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ARAM-DAMASCUS (Heb. אֲרָם דַּמֶּשֶׂק; rsv, Syria of Damascus), the principal Aramean state during the ninth and eighth centuries b.c.e., centered in Damascus, its capital. As such, it is also referred to as "*Damascus" or simply "*Aram" in the Bible, in Assyrian sources, and in the Aramaic Zakkur inscription (c. 900 b.c.e.). This state extended from the kingdoms of Hamath in the north, to Israel in the south, and between the Syrian desert in the east, and the Phoenician territories on the west. In the earliest known reference Aram-Damascus was a dependency of Hadadezer, king of Aram-Zobah (see *Aram), who enlisted its aid against David. However, David defeated the coalition and annexed both states, or at least Aram-Damascus (ii Sam. 8:5–6). In the latter part of Solomon's rule, Rezon son of Eliada threw off the Israelite yoke and established the independent kingdom of Aram-Damascus (i Kings 11:23–25). Aram-Damascus acquired extensive territories and – under the dynasty of Hezion, Tabrimmon, and Ben-Hadad – rose to prominence after the split of the united Kingdom of Israel (i Kings 15:18; cf. the Aramaic Bar-Hadad votive inscription found near Aleppo). Aram, fully exploiting the situation in Palestine and meddling in the disputes between Judah and Israel, continuously threatened the very existence of the northern kingdom. Thus, early in the ninth century b.c.e., *Ben-Hadadi proceeded to wrest eastern Galilee from Baasha, king of Israel, attacking him from the rear after having been bribed by *Asa, king of Judah, to come to his aid (i Kings 15:18–20). Aramean pressure on Israel was further increased during the *Omri dynasty, and territories in northern Transjordan fell to the Arameans. Ben-Hadad ii (son of Ben-Hadad i), with 32 of his vassals, was defeated by *Ahab, king of Israel, while attempting an attack on Samaria. He was again defeated at Aphek in the southern Golan and was thus compelled to return the Transjordanian towns conquered by his father and to guarantee Israel preferential mercantile rights in Damascus, such as had been enjoyed by the Arameans in Samaria under Omri (i Kings 20; esp. v. 34; cf. Damascus). This turn of fortune, underscored by the new threat of Assyria during the reigns of Assyrian kings Ashurnaṣirpa ii and, especially, Shalmaneser iii, forced Ben-Hadad to reconstitute his army and his kingdom, reducing his vassal states to the status of provinces (cf. i Kings 20:24–25). To meet the new menace, Ben-Hadad ii (the Adad-Idri of Assyrian sources) joined in forming a league of 12 kings led by himself, the king of Hamath and Ahab, king of Israel. In their first clash in 853 b.c.e. the allies met Shalmaneser iii at *Karkar in the land of Hamath – Ben-Hadad with 20,000 infantry, 1,200 horses, and 1,200 chariots. This same coalition, apparently, met Shalmaneser in battle again in 849, 848, and 845 b.c.e. Only after *Hazael had deposed the Ben-Hadad dynasty and after the alliance had fallen apart, did Shalmaneser iii defeat Aram-Damascus, in 841 and 838 b.c.e. In the first instance he continued on through Hauran and Galilee, reaching "Mount Baʿali-rāsi" (i.e., "Baal of the summit" (rosh), possibly Mount Carmel). Hazael's rise to the throne reversed Aramean policy toward Israel, and they fought in 842 b.c.e. at Ramoth-Gilead (ii Kings 8:28–29). The alleged encounter at this same spot between Ben-Hadad ii and Ahab, as related in i Kings 22, seems to reflect this same, or an even later event. After the relaxation of Assyrian pressure, Hazael was able to consolidate his realm. First seizing the entire eastern bank of the Jordan down to the Arnon brook, he later raided western Israel, reducing its army and territory, and reaching the borders of Judah, which he forced to pay a heavy tribute (ii Kings 10:32–33; 12:18–19; 13:7, 22). However, after Aramean power reached this peak, the renewal of Assyrian pressure led to its decline under Ben-Hadad iii (the "Bar-Hadad" of the Zakkur inscription and possibly the Mariʾ [the Aramaic title "Lord"] of the Assyrian sources). Adad-Nirari iii, king of Assyria, conducted several campaigns to Syria in the years 805–802 b.c.e., defeated Ben-Hadad iii, and finally besieged Damascus, compelling it to pay a heavy tribute. In a later campaign related in a stele of Adad-Nirari iii, found at Tel el-Rimah, the Assyrian king took large quantities of precious metals and fine cloth from the "Land of Damascus," as well as tribute from Iaʾusu Samerinaya, i.e., *Joash, king of Israel, named here as king of *Samaria. Shalmaneser iv also went up against Damascus in 773 b.c.e.; Joash and *Jeroboam ii, kings of Israel, taking advantage of the Arameans' weak position, defeated them several times and freed the Israelite districts beyond the Jordan. Jeroboam even imposed Israelite rule on Damascus (ii Kings 13:25; 14:25, 28). Aram-Damascus had one final moment of glory during the reign of *Rezin, the last king, who is first mentioned in about 738 b.c.e. among the vassals of *Tiglath-Pileseriii. Rebelling against Assyria, Rezin invaded Israel and annexed Transjordan as far south as Ramoth-Gilead and even raided Elath. He then compelled *Pekah, king of Israel, to join him in an alliance against Ahaz, king of Judah (ii Kings 16:6). Ahaz's appeal to Assyria for aid provided Tiglath-Pileser iii with a pretense for invading Damascus. In two campaigns in the years 733–732 b.c.e. the Assyrians seized the capital, and then delivered the final blow by putting Rezin to death and exiling many inhabitants (ii Kings 15:37; 16:5 ff.). The former Aram-Damascus was then split into Assyrian provinces: Damascus at the center, Hauran and Qarnini (biblical Karnaim) in the south, Manṣuate in the Lebanon valley, and Ṣubatu (biblical Zobah) in the north. An unsuccessful rebellion was attempted in Aram-Damascus in 720 (see Aram); sometime later the Assyrians resettled new populations there. Aram-Damascus occupied a prominent place in scriptural prophecy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the *Elisha cycle, where the prophet Elisha's part in the overthrow of the Ben-Hadad dynasty is related, reflecting the heavy pressure applied by Hazael on Israel (ii Kings 5–7; 8:7–15). Aramean atrocities against the Israelite inhabitants of Gilead are condemned in Amos' prophecy of doom against Damascus (Amos 1:3–5). Isaiah was firm in his opposition to Aram-Damascus and Samaria at the time of their joint attack against Ahaz of Judah (Isa. 7:1 ff.). Indeed, the destruction of Aram-Damascus left a deep impression on Isaiah (17:1–3) and even Jeremiah (49:23–27), as reflected in their oracles.


E.G.H. Kraeling, Aram and Israel (1918); A. Jepsen, in: afo, 14 (1942), 153–72; W.F. Albright, in: basor, 87 (1942), 23 ff.; A. Malamat, in: jnes, 22 (1963), 1 ff.; idem, in: em, 1 (1965), 577–80; M.F. Unger, Israel and the Arameans of Damascus (1957); B. Mazar, in: ba, 25 (1962), 98–120; H. Tadmor, in: iej, 12 (1962), 114–22; J.M. Miller, in: jbl, 85 (1966), 441–54; S. Page, in: Iraq, 30 (1968), 139–53. add. bibliography: P-E. Dion, Les Araméens (1997), 171–221; for further bibliography see *Aram, *Damascus.

[Abraham Malamat]