Damascus is the capital of Syria. It’s the second largest city in Syria with a population of about 2.6 million. The country of Syria is a midst of a civil war. Some factions of Syria are trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. However, most Syrians support the more westernized Assad. Islamist factions led by the Muslim Brotherhood are fighting for control of the country. Syrian rebels, defecting military personnel and foreign jihadists are fighting the Syrian army near and in the city of Damascus.
There’s been a lot of news lately regarding the civil war that is currently raging in Syria. There’s renewed talk of sending additional American soldiers to Syria – “boots on the ground” as it is called. There is a prophecy regarding the destruction of the capital city of Syria, Damascus in Isaiah chapter 17. And because of the latest developments in Syria, prophecy teachers are coming worth pointing to the soon imminent fulfillment of the Isaiah 17 prophecy.
Isaiah 17:1-3 (KJV) – 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.
The belief it that Damascus, Syria will be destroyed in 1 day. This soon coming destruction is viewed as one of the biggest biblical prophecies of all time! It will usher in the return of Jesus Christ. Many believe that this prophecy given by Isaiah almost 2700 years ago has never been fulfilled in history. The subject of the destruction of Damascus has even gotten the attention of such well-known publications as TIME magazine and USA Today.
What do some of the commentaries have to say regarding Isaiah 17? Let’s take a look:
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Isaiah 17: Judgments of God upon Damascus, vs. 1-3; and upon Israel, vs. 4-6. Good effects of these judgments on the small remnant or gleaning that should escape them, vv. 7, 8. The same judgments represented in other but stronger terms and imputed to irreligion and neglect of God, vs. 9-11. The remaining verses are a distinct prophecy, a beautiful detached piece, worked up with the greatest elegance, sublimity, and propriety; and forming a noble description of the formidable invasion and sudden overthrow of Sennacherib, exactly suitable to the event, vs. 12-14.
This prophecy by its title should relate only to Damascus; but it full as much concerns, and more largely treats of, the kingdom of Samaria and the Israelites, confederated with Damascus and the Syrians against the kingdom of Judah. It was delivered probably soon after the prophecies of the seventh and eighth chapters, in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz; and was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser’s taking Damascus, and carrying the people captives to Kir, (2 Kings 16:9), and overrunning great part of the kingdom of Israel, and carrying a great number of the Israelites also captives to Assyria; and still more fully in regard to Israel, by the conquest of the kingdom, and the captivity of the people, effected a few years after by Shalmaneser.—L.
Jamison, Faust and Brown (JFB) on Isaiah 17: Prophecy Concerning Damascus and Its Ally Samaria – Isaiah 17:1-11 – Prophecy concerning Damascus and its ally Samaria, that is, Syria and Israel, which had leagued together (seventh and eighth chapters). Already, Tiglath-pileser had carried away the people of Damascus to Kir, in the fourth year of Ahaz (2Ki 16:9); but now in Hezekiah’s reign a further overthrow is foretold (Jer 49:23; Zech 9:1). Also, Shalmaneser carried away Israel from Samaria to Assyria (2Ki 17:6; 2Ki 18:10, 11) in the sixth year of Hezekiah of Judah (the ninth year of Hoshea of Israel). This prophecy was, doubtless, given previously in the first years of Hezekiah when the foreign nations came into nearer collision with Judah, owing to the threatening aspect of Assyria.
As you can see both Adam Clarke and JFB place the Isaiah 17 Damascus prophecy as being fulfilled. Isaiah 17 predicted the destruction of the city, along with the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. History tells us that Damascus was captured by the Assyrians in 732 B.C. and the northern kingdom of Israel fell when the capital city of Samaria was captured by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. God used Tiglath-pileser of Syria to destroy Damascus in 732 B.C. Damascus did lay in ruins for many years but later became a small city in the Assyrian province of Hamath. Isaiah was not claiming that Damascus would remain a ruin for a time but that it would lay in ruins for some period.
Ever heard of Tiglath-pileser? Tiglath-Pileser I was a king of Assyria during the Middle Assyrian period (1114–1076 BC). Tiglath-Pileser was “one of the two or three great Assyrian monarchs since the days of Shamshi-Adad I”. Under him, Assyria became the leading power of the Middle East, a position the kingdom largely maintained for the next five hundred years. He expanded Assyrian control into Anatolia and Syria, and to the shores of the Mediterranean. From his surviving inscriptions, he seems to have carefully cultivated a fear of himself in his subjects and his enemies alike. Wow, what a nice guy! So Tiglath-pileser utterly destroyed Damascus in fulfillment of what was predicted in Isaiah 17. Not only did he destroy Damascus but he bragged about it in his Annals:
“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.”(“Neo-Assyrian and Syro-Palestinian Texts II,” Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell Sourcebooks in Ancient History), ed. Mark W. Chavalas)
The Historical Record
A study of the historical record indicates that Damascus became a heap as Isaiah predicted. Consider these examples:
- The Encyclopedia Britannica (11th ed): “Tiglath-Pilesar invaded Syria, and in 732 succeed in reducing Damascus. . . Except for the abortive uprising under Sargon in 720, we hear nothing more of Damascus for a long period.”
- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible: “[T]he city’s doom was predicted by Isaiah (8:4; 17:1), Amos (1:3–5), and Jeremiah (49:23–27). Rejecting God, Ahaz of Judah turned for protection to an alliance with the Assyrians, whom he bribed with the temple treasure. The Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (‘Pul’) agreed and marched against the Syro-Israelite confederation. After defeating Israel he attacked Damascus, plundered the city, deported the population, and replaced them with foreigners from other captured lands. Damascus was no longer an independent city-state.”
- William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible: “Under Ahaz, it 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 A.D.”
Tiglath-pileser “destroyed” Damascus, made it a “heap” just like Isaiah predicted. The word of God is true. Prophecy – fulfilled! To take an unfulfilled view of this scripture would tend to justify the promoters of war just because they think prophecy demands it.