ben-ha'-dad (ben-hadhadh; Septuagint huios Hader):
I. BENHADAD I
1. The Kingdom of Syria Founded
2. Syria and Judah
3. Shortsightedness of Asa
II. BENHADAD II
1. Hadad-'idri of the Monuments
2. Expeditions against Israel
3. Alliance with Ahab
4. Biblical History Confirmed by the Monuments
5. Alliance Broken off
6. Benhadad and Elisha
7. Panic of Syrians at Samaria
8. Murder of Benhadad
III. BENHADAD III
1. His Contemporaries
2. The Assyrians in the West
3. Downfall of Damascus before Ramman-Nirari III
4. Breathing Space for Israel
The name of three kings of Syria mentioned in the historical books. Hadad is the Syrian god of storms, and is apparently identical with Rimmon (2Ki 5:18), the Assyrian Rammanu, "the Thunderer," whose temple was in Damascus. The name Benhadad, "son of Hadad," accords with the custom which obtained in Semitic mythology of calling a king or a nation the son of the national god, as we have Mesha`, son of Chemosh, and the Moabites, children of Chemosh. Benhadad seems to have become a general designation for the kings of Syria (Am 1:4; Jer 49:27).
I. Benhadad I
1. The Kingdom of Syria Founded:
Benhadad I was the son of Tabrimmon, who is called (1Ki 15:18) "the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus." Hezion has been with some plausibility identified with Rezon (1Ki 11:23,25) who founded the kingdom of Damascus and imparted to Syria that temper of hostility to Israel which became hereditary. Meanwhile the Arameans had shaken themselves free from the rule of the Hittites, and with Damascus for a center had planted strong settlements in the plains westward from the Euphrates. By the time that Benhadad entered into this succession, Syria was the strongest power in this region of Western Asia, and ready to take advantage of every opportunity of increasing her dominions.
2. Syria and Judah:
Such an opportunity presented itself in the appeal of Asa, king of Judah, for help against Baasha king of Israel. The two Hebrew kingdoms had been at feud ever since their disruption. Baasha had pushed his frontier southward to Ramah, within 5 miles of Jerusalem, and this commanding eminence he proceeded to fortify. The danger of a hostile fortress overlooking his capital, and the humiliation of his rival's presence so near, were more than Asa could bear. It was at this juncture that he bethought him of Benhadad. Taking all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasury of the house of the Lord, and the treasury of the king's house, he sent them to Benhadad with a request for an alliance begging him at the same time to break off the league he had with Baasha and thus enable Asa to dislodge his enemy. Benhadad saw an opening for the aggrandizement of his kingdom and broke off the alliance he had had with Jeroboam and Baasha. By an invasion of Northern Israel he obliged Baasha to withdraw from Ramah and confine himself to the neighborhood of his own capital (1Ki 15:16 ff). Judah obtained relief, but the price paid for it was too great. Asa had surrendered his treasures, and very likely some of his independence.
3. Shortsightedness of Asa:
For his shortsightedness in laying himself under obligation to Benhadad and relying upon the help of Syria rather than upon the Lord his God, Asa was rebuked by the prophet Hanani (2Ch 16:1 ff). Benhadad had extended his territories by the transaction and seems to have exercised henceforward some sort of sovereignty over both the Hebrew kingdoms.
McCurdy HPM, I, 256; H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, 186.
II. Benhadad II
1. Hadad-'idri of the Monuments:
Benhadad II was in all probability the son of Benhadad I. He is the Hadad-ezer, or Hadad-'idri, of the monuments. He comes first upon the scene of the Biblical history invading the land of Israel with a large host, in which were 32 tributary kings, and horses and chariots. He had penetrated as far as Samaria, the newly built city of Omri, now the capital of his son Ahab. Benhadad and his Syrian host had laid siege to Samaria and Ahab had been summoned to surrender. Ahab was disposed to come to terms, but the intolerable proposals made by Benhadad drove him to resistance. Encouraged by the elders of the people, and acting on the counsel of a prophet, Ahab made a sortie and falling upon the carousing Syrians put them so completely to rout that Benhadad himself only escaped on a horse with the horsemen.
2. Expeditions against Israel:
Next year the Syrians resolved to retrieve their defeat saying of the Israelites, "Their God is a god of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we: but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they." Ahab had been warned to expect the return of the Syrians and was prepared for the fresh attack. For seven days the two armies faced each other, the Israelites "like two little flocks of kids" before a host that filled the country. On the seventh day they joined battle near to Aphek, and the Syrians met again an overwhelming defeat. Yahweh was proved to be God both of the plains and of the hills. Benhadad was taken prisoner, and appealing to the clemency of the victor, he persuaded Ahab to spare his life.
3. Alliance with Ahab:
A treaty was agreed upon between the two monarchs under which Ahab's people were to have bazaars of their own in Damascus, as it would appear Benhadad I had had for his subjects before in Samaria (1Ki 20:1-34). The treaty was denounced by a prophet, and Ahab was warned that this man whom God had devoted to destruction would be the destruction of himself and his people. Under the treaty, however, there were three years without war between Syria and Israel.
