Against Damascus (Jer 49:23-49:27)

“Concerning Damascus.

‘Hamath is confounded.

Arpad is confounded.

They have heard bad news.

They melt in fear.

They are troubled

Like the sea

That cannot be quiet.

Damascus has become feeble.

She turned to flee.

Panic seized her.

Anguish has taken hold of her.

Sorrows have taken hold of her,

As a woman in labor.

How the famous city is forsaken!

The joyful town!

Therefore her young men

Shall fall

In her squares.

All her soldiers

Shall be destroyed,

On that day.’

Says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I will kindle a fire

At the wall of Damascus.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Ben-hadad.’”

Damascus had been under the control of the Assyrians since around 740 BCE, before the fall of the northern Israelites to Assyria in 724 BCE. Now the Babylonians were taking over for the Assyrians. The two other cities mentioned with Damascus, were Hamath and Arpad. Hamath was in upper Syria with Arpad nearly a 100 miles further north. These northern towns were upset and troubled over the news about southern Damascus. They felt like they were on troubled waters and could not be quiet. Damascus itself was weak and in panic. This former joyful town saw people fleeing with panic. Once again they had become weak like women in labor. Their young men were dying in the squares since the soldiers had been killed. The soldiers also died. There was a huge fire that destroyed the walls and royal buildings of Ben-hadad. King Ben-hadad was a 9th century BCE king of Damascus who had some battles with King Asa of Judah and King Omri of Israel, in 1 Kings, chapter 20. However, there were 2 other kings with the same name, so that it clearly referred to the royal palaces or fortresses in Damascus. Once again there is no mention of a restoration for Damascus.

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The second message to King Hezekiah (Isa 37:9-37:13)

“When King Sennacherib heard it,

He sent messengers

To King Hezekiah.

‘Thus shall you speak

To King Hezekiah of Judah.

Do not let your God,

On whom you rely,

Deceive you

By promising

That Jerusalem will not be given

Into the hand of the king of Assyria.

See!

You have heard

What the kings of Assyria

Have done to all lands,

Destroying them utterly.

Shall you be delivered?

Have the gods of the other nations delivered them?

My predecessors destroyed these nations,

Gozan,

Haran,

Rezeph,

Also the people of Eden

Who were in Telassar.

Where is the king of Hamath?

Where is the king of Arpad?

Where is the king of the city of Sepharvaim?

Where is the king of Hena?

Where is the king of Ivvah?’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19, almost repeating the speech of Rabshakeh in the preceding chapter. These messengers of King Sennacherib of Assyria were to present almost the same message. Do not rely on your God. See what has happened to those places that relied on their gods, since the various kings of Assyria have destroyed them. How have their gods defended them? He repeated what had happened to the kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah. Most of these towns were in Babylon or Syria. He also added the cities of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and Eden.   Gozan was where the northern Israelites were sent in their captivity. Haran was in Mesopotamia, a town where Abraham had stopped. Rezeph was near Hamath. Eden in Telassar probably refers to some place in Mesopotamia, thus giving further credence to Mesopotamia as the original place of the Garden of Eden. At least at this time, nearly 2700 years ago, this place was called Eden, which might have also influenced the biblical writers.

Rabshakeh says that gods cannot help you (Isa 36:18-36:20)

“Do not listen to King Hezekiah

Mislead you by saying.

‘Yahweh will save us.’

Has any of the gods of the nations

Saved their land

Out of the hands of the king of Assyria?

Where are the gods of Hamath?

Where are the gods of Arpad?

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?

Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?

Who among all the gods of these countries

Have delivered their countries

Out of my hand?

Why should Yahweh save Jerusalem

Out of my hand?’”

Once again in the same words as 2 Kings, chapter 18, Rabshakeh went on to point out that no god has helped anyone against the king of Assyria. He pointed out that the gods of Hamath, Arpad, and Sepharvaim were all unsuccessful against the king of Assyria. Hamath and Arpad were in Syria in an alliance with Damascus, but taken over by the Assyrians. Sepharvaim was near Babylon, on the Euphrates River. Hena and Ivvah are not mentioned here but were in 2 Kings. All of these places were taken over by king of Assyria. Why should Yahweh and Jerusalem be any different?

The boast of the king of Assyria (Isa 10:8-10:11)

“The King of Assyria says.

‘Are not my commanders all kings?

Is not Calno

Like Carchemish?

Is not Hamath

Like Arpad?

Is not Samaria

Like Damascus?

As my hand has reached

To the kingdoms of the idols

Whose images

Were greater than those of Jerusalem.

They were greater than those of Samaria.

Shall I not do to Jerusalem

As I have done to Samaria?

Shall I not do to her idols

As I have done to the Samarian images?’”

King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE), the king of Assyria said that he had commanders in his army that could become kings. He cited the examples of his capture of various towns or cities like Calno in 742 BCE and Carchemish, which is now on the border between Turkey and Syria, but was part of the Syrian empire that was lost in 738 BCE. There also was the capture of other western Syrian town of Hama or Hamath and Arpad that were in this same area that Tiglath-Pileser III captured in 741 BCE. Finally there was Damascus, also in Syria, that was captured in 732 BCE. King Menahem of Samaria was the king of northern Israel from 743-738 BCE, who paid tribute to the King of Assyria, as mentioned in 2 Chronicles, chapter 26, and 2 Kings, chapter 15. Now King Tiglath-Pileser III was thinking of attacking Jerusalem. What he had done to Samaria, he would the same to Judah by destroying their images, since he thought that Yahweh was just another idol god.