Over the past several months, the nation of Syria—especially its capital, Damascus—has come to the forefront of the news. For many of us, “Syria” is just another name of another place in the Middle East that is going through upheaval. So, what can we learn if we look more closely at conflict in Syria, its place in history and what the Bible says about it?
Last month, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking of a “sweeping new international agreement” to bring the Syrian conflict to a peaceful close, said, “There is no guarantee that we are going to be successful. I just hate to say that.” What is behind her statement? Is she right?
Syria’s future—and that of Damascus, its capitol—may be in doubt. But the history is long and complex. Notice: “Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., Damascus was an important cultural and commercial centre, by virtue of its geographical position at the crossroads of the Orient and the Occident, between Africa and Asia. The old city of Damascus is considered to be among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.”
The Bible supports this account, for we are told very early in Scripture that Damascus was already established. You may recall Abram coming into the land of Canaan with Lot. Strife arose between them, resulting in the separation of their families. Time passed, and Lot was taken captive. Abram gave chase and attacked by night, and we read that he pursued his attackers “as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). In the next chapter, we are told that Abram had family in that area. In fact, he was Abram’s only heir before the birth of Isaac: “The heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus” (Genesis 15:2). We can determine from Scripture that Abram was alive around 2000bc, which is consistent with accounts of Damascus having been founded ca. 3000bc-2500bc.
The historical record reveals that, although Damascus was attacked many times by many different enemies, this city that is now “among the oldest continually inhabited” was never abandoned. And it is mentioned 60 times in the pages of your Bible.. Starting with Abram’s account, we can find the city mentioned again and again throughout history. David, who lived between 1010-970bc, encountered Syrians from Damascus (2 Samuel 8:5-6). Solomon, Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah all mention Damascus as being inhabited and doing well.
The New Testament shows that Damascus was thriving in the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles. In the book of Acts we find Saul (who would later become Paul) asking for “letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). Later, the governor of Damascus wanted to arrest the converted Paul, who was lowered in a basket to escape (2 Corinthians 11:32) ca. 56ad.
But what should this matter to us today? Damascus was inhabited since the third millennium before Christ—but, “So what?” Consider that the same Bible that recounts the past, corroborated by history, also contains prophecy that reveals the future! We read: “The burden against Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1).
Damascus has never been destroyed, so we know this is a prophecy for the future. So, how will its destruction come about? To learn more about end-time prophecy and how it will affect not just those in Syria but indeed all those alive at the end of this age, read our powerful booklets, The Middle East in Prophecy and The Bible: Fact or Fiction? They will help you see more clearly than ever that the Bible is not just a verifiable account of the past—it is a sure and accurate warning of our future!