|Damascus - |
Activity, the most ancient of Oriental cities; the capital of Syria (Isaiah 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 (Genesis 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 Samuel 8:5; 1 Chronicles 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 Isaiah 7:8). In this, prophecy was fulfilled (Isaiah 17:1; Amos 1:4; Jeremiah 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 (Galatians 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.