The Dangerous Son of a Nobody

Credit:, Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient

In Numbers 11, God punished the people of Israel. First, the people complained about the hardships of the desert wandering and they were struck by fire. Following this incident, people complained of the lack of diversity in their diets and so God rained down quail upon them, and they were struck by plague.

In 2 Kings 6, Israel’s rival Aram becomes the method by which God punishes the Kingdom of Israel. In this account, Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, besieged the city of Samaria, causing a famine. The king of Israel recognized the source of the disaster. “The king said, This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”

Two Aramean kings named in the Bible are Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, and the king who followed, Hazael.

In 1 Kings 15, “There was war between Asa [king of Judah] and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.” To buy his nation protection, “Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus.” As above, in 2 Kings 6, Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, besieged the city of Samaria.

In 2 Kings 8, Elisha tells Hazael that he will become king of Aram, and Hazael “took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.” Later Hazael would go to war against Israel and Judah. “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 these biblical stories, the king Ben Hadad was usurped by Hazael. This fact appears to be consistent with the archaeological record.

Shalmaneser III ruled the Neo-Assyrian kingdom from 859-824 BCE. During his reign he maintained an expansionary policy, putting him in constant conflict with his neighbors. On the recovered Basalt Statue of Shalmaneser III, he recounted his conflict with the Arameans. “Hazael, son of a nobody, took the throne. He mustered his numerous troops; (and) he moved against me to do war and battle. fought with him. I decisively defeated him. I took away from him his walled camp. In order to save his life he ran away. I pursued (him) as far as Damascus, his royal city, cut down his orchards.”

Shalmaneser III says that Hazael was a “son of a nobody,” meaning he did not descend from the royal line. This is detail that conforms with a detail in the Bible.

The image above is of the Basalt Statue of Shalmaneser III from the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient.