Damascus: 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
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.