This article is taken from my book entitled, The FUTURE WAR Prophecies. The related chapters in the book are called, “The War Between Israel and Syria” and “The Proxy War that Shakes Israel.”
Isaiah 17:4-6 pictures Israel going through a powerful “shaking” in the war with Syria that causes the destruction of Damascus in Isaiah 17:1. Isaiah’s passage states the following.
“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 17:4-6, NKJV)
The New Living Translation interprets it this way below.
“In that day Israel’s glory will grow dim; its robust body will waste away. The whole land, (of Israel), will look like a grainfield after the harvesters have gathered the grain. It will be desolate, like the fields in the valley of Rephaim after the harvest. Only a few of its people will be left, like stray olives left on a tree after the harvest. Only two or three remain in the highest branches, four or five scattered here and there on the limbs,” declares the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 17:4-6, NLT; emphasis added)
These telling verses start with “In that day,” whichgives us the timeframe when the “glory of” Israel will wane and the “fatness” of the Jewish state will “grow lean.” In that day, alludes to the time period associated with the destruction of Damascus in Isaiah 17:1.
“The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap.”
In this window period of time stated as, in that day, the “glory of” Israel will wane and the “fatness” of the Jewish state will “grow lean.”
We are also informed as to how this glory to leanness process happens. Isaiah uses agricultural examples of grain harvesting, grape gleaning and olive tree shaking. Moreover, war locations within Israel may be able to be determined by understanding what is meant by the Valley of Rephaim, and the uppermost bough and fruitful branches of an olive tree.
Thus, from these important clues in Isaiah 17:4-6 we can uncover what drives Israel to the point that it feels compelled to destroy the capital city of Syria. The details provided imply that during the conflict the Jewish state comes under a devastating attack, which forces it to desolate not only Damascus, but other major Syrian cities according to Isaiah 17:9 and Jeremiah 49:23.
“In that day his strong cities, (within Syria), will be as a forsaken bough And an uppermost branch, Which they left because of the children of Israel; (Israeli Defense Forces), And there will be desolation.” (Isaiah 17:9, NKJV; emphasis added)
“Against Damascus. “Hamath, (Homs?), and Arpad, (Aleppo?), are shamed, For they have heard bad news. They are fainthearted; There is trouble on the (Mediterranean?) sea; It cannot be quiet.”” (Jeremiah 49:23, NKJV; emphasis added)
The Glory Waning and Fatness Leaning of Israel – (Isaiah 17:4)
“The glory of Jacob will wane.” Jacob represents Israel according to Genesis 32:28. Prior to the Syrian-Israeli conflict that leads to the obliteration of Damascus, Israel is noted to possess “glory.” The use of glory depicts Israel in an exalted condition. It likely describes a prosperous and robust nation of world renown, but as a result of the war, Israel’s glory wanes. This suggests that the Jewish state’s prominence falls from the heights of its power, prosperity and influence.
“And the fatness of his flesh (will) grow lean.” The downward slide of Israel’s glory leads to the diminishment of its resources. The nation becomes lean, which is a term sometimes associated with a Third World country that tends to be highly impoverished, economically unstable and economically dependent upon industrialized nations. Thus it appears that Israel enters the conflict as a country blessed by the fatness of its own resources, but in a short order seemingly digresses into a lean nation.
(Caveat: It’s important to note that Israel bounces back from this lean condition according to the prophecy in Ezekiel 38).
The Harvesting of Wheat, Gleaning of Grapes and Shaking of Olives in Israel
“It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain.” The conditions inside Israel at the start of the war appear to be economically sound. The grain harvest, which typically happens in the month of May, is yielding a robust crop. The harvester “reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain.”
“Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it.” However, as the war progresses, the healthy grain harvest scales down to a meager gleanings of grapes in the ensuing grape season. Only gleanings are what’s left over after the gatherers have finished collecting the clusters in a robust grape season. The grape harvest in Israel usually occurs in the fall sometime in August to September. Thus, from a healthy grain harvest in May, only table scrap grape gleanings are available around August.
“Like the shaking of an olive tree.” From a healthy grain harvest to an essentially non-existent grape season, now Isaiah touches upon the olive tree shaking scenario. The olive picking season in Israel usually follows the grape season and occurs around October and November. The olive tree is a mainstay of Israel’s farming economy.
“There are currently 340,000 dunams of Olive trees planted across Israel, producing over 15,000 tons of oil and over 24,000 tons of edible olives annually. The Olive trees in Israel have been around for centuries if not millennia.”[i] (A dunam is approximately nine hundred square meters, which is equivalent to about .22 acres).
Isaiah 17:6 says that after the severe shaking caused by the conflict there will only be, “Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, Four or five in its most fruitful branches.” So, instead of the annual production of “15,000 tons of oil and over 24,000 tons of edible olives,” it seems that as a result of this war there will be no olive harvest at all.
These agricultural scenarios depict how Israel’s glory fades and the fatness of the nation grows lean. This is a picture of how the Syrian-Israeli war devastates Israel and provokes the nation to destroy Damascus.
sequential grain, grape and olive harvest seasons do not necessarily tell us
how long the conflict lasts, rather they draw our attention to the dramatic
downward digression of events brought about by the war. Israel is not in a position
to wage a several months long war of attrition with Syria and the other proxies
of Iran, so this conflict will not likely last very long, but the results for
all warring factions will be devastating.
