Ben-Hadad I and II (1 Kings 20)

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Illustration: Ben-Hadad I

There are at least two, and probably three, kings named Ben-Hadad in the Old Testament. They ruled Aram from Syria’s capital city, Damascus. Ben-Hadad I (late tenth to early ninth centuries B.C.), the son of Tabrimmon (pictured above), is known in the Bible for having entered into a treaty with Judah to attack Israel (1 Kings 15).

Ben-Hadad II (also called Hadadezer, reigned ca. 860-841 B.C.) is prominent in 1 Kings 20 and 24 and in 2 Kings 5-8. He attacked Samaria around 857 B.C. but was defeated by Ahab (1 Kings 20:1-21). The following year he returned to engage Israel at Aphek, 4,8 km east of the southern coast of the Sea of Galilee, but once again Ahab emerged victorious (20:22-34). Ben-Hadad was more successful three years later when he at last overcame the joint forces of Ahab and Jehoshaphat of Judah at Ramoth Gilead (1 Kings 22). Ben-Hadad laid siege to Samaria once again during the reign of Joram (2 Kings 6-7) – and once again was defeated, this time by divine intervention (2 Kings 7:6).

Apart from the Bible, ancient inscriptions also mention Ben-Hadad II:

  • In the records of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria from approximately 858-824 B.C., Ben-Hadad II is referred to as “Adad-idri”. Along with other kings from the region (including Ahab of Israel), Ben-Hadad fought against Shalmaneser repeatedly – in 853, 849, 848 and 845 B.C. In the battle of Qarqar, Syria, in 853 B.C., Ben-Hadad commanded a force of 20,000 foot soldiers, 1,200 chariots and 1,200 cavalry.
  • Lines 3 and 4 of the Tel Dan Stele refer to an unmanned individual as “my father”. Since the author of the text appears to have been Hazael, Ben-Hadad II’s successor (but not actually his son), the reference to “my father” is probably to Ben-Hadad II.

An apparent third Ben-Hadad ruled during the early eighth century B.C. and fought against Jehoash (see 2 Kings 13:14-19, 25).


 

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