Syria/Aram (2 Kings 5)

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Israel and Aram (Syria) were ethnically related. Abraham was of Aramean stock, having come from the area of Haran in southern Turkey (Genesis 24:4). Jacob was called an Aramean (Deuteronomy 26:5), as was his uncle Laban (Genesis 25:20) and grandfather Bethuel (Genesis 25:20, 28:5). The Arameans were a tribal Semitic people located in Mesopotamia and Syria. Their lifestyle was that of semi-nomadic pastoralists (shepherds and herders of livestock) living in small villages. When  the Hittite empire collapsed at the end of the second millennium B.C., the Aramean tribes in Syria developed into powerful city-state monarchies that flourished in the eleventh-eight centuries B.C.

In Syria the Arameans built large, well-fortified cities, including grand palaces. Each city had its own pantheon (official listing of gods) and patron deity. The most prominent was Hadad, the weather-fertility god. Naaman talked about accompanying the Aramean king into the “temple of Rimmon” in Damascus (2 Kings 5:18). This was probably the temple of Hadad-Rimmon (Zechariah 12:11), meaning “Hadad the thunderer”. Other deities worshiped by the Arameans included Sin, the moon god, El, the “creator” god, Shamash, the sun god, and Reshep, the god of plague. The Lord had long before called Abraham out of the paganism of the Aramean culture to establish a godly nation (Genesis 12:1, Joshua 24:2-3, cf. Genesis 31:19, 30, 35:2-4).

The Israelites came into contact with the Aramean kingdom in Lebanon and Syria, immediately to their north. They engaged primarily in turf battles, particularly with the city-state of Damascus, called Aram in the Bible, but occasionally also entered with them into trade agreements (1 Kings 20:34) and alliances.

The most lasting legacy of the Arameans was their language, Arameic. It was the major spoken language of upper Mesopotamia and Syria during the early part of the first millennium B.C., as well as the diplomatic language of this time. From about the third centuy B.C. to the end of the Jewish state, Arameic was the common language of the Jews.


 

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