Assyria and Aram-Damascus

In the first installment dealing with the rulers of Aram-Damascus, I summarized the Biblical information. This one will present a summary of the mention of these rulers in Assyrian texts. It should be noted that information from the Assyrian texts was already secondarily involved in that is has played a major part in the dating of the rulers of Israel and Judah. This emphasizes the importance of comparitive studies in trying to reconstruct events of the distant past, particularly when the evidence is scattershot between different cultures. When such a thing as a simple list of kings of Damascus is so difficult to reconstruct between the surviving data from three separate, though closely interacting, cultures, we have to recognize that we need to use all of the sources which are available, evaluate them properly, and do the best possible with them in synthesis as we can at present. More information may show up in the future to clarify the issue, and so we should always be willing to adjust conclusions based upon the available data. But the fragmentary nature of the remnants of the past should never obviate an attempt to gain meaning from them simply because they are deemed insufficient in isolation.

So, here is a summary of the mention of the kings of Aram-Damascus in the Assyrian texts:
853/2 BC: Shalmaneser III, year six: Battle of Qarqar: Adad-idri of Aram-Damascus (used for Ša-Imērišu throughout the below), Irhulenu of Hamath, Ahab the Israelite (Sir’alaya), and troops from Byblos, Egypt, Irqanatu, Arvad, Usanatu, Šianu, Arabia, and Ammon were defeated.
849/8 BC: Shalmaneser III, year ten: Adad-idri of Aram-Damascus, Irhulenu of Hamath, and twelve allies from the seashoare were defeated in battle.
848/7 BC: Shalmaneser III, year eleven: Adad-idri of Aram-Damascus, Irhulenu of Hamath, and twelve allies from the seashoare were defeated in battle.
845/4 BC: Shalmaneser III, year fourteen: Adad-idri of Aram-Damascus, Irhulenu of Hamath, and twelve allies from the seashoare were defeated in battle.
841/0 BC: Shalmaneser III, year eighteen: Haza’ilu of Aram-Damascus mustered an extensive army and fortified Mount Senir (Hermon). He was defeated, escaping to Damascus, where Shalmaneser cut down the gardens (or orchards) and destroyed numerous surrounding cities in the area. He then went to Mount Ba’alira’asi (the cape of Mount Carmel?) and received tribute from the people of Tyre and Sidon and from Jehu of Israel (Bīt-Humrî “the House of Omri”). Apparently not too long before the above engagement between Shalmaneser and Haza’ilu, “Adad-idri passed away and Haza’ilu, son of a nobody, took the throne” (RIMA3. A.0.102.40: i 25).
838/7 BC: Shalmaneser III, year twenty-one: Offensive campaign by Shalmaneser, conquering numerous cities of Haza’ilu.
806/5 BC: Adad-narari III, year five: Marched to Damascus and besieged Mari’ in it, who capitulates, paying much and allowing the choice of fineries from his palace. Received tribute from Mari’ of Aram-Damascus, and Joash the Samarian, and the people of Tyre and Sidon.
773/2 BC: Shalmaneser V, year ten: Field marshal (tartanu) Šamšī-ilu marched to Damascus, receiving from Hadiānu of Aram-Damascus much tribute, including his daughter and her dowry, and much property from the palace. Though this campaign is not dated in the inscription itself, the limmu lists include this for 773/2: “In the eponym year of Mannuki-Adad of the city Šallat: to the city of Damascus” (RIA II, p. 430, pace Sader, p. 240).
738/7 BC: Tiglath-Pileser III, year eight: Received tribute from numerous kings, including Rahianu of Aram-Damascus and Menahem of Samaria.
733/2 BC: Tiglath-Pileser III, year thirteen: Conquers Rahianu of Aram-Damascus, who apparently panicked in battle, destroying 591 cities in the 16 districts of “the wide land of the House of Hazael (Bīt-Haza’ili),” his kingdom, which extended to Gilead and Abel-[…] on the border of Israel (Bīt-Humrî “House of Omri”). These obviously refer to some of the transjordanian former territories of Israel, indicating that by this time, they were under the rule of Aram-Damascus. In Israel (Bīt-Humrî “House of Omri”) TIglath-Pileser exiles “all of its people,” to Assyria, apparently annexing all of the territory of Israel except the district immediately around the city Samaria (for the present!). He or they killed (conjectured either [a]-du-[uk-ma] or [i]-du-[ku-ma] for […]-du-[x1]-[x2], see Tadmor, p. 141, note to line 17′) Peqah. Installs Hoshea as king in Samaria. (The above is from Tadmor, Summary Inscription 4, lines 6′-7′ and 15′-17′ and Summary Inscription 9, lines 3-4 and 9-11; both are fragmentary, but similar enough that each can be used to help reconstruct the majority of the other.)

