Archeology and the Israelite-Aramaean Wars Part 2 -- By: Merrill Frederick Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:423 (Jul 1949)
Article: Archeology and the Israelite-Aramaean Wars Part 2
Author: Merrill Frederick Unger


Archeology and the Israelite-Aramaean Wars
Part 2

Merrill F. Unger

(Concluded from the Apri1-June Number, 1949)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 14–29, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–16 respectively.}

The identification of the Biblical Benhadad I and the so-called “Benhadad II” as one and the same person as a result of the evidence furnished by the Melcarth Stele greatly illuminates the important, but heretofore vexingly perplexing, epoch of Israelite history covered by the Omride dynasty. Because of the meteoric ministry of Elijah, this era looms large on the pages of the Bible, and an accurate understanding of its historical and political background is therefore imperative. The contributions archeology is making to clarify the intricacies of this period are highly significant to Biblical studies.

Benhadad I in Collision with the Omrides

Before the founding of the strong house of Omri in Israel, Benhadad had a good running start of three or four years to extend Aramaean gains in Syria. As Damascus controlled the rich caravan routes westward to Accho and the Phoenician coast since Benhadad’s brilliant victory over Baasha some three or four years previously, the immense wealth which flowed into the city, enabled Aram to amass formidable strength for its inevitable struggle against Israel in the race to be the dominant Syrian state.

Benhadad I and Omri (c. 876-869)

It was natural for Aramaean merchants to take advantage of their gains in Northern Israel to try to monopolize Phoenician trade. But Benhadad now found a different situation in the founding of a strong and aggressive new dynasty. Never

before had the Aramaean king been called upon to deal with such dangerous rivals as Omri and his son Ahab proved to be. The years of civil war which, according to 1 Kings 16:15, 21–23, constituted at least a four-year prelude to Omri’s reign, were not able to obscure the military and political genius of the new ruler. Immediately he laid plans to offset the formidable commercial and political expansion of Damascus.

By astute diplomacy Omri undertook to establish close affiliation with Phoenicia, which culminated in the marriage of his son and successor, Ahab, to the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. This move paved the way for a general religious syncretism in Israel. In addition, he displayed worldly-wise vigor in dealing with foreign powers. The Mesha Stone1 discloses that ...

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