Isaiah 17: Pinpointing the Timing of Damascus’s Destruction

Isaiah 17

Isaiah 17 is a chapter that contains a prophecy about the total destruction of the city of Damascus and several other Mideast locations.

Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world (if not the oldest). As a result, the prophecy remains unfulfilled as of the time of this writing.

Many believe the events of Isaiah 17 will be among the next prophetic events to occur. Some even think that Israel will nuke Damascus when the events of Isaiah 17 transpire.

Given the ongoing tension in the Mideast, I believe it’d be useful to examine when the events of Isaiah 17 might occur. I will pinpoint the general time frame when the events of Isaiah 17 will transpire in this article.

Isaiah 17 Overview

Isaiah 17:1-3

Isaiah 17 opens with the words “the burden of Damascus”, which indicates that Damascus is the subject of a troublesome prophecy:

  • Verse 1 reveals the troublesome nature of the prophecy. The verse describes the city of Damascus as “a ruinous heap”.
  • Verses 2-3 describe Aroer (a city in modern day Jordan) and Ephraim (northern Israel) as desolate and forsaken.
  • Other places in Syria will also face destruction as Isaiah mentions “the remnant of Syria”.

“(1) The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. (2) 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.” (Isaiah 17:1-3)

Before continuing, it should be noted that some believe the events of Isaiah 17 occurred in the 8th century B.C. when Assyria attacked Syria and northern Israel. However, verse 1 says that Damascus will be “taken away from being a city”. This level of desolation has not occurred yet.

Isaiah 17:1-3 does not specifically tell us the cause(s) of Damascus’s demise. However, Jeremiah 49:23-27, a passage that may have end time implications, suggests that the city may be target of an attack:

“(23) Concerning Damascus. Hamath is confounded, and Arpad: for they have heard evil tidings: they are fainthearted; there is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet. (24) Damascus is waxed feeble, and turneth herself to flee, and fear hath seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken her, as a woman in travail. (25) How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy! (26) Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, and all the men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD of hosts. (27) And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Benhadad.” (Jeremiah 49:23-27)

Isaiah 17:4-6

Isaiah 17:4-6 tells us what’s happening during the general time frame when Damascus will become a ruinous heap.

Isaiah 17:3-4 establishes the link between Isaiah 17:1-3 and Isaiah 17:4 onward.

  • Verse 3 compares the glory of Damascus and the glory of the remnant of Syria at that time to the glory of the children of Israel.
  • Verse 4 expands on the glory of Jacob/Israel at that time.

“(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”.

The phrase “in that day” appears in Isaiah 17:4, which in an end time context refers to the Day of the Lord. The appearance of this phrase suggests the destruction of Damascus will likely occur around the time of the Day of the Lord.

Isaiah 17:4-6 adds that the “glory of Jacob” will be greatly diminished to a small remnant. This indicates the events of Isaiah 17 will occur in the latter portion of the end times when Jacob’s population will indeed be greatly diminished:

“(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.” (Isaiah 17:4-6)

Isaiah 6:9-13

Isaiah 6:9-13 may reference the widespread desolation and large decline in the population of Israel at that future time.

  • The passage describes a time when the land of Israel will be greatly desolated and will only have a small population remaining.
  • This period will coincide with the end of the (spiritual) hardening impacting (a portion) of Israel.

“(9) And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (11) Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (12) And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (13) But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” (Isaiah 6:9-13)

The end of the hardening impacting (a portion of) Israel will coincide with the coming of the Lord and the arrival of the fullness of the Gentiles according to Romans 11:25-26, Isaiah 35:4-5, and Isaiah 42:13-16.

The following table shows the similarities between these passages and Isaiah 6:9-13.


The End of Israel’s Hardening

  • The hardening impacting (a portion of) Israel
  • Conditions surrounding the end of the hardening
  • The coming of the Lord at the time when the hardening will end 

Isaiah 6:9-13: (9) And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. (10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (11) Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (12) And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (13) But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

Romans 11:25-26: (25) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Isaiah 35:4-5: (4) Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. (5) Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Isaiah 42:13-16: (13) The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. (14) I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. (15) I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. (16) And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.


Consequently, if Isaiah 6:9-13 indeed relates to Isaiah 17:4-6 it would mean that the events of Isaiah 17 may occur near the coming of the Lord and the end of the fullness of the Gentiles.

Each passage is displayed below and each passage’s reference to a small remnant remaining is highlighted:

“(11) Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (12) And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (13) But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” (Isaiah 6:11-13)

“(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.” (Isaiah 17:4-6)

Isaiah 17:7-8

Isaiah 17:7-8 may cover the result that the desolation has on the people of the region at that time. The punishment may bring people to look to the Lord instead of false idols:

“(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.” (Isaiah 17:7-8)

This change in people’s regard for the Lord is consistent with what will happen around the time when the hardening impacting (a portion of Israel) lifts (Isaiah 29:18-19). This again suggests that the events of Isaiah 17 will take place in the latter portion of the end times.

