Israel’s Nameless Savior

Credit:, Istanbul Archaeology Museum

In Deuteronomy 25, Israel is command to “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

Here, Moses is referencing a battle that is mentioned in Exodus 17. “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands. So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on one side, one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”

That the course of the battle was determined by the position of Moses’ arms, demonstrates God’s direct involvement in wars. This is a concept reiterated in Deuteronomy 20. “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

This concept of God as deliverer is reiterated in 2 Kings 13. For nearly a century, the Arameans were Israel’s greatest threat, invading, laying siege to Israel’s cities and holding the land. Then it stopped. “Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram.”

The archaeological record can explain just who the deliverer was.

Adad-nirari III was the king of Assyria from 811 BCE until 783 BCE. As did earlier Assyrian kings of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, he regularly undertook military campaigns to dominate neighboring regions, including the area of Syria.

The Saba’a Conquest Stele of Adad-nirari III was recovered in Saba’a in Syria. It was recorded by an Assyrian officer Nergalerish. After the kings in Syria stopped paying tribute, Adad-nirari III ordered his army into the region. “I commanded the troops of Assyria to march to the land Hatti. I crossed the Euphrates in flood. … I commanded [my troops to march to Damascus]. I [confined] Mari in Damascus [… He brought to me] 100 talents of gold (and) 1,000 talents of silver as tribute. The word ‘Mari’ here is the Aramean term for a Lord, in this case, the Ben-Hadad of the Bible.

Thus it is the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III who is deliverer, who defeated the Aramenas and ended the Aramean threat to Israel.

The Saba’a Conquest Stele of Adad-nirari III is kept at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.