on Acts 9 :2
Letters to Damascus to the synagogues - Damascus, anciently called דמסק Damask, and דרמסק Darmask, was once the metropolis of all Syria. It was situated at fifty miles' distance from the sea; from which it is separated by lofty mountains. It is washed by two rivers, Amara or Abara, which ran through it, and Pharpar, called by the Greeks Chrysorrhoas, the golden stream, which ran on the outside of its walls. It is one of the most ancient cities in the world, for it existed in the time of Abraham, Genesis 14:15; and how long before is not known. The city of Damascus is at present a place of considerable trade, owing to its being the rendezvous for all the pilgrims from the north of Asia, on their road to and from the temple of Mecca. It is surrounded with pretty strong walls, which have nine gates, and is between four and five miles in circumference. It contains about 100,000 inhabitants, some say more, the principal part of whom are Arabs and Turks, with whom live, in a state of considerable degradation, about 15,000 Christians. Damascus, like other places of importance, has passed through the hands of many masters. It was captured and ruined by Tiglath Pileser, who carried away its inhabitants to Kin, beyond the Euphrates, about 740 years before the Christian era; and thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah 17:1-3, and that of Amos, Amos 1:4, Amos 1:5. It was also taken by Sennacherib, and by the generals of Alexander the Great. Metellus and Laelius seized it, during the war of Pompey with Tigranes; before Christ 65. It continued under the dominion of the Romans till the Saracens took possession of it, in a.d. 634. It was besieged and taken by Teemour lenk, a.d. 1400, who put all the inhabitants to the sword. The Egyptian Mamelukes repaired Damascus when they took possession of Syria; but the Turkish Emperor Selim having defeated them at the battle of Aleppo in 1516, Damascus was brought under the government of the Turks, and in their hands it still remains. In the time of St. Paul it was governed by Aretas, whose father, Obodas, had been governor of it under Augustus. Damascus is 112 miles south of Antioch; 130 N.N.E. of Jerusalem; and 270 S.S.W; of Diarbek. Longitude 37 east: latitude 33 45' north. The fruit tree called the Damascene, vulgarly Damazon, and the flower called the Damask rose, were transplanted from Damascus to the gardens of Europe; and the silks and linens, known by the name of Damasks, were probably first manufactured by the inhabitants of this ancient city.
Any of this way - That is, this religion, for so דרך derec in Hebrew, and ὁδος, hodos, in Hellenistic Greek, are often to be understood. דרך יהוה derec Yehovah, the way of the Lord, implies the whole of the worship due to him, and prescribed by himself: the way or path in which he wills men to walk, that they may get safely through life, and finally attain everlasting felicity. The Jewish writers designate the whole doctrine and practice of Christianity by a similar expression, דרך הנוצרים derec hanotsarim, the way, doctrine, or sect of the Christians.
Whether they were men or women - Provided they were Jews; for no converts had as yet been made among the Gentiles; nor did the power of the high priest and Sanhedrin extend to any but those who belonged to the synagogues. Pearce.
In every country where there were Jews and synagogues, the power and authority of the Sanhedrin and high priest were acknowledged: just as papists in all countries acknowledge the authority of the pope. And as there can be but one pope, and one conclave, so there could be but one high priest, and one Sanhedrin; and this is the reason why the high priest and sanhedrin at Jerusalem had authority over all Jews, even in the most distant countries.
on Acts 9 :2
And desired of him - This shows the intensity of his wish to persecute the Christians, that he was willing to ask for such an employment.
Letters - Epistles, implying a commission to bring them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment. From this it seems that the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem claimed jurisdiction over all synagogues everywhere.
To Damascus - This was a celebrated city of Syria, and long the capital of a kingdom of that name. It is situated in a delightful region about 120 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and about one 190 miles southeast of Antioch. It is in the midst of an extensive plain, abounding with cypress and palm-trees, and extremely fertile. It is watered by the river Barrady, anciently called "Abana," 2 Kings 5:12. About 5 miles from the city is a place called the "meeting of the waters," where the Barrady is joined by another river, and thence is divided by art into several streams that flow through the plain. These streams, six or seven in number, are conveyed to water the orchards, farms, etc., and give to the whole scene a very picturesque appearance. The city, situated in a delightful climate, in a fertile country, is perhaps among the most pleasant in the world. It is called by the Orientals themselves the "paradise on earth." It is mentioned often in the Old Testament. It was a city in the time of Abraham, Genesis 15:2. By whom it was founded is unknown. It was taken and garrisoned by David A.M. 2992, 2 Samuel 8:6; 1 Chronicles 18:6. It is subsequently mentioned as sustaining very important parts in the conflicts of the Jews with Syria, 2 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 9:11. It was taken by the Romans A.M. 3939, or about 60 years before Christ, in whose possession it was when Saul went there. It was conquered by the Saracens 713 a.d. About the year 1250, it was taken by the Christians in the Crusades, and was captured 1517 a.d. by Selim, and has been since under the Ottoman emperors.
The Arabians call this city "Damasch, or Demesch, or Schams." It is one of the most commercial cities in the Ottoman empire, and is distinguished also for manufactures, particularly for steel, hence called "Damascus steel." The population is estimated by Ali Bey at 200,000 (circa 1880's); Volney states it at 80,000; Hassel believes it be about 100,000. About 20,000 are Maronites of the Catholic Church, 5,000 are Greeks, and 1,000 are Jews. The road from Jerusalem to Damascus lies between two mountains, not above 100 paces distant from each other; both are round at the bottom, and terminate in a point. That nearest the great road is called "Cocab, the star," in memory of the dazzling light which is here said to have appeared to Saul.
To the synagogues - See the notes on Matthew 4:23. The Jews were scattered into nearly all the regions surrounding Judea, and it is natural to suppose that many of them would be found in Damascus. Josephus assures us that ten thousand were massacred there in one hour; and at another time 18,000, along with their wives and children (Jewish Wars, book 2, chapter 20, section 2; book 7, chapter 8, section 7). By whom the gospel was preached there, or how they had been converted to Christianity, is unknown. The presumption is, that some of those who had been converted on the day of Pentecost had carried the gospel to Syria. See the notes on Acts 2:9-11.
That if ... - It would seem that it was not certainly known that there were any Christians there. It was presumed that there were, and probably there was a report of that kind.
Of this way - Of this way or mode of life; of this kind of opinions and conduct; that is, any Christians.
He might bring them ... - To be tried. The Sanhedrin at Jerusalem claimed jurisdiction over religious opinions, and their authority would naturally be respected by foreign Jews.
on Acts 9 :2
9:2 Bound - By the connivance, if not authority, of the governor, under Aretas the king. See Act 9:14,24.