Isaiah 10:20-22, a passage which may have end times implications, describes the remnant of Israel (the survivors) as those who will depend on the Lord:

“(20) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. (21) The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. (22) For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.” (Isaiah 10:20-22)

The term “remnant of Israel” again suggests that the conditions of Isaiah 17:7 and Isaiah 17 in general will take place in the latter portion of the end times after a great decline in the population of Israel.

Isaiah 17:9-11

Isaiah 17:9-11 may cover much of why there will be so much desolation. The passage explains that the widespread desolation is part of the chastisement for the forsaking the Lord:

“(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. (10) Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: (11) In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow.” (Isaiah 17:9-11)

Does Isaiah 17:9 Say Israel Destroys Damascus?

As an aside, some cite Isaiah 17:9 to claim that Israel will destroy Damascus. However, it’s not fully clear which forsaken, strong cities the verse refers to. For instance, Keil and Delitzsch believe Isaiah 17:9 retells the downfall of Ephraim’s strong cities with more detail than Isaiah 17:3:

The statement in Isaiah 17:3, “The fortress of Ephraim is abolished,” is repeated in Isaiah 17:9 in a more descriptive manner. The fate of the strongly fortified cities of Ephraim would be the same as that of the old Canaanitish castles, which were still to be discerned in their antiquated remains, either in the depths of forests or high up on the mountains.1

The following is a comparison of Isaiah 17:3 with Isaiah 17:9:

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.” (Isaiah 17:3)

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.” (Isaiah 17:9)

Regardless of the location of the cities, some Bible commentators like John Gill2 believe that Isaiah 17:9 only compares the forsakenness of the cities at the time of the prophecy’s fulfillment to the cities the Canaanites abandoned when the Israelites came to the land (and not saying that Israel is responsible for the forsakenness of the cities at that time).

In sum, the argument that Isaiah 17:9 is evidence that Israel will cause the destruction of Damascus depends on:

  • The assumption that the strong cities in Isaiah 17:9 belong to Syria being true.
  • The assumption that Israel desolates the cities at the time of the prophecy’s fulfillment being true.

We can dispute both assumptions.

Isaiah 17:12-14

Isaiah 17:12-14 shifts the focus to the demise of a group of nations who are likely the attackers that desolate Damascus, northern Israel, and other places.

Some believe the passage refers to Assyria back in the 8th century B.C. However, Isaiah 17:12-14 warns several nations instead of just one.

The Lord will rebuke the attacking nations and will rout them according to Isaiah 17:13:

“(12) Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! (13) The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. (14) And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us. (Isaiah 17:12-14)

The passage above is very similar to Isaiah 29:5-7, a passage that relates to the end time siege of Jerusalem. The table below shows how these passages relate to each other:


The Defeat of the Attackers

  • Multiple Nations Attacking
  • The Lord will intervene to deal with the nations 
  • Nations depicted as chaff that is blown away by wind

Isaiah 17:12-14: (12) Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! (13) The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. (14) And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

Isaiah 29:5-7: (5) Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. (6) Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. (7) And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.


Isaiah 17:13 also parallels Isaiah 33:10-13, a passage from a chapter that primarily deals with the Assyrian threat to Jerusalem but could be a chapter with multiple fulfillments:


The Lord Will Destroy His Enemies

  • God Acts
  • Enemies Destroyed

Isaiah 17:13: The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.

Isaiah 33:10-13: (10) Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself. (11) Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. (12) And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. (13) Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.


The repelling of the attacking nations by the Lord also compares to Joel 2:20. The Lord promises in Joel 2:20 that He will drive away and defeat the northern army that will attack places like Jerusalem:

“The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.” (Isaiah 17:13)

“(19) Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: (20) But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” (Joel 2:19-20)

The parallels between Isaiah 17:12-14, Joel 2:20, Isaiah 29:5-7, and Isaiah 33:10-13 suggest:

Given all this, we can presume that the desolation of Damascus and northern Israel will come just prior to the end time siege of Jerusalem.

Nighttime Defeat?

Interestingly, Isaiah 17:14 suggests that the attackers will be defeated during the night:

“And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.” (Isaiah 17:14)

The statement harkens to Isaiah 37:35-37, which records how the angel of the Lord slaughtered Sennacherib’s Assyrian army:

“(35) For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. (36) Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. (37) So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.” (Isaiah 37:35-37)

Isaiah 17:14 may be a case where a future prophetic event occurs like a past event:

  • The first occurrence was the overnight defeat of the Assyrian army.
  • The end time occurrence may involve the overnight defeat of the nations that attack Jerusalem and other places like Damascus and northern Israel.

