The Sons of Hadad

In two previous posts, I presented the most useful Biblical information regarding the kings of ancient Damascus (Rulers of Aram-Damascus), and then the relevant Assyrian evidence for these kings (Assyria and Aram-Damascus). In this installment, I’ll touch briefly on the current Old Aramaic evidence, present several other writers’ syntheses, and finally present my own suggestion for a king list and chronology of the kings of Aram-Damascus, which I find makes the best sense of all the evidence.

Old Aramaic Evidence
No excavations have occurred within the ancient walled city of Damascus, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. A hill within the line of the old city walls (which follow almost exactly the line of the Roman period walls) roughly 200 meters south-southeast of the Umayyad Mosque and rising 5-6 meters above the level of the streets is likely the tel of the old palace (Pitard 1987, 4-5). Currently there is very little direct evidence in Old Aramaic concerning the kings of ancient Damascus, only five inscriptions: The Zakkur Inscription (COS 2.35), the Tel Dan Stele (COS 2.39), and several inscriptions on ivory inlays and bronze horse blinders (COS 2.40). The Zakkur Inscription is important in that it relates that the king Zakkur of Hamath and Lu`ash was besieged in the city of Hazrach (the Hadrach of Zechariah 9.1; Hatarikka of Tiglath-Pileser III; and the modern Afiz) by “Bar-Hadad son of Hazael” and seventeen other kings, but the siege was “miraculously” broken off (perhaps by the arrival of the Assyrian army, to be dated to 772 B.C., in the first year of Aššur-Dan III, as is known otherwise only from the eponym canon (cf. Pitard 1987, 170-174, who disagrees on the date). From this, however, we learn that (as in the Bible), the ruler known to the Assyrians as Hadiānu was also known by the dynastic patronym “Son of Hadad.” If the siege of Hazrach is to be dated to 772 B.C., as is quite likely, then this mention of the “Son of Hadad” being able to lead an army of seventeen other kings the year after Shalmaneser V of Assyrian subjected him indicates the extraordinary resilience of the rulers of Aram-Damascus. The Tel Dan Stele fragments do not preserve the name of the king of Aram-Damascus to have erected the stele, so it is of no use to us on this particular subject. We can only hope that in the future further fragments of this fascinating stele are discovered, as it appears to present, according to current understanding, an alternate account of the coup of Jehu of Israel and the deaths of the kings Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah described in 2 Kings 9–10. The Hazael Booty Inscriptions (so-named in COS) are a set of well-traveled inscribed items that were discovered in various locations: the Aegean island of Samos, mainland Greece at Eretria in Euboea, at Arslan Tash which is the ancient Hadatu, and in the ruins of Nimrud which is the ancient Assyrian city Kalhu (the Calah of Genesis 10.11-12). The name of the collection refers to the likely correct suggestion that the items were acquired as loot by Hazael and then dedicated to one or more temples, and/or incorporated into his possessions in the palace in Damascus. The lengthiest of these inscriptions is found on a pair of bronze horse blinders (found separately in Samos and Eretria; see COS 2.40 A): “That which Hadad gave to our lord Hazael from `Amq in the year when our lord crossed the river.” The other two inscriptions are on ivory pieces, and fragmentary, though both preserve complete the name of Hazael. In summary, none of our current Old Aramaic evidence alone is useful toward the purpose of reconstruction a chronology of the kings of Aram-Damascus except in a very general manner.

One interesting aspect that deserves investigation is the use of the dynastic patronymic titular “Son of Hadad” for ruling kings of Aram-Damascus. If the usage follows that representative of other Aramaic kingdoms as reflected in the Assyrian sources, then only the current ruling dynast would bear the dynastic patronymic. The interesting case of Ahunu of Bīt-Adini is illustrative, as described in this post. Ahunu lost his dynastic patronymic, not just in reality but even in the Assyrian narrative of the event, once he abandoned his city and throne. We should understand by this usage that the Biblical texts referring to Ben-Hadad indicate sources were used that reflect precisely this practice, that the dynastic patronymic is only appropriate to the living, ruling, dynast. That is, the sources for some or all of these mentions of Ben-Hadad in 1-2 Kings (and only secondarily 1-2 Chronicles, as Chronicles is so obviously based upon Kings as to hardly reflect an independent witness) dated to within the lifetimes of the kings so named. (This is appropriate to a periodic supplementary editing of what I prefer to call The Prophetic History, but is typically called the Deuteronomistic History; but more on that some other time.)

