Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking Up

The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from [being] a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer [are] forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make [them] afraid.
Isaiah 17:1-2 NKJV

One of the questions most people have when they consider the possibility that this prophecy from Isaiah seems to describe a future nuclear attack on Damascus is “why”? The use of nuclear arms is certainly abhorrent to most, yet most agree that this is exactly what is described in these passages. I believe that the clue to the answer to that question lies in the identification of the “cities of Aroer”.

In all of the research I have done up until now, the one consistent fact has been that most people who have studied and written about this prophecy place the location of Aroer in the country of Jordan. Unlike Damascus, Aroer no longer exists, so we are left to try to identify its location by studying past references, and looking for archaeological evidence that might support a conclusion as to its whereabouts.

Aroer is mentioned three times in the Bible, and all occur in the Old Testament. Unfortunately for us, however, each describes a different location, so we are left to examine what the Bible
says about each and see if we can decide which location Isaiah is attempting to describe. The first mention of Aroer is found in the book of Deuteronomy where it says;

“From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; the Lord our God delivered all unto us;”
Deuteronomy 2:36

This site has been identified as being on the northern bank of the Arnon ravine located in the modern country of Jordan, just east of the Dead Sea. The second mention of Aroer we find is in the book of Joshua, where Moses is allotting land to the twelve tribes and describing their boundaries. In this verse he describes;

“And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;”
Joshua 13:25

Joshua describes Aroer as being "before Rabbah". This city or any ruins of it have never been located, but by the description we know it would need to be situated be some twenty miles or so north of Jerusalem. The final time Aroer is mentioned before Isaiah’s prophecy is in the book of Samuel, where we find it listed among a group of cities that David is sharing spoil with from his defeat of the Amalekites. We find when we read that;

“And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoah,”
1 Samuel 30:28

This location has been identified as being in the Negev, twelve miles southeast of Beer-sheba. We also see from reading this passage that it was one of many cities located in the same area which helped and supported David in his battle with the Amalekites. Ruins of this city have been found, and you can even locate it on a map if your Bible has maps in the back. Simply look for a map of Israel in the time of David, and you should be able to see Aroer located in the south of Israel, southwest of Beer-sheba.

So we have three different locations to choose from, and no help from the Isaiah passage to identify which one he is referring to. Is it possible to find a way to know for sure exactly which one of these locations is the one that Isaiah describes as being "forsaken"?

First of all, I think it may be logical to assume that Isaiah is referring to the location southeast of Beer-sheba for several reasons. The first is that if you compare the dates that these three books were written, you find that the Samuel passage was written closest to the time of Isaiah, as opposed to the others which were written much earlier in Israel’s history. Also, if you look closely at these three locations, you see one of them is in Jordan, not Israel. Since Isaiah is describing a conflict between Syria and Israel, I think we can dismiss the Jordan location as a possibility. So we are left to choose between two locations, one which has never been positively located, and one which not only has been located, but may have some military significance as well.

If we look at a map of Israel during the time of the twelve tribes, we can easily see where Aroer is located. Now compare that map with a map of Israel today and you may be surprised to find that a very significant complex has been constructed in the same approximate location of ancient Aroer, and that is the nuclear research facility known as Dimona. Since Isaiah is describing a future conflict between Israel and Syria, obviously there must be a good reason that Israel chooses to completely destroy Damascus. Is it possible that it is in response to an attack of some sort on Dimona? I think it is not only possible, but logical as well if we examine the situation that exists today in the Middle East. One only has to remember what Iran has already threatened to do if they are attacked to see how this scenario might unfold.

Second Iranian threat to destroy Israel names its Dimona reactor.

What will happen if and when Israel attacks the nuclear ambitions of Iran? Well, according to Iran, they will attack Dimona in response. Where does Damascus fit in? Simply it is very questionable that Iran can respond directly from their own territory with rockets accurate enough, or with enough range to hit Dimona. There are, however, numerous Iranian rockets in Syria armed and aimed at Israel. Would Iran launch their response from Syria? Most experts have no doubt that Syria would do exactly what Iran tells them to do, considering the extent to which Syria is indebted to them. Are we seeing the clues to the beginning of the next Middle East War in the news today? Could it happen in the very near future?

In the past few months we have seen the unrest occurring in Syria, and most are familiar with the threats being made against Israel from the president of Syria. He seems to believe that the only way to save his own rule is to start a war with Israel. Will an attack on Iran give him reason to respond by launching his own missiles? Those missiles are believed to be armed with chemical warheads, which are also considered to be weapons of mass destruction. If they are launched in an attack on Dimona, it could easily explain why the cities of Aroer are described in Isaiah as “abandoned”, and not destroyed.

The use of WMD's against Israel would invite, if not justify a response using Israel's own WMD's, which are nuclear and not biological. I am constantly amazed at how the prophecies of the Bible written over two thousand years ago describe exactly what is occurring in the Middle East today. It certainly is beginning to look like the stage is set for the fulfillment of what the Bible describes as the “end of days”, and the completion of the prophecies concerning Israel's future written by the prophets so long ago,

There is one more thing I want to share with you today. Although not from the Bible, I believe it may have great significance for what we have been studying. If you study Bible prophecy, you are probably familiar with author Grant Jeffrey, who has authored many books on biblical prophecy. In his book, “The Next World War”, he makes the following statement;

There is an oral tradition recorded from the Vilna Gaon , a Jewish commentary, that points out the significance of the Russian navy (Magog) passing through the Bosporus straits on the way to the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles: “It is now time to put on your Sabbath clothes because the Messiah is coming.”

Grant Jeffrey, “The Next World War”; Chap. 12, pp 150.

Isn't it interesting then to note that just this past week that Russia has sent warships from their base in the Black Sea to the waters off of Syria.

When I read this my first thought was what Jesus said in Luke when He was talking to His disciples about the end of days;

"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
Luke 21:28 NKJV

Keep watching.