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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Aram, Aramaeans

ARAM, ARAMÆANS (often in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ Syrians ’). A number of scattered but kindred tribes which made their appearance in the Euphrates valley about b.c. 1300 and rapidly pushed westward. Their chief habitat stretched from Harran, east of the Euphrates, south-westward to the Hauran. The north-eastern part of this region was called ‘Aram of the rivers’ ( Aram-naharaim , Psalms 60:1-12 , title). The Aramæans are first mentioned by Shalmaneser I. of Assyria about b.c. 1300 ( WAI [Note: AI Western Asiatic Inscriptions.] iii. 4, No. 1). About the same time their name occurs in an inscription of Rameses II. (cf. Müller, Asien und Europa , 222, 234). Tiglath-pileser I. ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 1110) mentions Aramæans ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] i. 33) as dwelling east of the Euphrates, and in this same region they were later (885 824) conquered by Ashurnazirpal and Shalmaneser II. Many of them continued to live in the Euphrates valley, where their language spread to such an extent that, in the reign of Sennacherib, Aramaic glosses begin to make their appearance on Babylonian contracts. In Nippur many similar documents from the Persian period have been found. They indicate that the use of Aramaic was spreading among the common people of Babylonia. It probably came into general use here, as the Babylonian Talmud is written in it.

The Aramæans pushed into the West in large numbers shortly after b.c. 1300. In course of time they occupied Damascus and a part of the country to the south as far as the Hauran, some of them mingling with tribes still farther to the south and becoming the Ammonites, Moabites, and Israelites. A part of the Aramæans also displaced the Hittites in Hamath. Damascus became the leading Aramæan State (cf. Amos 1:5 and Isaiah 7:8 ), but other independent Aramæan kingdoms were Aram-Geshur , and Aram-Maacah in the Hauran to the north of Bashan; Aram-Zobah , farther north towards Damascus; and Aram-Rehob , near the town of Dan ( Numbers 13:21 , Judges 18:28 ), conjecturally identified with Banias (Moore, Com. on Judges , 399).

King David married a daughter of the king of Geshur, and she became the mother of Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3 ), who afterwards fled thither ( 2 Samuel 13:38 ). Damascus was conquered by David ( 2 Samuel 8:6 ), who also made Zobah, Rehob, and Maacah tributary (ch. 10). Zobah is mentioned by Ashurbanipal three centuries later as Subiti .

After the death of David, Damascus regained its independence. In the reigns of Baasha and Asa it was an ally now of Israel and now of Judah (1 Kings 15:18 ). During the century from Ahab to Jehoash of Israel, Damascus and Israel were frequently at war, and Damascus held much of Israel’s trans-Jordanic territory. After this the Aramæan kingdom became weaker, but in the reign of Ahaz it made an attempt on Judah ( Isaiah 7:1-25 ). It was finally subdued by Tiglath-pileser- III. of Assyria in b.c. 732.

The Aramæans continued to form the basis of population in the region from Aleppo to the Euphrates and beyond. Early in the Christian era this region became Christian, and in that Aramaic dialect called Syriac a large Christian literature exists.

George A. Barton.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Aram, Aramaeans'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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