Smith's Bible Dictionary


Damas'cus. 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, Gen 14:15, whose steward was a native of the place. Gen 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 16:7-9, the kingdom of Damascus brought to an end, and the city itself destroyed, the inhabitants being carried captive into Assyria. 2Ki 16:9. Compare Isa 7:8 and Amo 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. Act 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. Act 9:11. The house of Judas and that of Ananias are shown, but little confidence can be placed in any of these traditions.


Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)