"COME, NOW, AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAYS THE LORD" (ISAIAH 1.18)
—"The one reading, be understanding!" (Mk. 13.14; Mt. 24.15)
Brief studies and devotionals designed to elucidate the meaning of Scripture, increase our faith, and enable us to draw closer to God. To learn more about this column, see: "01—The Bible Was Written To Be Understood."
Before his conversion, Saul characterized himself as “exceedingly enraged against” the Christians, persecuting them “even to foreign cities” (Acts 26.11). Damascus (the capital of Syria), although within Roman jurisdiction, was outside Jewish purview, and would be the last “foreign city” to which persecuting Saul would go seeking to destroy the church.
The city was located “about 140 miles to the northeast [of Jerusalem] and the travel would take almost a week” (Jackson, Acts, 101-102). His route, beginning in Jerusalem, likely took him through Jericho to the east, across the Jordan river, through the regions of Perea and Decapolis, bypassing Samaria and Galilee altogether.
Damascus is “reputed to be the oldest continually occupied city in the world” (Baker's, 213). It was renown for its beauty and fertility — a veritable garden spot — due to its many waters, chief among which was the seven-streamed Abana, to which Naaman the leper made reference centuries earlier (cf. 2 Kings 5.1ff). “Travelers of every age and of every nationality have celebrated the gardens and orchards, the running waters and the fountains of Damascus, and as the Arab passes from the burning desert to its cooling streams and rich verdure, it is not surprising that he hails it as an earthly paradise” (The Expositor's Greek Testament, 229).
It is not known precisely where the Lord met Saul, but the text indicates it was “near Damascus” (Acts 9.3). Some estimate it was “about a mile from the town,” while others suggest it was just outside one of the gates (Barnes, Acts, 154).