A number of websites are pushing the belief that Isaiah 17 is being fulfilled in the events of the Middle East. Their claim is that the events prophesied in Isaiah 17 about Damascus were never fulfilled in history. Here’s an example:
Damascus in Isaiah 17 is going to be destroyed in 1 day. This is about to occur in our lifetime in just a matter of months. It’s in the news and everywhere you look! This is going to fulfill one of the biggest biblical prophecies of all time! Be ready for Christ’s Return after this occurs! I hope this gives you hope of His coming!
The following article is going to be short. I’m working on a larger article that will be published on a different site in the near future. What follows are some of my preliminary thoughts. I realize that this topic will not interest all the dedicated readers of GodftherPolitics.
The modern-day Damascus argument is based on Isa. 17:1 which reads:
“The oracle concerning Damascus.
‘Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city
And will become a fallen ruin.’”
Since Damascus was still in existence when the New Testament was written, for example, Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and is still operating today, therefore we should be looking for a more complete fulfillment in our future. This forms the basis of the argument.
Notice the time indicator: “is about to be removed.” Different translations will result in different readings. Given the context, however, the above translation is very accurate. John N. Oswalt writes, “By the time of the prophecies against Philistia and Moab, this prophecy had already come true in large part.”1 Futurists are looking for an inevitable nuclear holocaust hitting the region. This is the view of Bill Salus, author of Revelation Road: Hope Beyond the Horizon, who “postulates that Isaiah 17:14 predicts Damascus disappears into dust overnight, probably resulting from a nuclear attack.” Here’s how an article on the Rapture Ready web site positions the argument:
[T]he ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 17 remains in the future. The current existence of Damascus, which will one day cease to be a city, as well as the historical absence of the coalition of nations prophesied to attack Israel and be destroyed by God, is proof that Isaiah 17 prophesies events yet future.
So how could a city that was prophesied to be completely destroyed still be in existence hundreds of years after a prophecy was given about a complete and permanent destruction?
The Rapture Ready author argues that Psalm 83 is referring to the same series of events. He backs up his claim by citing the following from the New Living Translation: “This is the just reward of those who plunder and destroy the people of God” (Isa. 17:14).
Futurists would argue from Isa. 17:14 that any nation that attacked God’s chosen nation of Israel will be “no more” (17:14a). Nazi Germany attacked the Jews without mercy. More than 6 million Jews were slaughtered. If we follow the logic of futurists who argue that an attack on Israel is a certain forever-destruction, then why is Germany a thriving country today? The comments made about Damascus in Isaiah 17 are not to be read as a perpetual desolation. The prophecy is dealing with Damascus at that point in time just like Nazi Germany was virtually destroyed. Henry Cowles writes the following gin his commentary on Isaiah 17:
Damascus ceases to be a royal city the capital of an empire, though it was afterward rebuilt and still stands.2
Similar complete destruction language is found in the book of Zephaniah:
“I will completely remove all things
From the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
“I will remove man and beast;
I will remove the birds of the sky
And the fish of the sea,
And the ruins along with the wicked;
And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD (Zeph. 1:2–3).
Zephaniah is not describing events related to the end of the world. It’s a prophecy “against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:4) in the time of Zephaniah. When were these things going to happen?: “For the day of the LORD is near” (1:7). Near for them, not near for us. This was a local judgment against God’s own people that if interpreted like futurists interpret Isaiah 17 would mean not only the end of God’s people but the end of everything! But everything was not completely removed from the earth. We’re still here.
The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible. Be cautious of peddlers of prophetic prognosticators. They may end up leading us into war, not based on the Bible, but on their misreading of it.
- John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 350. [↩]
- Henry Cowles, Isaiah; With Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Practical, Designed for Both Pastors and People (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1880), 133. [↩]