The Syrians of the Old Testament were a Semitic race (cf. Gen. 10.22), descendants of Aram, Abraham's great-nephew (Gen. 22.20-21). It was from this group of people that the Aramaic language, spoken by Jesus, originated.
By the New Testament era, however, the people of “Syria” represented a much wider class of people living in the territory, whether descendants of Aram or not (Mt. 4.24). The Aramaeans of Naaman's time (ca. 850 B.C.) inhabited the region to the northeast of Israel, with Damascus serving as its capital.
Naaman “the Syrian” (Lk. 4.27) sought cleansing from his leprosy, for which he was sent to Elisha, the prophet. The man of God instructed him to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman reasoned that the rivers of his homeland, Abanah and Pharpar, were much “better” (cleaner) to wash in than muddy Jordan (v. 12).
The Abanah (modern Nahr Barada), the most important river in Damascus,
“divides into seven branches which further subdivide, making the entire Damascus plain a garden spot” (Baker's Bible Atlas, 126).
However, the Syrian captain soon came to understand that the power to heal his leprosy came not from water, but through faithful obedience to the commands of God (vv. 14-15).