Some people wonder if the destruction of Damascus prophecies have already found fulfillment in the Assyrian conquest of Damascus in 732 BC.
Was Damascus destroyed in 732 BC? I would argue no and point out that Isaiah mentions Assyria, Assyrian, or Assyrians at least 41 times in his 66 chapters, but never once mentions any of the above in Isaiah 17. To the contrary, Isaiah 17:9 states the “children of Israel” are responsible for this destruction.
“In that day his, (Syria’s), 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.” (Isaiah 17:9, NKJV; emphasis added)
Additionally, Jeremiah 49:23-27, which was written more than a century after Isaiah 17, also talks about a burden against Damascus. If Damascus was literally destroyed in 732 B.C. by the Assyrians, this means that it would have had to become restored subsequently for Jeremiah’s prophecy to find a future fulfillment. I think it is more logical to read Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49:23 -27 in connection with each other to glean more prophetic details about the future Syrian-Israeli War.
Another point worth noting is that Isaiah 17:3 speaks about Ephraim, which represented only the Northern Kingdom during Isaiah’s time. However, in the next three verses, Isaiah 17:4-6, he prophesies about the entirety of Jacob, (Yaaqob in Hebrew), being severely suffered “in that day” that Israel destroys Damascus. This reference to Jacob seemingly represents both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
“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.” (Isaiah 17:3)
“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, 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)
This distinction between Ephraim in v3 and the glory of Jacob in v4, suggests that Isaiah 17 did not happen in 732 BC, because the Southern Kingdom was not conquered by the Assyrians at that time. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians about 150 years later.
The remainder of this comprehensive article is taken from an appendix in the book entitled, The FUTURE WAR Prophecies. Much of the research for this appendix was provided by Brad Myers.
Isaiah 17:1 predicts that Damascus will be utterly destroyed as a city someday. The literal interpretation of the verse reads that the city will be reduced to a ruinous heap of rubble.
Damascus is thought to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history, dating back over four thousand years ago to the time of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. It is the capital city of Syria.
The oracle concerning Damascus. “Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city And will become a fallen ruin.” (Isaiah 17:1, NASB 1995)
Dr. Charles Dyer, Dr. Mark Hitchcock and Dr. Andy Woods are by far the loudest voices promoting the biblical interpretation that all of the prophecies in Isaiah 17:1-14 and Jeremiah 49:23-27 have already been fulfilled in history.
The Christian Post published a piece on their website by Christian Post contributor, Anugrah Kumar titled, “1 in 3 Americans Link Syrian Conflict to Bible’s End-Time Prophecy Survey Finds.” Kumar ends his report with the words of Charles Dyer professor at Moody Bible Institute:
“Dr. Charlie Dyer, professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, recently told Chicago Sun-Times that Damascus was destroyed in the 7th and 8th centuries.”
“Isaiah 17 predicted the destruction of the city, along with the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel…Damascus was captured by Assyrians in 732 BC and the northern kingdom of Israel fell when the capital city of Samaria was captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC.”
“And 100 years later, the prophet Jeremiah also predicted the fall of Damascus, which had been rebuilt.”
John Ankerberg on his website posts the article, “Has The Destruction of Damascus Been Fulfilled?” In the article he quotes the words of prophecy expert Dr. Mark Hitchcock.
“I believe it makes more sense to hold that Isaiah 17 was fulfilled in the eighth century BC when both Damascus, the capital of Syria, and Samaria, the capital of Israel, were hammered by the Assyrians. In that conquest, both Damascus and Samaria were destroyed, just as Isaiah 17 predicts. According to history, Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 BC) pushed vigorously to the west, and in 734 the Assyrians advanced and laid siege to Damascus, which fell two years later in 732. In other words, we don’t need to look for the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 today because it has already occurred—taking place in 732 BC.”[ii]
Dr. Andy Woods earned a Master of Theology degree with High Honors and a Doctor of Philosophy in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary and now serves as President of Chafer Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church. He is author of the books: “The Middle East Meltdown: The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel” and “Babylon: The Bookends of Prophetic History.”
Dr. Woods did an extensive teaching on Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 concerning Damascus as Sr. Pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Texas. This teaching can be seen on his YouTube channel. His teaching on Damascus can be viewed by watching The Middle East Meltdown videos 27, 28 and 29.
