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Israel's relationship with Syria

Julian Spriggs M.A.

The names 'Aram' and 'Aramean' are synonymous with 'Syria' and 'Syrian'. The Syrians, or Arameans, started off as nomads. Shem, the son of Noah was their founder (Gen 10:21). They eventually settled in the Syrian and Mesopotamian area. Abraham and the patriarchs were related to the Arameans (Gen 25:20). Rebecca was the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean and the sister of Laban the Aramean, both of Paddan-aram.

The area of Aram never developed into one great empire or world power, but rather consisted of several small independent city states in Syria and northern Palestine.

Some of the principal cities and districts were
Syria of Damascus
Syria of Zobah (north of Damascus)
The Plain of Aram (upper Mesopotamia)
Aram of Two Rivers

Aramean culture was never as distinctive or as creative as Egypt, Babylon or Assyria. They copied and adapted many things from surrounding cultures to their own needs. In contrast, the Aramaic language became the diplomatic and commercial tongue of the ancient near east. In 701, when Sennacherib of Assyria besieged Jerusalem, Hezekiah's officials urged the dialogue with the Assyrian to be in Aramaic (2 Kg 19:26). In the Persian empire, it was used as the official formal language to communicate between the provinces. Chapters 2 to 7 in the book of Daniel are entirely written in Aramaic as well as most of Ezra chapters 4 to 7. Jesus and his disciples spoke a Palestinian dialect of Aramaic.

Syria and Assyria were often at war. During times of Assyrian weakness, some Aramean cities would grow strong. Damascus became one of the strongest cities and was a continuing source of trouble to Israel, often being used by God to discipline Israel.

By the 12th century BC, the Arameans are mentioned by name as living between the western banks of the Euphrates (west of Assyria) and Palmyra in the Syrian Desert, where they had various strongholds. With the decline of the Hittite and Egyptian influence in Canaan and Syria, the Arameans took the opportunity to move westward and settle in northern and southern Syria, especially around Tadmor (Palmyra) and Damascus.

Period of Judges

Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia ruled Israel for 8 years (Judg 3:8). Othniel, the first Judge, was raised up as a deliverer. Mesopotamia is 'Aram-naharaim' in Hebrew, the area around Haran. So Cushan-rishathaim was an Aramean king.

Later, the people of Israel served the gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab etc. (Judg 10:6). God punished them by oppression by Ammonites and Philistines, deliverance was by Jephthah.

In 1115-1077, just before King David, Tiglath-Pileser I, king of Assyria fought many battles against the Syrians, but could not stop them moving east and taking areas of his dominion in Mesopotamia.

King David 1040-1000 BC

David married Maacah (2 Sam 3:3), the daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur in Aram (2 Sam 15:8). Absalom was the son from this marriage, who later fled to Geshur (2 Sam 13:37) after murdering his brother Amnon.

Capture of Damascus and Zobah (2 Sam 8:6) about 1040 BC.

In the list of David's victories, he defeated Hadadezer, king of Zobah (north of Damascus) as Hadadezer was going to restore his power at the river Euphrates. The Syrians who came from Damascus were defeated by David, who put garrisons in Damascus and demanded tribute. King Toi of Hamath (north of Zobah), an enemy of Hadadezer, sent his son Joram to greet and congratulate David.

The Ammonites hired the Syrians to help them fight David (2 Sam 10:6). David sent in his army, under the command of Joab. The Syrians fled, followed by the Ammonites. Hadadezer gathered the Syrians to fight against David and were defeated by him, and feared to help the Ammonites again (Also 1 Chr 19). This event may have occurred before the victory described in 2 Sam 8, which is a summary of his victories.

David ruled over the whole of Syria at the height of his kingdom, as far as the river Euphrates. Hamath was ruled as an ally, a more voluntary subjection.

King Solomon

Solomon's trade with Syria is recorded (1 Kg 10:29). In 975 BC, Solomon took Hamath-Zobah and built store cities in Hamath (2 Chr 8:3). Perhaps there had been an uprising in this area.