4. Biblical History Confirmed by the Monuments:
The treaty and the resulting period of peace receive striking confirmation from the monuments. From the monolith inscription of Shalmaneser II we learn that this Assyrian king in the 6th year of his reign (854 BC) had crossed the Tigris and made his way across the Euphrates on boats of sheepskin into Syria to Chalman (Aleppo). At Karkar he encountered the combined forces of Damascus, Hamath, Israel and the states which had united to oppose his progress westward. Achabbu Sir-'lai, Ahab of Israel Damascus are Dad'idri Hadadezer (Benhadad II) of Damascus are named in the inscription with chariots, horsemen and infantry, making common cause against Shalmaneser and fighting on the same side. It was Benhadad, as we gather, that bore the brunt of the assault, but the result of the battle was the complete rout of the allies with the loss of 14,000 men. That the assistance of Israel on the occasion was the outcome of the treaty between Ahab and Benhadad, and that the combination against Shalmaneser took place dur ing the three years of peace, are in the highest degree probable.
5. Alliance Broken Off:
The disaster to the allies, however, seems to have broken up the confederacy. When the king of Syria is next mentioned in Biblical history, it is defending the city of Ramoth-Gilead against the attack made upon it by Ahab, who is found now in alliance with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, attempting unsuccessfully and with fatal results to himself, to recover this city of Israel from the weakened power of Damascus. At Ramoth-Gilead Benhadad is not said to have 32 tributary kings in his train, but 32 military commanders who have taken their place (1Ki 22:2,29-31).
6. Benhadad and Elisha:
The peace between Israel and Syria having been broken, there was frequent, if not continuous, war between the kingdoms, in which the prophet Elisha is a prominent figure. He healed of his leprosy Naaman, Benhadad's commander-in-chief. He disclosed to the king of Israel the places wherever Benhadad pitched his camp. He smote with blindness a great host whom Benhadad had sent with horses and chariots to seize him at Dothan, and led them into Samaria where he saw them treated kindly and sent back to their master (2Ki 6:8-23).
7. Panic of Syrians at Samaria:
Some time after Benhadad again assembled all his host and laid siege to Samaria. So great was the famine that women ate their own children. The king of Israel sent one of his men to put Elisha to death, but Elisha closed his house against him and announced that on the morrow there would be great plenty in the city. And so it happened. Certain lepers, despairing of relief, had gone into the Syrian camp and learned that the Syrians had abandoned their camp in a panic, believing that the king of Israel had hired the kings of the Mucri and the northern Hittites to raise the siege (2Ki 6:24 through 2Ki 7:20; compare Burney's note, 2Ki 7:6).
8. Murder of Benhadad:
Still another notice of Benhadad II is found in the Annals of Shalmaneser, who records that in the 11th year of his reign he defeated a combination of 12 kings of the Hittites with Benhadad at their head, and slew 10,000 men. Of this. there is no record in Biblical history, but it must have been shortly before the tragedy which ended the career of the Syrian king. Benhadad had fallen sick and sent his commander-in-chief, Hazael, to inquire as to the issue of his sickness of the prophet Elisha, who was visiting Damascus. Elisha foretold the king's death, and wept as he read to Hazael the cruel purpose which the Syrian commander was even then maturing. Hazael professed to be incredulous, but he departed from Elisha and the very next day in cold blood put his master to death and ascended the throne (2Ki 8:7-15). Thus ingloriously ended the reign of one of the most powerful of the Syrian kings.
McCurdy, HPM, I, 267 ff; Schrader, COT, I, 179 if; Winckler, Geschichte Israels, Theil I, 133-55.
III. Benhadad III
1. His Contemporaries:
Benhadad III was the son of the usurper Hazael, and though not in the dynastic succesion, assumed on the dent h of his father the dynastic name. He was contemporary with Amaziah, king of Judah; Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel; and Ramman-Nirari III, king of Assyria. The fortunes of Israel had fallen low in the days of Jehoahaz, and Hazael and Benhadad III were the instruments of Yahweh's displeasure with the nation. At this time Jehoahaz had no more than 53 horsemen and 10 chariots and 10,000 footmen; for the king of Syria had destroyed them and made them like the dust in threshing (2Ki 13:7). It was when the fortunes of Israel were at the lowest ebb by reason of the oppression of the king of Syria--by this time Benhadad--that help came to them and Yahweh gave Israel a savior, so that Israel went out from under the hands of the Syrians, "and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents (in their homes) as beforetime" (2Ki 13:5).
2. The Assyrians in the West:
The "saviour" of the Biblical narrative is the one allusion in Scripture to the king of Assyria of that day, Ramman-Nirari III, whose inscriptions record his victorious expedition to the West. "From the Euphrates to the land of the Hittites," runs an inscription, "the west country in its entire compass, Tyre, Zidon, the land Omri, Edom, Philistia as far as the Great Sea of the sunsetting, I subjected to my yoke; payment of tribute I imposed upon them. Against Syria of Damascus I marched; Mari, the king of Syria, in Damascus his royal city I besieged." He then proceeds to tell of the subjugation of the monarch and of the spoils obtained from his capital. That Mari which means in Aramaic "lord," is Benhadad III, the son of Hazael, is now generally believed.
3. Downfall of Damascus before Ramman-Nirari III:
With the capture of Damascus and the collapse of the Syrian power under Marl (Benhadad III), an era of recuperation and prosperity became possible to Israel and Judah. So it came to pass that "Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz by war. Three times did Joash smite him, and recovered the cities of Israel" (2Ki 13:25).
4. Breathing Space for Israel:
Israel was able to breathe freely for a time and Jeroboam II restored the Northern Kingdom to its former extent and glory. But the flame of war which had been sent into the house of Hazael and which devoured the palaces of Benhadad (Am 1:4 ff) was only waiting the time when the Assyrians would be free to renew their expeditions to the West and carry Samaria and Israel "into captivity beyond Damascus" (Am 5:27).
McCurdy, HPM, I, 291 ff; Schrader, COT, I, 202-ff.