Hazael

HAZAEL (hăz'-ā-ĕl, Heb. hăzā’ēl, God sees). A high official of Ben-Hadad, king of Syria. When the king was sick, he sent Hazael to inquire of the prophet Elisha concerning his recovery from this illness. Elisha told Hazael to tell the king that he would certainly recover, but he would in fact die (2Kgs.8.7-2Kgs.8.15). Previously God had instructed Elijah to anoint Hazael king of Syria (1Kgs.19.15). Hazael pretended to be surprised by Elisha’s statement that he would become king. He returned and suffocated Ben-Hadad and seized the throne for himself (2Kgs.8.7-2Kgs.8.15).

This usurpation is confirmed by an inscription of Shalmaneser III that states that Hadadezer of Damascus (that is, Ben-Hadad) perished and Hazael, a son of nobody, seized the throne. The phrase “a son of nobody” means he was not in the royal line of descent.

The date of Hazael’s reign can be ascertained as at least forty-three years in length (841-798 b.c.); very likely it was a few years longer. Ahaziah, king of Judah, reigned only one year (2Kgs.8.26), namely, 841. During that year he fought with Joram, king of Israel, against Hazael (2Kgs.8.28). The annals of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria (858-824), in his fourteenth year (844), record a battle against Hadadezer (Ben-Hadad) of Damascus. In his eighteenth year (840) Shalmaneser said he encountered Hazael at Damascus. So Hazael usurped the throne during the period 844-841. He reigned at least until 798, the date of the death of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, for Hazael oppressed Israel all the days of this king (2Kgs.13.22). He died shortly afterward (2Kgs.13.24).

Hazael greatly punished Israel, as Elisha had foreseen (2Kgs.8.12). He wounded Jehoram, son of Ahab, at Ramoth Gilead (2Kgs.8.19). During the reign of Jehu, Hazael took all the territory east of the Jordan Valley from Israel (2Kgs.10.32). While Joash was ruling in Judah, Hazael captured Gath and threatened Jerusalem, but Joash induced him to leave by giving him sacred objects and the gold from the temple and palace treasuries (2Kgs.12.17-2Kgs.12.18). Yet he continually raided Israel during the reign of Jehoahaz (2Kgs.13.3). As previously mentioned, he oppressed Israel all the days of this king (2Kgs.13.22). Shalmaneser III records two attacks on Hazael in which the Assyrian king claims great victories with severe damage to the Syrian countryside.


HAZAEL hā zĭ’ əl (חֲזָאֵ֛ל, חֲזָהאֵ֗ל; Assyr. haz’ilu). One of the most powerful of the kings of Syria (Aram), ruling from c. 843 b.c. to c. 796 b.c. He reigned contemporaneously with Jehoram (the last few years), Jehu, and Jehoahaz, kings of Israel; and Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, and Joash, kings of Judah. He is first mentioned in 1 Kings 19:15-17, where Elijah at Mount Horeb was told by God that he would anoint Hazael king over Syria. At this time he was a high officer in the court of Ben-hadad II, king of Syria (2 Kings 8:7-9), for a short time later his sick sovereign sent him to inquire of the prophet Elisha, who was then in Damascus, whether or not he would recover from his illness. To this question Elisha replied that the illness of his master was not fatal, but that he would nevertheless die; and he added that Hazael himself was to become king of Syria and would be the perpetrator of monstrous cruelties against the children of Israel. The day after Hazael reported to the king the results of his interview with Elisha he killed him by smothering him with a wet cloth; and Hazael became king in his stead (8:7-15).


Cuneiform inscrs. show that Hazael played a large role in some of the campaigns of Shalmaneser III. In a pavement slab from Calah, Shalmaneser records that in 842 b.c. he joined battle with Hazael. He recorded that the Syrian king was defeated, losing 6,000 warriors, 1,121 chariots, and 470 horsemen, together with his stores, and that although he did not capture Damascus, he overran the Hauran and all the territory back to the Mediterranean Sea. Among his tributary kings he mentioned the name of Jehu son of Omri.

In another inscr. Shalmaneser refers to Hazael as the “son of a nobody,” and mentions the fact that Hazael had “seized the throne.”

Among the spoils taken from Damascus by Assyria, and found by archeologists at Arslan Tash (Hadathah) were an ivory inlay from the side of a bed, with the words engraved on it, “Bar Ama to our Lord Hazael in the year....,” and another ivory tablet, possibly a part of the same bed, showing in relief a god or king in Phoenician-Aramaean style, which some scholars believe is actually a portrait of Hazael himself.

Bibliography

E. Kraeling, Aram and Israel (1918); M. F. Unger, Israel and the Aramaeans of Damascus (1957), 75-82, 160-163; I. M. Price, O. R. Sellers, E. L. Carlson, The Monuments and the Old Testament (1958), 239-241, 245, 347-349; D. W. Thomas (ed.), Documents from OT Times (1958), 46-52, 242-250; M. Avi-Yonah, Views of the Biblical World, II (1960), 248, 264, 273.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ha-za’-el, ha’-za-el, haz’-a-el (chaza’-el and chazah’-el; Hazael; Assyrian haza’ilu):