Dr. Woods wanted everyone to know that he got his information on Damascus from the book “Showdown with Iran” by Dr. Mark Hitchcock in which he said, “I’m sort of indebted to him for his research.“
The following are the words of pastor and teacher Dr. Andy Woods that can be heard watching his videos. The excerpts below are taken from the video transcripts.
…“yes Damascus is about to be removed from being a city at the time Isaiah wrote that in the 7th century so this is actually a prophecy or the eighth century I should say this is a prophecy that actually has already been fulfilled in 732 BC 700 years before the time of Christ when Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria came and destroyed Damascus and Syria …” [iii]
…“and so people… say well Syria must have some sort of major role in the end times there are basically two passages that they gravitate towards to prove this and it seems to fit because it fits with the newspaper, one is in Isaiah 17 verses 1 and 2… the second one is in Jeremiah 49 verses 23 through 27.” [iv]
…“a lot of these guys I agree with on so many things but what they’re doing in my opinion is they’re pushing the envelope on Isaiah 17 and trying to make Isaiah 17 say something that it really isn’t saying in order to build their very exciting prophetic scenario…what I’m going to say here is this prophecy happened already in 732 B.C. when Damascus was destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria and this is how dispensationalists, our camp, has traditionally understood this prophecy…” [v]
…“they’re hyping prophecies into some kind of newspaper scenario. When you carefully look at those prophecies the prophecies don’t support what it is they’re saying and so there’s people out there that will start not with the Bible but they’ll start with the newspaper and read that back into the Bible when the Bible really doesn’t support what it is they’re saying and these are people that are generally well-intentioned but they haven’t been in my opinion taught very well…If I don’t mention who they are you’re not going to recognize the false teaching when it shows up…… if I don’t mention the names of people within the Evangelical camp, how in the world could you have any red flags about people concerning false teachings and the most destructive forms of false teaching are not false teachings that come from outside the church and come in. Paul over and over again warns about heresies coming up within the church ……if you’re actually a legitimate pastor, part of that responsibility involves the need to call out the names of people that are throwing the body of Christ into a state of confusion.” [vi]
Dr. Andy Woods explains how we should interpret Jeremiah 49:23-27. He quotes from his professor Charles Dyer, in the “Bible Knowledge Commentary” which included Dyer’s interpretation of Jeremiah 49:23-27.
…“so what do we do then with Jeremiah 49 verses 23-27. Well here is my professor who I think has it right. Charles Dyer in the Bible Knowledge Commentary and this is what he says concerning the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus found in Jeremiah 49:23-27. He says three of the major cities of Syria: Hamath, Arpad and Damascus were dismayed because of the bad news of Babylon’s advance, so this is something that actually took place in the sixth, seventh centuries roughly. Damascus’s pain was like that of a woman in labor and then he says this in Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Damascus in other words according to Charles Dyer, Jeremiah 49 verses 23-27 is not some kind of prophecy about the imminent destruction of Damascus what it’s about, is something Nebuchadnezzar did to Damascus back in the time of Jeremiah and Jeremiah is just making a short-term prediction in Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Damascus…” [vii]
…“so nobody today is saying okay we’re going to book a trip to the Middle East and we’re going to go see the towers of Ben Haddad because that’s something that’s long gone. This is a prophecy that was fulfilled a long time ago so when you actually look at Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 which are the two passages that Joel Rosenberg is using amongst other interpreters to build this scenario, what you see is those passages do not support what he is saying. The Bible is very clear that we are not to add or take away from God’s book just read what He says at the end of the Book of Revelation chapter 22 and the harshness that He announces on people that will manipulate His Word, if you take away I’ll take away your name from The Book of Life. That sounds pretty serious to me if you add to My Word I will add to you the curses that are in this book. It looks pretty serious to me … even though this false teaching is coming from people that generally I like and agree with you. Now the Bible never says don’t call out false teachings except if it’s one of your friends.” [viii]
These above statements by Pastor Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church should be taken very seriously by the following Bible teachers: Bill Salus, Joel Rosenberg, Britt Gillette, Harry Ironside, Harry Bultema, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Hal Lindsey, Dr. Vernon McGee, Dr. David Hocking, Ray Steadman, Dr. Chuck Missler, Jon Courson, Ray Bentley, Jack Hibbs, Dr. David Reagan, Nathan Jones, Amir Tsarfati, Tom Hughes, Gary Stearman, Mondo Gonzales, J.D. Farag, Todd Hampton, Brett Meador, Jack Kelly, Daymond Duck, Terry James, Dr. Thomas Ice, Jan Markell, Barry Stagner, Brandon Holthaus and many others.
