Word of the Week: Omniscience

Syria and the burden of Damascus

By Elizabeth Prata

Syria is a present day problem we haven't discussed in a while. Prophetically, it figures prominently in the oracle of Isaiah in Chapter 17 verse 1-3.

"A prophecy against Damascus"-- “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus;"

The plain meaning of the verse, especially verse 1, is clear. And even if a person left it at that with a surface reading, the verse's integrity would remain. Damascus will be destroyed. Since this city never has been destroyed it's obvious that this is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. But a deeper question remained in my mind: what is the size and location of the geography the LORD is describing here? A cursory reading would seem to indicate a surgical strike against Damascus will destroy it, with surrounding land intact. Is this so? Is it all the verse is saying to us? Thus, I looked into the geographical locations of Ephraim, Aroer and Damascus in biblical history to seek a wider context.

Damascus is the longest continuously inhabited city in the world. It has been inhabited as a city for 5000 years. It is one of the first cities mentioned in the bible. Before Abram was Abraham, when Jerusalem was still Salem, Damascus is mentioned (Genesis 14:15). As we know, Damascus is the capital of the Arab country of Syria and about 130 miles northeast of Jerusalem.

Aroer mentioned in verse 2 is a city (in ruins now) on the north side of the Arnon River, in the southern border of the tribe of Reuben, De 2:36 4:48 Joshua 13:9. It was in the territory of the Amorites, Joshua 12:2, but seems to have fallen at a later day into the hands of Moab, Jeremiah 48:19. (source- Bible Atlas). Initially I thought that the city was close to Damascus but I could be wrong because there is an Aroer halfway down Jordan’s eastern border still showing on the maps. Present-day Jordan is a long, tall nation with a huge square jut-out at the northeastern end. The length of the nation goes from its northern boundary near Irbid to the south portion bordering the Gulf of Aqaba at the Red Sea. A great north-south geological rift, forming the depression of Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, and the Dead Sea, is the dominant topographical feature.

To the east of this long mountain range that forms the border of Israel-Jordan is the King's Highway, a trade route of vital importance to the ancient Middle East and a major highway now. It began in Egypt, and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba. From there it turned northward across Jordan, leading to Damascus and the Euphrates River. The Highway is referred to in Numbers 20:17-21. Given the topography and geography of the region, I believe this highway will figure prominently in the Tribulation. More on that in a moment.

Where is Aroer, exactly? Ha ha, good question. We all know where Damascus is. It is where it has always been. Here the interpretation of "cities of Aroer" in verse 2 gets complicated. Some scholars believe that it represents the city of Aroer midway down Jordan. If you were at Jerusalem and headed due east about 30 miles across the top of the Dead Sea and into Jordan, and picked up the King's Highway and headed south for about 30 miles you'd hit Aroer. If you continued south along the King's Highway for another 120 miles to the very southern portion of Jordan you'd hit the ancient city of Petra. That Aroer is on the river Arnon, the one mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:36.

However that Aroer is a good distance from Damascus, giving the impression that the devastation the prophecy speaks of is widespread. So other scholars believe that the 'cities of Aroer' is closer in proximity to Damascus. Clarke's Commentary asks, "What has Aroer on the river Arnon to do with Damascus? and if there be another Aroer on the northern border of the tribe of Gad, as Reland seems to think there might be, this is not much more to [say]". I have an opinion on this which I'll share below.

So why is part of ancient Israel included in this overthrow Isaiah prophesies, remember, Ephraim is mentioned as also being destroyed. "Barnes Notes explains, "Ephraim was the name given to the northern kingdom of Israel, or to the ten tribes, because Ephraim was the largest of the ten, and was a leading tribe in their councils. Ephraim, or the kingdom of Samaria, is mentioned here in connection with Damascus or Syria, because they were confederated together, and would be involved in the same overthrow." Samaria is shown on the map below in blue. This part of the prophecy, I believe, has already been fulfilled. Samaria was defeated and destroyed in 722BC.

So as we can see, if we believe the area being destroyed in the future is Damascus and nearby city of forgotten Aroer, the area is quite small. If we believe the Aroer mentioned is the ancient city midway down Jordan, then the area destroyed will be quite large. Included would be most of Jordan and the southern part of Syria. Think on the part of the verse that says the 'flocks will lie down, there will be no one to make them afraid'. Sheep scare easily. If they can lay down and rest or slumber is a feeling of safety, the area must be truly desolate, with no people, no activity and no predators.