Interestingly, Isaiah 29:7 compares the sudden demise of the nations that attack Jerusalem (Ariel) to a dream. This analogy harkens back to Isaiah 17:14’s hint that the demise of the attackers may come at night:

And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.” (Isaiah 17:14)

“And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.” (Isaiah 29:7)

Conclusion on Isaiah 17’s Fulfillment

The events of Isaiah 17 will not occur before the start of the end times or even at the start of the end times. The fulfillment of Isaiah 17, particularly the destruction of Damascus, will come during the latter portion of the end times near:

The attackers will likely travel through Syria and northern Israel and leave a wake of destruction as they advance to besiege Jerusalem.

Joel 2:2-3 may provide a fitting description of how the attackers will leave a wake of destruction behind as they approach Jerusalem:

“(2) A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. (3) A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.” (Joel 2:2-3)

I hope you found this article on Isaiah 17 insightful. I also have an article on Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39, which concerns the invasion of Israel by Gog of Magog, that I believe you will find insightful.

  1. Delitzsch, F. and Carl, F. Keil. Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes. Trans. James Martin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983.
  2. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible.

Learn the Startling the Truth about the End Times

If you liked the insights found in this article, I encourage you to check out my book: Prophecy Proof Insights of the End Times. It’s truly a comprehensive book about the end times that contains biblical insights that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

Prophecy Proof Insights of the End Times Mockups

Follow on Social Media to Stay Updated

31
Leave a Reply

avatar
26 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Jan
Guest
Jan

Dear friend, I believe you are in error here. When Isaiah prophesied about Damascus, it was “during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isaiah 1:1. The fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Damascus occurred 734 BC when Assyria put the city under siege and destroyed it. Bible History.com has this information: The Assyrian response to king Ahaz’s request was devastating. In 734 B.C. Assyria attacked Syria’s chief city Damascus and put it under siege. King Rezin was slain, their nobles were impaled upon stakes and the city was burned and every city in the region was… Read more »

Bruno
Guest
Bruno

When you neglect to notice that OT prophecy is to be reinterpreted in the light of the cross, and that Jesus Christ is the “Israel of God” and all who are “in Christ” are therefore the true Israel of God, then you follow cunningly devised fables. I plead with you to reject the Jesuit inspired Futurism that makes much of the faux Israel in the Middle East, while completely missing the spiritual issues facing the Israel of God. Middle Eastern, secular Israel is NOT the focus of prophecy, but is being cunningly used by the great deceiver as a diversion.… Read more »

uchepat
Guest

COMMENTwell,what i do know for sure is that we are at the treshhold of time ,let all men repent and embrace jesus because any one that is of him has nothing to fear about the end time tantrums imminent in this age.

Sean
Guest

That was really good how you highlighted the sections and meanings like that. This was great, i added it to my website. ithasbeenwritten.com thank you!!

Prince
Guest
Prince

Damascus is almost destroyed now, its a ruinous heap

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

1

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

5

JC
Guest
JC

Now, consider the chemical weapon their country used on its own people of Damascus. Great sadness and grief (desolation) and horrific event that fell silent very quickly and from our sight.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Sorry but western and Saudi ISIS did this. They recently gassed American troops. They got it from Turkey.

Lujack Skylark
Guest
Lujack Skylark

Damascus destruction happens before the Gog/ Magog war the prophet Ezekiel spoke about.

http://www.raptureforums.com/forum/gog-magog/61824-where-we-towards-ezekiel-chapter-38-39-fullfillment-7.html POST 131 POST 131

Lujack Skylark
Guest
Lujack Skylark

http://www.raptureforums.com/forum/gog-magog/61824-where-we-towards-ezekiel-chapter-38-39-fullfillment-7.html POST 131 POST 131 THIS WAR HAPPENS A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER DAMASCUS IS DESTROYED!

Adam Maarschalk
Guest

I believe that current events in Syria have nothing to do with Isaiah 17 (or Isaiah 7-8 and Amos 1). 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 as outlined in this article: http://kloposmasm.com/2013/09/08/the-bible-does-not-teach-that-damascus-syria-is-about-to-be-destroyed-2/ 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… Read more »

Pete
Guest
Pete

Absolutely.

Wayne
Guest
Wayne
Guest

Aiming to post the article on Tuesday

Chris
Guest
Chris

Thanks, I would really appreciate it!

Wayne
Guest

Given the circumstances, it might be time for an article about the Syria situation.