This is only a sample number of conservative dispensationalists who believe that the passages in Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49, concerning Damascus most likely still awaits fulfillment in the future. Are these Bible teachers generally well-intentioned but they haven’t been taught very well?
Are these Bible teachers who simply have a different interpretation of Isaiah 17:1-14 and Jeremiah 49:23-27 guilty of spreading false teachings and heresies which is throwing the body of Christ into a state of confusion?
Are these Bible teachers spreading false teaching and manipulating God’s word so seriously God may add to them the curses in the Book of Revelation and take their name from The Book of Life in Revelation 22:18-19?
“An oracle concerning Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.”” (Isaiah 17:1, ESV)
Notice that the biblical text does not simply say Damascus will cease as a city and be destroyed. It says the city of Damascus will become a heap of ruins. In world history armies have destroyed cities without destroying ALL the buildings in which people live.
Many Christians cite Smith’s Bible Dictionary and Easton’s Bible Dictionary as historical proof that the city of Damascus was destroyed by the Assyrians as the Bible foretold in Isaiah 17:1.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary:
“Under Ahaz it was taken by Tiglath‐pileser (2 Kings 16:7-9) the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria…” [ix]
According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary and Easton’s Bible Dictionary one can say that the city of Damascus was destroyed by the Assyrians, by Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, but was the city of Damascus in 732 B.C. actually reduced to RUINS as worded by an overwhelming number of Bible translations of Isaiah 17:1?
In the Bible we read in 2 Kings 16:9-10 the biblical account of when the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser went against Damascus and captured it.
“… the king of Assyria went up AGAINST DAMASCUS and CAPTURED IT, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin to death. Now King Ahaz WENT TO DAMASCUS to meet TIGLATH-PILESER king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was AT DAMASCUS; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship.” (2 Kings 16:9-10, NASB 1995).
As you can see the biblical account has no record of Tiglath-Pileser attacking Damascus and the city becoming a heap of ruins. If the city of Damascus was in ruins after the destruction, how was King Ahaz still able to meet TIGLATH-PILESER IN A CITY that the Assyrians literally reduced to rubble?
Here are two separate historical accounts that seem to be very strong evidence that the city of Damascus WAS NOT removed from being a city and became a heap of ruins when the Assyrians attacked in 732 B.C.
Tyndale Bible Dictionary, page 346:
“The Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (“Pul”) agreed and marched against the Syro-Israelite confederation. After defeating Israel, he attacked Damascus, plundered the city, deported the population, and replaced them with foreigners from other captured lands. Damascus was no longer an independent city-state. Due to its key location, Damascus remained important, and the Assyrians used the city as a provincial capital.” [xi]
The biblical text in Isaiah 17:1 is clearly saying “Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin.” This seems to suggest strongly that the city of Damascus is removed from being a city because of the utter devastation that results in the city becoming a fallen ruin.
Since this is the case it does not seem to make sense that the Assyrians deported the population and replaced them with foreigners in a city that has been reduced to ruins. In addition, how can the Assyrians use the city of Damascus as a provincial capital when it is a fallen ruin? Most importantly, there is no historical evidence that the Assyrians in 732 B.C. had to totally rebuild the city of Damascus after it had become a fallen ruin before moving in people to live there again.
In this second historical account, George Smith who worked in the Assyriology Department of the British Museum and a world-renowned expert on the history of the Assyrians authored a book in 1876 entitled, “Ancient History from the Monuments: Assyria from the Earliest Times to the Fall of Nineveh” explains on pages 87-88 what took place historically to the city of Damascus.