Following are several schema presenting a king list and chronology of the kings of Aram-Damascus, with some short commentary.

Sader, 288:
Rezon fils de Elyadaʿ contemporain de Salomon ca. 965-926
Ḥezion ca. 900
Ṭabrimmon ca. 890
Bar-Hadad I ca. 880-865
Adad-idri ca. 865-842
Hazaël ca. 842-805
Mariʾ fils de Hazaël ca. 805-800
Bar-Hadad II fils de Hazaël ca. 800-775
Ḫadianu ca. 775-750
Raḫianu ca. 750-732

This is close to the king list that I would suggest, except for the inclusion of “Mariʾ fils de Hazaël” and separating “Bar-Hadad II fils de Hazaël” from “Ḫadianu.” She discusses various solutions proposed in the past, the most popular of which was apparently to identify “Mariʾ” with the “Bar-Hadad son of Hazael” of the Zakkur Inscription (Sader 258-260). She further takes both Mariʾ” and “Bar-Hadad” to be personal names, rather than, in the case of the former, an Assyrian misunderstanding of listing an Aramaic title, “Marēʾ,” “Lord” as particularly seen in the Hazael Booty Inscriptions noted above (see Cogan and Tadmor, 143). Relatedly, the Assyrian data in combination with the Biblical data indicate that Hazael was still on the throne of Damascus at the time mention is made of this “Mariʾ” in year five of Adad-narari III, 806/5 B.C. “Mariʾ” is thus Hazael. With the elimination of “Mariʾ” as a separate king, and adjusting the dates of her “Bar-Hadad II” to c. 805-775, I think we’re very much in the ballpark with this chronology, and close as well with this list of kings. I would otherwise depart from her list by identifiying “Bar-Hadad II” with “Ḫadianu.”

Pitard (1987: 144, 189):
Rezon mid-tenth century
Ḥazyān (Hezion) late-tenth century
Ṭab-Rammān late-tenth/early-ninth century
Bir-Hadad I early-ninth
Hadad-ʿiḏr mid-ninth century–ca. 844
(Bir-Hadad II)? ca. 844/842
Hazael ca. 844/842–ca. 800
Bir-Hadad III early eighth century
Ḥadiānu second quarter of eighth century
Raḏyān mid-eighth century–732

Pitard’s “(Bir-Hadad II)?” is based solely upon 2 Kings 8.7-15, which describes the assassination of Ben-Hadad by Hazael, and the latter’s usurpation of the throne. Assyrian records do not indicate any king reigning between Adad-idri (the Ben-Hadad of 2 Kings 8.7-15, etc) and Haza’ilu (Hazael). It is unnecessary to posit one, but is apparently done because of the lingering preference to understand “Bir-Hadad” as a personal name of the king rather than typical Aramaean dynastic titulary. Relatedly, he inserts a “Bir-Hadad III” between Hazael and Ḥadiānu, thinking that the Zakkur Inscription requires it because he takes “Bir-Hadad” as a personal name. Curious, too, is his avoidance of showing in this list that the name of the successor of Rezon, Ḥazyān (Hezion), is also that of the penultimate king, though he is aware of it in the text (pp. 104-107). Also, I find Pitard’s dates to be unnecessarily vague for all the kings after the first few, the ones for whom such hedging is certainly warranted. So, Sader’s list and Pitard’s both include two extra kings.

