In that day, I will restore David’s fallen sukkah. I will repair it’s broken walls and restore it’s ruins. I will rebuild it as in the days of old.

– Amos 9:11

Shattering the gates of Damascus (Amos 1:5)

Damascus is the crown jewel of the Arab world, culturally and historically. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities and capitals on the planet (Ezekiel 27:16), a star member of the United Nations’ World Heritage Sites. Yet at this very moment Damascus is engulfed in the throes of riot, butchery and civil war. The aftershocks of this battle are rippling from Morocco to Medina, and from Jerusalem to the Kremlin and to Langley.

  • How can we make sense of this anarchy?
  • Can the Scriptures shed any light on these events?
  • How can we pray regarding these matters?

Before and after Abraham

The country known today as Syria has an older Biblical name – Aram. Five regions of this area included Aram Naharayim (“Aram between the Two Rivers,” Hebrew of Genesis 24:10; often translated as Mesopotamia in Greek), Aram Zobah, Aram Maacah (Psalm 60:1; 1 Chronicles 19:6), Aram Rehov and Aram Tov (2 Samuel 10:8).

The Semitic word Aram may be connected to the same root as the second syllable in the word Abramram or lifted up (see Isaiah 6:1) – that is, a mountainous range. The sorcerer Balaam declared that he came “from Aram … from the mountains of the East” (Numbers 23:7).

Another name for part of this region was Paddan Aram (the plain of field of Aram, Genesis 25:10).  Rebekah the daughter of Bethuel lived in that fertile valley, as did her brother Laban (Genesis 25:20).

Though many modern translations call Laban a Syrian, the Hebrew text describes him as an Aramean.  Abraham’s father Terah was not from Aram but from Ur (Genesis 11:28-32), but Terah settled in the region of Aram and became a “landed immigrant” in an Aramean town named Haran. Abraham handed down that memory of his own sojourn in Aram to both Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob described his grandfather to Pharaoh as “a wandering Aramean” (see Deuteronomy 26:5).

The personal name Aram goes back to Noah’s son Shem, who gave birth to five sons – Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram (Genesis 10:22). This Aram was the forefather of the Arameans, while Abraham was descended from a different dynasty, the line of Arpachshad (Genesis 11:11-26).

Abraham’s brother Nahor did not move with Abraham to Beer Sheva in the land of Canaan, but sat tight in Paddan Aram. He fathered eight sons, one of whom was named Haran (like the city they lived in) and one was named Aram (in honor of the country where they had become residents – Genesis 22:19-23).

The Bible teaches that the original Arameans (or Syrians, to use the modern term) are not physical sons of Abraham. They are Semites – they are descendants of Shem – but they are only distantly related to Abraham (eight generations back) and therefore are not an Abrahamic people in origin.

The origin of the term Syria most probably goes back to how an ancient Anatolian people  – the Luwians (www.aina.org/articles/ttaasa.pdf ) who came from the Hittite Cilician region (Adana in modern Turkey) – described the Assyrians and their conquests of Aram in the west using similar sounding words (su+ra/i). The term “Syrian” was later used in Assyrian and Greek days to describe what the Bible calls “the Arameans of Damascus” (2 Samuel 8:5; Amos 9:7; 2 Samuel 10:8,16; 2 Chronicles 28:5).

Warfare, prophets and minefields

The twelve tribes of Israel fought against the Arameans in nearly every generation. The Hebrew Scriptures describe King David’s battles against the Arameans, and his stunning victories over them: “Then David put garrisons in Aram of Damascus; and the Arameans became servants to David, and brought tribute. And YHVH gave victory to David wherever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6).

The prophetic ministry knows no national bounds. In I Kings 19:15, YHVH commissioned the Jewish prophet Elijah to anoint the Gentile Hazael to be king over Aram, though in the end it was actually Elijah’s disciple Elisha who anointed Hazael for that task (2 Kings 8:7-15). The God of Israel gave Elisha prophetic vision to see that Hazael would assassinate Ben Hadad the king of Aram and usurp his throne, eventually bringing savage destruction upon the Jewish people.  Elisha’s anointing of Hazael was accompanied by his own bitter tears.

