Syria Crisis Raises Profile of Apocalyptic Novelist

Tim Murphy at Mother Jones notes political interest in the apocalyptic novels of Joel C. Rosenberg, particularly his latest book, Damascus Countdown:

In early 2012, best-selling novelist Joel Rosenberg came to Capitol Hill for a meeting with an unidentified member of Congress to discuss the end of the world. “I thought the topic was going to be the possible coming war between Israel and Iran,” Rosenberg explainedon his website. “Instead, the official asked, ‘What are your thoughts on Isaiah 17?'”

…On Saturday, Rosenberg will travel to Topeka, Kansas, at the invitation of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

…Former (and future) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wrote a blurb for the hardcover edition of Damascus Countdown and brought the author onto his radio show, Patriot Voices, to discuss the book last spring.


In March, Rosenberg met privately with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Louie Gohmert in Austin. Gohmert was such a big fan of the novelist he brought a copy of Damascus Countdown as a gift to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011. 

I noted the Gohmert’s meeting with Netanyahu at the time – the book he presented was actually a prequel, entitled The Tehran Initiative. Both books imagine a world in which Iran has achieved nuclear capability and come under the sway of the “Twelfth Imam”, and in which Israel is unfairly accused of aggression by the USA and the UN for launching a pre-emptive strike.

Netanyahu would have recognised the author’s name: before he was famous, Netanyahu employed Rosenberg as an advisor (Rosenberg has also worked for Rush Limbaugh and Steve Forbes). The book wouldn’t be a surprise, either, as there’s a long tradition of Israeli politicians indulging apocalyptic prophecy hacks: Hal Lindsey has boasted that a copy of his 1970s bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth can be seen on David Ben Gurion’s desk, left untouched since Ben Gurion’s death. Netanyahu also maintains strong links with the US Christian Right; in July he sent a satellite message to a Christians United For Israel conference in which he warned that Iran is planning launch nuclear weapons against the USA.

Isaiah 17 refers to a period in Israelite history when the northern kingdom of Israel had made an alliance with Damascus and attacked the southern kingdom of Judah. Isaiah, based in the Judah, predicted a bad end for the southern kingdom’s enemies:

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares the Lord Almighty.

Damascus was beseiged and conquered by the Assyrians in 732. However, the city wasn’t literally destroyed, and for Biblical fundamentalists this means – despite the obvious context – that Isaiah must have been speaking about some other conflict far off in the future. Hence if you now type “#isaiah17” into Twitter you get treated to an avalanche of nonsense about how the the chapter relates to the current situation in Syria.

However, not all self-styled “prophecy experts” are on board: Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet Joel Richardson (not to be confused with Joel Rosenberg) believes that although Isaiah was indeed talking about the future, the destruction of Damascus can’t be imminent because the “seven-year tribulation” has to occur first. He has also expressed dismay at the “glee” of some of those expecting the event.

Back in 2011, events in Egypt prompted similar apocalyptic fervour based on Isaiah 19. The mood was whipped up further by a green smudge on a video camera that WorldNetDaily suggested might be a sign that the Book of Revelation’s Pale Rider had been seen in Cairo.

2 Responses

  1. […] Syria Crisis Raises Profile of Apocalyptic Novelist ( […]

  2. […] also took part in the 23rd Annual Winnipeg Prophecy Conference; while the likes of John Hagee or Joel Rosenberg are best-sellers, there’s also an extensive circuit of lesser-known speakers and authors. I […]

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