I believe the prophecy is saying that the area from Damascus to Aroer mid-way down Jordan will be destroyed. I think this for several reasons. First, the Principle of Occam's Razor applies. This is also known as the 'law of succinctness, a principle that generally recommends, when faced with competing hypotheses that are equal in other respects, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions.' Just because Aroer on the Arnon river is far from Damascus (but not really that far in terms of today's miles and ease of travel) doesn't mean we must dispense with it. It is only approximately 150 miles. God can and might decide easily to destroy that length of land.

Secondly, I believe this because of military strategy. The terrain is inhospitable, being steep and mountainous. The King's Highway has been since ancient times a vital route. If there is a battle, and we know from Revelation 6 and Matthew 24 that the Tribulation will be characterized by total war, then it makes sense that an opposing party would want to destroy a vital trade and military route.

Third, the Tribulation will be a time when ancient hatreds come to their full fruition. Jordan, the ancient lands of Ammon, Moab and Edom have always hated Israel. Obadiah prophesied against them, in a series of prophesies I discussed here. With ancient hatreds and total war, why is it hard to believe a swathe of land 150 miles long would become desolate, especially in the face of all the weapons of mass destruction currently available, and mostly pointed at Israel?

Fourth, Syria and Jordan seem to fade away as an end time player. They are not mentioned in the Gog Magog confederacy. We know from prophecies in Daniel that Jordan is not delivered into the Antichrist's hands.

"He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon."

We also know that in Matt. 24:16 the Lord told those in Judea to flee to the mountains when the Abomination of Desolation occurs. The mountains are directly to the east in southern Jordan where Petra is. Rev. 12:14 tells of Satan chasing them across the desert as they flee to a place prepared for them. This desert is between Israel and the mountains of southern Jordan around the northern and eastern shores of the Dead Sea. And in Isaiah 63: 1-6 there’s a verse telling of the Lord coming from Bozrah in Edom after single handedly defeating His enemies there. Bozrah is the region of Edom (Jordan) where Petra is. If the fleeing Jews head across the mountains at the top of the Dead Sea and down the King's Highway to Petra and if the area is already desolate AND undelivered to the antichrist's control, it clears a bit of a path for them to run without those obstacles in the way at least.

Anyone can disagree with my assessment. I'm not saying I'm a scholar nor am I given special insights. But these are the conclusions I came to after study of the verses, examining the biblical atlases, and much prayer and thought.

So that is the long introduction to what is happening in Syria and Jordan today, so we can keep a watchful eye on coming prophecy and how these nations figure into the news of the future.

Syria has been engaged in conflict, some say civil war already, since March 2011. The NY Times article of the timeline reports on this and it has only gotten worse since then.

That is why the oracle Isaiah delivered was a burden. The news was a heavy burden on Isaiah. It was really bad news to have to deliver, even to an enemy. Damascus is a thriving city and the level of devastation prophesied indicated that there would result in mass deaths. Damascus is currently home to 2.3 million people. Isaiah 17 nears the end of the prophecy at verse 14, saying that "Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more." A nighttime strike so catastrophic and complete that the city is wiped out by morning? What can do that? A nuclear bomb, pehas? Or chemicals?

Oh, Lord, these surely are perilous times for those who do not know you and do not know what is coming!


  1. So much here! I'm going to have to read and reread this. Thank you!

    Emily, extendingeagerhands.blogspot.com

  2. it is pretty heavy. it took me about 6 hours to study and put together. and that was only three verses...but it is amazing how God said it thousands of years ago and it is happening exactly and specifically today.

    1. Me too Elizabeth. Just got done and got so side tracked at times lol. 5 cups of coffee later, Here I am still lol. Now it's time to study The Kings Hwy. You wrote that almost 6 years ago, we are closer now than ever!!! God bless. Maybe I can find you on Facebook?

    2. Hi Dianne,

      I love the King's Highway! Good luck studying, it's encouraging to read about. Yes, The End Time is on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/The.End.Time.Blog


    3. It is so funny because I just been studying the City of Petra and now here comes the Kings Highway and I was led to this site and Isaiah 17 too and you answered all my questions it is most amazing how we are all on the same track thank you God and thank you for all that replied to this!!!