Cambridge Ancient History
Volume 3, Part 1, covering the Near East during the tenth to eighth centuries B.C. presents the following dates in chronological table 2. The Neo-Hittite States of Syria and Anatolia (p. 896):
Rezon c. 950
Ben Hadad I
Ben Hadad II (Adad-idri) *853-845
Hazael *841-838
Ben Hadad III (Mari) *798?
Khadianu *773
Rezin (Rakhianu) *738-732
The asterisked dates indicate solely dates of attestation in the Assyrian records for these kings, similar to the summary I gave in my post on the Assyrian evidence, where I gave the attestation of these kings and contemporary Hebrew kings in calendar years. The CAH identifies “Mari” with “Ben Hadad III.” It is unclear why redating the “Mari of Damascus” campaign from Adad-Narari’s fifth to ninth year is warranted, unless this is a mistaken reference to eponym list entry for 796 “to Mansuate,” which is presumed to be the campaign in which Damascus was reduced; others hold this to have occurred in the fifth year of Adad-narari, as is explicitly stated in the Tell ar-Rimah stele (RIMA3 A.0.104.6), despite its peculiarities. So again, in any case, there are two too many kings in the list from CAH.

Cogan and Tadmor (Cogan 2001; Cogan and Tadmor 1988)
Although they don’t provide a list and discrete chronology for the various kings of Aram-Damascus, cogent discussion of the issues is presented in both Cogan’s 1 Kings commentary and Cogan and Tadmor’s 2 Kings commentary, both in the Anchor Bible series. In particular, Cogan objects to the redating of 1 Kings 20 and 22 to the reign of another, later king of Israel than Ahab (Cogan 2001, 471-4). Relatedly, however, Cogan and Tadmor equate the Ben-hadad of 2 Kings 6.24 with Ben-hadad III, successor to Hazael (p. 78-79), because it is only in the later period that the Damascene king’s force is considered sufficiently superior to that of Israel to enforce such a protracted siege. This doesn’t quite follow, as Ben-hadad II is explicitly identified with Adad-idri in the paragraph preceding their suggestion for redating the siege of 2 Kings 6-7, the same Adad-idri who was able to fend off the great Shalmaneser III for nearly a decade. Such a king would have no problem besieging Samaria. There is no reason, other than a fascination with such tinkering and the invention of a problem to justify it, to require that the siege narrative is displaced. Otherwise, Tadmor and Cogan manage to provide excellent summaries of the discussions regarding these kings, and present very likely scenarios based upon the intersection of Assyrian and Biblical evidence for relations between Assyria, Aram-Damascus, Israel and Judah during the time in question.

Summary and Conclusions
Based upon the information in the previous two posts and all of the above, I would suggest the following king list and rough chronology for the kings of Aram-Damascus:
Rezon, son of Eliada c. 970-930
Hezion I c. 930-910
Tabrimmon c. 910-890
Ben Hadad I, son of Tabrimmon c. 890-870
Ben Hadad II (=Hadadezer) c. 870-842
Hazael c. 842-805
Ben Hadad III (Hezion II) c. 805-770
Rezin c. 770-732
It is only through the intersection of the Biblical and Assyrian texts that the above is able to be constructed. The first four kings are known only from the Biblical texts. The latter four are known to both, though with differing names for two: the Adad-idri of the Assyrian texts, equivalent to the name Hadadezer, is referred to in the Bible only as Ben Hadad. Similarly, the Ḫadianu of the Assyrian texts, equivalent to the name Hezion, is only referred to in the Bible as Ben Hadad, and is also attested in our very slender Old Aramaic evidence as Bir Hadad son of Hazael in the Zakkur Inscription. As described in the earlier post on the Biblical information, the dates suggested above provide appropriate ranges based upon relations of these various Damascene kings with those of Israel and Judah. Relatedly, the dates of attestation for these kings in the Assyrian evidence is satisfied. And while some of these reigns may seem to be rather long, roughly forty years, it should be noted that such a powerful state as Aram-Damascus may have found in the stability of a lengthy rule the foundation that enabled it to be so strong and so resilient, particularly in the face of the Assyrian menace. Notice the weakness of the states of Israel and Judah with their constantly changing kings and dynasties. Their periods of greatest wealth and power always occur in the reigns of the longer-lasting kings, not so surprisingly.

This king list and dates will need to remain flexible until more data is discovered, preferably some primary data from Iron Age Damascus itself, but the above suggestion is, I think, the one that makes best use of all the data.