Something very interesting to note is that the Assyrians, in their predilection for the term “māt Ša-Imērišu,” “Land of His Donkeys” for the kingdom of Aram-Damascus, never referred to it before Haza’ilu/Hazael in one of the “House of…” forms, as Israel is often referred to as Bīt-Humrî, “House of Omri,” particularly “House of Hadad.” Relatedly, the kings of Aram-Damascus are never referred to in the Assyrian documents, as in the Bible they are repeatedly, as “Son of Hadad.” I suspect that the reason for this is the Assyrians finding it sacrilegious or taboo to some extent for the dynasts of Aram-Damascus to claim to be the sons of the storm god, or perhaps they found it simply audacious. However, this was perhaps a misconstrual on the Assyrians’ part, for the “Hadad” element in the Aramaic Bir-Hadad and Hebrew Ben-Hadad is more likely a hypocoristic form of the original dynastic founder’s name, Hadad-Razon, as I mentioned in the last installment, and thus only secondarily connoting the divinity. In any case, Aram-Damascus is eventually referred to as “Bīt-Haza’ili” by Tiglath-Pileser (Tadmor, Summary Inscription 4, line 7′, and Summary Inscription 9, line 3). This is understandable, as Haza’ilu/Hazael was known to have founded a new dynasty in the days of Shalmaneser III (see above under 841/0 BC).

So we have the following kings attested in the following years in Assyrian texts:
Adad-idri 853-844, Ahab of Israel 853-2, death of Adad-idri prior to 841
Haza’ilu 841-837 (or to 805), Jehu of Israel 841-0
Mari’ (if not Haza’ilu) 806-5, Joash of Israel 806-5
Hadianu 773-2
Rahianu 738-732, dies 733-2; Menahem of Israel 738-7, Pekah of Israel dead in 733-2, Hoshea of Israel begins rule in 733-2

I’ve included the various mentions of the Israelite kings in the Assyrian records alongside the Damascene kings in order to show that the synchronisms between Hebrew kings and Damascene kings indicated by the 1-2 Kings texts in the Bible are also in accord with the Assyrian information. For example, Rezin (Rahianu in the Assyrian texts) is not wrongly placed in the time of Ahab by the Biblical writers. The two sets of information together permit a reconstruction of the chronology of these Damascene kings, with the Assyrian data providing necessary chronological exactitude, and the Hebrew texts playing a secondary role in that, as dating the kings of Israel in this period is also, to a large extent, dependent upon Assyrian synchronisms. It’s a system of chronological checks and balances, which should prevent both wild excesses and require attention to details in reconstruction.

The next installment will present a synthesis of the Biblical and Assyrian information, to reconstruct a plausible chronology for the kings of Aram-Damascus, give a brief nod to the Aramaic information available on these kings, and I’ll be showing a couple of other Damascene king-lists as well, for comparison’s sake, and explain why I think they’re right or wrong.

RIMA3: A. Kirk Grayson. Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC II (858-745 BC). The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Assyrian Periods Volume 3. University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Tadmor: Hayim Tadmor. The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III King of Assyria. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994.
Sader: Hélène Sader. Les États Araméens de Syrie: depuis leur Fondation jusqu’à leur Transformation en Provinces Assyriennes. Beiruter Texte und Studien 36. Beirut, 1987.

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