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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Damascus (da-măs'kus). The ancient city of Syria, 133 miles northeast of Jerusalem. It is on a fertile plain, 30 miles in diameter, with mountains on three sides. The plain is well watered by the Barada, the Chrysorrhoas (or "Golden Stream" of the Greeks, the Abana of Scripture; now El Aʾwaj, "the Crooked"), and the Pharpar of Scripture. 2 Kings 5:12. The climate is delightful; the nights are cool and the dews heavy: yet the people sleep on the flat roofs of their houses. Damascus is called by the Arabs "the Eye of the Desert" and the "Pearl of the East." It is to the Mohammedan the earthly reflection of Paradise. Travellers have vied with each other in describing the beauty of Damascus. "From the edge of the mountain range," says Stanley, "you look down on the plain.... The river Abana (the Barada), with its green banks, is seen at the bottom rushing through the cleft: it bursts forth, and as if in a moment scatters over the plain, through a circle of 30 miles, the same verdure which had hitherto been confined to its single channel.... Far and wide in front extends the level plain, its horizon bare, its lines of surrounding hills bare, all bare far away on the road to Palmyra and Bagdad. In the midst of this plain lies at your feet the vast lake or island of deep verdure, walnuts and apricots waving above, corn and grass below; and in the midst of this mass of foliage rises, striking out its wide arms of streets hither and thither, and its white minarets above the trees which embosom them, the city of Damascus. On the right towers the snowy height of Hermon, overlooking the whole scene. Close behind are the sterile limestone mountains; so that you can stand literally between the living and the dead." Sinai and Palestine, p. 410. Damascus has been called the oldest city in the world. Josephus says it was founded by Uz, a grandson of Shem; Abraham' visited it, Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2, A. V., but the R. V. reads "Dammesek Eliezer;" it was conquered by David, 2 Samuel 8:5-6; was allied with Israel and against Israel, 1 Kings 15:18; 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chronicles 16:3; was taken by Tiglath-pileser; denounced by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 49:27; and afterward seldom noticed in Old Testament history. It was surrendered to Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus, b.c. 333. In the New Testament it is noticed as the place of the scene of Paul's conversion, Acts 9:1-25; later it became the residence of a Christian bishop; was conquered by the Arabs a.d. 635; became a provincial capital of the Turkish empire, 1516; and is now the residence of a Turkish governor. It is the hot-bed of Mohammedan fanaticism. In 1860, 6000 Christians were massacred by the Moslems in cold blood, in the city and adjoining districts. It has a population of from 110,000 to 150,000. The principal street, known as Sultany, or Queen's street, runs in nearly a straight line from east to west, and is supposed to be the same as the street called "Straight" in Acts 9:11.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Damascus'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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