BENHADAD, BEN-HADAD bĕn hā’ dăd (בֶּנ־֠הֲדַד; LXX, υἱὸ̀ς ̔Αδέρ, son of Hadad). The name of three kings of Syria. According to 2 Kings 5:18 Hadad seems to be identical with the god, Rimmon, of Assyria.
A. Ben-hadad I. He was the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus (1 Kings 15:18). The kings of Syria had built up a tradition of hostility toward Israel, but Ben-hadad formed a league (perhaps little more than a friendship pact) with Baasha, king of Israel (909-886 b.c.) who had set out to build a fortification against Judah at Ramah. Asa, king of Judah (910-869 b.c.), in a move against Baasha, sent all the silver and gold in the treasury of the temple to Ben-hadad to form a league with him and to break his league with Baasha (15:18, 19). Ben-hadad, seemingly in need of wealth and the enlargement of his kingdom, quickly took advantage of the opportunity and accepted Asa’s proposal. The Syrian king sent his commanders against Israel and took from Baasha the cities of Ijon, Dan, Abel-bethmaacah, all Chinneroth and all Naphtali (15:20). Baasha was forced to stop building Ramah and move his residence to Tirzah with Asa removing a large quantity of building material from Ramah. Asa had succeeded in repulsing Baasha, but at a price which brought upon him a rebuke by the prophet Hanani (2 Chron 16:1). Ben-hadad made serious inroads into the territory of the northern kingdom.
B. Ben-hadad II
Identification. It seems best to regard this Ben-hadad as the son of Ben-hadad I and the Hadad-ezer or Hadad-’idri of the monuments. However, Bruce treats him as Ben-Hadad I. It must be observed that the greater part of his activity, as recorded in the historical books of the Bible, places him in the days of Ahab, king of Israel (874-853 b.c.) and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (869-848 b.c.), whereas the activity of Ben-hadad I must be placed somewhere near 900 b.c. The help of the latter was sought by Asa against Baasha (919-886 b.c.) when he was building at Ramah which must have been in the early part of his reign. This Ben-hadad came against Ahab in the days of Jehoshaphat which could place as much as forty years between the two conflicts. While the Bible does not give any family relationship for the Ben-hadad who came against Ahab, it seems better on the evidence of historical backgrounds to treat him as a son of Ben-hadad I.
The annals of Shalmaneser (6th year) name this Ben-hadad Adad ’idri (or Hadadezer) of Damascus and makes him a part of the combined forces with Ahab, Hamath and others whom he defeated at Karkar when he crossed the Euphrates on boats made of goatskins. Ben-hadad bore the brunt of the losses at the time.
2. The siege of Samaria. With the aid of thirty-two tributary kings and with horses and chariots Ben-hadad laid siege to Samaria (20:1). During the attack he sent messengers to Ahab demanding the surrender of his gold, silver, wives and children. When Ahab agreed to meet the demands, Ben-hadad sent his messengers again demanding the right to search Ahab’s dwellings and to take anything he wished. Ahab’s elders advised refusal. Enraged by the refusal Ben-hadad attacked the city (20:2-12), whereupon Jehovah sent a prophet to Ahab with instruction to put the battle into the hands of the governors of the districts. He did this and succeeded in routing the Syrian army with heavy losses.
The following year Ben-hadad attempted to avenge his earlier defeat. At this time he met Israel in the plain, claiming that Israel’s gods were gods of the hills. Jehovah, however, offended by the remark, gave the victory to the Israelites (20:23-30). Ben-hadad fled to his city from which he sent messengers to Ahab to plead for his life. With the promise that Ben-hadad would return the cities which his father had taken from Israel and that Ahab might erect bazaars in Damascus as Ben-hadad had done in Samaria, Ben-hadad’s messengers succeeded in obtaining a covenant from Ahab. The covenant, however, met with divine displeasure. To reveal that displeasure to Ahab Jehovah’s prophet engaged in a bit of symbolic action in which he bandaged his wounds and took his position beside the road until Ahab came along. He feigned irresponsible action in allowing a prisoner to escape. When Ahab confirmed his judgment, the prophet revealed himself and declared that the real guilt rested upon the king who had let one escape whom God had devoted to destruction (20:35-42).
3. The battle for Ramoth-Gilead. With the covenant Ahab made with Ben-hadad hostilities ceased for three years. The suspension of hostilities, however, was interrupted by Ahab, who, with the aid of Jehoshaphat of Judah, sought to take Ramoth-Gilead back from the Syrians (22:1-4). The cautious Jehoshaphat insisted upon consulting the prophets concerning the venture and Micaiah warned that Ahab would die in the conflict. Despite a disguise to conceal his identity Ahab was slain in the battle (22:29-36). In inflicting the defeat upon Ahab, Ben-hadad used thirty-two commanders instead of the thirty-two confederate kings he had used previously.
4. Ben-hadad and Elisha. The Syrian strife continued even after Ahab’s death but Elisha seems to have been the chief thorn in Ben-hadad’s flesh. Elisha predicted the moves of the Syrian king, producing such a frustration that he was determined to capture the Heb. prophet (2 Kings 6:11-14). When Ben-hadad’s army came to take the prophet the Lord smote the army with blindness and led them to Samaria where Elisha made them a feast and released them. His action produced a temporary release from the raids Ben-hadad was conducting against Israel (6:18-23). When next Ben-hadad besieged Samaria the famine was so great the women were eating their own children. In great anger Israel’s king sought to slay Elisha whom he blamed for the famine (6:32, 33). The Lord, however, gave Israel victory over Ben-hadad and relief from the famine.
5. The death of Ben-hadad. For Syria’s conflict with Assyria one must turn to Shalmaneser’s annals, since the Bible does not record it. The Assyrian inflicted a series of defeats upon Benhadad, pushing his troops into the Orontes River on the occasion of Ben-hadad’s death. Shalmaneser records that Hazael seized the throne and rose against him, but was defeated. The Bible adds that Ben-hadad dispatched his commander-in-chief to Elisha to inquire if he would recover from his illness. Informed by Elisha that he would be the successor of Ben-hadad, Hazael took a wet cover-let and suffocated his king, placing himself upon the throne (8:7-15).
C. Ben-Hadad III. He was the son of Hazael, the usurper. While he was unrelated to Ben-hadad II, he appropriated the dynastic name.
1. Continued conflict with Israel. Because Jehoahaz (819-798 b.c.) continued in the evil ways of Jeroboam I, God permitted Israel to fall into the hand of Ben-hadad (13:2, 3), who reduced Israel to fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and 10,000 footmen. Although relaxed at times, Ben-hadad’s mastery of Israel continued until the days of Joash, son of Jehoahaz, who defeated Syria three times and recovered the lost cities of Israel (13:24, 25).
2. Defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. 2 Kings 13:5 states that in the days of Jehoahaz Jehovah gave Israel a savior so that they could escape from the hand of Ben-hadad. This appears to be a reference to the defeats inflicted upon Syria by Adad-nirari III who came against Damascus with costly attacks. The prophets also treated Ben-hadad’s defeat as a judgment from the Lord. (See Amos 1:4 and Jer 49:27.)
Bibliography F. F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations, 46-51; Hitti, History of Syria, 162-168; ANET, 276-281.