Syria, Syrian

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In scripture this name mostly signifies the district lying north and north-east of Palestine, the inhabitants of which were Syrians. If from Dan to Beersheba be taken as the boundaries of Palestine, it leaves for Syria a district quite as large on its north, besides extending also to the Euphrates on the east. For the sub-divisions of Syria mentioned in scripture see ARAM.
There are but few references to the Syrians in the early part of scripture. In connection with Rebekah the wife of Isaac, Laban (grandson of Nahor, Abraham’s brother) “the Syrian” is introduced (Gen. 25:2020And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. (Genesis 25:20); Gen. 28:55And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother. (Genesis 28:5); Gen. 31:20,2420And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. (Genesis 31:20)
24And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. (Genesis 31:24)
); and an Israelite, in presenting his basket of first-fruits, was instructed to confess before the Lord, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father,” followed by a rehearsal of what God had done for the descendants of Jacob, and how He had brought them into the promised land (Deut. 26:55And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: (Deuteronomy 26:5)). The only reference to the name in the New Testament is in Luke 4:2727And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:27), where it is stated that there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but none were cured but Naaman the Syrian.
Damascus was the capital of the part of Syria which was often in conflict with Israel. It was conquered in David’s reign and was subject to Solomon; but after the division of the kingdom it revolted and was again hostile to Israel. It became merged into the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. After that it passed to the Persians, and then submitted to Alexander the Great. On his death it came under the power of Seleucus Nicator, who built Antioch and made it his capital. For many years his successors contended with the Ptolemies for the possession of Palestine. See ANTIOCHUS. In B.C. 63 Syria was conquered by Pompey, and Palestine became subject to Rome. After the decline of Rome, Syria and Palestine had many different masters, and eventually fell into the hands of the Turks, who are still their owners.
It will be seen that the physical features of Western Syria and Palestine are very similar—their natural contour indeed being the same.