Q. Is there a specific Agricultural season mentioned as to the timing of the Destruction of Damascus? “It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain.” Is that the Bible’s way of making a General statement about Harvesting or can we take that literally to be when the wheat is actually harvested in Israel?
A. You’re referring to Isaiah 17:4-5 “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away. It will be as when a reaper gathers the standing grain and harvests the grain with his arm—as when a man gleans heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.”
The object of the passage is Jacob, the name God called Israel when they were out of fellowship. Isaiah was explaining that in the days ahead Israel would sustain serious damage as well. It would be so serious that it would look like a wheat field after the reapers have gone through, only a few stalks of grain left standing here and there. This didn’t mean that the destruction would take place at harvest time, he was only using a familiar analogy to help them picture the extent of Israel’s damage.
This passage was partially fulfilled in 732 BC when the Assyrians swept through the Aramean capital of Damascus before going on to conquer the Northern Kingdom in 721. Most of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom (Jacob in the reference above) were resettled to the North and East of Israel leaving behind only those Jews who the Assyrians believed posed no threat to their rule. People from other regions conquered by Assyria were resettled in Israel, and the resulting inter-marriage produced the Samaritans, a people hated by the Jews.
I say partially fulfilled because Damascus didn’t cease to exist as a city and the Assyrians didn’t turn to God or abandon their cities because of the Israelites as verses 7-9 indicate. This is one reason that scholars look to a future fulfillment of Isaiah 17.