(Ben-haʹdad) [Son of Hadad].
The name of three kings of Syria mentioned in the Bible record. Hadad was the storm god worshiped throughout Syria and other nearby regions.
1. The first king of Syria named Ben-hadad in the Biblical account was the son of Tabrimmon and grandson of Hezion. He had entered into a covenant with King Baasha of Israel, but King Asa of Judah, alarmed when Baasha began fortifying Ramah just a few miles N of Jerusalem, bribed Ben-hadad to break his covenant and attack the northern kingdom, thereby forcing Baasha to withdraw. In exchange for the royal treasures of Judah and those from the temple sanctuary, Ben-hadad invaded Israel, overrunning various cities in the territory of Naphtali and in the region of the Sea of Galilee. As expected, Baasha withdrew to his capital in Tirzah. (1Ki 15:16-21; 2Ch 16:1-6) This action took place about 962 B.C.E. (the “thirty-sixth year” at 2 Chronicles 16:1 evidently refers to the 36th year from the division of the kingdom in 997 B.C.E.).—See ASA No. 1.
2. The next mention of a Syrian king named Ben-hadad occurs during the reign of King Ahab of Israel (c. 940-920 B.C.E.). About the fifth year before Ahab’s death, “Ben-hadad the king of Syria” led the combined forces of 32 kings, evidently vassals, against Samaria, besieging the city and calling on King Ahab to surrender unconditionally. (1Ki 20:1-6) Ahab called a council of the older men of the land, who advised him to resist. Then, while the Syrian forces were preparing for an assault on the city and while Ben-hadad and the other kings were drinking themselves drunk in the booths they had erected, Ahab, following divine counsel, used strategy to initiate a surprise attack on the Syrian camp, and he successfully routed them.—1Ki 20:7-21.
Accepting his counselors’ theory that Jehovah was “a God of mountains” and that therefore the Israelites could be defeated on level land, the following year Ben-hadad led his army to Aphek, a town apparently located E of the Sea of Galilee. (See APHEK No. 5.) The Syrian forces had been reorganized, the 32 kings having been replaced by governors as heads of the troops, evidently because it was thought that the governors would fight more unitedly and obediently and perhaps would also have stronger incentive for winning promotion to higher rank than the more independent kings. Ben-hadad’s religious and military theories, however, proved worthless against the Israelite forces who, though vastly outnumbered, were forewarned by a prophet of the attack and had the backing of the King of the universe, Jehovah God. The Syrian forces were cut to pieces, and Ben-hadad fled into Aphek. Ahab, however, let this dangerous enemy go free, with this promise from Ben-hadad: “The cities that my father took from your father I shall return; and streets you will assign to yourself in Damascus the same as my father assigned in Samaria.”—1Ki 20:22-34.
There is considerable difference of opinion as to whether this Ben-hadad is the same Syrian king of Baasha and Asa’s day or whether he is instead a son or grandson of that king. For Ben-hadad I (of Asa’s time) to be the Ben-hadad of Ahab’s and even of Jehoram’s time (c. 917-905 B.C.E.) would require a reign of some 45 years or more. This, of course, is not impossible.
However, those who hold that the Syrian king of Ahab’s day should be called Ben-hadad II point to the promise made by Ben-hadad to Ahab, quoted above. (1Ki 20:34) On the face of it, this appears to say that Ben-hadad’s father had taken cities from Omri, Ahab’s father. But if the seizure referred to was that effected by Ben-hadad I during Baasha’s rule, that would make Ben-hadad I the father (or perhaps simply the predecessor) of the Ben-hadad II of Ahab’s reign. Likewise, Ahab’s “father” could possibly refer to a royal predecessor on the throne even though not related by blood as a lineal ancestor.—See BELSHAZZAR.
Nevertheless, the fact that Ben-hadad’s promise to Ahab made reference to Samaria would appear to limit the Syrian capture of the Israelite cities to the reign of Omri, since Samaria was built by him and thereafter made Israel’s capital. The “streets” assigned apparently were for the establishment of bazaars, or markets, to promote commercial interests.
Whatever the circumstances and time of the capture of the Israelite cities, the Scriptural evidence would seem to point to a different Ben-hadad as ruling by Ahab’s time, and hence he may be referred to as Ben-hadad II. It appears that the promise of Ben-hadad to return the cities taken from Israel by his father was not completely fulfilled, for in Ahab’s final year of rule this Israelite king formed an alliance with Jehoshaphat in a vain attempt to recover Ramoth-gilead (E of the Jordan) from the Syrians. Ben-hadad II is evidently the anonymous “king of Syria” who ordered his “thirty-two chiefs of the chariots” to concentrate their attack on Ahab in that battle. (1Ki 22:31-37) He must also be the king who sent his leprous army chief Naaman to be cured by Elisha during Jehoram’s reign. The Syrian king worshiped the god Rimmon (whose name forms part of that of Tabrimmon, the father of Ben-hadad I).—2Ki 5:1-19.
