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The Coming War With Israel, Syria and Iran - Part I

"As negotiations over Iran's nuclear ambitions continue, it should be noted that in the event of an Iranian missile launch, neighboring Middle Eastern countries only have four minutes of reaction time. Some Gulf States do have Patriot Missile Defense systems, but the equipment isn’t compatible with one another–making the building of a missile defense shield in the region a moot point at present. Defense One  reported that rivalries and concerns about cyber espionage have become obstacles in this matter:

Isaiah 17, the entire chapter, predicts a future war involving Israel, Syria and I believe Iran. Proof this war has not taken place in past or current history is seen in Verse 1.  

Isaiah 17:1-9 KJV

The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
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.
4 And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.
5 And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.
6 Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord God of Israel.
7 At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.
8 And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.
9 In that day shall his strong cities be as a forsaken bough, and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel: and there shall be desolation.

A History of Damascus 

["Damascus is the oldest continuously occupied city in the world and dates back to prehistoric times.  "There was a city on its site before the time of Abraham (2000 B.C.) Damascus was probably part of the Egyptian empire before the Hittite period - 2nd millennium B.C. It was later ruled by the Israelites and the Syrians. Tiglathpilesar III made it part of Assyrian Empire in 732 B.C. From the 6th - 4th century B.C. it was a provincial capital of the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great conquered it without a fight. It then passed through to the Seleucid's, the Eygptians and the Armenians. In 64 B.C. it became part of the Roman Empire under Pompey and lasted until Rome fell in about 395 B.C. (That date is often disputed with some having the fall of Rome in the early 5th century A.D. - emphasis mine). 

Damascus was a thriving commercial city noted for its woolen cloth and grain industries and was converted to Christianity during the first century A.D.  The Apostle Paul was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus. The Romans built a Christian Church in Damascus in 379 A.D. on a foundation of the Roman temple of Zeus.  When Rome split in 395 A.D. it became the provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Arabs attacked the city during the time of Paul and held it until 635 A.D.  It then gradually converted to Islam and mosque built over the Christian Church. Therefore, Damascus became the seat of the Caliphate from 661-750 A.D. at which time, Abbasids made Baghdad, the center of the Muslim world. It then fell to several Arab conquerers.

The Christian crusaders failed to annex the city during the reign of the Saracen's (1118-1193 A.D.) and the city prospered under the Saracen's. In 1260 A.D. the city fell to the Mongols under Hulagu Khan and it was sacked in 1400 A.D. by Timur who took away the swordmakers and armorers which the city was famous for under the Saracen's.  

In 1516 Damascus became part of the Ottoman Turks and remained in the Ottoman Empire for 400 years. In 1860, Muslims massacred the Christian population and in 1893 the Great Mosque was destroyed by fire. 

In WWI Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia and portrayed by Peter O'Toole in a film by that name in 1962) helped the British capture Damascus. In 1918 British Field Marshall, Allenby and Emir Faisal who later became King Faisal I of Iraq entered Damascus. Britain had promised the Arabs that Arab lands would revert back to them if the Turks were defeated. However they reneged on the promise and after the war the city became the capital of one of the French Levant States mandated under the League of Nations. In 1925-26, Damascus joined with the Druze in a revolt against the French who shelled and badly damaged the ciy. 

During WWII, Free French and British forces entered Damascus and the city became the capital of independent Syria in 1941. When Syria and Egypt joined to form the United Arab Republic in 1958, Cairo was made the capital with Damascus the capital of the Syrian region. Syria withdrew from the UAR in 1961 and has remained independent to this date primarily ruled by Bassar Assad and his father - Hafez al-Assad for the past 4 going on 5 decades."] 1

Isaiah 17:1 says Damascus will cease to be a city and become a ruinous heap denoting a complete destruction. The reason I gave the history of the city is to prove it has been a continual city dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C.  Therefore, for Isaiah 17:1 to be fulfilled, the city must have a future destruction.  While ISIS is fighting against Bassar Assad's regime, he is still in power in Syria and Damascus is still standing.  A future war and I believe soon is going to destroy Damascus and with it Syria. However, in this war great destruction will impact the land of Israel.  Bassar Assad is a Shiite and a puppet of Iran. This is why I believe Iran may be behind this war between Israel and Syria. A key in this war is ISIS which is HQ'd in Syria and are Sunni Muslims. Iran may attack both Syria and Israel that brings about the destruction of Syria and great damage to Israel.  

A verse-by-verse careful examination of the Isaiah passage, provides great insight into the extent of the war and the players involved:

Verse 1:   When prophet Isaiah begins with the phrase, "The burden of the Lord," that is an Old Testament way of saying he has received a strong word from the lord that has greatly agitated his soul and spirit and to relieve the distress he feels, he must deliver the message or prophecy.  The word "Behold" means to take notice for you are about to hear something of utmost importance.  The word is also used some 234 times in the New Testament.  A modern day equivalent would be "Listen Up!" 

"Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap."  As already mentioned and shown by the history of the city, it has never been totally destroyed, but continually occupied though conquered several times. Therefore, we know this passage will have a future fulfillment. When Isaiah says Damascus will taken away from being a city, the intent is clear - it will so devastated that it will no longer be recognized as a functioning city.  