  3. Hi, I just read today that the US Envoy in Damascus was called back to the states because of some comments he made and concerns for safety as a result...I sort of think something is about to go down...I think the world's attention will now turn to Syria since Gaddhafi is gone.

  4. IpseSenex said:

    Today, 26 August 2013 - the US, along with UK and others are preparing for a strike against Assad following chemical weapon attacks.

  5. So interesting to be reading this blog, a mere 2 years after it was written. I'm struck by paragraph beginning: "The plain meaning of the verse, especially verse 1, is clear. And even if a person left it at that with a surface reading, the verse's integrity would remain. Damascus will be destroyed. Since this city never has been destroyed it's obvious that this is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled.

    1. And now I'm reading this in 2016, almost 2017 Alison!! We are getting closer faster!!! God bless.

    2. Wow I did not know so many people run the same track as I am!!!

  6. at first i thought that Damasco would be destroyed by strike from israel o those nation allied to Israel, but then i understood that would'nt be so. it is my opinion that Damascus will be destroyed by earthqueke that'll affect all that region, whenever the prophets talks about war they mention some weapons, but here it is clear than no weapons will be used, the prophets add that the situation of israel will be like Damascos , telling us that israel will be hit bu with less intensity.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for your input. An earthquake is a plausible theory. Could well be. The prophecy doesn't say who or how the city will be destroyed, only that it will be.

  7. I love the word of God,how true it is.The more I read it,the more aware I become of how real He is and what he says will come to pass, based on previous prophecies which hav been fulfilled.No one can thwart God plan but knowing what I do know I pray for all pple they will believe in jesus and repent before Gods wrath begins to pour out.God doesnt want any to perish but he is righteous and just so he will punish all evil doers unless they turn to him.

    1. We are getting closer, Iran troops close by now.

    2. How about where Egypt gets a cruel leader...has that happened yet?

    3. It has happened several times. The cruel Assyrians conquered Egypt in the middle 7th century BC.

      Of late, I wrote this:

      that said the oracle in Isaiah 19:4 to which you refer could mean it has been fulfilled, OR it will be fulfilled more than once. Hard to tell.

    4. Whelp it has happened. The prophecy is being fulfilled as of this week.

    5. A Russian drone has now verified with it's fly over of Damascus that the city has now become a "ruinous heap" and the people are gone. It cannot be inhabited now. God is showing the world that this has come to pass.


      If we take things in order … What will happen next
      Whose on Israel’s borders … They’ll not be welcomed guests
      The next thing to happen … The darkness of the night
      As the city of Damascus … Loses all its lights
      This then will give Israel … The false sense of peace
      That will be visceral … For Magog is a sneak
      Will the Church be here … To witness this event
      Or will the people be in fear … Wondering where we went
      Only the Father knows … But we won’t be surprised
      When we see the mighty glow … Lighting up the skies
      For now we are at peace … Knowing that it is near
      Waiting to be released … And free from any fear

      The news that we are given … Is certainly not it all
      As we go on ‘liven … Giving warnings of the fall
      From one day to the next … We just take it as it comes
      Yearning for our rest … That’s coming from the Son

    7. Thanks Anonymous. The above is a poem written by Lee Frank and posted on FaithWriters on 12/01/14. Please be sure to always credit the author.


    8. Thank you for that and yes always date and credit the author

    9. I have enjoyed this site more than almost any site I visited in The Last 5 Years it is nice to know that some people are actually reading these prophecies and relating them to the news and seeing them being fulfilled before our very eyes I've enjoyed all the responses as well I don't get on my phone very much but I do for educational purposes only thank you to this site may God bless you!!!

  8. Thanks for this. So far the best arguments. I was troubled by latest incident, where Russia send all their ships down to Syria, Aleppo. And on the other end the west. So I was looking at this verse Aroer, how this makes up in line of Damaskus.

    Many say, Damaskus has been taked before. That's right, but not completely ruined and desolated.

    The argument about the number of people today, 2.6 million. You don't take that overnight without very heavy armoury or nuke. Much indicate there can be a nuclear destructions.

  9. And now the word of God concerning Syria has been fulfilled.Damascus is no more.His word is true and faithful.

    1. Erick,

      Damascus is still standing. Bombed and laboring, but Damscus exists. The prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.


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