Congressman Gohmert, author Rosenberg and a gaggle of American people and politicians believe the city of Damascus will be utterly destroyed before the battle of Armageddon breaks out. They base their belief on Isaiah 17. In fact, Christian dispensationalists are currently freaking out over events in Syria. With Congress set to vote on authorizing the use of military force in Syria, Christian writers, pastors and politicians are touting that the world is hurtling toward Armageddon because the prophet Isaiah predicted as such:
"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin" (Isaiah 17:1 NAS).According to these end time buffs, Damascus is about to be turned into "heap of ruins." United States politicians have long been influenced by evangelical dispensationalism and Christian Zionism, but I find it extremely sad that those charged with overseeing United States foreign policy base their politics on faulty interpretations of a biblical text.
To believe Isaiah's prophecy of destruction in Isaiah 17 is speaking to today's city of Damascus is to completely take Isaiah 17 out of its context. I learned a long time ago that "any text lifted from its context is a pretext." That is so true about the Bible and Damascus today. One might believe Damascus is about to be destroyed as a city and the world is about to end, but one would be wise not to base his or her conclusions on Isaiah 17.
Isaiah did indeed predict the "destruction of Damascus" in Isaiah 17. However, he said that Damascus was "about to be removed" (17:1). That means in his day (8th century B.C.). The prophet Isaiah also predicted that "the strong cities (of Israel)" were about to become like "the forsaken places in the forest" (17:9), for Isaiah predicted that "the glory of Jacob (Israel) will fade" (17:4).
Isaiah nailed it. Everything happened just as he said it would. Soon after Isaiah made his Isaiah 17 predictions about the city of Damascus and the cities of Israel, a powerful Assyrian king (note: Assyrian is not the same thing as Syrian) named Tiglath-Pileser III laid siege to the city of Damascus and the northern kingdom of Israel. Tiglath-Pilesar destroyed Damascus. In his autobiographical chronicle of events, Tiglath-Pilesar said "I made 714 cities (including Damascus) to be like mounds after a flood." John Gill writes in his commentary on Isaiah 17:
"Damascus had been a very ancient city of great fame and the head of Syria, and though it underwent this predicted calamity (Isaiah 17), done to it by Tiglath-Pileser, the city was rebuilt again and later destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, after which it was raised up again, and was in being in the apostle's time and still is."In other words, the prophecy of Isaiah 17 was fulfilled precisely in Isaiah's day. Not only was Damascus destroyed as a city, the northern kingdom of Israel was eventually conquered by those same Assyrians as "the glory of Jacob faded" and the "strong cities of Israel" became like forsaken places in the forest."
A couple of years ago Rachelle and I stood with a group of people from our church at the excavations of Hazor in northern Israel. Hazor had been a strong, fortified city of Israel in Isaiah's day. Solomon had built it with high walls in a high place to protect the kingdom of Israel from invasions from the north. In 732 B.C. Tiglath-Pilesar destroyed Hazor, burning it to the ground. The city of Hazor was destroyed the same year, in the same manner, by the same king, as the city of Damascus. Hazor and Damascus were two of King Tiglath-Pilesar's 714 cities that he "made to be like mounds after a flood."
We've been taught as Americans that we should never cry over spilled milk, but I'm not too sure we ought not to collectively cry over spilled coffee when we have our politicians sliding books to ministers of foreign governments that are filled with faulty interpretations of Scripture. We may be in for a wild ride in Syria in the near future, but we would do much better as Christians and believers of Scripture to promote the principles of the King and the glory of His reign in the human heart than to push political policies built on popular pretexts of Isaiah 17.