The armies of Aram were cruel to the Jewish people in war, forcing Jewish prisoners of war in Gilead to lie down on the ground and have threshing sledges of iron dragged over their bodies until they were massacred (Amos 1:3). God’s punishment of the Arameans for their cursing of Israel would include them being temporarily exiled to Kir (Amos 1:5), their original homeland before they had migrated to Aram (Amos 9:7).

One of Aram’s top generals was a valiant warrior of exceptional bravery named Na’aman (2 Kings 5:1, 13). YHVH had granted him a measure of victory even over His own people Israel (2 Kings 5:1-2).  Na’aman’s Aramean armies would often make commando raids on Israelite army positions (see 2 Kings 6:8-17).

The idol worship of the Arameans eventually influenced and brought judgment on Judah through the unfaithful heart of Ahaz. He had his architects make a sketch of the Arameans’ Damascus altar, and his stoneworkers built a virtual copy of that altar in the courts of Solomon’s Temple:

“Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus. He finished it before King Ahaz returned. When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it… (But) the bronze altar that stood before YHVH, he … put on the north side of the new altar. King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: ‘On the large new altar, offer the … offering(s) … Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.” So Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered’ ” (2 Kings 16:10-16).

“In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to YHVH. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, ‘Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.’ But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:23-25).

“Therefore YHVH his God delivered Ahaz into the hands of the King of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus” (2 Chronicles 28:5).

The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

Throughout its long history the Arab world has been ruled by dictatorships. Sasha Baron Cohen’s risqué comedy “The Dictator” shines the spotlight on this fact. In the modern period two main examples of Arab dictatorships basically come to mind – either military despots or Islamist tyrants.  Though it is true that a few kings and princes still tenuously hold on to power in their last bastions of  Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf States, these rulers are deeply apprehensive about the rise of Islamist revolution, known elsewhere as “the Arab Spring.”

Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen have all seen secular street riots morph into Islamist takeovers. Secular military dictators have first been assassinated (Libya’s Gaddafi) or imprisoned (Egypt’s Mubarak). Into the chaos steps the jihadi Muslim Brotherhood (MB), taking the reins of power with a seemingly self-effacing shrug of the shoulders.

The MB is committed to Islamist dictatorship through the forced application of shari’a or classical Islamic law, through the re-establishment of a world-wide Islamist Caliphate dictatorship, and through jihad or Islamist terror war as its main goal (see www.davidstent.org; “words’ February 2006).  Its slogan is simple and direct: “Allah is our goal, the Prophet our model, the Qur’an our Constitution, Jihad our path and death for the case of Allah our most sublime belief” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood).; www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mb.htm).

Syria’s connection to the MB goes back to the period between 1930 and 1945, when the MB party was established in that country. In 1961 it won 5.8% of the house seats in parliamentary elections, but after the pan-Arabist and secular Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party’s putsch in 1963, the MB was banned in 1964. MB-instigated strikes and demonstrations in 1964-65 were crushed by the army and police, and MB assassinations of prominent Syrian politicians and Alawite leaders occurred regularly between 1976 and 1979.

On June 16, 1979 the MB attacked and killed 83 cadets at the Aleppo Artillery School, and terror attacks became commonplace in Aleppo and northern Syrian cities. On March 8, 1980 most Syrian cities were paralyzed by strikes, street demonstrations and battles with security forces. The MB was one of the major leaders of these riots.

Former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad sent tens of thousands of troops, along with tanks and helicopters against the demonstrators, killing hundreds and arresting 8,000. Within a month the revolt had been crushed. At that time the President’s brother Rifa’at al-Assad declared that the Syrian government was prepared to “sacrifice a million martyrs” (over a tenth of Syria’s population at that time) in order to stamp out “the nation’s enemies.” In April 1980 the Syrian army executed 400 male inhabitants of the city of Hama over the age of 14 as a reprisal for MB activities.

A failed assassination attempt against President al-Assad on June 26, 1980 resulted in him immediately ordering the execution of 1,200 MB members in their cells in Tadmor Prison, near ancient Palmyra.

On July 7 1980 under Emergency Law 49, membership in Syria’s MB became a capital offence.

