A celebrated metropolis of Syria, first mentioned in Ge 14:15; 15:2, and now probably the oldest city on the globe. It stands on the river Barada, the ancient Chrysorrhoas, in a beautiful and fertile plain on the east and south east of Anti-Lebanon. See ABANA. This plain is about fifty miles in circumference; it is open to the desert of Arabiaon the south and east, and is bounded on the other sides by the mountains. The region around and north of Damascus, including probably the valley between the ridges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, is called in the Scriptures, "Syria of Damascus," 2Sa 8:5, and by Strabo, Coelesyria. This city, which at first had its own kings, was taken by David, 2Sa 8:5-6; and by Jeroboam II., 2Ki 14:28. Its history at this period is to be found in the accounts given of Naaman, Ben-hadad, Hazael, and Rezin. It was subdued by Tiglath-pileser, 2Ki 16:9; and was afterwards subject to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Seleucidea, and Romans. In the days of Paul it appears to have been held, for a time at least, by Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. At this period the city was so much thronged by the Jews, that, according to Josephus, ten thousand of them, by command of Nero, were put to death at once. It is memorable to Christians as the scene of the miraculous conversion of that most illustrious "servant of the Lord Jesus Christ," the apostle Paul, Ac 9:1-27; 22:1-16. Since 1506, Damascus has been held by the Turks; it is the metropolis of "the Pashalic of Damascus," and has a population of about one hundred and fifty thousand. The Arabs call it Eshshams. It is still celebrated, with the surrounding country, by all travellers, as one of the most beautiful and luxuriant regions in the world. The orientals themselves call it "Paradise on earth," and it is pretended that Mohammed refused to enter it, lest he should thereby forfeit his heavenly Paradise. The plain around the city is well watered and of exuberant fertility; and the eye of the traveller from any direction is fascinated by the view-a wilderness of verdure, interspersed with innumerable villas and hamlets, with gardens, fountains, and groves. A nearer view of the city discloses much that is offensive to the senses, as well as to the spirit. It is the most purely oriental city yet remaining of all that are named in the Bible. Its public buildings and bazaars are fine; and many private dwellings, though outwardly mean, are decorated within in a style of the most costly luxury. Its position has made it from the very first a commercial city, Eze 27:18. They cloth called Damask is supposed to have originated here, and Damascus steel has never been equaled. It still caries on an extensive traffic in woven stuffs of silk and cotton, in fine inlaid cabinet work, in leather, fruits, sweetmeats, etc. For this purpose huge caravans assemble here at intervals, and traverse, just as of old, the desert routes to remote cities. Here too is a chief gathering-place of pilgrims to Mecca. People from all the nations of East resort to Damascus, a fact which shows its importance as a missionary station. An encouraging commencement has been made by English Christians, and the fierce and bigoted intolerance of its Mussulman population has begun to give way. A street is still found here called "Straight," probably the same referred to in Ac 9:11. It runs a mile or more through the city from the eastern gate.
The situation of this city is said to be the most beautiful of all Western Asia. It is mentioned among the conquests of the Egyptian king Thothmes III. (B.C. 1500), and in the Amarna tablets (B.C. 1400).
It is first mentioned in Scripture in connection with Abraham's victory over the confederate kings under Chedorlaomer (Ge 14:15). It was the native place of Abraham's steward (Ge 15:2). It is not again noticed till the time of David, when "the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer" (q.v.), 2Sa 8:5; 1Ch 18:5. In the reign of Solomon, Rezon became leader of a band who revolted from Hadadezer (1Ki 11:23), and betaking themselves to Damascus, settled there and made their leader king. There was a long war, with varying success, between the Israelites and Syrians, who at a later period became allies of Israel against Judah (2Ki 15:37).
The Syrians were at length subdued by the Assyrians, the city of Damascus was taken and destroyed, and the inhabitants carried captive into Assyria (2Ki 16:7-9; comp. Isa 7:8). In this, prophecy was fulfilled (Isa 17:1; Am 1:4; Jer 49:24). The kingdom of Syria remained a province of Assyria till the capture of Nineveh by the Medes (B.C. 625), when it fell under the conquerors. After passing through various vicissitudes, Syria was invaded by the Romans (B.C. 64), and Damascus became the seat of the government of the province. In A.D. 37 Aretas, the king of Arabia, became master of Damascus, having driven back Herod Antipas.
