered.


It is 75 miles north of Damascus, located on the Orontes River.  Hamah is where the headquarters of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is located today.  Arpad is believed to be a region in northern Syria rather than a city.


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 just 75 miles to their south does, however, cause them to be troubled.


Now, let’s turn to the prophecy of Amos.  Amos would have been a contemporary of Isaiah, although his prophetic ministry probably begins a decade or two before that of Isaiah.


Amos 1:1-5 NIV


1       The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa — what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

2       He said: "The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up,  and the top of Carmel withers."

3       This is what the Lord says: "For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth,

4       I will send fire upon the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.

5       I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven  and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,”  says the Lord.


I am not going to go through each of the names in these verses, but make a few comments.  Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa, located 6 miles south of Bethlehem.  Hazael and Ben-Hadad are names of ancient Syrian kings.  Aram (Syria in NKJV) is a reference to the people of this area.


Amos agrees with the other prophets in writing that Damascus and much of Syria is destroyed.  In each passage, we have either cities/regions that are deserted and forsaken.  People leave their homes for fear of what it coming.


Although some of these three prophecies concerning Damascus and the surrounding area may have partially fulfilled, I am confident that a great portion is yet unfulfilled.  It will be so devastating that it will virtually be left uninhabited.




From where I sit, there are at least three possibilities as to when these prophecies will be fulfilled.


         1.      The demise of Damascus initiates the war mentioned in Psalm 83.


         2.      It occurs prior to the war mentioned in Ezekiel 38, involving Russia and Iran and others.


         3.      At the end of the Tribulation as part of the Battle of Armageddon.


A couple of times during this series of lessons, I have discussed the two wars found in Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38 & 39.  I have labeled the Psalm 83 combatants as the “Inner Ring” because they border on Israel.  I labeled Ezekiel 38 combatants as the “Outer Ring,” as none border on Israel.


I bring these two wars up again to show that neither Damascus nor Syria are mentioned as part of either ring?  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 occurs, certainly they would want to take part in destroying Israel.


There is also another notable difference between the wars involving these two rings.  The defeat of the inner ring is accomplished by God using the Israeli Defense Forces, while the defeat of the outer ring nations is accomplished by God alone.


Let me give you just a couple of passages that show Israel’s forces involved in the war with the inner ring.


Isaiah 17:9 NIV


9       In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation.


Back to Damascus.  The reason Damascus and Syria are not in either ring of nations could be their destruction is the first domino to fall.  In fact, it might be that which sparks the inner ring war.


Each of the two wars results in the destruction of all combatants in each ring of nations.  Therefore, if we can actually place the time of destruction of one people group or nation, it will give us a time slot for that entire ring of nations.


Notice what the prophet Obadiah says.  The book of Obadiah is a short one-chapter book with only 21 verses.  The entire prophecy is against the people of Edom.  And Edom is part of the inner ring – Southern Jordan.


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 Tribulation.  Now notice it says the day of the Lord is NEAR.  That means that the Tribulation hadn’t yet started.  It also means the inner ring of nations are destroyed before the Tribulation.




This is one of the areas that could easily be misinterpreted.  What I am sure of is that when it happens, those living on earth will see how they were fulfilled exactly as God said they would be.  Let’s look at Isaiah 17:14 and Jeremiah 49:26.


Isaiah 17:14 NKJV


14     Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, And the lot of those who rob us.


Jeremiah 49:26 NKJV


26     Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day," says the Lord of hosts.


When I read these two passages, I am struck with how quickly the end comes to Damascus.  Isaiah talks about terror coming at night and by morning everything is gone.  Jeremiah writes about young men falling in the streets and the silencing of all the men of war.  Jeremiah’s account, without saying it, seems to also happen very quickly, perhaps in a day.


By looking at the map, the area of devastation seems to be a rather large.  I am no expert, but in modern times one’s mind might be drawn to a nuclear attack.  Israel does have nuclear capabilities, although they refuse to admit it.  Israel refers to it as the “Sampson Option.”  It is not hard to believe that things can escalate to where Israel felt that the only way they could survive would be to use their nuclear arsenal to destroy the enemy.


As I said, this is an area open to discussion.  God has more options at His disposal than any person or government has.  He may have something totally different in mind of which we are not presently aware.




For the first time in history, we are on the brink of a setting where this prophecy could be fulfilled.  What is now called by some the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis is a grave threat to Israel.  Iran’s persistent pursuit of nuclear weapons continues unabated.  These are weapons they have vowed to use for the destruction of Israel.  Iran is a chief supporter of Syria and the Hezbollah.  Hezbollah, it is reported, has a minimum of 13,000 missiles in southern Lebanon.  In the last two years, Syria has positioned 800 long-range missiles to respond to Israeli attacks.


If Israel is struck by chemical or biological WMD from Syria or Hezbollah, they will have no choice but to retaliate against Damascus.  The time required for this response would be hours, not days.  Each day without response leaves Israel vulnerable to tens of thousands of Israel civilian casualties, from more WMD attacks.


It also does not take much imagination as to what the rest of the world’s reaction would be.  Nearly all will blame Israel, just like they usually have during the last two or three decades.


Israel again will be seen as the “bad guy” for daring to defend themselves.  What I like about these verses though, is that the Lord isn’t going to stand for it.  It says He will rebuke them for both their words and their actions against Israel.  I am kind of curious exactly what He’s going to do or say.  But, whatever it is, God is going to have the last word.