From the beginning of the civil unrest in Syria in 2011 (Arab Spring), and the escalation of the civil war up until today, more and more scholars and prophecy teachers are proclaiming that Isaiah 17 is about to reach its fulfillment. Isaiah 17 is an oracle of judgment against Damascus, which is located in Syria. In summary, it states that Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will become a ruinous heap. Is it possible we are about to see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s oracle? Before we explore the timetable of this sobering prophecy, let us begin with the context of Isaiah 17. When responsibly studying biblical prophecy, it is always best to understand the prophet’s complete context on the prophecy in order to understand the “big picture.”
Isaiah 17 is grouped in a series of oracles by Isaiah. From Isaiah 13 to Isaiah 23, he prophesies of the Lord’s judgment against the following nations; Babylon, Assyria, Philistia (Gaza), Moab (Jordan), Ethiopia (Sudan), Egypt, Edom (Jordan/Arabia), Arabia, Shebna, Tyre (Lebanon), and Israel. In Isaiah 24, he prophesies about the Seven Year tribulation period on the whole earth, and this chapter concludes with Messiah’s Second Coming (Isaiah 24:21-23). Isaiah 25 & 26 praises God for His salvation and confirms Messiah’s Second Coming as well. In the following chapter, Isaiah 27 confirms the restoration of Israel at Messiah’s Second Coming and Millennial Reign.
Below is the chronological timetable and sequence of the events:
- Isaiah 13 to Isaiah 23-Oracle of Judgment on Satan, the Antichrist, and the nations
- Isaiah 24-Beginning of Judgment during the Seven Year tribulation
- End of Isaiah 24, Isaiah 25 and Isaiah 26-The fulfillment of judgment, Messiah’s Second Coming
- Isaiah 27-The Restoration of Israel at the Millennial Reign
Additionally, the context of Isaiah’s prophecies is clearly describing the Day of the Lord, because he repeatedly states “in that day, in that day.” In that day is an eschatological term for the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming of Messiah. Isaiah 17, along with the other oracles in this section, will be fulfilled during the time of Messiah’s Second Coming. With this knowledge, let us begin discovering the oracle of Isaiah 17.
Isaiah 17:1-2, “The burden against Damascus, “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”
Isaiah begins the prophecy by declaring the judgment is against Damascus. He states it will cease from being a city, and will become a ruinous heap. Scholars widely agree that the location of the cities of Aroer have not been confirmed. However, since the scripture says “the flocks will rest in peace as there will not be anyone to make them afraid,” we are confident that the cities were located in the region of Damascus. Isaiah is painting a picture of destruction and desolation in the region of Damascus, as the prophecy begins with “the burden against Damascus.” As the scripture continues, Isaiah also gives us insight of another location that is associated with the “region of Damascus.”
Isaiah 17:3, “The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” Says the Lord of hosts.”
In this short but powerful verse, Isaiah prophesies that “the fortress will also cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus.” Ephraim is referring to the area of northern Israel, which is modern day Galilee. In Isaiah’s day, the kingdom had been split into the northern and the southern kingdom (1 Kings 12). The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC. Isaiah wrote this prophecy in approximately 700 BC, and this is the reason why he wrote it this way. He states, “the fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom of Damascus,” because at that time, the northern kingdom (Galilee) was under the control of the Assyrian Empire (Damascus). So, the oracle of Isaiah 17 is not only for the destruction of Damascus, but also for the destruction of northern Israel as well. When most prophecy teachers and scholars speak of Isaiah 17, very few discuss how the ancient northern kingdom of Israel will also be destroyed at this time.
Isaiah also declared that there will be a “remnant of Syria,” from the kingdom of Damascus. The Lord states that the remnant will be “as the glory of the children of Israel.” Although God will judge the evil nations, He will always protect His remnant, including the Syrian believers!
Today, as hate, murder, and violence occurs in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, etc., sometimes we forget that our brothers and sisters in Messiah are trying to survive through this tribulation. Sometimes we get excited about the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, as we should, but we forget that it affects the Lord’s remnant in those nations. In fact, there is an incredible revival occurring in the Middle East in places that are predominantly Muslim. In the areas of Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and others, the underground church is rapidly growing with new believers in Messiah! Hallelujah! Let us continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and all over the world.
Now, let us confirm when Isaiah 17 will take place.
Isaiah 17:4-6, “In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, and reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” Says the Lord God of Israel.”
Isaiah confirms this prophecy is for the time of the end, as he states “in that day.” Again, “in that day” refers to a specific time in the future, Messiah’s Second Coming. He states that the glory of Jacob (Israel) will fade, and the fatness of his flesh will grow lean, clearly pointing to the Seven Year tribulation, also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). Isaiah also uses the parable of the “harvester and the reaper,” as well as grapes and the olive tree, which confirms this event will occur at Messiah’s Second Coming. These parables align with Messiah’s prophecy in Matthew 24, as well as the prophecies of Revelation 14:14-20, Revelation 19:11-16, and Isaiah 63:1-6. “Harvesting and reaping” are eschatological terms used in referencing Messiah’s judgment at His Second Coming, as He will “thrust in His sickle and reap, for the time has come for Him to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe (Revelation 14:15).”
Isaiah 17:7-10, “In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation. Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings.”
At Messiah’s Second Coming, every eye on earth will have respect and fear for the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Jesus (Yeshua). Isaiah states that mankind will forsake the pride of success and carnality, as they will not respect the alters, the work of their hands, the wooden images, or the altars of incense. Also, because the people forgot the God of their salvation, and have not turned to Jesus the Messiah, the strength of the cities will be forsaken and desolate, which clearly refers to Messiah’s Second Coming.
