BEN-HADAD (Heb. בֶּן הֲדַד; "Son of [the god] Hadad"), the name of two, or perhaps three, kings of *Aram-Damascus (see *Damascus), as Hebraized in the Bible. In Aramaic inscriptions the name appears as Brhdd (ברהדד), with the native Aramaic word for "son," br (then pronounced bir, later bar), instead of the Hebrew ben.
Ben-Hadad i lived in the early ninth century b.c.e. He was the son of Tabrimmon and grandson of Hezion (i Kings 15:18), and contemporary with King *Asa of Judah and King *Baasha of Israel. Like his father (cf. i Kings 15:19; ii Chron. 16:3), he was bound by alliances to the kings of both Israel and Judah. However, when war broke out between Baasha and Asa, the latter won Ben-Hadad to his cause by sending him treasures from the Temple and the royal palace. Ben-Hadad invaded the kingdom of Israel, conquering *Ijon, *Dan, *Abel-Beth-Maacah, the region of Chinneroth, and all the land of Naphtali (i Kings 15:20). (The Ben-Hadad who set up the votive stele, found in the vicinity of Aleppo, which was dedicated to the Tyrian god Melqart (cos ii, 152–53) is probably not identical with Ben-Hadad i the son of Tabrimmon. This other Ben-Hadad seems to have ruled another Aramean kingdom, perhaps Arpad.)
Scholars (see bibliography in Pitard, abd i, 665) have debated the identity of the Ben-Hadad referred to in i Kings 20–22 through ii Kings 8. In i Kings 20 and 22, chapters which raise numerous critical probems, the royal protagonists in the battles between Aram-Damascus and Israel are *Ahab and Ben-Hadad. Chapters 5–8 of ii Kings deal with relations between Ben-Hadad and Ahab's sons, Ahaziah and Joram. W. Albright identified the Aramean king as Ben-Hadad the son of Tabrimmon (= Ben-Hadad i) and assigned him a reign of 40 years. Others viewed the Aramean king of these chapters as a successor of Ben-Hadad son of Tab-rimmon, to be designated Ben-Hadad ii. That designation would make Hazael's son and successor (see below) Ben-Hadad iii. However we designate him, this Ben-Hadad is described as a dominant ruler who could muster 32 vassals against Israel (i Kings 20:1). On three occasions he waged war against Ahab, succeeding in the first conflict in besieging Samaria (20:2ff.). Ahab resolved to resist when the demands of Ben-Hadad became excessively harsh, and managed to defeat him. Later Ben-Hadad again opened hostilities against Ahab, but was defeated a second time at *Aphek and taken prisoner (i Kings 20:26ff.). By the terms of the friendly alliance that he subsequently concluded with Israel, Ben-Hadad undertook to return the Israelite towns under his dominion and to put bazaars in Damascus at the disposal of the merchants of Israel. After three years of peace, Ahab, with the assistance of *Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, embarked on a new war against Aram in Ramoth-Gilead, during which he met his death (i Kings 22, where the king of Aram is referred to only by his title). It seems that between the second and the last war against Ahab, Ben-Hadad (who is referred to in Assyrian inscriptions as Adad-Idri, i.e., Hadadezer, perhaps his personal name as distinct from his throne name; but cf. Pitard in Bibliography) led an alliance consisting of the kings of Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine (including Ahab) in a war against Shalmaneser iii, king of Assyria, near *Qarqar in 853 b.c.e. After the war of Qarqar the coalition split up and the last war with Israel took place. Afterward Ben-Hadad resumed the leadership in an alliance against Assyria and thus succeeded in temporarily removing the Assyrian threat (848, 845 b.c.e.). Shortly after *Jehu's accession to the throne of Israel, Ben-Hadad was assassinated on his sickbed by Hazael (ii Kings 8:15), who seized the throne of Aram (ii Kings 8:7–15; cf. i Kings 19:15). The biblical depiction of Hazael as a usurper appears to be reflected in an Assyrian inscription of Shalmaneser iii (858–24 b.c.e.) that describes him as "son of a nobody." (See Cogan and Tadmor in Bibliography.)
Ben-Hadad iii, son of Hazael, was the contemporary of *Jehoahaz and *Joash, kings of Israel (814–800 and 800–784 b.c.e.). During the early years of his reign the greater part of the kingdom of Israel was occupied by Aram. It is also possible that Ben-Hadad added to the conquests of his father because he headed an alliance of north Syrian and neo-Hittite kingdoms (e.g., *Que, *Sam'al) that attacked Zakkur, king of Hamath and Luath, and besieged Hadrach, though without success (cos ii, 155). In 806–805, Adad-Nirari iii, king of Assyria (810–782), renewed the war against Aram, besieged Damascus in 802, and imposed a heavy tribute on Ben-Hadad (whom the Assyrian inscriptions refer to by the Aramean title of Mari, "Lord"). It was this setback of Aram that enabled Israel to throw off the Aramean yoke. In the reign of this Ben-Hadad, Damascus lost its dominant position in Syria, and for a generation after, the kings of Israel and Judah were the predominant force there.
H. Winckler and E. Meyer (followed in the 1940s by W.F. Albright) believe that there were only two kings of Aram by the name of Ben-Hadad, the Aramean contemporary of Baasha being identical with that of Ahab.
Moreover, while the chronology of the books of Kings has been followed above, H.L. Ginsberg has suggested that, though there are bound to be differences as to just what adjustments need to be made, the distribution of the incidents during the Aramean wars among the various kings of Israel cannot be correct in all respects. If the Aramean incident of i Kings 20 took place under the dynasty of Jehu, the above Ben-Hadad ii is identical not with the above Ben-Hadad i but with the above Ben-Hadad iii, and Ahab's Aramean ally had only the one name Adad-Idri / Hadadezer, for there is no difficulty in assuming that this legend in ii Kings 8:15 is in error regarding the name of Hazael's predecessor. Also, the elaborate story in i Kings 20:1–35 about the anonymous king of Israel who dies in his chariot of an arrow wound sustained in a battle with the Arameans, in which he was assisted by King Jehoshaphat of Judah, at Ramoth-Gilead, bears a strong resemblance to the palpably historical account in ii Kings 8:25–9:24. This tells of how King Jehoram of Israel, while recuperating (at Jezreel) from wounds sustained in a battle with the Arameans, in which he was assisted by King Ahaziah of Judah, at Ramoth-Gilead, is shot dead in his chariot with an arrow from the bow of Jehu, who follows him (to Jezreel) from the camp at Ramoth-Gilead. Thus one wonders if the suspicion that the former is a legendary parallel to the latter and has nothing to do with Ahab has not been voiced before. (The incident in the former, with the various prophets, probably contains a core of history, but also pertains to Jehoram and Ahaziah, not to "Ahab" and Jehoshaphat.)
[Harold Louis Ginsberg]
Bright, Hist, 215, 221, 223–4, 228, 235, 237; A. Dupont-Sommer, Les araméens (1949); E. Kraeling, Aram and Israel (1918); M.F. Unger, Israel and the Arameans of Damascus (1957); A. Jepsen, in: afo, 14 (1941–4), 153–72; W.F. Albright, in: basor, 87 (1942), 23–40; 90 (1943), 32; 100 (1945), 10–22. add. bibliography: W. Pitard, abd i, 663–65; M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, iiKings (1988), 92; M. Cogan, iKings (ab; 2000) 471–74.