Boardman, John, I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond and E. Sollberger, editors.
1982 The Prehistory of the Balkans; and the Middle East and the Aegean World, tenth to eighth centuries B.C. Volume 3, Part 1 of The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press.
Cogan, Mordechai.
2001 I Kings. Anchor Bible 10. New York: Doubleday.
Cogan, Mordechai and Hayim Tadmor.
1988 II Kings. Anchor Bible 11. New York: Doubleday.
Hallo, William W, editor.
2000 Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World. Volume 2 of The Context of Scripture. Leiden: Brill.
Pitard, Wayne T.
1987 Ancient Damascus: A Historical Study of the Syrian City-State from Earliest Times until its Fall to the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
1992a “Aram (PLACE),” I:338-341 in Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. Doubleday.
1992b “Ben-Hadad,” 1:663-665 in Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. Doubleday.
1992c “Damascus: Pre-Hellenistic History,” 2:5-7 in Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. Doubleday.
1992d “Hazael,” 3:83-84 in Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. Doubleday.
1992e “Rezin,” 5:708-709 in Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. Doubleday.
Sader, Hélène
1987 Les États Araméens de Syrie: depuis leur Fondation jusqu’à leur Transformation en Provinces Assyriennes. Beiruter Texte und Studien 36. Beirut: Beiruter Texte und Studien.

The Good Samaritan

I went down from Jerusalem, slipping away from the commandments which Thou hast written there for all the nations; and I journeyed to Jericho, yielding to my lusts like the dwellers there of old, whom Thou gavest to be slaughtered by Thy people because of their sins. Through my disobedience I fell into soul-destroying passions as though into the hands of thieves; beating me, they left me almost dead. O Lord, who for the sins of men willingly wast wounded in Thy body by the nails and the spear, who hast brought to pass the salvation of us all through the Cross in Jerusalem, heal me and save me.

From the Eastern Orthodox Vespers service for Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, Tone Eight. Text from The Lenten Triodion Supplementary Texts (Monastery of the Veil of the Mother of God, 1979).

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.

Rulers of Aram-Damascus

I recently read Wayne Pitard’s fascinating book Ancient Damascus: A Historical Study of the Syrian City-State from Earliest Times until its Fall to the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. (Eisenbrauns, 1987). It’s great to have such a handy guide to the history of this city. Of course, most of the history is that which is gleaned from texts (minimalists may need to reach for smelling salts at this point), including the Bible! In fact, quite shockingly, no excavations of ancient Damascus have ever taken place. Our information about the history of the city and its rulers and their role in history has all come from elsewhere, specifically precisely these three sources: 1.) the Bible, 2.) Assyrian texts, 3.) two Aramaic inscriptions. That’s it. And of the three, the Bible provides the most information on the rulers of Aram-Damascus, with the Assyrian texts mentioning only the last three, or perhaps four. One Aramaic inscription (the Zakkur Stele) is helpful for input on only a single incident, while the other is the Tel Dan Stele, which is so fragmentary, and whose reading is currently so controverted, that it is not precisely very helpful. The Tel Dan Stele had not been excavated when Pitard wrote, though he does cover the Zakkur Stele. It’s primarily through the intersection of the Hebrew and Assyrian materials that an outline can be established of the history of the rulers of Aram-Damascus, the kingdom known to the Assyrians as māt Ša-Imērišu, The Land of His Donkeys. (That name always gives me a smile. And no, no one knows exactly why it’s called that by the Assyrians, who weren’t exactly known for their sense of humor.)

