I will break also the bar of Damascus
Or bars, the singular for the plural, by which the gates of the city were barred; and, being broken, the gates would be easily opened, and way made for the enemy to pass into the city and spoil it; or it may signify the whole strength and all the fortifications of it. So the Targum,
``I will break the strength of Damascus:'' and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven
or, "of an idol", as the Vulgate Latin version. It is thought to be some place where idols were worshipped by the Syrians; their gods were the gods of the valleys, which they denied the God of Israel to be, ( 1 Kings 20:23
) . Mr. Maundrell F7
says, that near Damascus there is a plain still called the valley of Bocat, and which he thinks is the same with this Bicataven, as it is in the Hebrew text; and which lies between Libanus and Antilibanus, near to the city, of Heliopolis and the Septuagint and Arabic versions here call this valley the plain of On, which Theodoret interprets of an idol called On. Father Calmet F8
takes it to be the same with Heliopolis, now called Balbec, or Baalbeck, the valley of Baal; where was a famous temple dedicated to the sun, the magnificent remains whereof are still at this day visible. Balbec is mentioned by the Arabians as the wonder of Syria; and one of their lexicographers says it is three days' journey from Damascus, where are wonderful foundations, and magnificent vestiges of antiquity, and palaces with marble columns, such as in the whole world are nowhere else to be seen; and such of our European travellers as have visited it are so charmed with what they beheld there, that they are at a loss how to express their admiration. On the southwest of the town, which stands in a "delightful plain" on the west foot of Antilibanus, is a Heathen temple, with the remains of some other edifices, and, among the rest, of a magnificent palace F9
: Some late travellers F11
into these parts tell us, that
``upon a rising ground near the northeast extremity of this "plain", and immediately under Antilibanus, is pleasantly situated the city of Balbec, between Tripoli of Syria, and Damascus, and about sixteen hours distant from each.----This plain of Bocat (they say) might by a little care be made one of the richest and most fertile spots in Syria; for it is more fertile than the celebrated vale of Damascus, and better watered than the rich plains of Esdraelon and Rama. In its present neglected state it produces grain, some good grapes, but very little wood.--It extends in length from Balbec almost to the sea; its direction is from northeast by north, to southwest by south; and its breadth from Libanus to Antilibanus is guessed to be in few places more than twelve miles, or less than six.''
It seems to be the same with Bicatlebanon, or the valley of Lebanon, ( Joshua 11:17
) ; and with that which Strabo F12
calls the hollow plain; the breadth of which to the sea (he says) is twenty five miles, and the length from the sea to the midland is double that: and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden
that is, the king from his pleasure house; or it may be understood of the name of some place in Syria, where the kings of it used sometimes to be, and had their palace there, called Betheden; and it seems there is still a place near Damascus, on Mount Libanus, called Eden, as the above traveller says; and Calmet F13
takes it to be the same that is here spoken of: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord
which last clause is added for the certainty of it, and accordingly it was punctually fulfilled; for in the times of Rezin, which was about fifty years after this prophecy of Amos, though Kimchi says but twenty five, Tiglathpileser king of Assyria came up against Damascus, took it, and carried the people captive to Kir, ( 2 Kings 16:9
) . The Targum and Vulgate Latin version call it Cyrene, which some understand of Cyrene in Egypt; see ( Acts 2:10
) ; but this cannot be, since it was in the hands of the king of Assyria; but rather Kir in Media is meant; see ( Isaiah 22:6
) ; which was under his dominion; and so Josephus says F14
, that he carried captive the inhabitants of Damascus into Upper Media.
F7 Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 119, 120. Ed. 7.
F8 Dictionary, in the word "Heliopolis".
F9 Universal History, vol. 2. p. 266.
F11 Authors of "The Ruins of Balbec".
F12 Geograph. l. 16. p. 519.
F13 Dictionary, in the word "Eden".
F14 Antiqu. l. 9. c. 12. sect. 3.