Damascus and surrounding area

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Genesis 14:15 He divided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and struck them, and pursued them to Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

Genesis 15:2 Abram said, "Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?"

2 Samuel 8:5 When the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.

2 Samuel 8:6 Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus; and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought tribute. Yahweh gave victory to David wherever he went.

1 Kings 11:24 He gathered men to him, and became captain over a troop, when David killed them of Zobah : and they went to Damascus, and lived therein, and reigned in Damascus.

1 Kings 15:18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of Yahweh, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants; and king Asa sent them to Ben Hadad, the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who lived at Damascus, saying,

1 Kings 19:15 Yahweh said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.

1 Kings 20:34 Ben Hadad said to him, "The cities which my father took from your father I will restore. You shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria." "I," said Ahab, "will let you go with this covenant." So he made a covenant with him, and let him go.

2 Kings 5:12 Aren't Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them, and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.

2 Kings 8:7 Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick. It was told him, saying, "The man of God has come here."

2 Kings 8:9 So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden, and came and stood before him, and said, "Your son Benhadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying,'Will I recover from this sickness?'"

2 Kings 14:28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered Damascus, and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, for Israel, aren't they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

2 Kings 16:9 The king of Assyria listened to him; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and killed Rezin.

2 Kings 16:10 King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath Pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar that was at Damascus; and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and its pattern, according to all its workmanship.

2 Kings 16:11 Urijah the priest built an altar: according to all that king Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so did Urijah the priest make it against the coming of king Ahaz from Damascus.

2 Kings 16:12 When the king was come from Damascus, the king saw the altar: and the king drew near to the altar, and offered thereon.

1 Chronicles 18:5 When the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck of the Syrians twenty-two thousand men.

1 Chronicles 18:6 Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus; and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought tribute. Yahweh gave victory to David wherever he went.

2 Chronicles 16:2 Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of Yahweh and of the king's house, and sent to Ben Hadad king of Syria, who lived at Damascus, saying,

2 Chronicles 24:23 It happened at the end of the year, that the army of the Syrians came up against him: and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people, and sent all the spoil of them to the king of Damascus.

2 Chronicles 28:5 Therefore Yahweh his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they struck him, and carried away of his a great multitude of captives, and brought them to Damascus. He was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with a great slaughter.

2 Chronicles 28:23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which struck him; and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.

Isaiah 7:8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within sixty-five years Ephraim shall be broken in pieces, so that it shall not be a people;

Isaiah 8:4 For before the child knows how to say,'My father,' and,'My mother,' the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria."

Isaiah 10:9 Isn't Calno like Carchemish? Isn't Hamath like Arpad? Isn't Samaria like Damascus?"

Isaiah 17:1 The burden of Damascus: "Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap.

Isaiah 17:3 The fortress shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria. They will be as the glory of the children of Israel," says Yahweh of Armies.

Jeremiah 49:23 Of Damascus. Hamath is confounded, and Arpad; for they have heard evil news, they are melted away: there is sorrow on the sea; it can't be quiet.

Jeremiah 49:24 Damascus has grown feeble, she turns herself to flee, and trembling has seized on her: anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her, as of a woman in travail.

Jeremiah 49:27 I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall devour the palaces of Ben Hadad.

Ezekiel 27:18 Damascus was your merchant for the multitude of your handiworks, by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches, with the wine of Helbon, and white wool.

Ezekiel 47:16 Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazer Hatticon, which is by the border of Hauran.

Ezekiel 47:17 The border from the sea, shall be Hazar Enon at the border of Damascus; and on the north northward is the border of Hamath. This is the north side.

Ezekiel 47:18 The east side, between Hauran and Damascus and Gilead, and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan; from the north border to the east sea you shall measure. This is the east side.

Ezekiel 48:1 Now these are the names of the tribes: From the north end, beside the way of Hethlon to the entrance of Hamath, Hazar Enan at the border of Damascus, northward beside Hamath, (and they shall have their sides east and west), Dan, one portion.

Ezekiel 48:1 Now these are the names of the tribes: From the north end, beside the way of Hethlon to the entrance of Hamath, Hazar Enan at the border of Damascus, northward beside Hamath, (and they shall have their sides east and west), Dan, one portion.

Amos 1:3 Thus says Yahweh: "For three transgressions of Damascus, yes, for four, I will not turn away its punishment; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron;

Amos 1:5 I will break the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven, and him who holds the scepter from the house of Eden; and the people of Syria shall go into captivity to Kir," says Yahweh.

Amos 5:27 Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus," says Yahweh, whose name is the God of Armies.

Zechariah 9:1 An oracle. The word of Yahweh is against the land of Hadrach, and will rest upon Damascus; for the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel is toward Yahweh;

Acts 9:2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 9:3 As he traveled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him.