Independence regained (1 Kg 11:14)

Solomon's three adversaries, were raised up by the Lord because of his marrying foreign wives and resulting idolatry:
1) Hadad of Edom
2) Rezon king of Damascus
3) Jeroboam (later king of north)

Rezon (1 Kg 11:23) had fled from Hadadezer of Zobah and gathered men around him to form a marauding band after Hadadezer's defeat by David (2 Sam 8) and later had become king of Damascus. He was a bandit until 955 BC, and king 955-925 BC. On and off for the next 150 years, Syria was fighting with Israel, the northern kingdom, until Damascus was conquered by the Assyrians in 732 BC.

Hadad is the name of a Syrian deity, the thunderer, the storm god or Baal. Hadad is also known as Hadar and had an Edomite name, also used in Syria. A temple to Hadad has been found in Aleppo (North Syria). Some of the names of the kings incorporate the name of this god:
Hadadezer or Hadarezer
Benhadad ( = son of Hadad)

Divided kingdom

There was continuous war between the north and the south from the division of the kingdom in 931 BC until the marriage alliance between Jehosaphat (Judah) and Ahab (Israel), when Jehoram (the son of Jehosaphat) and Athaliah (the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) were married around 860 BC (2 Chr 18:1).

Around 900 BC, there was war between Asa of Judah and Baasha of Israel (1 Kg 15:16). Baasha attacked Judah and built Ramah on the boundary between the 2 kingdoms on the main route. Asa took gold from the temple and sent it to Benhadad I as a present to persuade him to break his treaty with Israel and to help Judah. Benhadad sent armies against Israel and conquered Dan and Naphtali (Also 2 Chr 16).

Elijah is told to anoint the following people (1 Kg 19:15):
Hazael as king of Syria (replace Benhadad I)
Jehu as king of Israel (replace Jehoram)
Elisha as prophet (replace Elijah)

In the 860's BC, there was war between Israel and Syria (1 Kg 20), Ahab against Benhadad II.

First campaign (v1) Benhadad II, with 32 kings besieged Samaria
Victory prophesied to Ahab (v13)
Victory was achieved by Ahab (v16), when Benhadad was drunk his army fled.

Second campaign prophesied (v22)
Benhadad attacked Israel at Aphek and Syrians filled the country. Syrians were defeated in battle and fled to Aphek where a wall fell on them and 27,000 were killed. Ahab made a covenant in which Benhadad agreed to return the captured slaves. God passed judgement on Ahab for sparing Benhadad (v35)

Third campaign after 3 years peace (1 Kg 22)
Ahab of Israel and Jehosaphat of Judah formed an alliance (2 Chr 18) and fought together against Syria, who had occupied Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab disguised himself while Jehosaphat was in robes. The Syrian armies were only after the king of Israel, so fought against Jehosaphat. Ahab was shot with an arrow, wounded and later died.

Naaman, 880-840 BC, the commander of the Syrian army was a leper (2 Kg 5). He had victory over Israel and took a maid as a servant, who knew of Elisha. Naaman sent a letter to Jehoram (king of Israel) asking him to cure him of leprosy, Jehoram tore his clothes in horror. Elisha told Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan, which he rather unwillingly did.

The Syrians blinded (2 Kg 6:8), 860 BC. Elisha warned Jehoram (king of Israel) that the Syrians were coming and told him the site of their camp. Benhadad II was troubled, tried to seize Elisha (the prophet who told the king of Israel the words spoken in the bedchamber of the king - v12). Elisha prayed that the Syrians would be blinded and the eyes of his servant opened. He led the blinded Syrians into Samaria, then opened their eyes and then sent them away.

Benhadad besieged Samaria (2 Kg 6:24) causing great famine, with people eating their children.

Elisha prophesied that the Lord will open windows in heaven. 4 lepers by the gate went to the Syrian camp to find no one there (7:1). They told the king (Jehoram) who didn't believe them. The Lord had made the Syrian army hear the sound of a great army, so they had fled.

Benhadad's sickness (2 Kg 8:7). He asked Elisha whether he will recover. The Lord said he will die. Elisha appointed Hazael to be king, who murdered Benhadad and took the throne in 841 BC.

