Is Damascus Destined to be Destroyed?
A few months ago, Rav Fish brought down some material from the beginning of chapter 7 of Yeshaya and applied it to our days. However, he stopped at verse 7 and did not comment on verse 8. I assume the reason for the lack of comment is that doing so would be controversial at best and being פותח פה לשטן at worst. This is because if we apply that verse to today, the logical reading of the verse foretells the downfall of the State of Israel after 65 years. However, there are less controversial ways to explain it, as we will explain.
A little background: Pekah the King of Israel and Retzin the King of Aram are fighting against Yehuda. Pekah had slaughtered 120,000 and captured 200,000 (Divrei Hayamim Bet 28:5-8), but he and Retzin were unable to conquer Yerushalayim (Yeshaya 7:1). The prophet is now describing the downfall of both Pekah and Retzin.
Yeshaya 7:8 reads:
Note, however, that Mechon Mamre's translation is not completely accurate according to Metzudat David and Radak. They explain the words יחת אפרים מעם to mean that Aram will be broken while Ephraim will also be broken as a people. (That is, they will go into exile.) Note that according to Metzudat David and Radak, the verse is mainly speaking about Aram's fate, while also mentioning the fate of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The verse would therefore be translated like this:כִּי רֹאשׁ אֲרָם דַּמֶּשֶׂק, וְרֹאשׁ דַּמֶּשֶׂק רְצִין; וּבְעוֹד, שִׁשִּׁים וְחָמֵשׁ שָׁנָה, יֵחַת אֶפְרַיִם, מֵעָם.For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.
For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall it be broken, and that Ephraim be not a people.All the commentators seem to say that the 65 years mentioned here were not to begin from the moment this prophecy was given, but rather, they began earlier with the prophecy of Amos (chapter 7) where it states that Israel would be sent into exile. Metzudat David notes that the prophecy of doom against Aram was within the 65 years (see Melachim Bet 16:9) while the prophecy against the Northern Kingdom of Israel was for exactly 65 years, and it mentioned 65 as the maximum for the doom of both.
If we do two things to keep the simple meaning of the verse, however, we can make an interesting observation. The two things we can do is to first start counting from when this prophecy was given, and secondly, we can make the 65 years an exact year count - even for Aram. How do we do this? By applying it to today.
If you take the beginning of the verse, in addition to the ו of ובעוד:
Furthermore, we know from Seder Olam Rabba that Yeshaya 7 occurred in the 20th year of Pekah. According to this chart, that would be just before Hoshe'a ben Elah took over in 3186, so it would be sometime in late 3185. If you add 2523 to 3185, you get 5708, the year the State of Israel was declared.
Then, the verse says:
Ok, but how about the rest of the verse? The verse concludes:
This could possibly have a positive spin to it, and mean that the concept that our nation requires a leader from Ephraim will be broken, as it says in Yehezkel 37:22:
and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.As it says in Otzar Hamidrashim, when the Nero of the East (נרון מזרחי = באשאר אסאד) who's in Damascus falls, all the kingdoms of the east fall, and then the salvation for Israel will sprout and Mashiah ben David comes...
May we merit to see this speedily in our days.