This city is memorable as the scene of Saul's conversion (Ac 9:1-25). The street called "Straight," in which Judas lived, in whose house Saul was found by Ananias, is known by the name Sultany, or "Queen's Street." It is the principal street of the city. Paul visited Damascus again on his return from Arabia (Ga 1:16-17). Christianity was planted here as a centre (Ac 9:20), from which it spread to the surrounding regions.
In A.D. 634 Damascus was conquered by the growing Mohammedan power. In A.D. 1516 it fell under the dominion of the Turks, its present rulers. It is now the largest city in Asiatic Turkey. Christianity has again found a firm footing within its walls.
The most ancient city of Syria, at the foot of the S.E. range of Antilibanus, which rises 1,500 ft. above the plain of Damascus, which is itself 2,200 above the sea. Hence, Damascus enjoys a temperate climate cooled by breezes. The plain is a circle of 30 miles diameter, watered by the Barada (the ABANA of 2 Kings 5), which bursts through a narrow cleft in the mountain into the country beneath, pouring fertility on every side. This strikes the eye the more, as bareness and barrenness characterize all the hills and the plain outside. Fruit of various kinds, especially olive trees, grain and grass abound within the Damascus plain. The Barada flows through Damascus, and thence eastward 15 miles, when it divides and one stream falls into lake el Kiblijeh: another into lake esh-Shurkijeh, on the border of the desert. The wady Helbon on the N. and Awaj on the S. also water the plain.
The Awaj is probably the scriptural PHARPAR. First mentioned in Ge 14:15; 15:2. Abraham entering Canaan by way of Damascus there obtained Eliezer as his retainer. Josephus makes Damascus to have been founded by Uz, son of Aram, grandson of Shem. The next Scriptural notice of Damascus is 2Sa 8:5, when "the Syrians of Damascus succored Hadadezer king of Zobah" against David. David slew 22,000 Syrians, and "put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought gifts" (1Ch 18:3-6). Nicholaus of Damascus says Hadad (so he named him) reigned over "all Syria except Phoenicia," and began the war by attacking David, and was defeated in a last engagement at the Euphrates River. His subject Rezon, who escaped when David conquered Zobah, with the help of a band made himself king at Damascus over Syria (1Ki 11:23-25), and was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon.
Hadad's family recovered the throne; or else (See BENHADAD I, who helped Baasha against Asa and afterward Asa against Baasha, was grandson of Rezon. He "made himself streets" in Samaria (1Ki 20:34), so completely was he Israel's master. His son, Benhadad II, who besieged Ahab (1Ki 20:1), is the Ben-idri of the Assyrian inscriptions. These state that in spite of his having the help of the Phoenicians, Hittites and Hamathites, he was unable to oppose Assyria, which slew 20,000 of his men in just one battle. Hazael, taking advantage of his subjects' disaffection owing to their defeats, murdered Benhadad (2Ki 8:10-15; 1Ki 19:15). Hazael was defeated by Assyria in his turn, with great loss, at Antilibanus; but repulsed Ahaziah's and Jehoram's attack on Israel (2Ki 8:28), ravaged Gilead, the land of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh (2Ki 10:32-33); took also Gath, and was only diverted from Jerusalem by Jehoash giving the royal and the temple treasures (2Ki 12:17-18). (See HAZAEL.)
Benhadad his son continued to exercise a lordship over Israel (2Ki 13:3-7,22) at first; but Joash, Jehoahaz' son, beat him thrice, according to Elisha's dying prophecy (2Ki 13:14-19), for "the Lord had compassion on His people ... because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, neither east He them from His presence us yet" (2Ki 13:23). Jeroboam II, Joash's son, further "recovered Damascus and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for Israel ... according to the word of the Lord ... by Jonah the prophet" (2Ki 14:23-28), 836 B.C. Rezin of Damascus, a century later, in a respite from the Assyrian invasions, allied himself to Pekah of Israel against Judah, with a view to depose Ahaz and set up one designated "the son of Tabeal." (See AHAZ.) The successive invasions of Pul and Tiglath Pileser suggested the thought of combining Syria, Israel, and Judah as a joint power against Assyria. Ahaz' leaning to Assyria made him obnoxious to Syria and Israel.
But, as their counsel was contrary to God's counsel that David's royal line should continue until Immanuel, it came to nought (2Ki 15:19,29,38; 16:5; Isa 7:1-6). Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in Edom, built by Azariah of Judah on territory alleged to be Syrian, was "recovered" by Rezin. Whereupon Ahaz begged Assyria's alliance; and the very policy of Damascus and Israel against Assyria, namely, to absorb Judah, was the very means of causing their own complete absorption by Assyria (2Ki 16:6-9,17; Isa 7:14-25; 8:6-10; 10:9). The people of Damascus were carried captive to Kir, as Amos (Am 1:5) foretold, the region from which they originally came, associated with Elam (Isa 22:6), probably in Lower Mesopotamia = Kish or Cush, i.e. eastern Ethiopia, the Cissia of Herodotus (G. Rawlinson).
Isaiah (Isa 17:1) and Amos (Am 1:4) had prophesied that Damascus should be "taken away from being a city, and should be a ruinous heap," that Jehovah should "send a fire into the house of Hazael, which should devour the palaces of Benhadad"; and Jeremiah (Jer 49:24-25) that "Damascus is waxed feeble .... How is the city of praise not left, the city of my joy!" By the time of the Mede-Persian supremacy Damascus had not only been rebuilt, but was the most famous city in Syria (Strabo, 16:2,19). In Paul's time (2Co 11:32) it was part of (See ARETAS ' (see) kingdom. It is still a city of 150,000 inhabitants, of whom about 130,000 are Mahometans, 15,000 Christians, and about 5,000 Jews. Damascus was the center through which the trade of Tyre passed on its way to Assyria, Palmyra, Babylon, and the East.
It supplied "white wool and the wine of Helbon" (in Antilebanon, 10 miles N.W. of Damascus) in return for "the wares of Tyre's making" (Eze 27:18). Its once famous damask and steel were not manufactured until Mahometan times, and are no longer renowned. The street called "Straight" is still there, leading from one gate to the pasha's palace, i.e. from E. to W. a mile long; it was originally divided by Corinthian colonnades into three avenues, of which the remains are still traced (Ac 9:11); called by the natives "the street of bazaars." The traditional localities of Ac 9:3,25; 2Co 11:33 (Paul's conversion on his way to Damascus, and his subsequent escape in a basket let down from the wall) are more than doubtful. Now es-Sham, "The East." Magnus was its bishop at the council of Nice, A.D. 325. The khalif Omar A.D. 635 took it. It fell into the hands of the Turks, its present masters, under Selim I, A.D. 1516.
1. Situation, etc.
One of the oldest cities in the world, being mentioned as a known city in the days of Abraham. Ge 14:15; 15:2. Josephus says it was founded by Uz, grandson of Shem. It is not again mentioned in scripture until the time of David. It was the capital of Syria. Isa 7:8. The Syrians of Damascus sided with Hadadezer, king of Zobah, against Israel, but David slew 22,000 of the Syrians. 2Sa 8:5. David put garrisons in Syria, and they brought him gifts. 1Ch 18:3-6. Rezon escaped and established himself at Damascus as king of Syria and was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon. 1 Kings 11:23-25.
A few years later Ben-hadad was induced by Judah to attack Baasha king of Israel, when all the land of Naphtali was smitten. 1Ki 15:16-20. About 30 years after this Benhadad II. besieged Samaria; but God wrought for their deliverance, and Ben-hadad was taken prisoner; but Ahab called him 'brother' and released him, for which he was rebuked by a prophet. 1 Kings 20. About B.C. 890 Hazael murdered Ben-hadad and became king of Syria; and we read that Jehovah began to cut Israel short and He used Hazael as His instrument. He smote all the coasts of Israel, from Jordan eastward, in Gilead and the lands of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. 2Ki 10:32-33. He took also Gath, and was only diverted from Jerusalem by Jehoash giving up the royal and temple treasures. 2Ki 12:17-18. Ben-hadad III. his son continued to exercise dominion over Israel, 2Ki 13:3-7,22; but Jehovah had compassion on Israel, and Joash, according to the dying prophecy of Elisha, overcame the king of Syria three times and recovered the cities of Israel. 2Ki 13:14-19,23-25. Jeroboam also 'restored' the coast of Israel, and recovered Damascus and Hamath, according to the prophecy of Jonah. 2 Kings 14:23-28.
