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Damascus

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The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

    Damascus

    A city of Syria (Aram); Map 1:Z1. It lies in an oasis formed by the Nahr el‐Barada, which flows through the city from the anti‐Lebanon range, and the Nahr el‐Aʿwaj south of Damascus, fed by springs on Mount Hermon. These are the Abana and Pharpar of 2 Kings 5.12. The region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and the city is mentioned in nonbiblical sources by the mid‐second millennium BCE. A comprehensive history is difficult to establish because no major excavations have taken place within the city, in part because it has been continuously inhabited.

    David subjected Damascus to tribute, but only briefly (2 Sam. 5.5–8; 1 Kings 11.23–25). Several wars were fought between the Aramean kingdom and Israel and Judah, and at one time Jeroboam II conquered Damascus (2 Kings 14.28). Tiglath‐Pileser III brought it into the Assyrian empire (732 BCE), and subsequently it was under Neo‐Babylonian and Persian rule. After Alexander the Great's conquests it fell to his successors, the Seleucids, until in 85 BCE it became briefly the capital of a Nabatean kingdom. Rome conquered Syria in 65 BCE. Under the Roman empire, Damascus was considered one of the city‐states of the Decapolis.

    By the mid‐first century CE there was a Jewish community in Damascus, among whom were Christians (Acts 9.1–25). Damascus was evidently under the control of the Nabatean King Aretas IV when Paul escaped from his local governor (2 Cor. 11.32–33; cf. Acts 9.25).

    A temple of Jupiter Damascenus was built on the site of the old temple of Hadad‐Rimmon. This was superseded by the Church of Saint John the Baptist, built by Theodosius the Great (late fourth century CE), which was remodeled to become the Great Mosque.

    Sherman Elbridge Johnson

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