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damascus Summary and Overview

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damascus in Easton's Bible Dictionary

activity, the most ancient of Oriental cities; the capital of Syria (Isa. 7:8; 17:3); situated about 133 miles to the north of Jerusalem. Its modern name is Esh-Sham; i.e., "the East." 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 (Gen. 14:15). It was the native place of Abraham's steward (15:2). It is not again noticed till the time of David, when "the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer" (q.v.), 2 Sam. 8:5; 1 Chr. 18:5. In the reign of Solomon, Rezon became leader of a band who revolted from Hadadezer (1 Kings 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 (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 16:7-9; compare Isa. 7:8). In this, prophecy was fulfilled (Isa. 17:1; Amos 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 (Acts 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 (Gal. 1:16, 17). Christianity was planted here as a centre (Acts 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.

damascus in Smith's Bible Dictionary

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, #Ge 14:15| whose steward was a native of the place. #Ge 15:2| At one time david became complete master of the whole territory, which he garrisoned with israelites. #2Sa 8:5,6| It was in league with Baasha, king of Israel against Asa, #1Ki 15:19; 2Ch 16:3| and afterwards in league with Asa against Baasha. #1Ki 15:20| Under Ahaz it was taken by Tiglath-pileser, #2Ki 16:7,8,9| the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria. #2Ki 16:9| 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. #Ac 9:1-25| 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. #Ac 9:11| The house of Judas and that of Ananias are shown, but little confidence can be placed in any of these traditions.

damascus in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

DAMAS'CUS , the most ancient and famous city of Syria, 133 miles north-east of Jerusalem, at the base of Anti-Lebanon mountains. It is on a fertile plain 30 miles in diameter, with mountains on three sides. The plain is well watered by the Barada, the Chrysorrhoas (or "Golden Stream") of the Greeks, the Abana of Scripture; and El A'waj ("the crooked"), the Pharpar of Scripture. 2 Kgs 5:12. These streams flow into meadow-lakes 18 miles east of the city. Damascus lies 2260 feet above the sealevel. The climate is delightful; frost is not uncommon in winter, but fireplaces are unknown; in summer the thermometer marks 100 F to 104 F but the nights are cool and the dews heavy; yet the people sleep on the flat roofs of their houses. Damascus is called by the Arabs "the Eye of the Desert" and the "Pearl of the East." It is to the Mohammedan the earthly reflection of paradise. The chief cause of its beauty and fertility is the abundance of water, which calls forth a most luxuriant vegetation round about the city, and makes it a blooming oasis in the midst of a vast desert. History. -Damascus is called the oldest city in the world; said by Josephus to have been founded by Uz, a grandson of Shem; Abraham visited it, Gen 14:15; Gen 15:2; it was conquered by David, 2 Sam 8:5-6; was allied with Israel and against Israel, 1 Kgs 15:18, Ruth 4:20; 2 Chr 16:3; was taken by Tiglath-pileser; Wall of Damascus.(From, Conybeare and Howson's "St. Paul.") denounced by Jeremiah. Jer 49:27; and afterward seldom noticed in O.T. history. It was surrendered to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus, b.c. 333. In the N.T. it is noticed as the place of the scene of Paul's conversion, Acts 9:1-25; later it became the residence of a Christian bishop; was conquered by the Arabs, a.d. 635; attacked by the Crusaders, A.D. 1126: several times besieged; was taken by the Mongols, 1260; plundered by the Tartars, 1300; attacked by Timour, 1399, to whom it paid a million pieces of gold; became A provincial capital of the Turkish empire, 1516; and is now the residence of a Turkish governor. It is the hot-bed of Mohammedan fanaticism. In 1860, 6000 Christians were massacred by the Moslems in cold blood, in the city and adjoining districts. Present Condition. -Though twelve times pillaged and burned, it now extends on both sides of the Barada, and has a population of from 110,000 to 150,000. The most remarkable building is the Great Mosque, which was once a Byzantine church dedicated to John the Baptist. The principal street, known as Sultany, or Queen's street, runs in nearly a straight line from east to west, and is supposed to be the same as the street called "Straight" in Acts 9:11. The traditional sites of the houses of Naaman and Ananias and the place in the wall where Paul was let down in a basket are still pointed out. No less than four places near the city have been claimed as the scene of Paul's conversion. The Presbyterian Church of Ireland maintains a Protestant mission there, which has several substantial buildings and labors among the Greeks and the Jews. There is also an Episcopal mission and chapel in Damascus.

damascus in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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 Genesis 14:15; Genesis 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 2 Samuel 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" (1 Chronicles 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 (1 Kings 11:23-25), and was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon. Hadad's family recovered the throne; or else frontBENHADAD I, who helped Baasha against Asa and afterward Asa against Baasha, was grandson of Rezon. He "made himself streets" in Samaria (1 Kings 20:34), so completely was he Israel's master. His son, Benhadad II, who besieged Ahab (1 Kings 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 (2 Kings 8:10-15; 1 Kings 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 (2 Kings 8:28), ravaged Gilead, the land of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh (2 Kings 10:32-33); took also Gath, and was only diverted from Jerusalem by Jehoash giving the royal and the temple treasures (2 Kings 12:17-18). (See HAZAEL.) Benhadad his son continued to exercise a lordship over Israel (2 Kings 13:3-7; 2 Kings 13:22) at first; but Joash, Jehoahaz' son, beat him thrice, according to Elisha's dying prophecy (2 Kings 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" (2 Kings 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" (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 15:57; 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 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 (2 Kings 16:6-9; 2 Kings 16:17; Isaiah 7:14-25; Isaiah 8:6-10; Isaiah 10:9). The people of Damascus were carried captive to Kir, as Amos (Amos 1:5) foretold, the region from which they originally came, associated with Elam (Isaiah 22:6), probably in Lower Mesopotamia = Kish or Cush, i.e. eastern Ethiopia, the Cissia of Herodotus (G. Rawlinson). Isaiah (Isaiah 17:1) and Amos (Amos 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 (Jeremiah 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 (2 Corinthians 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" (Ezekiel 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 (Acts 9:11); called by the natives "the street of bazaars." The traditional localities of Acts 9:3; Acts 9:25; 2 Corinthians 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.