Ahaziah (Judah) and Joram (Israel) were both at war against Hazael at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Kg 8:28). Joram was wounded and goes to Jezreel. Elisha was told to anoint Jehu as king of Israel. Jehu murders Joram and the house of Ahab, including Jezebel. In the Chronicles account (2 Chr 22), Ahaziah visited him and was murdered by Jehu, his mother Athaliah seized the throne and murdered the rest of the Davidic line, only Joash survived.

Joash started well (2 Kg 12), he repaired the temple, then went away from the Lord into idolatry. The wrath of God sent the Syrians against Joash in Jerusalem, spoil was taken to Damascus, around 820 BC. Joash was murdered by his servants (also 2 Chr 24)

Jehoahaz of Israel (2 Kg 13). God gave them continuously into the hand of Benhadad III of Syria, the son of Hazael. Jehoahaz called to the Lord, who sent them a saviour. This may have been Adad-nirari III of Assyria, who fought against Syria in 805 BC. Hazael oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz (798-783 BC) (2 Kg 13:22).

Jehoash (son of Jehoahaz) in 795 BC, had important victories over Syria, when he took cities from Benhadad III which had been taken from Jehoahaz (2 Kg 13:25).

The Syro-Ephraimite war (2 Kg 15:32)

In the days of Jotham of Judah (740-736 BC), the Lord sent Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel against Jotham. This is the time of Isaiah (Is 7).

Capture of Damascus (2 Kg 16)

In the days of Ahaz of Judah (736-716 BC). Rezin and Pekah besieged Ahaz in Jerusalem, but did not conquer it. Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria for help against Syria and Israel, sending the gold from the temple as a present. (See also Is 7).

In 740 BC, Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, marched against Damascus, killed Rezin and took the people captive to Kir, as prophesied by Amos (Amos 1:4-5). Syria then became a dependency of Assyria, eighteen years before Israel fell. Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tig., where he saw a magnificent altar, so he built a copy for the temple in Jerusalem.

In the Chronicles account (2 Chr 28), the king of Syria took people captive to Damascus after defeating Ahaz, who sacrificed to Syrian gods, as they had defeated him.

In 640 BC, the region was captured by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In 333 BC, it came under the control of Alexander the Great. The Seleucids ruled from Antioch in Syria after the collapse of the Greek Empire. Finally in 65 BC, Rome took control and in 6 AD, Judea and Samaria were added to the Roman administrative area of Syria.

Kings of Syria

Hadadezer c. 1040
Rezon c. 955-925 may be same person
Benhadad I c. 900-860 may be same person
Benhadad II c. 860-843
Hazael c. 843-796 murdered Benhadad II
Benhadad III c. 796-770
Rezin c. 750-732 Captivity in Assyria 732

Approximate dates BC

1040 David subdued Zobah and Damascus (2 Sam 8:3-5)
975 Syrians recovered their independence from Solomon (1 Kg 11:23-25)
900's League between Asa and Syria (1 Kg 15:16ff)
860's Benhadad besieges Samaria and they fight (1 Kg 20)
880 - 840 Naaman came from Syria (2 Kg 5)
860 Syrians blinded and routed (2 Kg 6-7)
841 Hazael becomes king (2 Kg 8)
820 Hazael went against Jerusalem (2 Kg 12:17)
795 Joash (Jehoash) had important victories over Benhadad III
740 Syro-Ephraimite war.
Tiglath-Pileser III defeated Rezin and Syria became a dependency of Assyria (18 years before Israel fell).
732 Fall of Damascus to Assyria
640 Syria is captured by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
333 Syria conquered by Alexander the Great
200's Seleucids rule from Antioch in Syria
65 Rome takes control
AD 6 Judea and Samaria are added to Roman province of Syria

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
OT People Search
God the Creator
The Importance of Paradox
The Jewish Calendar
Holy War in the Ancient World
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
Ephah Converter (volumes)
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
What is a created kind?
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
God the Creator
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical archaeology in museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also pages of photographs of important artifacts from the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
British Museum Photos
Israel Museum Photos
Paris Louvre Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS