A Reading Ethic: Syria and Dispensationalism

I don’t have time to write this post in the way it should be, but I still wanted to post something.

syriaIsaiah 17 says of the city of Damascus in Syria:

The oracle concerning Damascus.

“Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city
And will become a fallen ruin.
2 “The cities of Aroer are forsaken;
They will be for flocks to lie down in,
And there will be no one to frighten them.
3 “The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim,
And sovereignty from Damascus
And the remnant of Aram;
They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,”
Declares the Lord of hosts.

Given the sine qua non of Dispensational hermeneutics, that the Bible ought to be interpreted in its most literal sense (meaning a kind of wooden, straightforward literalism), this particular prophecy of Damascus is still waiting to be fulfilled. And so given the precarious situation we find ourselves within; given the reality that the United States of America is most likely going to strike Damascus, militarily; many dispensationalist interpreters believe that this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Indeed, it would be a fulfillment of this passage that would further attest to the dispensationalist that Jesus’ rapture of the church is just about to happen. In order for God’s prophetic plan to be legitimate, this fulfillment must happen in a kind of end times scenario that sees Damascus fitting into the broader schema of dispensational understanding. The fall of Damascus might signal that things are about to get very real very fast.

So an ethic that gets pressed here, a reading ethic, is that geo-political concerns become the lens by which the scriptures become interpreted. It isn’t the suffering Servant who become the primary lens, it isn’t the widows and orphans who become the primary lens; it is the fulfillment of geo-political realities upon the ground. So even though many dispensational interpreters will recognize the terrible plight of the people in Damascus and elsewhere, their primary mode of consideration isn’t really the broken people; but instead, it is the fulfillment of abstract geo-political realities that fit into a tightly wound understanding of the end times.

I really would like to say more, with more substance (I mean quotes and more depth), but this will have to suffice for now.

Posted on September 8, 2013, in Classic, Dispensationalism. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Any chance you can say a little more in terms of how such an oracle should be interpreted? Ie., is there some fulfilment of these various Isaiah prophecies that we could potentially expect, or should we have a preterist lens on?
    How should we understand unfulfilled OT prophecy that doesn’t seem to be referring to the Messiah or the consummation of the Kingdom of God?


  2. Josh,

    That is a great question. Some people (like preterists et al) want to say that all of these prophecies have been fulfilled in the past–in the proximate history of the OT. But a prophecy like the one about Syria, really hasn’t been fulfilled in the way that Isaiah and Jeremiah 49 say it will happen; i.e. total destruction of Damascus. I know that dispy premillers interpret this as something that will happen prior to the Tribulation period, but I don’t know why. I could see all of these kinds of unfulfilled prophecies taking place at the second coming of Christ and the judgment he will bring at that point. In fact that is the way I view this; although, I do think it could be fulfilled in the days to come before the second coming as well. I do have futurism in my hermeneutical approach. 🙂

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