Prophecy Against Jeroboam: Partial Fulfillment & The Armeans and the Kingdom of Aram- Damascus

I see that when You say something, whether it’s a blessing or a curse, it happens (Is 55:11).

Strabo (born 63 BC or 64 B.C., died ca. 24 A.D.), a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher is mostly famous for his

Geographika (“Geography”)

“Poseidonius conjectures that the names of these nations also are akin; for, says he, the people whom we call Syriacs are by the Syriacs themselves called Arameans.”

(The Geography of Strabo, translated by Horace Leonard Jones and published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1917, Book I, Chapt. 2, 34).

“At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.

And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people.

And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child”  (1 Kgs 14:1-3).

So his wife went, and God said unto Ahijah,

“…Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman.

And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? For I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.

Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, For as much as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel,

And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes;

But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:

Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275 – May 30, 339), was a bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and is often referred to as the father of church history because of his work in recording the history of the early Christian church.

“And from Aram the Arameans, which are also called Syriacs”

(Sebastian Brock, “Eusebius and Syriac Christianity,” in Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, eds., Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism (Leiden 1992), p. 226).

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the Lord hath spoken it.

Flavius Josephus (c. 37 – c. 100 A.D. (or CE)) was a 1st century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and later settled in Rome.

“Aram had the Arameans, which the Greeks called Syriacs.”

(Antiquities of the Jews, translated by William Whiston in 1737, Book I, Chapt. 6).

Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.

And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.

Moreover the Lord shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? Even now.

For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger.

And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin” (1 Kgs 14:5-16).

So she left and as she entered Tirzah and was standing at the door of her home the child died.

“And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.

And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.

And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess.

Prof. Dietrich Hermann Hegewisch born Dec. 15, 1746 in Quakenbrück [Germany] and died April 4, 1812 in Kiel, was a prolific german historian at the University of Kiel with a wide span of interests.

“Do not the Syriacs, as they are usually called, or the Arameans, as they in fact are termed, deserve more attention in world history than they are usually given?”

(D.H. Hegewisch: Die Aramäer oder Syrer; ein kleiner Beitrag zur allgemeinen Weltgeschichte, Berlinische Monatschrift, 2, 1794, p. 193).

Later, partly because of continuing ignorance and partly because of convenience despite having accurate knowledge, they persisted in using them since it would have required something of an effort to give up the old, familiar names and divisions of the countries and switch to the new ones, even if they were more accurate.

“The Syriacs or Arameans were not merely a numerous and large people, they were also a much cultivated people” (ibid, p. 307).

And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done.For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.

Prof. Theodor Mommsen born Nov. 30, 1817, Garding, Schleswig [now in Germany] died Nov. 1, 1903,

Charlottenburg, near Berlin, was a German historian and writer, famous for his masterpiece about the History of Rome.

He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902.

“The history of the Aramaean or Syriac nation which occupied the east coast and extended into the interior of Asia as far as the Euphrates and Tigris”

(The History of Rome, written between 1854 and 1856, Leipzig, by Theodor Mommsen, Book First, Chapter One).

And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.

And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem:

And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.

And king Rehoboam made in their stead brasen shields, and committed them unto the hands of the chief of the guard, which kept the door of the king’s house.

And it was so, when the king went into the house of the Lord, that the guard bare them, and brought them back into the guard chamber.

Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?

And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days.

And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And Abijam his son reigned in his stead” (1 Kgs 14:19-31).

1 “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Is 55:11).

The Armeans and
the Kingdom of Aram-Damascus

Israel’s northern neighbors were the various Aramean kingdoms that emerged about the same time Israel settled in Canaan.  The Arameans occupied Syria and the regions of the Habor and Balikh Rivers in northwest Mesopotamia, the areas from which Abraham migrated.  

Evidence of the Arameans
Arameans were the indigenous people of Syria and Mesopotamia, which the Hebrews called Aram-Naharaim (Aram of the two Rivers).

