The Kisan Gate in the city
Damascus, first settled in the second millennium B.C., is the capital of modern Syria. Around 1260 B.C. the city and region was the battleground for a war between the Hittites and the Egyptians. At the end of the war, the city was put under the control of Egypt's Pharaoh. The city was eventually conquered by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. After the death of Alexander, the city became the site of the struggle between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires.
In 64 B.C., the Roman general Pompey annexed the western part of Syria that included Damascus. The Romans soon occupied the city and incorporated it into a league of ten cities known as the Decapolis.
Before his conversion, the Apostle Paul actively persecuted those who believed Jesus was the Messiah. After the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6 - 7), Paul obtains direct permission from the High Priest to search for believers in Damascus' synagogues. Paul is also given authority to arrest any believers found in the synagogues and bring them bound back to Jerusalem so that they can be tried and punished.
1. Now Saul, still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2. Asking him for letters to take to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who were of that way, he might bring them bound, both men and women, to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1 - 2, HBFV).
On his way to the city Paul sees a bright light from heaven surround him, hears the voice of Jesus who calls him to repent, and is blinded. He is taken into the city by his companions. After three days without sight, Paul is healed by a man name Ananias, a believer in God, who is inspired by Jesus to visit him. After his repentance and healing Paul (Saul) is put under the waters of baptism and receives the Holy Spirit.
3. But it came to pass while he was journeying, as he drew near to Damascus, that suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. 4. And after falling to the ground, he heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" 5. And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the pricks." 6. Then, trembling and astonished, he said, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go into the city, and you shall be told what you must do."
16. For I will show him what great things he must suffer for My name." 17. Then Ananias went away and came into the house; and after laying his hands on him, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me, even Jesus, Who appeared to you on the road in which you came, so that you might receive sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18. And it was as if scales immediately fell from his eyes, and he instantly received sight; and he arose and was baptized. (Acts 9:3 - 6, 16 - 18)
Paul immediately starts to preach the gospel in Damascus. His incredible ability to prove Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) so angers the Jews in the city that they conspire to kill him (Acts 9:20-23). Paul soon learns of the death threat against him. Believers who fear for Paul's life help him escape the city, at night, by putting him in a basket and lowering him down the outside part of a city gate. The Bab Kisan (The Kisan Gate) pictured above, built during the Roman era, is believed to be the gate used to help Paul flee the city. After leaving the threats against his life the apostle travels to Arabia where, for three years, he is personally taught by Jesus (Galatians 1:11 - 12, 15 - 18).