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The Burden of Damascus

"Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof . . ."
Amos 1:3

"The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap ... 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 17:1,14

"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. How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!"
Jeremiah 49:24-25

"Taken Away From Being a City"

Many who study Bible prophecy believe that one of the soon to be fulfilled events may be the destruction of Damascus as prophesied in Isaiah 17. Damascus is the capital of Syria.

Syria is finding their way into the News Headlines more and more lately. Whether it is because of their extremely harsh stance against Israel, or the fact that Damascus is the home to numerous terrorist organizations, or even more recently because of the trouble they are stirring up in the Iraqi war. Suffice it to say, they are getting some attention.

The purpose of this article is to focus on some prophecies in God's Word concerning Syria ... more specifically their capital Damascus. The most obvious reason that we believe these prophecies are yet future, is because Damascus exists! It has NEVER ceased to be a city!

Let's look at the History, Facts, and most importantly ... the Scripture.

"The Oldest Continuously Inhabited City"

Damascus is named 60 times in 55 verses in the King James Bible. The first time we see it mentioned is right at the beginning in Genesis 14:15.

Later, we see the prophet Isaiah declaring (in strong, definitive language regardless of translation):

KJV-"Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap."

NKJV-"Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap."

NASB-"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city. And will become a fallen ruin."

NIV-"See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins."

NLT-"Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins."

Yet as irony would have it, today Damascus has a "claim to fame" which is, that it is "the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world".

CNN Presents ran a program on March 15, 2003 entitled "Lines in the Sand". Shelia Macvicar, CNN Senior International Correspondent, took a trip to the Middle East to see how a war with Iraq would play in the Arab world.

From the transcripts:

"When you talk about civilization, Syrians like to remind you their capital Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, an old culture that has slowly started to embrace reform. For nearly 20 years, Syria has been on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terror and it has not yet made peace with Israel...."

Here's a few more:

"Located in a strategic gap commanding the Barada River and transdesert routes, Damascus has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is reputedly the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. There was a city on its site even before the time (c.2000 BC) of Abraham..." (

"Damascus is known to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. There is firm evidence that in the third millennium BC, Damascus was a population center of a civilization that was considerably prosperous and economically influential. The earliest reference to the city was found in the archaeological site of Ebla in 1975; where the word "Damaski" was found on one of the clay tablets. Some historians believe that the city actually dates back to the seventh millennium BC..." (Damascus Online)

"Said to be the world's oldest inhabited city, Damascus today is a thriving modern capital. Three thousand years ago it was the capital of the Aramean Kingdom and was later conquered by Alexander the Great, when it became an important Greek city. It was also a major city of the Roman Empire and fell to the Muslims in 635A.D ..."

"The capital and largest city of Syria, in the southwest part of the country. Inhabited since prehistoric times ..." (

"Damascus (Sham or Dimashq as we call it) has the reputation of being the oldest city in the world. More recent discoveries suggest that Damascus was first settled ca. 6,000 B.C. but some discoveries suggest that it is older than 8,000 B.C. but we don't know exactly who ruled Damascus at that time. An old story says that its name "Sham" was derived from "Shem" the eldest son of Noah because he chose to live there after the flood...." (Arabicnet)

"Damascus is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, and reports run back at least 3,500 years. Many claim that Damascus is the oldest continued inhabited city in the world. While modern Damascus is a standard Middle Eastern city, it was famous for centuries, and often referred to as the "pearl of the East". (Lexicorient)

I think it has been established that Damascus has been a city for quite some time, and indeed remains as such today.

Prophecy or History?

"For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not."
Job 33:14

One of the intriguing things about Bible Prophecy is that very often we find there is an immediate smaller or partial fulfillment foreshadowing a larger or complete fulfillment yet to come. Some use the phrase short and long term prophecy regarding this. Where as, some of what is being described in a given passage was applicable to the time period in which it was written. Further study may reveal a broader future fulfillment in these last days.

"When the prophets wrote, they were using a telescoping perspective, like a zoom lens with dynamic focal length. They would prophesy about something that would not be far away, and then, in the same breath, talk about something that would happen centuries later. That also resulted in double references, like an echo in advance. For instance, Daniel wrote of a particular king, but he was also referring to events in the final days..." (Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, pg. 126 - Dr. Chuck Missler)

One of the reasons that God may have designed Prophecy in this manner, could have been so that His true prophets would be validated by having their prophecies come to pass in their own lifetimes. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) Then in doing this, also declare much more than was immediately apparent. Of course in hindsight, we can look at the bigger picture, and see - from our last days viewpoint - how incredibly God arranged these events. To be true. Then true again.

For a great example of this, let's take literal Babylon (Iraq) "the land of the Chaldeans" ... The destruction described in several passages is quite detailed, and it has not yet occurred. The Bible says it would be destroyed like Sodom & Gomorrah and would never be inhabited again etc. (Isaiah 14:19-22, Jeremiah 50:39-40) Babylon in fact, was conquered in 539 B.C. by Cyrus the Persian. But he took it without a battle and of this he bragged! "... without any battle, he entered the town, sparing any calamity..." (The Stele of Cyrus, The British Museum in London) There is clearly some unfinished business concerning Babylon.

