Sycamore more properly sycomore (Heb. shikmoth and shikmim, Gr. sycomoros), a tree which in its general character resembles the fig-tree, while its leaves resemble those of the mulberry; hence it is called the fig-mulberry (Ficus sycomorus). At Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a sycomore-tree to see Jesus as he passed by (Luke 19:4). This tree was easily destroyed by frost (Ps. 78:47), and therefore it is found mostly in the "vale" (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chr. 1:15: in both passages the R.V. has properly "lowland"), i.e., the "low country," the shephelah, where the climate is mild. Amos (7:14) refers to its fruit, which is of an inferior character; so also probably Jeremiah (24:2). It is to be distinguished from our sycamore (the Acer pseudo-platanus), which is a species of maple often called a plane-tree.
Sychar liar or drunkard (see Isa. 28:1, 7), has been from the time of the Crusaders usually identified with Sychem or Shechem (John 4:5). It has now, however, as the result of recent explorations, been identified with 'Askar, a small Samaritan town on the southern base of Ebal, about a mile to the north of Jacob's well.
Sychem See SHECHEM.
Syene opening (Ezek. 29:10; 30:6), a town of Egypt, on the borders of Ethiopia, now called Assouan, on the right bank of the Nile, notable for its quarries of beautiful red granite called "syenite." It was the frontier town of Egypt in the south, as Migdol was in the north-east.
Synagogue (Gr. sunagoge, i.e., "an assembly"), found only once in the Authorized Version of Ps. 74:8, where the margin of Revised Version has "places of assembly," which is probably correct; for while the origin of synagogues is unknown, it may well be supposed that buildings or tents for the accommodation of worshippers may have existed in the land from an early time, and thus the system of synagogues would be gradually developed.
Some, however, are of opinion that it was specially during the Babylonian captivity that the system of synagogue worship, if not actually introduced, was at least reorganized on a systematic plan (Ezek. 8:1; 14:1). The exiles gathered together for the reading of the law and the prophets as they had opportunity, and after their return synagogues were established all over the land (Ezra 8:15; Neh. 8:2). In after years, when the Jews were dispersed abroad, wherever they went they erected synagogues and kept up the stated services of worship (Acts 9:20; 13:5; 17:1; 17:17; 18:4). The form and internal arrangements of the synagogue would greatly depend on the wealth of the Jews who erected it, and on the place where it was built. "Yet there are certain traditional pecularities which have doubtless united together by a common resemblance the Jewish synagogues of all ages and countries. The arrangements for the women's place in a separate gallery or behind a partition of lattice-work; the desk in the centre, where the reader, like Ezra in ancient days, from his 'pulpit of wood,' may 'open the book in the sight of all of people and read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and give the sense, and cause them to understand the reading' (Neh. 8:4, 8); the carefully closed ark on the side of the building nearest to Jerusalem, for the preservation of the rolls or manuscripts of the law; the seats all round the building, whence 'the eyes of all them that are in the synagogue' may 'be fastened' on him who speaks (Luke 4:20); the 'chief seats' (Matt. 23:6) which were appropriated to the 'ruler' or 'rulers' of the synagogue, according as its organization may have been more or less complete;", these were features common to all the synagogues.
Where perfected into a system, the services of the synagogue, which were at the same hours as those of the temple, consisted, (1) of prayer, which formed a kind of liturgy, there were in all eighteen prayers; (2) the reading of the Scriptures in certain definite portions; and (3) the exposition of the portions read. (See Luke 4:15, 22; Acts 13:14.)
The synagogue was also sometimes used as a court of judicature, in which the rulers presided (Matt. 10:17; Mark 5:22; Luke 12:11; 21:12; Acts 13:15; 22:19); also as public schools.
The establishment of synagogues wherever the Jews were found in sufficient numbers helped greatly to keep alive Israel's hope of the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel in other lands. The worship of the Christian Church was afterwards modelled after that of the synagogue.