Acts 9:8 Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

Acts 9:10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias!" He said, "Behold, it's me, Lord."

Acts 9:11 The Lord said to him, "Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying,

Acts 9:13 But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem.

Acts 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus.

Acts 9:22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

Acts 22:5 As also the high priest and all the council of the elders testify, from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and traveled to Damascus to bring them also who were there to Jerusalem in bonds to be punished.

Acts 22:6 It happened that, as I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from the sky a great light around me.

Acts 22:8 I answered,'Who are you, Lord?' He said to me,'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.'

Acts 22:10 I said,'What shall I do, Lord?' The Lord said to me,'Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.'

Acts 22:11 When I couldn't see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.

Acts 26:12 "Whereupon as I traveled to Damascus with the authority and commission from the chief priests,

2 Corinthians 11:32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of the Damascenes desiring to arrest me.

Galatians 1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus.



1. The Name

2. Situation and Natural Features

3. The City Itself

4. Its History

(1) The Early Period (to circa 950 B.C.)

(2) The Aramean Kingdom (circa 950-732 B.C.)

(3) The Middle Period (732 B.C.-650 A.D.)

(4) Under Islam

1. Name:

The English name is the same as the Greek Damaskos. The Hebrew name is Dammeseq, but the Aramaic form Darmeseq, occurs in 1 Chronicles 18:5 2 Chronicles 28:5. The name appears in Egyptian inscriptions as Ti-mas-ku (16th century B.C.), and Sa-ra-mas-ki (13th century B.C.), which W. M. Muller, Asien u. Europa, 227, regards as representing Ti-ra-mas-ki, concluding from the "ra" in this form that Damascus had by that time passed under Aramaic influence. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters the forms Ti-ma-as-gi and Di-mas-ka occur. The Arabic name is Dimashk esh-Sham ("Damascus of Syria") usually contrasted to Esh-Sham simply. The meaning of the name Damascus is unknown. Esh-Sham (Syria) means "the left," in contrast to the Yemen (Arabia) = "the right."

2. Situation and Natural Features:

Damascus is situated (33 degrees 30' North latitude, 36 degrees 18' East longitude) in the Northwest corner of the Ghuta, a fertile plain about 2,300 ft. above sea level, West of Mt. Hermon. The part of the Ghuta East of the city is called el-Merj, the "meadow-land" of Damascus. The river Barada (see ASANA) flows through Damascus and waters the plain, through which the Nahr el-Awaj (see PHARPAR) also flows, a few miles South of the city.

Surrounded on three sides by bare hills, and bordered on the East, its open side, by the desert, its well-watered and fertile Ghuta, with its streams and fountains, its fields and orchards, makes a vivid impression on the Arab of the desert. Arabic literature is rich in praises of Damascus, which is described as an earthly paradise. The European or American traveler is apt to feel that these praises are exaggerated, and it is perhaps only in early summer that the beauty of the innumerable fruit trees-apricots, pomegranates, walnuts and many others-justifies enthusiasm. To see Damascus as the Arab sees it, we must approach it, as he does, from the desert. The Barada (Abana) is the life blood of Damascus. Confined in a narrow gorge until close to the city, where it spreads itself in many channels over the plain, only to lose itself a few miles away in the marshes that fringe the desert, its whole strength is expended in making a small area between the hills and the desert really fertile. That is why a city on this site is inevitable and permanent. Damascus, almost defenseless from a military point of view, is the natural mart and factory of inland Syria. In the course of its long history it has more than once enjoyed and lost political supremacy, but in all the vicissitudes of political fortune it has remained the natural harbor of the Syrian desert.

3. The City Itself:

Damascus lies along the main stream of the Barada, almost entirely on its south bank. The city is about a mile long (East to West) and about half a mile broad (North to South). On the south side a long suburb, consisting for the most part of a single street, called the Meidan, stretches for a mile beyond the line of the city wall, terminating at the Bawwabet Allah, the "Gate of God," the starting-point of the Haj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The city has thus roughly the shape of a broad-headed spoon, of which the Meidan is the handle. In the Greek period, a long, colonnaded street ran through the city, doubtless the "street which is called Straight" (Acts 9:11). This street, along the course of which remains of columns have been discovered, runs westward from the Babesh-Sherki, the "East Gate."

Part of it is still called Derb el-Mustakim ("Straight Street"), but it is not certain that it has borne the name through all the intervening centuries. It runs between the Jewish and Christian quarters (on the left and right, respectively, going west), and terminates in the Suk el-Midhatiyeh, a bazaar built by Midhat Pasha, on the north of which is the main Moslem quarter, in which are the citadel and the Great Mosque. The houses are flat-roofed, and are usually built round a courtyard, in which is a fountain. The streets, with the exception of Straight Street, are mostly narrow and tortuous, but on the west side of the city there are some good covered bazaars. Damascus is not rich in antiquities.