“Tiglath-Pileser now led his army to Damascus, after crucifying the captains of the Syrian army who had fallen into his hand and closely invested the Syrian capital. Tiglath-Pileser tells us that he shut up Rezon in Damascus like a caged bird, and cut down all the fine forests around the city for use in the siege, not leaving a single tree near the capital. Several places round were spoiled, and sixteen districts of Damascus were destroyed like a flood …591 cities were captured and spoiled, and the whole of the kingdom of Rezon subdued. Damascus, however held out, and could only be reduced by famine, so leaving part of his army before the city, Tiglath-Pileser marched against the other rebels.” [xii]
Notice that the famous historian on the history of the Assyrians said, “sixteen districts of Damascus were destroyed like a flood … DAMASCUS HOWEVER HELD OUT, and could ONLY BE REDUCED BY FAMINE.” He is obviously saying that the sixteen districts of Damascus that were destroyed like a flood are not what took place to the actual capital city of Damascus and this would also mean that the city of Damascus was not destroyed like the ruins from the flood either.
The Moody Bible Commentary on page 1031 certainly did not believe that Tiglath- Pileser III’s conquest destroyed the city of Damascus like ruins from the flood when it states:
“Tiglath- pileser 111’s conquest would be a mere foreshadowing of a far more serious conquest at the end of days.”
Did conservative Bible scholars Dr. Charles J. Ellicott, Dr. Arno Gaebelein and Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost believe that the prophecy in Isaiah 17 already happened in 732 B.C. when Damascus was destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria?
Dr. Charles J. Ellicott, conservative scholar and author of “Ellicott’s Bible Commentary for English Readers” published in 1905 said in his commentary on Isaiah 17:1: “Writing probably early in the reign of Hezekiah, Isaiah now looks forward to a further fulfillment in the future.”
“The burden of Damascus.—Syria, it will be remembered, had been “confederate with Ephraim,” i.e., with the kingdom of Israel, against Judah in the reign of Ahaz, and the prophet had then foretold its overthrow by Assyria (Isaiah 7:1-16). In 2 Kings 16:9, 2 Chron. 28:29, we have a partial fulfillment of that prediction. Writing probably early in the reign of Hezekiah, Isaiah now looks forward to a further fulfillment in the future.” [xiii]
Dr. Arno Gaebelein, author of the “Annotated Bible” published in 1922 states that “Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria, executed the judgment upon Damascus and made of it a ruinous heap. BUT the judgment is ALSO FUTURE.”
“Damascus to be a ruinous heap (Isaiah 17:1-3) Judgment upon Ephraim (Isaiah 17:4-11) Woe to the enemies of Israel (Isaiah 17:12-14) Damascus was the ancient city of Syria, mentioned for the first time in Genesis 15:1-21. Syria and Ephraim had made common cause against the house of David. Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria, executed the judgment upon Damascus and made of it a ruinous heap. But the judgment is also future. And the enemies of Israel, which trouble His people, will be troubled “in that day.” It is a solemn word with which this chapter closes, “This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.” [xiv]
Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost taught 58 years at Dallas Theological Seminary and was the author of the highly successful book “Things To Come” published in 1958. On page 264 he wrote the following words concerning Damascus in Isaiah 17:1-4 and Jeremiah 49:23-27.
“There is a divine program for the Gentile nations that is to come to fulfillment in the tribulation period….”
“The Judgments upon Nations Adjacent to Israel.…These predictions are set forth in various portions of the Old Testament…Damascus (Isa. 17:1-14; Jer. 49:23-27)…” [xv]
Did Dr. Charles J. Ellicott in the late 1800’s, Dr. Arno Gaebelein in the 1920’s, and Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost in the 1950’s start with their newspaper and read back into the Bible what the Bible really doesn’t say to support their biblical interpretation? Do their words suggest that there is a possibility that Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49, concerning the city of Damascus was removed from being a city and became a heap of ruins in 732 B.C.?
Is it highly possible that these Christians and many others during the course of church history simply looked at the historical accounts of what took place in 732 B.C. concerning the city of Damascus and compared that with the biblical texts and came to the conclusion that somehow there are prophecies that are still awaiting further fulfillment in the future?
Dr. Mark Hitchcock, Dr. Andy Woods along with Dr. Charles Dyer all believe the prophet Jeremiah predicted in Jeremiah 49:23-27 the fall of Damascus and his message was fulfilled when the city was captured by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Read what Dr. John Walvoord says about the events of Jeremiah 49:23-27 regarding Damascus in his best-selling book “Every Prophecy of the Bible” on pages 150-151 that was published in 1999.
