What Biblical Prophecy Says about Syria, Part 3: Syria in Exile

UN Observer in Syria. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Neeraj Singh

UN Observer in Syria. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Neeraj Singh

Ever heard the one about the airplane wings? Here’s how it goes: Which wing is more valuable, the left or the right? You may have guessed the answer is… both. The same logic applies to Biblical prophecy—about which event is the prophecy referring, the past or the future one? Sometimes, it’s both.

In the case of Syria, one potential prophecy might fit that bill. If so, it’s tragically happening already.

To illustrate the dual nature of prophecy in the Bible, imagine plans for getting together on New Year’s Eve. Some plans might be just for one holiday, but others might be recurring. So is it about this year, or next? Well, both.

Sometimes it’s even unclear if the plans will continue until the next year comes around. Understanding prophecy works in a similar way. In the case of prophecy, one must remember that it’s often not clear exactly to what the prophecy was referring until after the event.

So until the prophecy is fulfilled, it’s simply speculation. But sometimes even after it’s fulfilled, there is yet another fulfillment of the same prophecy yet to occur in the future. The last New Year’s party may have been the biggest yet, but that doesn’t mean another one won’t happen next year.

With all that understood, there is a short prophecy in the book of Amos about Syria being taken into exile. For Syria’s sins, G-d warns in Amos 1:5: “’I will break the gate-bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden; and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,’ says the L-rd.”

Based on historical and Biblical accounts, it appears this prophecy was already fulfilled thousands of years ago. So why do I mention it now? Because this might be the case of a prophecy coming to pass more than once, in different but increasingly intense ways.

The Exile

Today, there is a new exile of Syria. The United Nations has reported that more than 1.5 million Syrians have fled their country due to the civil war there, and it’s growing at an exponential rate. At the start of 2013, the registered refugees numbered less than 400,000—that’s well over a million new refugees since then. In just seven-and-a-half months, that’s a roughly 400% increase.

So why do I think the Amos passage could refer to Syria’s refugee crisis? In part, because it seems to line up with Syria’s prophetic future, including the devastation of the capital of Damascus. As already noted, the Syrian civil war could very well lead to that catastrophic result.

In addition, the location of exile in Amos, Kir, is an interesting word in the context of today.  For one thing, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia commentary points out that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, known as the Septuagint, does not translate Kir as a place name in Amos, but as “the deep” or “ditch.” It can also be linked to an enclosure, or walled place.

In light of that, Syria’s exile to Kir may just refer to a dire, prison-like situation. We certainly see that today. Millions of Syrians have little hope of returning home. In many senses they are trapped, even if their refugees housing more closely resembles tents rather than prisons.

On the other hand, it could refer, in some way, to a location in modern Lebanon. There is a town known as Mashra al Akir in the Bekaa Valley region. The area, although perhaps not the town itself, has ben hard hit by refugees. The UN says that 200,000 have registered in that region alone.

What’s more, a news report from the UN refugee agency cited a small, local organization helping Syrian refugees known as… Keras al Kir.

See the repeated use of Kir? It’s part of a name in a region in Lebanon beset by refugees and it’s part of a name of a group helping them. Coincidence? Overanalysis? Perhaps.

But on the other hand, the situation lends itself to the very real possibility that Amos prophesied thousands of years ago about not one, but two Syrian exiles, both to Kir. Whether that’s a specific location or a word meant to summarize a dire situation is beside the point. It could be either. It does tell us that we should be watching the news and reading the Bible—you never know what might line up next.

History, like prophecy, is very cyclical. Those that don’t learn are doomed to repeat it, but learning also helps us respond correctly when it repeats. Worried about a modern-day event? Don’t be—G-d is in charge and something like it has probably already happened.

In the case of tragedy like the ones befalling Syria, the cyclical parallels can prepare us for even greater troubles to come, and give us motivation to help out.

The best news? There is a silver-lining to all the Syrian prophecies in the Bible. The tragic ones happen, but so do the good ones. For that, we’ll turn to the book of Isaiah—next time.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, July 21, 2013)

Commentary taken from: “Entry for ‘KIR'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915. http://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/kir.html

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.

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