About a century later, Rezin king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel attacked Ahaz and besieged Jerusalem. Ahaz sent the royal and temple treasures to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria to induce him to resist Rezin. He attacked Damascus, and took it, and carried away the inhabitants to Kir, and slew Rezin, about B.C. 740. 2Ki 16:5-9; Isa 7:1-9.
Isaiah prophesied that Damascus should be a ruinous heap, because of its confederacy with Ephraim against God's city Jerusalem. Isa 17:1: cf. also Am 1:3-5; Jer 49:23-27; Zec 9:1. God had used the kings of Syria to punish Israel; but, as in other cases, He afterwards for their arrogance and cruelty brought them to nought.
In the time of the Medo-Persian kingdom, Damascus was again rebuilt and was the most famous city of Syria; it afterwards belonged to the Greeks, and later to the Romans, and eventually to the Arabs, Saracens, and Turks.
In the N.T. Damascus is of note as the city near to which Paul was converted, and where he received his sight, and began to preach. He escaped from his enemies by being let down by the wall in a basket. Ac 9:2-27; 22:5-11. In 2Co 11:32 its inhabitants are called DAMASCENES. Damascus was the first Gentile city in which Jesus was preached as 'the Son of God;' and though it is now in possession of Muslims, yet in their great mosque a stone has been preserved that formed part of a church erected on the spot, bearing this inscription in Greek: "Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." The city is also lamentably memorable on account of the outburst of Muslim hatred in 1860, when on the 9th, 10th and 11th of July not less than 2,500 adult Christians were murdered by them in cold blood, and many besides lost their lives in their flight.
The city is beautifully situated (33 30' N, 36 18' E) at the foot of the south-east range of Antilibanus on a large plain, watered by the two rivers Barada and Awaj (the Abana and Pharpar of 2Ki 5:12), the former of which runs through the city, and may be said to be the life of the place. The plain abounds in corn-fields, olive-groves, and meadows, with vines, figs, apricots, citrons, plums, pomegranates, and other fruits. There is a long street of more than a mile in length that may well have been called 'Straight,' but is now a street of Bazaars. This was divided into rows by Corinthian columns, the remains of which can still be traced.
one of the most ancient and most important of the cities of Syria. It is situated 130 miles northeast of Jerusalem, in a plain of vast size and of extreme fertility, which lies east of the great chain of Anti-Libanus, on the edge of the desert. This fertile plain, which is nearly circular and about 30 miles in diameter, is due to the river Barada, which is probably the "Abana" of Scripture. Two other streams the Wady Helbon upon the north and the Awaj, which flows direct from Hermon upon the south, increase the fertility of the Damascene plain, and contend for the honor of representing the "Pharpar" of Scripture. According to Josephus, Damascus was founded by Uz grandson of Shem. It is first mentioned in Scripture in connection with Abraham,
whose steward was a native of the place.
At one time david became complete master of the whole territory, which he garrisoned with israelites.
It was in league with Baasha, king of Israel against Asa,
and afterwards in league with Asa against Baasha.
Under Ahaz it was taken by Tiglath-pileser,
the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria.
comp. Isai 7:8 and Amos 1:5 Afterwards it passed successively under the dominion of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans and Saracens, and was at last captured by the Turks in 1516 A.D. Here the apostle Paul was converted and preached the gospel.
Damascus has always been a great centre for trade. Its present population is from 100,000 to 150,000. It has a delightful climate. Certain localities are shown as the site of those scriptural events which specially interest us in its history. Queen's Street, which runs straight through the city from east to west, may be the street called Straight.
The house of Judas and that of Ananias are shown, but little confidence can be placed in any of these traditions.
