The Jews knew what Paul had been at Jerusalem and knew why he had come to Damascus. And now they saw him contradicting the whole previous course of his life. Yet it was evident that his conduct was not the result of a wayward and irregular impulse.
Paul's convictions never hesitated, his energy grew continually stronger, as he strove in the synagogues, maintaining the truth against the Jews, and proving that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22).
The period of the first teachings of Paul, at Damascus, does not seem to have lasted long before he had to quickly leave for Arabia. Indeed, it is evident that his life could not have been safe, had he remained. The fury of the Jews, when they had recovered from their first surprise, must have been excited to the utmost pitch. They would soon have received a new commissioner from Jerusalem armed with full powers to supersede and punish one whom they must have regarded as the most faithless of apostates.
From an unguarded part of the wall that surrounded Damascus, in the darkness of the night, probably where some overhanging houses, as is usual in Eastern cities, opened upon the outer country, they let Paul down from a window in a basket. There was something of humiliation in this mode of escape, and this, perhaps, is the reason why, in a letter written fourteen years afterwards, he specifies the details, "glorying in his infirmities," when he is about to speak of "his visions and revelations of the Lord."
Paul hurriedly but quietly left Damascus, but not to immediately return to Jerusalem. His destination was Arabia, where he was to spend three years being taught directly by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11 - 12, 15 - 18).
Journey to Arabia
Many questions have been raised concerning Paul's journey into Arabia. The first question relates to the meaning of the word. From the time when the word "Arabia" was first used by any of the writers of Greece or Rome, it has always been a term of vague and uncertain import. Sometimes it includes Damascus, sometimes it ranges over the Lebanon itself, and extends even to the borders of Cilicia.
The native geographers usually reckon that stony district, of which Petra was the capital, as belonging to Egypt, and that wide desert towards the Euphrates, where the Bedouins of all ages have lived in tents, as belonging to Syria, and have limited the name to the Peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, where Jemen, or "Araby the Blest" is secluded on the south.
In the threefold division of Ptolemy, which remains in our popular language when we speak of this still untraveled region, both the first and second of these districts were included under the name of the third. And we must suppose Paul to have gone into one of the former, either that which touched Syria and Mesopotamia, or that which touched Palestine and Egypt. If he went into the first, we need not suppose him to have traveled far from Damascus. For though the strong powers of Syria and Mesopotamia might check the tribes of Arabia, and retrench the name in this direction, yet the Gardens of Damascus were on the verge of the desert, and the city was almost as much an Arabian as a Syrian town.
And if Paul went into Petrsean Arabia, there still remains the question of his motive for the journey, and his employment when there. He could have went to preach the Gospel, and then, in the synagogues of that singular capital, which was built amidst the rocks of Edom, whence "Arabians" came to the festivals at Jerusalem (Acts 2:11) he testified of Jesus. Or, more likely, he went for the purpose of contemplation and solitary communion with God, to deepen his repentance and fortify his soul with prayer.