Hama rules

In August, September and November 1981 the MB carried out three massive car bombings in Damascus, killing hundreds.  On February 2, 1982 a Syrian army night patrol stumbled upon the Hama hideout of the MB’s main guerilla commander. The patrol was annihilated in the ensuing firefight. This led the MB to call for jihad against the secular Syrian regime. By morning over 70 major Ba’ath (Syrian government) leaders had been killed, and MB declared to the 250,000 people in Hama that it was now a liberated city. The MB urged the population to rise up “against the infidel.”

During the first four days of fighting, the Syrian Air Force conducted aerial bombings of the Old City, after which tanks broke into those areas. Reports were received that hydrogen cyanide gas was used by the army. Fierce resistance halted the army’s incursions, and so for the next three weeks the city was first encircled, and then shelled continuously. After the artillery barrages ceased, Syrian military and secret service personnel went house to house through the ruins, arresting, torturing and conducting mass executions.

Rifa’at al-Assad  (who was in charge of this operation) believed that MB fighters were hiding in a honeycombed network of tunnels. As a result, following strategies used by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, he had diesel fuel pumped into the tunnels and then set them ablaze. He had already pre-positioned Russian T-72 tanks at the tunnel exits, whose mission was to shell escaping MB fighters.

Journalist Robert Fisk, who was in Hama shortly after the massacre, originally estimated fatalities at 10,000, but has since doubled the estimate to 20,000. The President’s brother Rifa’at al-Assad reportedly boasted of killing 38,000 people. Amnesty International estimated the death toll was between 10,000 and 25,000, the vast majority civilians. The Syrian Human Rights Committee estimated that between 30,000 to 40,000 people were killed. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood suggests a figure of approximately 40,000 victims.

In 2002 Syrian journalist Subhi Hadidi, wrote that select Syrian army units “under the command of General ‘Ali Haydar, besieged the city for 27 days, bombarding it with heavy artillery and tank, before invading it and killing 30,000 or 40,000 of the city’s citizens – in addition to the 15,000 missing who have not been found to this day, and the 100,000 expelled” (www.memri.org/report/en/print590.htm).

As a result of the Hama massacre, the Muslim Brotherhood had been broken as a force in Syrian politics. It chose to go underground and bide its time – waiting for the day when its star would again rise over the Land of the Arameans. That time arrived in February 2011, when street demonstrations began to spread throughout Syria (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2011%E2%80%932012_Syrian_uprising_(January%E2%80%93April_2011); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2011%E2%80%932012_Syrian_uprising_(May%E2%80%93August_2011); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_2011%E2%80%932012_Syrian_uprising_(from_January_2012).

Waiting in the wings

The world’s media is attempting to understand present political developments in Syria without having the ability to discern the spiritual forces and influences involved in the mix. Since the Western world has by and large rejected the determinative role of the Bible or spiritual matters in foreign policy, newspapermen and women find it hard to believe that jihadi groups’ stated goals are actual and real.

  •    Western politicians likewise have not grasped the fact that these groups cannot be co-opted or easily controlled, or that they will have no compunction about making false and misleading public declarations in order to conceal their own deceptive strategies.

Here are examples of news commentators trying to make sense out of Syria’s  boiling cauldron:

www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/06/us-syria-brotherhood-idUSBRE84504R20120506; http://carnegie-mec.org/publications/?fa=48370; www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/17924; www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16131323,00.html.

Hafez al-Assad’s son Bashar is now Syria’s President and leader of Syria’s Alawites. The Alawites are an offshoot from Islam, considered heretical by both Sunnis and Shi’ites. (www.danielpipes.org/191/the-alawi-capture-of-power-in-syria). The Alawite community managed to take the reins of a military coup in Syria between February 1966 and November 1970, establishing themselves as military dictators in a land known for its many despots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heads_of_state_of_Syria).

The approximate religious population in Syria today is: Sunni (74%, which includes MB), Alawite (10%), Christian (10%, including Syrian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant), and Druze (3%) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Syria).  However, among all these groups the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized and closest to attaining control over the political chaos which has engulfed Syria.

Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qa’eda

The origins of al Qaeda are found within the historical development of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1205/05/cp.01.html), Ayman al-Zawahiri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (www.investigativeproject.org/2552/american-policy-toward-the-muslims-brotherhood) – all were involved in or influenced by major teachers and ideologues of the MB.