To emphasize that fact, he further says, it will be a "ruinous heap."  The Hebrew meaning of ruinous has many applications, but the root meaning is to to fall, to fail, to cease, to die, etc.  The adjoining word "heap" means a pile of rubbish.  Thus the reader of this passage is to understand that Damascus, the oldest city in the Middle East and the world for that matter, shall be reduced to a pile of rubbish. How that happens will be discussed later in this article.

Verse 2:  The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they shall be for flocks which shall lie down and none shall make them afraid.  The commentaries vary in their interpretation of the cities of Aroer with the majority believing the reference is to the cities occupied by the Reubenites and Gadites (Moses gave the tribes of Reuben and Gad land southeast of the dead sea). However, why would Isaiah prophecy against Damascus, Syria in Verse 1 and then suddenly in Verse 2 shift gears to reference an area far to the South of Damascus that was part of the territory of Israel?  However, one commentator, Grotius thinks the Hebrew text is correct and that this Aroer was a tract of ground in Syria (a valley say some, which lay between the mountains of Libanus and Anti-Libanus) and not on the confines of Moab and Ammon, and part of the possession of the Reubenites and Gadites. I think this explanation make more sense in the context of the first two verses.  That flocks shall like down in these cities and none shall make them afraid implies the area will be void of humans. 

Verse 3:  "The fortress shall also cease from Ephraim and the kingdom from Damascus and the remnant of Syria:" Fortress is an interesting word. It is basar in the Hebrew language which happens to be similar to the first name of the modern day leader of Syria - Bashar al-Assad.  The pronunciation of both words - basar and bashar are identical.  The word actually means a stronghold or a defensive position - something walled-up or fenced in.  Several Hebrew scholars believe the word is a reference to the Golan Heights - a hilltop in northeast Israel overlooking Syria.  Israel and Syria have both claimed the area and have fought over who controls it.  Because of its topography, it is strategic that Israel hold this position for if Syria held this high ground, they would have great military advantage over Israel.  I was fortunate to have visited the Golan Heights in 1982 - something not usually allowed for tourists. However, out tour leader had taken some 13 tours from the United States to Israel and knew the right people to give us permission to see the site.  It was occupied by Israeli military with sandbagged bunkers, large artillery pieces, and a platoon sized infantry.  From that position, you could actually see into Syria and to Jordan on the East. 

Ephraim was the largest of the 10 tribes of the Northern kingdom of divided Israel with its capitol at Samaria. Thus the implication is that  the fortress or the Golan Heights shall cease from being part of Israel or it will no longer be needed as a defensive position since the kingdom of Syria (Damascus) will disappear. 

The remnant of Syria are those that are left - they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel - meaning they shall suffer the same fate as Israel, which verses following will explain.

Verse 4: "And in that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean."

The phrase "in that day" oftentimes refers to the posttrib Day of the Lord, but the context determines how it is used. In this passage it seems to have a prior fulfillment, particularly the tribulation whether at the beginning or during the latter half referred to as the Great Tribulation.  The figurative language used - the glory of Jacob (Israel) shall be made thin and the fatness of his flesh made leanclearly reveals that Israel will be attacked and suffer a great destruction.   The Hebrew root word for glory means that which is burdensome, heavy, dull, severeFatness of flesh becoming lean speaks of destruction of both property and lives.  Like the cities of Aroer, the cities of Israel will experience a significant devastation. Wonder how the traditional dispensationalists will handle this when it happens as they promote Israel as the chosen people and nation and the "untouchables", that is, God is not going to allow such destruction of Israel. Well, they might want to question the prophet Isaiah that the passage deals with the destruction of Syria and Damascus and not Israel, but the context won't allow that.

To reinforce his prophecy that Jacob-Israel is going to be attacked and almost wiped out in this war or battle, he further elaborates on the impact it has on Israel in Verses 5 and 6.

Verse 5: And it shall be as when the harvestman gathers the corn and reaps the ears with his arm and it shall be as he that gathers ears in the valley of Rephaim. 

Jamison-Fausett-Brown commentary says this verse "speaks to the inhabitants and wealth of Israel - they shall be swept away, but a few left behind just as the husbandman gathers corn and the fruit and leaves only a few gleaning ears and grapes".  "With one arm he collects the standing grain so he can cut it with the sickle in his other hand".  The valley of Rephaim was a fertile plain southwest of Jerusalem toward Bethlehem in the country of the Philistines.  In using the imagery of the valley of Rephaim, Isaiah was speaking of an expected plentiful harvest unfulfilled. 

Verse 6:  Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough or branch, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof...In this Verse he explains the meaning of leanness in Verse 4. The attack upon the nation of Israel will thin out the population leaving only a small remnant - the meaning of only a few olive berries and grapes left after the harvest. However, there will be survivors - gleanings shall be left in it.  

When we come to Verse 6, this war or battle has reduced Damascus to ashes and only a remnant of Syria is left.  The same scenario happens to Israel - its cities and much of the land has suffered great damage and destruction and only a remnant is left. Verse 7 says when this happens the remnant of both Syria and Israel will look to His Maker and have respect for the Holy One of Israel. In other words, this conflict will be a Wake-up call not only to the two nations involved, but to the world as a whole. 

The question is what precipitates this war and who strikes first, Syria or Israel or some other country? What is the source of the weapons used that causes this destruction of cities and great loss of life?  What is the timing of this war?  Is Iran and ISIS involved?  

This will be discussed in Part 2 and also the parallel passage in Jeremiah 49:23-27.  

1 http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/world/damascus-history.html#ixzz3atmmM4ZX