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.
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
Ben Hadad III (Mari) *798?
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.
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.
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.