The Omayyad Mosque, or Great Mosque, replaced a Christian church, which in its time had taken the place of a pagan temple. The site was doubtless occupied from time immemorial by the chief religious edifice of the city. A small part of the ancient Christian church is still extant. Part of the city wall has been preserved, with a foundation going back to Roman times, surmounted by Arab work. The traditional site of Paul's escape (Acts 9:25 2 Corinthians 11:33) and of the House of Naaman (2 Kings 5) are pointed out to the traveler, but the traditions are valueless.

The charm of Damascus lies in the life of the bazaars, in the variety of types which may be seen there-the Druse, the Kurd, the Bedouin and many others-and in its historical associations. It has always been a manufacturing city. Our word "damask" bears witness to the fame of its textile industry, and the "Damascus blades" of the Crusading period were equally famous; and though Timur (Tamerlane) destroyed the trade in arms in 1399 by carrying away the armorers to Samarcand, Damascus is still a city of busy craftsmen in cloth and wood. Its antiquity casts a spell of romance upon it. After a traceable history of thirty-five centuries it is still a populous and flourishing city, and, in spite of the advent of the railway and even the electric street car, it still preserves the flavor of the East.

4. Its History:

(1) The Early Period (to circa 950 B.C.).

The origin of Damascus is unknown. Mention has already been made (section 1) of the references to the city in Egyptian inscriptions and in the Tell el-Amarna Letters. It appears once-possibly twice-in the history of Abraham. In Genesis 14:15 we read that Abraham pursued the four kings as far as Hobah, "which is on the left hand (i.e. the north) of Damascus." But this is simply a geographical note which shows only that Damascus was well known at the time when Genesis 14 was written. Greater interest attaches to Genesis 15:2, where Abraham complains that he is childless and that his heir is "Dammesek Eliezer" (English Revised Version), for which the Syriac version reads "Eliezer the Damaschul." The clause, however, is hopelessly obscure, and it is doubtful whether it contains any reference to Damascus at all. In the time of David Damascus was an Aramean city, which assisted the neighboring Aramean states in their unsuccessful wars against David (2 Samuel 8:5 f). These campaigns resulted indirectly in the establishment of a powerful Aramean kingdom in Damascus. Rezon, son of Eliada, an officer in the army of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, escaped in the hour of defeat, and became a captain of banditti. Later he established himself in Damascus, and became its king (1 Kings 11:23). He cherished a not unnatural animosity against Israel and the rise of a powerful and hostile kingdom in the Israelite frontier was a constant source of anxiety to Solomon (1 Kings 11:25).

(2) The Aramean Kingdom (circa 950-732 B.C.).

Whether Rezon was himself the founder of a dynasty is not clear. He has been identified with Hezion, father of Tab-rimmon, and grandfather of Ben-hadad (1 Kings 15:18), but the identification, though a natural one, is insecure. Ben-hadad (Biridri) is the first king of Damascus, after Rezon, of whom we have any detailed knowledge. The disruption of the Hebrew kingdom afforded the Arameans an opportunity of playing off the rival Hebrew states against each other, and of bestowing their favors now on one, and now on the other. Benhadad was induced by Asa of Judah to accept a large bribe, or tribute, from the Temple treasures, and relieve Asa by attacking the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 15:18). Some years later (circa 880 B.C.) Ben-hadad (or his successor?) defeated Omri of Israel, annexed several Israelite cities, and secured the right of having Syrian "streets" (i.e. probably a bazaar for Syrian merchants) in Samaria (1 Kings 20:34). Ben-hadad II (according to Winckler the two Ben-hadads are really identical, but this view, though just possible chronologically, conflicts with 1 Kings 20:34) was the great antagonist of Ahab. His campaigns against Israel are narrated in 1 Kings 20:22. At first successful, he was subsequently twice defeated by Ahab, and after the rout at Aphek was at the mercy of the conqueror, who treated him with generous leniency, claiming only the restoration of the lost Israelite towns, and the right of establishing an Israelite bazaar in Damascus.

On the renewal of hostilities three years later Ahab fell before Ramoth-gilead, and his death relieved Ben-hadad of the only neighboring monarch who could ever challenge the superiority of Damascus. Further light is thrown upon the history of Damascus at this time by the Assyrian inscriptions. In 854 B.C. the Assyrians defeated a coalition of Syrian and Palestine states (including Israel) under the leadership of Ben-hadad at Karqar. In 849 and 846 B.C. renewed attacks were made upon Damascus by the Assyrians, who, however, did not effect any considerable conquest. From this date until the fall of the city in 732 B.C. the power of the Aramean kingdom depended upon the activity or quiescence of Assyria. Hazael, who murdered Ben-hadad and usurped his throne circa 844 B.C., was attacked in 842 and 839, but during the next thirty years Assyria made no further advance westward. Hazael was able to devote all his energies to his western neighbors, and Israel suffered severely at his hands. In 803 Mari' of Damascus, who is probably identical with the Ben-hadad of 2 Kings 13:3, Hazael's son, was made tributary to Ramman-nirari III of Assyria. This blow weakened Aram, and afforded Jeroboam II of Israel an opportunity of avenging the defeats inflicted upon his country by Hazael. In 773 Assyria again invaded the territory of Damascus.

Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.) pushed vigorously westward, and in 738 Rezin of Damascus paid tribute. A year or two later he revolted, and attempted in concert with Pekah of Israel, to coerce Judah into joining an anti-Assyrian league (2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:5 Isaiah 7). His punishment was swift and decisive. In 734 the Assyrians advanced and laid siege to Damascus, which fell in 732. Rezin was executed, his kingdom was overthrown, and the city suffered the fate which a few years later befell Samaria.

(3) The Middle Period (circa 732 B.C.-650 A.D.).

Damascus had now lost its political importance, and for more than two centuries we have only one or two inconsiderable references to it. It is mentioned in an inscription of Sargon (722-705 B.C.) as having taken part in an unsuccessful insurrection along with Hamath and Arpad. There are incidental references to it in Jeremiah 49:23 and Ezekiel 27:18; Ezekiel 47:16. In the Persian period Damascus, if not politically of great importance, was a prosperous city. The overthrow of the Persian empire by Alexander was soon followed (301 B.C.) by the establishment of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, with Antioch as its capital, and Damascus lost its position as the chief city of Syria. The center of gravity was moved toward the sea, and the maritime commerce of the Levant became more important than the trade of Damascus with the interior. In 111 B.C. the Syrian kingdom was divided, and Antiochus Cyzicenus became king of Coele-Syria, with Damascus as his capital. His successors, Demetrius Eucaerus and Antiochus Dionysus, had troubled careers, being involved in domestic conflicts and in wars with the Parthians, with Alexander Janneus of Judea, and with Aretas the Nabatean, who obtained possession of Damascus in 85 B.C. Tigranes, being of Armenia, held Syria for some years after this date, but was defeated by the Romans, and in 64 B.C. Pompey finally annexed the country.

The position of Damascus during the first century and a half of Roman rule in Syria is obscure. For a time it was in Roman hands, and from 31 B.C.-33 A.D. its coins bear the names of Augustus or Tiberius. Subsequently it was again in the hands of the Nabateans, and was ruled by an ethnarch, or governor, appointed by Aretas, the Nabatean king. This ethnarch adopted a hostile attitude to Paul (2 Corinthians 11:32 f). Later, in the time of Nero, it again became a Roman city. In the early history of Christianity Damascus, as compared with Antioch, played a very minor part. But it is memorable in Christian history on account of its associations with Paul's conversion, and as the scene of his earliest Christian preaching (Acts 9:1-25). All the New Testament references to the city relate to this event (Acts 9:1:25; Acts 22:5-11; 26:12, 20 2 Corinthians 11:32 Galatians 1:17). Afterward, under the early Byzantine emperor, Damascus, though important as an outpost of civilization on the edge of the desert, continued to be second to Antioch both politically and ecclesiastically. It was not until the Arabian conquest (634 A.D. when it passed out of Christian hands, and reverted to the desert, that it once more became a true capital.)

(4) Under Islam.

Damascus has now been a Moslem city, or rather a city under Moslem rule, for nearly thirteen centuries. For about a century after 650 A.D. it was the seat of the Omayyad caliphs, and enjoyed a position of preeminence in the Moslem world. Later it was supplanted by Bagdad, and in the 10th century it came under the rule of the Fatimites of Egypt. Toward the close of the 11th century the Seljuk Turks entered Syria and captured Damascus. In the period of the Crusades the city, though never of decisive importance, played a considerable part, and was for a time the headquarters of Saladin. In 1300 it was plundered by the Tartars, and in 1399 Timur exacted an enormous ransom from it, and carried off its famous armorers, thus robbing it of one of its most important industries. Finally, in 1516 A.D., the Osmanli Turks under Sultan Selim conquered Syria, and Damascus became, and still is, the capital of a province of the Ottoman Empire.

C. H. Thomson

DAMAS'CUS, the most ancient city of Syria, mentioned first in Gen. 14:15 and in such a way as to render it probable that it was in existence 1900 years Benjamin C. It is watered by the Abana which runs through the city. The Mt. Hermon range is on the w. and the great Syrian desert on the e. It is 135 ms. n.n.e. from Jerusalem, on a plain which is more than 2200 ft. above the Mediterranean. Parts of the city are built upon buried ruins. The population in 1884 was supposed to be about 200,000.
Strong's Greek
G1154: Damaskos

Damascus, a city of Syria

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