The Road to Damascus — Obama, Politics, Prophecy, Paul, and Twenty Centuries Later

Conversion On the Road to Damascus, Caravaggio

Conversion On the Road to Damascus, Caravaggio

Why I adore the Atlantic: Biblical references abound amidst astute observations on the politics of Syria.

“Obama is about to walk the road to Damascus: the president who sought to end Middle Eastern conflict will convert to the goal of violent regime change.”

The holy scriptures of both the Jews and Christians foretell in the Hebrew prophecy of Isaiah of events in Israel and Syria. Damascus, one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, is foretold to be utterly destroyed in one day. In the Christian Greek scriptures Damascus plays a major role in the story of the Jew Saul’s conversion as a Christian, and his taking the Christian Greek name Paul, on the road to Damascus. This is the joint biblical cross-reference the Atlantic article makes.

Beyond the absolute condemnation and destruction of Syria’s Damascus, the prophecy goes on to detail that there will be a coalition of nations which then attack Israel.

Popular translation of the scripture, The Message puts it this way:

Damascus: A Pile of Dust and Rubble
A Message concerning Damascus:
“Watch this: Damascus undone as a city,
a pile of dust and rubble!
Her towns emptied of people.
The sheep and goats will move in
And take over the towns
as if they owned them—which they will!
Not a sign of a fort is left in Ephraim,
not a trace of government left in Damascus.
What’s left of Aram?
The same as what’s left of Israel—not much.”
Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.—Isaiah 17:1-3, The Message

If Israel once represented God’s chosen people as religion would have you believe, then why is it he choses to destroy this recently renewed nation?

Ironically, according to God it’s because they rely on the strength of men and military might, as opposed to the self-proclaimed supreme deity himself.

In the ancient book of Hebrew poetry and songs, Psalms 83 relates the scene:

God, don’t shut me out;
don’t give me the silent treatment, O God.
Your enemies are out there whooping it up,
the God-haters are living it up;
They’re plotting to do your people in,
conspiring to rob you of your precious ones.
“Let’s wipe this nation from the face of the earth,”
they say; “scratch Israel’s name off the books.”
And now they’re putting their heads together,
making plans to get rid of you.

Edom [modern Jordan and parts of the West Bank]
and the Ishmaelites [the Arab people as descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael],
Moab [modern Jordan and parts of the West Bank]
and the Hagrites [modern Jordan and descendants of Ishamel, a reference to his mother’s name, Hagar],
Gebal [modern Lebanon]
and Ammon [modern Jordan] and Amalek [modern Southern Israel/Gaza],
Philistia [modern Gaza]
and the Tyrians [modern Lebanon],
And now Assyria [modern Syria + parts of Turkey and Iraq] has joined up,
Giving muscle to the gang of Lot [modern Jordan].

Do to them what you did to Midian,
to Sisera and Jabin at Kishon Brook;
They came to a bad end at Endor,
nothing but dung for the garden.
Cut down their leaders as you did Oreb and Zeeb,
their princes to nothings like Zebah and Zalmunna,
With their empty brags, “We’re grabbing it all,
grabbing God’s gardens for ourselves.”

My God! I’ve had it with them!
Blow them away!
Tumbleweeds in the desert waste,
charred sticks in the burned-over ground.
Knock the breath right out of them, so they’re gasping
for breath, gasping, “God.”
Bring them to the end of their rope,
and leave them there dangling, helpless.
Then they’ll learn your name: “God*,”
the one and only High God on earth.

The scriptures thus foretell, according to Psalm 83, in the aftermath of the destruction of northern Israel and Damascus, Israel will be invaded by armies from Jordan, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza—locations heavily populated by the enemies of Israel today.

“How then can we let this devil remain in power?” — The Atlantic article characterizes Assad as the devil, continuing, “And for Americans, overthrowing a demonic tyrant is at least a comprehensible goal”, later concluding, “After his revelation on the road to Damascus, Paul was blinded for three days. Let’s hope Obama can see the path ahead with greater clarity.”

I watch with interest as current events collide with the ancient words of scripture—poetry and prophecy—with fascination and faith and wonder if anyone else knows what’s going, this side of the Atlantic.

See The Atlantic: Obama’s Road to Damascus: The War for Regime Change in Syria

*The pronunciation of the personal name of the Hebrew and Christian God is unknown today. Most denominations of Christianity who claim to know and use the personal name of God rely only modern letter and sound “J” (see “The History of j“) to create a word otherwise foreign to both modern and ancient languages. God is a title used instead of the unknown pronunciation of the personal name, known as the Tetragrammaton, transliterated without vowels as YHWH.


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