23 Concerning Damascus:
“Hamath and Arpad are dismayed,
for they have heard bad news.
They are disheartened,
troubled like the restless sea.
24 Damascus has become feeble,
she has turned to flee
and panic has gripped her;
anguish and pain have seized her,
pain like that of a woman in labor.
25 Why has the city of renown not been abandoned,
the town in which I delight?
26 Surely, her young men will fall in the streets;
all her soldiers will be silenced in that day,”
declares the Lord Almighty.
27 “I will set fire to the walls of Damascus;
it will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.”
(Jeremiah 49:23-27 NIV)
Yesterday we looked at the fate of Edom to the south of Judah; today’s text moves back north and east of Judah and Israel to the city of Damascus in northern Syria. Damascus is located near Mount Hermon and was the capital city of northern Syria. Here is a link to the map showing the kingdoms and both Jerusalem and Damascus. Jerusalem and Damascus are about 135 miles apart.
Throughout ancient history, Damascus was the ringleader in the Aramean fight against the Assyrians (Isaiah 7:8). Damascus was the linchpin of anti-Assyrian activity – thus the dismay of the two cities (Hamath and Arpad) mentioned in verse 23. If Damascus fell, they would surely be next.
Jeremiah’s word from the Lord about Damascus is an update of what the Lord had said to the prophet Amos some hundred-plus years earlier (Amos 1:3-5). Damascus had been overtaken by the Assyrians in 732 BC, and now her fate would be at the hands of the Babylonians. History records that the Babylonians took over Damascus as part of the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. While it took over 100 years to do so, the Lord kept His word!
Notice that there is no mention of restoration, nor is there any mention of exile or abandonment of Damascus. Damascus would incur the Lord’s judgment, but would apparently survive.
The reference to Ben-Hadad is important to note. Hadad was the name of one of the Aramean gods that the residents of Damascus worshiped. The prefix “Ben” means “son of”, so the title “Ben-Hadad” means “son of the deity Hadad”. Several of the kings of this region used this “Ben-Hadad” title to show they had the favor of their god. But yet, the Lord says that He will set fire to the walls of the city and Ben-Hadad. Nothing can stop the Lord! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is far stronger than any other god.
So what is the faith lesson of today’s text? What can we learn and apply from the Lord’s judgment against Damascus? One thing that comes to mind is the fortresses that we construct for our comfort and convenience. These fortresses may be physical, financial, or even relational in nature. But as the Lord did with Damascus, He breaks through to win our hearts back and call us to Himself.
If we need to repent or confess an area of sin before the Lord, let our hearts be broken; may we hear His gentle calling and respond.
If the Lord brings nothing to mind for repentance or confession, that’s OK. May we lift others up in prayer, asking the Lord to do whatever it takes to bring back a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor to a restored relationship with Himself.
May we also pray for our surrounding communities, regions, and the country we live in – that the Lord would bring revival to each of these larger groups. As we see in today’s text, the Lord judges individuals as well as cities and nations.