Dr. John Walvoord:
“Jeremiah 49:23-27. Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the Middle East, was described here as being destroyed by fire. It was first mentioned in Scripture in Genesis 14:15 and continued to be an important city throughout biblical history. THOUGH DESTROYED by the ASSYRIANS, it was later rebuilt BEFORE JEREMIAH’s TIME. HERE IT WAS DESTROYED ONCE AGAIN. Its DESTRUCTION HERE prophesied in Jeremiah WAS PREDICTED ALSO IN ISAIAH 7:8, 8:4; 17:1-3. In New Testament times it again was a flourishing city. The home of Ananias in Damascus, referred to as “the city of renown” (Jer. 49:25), was described here as suffering defeat of its soldiers and fire on its walls.” [xvi]
It is really interesting that Dr. John Walvoord, the former president at Dallas Theological Seminary looked specifically at Jeremiah 49:23-27 and did not give his interpretation on what time in history these events actually occurred.
In his online commentary on Jeremiah 49:26-27, Pastor David Guzik author of the “Enduring Word Bible Commentary” provides a very important quote by Bible scholar Charles L. Feinberg on the biblical meaning of “all the men of war shall be cut off in that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus and it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.”
Charles Feinberg, a professor of the Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary states these shocking words:
Incredibly, Feinberg believes that perhaps the GREATEST fulfillment of the burning of the palaces of Ben-Hadad is STILL IN THE FUTURE, which is the belief of those Bible teachers who, according to Dr. Andy Woods, are “spreading false teaching and throwing the body of Christ into confusion” when they say that the events of Jeremiah 49 about Damascus is still in the future.
Why would Bible expositors have difficulty fitting this prophecy into any recorded event in history related to Damascus in Jeremiah 49:26-27? Could it be simply because those events are still to play out in the future?
Dr. Andy Woods over the years has recommended many times that Christians read Dr. John Walvoord’s excellent book “Every Prophecy of the Bible” that was published in 1999. In this book Dr. Walvoord gives his interpretation on the prophecies found in Jeremiah 49 concerning Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, and Elam. On page 151 speaking about Elam’s destruction in verses 34-38, Dr. Walvoord believes the complete destruction of Elam within the country of Iran does not seem to have been fulfilled in history.
Dr. John Walvoord:
“Jeremiah 49:34-39. The prophecy concerning Elam referred to an area east of Babylon, known today as Iran. The destruction of Elam was described as breaking her bow, for, like Kedar, Elam was noted for archery. The complete destruction of Elam does not seem to have been fulfilled in history and may have its final chapter in the future in connection with the judgments at the second coming of Christ. Elam was promised, however, restoration (v 39).” [xviii]
Since the complete destruction of Elam in Iran, (Jeremiah 49:34-39) does not seem to have been fulfilled in history according to Dr. John Walvoord, could the same thing be said of Damascus in chapter 49:23-27?
[i] The Christian Post. 1 in 3 Americans Link Syrian Conflict to Bible’s End-Time Prophecy Survey Finds September 14, 2013.
[ii] Has The Destruction Of Damascus Been Fulfilled? March 5, 2019
[iii] The Middle East Meltdown video #29, 9/4/22 Andy Woods
[iv] The Middle East Meltdown video #28, 8/28/22 Andy Woods
[v] The Middle East Meltdown video #27, 8/21/22 Andy Woods
[vi] The Middle East Meltdown video #29, 9/4/22 Andy Woods
[vii] The Middle East Meltdown video #29, 9/4/22 Andy Woods
[viii] The Middle East Meltdown video #29, 9/4/22 Andy Woods
[ix] Smith Bible Dictionary.
[x] Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
[xii] Ancient History from the Monuments: Assyria from Earliest Times to the Fall of Nineveh
George Smith Pages 87-88.
[xiii] Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 1905.
[xiv] Annotated Bible Dr. Arno Gaebelein 1922.
[xv] Things To Come J. Dwight Pentecost 1958.
[xvii] Jeremiah 49 – Words of Judgment Against The Nations Damascus Feinberg.
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