And desired of him letters to Damascus
Damascus was the head or metropolis of Syria, ( Isaiah 7:8 ) And so Pliny F26 calls it Damascus of Syria: it was a very ancient city; it was in the times of Abraham; his servant Eliezer is said to be of it, ( Genesis 15:2 ) and some say it was built by him the said Eliezer; though Josephus F1 makes Uz, a grandson of Shem, to be the founder of it; whose surname is conjectured, by some, to be Dimshak, seeing that and Uz differ not in sense: and Justin says F2, it had its name from Damascus, the king of it, in honour of whom the Syrians made a temple of the sepulchre of his wife Arathis, and her a goddess; after Damascus, he says, Azelus, then Azores, Abraham, and Israel were kings of it. Some think it has its name from blood, and that it signifies a "sack" or bag, or, as Jerom explains, a cup of blood F3, or one that drinks blood; who says, it is a true tradition, that the field in which Abel was killed by Cain, was in Damascus F4: but it seems rather to be so called from the redness of the earth about it; for some very good writers affirm, that the earth in the fields of Damascus is like wax tinged with red lead; so if it be read Dammesek, as it commonly is, in the Arabic language, "Damma" signifies to tinge, and "Meshko" is used for "red earth"; or if "Dummesek", as it is in ( 2 Kings 16:10 ) , "Daumo", in the same language, is "permanent", what always abides, and "Meshko", as before, "red earth", and so "Dummesek" is never failing red earth; or if it be Darmesek", as in ( 1 Chronicles 18:5 ) the same with Darmsuk", it may be observed, that the Syrians call red earth "Doro sumoko": so that, upon the whole, this seems to be the best etymology of the word F5, and the rise of the name of this famous city, which Justin calls the most noble city of Syria. It is said F6 to be an hundred and sixty miles from Jerusalem. Here might be many Christians before, and others might flee hither upon this persecution; and Saul, not content with driving them from their native place, persecuted them, as he himself says, to strange cities: and that he might do this with safety to himself, and with the greater force and cruelty to them, he got letters from the high priest, and sanhedrim, at Jerusalem; either recommending him to the Jews at Damascus, and exhorting them to assist him in what he came about; or empowering him to act under his authority, or both: and these were directed to be delivered
to the synagogues;
to the rulers of them; for the Jews being numerous in this place, they had more synagogues than one. Josephus says F7, that under Nero the inhabitants of Damascus killed ten thousand Jews in their own city: and Benjamin Tudelensis F8 in his time says, there were about three thousand Jews (Pharisees), besides two hundred Karaites (or Scripturarians), and four hundred Samaritans, who lived in peace together. Now to these synagogues, and the chief men of them, was Saul recommended for assistance and direction,
that if he found any of this way;
of thinking; that were of this sect of religion, and either professed to believe, or preach, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah:
whether they were men or women;
without any fear of one, or mercy to the other:
he might bring them bound to Jerusalem;
to be examined and punished by the sanhedrim there, as they should think fit; and for this purpose he must take with him a considerable number of men; and that he had men with him is certain from ( Acts 9:7 ) .
F26 L. 36. c. 8.
F1 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 5.
F2 Ex Trogo, l. 36. c. 2.
F3 De Nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 97. F. & 101. K.
F4 Comment. in Ezek. xxvii. 18.
F5 Vid. Hiller. Onomasticum, p. 114, 115, 419, 793.
F6 Bunting's Itinerar. p. 394.
F7 De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 20. sect. 2.
F8 ltinerar. p. 56, 57.