Many believe this is also the case with the Damascus prophecies. While many prophecy students believe this event is yet future, you may find multiple commentaries mentioning how Isaiah 17 was fulfilled in 2 Kings 16:9 when Tiglath-pileser "went up against Damascus". But, the city never ceased to exist. The strong wording of the passages that predict this city's dramatic and final judgment we believe are yet future.

On the Naughty List

Syria's blatant hatred for Israel is common knowledge. Their leaders usually pepper their speech with Anti-Semitic language every chance they get. Just recently Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that as long as the Jewish state exists it will be a threat.

"As long as Israel exists, the threat exists. As long as there is aggression against an Arab country, and as long as there is a war close to our borders, the danger continues. Anyone who does not worry in such circumstances does not see reality. Worry does not mean fear, but readiness for the confrontation. ..."

"... None of us and none of the Arabs trust Israel. It is natural that we should always expect an Israeli attack, even when it does not threaten. It should be known that Israel is based on treachery. This is a point to be considered thoroughly. We are dealing with treachery and threats, which accompanied the establishment of Israel. Since its very inception, Israel has been a threat. It is the Israeli nature, and for that Israel was established." (Syrian President Bashar Assad)

This view is nothing new. Right after Israel became a Nation (May 14, 1948) fulfilling Bible Prophecy and kick-starting the last of the last days, Damascus radio was calling on all Arabs to: "undertake the liberation battle that will tear the hearts from the bodies of the hateful Jews and trample them in the dust" - quoted in TIME, June 2, p. 20

Syria is a charter member of the list of "state sponsors of terrorism", appearing on the first such list in 1979, and it has kept its spot on that list ever since. According to the State Department, the Syrian government has not been directly engaged in terrorism since it was implicated in the attempted bombing of an El Al flight in 1986. Nevertheless, Syria has retained its status as a state-sponsor of terrorism because it meets the criteria outlined in the Arms Export Amendments Act of 1989, which in part defines terrorist states as those that allow their territory to be used as a sanctuary; provide logistical support to terrorists or terrorist organizations; provide safe haven or headquarters for terrorists and their organizations; plan, direct, train, or assist in activities; and/or provide financial support for activities.

According to the 1998 edition of the State Department's annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, Syria provides safe haven and logistical support to terrorists. Specifically, says Patterns 1998, Damascus permits numerous terrorist groups -- headed by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC)--to maintain their headquarters in Damascus and Syria-controlled territory in Lebanon, and it allows Hizballah to receive military supplies via Syrian territory. (The Peace Encyclopedia)

"Syria, a fierce foe of Israel, hosts 10 radical Palestinian factions in its capital, Damascus." March 1, 2003, (Jerusalem Post)

Damascus: "a sack full of blood; the similitude of burning"
Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary

4 Strikes - You're Out?

"For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof..."
Amos 1:3

Frequently referenced, is the above passage in Amos, concerning coming judgment on Damascus. Many are aware that Syria, has attacked Israel in 3 major wars since Israel became a nation again in 1948. Could it be that Syria, will actually attempt a 4th time to do great harm to Israel and in turn be dealt this extreme judgment from the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob?

The War of Independence - The War of Independence, 1948 - Peace Encyclopedia - Israeli War for Independence - ADL

The 6 Day War - The Six-Day War - Peace Encyclopedia - The 1967 War - ADL

The Yom Kippur War - The Yom Kippur War, 1973 - Peace Encyclopedia - The 1973 Yom Kippur War - ADL

Too Close for Comfort!

For those of you who think this horrific event could not occur, brace yourselves.

On at least one occasion it almost did.

On February 16, 2001 there was a combined American-British air raid against the Command/Control center in Iraq, 20 miles North of Baghdad. The intention was to pre-empt Saddam Hussein.

There were 2 US AWACS, 4 Hawkeye-A2C Spy Planes and 36 other US/British aircraft that took off from the Incherlik base in Turkey heading for Iraq. The Israeli Air Force was also involved. There were 35 JSOW missiles fired. They all missed their targets due to software problems. This simply strengthened Saddam's resolve.

A few days later U.S. satellites pick up 6 Iraqi divisions moving westward, including ground-to-ground missiles with launching equipment. The U.S. intelligence community estimated they would be ready for launch by Thursday evening, February 22, 2001. Israel placed their security forces and the Northern Israeli towns on alert.

Syrian President Bashar Assad granted permission for these 6 Iraqi divisions to be deployed on the Syrian-Iraqi border. He gave the Hizballah an OK to unleash a long-range rocket attack against northern Israel. The U.S. and Israeli governments issued grave warnings to the Syrian government. There were also massive Palestinian terrorists attacks being programmed as a signal for regional flare-up. Yassir Arafat arranged his personal evacuation contingences to Baghdad.