In any case, I decided that it would be useful to work through some of the data myself, since I found some of Pitard’s solutions somewhat unconvincing. I’ve examined all the Biblical references and the Assyrian royal inscriptions dealing with the rulers of Aram-Damascus. These two bodies of material together can yield different numbers of rulers, depending upon one’s approach, unfortunately. For instance, 1-2 Kings in the Bible often refers to “Ben-Hadad” as King of Aram-Damascus. This dynastic titulary, familiar in other Aramaic kingdoms in the Neo-Assyrian period. For example the ruler of Bīt-Adini, or Beth-Eden as in Amos 1.5, would be known as mār Adini, Bar Eden, or Son of Adin. For more information on this phenomenon, see this earlier post and the posts linked in it. It appears that Ben-Hadad is also a dynastic name, though it is certainly an unusual one, as it is comprised of solely a divine name, implying that the ruler is the son of the storm-god Hadad. This however, I would suggest is a singular instance of hypocoristic dynastic titulary. That is, the name of the dynastic founder would have included the name Hadad as the divine element of his theophoric name. This is likely to be the case, as we’ll see below. The usage in the Books of Kings of this title Ben-Hadad has led to some confusion in various studies, as it is uncertain in a few places where one Ben-Hadad leaves off and another begins, so to speak. So, let’s examine the Hebrew information first.

Rezon, son of Eliada is described as the founder of the Aramaean kingship at Damascus in 1 Kings 11.23-25. He is said to have deserted his former king Hadadezer of Aram-Zobah, sometime in the reign of David, and to have taken over Damascus. He is said to be an enemy of Solomon throughout the reign of the latter, though no incidents are otherwise reported in 1 Kings. Rezon is very likely a hypocoristic form of the theophoric name Hadad-Razon, meaning “Hadad is Ruler.” This would explain why his successors were called “Son of Hadad,” connoting “Son of Hadad-Razon.” Otherwise, there is no instance among the Aramaean kingdoms of taking a divine name as patronymic in this kind of dynastic titulary.

Hezion I, son (?) of Rezon is only known from the patronymic given in 1 Kings 15.18. The name, however, appears again with the successor to Hazael in the eighth century, as Hadiānu in the Assyrian texts, which we’ll get to.

Tabrimmon, son of Hezion is also only known from the 1 Kings 15.18 patronymic. The name is a good Aramaic name, Hebraized, meaning “Ramman is Good,” Ramman, Thunderer, being an epithet of Hadad.

Ben-Hadad, son of Tabrimmon is the king of Aram-Damascus introduced at 1 Kings 15.18, during the reign of Asa of Judah (912-871) and Baasha of Israel (911-888), probably toward the later end of that joint period. This Ben-Hadad is bribed by Asa to break a treaty with Baasha and attack him so that Asa can stop a building project of Baasha and steal his building materials. It works. This Ben-Hadad, if he is a separate king from the following one, as seems most likely, is the one king of Aram-Damascus for whom we do not know his personal name. If he is the same as the following, then this is not the case. I tend to think this king is likely a separate one than the following due to the interesting statement in 1 Kings 20.34 in the mouth of Ben-Hadad, an offer to restore towns that his father took from Ahab’s father (Omri or a more distant “father”?), and trading rights in Damascus itself. Ben-Hadad/Hadadezer below is clearly not the Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, as he himself would obviously have been ruling before Omri. If, however, the “father” of Ahab is to be understood as a more distant predecessor, like Baasha of Israel who Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon attacks, then the very incident referred to by Ben-Hadad/Hadadezer could very well be this Asa and Baasha incident, as no interactions with Aram-Damascus are mentioned in the admittedly scarce reports on the reign of Omri. The scholarly consensus has moved over the past century from having a single Ben-Hadad throughout, to there being two, though it is apparently still discussed.

Ben-Hadad (Hadadezer) is a long-lived and very militarily active king of Aram-Damascus who has many run-ins both with Israel and Assyria over his long career. He is the Ben-Hadad who battles and finally kills Ahab of Israel in 1 Kings 20 and 22. Some, like Pitard, have taken both chapters to be misplaced from the reign of a later king of the dynasty of Jehu, when Israel was in a much weaker position relative to Aram-Damascus, but a close reading of particularly 1 Kings 20 shows a strong king of Israel bravely opposing outrageous claims. A weak ruler would certainly not win, either, which occurs in this chapter. And while it is set just two or three years before the Battle of Qarqar with Shalmaneser III, and three years before Ahab’s death on the field again against Ben-Hadad, this is not unbelievable, particularly in seeing the back and forth between Israel and Aram-Damascus that continues throughout the history of both kingdoms. This same Ben-Hadad, apparently during the reign of Jehoram of Israel (852-841) besieges Samaria, as described in one of the Elisha tales in 2 Kings 6.24-7.20. This same Ben-Hadad, when ill, sends one of his officers named Hazael to inquire of the prophet Elisha whether he’ll recover (2 Kings 8.7-15). By this time, in the late 840s BC, he’d be quite old, so the illness is of more concern. Elisha tells Hazael that he’ll be the next king of Aram-Damascus. Not wasting time, Hazael apparently smothers Ben-Hadad. This Ben-Hadad is clearly the king of Aram-Damascus known to the Assyrians as Adad-idri, Hebraized as Hadadezer. More details below.