1. In Biblical History:

Comes first into Biblical history as a high officer in the service of Ben-hadad II, king of Syria (2Ki 8:7 ff; compare 1Ki 19:15 ff). He had been sent by his sick sovereign to inquire of the prophet Elisha, who was then in Damascus, whether he should recover of his sickness or not. He took with him a present "even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden," and stood before the man of God with his master’s question of life or death. To it Elisha made the oracular response, "Go, say unto him, Thou shalt surely recover; howbeit Yahweh hath showed me that he shall surely die." Elisha looked steadfastly at Hazael and wept, explaining to the incredulous officer that he was to be the perpetrator of horrible cruelties against the children of Israel: "Their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child" (2Ki 8:12). Hazael protested against the very thought of such things, but Elisha assured him that Yahweh had shown him that he was to be king of Syria. No sooner had Hazael delivered to his master the answer of the man of God than the treacherous purpose took shape in his heart to hasten Ben-hadad’s end, and "He took the coverlet, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead" (2Ki 8:15). The reign which opened under such sinister auspices proved long and successful, and brought the kingdom of Syria to the zenith of its power. Hazael soon found occasion to invade Israel. It was at Ramoth-gilead, which had already been the scene of a fierce conflict between Israel and Syria when Ahab met his death, that Hazael encountered Joram, the king of Israel, with whom his kinsman, Ahaziah, king of Judah, had joined forces to retain that important fortress which had been recovered from the Syrians (2Ki 9:14,15). The final issue of the battle is not recorded, but Joram received wounds which obliged him to return across the Jordan to Jezreel, leaving the forces of Israel in command of Jehu, whose anointing by Elisha’s deputy at Ramoth-gilead, usurpation of the throne of Israel, slaughter of Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel, and vengeance upon the whole house of Ahab are told in rapid and tragic succession by the sacred historian (2Ki 9; 10).

Whatever was the issue of this attack upon Ramoth-gilead, it was not long before Hazael laid waste the whole country East of the Jordan--"all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan" (2Ki 10:33; compare Am 1:3). Nor did Judah escape the heavy hand of the Syrian oppressor. Marching southward through the plain of Esdraelon, and following a route along the maritime plain taken by many conquerors before and since, Hazael fought against Gath and took it, and then "set his face to go up to Jerus" (2Ki 12:17). As other kings of Judah had to do with other conquerors, Jehoash, who was now on the throne, bought off the invader with the gold and the treasures of temple and palace, and Hazael withdrew his forces from Jerusalem.

Israel, however, still suffered at the hands of Hazael and Ben-hadad, his son, and the sacred historian mentions that Hazael oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu. So grievous was the oppression of the Syrians that Hazael "left not to Jehoahaz, of the people save fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing" (2Ki 13:1-7). Forty or fifty years later Amos, in the opening of his prophecy, recalled those Syrian campaigns against Israel when he predicted vengeance that was to come upon Damascus. "Thus saith Yahweh .... I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad" (Am 1:3,4).

2. In the Monuments:

Already, however, the power of Syria had passed its meridian and had begun to decline. Events of which there is no express record in the Biblical narrative were proceeding which, ere long, made it possible for the son of Jehoahaz, Joash or Jehoash, to retrieve the honor of Israel and recover the cities that had been lost (2Ki 13:25). For the full record of these events we must turn to the Assyrian annals preserved in the monuments. We do read in the sacred history that Yahweh gave Israel "a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians" (2Ki 13:5). The annals of the Assyrian kings give us clearly and distinctly the interpretation of this enigmatic saying. The relief that came to Israel was due to the crippling of the power of Syria by the aggression of Assyria upon the lands of the West. From the Black Obelisk in the British Museum, on which Shalmaneser II (860-825 BC) has inscribed the story of the campaign he carried on during his long reign, there are instructive notices of this period of Israelite history. In the 18th year of his reign (842 BC), Shalmaneser made war against Hazael. On the Obelisk the record is short, but a longer account is given on one of the pavement slabs from Nimroud, the ancient Kalab. It is as follows: "In the 18th year of my reign for the 16th time I crossed the Euphrates. Hazael of Damascus trusted to the strength of his armies and mustered his troops in full force. Senir (Hermon), a mountain summit which is in front of Lebanon, he made his stronghold. I fought with him; his defeat I accomplished; 600 of his soldiers with weapons I laid low; 1,121 of his chariots, 470 of his horses, with his camp I took from him. To save his life, he retreated; I pursued him; in Damascus, his royal city, I shut him up. His plantations I cut down. As far as the mountains of the Hauran I marched. Cities without number I wrecked, razed, and burnt with fire. Their spoil beyond count I carried away. As far as the mountains of Baal-Rosh, which is a headland of the sea (at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb, Dog River), I marched; my royal likeness I there set up. At that time I received the tribute of the Syrians and Sidonians and of Yahua (Jehu) the son of Khumri (Omri)" (Ball, Light from the East, 166; Schrader, COT, 200 f). From this inscription we gather that Shalmaneser did not succeed in the capture of Damascus. But it still remained an object of ambition to Assyria, and Ramman-nirari III, the grandson of Shalmaneser, succeeded in capturing it, and reduced it to subjection. It was this monarch who was "the saviour" whom God raised up to deliver Israel from the hand of Syria. Then it became possible for Israel under Jehoash to recover the cities he had lost, but by this time Hazael had died and Ben-hadad, his son, Ben-hadad III, called Mari on the monuments, had become king in his stead (2Ki 13:24,25).

LITERATURE.

Schrader, COT, 197-208; McCurdy, HPM, I, 282 ff.

T. Nicol.