BEN-HADAD (bĕn-hā'dăd, Heb. ben hădhadh). The name is titular, as opposed to a proper name. As the rulers in Egypt bore the title Pharaoh, so the rulers of Syria bore the designation Ben-Hadad, “son of [the god] Hadad.” The Syrians believed their rulers were lineal descendants of the Syrian god Hadad, the deity of storm and thunder, to be identified with Rimmon (2Kgs.5.18). There are three individuals in the OT called Ben-Hadad.
Ben-Hadad I was a contemporary with Asa, king of Judah (1Kgs.15.18). It is plausible (913-873 b.c.) that he is to be identified with Rezon, the founder of the kingdom of Damascus (1Kgs.11.23-1Kgs.11.25). At the request of Asa of Judah, Ben-Hadad severed his alliance with Baasha of Israel and aligned himself with the southern kingdom (1Kgs.15.16ff.). Though his assistance was of temporary value, the price that Asa was obliged to pay for such aid was tremendous, as Ben-Hadad not only gained control of the treasures of Asa’s kingdom but was able through his alliance to extend his territory into the Hebrew kingdoms themselves. Asa was sternly reprimanded by the prophet Hanani for this unfortunate alliance (2Chr.16.7ff.).
Ben-Hadad II was in all probability the son of Ben-Hadad I. He is the Hadadezer of the monuments. He was contemporary with Ahab of Israel (873-853 b.c.), against whom he waged war, laying siege to the newly constructed capital, Samaria. Because of the ungracious terms of surrender demanded by Ben-Hadad, Ahab refused to capitulate. With divine aid, Ahab was able to rout the Syrian army utterly at the battle of Aphek (1Kgs.20.26ff.). Ahab spared the life of Ben-Hadad, thus never fully realizing the victory that otherwise would have been his.
Ben-Hadad III (796-770 b.c.) was son of the usurper Hazael, hence not in direct line. His name was adopted from the illustrious name before him. He was a contemporary of Amaziah, king of Judah, and Jehoahaz of Israel. He reduced the fighting personnel of Israel till it was “like the dust at threshing time” (2Kgs.13.7). It was at this time that God raised up a deliverer for Israel, most likely Ramman-Mirari III, as shown from an inscription. Joash was able to defeat Ben-Hadad on three difference occasions and to recover the cities of Israel (2Kgs.13.25). Under Jeroboam II the northern kingdom restored its prestige, but Amos had already prophesied of the time when Israel and Samaria would go into captivity beyond Damascus (Amos.1.4ff.; Amos.5.27).——JFG