Christ and his disciples frequently taught in the synagogues (Matt. 13:54; Mark 6:2; John 18:20; Acts 13:5, 15, 44; 14:1; 17:2-4, 10, 17; 18:4, 26; 19:8).
To be "put out of the synagogue," a phrase used by John (9:22; 12:42; 16:2), means to be excommunicated.
Syntyche fortunate; affable, a female member of the church at Philippi, whom Paul beseeches to be of one mind with Euodias (Phil. 4:2,3).
Syracuse a city on the south-east coast of Sicily, where Paul landed and remained three days when on his way to Rome (Acts 28:12). It was distinguished for its magnitude and splendour. It is now a small town of some 13,000 inhabitants.
Syria (Heb. Aram), the name in the Old Testament given to the whole country which lay to the north-east of Phoenicia, extending to beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris. Mesopotamia is called (Gen. 24:10; Deut. 23:4) Aram-naharain (=Syria of the two rivers), also Padan-aram (Gen. 25:20). Other portions of Syria were also known by separate names, as Aram-maahah (1 Chr. 19:6), Aram-beth-rehob (2 Sam. 10:6), Aram-zobah (2 Sam. 10:6, 8). All these separate little kingdoms afterwards became subject to Damascus. In the time of the Romans, Syria included also a part of Palestine and Asia Minor.
"From the historic annals now accessible to us, the history of Syria may be divided into three periods: The first, the period when the power of the Pharaohs was dominant over the fertile fields or plains of Syria and the merchant cities of Tyre and Sidon, and when such mighty conquerors as Thothmes III. and Rameses II. could claim dominion and levy tribute from the nations from the banks of the Euphrates to the borders of the Libyan desert. Second, this was followed by a short period of independence, when the Jewish nation in the south was growing in power, until it reached its early zenith in the golden days of Solomon; and when Tyre and Sidon were rich cities, sending their traders far and wide, over land and sea, as missionaries of civilization, while in the north the confederate tribes of the Hittites held back the armies of the kings of Assyria. The third, and to us most interesting, period is that during which the kings of Assyria were dominant over the plains of Syria; when Tyre, Sidon, Ashdod, and Jerusalem bowed beneath the conquering armies of Shalmaneser, Sargon, and Sennacherib; and when at last Memphis and Thebes yielded to the power of the rulers of Nineveh and Babylon, and the kings of Assyria completed with terrible fulness the bruising of the reed of Egypt so clearly foretold by the Hebrew prophets.", Boscawen.
Syriac (2 Kings 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Dan. 2:4), more correctly rendered "Aramaic," including both the Syriac and the Chaldee languages. In the New Testament there are several Syriac words, such as "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" (Mark 15:34; Matt. 27:46 gives the Heb. form, "Eli, Eli"), "Raca" (Matt. 5:22), "Ephphatha" (Mark 7:34), "Maran-atha" (1 Cor. 16:22).
A Syriac version of the Old Testament, containing all the canonical books, along with some apocryphal books (called the Peshitto, i.e., simple translation, and not a paraphrase), was made early in the second century, and is therefore the first Christian translation of the Old Testament. It was made directly from the original, and not from the LXX. Version. The New Testament was also translated from Greek into Syriac about the same time. It is noticeable that this version does not contain the Second and Third Epistles of John, 2 Peter, Jude, and the Apocalypse. These were, however, translated subsequently and placed in the version. (See VERSION.)
Syrophenician "a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation" (Mark 7:26), i.e., a Gentile born in the Phoenician part of Syria. (See PHENICIA.)
When our Lord retired into the borderland of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21), a Syro-phoenician woman came to him, and earnestly besought him, in behalf of her daughter, who was grievously afflicted with a demon. Her faith in him was severely tested by his silence (Matt. 15:23), refusal (24), and seeming reproach that it was not meet to cast the children's bread to dogs (26). But it stood the test, and her petition was graciously granted, because of the greatness of her faith (28).