The Valley of Rephaim, the Uppermost Bough and the Fruitful Branches
Isaiah appears to be warning that the war is widespread throughout Israel rather than confined to the Golan Heights and general borders between Israel and Syria. The Valley of Rephaim is a valley that descends southwest from Jerusalem to Nahal Sorek, which is one of the largest, most important drainage basins in the Judean Hills.[ii]
This suggests that the war extends down as far as Jerusalem. This is probably why Jeremiah 49:25 asks this rhetorical question; “Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy?” The city of praise is Jerusalem. Thus, Jeremiah is asking how come Damascus gets destroyed, but Jerusalem still exists and is not deserted?
The allusions to the “uppermost bough” and the “fruitful branches” of the olive tree in Isaiah 17:6 seemingly identifies northern Israel as the uppermost bough and central Israel as the fruitful branches. If you superimpose the image of an olive tree over a map of Israel, it will locate Haifa as part of the uppermost bough and the fruitful branches could extend into Tel Aviv.
The imageries provided in Isaiah 17:4-6 do not present a good outlook for Israel in its war with Syria. The conflict, which will likely also involve Iran and its proxies, seems to push Israel to the brink of its extinction. This devastating war compels Israel to destroy Damascus and other major Syrian cities. According to the verse below, Damascus gets destroyed overnight.
“Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he (Damascus) is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, And the lot of those who rob us.” (Isaiah 17:14; emphasis added)
This verse uses the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to Damascus. Isaiah declares that one night you will see Damascus, but by the morning the city will no longer exist. Moreover, we are told that, “this is the portion of those who plunder us, And the lot of those who rob us.” The plundering and robbing by Syria are the root causes of why the “glory of” Israel will wane and the “fatness” of the Jewish state will “grow lean” as per Isaiah 17:14.
The plundering and robbing that occurs suggests that the Jewish state is being invaded, not only by missiles from the air, but also by boots on the ground. Air strikes destroy plunder and booty, but foot soldiers capture these things. The picture portrayed is a full-scale war whereby Jewish cities and neighborhoods are being attacked, plundered and robbed by the Syrian army and their allies.
Therefore, we discover that Israel is not the aggressor in this conflict, but they are forced to act aggressively to defend the nation. In order to fight off an existential threat from Syria, and probably a coalition of Iran and its proxies, the Jewish state resorts to destroying Damascus overnight.
When this happens, it can be expected that this will cause a major uproar within the neighboring Arab states and probably the entire Muslim world. This war scenario could then initiate the Psalm 83 prophecy, which is a prophecy covered in The FUTURE WAR Prophecies book and DVD.
I’ll close with a few headlines that illustrate how Hezbollah has integrated its operation into Syria alongside of terror cells that are proxies of Iran.
“Iran Entangled: Iran and Hezbollah’s Support to Proxies Operating in Syria” (West Point – 4/21/22)
“Hezbollah-backed terrorists form ‘dozens of cells’ on Syrian border” (JNS – 2/27/23)
“Israel drops flyers over southern Syria warning against cooperating with Hezbollah” (AA – 5/17/23)
“Israel confronted ‘Hezbollah 2’ in Syria, but what’s its end goal? – analysis” (Jerusalem Post – 12/1/22)
The passage below seems to identify more attacking nations alongside Syria in the war against Israel. Could they be the proxies of Iran?
“Listen! The armies of many nations, (not just Syria). roar like the roaring of the sea. Hear the thunder of the mighty forces as they rush forward like thundering waves. But though they thunder like breakers on a beach, God will silence them, and they will run away. They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind, like a tumbleweed whirling before a storm.” (Isaiah 17:12-13, NLT; emphasis added)
It appears that many nations align with Syria against Israel, which causes Israel to destroy Damascus overnight as per Isaiah 17:14. This destruction silences these nations “and they will run away.”
[i] Olive tree quote taken from the Jerusalem Post at this website: https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/olive-tree-selected-as-israels-national-tree-by-kkl-jnf-657038
[ii] Nahal Sorek information taken from this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahal_Sorek
WATCH THE COMPANION TEACHING VIDEO FOR THIS ARTICLE BELOW
At this point, you are encouraged to watch the related companion video below that goes with this article. The video description on our YouTube page for this video says the following:
“An ancient unfulfilled prophecy in Isaiah 17 predicts that Damascus will be destroyed and major Syrian cities will be desolated. Isaiah 17:9 says the devastation is caused by “The Children of Israel,” alluding to the Israeli Defense Forces. Some say that Isaiah 17 has already found fulfillment in 732 BC when the Assyrian Empire conquered Damascus, but are they correct?
In this timely teaching video by Bill Salus, you will discover that this prophecy seems to remain unfulfilled and could be the next biblical prophecy to find fulfillment. Moreover, this foretelling appears to involve an Iranian proxy war against Israel, in which the Jewish state experiences a severe shaking!”
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