Despite the healing service rendered his general, Ben-hadad maintained his animosity toward Israel and sent invading parties into Israel. (2Ki 6:8; compare verse 23.) However, Elisha consistently warned the king of Israel in advance as to the route of the invading parties so that Ben-hadad began to suspect the presence of a traitor among his own servants. Learning that Elisha was the one informing the king of Israel about ‘the things that Ben-hadad spoke in his inner bedroom,’ the Syrian king sent a heavy military force to capture Elisha at Dothan. Elisha, however, caused the troops to be miraculously stricken with a form of blindness, and he led them right into the middle of the Israelite capital, Samaria. This experience, perhaps along with the merciful treatment and release granted the Syrians there, brought a halt to the marauding activity, though it did not eliminate Ben-hadad’s aggressive attitude.—2Ki 6:9-23.
Still bent on overthrowing the Israelite kingdom, Ben-hadad later massed his forces and besieged Samaria, provoking famine conditions of the gravest kind. (2Ki 6:24-29) Yet, when Jehovah one evening caused the Syrian camp to hear the sound of a large approaching army, they hastily concluded that Jehoram had hired the Hittites and Egyptians to rescue him, and thereupon they fled back to Syria in the darkness, leaving behind all their equipment and provisions.—2Ki 7:6, 7.
Ben-hadad II was on his sickbed when Elisha traveled to Damascus carrying out the divine commission given to his predecessor Elijah. (1Ki 19:15) Sending 40 camel loads of gifts to the prophet, Ben-hadad inquired as to the possibilities of recovery from his illness. Elisha’s answer, delivered to Hazael, showed that the king would die, with Hazael taking the kingship. The following day Hazael caused Ben-hadad’s death by suffocation, and then Hazael took the throne as king.—2Ki 8:7-15.
3. The son of Hazael, king of Syria. (2Ki 13:3) Ben-hadad III was evidently associated with his father in the oppression of Israel in the days of Jehoahaz (876-c. 860 B.C.E.) and in the Syrian capture of Israelite cities. Jehovah, however, raised up “a savior” for Israel, apparently in the persons of Jehoahaz’ son Jehoash (c. 859-845 B.C.E.) and his successor Jeroboam II (c. 844-804 B.C.E.). (2Ki 13:4, 5) In fulfillment of Elisha’s final prophecy, Jehoash recaptured “from the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities that he had taken from the hand of Jehoahaz,” defeating the Syrian forces on three occasions. (2Ki 13:19, 23-25) Jeroboam II followed up his father’s victories over Syria, returning Israel’s boundaries to their former state, thus serving as a savior for Israel. (2Ki 14:23-27) Ben-hadad III is not mentioned in connection with Jeroboam’s conquests and may not have been living by that time.
The expression “the dwelling towers of Ben-hadad,” used by the prophet Amos (who prophesied during Jeroboam II’s reign) to refer to the royal palaces in Damascus (Am 1:3-5; compare 2Ki 16:9), continued to be used in a similar way by Jeremiah some two centuries later.—Jer 49:23-27.
Ben-hadad in Ancient Inscriptions. An inscription of Shalmaneser III, after relating a conflict with the Syrians, states: “Hadadezer (himself) perished. Hazael, a commoner (lit.: son of nobody), seized the throne.” (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by J. Pritchard, 1974, p. 280) Thus, Ben-hadad II appears to be called “Hadadezer” (Assyrian, Adad-idri) by Shalmaneser III.
The Zakir Stele describes a punitive effort launched by “Barhadad, the son of Hazael, king of Aram,” at the head of a coalition of Syrian kings against “Zakir, king of Hamat and Luʽath,” thereby adding archaeological testimony to the existence of Ben-hadad III, son of Hazael.—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 655.
A stele, known as the Melqart Stele, was found in 1940 about 6 km (3.5 mi) N of Aleppo in northern Syria, and although the inscription is not entirely legible, it reads in part: “A stela set up by Barhadad . . . for his Lord Melqart.” (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 655) Whether this Barhadad should be identified with Ben-hadad I, II, III, or some other Ben-hadad is uncertain.