They established several important kingdoms, spread the knowledge of the alphabet, and generally exercised a great influence on the advance of civilization.

Their language spread to the neighboring peoples. It survived the fall of Niniveh (612 B.C.) and Babylon (539 B.C.) and remained the official language of the Persian empire (538-331 B.C.).

There is evidence to show that Aramaic was widely used in Palestine in Roman times. Hence, Jesus and his direct followers spoke Aramaic, and words in that language have been preserved in the New Testament in transliteration as well as translation.

Israel recalled an ancestral connection with the Arameans: “a wandering Aramean was my father” (Deut 26:5).  In the biblical genealogies the Arameans are described as descendants of Aram, grandson of Abraham’s brother Nahor (Gen. 22:20-21; cf. 25:20; 31:24).

The Arameans

The Arameans first appear in Egyptian records about 1200 B.C. as tribal pastoral nomads. Their language was a West Semitic dialect similar to Hebrew.  Adopted later by other groups, Aramaic became the major language of the Western Persian Empire.  

Prof. Theodor Nöldeke born March 2, 1836 in Harburg near Hamburg, died December 25, 1930 in Karlsruhe, was the leading german semitic scholar, who studied at Göttingen, Vienna, Leiden and Berlin.

“The main body of the population of all these wide landscapes from the Mediterranean Sea to beyond the Tigris belonged to a certain nationality, that of the Arameans.”

(Th. Nöldeke: Assyrios Syrios Syros, in Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie, Hermes 5, Berlin 1871, p. 460).

Although some scholars believe the Arameans invaded Upper Mesopotamia and Syria from the desert fringes, more recent research suggests they may have been part of the general West Semitic population of these areas who took advantage of the collapse of the great powers about 1200 B.C. to establish themselves more firmly.  For the next 200 years the Arameans consolidated their claims on tribally held lands. 

By 1000 B.C. the Arameans, like Israel, formed kingdoms – some large, many others small – often bearing the name Bit (“House”) and the name of the chief tribe (Bit-Zamani, Bit-Adini [the Beth-eden of Amos 1:5]) or Aram plus the major city of the region (Aram-Zobah, Aram- Damascus).

In northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, the Aramean states competed with Neo-Hittite states such as Que, Kummuhu, and Carcherrish. 

Because of their proximity to Israel, the Aramean states of central and southern Syria appear most prominently in the Bible.  Hamath, the most northerly of the Aramean cities mentioned frequently in the Bible, was located on the Orontes River more than one hundred miles north of Damascus (2 Sam. 8:9-10).

The Bible uses the phrase “entrance to Lebo-hamath” to describe the northern limits of Israel (Num. 34:8; 1 Kgs. 8:65; 2 Kgs. 14:25-28). 

Aram-Zobah stretched across central Lebanon (the Beqa Valley) into the Plain of Homs.  Saul and David fought the kings of Aram-Zobah (1 Sam 14:47; 2 Sam 8:3). 

Other Aramean kingdoms close to Israel included Beth-rehob, Maacah, and Geshur.  However, by far the most important Aramean state for Israel was her powerful near neighbor, Aram-Damascus.

Aram-Damascus

Damascus is an oasis city on the edge of the desert watered by two rivers, the Abana and Pharpar.  A great caravan center, Damascus was located at the intersection of two international trade routes, the International Coastal Highway and the King’s Highway.

Since the end of the Aramean kingdom of Osrhoene, the peaceful-minded Arameans have been without any state of their own.

They have been constantly victimized for different religious massacres, discrimination, ethnic cleansing and persecutions for hundreds of years, so that they became a minority in the area, which was called by themselves Aram, Aram-Nahrin and Beth Aramaye.

The King’s Highway brought the riches of the Arabian Peninsula northward to Damascus, while the International Coastal Highway connected with traffic flowing from Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Because Damascus has been continuously inhabited over the millennia, no thorough investigation of earlier remains has been possible.  

