Thursday, September 05, 2013

Why Americans Ought to Cry Over Spilled Coffee: Isaiah 17 and the Destruction of Damascus

Two years ago United States Congressmen Louie Gohmert (R-TX), John Fleming (R-LA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Randy Forbes (R-VA) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the capital city of Jerusalem. Congressman Louie Gohmert accidentally knocked over Netanyahu’s coffee cup as he presented a gift to Israel's Prime Minister. The gift was a book about the destruction of the city of Damascus called Damascus Countdown. Congressman Gohmert was so taken by author Joel Rosenberg's latest sequel in his series about the end of the world, that he brought a copy of Damascus Countdown for Prime Minister Netanyahu to read for himself. As the congressman slid the book across the tabletop to the Prime Minister of Israel, the book knocked over Netanyahu's coffee cup, spilling coffee all over the table.

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.


Dave said...

I share your sentiments Wade. In my own assessment still actively serving and having served in an Embassy and more, I look at the fact we had assets on the ground from DIA, CIA, Contractors, State Department and more in Benghazi, yet we still know "nothing" as to how and why in what happened there that resulted in the loss of 4 lives, one an Ambassador. However, in Syria, with next to zero assets on the ground, and no people in polace we are "certain" the Assad government used chemical weapons on its own populace.
I do not buy it at all. It is dripping with designed intent!

Anonymous said...

2 Kings and Amos give further evidence of the fulfillment of this prophecy.

An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. Isaiah 17:1

Isaiah’s prophecy was echoed by Amos. Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah, and he also wrote of the destruction of Damascus.

3. Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have threshed Gilead
with threshing sledges of iron.
4 . So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
5 . I will break the gate-bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;
Amos 1:3-5

It is very telling here in Amos that the prophet tells us where God will send the Syrians captive. He was sending them into captivity to a place called KIR. This is a mountainous region in northern Asia Minor (modern day Turkey)

5. Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him.
6. At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day.
7. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”
8. Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.
9. And the king of Assyria listened to him. THE KING OF ASSYRIA MARCHED UP AGAINST DAMASCUS AND TOOK IT, CARRYING ITS PEOPLE CAPTIVE TO KIR, and he killed Rezin. 2 Kings 16:5-9

In this passage we have the historic record in the inspired word that clearly tells us that the prophecy of Isaiah and Amos concerning Damascus has been fulfilled.

How then do modern day theologians declare that it was not fulfilled?

Jeff Rogers

Aussie John said...


Absolutely spot on!Well said.

Rex Ray said...


Benghazi is a ‘CAMEL’ and Syria is a ‘NAT’!

Our President wants America to reach in a toe sack with two fighting skunks and help the one that caused Benghazi. Duh! We will smell just like them. states:

“President Barack Obama has a total of ten half-siblings from his mother’s two marriages, his father’s four, and another two from his former stepfather, Lolo. He is the third eldest of the ten. The eldest of the brood is Abon’go (Roy) Malik Obama, born in 1958. He is the first child from the marriage of Barack Obama Sr. and Kezia Obama. President Obama has a close relationship with Malik, and both served as the best men in each other’s wedding.” states:

“Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the center of the decision to target tea party groups for burdensome tax scrutiny, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother [Abongo Malik “Roy” Obama] that operated illegally for years.”
This link tells of the other links all in one.

It states Obama’s half brother is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (one of the skunks in the toe sack.)

I think of where I stand in this mess we’re in.
I have three grandchildren born in Jerusalem.
I’ve been in the country where at present thousands are fleeing for safety.

The plan is crazy for B2 bombers to rain destruction while avoiding Syria’s air space.
What prevents Syria from counter attacking with airplanes?
I’ve spent years as a tool designer working on the B2.

BTW Wade—good post. :)

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

"Imminetizing the Eschaton" -- theological technical language for "Let's Jump-Start Armageddon! It's Prophesied, it's Prophesied!"

I saw enough of that in the "Christians For Nuclear War" attitude during the heyday of Hal Lindsay.

Anonymous said...

Wade and H.U.G,

Yes, it would seem wise to exercise some caution with regard to prophecy,and for us to ask :

1. Is this that which was prophesied ?
2. Does it mean the event is right and virtuous because it has been prophesied ?
3. Should I participate in bringing about its fulfilment ?


Rex Ray said...

“When women are depressed they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country.” Elayne Boosler

“Little evil would be done in the world if evil never could be done in the name of good.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

“Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Example: The 15 minute answer to: “Will you bomb Syria without approval from Congress?”

Why is it when government makes a decision that’s wrong, they’re not the ones who suffer?

Has Obama offered to resign if he gets his way and things go bad?

Adam Maarschalk said...

Very good article. I agree. As Jeff already mentioned, Isaiah and Amos were contemporary prophets, and both predicted that Syria and Israel would soon be destroyed by the same opponent, Assyria. II Kings 16 shows in detail that their prophecies were fulfilled, and this is validated by historical records, some of which are shared in this article:

One of the biggest keys pointing to the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 in Isaiah's own time period is the phrase "in that day" in verse 4. Isaiah clearly prophesied that Damascus and Syria would fall in the same "day" that Israel would fall. And we know that Israel (the northern kingdom) fell in 722 B.C. As you said, Wade, "Isaiah nailed it."

Anonymous said...


Not sure if you're still monitoring responses to this post but I hope so. I was curious; do you not believe that God frequently uses immediate fulfillment of prophecies that are meant to also portray more significant future events beyond the "immediate"?

For example; destruction of ancient Damascus being fulfillment of a prophecy in a relatively "immediate" time frame but also a possible portrayal of an event more significant in God's plan thousands of years later?

dr. james willingham said...

Appreciate the comments, Wade. Folks seem to forget that the Bible is its own best interpreter. Sometimes a practice or an event will provide the key to a situation and/or precept.