Isa 17:1-2 The word about Damascus. See, they have made Damascus a town no longer; it has become a waste place. (17:2) Her towns are unpeopled for ever; there the flocks take their rest in peace, without fear.
This prophecy must relate to the future as, in the historical period from the writing of this prophecy until present, Damascus has been a prize for various invaders but has never been laid to complete and utter waste for a considerable time, without rebuilding.
Consequently this prophecy may share anomalies with the destruction brought about by the Assyrian, Tilgath-Pilneser, and Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon, but in both instances it was rebuilt and still exists today. This prophecy clearly indicates it will no longer be a city and its surrounds will become uninhabited and this has not happened, yet.
Isa 17:3-4 The strong tower has gone from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus: the rest of Aram will come to destruction, and be made like the glory of the children of Israel, says the Lord of armies. (17:4) And it will be in that day that the glory of Jacob will be made small, and the strength of his body will become feeble.
Ephraim, a collective name for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, comprising the so-called Lost Tribes or Ten Tribes of Israel, was removed from the territory of Israel centuries before Christ. Thus its strong tower has already, long since, been removed and consequently this verse would seem misplaced, at first glance: a past historical fact following on a future prophecy.
Alternatively it would entice one to link the destruction of Damascus, foretold in this prophecy, with the fall and exile of the Ten Tribes and suggest that one should ignore these two verses or the whole prophecy in respect to contemporary events! This would clearly be an erroneous approach in interpretation, detracting from the tremendous value that this prophecy holds for contemporary events. Furthermore certain images in the prophecy, together with its conclusion and reference to Tyre and Sidon, favour a future interpretation and are factually applicable to what is happening in contemporary Syria and its neighbours right now.
These last two verses serve a dual purpose: to show that the Syrians will suffer the fate suffered by Ephraim and to show that, at the time when this prophecy is fulfilled, the Tribes of Israel will still be dispersed or exiled. Any strength or regard they may have built up, after centuries of wandering among the nations, will also have been brought down or, at least, be in a condition of speedy decay. This interpretation is confirmed by the following prophecy:
Deu 28:58-68 If you will not take care to do all the words of this law, recorded in this book, honouring that name of glory and of fear, THE LORD YOUR GOD; (28:59) Then the Lord your God will make your punishment, and the punishment of your seed, a thing to be wondered at; great punishments and cruel diseases stretching on through long years. (28:60) He will send on you again all the diseases of Egypt, which were a cause of fear to you, and they will take you in their grip. (28:61) And all the diseases and the pains not recorded in the book of this law will the Lord send on you till your destruction is complete.
(28:62) And you will become a very small band, though your numbers were like the stars of heaven; because you did not give ear to the voice of the Lord your God. (28:63) And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and increasing you, so the Lord will take pleasure in cutting you off and causing your destruction, and you will be uprooted from the land which you are about to take as your heritage.
(28:64) And the Lord will send you wandering among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other: there you will be servants to other gods, of wood and stone, gods of which you and your fathers had no knowledge. (28:65) And even among these nations there will be no peace for you, and no rest for your feet: but the Lord will give you there a shaking heart and wasting eyes and weariness of soul: (28:66) Your very life will be hanging in doubt before you, and day and night will be dark with fears, and nothing in life will be certain: (28:67) In the morning you will say, If only it was evening! And at evening you will say, If only morning would come! Because of the fear in your hearts and the things which your eyes will see. (28:68) And the Lord will take you back to Egypt again in ships, by the way of which I said to you, You will never see it again: there you will be offering yourselves as men-servants and women-servants to your haters for a price, and no man will take you.
All of these verses, taken together, confirm that Ephraim, the Ten Tribes of Israel, will still be dispersed when this fate befalls Syria, having no stronghold, influence or honour, being persecuted and unable to defend themselves against their oppressors.
The whole Ephraim/Ten Tribe topic is too intricate to deal with here, but there are a growing amount of people (classified amongst Christians) who have come to realize the deceptions relating to the Sabbath and other Christian doctrines and dogmas, who are increasingly being ostracized and victimized by Christians, their neighbours and their rulers for their faith, having the rights they once enjoyed summarily stripped or increasingly eroded. (Eze 37) These Christians are not Zionists as the Christian Zionist movement is ultimately Satanic devoid of love even for their enemies.
