Subject: The Best Place to Go to Understand Syria? The Bible
Isaiah 7:2 “It was told to King Ahaz, of the House of David, ‘Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.”
The Syrian civil war has been raging nearly seven years now, with a half-million people killed and almost half the nation’s population displaced. There are over five million Syrians who have left Syria, living elsewhere as refugees or exiles. It may be one of the best-kept secret holocausts in history, as their ruling dictator Bashar al-Assad continues murdering his own people, including women and children, because they oppose his regime. And now, he has gassed more innocent people again with chemical weapons.
President Trump wasted little time in retaliating this second time against Assad, bombing main chemical weapons factories. Even the mainstream media had to acknowledge former President Obama’s failure to do anything in 2013 when Assad used chemical weapons, after famously warning Assad not to cross the “red line”, was a major mistake that only emboldened Assad and his allies, Russia and Hezbollah.
How much do we all know about Syria? Why are American interests in protecting freedom both nationally and internationally tied up with Syria? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it best in his response to Trump’s retaliation against Syria: “It should be clear to President Assad that his reckless efforts to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, his wanton disregard for international law and his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endanger Syria.” America must not stand by while Syria chemically arms itself and Iran for the purpose of destroying innocent life and the nation of Israel.
An understanding of Syria’s history will shed light on who this nation is. The best history book to start with, to understand the roots of Syria and its development, is the one book we don’t use in our schools to teach history: the Bible. The OId Testament books of Genesis, 1st and 2nd Kings, 1st and 2nd Chronicles, Jonah, Nahum and Isaiah give an in-depth record of Syrian civilization and their roots in the Assyrian Empire.
The Old Testament name for present-day Syria is Aram, who was Noah’s grandson (read Genesis chapter 10). The region dates to 2100 BC with the Assyrian Empire (read Jonah, Nahum and Isaiah). When Assyria collapsed in 612BC (read Nahum), the Babylonians took control for a short period of time until the Persians overthrew the Babylonians around 530BC and gained Aram in the conquest (read Kings and Chronicles).
But then along came Alexander the Great in 332BC who conquered Persia and annexed Aram in the process. Greek became the official language of the Empire, and Aram was renamed Syria, which was a corruption of the name Assyria. When the Greeks lost control of the region to the Parthians, the name ‘Syria’ survived through the second century BC. Eventually, up through the third century AD, Christianity began to take hold and the Aramaic language replaced Canaanite and Hebrew.
Then, in the mid-seventh century the Islamic Arabs conquered the region, and over time the Aramaic dialect has been replaced by the Arabic language. Today, Syria’s official name is the Syrian Arab Republic. Its borders are Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southeast. While it has a very diverse ethnic and religious makeup, Sunni Muslims make up the largest religious group in Syria. And its main allies? Russia and Hezbollah.
Syria has always been an enemy of Israel. As our verse this week from the book of Isaiah explains, in 733BC the kings of Israel (Pekah) and Syria (Rezin) went to war against Judah because King Ahaz would not join with them against Assyria. Ahaz was well aware of Rezin’s intentions (as Netanyahu is of Assad’s today) – to destroy the Jewish people. With Aram allied with the northern kingdom, Judah was severely outnumbered and stood very little chance of victory. The war ended with 120,000 of Judah’s troops being killed and both Israel and Judah taken captive later by Assyria. But what was the ultimate outcome?
As the prophet Isaiah explained, King Ahaz was defeated because he was denounced as morally wicked. In fact, he was one of if not the most evil king in Jewish history, who chased after pagan gods, adopting their practice of child sacrifice. God’s judgment on Ahaz was executed through surrounding nations, but also His judgment against Aram occurred in history as they were also conquered by Assyria.
Here in the Old Testament records, we can get a much deeper understanding of history and the long standing hatred that Syria has for Israel and the God of the Bible – the same God whom Russia has rejected. And the same God we worship in America. Standing against Syria, and Iran, is a moral imperative, rooted in the moral nature of God, who shows Himself in history as sovereign over mankind.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.