After converting to Christianity the East and West-Arameans adopted the term “Syrian” which became both a lingual and a group designation.

But they continued to call themselves Arameans and used this Greek term as a synonym for their original name.

Despite their common language, culture and history the Arameans of today are divided into various groups (Syriacs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Maronites, Melkites, Mandeans).

Some of the Arameans insist on calling themselves “Assyrians”; other prefer the term “Chaldean”.

There are no descendants of the historical ancient Assyrians and the Chaldeans of Antiquity were just a group of Arameans.

There is no reason for the present-day Arameans to name their nation “Assyrian” or “Chaldean”- the names given to them by unknown western missionaries in the 16th and 19th century.

The only historically correct name for these groups is Aramean, as it is testified by many historians and the great scholars of the Arameans, who enlightened the entire Mankind.

However, the Ebla Texts (2000 B.C.) mention Damascus.  Assyrian sources and the Bible provide considerable information on the relationship between Israel and Aram-Damascus during the pivotal era between 1000 and 700 B.C.

Israel and Damascus were natural rivals due to their proximity to one another and their mutual desire to control the King’s Highway.  David defeated the king of Aram-Damascus and garrisoned the city (2 Sam 8:5-6), but Solomon lost Damascus when the Aramean upstart Rezon seized the city (1 Kgs 11:23-24).

Following the death of Solomon and the division of his kingdom, the interplay between Damascus and Israel became more complex. Several Damascus kings are mentioned in the Bible, some of who bore the title.

“Ben-hadad” – “son of the storm god Hadad.

Ben-hadad I attacked Israel on behalf of Asa, king of Judah, who was pressured by Baasha of Israel (1 Kgs 15:16-22).  Ahab fought Benr-hadad (II?), according to the Bible (1 Kgs 20; 22), but joined with his enemy in 853 in a coalition opposing the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III’s Qarqar.

Assyrian records name the king of Damascus “Hadad-iri.”  Damascus was the most powerful state of the southern Levant between 850 and 800 B.C. and became a formidable threat to Israel’s security. 

The Historians Poseidonios from Apamea (ca. 135 B.C. – 51 B.C.), was a Greek Stoic philosopher, politician, astronomer, geographer, historian, and teacher.

“The people we Greek call Syriacs, they call themselves Arameans”.

(See J.G. Kidd, Posidonius (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, 1988), vol. 2, pt. 2, pp . 955-956).

Israel suffered greatly under Aramean domination when Hazael and a later Ben-hadad ruled Damascus (2 Kgs 10:32-33; 13:1-5).  Jehoash (Joash) paid Hazael tribute to save his kingdom when the Aramean king threatened Judah while conquering Gath (2 Kgs 12:17-18).

New light on the relations between Israel and Damascus comes from a fragmentary stele recently found at Dan.  Dating about 830 B.C., the partial inscription seems to suggest Aramean control of northern Israel and mentions the “House of David,” an apparent reference to the dynasny line of Judah.  

The stele illustrates the changing fortunes in the relations between Israel and Damascus throughout the 800s.

Jehoash broke the grip of Ben-hadad over Israel and regained several Israelite cities (2 Kgs 13:22-25).  After  the power of Damascus waned temporarily following a defeat inflicted by Adad-nirari III, Jeroboam took advantage of the situation by extending Israelite control northward to Damascus and Hamath, matching David’s previous exploits (2 Kgs 14:28).

Tiglath-pileser III renewed Assyrian expansion in 745 B.C. at the expense of the small states of the Levant. Damascus may have recovered some of its former power since it led a coalition aimed at stopping the Assyrian advance.  

Aram-Damascus ceased to exist as an independent kingdom; instead her territories were incorporated into an Assyrian province.  

Despite this disaster, Damascus endured as a major caravan center throughout the Roman period, when the city appears in some lists of the Decapolis on the border of the Nabatean Kingdom.  Aretas IV, king of Nabatea, apparently controlled Damascus at the time of Saul’s conversion (2 Cor. 11:32).