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. Syria'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 Syrians 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 over Syria 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 Syria's king Ben-hadad. 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).
The Kingdom of Israel, led by Pekah (752 - 732 B.C.), cooperated with Syria to attack the Kingdom of Judah under Ahaz (735 - 715). Their attempt to take Jerusalem, however, was unsuccessful. In response, Ahaz solicited the aid of the Assyrian Empire, which took the city of Damascus and killed its ruler (2Kings 16:1 - 9).
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.
And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
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 . . .
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
2Kings 13:3, 17
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 he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the LORD'S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.
So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me.
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.
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.
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.