Bible Meaning: The highland, exalted
Strong's Concordance #H758, #G4947
The Biblical term Syria comes from the Hebrew word "Aram" (Strong's #H758). The Arameans were some of the earliest settlers who populated the area between Israel and Mesopotamia. The area's center of power was the city of Damascus.
A love - hate relationship
The kings of Zobah, who were from Syria and enemies of Israel, were soundly defeated by King Saul (1Samuel 14:47).
King David defeated the people of Bethrehob and Zoba who, along with others, were hired by the Ammonites to fight alongside them against Israel (2Samuel 10). The result of the defeat was that a large part of Syria, including Damascus, was made subject to David (2Samuel 8:3 - 8, 10:19).
God raised up adversaries to King Solomon due to his sins of polygamy, marrying foreign wives, allowing his wives to worship pagan deities and indulging himself in idolatry. One of these was Rezon who, during his reign from Damascus, was a hardened enemy of Israel (1Kings 11:23 - 25).
King Asa of Judah (910 - 869 B.C.) emptied both Jerusalem's temple and his royal treasuries of its silver and gold in order to solicit the help of King Ben-hadad of Syria. Asa wanted Ben-hadad, who resided in Damascus, to remove the threat of Israel's king Baasha (908 - 886 B.C.) from him. The Syrians were able to successfully attack several Israelite cities, causing Baasha to halt his aggressive actions (1Kings 15:18 - 22).
Syria later threatened to conquer the Kingdom of Israel, ruled by King Ahab (874 - 853 B.C.), when it attacked Samaria. God, however, intervened and caused Israel's enemy to be defeated (1Kings 20). Later Israel, led by Pekah (752 - 732 B.C.), cooperated with their enemy to attack the Kingdom of Judah under Ahaz (735 - 715).
New Testament references
Syria, in the New Testament, is referenced by name eight times (Matthew 4:24, Luke 2:2, Acts 15:23, 41, 18:18, 20:3, 21:3 and Galatians 1:21). It encompassed an area that included the cities of Damascus, Antioch, Tyre and Sidon, as well as the region of Phoenicia. It became a Roman province in 64 B.C.
Syrian Antioch, the capital of the province, is one of the first major cities where early Christianity flourished (Acts 11:19 - 26). The city was the first place where the Apostle Paul's help was solicited to teach new believers. Antioch also marked the first time Barnabas and Paul worked together to spread the gospel and the location where the term Christian was originally used to denote those who believed Jesus was the Messiah.
Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.
Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and king Asa sent them to Benhadad, the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying . . .
2Kings 13:3 - 4
And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael, all their days. And Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him: for he saw the oppression of Israel . . .
And his (Jesus') fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy: and he healed them.
Acts 18:1, 18
After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth . . . And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila: having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.
Acts 21:2 - 3
And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we (Apostle Paul and company) went aboard, and set forth. Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.