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HAMATH hā’ măth (חֲמָ֖ת; ̔Ημαθ; Αἱμηθ; KJV once HEMATH (Amos 6:14), and once in the Apocraypha AMATHIS (1 Macc 12:25), fortification, citadel. A city of Syria c. 125 m. N of Damascus. It was built on both banks of the Orontes River. The city was surrounded by hills and had a warm and humid climate.

The city was founded in the Neolithic period and destroyed c. 1750 b.c., prob. by the Hyksos, although there are no findings from the Hyksos period. Thutmose III (1502-1448) conquered the city, and during the time of Egyp. control of Syria the city prospered. Sometime before 900 b.c. it became the Hitt. capital of a small kingdom. Many Hitt. inscrs. have been found.

Shalmaneser III (c. 860-825 b.c.) invaded the Hitt. country as far as the Mediterranean. To resist him a Syrian league, which included Damascus, Israel, Hamath, and twelve kings of the coast, was formed. A battle was fought at Karkar in 854 b.c., but it must have ended indecisively, since both sides claimed the victory. Three years later Shalmaneser III was again stopped by the league, but in the eleventh year of his reign he plundered many towns of the kingdom of Hamath, although he was stopped again. He returned in the fourteenth year of his reign, and this time he conquered and broke the power of the league.

The Babylonian Chronicle records that at Hamath Nebuchadnezzar overtook the Egyptians fleeing from Carchemish (605 b.c.). Jeremiah (49:23) and Zechariah (9:2) say that the city was doomed. Jeremiah classed the city with Arpad, and Zechariah with Damascus, Tyre, and Sidon. Ezekiel prophesied that the land of Israel would some day extend N to Hamath (47:16, 17; 48:1).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes renamed the city Epiphania (Jos. Antiq. 1. 6. 2). In the Maccabean war Jonathan met the army of Demetrius in the region of Hamath.

The modern city of Hama, with a population of about 65,000, is built around the tell of the ancient city. Harald Inghalt conducted excavations at Hamath in 1931-1938. He discovered twelve strata of occupation from the Arab down to the Neolithic stratum.


H. Inghalt, Rapport preliminaire sur sep campagnes de fouilles a Hama en Syrie, 1932-38 (1940).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The word signifies a defense or citadel, and such designation was very suitable for this chief royal city of the Hittites, situated between their northern and southern capitals, Carchemish and Kadesh, on a gigantic mound beside the Orontes. In Am 6:2 it is named Great Hamath, but not necessarily to distinguish it from other places of the same name.

1. Early History:

later Sennacherib also claims to have taken it (2Ki 18:34; 19:13). In Isa 11:11, mention is made of Israelites in captivity at Hamath, and Hamathites were among the colonists settled in Samaria (2Ki 17:24) by Esarhaddon in 675 BC. Their special object of worship was Ashima, which, notwithstanding various conjectures, has not been identified.

2. Later History:

The Hamathite country is mentioned in 1 Macc 12:25 in connection with the movements of Demetrius and Jonathan. The Seleucids renamed it Epiphaneia (Josephus, Ant, I, vi, 2), and by this name it was known to the Greeks and the Romans, even appearing as Paphunya in Midrash Ber Rab chapter 37. Locally, however, the ancient name never disappeared, and since the Moslem conquest it has been known as Hama. Saladin’s family ruled it for a century and a half, but after the death of Abul-fida in 1331 it sank into decay.

3. Modern Condition:

The position of Hama in a fruitful plain to the East of the Nusairiyeh Mountains, on the most frequented highway between Mesopotamia and Egypt, and on the new railway, gives it again, as in ancient times, a singular significance, and it is once more rising in importance. The modern town is built in four quarters around the ancient citadel-mound, and it has a population of at least 80,000. It is now noted for its gigantic irrigating wheels. Here, too, the Hittite inscriptions were first found and designated Hamathite.

4. Entering in of Hamath:

In connection with the northern boundary of Israel, "the entering in of Hamath" is frequently mentioned (Nu 13:21; 1Ki 8:65, etc., the American Standard Revised Version "entrance"). It has been sought in the Orontes valley, between Antioch and Seleucia, and also at Wady Nahr el-Barid, leading down from Homs to the Mediterranean to the North of Tripoli. But from the point of view of Palestine, it must mean some part of the great valley of Coele-Syria (Biqa’a). It seems that instead of translating, we should read here a place-name--"Libo of Hamath"--and the presence of the ancient site of Libo (modern Leboue) 14 miles North-Northeast of Baalbek, at the head-waters of the Orontes, commanding the strategical point where the plain broadens out to the North and to the South, confirms us in this conjecture.