Hazael manages to battle Jehoram of Israel (852-841) and Ahaziah of Judah (842-841) at Ramoth-gilead soon after taking the throne sometime between 844 and 841, based on the Assyrian information (below). Jehoram is wounded in the battle, so he and Ahaziah go to Jezreel, conveniently for the coup of Jehu (2 Kings 9-10). Hazael is also said to have taken all of the Israelite territories east of the Jordan (2 Kings 10.32). Early (?) in the reign of Jehoash of Judah (835-796), Hazael threatens to attack Jerusalem, but is bought off by emptying the treasuries (2 Kings 12.17-18). Hazael and his son and successor Ben-Hadad (whose personal name was Hezion/Hadiānu according to the Assyrian texts, see below) are said to have repeatedly triumphed over Israel (2 Kings 13.3), which isn’t surprising, given the apparent strength of Aram-Damascus at this time when it was even able to take on the Assyrian army and survive despite numerous losses. Hazael is said to have continued to win against Israel through the reign of Jehoahaz of Israel (822-806)(2 Kings 13.22). 2 Kings 13.24-25 seems to indicate that Hazael died early in the reign of Jehoash of Israel (805-791), with Ben-Hadad/Hezion succeeding him, and Jehoash taking back, in three separate battles, all or some of the various towns that Hazael had taken from Israel.

Ben-Hadad (Hezion II) son of Hazael began to reign probably in the very late ninth century or very early eighth, as indicated by 2 Kings 13.24-25. This Ben-Hadad is mentioned in Assyrian texts as Hadiānu, and ruling in Damascus in 773/2 BC. Jeroboam II of Israel (791-750) is said (2 Kings 14.25, 28) to have restored roughly the Davidic/Solomonic borders of Israel, including Damascus (!) in the north and Hamath, and Elath in the south (perhaps ceding it to Judah? 2 Kings 14.22). So, Aram-Damascus was, for at least a time during the reign of this Ben-Hadad, not so strong, despite the statement of 2 Kings 13.3. The Assyrian texts have this king in Damascus in 773/2 BC.

Rezin is the last king of Aram-Damascus. He is attested as ruling in 738 BC in the Assyrian texts, until 732. His accession date was likely quite a bit earlier than that, as otherwise Ben-Hadad/Hezion would’ve had a strikingly, if not impossibly, long reign. He begins to attack Judah during the reign of Jotham of Judah (750-730) and Pekah of Israel (736-731) (2 Kings 15.37), which are likely the same attacks described in 2 Kings 16.5, during the reign of Ahaz of Judah counting his coregency with Jotham (from 735, because his sole rule began in 731, when both Pekah and Rezin were already dead). Precisely because Rezin was threatening Judah, Ahaz of Judah sent to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria (745-727) for help, and this led to the elimination of both Rezin and Aram-Damascus in 732 BC. Rezin had, admittedly, been quite a pest to the Assyrians, as well.

That is the Biblical data on Aram-Damascus, not exhaustive, but close to it. As my interest is in establishing the rulers themselves and their chronology, the above in combination with the information from the Assyrian texts, some of which I’ve already mentioned and incorporated above, is very informative. The two sources are both complementary and necessary for establishing the framework on which to hang the rest of the history of Aram-Damascus.

I’ll continue in the next installment with the information on the kings of Aram-Damascus from the Assyrian texts.

