Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Damascus is “the oldest continually-inhabited city in the world and capital of Syria, located northeast of the Sea of Galilee.
“Damascus was situated on the border of the desert at the intersection of some of the most important highways in the ancient Near Eastern world. Three major caravan routes passed through Damascus. Major roads extended from the city to the southwest into Canaan and Egypt, straight south to Edom and the Red Sea, and east to Babylonia. Because of this ideal location, the city became a trade centre. Its major exports included a patterned cloth called ‘damask’. Egypt, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, as well as Canaan, were some of the trade neighbours that made Damascus the ‘heart of Syria’. Damascus owed its prosperity to two rivers, the Abana and the Pharpar. These rivers provided an abundant source of water for agriculture. …

“In 64BC, the Romans invaded Syria, making it a province with Damascus as the seat of government. … During [the time of Saul’s conversion and ministry], the city was part of the kingdom of Aretas, an Arabian prince who held his kingdom under the Romans.”

[From Youngblood, R.F. (ed) (1986) “Damascus” Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary.]

While Damascus is generally considered part of Syria, when Paul spoke of his three years in Arabia and Damascus before he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter (Galatians 1:17-18), this may have meant that he was in the region close to Damascus for the entire time, because Damascus was at the time part of a Roman-controlled Arabian principality.

Straight Street in Damascus, in modern times:[Image from Youngblood, R.F. (ed) (1986) Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary p323.]

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