DAMASCUS, a celebrated city of Asia, and anciently the capital of Syria, may be accounted one of the most venerable places in the world for its antiquity. It is supposed to have been founded by Ux, the son of Aram; and is, at least, known to have subsisted in the time of Abraham, Ge 15:2. It was the residence of the Syrian kings, during the space of three centuries; and experienced a number of vicissitudes in every period of its history. Its sovereign, Hadad, whom Josephus calls the first of its kings, was conquered by David, king of Israel. In the reign of Ahaz, it was taken by Tiglath Pileser, who slew its last king, Rezin, and added its provinces to the Assyrian empire. It was taken and plundered, also, by Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, the generals of Alexander the Great, Judas Maccabeus, and at length by the Romans in the war conducted by Pompey against Tigranes, in the year before Christ, 65. During the time of the emperors, it was one of the principal arsenals in Asia, and is celebrated by the emperor Julian as, even in his day, "the eye of the whole east." About the year 634, it was taken by the Saracen princes, who made it the place of their residence, till Bagdad was prepared for their reception; and, after suffering a variety of revolutions, it was taken and destroyed by Tamerlane, A.D.
1400. It was repaired by the Mamelukes, when they gained possession of Syria; but was wrested from them by the Turks, in 1506; and since that period has formed the capital of one of their pachalics. The modern city is delightfully situated about fifty miles from the sea, in a fertile and extensive plain, watered by the river which the Greeks called Chrysorrhoras, or "Golden River," but which is known by the name of Barrady, and of which the ancient Abana and Pharpar are supposed to have been branches. The city is nearly two miles in length from its north-east to its north-west extremity; but of very inconsiderable breadth, especially near the middle of its extent, where its width is much contracted. It is surrounded by a circular wall, which is strong, though not lofty; but its suburbs are extensive and irregular. Its streets are narrow; and one of them, called Straight, mentioned in Ac 9:11, still runs through the city about half a mile in length. The houses, and especially those which front the streets, are very indifferently built, chiefly of mud formed into the shape of bricks, and dried in the sun; but those toward the gardens, and in the squares, present a more handsome appearance. In these mud walls, however, the gates and doors are often adorned with marble portals, carved and inlaid with great beauty and variety; and the inside of the habitation, which is generally a large square court, is ornamented with fragrant trees and marble fountains, and surrounded with splendid apartments, furnished and painted in the highest style of luxury. The market places are well constructed, and adorned with a rich colonnade of variegated marble. The principal public buildings are, the castle, which is about three hundred and forty paces in length; the hospital, a charitable establishment for the reception of strangers, composing a large quadrangle lined with a colonnade, and roofed in small domes covered with lead; and the mosque, the entrance of which is supported by four large columns of red granite; the apartments in it are numerous and magnificent, and the top is covered with a cupola ornamented with two minarets.
Damascus is surrounded by a fruitful and delightful country, forming a plain nearly eighty miles in circumference; and the lands, most adjacent to the city, are formed into gardens of great extent, which are stored with fruit trees of every description. "No place in the world," says Mr. Maundrell, "can promise to the beholder at a distance a greater voluptuousness;" and he mentions a tradition of the Turks, that their prophet, when approaching Damascus: took his station upon a certain precipice, in order to view the city; and, after considering its ravishing beauty and delightful aspect, was unwilling to tempt his frailty by going farther; but instantly took his departure with this remark, that there was but one paradise designed for man, and that, for his part, he was resolved not to take his in this world. The air or water of Damascus, or both, are supposed to have a powerful effect in curing the leprosy, or, at least, in arresting its progress, while the patient remains in the place.
The Rev. James Conner visited Damascus in 1820, as an agent of the Church Missionary Society. He had a letter from the archbishop of Cyprus to Seraphim, patriarch of Antioch, the head of the Christian church in the east, who resides at Damascus. This good man received Mr. Conner in the most friendly manner; and expressed himself delighted with the systems and operations of the Bible Society. He undertook to encourage and promote, to the utmost of his power, the sale and distribution of the Scriptures throughout the patriarchate; and, as a proof of his earnestness in the cause, he ordered, the next day, a number of letters to be prepared, and sent to his archbishops and bishops, urging them to promote the objects of the Bible Society in their respective stations.