(Haʹmath), Hamathite (Haʹmath·ite).
The city of Hamath was the capital of a small Canaanite kingdom in Syria during the early history of Israel. The rich agricultural region surrounding it also took the same name. During Greek and Roman times the classical name of the city was Epiphania, so named by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). Today it is called Hama, a shortened form of its original name.
The city of Hamath was located on the Orontes River, along important trade routes, 81 km (50 mi) inland from the Mediterranean, about 190 km (118 mi) N of Damascus and about 120 km (75 mi) S of Aleppo.
Though sometimes said to be of Hittite origin, Hamath was more likely founded by the Hamathites, relatives of the Hittites and one of the 70 post-Flood families. Heth and Hamath, the forefathers of these two family lines, were listed as the 2nd and 11th sons respectively of Canaan the son of Ham.—Ge 10:6, 15-18; 1Ch 1:8, 13-16; see HITTITES.
“The Entering in of Hamath.” The oldest account we have of Hamath tells how the 12 Israelite spies in the 16th century B.C.E. came up from the S as far as “the entering in of Hamath,” an oft-repeated phrase thought to refer, not to the gates of the city itself but, rather, to the southern boundary of the territory over which it ruled. (Nu 13:21) It was to this limit that Joshua’s conquest was pushed northward. (Jos 13:2, 5; Jg 3:1-3) Some scholars, however, suggest that the expression “as far as to the entering in of Hamath” (Jos 13:5) should possibly read “as far as Lebi-hamath (Lion of Hamath),” hence a definite place.—See Vetus Testamentum, Leiden, 1952, p. 114.
The exact location of this boundary (or place) is not certain. It was reckoned as the northern boundary of Israel’s territory (Nu 34:8; 1Ki 8:65; 2Ki 14:25; 2Ch 7:8) and as bordering on Damascus. (Jer 49:23; Eze 47:15-17; 48:1; Zec 9:1, 2) Some think it was the southern extremity of the Coele-Syria Valley (also called the Beqaʽ), which runs between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges. Others say it was halfway between Baalbek and Riblah. Yet others suggest it was still farther N where the pass opens up between Homs and the sea.—Eze 47:20.
Relations With Israel. Toi (Tou) king of Hamath sent his son Joram (Hadoram) to congratulate King David for having defeated their common enemy Hadadezer. Hamath was then an independent kingdom. (2Sa 8:3, 9, 10; 1Ch 18:3, 9, 10) However, during Solomon’s reign the kingdom of Hamath seems to have been under Israel’s control, for Solomon built storage cities in that region. (2Ch 8:3, 4) After Solomon’s death, Hamath gained its independence and remained independent except for a brief period in the ninth century B.C.E. when Jeroboam II temporarily brought it again under Israelite control. (2Ki 14:28) About this time it was described as “populous Hamath.”—Am 6:2.
In the eighth century B.C.E. Hamath and her neighbors, including the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, were overrun by the Assyrians in their sweep to world domination. Assyria’s policy was to exchange and relocate her captives, and so people of Hamath were brought in to replace inhabitants of Samaria who, in turn, were moved to Hamath and other places. (2Ki 17:24; 19:12, 13; Isa 10:9-11; 37:12, 13) In the high places of Samaria, the Hamathites then set up images of their god Ashima, even though this worthless god had proved to be helpless against the Assyrians.—2Ki 17:29, 30; 18:33, 34; Isa 36:18, 19.
According to an extant cuneiform inscription (British Museum 21946), after the battle of Carchemish in 625 B.C.E. (Jer 46:2), Nebuchadnezzar’s forces overtook and destroyed the fleeing Egyptians in the district of Hamath. (Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, by A. K. Grayson, 1975, p. 99) In this same area, a few years earlier, Pharaoh Nechoh had taken King Jehoahaz captive. (2Ki 23:31-33) Then in 607 B.C.E., with the fall of Jerusalem, Zedekiah and other captives were taken to Riblah in the region of Hamath, and there before his eyes Zedekiah’s sons, along with others of the nobility, were put to death. (2Ki 25:18-21; Jer 39:5, 6; 52:9, 10, 24-27) Nevertheless, God had promised that in due time he would restore a remnant of his captive people, including those in the land of Hamath.—Isa 11:11, 12.
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