Whereas the MB at present attempts to arrive at its stated goals (imposition of shari’a law, restoration of the Islamist Caliphate, and jihad) through gradual co-option of the democratic process when possible, al Qaeda has seen military combat and violent acts of terror as the preferred strategies for the same three goals. Similar strategic disagreements occurred in the late 1920’s between Communist Trotskyites and Stalinists, or in the 1950’s between Russian and Chinese Communists.

Islamic news media as well as Western reporters have noticed a rise in al Qaeda-connected military forces infiltrating and influencing facts on the Syrian battlefield: (www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2012/07/201273081149683986.html; http://m.aljazeera.com/SE/201273081149683986; http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/10062; http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/al-qaeda-syria-new-leader-helm; http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/bilad-al-sham-jihads-newest-hot-spot; www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/05/egypts-muslim-brotherhood-sticks-with-bin-laden/238218/).

The future of Syria may well depend on the outcome of the wrestling match between MB and al Qaeda for control of this now-radicalized Sunni country. Similar struggles are occurring at this very moment with much the same dynamic in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq.

In any event, whether the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda or an Alawite military dictatorship wrests decisive control of Syria, the threat to neighboring nations (especially to Israel, Jordan and Lebanon) remains strong and grows stronger with each passing day.

Syrian weapons of mass destruction

Western intelligence agencies (and especially Israel) have been following Syria’s development of nuclear weapons and nerve gas armaments with deep interest and baited breath: (www.ft.com/cms/s/0/83da4c76-d4c2-11e1-bb88-00144feabdc0.html#axzz22oRGU7Wv; www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/13108/sec_id/13108; www.stratfor.com/weekly/specter-syrian-chemical-weapons).

Chemical (CW) and biological (BW) weapons are sometimes described as “the poor man’s atom bomb.” Since Syria’s nuclear weapons program was suddenly halted by an unforeseen Israeli bombing raid (www.davidstent.org/dthtm/words.htm# ; “words” October 13, 2007), President al-Assad has focused his efforts on honing and refining his CW and BW stores, as well as on his North Korean, Chinese and Iranian missile arsenals.

Ø  Remembering Rifa’at al-Assad’s infamous declaration that the regime would be willing to murder a million Syrians to preserve its hegemony, and considering the long-standing hatred that the Arameans of Damascus have had for the people of Israel, we strongly encourage you to make these issues a matter of prayer.

Ruins on the Highway of Peace

The prophet Isaiah leaves us with two brief snapshots of future events in the region of Aram Naharayim.

The first is in Isaiah 17, where two declarations stand out: “Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap” (verse 1); “At eventide, behold, terror; and before the morning they are not. This is the portion of them that despoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (verse 14).

These scriptures indicate that unspecified yet traumatic disasters will overtake the capital city of Aram, and that these disasters are judgments on the Syrian people because of their cursing the Jewish people, who are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:3).

The second passage is in Isaiah 19:23-25, which actually does not mention Aram, but does mention Ashur or Assyria: “In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth. For YHVH of armies has blessed them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’ ”

This divine word prophesies that a highway of peace will cut across the Middle East in the Days of Messiah, joining the peoples and countries of Egypt, Israel and northern Iraq (today’s Kurdish region near Mosul and Kirkuk) in blessing, worship and the favor of YHVH.

Two points worth mentioning: such a road will need to pass through Aram (Syria) on its way to Assyria (northern Iraq). Is it too much to hope that YHVH’s blessing will also touch those Arameans who live along this divine future superhighway?

And a last thought: while Egypt and Assyria will enter into a wonderful and blessed intimacy with the God of Israel, YHVH still reserves a special term for His own Jewish people – “Israel My inheritance.”   “And He has lifted up the horn of His people, who are the praise of all His saints – the children of Israel, a people who is near to Him. So praise YHVH!” (Psalm 148:14).

How can we pray?

  • Pray for clarity and divine perspective for Israel’s leaders.
  • Pray for neutralization of Syria’s missile arsenal, its CW and BW with the minimum loss of human life
  • Pray for the weakening and suppression of Syrian forces which would wreak havoc on the Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian peoples, and on the Jewish nation
  • Pray for the spread of the gospel in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel – for boldness and protection to be given to believers in Yeshua, for opportunities to share openly and with anointing

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

Donations can be sent to:

FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES

BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA

Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal) through: www.davidstent.org

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