Isaiah 17:11, “In the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins
in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.
Isaiah begins to conclude this oracle by referencing “the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow.” The day of grief and sorrow (mourn) is referencing Messiah’s Second Coming, as the inhabitants of the earth will mourn at His day of vengeance.
Matthew 24:30, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Isaiah 17:12-13, “Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; But God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.”
Isaiah also gives us another incredible reference as he warns the armies of the world during this time. He states that the armies of the world will become like “rushing mighty waters,” or a flood during the great tribulation. However, at Messiah’s Second Coming, He will rebuke and destroy them, as they will “be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind.” As we know, the wind blows chaff off of the mountaintops, and it will never return! The “rushing mighty waters,” or flood, is a direct reference to the Seven Year tribulation and Second Coming. Daniel prophesied about a “flood of armies” at the time of the Antichrist’s reign on earth.
Daniel 11:20-22, “And in his place shall arise a vile person (Antichrist), to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue. With the force of a flood (armies) they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.”
John the Revelator confirms Daniel’s prophecy about the Antichrist’s “flood of armies.”
Revelation 12:15, “So the serpent (Satan) spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman (Israel), that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.“
Clearly, the terms “rushing waters and flood,” is symbolic for the Antichrist’s (Satan incarnate) armies, and it directly links Isaiah 17 to Messiah’s Second Coming events.
Isaiah 17:14, “Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us.”
“In that day,” which is Messiah’s Second Coming, the region of Damascus and the northern kingdom of Israel (Galilee) will be destroyed, and will be no more by morning.
In conclusion, the prophecy of Isaiah 17 will be fulfilled at Messiah’s Second Coming. However, with that being said, the outcome of the current Syrian civil war is definitely a major indicator of the events that will eventually occur in biblical prophecy. As we have discussed in previous articles, Daniel 8* is a prophecy that is being fulfilled at the present time. In summary, Daniel 8 explains that the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that the vision is for the time of the end. He continues to tell Daniel the “kingdoms” that will rise during this time. Gabriel prophesied that Medo-Persia (Iran-the ram) will rise to power, and then the Grecian Empire (Turkey-the goat) will conquer Iran.
Once Iraq (Saddam Hussein) fell in 2003, Iran has continued to “march” across the Middle East with control and influence over Iraq, Lebanon (Hezbollah), and Yemen. In its most recent “march,” the ram (Iran) is also directly involved in Syria.
Clearly, Iran has started to fulfill its destiny described in Daniel 8. The question is, has Turkey (goat) begun its rise to battle against Iran (ram)? The answer is yes! It is important to understand that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are allies, because both of them are Sunni Muslims. This past December (2015), King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia approved for the Turkish President Erdogan to enter the gates of the Kaaba (Bab-Illah) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia to worship and pray to Allah (Satan). As the “Gate and Tower of Bab-Illah” is very sacred in Islam, this only happens to someone they feel is “godly.” There is not any doubt Erdogan is changing Turkey into the radical, fundamentalist country of the old Ottoman Empire. This clearly confirms the close relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In contrast, Iran is Shiite, and vehemently opposes Turkey and Saudi Arabia. According to biblical prophecy, Iran will destroy Saudi Arabia at some point in the future (Isaiah 21).
In February, 2016, a military operation in Saudi Arabia called “North Thunder” formed to be an opposition to Iran’s land ambitions across the Middle East, including Syria. “North Thunder” consists of twenty Arab and Muslim countries and the GCC-formed Peninsula Shield, led by Saudi Arabia. The 20 countries are: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Chad, Tunis, Djibouti, Comoros, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania, and Mauritius. Northern Thunder consists of approximately 150,000 soldiers, 2,540 warplanes, 20,000 tanks, and 460 helicopters, and it is considered the largest military exercise in the history of the region. The strategic land area chose to perform the exercise was Hafr Al-Batin in northern Saudi Arabia, which borders Iraq and is in close proximity to Syria. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst, said, “The maneuver, which is a strong message for Iran, seeks to unify the military forces of Arab and Islamic countries.” Ahmad Assiri, a spokesman for the Arab coalition forces, said the aim of the exercise is to achieve the highest level of preparedness, exchange expertise and promote coordination among the participating countries.”
According to Daniel 8, there will be a major war between Turkey and Iran, including their allies. The angel Gabriel tells us that Turkey will win this battle. The alliances have aligned, and it is just a matter of time before Turkey, with Saudi Arabia’s help, will battle Iran, with Russia’s help, in order to dominate the Middle East. As history will prove, Turkey and Russia have always hated each other so this is a perfect match! Make no mistake, the outcome of the Syrian civil war is very important in the timeline of Daniel 8. It very well could be the “proven ground” for Turkey to begin its fulfillment of Daniel 8.
How important is the fulfillment of Daniel 8? Once Turkey begins its prophetic destiny by “conquering” Iran, it will eventually be divided into 4 regions (Daniel 8:22), and after that prophetic event a king will rise to power in the region. He will be called the Antichrist (Daniel 8:23-25). At that time, a period called the time of Jacob’s trouble (Seven Year tribulation) will occur (Jeremiah 30:7, Isaiah 24), and the fulfillment of all end time prophecies, including Isaiah 17, will conclude at Messiah’s Second Coming! I ask that you join me in prayer for the Lord’s protection of His remnant in Syria and all of the Middle East. Amen, Amen, and Amen.