Passing Power
An Examination of the Sources for the
History of Aram-Damascus in the Second
Half of the Ninth Century B.C.

By Sigurdur Hafthorsson
Coniectanea Biblica Old Testament Series, No. 54
April 2006
Almqvist & Wiksell
ISBN: 9122021434
312 pages, Illustrated, 6 ¼” x 8 ¾”
$89.50 Paper Original

Much has been written about the kingdom of Aram-Damascus, and if one considers the scarcity of the source material, one could almost say: too much! One of the results of this study is that our historical sources do not support such an extensive history of this kingdom as some scholars have written. The study is a thorough examination of both textual and archaeological sources for the history of the kingdom of Aram-Damascus.

This kingdom was an Aramean state centered around Damascus in Syria from ca. 1100 to 732 B.C. Specifically, the thesis deals with the second half of the ninth century B.C., usually thought to be the time when Aram-Damascus was at its peak. The main subject of the study is the extent of Aram-Damascus in this period, and the level of power over its neighbors.

The textual sources for the study are inscriptions in Aramaic, Neo-Assyrian inscriptions, and the Old Testament. In earlier studies, archaeology has been little used in tracing this kingdom. This study presents an overview of excavations and surveys in the region around Damascus and the Golan. The search for Aram-Damascene remains and the attempts to define them was not very successful because the material culture within the Levant is rather similar.

However, the way forward for future studies of Aramean material culture is pointed out in noting what needs to be done. Even if the conclusion of the study is that little can be said about Aram-Damascus with any certainty, it confirms the common theory that this kingdom reached its peak under king Hazael in the late ninth century B.C. It shows that this king went on military campaigns both to the north and the south. However, these campaigns are not seen as proof of that Hazael created an empire or had vassals.


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