The inhabitants of Damascus and Syria will befall the same fate as Ephraim, being dispersed far and wide, oppressed and persecuted, stripped of all honour and tossed about at the whims of others, being refugees in foreign countries.
Isa 17:5-6 And it will be like a man cutting the growth of his grain, pulling together the heads of the grain with his arm; even as when they get in the grain in the valley of Rephaim. (17:6 ) But it will be like a man shaking an olive-tree, something will still be there, two or three berries on the top of the highest branch, four or five on the outside branches of a fertile tree, says the Lord, the God of Israel.
The contention that this prophecy refers to a time future is confirmed by the fact that the image of the harvest is usually reserved for the end times.
Rev 14:14-19 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud. And on the cloud sat one like the Son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. (14:15) And another angel came out of the temple, crying in a great voice to Him sitting on the cloud, Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth was dried. (14:16) And He sitting on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. (14:17) And another angel came out of the temple in Heaven, also having a sharp sickle. (14:18) And another angel came out from the altar, who had authority over fire. And he spoke with a great cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe. (14:19) And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the anger of God.
But not all are cut down and thrust into the wine press of the anger of God, some olives remain on the tree, a remnant will remain.
Isa 17:7-9 In that day a man’s heart will be turned to his Maker, and his eyes to the Holy One of Israel. (17:8) He will not be looking to the altars, the work of his hands, or to the wood pillars or to the sun-images which his fingers have made. (17:9) In that day your towns will be like the waste places of the Hivites and the Amorites which the children of Israel took for a heritage, and they will come to destruction.
These verses clearly confirm a time to come, when hearts and eyes will be focused on the God of Israel, no longer idolizing people (Jews), territories (Israel), possessions and status. Right now, as in the past, people are worried what will happen to them and their possessions and trying to hedge their current safety and status against further erosion, rather than focusing on God for their provision?
People are fleeing Syria in droves. Many of the towns and cities in Syria have already deteriorated to the dilapidated condition described in verse 9 but Damascus still stands, so the worst is yet to come!
Isa 17:10-14 For you have not given honour to the God of your salvation, and have not kept in mind the Rock of your strength; for this cause you made a garden of pleasant things, and put in it the vine-cuttings of a strange god; (17:11) In the day of your planting you were watching its growth, and in the morning your seed was flowering: but its fruit is wasted away in the day of grief and bitter sorrow.
(17:12) Ah! the voice of peoples, like the loud sounding of the seas, and the thundering of great nations rushing on like the bursting out of waters! (17:13) But he will put a stop to them, and make them go in flight far away, driving them like the waste of the grain on the tops of the mountains before the wind, and like the circling dust before the storm. (17:14) In the evening there is fear, and in the morning they are gone. This is the fate of those who take our goods, and the reward of those who violently take our property for themselves.
In the concluding verses of this prophecy it reverts to Ephraim. Ephraim has a religion and philosophical outlook, based on pleasant things yet including foreign or strange things which corrupt the produce. In the end Ephraim’s labours to create this system of beliefs and ideologies will fail him when he needs it most. The Western powers support this or that in the name of democracy, yet it always backfires because these beautiful ideals are ultimately always contaminated by incorrect assumptions and beliefs relating to the Truth.
The parallel application to Syria contains an explanation for the Syrian demise. Syria is brought down because it was and is arrogant in its actions against the territory of Israel and its people, failing to realize its “success” was not due to any national, ethnic or religious superiority but due to God permitting that “success”, to the extent that it pleased Him.
Yet it seems strange, at first glance, that the woes of contemporary Syria and the tribes of Ephraim be combined in the same prophecy?
Zec 9:1-2 A word of the Lord: The Lord has come to the land of Hadrach, and Damascus is his resting-place: for the towns of Aram are the Lord’s, (9:2) As well as Hamath, which is by its limit, and Tyre and Zidon, because they are very wise.