A message was sent thru Tony Blair warning Iraq that Israel was preparing a preemptive strike: There would be Neutron bombs on 6 Iraqi divisions and Nuclear strikes on Damascus & Baghdad. The button was to be pushed at 7:30 PM Thursday Eve.

Iraqi surface missiles remained stationary; 7:30 PM: everyone stands down . . . for the time being!

For more info check out: "Red Sky At Morning - Strategic Trends Update" from Koinonia House.

See Also: "On the Precipice of Armageddon" ... World Net Daily, February 24, 2001 ... All-out conflagration nearly engulfed Mideast this week ...

The Road To Damascus

News Commentary from Roger Oakland, Understand The Times, January 21, 2004:

When most people familiar with the Bible think of the road to Damascus , they are reminded of the location where the Apostle Paul was transformed from an enemy of Jesus Christ to one of His most zealous promoters. However with regard to current events and their relation to Bible prophecy, there is another meaning to the phrase ?road to Damascus ? many may not be aware of.

Based on a growing conflict between Israel and Syria , the destiny of Damascus , may soon be fulfilled according to Isaiah 17: 1-14. Consider the following news items that seem to provide the catalyst that could bring about and fulfill the very scenario Isaiah foretold. reported on January 21, 2004 that "Israel considered bombing Syrian targets in response to a deadly missile attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer". [Syria completes CW warheads]

However, instead of attacking Syria , Israel struck at targets in Southern Lebanon in retaliation. The article also mentioned that U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell condemned Hezbollah for the missile attack and warned Syria about their association with Hezbollah. "I would hope the Syrians should once again understand that any support, whether it is vocal support of allowing their leadership to stay in Damascus or whether it is serving as a transshipment point for weapons to Hezbollah, is destabilizing in the region and is not in the interests of peace", he said. While the world watches whether or not Israel will strike back, another news item posted on January 20, 2004 helps explain Israel 's reluctance to attack Syria directly, at least at this time. According to a Middle East Newsline article titled "Syria Completes CW Warheads", we read: Syria has completed chemical warheads for its arsenal of Scud-based missiles. U.S. officials said Syria , with help from North Korea , has succeeded in designing and installing CW warheads for the Scud B, Scud C and Scud D missiles. This provides Syria with warheads that can reach distances from 250 to nearly 700 kilometers. The chemical agent deployed in the CW warheads is sarin, regarded as the most toxic of material. [Israel mulled striking Syria in response to Hezbollah attack]

Keep your eyes focused on the Middle East - particularly Damascus . Remember when it comes to Bible Prophecy, you can be certain when God tells us about future events, the certainty of the event happening is 100 per cent. Someday Damascus will be leveled - perhaps current events are paving the way.

The Bible Tells Me So

God promised Abraham (speaking of the Nation of Israel):

"I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee . . ."
Genesis 3:2

Yet the confederacy of nations that presently surround Israel are united by their hatred for her.

"For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee..."
Psalms 83:2-5

Notice in the above passage Israel needed to be a nation (post 1948). The common bond that would unite these surrounding nations in their hatred of Israel was their Islamic religion which was not in existence until around the 7th century AD, long after this Psalm was written. In history, this joint confederation, united against Israel, did not exist like this.

Many think these passages; Isaiah 17, Jeremiah 49:23-27, Amos 1, Psalm 83, Zechariah 9 and so on . . . refer to a future judgment of some of Israel's immediate neighbors and may be fulfilled on the near horizon. This would then allow Israel to live under the allusion of "peace and safety".

We also know there will be a betrayer who pretends to be their friend who will eventually "by peace destroy many" (Daniel 8:23) ... he will "divide the land for gain". (Daniel 11:39)

At some time in this chain of events this will cause an "evil thought" to enter the mind of Gog of Magog. (Ezekiel 38:10) He will align yet another confederacy against those (Israel) with unwalled villages who dwell in peace & safety. But God will intervene. (Ezekiel 38:11)

Note: Israel is in some sort of "security" at the time of the Magog Invasion, which suggests that Isaiah 17, and the "Palestinian problem" etc., has already been dealt with! (See Also: The Gog Magog War)

However, in the above scenario, we hold to the view that the Rapture of the Church must occur before the Magog Invasion (Ezekiel 38) and before the "The Man of Peace" (Antichrist) is revealed. (2 Thessalonians 2)

We don't claim to know exactly how these events will play out, but we do know that God's Word is true. What it declares will happen, of this we are certain. The important issue is knowing The One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10, Isaiah 42:9, John 13:19)! God prewarned us - out of love - what these last days would be like. As we see prophecy being fulfilled with lightening speed before our eyes, it is certainly a wake up call!

If you don't know Jesus you need to!
Because Ready or Not - Here He Comes!
Even So, Come Lord Jesus!

This article originally appeared on

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