The Aramaeans, Semitic descendants of Aram, were to be found throughout all these areas. Additionally, the name of Uz, one of Aram’s four sons, is applied to the area of the Arabian Desert E of the Promised Land and touching on the borders of Edom. (Job 1:1; Lam. 4:21) Aramaic, the language of the Aramaeans, was closely related to Hebrew and in time became an international language of both trade and diplomacy throughout the regions of the Fertile Crescent.—2 Ki. 18:26; see ARAMAIC.
It was doubtless due to Jacob’s twenty-year residence in Aram with his Aramaean father-in-law Laban that Deuteronomy 26:5 speaks of him as a “Syrian” (literally, an “Aramaean”). Additionally, Jacob’s mother Rebekah was an Aramaean, as were his wives Leah and Rachel. The Israelites were therefore closely related indeed to the Aramaeans.
Aramaean kingdoms begin to be mentioned in the Bible record contemporaneously with the development of the nation of Israel. Cushan-rishathaim, a king from Aram-naharaim (Mesopotamia), subjugated Israel for eight years until Judge Othniel liberated them.—Judg. 3:8-10.
Aram-Zobah was another Aramaean kingdom and is referred to as an enemy of Saul’s rule (1117-1077 B.C.E.). (1 Sam. 14:47) It appears to have been situated to the N of Damascus and exercised dominion as far N as Hamath and E to the Euphrates. When David was fighting Israel’s enemies he came into conflict with Hadadezer, powerful king of Aram-Zobah, and defeated him. (2 Sam. 8:3, 4; 1 Chron. 18:3; compare Psalm 60, superscription) Subsequent to this, the Aramaean marauder Rezon moved into power at Damascus and this city soon became the most prominent Aramaean city (1 Ki. 11:23-25) and “the head of Syria.” (Isa. 7:8) As such it manifested active hostility toward Israel throughout the entire history of the northern kingdom.—See DAMASCUS; SYRIA.
Aram-maacah is mentioned along with Zobah, Rehob and Ishtob as among the Aramaean kingdoms from which the Ammonites hired chariots and horsemen to war against David. The king of Aram-maacah joined these mercenary forces, which David’s army soon put to flight. (1 Chron. 19:6-15; 2 Sam. 10:6-14) The kingdom of Maacah probably lay E of the Jordan and with Mount Hermon on its N side.—Josh. 12:5; 13:11.
Geshur was a small Aramaean kingdom in Transjordania evidently just below Maacah and with its S boundaries extending down to the E side of the Sea of Galilee. Like Maacah, it lay within the territory assigned to the tribe of Manasseh.—Deut. 3:14; Josh. 13:11; see GESHUR.
By David’s conquest of Aramaean kingdoms he extended the boundaries of the typical kingdom far to the N so that his kingdom reached to the Euphrates River, not far from Haran of Paddan-aram. He thus fulfilled Jehovah’s promise concerning the extent of Israel’s inheritance in the Promised Land.—Deut. 1:7; 11:24; Josh. 1:4.
For further information concerning Israel’s relations with Aram, see SYRIA.
See ARAM Nos. 1, 5.
An ancient Semitic language having a close relationship with Hebrew and originally spoken by the Aramaeans. (See ARAM.) With the passing of time, however, it came to embrace various dialects (some of them viewed as separate languages) and enjoyed wide use, especially in southwestern Asia. Aramaic was employed particularly from the second millennium B.C.E. to about 500 C.E. It is named at Ezra 4:7 and Daniel 2:4, and is one of the three languages in which the Bible was originally written.
The Aramaic portions of the Scriptures include Ezra 4:8 to 6:18 and 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11 and Daniel 2:4b to 7:28. Aramaic words also appear in Genesis, Esther, Job, certain Psalms, The Song of Solomon, Jonah and the Hebrew parts of Daniel. The Hebrew book of Job is strongly Aramaic and Ezekiel shows Aramaic influences. Quite a number of Aramaic proper and common nouns are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and particularly do Aramaic expressions appear in the Gospel accounts by Mark and Matthew.
All of this is not surprising, for the Hebrews had close contact with the Aramaeans and with the Aramaic language throughout their Biblically recorded history. In fact, the progenitor of the nation of Israel, Jacob (or Israel), was referred to as a “perishing Syrian,” or “Aramaean.” (Deut. 26:5) Jacob had sojourned for twenty years in Aram with his Aramaean father-in-law Laban and could therefore be called a Syrian or Aramaean. Furthermore, his mother was an Aramaean, being brought from an Aramaean district to marry his father Isaac. (Gen. 24:1-4, 10) Among the earliest renditions of the Hebrew Scriptures into other languages were the Aramaic Targums, though they were not put into writing until several centuries after the production of the Greek Septuagint Version commenced, about 280 B.C.E.
The Melqart stele is possibly the oldest extant example of Aramaic outside of the Bible and it goes back to perhaps the ninth century B.C.E. The next oldest appears to be the Zenjirli inscriptions of the eighth century B.C.E., in one of which Tiglath-pileser (III) is mentioned. (2 Ki. 15:29) There are other ancient specimens of Aramaic, including the fifth century B.C.E. papyri discovered on the Nile River island of Elephantine.
Aramaic, Hebrew and Phoenician comprised the northern division of the Semitic family of languages, which seem to have been the only ones written with an alphabet in early times. Though Aramaic differs considerably from Hebrew, it is a cognate language having the same letters in its alphabet with the same names as the Hebrew. Like Hebrew, it is written from right to left and, originally, the Aramaic script was consonantal. However, the Aramaic employed in the Bible was vowel-pointed later by the Masoretes, just as they vowel-pointed the Hebrew. Quite a number of Aramaic words found their way into the Hebrew language and even the modern form of the Hebrew letters, termed “square,” may derive from Aramaic. On the other hand, Aramaic has been influenced by its contact with other languages. Not only are various Hebrew, Akkadian and Persian proper names of localities and persons found in Biblical Aramaic, but it shows Hebrew influence in religious terms, Akkadian influence particularly in political and financial terms, and Persian influence in such terms as those relating to political and legal matters.
Aramaic, in addition to having the same script as Hebrew, bears a similarity to it in verbal, nominal and pronominal inflections. The verbs have two tense aspects, the imperfective (denoting incompleted action) and the perfective (signifying completed action), Aramaic employs singular, dual and plural nouns and has two genders, the masculine and the feminine. It differs from other Semitic languages by displaying a preference for the vowel sound a, and in other ways, including certain consonantal preferences, such as d for z and t for sh.
Aramaic is generally divided into Western and