At the outset of Deuteronomy, Moses tells Israel that they will be going to war to capture Canaan. “East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying: The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their descendants after them.”
But Moses also clarifies to them that God fights Israel’s wars. “Then I said to you, Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
In 2 Kings, the king of Israel does not maintain his fealty to God, and the Arameans defeat Israel in battle. In 2 Kings 8, “Ahaziah went with Joram son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram; so King Joram returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram.” In 2 Kings 10, the next king of Israel, Jehu, “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead, the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh, from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.”
Hazael king of Aram is said to be the conqueror of Israel, and he is attested in archaeology.
Shalmaneser III was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, centered in today’s northern Iraq, from 859-825 BCE. His reign is marked by an expansionary military policy and he waged war to the south, east, north and west. One of those regions he attacked was Syria, the home of the Arameans.
A fragment of stele purchased on the antiquities market in Baghdad lists the genealogy of Assyrian kings and their exploits. It includes Assyria’s defeat of King “Haza’ilu” of Damascus, the Hazael of the Bible.
This ‘Fragment of a Stele’ that mentions Israel’s rival Hazael, who carved out pieces of Israel, is housed at the Walters Museum in Baltimore, MD and is shown in the image above.