The Enlightener of Ireland

Ego Patricius peccator rusticissimus
Et minimus omnium fidelium
Et contemptibilissimus apud plurimos
patrem habui Calpornium diaconum
filium quendam Potiti presbyteri
qui fuit vico Bannaventa Berniae
Villam enim prope habuit
ubi ego capturam dedi
Annorum eram tunc fere sedecim
Deum enim verum ignorabam
et Hiberione in captivitate adductus sum

I, Patrick, a sinner, most ignorant
and least of all the faithful
and most contemptible among many,
had a father, Calpurnius, a deacon,
the son of a certain Potitus, a priest,
who was in the village Bannaventa Berniae,
for he had a villa nearby,
where I was made a captive.
I was almost sixteen years old,
and indeed ignorant of God,
and I was taken in captivity to Ireland.

Confessio of St Patrick, lines 1-11. Latin text from M

Blessing-Psalter of St Arsenios

(This is not the fourth-fifth century St Arsenios that I have been translating, who is the namesake of the one I refer to here, but a nineteenth-twentieth century saint. I’ll be returning to the Sayings of the Fathers soon. But the connection is there.)

St Arsenios the Cappadocian (whose life is well-told by Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain in this lovely volume) lived a long life in the village of Farasa in Cappadocia, before being subjected, along with the rest of the village’s Christian inhabitants, to the “Transfer of Populations” in 1923, after which he lived in Greece, falling asleep there in the Lord in 1924, at the age of eighty-three. Elder Paisios,when young, learned of St Arsenios from another inhabitant of Farasa, Prodromos Kortsinoglou, who had been St Arsenios’ chanter, and thus eventually wrote the above-mentioned book (the original Greek title being Ο Αγιος Αρσενιος ο Καππαδοκης, also published by and available from the Holy Convent of the Evangelist John the Theologian, Souroti, 570 06 Vasilika, Thessaloniki, Greece). The book is evocative of the life lived in that era in many such Christian villages throughout the former Byzantine lands. The poverty, the illness, the humble lives and concerns of the villagers are all reflected in the course of relating various incidents from the life of this modern saint.

One of the things learned by Elder Paisios which is not included in the book involves St Arsenios’ use of the Psalms as a book of needs, as some call such things, or a blessing-psalter. The full listing is provided here, in the St Pachomius Library. I ran across this description of St Arsenios’ usage of the psalms as prayers a number of years ago, even before I was Orthodox and knew anything about St Arsenios, and have always found it extraordinary. One finds in it the concerns of a small, poor village, where the people find themselves in suffering from such varied things as rebellious children, hard-hearted spouses, the oppressing enemy, thieves, earthquakes, bad teeth and other ailments, as well as interest in enlightening leaders, enemies, and various people so that everyone can live together in peace. It’s quite extraordinary. It’s not particularly clear why certain psalms are assigned the use as prayer that St Arsenios has given them, of course. The point of such things is rather that living a life of prayer is of more importance than a life of rational exactitude in such correspondences in any case.

Two things come to me, and comfort me, in reading the list of situations for which St Arsenios used the psalms as prayers. One is that we learn from this saint, as from all others, that ultimately, everything in life is under the mercy of God. The breadth of concerns covered by the list of situations is that of nearly all of life: marriage, family, productive agriculture, good relations with neighbors and authorities, protection from crime, release from illness, and so on. While the specific issues may be different than our own, the broader categories of concerns are still very much those in our own lives. Everything in life is prayed for, in this way. The second thing that comes to me is respect, and even love, for this saint, who so obviously loved his own people, his family, his neighbors, and even his enemies, that he would include all of them, their worries, their troubles, in prayers for their comfort and release from their dangers and sorrows, all here in his psalter. That’s what saints do.

Kontakion for St Arsenios (fourth tone)
Cappadocia’s new-sprung flower
and precious vessel of virtues,
Holy Arsenios, let me hymn.
For as an angel he lived in the flesh,
and now resides with all the saints.
With them, he ever prays to Christ
to grant us forgiveness of our sins.

Talpiotische Schadenfreude

Succinct and memorable commentary is such a treasure:

“. . . archaeo-porn . . .”
          –Jonathan Reed, The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look.

“. . . pimping off the Bible . . .”
          –Joe Zias, Newsweek

giggle giggle giggle