The news today can seem like one unrelated event after another. Or perhaps like a whole slew of repeated events in which the same sad problems just resurface. But what if the things happening today are more than that? What if they’re part of a thousands-years-old process reaching its climax? What if the news today was already foretold by the Bible?
Of course, it is impossible to know in advance if things are precisely the fulfillment of prophecy, because G-d is less interested in us predicting events than He is in us being watchful and recognizing His sovereignty in the world. Still, part of being watchful is to see the signs and ask if they are happening today. When it comes to the news in Syria, that is a very valid question.
The most tragic prophecy about Syria is found in Isaiah 17:1, “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.”
This is quite simply a terrible and awful end for Syria’s capital city. Let me be clear that I do not want this to happen. The Mideast Update has long been a vocal voice for the West to do more to end the horrific conflict in Syria so as to prevent this very occurrence.
Second, this awful scenario doesn’t mean Syria itself is wiped out. Many nations have continued without once-proud and glorious cities. Iraq was once defined by the city of Babylon, Italy by ancient Rome and so on. So all is not lost for Syria.
That being said, it’s not hard to see where the current conflict is taking Syria and why Damascus itself is in just this type of jeopardy.
The numbers of the Syrian civil war are chilling. In just two years, more than 70,000 people have been killed. There are more than 1 million refugees.
What’s more, a press release from European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in mid-March said that according to some reports 70 percent of the country has been destroyed.
Keep in mind that today’s civil war didn’t focus on Damascus at first, and in many ways still hasn’t. It was a rebellion that broke out in a variety of towns. Some of the worst atrocities carried out by the Bashar al-Assad regime—including firing Scud missiles at their own people—have happened outside the capital.
This shouldn’t be so surprising, since the capital of a country is often it’s best protected and most treasured asset. Assad’s authority would collapse if the seat of his government fell, not to mention the devastating impact this would have on his military’s morale. If the rebels can take Damascus, they will be much closer to victory.
Despite that importance and support the Assad regime has given the capital, the fighting has grown in Damascus. Suicide bombings targeting government buildings are nothing new there.
And on March 26, the US government acknowledged the fighting has picked up even more. According to a transcript of his comments released by the State Department following a particularly bloody stretch, spokesperson Patrick Ventrell told reporters, “We have seen increased fighting in the streets of Damascus, including close to some of the key government centers, and it’s just further evidence that the regime’s authority is eroding.”
In short, things are already getting worse for Damascus, and it very well could sour further. The one thing the West has most feared in Damascus is the use of chemical weapons.
Destroying A City
Syria is believed to possess one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons. And the United Nations is already investigating possible use of the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) by either the regime or the rebels.
One chemical weapon that could result in Damascus ceasing to be a city, as seen in Isaiah, is VX gas. The Center for Disease Control has a very troubling description of one of the qualities of VX: It doesn’t go away quickly.
Here’s what the CDC website says: “Under average weather conditions, VX can last for days on objects that it has come in contact with. Under very cold conditions, VX can last for months.”
In other words, should VX gas be used en masse in the Syrian civil war, it could theoretically devastate a city for days, weeks or longer.
But wait, weren’t the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hit with a nuclear bomb at the end of World War II? And they both have been rebuilt. So would a less-destructive chemical weapon truly devastate Damascus forever?
Well, it depends. Many cities have been destroyed in war and never truly rebuilt. Others have been virtually burnt to the ground and restored mere decades later. What could be the blow that breaks the camel’s back in this case is the civil war raging in Syria. Even if Damascus falls, it may not end the fighting.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has already warned that Syria could essentially break up into mini-states with Assad controlling one section and rebels controlling others. In such a scenario, economic stability will be lost and the power to rebuild unavailable.
Today, many cities are rebuilt following wars by the international community. But if the world is overwhelmed by the degree of Syria’s fighting and its humanitarian needs for still-functioning cities, taking the time to symbolically rebuild the capital is unlikely.
Just look at today: The EU has said that the majority of the country has been destroyed, but the fighting has prevented even the necessary humanitarian aid from reaching the Syrian people. And rebuilding the towns and cities devastated so far has not been a high priority.
So the potential for a shocking attack on Damascus, possibly with chemical weapons that render much of the city uninhabitable for weeks, followed by allowing the city to remain in ruins for years and years is tragically quite real. In fact, the process may already be starting.
What We Can Do
Obviously we can’t prevent Biblical prophecy from happening. But we can prepare for it. Knowing that Damascus has a nasty end, nations in the West need all the more to try and end the conflict now before it reaches that point. Perhaps the prophecy isn’t for now, after all.
Rather than create a self-fulfilling prophecy, the West needs to take active steps with Arab nations to try and drive Assad from power, limit the influx of weapons and fighters assisting his regime and stop the grotesque human rights abuses occurring today. Syria’s chemical weapons also need to be removed from the equation as soon as possible.
Second, now is the time to be helping the people of Syria and preparing for the day after—whatever that may mean. Even if Damascus lies in ruins, Isaiah says nothing about Syria being destroyed as a nation. Surely there will be the need to provide for the many refugees of the city. Surely there is still hope for rescuing and restoring the rest of the country.
So the West needs to be about the process of helping the Syrians prepare a new government after Assad—a process begun but already in trouble. The West should enlist Arab states to build a taskforce whose goal is to help Syria rebuild.
It should make efforts to limit the devastation of the rest of Syria—such as setting up safe zones near the border with Turkey and assisting nations flooded with Syrian refugees.
In short, it’s like preparing for any natural disaster—you may not be able to prevent it, but you can mitigate its effects. The Syrian people needn’t suffer as much as their capital. There’s still hope.
Of course, another prophecy about Syria may be happening today as well, and it affects its civilians directly: the Syrian exile.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 7, 2013)
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.