These two verses from the Book of Zechariah show why Ephraim and Israel are connected with the fate of Syria. This last quoted prophecy says that God regards the towns of Syria (Aram) and Lebanon (Tyre and Zidon) as His (property). These fall outside of the current territory of Israel but they do fall inside of the territory of Israel as promised to Abraham and his descendants! (Gen 15:18-21) These verses serve to explain why contemporary Israel is balking against withdrawal from the occupied territories of the West Bank and Golan and why they dearly want Lebanon, Syria and ultimately Jordan destroyed, so that they can annex these as part of the so called “Greater Israel”. Whilst Iraq was strong and as long as Iran and Saudi Arabia remain strong this objective cannot be achieved. If Iran were to fall Saudi Arabia can be assured that it would follow as the real and present danger or existential threat to Israel and the USA.
We need to realize that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding and their mission is not one of indiscriminate mayhem, but a mission to prepare the world, align nations, for what will soon come to pass. Egypt is getting there quickly (see the page relating to Egypt), Syria is headed there, together with Lebanon, Jordan, the Arab world and all the nations of the world! The stage is being set for the final reckoning.
This prophecy concludes with a clear and unambiguous warning to any and all people who steal or rob God even through His people, the Nation of Israel (Ephraim and Judah wherever they may be), of goods and property. Thus whoever acts against God’s people to persecute, terrorize or kill them and take their property and livelihood from them, will be held accountable by God, even their own leaders (shepherds)! (Jer 23)
However, as this prophecy relates to Syria and God proclaims the towns of Syria (Aram) to be His, this warning should surely be regarded as a warning to any and all nations wanting to become involved or actually involved in the current Syrian conflict?
Lebanon is involved, albeit unwillingly, through Hezbollah fighters operating in Syria and the last verses above show that it will fall within the boundaries of the future, actual Israel. But its cities Tyre and Sidon are commended for their wisdom? Would that be because the official stance of Lebanon is to refrain from becoming involved in the civil war across its border?
Iran is involved and there are prophecies specifically relating to Elam. Jordan is rightfully afraid of getting involved, but not due to this warning, rather in the hope of saving its own sovereignty. Yet it is factually involved, playing host to Western forces in the hope that they can help prevent a spill over of violence and the civil war from Syria. The fate of the kingdom of Jordan is also described in prophecies relating to Ammon, Moab and Edom.
Thus it would seem that countries preferring not to interfere in the outcome of the civil war in Syria show more wisdom than the supposed philanthropists and opportunists who are willing to throw at least time, effort and/or money into supporting either faction? They think in this way they are not involved and can escape repercussion, but they are mistaken, their meddling will return to bite them in the heal.
As they judge so they will be judged, when faced with the exact same challenges of public dissent and revolt back home. For whilst their cities are crumbling and their people are becoming impoverished, like Nero when Rome burnt, they prefer to entertain and occupy themselves with the fate of others far off. To gamble on the courtship of far away lovers (allies) in the hope of some uncertain gain, like Israel once did, and God referred to Israel as being worse than a prostitute – paying her lovers instead of the other way around! Research the amounts of international aid and grants to Israel, for example; research the predicament whether to back the ousted democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, or the ruling Military despite them having carried out a coup; research the hypocrisy relating to the Ukraine and Crimea; see how the Sunni Muslims are taking advantage of this predicament by stepping into the proverbial breach; research Al-Qaeda involvement in the Syrian revolution, the West’s consideration of providing the revolutionaries with weapons, whilst Western intelligence agencies warn of Al-Qaeda terror attacks against the West ) (Eze 16:33-38)
In the period of alignment (the four horsemen of the Apocalypse riding) all countries and people will be powerless to avert what must be. We can expect the whole Arab world to experience decades of revolt until their differences are resolved or set aside and they are unified by a singular philosophy combined with actual progressive and unified action: to annihilate Israel and dominate the world! Thus we can expect Lebanon to spiral into a repetition of its past sectarian conflict, despite its attempts to avoid this inevitable fate.
In any event, the immediate future for Syria looks bleak, but its ultimate fate, like that of Lebanon, is filled with promise because of their specific acceptance by God to be part and parcel of the greater, true Israel.